annathepiper: (Final Test)

Dara has been on a big kick with the turn of the year to get rid of a lot of things we don’t need anymore, and this has rolled over onto me a bit to make the first week of 2017 one of solving a bunch of small problems.

Problem #1: Backups weren’t working correctly on our servers.

How this was solved: Discovering that rdiff-backup wasn’t going to create a directory for me in the backup location if that directory didn’t already exist, unless I gave it a –create-full-path argument. Also discovering that scripts in cron.daily, cron.weekly, and cron.monthly should not actually be in cron format, unlike anything you put in cron.d. Once I figured out both of these things, I was finally able to get backups working properly.

Problem #2: My older laptop got unacceptably warm after a few minutes of use, particularly when booted into Windows 10.

How this was solved: Taking Winnowill apart, which let Dara not only give the inside a good cleaning, but ALSO let her discover that the goop that’s normally supposed to provide some insulation conductivity between the CPUs and the heat sink had dried out. A lot of it had in fact crumbled away. So she ordered some new goop and put new layers of that on the CPUs, and then we put the machine back together.

This made the machine much happier when booting into Windows 10 and actually trying to do things in that OS.

Meanwhile we’re also updating the hard drive from its current 500GB one to a 1T, and going from a Western Digital Blue to a Western Digital Black. Which, Dara tells me, should mean an increase in hard drive performance and hopefully another reduction in the likelihood of it overheating.

In general this should also hopefully increase the lifespan of this machine. Given that I got it way back in 2007, and this box is still chugging along, that’s still a pretty impressive lifespan for a laptop. I was thinking of selling it, but Dara says she’d like to keep the box around just for the sake of having an older and still functional Mac. Eventually it might become our new Time Machine server if Elda gives up the ghost.

All of this did at least also give me a chance to take a picture of what the inside of Winnowill looks like!

Winnie's CPUs

Winnie’s CPUs

Problem #3: The cushion on the left ear of my Bluetooth headphones split a seam.

Apparently this is a thing with Jabra move headphones? A couple weeks ago I noticed that there was a split seam on this ear cushion, and when I googled for it, I found quite a few other users complaining about the same thing. This has happened often enough that Jabra sells replacement cushions, and the replacements are supposedly sewn and not glued. I ordered a pair of the replacements and got the new one for the left ear on there okay with Dara’s help. Keeping the cushion for the right side in reserve on the assumption that this will eventually happen on that side, too.

There are other things I’m in the middle of doing that are more domestic–replacing old bras and old jeans–and Dara and I will also be looking into replacing our mattress. But the techie problems are more interesting, so the post is about those!

Any problems y’all have solved so far with the new year?

Editing to add: By “goop” on the CPU I actually meant, of course, conductivity rather than insulation. Oops! Many thanks to userinfoalinsa for pointing that out.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey Orly?)

As y’all know, I’m an Apple user of many years at this point. I’m on my second Macbook computer since 2007, and my third iPhone since 2009. And since fairly tech-savvy, I tend to jump on OS upgrades as they happen. This week, with the release of iOS 10, was no exception.

And, as I’ve posted both here and on my social media accounts, by and large I’m happy with it. With the one big glaring exception that the redesigned Music app is an unholy mess and I would now like to shoot it into the sun. Go see that post for details on that, as well as a few initial observations on a couple of alternative apps I am exploring.

This post is about everything else, assorted observations I made through the process of installing the update on my phone and my iPad, and while using it today on the phone on my commute.

Dara’s best reaction to my live updates:

https://twitter.com/annathepiper/status/775894787694002176

I do indeed figure that any OS update that does not result in my device exploding is probably a win.

During Setup

iOS apparently has two-factor authentication now for logging into your iCloud account. This is a good thing. I approve.

I also noticed that it offered to add the credit card I already had on file with Apple for buying music and such to Apple Pay. I have no fucks to give about Apple Pay but went ahead and let it do this anyway. I may want to test this at some point.

No More Sliding to Unlock

I may be one of the few iOS users on the planet that doesn’t really care about the widgets on the lockscreen. I’m a little sad that “slide to unlock” has become extinct now, because iOS 10 wants you to swipe left to get to widgets, and swipe right to get to the camera. Both of which seem fine to me from a usability standpoint, but I’m tellin’ ya, it’s going to take me a while to get over the muscle memory of needing to swipe left to unlock the phone.

I have an iPhone 6, not a 6s or later, so I don’t get to have the shiny new Raise to Wake functionality. But it is pretty nifty to be able to unlock the phone via Touch ID. Which, come to think of it, I was able to do in iOS 9, I think. I just never ever actually realized that before.

Still, though, this is what it looks like if I swipe left now from my lockscreen.

Widgets! Yay?

Widgets! Yay?

Overall Design

A bunch of font changes all over the place, but aside from the ones in the Music app, so far I’m not seeing anything to annoy me. All of my various apps still look pretty much the same, and none of them appear to have broken. So at least from a design perspective, iOS 10 doesn’t look particularly different from iOS 9 except in the Music app. Nothing here for me to hate, but nothing to get excited over either.

And I’m a little surprised to have found only one new system wallpaper I didn’t recognize. Apparently wallpapers are not something about which iOS 10 concerns itself. I’m a little sad about that, too, because sometimes I do use the system wallpapers. They tend to be a bit better at not making it too hard to read the labels on my apps.

Performance

There does appear to have been a noticeable boost in performance on my devices. Uploading a photo to Facebook and Twitter over the house wifi was smokin’ fast, and even pretty speedy over phone connectivity as well.

Bluetooth

My Jabra Move headphones seem like they’re connecting faster to the phone now, and during the course of today as I played music and podcasts, they held up pretty well. But they started flaking out on me partway through the afternoon, and I’m not sure yet whether that’s the fault of the new OS, or the fault of the headphones maybe running low on battery. I didn’t hear them fire off a low battery warning, so I’ll have to keep an eye on that over the next few days and see if the problem recurs.

Mail

There’s a new filter icon in the Mail app, down in the lower left hand corner, that lets you zoom in on just the unread messages in the mailbox you’re looking at. I don’t know if I’ll find this useful yet, but it seems like something that might be useful to me at some point.

App Deletion

I’m a little vexed that the touted ability to delete the stock apps you don’t find useful is deletion in name only–you can just blow away the icons off the home screen, vs. actually deleting them off the device and therefore freeing up space. But still, I’ll take it. Fewer icons to have to keep track of is nice.

All in All

This doesn’t feel like a particularly revolutionary upgrade to me, and the only thing that’s blatantly different amongst the stuff I actually use and care about, i.e., the Music app, is a significant step downward.

I do not care at all about the new emojis, or the added functionality in the messages app. I certainly don’t care about app functionality within messages. And as I mentioned up at the top of this post, I don’t particularly care about the widgets on the lockscreen either. Since I have a 6, I don’t have the 3D Touch capability that’s supposed to be what makes these widgets so awesome. Y’all will have to look to reviews written by people with newer devices than mine, I think, to get more deets on that. (Try Ars Technica’s comprehensive review, maybe?)

On the other hand, my phone’s general performance does feel faster. I’m seriously disgruntled about the Music app being a dumpster fire now, enough that I’m looking for alternative music apps. But that’s not enough to make me sad that I did the update in general. As Ars Technica says in the headline of their review, if you’ve got a reasonably new device, there’s no particular reason not to update.

(If you’ve got an older device, note also that Ars Technica has an entirely separate post about iOS 10 on the iPhone 5 and 5c, so that might be worth a read to you.)

So if you’re a technophile like me and willing to dive in headfirst to a new OS upgrade, go for it; just be aware of the issues with the Music app. If you’re more conservative though and prefer that a new OS release go through a few cycles of bugfixes, there’s nothing hugely groundbreaking here that I see to argue you out of that.

Final rough grade in general: B+
Final rough grade for the Music app in particular: D-

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

Since I was just over on the WordPress.com testing its crossposting functionality via Publicize, I thought that was pretty nifty and have learned that that’s available to self-hosted sites like this one, via the Jetpack plugin.

So this is me testing that! This should be going out to my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr accounts.

(I’m a little irritated that Jetpack apparently does not let you set up to crosspost to Facebook for both your personal timeline AND a page that you manage, which, y’know, is kinda what I need to do. So even if I decide to keep Jetpack around, I will still need Social. Not to mention the older functionality I’m using to throw posts over to Livejournal and Dreamwidth.)

Y’all please let me know if you notice anything weird about site functionality while Jetpack is active. When I turned it on, I suddenly got a huge wave of backlogged comment emails that Social should have sent me and didn’t. So there may be other unexpected side effects. Apologies in advance if anything breaks!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

As I announced yesterday, I have now have a minimal backup version of my author site up on angelahighland.wordpress.com. I’m disgruntled that I have had to do this, and only somewhat reassured by having seen our city council put up this statement pertaining to our ongoing chronic outage problem.

But this does at least mean that now I’ve had a bit of direct experience setting up a site on WordPress.com. Which is useful experience to have, since it tells me things I can share with fellow authors who need to set up a site for their books.

Setting up the site is really easy

All you really need is an account on WordPress.com, to start with. Once you have one of those, when you’re logged in, there’s a “My Site” button up in the upper left part of their site. Clicking on that leads you to the setup wizard you can step through to get a site going. They ask you some basic questions about what your site will be about, so that they can give you a bit of guidance as to what default themes they will suggest for you.

This process includes choosing a theme, and choosing what level of site plan you want. Your options for the latter do include ‘free’, with varying tiers above that that cost different amounts of money depending on what level of service you want from them.

Assuming you quickly choose one of the offered default themes and you choose the ‘free’ plan, setting up your site is only a matter of a couple of minutes. This is even easier than setting up your own site with the code from WordPress.org.

Your site will however be limited in available functionality

If you’ve got any experience setting up your own self-hosted WordPress site at all, you will probably find the limitations on a WordPress.com site annoying. Specifically, you will not be able to install your own plugins. I get why this is the case–they are a commercial site, and accordingly, they need to lock down what they’ll let users install and what they won’t, for security purposes. But if you’re accustomed to the fine-grained level of control hosting your own site will provide you, this will likely be a step down for you.

You do get a small range of plugins available to you, though. You can find those on the My Site sidebar, under Plugins. What’s of immediate interest to me is that they do have a “Publicize” plugin that lets you crosspost out to various social media sites. And there’s a Stats plugin that can show you some basic site stats, along with an extended Google Analytics plugin that you can purchase if you want more data than what the basic plugin will provide you.

A similar level of lockdown is in place on selecting themes. But unless you’re a techie like me, with enough HTML and CSS experience that you can fine-tune a theme to get it the way you want it, this probably won’t be an issue. There do appear to be a wide variety of themes available, both free ones and ones you can purchase. What I don’t see upon initial investigation is whether you can install your own theme–which is why I haven’t ported over the one I’m using here on angelahighland.com. I suspect they won’t let you do that unless you pony up for one of the paid tiers of service.

The My Site sidebar is actually kind of annoying

Again, this is a matter of my being a techie and also used to what I have available via the standard wp-admin sidebar in my self-hosted WordPress site. The My Site sidebar WordPress.com provides you is simplified from that–which I think would probably be a plus for less technically inclined users.

For me, though, it’s an annoying step down. And matters are not improved by how that sidebar seems to perform very badly in Safari, my browser of choice when I’m working on my Macbook at home. I can still get to the standard wp-admin sidebar, but it’s extra clicks to get to, and I don’t get to it by default if I try to edit any of the pages on the site. I have yet to find any way to make this my default sidebar via the UI that WordPress.com provides.

All in all

Despite my being vexed by the difference in available functionality between the WordPress.com UI and what I’m used to with my own self-hosted site, I did appreciate the quickness with which I was able to fire up a site there. And I do know that a lot of authors have their presences there and have found it very useful. John Scalzi, for example, has repeatedly posted on his blog at Whatever that he’s very satisfied with the service they provide him; he’s paying for the upper tier of service and he’s finding it very worth his money.

Anybody got any questions about how the WordPress.com site works, that would help you decide if you want to make a site there yourself? Got any experience of your own with WordPress.com sites that you’d like to share? Drop a comment and let me know!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Buh?)

There’s a lot of buzz going around about the iPhone 7 losing the headphone jack, as we’ve finally learned will indeed be happening. And, since I’m a long-running user of Apple devices and computers and software, this is naturally of interest to me. As I’ve described on Facebook and elsewhere, I’m finding myself of two minds about the whole thing. So here are some thoughts bouncing around through my head about this.

One: I made the jump to a set of Bluetooth-based headphones some time ago. I did this partly due to recurring irritation problems in my ear (which, I have since learned, may well be influenced by my deviated septum; more on this in another post), but it’s also had the benefit of improved audio quality when I listen to things on my commutes. I’ve also become a fan of not having to worry about cords, even though the headphones I’m using aren’t entirely properly fitted to my ginormous head, even when I’ve got them extended out as far as the headband will let them go. It’s still overall a win for me, and future headphones I purchase are indeed likely to be wireless in some way or another.

That said, I’m eying the price on the new airbuds askance. They’re significantly more expensive than what I paid for the Jabra headphones I’m using now, so I would have to be convinced that the audio quality would be worth the step up in price. And I’m also not convinced that I wouldn’t lose the buds on a regular basis, or that they’d stay securely in my ears. I’ve had a history of the wired earbuds regularly falling out of my ears, and at least with the wired kind, they’re still attached to my phone. One of those wireless airbuds falls out somewhere on my commute, that’s got “likelihood of my stepping on the damn thing as I’m trying to look for where it fell” written all over it. Or, if I’ve got ’em tucked in my backpack’s side pocket along with the phone, the fact that they’re wireless means that if one or both of them fell out while I wasn’t listening to music–as is possible given that on a bus commute, I often wind up turning my backpack sideways in my lap–means the chances of me losing one or both is non-zero. I’m not willing to risk that for something that’d ding me over $150 per purchase.

And while I do have some level of appreciation for audio quality, I’m not quite enough of an audiophile to really care about it, certainly not to the extent of having “risk of losing airbuds” outweighing price.

Two: Other than my commutes, the times I’m most likely to listen to things on my phone are when Dara and I take road trips. We’re very, very fond of listening to Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventures when we go to Canada, or down to Portland for Orycon. Before we upgraded to our current car (the 2015 Honda Fit), we had to plug my phone into the car’s dashboard via an adapter that talked to the cigarette lighter.

Now that we’re driving the Raptor, though, we have several USB jacks at our disposal. So the usual Apple lightning-to-USB cord works just dandy for having the phone talking to the car’s sound system. And I don’t even really need the cord, either, since the car’s systems also talk Bluetooth.

So lack of a headphone jack won’t hurt me there, either.

Three: Since I do use my phone on a regular basis to process Square sales at conventions, the ability for my older swipe-based reader to talk to the headphone jack is kinda not optional. I do have one of the shiny newer readers that read chip-based cards and which talk to the phone via Bluetooth–but those do not actually deal with older, non-chip-based cards. And not everybody has chip-based cards yet, so it’s not like I can get rid of the magstripe reader.

That said, word has it that the magstripe readers will work with the new adapter for the iPhone 7. Which is nice, I suppose. But given that I’ve had experience having swipes not take with the reader plugged directly into the headphone jack, I’m a bit dubious about how reliable trying to do it via an adapter and the lightning port will be. I’ll be interested in further reports on this.

Four: Dara shared with me some things she saw covered in Buzzfeed’s article about this, and I have to admit I’m of two minds about this. From my tech-inclined geek perspective, “freeing up the jack space allows for improvements in battery life, camera functionality, and water resistance” makes sense.

On the other hand, I’m also a fan of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. And I always have to be a little suspicious of “we’re changing this thing you’ve been using for years because PROGRESS!” In no small part because I can’t help but feel like a lot of tech “innovations” ultimately don’t improve things much for my day to day experience. Like, say, all the browsers deciding we don’t actually need a menu. Or, all the major tech companies deciding we don’t need RSS. (Why yes, I AM still cranky about the axing of Google Reader, why do you ask?)

Now, apparently, traditional headphone jacks are the latest thing that the Tech Powers That Be have decided are outdated. But so far, the arguments provided as to why the future of audio is wireless just aren’t quite cutting it yet with me. And there are a couple of reasons for this.

  1. While I’m certainly not immune to the lure of shiny new technology (as of this writing, I AM currently on my third iPhone in my history of smartphone owning), I also am not a fan of how often I’ve had to replace my headphones. I have gone through a whole hell of a lot of earbuds, because the damn things inevitably wear out. One side or the other dies, and oh hey look I gotta go buy a new pair of earbuds now! And I have no real choice but to throw away the old, now useless pair.

    That was another contributing factor to my switching to the Bluetooth headphones–at least with those, I can hopefully get a lot longer lifespan out of them. And therefore hopefully contribute less to the ongoing electronic waste we’re all building up. I’m going to use this pair of headphones for as long as they’ll last. Because…

  2. …while I am very grateful to have a well-paying day job that lets me afford buying shiny new technology when I want it, I do come out of a background where that wasn’t the case. In my family history, plunking down several hundred dollars for a phone in general would have been absolutely out of the question, without months and possibly years of saving. And when you throw in another $150+ just to buy headphones to listen to music on the phone in question, that’s just a whole extra pile of “yeah no I gotta spend this money on food and rent and gas, thanks”.

I get that Apple’s target demographic is people like me who can afford to buy shiny new toys every so often. But we aren’t everybody. And I’m not convinced that the future of audio is truly wireless, not when there are still a lot of people for whom buying a smartphone at all is a significant hit to the budget. If you’re in that income bracket, you will be way more likely to buy a pair of wired earbuds than you will a fancy wireless pair of pods that you’ll be at risk of losing. The Buzzfeed article mentions cost-benefit analysis; that’s exactly what happens when you’ve only got so much income to spare, and you have to decide what you can afford.

So Apple, if you really want to convince me that wireless is the future of audio, how about making some wireless headphones that aren’t so freggin’ expensive? Because otherwise, your wireless audio future will be shutting out a whole helluva lot of people.

Five: As Dara has pointed out over on her post today, the iPad apparently has no immediate future of losing its headphone jack. Which means we’ll have an potentially interesting split of functionality. Particularly for users like me who have both an iPhone and an iPad, for whom it’ll make little sense to have one pair of headphones to talk to one thing, and a different pair to talk to another.

In short, yeah, I’m of two minds about all of this. For me, it’s all pretty theoretical regardless; my iPhone 6 is still pretty new and perfectly functional, so I will not be justifying a phone upgrade for at least a few more years. (This being my balance between ‘how much I like shiny new tech’ and ‘general practicality and frugality thanks to my history’.) By the time I am ready to upgrade to a newer phone, we’ll probably be on the iPhone 8 or even 9.

But I’ll be keeping an eye on how all this shakes out. It will influence my decision, ultimately, as to what kind of phone I’ll want by the time I’m ready to upgrade phones again. I’ve seen reports that some Android phones are losing their headphone jacks too, so by then, I may not even be able to have that be a dealbreaker. We’ll just have to see whether Apple’s gamble will pay off.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Path of Wisdom)

Over on James Nicoll’s LJ, this past weekend, I saw this post wherein James was asking for help on an OpenOffice feature–and folks in the comments were advising that he should consider switching over to LibreOffice instead.

The basis for this is that apparently the code base for OpenOffice is not getting actively updated. The last release was back in October of 2015, and there is a known security issue now that hasn’t been fixed in any release of the suite yet. That issue is described here, where it is noted that there is a hotfix patch available, if you’re comfortable with trying to install that.

But more tellingly, also in the comments on James’ thread, I saw a link off to this Ars Technica article that discusses an active possibility that OpenOffice just might be shut down. Apparently Apache’s OO team doesn’t have enough active developers to support the code.

So if you’re an OpenOffice user, you might want to keep an eye on this. At minimum, you should go install the patch discussed on the security bulletin I link to above. And you should think about whether you want to continue to use OpenOffice, or maybe make the switch to LibreOffice instead, since that’s still being actively developed.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Buh?)

iOS 9.3.5 has just been released, and it’s a very important security update. Important enough that it made the news–because it’s fixing newly discovered security flaws that had the potential to give a remote attacker pretty much complete control of your phone. So jump on this ASAP and get your devices updated, mmkay?

The BBC has covered the story here:

Apple tackles iPhone one-tap spyware flaws

(If you own an older device that’s running an older version of iOS, better check and see if a similar update has been released for your version, too. If your device is capable of updating to iOS 9, you might want to put serious consideration into doing so. If it’s not capable of updating to iOS 9 and Apple hasn’t yet released a security patch to your version, go get on them about that.)

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

This blog post link is going around today, in which the writer describes how he signed up for the Apple Music subscription service–and it promptly torched all local music files on his hard drive, including stuff he’d downloaded directly from artists’ websites, and stuff he’d recorded himself.

And I’m seeing a bunch of people on my social media feeds instantly leaping to the conclusion that iTunes and Apple must suck in general, and that OHNOEZ APPLE IS EVIL!!!! Which, no. That’s not a justified conclusion.

Because this isn’t an iTunes issue–I know a bunch of people who’ve told me that iTunes has caused them a bunch of headaches, but this isn’t actually iTunes’ fault. This is Apple Music’s fault.

For those of you who aren’t Apple users, Apple Music is not the same thing as iTunes. It’s their music streaming subscription service, akin to Pandora or Rhapsody. The entire idea here is supposed to be that it can give you access to all of your music on all your computers and devices. Nice idea in theory, but in actual practice, it’s an implementation nightmare–if you’re one of the people falling into the edge case that that blog post describes. A whole bunch of users of the service are never going to have this problem, since they’re probably buying their music from the iTunes store regardless, and that’s the userbase Apple’s trying to target here.

But if you do fall into that set of edge case users, if you’re somebody who frequently buys your music from other sources (say, directly from artists on Bandcamp), and even rarer, if you’re somebody who records your own music and you’ve got that on your computer along with stuff you’ve bought commercially… then yes, this is a huge problem.

What’s happened here is that this particular guy fell into that edge case, and it revealed that Apple’s failure to gracefully handle the problem is a spectacular failure indeed.

But at the end of the day this is still just a spectacular functionality failure, not a sign that OHNOEZ APPLE IS EVIL AND IS GOING TO STEAL MY MUSIC. And I’m not saying this just because I’m a generally loyal Apple user who thinks Apple can do no wrong. This is a spectacular failure and I’m absolutely willing to call it out as such–in no small part because I’m also a QA engineer in my day job, and I am now cringing at the thought of how their QA people must have reacted to this edge case before the service shipped.

What is an edge case? Let me explain by telling you a bit about how a software development cycle works. It goes kind of like this.

  1. The Powers that Be in a software company says to their engineers, “we want a feature that does X”.
  2. The engineering team goes “okay, we’ll do X!” They start doing some designs as to what the feature will look like, and drawing up a specification for the details of how the feature should work.
  3. There’s often some debate between designers, developers, and QA (quality assurance) as to what can and cannot be implemented to make the feature work as requested.
  4. A schedule is worked out as to how long it will take to do the work. A target release date is settled upon.
  5. Developers build the feature and start handing pieces of it off to QA so QA can test it and make sure it actually works as requested, according to the designs and specs.
  6. QA files a bunch of bugs about anything that’s broken.
  7. Development fixes those bugs.
  8. QA verifies that the reported bugs have been fixed.
  9. Repeat until the release date is achieved.

Now, sometimes QA will find issues with a feature that are problematic, but only for a small likely percentage of users. This is called an edge case.

When that happens, the team as a whole has to decide whether it’s appropriate to spend time fixing that edge case, even if QA has already said that this is going to be a problem for X number of users. Even if it’s a serious problem. If the problem only affects a small number of people, then some decisions have to get made as to how the team will proceed.

Sometimes they’ll say, “We can’t code a solution for this edge case because if we do, it’ll keep us from shipping on time and we’ll have to swing back around and fix it later”. And sometimes they do just that. But sometimes “later” never happens. Sometimes teams decide that they just can’t spare the time to fix that edge case, because they have other higher priority work they have to be doing and they don’t have enough people on the team to do everything.

Problem is, sometimes that edge case they didn’t fix will come back to bite its creators in the ass. This is one of those times.

Remember, folks: computer software is written by people. People are fallible. Therefore your software is, every so often, going to fuck up. Sometimes it’s going to fuck up spectacularly. This does not mean that the creators of that software are evil. It just means they’re people.

But at the same time, if a spectacular failure like this happens to you, you’re totally justified in being upset. It’s absolutely frustrating when you lose a bunch of your personal data like that. Certainly if I’d been in the shoes of the blogger I’m linking to above, I’d have been equally pissed off.

Just try to remember if you can that the people who made that software on your computer are still people just like you. They’re really, really not out to destroy your data personally. “Let’s destroy all our users’ data” really doesn’t work as a successful business plan, after all.

Also remember: for gods’ sakes, do backups. If you’re a Mac owner, Time Machine should already be doing this for you. If you’re a PC or Linux user, and you’re not already running regular backups, find out NOW how you can do so. And regardless of what kind of computer you use, if you have super-critical data like personal creative output you’ve done, do extra backups of that stuff.

For example, all of my writing work, in addition to getting backed up by Time Machine, lives on my Dropbox account so that I have backup copies of that not only separate from my computer, but also separate to my house network. If you’re a creative person of any stripe–artist, writer, musician, whatever–I strongly encourage you to consider similar strategies for your creative output.

For more on this, I direct y’all over to Dara’s post on this topic, too. She’s got some in-depth analysis of why Apple chose to implement the Music service this way, and how she and others at the time it rolled out complained about this very edge case. Worth reading if you want a more technical look at how this all works.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

As y’all know I’m a Mac user. My primary computer is Aroree, a mid-2012 Macbook Pro. Aroree currently has 16 gigs of RAM in it just because, while not officially supported by Apple, RAM was available to let me actually upgrade to that. And I did that upgrade because it got rid of a lot of performance issues I was seeing with Yosemite. (That I actually had to upgrade to 16 gigs to do that was vexing, but well hey.) And now that I’m on El Capitan, it certainly hasn’t done any harm to have that much RAM to play with with that iteration of the OS, either.

With all this RAM to play with, though, I decided to move forward with setting up a new Windows partition to have available for work-related purposes. I don’t normally need to deal with Windows as a private user, but I do need it for work, since I have to test against assorted Windows-based browsers.

And my prior laptop, Winnowill, has gotten too old and creaky to be useful anymore as a workhorse box. Its OS X side is permanently stuck on Lion, since it’s too old to upgrade past there. And while I was able to install Windows 10 on it, it’s still only got 4 gigs of RAM to play with, and that’s not enough to effectively run a VM and have any cycles free to do anything else on the box.

If I were just manually loading browsers, it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. But what I’m actually doing is spending a lot of my time writing Python automation scripts to load browsers for me, way more quickly than I could do it manually, and test the things that need testing. So I need a Windows installation that can sit there and be my automation target, while I run the actual automation from a Linux install. Ideally, I need Windows available while I can do other things on the same box.

Hence, making a new VM on Aroree. I can report with satisfaction that I now have Windows 10 set up as a Bootcamp partition on this machine, doing double duty as a VM using Parallels 11. (I’d considered trying VirtualBox as well, since I’ve been using VirtualBox at work on my Mac mini there, but Parallels is what I’m familiar with at home.) With the VM running in full screen mode, I can switch back and forth between it and the desktop spaces in OS X, and that’s neat.

Within Windows, I’m running Selenium to do the actual automation. I’ve got Chrome and Firefox installed, along with the IE 11 and Edge that came with Windows 10. (There are drivers for IE and one in development for Edge, which’ll be interesting to play with later.) And over on my work laptop, in Linux, I can work on my Python scripts and run them across my home network without having to worry about VPN performance issues. Fun. :)

BUT. Installing Windows 10 on this machine was more annoying than it should have been. Bootcamp was prepared to deal with it, in theory. In actual practice, it wanted me to make a USB installer for Windows 10 which it could then use to run setup. Only it then completely failed to register the USB drive as bootable. A bit of Googling indicated that apparently Bootcamp was expecting that USB drive to be in a USB 2 port. Which I do not have on my Macbook. Its USB ports are USB 3. And Windows 10 wasn’t prepared to talk to those ports prior to installation. AUGH.

Which meant I had to punt to plan B: creating an install DVD from the ISO and using that instead. That actually let me install Windows on the Bootcamp partition. Only I had no networking, because the install DVD didn’t have the actual drivers needed for making Windows talk to Mac hardware. So I had to run the Windows setup a second time, this time off the USB drive, from within Windows. And this time I actually got the drivers I needed to make sure that Windows could talk to our wifi, if I was booted straight into it from Bootcamp.

ETA 11:17am: Am reminded via Twitter that I left out another problem I ran into, at this point. Once I got Bootcamp trying to install drivers within Windows, it hung for no apparent reason while trying to install RealTek audio. Googling for that problem led me to a bunch of other folks on the Apple forums talking about that, and I wound up having to get into the Windows Task Manager to kill the RealTek setup so that the main Bootcamp setup could continue. Once I did that, I was FINALLY able to finish the install.

That took most of the day yesterday. And once THAT was finally accomplished, I was able to install Parallels and get it talking to the Bootcamp partition so that I could run Windows as a VM as well.

Only then I discovered, wait a minute, Windows wasn’t activated. AUGH. Googling about that showed me that apparently that Windows ISO I downloaded–off of Microsoft’s own site, mind you–was not part of the usual activation path they’re expecting. I.e., previous Windows users upgrading already activated copies of Windows.

So I got on the phone to Microsoft’s tech support to try to see what I could do. Which was also more annoying than it should have been. First tech I talked to basically said “whelp you need to buy an activation key” and tried to redirect me to the store. Only I got disconnected, and had to call back and re-explain the problem to a second tech, who then finally connected me to the store. The store person however was not able to answer my question of “okay, so is it accurate that I need to actually buy an activation key?” Because if her answer had been yes, I was going to terminate that conversation and send Dara to the Microsoft employee store to buy us a licensed copy that way.

(Note: I would also have been rather irritated if that had happened, because it would have been disingenuous of Microsoft to provide a free ISO and then expect people to pay for activation keys for it. And by ‘disingenuous’ I mean really fucking annoying.)

To my surprise, however, her answer was “let me connect you with our Windows experts”. So I finally got punted over to a third tech who, after I explained that I had done an install off of microsoft.com’s own ISO and was now having activation problems, asked me for permission to remotely access the machine. When I let him do that, he did a few sanity checks and then finally actually activated it. Which was kind of fun to watch. End result: YAY, fully activated copy of Windows.

Took me all damn day to do it, but at least now it’s done and I can return to working on the actual automation.

Noting all of this for general posterity, and also for any other techie Mac users who might need to do the same thing I’ve just done. Learn from my example, y’all!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Alan YES!)

I’ve been super stalled on my writing a lot these last few months–perhaps a combination of mental weariness (albeit a good weariness, the kind you get from having a technically challenging job) from my day job, and a bit of needing to rest up from getting the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy finished off. But this has been going on long enough that I’ve finally decided I need to do something about that. And what I decided to do about it is investigate a potential new way to shoot new life into my writing’s workflow.

A lot of authors I know swear by Scrivener, a program intended to help you better organize your writing. You can write stuff in it and do basic word processing, but that’s less of the point. The program’s a lot more oriented towards letting you organize not only your drafts of your writing, but also accompanying notes and research materials.

I pulled down the trial version on Friday night and spent some time this weekend going through the entire tutorial that comes with it. Which, I gotta say, was splendidly written and gives a great overview of the program and its capabilities. Speaking as someone whose day job is indeed technically challenging, I very much appreciate a well-written tutorial.

After I did that, I started actually trying to do some work in the program. I built a new project from scratch, pulling in the already-written words for the still-unnamed Warder universe story about psychic Elizabeth trying to help Ross discover who murdered his Warder sister.

I’ve gone ahead and paid for the program to activate it, and will be using it as my primary means of writing a draft, moving forward. Still to practice: using it to export into useful formats, like HTML for building ebooks, and PDF for saving archive copies of drafts, and Word docs for anything I need to send to an editor.

What I really, really like about the program so far:

  • The aforementioned tutorial. If you’re at all interested in checking out this program, I highly recommend doing the tutorial, just to get a broad overview of its capabilities.
  • It’s super-helpful having the notes I’d written for the story immediately accessible in the sidebar, along with the individual scenes for the story itself.
  • The dialog box for showing your project target word counts is very helpful and motivating, if you’re trying to hit a daily word count. Progress bar for the win!

I hear rumors there’s an iPad build on the way, and I daresay I’ll be buying that–because having access to Scrivener projects via Dropbox on my iPad would ALSO be super-helpful.

But in the meantime, if you’re not already a Scrivener user and you think you might want to check it out, it lives over here. If you ARE a Scrivener user, what things do you like about it? Let me know in the comments!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

So as per my last post I’ve been amusing myself with throwing together an ebook edition of The Starblade of Radmynn, one of the first two novels I ever wrote. (Specifically, the later one of that name, which was actually set chronologically earlier.) One of the things I’m doing with this file is adding footnotes to the text, calling out things like “this character is an early edition of a character that showed up later in the Rebels of Adalonia” or “this nation actually had its name changed because of X and Y” and such.

But in the course of dealing with this, I discovered to my vexation EPUB has erratic support for footnotes.

I’ve seen them in ebooks I have in my own library–the ebook edition of The Lord of the Rings, for example, is packing a whole hell of a lot of ’em. But they’re all stuck at the end of the ebook file, and you have to tap on the footnote to go to it and then try to get back to where you were previously in the text. If the ebook isn’t set up smoothly enough, this can be problematic.

EPUB3 has better support–it actually includes support for popup notes, so that if you see a footnote marker on something, you can just tap on it and a little bubble will pop up and show you the note. Then you can dismiss it.

I’ve seen contradictory references, though, as to whether the major ebook vendors are actually properly supporting this. iBooks is referenced a lot as doing so, but I’m not seeing anything definitive re: whether the Nook or Kobo does. Complicating the matter is that a) I’m also seeing data that suggests that Smashwords only supports EPUB2, and b) right now, the tool I have available to me for generating EPUBs, i.e., Calibre, doesn’t talk EPUB3 either. Calibre’s creator is on record as saying he’s not particularly interested in developing EPUB3 support, although he’s held the door open for other devs to do so.

So now, I’m thinking I need to figure out if I want to play further with EPUB3, just for the sake of teaching myself something. In which case I’ll need a tool capable of generating an EPUB3 file. And I’ll need to figure out whether it’s possible to do footnotes in a way that’s backward compatible with readers that don’t talk EPUB3. This will be interesting to explore!

I know a lot of writers swear by Scrivener, and Scrivener has EPUB support. But I’m not convinced I want to bring in a tool of its magnitude just to solve a single problem. I also know a handful of authors who use InDesign to generate their books, but again, not entirely convinced I want to jump to a tool of that magnitude. More likely, I will be investigating reports that Sigil has woken up again–it’s the EPUB editor that Calibre slurped into its own code base. And there’s an EPUB3 plugin for Sigil.

More data on this as events warrant. Any indie authors care to comment on what tools you use to build your books?

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

When Victory of the Hawk dropped in April, a friend of mine in Kentucky won the draw I did for the entire trilogy. Which was all YAY! So I set her up with EPUB copies of the three novels, and also told her that if she wanted to read them on a Kindle device or app, I could convert them to MOBI as well.

However, we ran into a snag. Linda told me that she was having trouble getting the MOBI files into the Kindle app on her device–which in this case was a Samsung Galaxy Android tablet. Since I happen to have one of those as well (i.e., the Samsung Galaxy Nook), and since I am after all a QA Engineer in the day job, I decided to see if I could repro her problem.

(This is kind of long, so details behind the fold!)

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

For any of you developer types who have to work with iOS, I have a question for you!

Namely: Apple has this new system that asks sites to use appstore.com links if they want to direct people to the App Store for a company or app. So for example, we have http://appstore.com/bigfish which takes you to all the stuff in the iOS app store by Big Fish Games.

My question is this: what if you’re not on the US app store on your device? According to this article on the Apple Developer site, in theory what’s supposed to happen is that you get redirected to the app store for your country. But what I don’t know is whether this is actually the case, and what sort of magic Apple might be doing to actually make that determination.

On one of our test devices at work, I just tried to set its app store to German, but found that I still went to a list of English apps if I hit that link in Safari. I don’t know if appstore.com is doing some form of geoIP checking or what.

Anybody able to enlighten me one way or another?

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Sky Full of Dreams)
Couple more posts I've put up this week, since yet again, I'm having trouble crossposting from Wordpress over to Dreamwidth. The JournalPress plugin is getting increasingly old and cranky, I think.

And now, a rebuttal to my own rebuttal, which was a counterargument to On why tech companies drop support for older software

On whether loving SF/F makes us childish, in which, as you might guess, I have OPINIONS
annathepiper: (Alan and Sean Ordinary Day)

A fellow Carina author has a blog post up today expressing her frustration over technology companies forcing people to upgrade even if they don’t want to–brought on in no small part by Microsoft dropping support for Windows XP. If you’re in tech, it’s worth a read, just as a reminder that a lot of end users of your product are NOT going to approach that product with the same mindset that you will.

But I did want to talk about one thing Janis has to say in that post, which is on the question of why Microsoft dropped support for XP.

Sure, software companies want to make money. They’re companies, after all. And in order to keep making money, they do have to keep developing new things. But any given team at any given software company has only so many people available to do that work. Developers have to write the code that actually creates the thing. The QA team has to test it. And this includes not only getting that thing finished and ready to sell, but also keeping track of any reported bugs, and releasing fixes for those as necessary.

The team I’m on at Big Fish, for example, is in charge of features on our web site. I’m a QA tester. What that means for my job is that if we change any given thing on the web site, I have to load up the appropriate page in web browsers and make sure that that change behaves the way we want it to. But it’s not as easy a question as “I just load it up in a browser and look at it once and say whether or not it works”.

Because there are a LOT of browsers in active use. Internet Explorer–MULTIPLE versions of IE, in fact. Firefox, on both the PC and Mac. Chrome, also both on the PC and Mac. Safari on the Mac. AND Safari on iPhones and iPads, multiple versions thereof (we’ve got iPads in our device locker that run iOS 6, iOS 7, AND iOS 8). Chrome and Firefox on Android devices as well.

I have to look at changes in all of those browsers. And that’s just one change on one web page. My job gets progressively more complicated the more complicated a change I have to look at.

This is called a test matrix.

When I first started working at Big Fish, our test matrix involved IE 6, IE 7, and IE 8. But as I’ve continued my job there, the versions of IE we’ve needed to focus on have changed. IE’s most recent version is IE 11. And if I had to worry about every single version of IE that’s still in use out in the wild, that by itself would mean six different versions of IE I’d have to test on. And I STILL have to also care about Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, on the Mac and all those iDevices and Android devices too.

It’s not possible to test when your test matrix starts getting that big. I do still have to sleep and eat sometimes, you know. Not to mention write.

Now, imagine I have to test an operating system, not just one change on one web page. Then my job gets even MORE complicated–because there are a LOT of things that go into making an operating system. And it takes way, way more staff power to develop and test something that complex.

Nevertheless, the team that makes an operating system still has to also care about its test matrix. Only in their case, they have to think about things like “how many different types of computers do we have to load this operating system on?” That includes both desktop machines and laptops. And in the case of Windows 8, they had to think about making it work on tablets, too.

And if that operating system team is spending most of its time working on making the next version of that operating system, they’re going to have only so much time available to spend on supporting older versions of that operating system. Because again, those people have to also sleep and eat!

If Microsoft was to continue supporting XP, they would need to keep enough people around whose job it would be to focus on that. They’d also need to keep machines around that’d be old enough to run XP. Microsoft hires a LOT of people, and they occupy a whole heckuva lot of space in Redmond. But even their resources are finite, at the end of the day. It’s easy to dismiss their decision to drop XP support as a question of simple greed–and again, see previous commentary; yes, Microsoft wants to make money, just like any other company on the planet. Eventually, though, they’re going to have to decide that it’s just not worth it to keep that support active, when their available people and resources can be more effectively spent on something else.

But next time you want to rant about why any given software company is making you upgrade a thing you’re used to using a certain way, I ask that you also take a moment to remember that the team that actually made that thing aren’t out to personally make your life difficult. Promise! We just want to do our job just like anybody else, and have time at the end of the day to come home and have lives.

In closing, two final notes:

One, Bill Gates hasn’t worked for Microsoft for years. So if you want to rant about any current activities of theirs, they’re not Gates’ fault anymore.

And two, I AM a raving technophile and love me some shiny upgrades. But they’re going to pry Mac Word 2008 out of my cold dead fingers. 😉

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Little Help?)

Has anyone successfully set up an SD card to have an Android install on it?

What I want to do: use my 32GB SD card to have vanilla Android on it so that I can dual boot my Nook HD between the Nook’s proprietary launcher and vanilla Android*. I do not actually want to root the Nook–I just want vanilla Android available to me so I can switch back and forth and see which I like better.

(The main reason I don’t want to root the Nook right now is that it’s still under warranty, and rooting it will violate that warranty.)

I’ve done a bunch of googling, but the various interesting links I’m finding, while interesting, seem like they’re geared towards actually rooting the device. I’m also seeing a bunch of references to just buying images of Android you can plunk onto an SD card. But while that does sound convenient, screw that, I’ve got the tech chops to do an install myself. I just need to know the proper steps.

Anybody done this? If you have, can you point me at any notable links of interest on how to do it?

* For values of ‘vanilla Android’ meaning ‘I’m open to icecreamsandwich or kitkat or whatever works’. The Nook HD ships with what appears to be a B&N-hacked version of cyanogenmod’s hummingbird build, so I’m fine with looking at that, too.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

Yosemite, OS X 10.10, finally dropped, so I’ve gone ahead and updated my laptop Aroree with it. So far my initial impressions of it are favorable. They’ve changed the overall design of it somewhat to make it better fit with the look of iOS 7 and iOS 8, which doesn’t surprise me. And performance-wise, my laptop now seems zippier, and I’m all for that.

iTunes

As part of this update, I also pulled down iTunes 12, and I’ve got to admit that that’s the thing that made me go ‘buh?’ first–not because of the changed layout of the program per se, but because now there’s a red icon for iTunes on the dock. Which is a distinct change from the years of blue iTunes icons we’ve had, and I’m not sure I approve of changing the color like that. I keep thinking something’s gone wrong every time I look at the dock and see that red icon there–or otherwise that something needs my attention, since “red circle” in Apple’s visual language has for so long meant “there’s a notification here that needs you to do something”.

Inside iTunes itself though I think I’m good with the new layout. It’s a bit less cluttered, and while I’m going to have to get used to changing icons on the toolbar along the top to see what I want to see, that’s not difficult. It’s similar to clicking things on my web browser, so that’s all good. And I particularly like the prettier layout for podcasts. Still to determine: how well this flavor of iTunes keeps things synced with my phone, particularly the recurring issue I’ve had with iTunes periodically deciding to duplicate some of my podcast feeds for no apparent reason.

Handoff

It’s pretty neat that I can message Dara via the Messages app on the computer and have it ping her on her phone. For that matter, the same conversation shows up on my phone and iPad, too. I haven’t tried to use the computer to make a call yet, but I think it’s pretty neat that that’s doable too.

I’m also going to want to try composing mail on the computer and seeing if I can pick it up again one of the devices, or vice versa. I don’t know how often I’ll use that feature, but it’ll be neat to try it out.

Mail

And speaking of mail, no huge functionality changes here as near as I can tell, other than Handoff. I’m seeing that a prior behavior that was irritating me still happens, but Dara’s theory is that this behavior is actually on purpose.

Specifically, it’s a behavior wherein if you have multiple mailboxes, let’s say A and B… and you get mail at Mailbox A but then move it over into Mailbox B, but then try to reply to the mail… it automatically defaults to replying from your B address. This is fine except when I’m trying to answer mail that goes to mailing lists. I keep forgetting which address I’m pointing at, and keep having to resend mailing list mail. Since this behavior has persisted through Mountain Lion, Mavericks, and now Yosemite, I’m clearly just going to have to make some tweaks to how I organize my mail.

I’m having to finally pull a lot of mail off my Gmail account anyway, since I’ve gotten tired of Mail.app choking when dealing with my Gmail accounts. I’ve seen ongoing problems with Mail refusing to download new mail from Gmail if I have a number of messages above a certain threshold. So before I updated to Yosemite, I’d already pulled a lot of mail off my Gmail accounts to try to reduce the amount of data that the program had to deal with. Thus, I don’t know if the problem persists in Yosemite or not. I’ll have to keep an eye out.

Printing

I do note with pleasure though that another long-standing bug does appear to have gotten fixed with printing of certain PDFs. One of our local utilities that we pay was doing something with its PDFs every time I tried to download the monthly bills, something that caused the files to get garbled whenever I tried to print them. So I’d have to mail them to Dara to let HER print them, since she was still on Snow Leopard for the longest time. Once she upgraded to Mavericks, though, the problem happened on her box too.

Now though, with Yosemite, the problem seems to have finally gone away. So I can print these bills again. Yay!

Weird computer name problems

I did see a new weird thing happen, though. My computer was mysteriously renaming itself from Aroree to Aroree-2, and I couldn’t figure out why. I’m apparently not the only person who was having this problem, according to my searches.

Renaming the box back to Aroree didn’t help, since the name would revert after a few minutes. What I finally had to do to fix this was to reboot into Repair mode, do a Disk Utility disk repair, and then reboot back into the OS. After having done that, the name change back to Aroree appears to have finally stuck. But any of y’all out there who’ve updated to Yosemite, you might keep an eye out for this.

iCloud Drive

I have this finally available, yay! Another thing I haven’t yet tried anything with, but it’s nice to see it there. It finally makes Pages potentially actually useful to me. And the reasons I care about this are a) Pages doesn’t talk to Dropbox, and b) as an iPad app, Pages has a somewhat friendlier experience than what I’m currently using to write on my iPad, which is DocsToGo.

For my next full book, I may try to use Pages instead of Word + DocsToGo, and see how that goes. I’ll report on that as it happens!

That’s everything I can think of to comment on right now. How about the rest of you out there? Who’s installed Yosemite and what do you think of it?

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

I installed iOS 8 on both of my iThings this week, so here’s a quick roundup of things I’ve noticed so far. In general, iOS 8 looks a LOT like iOS 7, and the stuff that interests me the most won’t really kick into play until Yosemite drops and I can update my Mac. But that said, there are some points of interest.

The Good:

The new Health app has a tab in it where you can fill in medical data about yourself that might be critical in an emergency–allergies, important conditions of note, meds you’re on, that kind of thing. This strikes me as super-helpful, and certainly in both my and Dara’s case, there are important things that medical personnel might need to know if we’re in an emergency situation. This data is accessible from the phone’s emergency screen, the same screen from which you can dial 911. Excellent idea, Apple.

I am pleased to note that not only have the recurring Smart Playlists bugs that have plagued me through the last several iOS releases not returned this time, but a few other bugs new to iOS 7 appear to have been fixed as well. Notably, I’m not seeing weirdly missing album art anymore. And I don’t have to restart the Music app after syncing now to un-stick the Not Recently Played smartlist as I play stuff on it. AND, they fixed the bug where my Not Recently Played playlist wasn’t showing me brand new stuff. So now that playlist is behaving like I originally expected it to. Good.

Playlists in the Music app are now showing a count of songs and a run time in minutes. This is helpful to have, particularly for my smart playlists like Not Recently Played, where I can see at a glance how big the playlist currently is.

The bug with setting wallpapers appears to have been fixed–this bug being the one wherein you were unable to actually zoom a photo to the size you wanted when setting a wallpaper. This was annoying and I’m glad it’s fixed. Let’s hope it stays that way as this rev of the OS gets minor updates.

On my iPhone, battery life seems like it’s better. I haven’t burned through the battery nearly as fast the last couple of days, even if I play music through a good chunk of the day.

The Not Bad Per Se But Not of Interest to Me:

Two things got added that I immediately turned off when I discovered them.

One is predictive text, where they show you example possible words in a bar above the keyboard as you type to try to anticipate what you’re actually about to say. I found this visually distracting. Fortunately it was easy to turn off in Settings > General > Keyboards > Predictive.

The other is that in the app switcher that they put in with iOS 7, when you double-tap the Home button, they’ve added a list of your recently accessed Contacts. I found this visually distracting as well, and turned that off too. You can find the setting in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Show in App Switcher.

The Bad:

I’ve had apps hang unexpectedly a couple of times since the upgrade, requiring me to kill them in the App Switcher. This isn’t happening often, but it IS new behavior, and it’ll be something I’ll have to keep an eye on. The apps I’ve noticed this on so far have been Plants Vs. Zombies 2 and Friendly+, my Facebook app. I don’t know if this is a fault of the OS or of the apps not quite having been updated correctly for the new OS, though.

The Stuff I’m Still Investigating:

Apple’s handling of podcasts has been a mess in the last couple of revs of iOS, ever since they split podcasts out of the main Music app and off into their own Podcasts app. I’ve had recurring issues with certain podcasts duplicating themselves in my listing, and podcasts I’ve listened to still showing up in my list even though they’re supposed to have been deleted.

Still investigating whether handling of this has improved. A new version of the Podcasts app just dropped last night.

The Stuff I Will Play With More When Yosemite Drops:

You’re supposed to be able to share files across iCloud now, and have an accessible drive to put them on, similar to Dropbox, Google, OneDrive, and other such services. It’s about damn time Apple implemented that, and I’ll look forward to checking it out–since it’ll make Pages finally actually useful to me. Pages doesn’t talk to Dropbox, which has been a source of frustration to me.

Continuity will be interesting as well–the ability to answer messages across devices, such as answering a phone call on the Mac. Or starting a mail on the phone and picking it up again on the computer when I get home.

Should You Install It?:

If you have a recent device like an iPhone 5 or one of the newer iPads, yes, go for it. So far this seems like it’s a better than average iOS update.

However, if you have an iPhone 4S, you should read this. According to that article, the 4S suffers noticeable performance hits with iOS 8 on it.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

I installed iOS 8 on both of my iThings this week, so here’s a quick roundup of things I’ve noticed so far. In general, iOS 8 looks a LOT like iOS 7, and the stuff that interests me the most won’t really kick into play until Yosemite drops and I can update my Mac. But that said, there are some points of interest.

The Good:

The new Health app has a tab in it where you can fill in medical data about yourself that might be critical in an emergency–allergies, important conditions of note, meds you’re on, that kind of thing. This strikes me as super-helpful, and certainly in both my and Dara’s case, there are important things that medical personnel might need to know if we’re in an emergency situation. This data is accessible from the phone’s emergency screen, the same screen from which you can dial 911. Excellent idea, Apple.

I am pleased to note that not only have the recurring Smart Playlists bugs that have plagued me through the last several iOS releases not returned this time, but a few other bugs new to iOS 7 appear to have been fixed as well. Notably, I’m not seeing weirdly missing album art anymore. And I don’t have to restart the Music app after syncing now to un-stick the Not Recently Played smartlist as I play stuff on it. AND, they fixed the bug where my Not Recently Played playlist wasn’t showing me brand new stuff. So now that playlist is behaving like I originally expected it to. Good.

Playlists in the Music app are now showing a count of songs and a run time in minutes. This is helpful to have, particularly for my smart playlists like Not Recently Played, where I can see at a glance how big the playlist currently is.

The bug with setting wallpapers appears to have been fixed–this bug being the one wherein you were unable to actually zoom a photo to the size you wanted when setting a wallpaper. This was annoying and I’m glad it’s fixed. Let’s hope it stays that way as this rev of the OS gets minor updates.

On my iPhone, battery life seems like it’s better. I haven’t burned through the battery nearly as fast the last couple of days, even if I play music through a good chunk of the day.

The Not Bad Per Se But Not of Interest to Me:

Two things got added that I immediately turned off when I discovered them.

One is predictive text, where they show you example possible words in a bar above the keyboard as you type to try to anticipate what you’re actually about to say. I found this visually distracting. Fortunately it was easy to turn off in Settings > General > Keyboards > Predictive.

The other is that in the app switcher that they put in with iOS 7, when you double-tap the Home button, they’ve added a list of your recently accessed Contacts. I found this visually distracting as well, and turned that off too. You can find the setting in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Show in App Switcher.

The Bad:

I’ve had apps hang unexpectedly a couple of times since the upgrade, requiring me to kill them in the App Switcher. This isn’t happening often, but it IS new behavior, and it’ll be something I’ll have to keep an eye on. The apps I’ve noticed this on so far have been Plants Vs. Zombies 2 and Friendly+, my Facebook app. I don’t know if this is a fault of the OS or of the apps not quite having been updated correctly for the new OS, though.

The Stuff I’m Still Investigating:

Apple’s handling of podcasts has been a mess in the last couple of revs of iOS, ever since they split podcasts out of the main Music app and off into their own Podcasts app. I’ve had recurring issues with certain podcasts duplicating themselves in my listing, and podcasts I’ve listened to still showing up in my list even though they’re supposed to have been deleted.

Still investigating whether handling of this has improved. A new version of the Podcasts app just dropped last night.

The Stuff I Will Play With More When Yosemite Drops:

You’re supposed to be able to share files across iCloud now, and have an accessible drive to put them on, similar to Dropbox, Google, OneDrive, and other such services. It’s about damn time Apple implemented that, and I’ll look forward to checking it out–since it’ll make Pages finally actually useful to me. Pages doesn’t talk to Dropbox, which has been a source of frustration to me.

Continuity will be interesting as well–the ability to answer messages across devices, such as answering a phone call on the Mac. Or starting a mail on the phone and picking it up again on the computer when I get home.

Should You Install It?:

If you have a recent device like an iPhone 5 or one of the newer iPads, yes, go for it. So far this seems like it’s a better than average iOS update.

However, if you have an iPhone 4S, you should read this. According to that article, the 4S suffers noticeable performance hits with iOS 8 on it.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Final Test)

As many of you know, Dara and I host our own teeny Internet site, including Web and mail support. As part of this, we host several mailing lists, using MailMan as our mailing list system of choice.

This weekend one of our users on the LexFA list (that’s the mailing list for the Lexington Fantasy Association) reported a weird problem to me. He was subscribed to the list with a Yahoo email address, but not receiving email from the list. I logged into the list’s administration website, checked the member settings, and determined that he was indeed correctly subscribed to the list, and not set Nomail or blocked for too many bounces or anything of that nature. As far as the list was concerned, he should have been getting mail and wasn’t.

So, since software testing is in fact what I do for my day job, I immediately went, “Hey, I have a Yahoo account myself. Let’s see if I can reproduce this problem.”

I COULD. I was able to subscribe my Yahoo account to the list. I was able to post to it–which I confirmed by monitoring the list’s archives, where the message showed up. Likewise, Dara confirmed by monitoring our system logs that the message got to our server.

Where it fell over, however, was that message trying to get back to Yahoo so that my Inbox could actually see it.

And further investigation finally got me to this Computerworld article. The tl;dr version of this, in case you aren’t a techie, is that basically Yahoo instituted an anti-spam tactic that sounds good in theory: i.e., it’s trying to prevent spammers from sending mail that pretends to be from legitimate Yahoo users. Yahoo has a setting in place that basically now says “If you get a mail that claims to be from a Yahoo user, and it didn’t actually come from our servers, you should bounce it because it’s probably spam”.

The problem with this, though, is that it breaks mailing list behavior. Because what happens now is this:

  • Yahoo user sends a mail to a mailing list she’s on.
  • The mailing list goes “ah, I have a mail from a subscriber! I shall send it to all the other subscribers!”
  • Then the mail tries to come back to the Yahoo user. Except now Yahoo’s own servers see this mail come in, which is claiming to be from a Yahoo user. (Because it IS, because it’s the user’s own mail to her mailing list that she’s on.) BUT, Yahoo also sees that this mail didn’t come from Yahoo’s servers. (Which it didn’t, at least in our case, because our mailing list is not hosted with Yahoo.)
  • Yahoo’s servers go “MUST BE SPAM” and promptly ditches the mail before the user ever sees it.
  • End result: the user wonders where the hell her mail is, and whether something is broken about the list, or whether she got unsubscribed by mistake. When all this time, nothing is wrong with the list at all.

Yahoo, as per this Help link on yahoo.com and this link on the Yahoomail tumblr, is aware of the problem. However, their suggestion for how mailing lists should handle this is suboptimal–i.e., that we should set our mailing lists to have the list be the sending address. This would result in not being able to see who sends what messages.

So for now Dara and I are moving forward with an attempt to do a distribution upgrade on our mail server, for starters. If this is successful, this should let us upgrade our MailMan system to a version that’ll handle Yahoo’s more stringent settings.

In the meantime, though, if anyone reading this is trying to get mailing list mails at a Yahoo address and you’re having trouble with it, chances are good that this is why. You may need to consider getting your mail at an alternate address.

Apologies to folks directly impacted by this on our mailing lists–hopefully we can get a more recent version of MailMan running, and fix this problem! more as I know it!

ETA Dara and I were up till 1am last night trying to fix this, and now we do at least have a fix in place. We updated our MailMan install to the latest available version, 2.1.18-1, which has settings to talk to what Yahoo did and let mail come on through. However, THAT required Dara to do local tweaking of the source code so that we could actually have emails to the list still have identifiable senders, about which she is displeased. She posts about it here.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

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Anna the Piper

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