Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘update edition’

  • Things have been going relatively well at The Swamp. We had a minor roof leak that was caused by some shingles being too tight up against the chimney. The roofing company I called fixed it for free. They say we need a new roof but I don’t really buy it. Good news is that the leak is fixed.
  • We had a huge willow tree that had to come down. It had been dropping huge branches and I was worried it might just come down on our house or across the road. It was a huge liability. The Urban Lumberjack in Maple Ridge did a fabulous job of getting it down. However, one of the rotten branches fell on the hydro and cable lines knocking both of them out. Hydro was back on quickly but they decide to cut the cable line.[1] When I first called Shaw to get it reconnected they were quoting a date of March 2. Anyway, I worked my magic and they were here the next morning at 8am. I am really glad the tree is down now as it is really windy here today.
  • Tru has picked up. She is eating more often than not. Her stitches are out so she could finally have a much-needed bath. She absolutely reeked! Now we will know whether her swampy smell is coming from her needing a bath or her horrible teeth. Regardless, she is soaking up the love and companionship at The Swamp. She still likes to greet you by tasting your hand. It is cute.
  • We bought a home theatre system last week. We set it up without too much difficulty.[2] The speaker stands took much, much longer to set up! The system is amazing. It has solved the problem of the TV being too loud for Deb as I now have a speaker beside my right ear. Music sounds absolutely fabulous! Diamond Stereo is a fabulous place to get great advice and products.
  • We also decided I should get better car stereo speakers.[3] They went in yesterday and they sound so much better. The sound is much richer. I have actually heard things in my music that I did not know where there. Music is so important to my self-care that these investments in my sanity are very important.
  • I have been feeling much better the last couple of weeks. I really hope it is a result of some nutrition changes.[4] I have had more energy for work. Getting up and going has not been the burden it is at other times. I do seem to experience a winter improvement in my ulcerative colitis. I am hoping it is not just the winter bump.
  • All of the dogs are doing well. Zoe is a bit of a worry at times because she is old but she is fine. Kiefer gets a little sore after going to the park. Piper and Sawyer are such a bonded little duo. They love hanging out together especially in Deb’s truck. We are so lucky to have such a great crew of dogs! The Cat is still doing well. She is as demanding as ever and is showing no signs of being sick. She is still using her litter!

[1] Hydro says it was for safety reasons, tree guy said it was laziness. I am going with the tree guy.

[2] The only error we made was putting 2 of the speakers on the far right ports as per the diagram. However, our receiver can actually take 6 speakers (plus a sub-woofer) so the first 2 ports on the right are not used if you are setting it up as a 5.1. It took a little thinking to figure it out and we (buy we I mean Angelina) fixed it the next morning.

[3] And by we I actually mean Deb.

[4] I have started drinking smoothies made of yogurt and fruit in the morning. The suggestion came from my friend Lisa.

Published in: on February 25, 2012 at 4:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Review MacBook Air

What is it?

The MacBook Air is Apple’s answer to the netbook. However, where most netbooks failed, the MacBook Air soars. The Air is an ultrathin laptop that is built for portability and function. It sports a full-size MacBook keyboard, including the backlighting as the MacBook Pro. I bought the 13-inch with 256 GB of flash memory.

How does it work?

The MacBook Air works just like other laptops with one major difference. To create a laptop that gives the user a great experience while focusing on portability something had to be sacrificed. In this case, Apple chose to nix the hard drive. Instead, the Air relies on flash memory. At 256 GBs, the Air’s storage is quite small.[1] However, it is not meant for hoarding loads of data. If you need to access or keep lots of data then you can connect a portable hard drive to the thunderbolt port.

Apple has steadily improved the MacBook Air since its inception in 2008. With this new line they appear to have hit upon a winning formula. The Air is light and streamlined and its zippy performance rivals the competition.

Why should I care?

If you attend meetings, make presentations, or need to work in different places you will love the MacBook Air. I was at a meeting last night and 3 of us had new MacBook Airs. We had one projector and sharing it was so easy with the MacBook Airs.

If you hate having your arm pulled down by a heavy laptop or dragging a wheeled bag around. If you ever hesitated to take your laptop because it is too clunky then the Air is the answer for you.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

The Air is more expensive than other netbooks. However it is comparable to other full-sized laptops. The entry level is $1199 in Canada. It comes with all of the typical Mac software like iPhoto, Garage Band and iMovie. Plus, of course, you get the superior performance of a Mac.

So how do I get it?

You can order it from the online Apple store or go to your closest Apple reseller!


[1] The low end of the line sports 64 GB of flash memory.

Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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iTunes Match

What is it?

iTunes Match is a new service from Apple. iTunes Match makes your digital library of music available in the Cloud. It facilitates easy sharing between all of your computers and devices.

How does it work?

Once you turn it on, iTunes will scan your library. If your music is available on iTunes then it will immediately be available to you. If some of your music is not on iTunes, iTunes Match will upload it to the Cloud.

Why should I care?

You should care for several reasons. iTunes Match is the first, easy to use, backup plan for iTunes. Many of us have several hundred gigabytes of music with no back ups. If you have ever lost your music library and had to re-rip all of your CDs or had to re-purchase your music you will be all over this!

Another great feature is iTunes will match your music with higher bit rate, DRM-free[1] versions. If your library consists of illegally downloaded copies you can replace them with clean copies. It is a little bit of work but who cares.[2] It is so worth it if you have crackly versions of songs that don’t sound great.

That’s all great but how much does it cost?

Of course, Apple is not giving this away. In Canada it costs $27.99 per year to have iTunes Match active. I think it is a great value for the money even as a backup tool. Plus it is a completely passive system, in that it requires nothing from you except the initial act of turning it on and then paying your money. If your computer crashes you can then download everything you own again.

So how do I get it?

It is so easy to turn it on. Open iTunes and go to the iTunes store and go to the ‘store’ menu. Then select turn on iTunes Match. It is that easy!

If you have questions put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!

 


[1] DRM=Digital Rights Management – this is the system that limits what you can do with your music like only burning it 5 times etc.

[2] Essentially you have to ferret out those songs, delete them, and then re-download them.

Published in: on December 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Published in: on September 8, 2011 at 11:53 am  Enter your password to view comments.  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I can’t believe the change’ edition

  • I just got off the phone with my mother and I am astounded at her capacity to change. My sister had a temper tantrum the other day and she told my mother to fuck off.[1] There had been an incident on Saturday where my sister was supposed to pick my mother up to go to a party. Kathy decided she had too much to do and if she picked up mom then she would be driving for 2 hours. So she phoned my mother and told her she wasn’t going to pick her up. Now, Kathy had already made this commitment. She had also been asked to pick up someone else who lived 10 minutes away from the venue and she needed to pick up a veggie try. Instead of trying to solve the problem she just dumped mom and told her to take a taxi[2] or to drive herself.[3] My mother then opted not to go, knowing that Kathy would be in a foul mood if she pushed it. Later that evening they had a conversation on the phone, which is when my sister told her off. My mother has also decided that Kathy should not come when we come to visit later in the fall. She actually seems to be able to understand Kathy a whole lot better now. In the past, she would have been trying to please Kathy and calm the situation down. Then she would have been on my case to get along better with Kathy. None of this happened. In fact, she has not said a hurtful thing to me since the cruise.
  • Piper has to go in to the vet and be put under so they can get a good look at her throat and see the extent of the problem. This will likely be done this week or early next week. I cannot wait to get this problem fixed for her. Piper has always been a very active dog and she does not like being left at home when everyone else goes to the park.
  • I have been having an issue with my computer. It is having problems backing up to time machine. I have been working with a couple of Apple guys and I have to say they are remarkable for their communication skills, patience and knowledge. My problem has been elevated to the engineers so I am still waiting for a resolution. The troubleshooting has been fun with them!
  • Oh, and in unrelated news, Jonathan Bacon has been shot. I am happy to report that the Bacon sisters (Piper and Zoe) are all fine. Although they are wondering where the bacon went…

[1] Who uses that kind of language with their 75-year old mother?

[2] Which would have cost over $100.

[3] My mother has only really driven in the Southwest of Calgary. She rarely ever went to the north end.

Published in: on August 15, 2011 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Not much for today…

We got our new Gateway PVR box today. I have spent most of the afternoon trying to re-program our Logitech Harmony One remote. When it is finally set up, it is an amazing piece of computer wizardry. Getting it to that point though is a hair pulling, anxiety inducing process of little steps and changes. The last time it took me days to get it right. I suspect that may happen again!

Published in: on August 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘summer has arrived’ edition

  • We are finally home. Thankfully we had a ferry reservation because the sailing was full an hour before we even got there. Piper got overheated while we were waiting to get on the boat. It was so freaking hot there. I walked across to the Market to get lunch and papers Deb. It was almost sick. Once we got on the ferry there was a great breeze. I went up and got the soft-serve ice cream and it was very good! We got off the ferry at 4:54pm and we were home in an hour with a stop at Hopcott’s for steak.
  • OMG! The stereo/GPS unit I got Deb for her birthday is amazing. It tells you when the traffic is backing up!?! Could there be anything better! It also navigates much better. It gives you information ongoing about the road you are on and what roads are coming up. I can’t stand it so I am getting my own.
  • It is nice to be home after spending several days in a small room with Deb and 2 dogs. She makes me crazy! I would put something down and she would ‘put it away.’ I really struggled with food. It was very hard for me to find stuff I could eat. The food from the Kingfisher restaurant (what made it worse was that the baked brie dish they had on the menu they were no longer serving!) was far too gourmet and rich for me. There was very little that appealed to either Deb or me. The best meal we had was at Boston Pizza. We did have some food with us like cheese and crackers. I also had my yogurt and cereal as well. Grilled eggplant and steak was very welcome tonight for dinner.
  • The dogs were so good – especially Sawyer. He is still quite a young dog yet he is so well socialized. He is pretty much bomb proof as he can adapt to any situation. He loves all people and dogs. Piper was a little stressed in the beginning in the truck but she did eventually calm down. She is getting really overheated so we are off to the vet to get her looked at. Piper and Sawyer get along so well. They don’t scrap over food or toys and they like to cuddle together.
  • It seems the heat has arrived now. I am going to try not to complain as we have pretty much had a month of no heat. I will be trying to hide in the house with the until the heat wave is over. Thankfully we have air conditioners!

Is Google trying to take over the World?

Google is ubiquitous. Its name has become a verb and, for some, a destination. Starting out as a search engine, Google has conquered much more Internet territory in the years since it launched. Need an email address, Gmail has you covered; need help scheduling yourself, others or the universe, just check out Google Calendar; don’t want to shell out money for a word processing program, just head over to Google docs and everything you could need is there including online storage if you are so inclined.

Before I go any further, I have a confession to make. I love Google. I use Google as my search engine, my email provider, my calendar and my RSS feed. I lusted after a Google Wave invitation and I was sad when it ultimately failed.  I have been a Google evangelist – spreading the word to the uninformed about the beauty have having all your mail in one place. I was one of those people who every time someone complained about their email, I told them Gmail’s fix for whatever was vexing them at the time. After years of my mother complaining about not having all of her email on each of her computers in different geographical locations, I finally got her to switch to Gmail. She loves it.

Certainly many people, some might say conspiracy theorists, have argued that Google has nefarious intentions. Until this last week, I actually just thought they were a great company offering a lot of great products for free. In hindsight, I suspect I was naïve. Now I think Google was keeping its plans to take over the world under wraps. That is until NOW!

Google has once again taken a foray into social networking. This is not something Google has succeeded at in the past. Does Google ‘Buzz’ ring a bell anyone? Almost every one I know turned off Buzz as soon as Google gave us the option. I am surprised that Buzz survived after they breached so many people’s privacy.

Now Google has made a huge foray into the social networking field again. Except this time they don’t just have Facebook in their sites but Twitter too.[1] Launching Google+ with the ability to both keep posts private or within certain ‘circles’ and the ability to broadcast publicly. But it does not end there.

Yesterday a post went out from the Gmail blog[2] about convincing people you know to switch to Gmail. The poster relays a story about how just one friend was not on Gmail and how he wore him down over time to get him to switch. I going to resist the urge to talk about how the inherent creepiness in this kind of behaviour because it gets worse! Yes, not only are we all supposed to track down all of our friends who do not worship at the altar of Google, we are supposed to stage interventions for our recalcitrant friends.

It is starting to look like Google wants inroads into every aspect of our lives. I am not really concerned about the data they have as it is simply too much to be of any use to them.  What does concern me is the cutthroat behaviour Google is using to convince more people to drink at the Fountain of Google.

I am not really sure what all this means. I think if Google continues its proselytizing[3] they will alienate people – even people who love Google may begin to question their use of Google’s services. I really don’t want to think that Google is plotting how it is going to take over the world but their behaviour is certainly indicating that indeed that is their plan.


[1] Thanks to Veronique for the observation about Twitter in a Google+ post.

[2] Which of course I follow on Google Reader

[3] They are behaving as though they are a religion and they need more soldiers to spread the word.

Google+

I use both Twitter and Facebook and now I am thinking about adding Google+. The problem is that I don’t think I can keep up with 3 social networks. The case for using Google+ over Facebook is definitely there but very few of my friends are earl adopters which means I am hanging out in Google+ with only a few people.

Today’s Lifehacker article discussed how you could easily migrate your FB friends over to Google+ by exploiting Yahoo mail. I already had a really old Yahoo mail account so I did what they suggested and it worked very well. But I am still left with the problem that most of the people I interact with on social networking sites are all on FB and many of them are not really the early adopter type.

I like some of the features of Google+. Being able to create your own circles is a great idea and easy to do. Adding people to circles is simple as well and is a really great way to manage your privacy better. You select which circles you want to share a post with before you hit the button.

I love Google products. I even love Google products that no one else liked – think Google Wave. I love Gmail and Google reader. Google is my search engine of choice. Google+ is well integrated into Gmail, which makes using it very easy. I hope that over time more people will gravitate over to Google+ but for now I guess I will just have to keep up with as much as I can!


Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My first thoughts about Lion

Lion

  • The first thing I noticed about Lion is that they have reversed the way trackpads scroll. Now, you scroll the way you want the content to move – if you want it to move up, you scroll up etc. It is reversed side-to-side as well. I could not cope with this last night and turned it off on my laptop. Today I have coped with it better. It really is a much more intuitive way to scroll so I think I will get used to it.
  • I love mission control! It shows you every program you have open and the windows associated with it. It will quickly become the way I navigate through windows. You can access it very quickly by swiping up on the magic trackpad with 3 fingers. There was expose in Snow Leopard (SL) but I never found it particularly useful. I also found it would load at the most in opportune moments. Mission control will be much better and infinitely more usable.
  • Apple Mail – again the upgrades here for Lion are stellar. I love the new conversation view and it seems much less clunky. I tried mail out in SL but I did not really like the interface. It is much nicer now.
  • There have also been changes to the Finder. I find it much more responsive and easier to use. You can resize columns from anywhere i.e. you don’t have to go to the top or the bottom in order to do it anymore.
  • Airdrop is going to be fabulous once everyone here is upgraded to Lion. Basically it allows you to just drop a file on someone’s icon and it will transfer. I have not tried this out yet.
  • I don’t particularly like the Launchpad feature. If you are familiar with an iPhone or iPad it is the same interface you use to launch programs. I tend to launch most things from the dock or with Launchbar. Your mileage may vary.

I am sure I am only scratching the surface. There were over 250 changes so I am sure I will find more changes as I use Lion over the next couple of weeks.

Published in: on July 21, 2011 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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