Oct 292014

“Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,…  and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”

—St. Augustine, “De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim” (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)

 Posted by at 08:44:15
Oct 252014

For the last six months I’ve been using an iPad mini Retina (16GB) in place of my iPad 3 (64GB), which I gave to my high school student kid since he uses his iPad extensively for homework and reading and the non retina screen on his iPad 2 was giving him a headache after more than an hour or two of reading.

The biggest issue with the mini was the storage space, and it was so cramped in terms of the apps I could install in the 10.7GB available on it that I was 100% positive that this fall’s iPads would all be at 32GB. After the limited update on iOS 8, maybe Apple has realized that a 16 GB iPad is user-hostile. I have a friend who cannot update to iOS 8 on her iPad because she cannot free up the 5.5GB of free space and does not have a computer. Her iPad is her computer.

In order to update my mini to iOS 8 I had to go through quite a complicated dance. First, I tried deleting all the large apps, but that didn’t leave me enough free space. Despite only being able to add up about 3GB of data on the iPad, it showed that I had 8GB used and only 2.7GB free. I could have cheated and plugged the iPad into iTunes, but since I was trying to figure out how my friend could update, I didn’t. While I was looking for ways to free space, my free space kept dropping. Eventually, despite adding no data, my free space dropped to 0 bytes. At this point, I wiped the iPad and restored it. Finally, I had 7GB free and was able to do the OTA update to iOS 8. Over the next month, my free space again dropped to 0 bytes by the time I went to do the OTA update to iOS 8.1. Again, I had to wipe the iPad and restore it in order to install iOS 8.1.

This is not a solution for the majority of users, and while part of the problem is Apple’s terrible handling of “Other”, a large part of it is the constraint of the 16GB devices.

There were other problems as well. The iPad mini is literally a full-sized iPad that is shrunk down, and while that is great for weight and portability it is not that great for reading, typing, or tapping. I notice a lot more tap-errors on the mini than on a full sized iPad.

I knew I was buying a new iPad this fall, and my only question was if I was getting a mini or an air, but a few weeks before the new iPads came out I’d decided on the full-sized version.

I have had my iPad Air 2 for a day now, and am completely satisfied with it. Impressed, even. I do miss the weight of the mini, but I am finally back on an iOS device where I can comfortably type in the device without an external keyboard. This post, for example.

The only other thing of note on the new iPad Air 2 is that the side “ring silent” switch is gone, and it appears to me that it is impossible to make the iPad completely silent. Even with the volume turned all the way down to mute and the control center switched to mute, the iPad was still quite loud when I activated Siri, loud enough it woke up my wife. I suppose it makes sense that Siri always makes noise, but the noise was quite loud.

 Posted by at 17:36:58
Sep 292014

Or, Why I listen to a podcast on a  topic I’m not interested in.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I do mean a lot of podcasts. It’s not unusual to see me with headphones in at the coffee shop, or wandering around the house doing house stuff and getting through 50-60 hours of podcasts. To give you an idea, the podcast app Overcast has a metric on how much time you’ve saved using its “Smart Speed” setting that takes out some of the silent pauses in a podcast. That number is over 60 hours so far, and Overcast hasn’t been out that long. I also listen to most podcasts at 2x speed (or higher), so I get through a lot in a week.

The usual suspect are in my list, and no one who know me would be surprised to find ATP, The Talk Show, Mac Break Weekly, iPad Today, DTNS, Mac Power Users, MacCast, NozillaCast and many others in my list. But one does stand out a little, and that is Isometric, which is a show about the video game industry.

I am not a gamer. The consoles I’ve owned in the last decade are a Wii and a PS3 that I bought last year, after the PS4 came out. The only game I’ve played much at all in the last 15 years or so is World of Warcraft, though I’ve recently decided to stop playing that. I occasionally play something for a little while on the PS3, or I play short casual games on the iPad. The last FPS I played was Unreal Tournament. The only exception to this in recent memory is that I did play all of Beyond Two Souls, but that was more like an interactive film than a game.

But enough about my credentials (or rather, lack of credentials); suffice to say I am not a gamer, I don’t own current generation consoles, I don’t play a lot of games, and so a podcast about gaming and the gaming industry in particular seems an odd choice.

I can’t say exactly what cause me to subscribe to the podcast, but it was something on twitter around episode 6. I went back and listened to all the shows and was hooked, but not on the game talk.

First of all, the show is basically (click to follow on Twitter) Brianna Wu, Maddy Myers, and Georgia Dow talking on all sorts of subjects having something to do with games and gaming while Steve Lubitz tries to keep the show on track. Some sort of track. It goes off the rails. A lot. Sometimes Steve goes off on an extended rant on Nintendo or Pokemon (aren’t they the same thing?). It would be more accurate to say that sometimes it returns to the rails for brief periods. Which is fine, because what makes the podcast so appealing to listen to is that these are four very different people, each of which I can identify with in some way, who are having an intelligent conversation. And that, on its own, is interesting and engaging. They could be talking about cheese and it would still be compelling.

Please don’t talk about cheese.

The other thing that I find interesting is that I don’t find myself identifying with any one of the hosts more than the others like, say, on ATP. I don’t identify at all with Steve, for example, because he’s not only devoted to Pokemon, he’s not a movie buff, he’s only seen like 4 movies ever. I kid. Slightly. Maddy is much more of a gamer than I ever was, and Georgia is a much nicer and more-level headed person that I could ever be, and Brianna—well, she’s like a force of nature; it’s just best to step back and watch from a safe distance.

But the interaction of these four is something special. So if you’ve been avoiding it because you aren’t a gamer, don’t. Give it a listen and I think you’ll find it something quite remarkable. If you’re looking for a place to start to see if you are going to like it as much as I do, I recommend starting with episodes 16-19, in order. Dowabunga, dude!

 Posted by at 06:09:30
Feb 132014

Michael McCollum’s Euclid’s Wall is a Science Fiction novel with a twist: it takes place in a future where almost all technology has been lost and the action all takes place on a old fashion rigged sailing ship. However, this is not your typical post-nuclear-holocaust scifi novel, and in more ways than one almost reads more like Billy Budd or a Robert Louis Stevenson novel in that it is very much a sailing novel.

But it is a science fiction novel, and every time I had a question that I thought wasn’t covered, it was answered later in the book.

I don’t want to give away too much because a lot of the fun is finding out exactly what is going on, but the science is solid, the story is engaging, and the characters are interesting.

McCollum’s detail for solid science in his writing should come as no surprise, he’s worked as an engineer for most of his life, including redesigned a valve that failed at Three Mile Island after its unfortunate failure.

 Posted by at 11:18:20