Archive for the ‘Techno-travails’ Category

Unplugged

February 17, 2022

The Blizzard of 2022 has yet to eventuate.

Looks like the deer were carboloading for a reason. Snow started falling overnight, and it continues as we speak at midmorning Duck! City time.

No accumulation to speak of. But the power and the Innertubes have crashed once apiece.

This is a good thing, as it curbs the Zoom meetings and the doomscrolling. Russians invading? Omicron subvariant spreading? “Freedom Convoy” and Canadian coppers doing it hand to hand?

Whoops, we’re back up. As you were. …

Winter is coming?

December 29, 2021

I’ve put more white powder than that up me snout on a weeknight.

I know, I know — don’t tempt the Fates, never let your blog write a check that your ass can’t cash, and so on and so forth.

But sheeeeeyit: You call this “snow?”

The Bread Box is baked.

The appalling lack of precipitation aside, it was not so warm outside today, and not so hot inside, either.

Our $20 garage-sale bread machine seems to have toasted itself after a year of medium-heavy use, churning out a bleak pan of something one might expect to find in the toilet at a dive bar on St. Paddy’s Day if the menu featured a questionable shepherd’s pie and some heavily stepped-on blow.

Thing is, y’see, I have about 20 pounds of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour on hand. So I may be forced to learn how to bake bread the way me forefathers did, only without the dubious advantage of being knee-walking drunk.

Or I could just buy another Toastmaster on eBay.

Dropping the Peloton

December 16, 2021

OK, so this is only one story, but still — is anyone surprised that another pricey indoor-exercise phenomenon may have gone kerblooey?

Quoth The New York Times of the once-mighty Peloton:

The pandemic status symbol, which customers once waited two months to get their hands on, may soon become the modern equivalent of the 1990s NordicTrack: a high-priced piece of exercise equipment that becomes a glorified clothing rack, cluttering up a home until it is sold or dispatched to the curb.

Signs of its cultural downfall are hard to ignore. Sales of Peloton’s stationary bikes and treadmills fell 17 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2021, and the online resale market is flooded with used bikes selling at a discount.

Those of us who have real bikes* and ride them outdoors have seen this buyer’s remorse before as we pedal around our neighborhoods with one eye peeled for hidden treasure at the garage sales.

The Fitness Flavor of the Month (stationary bikes, treadmills, free weights, etc.) may be rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but chances are it will drop right out of the Hit Parade by Valentine’s Day. Goodbye, laundry room; hello, eBay. This exercise shit is hard! Who knew?

Those of us who have real bikes* and ride them outdoors, that’s who.

Dodging pickups and potholes, patching punctures, ducking and moving, bobbing and weaving, wearing all manner of kit through all four seasons — it’s so … random! Also, fun. Plus, like crucifixion, it gets you out in the open air.

Of course, some of Peloton’s plummet can be attributed to the stir-crazy dashing back to their gyms, where for a small consideration they can ride other people’s exercise bikes indoors. This explains much about the state of the human condition at present.

* E-bikes not included. See “Fitness Flavor of the Month.”

Playing with blocks

March 31, 2021

I came back from a 7-mile hike to find a buggered WordPress interface.

Here’s something I don’t like: Unasked-for, unannounced and unwanted changes to a product I use daily.

WordPress pulled one of these switcheroos on me yesterday, reconfiguring its “navigation experience” to make managing its sites “more intuitive.”

“For many of you, there will be little to no change in how you use WordPress.com,” wrote Austin Lao on the WordPress blog yesterday. The many did not include the one, which is to say this one. Me.

Engineers gotta engineer, I guess. But still, damn.

Tucked into the “enhancements” to the “navigation experience” appears to be a forced shift from the old “Classic” CMS to the Gutenberg block editor, which I have been resisting because I don’t like anything about it.Â

For starters, “intuitive?” Me bollocks. The old “New Post” tool was intuitive. The new one is riddled with perplexing popups and hidden widgets. I’ll find them eventually, I imagine. But it’s gonna be like digging in the back yard for buried treasure. Might be there; might not be.

It’s a small thing to complain about. I mean, out in the real world people are still catching The Bug®, drinking poison water, or getting boned by Matt Gaetz (eeeeeeeyeeewwwwwww).

But still, damn.

I’ve posed the traditional “WTF?” to WordPress. While I await a reply, I’m back in kindergarten, playing with blocks.

Update: One of WP’s “happiness engineers” showed me how to unplug The Great and Powerful Oz. Fuck that guy. Not the happiness engineer, the Wizard. Anyway, with any luck atall atall we’re back on track here.

WordPress-ganged

March 30, 2021

Don’t touch that dial.

Well. It seems WordPress has inflicted some more “improvements” upon its users. So, ’ray for us, right?

Eh, not so much.

I’m not certain but it seems that the sonsabitches have used their latest enhancement to the “navigation experience” to pry us out of the old-school CMS and into the Gutenberg block editor. I’ll have to root around under the hood a bit before I know for certain.

In the meantime, we may suffer from bloggus interruptus for a spell while I bang on a few things with this here ball-peen hammer.

The IT Guy

December 16, 2019

“Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father. …”

The problem with having an Apple orchard is that you’ve got to tend to the sonsabitches when you’d rather be doing something else.

Like, say, making money so you can afford to tend to the sonsabitches, or even buy a new one now and again.

I have five outdated Apple products in heavy rotation around the rancheroo. Three need OS updates, one needs a vigorous cloning, and the fifth — well, let’s just say that it’s devolved to running Adobe Photoshop 4.0 in Classic mode.

And yes, I said Adobe Photoshop 4.0.

“What’s it all mean?” you ask. Why, it means that yes, yes, yes,  it’s time for another thrilling episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited this hot mess using Apple’s GarageBand on the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Asunder,” from Taylor Howard at Zapsplat.com. Typewriter sounds courtesy of Tomlija at Freesound.org. Emperor Palpatine comes to you from the Dark Side, while “Alarm!” comes from “Das Boot.” And “The G4 Awakens” comes straight from the 1999 G4 AGP Graphics Power Mac, which don’t need no steekeeng updates because it’s immortal, thank you very much. Lemme know if your iPhone is still working 20 years from now. But don’t ask me to work on it.

Climb every mountain

December 11, 2019

Operations at El Rancho Pendejo are sketchy, as always.

It’s only Dec. 11, but it seems my work for 2019 is pretty much done.

I wrapped the “Quick Spin” video on the Cannondale Topstone 105 for Adventure Cyclist on Monday, and yesterday I actually got a jump on 2020, scribbling a “Shop Talk” cartoon for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

Today I’m contemplating some overdue computer maintenance — backups, updates, the poking with sharp sticks of things better left unmolested.

It struck me the other day that I’m a few iterations of operating systems off the back. The MacBooks are all running Sierra, but the kool kidz have long since moved on to macOS Catalina. So I thought I’d tiptoe up to High Sierra, see what the weather’s like up there. After all, I have the installers on all three ’Books.

Ho, ho. Pull off those hiking boots, Sir Edmund. The installers are all damaged, which is to say their certificates are probably expired. ’Cause, like, y’know, dude, sir, everyone else has, like, moved on to Catalina, an’ shit.

So I’m downloading a fresh installer as we speak. Shouldn’t take more than a couple-three days at Duke City DSL speeds. Then if I feel like getting the “two” in the ol’ one-two I can think about setting up the “new” iPhone 5.

‘Something Went Wrong’

December 8, 2019

Uh, can you be more specific?

Indeed it did. And so it begins, the Decline and Fall of the iPhone 5.

The New York Times apparently has cooked up an app update that my device can’t digest — the iPhone 5 peaked at iOS version 10.3.4, while the NYT demands 11 or better — and now I can’t surf the shit monsoon from my 7-year-old phone. Woe, etc.

The iPhone SE, ready for its closeup.

Asked for comment, the NYT Customer Care Crew advises, “We are no longer supporting older versions of the NYT app,” adding that geezers in thrall to antiquated technology should “use the mobile browser to access all content on nytimes.com.”

So I sez back to ’em, I sez: “Thanks for the reply. I already figured that out. The iPhone 5 maxes out at iOS 10.3.4, so using v9.11 of your app is not an option. I’m disappointed to learn that the NYT has dropped support for older versions of the app. My iPhone is elderly, to be sure, but not yet senile. For instance, The Washington Post app continues to work just fine.”

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Sonny Jim. Then get off of my lawn.

It’s not this iPhone’s first step on the slippery techno-slope, of course. I’ve already had to replace the battery once, and the Phone app itself has developed the palsy, seizing up and even crashing from time to time.

I can fix that, as I always keep a large hammer within reach. But first, I should probably unbox the iPhone SE that’s been hanging around idle for the past few months. Naturally, it, too, is a discontinued model, slated for the boneyard — and rumor has it that the Wizards of Cupertino are working on a bigger-and-better model for release early in 2020.

But mine will run the latest and greatest version of iOS. For now, anyway.

Screwed again

July 21, 2019

Neither sealant nor lip balm will keep you rolling after you collect one of these bad boys in your tire.

You know what doesn’t give a shit about whether you have sealant in your tubes?

A big-ass screw, that’s what.

I collected this sonofabitch in the rear tire this morning at the bottom of the Tramway descent, just after I’d crossed under Interstate 25 and hung a left on the Pan American Freeway near Balloon Fiesta Parkway.

I heard a short clatter, then a “tick … tick … tick” that told me I’d picked up a hitchhiker, and so I pulled over to have a look-see.

“Th’ fuck’s this, a thumbtack?” I muttered, and then gave it a tug.

Spooge! Fwissssssssh. Phhbbbllllllllffff.

Seriously, it was like one of those volcano projects from junior high. Or Bluto’s zit imitation in “Animal House.”

And of course, it had to be the rear tire, on the Co-Motion Divide Rohloff, so called for the Rohloff hub on (wait for it) the rear wheel.

What are the chances of picking up something like this in a bicycle tire? If you’re me, 100 percent.

Did I mention the Gates belt? Yeah, it has one of those, too.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had to deal with a flat of any kind on this bike, which is a testament to its Geax AKA 29 x 2.0 tires. But this fucking screw might’ve given even Superman a hitch in his gitalong if he ever happened to be afoot in Albuquerque.

As I was, on a scorching Sunday morning, hoofing it along the shoulder of the Pan American, looking for a shady spot and trying to remember how to remove and replace the rear wheel on a Rohloff/Gates-equipped bike, a chore I last performed in a workstand at Chez Dog in Bibleburg back in … 2012?

Lucky me, I found a bus bench with a sun shade at Balloon Fiesta Parkway. And then I set about rooting through the ol’ mental hard drive.

Lessee here: Shift into 14th gear. Break out a nickel to loosen the thumbscrew holding the cable box to the hub. Remove the cable box. Open the quick-release lever. Remove the wheel. Bingo.

The bus bench had a convenient trash can that made an excellent workstand to hold the bike while I swapped tubes (just affix rear dropouts to rim of can).

Reinstalling the wheel proved a tad more challenging. Unlike a chain, a Gates belt isn’t a greasy mess. But it kept wanting to hop off the crank or the sprocket as I tried to mate hub with dropouts and brake rotor with calipers. Lacking a hammer, I was compelled to employ patience, which is always in short supply among the Irish.

After a few tries, the belt surrendered, I closed the QR, snapped the cable box back into place, screwed it down finger-tight in case I lost my nickel at the casino on the way back, and hey presto! I had all 14 gears and a slightly soft rear tire (about 30 psi, as it turned out, despite my best efforts with my thousand-year-old Blackburn minipump). That was enough to get home.

And a good thing, too, ’cause I only had the one spare tube. One more flat and it was the patch kit for Your Humble Narrator.

Now how’s that work again? Lessee here. …

Phoning it in

December 27, 2018

Is this the weirdest message you’ve ever seen from a telecommunications company or what? Maybe the ghost of my mom is haunting the joint.

With CenturyLink on the fritz throughout the Great American West today — man, someone somewhere must’ve tripped over The Main Cable — I was compelled to rely on my 6-year-old, one-fuggin’-bar, AT&T iPhone 5 for intel.

I had to recharge the sonofabitch about every 45 minutes during the 14-hour outage, and couldn’t get much accomplished even with a full battery, but hey, them’s the breaks. Here’s your laptop, there’s the door, where’s your Starbucks? Verizon was sideways for a while too, which sidelined Herself’s newer iPhone 7 during a grocery run that came up light on a few staples as a consequence.

You might not have heard about CenturyLink shitting the bed, since it mostly affected Flyover Country, and the company sure as hell wasn’t going out of its way to let anyone in on the story, especially its paying customers.

But take it from me, as communications technology goes, a 16 GB iPhone 5 in 2018 is right up there with the smoke signal, semaphore flags, and log drum.

The good news? Blizzard warning.