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Put the knife down and take a green herb, dude.


One feller's views on the state of everyday computer science & its application (and now, OTHER STUFF) who isn't rich enough to shell out for

Using 89% of the same design the blog had in 2001.

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Saturday, September 05, 2020

I don’t have much to add, but did wonder about this (quote from Macrumors):

Epic mentions that it's "likely to suffer irreparable harm" if Fortnite is not made available on the ‌App Store‌ and that "the balance of harms tips strongly in Epic’s favor," citing that daily iOS active users have already declined by over 60% since the app's initial removal from the ‌App Store‌. 

If the players use the same account cross-platform, there are two bits of information Epic needs to add:

  • How much has usage gone up on other platforms for those users, and...
  • How much has spending changed across all platforms, bottom line?
In a competitive world, if those iOS Fortnite players were diehard Fortnite gamers, they’d get an Android phone and keep playing. It might take a while to move, though. They might play less for a while before they come around. 

But if you force Apple to open back up, you kinda lose the chance to see if they’re a monopoly or not. 

And if those players swap platforms permanently, you might actually get Apple’s attention. 

(Actually I’d say you already have. There’s a reason Apple already has their own subscription game service running. That’s a preemptive move.)

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posted by Jalindrine at 9/05/2020 08:52:00 PM
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Oh noes!

Facebook today warned advertisers that Apple's upcoming anti-tracking tools could cause a more than 50 percent drop in Audience Network publisher revenue due to the removal of personalization from ads within apps. 

MacRumors quotes Facebook:

despite our best efforts, [privacy changes] may render Audience Network so ineffective on ‌iOS 14‌ that it may not make sense to offer it on ‌iOS 14‌ in the future.

I still think in 100 years we’ll feel weird if people don’t know where we are all the time, maybe even with video, but my reaction today remains QQ. 

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posted by Jalindrine at 8/26/2020 01:14:00 PM
Monday, August 24, 2020

The Times has published the worst news we could hear on COVID-19 today: You can catch COVID multiple times. This is no longer an anecdote, but someone whose two COVID exposures were confirmed to have genetic differences. They caught it twice.

There's some positive news mixed in there, but this is a pretty depressing milestone, even if the writing had been (anecdotally) on the wall for a while.

And that's because there are only so many end-games with COVID-19. Here are a few...

  1. It's chickenpox. It really wacks the heck out of you if you catch it late, but you catch it once and you're done. (This would be scary for older people now, just like exposure to chickenpox would be, but fantastic in the grand scheme. The world wasn't horrible pre-chickpox vaccine)
  2. You get a substantively effective vaccine and practically everyone with access doesn't catch the disease.
  3. You do enough preventative action and enough contact tracing that you behave such that we chase the thing down into the hole. And you do this over and over until the end of time. But it's a very slow burn to the point it doesn't affect us as a whole in any nightmarish way.
  4. It's a nightmarish flu. We catch it to some degree every year. Mortality is up above where it was in 2019, and this will forever be a problem for humanity.
It looks like #1, the best case scenario, is firmly out now. There are some positives in the story -- the second time, the fellow didn't have serious symptoms, and the Times has a very positive quote: 

Akiko Iwasaki [an immunologist at Yale University who was not involved with the work but reviewed the report at The New York Times’s request, said] “It’s kind of a textbook example of how immunity should work.”

That's great, but it's clearly not chickenpox-style immunity. And, painfully, as the story continues, "People who do not have symptoms may still spread the virus to others". 

This makes it sound like, without a vaccine, we're headed towards #4, maybe with some lucky reduction of the "nightmarish" qualifier. Even the best #3 (preventative action and contact tracing) to date has, in practice, not stopped transmittal and huge flare-ups outside of a few outliers. You know, like islands with carefully controlled borders. Most of us don't live there.

Now, again, #4 might not be the flu of your nightmares like I was afraid COVID might become. If, as this story quotes Iwasaski saying, "natural infection created immunity that prevented disease but not reinfection", then maybe COVID-19 gets folded in as "just another flu" rather than something that kills 300,000 Americans alone each year -- that is, the current COVID death rate seems to be about 10x that of the flu. Maybe with this immunity it drops to a fifth to a tenth of that. Though remember that it's in addition to our flu numbers, which is disheartening to contemplate.

And let me add this quick edit: The flu is nightmarish enough. Over 10% of the population contracts it badly enough to notice annually. Half a million a year are routinely hospitalized. And nearly ten percent of those people die. The flu is not child's play. It's deadly serious. We don't need two of them. We don't need one.  

Flu numbers from the CDC

Still, if we all get this extra "preventative immunity" after our first scary-as-heck bout with COVID, perhaps the future, even without a vaccine, shouldn't be nearly as hellish as the world we live in now.

That said, though the smallpox infested blankets may not have been as evil in effect as their givers hoped they'd be in theory, smallpox and other European diseases were just as frightening for the Lakota, Cherokee, and other nations as you might now be able to appreciate. I'd like to say I can't imagine, but now, unfortunately, on some small level, we all can.

EDIT: Quick, only partially related update: Wearing a mask helps the wearer too.

This makes sense, right? I remember an answer from Fauci when he was asked if masks that weren't N-95 could help you, and he basically said, sure, the holes are big enough to let things through, but if you've got two big guys running towards the same door they're going to have a hard time getting through. Any protection is better than none, and if you're reducing the load in or out, well, that's a good thing. 

So here's one article from a random source saying just that.

The amount of virus that you’re exposed to – called the viral inoculum, or dose – has a lot to do with how sick you get. If the exposure dose is very high, the immune response can become overwhelmed. Between the virus taking over huge numbers of cells and the immune system’s drastic efforts to contain the infection, a lot of damage is done to the body and a person can become very sick.


Research shows that both cloth and surgical masks can block the majority of particles that could contain SARS-CoV-2. While no mask is perfect, the goal is not to block all of the viruses, but simply reduce the amount that you might inhale. Almost any mask will successfully block some amount.

Laboratory experiments have shown that good cloth masks and surgical masks could block at least 80% of viral particles from entering your nose and mouth.

In July, the CDC estimated that around 40% of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 are asymptomatic, and a number of other studies have confirmed this number.

And I think we had hints of this "larger viral load in means more severe sickness" from the earliest news we had on the virus. Remember when the most active doctors in China were dying? It's not because they were being careless. It's because a non-perfect level of protection times patient after new patient meant you had more viral load and more danger.

It's really important to limit not just your exposure to people in general but the time that you're being exposed and how much of your respiration is ingesting that exposure.


posted by ruffin at 8/24/2020 06:45:00 PM
Saturday, August 22, 2020

From here:

That is the sorry reality of the bazaar Raymond praised in his book: a pile of old festering hacks, endlessly copied and pasted by a clueless generation of IT "professionals" who wouldn't recognize sound IT architecture if you hit them over the head with it. It is hard to believe today, but under this embarrassing mess lies the ruins of the beautiful cathedral of Unix, deservedly famous for its simplicity of design, its economy of features, and its elegance of execution.


posted by Jalindrine at 8/22/2020 02:42:00 PM
Monday, August 10, 2020

TL;DR: Gimme the Zeppelin playlist

If you're an Amazon Music Prime subscriber, but not Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music Unlimited, let me introduce you to Zeppelin Remasters - (Free) Prime Covers, the best Zeppelin fix Prime members can stream for free.

Finding Zeppelin on Amazon Music Prime

If you've got Amazon Music Prime, you'll know you've got a pretty nice deal. You can stream an impressive selection of songs without paying more than you already pay for Amazon shipping, and the app works well, seamlessly combining the Prime streaming selection with albums you've AutoRipped and mp3s you've purchased from Amazon.

But there are downsides. Kind of like when Metallica and Tool weren't on any streaming platform and you had to load ripped mp3s for those bands to your phone "the old way", the Music Prime selection is lacking in certain specific ways.

And the worst hole in the Music Prime donut? There's no Led Zeppelin on Amazon Music Prime. (Well, almost none. There's one exception that proves the rule. But more on that later.)

Why is there no Zeppelin on Prime? Dunno. Amazon Music is pretty low on the artist payouts, but I can't find anywhere suggesting Prime streaming royalties are different than Amazon Unlimited's, so you'd almost think you'd rather have all of the Prime streams than only the Unlimited's, at least for older music that's harder to "discover". Maybe the band's hoping you subscribe to a service that pays higher royalties like Apple, Spotify, Tidal, or, surprisingly (in that I see this name at all and that they pay like they do), the top royalty rate payer, Napster.

Or maybe they wish you'd just buy the albums, since you could just buy the mp3s for Zeppelin on Amazon and, poof, problem solved. You're able to stream 'em anywhere you have the Amazon Music app. Larkin Poe went off of Amazon Music Prime, and now I've shelled out for three of theirs. But that's more of a reason to, as Larkin Poe did, put songs on and take them back off -- the first hit is free, but then you have to pay to satisfy your fix. Wash, rinse, repeat. Kinda like Disney's vault, in a sense. Not having a back catalog on Prime leaves money on the table.

Maybe Amazon doesn't want to have Zeppelin on Prime so they don't have to pay all those royalties? I mean, Prime Music doesn't make money directly. It only pays out. Hrm. :thinking: Still, you think they'd revolve like the Stones or Beatles do. (And the Stones, at least, do. I'm always chasing what albums are active on Prime. I usually only listen to them on my phone now, where I own tracks.)

Regardless, I'd already paid for my Led Zeppelin songs a looooong time ago and I'm morally opposed to paying again for some reason. 

What should I do if I want to listen to a little Zeppelin? More importantly, what should you do if you need a Zeppelin hit?

Can we make a good Zeppelin Covers playlist?

Let's cut to the chase: I think we can create a good Zeppelin covers playlist. Because I did.

There are actually a fair number of Zeppelin covers on Amazon Music Prime. Some of them are good enough that you might enjoy listening to them.

I decided to recreate my first exposure to Led Zeppelin, a three-disc collection Columbia House slammed me with in the early 90s, the Led Zeppelin Remasters.

I was mad when I got them ("You're charging me for three CDs I didn't order, and only two have music?!") and cancelled my membership in Columbia House, as, if I counted the Remasters as two discs, I was finally through my required purchases.

If this slamming doesn't ring any bells, let's reminisce with that Slate article author...

But the most devious part of this hustle—the reason Columbia House and BMG deigned to call themselves “clubs”—is that each month they’d send you a CD you hadn’t asked for, unless you mailed them back a card within 10 days saying you didn’t want the CD, which, let’s face it, requires some foresight and organization that is well outside the wheelhouse of an average middle schooler.

(Or high schooler. Or older. But it actually wasn't that bad. You could even send the CDs back after they sent them to you. I'd done it at least twice by the time the Remasters showed up. But the multi-disc slam seemed patently unfair. Straw, meet camel's back.)

But then, years later, I finally listened to the Zeppelin CDs. Hello!

Playlist rules/priorities:

Grade A: Actual Led Zeppelin Tracks (1 track)

I don't know how, but one real Led Zeppelin track snuck into the Amazon Music Prime free streaming tier. I'm pretty sure it's a mistake. If you look at the album in the Amazon store, it's the only track that's Prime eligible, and it's also the most popular track from the album too, as you might expect.

I'm not going to rat it out in case it is a mistake, but of course songs by Led Zeppelin make a playlist with "the most Zeppelin-like songs on Prime".

  1. Led Zeppelin. One song. Maybe you've heard of them.

Update: Painfully, Amazon got wise. D'yer Maker is gone.

Grade B: Covers by bands that include Jimmy Page (4)

This is limited to two options, but they're pretty good options:

  1. The Yardbirds (1)
    • Here we have the original an earlier version of Dazed and Confused (no, really!) by Page's earlier band, a band that also includes, get this, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
  2. Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes (3)
    • These covers are wonderful. Page's back went out during the tour, cutting it short, but the tracks in the collection they released are hard jams. If I was bold, I'd say the Crowes + Page are better than Zeppelin on a few tracks, but I'm letting my Crowes bias get the best of me.

Grade C: Decent covers by bands without Jimmy Page (8 now 9)

This was tough. There are some bands you've heard of, like Heart, Gov't Mule, and Phish, that cover a few tracks, but... even though some are pretty good, they really don't feel like Zeppelin. There are also some interesting, even good, reinterpretations of Zeppelin that I would've liked to have included, like tracks from SOAK and Shel, that I enjoyed and tried in the list, but ultimately took out if only to keep those looking for a conventional Zep fix from leaving too soon.

Some of these kinda stink, but think of it less as a Zeppelin cover than some almost-made-it-also-rans using each track as a sort of audition for some real work and they're over-doing it like mad on these quick gigs a friend of a friend of a friend got for them.

 For instance:

In a career that spans nearly 40 years and includes over 60 album credits, Joe Lynn Turner remains one of rock and roll's most distinctive, soulful and expressive vocalists. 

Really? But sure enough, if you listen closely to his track, you can tell that's exactly what he's trying to prove -- at some expense for the track as a whole. But also each guitarist and drummer and... Every one is playing not as a team but for themselves. Each track is another bizarre rendition of "Who Isn't Who in LA" at the fringes of rock and roll -- and they're not all half bad.

All contribute a single track with the exception of Great White, which sneaks in two.
  1. Joe Lynn Turner
  2. Smokestack
    • There's a pretty neat blues history on Since I've Been Lovin' You
  3. Voidoid
    • Immigrant Song from the Thor soundtrack (Vahalla, after all). A number of covers of this one.
  4. Dweezil Zappa
  5. Glenn Hughes
  6. Great White (2)
  7. The Lovemongers (Heart's side gig)
  8. Phil Lewis

Grade D: Zeppelin Cover Bands (9)

By the time I was done, some names kept coming back up. Over and over again. Search for a song name, boom, "Hello, usual suspects!"

These bands are definitely trying to sound like Zeppelin, but often just plain miss the mark. I know they want to sound like Zeppelin, but it's like that scene from The Social Network: "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you'd have invented Facebook." Some of the covers are, unfortunately, Winklevossed. There's a reason cover bands often get a bad rap. That said, the tracks I've included seem pretty good to me.

That's not to say every inclusion is 100% merit-based. I did try to mix things up. If LA Thunder was already in the list, I made sure they didn't go back-to-back if I could help it. 

Though Led ZepAgain snuck in four tracks, which, honestly, surprised me when I started counting. Clever bastards. But it turns out even Jimmy Page reportedly likes Led ZepAgain. 

But as LA Weekly says, "the vast majority of the acts are not very good — a reality tribute artists and promoters readily admit to"...

  1. Zepparella (1)
  2. Lez Zeppelin (1)
    • The above two are both all-female cover bands!
  3. Led ZepAgain (4)
  4. Letz Zep (1)
  5. LA Thunder (2)

Grade E: Any port in a storm (3)

And then there were a few songs where I couldn't find anything in Grades A through D. I took anything I could find.

And for one track, In the Evening, I couldn't find a single cover on Prime. In its place, I put in a few songs at the end that weren't on Remasters (Lita Ford doing The Lemon Song and Page & the Crowes covering What Is and What Should Never Be). Okay, I also cheated and recently moved What Is to the first spot, breaking the whole Remasters theme because, well, the first few songs weren't high quality enough for you to stick around. With Jimmy and the Crowes first, I think you'll be more likely to find the patience to stick it out.

I also snuck in one track I really wanted to include in the main list but didn't because it wasn't quite Zeppelin enough: Dolly Parton's incredibly interesting Stairway to Heaven.

But for the Grade E sources, it's one track a piece.

  1. The Backing Tracks
    • This "band's" tracks are meant to help you learn to play drums, but this one is also a good pretty instrumental version of Achilles' Last Stand.
  2. Cool & Classy
    • Whatever that is. Good instrumental of The Rain Song. Works, I think.
  3. Chords of Chaos
    • Whatever that is, but their Black Dog was just good enough to include them in the mix instead of yet another Grade D selection. Keep it mixed up, man.
    • I mean, come on. The name of the album is Les meilleures chansons de Rock des temps, which my high school French tells me mean "The best rock songs OF THE TIMES" or something. Now I wonder if whoever named it speaks French.

And there you go. Led Zeppelin on Amazon Music Prime. It's a good collection. Remembering beggars can't be chosers, I'm pleasantly surprised.


If you've got a comment about what I should've included, you can comment on the single-post, permalinked version of this post.

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posted by ruffin at 8/10/2020 10:28:00 PM
Saturday, August 08, 2020

I'm not sure why I haven't been exposed to this earlier in my life, but it's definitely a clear example of brillance. (Reminder: My definition of brilliance is any solution to a problem that, once seen, can't be unseen. And it makes you wonder why you never thought of that yourself. Which isn't to say you would've, but that the solution fits that perfectly.) 

Let's cut to the chase: Studying analog computers today I ran into (via Wikipedia) an old Navy doc from 1944 describing an analog computer they used titled, Basic Fire Control Mechanisms, Ordnance Pamphlet (OP) 1140, which has been nicely scanned and presented in a pdf version.  Lookit how these things work. Simplicity itself, but I'd never thought of making something like it. 

Easy, right? If you want to multiply by 36, you have a gear where X teeth of movement (say just enough to move a dial so that what's in the output window changes from 1 to 2) turns a second shaft 36 times X teeth. Then you check the number that shows in the output window (also listed on a dial) that's regulated by that shaft.

In this case, the Navy wanted to set up a computer where sailors would enter the same number of specific variables for each calculation and have the machine compute the values needed to set and fire shells from their artillery.

That's pretty cool. No, more to the point, that's brilliant. No energy needed. Easy to repair, all things considered. Doesn't require any insanely specialized knowledge to work on or with. Not real flexible -- you're give or take doing the same calculation each time -- but in this case, who cases? As the OP says...

The basic mechanisms described in this book were especially developed over a period of about 30 years to do a highly specialized job. That job is to solve mechanically the mathematics for surface and anti-aircraft fire control. These basic mechanisms make the necessary computations to point the guns and set the fuzes to hit fast moving targets with shells fired from the deck of a ship which is moving, pitching, and rolling. To aim the guns correctly under these conditions about 25 things must be taken into account all at the same time. These include target speed, climb, and direction; target range, elevation, and bearing; pitch and roll; and initial shell velocity.

If the enemy were to announce six or eight hours beforehand just where the target would be at a particular instant and just how it would be moving, a lightning mathematician would be able to calculate where to point the guns to hit it at that one instant. But, the results would be good only for one instant.

Now I have my doubts about how "lightning" the mathematician would have to be, since we're just doing an easily, if tediously, delineated set of multiplication/division/logarithmic (?) operations each time (how many math questions can you answer in "six or eight hours"? Um, lots), but point taken. Pretty cool.

But why [do you care]?

Why did I run into this today? One pastime I've been pouring waaaay too much time into recently is the study of DIY headphone amps and cassette players. And one of the important parts of any (well, most any) headphone amp is its "op amp". The op amp is the piece that, when fed a little juice, makes the tiny electric current that's created by the magnets recorded into [sic] your tape as they pass your cassette player's read head loud enough to hear.

If we read our canonical work, Op Amps for Everyone, we learn that the name "pop amp" is short for "operational amplifier", and they're, in a sense, a new twist on the shaft-based analog computers we just saw the Navy used for aiming shells in the Forties.

The heart of the analog computer was a device called an operational amplifier because it could be configured to perform many mathematical operations such as multiplication, addition, subtraction, division, integration, and differentiation on the input signals. The name was shortened to the familiar op amp, as we have come to know and love them. The op amp used an amplifier with a large open loop gain, and when the loop was closed, the amplifier performed the mathematical operations dictated by the external passive components.

Does that make sense? You pass in a voltage and the operational amplifier -- which, it should be noted, requires a power source to perform its operation -- cuts it by two or multiplies by 7... or 36!... or whatever. It is, in effect, just a way of moving from one setting on one shaft through "electric gears" to another.

In an amplifier, we take in a current (?) and multiply it to produce more volume (or is that gain?). Different op amps, like different gears, multiply by different amounts. That multiplication here is measured in decibels, a logarithmic scale 

Here's a list of op amps that work reasonably well in a CMoy DIY headphone amp (for more on the CMoy, sort of "the" famous DIY amplifier, read the original post here, learn to build here, buy a kit here, or learn about alternatives). Note that each has some measurements of the power you've got to put into the op amp to get a corresponding decibel gain for your sound; one this page, he's listed Vmin, 0.5V into 33 Ω and Vmin, 2.0V into 330 Ω, so how much power (how many teeth in the gears?) is necessary for a specific decibel gain (multiplication factor)?

Anyhow, that's a long-winded way of saying that your old cassette player was very likely a computer. An analog computer capable of just one calculation, but that's all you needed! From the docs for the Elenco Electronic's AK-200 Cassette Player Kit (or the per-soldered AK-250), we see what the goal of your player's integrated circuit was...

To maintain a flat frequency response over the full audible range, both the high and low frequencies must be given a boost... It is therefore possible to boost the high frequencies during the recording process without saturating the tape. This is called pre-equalization.

It is not practical to fully boost the low frequencies during the recording process. It is therefore done by boosting the low frequency response of the playback amplifier. This called post-equalization. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has set a standard response curve for playback amplifiers. In general, pre-recorded tapes are recorded so that the response is flat over the audible range when played back through an amplifier having this response.


As shown on the schematic diagram (Section 13), each amplifier consists of a pre-amplifier and driver with a volume control circuit between them. The playback signal from head A is input to the pre-amp on pin 3. The pre-amp has a gain of 30dB (about 32 times) at 1kHz. Resistors R2, R5 and R6 and capacitors C2 and C4 are placed in the feedback circuit of the pre-amp to provide the NAB standard frequency response.

Emphasis mine, as usual. 

Does that make sense? Because of limitations of the cassette tape medium, you need to boost some frequencies. That calculation is what all the innards of your player are for (aside from all the buttons and mechanics for engaging the capstan motor and all that): They're there to translate the feed from your tapes using the "NAB standard" formula for boosting the signal to a "flat frequency response".


Some more cMoy stuff:

Btw, hummingbirds chirp, sometimes when feeding. TILx2.

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posted by ruffin at 8/08/2020 10:31:00 AM
Saturday, July 11, 2020

Here are some really quick first impressions of the eufy Security Indoor Cam 2K. Worth knowing I'm moving from a Nest cam and I'm using Apple's HomeKit Secure Video (HSV) for the eufy.

  • Setup
    • The eufy Security Indoor Cam 2K does work with Apple's HomeKit Secure Video.
      • I downloaded the app, plugged it in, did a firmware update, and the option was there.
    • Insanely easy to set up.
    • Minus one ESL translation flub, very smooth transition from the eufy app to HomeKit Secure Video.
  • HomeKit Secure Video
    • HomeKit Secure Video's interface stinks. It's not easy to scroll within a recording at all.
    • You can't set things up to record continuously (aka "24/7"), much less on a schedule from time X to time Y as you can in Nest.
    • The options for HSV's settings aren't clear or particularly intuitive.
      • It's not insane, but tell me how to only get notifications for animals between certain hours. You can, but it wasn't as straightforward as it should be
      • Or how to get it to record between two times, whether I'm here or not be damned. No, the clear use case is are you home or not?. There's no maybe you'd prefer to use a schedule that's presence independent.
    • The interactions, HSV and eufy app, are a little odd. You can still view live vid in eufy after transition, but that's it.
    • That said, it feels like some settings are in the eufy app only? Do I need to keep this app around or not? Idk.
  • eufy cam itself
    • Picture is great. Seems better than my Nest.
    • Favorite option: Can turn off night vision infrared light without leaving night mode.
      • If you want a camera to look out of (but through) a window at night, you know the light can be reflected off of the window to the point the video stream is unusable.
      • But the Nest, eg, turns off night vision when you turn off the infrared light. They're a package deal. Nighttime with your daytime "eye" is dumb, but that's what (afaict) the Nest does.
    • Why is the eufy white? It's so much more obvious than Nest's black, and security cams shouldn't be obvious. But whadda I know?

I think that's it. I feel a little better having Apple hold my video than Google, but the experience (in the UI) is clearly worse with HSV than Nest. The eufy cam, however, holds no blame for that. Its app seems great, video quality is high, and the HSV setup was trivial.

And I can't argue too much if I'm only paying $36 a year for cloud storage and it comes with an extra 150 gigs of unencumbered iCloud space. Guess Apple's services push got me. Going to $120 a year for five cameras on your iCloud account (but also required if you've only got two!) gets you a little closer to Nest's prices...:

The new Nest Aware subscription now costs $6 a month or $60 a year to cover all of your devices. That gets you 30 days of “event video history,” meaning you get the recordings from whenever the camera detects motion or sound. Jumping up to $12 a month ($120 a year) for Nest Aware Plus doubles your event history to 60 days and also gets you 10 days of 24/7 video recording history.

... and Nest's 24/7 recording really is smooth. But, again, Apple's got the marketing on privacy down pat & you'd get two terabytes (?!!) of iCloud storage for your trouble.

Bottom Line

At $40, the eufy Security Indoor Cam 2K provides a heck of low price of entry for the HomeKit Secure Video world, and the hardware & setup process both hit well above the price's weight-class. If you've wanted to experiment with HSV, this is your cam.

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posted by ruffin at 7/11/2020 12:24:00 PM
Monday, June 22, 2020

Because driving on the road scares the crap out of you as you feel you're about to go rolling down the side of a cliff... and periodically sure enough, the road crumbles beneath your feet.

big sur road collapse picture


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posted by ruffin at 6/22/2020 02:11:00 PM

Are you kidding me?

new ios home page with custom sizes for widgets

windows phone homescreen

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posted by Jalindrine at 6/22/2020 02:02:00 PM
Friday, May 22, 2020

Ah, what to do about music. I like music. I've joked that different companies I've worked for owe The Black Crowes or The Sounds or Metric or Halestorm -- or, in extreme periods of lethargy, Rob Zombie -- for 30% of my productivity while I worked there. I listen to music while working more often than not, and there's no perceivable detraction from my ability to be "in the zone". Music has been only a positive wrt productivity.

In other words, I consume music. Lots of music. Often lots of the same music. I have a "morning" playlist that I play through at least partially a quarter to a third of my working days.

Is a subscription right for me?

The Selfish Caveat

So look, there are lots of reasons not to carry a subscription. One is that the people who make the music don't seem to get as much of the dough from streaming as an outright purchase. That's bad.

You might also like supporting your local record store so that these experts can continue giving you good recommendations. Or maybe you just like 'em as people. Or maybe you really enjoy perusing physical artifacts. It's a particularly relaxing experience for some. Buying music allows your local store and employees to keep some cash too.

But I'm going to be really selfish below, ignoring these "altruistic" sorts of bonuses, for now.

Argument for buying your music

The argument against subscription is my "morning playlist" argument. If the music you listen to doesn't churn a ton, why not buy?

If you're spending less than or equal to a monthly subscription price on new music, it's a no-brainer.

If you buy your music, you're buying an asset... of sorts. Maybe you can't technically share it with anyone, but you have a never-ending license to listen to your music, and if you ever did stop your monthly buying, you still have your entire collection of favorite tunes.

Having a perpetual license for music without any ongoing fee is very good!

Argument for renting/subscribing

But what if you're buying is equal to or greater than a monthly unlimited music subscription every month? Now we've got an issue. If you're spending that much every month and you're absolutely sure you won't stop buying music for your entire life, well, a subscription makes sense.

There are, of course, risks.

What if your streaming service dies off?

Well, as long as any service is in business, you're fine. As long as both services are unlimited and the catalogs are essentially the same, all you really stand to lose are playlists, etc. That stinks, but you don't lose the music.

I guess at some point music subscriptions could go the way of the 8-track. It's a real possibility. That's a Worst Case for this choice, of course. Consider it.

What if the price goes up?

I don't find this super likely. If the services are $10 a month now and you're spending $15 a month on music, I bet both numbers go up at give or take the same rate. But this could happen. Spotify and Apple and friends could go to $35 a month in a cash-grab after feeling they'd killed off music purchases. It's a risk, though I wonder how likely.

What if I stop listening to new music when I'm old?

That's possible, and, like term life insurance, not whole, you don't get that subscription money back. It's burnt. You're not building an asset. You have to be into the subscription whole hog, for life, or you're potentially losing money.

But the counterargument is that you got to listen to so much more music than you would've if you'd purchased a small subset, your life was better for it. ;^) I mean, you have a copy of REM's Automatic for the People, but when's the last time you listened to it? (It's not that bad. Maybe you should. But you get the point.) If you're not going to listen to your old music and a subscription helps you discover new music with no serious opportunity cost (the opportunity cost being REM mp3s gathering dust bits on your cloud drive somewhere), well, who wins? (The subscriber, that's who. Probably.)


Oh, okay. Fine. I still buy music. But I cheat. I have Amazon Prime, and hog the single license to stream from there when I'm working, using it to discover new music. This has also suckered me into buying lots of my digital music from Amazon, as their player mixes purchases in well with their subscription service in the player, meaning I don't have any (many?) files on my work box, but can still access playlists via streaming. And I use Spotify with ads to listen to new music to see if I like a new album before buying if the music isn't on Prime.

But I'm probably getting close to wanting to buy three or four albums a month, and, at some point, maybe it's worth trading one album purchase a month to also have adless streaming. (The ads do kill my productivity a bit. And they're annoying.) Though, currently, knowing I have to stay under $10/month to easily justify purchases is probably putting a ceiling on those purchases... that may or may not total a little above $10 a month. I'm also a sucker for releases on cassette for some reason. Ah Bandcamp. You're killing me.

So trick question, I guess. The answer isn't buy or rent for me, it's buy and rent and listen to ads.

But this Circle K ad during a Green Leaf Rustlers album is making me reconsider.

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posted by ruffin at 5/22/2020 10:56:00 AM

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