Gaming PC upgrade

15 January 2023 by Lincoln Ramsay

My ancient gaming PC finally got an upgrade. I used to boast that it was so old it could run XP (and did, for many years), but now it’s new enough to install Windows 11. more…

New Smart Watch

15 January 2023 by Lincoln Ramsay

The TicWatch E I had was proving to be good enough, especially after I wrote a new watch face for it. It proved to me that a smart watch was indeed something I value, though primarily for the ability to have a custom watch face, notifications, and basic fitness tracking. The most serious fitness stuff hasn’t proved important, nor has the ability to run “apps”. However, the TicWatch E was showing its age, with its ability to last the day on a charge regularly tested.

I had been eyeing off the Pixel Watch, hoping that Google would release something either really good, or budget conscious… but when it came out, it was neither. A technical let-down that costs too much. For half the price of a Pixel Watch, I instead opted for a TicWatch E3. more…

How I backup my phone

23 November 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

I use a combination of TitaniumBackup and ssh/rsync to backup my phone.

I have TB backing up new user apps and new versions every night (with a filter so it only gets user apps, not system apps). It backs up changed data once a week (again only for user apps). Finally, it backs up the call logs and SMS/MMS once a week.

I don’t use TB’s remote backup support. Instead, I have a script that uses ssh (dropbear) and rsync to do an (erasing) mirror of the whole /sdcard directory, with a non-erasing copy of the TB directory. I use crond to actually run the script overnight.

The end result is that my server has a current mirror of /sdcard, plus the complete history of my TB backups, while the phone only keeps recent TB backups. more…

The smart watch killer app

23 November 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

I have come to realise that being able to create my own watch face is the killer app for a smart watch. I’m kinda sad it took me so long to get around to it.

  • Custom themed UI with fancy animations? Sure! I’ll even throw in a bonus screen that puts the animations in the foreground!
  • Fully custom display of complication data? Sure!
  • Filled all 3 fitness bars? Here’s a little animation for motivation!
  • Passive display of notifications and currently playing music? Sure!
  • Album art in the background? Sure! I’ll even throw in a bonus screen that puts the art in the foreground!
  • MediaSession won’t send over the album name? Just encode it into the album art (I also wrote the media player on my phone, so I can do this) and I’ll pull it out again to display it!
  • The watch goes to ‘ambient’ mode a little too quickly? I can fix that!

Even though my watch is ancient and slow, none of the above have caused it performance or battery issues. Since I previously had to use separate, non-passive screens to get to fitness data or music controls, it’s arguably improved the performance of the watch.

It’s also gone from a device I don’t hate, but don’t really use much except to look at the time, to something that excites me.

I’d love to share this with the world, but … there’s some legal things I should check on first. Stay tuned…

Yay for boring macOS updates

23 November 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

I’ve been a Mac user since the classic days. But I’ve also used BSD/*nix so I jumped over from the classic Mac OS to Mac OS X with the public beta and never looked back. Those early days were rough though. The system was improving fast, but that meant major changes all the time, which broke things. Then there were the transitions. Apple is on its third processor family, but there have been at least 5 architectures (once you factor in 32/64-bit variations). All this has meant that doing major OS updates has always come with risk.

I don’t have detailed notes, but I am fairly sure that almost every upgrade has broken (or removed support for) something I was depending on. It has been common for me to delay installing new releases, for years in some cases. It was especially bad when I upgraded from an older Intel machine to an M1 machine.

I don’t know what possessed me to install Ventura only days after it came out. Faith in Time Machine is definitely part of it I guess… The thing is it just … worked? Well, technically it failed, but then it worked. There is the obvious System Settings rewrite (that to be fair, isn’t any worse than the initial Mac OS -> Mac OS X preferences UI change) but otherwise it’s just … the same? I read a review that kinda complained at how “boring” macOS updates were these days, but boring is fine, especially if it means everything keeps working. more…

Writing a Wear OS watch face

24 August 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

I got a Wear OS watch a while back. I had initially thought I’d do some development for it, but it just kinda didn’t happen.

Recently, I played The Division and got the urge to make a watch face again. Samsung made a “no code” app for this, but it requires “Wear OS 2”, which really means Android 9. My watch has Wear OS 2 but only Android 8 so I gotta do this the old fashioned way. more…

MacBook Pro Review

25 March 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

This is my review of a MacBook Pro 14″ (2022). I’m coming from a MacBook Pro 13″ (2011) so that’s my reference for how a machine should be. more…

The Big Upgrade

28 February 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

I finally got a new laptop. It’s a MacBook Pro 14″.

It’s been as hassle to get it going, but I had several things going against me…

  1. My old machine never upgraded to Catalina, so I never had to worry about 32-bit binaries. It turns out I still had quite a few of them!
  2. Just like the last time Apple changed processors, Rosetta is amazing, but it’s not a complete solution.

For some time now, I’ve been dragging my OS from machine to machine, so much that I wouldn’t be surprised to find a powerpc binary somewhere on here still. I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to easily move onto the new machine but thankfully there was a “restore from x86 Time Machine” process.

Actually, it turns out dragging my whole backup was maybe not a great idea. The sheer amount of cruft I have accumulated over many decades is astounding. So many barely-remembered binaries (no longer working), strange folders in Library, etc. I found a non-functioning install of homebrew in /usr/local which prevented me from installing a current version in /opt/homebrew.

This isn’t a review of the machine itself. I might do that later. For now, this is just some notes I’ve been making as I setup the machine. more…

RIP MacBook Pro

15 January 2022 by Lincoln Ramsay

My venerable MacBook Pro, a 13″ early 2011 model has finally died.

For years now I’ve been considering what to do when this happens. Every time I had to spend money to keep it going I debated the likelihood that it’d last long enough to make the upgrade worthwhile. More recently, I’ve been debating throwing another OS on it, since Apple stopped supporting it some time ago and its software is both old and starting to become unsupported by apps. more…

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