Archive for the ‘Techno-travails’ Category

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I have five outdated Apple products in heavy rotation around the rancheroo.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.

Electric bus(t)

May 20, 2018

OK, so I’m just spitballing here, but what if we got these really long extension cords. …

Huh. “Problems plague push for electric buses.” Imagine my surprise. The phrase “One hand washes the other” was coined by some poor sap who discovered the hard way that giving a handjob with one mitt while grabbing a sheaf of greenbacks with the other can be a very messy business indeed.

Maybe some enterprising sort can just airdrop a shit-ton of Bird scooters on LA and Albuquerque. Save a bunch of money, create jobs for chargers, and give the locals a new reason to be shooting each other all the time.

Bear with me here

May 17, 2017

Peak load: Restoring the Internets the Western way. Photo: Hal Walter.

Ever have the Innertubes go out on you? Irksome, innit?

You ring up your service provider, if you remember its contact info (the Innertubes are down, remember?). If you don’t, then you get to pursue a long and painful search for same via tiny smartphone screen before enjoying an extended stint on hold, being reminded over and over again how important is your call.

After a few days of this someone who gives the name Nathan or Monica but sports an accent reminiscent of the Subcontinent pops up to lend you what you suspect is a very long-distance hand indeed, oh my goodness yes.

And you begin turning on and off or unplugging/replugging bits of this and that; rooting around in dark corners of your computer that, like a rough neighborhood, family gathering or all-hands meeting in an economic downturn, you’d prefer to avoid; and chanting magical yet remarkably futile incantations like “Fifteen-inch MacBook Pro, mid-2014, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB DDR3, OS X Yosemite, yes, I’ll hold.”

Anything to eat in here? Nope. Photo: Hal Walter.

In the end, of course, you find yourself curled, unshaven and filthy, on the floor, in a puddle of your own tears, cradling your phone and its fading battery as though it were a dying baby bird, wailing, “I have to have my Innertubes! Do you have any idea what’s going on in Washington? Neither do it!”

Well. Suck it up, snowflake. That’s a day at the beach compared to what my man Hal Walter endured the other day to get his Innertubes barfing out the 1s and 0s again.

Hal texted me to announce that his Innertubes were blown, something that occurs even more regularly in rural Crusty County than it does in more civilized environs. Being a wag of no small renown, I quipped, “Dude. It won’t do. Did a b’ar eat your dish?”

Well. Yeah, as it turns out.

It’s not a dish on the house, which is how we used to get our Innertubes when we lived just west of Hal’s place outside Weirdcliffe. There is a tower, which sits atop Bradbury Ridge on Bear Basin Ranch, and it is powered by a solar-battery setup (the tower, not the peak).

Some of the guts of this line-of-sight wireless setup reside in what looks like an Igloo cooler, which to a bear looks like a pizza-delivery guy’s shitbox Toyota Tercel does to thee and me. The bear tried to find the delicious pizza inside the shitbox, but the innards proved undercooked, and off he trundled, leaving behind a cooler whose security had been dramatically compromised by bite marks in opposite corners, and whose contents soon would be done to a turn by the notoriously vile Crusty County weather.

Thus, instead of unplugging bits of this and that in the comfort of his own home, Hal found himself hauling 100 pounds of new batteries up to the tower via pack burro while a tech-support dude who was decidedly not from Delhi refreshed the coolers’ innards.

“They like to use coolers because they protect the batteries from extreme temperatures,” says Hal. “However, there is some discussion of a metal box. Our wildlife officer agrees with me that the bear likely had previous experience with ice chests.”

• Late update: The man himself chimes in with an on-the-scene report.

Ay, Robot

August 8, 2016
I'm up on the tight wire, linked by life and the funeral pyre, putting on a show for you to see.

I’m up on the tight wire, linked by life and the funeral pyre, putting on a show for you to see.

Electricity is your friend, until it isn’t.

We were watching the finale to season one of “Mr. Robot,” the one in which Eliott awakens in Tyrell’s SUV to discover that his hack has taken down the global financial system and all is chaos, when the lights first hiccuped and then went out altogether.

Bzzzzt. Game over.

The culprit wasn’t FSociety or any other anonymous (har de har har) hacktivist collective. Seems a bolt of lightning drilled a West Side Public Service Company of New Mexico substation, starting a fire and turning out the lights from Santa Fe to Los Lunas — affecting some 135,435 customers, including our little cul-de-sac. PNM said later it was the worst power outage in years.

After a bit, everyone in the ‘hood wandered into the street, exchanging quips about who tripped over the cord, passing out candles to the light-deprived, and generally just catching up on idle chitchat. Nice and dark it was, and cool, with just a soupçon of rain.

About the time we decided we’d better eat all the ice cream before it turned into ice-cream soup, click, the power came back on. Civilization — or the feeble substitute we’ve all agreed to settle for — marches on.

Site gag

October 2, 2015
The Embudo Trail parking lot at the top of Indian School Road.

The Embudo Trail parking lot at the top of Indian School Road.

OK, so last night I actually slept through the night without coughing myself awake a couple dozen times. Our long national nightmare is over, I thought.

And then the Samsung clothes washer croaked in the middle of a load for the fourth time in a year. Naturally, the Samsung warranty expired last week, after one drain pump and two circuit boards. Now we’re at the mercy of the Best Buy Geek Squad, which may be able to see us (wait for it) Tuesday.

So what I wanna know is: Which one of you wisenheimers has a Patrick O’Grady voodoo doll stuck full of pins?*

* Yes, I know, at least it’s not stuck full of bullets, as are many of the residents of Roseburg, Oregon. Don’t expect to see any action on gun control until some sicko shoots a brand new baby iPhone, much less by Tuesday. Until then, if anyone offers to sell you a Samsung clothes washer, you have my permission to shoot them.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

September 30, 2015

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a hitch in the virtual gitalong here over the past 24 hours or so.

My website/email hosting provider, Hostcentric, must have been starving the hamsters again, because my main email account went away for the umpteenth time, and I finally got pissed.

My first move was upgrading this free WordPress.com blog to a paid item and redirecting my DNS signposts here. The original, a self-hosted WordPress.org deal parked for years at Hostcentric, had become an archaeological curiosity, a sentimental attachment and something of a pain in the ass.

That rearranging of my digital furniture took a while to draw the attention of Teh Innertubez, but now you can get here via the old URL (maddogmedia.wordpress.com) or the new one (maddogmedia.com).

Resolving the email problem will take a little longer, but I hope to get started on that bright and early tomorrow morning. I’m thinking Google Apps. Anyone have any experience with it? Holler in comments or send me a note via Gmail.