Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Hi there, it’s the last day of June, and I have plenty of random ideas floating around my head this evening, but a lot of them carry the burden of Life These Days in a pandemic, and so I can’t quite bring myself to share/inflict/instill them upon you.
So I do what I often do. Go back into the past and look at our images of our city, and remember wandering. (These are all from my photostream on Flickr.)
Hope you have a safe and great July, and hope your road signs are more vertical and your Krog Tunnels festive and spattered with creativity.
Monday, June 29th, 2020
Every so often I’m reminded why I like to work on a large screen (two, actually) on a desktop running a fairly current (but not the absolute latest) version of the MacOS operating system.
It’s connected to Mondays. Or at least Mondays like this one.
And this is just Monday, the last Monday of June. The trash and recycling is out on the curb, it’s late, and let’s call it a scattered Monday.
Sunday, June 28th, 2020
We have this small chunk of code I wrote that takes all the Instagram pictures I ever posted (some 3300, stretching back to October 2010) and all the ones Sammy has done (thousands as well) and puts them together, selects 200 completely at random, and displays them on our home TV with nice dissolves for our entertainment.
Yes, a slideshow.
As I said, completely at random.
And just like other elements of our world where humans attempt to divine patterns and meaning, sometimes we sit there and look at the TV while reading something else and…whoa, what a coincidence!
Boom, there’s one with a quirkily-punctuated sign from up by the city water plant, taken five years ago, but viewed on a day where a lot of our town remains under a boil water advisory. Boom! There’s one that says ‘jug filler’ from a rest area. What are the odds!? And there’s a big glass of water with lemon in it! How does it know that this water thing is on our minds?
It doesn’t, of course, but it’s amazing what patterns our brains attempt to engrave upon randomness, especially when given a lot of free time to ponder the world.
Saturday, June 27th, 2020
Early in the afternoon a very large water main broke just north of the Georgia Tech campus, pretty much due west of here. Within 60 seconds, the twitter world was speckled with tweets asking something along the lines of “anyone know whats going on with the water in atlanta? it seems like it suddenly shut off in multiple neighborhoods.“ Our house never lost water, but the pressure dropped.
We (because we’re old fashioned) watched on the 10:00 pm television news an Atlanta watershed spokesperson say that the large pipe just “gave way”, something that might happen, y’know, “once in a blue moon.”
The end result, we’re under a Boil Water Advisory, out of the famed abundance of caution that we seem to have these days in such abundance.
I think most neighborhoods have water again into this evening (but, y’know, boil it) and we find ourselves confronted with the reality that using good ol’ Atlanta water to frequently wash our hands, sanitize our dishes and surfaces, and so on represents a new complexity to be worked around in a state with unsettlingly high rates of Covid-19 infection and hospital admission.
And, again, we’re among the fortunate: a line of storms came through late in the afternoon and knocked out some (other) peoples’ power.
It’d be nice to be able to pause the usual infrastructure crises during this global health one, but of course, that’s never the case.
But boy, that one break sure messed up the Saturday of a lot of Atlantans.
Friday, June 26th, 2020
We have a significant number of old computers in the house. We even have some in drawers and the fabled “porch room” that are historical artifacts only, much like Sammy’s family’s black dial telephone that sits on a shelf behind me.
But the one I’m working on right now, a fine 27″ Apple iMac, was purchased almost six and a half years ago. Our laptop is our newest, and came into our lives 2.6 years ago. But there are other perfectly functioning iMacs here that are 12.6 years old, and 10 years old.
Those darn Apple products, they keep working…for the most part (don’t try to stick any SD cards into the 10 year old one—that port stopped sailing years ago.)
They are, unfortunately, obsolete in another sense. They can’t be upgraded to the latest version of MacOS, the fabled MacOS 11 Big Sur. Well, the laptop can. Barely. They have been upgraded several times and are now running a version of MacOS that was released in September 2017. That’s three major releases back.
Apple would be happy to take these off our hands if we purchase a new one—for precisely $0 in trade-in value. We could sell them, maybe, on Craigslist, if we’re willing to chance an encounter in a midtown parking lot (yeah, I’ve done that.)
About WWDC time (which is to say June) Apple announces the new OS, and the ‘system requirements’ list gets a little smaller each time. This time, my main machine did not make the cut.
So I can’t upgrade to the latest and greatest. On the other hand, the upgrade process itself obsoletes some software I like and find useful. And although you can certainly say “if it ain’t broke, don’t upgrade it,” there are some fairly important security components that do break over time, and if you can’t find an update for just that tiny part, sometimes lots of larger components can simply stop working.
It’s when you focus on hardware and software as a holistic system that you realize that it has so many distinct parts that it’s foolhardy to proceed assuming everything will be fine, forever.
And sometimes, you just want the new hotness.
Thursday, June 25th, 2020
I hesitate to toss in this image of, yes, a tunnel, because it’s such a frequently-used metaphor for “you’re inside this linear, constricted space, and it seems like your options are few, and the daylight is maybe only a point in the distance, but eventually, inexorably, you’ll get through and burst out into the sunshine again.”
Which is certainly what I’m hoping for all of us, although it seems like it might take months to emerge.
So here’s a tunnel pic, maybe not as a metaphor, but hey, it looks nice and I find it cheery to look at. Also dark and tubular. Hmm. Anyway, here!
Wednesday, June 24th, 2020
And just to prove that headline, I typed it in thinking “that’s one of those Yogi Berra sayings, isn’t it?”
No. It’s about…baseball? No.
I should have known, I have the book on my shelf, it’s from screenwriter William Goldman’s 1983 memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade. He was, of course, talking about the film business, and that’s just one post Covid-19 arena to which it certainly applies.
The folks charged with getting film production started again have some vague plans and safety initiatives and, well, they’re just going to kick it off soon and see how it goes.
The folks who run movie theatres would like you to come in and watch a movie and a mask is not required, no, wait, it is….no, wait, it’s…well, they’re working on it.
The folks who run Major League Baseball think they have their sanitized, PPE-equipped ducks in a row and they are going to, what the heck, play 60 games and see how it goes.
The folks who run the Democratic National Convention have a plan where there will be some sort of convention in Milwaukee, but they’d like the delegates to stay at home, and, well, the other details are being shaped up.
The folks who run Texas thought they had a plan, and they ran with it a while to see how it goes and oh jeez, it is not going well. So they’re trying to reel things back in without using the words “lockdown” as hospitals fill to overflowing. The folks in Arizona and parts of California are in similar straits.
The folks who run Disneyland this very evening decided to push back their repoening. Maybe they are seeing how it’s going.
Scientific papers are emerging with new details about how the infection spreads. It most certainly does and is very dangerous, but it doesn’t quite do things as expected.
Nobody knows nothing. And that certainty about the uncertainty is a great way to spread stress far and wide.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020
Been spending today in a mixture of tech support mode and continuing education mode as Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference continues, virtualized, and thus made Covid-19 safe, into a series of tidy and informative videos.
When you have a nice fast internet connection, you can watch these sessions and download early beta versions of the software on your iPhone and iPad, just to see what all the hoopla is about. First reaction: pretty darn solid. This is not always the case. There have been years where installing unfinished software led to a cascade of problems, and there have been years where I chose the discretion of “let other adventurous souls try it” over the valor of having the latest OS right there in your pocket.
In the meantime, I’m looking north this evening to Kentucky’s primary to see if the people who wanted to vote could in fact make it over and through the obstacles placed in their way. And yes, starting to make plans now about Georgia’s November election.
Monday, June 22nd, 2020
Well, hey, okay, to follow up on what I wrote yesterday, yes, Apple did indeed announce a transition away from Intel chips to Apple’s own design of chips that use that 64 bit ARM architecture I went on about yesterday.
They announced all this in a slickly-produced video set in and around Apple’s pretty empty at the moment spaceship campus, Apple Park. At the end of the presentation was a long list of “Health & Safety” credits, the new “no animals were harmed in the filming of this episode.”
But hey, new architecture! Big transition!
Are there new machines we can buy today? Um, no, check back toward the end of the year. Will the transition be easy for developers and for the most part invisible to consumers? Apple says indeed. How long will it take until they no longer sell any Intel chip machines? About two years. Right now if you’re a for-real developer you can apply to pay $500 to get what looks like a rental Mac Mini with the same system on a chip that powers the current iPad Pro inside, so you experience the new system and write your code and debug it appropriately. This is similar to the developers’ program they had when they went from PowerPC to Intel.
There will be a new version of MacOS this year, just like last year’s release of the (somewhat derided and problematical) MacOS Catalina.
Thanks Apple, for a distraction from the troubling world around us. Good luck with those new SoCs.
Sunday, June 21st, 2020
On June 6, 2005, Apple announced that the computer maker would transition to Intel microprocessors in their desktops and laptops, replacing the Motorola PowerPC chip series that had run Macs since mid-1992.
On August 7, 2006, they announced the transition was complete.
On January 9, 2007, Apple announced the iPhone, a hand-held computing device (and yes, music player and phone.) It ran not on PowerPC or Intel, but on an Apple-designed system-on-a-chip (SoC) that uses what’s called ARM architecture, a reduced instruction set architecture first designed to run British Acorn microcomputers.
The ARM architecture has expanded its influence and reach to where today companies create ARM-based systems that combine multiple cores of processing, both CPUs and the graphics-focused GPUs.
If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch, you have an ARM SoC designed by Apple running in there at remarkable speeds, sipping battery power, and getting things done for you silently. It is a key to the success of those devices, and Apple has become very good at designing and refining these things.
In fact, if you have an Android phone, it too probably has an ARM architecture SoC inside. There are those that say these “reference designs” aren’t as fast or as power-efficient than Apple’s take on the architecture, but the fact that they get the job done at all in a thing that small is a tribute to the robustness of the ARM approach.
ARM systems-on-a-chip are also running the two tiny Raspberry Pi linux computers in our house. They are powerful and sip power.
So. Tomorrow, Monday June 22, 2020, Apple is “widely expected to announce” (if you run that through your secret decoder ring, you get “the rumor sites are really almost 100% positive about this”) that they will transition—somehow—their desktop and laptop machines—their Macs—from Intel chips, which they of course have to pay Intel for, to Apple-designed ARM-based systems-on-a-chip. That will be a profound transition, if true.
It might mean…well, there are sites right now filled with what it might mean. We could just tune into Tim Cook’s 1 pm eastern Keynote talk and find out for sure.
Saturday, June 20th, 2020
I guess when you’re in the Army and you’re charged with getting behind the wheel of a very, very, very big rig and safely getting a chained-down Humvee up the Eisenhower Interstate System from secret place A to secret place B you need to take a few test runs and get the feel for the technology.
I still would have asked them to lose the sign, though.
Friday, June 19th, 2020
May I recommend Twitter writer talkers @BerniceKing, @RevDrBarber, @SenKamalaHarris, @staceyabrams, @newsworthy17, @MsPackyetti, @KeishaBottoms, @jelani9, @JoyAnnReid, @NehisiCoates, @Sifill_LDF, @hmcghee…?
And, and, well, that’s more than enough for one day.
Be safe out there.
Thursday, June 18th, 2020
My brother and I had an…errand to do, let’s leave it at that, that involved speeding up to Northeast Ohio (where my Father grew up) and back again. I noticed that it would be less than 8 miles out of our way if we stopped by Salem, Ohio, a lovely small town with an interesting history not far from the (once?) very industrial Youngstown, Ohio.
[I just noticed that when you grow up in Columbus, Ohio (as I did) you tend to stick the ‘Ohio’ onto every mention of a town. There are other Salems. There are other Columbii. There are even other Youngstowns!]
I wanted to zip into Salem because I follow a handful of typographers, designers, and letterpress experts on the Instagram and a few days ago I came across a fine representation (shown at right) of an important sentiment in these troubled times. Wood type. Printed on an old press. The hashtag character hand-carved out of wood. An assertion of equality, protest, and change in three words, and somehow all the more powerful pulled off a press by hand from the last century.
It was beautiful. And I thought maybe I could persuade them to sell me one.
So I called up the Cranky Pressman people and asked if we could stop by. Quick visit! They cheerfully agreed.
And by ‘they’ I mean two brothers, collaborators in a letterpress business. Brother Keith Berger is a purveyor of fine commercial printing in letterpress, along with all the similar technologies that printshops made possible and precisely practical over the past century or so: die-cutting, stamping, foil, and of course all that odd cutting, stitching and binding that turns a sheet of press paper into a viable thing.
We talked to Keith on the phone, but we met Jamie (and the shop cat) at their shop late in the day, in a quick, masked, appropriately socially-distanced visit. What a cool place.
Keith’s brother Jamie Berger is more of a fine-arts designer, a designer and creator of what he calls “frivolous artistic printing”. We call it beautiful presswork. He showed us around cases of wood and metal type, presses, inks, fine-carved cuts, rollers, brayers, quoins, and can you tell I really don’t know what I’m talking about here?
We saw the results of his creative projects on the wall, and they hit all the buttons for me—great type, use of color, subtle humor, and celebration of the medium itself.
We talked about the challenges of doing the work you want to do while keeping the lights on and all the parts of a very complex process going. I found myself thinking that the television design stuff I do or did has gone from very analog, equipment-intensive, and finicky to something the iMac in their corner office can render out—in the right hands.
We talked about the pleasure (and the challenges!) of doing personal work that has rewards beyond a paycheck.
Their collective persona of a “cranky old guy” is, of course, an affectation. We found both to be personable and passionate about the work. And Jamie, at least, is younger than I am, so that either tells you something about them or me.
Wednesday, June 17th, 2020
One of the things I like about the Google photos infrastructure is that it does a decent job of holding on to important information—we call it metadata—about when and where a photo was made.
But even more interestingly, when you upload photos with readable text on the screen, the images are read and that text is something you can search for! If I type in the word “contains”, what comes up is a big stack of pictures that have only one thing in common: you can make out the word “contains” on the screen. It’s there on a wine bottle label! A tiny fake creamer label! A modern museum exhibit! An ancient museum exhibit! A software update on an iPhone screen!
This is remarkably useful and in the tests I’ve done so far, it really doesn’t matter what typeface the words appear in or how tilted the surface is…the word appears. It’s valuable searchable metadata.
Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
I think that one of the things that is unsettling for a relatively precise person like myself is that from day to day, place to place, the efforts to “flatten the curve” are…well, scattershot doesn’t even say it. If you go out to do anything, earnestly masked and maintaining a safe distance, you will find, perhaps, a store where most people are, like you, doing the safe thing. Or some are, some aren’t. Or some are obstinately playing as if the pandemic isn’t happening at all. Cram into that bar! Block that grocery store aisle!
It’s an adventure. Not a fun adventure, but the uncertainty does give you a moment of discovery, and when you add together the data points over time do you get a sense of how it’s really going? No, no you don’t.
Monday, June 15th, 2020
Well, that’s how local television news seems to want to frame any venture that has decided to open up and this is one of those times I wish I had a special sarcasm font to bring home how nuts I think this is.
Six Flags! They’re opening! They have these temperature camera scanner thingies! Everything’s fine!
Disney! All those Florida attractions! It’s all fine! C’mon down! C’mon and dine in!
College voluntary sports practices! C’mon in and sign this waiver saying we can’t be sued if you become infected! But the practice is voluntary!
Summer camps! Who’s to say, really! But some parents really, really need to park their kids, and they say…they say that the coronavirus really doesn’t transmit from child to child. That’s right, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Trump rally! Come on down! We’ll be not wearing masks…no wait, we will be handing out masks! And taking temperatures! And hiring actors to give the rally a more diverse feel!
This is how, they’ll tell you, the economy restarts. This is how, I’ll tell you, the second wave becomes inevitable.