Another chance

Ok, I’m going to back pedal a bit from my recent post “The Apple Experiment“. One thing that prompted me to originally move to Google Drive from Apple’s iCloud was because I was having trouble with my only Mac and started using my Chromebox instead. That’s when it became evident that Apple’s iCloud was never really suitable to be a truly platform-independent cloud service.

However, I have since ditched my Chromebox and am now back using Apple hardware again (I actually forked out for another iMac). So… yes that’s right, I moved my stuff back to Apple’s iCloud. It really does mostly work ok. And there is one advantage. Because all my iCloud data also sits on my local machine, I can easily back it up to external hard drives (something you can’t really do with Google Drive).

I am still relatively unhappy with the stability of MacOS. Since my last post there has been at least one instance where I had to hold down my power button to reset again. This sort of thing normally happens when I’m doing something fairly intense.

Originally my big problem with it was happening when I was encrypting 5-6 large external hard drives. More recently it happened when I was syncing a very large amount of data via iCloud. Under normal usage I don’t have a problem. However that is no excuse. An OS that buckles under pressure is still highly annoying.

Ham radio VoIP stuff

I have sort of ditched local ham radio in favor of a couple different VoIP setups. I have two VoIP nodes… one is IRLP and one is AllStar. They both run on the raspberry Pi 2.

I only have one node radio. It’s connected up to a dummy load instead of a regular antenna. Since it’s only intended for my use at home, that works just fine. I have a DB9 A/B switch where I can switch my node radio from one VoIP system to the other.

I was originally running just an AllStar node. But I decided after awhile to add the IRLP node to my setup. While IRLP is not as nice as AllStar for a number of reasons, IRLP has far more of a history and established user base. At least that is my perception.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.

I have a local ham radio that I talk on with an antenna in the attic. Then I have another radio (we’ll call this a node radio) that I have connected to an A/B switch which in turn connects the radio to one of two raspberry Pi systems that are connected to the internet. So I talk on my local radio which is received by my node radio. That audio then goes out over the net via my VoIP nodes. And of course I listen the same way. I control the nodes by using DTMF (touch tones) to “dial up” other nodes all over the world that are also connected to radios (usually high-powered repeaters that are located on hill tops).

So on all these nodes, there is a radio component that facilitates local communication. The VoIP aspect simply allows those radios to connect to each other over long distances via the net.

This is all sort of fun. But it reminds me of the last days in the life of the whole BBS scene. This was where BBS’s were fighting to stay alive by offering internet connectivity and such. That only delayed their death for a short time. In reality the vast majority of ham radio repeaters sit idle and are rarely used. In the Eugene area alone there are well over a dozen repeaters. But only one or two that actually have any activity to speak of.

The Apple experiment

I just moved my domains to Google Domains. As a side-benefit, they now integrate well with Blogger. So the new URL of this blog is My other blog is at one of my other domains ( And my third domain ( forwards to my Google+ page.

The reason for the domain move? My old domain registrar (NameCheap) had spam filtering on their free email forwarding that I could not turn off. There were some email that I was mysteriously not receiving. It doesn’t seem to me that an email forwarding service should do any spam filtering at all. After all, the email box that eventually receives the mail will have it’s own spam filter, no?

I made the choice last Christmas to switch back over to Apple gear after years away. So virtually all my gear is Apple now.

While I am an Apple fan, I’m not a fan of their cloud services or their email service. I have a number of beefs:

  • With their email service, I can’t send using my own domains. Since that’s the main reason I have my own domains… that’s a problem. However, Google lets me do that.
  • With their iCloud document service (Pages and Numbers) not all of the important features are available on the web or on my mobile devices. Only on a Mac does one have full functionality. Google Docs are entirely web-centered. So I have every feature available to me via the browser regardless of what operating system I am on.
  • With their iCloud file storage service I have to have all my files stored on my local hard drive. The iCloud storage is less of a cloud storage and more of a cloud backup and synchronization facility. Google lets me store everything in the cloud. I don’t have to have it on my machine at all. Again, all I need is a browser and I have access to all my documents, regardless of what computer I’m on.
  • Apple iCloud seriously hosed my photo library on multiple occasions by duplicating photos and making an entire mess of things. It took hours and hours to clean up. I’m guessing it was simply a cloud synchronization issue. Google Drive has no such issues because you have one and only one copy of your files (if you do it right).

When I initially went back to the Mac a few months ago, I migrated all my documents to iCloud. Figured I’d give it all a fair try. After coming to the above realizations, I moved everything back to Google Drive. Now I’m back to using Google Calendar, gmail, etc. Luckily the Google stuff for the most part is operating system independent so it works fine with MacOS.

Still there are a lot of things to like about Apple stuff. But I’m not entirely sold on any particular platform. Last Christmas when I made the decision to go with Apple, I was initially shopping for a Chrome Book. And honestly, that would have worked just fine (and saved me a ton of money).

While I’m on the subject of Apple vs the competition… I will say something about my Macs. I am experiencing a level of operating system instability on both of my Macs that I have never experienced on modern Windows installations. Anyone who tells you that MacOS is more stable than Windows is seriously mistaken. And I say this after having resorted to all the normal trouble shooting measures like doing a fresh install of the operating system (multiple times). Seriously I cannot count how many times I’ve had to hold the power button down and kill my machines because they quit responding.

There may have been a time where MacOS was more stable than Windows. But that time is not now.

The blogging thing

I recently moved our domains over to Google Domains. They allow pretty good integration with Blogger. So I decided to relocate our blog to I figured that maybe my wife and I might start posting occasionally. I also noticed that it’s been a long time since either of us have done that.

Blogging is a little weird. There is a fine line between good blogging and what amounts to self-absorption. I’m pretty sure I’ve crossed that line a few times. And perhaps blogging at all crosses it from the get go. Hard to say.

So what’s new?

We recently refinanced our home with Quicken Loans. We were able to drop PMI, cut 8 years off of the term of our loan, and lower our monthly payments. That was pretty sweet. And we’d only had our original mortgage for barely over two years.

We hired a new guy at work who is from India named “Bala”. He’s going to learn to do what I do. So I’m responsible for helping him get up to speed. He is an experienced developer (Oracle) but has no experience on the IBM i or with the programming language we use (RPG). So there will definitely be a learning curve. He’s a really nice guy and very articulate. I really like working with him. I hope he doesn’t get too frustrated with all the new stuff that he will have to learn.

Speaking of the IBM i, we brought our company up on a brand new Power 8 a little over a month ago. That was pretty sweet. I did much of it myself over the course of one weekend. Very nice to be up on a new box.

Yesterday was the last day of employment for another of my co-workers who also did what I do (Programmer/Analyst). Unfortunately his health was not such that he could continue.

So that leaves me the senior guy with a relative trainee working along side. While he doesn’t know RPG or the IBM i, he’s familiar with most of the concepts. I have high hopes.

On a different note…. I’ve taken to listening to over the ear headphones both at work and at home. This resulted in a very undesirable effect I will call “headphone hair”. After getting frustrated with that… about two days after my last haircut I’d had enough. We went by a hair salon and I went in and had them do a #3 clipper all around. Yes… pretty much a shaved head again.

The funny thing is… even with hardly any hair… I still have a semi-permanent dent in my head where the headphones sit.

Ok… that’s enough for now…