Time Lapse Synchronicity

I have one of those novelty cat clocks that has moving eyes and a wagging tail. I thought it might be fun to shoot about 20 minutes of time-lapse video of it so it would look like the cat was manic, with rapidly twitching eyes and tail.

Turned out that the frame-rate of my iPhone’s time-lapse feature is an even multiple of the eye-moving, tail-wagging period. As a result, the clock seems to look quite normal in the video if you don’t notice that its hands are moving rather rapidly (expand the video below to full-screen to see the hands more clearly).

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup…
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup…

This started with my grandmother’s recipe, but has mutated over the years. I make it in an improvisatory fashion, so the measurements below are all approximate. It honestly does help reduce the symptoms of a cold. And it tastes even better if you don’t have a cold. (By the way: the large pot I use is a ceramic coated cast iron pot that I got from my grandmother about 40 years ago, and which she used for several decades before that, but any large pot will do.)

In a large pot, toss in 4 large or 6 small chicken thighs (thighs make a richer, sweeter broth than breasts)

Add 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, peeled and cut into large chunks

Add 2-3 stalks of celery, sliced into half-inch pieces

Add 2-3 carrots, sliced into half-inch pieces

Add 5-8 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced thinly

Add 1 tsp. salt

Add 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/8 tsp. hot red pepper

Add 1/4 tsp. each of oregano, dried sage, basil, marjoram, rosemary

Add 2-3 sticks of cinnamon

Cover all ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Remove chicken thighs, discard skin and bones, shred chicken and return to the pot. Let simmer for another hour or two.

Dear Sir or Madam, Would You Read My Book?

It took me years to write, won’t you take a look?

Actually, it both has and hasn’t taken years to write. The idea for the book, Fuzzy Bytes, first occurred to me in the 1980s, when I was working at UCLA, helping faculty and students use a new-fangled thing called “word processing.” One service faculty frequently requested from me was to convert their word processing documents from one format to another.

It was a crazy time: personal computers were rapidly evolving, standards were fluid, disk formats and data formats were myriad, and almost nothing was compatible with anything else. I remember looking one day at an 8-inch disk from an NBI word processor (a standalone piece of office equipment that was briefly popular at the end of the 1970s; “NBI,” by the way, stood for “Nothing But Initials”—really!) and thinking, “We have, and can still read, manuscripts that are over a thousand years old, but five years from now no one will have the slightest clue about how to read any of the documents stored on this disk.”

I imagined the plight of a literary scholar living half a dozen decades from now suddenly discovering the rough drafts of a major literary figure’s works, all stored on disks that were only compatible with devices that had passed from the scene half a century earlier. How would this scholar proceed? Could this scholar proceed?

I made a stab at writing the story of such a scholar years ago, and got 40 or so pages into it when I abandoned the tale.

However, this year I found myself with some free time that coincided with the yearly creative demolition derby known as “National Novel Writing Month” (NaNoWriMo, for short). During NaNoWriMo, aspiring writers and other self-destructive individuals attempt to compose at least 50,000 words of a novel. I dug my old Fuzzy Bytes manuscript from the file cabinet (it’s on paper; the digital draft is, not surprisingly, inaccessible 😉) and figured I would try to finish it.

Instead, I read a few pages and tossed it aside: it was terrible. But the underlying idea still intrigued me, so I decided to start from scratch and just start writing. Which I did on November 1, 2015.

By the end of the month, I had reached the 50,000 word goal with several hundred words to spare. Unfortunately, the story was far from complete. Since then, I have continued to work on the book (though not as feverishly as I had during NaNoWriMo).

As of today, January 2, 2016, the story still isn’t complete: it will take another three chapters to wrap the tale up, as far as I can tell (no, I don’t know for sure: the story has a mind of its own). But I do have enough written, and in reasonably good shape (I think), to start showing it to other people.

And so, as a New Year’s present for (or curse upon) the world, I have begun to post chapters of the book. I’m starting today with the first two chapters, and I plan to post an additional chapter every week or so. I hope that by the time I post Chapter Sixteen (the last one written to date), I will have finished the few remaining chapters.

The race is on!

Mmmm…mystery meat!

A day or so ago, Apple updated its iWork Web apps (just as I was finishing Take Control of Pages—thanks !!). One of the new features in the updated Pages for iCloud app that Apple touts is the ability to “Rename a document in the editor.” A minor improvement, but a welcome one…if you can figure out how to do it. The document title appears nowhere in the document editor that you can see, and there doesn’t seem to be a menu that has a Rename command on it.

But, oh, our fruit-flavored app builders in Cupertino are tricksy sprites, and the method for document renaming that they have come up combines simplicity with opacity. Here’s how it works: click the tool (wrench) icon on the document editor toolbar and then, on the menu that appears, click the filename shown at the top: the name item becomes editable right on the menu. Because nobody expects a menu with items that are also editable fields!

The amazing mystery meat document-renaming interface!
The amazing mystery meat document-renaming interface!

A Yosemite Success Story

A few months back my agéd mother said, “I need a new computer.” This is what she always says when her iMac misbehaves in some small fashion, but in this case it was misbehaving in a big way. Like many people, she got bamboozled into clicking a pop-up ad for MacKeeper and her computer was now experiencing major Spinning Pinwheels Of Death to the extent that she couldn’t do anything on the machine for more than a few minutes — at best — before one of those twirly rainbow SPODs would appear.

My youngest brother, who is primarily a Windows guy but who knows his way around the UNIX command-line, spent hours heroically tracking the various bits of MacKeeper malware down and expunging them, and though he succeeded for the most part, her computer’s operation was still a few orders of magnitude short of optimal. It got to the point where we had to move her to a new user account: fortunately, though MacKeeper mostly trashed her login account, its effects did not jump the wall to the new account we created. Finally, she could do her bill-paying and read her email, but most of her files and pictures and music were still in the old sad, bad account, so I made an appointment to spend a morning moving her files.

However, a couple days before the appointment, she called and asked with the same child-like eagerness with which she’d probably clicked the MacKeeper pop-up’s button if it was safe to install Yosemite, OS X 10.10, which had just been released. I cringed but figured she’d probably do it even if I said “No,” so I told her it was risky but up to her. She installed it. Fortunately, nothing dire happened. At least, I thought not; I didn’t get a follow-up call saying otherwise.

On the day of the appointment, I sat down at her Mac and logged into her old, bad, sad account to see about moving her files and pictures and music. What I found was astonishing: no SPODs! Or, at least no more than would be normal in any account waking up under a new OS for the first time. The old, bad, sad account was no longer bad and sad (it remained old): the OS X 10.10 installer had apparently found all the remaining corruption and cruft that MacKeeper had left behind and cleaned it all out.

Whenever a new OS for the Mac is released, one always sees stories about how it has messed up formerly fine computers. These stories make for great press and give us all a secretly delightful frisson of fear (“Thank god it didn’t happen to me! Yay, me!!”), but for every such story we see, we can’t know how many stories like my mother’s there are didn’t get reported, where the new OS fixed a machine that was on its last legs.

Battery and the iPhone 6 Plus

I’m hearing a lot of moaning and teeth-gnashing about how the new iPhones can’t hold a charge any longer than a two-year-old with a weak bladder (e.g., this report). After the first day or so I was a bit worried: I charged my iPhone 6 Plus completely before going to bed on the first day and the next morning it was down to 78% charge after sitting completely unused all night.

The next day charge seemed to go down somewhat faster than it did on my iPhone 5, too. But then things began to change, and last night I completely charged the iPhone 6 Plus again before going to bed. This morning, the reported charge was 100% — it barely dropped at all. Right now, in fact, it is still indicating 100% charge after 43 minutes of usage and 10 hours and 48 minutes of standby.

Seems to me that it takes a while for iOS 8 and the iPhone to settle down. It also seems to me that as the onslaught of background app updates slows down (only a couple apps updated last night), battery life gets better (I didn’t take Adam Engst’s advice to turn off automatic updates for iOS 8 because I wanted to see what the result of leaving them on would be).

All this to say that over the next few days I’m sure we’ll be seeing all sorts of scare stories about bad iPhone 6/iOS 8 battery life problems, but take them all with a grain of salt: it’ll take a week or so of use before you can have a reliable baseline of battery life information.

New from : iWork Cross-Platform Incompatibility

Last week Apple introduced iOS 8 and, along with it, a reconfiguring of iCloud document storage. Moving from the old, sandboxed system in which apps had access only to their own documents stored in iCloud, iOS 8 brought iCloud Drive, which allows apps to open documents in iCloud from other apps. This has been a long time coming, but there is a hitch in the transition. It’s this: when you activate iCloud Drive, all of your iCloud documents are moved into the new storage system.

That means, sadly, that apps using the old Documents in the Cloud method of accessing iCloud documents won’t see any of the iCloud Drive files. This includes all apps on Macs that aren’t running a version of OS X that supports iCloud Drive. Such as Mavericks (OS X 10.9)—the most current Mac OS that Apple has released. iCloud Drive capability is coming with OS X 10.10 (“Yosemite”) sometime next month.

Fortunately, Apple has made iCloud Drive optional in iOS 8, though the iOS 8 Setup Assistant really tries to convince you otherwise: if you decline to make the transition, the Assistant makes you confirm your Luddite ways.

Much less fortunately, the iWork for iCloud apps that run in a modern browser do not make iCloud Drive optional: it’s either activate iCloud Drive (which affects all of your iCloud documents on all of your devices) or no iWork for iCloud for you—click “Not Now” and you are booted out of the iWork for iCloud app!

iCloud drive not optional
Click this and lose access to iCloud documents on your Mac running Mavericks

If you click “Upgrade to iCloud Drive” the consequences can be severe: if you are not running the Yosemite beta on your Mac, and if any of your Apple devices are not updated to iOS 8, they all lose access to your iWork documents stored in iCloud.

Here’s a chart that shows what works with what:

iCloud document accessibility matrix
The current matrix of iCloud document accessibility — not even Neo could understand this!

Right now, Apple’s vaunted “Everything you love, everywhere you go” claim comes with a great big asterisk and a footnote that reads, “Eventually. But not today.”

Thanks, Apple!

[Note: Kirk McElhearn, the “iTunes Guy” at Macworld, points out that Windows users can access iCloud Drive with the new iCloud app that Apple released for Windows. But, since they can only run iWork within a browser on a Windows computer, they are only affected if they have iOS devices that don’t run iOS 8. I do note the irony, though, of Apple giving better service to Windows users than to Mac users!]