What’s your preference, clickbait or spinach?

847″ /> Serious journalism, like spinach, is good for you.

Update 10 Aug: Perhaps I was a little hard on the N&O. I’m giving it a chance.

What’s everyone talking about today? Spinach, that’s what. N&O Executive Editor John Drescher compared “obligatory” stories about government process to spinach and apparently our spinach days are over. Instead, the paper is apparently now all about chasing clicks.

And local voices don’t matter anymore, apparently, so away with the metro columnists, Barry Saunders and the like. Quirky cat stories will now rule the day. I’m left with the impression that local matters – the stuff where a local newspaper shines like none other – will no longer be a priority for the N&O. If it doesn’t have national appeal it’s gone.

Can I be honest here? I hate, hate, hate the N&O’s new clickbait headlines (and yes, John, no matter how hard you go lipstickin’ this pig these headlines are absolutely clickbait). This is one step away from putting emojis and text shortcuts in headlines (“Y U NO PASS BUDGET, COUNCIL? LOL”). My intelligence is insulted every time I see one. In fact, I make it a point not to click on any story with an asinine headlines. Nothing good is ever behind a clickbait headline.

The N&O website is also bogged down by the worst pop-up advertising you’ll find on the web, here or anywhere else. While some of my media pals might look down on my use of ad blocking software, I would not need it if sites like the N&O weren’t full of exploding ads and self-playing videos. There are rules of decorum on the web and assaulting your web visitors has always been frowned upon, no matter how lucrative it might seem.
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Amazon kills unlimited Amazon Cloud Drive option

Recently I had a scare when our home storage server went on the fritz. Years of photographs, videos, and files were suddenly in jeopardy as they appeared to vanish. Being a resourceful geek, once I caught my breath I was able to revive everything. Still, it was enough of a scare that I accelerated my quest for a good, offsite place to back up our files.

Part of this quest was getting gigabit fiber Internet at home, which I recently did when I could no longer wait for Google Fiber and signed up with AT&T Fiber. Untangling this brave new world has kept me busy recently, not leaving much time for blogging. I will have lots to say about this in the near future but suffice to say that having a fat pipe at home makes it easier to do any kind of backup to the cloud.
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Singing the praises of MusicBrainz

MusicBrainz


Can I tell you how much I love MusicBrainz? I have been dabbling on online radio for a few years now and the challenge is always finding interesting content. One of the most cost-effective ways to find varied content is in compilation albums or soundtracks. One-hit wonders that were one staples of radio make good radio content but buying a one-hit wonder’s shitty album just to get their only hit isn’t cost-effective. With MusicBrainz, I can look up a one-hit wonder and find out exactly what compilation albums or soundtracks it’s a part of. I can buy that compilation and not only get the song I want but most likely other good one-hit wonders along with it. Awesome!

Another good use of MusicBrainz is finding just the right mix of a song. Often, record companies will release a remixed or edited song as a single, either designed to fit on a 45 or to be more radio-friendly. For example Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride has a great break that goes on and on in the album version but is often cut short in versions played on the radio (2:55 vs. the original 4:27). This drives me nuts! MusicBrainz knows which versions are which, though! I can find the entire catalog of Steppenwolf, find their The Second album, click on Magic Carpet Ride, and see all the versions of the song that have been released. Goodbye, hacked-up, radio-edit song versions!

MusicBrainz would’ve come in handy with a recent purchase I made at the (now defunct) Ed McKay store earlier this year. I picked up what I thought was a compilation album of early 70’s hits. I expected these to be the original master recordings of the songs but that’s not what I got! The entire album was re-recordings of the hits, none of them sounding the same as the ones I know and love. I was disappointed I hadn’t noticed the small print on the CD cover, and that I hadn’t gone to MusicBrainz first!

MusicBrainz is an open source project as well as a 501c(3). It’s worthy of your time and contributions!

Intel NUC as home server

It's nice when your server fits in your mailbox.

It’s nice when your server fits in your mailbox.


I’ve always liked to have a home server hanging around for things like email, file sharing, and the like. Over the years this has taken the form of a beefy desktop computer, a PowerPC-based MacMini, an embedded Linux-based router, and recently a beat-up old laptop. All had their challenges, power consumption and fan noise being the two main ones, though the PowerPC machine and the router also couldn’t run all the software I needed. I was limping along on my busted laptop for as long as I could but decided it was nearing the end of its useful life. It was time to go shopping for something that would last me a while.

The embedded idea still appealed to me for the two main reasons I mentioned above: power consumption and noise. I wanted something that sips electricity and was quiet yet still provided enough computing power to do what I needed. After reading up on some online reviews, I went with the Intel NUC.

Intel’s NUC (“Next Unit of Computing”) systems are embedded x86_64 machines which are about half the size of a brick. They have plenty of ports: HDMI, USB 3.0, and even a Thunderbolt port. They come with your choice of Intel processors, whether it is an i3, i5, or i7 series. Memory can be boosted to 32 GB and it accepts newer SSD drives. Some models can fit 2.5″ laptop drives as well. The hardest part about making the jump to an Intel NUC was simply deciphering which Intel model had which options. Sometimes having too many choices isn’t a good thing, I suppose.
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Google to Google routing could be better

fiber_houseLike many Triangle residents, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Google Fiber service, ready to ditch my indentured servitude to Time Warner Cable. I’m a fairly advanced geek, too, hosting this site and others on Amazon Web Services. I want my website to be as speedy as possible to me and my web visitors, so low network latency is very important. For those who aren’t advanced geeks, network latency is how long it takes for a packet to travel between two points on a network, usually measured in milliseconds. Networking often hits upon the limitation of the speed of light (or radio propagation, depending on the medium), meaning a server located far away (like Singapore) will have a noticeable delay for visitors in America.

My Amazon virtual server is physically located in Ashburn, Virginia but due to some favorable network routing it responds very quickly in the Triangle area, almost as if it were right across town. I have found it very hard to find a server that’s any closer, network-wise.
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Apple defends decision to remove 3.5mm headphone jack, cites “courage” | Ars Technica

I want to love Apple. I really do. But then Apple does something boneheaded like phase out a perfectly-good 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of its own, $160 proprietary headphone technology and I want to throw out every Apple product in my home.

Apple doesn’t want its customers to have choices. It has become the Microsoft of the 2000s. “Courage,” my ass. How about greed? How often do you think Apple’s customers will lose these loose, pricey earbuds?

"Airpods," a.k.a. overpriced junk

“Airpods,” a.k.a. overpriced junk

SAN FRANCISCO—Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller took the stage at Wednesday’s iPhone event to announce the news most tech geeks had been expecting: the iPhone will leave the 3.5mm headphone jack behind. It was Schiller’s job to justify why Apple was doing so, and he defended the company’s decision by citing three reasons to move on—and one word: “courage.”

Schiller explained to the San Francisco event crowd that Apple would push the Lightning port standard for wired headphones and push a new proprietary wireless standard, driven by the new “W1 chip” in iOS devices, which Schiller called Apple’s first wireless chip.

The 3.5mm port, on the other hand, has to go, Schiller said, because the company can’t justify the continued use of an “ancient” single-use port. He described the amount of technology packed into the iPhone, saying each element in Apple’s phones is fighting for space, and it’s at a premium. And while every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will include a Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter, Schiller was a lot more bullish about the company’s wireless-audio standard.

Source: Apple defends decision to remove 3.5mm headphone jack, cites “courage” | Ars Technica

KeePass2Android password manager

keepass2android

At $WORK, I use a commercial password management tool that seems to fit my needs as well as the company’s. For my home use, however, I prefer open source.

My password manager of choice has been KeePass. I like it’s open nature and wide variety of supported platforms. As I began to use it regularly, though, I realized that keeping all these password databases in sync is a huge challenge. Earlier this week I went searching to see if another open source password manager might do the trick and thanks to this post on the excellent Linuxious blog I discovered KeePass2Android.

KeePass2Android is a fork of KeePass and uses KeePass’s same libraries to manipulate its databases. The big win for KeePass2Android, though, is its extensive support for remote files. It supports databases hosted on popular file-sharing tools such as Google Drive, DropBox, Box.com, as well as SFTP-and-WebDAV-hosted files. It’s also been rewritten from Java to Mono for Android, which seems to be snappier than the Java version.

Now I have KeePass2Android installed on all of my devices and pointed to the same database! That’s one big feature now no longer solely the domain of commercial password managers. Score one for open source!