Once You Go Mac…

On Friday I registered for the BYOD, or “Bring Your Own Device” program at work. With today’s remote work capabilities, we have the option of using our personal devices for business purposes. When we get back to traveling, I’ll have my Mac in tow instead of lugging around two computers, a work Windows 10 PC, and one of my personal devices.

To separate my personal files from my business files I created a second account on my Mac. This helps keep me focused and it keeps my personal data from mistakenly being shared to work folders or something through an errant mouse click. When we move I’ll probably add a second Mac to the stable to segregate the experience a little more and upgrade to something a little faster than my mid-2015 MacBook Pro. For now, things are working great.

Using one platform across my entire computing experience really kicks up my focus. When I’m on Windows some of the day and Mac or iOS the rest of the day I have to maintain two sets of programs and make sure my workflow (task management, etc) is cross platform and think “in parallel”. Getting back to this arrangement helped my brain get organized again; I was very productive at work today and it was a great start to the work week.

I have been using OmniFocus as my task manager for well over a decade. A year or two ago the OmniGroup added a web version for those that had to use Windows at work. Other than the web experience, all of OmniGroup’s software is Apple (Mac/iOS/iPadOS) only. The web experience was adequate but not as cohesive as I wanted it to be. I’m just not wired to quickly add a task to my ToDo list by clicking on a pinned tab in a web browser and navigating around a web page. It’s much easier for me to use the native experience and being able to do this through muscle memory lends itself to my using my task manager reliably and deliberately.

The consistency across my entire computing experience just works better for me. Everyone has their own way of doing things, my way is the Mac way.

Now remember, I make a living using Linux all day long. It’s much easier for me to do this from a Mac than from a Windows machine. Mac OS is based on Unix, Linux’s older cousin.

Anything that makes my day easier is worth celebrating.

Memories.

There are many things to love about Apple’s Ecosystem, tying the iPhone and iPad, Mac, and iCloud together. When I use my iPad, each morning I see a photo from that day in my history.

Today my iPad presented me with the photo you see above, taken in New York on this date in 2010. We went a show, had a nice dinner, and had a very pleasant time. We were celebrating my husband’s birthday weekend. It seems like we went on that trip just yesterday; it’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years.

Technology should make us happy and smile. Whether it’s through a great user experience, a strong sense of security, or a pleasant moment, if we’re going to work in harmony with our technology, it has to be an experience that makes us smile.

This is why I always end up back on the Mac.

I have tens of thousands of photos in iCloud. I also have Time Machine backing up my important data on an external drive. I’m not good at organizing photos; I’m thankful for Apple’s Artificial Intelligence that tries to group things together and index things to make searches easy. The system is not perfect, but it’s more than adequate.

With our relocation to the southwest coming up soon, we’ll have a whole new batch of memories being saved to our devices. I feel secure in knowing they’ll endure and continue to delight me over the years.

Geek Beginnings.

Photo from Flickr.

This photo is from 1987 and obtained from Flickr. The cash register is an NCR 255 at a Super Fresh somewhere in New Jersey. In the back office of the Super Fresh is an NCR 726 Minicomputer handling the bulk of computing power for this and the other terminals in the supermarket. I believe the NCR 255 was the first cash register with scanning capabilities.

As a young lad I was always fascinated with cash registers, especially the NCR 255. The grocery store near Grandma City, independently owned Nichols IGA, had NCR 255 registers in the late 1970s and early 1980s and they were quite nifty. They just seemed so high tech, with their glowing little indicator lights, tilted display, and efficient impact printer that quietly typed out the receipt and journal tape. Built to typical 1970s standards, they keyboards were robust, they machine itself weighed nearly 100 pounds, and the mechanics of it all brought structure and organization to the handling of the associated information in a way my geek mind really appreciated.

I briefly used an NCR 255 as a cashier at Hills Department Store. Even though it was tasked with non-grocery functions, the register had the same number of buttons and made the same noises. Within a few short weeks of my starting at Hills the registers were replaced with IBM’s latest and greatest at the time, the IBM 4683. Even though the IBM 4683 was quite capable and did the job well, it felt less robust with a lot more plastic and tepid response on the keyboard. The dot-matrix printer whined.

Once in a great while I’ll find a video or photo about the NCR 255, or its less capable but still quite robust sibling the NCR 250, and ponder about how great it was to be alive during the early days of computing we take for granted today. This is where being a solid Gen Xer is awesome; witnessing how things were and how they became to be.

Long live vintage computing equipment!

Sanity.

I created a new Twitter account today. I still have my original account, and am still actively using it, but the original intent of that account was for my aviation purposes, discussions, and endeavors. I’ve moved the direction of that timeline back in toward flying. I created a new account with the intent of using it for everything except for aviation. And politics. I’m at the point now where I’m not surprised by what’s going on with the U.S. Government and I don’t have much hope for some magical turnaround to make things better anytime soon. The recent election of President Biden moves us in a better place. I think he’s a good guy, I think Kamala is a good vice-president and with all the work they need to do since the last administration, the best we can hope for is “bearable”.

I wish there were unicorns and puffs of candy in the sky but that’s just not realistic. The country is in a deep hole and has just started building the ladder. Let’s celebrate the small steps.

So my new Twitter account is out there and I’m keeping it tweaked and being quite selective in whom I follow. I have auto-delete safeguards in place and I’m making liberal use of muting functions. I’m hopeful this will help me keep in touch with what’s going on and let me interact with online folks I’ve gotten to know over the years.

Keep an online smile in place.

Metric.

Interstate 19 runs south from Tucson to Nogales, Arizona. It’s relatively short for a two-digit Interstate; I-19 is slightly over 63 miles long, or more specifically, I-19 in 102 kilometers long.

That’s right, 102 kilometers.

The majority of distance based road signs on Interstate 19 are in metric. Speed Limits are displayed in customary Imperial measurements. Many think I-19 has metric road signs because it goes to Mexico.

Not quite.

The majority of Interstate 19 was built and signed around 1980. This is when the United States was going to finally catch up with the rest of the world and switch to the metric system. Arizona, being proactive at the time, decided to sign I-19 with metric signs. Interstate 88 in New York State almost met the same fate, and for a long time had blank exit number panels because they hadn’t decided whether the numbers were going to be sequential, mileage based, or kilometer based. New York State decided to go with the vastly outdated and not helpful sequentially numbered system.

All of this metric versus Imperial discussion took place around the same time I was in elementary school learning units of measure and distance. Since we were going to be metric by 1980, we learned liters, meters, etc. Was the push to metric a Carter Administration thing? I don’t remember a lot about President Carter, other than we suddenly had peanuts with every lunch meal, he had feathered hair, and the Iranian Hostage Situation. As far as Imperial versus metric goes, to this day I cannot remember how many quarts are in a pound or how many pints are in an acre. It makes me husband crazy when I say, “how many pints are in a gallon”? Metric has always made sense to me and it’s a shame the United States never made the conversion. Who cares how many chains are in a teaspoon.

The signs on Interstate 19 were replaced in the late 1990s, again with metric designations, and many have been recently replaced again. While Arizona was going to switch the freeway to Imperial units, after all, while metrification is long overdue, it’s also a kilometers long long-shot, but at the last minute decided to keep the metric signs. There are a few signs that were converted from 2 km to 1 1/2 miles on the northern end at Tucson, but for the most part, I-19 remains a metric highway.

I can’t wait to drive it again! Metrically.

Cee Dee.

It was spring 1987 and at age 18 as a freshman in college, a man showed romantic interest in me. Never considering myself “a catch”, I was baffled yet somewhat enamored by the whole affair. He invited me to his two room apartment and we listened to a small selection of music on his new CD player.

I had never seen or listened to music on a CD player before that night, and being the dork I am, I was intrigued by this device playing music off of shiny discs. I had seen the discs in the record stores, with their oddly shaped rectangular cases designed to compliment the record albums in the racks, but I never removed one from the package or played with an actual player. I had mastered my Dad’s General Electric VCR with ease and enjoyed the sound of music over my Yorx stereo system, but this CD player seemed so digital.

I quickly acclimated to listening to music on CDs. they were portable and far superior in sound quality to cassettes, and my music collection shifted from vinyl to CD. When I purchased my first CD player in 1989 I hooked it up to my aging Yorx stereo and it brought new life to the equipment I had purchased when I was still in high school.

In 1989 I worked for Digital, or DEC as it was commonly yet erroneously called. Slight tangent: the industry called Digital “DEC” but as employees we were highly discouraged from the same, as the company did not want to be a three letter acronym like IBM. Digital Equipment Corporation was “Digital”, not “DEC”.

OK, back to the story. I was working in my cubicle at CFO2 when my co-worker Karen called me for help with her computer. She was hooking up a new drive and needed some clarification on how to do it.

Her new drive was an external CD drive. This blew me away.

Employees at Digital tended to be rather tech-savvy, even personal assistants and secretaries, because the company pushed for a paperless experience. We all had computers on our desks (not a given back then) and those computers were part of the larger network throughout the company, which had connections to the outside world. But running software or reading data from a CD player, which in my mind was designed for music? That was surprising.

“This CD holds the same amount of data as 1000 floppies”, she said.

To this day I can still remember my idiotic question, “is it noisy”?

I easily figured out how to hook the CD player up to her computer and she was on her way accessing data on the CD she had been holding. I watched her work and was surprised at how quickly the data filled the screen. Within minutes she was back to being productive at her desk. Not a sound from the CD player, it just spun the disc and provided her the data she was looking for.

I hadn’t thought about this in years but this morning I was listening to a track by Anders Enger Jensen called “DiscoVision” and was reminded of my first experiences with CD.

Enjoy this retro track. In Digital.

Clean Up, Part 2.

Last night my dreams were full of paranoid thoughts about computers and online networks and social media. I woke up incredibly and needlessly worried that something bad was going to happen if I didn’t continue my efforts to clean up old accounts and the like. So today I deleted a bunch more of my online presence.

I’ve never found a use for Pinterest. I’d “pin” some interesting photos or whatnot and they’d be arranged on a “board” but then Pinterest would suggest to me things that had absolutely no relation to what I was pinning. The account sat idle for a year or two and I decided to just ahead and delete the thing.

Pinterest does not make this easy. You can suspend, you can change your password, but to delete your account Pinterest has to send you an email and then you respond, which could reactivate your account because you have to sign in again. And the cycle went round and round until it finally stuck.

If someone can tell me why I should have Pinterest feel free to comment below.

I also pared down my Dropbox account to something that would fit in the Basic model. We already pay for an iCloud family plan, there’s no reason for us to have Dropbox as well. Delete delete delete. Besides, do I really want *all* of my information in the cloud?

No. The cloud is just someone else’s computer.

Geek Administration.

The latter half of my work week was consumed by a big “server migration” project. We are tasked with moving our applications to a server farm in a data center in the central part of the country. The server farm has “geographical redundancy”, which means there’s a backup copy elsewhere in the country. If one data center goes down, the other can pick up the slack.

This week we’ve moved applications from a server in Greenville, S.C. to the big data center. The application in question was written by programmers that have long left the company. There is no documentation. There isn’t even a general consensus as to who uses the various modules in the application or what other groups, which could be located anywhere in the world, have their applications talking to our inherited application. The server in question was sitting on the floor underneath a cubicle desk. Changes in the org chart placed a person with absolutely no stake in the success of the server or the applications in the cubicle in question.

On the bright side, the server hadn’t been sealed inside a wall while still powered on.

I led the project of building the new servers in the data center and moving the application that we inherited without documentation. The whole affair is over six years old and has had many cooks in the kitchen over the years, so the code is not consistently written.

The relocation project was deemed a success on Friday afternoon. As part of a very capable team of programmers at the company, we worked together to make this happen. After the move we had one trouble ticket from a team that used a forgotten module through some ancient automation. I came up with an interim solution until we could get things working reliably on the new servers.

It’s a small wonder that I slept 12 hours last night.

I haven’t had time to think about all the changes along the country’s political spectrum that happened this week. I haven’t had time to think about the flight I hope to take tomorrow afternoon (though the weather doesn’t look especially promising).

But I feel good today.

Safety.

Before moving to Chicago nearly four years ago, we lived in Upstate New York near Utica. Located somewhat close to the geographic center of New York State, the township was the site of many high voltage distribution lines coming together at a very large switching yard a few of miles from the house. Marching northward from the switching yard, toward the Canadian border where power flowed from Hydro Quebec, was one of the highest voltage lines in the nation, a single 765kV circuit. On more than one occasion I took a couple of fluorescent light bulbs along for the ride and stood underneath the buzzing lines. The light bulbs lit up in my hand. Turns out I wrote about one of my field trips, back in 2012.

Back in 1980, Ralph Waite (from “The Waltons”) starred in a movie called “Ohms”. The drama addressed concerns a farmer has about the power lines being built across his farmland. I watched the movie with great interest; it was one of the first times my mom and dad let me stay up until 11:00 PM. My dad made the final decision, since he knew I was very interested in these things and was fascinated with the movie. He watched it with me. There’s a brief clip from the movie on YouTube.

During one of our rides over the summer, I noticed a high voltage power line passing pretty close to a residential sub-division in Channahon, Illinois. As we drove along US 6 I said to my husband, “those power lines are really close to those houses. I’m surprised they built the houses *that* close”.

He mentioned it must have been an optical illusion since we were over a half mile away from where I spotted the power lines, so we drove around the subdivision and surrounding area and concluded that no, they were really close.

While researching other power lines I spotted during today’s ride, I found this photo on the Internet. These were the power lines I was referring to back during our ride over the summer.

Photo from electrical-engineering-portal.com

Here’s some perspective from a satellite view.

The housing development seems rather new so I wandered around on Google a bit to see if there was any discussion about the houses being so close to these power lines, but I haven’t been able to find anything. Now, I have no investment in any of this other than a dorky interest in the subject, but I’m still quite surprised at how close the residences are to this (seemingly) 765kV power line. Side note: I haven’t confirmed the voltage of these lines, they could be 365kV or 500kV, but the size of the towers seem to be the higher 765kV, but I don’t know this for sure.

I don’t know if there have ever been any conclusive studies on the health effects of prolonged exposure to these high powered transmission lines. I know I’m fascinated by them and have been around them on and off for years, but I have little interest in living close to them. Would I farm under them? Probably. Would I swim in a pool near them? Probably not.

The reason I went down this rabbit hole is because I realized that I’ve been in all 50 states and while I certainly haven’t seen every single power transmission circuit in the country, I don’t think that I’ve seen towers with such big “cat ears” like we have here in Illinois.

Today I took a photo of a glimpse of a sunset today, with a 345kV circuit crossing the Illinois prairie along the way.

Swag.

Screen shot.

I’m a dork. I freely admit this. I great joy in geeky, dorky things. We’ve talked about this before.

My Mac and iPhone and iPad are decidedly undorky. While they do what they’re suppose to do, they don’t really excite me in a techy, geeky sort of way. I see these hackers and crackers on television shows with awesome displays and nifty interfaces that beep and boop and I have none of that. I get in the realm of that sort of experience when I use Linux (don’t get me started on my Windows 10 experience at work).

Recently I discovered a cross-platform application called eDEX-UI. It’s a fun little tech experience with beeps and boops and characters flying around. It’s really just a super fancy terminal window (with multiple tabs) but I feel such dork joy when I’m using it. Does it lend credence to my productivity? Yes, it does, because it puts me in a focused type of system administration mindset. And that’s what I need in these days of boring interfaces to technology.

Geek out!