Dear Marie Kondo

Dear Marie Kondo,

Clothes do not bring me joy. I simply do not give a damn about socks, shirts, pants, briefs. Following your advice to retain only items which spark joy, I am now nude and unemployed. Of course, since I was the breadwinner for my family, my wife and children have left me. They brought me joy, but discarding my clothing was important to reducing my clutter, and now I’ve certainly reduced my clutter.

Oh, and thank heavens I got rid of those clothes. I saw many pictures of drawers full of folded clothing stored vertically. That really does work well for a drawer full of clothing. But my drawers were full of clothing only immediately after I washed. By mid-week, they were only half full! Of course, whenever I opened a half full drawer of shirts stored vertically, they fell over. It was so much bother to stand them up each time I opened the drawer. I considered using bookends to keep them tidy, but bookends do not bring me joy.

I had many tools which I’ve discarded. I really didn’t get joy from my lawn mower or the table saw and other tools. Now the city mows my lawn for me. They fine me only $2500 each time they mow it, so I’m getting rid of the clutter of cash too! Of course, without the table saw and other tools, there are some home repairs I can’t perform. But that’s OK. My home has been condemned by the city, so it too will be discarded.

Oy! Don’t get me started about eating utensils. Is there really someone who derives joy from a fork or a spoon? But now that I’m losing my home, I won’t really have to bother with utensils. Chez Dump lets one eat with one’s fingers.

Camping used to bring me joy, but it has so many items one must store. There really isn’t any way to store 432 items vertically. I used to store them in stacked containers. Of course they overflowed the available space. When I looked at each individual item, I had to admit that most of them did not bring me joy in and of themselves. Picking up my nifty little camp stove does bring me joy because it is so well designed. Fuel bottles – not so much joy. So now I go camping in the nude with just my stove and no fuel. I’ve certainly reduced my clutter.

I used to enjoy ham radio as a hobby. I really, really love my Elecraft KX3 radio. It is epically well designed. But to be honest, things like batteries to run it, wires to connect it to the batteries, antennas, microphones… not so much. Now that I got rid of all of those critical accessories, I do still love my radio. Do you have any advice on how I can use my radio without power or a microphone? No? Well, I’ll just appreciate what it used to do for me.


Frankly, problems with the whole Kondo method include

  • It assumes that one lives in a managed apartment with all maintenanced attended to by someone else
  • One has no hobbies which come with lots of stuff. (Hobbies bring joy.)
  • One’s drawers are always at a constant level of fullness. (Vertical topples unless supported.)
  • One derives joy from items necessary to meet one’s responsibilities. (There’s a whole lot of shit I have to own in order to maintain my house, my car, my job, my dental health.)

The Kondo method seems well suited to someone with clothing and housewares fetishes, no hobbies, and no responsibilities.

Podcatcher With Sync

I wanted to use a podcast client which would sync across devices. i.e. I could be playing a podcast on my phone while walking, pause it on my phone, resume it on my laptop, pause it on my laptop, and resume it on Alexa.

My other unusual usage pattern is that I sometimes listen while on my daily walk, but I mostly binge-listen while on occasional long trips (e.g. vacations).

I use Android, Mac, Windows, and occasionally Linux.

I’d been using Podcast Addict. It doesn’t work on Alexa or on the desktop.

Features I wanted to carry forward from Podcast Addict:

  • Auto-download of new episodes
  • Auto-archive (hide and delete) played episodes
  • The list of shows should indicate which shows have unplayed episodes (ideally with a count)
  • Limit downloads to Wi-Fi
  • Download of old, unplayed episodes (not just the latest episode)

I started by searching for multi-platform podcatchers, including platforms Android, IOS, and web/HTML5. Alexa is a nice-to-have because I’m willing to use Bluetooth to stream from my phone.

Here’s what I looked at:

  • Pocket Casts- web $9, Android $4, IOS, Alexa.
    • Auto-downloads new episodes
    • Auto-archive of played episodes
    • List of shows indicates unplayed episodes
    • Can limit downloads to Wi-Fi
    • “Alexa, tell Pocket Casts to resume the last podcast”. Slant likes it.
    • Web and desktop apps (Windows, Mac) missing some features present in Android.
  • Stitcher - web, Android, IOS, Alexa.
    • Auto-downloads new episodes
    • No way to hide/delete played episodes.
    • List of shows does not indicate which have unplayed episodes.
    • “Alexa, ask Stitcher to pick up where I left off”
  • Podbean - Android, IOS, HTML5. Alexa skill is reviewed horrible.
  • Castbox - web, Android, IOS. Alexa skill is reviewed horrible.
  • Player.FM - web, Android, IOS. No Alexa.
  • Podcast Addict - Android only
    • Has all the features I want except it is Android only.

I want:

  • Desktop/web, Android. Able to continue a podcast from desktop/Android to Alexa.
  • Auto-download via WiFi.
  • Sync across platforms.
  • hide/delete played episodes.
  • List of shows displays which shows have unplayed episodes
  • Download of old episodes (not just the latest episode)

How to Import Email From an IMAP Server Into Gmail

GMail has a helpful import-from-POP3 function, to bring your old email when you migrate to GMail. But I wanted to import from a server which supports only webmail and IMAP. Here’s how:

Step 1 - Import Messages to a Desktop Email Client

Since we can’t go directly from the old server into GMail, we’ll pass through an intermediate step. We’ll set up a desktop email client to fetch messages from the old server. This will make a copy of the messages on the desktop. Then, in step 2, we’ll push the messages from the desktop into GMail.

Note: If you’re about to lose access to your old server, the step of copying the messages to your desktop is URGENT. Step 2 can be done at your leisure.

I’m going to describe how to do this using the Thunderbird email client. If you already use a different desktop email client, you can probably do something similar using it.

  1. Install Thunderbird from https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/ .
    • Just click on the default Next/Install/Finish buttons until you get to the “Set up an Existing Email Account” window.
  2. Enter your ordinary, human name next to “Your name”. e.g. Tom Smith.
  3. Enter your email address (from the old server) next to “Email address”. e.g. tom.s@example.com
  4. Enter your email password (from the old server) next to “Password”. e.g. TopSecret1234
  5. If you are lucky, it will auto-detect your settings.
  6. If you are unlucky, you may have to press the “Manual Config” button and enter your information manually:
    • Set Incoming to IMAP
    • Set both host names to the server name for your old email server. e.g. example.com
    • Set the Username Incoming field to your old email server’s user name. e.g. tom.s
    • Set both Port fields to Auto.
    • Set both SSL fields to Autodetect.
    • Set both Authentication fields to Autodetect.
    • Set the Username Outgoing field to your old email server’s user name. e.g. tom.s
    • Press “Re-test”. It should report “The following settings were found by probing the given server”. Then press Done.
  7. You may get passed to a login form for your old email server. If so, complete it.
  8. At the left side of Thunderbird, you should see your old email account. e.g. tom.s@example.com. Underneath the email address, you should see some folders. Explore those folders until you see the emails from your old server.
  9. Once you find the folder/folders with your old messages:
    • Right click the folder.
    • Choose Properties, then Synchronization.
    • Set (put a check mark next to) “Select this folder for offline use”.
    • Press the Download Now button.
    • Be sure to do this for each folder which has old emails.
  10. If you have lots of messages, just let your computer sit, connected to the internet for a little while, while the old messages get downloaded to your computer.

How to Pull-down Refresh on a Kindle Fire

I use Nirvana from nirvanahq.com for my tasks list. On an Android phone, it has a nice Sync icon. On a Kindle Fire Android tablet, there is no Sync icon. Here’s how to make it refresh.

  • At the top of the page, there’s a big blue title bar, showing the name of your selected folder. e.g. “Inbox”
  • Below the title bar is a narrow gray bar which repeats the name of the selected folder. e.g. “Inbox”
  • You must pull-down from the dividing line between these two bars.

I’ve heard this is a general issue with Kindles – that the pull-down area for an app has a very narrow activation area. This is reportedly because Android apps expect you to be able to pull down from the main title bar but Kindle uses the title bar in a non-Android-standard way.

How to Revoke an Alexa Skill Account Link

Many Alexa skills want you to “link accounts.” Often, this involves connecting to your Amazon account via OAuth. Later, you may wish to revoke this access.

Some revocation is at:

  • Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/homepage/
  • Locat “Login with Amazon” under “Other Accounts” and click it.

Other revocation is at:

  • Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/css/homepage/
  • Locate “Apps and more” in the “Digital content and devices” grouping. Click it.
  • Note that https://www.amazon.com/gp/mas/your-account/myapps/ref=mas_ya_apps may take you there with a single link.

Microsoft Office Apps - Tick, Tick, Tick

For no apparent reason, most of my Office 365 apps started ticking about once per second. Tick, tick, tick. The ticking would stop several seconds to minutes after I exited the app. It happened even when I launched the apps in “safe mode.” It affected Word, Excel, Access, and Powerpoint, but not Outlook. (I didn’t try Publisher or the other, lesser Office apps.)

I went into Control Panel and set the Windows sound scheme to “No Sounds” and the sound went away. So I drilled down to the “Windows Explorer” grouping and discovered that I could just disable the “Start Navigation” sound, and that silenced it.

That led me to run Fiddler to see what the navigation was. It was loading some Microsoft authentication URLs, over and over.

That led me to notice my name on the Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access) title bar. Office 365 wants you to be logged in to Office. There was an exclamation point next to my name, indicating some sort of error. I logged out of my Office 365 account and back in. The exclamation point was still there, but clicking it gave me a complaint about the status of my account (which disappeared too quickly for me to capture it).

Eventually I clicked on a message about re-authenticating. That displayed a blank dialog, which eventually loaded and told me I was re-logged in. THAT cleared the exclamation point. A few seconds later, the ticking (and URL loading) stopped.

So tick, tick, tick from Office apps is telling you that you’re not successfully logged into Office 365. Microsoft says you have to login to Office 365, even if all you wanted to do was to view a Powerpoint.

Some Modestly Priced Cell Phones in Late 2018

General Notes

  • Tom’s Hardware says the average cell phone has 9:48 battery life, browsing via LTE at 150 nits of brightness. 150 is pretty dim. Gizmodo says, “In most conditions, a 250 nit screen will appear plenty bright.”
  • I’m replacing my current phone because it frequently powers down due to low battery by surprise.
  • I’d almost buy a Pixel 3 or a Pixel 3 XL, despite the high price, but they have sub-average battery life. If I’m buying a $700-$1000 phone (plus accessories), I need it to last at least 3 years and I’m not confident that battery will still be good. And I might break it or lose it, or there could be some new whiz-bang feature I really want before 3 years are up.
  • My existing Moto X2 phone has
    • 5.2 inch screen, 140.8 x 72.4 x 9.9 mm (5.5 x 2.9 x .4 inches), 1920 x 1080, 423 pixels per inch
    • 2 GB RAM
    • 32 GB storage, no SD Card support
    • Water repellent
    • Battery Life = 7:33 (tomshardware)
    • NFC
    • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
    • When it was new, Anandtech said its battery life was sub-average at 5 hours at 200 nits
    • Quick Charge, 3rd gen
  • Things I’d like my phone to do/have
    • Still fit in my pocket
    • 64 GB storage or more (or 32 + SD Card)
    • Battery last longer
    • Rainproof
    • GSM, LTE
    • NFC (Android Pay)
    • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
    • Wireless charging
    • Quick charge
    • VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T
  • Things I’m indifferent about
    • Fingerprint sensor. Convenient, less secure, and police can compel you to unlock.

Moto E4 Plus, $199

  • 5.5 inch screen, 155 x 77.5 x 9.5 mm (6.1 x 3.1 x 0.4 inches), 1280 x 720, 267 pixels per inch
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32GB storage (the available model) + SD Card
    • Must select gold color to get the 32GB edition
  • Battery life 14:43 (tomshardware.com)
  • Water repellent, not waterproof
  • No NFC in USA
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wired charging (only)
  • Not standard quick charge. Not as fast as Quick Charge 2.0
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T. Some people report no LTE cell data
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Limited to Android Nougat (no Oreo)
  • Conclusion: Great battery, but screen resolution is too low.

Moto G5 Plus, $150-$210

  • 5.2 inch screen, 150.2 x 74 x 7.7 mm (5.9 x 2.9 x 0.3 in), 1920 x 1080, 424 pixels per inch
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 32 GB storage (the available model) + SD Card
    • $150 32GB (not confirmed U.S. model), $210 32GB (confirmed U.S.)
  • Battery life 11:43 (tomshardware.com)
  • Water repellent, not waterproof
  • No NFC in USA
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wired charging (only)
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T. Some people report no LTE cell data
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Upgradable to Oreo
  • Conclusion: If that $150 model is U.S., consider it after the seller gets some reviews.

Moto X4, $180-$300

  • 5.2 inch screen, 148.4 x 73.4 x 8 mm (5.8 x 2.9 x 0.3 in), 1920 x 1080, 424 pixels per inch
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB storage (the econo model) + SD Card
    • $180 32GB Amazon Ads, $230 32GB, $300 64GB
  • Battery life 11:41 (tomshardware.com, slightly different model)
  • Water repellent, not waterproof
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wired charging (only)
  • Quick Charge 3.0
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T. Some people report no LTE cell data
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Upgradable to Oreo
  • Scary: 20% of Amazon users hate it, reporting frequent total failure.
  • Conclusion: This looks pretty good except for the quality control.

Nokia 6.1, $180

  • 5.5 inch screen, 148.8 x 75.8 x 8.2 mm (5.9 x 3.0 x 0.3 in), 1920 x 1080, 403 pixels per inch
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 32 GB storage + SD Card
  • Battery life 10:24 (tomshardware.com)
  • NOT Water repellent
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wired charging (only)
  • USB-C rapid charging
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Comes with Oreo and updates through 2019
  • Conclusion: I really can’t buy a non-water repellent phone.

LG G6 Amazon Prime, $360

  • 5.7 inch screen, 1148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm (5.9 x 2.8 x 0.3 in), 2880 x 1440, 564 pixels per inch
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32 GB storage + SD Card
  • Battery life 8:30 (tomshardware.com)
  • Water resistant, IP68
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wireless charging
  • USB-C rapid charging and Quick Charge
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Upgrade to Oreo
  • Conclusion: Unwilling to pay $180 for wireless charging.

Huawei Mate SE, $220

  • 5.9 inch screen, 156.5 x 75.3 x 7.6 mm (6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches), 2160x1080, 407 pixels per inch
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 GB storage + SD Card
  • Battery life not reported
  • Water resistant, IP67
  • No NFC
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, Cell Data
  • Wired charging only
  • No Quick Charge
  • No VoLTE, WiFi calling on AT&T
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Upgrade to Oreo
  • High reviews on Amazon
  • Concern: They use “EMUI” skin to alter the stock Android look and feel
  • Conclusion: ????

Notes on Scanning With Linux

I frequently use a Fujitsu sheet-feed scanner with my MacBook. Here are some notes about how I would go about cobbling together a scan-to-text-PDF solution with Linux. I don’t think it would result in a comparable user experience, but if I had to scan 10 pages into Linux 1000 times, here are some helpful pointers:

  • I really like my S1300. I hope the S1300i would be as nice.
    • https://www.gaggl.com/2016/11/getting-fujitsu-scansnap-s1300i-to-work-on-ubuntu-16-04lts/
    • http://www.openfusion.net/linux/scansnap_1300i
    • http://iokevins.blogspot.com/2015/08/fujitsu-scansnap-s1300i-on-debian.html
    • https://www.josharcher.uk/code/install-scansnap-s1300-drivers-linux/
  • https://knurdnerd.com/paper-to-pdf-workflow-with-ocr-on-linux/
  • https://help.ubuntu.com/community/OCR
  • Hardware:
    • https://www.amazon.com/Fujitsu-ScanSnap-Portable-Document-Scanner/dp/B008HBFADQ?
    • https://www.amazon.com/Canon-P-215II-Document-Scanner/dp/B00LPRQW86?
    • https://www.amazon.com/Brother-Wireless-High-Speed-ADS-2700W-Touchscreen/dp/B0757Z7NLC?

Linux, Mac, or Windows On My Laptop

My MacBook is getting old, so I’m thinking about a new laptop. OS options include Linux, macOS (formerly OS X), or Windows. Some non-mainstream OS-associated things that are important to me include:

  • Quicken. Many of the features. I use the retirement planner, portfolio tracking, and the transaction-tracking registers. Before you tell me “Banktivity” or whatever is better, make sure it can:
    • Download transactions from my bank, credit cards, retirement accounts, 529 plans, HSA.
    • Chart my net worth for 10+ years.
    • Import 25 years of Quicken data at 100% fidelity.
    • Tell me how long before I reach poverty if I lose my job.
    • Tell me when I can retire.
    • Track my spending and my income.
    • Data stored locally.
  • Scanning documents via a sheet-feed scanner to PDF+text format. I want an install-it solution – not “assembly required.”
  • TurboTax
  • GPS + topographic management. Something similar to Garmin’s BaseCamp.
    • I think BaseCamp just looks for volumes named “Garmin” and “GTOPO” for the device and the map disk. You might be able to run BaseCamp in a Windows VM or Wine, because it doesn’t use drivers to talk to the device.
    • Alternatives: QMapShack, Viking, GPSMaster.
  • Set-it-and-forget-it backup. I could live with just a periodic backup of data files, since I use CrashPlan.
  • Home-and-landscape design software. I want an install-it solution – not “assembly required.” I could live without this.
  • I really do use VBA in my spreadsheets, although I could rewrite this code.

No, I don’t think Quicken is part of the OS, but the OS I choose determines whether I can use Quicken. Given my desire for Quicken’s feature set, I either have to use Windows as my OS or Windows-in-a-VM.

Linux doesn’t have a complete scanning package. Yeah, you can scan anything with almost any hardware, but you have to cobble together the complete package, and bits and pieces of it will remain ragged. Too much tinkering for someone who scans documents often.

Something I hate about Quicken: Proprietary data storage with no API.

Hardware:

  • Big disk.
  • Fast CPU.
  • Don’t need a discrete video card.
  • 16 GB RAM. Prefer 32 GB.
  • 500 GB disk. Prefer 1 TB.
  • 15” display UHD/HiDPI. 1920x1080 is not high enough DPI at 15”.
    • There are many laptops with 3840 x 2160 and many with 2560 x 1440 or 2160 x 1440.
    • 15” MacBook Retina has 2880 x 1800.
  • Good touchpad (similar to MacBook’s).
  • Battery life
  • 300+ nits brightness
  • Glossy display

Some options:

To any of these prices, add a 3-4 year warranty (AppleCare)

Suppose I save $1200 and I keep my laptop 4 years. That’s $300 per year. If I stretch it to 6 years, it’s $200 per year.

Some things I don’t like about Windows:

  • Microsoft really owns your laptop. They’ll choose when to update Windows. They’ll choose whether you are allowed to re-install it.
  • There is nothing comparable to Time Machine.
  • I haven’t seen a trackpad that works as smoothly as the Mac’s.
  • No AppleCare carry-in repair.

Some things I really don’t like about Mac:

  • Apple really could decide to move the whole Mac platform to an incompatible CPU. They did it once before.
  • Apple controls whether you can use 3rd party hardware to repair. There are serious “right to repair” issues.
  • That damn battery is glued in. (I need to repair my trackpad, but I’d have to un-glue the battery to get to it.)
  • You can’t put macOS in a VM unless that VM is running on a Mac.
  • Apple is just about to drop support for 32-bit apps. Some of my 32-bit apps are abandonware.
  • You can’t get a 15” MacBook Air – You only get 15” in the MacBook Pro.

Some things I really don’t like about Linux:

  • No Quicken. No complete scan-to-text-PDF package.
  • You really spend way too much time tinkering. I just spent a lovely day and a half getting double-clicks to work right in an Ubuntu 18.10 VM.
  • GPS device + topo map management is… not a polished package.
  • No AppleCare carry-in repair.
  • Chrome consumes even more memory per page on Linux than on macOS!

“Creative” possibility:

  • I have a NAS-on-Linux server. Move all my data + apps to this server, and use a Chromebook to access it. (Quicken goes into a Windows VM.)
  • Won’t work for copying tracks to/from GPS device (except a Garmin can be treated as a USB drive with a particular folder layout).
  • Won’t work for scanning
    • Unless I get a USB extender.
    • Caution: Most USB over “Ethernet” are actually USB over RJ45, and they won’t flow through a switch.) (And many of them suffer ‘disconnects’. Do you really want to add complexity?
    • $420 ScanSnap iX500 can scan to Google Drive without a computer.
    • $280 Epson WorkForce ES-400 scans to Google Drive - check to be sure it can do this without a computer attached. (“Cloud Connect”).
    • $200 Brother ADS1500W can scan to Google Drive (“Web Connect”).
  • Or move all my data and most of my apps to NAS-on-Linux, and get a budget thin-and-light Windows laptop with UHD display as a terminal. (Looks like at least $1000.)

Issues with My Current MacBook:

  • Trackpad won’t left-click. (It will left-tap.)
  • Battery life has fallen to about 4 hours.

Working plan:

The smart thing to do at this point is to string my MacBook along a while longer, despite its messed up trackpad. If it out and out dies, either:

  • Buy another MacBook and spring for the extra $1300.
  • Buy a not-quite-top Dell, cobble together a decent backup. Be sure to see a real display and trial a real touchpad.