RIP The Blog

Jason Kottke recently had a post on his blog declaring the blog dead. Of course, it’s not really dead, but the way we write, consume, and share content has changed drastically over the past several years. If you look at my posting on this site over the years, you can see the number of posts decreasing each year, and fast. I no longer have the time, or the will, to write long posts about what I find interesting, what’s going on in my life, or random stuff I find on the internet. When I do want to share something, I usually post it on Facebook or Twitter (mostly Twitter).

That being said, I still want to share that information in a place that is much easier to sift through the noise (like a blog!), but that’s not what piece of shep is or was. So, I started i am shep on Tumblr. It is the perfect place for me to post quick links, pictures, videos, etc. Yeah, I could have found a Tumblr-style theme for WordPress, and I tried, but Tumblr is a better place for my new focus (or lack thereof). So, if you’d like, go over and follow me there or subscribe to the RSS feed (or, since it posts to Twitter, follow me on Twitter). POS will still exist, and I may post longer posts here, but for now, anything that grabs my attention will be posted at i am shep.

A New Mac

I’m beginning to look for a replacement for my 4 year old iMac. The current specs of my iMac suit me fine, 8 GB of RAM, 256MB video card (I don’t game), Intel Core 2 Duo processor. I haven’t really run into any issues with the tasks I need to perform… Until recently.

I have been experiencing quite a few issues with kernel panics that seem to be caused by the video card (according to the console and crash reports). They will either freeze the computer or restart it. They happen at random times. Sometimes the screen will freeze on the screensaver (with very few apps running). Other times they happen just browsing the web (in Safari).

Back in June I was had some issues with the video card and luckily the iMac was still under Apple Care and they replaced the video card and the logic board. I thought that would solve all my problems, and for a while it did. Now I experience panics and freezes on a daily basis. I even did a fresh install of Mountain Lion, just to be sure it wasn’t due to something I installed and also because I haven’t done a fresh install since I got the machine. I may take the machine to the Apple Store for diagnosis, but I doubt they will find anything (they didn’t “find” anything the last time either, but wound up replacing the two components that were likely causing the issue). The Apple Hardware Test did not find anything wrong, but obviously, something is. The problem is, if I do need to replace the parts, the cost will be close to half the cost of buying a new machine with no guarantee that it will fix the issue. Then I will be out of that money and back where I started.

So that’s where my dilemma comes. Do I buy a new Mac (and no, buying a PC is not an option. I adore OSX and love the apps I use on it and do not want Windows 8) and if so, what model?

I currently use my iMac for web browsing, Photoshop work, web development and, most importantly, as my media server. I have Plex Media Server running and stream all my media to my Roku. I would really like a Retina MacBook Pro, but I would not want that running at all times in order to stream media to my Roku (and what’s the purpose of a MacBook if it has to stay on my desk connected to several external hard drives?). So, in all honesty, I have 3 options, a Mac Mini, an iMac or a Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro has not been update in forever and is really expensive. Not to mention, it is overkill for my needs. I’m not processing raw image files or doing a ton of video encoding. I don’t need server-grade (and outdated) Xeon processors. I don’t want to go with another iMac because of Apple’s move toward soldering the RAM directly to the logic board. I also don’t want to be stuck where I am now with my current iMac. That being said, any Mac I choose will face the same issues that all new Macs have with user-swappable parts (besides the Mac Pro, which I’ve pretty much ruled out at this point).

So that leaves the Mac Mini. I can upgrade the RAM on it, but that’s it. Everything else has to be done by Apple or an Apple certified repair shop. Also, the Mac Mini has integrated graphics and not a dedicated video card. I don’t do much (any) gaming, but it does worry me that I may need that extra power. I’m not sure how well the transcoding that Plex does or graphic intensive applications (Photoshop) will work on it. I imagine they will run fine, but I really need more information on that.

The Mac Mini is definitely the cheapest alternative. Building one online (without upgrading the RAM through Apple) will run about $1500. Not bad, but how will the machine handle in 3 or 4 years? Will I need a better machine by then (I like to keep my machines running as long as possible, in fact, I’m typing this on a 5 year old white MacBook that is also on its last leg, but with the iPad, I rarely use it)? Will it start to die on me like my iMac is? If I get the Mac Mini I will upgrade the RAM to 16GB, probably from Crucial, but the integrated graphics gives me some pause.

I feel that Apple’s tight control over their products and slow update cycles is hindering me here. I really wish they had a computer for people like me that were more tech-geek friendly. An iMac that users could open and swap parts would be ideal, but that is not Apple’s style, unfortunately. A cheaper Mac Pro would work too, if it were cheaper and not reliant on server-grade hardware. I don’t think I can wait to whatever mystery product Tim Cook hinted at for Mac Pro users in 2013, especially since I can’t go on using the iMac with it freezing every day.

So what do I do? I’m not sure.

The Never Ending Saga of iTunes Launching Itself

Two years ago I reported how iTunes would launch itself on my iMac. After tons of research trying to find the cause, I think I found it.

To recap what was happening, iTunes would launch by itself and (about half the time) start playing music. I thought there was an issue with the Logitech mouse I was using at the time (because any time I would touch the wireless dongle on the back USB port, iTunes would launch), but that didn’t seem to be the case because plugging in the normal Mighty Mouse did not solve the issue.

I continued to troubleshoot and do my normal testing and found that touching any of the plugged in devices to any of the USB ports could trigger it. If I shut down the computer and changes which ports the different devices plugged into, the problem would go away temporarily. Eventually, iTunes would launch by itself again. One of the most ominious times iTunes launched by itself was one Halloween while I was not at home. I came home to find Slither, a song about vampires by KC rapper Tech N9ne playing. Weird, huh?

For the past 6-9 months the problem went away so I assumed an Apple update fixed the issue at some point. Then, I installed Mountain Lion and after a few weeks the problem presented itself again. This time, I noticed that the problem only reoccured when I was troubleshooting another issue in which I was constantly moving my Mac to access the USB ports in the back. I started searching again. That’s when I found this thread on a Mac forum.

This problem is related to the microswitch located at the very bottom inside the speaker jack. Whenever you get this problem, make sure your speaker cable is fully inserted into the speaker jack. Even the slightest depress on the microswitch can create interference, causing itunes to start and random songs to start playing.

This made sense when I thought back on all the times the problem arose. Every time I would move my Mac to access the USB ports, I would move it in a way in which the speaker plug could have come lose from the jack, even if just a little bit. The tug on the speaker cord as I moved my jack made sense because the cable was taught enough to create the disconnect. After placing my Mac back where it should be and making sure the plug was in firm, I haven’t had the issue reappear. It looks like I have finally found the cause. Hopefully the countless other users experiencing this issue can use this information to help them rid themselves of this annoying problem.

Or so says Missouri Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

First of all, what world does this man live in? Second, what is “legitimate rape?”

Uverse to Block 20 Cardinals Games Again This Season

You would think that the two sides, Uverse and Fox Sports Midwest, would have come to some sort of agreement in the offseason. Well, if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

For the second season in a row, Uverse subscribers will not be able to watch 20 games, including tonight’s versus the Reds. In fact, 7 of the 20 that are blacked out are games against division rivals like the Reds, Brewers, and Cubs.

Here’s the list of games being blacked out by Uverse.

DATE OPPONENT TIME
April 9 at Reds 6:10 p.m.
April 10 at Reds 6:10 p.m.
April 15 vs. Cubs 1:15 p.m.
April 17 vs. Reds 7:15 p.m.
April 23 at Cubs 7:05 p.m.
April 27 vs. Brewers 7:15 p.m.
May 2 vs. Pirates 7:15 p.m.
May 3 vs. Pirates 12:45 p.m.
May 11 vs. Braves 7:15 p.m.
May 16 at Giants 9:15 p.m.
May 17 at Giants 2:45 p.m.
June 13 vs. White Sox 7:15 p.m.
June 14 vs. White Sox 7:15 p.m.
June 19 at Tigers 6:05 p.m.
June 20 at Tigers 6:05 p.m.
June 25 at Marlins 6:10 p.m.
July 24 vs, Dodgers 7:15 p.m.
July 25 vs, Dodgers 7:15 p.m.
Aug. 3 vs. Brewers 7:15 p.m.
Aug. 10 at Phillies 6:05 p.m.

If you’re going to stay with Uverse, call 1-800-288-2020 and ask for customer retention. Tell them you’re unhappy about the situation and demand a discount. If they are going to screw over their subscribers, hit ‘em where it hurts… in their bottom line. Of course, it would be better if you cancel completely (not an option for a lot of people, I know).

The Death and Return of Superman

I was a huge comic book nerd when Superman died (and subsequently came back) in the comics. Like many other people, comic book nerds and regular Joes, I was shocked when DC Comics announced they were killing the Man of Steel. We were even more horrified when DC decided to bring him back a few issues later.

Max Landis (son of famed director John Landis) decided to make a hilarious short film about the whole ordeal. Check it out below.