Category: technology

The Wonders of the Apple Pencil

A year ago, I got myself an Apple Pencil and a new iPad for Christmas, because I love myself very much. The idea of the Apple Pencil seemed great. I’d be able to use my iPad as a notebook. Drawing! Notes! What wasn’t to like? Except when I got it and had it all set up, I walked away disappointed. The note taking apps I found left me sadly wanting more, and my iPad started seeing less and less use. Instead, I’d turn to my phone to thumb down some notes. It was far from perfect, but it was convenient, so I made do.

While I was down in San Antonio, I saw my sister using her Apple Pencil all. The. Time. It baffled me, really, because like I said, I hadn’t had much luck with mine. So I had her show me how she uses it. For her, it all came down to one simple app: GoodNotes. It let her make to do lists, organize her thoughts down on virtual paper, and keep track of her life. I was intrigued enough I grabbed my iPad (which I’d brought along to watch movies on the plane) and bought the app right away.

It made an enormous difference in how I use my iPad.

Suddenly, I’m taking it with me everywhere. I’ve always written down To Do lists in a notebook or on tiny scraps of paper. GoodNotes lets me write on my iPad, instead. It lets me import work documents and then take notes on those documents in meetings. And then(!) I don’t need to worry about losing those notes after I take them. No need to hold onto the pieces of paper, because I never had any paper to begin with.

But the biggest sign that this has really impacted my life? I’ve started using GoodNotes instead of Google Sheets or Excel for certain tasks.

I know. Crazy, right? For years, a spreadsheet has been my go-to solution for just about everything. Need to organize Christmas purchases? Spreadsheet. Need to keep track of bits of information. Spreadsheet. Need to work on a budget? Spreadsheet. It’s not like GoodNotes has totally replaced my need/love for Excel, but it’s made it so some things are more convenient in the app than in Excel. Take my Christmas purchasing plans, for example.

Before, I’d keep track of all of it in a spreadsheet. Who’s getting what, how much I spent, what I have left to buy. The biggest problem with this is interacting with the information is a beast. You have to find the cell, click into it, type notes down, then go elsewhere to keep it going. But it was better than a list, because I could spread the information across the page anyway I liked.

Kind of like a piece of paper.

GoodNotes lets me do all of that on a piece of electronic paper. I can add more pages to the note, change the layout, copy and paste information from what spot to another, all using the Apple Pencil. Does it all come down to the app? I don’t know. Maybe I just didn’t catch the right vision when I first used the Pencil, but I’ve caught it now. The less physical paper I can have in my life, the better. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it and plotting a story . . .

Which is good, because my sister owed me something after that Bodypump debacle. All is forgiven, Susie. 🙂

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Roomba Review: “Not the Best” is Far from “Bad”

Over the summer, I had the chance to pick up a hand-me-down Roomba. Nothing cutting edge. (Specifically, it’s a 650 model, which you can still pick up refurbished on Amazon, though I don’t see unused ones being sold there.) I’d always toyed with the idea of having a Roomba, but I didn’t know how well they’d actually work. Getting one gratis was a wonderful way to find out.

What’s the verdict?

The bottom line is that Denisa and I are definite fans, and the house is certainly much better swept and vacuumed than it used to be.

To get into the weeds a bit, let’s talk about how our Roomba works. You’d like to think it’s got sensors and remembers where everything in the room is, developing a map and using cunning robotic intelligence to efficiently and effectively vacuum a room. You’d be wrong. Maybe the newer ones do that, but ours just has one directive: vacuum. It vacuums in a straight line until it hits an obstacle. When it hits that obstacle, it turns a random amount, and then tries to go in a straight line again. Sometimes that means it goes right back along the place it already vacuumed.

It is far–very far–from efficient.

However, the wonderful thing about the Roomba is that I am not doing any of the vacuuming. You set it up and walk away. When you come back a half hour later or whatever, the room is magically vacuumed or swept. (Or the Roomba is stuck. That also happens. But if that happens, you just unstick it and tell it to get back to work.) Essentially, the Roomba takes a job that could be done in ten minutes and gets it done in a half hour or more. On the surface, that sounds bad. In practice though, it involves 30 seconds of my time, and 30 minute’s of the Roomba’s.

And let’s be brutally honest. I don’t care about the Roomba’s time and concerns at all. I’m a total robot slave driver. So if it takes the Roomba a long time to do something, who cares? I had nine and a half minutes of my life to do something other than vacuuming.

There are definite areas where the Roomba is better at any vacuuming I could do, however. It goes underneath my bed, randomly zigzagging through dust bunnies I would be way too lazy to try to get through. Because it’s small and compact, it ends up wandering and meandering its way everywhere in the room, not just the middle where I always notice. Is the vacuuming job always perfect? Not necessarily, but it’s more than adequate. (Even Denisa agrees on this point, so you know it’s not just me making excuses.)

The Roomba struggles with some areas of our house. It’s an old house with lots of thresholds between rooms, and that can get it stuck. So we just block those areas off and have it do one room at a time. Yes, this means we sometimes have to carry the Roomba to a room instead of it just rolling itself there randomly over time. Who cares? I had to carry the vacuum there before, and the Roomba is way lighter.

Final verdict: I would totally buy a Roomba if and when this one breaks down. I’ve even though about buying one for the movie room upstairs, just so I could program it to clean there and then I could forget about it. (Not completely, of course. You don’t want to leave shoelaces where a Roomba might chew them. They love shoelaces. And be very careful if you have pets . . . )

I’m now looking into Roomba mops.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

All I Wanted was to Update My Computer

Technology these days is marvelous. I know that. I’m grateful for it. It’s a minor miracle that my computer can magically connect to some sort of invisible force that travels through the air and somehow make itself smarter. That’s some next level voodoo stuff.

So I don’t mean to disparage it, but at the same time . . . it took forty-five minutes to get the job done. Would have been nice for a heads up before I went into the process. “Bryce. Watch out. This update is going to feel like forever. So don’t think you’re just going to sit there and wait this out. Go for a walk. Read a book. Maybe pick up a hobby. Because this update is playing for keeps.”

Is there a degree of doublethink at work here, where I can both marvel at the wonders of technology and complain that those wonders take longer than is convenient? Darn tootin’, there is. And I see nothing wrong with that. Technology has trained me to expect the best. To have my cake, eat it, and still have as much cake at the end of that process as I had when I started. More, even.

Look. If you bake a nice chocolate cake and put it in front of me, and then tell me I have to wait forty-five minutes to eat it, I’m going to get a tad grouchy. Especially if that wait time means I have no time to blog.

In other words, it’s not my fault today’s post is short and lame. It’s part of the vicious update cycle of technology. Take it up with them, folks.

Then again, I could still be stuck with this old experience. Maybe I ought to stop complaining . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Giving Tile a Chance

I’ve heard about Tile for quite some time. Maybe you have, as well. These little metal squares you attach to things. They’re connected to an app on your phone, and you can open the app and press a button, and the metal squares make a loud noise, and keep making that noise until you tell it to stop via the app.

I’d never really seen the need to get one. Yes, I misplace my keys now and then, but it’s very rare. I have a spot where I put them when I get home from work each day, and they hang there until I need to leave the house again. True, every now and then someone will borrow my keys and not return them, but it doesn’t happen often enough to really warrant attaching a metal square thing to the key ring.

Except then I was offered the chance to get a Tile square for free. My mom had one she wasn’t using any more, and if you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for technology, even technology that doesn’t appear to be useful to me at first glance. (Just ask Denisa. I’m sure she’ll tell you all about my penchant and the amount of doo-dads I’ve accumulated over the years.)

So I took the Tile.

And now that I’ve poked around on the app some with it, I actually think I’m going to end up using it. Why? Because the metal square doesn’t just make a noise when you use the app on your phone to find it. No–it works in the other direction as well. It can make your phone start ringing, even when the phone is set to silent.

While I might not misplace my keys very often, I lose track of my phone on a regular basis. I almost never lose both my keys and my phone at the same time. (I take my phone all over the house in many wanderings, and so it’s much harder to remember where I might have left it on any particular wander.) So I could see that functionality coming in quite handy now and then. Often enough to warrant attaching a little metal square to my keys.

Who knows? Maybe this is just the beginning. I lose my backpack sometimes. Or I could attach one to each of my kids. Maybe I could put one in a diamond setting for Denisa. The possibilities are endless!

But for now, I’ll start with just the one and see how it goes. Any of you already use Tile? What are your thoughts on it?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Putting Home Videos on YouTube

8 years ago or so, I took all the old VHS home videos I could find and transferred them to DVD, thinking I was saving them and making it so they’d be much more watchable in the future. (The process at the time involved the purchase of a VHS/DVD player that was specifically made to make those transfers. It took a long time–it would literally play the VHS and record it on a DVD as it went.)

Of course, at the time, YouTube looked like this. The thought of just taking all those movies and turning them into digital files and then uploading those files to the internet didn’t even occur to me. We’d be talking about gigabytes of information. The average internet download speed then was 4mbps. Upload would have been much worse.

Of course, technology has come a long way since then, and in the intervening years, I discovered that I’ve mostly stopped watching movies on disc. I prefer streaming. (Don’t we all?) And DVDs can get scratched and stop playing. So . . .

This year I decided to take all those DVDs and put them on YouTube. (I made them unlisted, so that people with the link can see them, but they won’t show up in just anyone’s feed. I could have made them private, which would mean only I could see them, but I wanted other family members to be able to see them.)

The process itself was about as problematic as getting them off VHS. I used Handbrake, a free program for transferring movies from one format to another. (At least I didn’t have to deal with any privacy locks on the videos.) Basically, you open Handbrake and have it scan the DVD, then have it transfer it to mp4 format. Once that’s done, you upload it to YouTube. Your main limiters are internet speed and the speed of your DVD drive. I did it all in small sessions, because I didn’t have time to do it all at once.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the end result. I can watch those movies anytime, anywhere I can view YouTube. So I’d definitely recommend it to others. (Of course, the question remains as to whether or not I actually WILL watch the movies. As I posted back when I first did the VHS to DVD project, home movies often depress me . . .)

But if you’re looking to make your movies more accessible, this is a process I can give my stamp of approval to. Just make sure you have plenty of time.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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