June 22, 2024

Airpods goo

I think my Airpods are on their way out. Their latest downturn is not being as able to notice actuallt being in my ears anymore.

Unfortunately, I do not like them enough to look forward to paying for the latest and greatest version.

They are good at what they do, and I can get nothing else which does the same things quite as well, but … Paying again for the same easy to drop things, expensive little gadgets running on finite non-replaceable batteries which I feel almost compelled to bring everywhere? Not appealing.

I put on my still surprisingly strong-going Sony headphones (bought in February of 2017!) for a bit of podcast listening while making tea, and once again discovered how much nicer sound can be coming out of slightly larger hardware, softly yet snugly seated over and around my ears rather than inside them.

(How and why do their batteries still last, and last so well?)

Perhaps I will switch back to the Sonys if and when the Airpods give up the ghost, and run them completely into the ground before checking what else is out there? It is not - I think - as if I will miss any of the Airpods' special sauce enough to really go crazy. Or panic-splurge.

Also: I hold my phone way too much.

June 09, 2024

Writing on paper

It is nice to write on paper.

It is nice to get out in the tactile world, to move around among all the things and people, taking in the sights and sounds of everything.

I have not written much on paper in quite a while, but I have been thinking about doing so quite a bit lately. What usually limits paper writing for me is that it feels cumbersome to integrate it with digital writing, which is of course no excuse since the main point is to just get more thoughts written down more often, and writing without the risk of distractions always holds great appeal to me.

I also happened to be given a nice notebook with a pen with a surprisingly nice flow to it, and so decided it was time to give paper another shot at becoming a regular routine.

With an hour to spend, I brought both notebook and laptop along to a nice coffee place. I ended up spending the whole hour - and two cups of really nice coffee - with just the notebook, the cozy environment, and my own very random thoughts. I filled two pages or so with text, and I actually think my handwriting and technique improved (or returned) notably over just that little time and space.

Of course, the paper and pen were only a small part of the whole experience. I could have had a great session had I been writing on the laptop as well. But a notebook just feels much more … there, much more integrated in the place. Does that make any sense?

One of my thoughts was recalling time I spend writing in a café in Berlin a few years ago. I wondered what I wrote that time. I think that was digital, so I should have it lying around somewhere here …

May 09, 2024

Getting my system data back

Sometime this autumn, my work Macbook pro (a 14-inch 2021 M1 pro) developed a strange storage issue. Basically, the section "system data" in system settings occupied an extra 220 or so gigabytes of space, and it never corrected itself no matter the cleaning and disk utility repairs I did. One more person in the Kodsnack Slack had the same issue, and there were a few reports of similar problems in random forums online, but no explanations or solutions.

The problem seemed to develop during one particular day. I for some reason noticed free space getting lower and lower, finally getting system warnings about being out of space, then restarting and immediately needing to throw stuff away to have any space left at all. Deleting things did free up space, but only the usual amount. The "dead" space in system data stayed occupied no matter what I did. Everything kept working just fine otherwise however, I never had any problem with my actual data (which was of course a great relief).

So, last night I finally sat down and did a proper nuke and pave:

First, I did a complete Superduper backup to a external SSD. It truly is wonderful to live here in the future, where you can have external storage this ludicrously fast to work against. 220 or so gigabytes went by in what felt like no time at all. This also confirmed that my actual data was in good order - the backup was exactly the amount which should be on the system.

Then, I rebooted into recovery mode, used Disk utility to reformat the drive, and reinstalled everything.

This process felt a little fuzzy, but I think it was mainly about me trying to do things in the wrong order, and also secondarily being on a somewhat slow network when the installer was getting online to activate and possibly download data for the install.

The main confusion was that I thought I would want to boot off of the backup on the external drive and use Superduper to restore the backup onto the internal drive. These days, booting from external drives is disabled by default, requiring a trip to a startup security utility in order to allow it. And that part just didn't seem to work when you were in the inbetween state of not actually having a system set up on the computer's internal drive.

It would probably have been solvable, but it turned out to be unnecessary in any case. What I did instead was just pick the option to reinstall Macos normally. Once the basic installation is finished, you get the option of importing data from a backup or other Mac, and there you can pick the Superduper backup on an external drive and just go. Perfect!

A reboot or two later, everything is back in the right places just the way I left it. All I need to do now is click through a lot of dialogs to let things run which I have already allowed in the past, and wait for some indexing to finish.

Macbook pro reappreciation

As I was running through the process, I moved the Macbook pro to a different room. It felt nice to leave it in its own spot, with power connected and the external SSD in a spot with no risk of accidental cable pulls or other incidents. This very minor move somehow made me rediscover just how nice that machine really is. So solid, so compact and powerful, and such a beautiful screen! How come I never notice that the same way even though I work on it day in and day out?

No matter the reason, it is great when I do notice. Computers these days are so awesome, even when they come up on three years old.

April 27, 2024

Listening to the fake rain

I may - may - be getting better at relaxing.

Possibly helped by a stomach bug last weekend, illness always helps remove imagined musts from the schedule.

Also helping is probably the fact that two really packed weeks - just before that stomach thing - recently passed, and I feel as if I have not even begun to unpack those properly. Conferences are great, but I need time to rest and process afterward. Two conferences back to back … well, I will not be surprised if that takes four times as long to work through.

The first one was the developer conference Jsday in Verona, so of course I would like to make a Kodsnack episode about it. But it would probably be a good idea to write some notes about it too, before it becomes to distant. In any case, it was a great time, and on one of the walks into the city I had one of my best espressos ever. Oh, there was lots of good food, of course.

Plus: more nice stickers!

Conferences are such excesses of potential. They provide an infinite number of possible connections, new conversations, experiences, all in a time much too limited to grasp even a fraction of a fraction of them. I do think I managed to grasp a few good ones.

I also came up with a lightning talk, even if I missed out on a chance to actually present it. But it was a fun new experience to get the idea, think through it inbetween sessions, then get to my hotel room in the evening, write down a few notes and then speak through it and finding out that yes, it did in fact hold together and come out more or less the way I hoped. Very cool, and now I can grab the opportunity some other time.

Also, thinking about the lightning talk provided the same kind of adrenaline boost as if I had a scheduled talk myself. No sleepiness, some extra alertness, a different kind of focus even while listening to other sessions.

It would have created even more possibilities for new connections. And possibly wrung me out even more by the end of the conference.

Next time!

April 03, 2024

Being the window manager

The more I use Siracusa-like (see last post) window management and placement, the more I like it.

It makes me enjoy working on my larger screens more. I make more use of the space. I feel like I keep better track of things.

Despite the apparent visual clutter, I wonder if it is not also a mentally calmer environment.

I put things in places, and they stay there.

No swiping or tabbing around fullscreen apps, no unexpected window placements. Everything is where I decide to put it in the moment, and it stays there until I choose to move it.

Crucially, nothing helpfully decides to shuffle stuff around for me. I came across another window management project for the Mac, but lost interest quicker than ever before when I realized that I neither want nor need anything to place my windows for me. I only move them when I need to anyway.

The most surprising step? I think it must be that I have started tearing tabs in Visual studio code out into separate windows. I half expected multi-window support to be broken in silly non-native ways, but so far it seems to be acting exactly like it should. Having a focus file in its own window rather than making the main one really wide and fiddling with split panes is so much nicer. Plus, the separate windows can be so small and chrome-free when the main window has all the side bars and other … IDE stuff.

All of which keeps me wondering: what is real window power usage, and what would the best tools for that be? Right now, I feel the tools are a whole lot fewer than perhaps ever before. I expect I will swing back in due course …

The other side of this coin is that I feel more constrained than ever whenever I work off of a laptop and have just its builtin screen available. I am writing this on my Macbook air, and while it is still a lovely machine in every single way I do feel that I would enjoy working at my desk with my proper monitor more.

That is new, and good. There should be clear advantages to a larger monitor. Being on the couch is very nice, but it should not feel able to equal a proper desk setup.

Tool usage

Speaking of tools, I have started to use Front and center a bit again, in modern mode, so that I can hold down shift to bring all windows of an app forward by clicking anywhere on one of them. It comes in handy and helps me be even more selective with when and how windows move depth-wise. When I remember that I have it there, that is.

Something I have picked up even more is holding down the option key when clicking on a window of another app. This hides the app you just left, and somehow feels much more satisfying than the other ways hiding apps. All that is missing is some satisfying tactile feedback. (I was about to write "statisfying sound", but I generally prefer my operating system to keep quiet.)