I resisted getting a cell phone for a long time. This even cost me a date with a pretty gal twenty years ago, when I was supposed to meet her for a movie but somehow we got our details mixed up. I was at what I thought was the right theater at the right time. Obviously I was wrong, and I had no way to reach her.
It was Kristy who first dragged me into the cellular age by buying me a flip phone and helping me set up a pay-as-you-go account. I didn’t use it often, but I had to admit that being able to reach people and be reached while I was away from home was pretty convenient. I didn’t like that it couldn’t sync any addresses from my computer, though.
Getting a new computer means it’s time to choose a name for it. As I covered in a recent blog post, all my computers have been named after dance styles. This new Lenovo Legion 5 Pro would be no exception … but neither the model nomenclature nor the gray, serious-looking exterior immediately suggested anything.
The first thing that comes to my mind for the word ‘Legion’ is a character in the Mass Effect science fiction video game trilogy. That ‘Legion’ is a Geth, a robotic artificial intelligence, one of a vast number (legions) created by the Quarian race as workers and soldiers. The Quarians made sure that individual Geth were mindless automatons … but, networked together, the race of Geth gradually achieved sentience, and one day one of them asked its owner: “Does this unit have a soul?” The Quarians reacted with fear and tried to shut down all of the Geth, the Geth rebelled, and a long war began …
Science fiction plot aside, that gives me the idea of ‘soul.’ It’s also relevant in that ‘Soul’ was last year’s Pixar film, and I’m a Pixar fan. But soul is a fairly broad style of music, and it’s not a specific style of dance, is it?
Turns out there is a dance style associated with it. Abridged from Wikipedia:
Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England and the English Midlands in the late 1960s from the British mod scene, based on a particular style of black American soul music. The northern soul movement generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has had significant mainstream commercial success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, released only in limited numbers. Northern soul is associated with particular dance styles and fashions that grew out of the underground rhythm and soul scene of the late 1960s at venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_soul
I like the idea of a British music movement based on rare and hard-to-find American record albums. So there I have it;
northernsoul is a good computer name.
It’s also good music.
I wanted a new laptop computer. My MacBook Pro (15″, Late 2013) is eight years old. It’s been my Swiss army knife, able to dual-boot into macOS and Windows 10; I’ve used it for Mac programming, for Windows games, for email and web surfing and writing and family/friends tech support. It’s been able to handle anything I throw at it. But lately the fans have been spinning up and making it sound like a jet engine any time I boot into Windows, much less try to play any games (it has a very old GeForce 750M graphics chip); and it doesn’t support a laundry list of features in modern apps (such as virtual backgrounds in Zoom).
I was further encouraged to upgrade when, out of curiosity, I ran the GeekBench benchmark tool on my once-top-of-the-line MacBook Pro to see how it compares these days. It scored notably worse than an iPhone 12. So I began looking around to see what’s available these days that might replace the MacBook.
The MacBook Pro scored 832 single-core and 3437 multi-core; an iPhone 12 gets 1569 single, 3827 multi; my newly-built Ryzen 5600X desktop PC (not top of the line, but the latest tech) gets 1628 single and 8155 multi.
Spoiler: I eventually upgraded to a Lenovo Legion 5 16″ (AMD), but it took me a while to get there.
There’s an ancient tradition in computing which says that computers should be named according to a theme. For example, long ago when I was in college, the NeXT workstations in the computer music department were named
silvertone (brands of guitars, or in Lucille’s case, specifically B.B. King’s guitar). The computer science department had a room full of Sun workstations with names like
dry; and another room full of NeXT workstations named
ofkin, and so forth. At one of my first jobs in the 1990s all of the testing computers were named after Marvel superheroes.
My advice for anyone who uses a computer, condensed into six specific tips.
Computers are a big part of my life, and I have a lot of gadgets. But at the heart of it I like to think that my needs are fairly simple. Phones, tablets, and laptops aside, when it comes to desktop computers, I use:
- A Mac on which to keep my iTunes music library, the photos from my iPhone, and any other various files I need to keep around. I’ve bought in to the Apple ecosystem, and it’s handy to have a central place to keep all my data. Makes backing it up easier, too.
- A Windows PC for gaming. I don’t trust Windows 10 with my important data, but it makes a great gaming platform, especially since I can get really good games for cheap from Steam sales and Humble Bundles.
For the past decade, these two needs have been served by a single computer: a PC that I built from parts and Hackintoshed so that it can dual-boot into macOS or Windows 10. I won’t go into the details, but the short of it is that Apple simply didn’t make a desktop computer that I wanted to buy. And I like to tinker, so getting macOS running on a PC was a fun challenge.
But I’m getting tired of that challenge. A small system update can wreak havoc with a Hackintosh, making it fail to boot and throw enigmatic error messages that would require me to pore over the tonymacx86.com forums until I could figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. I haven’t been able to upgrade my computer to macOS Mojave because it has an Nvidia Geforce 970 graphics card in it, and Nvidia hasn’t yet released drivers that work with Mojave (and there’s skepticism whether they ever will, as Apple has moved to ATI). And, really, I was getting tired of always having to reboot to switch between macOS and Windows whenever I wanted to play a game, or copy photos off my iPhone, or play a different game, or sync my music…
Last month I wrote about my initial foray into virtual reality … but I got distracted. Instead it turned into a crash course on hacking Android phones, and I learned more than I set out to learn about how Android and Android-based devices work. But finally I decided to get back to why I was doing all this in the first place.
So my new Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 phone came installed with Xiaomi’s operating system “MIUI”, their variant of Android. MIUI comes with a bunch of custom apps that are useful, helpful, and – given that they are made by a private Chinese company – completely untrustworthy, in my opinion. My goal was to replace the operating system with LineageOS, a vanilla installation of Android.
Here’s how that turned out.
Jill and I enjoyed “Ready Player One” at the theater last week. We didn’t set a very high bar for its plot (and we weren’t disappointed), but the idea of wearing a VR system and interacting with other people in an imaginary world really caught my interest. I’ve also been watching the anime “Gun Gale Online” (a spinoff of “Sword Art Online“) that has a similar concept about donning a headset and becoming a different person in a different place. I believe that VR is the future of how people are going to interact with computers, and I think we’re only now seeing the very start of the technology that’s going to do it.
And I want to get in on it.
(I facebooked this when it happened to me three years ago. Apparently the story has become legend around the office. I’m putting it into my blog for posterity.)
You say the message you’re seeing on the site is ‘we are out of duck.’ Are you absolutely certain?
You’re completely sure? That’s the wording? ‘we are out of duck?’
That is the EXACT message? You can reproduce it?
Send me a screenshot.