Technology Fatigue

A few weeks ago I wrote that “Technology exhausts me.” I was exaggerating to make a point, but it’s still happening; and getting worse. I’m just not in the mood.

I’m not in the mood for any of my devices. I’m not in the mood for social media. I’m not in the mood for syncing, or two-factor authentication, or JavaScript frameworks, or WordPress issues, or Emacs hanging, or my Watch not seeing my phone, or firmware upgrades, or Alexa not turning on my lights, or any of dozens of other things I deal with daily.

I’m suffering from technology fatigue and I think I need a break from the things that cause it.

Alexa and Sonos

I have several Sonos speakers in my house. I also have several Amazon Echos. I’ve always wanted them to work together, and now they can.

I installed the latest Sonos and Alexa apps, let Alexa “discover” my Sonos devices, and now I can say, “Alexa, play Tom Petty in the living room” and that’s what she does. It’s been working great so far. The Sonos speakers are vastly superior to the little Echo speakers.

Apple still has a lot of catching up to do.

Hugo gets even faster

I slimmed down the templates and Hugo renders my site even faster:

Built site for language en:
0 draft content
0 future content
0 expired content
2272 regular pages created
458 other pages created
2 non-page files copied
114 paginator pages created
216 tags created
8 categories created
total in 1290 ms

That’s down from around 2600ms

How did Amazon become my Smart Home hub before Apple?

How many years are we going to continue saying, “Well, Apple is going to do something amazing with Siri and Homekit any day now.” I’m not seeing any signs of that happening. An over-priced speaker with an under-powered voice assistant certainly isn’t what I’ve been dreaming of. I’ve tried. I have a Series 2 Apple Watch, an Apple TV, an iPhone, newer Macs, and a number of “smart” devices. I try, but Siri kind of sucks. Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but she just doesn’t get me. A few years ago Amazon sort of quietly lobbed the Echo at us and I’ve used a phrase starting with “Alexa…” many times a day ever since. Alexa isn’t perfect, but my frustration with her never reaches the fever pitch that it does when arguing with Siri. With an original Echo and a couple of inexpensive Dots, Alexa is always within earshot. No battery and nothing has to be on my wrist or in my pocket. And she seems to always hear me when I talk to her.

I want Apple to provide me the perfect ecosystem of hardware and software that is needed for a smooth smart home experience. So far they have failed to produce or even hint at anything.

So, with the introduction of the Echo Plus with a built-in smart hub, I’m heading even further down the Amazon path. If I can set up new devices without adding more hubs or device-specific apps I’ll be happy. Of course I don’t know how well it’ll all work, but Amazon’s track record with these things is pretty good. Surprisingly good.

I don’t understand how Apple, having had all of the smart home ingredients available to them for so long, can seemingly be so far behind Amazon. But that’s where we are. This stuff feels like a “hobby” for Amazon too, but they’ve gotten it pretty close to just right. I’m tired of waiting for “any day now.”

Revised Mac Backup Strategy

Whenever a drive fails in one of my Macs, I usually re-install everything from scratch. This happened to me again recently when the internal drive on my iMac failed. It feels good to start with a clean slate and re-evaluate what I need (or don’t). I’m now finally back in action after a week of the usual set of “Oh yeah, I forgot I need to symlink that” and “How did I build this last time?”

Reinstalling and configuring apps is easy enough, but what about my stuff? Restoring files has gotten a lot easier over the years.

I keep nearly everything in either iCloud or Dropbox. The only things that have needed special care are my photos, GPG keys, and SSH keys.

I regularly back up my SSH and GPG keys to an encrypted thumb drive, so those are covered.

For my music I’m just relying on Apple Music. I still have boatloads of MP3s on an external drive but never need them. It’s either vinyl or streaming these days.

Photos are a whole other thing. I have decades of photos arranged carefully in dated folders and I like it that way. However, my newly-discovered love of using an iPad convinced me it was time to go all-in with Apple Photos and iCloud storage. I’ve imported all of my photos into Apple Photos and am letting iCloud handle things from there. It’s weird, and I’m never comfortable when I can’t right-click something and see a “Reveal in Finder” option, but the benefits are compelling. As a hedge, I plan to export copies of photos each month to my usual YYYY/MM-Month/image-name.jpg structure, just in case.

So here’s how my backups are managed currently.

  • Most of my “stuff” is synced using Dropbox and iCloud.
  • The iMac’s internal drive is backed up to a Time Machine drive for quick retrieval of recent files.
  • The iMac’s internal drive is also cloned nightly to a bootable backup using Chronosync on another drive.
  • All media (Photo backups, Videos, Audio, etc.) is on it’s own external drive, and that drive is mirrored nightly to a second external drive using Chronosync.
  • My photo library is managed with Apple Photos via iCloud (and are also backed up by Time Machine).
  • Both the internal drive and the Media drive are backed up offsite to Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage using Arq.
  • I still bring a full clone of everything on an external drive and bring it offsite once a year.

Am I missing anything?

Surprise! The iPad is a Content Creation Device

A few quick thoughts on using the iPad in anger this week.

Contrary to everything I’ve ever believed, I’m starting to think of the iPad as a content creation device. I look at the screen and see Affinity Photo and Ulysses and Procreate and Linea and it makes me want to pick one and just make something. I would not have believed it had I not dove in and given it a fair shot.

I’ve been using the iPad exclusively while at home for more than a week and I have been continually surprised by how much I enjoy it. I’ve been emailing, managing projects, editing photos, drawing, tweeting, and generally carrying on like it’s actually normal doing stuff on an iPad other than reading social media sites and playing games. Who knew?

Once my iMac is fixed I plan to go all-in with Photos and I’ll be benching Lightroom/Photoshop for the time being. That’s crazy talk, but I’m finding it pretty great just snapping and editing and having everything update everywhere with zero effort on my part. Affinity Photo is more than I’ll ever need for editing photos. Sharing is a zero-friction thing.

I’ve been doodling with the Pencil using Linea and that’s been a lot of fun. I love paper and “art supplies” but I’m not serious about art so who cares how I make it?

I’ve been writing blog posts (like this one), project notes and documentation, journal entries, and everything else using Ulysses and it’s still great. Everything syncs flawlessly and quickly to every device. I can easily export to whatever format is required. There’s something to be said about using the same editor, everywhere, which is something I’ve never done.

I know, much of this is obvious to many of you, but it’s been a revelation to me. I’m having so much fun living (part-time, for now) on the iPad I can’t stand it. Life’s weird.

Why Did Blot Have to Be So Good?

My blog is a bunch of Markdown files in folders. I like it that way. I have thousands of posts going back to 2000, all rendered quickly and nicely with Hugo and served securely with Netlify.

Then along comes Blot and messes things up for me. Blot is great because it easily creates a blog out of a folder full of Markdown files. Even better, it does it via Dropbox so there are no build/commit/push/deploy steps. Just create a file and save it to a local Dropbox folder and poof! I’ve got a blog.

It’s so easy to publish using Blot on an iPad that I’ve been using it to post at and it’s pretty great.

But, now I have yet another blog. I don’t want another blog. I’m also not ready to go all-in on a service that I don’t know I can trust, long-term. It’s a paid service, which boosts my confidence, but paid services fail all the time. It looks like I could self-host the app and keep going, but I’d like to avoid having to learn to do that. I’d just like static HTML files up on a server, please.

On the other hand, the Blot files are still just Markdown files and I could easily convert them for use with Hugo if it came to that.

I have a couple of options. First, make blogging with Hugo on the iPad so easy that I’m never tempted to just fire off a post quickly with Blot. Second, let sit and continue blogging with Blot and hope for the best.

There’s actually a third option, and that is to use both Hugo and Blot and keep both blogs. That’s my current head-in-the-sand option and I hope I don’t end up there. I’m typing this in Blink Shell using Vim on a remote server and it works pretty well, but there’s a lot of setup and “stuff” involved and sometimes I just want to type and click “publish”. Working on it.

Static Blogging from the iPad is currently a static site, built using Hugo and served by Netlify. In order to publish, I have to create a text (markdown) file in a certain folder, with a bit of specific YAML front matter. Then, I have to commit the changes and push to its Gitlab repo. Netlify takes it from there.

Since the entire site also lives in Dropbox, creating the file is pretty simple on the iPad. It’s the commit/push part that’s a little trickier.

Using Blink Shell, I can shell into one of my servers and create and edit files using Vim, which I love. Once complete, I just commit and push right from the terminal session and Boom!, published.

To make that last part easier I have a make file that looks like this…



		hugo server

deploy:  commit push
		@echo "\033[0;32mDeploying updates to $(TARGET)...\033[0m"
ifeq "$(TARGET)" "netlify"
# Tell Netlify we're coming
	curl -X POST -d '{}'[SNIP]
	@echo "You're all set, just hang tight"
	rsync -v -rz -e "ssh -l serverpilot" --checksum --delete --no-perms $(PUBLIC_DIR) $(SERVER_HOST):$(SERVER_DIR)

		git add -A
		git commit -m "Build site `date`"

		git push origin master

		rm -rf $(PUBLIC_DIR)


I don’t get a handy preview in the browser via hugo server this way, but it’s not bad.