Acts of bike maintenance

It is very gratifying, after I went to the trouble of getting a fancy e-bike, to be able to do something to take proper care of it.

Last several rides I’ve been out, the pedaling in some gears was being weird. Not quite grinding, but going in that direction. Enough for me to notice, certainly. So I stopped at Seattle Electric Bike in Bothell to ask them what to do about this, since I was there anyway to pop super-fast into the BECU and do a deposit in the ATM.

Noted with interest that Seattle Electric Bike was open, but they had put up a little table to block the entrance, with a small terminal there and a sign that asked customers to wait at the door and they’d come outside to us. So I did that, and one of the guys inside the store came quickly out to chat with me. (We were both wearing masks, so A++ handling of customer and staff store safety there, Seattle Electric Bike!)

I explained my problem, and the staffer told me I should go to Bothell Ski & Bike to buy some lubricant for the chain. Seattle Electric Bike doesn’t carry parts or maintenance items, for the most part; they’re focused on selling the e-bikes, as well as doing regular maintenance for the people who’ve bought bikes from them. But if you want parts or other essentials to do maintenance yourself, Bothell Ski & Bike is better for that.

So I thanked him and went on my way. Since Bothell Ski & Bike was on my way back from Bothell anyway, I popped off the trail long enough to divert over to them once I reached that part of Kenmore.

Bothell Ski & Bike also gets high marks for handling their store and customer safety. They’re a bigger store than Seattle Electric Bike, with a larger entrance, and they’ve got signs up asking customers to wait outside until a staffer can come out to talk to them and let them into the store. Once I explained what I needed, their staffer was immediately able to help me and sold me a bottle of their most recommended chain lubricant.

Today, I tried that out and it worked like a charm. I had to hoist the bike up onto the support pole we have in our garage, just so that I’d be able to spin the back wheel freely and get to all parts of the chain. Laid down a towel underneath the bike, streamed the lubricant all along the chain, and then wandered off for ten minutes as per instructions. When I came back, I then wiped the chain down three times.

Took the chance to wash the bike a bit as well. It had a lot of cruft on it in various places, which both of the bike staffers suspected was contributing to the hinky behavior of the chain.

Finally took the bike on a little round of the block and the ride was much smoother. Mission accomplished, go me!

Hard drive upgrade for my laptop

Testing, testing, testing. I upgraded the hard drive in my computer yesterday, putting in a brand new SSD, and wow booting this thing up is smokin’ fast now.

The overall process I followed was:

  1. Take the computer apart so I could take out the old drive
  2. Put new drive in and put computer back together
  3. Install Catalina as a brand new install
  4. Use Migration Assistant to pull my data off my last Time Machine backup

The first big hiccup I ran into with this were that it took me three tries to get a viable USB installer for Catalina. Fortunately we have other Macs in the house, so all props to Paul for letting me use his downstairs system to generate the third USB installer, which was successful.

The second big hiccup was getting the new install of Catalina to actually see my Time Machine backup. Normally I run Time Machine over our house LAN, and the older laptop that acts as our Time Machine server saves my backups out to a USB drive attached to that. I attached that USB drive directly to my laptop. But Migration Assistant didn’t realize what backup I wanted to use until I specifically went into Finder and mounted the sparsebundle. Once I did that, Migration Assistant went “oh you mean THIS backup” and proceeded to let me actually pull data out of it.

That migration process went smoothly, though the wild vacillation of time estimates was kinda hysterical. It dropped from about “7 hours 57 minutes” (and Dara and I expecting this would have to run overnight) down to about “2 hours 20 minutes”, and then plummeted from there to somewhere around 20 minutes. For way longer than 20 minutes, at which point it also vacillated wildly between 20, 38, 17, 11, 18, and other numbers in the range. The speed at which the drive was operating kept fluctuating too, and we didn’t know why. Dara’s theory was that maybe Migration Assistant had to go up and down through various levels of Time Machine backup to get a good read on all the things it had to pull out. But we don’t know this for sure.

Third big hiccup so far was that the system was confused as to letting my Apple ID log in. I boot the thing up and it goes “hey your Apple ID needs to log in to allow various things to work”. I’m all “cool” and I try to log in with it… only to get an error message that said, and I quote, “An unknown error has occurred.”

This was, shall we say, less than helpful.

So I had to go googling as to what the hell to do to fix that. Tried several unsuccessful things until I landed on this article on AppleToolBox, which provided some terminal-level commands that ultimately did the trick.

Fourth hiccup: Mail initially refused to let me import messages, swearing up and down that I didn’t have enough space in my home directory. It lied. It was also confused as to WTF the actual problem was: i.e., a permissions issue, given that I had created a brand new user on the system when I pulled in my Time Machine data, and it didn’t think the Mail directory was properly owned by that user. So I had to fix that. What ultimately worked for me were steps provided in this Apple forums thread.

Mail also had issues letting me back into some of my accounts, but I think this may have been part and parcel of the Apple ID problem? Once I fixed that and reinstated my various mail accounts, Mail seemed happy accessing them.

Fifth hiccup: the program I use to manage my reminders and tasks, Things, also had a permissions issue. I wound up locating where it stores its database with the help of this article, and fixed the permissions on that, similar to what I did for Mail. (In this case, that meant getting into the terminal, finding the thing, and throwing chown at it.)

As of this writing, these are the things so far that have made the process bumpier than I would have liked. But major functionality on the system now seems to be in place. I am really pleased with how fast the thing boots up now. And hopefully once Catalina finishes going “OH HEY NEW DRIVE LET ME INDEX ALL THE THINGS”, I should see an overall general performance boost. Which should extend the life of this machine a little while longer, until it finally stops getting security updates and I have to upgrade to a new system.

Confirmed working so far:

  1. Apple ID login
  2. Syncing to my phone and iPad
  3. Dropbox
  4. Mail
  5. Logging into various things I usually log into in my browser (social media, mostly, but other frequently visited sites as well)
  6. Things
  7. Password manager
  8. RSS readers (I have two)

Still to check:

  1. Making sure all my documents and photos and other files came over safely off the Time Machine backup (means checking the Desktop, Documents, Music, and Downloads directories just to make sure everything looks in order)
  2. Scrivener
  3. Google Drive
  4. Calibre
  5. LINE (which I use to talk to my guildmates in Dungeon Boss)

Once all the major things have been checked, I’ll feel comfortable with reinstating Time Machine backups. But I wanted to get all this documented while it was fresh in my brain!

(And oh yeah, I can also report that doing a fresh install of Catalina does not appear to have fixed the weirdness in my playlists on my phone and iPad. Boooooooo. Apparently I’ll have to wait for Apple to fix that properly. Oh well!)

Weird problem with iCal reminders, can anybody help?

This one’s for any of my fellow Apple users out there who have a Mac running OS X 10.7.2 (the latest update of Lion), and an iPhone or iPad running iOS 5.

I’ve got an iCloud account set up to sync reminders between my devices and my computer. This is working beautifully between my iPhone and iPad, and the reminders are also showing up in iCal on my Mac. But the problem is, on the Mac, I cannot edit them. I can’t even click a reminder to mark it as done; I have to go over to one of the iThings and do it there.

Here’s a screenshot of what I see when I try to doubleclick on one of my iCloud reminders from my Mac!

This don't make no sense
This don't make no sense

userinfospazzkat, who also has his Mac laptop and his iThings updated to the same revisions that I do, has not experienced this problem. However, the main difference I’ve been able to note between his system and mine is that he has a full MobileMe account, including an email address, that he set up to talk to iCloud. I don’t have a MobileMe account; I’ve got iCloud using my Apple ID, which is my gmail address, to log in. I would like to HOPE that this shouldn’t be causing my reminders to be showing up read-only on my Macbook, but hey, I’m QA–I know how theoretical functionality doesn’t necessarily line up with what the code is doing, even after it ships.

So what say you, fellow Mac geeks? Any of you experiencing this problem? Any of you know how to solve it?

This week sucks! Have a baby lion!

Given how this week has really been full of falling sharks, I feel we should all take a step back, Internets, and take a break of Cute.

So here, I give you this adorable lion cub, for all your I R FIERCE HUNTER! I NOM J00 HED! needs.

If you’ve been having a rough week too, I invite you to post pics to cute things in the comments. Be as liberal as you like with your definition of cute!

Happy Canada Day!

To all of my Canadian friends online and off, happy Canada Day! May your fireworks be awesome and your holiday dinners be tasty.

To those of you in Newfoundland or with Newfoundland connections, I hope your Memorial Day is suitable as well.

And I’d like to dedicate this post to awesome Canadian things! Please to enthuse at me, my friends, about things or people or places or books or music which are a) awesome, and b) Canadian! Here are mine:

Music: Great Big Sea, La Bottine Souriante, Le Vent du Nord, La Volee d’Castors, Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, the Paperboys, Jeremy Fisher, the Irish Descendants, the Fables, the Punters.

Actors and Actresses: Nathan Fillion, Jewel Staite, Grace Park (played Boomer on BSG), Tricia Helfer (played Six on BSG)

Authors: Tanya Huff, Julie Czerneda

Places: Stanley Park in Vancouver

WordPress and Apache help needed!

So, my and userinfosolarbird‘s home network, now hosts a small number of WordPress blogs. Up till now I’ve been handling this by copying separate installs of WordPress around to various accounts on the system. Which of course means that for every new WordPress blog we host, that’s another mess of WordPress files to keep track of, another set of themes, another set of plugins, etc.

As you might guess, this is messy and inefficient.

There does however seem to be a solution available. WordPress 3 has now dropped, and one of the biggest features of this release is that it’s merged codebases with WordPress MU, the version used to run as many blogs as you like off of one install. Which sounds ideal for our purposes, except for a few problems.

  1. Almost all of the WordPress blogs we’re hosting have domain names associated with them, such as,,, etc.
  2. All of the blogs are in general hosted on individual accounts, and in some cases are integrated with non-blog content
  3. All of the blogs are running already on individual installs of WordPress 2.9.2, except for, onto which I did a test upgrade of WordPress 3 last night (and so far it seems to be working swimmingly)

Here’s what I would ideally like to do:

  1. Do one (new) install of WordPress 3 in a suitably central location on the system
  2. Turn on the networking function so it’s aware of all the various hosted blogs
  3. NOT have to move site-specific content out of the individual accounts that host that content
  4. Keep our various domain names working and pointing at the various blogs they’re already pointing to

Given what I’ve described of our system here, can anyone tell me if my goal is feasible? Additionally, any tips and best practices you could recommend would be lovely. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide!

Amazon… well, Win, actually

So back in January I bought, along with several others, a Kindle edition of Ellen Klages’ The Green Glass Sea. This was as y’all may recall because I got an Amazon gift card and I wanted to spend it on something, and userinfosutures1 had highly recommended it.

Problem was, when I actually got the ebook opened up, I found that something was broken in it. The whole damn thing was in italics, which made it very hard to read. I found this quite a bit frustrating, which is the main reason I haven’t actually tried to read the book yet. (Side note: I’m aware that the technology to hack into the book and fix it probably exists, but I haven’t mustered enough give-a-damn to actually seek it out.)

Also, just to be sure, I yoinked down the sample of the same book off of Barnes and Noble’s site, thinking that I’d doublecheck to see if their version of the book was also broken. It was. So as far as I can tell, whatever’s actually wrong with the ebook was in the version issued by the publisher.

Fast forward to this weekend. I finally thought “screw it” and bought a print copy of the book, and while it’s now five months after the fact, I thought I’d also just email Amazon’s customer support and go “hey, by the way, this particular ebook is broken”. I very specifically told them that it was okay with me if they couldn’t issue me a refund, given that it was five months after my purchase (since Amazon’s official policy is to not issue refunds on Kindle books more than a week after purchase).

But! Their customer support people gave me a refund anyway, apologized for the inconvenience, and said they’d be working on fixing the broken ebook. I gotta admit, Amazon’s had its share of fail in the ebook arena, but this? This was a win. And I gotta give ’em props for it. Go Amazon. :)

The obligatory iPad reaction post

And now, for my answer to the question much of the rest of the Internet has been asking: will I buy an iPad? (y/n)

Immediate near-term answer: no.

I am of course an Apple user. Maybe not a hugely ardent Apple devotee per se, but I do quite like my MacBook and my iPhone, which still have plenty of useful lifespan left in them and which satisfy my current computing needs quite nicely. For that reason alone I’m not seeing any reason I need to get a third device.

The more pertinent question for me might be, will I buy an iPad when my current laptop eventually needs replacing?

Current answer to that, although possibly subject to change depending on how future generations of the device develop: no.

One: the size and shape of it would make me reluctant to carry it on my daily commute. While the weight is good, just 1.5 pounds, the size and shape do not convince me that I could safely carry it in my backpack. Plus, I would absolutely not put it in my backpack without a protective shell of some sort, which would add extra weight. Also, just the sheer shape of it makes me wonder whether it would fit into the size and style of backpack I carry anyway.

Two: While the lack of keyboard doesn’t bother me at all–I’m quite used at this point to the virtual keyboard on the iPhone and using one on the iPad would not be a problem–the lack of ability to multitask does. If it can’t let me run my usual suite of programs at the same time, it’s just not an effective home computing device for me.

Three: Lack of storage space local to the device is not a huge dealbreaker for me, but it is a point of concern. I’m used to syncing my iPhone with my laptop when I get home in the evening. But if the iPad were to be my home computing device, I’d clearly need some ability to sync it up with one of our household servers. Syncing my personal documents out to a third-party site such as Google Docs or MobileMe or whatever is not really a path I want to go. Those options are fine as off-site backups, but when it comes to working copies of whatever writing I’m doing, I want them local and on my house LAN.

Four: While as an ebook author I am very much interested in the iPad serving as a new way to get ebooks to people, I’d be way more interested if the iBooks store opens up to other Mac devices and ideally other platforms as well. Selling books in epub format is good. Selling them without DRM so that you could read them in whatever app on whatever device you wish would be better. Right now though the fact that the iPad has an iBooks store isn’t enough to make it nudge that Nook I’m eying out of the running for “e-reader device I’m most likely to purchase.”

Last but not least, since Sarah at Smart Bitches called Apple on this and it bears repeating: speaking as a female computer geek, I gotta say, seriously, ‘iPad’ as a name? Um, no. ;) While the issues I’ve touched on above might improve as the device develops, I’m sorry, the part of me that’s still twelve years old will be giggling over that name for some time.

But hey, we’ll see what happens. In general I’m in favor of shiny computing devices, so if this one finds its niche, more power to it. And I’ll be interested to see what people say once they actually get them into their hands.

Book and/or music recs needed!

Y’all on Twitter and Facebook saw this already, but for all you blog and LJ and DW folks, I got me a nice little $25 gift certificate for Amazon, and I’m looking for things to spend it on! I plan to spend its entire balance on recommendations, so if you have a specific book you think I should read or an album you think I should listen to, lay it on me.

I’ve already spent $7 of the certificate balance on Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland, thanks to a recommendation from userinfoalfvaen. userinfosutures1 has also chimed in with some lovely recommendations, all of which I have now added to my “recommended” shelf on Goodreads, but I’m looking for more contenders!

You can see my Recommended shelf here, and you can get to the rest of my Goodreads list from there, if you want to doublecheck that your recommendation isn’t already something I have. Note also that my Goodreads list is not complete, so it’s still possible that you might recommend something I already have–but don’t let that stop you. ;)

Music recs are also welcome although something available for digital download on Amazon is to be preferred, since I’ll have a better chance of getting multiple things that way! Just as a refresher, anything that fits well into the sentence “If you like Great Big Sea, you’ll also like…” would work well here. Ditto for the Irish Descendants, the Fables, the Paperboys, La Bottine Souriante, Le Vent du Nord, Altan, Solas, Anam, Julie Fowlis, and the Chieftains.

Javascript clues needed!

Hey folks, Smart Bitch Sarah, who y’all may know of as one half of the fine duo of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, has put out a call asking for assistance at Javascript. She needs code that can choose between 3-4 ads with associated URLs, for a mobile app, each time the app is refreshed.

Now, this seems like a reasonably easy Javascript problem to me, and I know how I’d go about doing it on a web page. But what I don’t know is how you’d go about integrating this into a mobile app. Anybody out there know offhand of any extant scripts that could accomplish this? Alternately, any specific tips on how to plug code I’d whip up on my own into whatever she’s already got for the app?

(Note: what I’ve described here is pretty much all I know of what Sarah needs; she’s not technically inclined, so she pretty much needs a nice simple solution for this.)

Thanks in advance for any tips, all!