Around this time last year, I picked up a Surface Go. It's been a great piece of hardware. While it might not be the most powerful Windows PC going, it's got more than enough guts to power me through a day of writing, editing and photo tweaking in situations where hauling along my laptop isn't desirable. Better still is the fact that, at the end of the day, it's an absolute beast for consuming comic books and RSS feeds with. My only complaint is that most of my workflow is made possible by rocking a system driving Mac OS. While the situation has improved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, a number of apps that I rely upon to get shit done aren't available as a desktop app outside Mac OS. Day One, a journaling app that I use to record my PTSD symptoms and travelogues is a big one. OmniFocus, a GTD project management app is another. Up until now, I've been getting by by using the iOS versions of these apps on my iPhone when I'm on the road with my Windows 10 machine. It's less than ideal. Happily, I think I can put a pin in this workaround, now. Today, I sorted out a more desirable workaround: Using Android apps in Bluestacks 4 inside of Windows 10.
The last time I took Bluestacks for a spin was a few years back. It was intriguing, but still too buggy and slow to be of much use to me. Read the rest
I pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe's suite of photo editing apps. They streamline my workflow on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. What's more, they allow me to make my mediocre photos almost look like they were taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, however, that subscription-based software is bullshit. Yes, you'll always have access to the latest updates that the application developers have to offer, but for all of the money you're paying over the course of months, or even years, you never end up with a product that you can say you own. Stop paying that monthly fee and you're left with bupkis. I don't much care for how that feels. I'm also not crazy about how much horsepower Adobe's software needs to perform well. Photoshop and Lightroom work great on my 2015 MacBook Pro. The same goes for Adobe's mobile apps on my iOS devices and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the pixels flow like mud if I attempt to do any image editing in Lightroom on my Microsoft Surface Go. It's just not powerful enough. Happily, I discovered Affinty Photo a few years ago. It's a low cost Photoshop alternative for iOS, Mac OS and Windows that, for many image editing tasks, is just powerful enough to get shit done.
On my low-powered Surface Go, Affinty loads in half the time that Photoshop does, allowing me to get in and out of working on a photo quickly before uploading it to go along with a story. Read the rest
One of the nice things about owning a MacBook is that, more often than not, you don't have to give too much thought about what's going on behind the scenes. Mac OS is stable as all get out. Most users will never need to fart around with terminal commands or futz with file structures. As much of a cliché as it may be to say it, it just works.
Most of the time.
I discovered, over the years, that as stable as Apple's software experience typically is, there are a few ways to improve on things by tweaking and cleaning my SSD up. These are not tasks that I am good at. Admittedly, this is likely due to the fact that I've been too lazy to learn the ins and outs of making my computer do tricks outside of what my work requires. As such, I let apps do the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting for me. I've relied on MacPaws' CleanMyMac for years to clean junk files from my computer and maintain my drive's health. I can't remember how much I paid for it, back in the day, but I've very likely gotten my money's worth out of it.
The only thing that I likely know less about than what goes on behind the scenes of Mac OS is what in the name of Hell makes Windows 10 run. While I find the OS and the software I run on my Surface Go to be adequate for churning out words and a bit of photo editing, I haven't got the slightest idea of what to do in order to keep my new Windows 10 PC healthy. Read the rest
Every year, I wait for Apple to announce mouse support for the iPad. Every year, I am left unfulfilled. Apple's nailed the apps that I need to do my job on the go, but the lack of a mouse for interacting with text slows my workflow way the hell down. Tapping on my tablet's display and dragging words around is a poor substitute. As such, I'm constantly searching for a tablet that can give me what I need. Read the rest
Unless I'm in a cafe, hotel or staying at someone's home I connect to the internet over a tethered connection to my smartphone. I've got an unlimited data plan--but only the first five gigabytes of information that I send or receive is at LTE speeds. After that, things turn slow as molasses flowing uphill in January. To try and keep my data useage under control and, thus, my speeds higher for as long as possible, I use an application called TripMode 2. It's available for MacOS and Windows ten and, priced at eight bucks, it's ridiculously inexpensive to purchase a copy.
Once installed, TripMode is stupid easy to use. Activate the app, locate it in your Menu Bar (MacOS) and click it to get at its drop-down menu. There you'll see every piece of software on your computer that's begging for access to the interwebz. If you're not using the apps you see on the list, de-select the check mark next to it. Boom, they're cut off from using your tethered device's data. You'll note that at the bottom of the list, you can see how much data you've used since you started your session, during the course of a day, month or year. If you're on a plan with limited data, having that information is pure gold.
Best of all, when you're not using it, TripMode 2 can easy be shut off. It's easily up there with Scrivener, ProtonMail Bridge and Adobe Lightroom as one of the most important bits of software that I use on a regular basis. Read the rest
As a teenager in the early 1990s, I never really had friends, so much as close acquaintances. I’d see people at school. We’d laugh, maybe skip class from time to time. But I’d never see them on the weekends or in the evening. No one wanted anything to do with me. I was a spooky kid much as I’m now a spooky adult. It was unfortunate, then, that I had a love of tabletop gaming. Battletech was an obsession. Giant robots doing battle with one another on alien worlds? Tanks on legs! What’s not to like? I bought the wee lead miniatures for the game. I painted them up in my mercenary company’s colors. I read the tech manuals for them and the game’s rule books, constantly.
Then, as I had no one to play with, I did nothing, with any of it.
In 1998, I peed a little when a game called MechCommander was released. It let you kit out and command a lance of battlemechs and fight! But it was a real-time strategy—the experience I wanted was that of a table top game. Turns in table top games take time. Rules have to be double checked, movement is counted out in squares or hexes. Nerd country. 20 years later, Harebrained Schemes has finally given me the gaming experience I’ve always wanted with Battletech. It’s a turn-based combat game set in the Battletech universe. There are tanks on legs, there is tech jargon. You can ‘paint’ your ‘mechs in whatever colors you please. Read the rest
Microsoft's deceptive hard-sell to gets users to "upgrade" to Windows 10 (the most control-freaky OS to ever come out of Redmond) is made all the more awful by just how much personal, sensitive, compromising data Microsoft exfiltrates from its users' PCs once they make the switch. Read the rest
There's no way to turn off the "recovery" feature that sends your disk encryption keys to Microsoft by default, without notice -- though you can (and should) ask Microsoft to forget the keys later. Read the rest
Kirk writes, "This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son's laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled 'Weekly activity report for [my kid]', including which websites he's visited, how many hours per day he's used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps." Read the rest