30 January 2016

Retro Video Unit, Concert Edition (1/29/16)

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything for either this feature or my biweekly one focusing on individual music videos. I'm trying to correct that in '16 and this happens to be where I've chosen to start...

As I was working yesterday I had my LCD Soundsystem albums playing in iTunes. I have the band's three studio albums, plus a "workout track" consisting of one long recording and a few other songs. Not being as up on new(er) music as I used to be, I came to the band relatively late, maybe only a couple of years before they broke up and performed their final concerts in 2011.

I've liked electronic dance music since the first such songs started trickling out of the UK back in the new wave period (though I think the argument can be made for Giorgio Moroder's Donna Summer recordings as well), and my friends know how much I like the band Underworld, but I'm pretty fussy about my electronica. So when I say that I really, really like LCD Soundsystem, it's not just lip service. James Murphy's ironic detachment is perfect for the era we're living in, and I am always intrigued by the idea of playing dance music with both synthesizers and real instruments.

The band released a movie of their final concert called Shut Up and Play the Hits. It's on Netflix, and I've seen it. I did not expect to find that on YouTube because it would be a copyright violation, but there appears to be a recording of the entire concert—more than three hours long—made by a fan. Unfortunately there's an unacceptable amount of camera movement; if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, then it's easy enough to find. I did find a concert from Brussels in 2010 and decided to post that:

Now comes word that the band is reuniting, and will be performing at festivals this year and also releasing a new album. This is exciting news, and maybe I'll even get to see them live.

25 January 2016

On the Rise

Since I was talking about music earlier today, I felt like sharing this. Her name is Jess Glynne and she is poised for big things; watch this and you'll see why:

I saw this young woman's performance last week on The Daily Show, where this clip is from. These days I don't get really moved by too much new music, but she had me hooked within the first ten seconds. If there is any justice in this world, she will be huge by summer. If you like Adele, or Florence and the Machine, you will like this.

(Edit: sorry about the autoplaying video; I have replaced it with the one form YouTube)

Checking Back In

Wow, where did that week go? They have been feeling like I'm in a tunnel lately. I emerge from the tunnel for weekends, but as I said to the Mrs. last night, it almost didn't even feel like I'd had two days off. And just like that, it's Monday morning again.

I didn't write anything about the passing of Glenn Frey last week. With apologies to him, I never felt about The Eagles the way I did about David Bowie. The Eagles were a constant presence on Top 40 FM radio during my formative years in the 1970s, so of course I knew their songs. But I never owned any of their albums, not even Hotel California. Their music was always there on the radio, like background music, and I didn't feel strongly enough about it to want to be able to play it whenever I chose. By the end of the decade I had embraced new wave, and figuratively turned my back on much of what was coming out of the Top 40 stations.

That said, 67 is quite a young age at which to go. It's also a reminder that none of us knows how much time we have. It sounds corny, but every day is a gift.

18 January 2016

Migration Issues

Where were we? Oh right, new iMac. Big screen, lots of RAM, faster wi-fi, fast hard drive. It checked all the boxes for me. Remember, too, that I am working at home (two jobs, in fact, these days), so I also saw my new hardware purchase as an investment in improved productivity.

One of the little things that makes someone like me a loyal Apple partisan (for nearly 25 years at this point) is a utility called Migration Assistant that allows you, with relative ease, to transfer everything from an old Mac to a new one. Files, photos, music, web bookmarks and passwords—all of it transposed, as if you had cloned your old computer's brain onto a new hardware host. It's a simple and relatively painless way to switch everything over when you get a new Mac.

In the old days (ten years ago), the two Macs had to be connected by a cable, and then there's a bit of trickery called Target Disk Mode (really, just holding down a particular key combination while starting up) that allows the older Mac's hard drive to appear on the desktop of the new Mac; from there it's really easy to run the Migration Assistant. Here in 2016, this can also be accomplished using wi-fi and does not require Target Disk Mode, or for the computers to be connected by a cable.
(new iMac on the right)
Or so I thought. In trying to be modern and using wi-fi, I think I opened myself up to some trouble. The migration also took a lot longer over wi-fi than I expected, something like seven hours. When it was finally finished (I had gone away to do other things), not only could I not find some of my stuff (my photos seemed to be fine), but I could not open a number of programs: Spotify, the Firefox browser, the Chrome browser. And I was getting weird error messages about them: "profile is missing," "error type 6," that sort of thing. Huh? And my Bluetooth trackpad would not connect to the new Mac, either.

Without the use of Firefox and all my bookmarks and passwords, I could not use the new iMac for my jobs, which are done almost entirely via web browser; I ended up having it sit off to the side on my desk while I spent the next several days continuing to use my old one for work. I knew a call to AppleCare was in my future, and since I imagined it could take a while, I had to wait until the next weekend to ensure I had enough time.

That didn't go so well. Apple was not interested in helping me with the Firefox problem because Firefox is not Apple software. Apple, naturally, wants its users to use Safari, but there are a number of things about the way Safari does stuff that irritate me to varying degrees, so I tend to stay away from it. They couldn't help me with Spotify either. Their suggestion in both cases was to delete and reinstall the software; that did not work in either instance.

While I was on the phone with Apple, I figured out the Bluetooth problem on my own. It's embarrassingly stupid, but we're all friends here, so I don't mind sharing. If a Bluetooth device is paired with a particular computer, and you want to use it with a different computer, you must first un-pair them so it is "discoverable" by the other computer. But then, you must also TURN OFF BLUETOOTH on the old computer so it can't interfere while you are trying to get the device to pair with the new computer. Head-smackingly simple, yet not obvious to me for more than a week.

After that small victory, I started to think about the whole migration process. And the more I thought about it, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the migration had missed a bunch of stuff; I wondered why it wasn't obvious to the AppleCare techs. I decided to delete the incomplete user profile that had been created during the migration and redo the whole thing, this time using the older method. One small hurdle: Apple had abandoned Firewire for another high-speed date transfer technology called Thunderbolt. But I'd had to obtain a Firewire-to-Thunderbolt adapter from the Apple store anyway, in order to continue using my external hard drive for backups, so I was ready to roll.

The second migration, with the two iMacs connected via cable and employing Target Disk Mode, took under three hours (less than half the time of the first one) and was completely successful, right down to my desktop picture (Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks). It's very satisfying to be able to resolve these things oneself, which is another reason I have been a Mac user for so long. And while I don't think there will be any other Mac migrations in my near future (I'm hoping to be able to get close to a decade's use from this new one), if one does happen to come about, I know I won't be using wi-fi.

16 January 2016

Car Stuff: Base Coat

Last Friday morning I was seized with the urge for an egg, cheese, and bacon breakfast sandwich. When I last worked full-time outside my home (not this past summer, but back a few years ago) I got one every Friday morning. I alternated between bacon and sausage, because I think to get the exact same thing each and every week is just a little too boring of a routine.

Fortunately there's a little diner joint within walking distance. I tend to forget about it, but a month or so ago I was on my way back home from an early-morning medical appointment and stopped for some sustenance. It was then that I discovered they also have bagels, and pretty good ones at that. I don't know if they make them; I neglected to ask, but they have the "everything" variety that I prefer, and they have bacon and scallion cream cheese, so that day I ended up getting both the breakfast sandwich and a bagel for "second breakfast," and last Friday I did the same thing.
On my way back home I saw a car I'd featured a while back, this 1972 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was parked on a side street behind a bank, but without its distinctive yellow paint. The primer is presumably in preparation for a repaint. I knew it was the same vehicle due to those strange, unfortunate wheels. (Surely there must be a set of Rally II's on eBay?) It has also lost its vinyl roof, but perhaps that's also going to be replaced.

I am looking forward to seeing this car around again after its repaint has been completed. I don't even care if it gets redone in the same color, I'm just glad to see someone putting effort into caring for it.

13 January 2016

New Hardware

Over the past several months, we've been making some hardware upgrades here at SAR Studios (a wholly owned subsidiary of Chaos Productions Ltd.*), in order to serve you ourselves better. I've been fortunate that I have not had to deal with any significant computer issues, as some of my friends have. But as time passes, even solid equipment can become obsolete.

For most of last year I was hounded by my cable company (whose name rhymes with Bombast) about my cable modem, which was at least a decade old. I was warned repeatedly that my modem had reached "end of life" status. What that meant, exactly, was not clear; it still worked, but there was an ominous suggestion that there would come a time when the company might no longer support it. I had chosen to purchase the modem in order to avoid an indefinite monthly fee, so it was up to me to acquire a replacement.

I'd happened to read an article on The Wirecutter (a useful and highly recommended site) on this very topic, and based on their advice I decided to purchase what was basically a several-generations-newer version of what I had. The going price at the time was around $90, but in September I was able to purchase a refurbished model for $50, which was more in line with what I wanted to spend.

The next step was my wireless router, which I'd had at least as long as the cable modem, or maybe even longer. All the devices we're using on our wireless network are capable of faster speeds than the router could provide, so a couple of months later I found another deal on an Apple AirPort base station (what Apple insists on calling its routers). Replacing a router in an existing home network is a bit further beyond the level of tech stuff than what I'm used to, so I invoked the assistance of my old college friend Dr. Hackenbush, who resides far from here in a land of pickup trucks and guns. Through the miracle of FaceTime he was able to guide me through the process (thanks again, Dr. H!), and I had the network cruising along again in a couple of hours.

That left my computer, an iMac with a 24" screen. It dated to 2008, and it had been my work computer until I left my job in 2012 (don't worry, we were allowed to take them with us as a "parting gift" of sorts). One of the first improvements one can make to an older computer is to add RAM. The iMac had 4 gigabytes of RAM out of a possible 6; why it wasn't built to allow expansion up to 8 is a question only Apple can answer, but it did not seem worth it to add only 2 more gigs.

New iMacs and Mac minis no longer have the option to add RAM after you've purchased the computer; you have to buy what you think you'll need, or risk having programs run more and more slowly years down the road. Of course, Apple charges a premium for this: to double the RAM in a new Mac from 8 gb to 16 adds $200. I found a new, unsold 2013 iMac, the last model with user-upgradeable RAM, that also had the latest, fastest wi-fi standard that my new router supports, along with a faster-spinning hard drive and the larger 27" screen size I wanted. That ended up being my Christmas present to myself. Doubling the RAM and installing it myself was $45 instead of $200.

Next time, I'll tell you about what happens when you move from an older Mac to a newer one, or rather, what's supposed to happen.

(*Those of you who have known me the longest will likely recall the genesis of the Chaos brand; no slight is meant to any other readers, and perhaps I'll go into some details and dig into the "archives" at some point.)

11 January 2016

Early Influence

I woke up to the news that David Bowie had left us over the weekend. Part of the surprise comes from not knowing he was ill (he was always intensely private, for which I respected him) and part because his latest album had just been released on Friday, which was also his birthday. I tended to think of him as a perennial, a rock star who managed to age with grace and dignity and who used that longevity to inform his songwriting. I admit I have not always followed Bowie's career closely, but I have always been aware and appreciative of his work.

There have been other musician deaths that hit me particularly hard (Joe Strummer comes immediately to mind), but Bowie's significance in my life was due to another reason. My interest in music developed early, thanks to my father's albums: Motown, soul, R&B. There was music playing in our house a lot, and the sense of it is one of my earliest memories (though I realize it's not a memory of a specific person, thing, or event).

My first music purchases were 45s. The first album I bought with my own money was a Partridge Family LP. There were a couple more of those, and a John Denver album. But the first rock album I ever bought, at age 11, was Bowie's ChangesOne, a hits collection that came out in 1975. For me there has always been tremendous significance in that choice. It was informed, as was almost every other music purchase I made at the time, by what I heard on the radio. (The 1970s was truly a golden era for Top-40 FM radio, with a variety reflecting the sales charts.)

David Bowie's music showed me, for the first time, that there could be deeper meaning in a song beyond the melody and lyrics. I'm sure I didn't understand everything that was being conveyed in those songs at the time, but that album was the experience that taught me how music could make you feel. And that's really the whole point of it, right?

Some time back I read an article about him, and his wife Iman was quoted as saying that he liked walking around in New York, where they lived, because he typically went unrecognized. After that I used to fantasize that I might encounter him on one of our visits to the city. I wouldn't make a big deal about it, I'd just smile and nod in his direction as we passed on a sidewalk. It would have been tempting to talk to him and tell him what his music meant to me, but I think verbalizing it would have diminished its significance. Thank you, David, for all the doors your music opened to me.

04 January 2016

The Year's First Conundrum

What the hell are "squad goals"? Perhaps it's time for me to disengage from pop culture a bit more...