Connectile Dysfunction

All my home and mobile connectivity goes through one provider, T-Mobile. So when the closest tower has maintenance issues, it is crucial to have it resolved quickly.

For a communications provider they really haven’t been communicative which adds more frustration.

The technical issues are getting better slowly but the support is as intermittent as the signals.

iPad Upgrades

Just grabbed a new Apple Smart Keyboard for the iPad as well as a SIM card to make it truly mobile this week.

The Smart Keyboard Folio for iPad Pro and iPad Air is a full-size keyboard when I need one, and provides elegant front and back protection when I don’t. With two viewing angles and no charging or pairing required, it’s simple to just attach the magnetic keyboard and start typing. My only gripes are the stiff keys and no backlit keys. There is no need to connect wires or Bluetooth. Smart!

I also decided to grab some unlimited mobile data with a SIM card from T-Mobile and take it on the road. The idea being to upload images and text from the upcoming road trip planned for next month.

RSS, Read It Later and Newsletters

This is the sixteenth year I have had the internet deliver me updates using the website feed aggregation protocol and it just keeps getting better. RDF Site Summary, or Real Simple Syndication, helps me stay up to date with my favorite websites, blogs, podcasts and some social media channels. Instead of visiting a hundred different websites to find new articles, or posts, I subscribe to their RSS feed which is then aggregated into an RSS reader.

This is old school internet technology, much like the e-mail client. They’re still around because they are the best, most secure way of getting information (the internet’s first function.)

I am in control of the content I want to see, not a publisher force feeding me anything I don’t want. I choose topics of my interests and nothing more. Unless, I am forced to go to a website for a news piece or weather, sports etc, I can’t be bothered.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried most of the RSS feed aggregators and currently I have settled on Reeder. Yes, it was $10 for the Mac and another $5 for iOS, but I am getting what I am paying for- features, privacy, security and the convenience. Thanks to the iCloud, all my feeds and articles are synchronized across all my devices. There is also a built-in read-it-later service that allows you to save an article for future reading or reference. No more web clippings or bookmarks on your desktop all over the place. For me, I’ll save the articles and then have the option to share outside the reader with a share extension. In my world, it’s either being shared via text or to my stand alone read-it-later app, Goodlinks. More on that one later.

For a clutter-free reading experience, I’ll usually have the web article render in Reader View. No advertisements bombarding your screen, no privacy violating trackers watching your every move. Gone. It’s just you and your text and images. I have never, ever clicked on an advertisement from the web. I do not want Google or Facebook or 40 other trackers knowing my interests. They don’t get to do that anymore. I don’t care if that is how they get paid. I won’t pay it anymore and you don’t have to either. (please tell me you use content blockers and reader view on all your websites you visit.)

Back to the RSS reader. Some websites will generate their feeds in truncated mode, which means they’ll give you a snippet of the article, then force you to press “More” which promptly takes you to their website and to the aforementioned ads, trackers and sponsorship links. Well, thanks to the built in Reader View, 95% of the articles are pulled up in the app instead, again with only text, photos and no bullshit. That’s a win.

YouTube

I like the idea, hate the advertisements and trackers. I’ve left Google awhile back and it has been such a relief to be out of that evil ecosystem. I digress. Thanks to a recent update, I can watch YT videos from creator’s channels. No advertisements, no algorithms, no suggested videos. Just content I want and no more all inside the feed reader. Brilliant.

Read-It-Later

Again, I can save the articles I want to keep for future reference inside the app, but I always like to have a dedicated RIL app. For years I used Instapaper, but they moved to a subscription service. No thanks. I went with GoodLinks as a one time purchase of $5 instead.

Using the share extension tool in Reeder, I’ll just pass my saved article to Goodlinks, ideally tagging it under a category for organized reference and it’ll be there waiting for me when needed. I say ideally tagged because saving articles can stack up quickly. It started off organized but…yeah, I haven’t kept up. Goodlinks is also accessing iCloud so I can enjoy my articles on all devices.

Requested feature

I tried another RSS reader called FeedBin and I loved it because it gave you a generic e-mail address where you can subscribe to newsletters. Newsletters are created by bloggers, thinkers that will create articles of interest all in one letter and push it out to your e-mail inbox. I like my inbox uncluttered and am very protective of it. My subscriptions would be redirected into the FeedBin app alongside the other blog posts, articles and YT videos. A perfect all-in-one solution but at $50 annually, I balked because those same subscriptions were delivered to my inbox for $0. I’ve already invested one time purchases equalling $20 for Reeder and Goodlinks and I am pretty pleased with this setup. I’d like to see more feed readers incorporate this feature and make it standard as opposed to an add-on.

Finally, do yourself a favor and get an RSS reader. Subscribe to all your favorite news sources and make them come to you instead of scrolling through their websites. Say no to advertisements, cross-website trackers and privacy invasion. Say yes instead to a more pleasant reading experience that you control.

When you do, be sure to add this humble little website’s RSS feed and enjoy

@ https://chrisdenbow.com/feed/

13th Annual Groundhog Resolutions Day!

It’s that time of year again! This is my 13th attempt at creating life-long habits for myself for the whole year. I realize that after the end-of-year holidays I am not mentally or physically capable of sticking with resolutions for the upcoming new year. No new year day resolutions for me. I need a break so I will take off November through January and enjoy.

My resolutions, goals, best intentions, and life-changing habits are listed below. I will check in every month and then review my progress next on March 3 (3/3). After that will be 4/4, 5/5 and so on. Here we go!

Physical

The immediate goal is to drop 25 pounds quick. Last year I had a brief flirtation with the keto diet and was pleased with the results. But this was costly during a pandemic due to meat processing factories shutting down. I’m leaning toward this again and again, only for the quick results and then maybe switch it up to a low carb, more protein diet.

In addition to being more deliberate with my nutrition (I’m no longer calling it a diet) I will combine this with training (no longer calling it “working out”.) The phrase “Eat clean, train mean, get lean” comes to mind. I’ve registered in two obstacle course races this year. The Rugged Maniac course is in June followed by my third Tough Mudder course which is in November.

I’ve been on a 2 month perfect streak with my daily fitness goals using my Apple Watch. Combined with the Apple Fitness service, I think I’ll have my indoor cardio training set. Rounding out the training-from-home goals will be free weights and resistance bands with yoga. I’m eager to get back into the gym for some strength training and considering the risks/benefits thanks to the pandemic.

Throw in some fun activities like hiking, trail running, photo walks, geocaching and disc golf, I’d say this is going to be a great year.

Creative

Music

My fat fingers plucking tiny plastic strings on the ukulele at awkward angles? Stay tuned.

Photography

Sorting and organizing thirty years worth of photography has been a major pain in the ass, but worth it and about 95% complete.

I’ve been enjoying film photography lately and probably need to set up it’s own budget because film and development is a costly but rewarding endeavor to me. In addition, I want to finally frame some prints and be surrounded by my images. A few photo books will be on order too.

Writing

More short stories, micro fiction, One hundred word stories.

Work on that novel. Its been ten plus years and I still can’t get all of this out of my head.

Journaling my thoughts and experiences in addition with collages and white-out poetry.

Finally

Maybe I’ll throw in more fun stuff I’ve been thinking about like short podcasts, and exploring ham radio. Just because.

Knowing myself all too well, I could end up adding or subtracting this or that. Either way, I’ll check back in here on 3/3 for the first review of how I do!

Apple Annoyed Me Today

There were two incidents today that was a bit of surprise coming from Apple. The free trial period for the Apple One services bundle expired yesterday and the $30 payment was processed. This is fine and expected because I fully intend to use these services including Apple Fitness+. However, Fitness has yet to be released and with no specific release date but decided to charge the full amount. When asking Apple Support they simply said they could cancel the services but no refund. So…thanks for stealing my money by not providing the full advertised services in the bundle!

The second annoyance was inside the Apple News service. This is included in the aforementioned bundle as a paid service. So why then, does Apple include advertising? What other service can you think of where they put banner ads in your face? They don’t. Again, when asked, “The subscriptions do not cancel the advertisements.”

The Apple Platform Pt. 1

The moment you buy an iDevice, you become part of the Apple ecosystem, and more products and services are waiting for you. Some benefits that have solidified my decision to switch from Android to Apple a few years ago are better now than it used to be.

iCloud

The glue that holds the entire Apple eco-system together is the iCloud service. Apps, files, photos, videos, accounts, settings synchronized across all your devices dependably. Example; I am typing this on the laptop but if I need to go out and come up with something I want to add, I can do so from my mobile device. Neat. Buy a new device? Sign in to your one account and everything transfers over automagically. Within a few minutes you can pick up where you left off.

AirDrop

This feature allows you to transfer files in between all your Apple devices. You can even transfer files to a friend’s nearby Apple device. No Bluetooth connection, no need to be on the same wireless network, it just works.

iMessage

I now can send text messages over the internet using either the phone, laptop or tablet.

FaceTime

Want to make a video call instead of the traditional voice call? Exclusive to Apple device users, video calls are no hassle and a great way to see your friends.

Find My

Wonder where your phone or AirPods are? Using this handy feature will help locate with a map or pinging your device. If you are so trusting and so inclined, you can share your location to keep tabs on where your friends are.

Privacy

One of the reasons I switched from the Google Android platform was a lack of privacy. I do not trust Google, however, based on several initiatives, I do place my trust with Apple. Apple will not sell your information, they do not need to thanks to the hardware and software sales. They’re doing just fine thank you. When the FBI asked for Apple’s help in unlocking a suspect’s iPhone, the request was refused out of the owner’s privacy rights.

Data used for facial recognition is encrypted and protected.

Apple Maps is not married to your Apple ID so your location data and tracking info is not shared or used by anyone else.

Thanks to the new iOS operating systems, your device will alert you when either the microphone or camera is in use with light indicators on screen.

There is a web safety option called “Sign-in with Apple” which generates unique, encrypted email addresses to apps so you get to keep your authentic email id private.

Text messages sent with iMessage are end to end encrypted, and any data stored in the server is inaccessible to any third party.

Apps have no permission to access user data outside its directory and you can choose which apps have access to location data, camera, microphone etc.

The search history in Safari is end to end encrypted.

Two-Factor authentication options are beneficial.

No bloatware. Apple does supply their apps but you now have the option to remove them from your devices. Not so in the past, so I am glad to see that change.

Apple Pay

One of the most surprising features that I enjoy is the contactless, encrypted Apple Pay system. Using your device you can wave it over a pay terminal and confirm transaction. Great for avoiding payment card swipes that can gather your personal information, fast and secure.

Finally

Concluding for now, Apple’s brilliant hardware and software ecosystem is designed for compatibility, privacy and security in a system that just works. Now that I am connected I do not believe there is a turning back, captured by the system and finally content with that.

Social Web vs Social Media

I’ve been online since 1996, and have seen so many websites come and go.

Remember Geocities and chat rooms? Those were the places to be, until they weren’t. A few years later and they were shut down. Your online friends were deleted.

After those there was MySpace. People flocked to this new platform where you could decorate and share “your space” as you saw fit. Everyone posted their photos and music but a short time after that MySpace became stagnant. No one was using it anymore favoring Facebook. There was no way to communicate with your “friends” because no one had each other’s contact information, just the Myspace inbox.

Just like the platforms before it, users have been flocking towards FB, supplying all their information both directly and indirectly. People are still uploading all of their photos, videos and more there and there will come a time when this platform will be obsolete for the next big thing.

My point is do not depend on any one social media company or web service. They will come and go and you won’t have a thing to show for it because they now own your content and will delete it when their servers go cold. It’s time again to think about the long-term use of the web. Have a dedicated home for yourself so you can create, share and contact those who you choose and not an algorithm.

Build your website instead. Rather than inviting your friends and fans to a social media platform, invite them to your personal site. Encourage them to comment on your work, encourage them to provide their contact information so you don’t have to go through a social media inbox to reach them.

Your website should be the place to showcase everything you create. If you do insist on utilizing social media instead of the social web, have those free account be your backup. Have those social media accounts point back to your home on the web. You may choose to use them but you will not be depending on them.

I strongly suggest using the reliable open standards that are not owned by any company such as the internet, email and text messaging.

When using your email, make sure your default mail has a signature, one you can customize to give out your name, contact info and your website address. People want to know how to get a hold of you. Help them out.

Example:

Chris Denbow

Tulsa, OK.

hello@chrisdenbow.com

ChrisDenbow.com + PhotoDenbow.com

I know this is basic, and maybe it isn’t basic. If you’ve been spending your time on social media instead of the social web, it is possible this is something new. You’d be surprised how many people do not know these skills. It is time to retake the internet away from Big Tech and make it for personal use instead.

The Anti-Library

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

As a reader, I can tell you that I have been back and forth between paper and digital books. I’ve been kicking myself lately for selling or donating 85% of my library in the past.

It gives me joy to see physical books on the shelf again knowing that I have read a few or have something to look forward to.

Taking the idea of an anti-library further, it dawned on me that I am also curating a digital library of knowledge with links to web articles, books using PDF or everything I have saved as “read-it-later.”

As if I didn’t have enough to read, I recently subscribed to Apple News that includes newspaper and magazines.

The idea that the knowledge that comes from this anti-library is always available and readily accessible in both digital and analog form is beneficial and comforting. The fact that this library is an extension of my research tools is an added bonus.

iPad vs MacBook

Having been a computer power user for decades, I am giving serious consideration to selling my MacBook for an iPad Pro. Over this period of time, originally with Windows, then Linux and now Mac, I am growing tired of managing these operating systems and want to keep it simple.

Nowadays, I’d rather focus my knowledge and abilities into something productive instead of wasting time administering my computer. I don’t want or need to tinker anymore, and now I don’t have to.

With iPadOS, I can get my work done and play all on the same device. I can write up this article, post-process images from my last shoot, listen to music, stream shows, play games, etc all in an intuitive, fun and stress-free environment.

As a minimalist, I no longer have a need for desktop towers, huge monitors or peripheral devices taking up this space. The iPad goes with me wherever I want to work and it adapts to whatever workspace I set it in.

There is simplicity in the iPad which makes it powerful, unique and refreshing computing experience I’ve ever enjoyed. As Apple is fond of saying, “the future of computing isn’t with a computer.”

DAM It

The photo organization goals (Digital Asset Management) just took a setback as I rediscovered zipped files from Google Photos’ Takeout service. When I closed my Google accounts I had the option of retrieving all of my photos from the past 10 years that have been backed up there.

Well, thanks for nothing, Google because this treasure trove of photos is bundled in 2 GB files and there are over 150 to sort through and organize.

Apple One

Another new product was just released that combines all of Apple’s services in one, cost-saving bundle for me. I opted for the $30 a month, everything package which includes the soon-to-be released, Apple Fitness service. Paired with an Apple Watch it will automagically track your workouts and display stats on screen.

All six services work out to $5 each and includes Apple Music, TV, Arcade, News, Fitness and 2 TB of iCloud storage.

iPhone 12 Pro

This is the first year I purchased the newest iPhone on launch day since I converted to iPhone over Android six years ago. It was a thrill to open that box and see the premium stainless steel, glass back, the ceramic shield screen and that third camera lens I have been drilling over for the past year ( I skipped the previous first release.) As first impressions go, this was love at first sight.

No, I have not raced out to test the latest HDR video, nor the Dolby Vision but it is clear to anyone that has one in their hand that this is the most premium iPhone ever and it is built to be used. My only cause for frowning is that the edges pick up and enhance my fingerprints. Well that is easily solved with the slim Otterbox shell I encased it with. I don’t want a case on it because it hides the design but concurrently, I want this device to last for more than a few years. It is going to get protected. And yes, for the first time in forever, I am content.. This is what I have waited years for, a device that is gorgeous, and future-proof.

I won’t go into all the technical details and design specifications, I’ll leave that for others to write about, but they are impressive. The processing chip and memory are faster, more than most laptops, including the Mac I am using to type this.

The three camera system in the iPhone 12 Pro deserve their own article here, and I am positive that will happen once I make the time to do a proper photo shoot with them. The 12 Pro has the ultra-wide lens, wide and telephotos lenses for various uses and sometimes, you can shoot with all three. Add on the Lidar scanner to offer true depth for my photographic subjects and compares with your basic DSLR camera and lenses. Truth be told, these cameras make up the number one reason why I have upgraded.

The second reason is the high speed 5G capability and those data speeds. My carrier lit up their network here a few weeks ago in anticipation for this release and I couldn’t be more pleased. Downloads are fast, streaming is uninterrupted and thanks to unlimited tethering to the hotspot, I am second-guessing the need for home internet service. The home service speed is maxed out at 50MBs whereas the iPhone 12’s 5G capabilities here are double, sometimes triple. If I lived in a larger city, make that 10 times the speed.

I can’t wait to discover more of this iPhone as the weeks go by, especially that camera system. More later on that, of course.

You Are Invisible To Me

This webpage did not contact any trackers

Did you know that almost every website you view has anywhere from 2-30 tracking codes that report all sorts of data known about you? I’ve been taking steps to shield my privacy and in turn, have always tried to reduce it here on my website as well.

I don’t use Google Analytics. Facebook and Amazon affiliations have no hold here. It’s none of my business and I don’t care anyway. What am I going to do with it? How does it help me or you? Those Big Three don’t need my help. And as always, ZERO advertisements.

As a result, this website is clean, streamlined and fast. Try reading this site in Safari or Firefox instead of Google Chrome where it’ll track everything. Thank me later.

Back to the point- I don’t know anything about you. For all I know this is being read by only two people. The most valuable feedback comes to me from comments on these posts, emails, tweets and other forms of contact where people say hello, asks questions, or take issue with something I’ve said. You know, the whole point of the social web. Yes, there is a difference between the social web and social media but that is a different post.

So please leave a comment on the post, or say hello.

I wouldn’t know you were here if you didn’t.

Second Brain

Graph View of my Second Brain
Graph View of my Second Brain

A few months ago I stumbled upon the terms “bi-directional links”, “back links”, and “networked thought.” All designed to enhance research and note-taking.

Since then I’ve installed two new productivity apps to help with my research. More later as I do a deep dive into these.

[[productivity]]

Goodbye Microsoft

Once again I have made the cleansing act of deleting another web service, this time it is Microsoft.

Microsoft is the latest service that follows Google, Amazon, Facebook and more.

This means that I am all-in for Apple hardware and it’s software.

Ahhh.

Migration Update

Eight days ago I began the process of switching from a self-hosted WordPress setup for my website to becoming hosted on WordPress’ own servers. The process was understandably delayed due to the chrisdenbow.com domain name switching over. That process has been completed and just about everything has been smooth.

My only concern has been my personal email records (MX) still being available. They were and still are going through my old server but will they still be available when I choose to renew it next month? As of now, I am still able to send/receive emails through the hello@chrisdenbow.com email account.

Readers and users should not see anything different except a new coat of paint when viewing the website. I’ve also added a comments section on each post as well as an RSS feed so you can subscribe and get these posts through your favorite RSS client. I personally recommend NetNewsWire. If anything looks off or is broken, please let me know in the comments.

The whole point of this migration was, as a friend is fond of saying, was “to de-bullshit my life.” With this switch to a hosted version of the WordPress platform was to take advantage of both their desktop and mobile apps. These integrate well with my writing software, Ulysses, and iA Writer (which I am writing this draft in now.)

With all of this behind me, I can focus on creating more content efficiently.

The Web Log

The site ChrisDenbow.com has been published in several iterations over the past twenty years. The domain name has been changed a few times in failed attempts to “rebrand” briefly but the heart and soul has remained true.

Twenty years.

Social media (web 2.0), in its infancy was new, exciting and we were teased by the next best website or service. What made these services valuable were the users. Contribute meaningful ideas, engage in eloquent discussions. Ignore the rest. Share. Share. Share.

One of the original opportunities that sprung out of all that was the personal weblog (web log). A weblog or blog is a listing of text, images, or other objects that are arranged in a chronological order that first started appearing in the late nineties. Blogs contain personal remarks about a topic, a personal ramble, or an update on the person’s life. Weblogs are also a personal journal.

My personal experience goes back to 1999. Back then I posted in plain text format through an FTP to a URL provided by my first ISP. I have missed all those acronyms. We were so technical and cool back then. Then converted to the new WordPress platform back in 2003.

Side note: I personally dislike the term “blog” preferring “web site” because of the negative connotations of others. “Oh, you’re a blogger then?”

Nowadays, like-minded people agree that the personal website is even more crucial than ever. Social media has morphed into corporate agendas, marketing, no personal control and privacy concerns.

We’ve rediscovered the old ways are the best ways if we want to avoid all those corporate agendas, marketing, privacy concerns and to take back control. Your own website, your own web address, your own email address, RSS, newsletters, text messaging. These tools are yours to use, not to be used against you. I’ve been doing that through this website. Fine, call it a web log if you want.

Self-publishing is what the World Wide Web used to be and the world wide web is worse without it. Can you appreciate the power and responsibilities we have to take advantage of these opportunities?

For most of its existence, chrisdenbow.com has been a public journal of experiences and insights for an audience of one. For myself. Then in the mid-2000’s it branched off and became moderately successful with local and regional audiences. And this was extremely beneficial in that I would post something and receive immediate feedback from peers. We talked, networked, shared and grew together as a result. But now, most have neglected this thanks to social media. First Twitter, then Facebook. No thanks. The internet has become worse once blogging declined and social media platforms increased their numbers.

This is a great time to rebuild the web in our image and to it’s maximized potential. It is time to embrace the idea again that everyone with access can share their ideas with the world.