Getting a bit blue in the tooth

Hey, it’s me. I’m writing on a train.

It’s snowing, and I made the last minute decision to skip that nonsense and transit to work. I had a hidden motivation: I wanted to try out my new mp3 player. After humming and hawing for months, I finally bit the bullet and bought one. First impressions, it plays mp3s. I guess that’s good enough. The turning point in actually sitting on my arse and buying one online was realising that I’d never be truly satisfied. Or rather, I realised I’d probably be fine with a much wider range of players than my narrow desires expected. I wanted a dumb machine. Something that played music without a stack of extra features and apps. I wanted something weighty enough that it felt sturdy and safe. Definitely no internet. I was against Bluetooth and FM radio. I just wanted a simple player, nothing more. It’s weird, I’ve been obsessed with having hardwired things for some time. I think there was some fear founded on the idea that this technology is fickle. Thing is, Bluetooth has been around for 10+ years. I think it works just fine. In fact, I decided to road test some average earplugs I had lying around for my commute. Turns out Bluetooth works. Who’d have thought? I’ve been clinging to outmoded notions. I’ve been jogging and working out with studio sized monitor headphones for years, when I could’ve had a far more lightweight option. Based on today’s performance, I might even get some new Bluetooth headphones for active stuff. I’m not an old enough dog that I can’t learn a few tricks.

It’s rad having 100 or so gigs of portable music on the go. Over the past few months I’ve gotten by with podcasts and DJ mix sets. When I’ve been at a computer, I’ve streamed from Deezer. It’s mostly been working. What I’ve realised though, is that having nigh endless access to music from across history is somewhat stifling. There’s so much of it, and it doesn’t pop right out to you. You need to search up what to listen to, and without a bunch of curating, I found myself listening to roughly the same 40 or so albums most of the time. When I use a portable player, I have a long list of artists to choose from. I can continue getting new music and adding it, while still remembering old favourites. Not to fall into an adage, but what’s old is new again. I’m discovering all these bands I love, but had forgotten about. It’s kind of a gift, and today’s commute has been spent reacquainting myself with Dan Deacon.

And like, cramming into a bus with some dude’s bag pressed against my face. But mostly Dan Deacon.

Yeah yeah yeah, you turn it into a rectangle, then how do you not get tangled?

Oh I love The Internet.

It probably consumes most of my waking hours. Whether I’m scrolling through Reddit/Facebook/Twitter, playing Magic, streaming shows or, well, doing exactly what I’m doing now. I’ve become used to the internet as a forum for arguments, hatred and showcasing the worst that humanity has to offer. Political rhetoric may not have overtaken porn as the central use of the internet, but it’s zooming right up its butthole. Even with the absurd amount of time I spend on it, I still forget how genuinely useful the internet can be.

I’ve had this muscle in my arm that’s been sore for days. At the top of the forearm, kind of on the outside, by the bicep. I don’t know how I stressed it (some kind of overuse, no doubt), but it’s been making itself known quite profoundly. Any time my right arm has been bent and doing some sort of pulling motion, I’ve felt pain there. Bicep curls, obviously. Pull ups, definitely. Outside of gym stuff, certain gripping actions have inflamed it. Feeling down the arm, I noticed that the muscle was connected somehow to my index finger. I wondered if it’d been because of workplace RSI. I’ve tried at multiple junctures to do trigger point release. In short, finding points on the muscle where pressure created strong pain, and holding that point firmly until the pain eased. Letting the muscle relax, basically. I did a bunch while lying in bed last night, and found the stress abating a bit. Pleased, I nodded off. I woke up this morning, with the pain still there.

Disappointed, I consulted the internet. Google has gotten adept enough to handle my dumb queries (“muscles connected to the index finger”), and I found a page full of individual arm muscles. I looked through them all until I found the one that seemed to fit my symptoms/arm location. The brachioradialis. I then searched for brachioradialis stretches. Within a minute I’d found a YouTube video of a British physiotherapist giving a stretch for the muscle. I tried the stretch, it went straight to the source of the pain. I tried on the other arm just to test. Nope, no pain. I’m pretty sure that I’ve found how to ease the strain over the next few days. I consider this a total success.

It’s so easy to forget this part of the internet, but it kinda feels like that was what people originally had in mind. The internet, despite all the trolls and clickbait, is a massive repository of human knowledge. Chances are, anything you’ve asked has already been solved (and/or, pornified. Thanks Rule 34). I don’t know how many times I’ve asked the internet questions like:

  • How do I fold a suit for travel?
  • How do I fold a fitted sheet?
  • How do I iron a shirt?
  • How do I cook ______?
  • What is a remedy for _____?
  • How do I sew a button?
  • Sorry, I forgot the fitted sheet thing?
  • Which bike accessory fits my needs?
  • What do I eat/drink/see in this city I’m visiting?
  • Is there a free alternative to this software?
  • Is there an easier alternative to fitted sheets?

Mostly, the internet has delivered. There are any number of tasks that get so much easier with guidance, and if you’re willing to look, the internet provides.

Also, thanks to The Google effect, I still haven’t bookmarked that Martha Stewart folding fitted sheets video.

Fiio fo fum

Hi there. Welcome to my day off.

It’s a marvellous thing. My only problem right now is that I’m wearing my trusty lion onesie, but I’ve also loaded up on coffee. I have no problem being a perky so and so, but I’m engaged in a constant battle between robing and disrobing. Back and forth, to and fro, from one seat to another. At worst, I guess I’m keeping active. I have a bunch of days off ahead of me, and very few plans set in stone. It’s understandable that I’m fidgety, and caffeine certainly hasn’t helped.

Sorry, I just got distracted looking up mp3 players for an hour. Oh, and now I need to bathroom again. I guess that’s my day.

It’s 2019. I can’t believe that I’ve spent months trying to find an mp3 player. I know we’re in the darkest timeline, where the nail in Trump’s coffin might be a Nickelback meme he made. Still, this mp3 player thing is bonkers. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Honestly, it’s analysis paralysis. I want to make a good investment in something that will last, but I also have preconceived ideas of what an mp3 player should be, likely based on owning many iPods. I want something sturdy with physical buttons. I don’t love touchscreen stuff. It feels more vulnerable, and I hate the idea of a screen sapping my battery life. I want a large capacity (at the very least, iPod size), and decent battery life. At the very least, 10+ hours. I want good sound quality, but I also realise that I’m gonna be loading it with 320kbps mp3s, not FLAC. So midrange will be fine. I have very specific tastes, and I’m sure that the ideal player for me is out there.

But here’s the thing, I have too many options. I made an excel spreadsheet with pros and cons, features, etc. It’s not comprehensive, so when I get the gusto back up to start searching for mp3 players again, I forget all the stuff I’ve left out. Then I’ll be like “oh I like this one. I should buy it”. I’ll read a review or two and realise I don’t like its battery life. Or it has a weird, unintuitive UI, or it’s touchscreen, or has wifi. I’ll dive down the rabbit hole of alternative options, and after an hour I’ll bury my head in my hands and close my browser. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not getting me any closer to buying a new player.

I know what the answer is. I just need to find something that ticks off enough boxes, and not worry about it being perfect. But I waaaaant something perfect. If I’m spending $400+ on a new device, I don’t want it to ship along with mild disappointment. That’s a pretty hefty investment for me, in something that I’ll use daily for several years. It feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make the right call, but that’s all in my head. Just because I know it’s not as big a deal as it seems, that hasn’t cognitively helped me to look past my preconceptions and biases to find something suitable. So it’s back to square one every time.

I know I should just buy the Fiio X5 Mark ii, but what if there’s a better option?

I guess we’ll find out six months down the line, when I finally make my choice.

Is there such thing as an outernet?

Remember when we used to be offline?

First and foremost, here’s what this entry is not going to be: It’s not gonna be an exercise in ripping on “millenials” and their “phones”. It might be an exercise in “excessive quotation mark use”, but that’s about it. I have no leg to stand on in shitting on phone use. It takes very little downtime for me to be checking Facebook/Twitter. It’s a habit I’d like to curb, but it’s one I’ve developed. I love having my finger on the pulse of what’s happening. That’s how I sell it to myself. Realistically, I’m addicted to a combination of stimulation and validation. If I get “likes” for something I’ve written, it makes me feel great. The concept that people enjoy my output is obviously compelling. It’s the world we live in. The other side, of course, is that these smart tech companies and their R&D departments have zoned in on how to make their stuff really addictive. My brain receives the message that I’m keeping on top of things, when really, I don’t need to know that much all the time. It’s a fallacy. If I instead went several hours without checking my phone, I’d probably get the same info. I’m just hooked up to that ol’ stimulation IV and I feel like I need my fix. I’ve gone for periods without Facebook before. It turned out I felt less anxious about the state of the world, and far more present. Does that mean I’m gonna delete my app today? Hell no. If it were that simple, I would’ve done it already.

What I do find interesting, are those moments where our reliance on “The Information Superhighway” (I think I might be done with this “quotation bit”) gets in the way. At work last night, our company internet went down for a few hours. No problem, I thought, I use offline editing software. I could just do my job, and still get what I needed from the internal network. It turns out that while my software is offline, it does regular license validation checks, and that’s cloud based. I was midway through describing an episode of The Real Housewives of Dallas (and an aside, these Real Housewives shows are fucking bullshit. Terrible, terrible TV. I’m not judging anyone who wants to throw on an episode and forget about their troubles, but hoo boy it’s wall to wall rich white women arguing about manufactured tension. Abysmal), and I got an error message. My license couldn’t be validated, and the program was shutting down. I blinked, saved my work and waited. I tried a restart, but no dice. I was hamstrung, and couldn’t do anything. My supervisor suggested scripting the rest of the episode so I could finish it once the internet came back up. It made sense, so I followed through. I waited. Eventually internet came back in, but I didn’t know our License username and password. One of the other dudes did, but he had gone home hours ago. I hated having to call him at 11pm, but thankfully he slept through it. No reason why he should need to be on hand for that. So I went home. I couldn’t believe that a lack of internet meant I couldn’t work on something that had nothing to do with the internet. Who would’ve thought that was a pre-rec?

But it makes sense. We’re always online. I’m sure that makes sense.

I think.

iPod, iSaw, iCompared

It’s 2019. I did not expect that I’d be struggling to buy an mp3 player.

My ipod classic shat the bed, and it’s gonna cost $450 to fix. It cost $350 to buy, so this seems like a big stretch. It’s probably the fourth ipod I’ve owned in the past 15 years. I use them all the time, 1-2 hours daily. I’m not kind to my electronic devices, and that’s clearly shown in the life expectancy of my gadgets. With an ipod, there was so much I didn’t need to think about. Since it was the market leader, the proof was on them to make a solid product that was easy to use. I didn’t love going through itunes, but it worked. Everything was categorised and simple to scroll through. I liked the tactile, physical nature of the product without touchscreen. I could operate it without looking. It sounded good, and was surprisingly robust. I could take it to the gym, and it weighed enough to not constantly bounce around. The UI was excellent, and while I didn’t use most of the features, I didn’t have to. It just worked.

With my ipod dead, I’ve had to do my research on figuring out what to buy next. For the past few months I’ve been using my phone. I hate it. It’s too bulky, and fits awkwardly in workout clothing pockets. I don’t have an online music subscription, primarily because my internet connection isn’t reliable. I want something with a huge storage capacity, so I can curate what I want on there, but also don’t have to worry about filling up any time soon. I’ve had so many issues with my ipod over the years, and it’d be kind of cool to have removable stuff so I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Removable batteries, storage, etc. That way I can just get a new microSD card instead of having the whole unit repaired for hundreds of bucks. I want something sturdy and rugged, physical controls rather than touchscreen. I want a decent battery life of around 10-15 hours per charge. I want 200+ gigs of storage. I want a UI that’s functional, easy, categorises by artist, album and whatnot, taking ID3 tags into account. If I’m stuck with a file tree to navigate, that’d feel clunky and undesirable. I want a player that sounds good. I’ll most likely just be using mp3 320kbps. It’d be too much work to start getting FLAC by this point. Still, to my untrained ears 320kbps plus my M50x headphones should be good enough. Who knows, maybe I actually try buying a good pair of earbuds for active work like running or gym stuff. I don’t want apps, internet connectivity or wifi. I want something that runs as a self-contained unit, that just plays music and does it well. I’m sure that’s not too much to ask.

And yet, holy hell it’s a lot of work navigating the landscape. There are things like the Sandisk Clip that would be perfect if only it had expandable storage. The FiiO III Mark 2 looks like exactly what I want, but it only supports storage up to 120 gigs. The FiiO III Mark 3 doesn’t have the same weight or size as the Mark 2, which is disappointing. But at the same time it’s still an all tactile, non touchscreen unit, plus it handles larger expandable memory. The UI is apparently a little slow. The HIDIZ AP80 has so many features that I like. It can hold up to 1 TB of expandable storage. It’s a little smaller and dinky than I’d like though. Apparently the UI is functional, but it’s all touchscreen with tiny onscreen buttons. My fingers are not diminutive. Then there’s the Ibasso DX50, which looks like it mostly has everything I want. It’s a tactile unit with decent weight. It has up to 2TB expandable storage. The battery is user replaceable. But I can’t find any in Canadian stores. It’s gonna cost a mint to import from the USA. Apparently the software is a little sluggish, but if I can find one that works, maybe that’ll be the go. I spent hours last night looking up models, comparing specs, figuring out how one of these units would fit into my life. I even made an excel spreadsheet to help make my decision.

It’s almost enough to make me want to resurrect my dead ipod once more.

Yeah, but a Trillion dollars is way cooler than a Billion

An unusual, possibly informative and likely boring entry today. It’s also probably riddled with factual inaccuracies. I had to do a short presentation at work, so I whipped this up in 40 or so minutes.

Here goes.

My hypothesis is that the future of broadcasting is going to greatly resemble the structure of cable in the early 90s. With all of these companies splitting their online content into exclusive services (Disney taking its content from Netflix, NBC taking back Friends and The Office, etc). My uneducated guess, is that larger companies will start creating “packages” of these services (maybe a Corus subscription comes bundled with Prime Video and Tidal or something).

Because of this, my guess is that people are going to find it too expensive and confusing to get all the content they want. Many will likely turn to other methods.

Today I’m gonna try and do a little ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) on Torrenting.

Let’s jump back 20 years, because some of you are literal zygotes and might not remember this. Napster. Remember when Justin Timberlake told Jessie Eisenberg that a Billion dollars was cooler than a Million dollars in 2010’s The Social Network? That was one of the guys who made Napster.

Napster was peer to peer (P2P) software that allowed users to share mp3 files over the internet with other users. It was all searchable, and if you found someone who had the song you wanted, you could download it directly from them. It was amazing, revolutionized how music could be shared and sold. It was also a colossal breeding ground for copyright infringement.

Eventually this split into a bunch of copycat software. Morpheus, Kazaa, Bearshare, Limewire, etc etc etc. These programs let users download all manner of file types. Images, video, etc etc. Mostly, a lot of movies and TV shows. I downloaded a lot of anime. Because I was 14.

I want to state that P2P software and file serving are not illegal. The software can be used for very legitimate reasons. It mostly isn’t. It’s debatable whether or not most modern streaming and download services would exist without the advent of P2P software, because if there’s one thing these industries love, it’s locking people into the outdated status quo for profit. Why let people download an album for cheap, if they can charge $30 for a physical CD? In my day I bought a lot of $30 CDs.

Enter BitTorrent.

Programs like Napster, Limewire, etc all work around making files available through a specific client, and you download from the person who has that file. BitTorrent is a little different. With Torrenting (the verb for using this process), a file is split into a number of sections, so you can download from many many people simultaneously.

Reddit user Slukaj puts it this way:

Imagine you want a copy of a book. You get online and say “Hey, anyone have this book?”
A conventional download would be like one person saying “I’ve got that book. Let me give it to you.”, and then giving you the whole book.
A torrent is more like 200 people saying “Hey. We’ve each got pages of this book. Let us give you the pages and you can put the book together yourself.”

Torrent files work like little beacons. You download a torrent file of the content you want, and it says “hey all you people who have this file, I also want this file” then it downloads little bits from those people in a random order, and assembles them into a complete file you can use. Then you can in turn upload that file to other people who are looking for it. Quick, easy distribution.

My guess is that Torrenting is going to become more and more popular as the streaming service market diversifies into exclusive silos. It’s not definite by any means, but I think it’s worth knowing about. A quote:

According to Sandvine, distributors of the Global Internet Phenomena report, “Back in 2011, Sandvine stated that BitTorrent accounted for 52.01% of upstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America. By 2015, BitTorrent’s share of upstream traffic on these networks had dipped to 26.83 percent, largely thanks to the rise in quality, inexpensive streaming alternatives to piracy.

File-sharing accounts for 3 percent of global downstream and 22 percent of upstream traffic, with 97% of that traffic in turn being BitTorrent. While BitTorrent is often used to distribute ordinary files, it remains the choice du jour for those looking to distribute and trade copyrighted content online.”

Karl Bode: “The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy” – Oct 2 2018

For reference, Netflix is 15% of the total downstream volume of traffic across the entire internet. BitTorrent is currently 1/5 of that.

A lot of people wanted to watch Game of Thrones. A lot of people did not have access to HBO Go or Crave. A lot of people found ways to watch Game of Thrones. There will be more GoT style tentpole shows, and these will be more expensive to access as they diversify across providers. There will very likely be a point of fatigue where consumers don’t want to pay for five different TV streaming services. My assumption is that they’ll have one or two, then find ways of acquiring content from the other ones.

I don’t think BitTorrent is an emerging technology, but I do think that until something else more efficient or accessible comes along, BitTorrent is going to become a re-emergent technology.

Well don’t feel like an HDMIdiot?

Today I took a long journey to get back to exactly where I was, but with a short HDMI cable.

My girlfriend and I had a lazy Sunday brunch at my dearest local brunchery, The Gem. I’ve gone on enough about The Gem and their comforting weirdness before. Today I had a chipped ham eggs Benedict, which was hard to imagine after the server so hesitantly uttered its name. She was surprised and perhaps a little frightened when I immediately latched onto the suggestion with fervour. I didn’t know what it was, but it was different. That was good enough for me. I’ll say this, I’ve never had ham so wet. It was like eating tinned tuna, but generally that’s a texture you want for tuna and not for ham. Liquid squish is not on my ham texture wish list. Still, I enjoyed the meal well enough. We sat out in the courtyard under shade. The sun streamed down. Our server offered us ice coffee instead of the regular, and hang out for a little bit to hear about my girlfriend’s recent gardening endeavours. Oh, and she introduced herself by name, which I’d never considered asking in my past year or so of regular Sunday brunches.

We left a little bloated, but otherwise peaceful. Then we saw a pile of stuff on someone’s lawn. There were gold and cream chairs, wine decanters still in their boxes. There was also a TV. The guy walked out from his house and I asked him if the TV worked. “Yeah, it does. I’m moving and I barely use it. It’s up for grabs.” I thought to my office, my 24 inch screen. I imagined how that would be at 32 inches. My mind prepared a montage of playing Magic, watching Twitch streams or HQ TV from the bed. Working from home with a larger monitor, making dual screening unnecessary. Porn, y’know? I grabbed it, and my girlfriend helped me scheme ways to make it happen. After a bit of searching, I resolved to get an HDMI cable and plug it in.

  • The Brick at the end of the block no longer sold HDMI cables. Just Monster Cables for $130. Considering a basic cable should be sub $10, that seemed excessive.
  • I took a bus to the horror of Dufferin Mall, where fluorescent lights sap your capacity for mental processing. Walmart seemed the first port of call.
  • Walmart were out of stock of everything but $30 cables. They had price tags for their cheaper ones ($5, $7), but nothing on the shelf. I asked a staff member, she was as unhelpful as she was clueless. Not her fault, but they don’t keep specifically trained tech staff. She said Best Buy in the mall might have them, but I should probably just get the $30 cable since they’d do the job. I didn’t.
  • The Best Buy no longer sold cables. It was a small mall store. Just phones and accessories, basically. They said to check out The Source.
  • The Source had $15 cables as their cheapest. I told the guy it was more I wanted to pay, was there anywhere else in the mall I could go? He suggested Dollarama, but also that I should jump ship to Bell Internet and boy oh boy, what a deal he had for me. I asked if it was for an HDMI cord, the thing I came in for? He said no, it was about internet, why would it be about an HDMI cord? I replied that I came in for an HDMI cord, why would he try to sell me internet? I thanked him for the Dollarama suggestion, then left.
  • I walked past an EB Games, and checked just in case. They had a refurbished cable for $12, or new ones for $20. I said it was above my desired price and I’d rather go to Dollarama. He lowered his voice and told me that was a good call, it’s the same thing for much cheaper.
  • I went into Dollarama. They had the cord I wanted, it was $4. I chalked it up as a success.

I brought the cable home. It didn’t work with my computer setup. Because my graphics card doesn’t have an HDMI port (or at least, seems to have some kind of mini HDMI port), I’d need some kind of converter between DVI and HDMI. I could order the cable from Amazon. My girlfriend checked the relative stats of my current monitor and the TV. The new TV was gonna be significantly lower resolution. I figured I’d just stay with the monitor I had after all.

But at least now I have an unnecessary, short HDMI cable to show for it.