ood new, fanbys. Apple spds up n-str McBook latop kyboad rpairs, ccrding t hs leakd mmo

(www.theregister.co.uk)

Apple is speeding up repairs of defective laptop keyboards that have left MacBook users angry, frustrated, and firing off lawsuits. […] The iGiant has ordered its posh shops to turn around in-store laptop keyboard repairs faster, according to a memo seen by MacRumors. Repairs have, in the past, been largely done off-site and take three to five days, but now Apple wants its in-store geniuses to fix keyboards on the same day, and is shipping them the parts to do so.

I’d be pretty upset if my work machine was gone for a week. Mind you, I would not be comfortable handing over any of my computers without first removing the storage devices and putting in temporary "dummies" that contained just a bare OS installation. Given the number of NDAs I am under at any given time, there's no way I'd want to risk an unmonitored 3rd-party having physical access to a computer.

2018-era MacBook Keyboard

Back when I picked up my first MacBook Air the keyboards that Apple put out were some of my favourite. The amount of travel was just right. The keys bounced back fast enough for me to type without slowing down1. The reliability was second to none.

A lot of Apple fans have lamented that the company is no longer interested in "power users", and maybe they're right. Apple is clearly focusing more of its energy on media delivery, where keyboards are generally not required. That said, I would really like to see the company trot out a newer machine with the older keyboard and say something along the lines of "Back by popular demand …".

Probably won't happen anytime soon, though.


  1. Well … I had to slow down when typing into some versions of Evernote. That program went downhill pretty quick after the company ran out of ways to grow the tool.

Noise

Many years ago, when I was in high school and knew everything, there would be days when my parents would be quite sensitive to certain kinds of noise. Sometimes they would complain about the Backstreet Boys cassette my sisters played on repeat a dozen times a day. Sometimes they would complain about the noise from my younger brother as he would complain ceaselessly about how something or other "wasn't fair". This would often strike me as odd given that when seven people live in the same house, a certain tolerance to noise was required.

At some point in my 30s, my ears started giving me problems. Well … I thought it was my ears. There were the signs of tinnitus by mid-afternoon six days a week. There was the desire to wear noise-isolating headphones everywhere, even if they weren't plugged into anything (aside from my ears, of course). Occasionally an ear would even stop working, rendering me deaf on one side for a number of hours. A lot of this was taken in stride, though. The tinnitus was likely the result of working at a printing company for many years without wearing ear protection1. The headphones were the desire to block out human interaction as well as the audio assault one contends with when working in the city. The temporary deafness in one ear was caused from stress.

Or so I thought.

Over the last couple of years one of the things I've noticed about sound is that most of it is fine so long as there is a purpose. Sounds that have no immediate value or — worse — obstruct other sounds appear to cause a physical reaction in me. This is especially prevalent when the TV is on. Japanese TV is not quite as weird as YouTube videos would have a person think, but it can be incredibly annoying in the name of "fun". There might be multiple layers of background music playing while one or more people are talking about a subject. There might be sound effects placed in random spots just to give the sound effects person a reason to get out of bed that day. There might be as many as six people talking all at once resulting in two or three overlapping conversations while background music is playing and a laugh track chimes in every couple of seconds.

I just can't stand it for more than a couple of minutes, yet I'm in the minority here as both Reiko and the boy enjoy having the TV on for several hours a day. When they're talking while the TV is on, my ears start to tighten up, I feel my chest tighten as well, and I just want to leave the room or shut the TV off. Muting does help, but not always.

Which strikes me as odd. If the problem was with my ears and how they process sound, then muting the TV should resolve the issue. Instead it just puts my rising tensions on pause. The problem likely isn't my ears, but in my head … like so many of my other problems.

After a number of conversations, there's a better understanding in the house that sometimes I need to insist the TV gets shut off for a few hours. This doesn't always happen, but the number of times that I've been able to ask that the TV be shut off and see it stay off is nice. One day I might see a doctor about this. Given my past experiences with Japanese doctors looking at my ears, though, it might be a while before that day comes.


  1. The company did provide free ear plugs, but that made it really hard for me to hear people above the thrum of the presses. After a couple of hours, I opted to just deal with the noise.

Asleep at the Keyboard

Today an interesting thing happened in that I fell asleep at the keyboard while in the middle of writing a SQL query. This is the first time in recent memory that I've lost consciousness mid-thought, and it's clearly a sign that I'm not getting enough sleep. While I no longer have the accuracy of a sleep tracker like SleepCycle to tell me just how poorly I'm resting, I can count on one hand the number of hours of sleep I've achieved since Sunday. Last time I checked, today is Wednesday. Meetings are taking place at all hours of the day. The boy needs attention for the 12 hours he's not sleeping. Nozomi and Reiko also need a bit of time. Then there's the time I dedicate to 10C and freelance jobs. Clearly the body is a lot more tired than I'm admitting, which means falling asleep at the keyboard1.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Keyboard

To make up for the lack of rest over the last couple of nights, I've blocked the schedule from 10:00pm until the start of the following day. Hopefully this will mean getting to bed by 11:00pm at the latest and falling asleep somewhere between 30~60 seconds later2.

There are just two more working days to go this week before the start of Golden Week, which will work out to 10 consecutive days off work with six of those days being fully paid holidays. The lack of OT will hurt the pay cheque a little bit, but the ability to get some sound sleep will more than make up for a few hundred dollars less in income.


  1. Would this be short-keyed as AAK?

  2. I generally fall asleep within 15~30 seconds after lying down in bed but, when overtired, a little more time is needed.

Accenture sued over website redesign so bad it Hertz: Car hire biz demands $32m+ for 'defective' cyber-revamp

(www.theregister.co.uk)

Car rental giant Hertz is suing over a website redesign from hell. […] The US corporation hired monster management consultancy firm Accenture in August 2016 to completely revamp its online presence. The new site was due to go live in December 2017. But a failure to get on top of things led to a delay to January 2018, and then a second delay to April 2018 which was then also missed, we're told.

Reading this story, I’d really like to be hired by Hertz. Not only because they seem to have no qualms spending scads of cash for something that shouldn't cost millions, but because they’re clearly patient as hell.

If Software Were Music ...

An odd thought crossed my mind the other day1. While listening to some of the better music to come out of the 80s and 90s, I wondered if there was any software from this time period that I'm still actively using. Given the speed at which technologies change and get rewritten, very little of what we see today is more than a couple of years old. Sure, some of the core components of Windows or Oracle might be a decade or two old, but these would be small components of larger projects, like a modern piece of music with a forever-repeating sample from James Brown.

Will any of the software tools that we use today continue to exist and be useful in 30 years?

Blurry Code

Being useful is important. Unless the planet is plunged into some sort of crisis that has wiped out all digitally-stored information everywhere, there are bound to be backups of software that is in use today sitting on an optical disc at the back of someone's closet. Crazy hypotheticals aside, I considered a semi-realistic one: of the software I use today, which ones could realistically continue to be useful until 2050 without any further updates?

Before continuing, I should state that I am fully entrenched in the world of Linux. While I do have a couple of iOS and Android-powered devices in the house, these sealed appliances with known operational lifespans do not count. I'm simply looking at the tools that I use on Linux.

Thinking through the question, I can think of just a handful of applications that are not part of the default installation of Ubuntu Linux that would still be useful in their current form in 2050:

  • Sublime Text, a pretty decent text editor
  • Typora, my favourite Markdown-friendly text editor
  • Gimp, the Gnu IMage Processing application
  • Glances, a command-line tool to see resource usage

Using the base installation of Ubuntu would mean that I could use the file manager, terminal, and a bunch of other built-in applications that make using the system easier. None of today's browsers would work very well with the web in 30 years, though. Grab a copy of Netscape Navigator 3.5 and try to open a site. Most of them will be an absolute mess. A lot of the other tools that I use would likely not work as expected, such as source control programs, API testing utilities, and database clients. A lot of these things would break because of new security protocols in place. Others might break for different reasons. Thinking back on all the support software I would use when deveoping over the years, none of the applications would work today … except maybe SQL Server Management Studio from around 2000, so long as it's connecting to a database that is also 20 years old2.

Given that we've been writing software for well over half a century, at what point will we start seeing applications — that are not on spacecraft — have operational lives stretching into decades? Will people use and enjoy older applications like a person might enjoy older music? I wonder ….


  1. Well, "odd thoughts" cross the mind all the time. This particular one seemed interesting, though.

  2. SQL Server Management Studio that shipped with SQL Server 2000 on a shiny silver CD — like I still have upstairs — would not connect to a SQL Server 2005 instance until later service packs were released. Even then, it's rare for an older SQL Server client to connect to too new a database engine.

Different

A nearby kindergarten held a little bit of an open house today as part of their regular efforts to recruit students for the next school year. Working from home means that instead of relying solely on Reiko's judgement for which school the boy should attend1, I can visit the schools and act as a second set of eyes. More than this, I attended a French-Immersion kindergarten in Ontario. There's no way I can pretend to know what goes on in a Japanese school unless I see for myself.

And see, I did.

The basics of kindergarten are all the same as I remember from 37 years ago. The playground is large and well-trodden. There are toys strewn all over the place until the teachers come along to pick them up. Teachers work in teams of two for classes larger than 25 kids2. The facilities are generally locked down to prevent weirdos from coming in. A rabbit is sitting in a cage outside, generally enjoying not being bothered by children. There's nothing sharp anywhere.

The differences stood out like a sore thumb. There was nudity.

At first I thought this was that sort of "silly nudity" where a young child will take their pants off for a joke or just to get a reaction out of a teacher. But then I saw a second child without pants. Then a third. Then a fourth. In a classroom of at least 25, a good number of kids — both boys and girls — were running around half-clothed. Some kids chanted "がんばれ!" while others went into a small room. Some were watching the group of 10 parents who were walking through the school.

"Before classes go out for a walk, children are encouraged to go to the bathroom. For children who are not completely potty trained, this is a reassuring way for them to learn."
— the lead teacher guiding the group

Maybe this is something I just don't remember but, to the best of my knowledge, there was never a "potty activity" when I was in school. Kids would sometimes have accidents and that would cause a bit of a problem, of course, but this was completely new to me. Reiko was also a little surprised to see it as it wasn't done at her kindergarten, either. My reticence to having teachers encourage my kid to take his pants off in front of a group may be due to a Christian upbringing in Canada, where nudity is "shameful" and must never be done ever, ever … but I'd really much rather the boy not get into a state of undress in front of his classmates or teachers.

A moment later we moved on to the next part of the tour where we went up to the roof of the school3, where another class was putting their hands or feet into shallow buckets of paint before stepping on large sheets of paper. The kids were having a lot of fun on the roof, but I had to question why they weren't in a classroom with air conditioning. The roof was at least 30 degrees in direct sunlight, which was certainly a bit warm for me.

It's different.

All in all, the school looked like a decent place for the students that we saw and most of the parents seemed happy with everything they heard. Would I be comfortable sending the boy there? Not completely. While the rooftop activities would be fine on a cooler day, I'm not at all keen on dealing with heat stroke. I've had that twice before, and it's no picnic4. As for nudity? I'm really not comfortable with this.

There are three other schools that Reiko, the boy, and I will be checking out over the coming months. One of the three will likely not even warrant a visit as the reviews online are all negative, with most mothers complaining about the lack of learning their kids are doing. The other two, however, show some promise.


  1. I would be completely fine with this, as Reiko has been a teacher for her entire professional life. She knows what to look for in educators and institutions. That said, what's the point of working from home if I cannot actively participate in the boy's development?

  2. I can barely manage to stay sane with just one kid. How do kindergarten teachers manage to do what they do?

  3. School roofs are generally evacuation areas for neighbourhoods in times of flood, so there are strong fences and safeties in place to ensure nobody falls off. This is quite different from the schools I attended in Canada, where the roof was pretty much "off limits" and impossible to get to.

  4. Funny story about heat stroke. When I was 17 I was out playing baseball for about 11 hours on a sunny Saturday. That night I went to bed and woke up Monday afternoon. Apparently my sisters couldn't wake me no matter what they tried. Wait … that wasn't funny ….

Five Things

The weather this weekend was so nice that men over sixty were wearing winter jackets, people under 40 were wearing jeans and a light jacket, and kids were wearing as little as their parents allowed. As one would expect, the family and I managed to spend a good bit of the daylight hours outside. While the boy was not always happy with what was going on at any particular moment, he did greatly enjoy playing in the 7-Eleven-sized sandbox at a park not too far away. Lots of pictures were taken, and I even managed to get some great shots thanks to the fast shutter speed of the Canon DSLR. The summer humidity is not far off, so we're trying to enjoy as much time outside as we can beforehand.

Weather report aside, it's time for another list of things that don't necessarily warrant a blog post. First up …

The $300 CD

There used to be a popular music store in Ontario called Sam the Record Man that would often import albums from around the world. In the fall of 2000, Hamasaki Ayumi's 3rd studio album Duty was released to much fanfare, and I wanted a real copy, not just the decent-quality MP3s from Napster. So on the week of the release I called ahead to confirm the store had stock of the CD and asked that one be set aside for me, and I would be up on Saturday morning. On Friday I rented a car from the nearby Budget and invited a friend to join me on the 2-hour drive from Hamilton to Toronto to pick up a CD from Japan.

Young people have so much time on their hands.

The drive up was probably uneventful as I don't remember much about it. When we arrived at the music shop I went up to the counter and asked if they had my CD on hand. The clerk checked and, as one would expect when a young person calls a store asking that something be set aside, the CD was not waiting for me. Fortunately there were still two discs in stock and I picked up the coveted album for the insane price of $44.95 CAD, which was before the 15% tax was applied. Of course, as I had rented a car and drove for two hours just to get this CD, I didn't stop at just one Japanese import disc. I bought three: the aforementioned Duty album, a TM Revolution album, and a compilation from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Not only was I young, foolish, and employed, I was stupid, too. All in all, the three discs came out to a little over $100, making the trip to Toronto come in at around $300 in total. Did I enjoy the drive? Absolutely. Did I enjoy the CD? Very much so, as I still listen to it today … on Spotify. Would I do something like this again? Probably not for music or some sort of collector's item.

Not the Target Audience

April is considered the start of the year in Japan for schools, TV shows, and a number of businesses that prefer fiscal years not follow calendar years. This year a number of shows that the boy likes to watch have seen regular cast members go and new people join. Animated shows such as Thomas and Friends has also started another season, with the voice actors the boy and I have come to know reprising their roles. There's just one problem: I strongly dislike the changes. Especially when it comes to Thomas and Friends.

The boy disagrees. He loves the changes. I haven't heard him laugh this much when watching his programs ever. Clearly I'm not the target audience, and that's fine. So long as the boy is happy, then my opinions on the matter are less than inconsequential.

Power Napping

In an effort to try and regain some semblance of sanity, I've decided to invest some time in power naps throughout the day. For the moment it's just five to ten minutes in the afternoon, but may try to squeeze in ten minutes after 4:00pm as well. With a slightly more rested mind, better things will happen … like being able to stay awake during meetings.

The Sound of Processing

Sleeping in the same room as the 10C server1 means I get to hear when the system is doing some heavier lifting. What's interesting is hearing the system and the hard drives work when it comes time to do the hourly and daily backups2. There's a certain rhythm to each backup and I've already worked out the sounds of a healthy backup.

I wonder if people who work at data centres also train their ears to catch anomalies.

Pre-Pre-Kindergarten

Tomorrow will be a big day for the boy as a nearby kindergarten opens its gates to neighbourhood children who will start attending school for half a day starting April 2020. There are three kindergartens in the area and we're not yet 100% certain which school would be best for him, so tomorrow's open house will be an interesting opportunity to see the facilities, the teachers, and how the boy reacts to everything. He's not particularly comfortable in areas with a whole lot of foot traffic, but kindergartens should be different given the size of the feet.

With just one week remaining before most of the country shuts down to celebrate the series of national holidays and the new emperor's coronation, it will be interesting to see how much work gets thrown my way. Given the amount of overtime that I've been clocking the last couple of weeks, I fully expect managers to start stepping in and asking that I do much, much less.

This is assuming, of course, that managers at the day job start to manage.


  1. My snoring is keeping people awake, so it's better if I sleep in a different room for the time being.

  2. The database is backed up hourly and the files are done daily. Spinning disks are used to store uploaded data while SSDs are used for the databases.

You're not getting enough sleep—and it's killing you

(arstechnica.com)

The decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our wellness, even the safety and education of our children. It's a silent sleep-loss epidemic. It's fast becoming one of the greatest challenges we face in the 21st century.

Sleep is something that a lot of people are forfeiting for something else, but it is quite “expensive”. One of the problems that I’m struggling with is staying awake when seated. If I’m a bit too comfortable, then I’ll fall asleep within seconds. So I sit on wooden chairs or not at all. This allows me to stay awake.

Topics

Earlier this evening, while Nozomi and I were out for an after-dinner walk, I was thinking about some of the things I might write about today. As with most days, there were a number of topics that I could write about, but only enough time to focus on one. To make matters more complicated, the subject couldn't be too complicated, otherwise any attempt to write intelligently on the subject would be ruined by my inability to remain consistently conscious when sitting down1, which is exacerbated further if sitting on my bed. So with all of this in mind, what could I possibly choose to write about today to put the bow on another week?

One of the more interesting challenges that I've started running into when planning the day's article is writing about something different from the 2,800+ other posts on this site. With over a decade worth of writing published on this site, choosing something that is relatively untouched is by no means easy. I'll admit that there are a number of recurring themes that pop up from time to time, either involving the boy, the day job, or my mental state, but I do try to write about something different whenever possible. This isn't so much for the benefit of people reading the blog, but more for the enjoyment of writing.

Today's possible topics involved the monthly Windows Magazine that I used to collect and look forward to every month as a teen, sleeping in a room with a server, the challenges of taking good pictures of children or puppies, and the purpose of desktop backgrounds on machines where you almost always fun applications full screen. All of these are worthwhile, but only one can be chosen. As you have probably guessed, the topic I went with for today was "blogging about topics".

For the first few years of blogging, I would often make a quick text note with my HP iPaq, then write the post one stroke at a time on the train ride home. With every day involving at least 140 minutes of train time, it seemed logical to use the time to write. Being alone for over two hours of every day is now a luxury that I sorely miss, so writing is generally started on the phone with some poorly-typed notes while walking the puppy, then completed on a device with a physical keyboard.

Not a day goes by where I don't think about how to improve the way I write posts, and not a day goes by where I don't think about writing better as a whole. The latter requires practice and focus while the former is something I don't have an answer for. Having the preliminary notes written before the blog post itself generally seems like a good way to let the mind think about a subject for a while before there is time to write. Using mind maps and other writing tools would certainly lead to better posts, but these things often require a pretty large time commitment, which is something that I cannot negotiate with the family when people require attention. Speech to text doesn't seem right, either, as it would mean talking to a computer and thinking less about the words that get put on the screen.

What I would like, however, is a small application that would keep track of the blog ideas I jotted down for a given day and hide them around 3:00am so that the next day would start with a blank page. Throughout the day, I'd want to go back to the application and maybe jot a note down or add a link to a picture. When the time comes to actually write at the end of the day, I could then look at the application and all the disparate notes that were written throughout the day would be loosely attached to a topic thread and I could write from there. This would be similar to a mind map, but slightly less structured.

I would write something like this myself if I had the time. Naturally, it would also fully support publishing items directly to 10C. Unfortunately there just isn't enough time in the day, so I'll continue to think about how to improve my writing while doing the writing.


  1. This will probably be a topic for another day.

Worn Out

Over the last couple of years there has been a recurring theme on this site where I write about a lack of sleep either due to a persistent bout of insomnia or just a larger-than-is-manageable workload. In every post I refer to my age and how a little power nap with lunch1 isn't enough to recharge if fewer than four hours of sleep is obtained. Generally I'll make some efforts to get to bed before midnight on the Friday and hope like heck the boy doesn't wake before sunrise so that the weekend isn't a blur … but this doesn't seem to be enough anymore. The candle has been burning at both ends for months, and I'm just absolutely worn out.

Like a Lit Match

In just one week the Japanese holiday period dubbed Golden Week begins, which will mean that for ten days I will (ideally) not be doing anything related to the day job. Reiko and I have been making some general plans to bring the boy to some special events and parks, and we'll also be meeting her parents to enjoy a nice dinner at a nice restaurant to mark 12 years of marriage. If that wasn't enough to have happen in one week, the news cycle will be jumping between stories on the over-capacity bullet trains ferrying people around the country and the coronation of Japan's next emperor. During this time I'll be working on a number of items related to 10C, but I'll also be starting a new project that I hope will be seen as a positive step forward in my goal to be fully self-employed in 2022.

When I set my mind on a goal, I tend to work incredibly hard to make it happen. Unfortunately, when working for someone else, there will always be multiple goals that need to be completed, often with conflicting or near-simultaneous deadlines. This makes it easy to get stuck in one of those vicious cycles where the more you work, the more work you have to do.

Last month I worked the equivalent of 6.5 40-hour weeks for the day job, plus 10C, plus being away from the computer to spend time with the family. It's simply unsustainable. What I need to do is become more like the match above, being lit at just one end2. 2022 is not that far away, and I'm not at all keen on being with my employer for much longer3.


  1. I used to do this while in Canada. A quick, 15-minute power nap at the office after the colleagues went out for lunch but before they came back was an excellent way to recharge, especially if there were going to be meetings in the afternoon.

  2. I certainly see the possible error of working during a vacation period, but this would be more for personal development than the day job. It would be "fun" … so that makes it okay, right?

  3. I'm not interested in working for most other companies, either. The time has come to be independent … again.