Working From Home

With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic underway, many businesses are allowing employees to work from home (WFH). The company I work for is no different. So, this week, I am starting a new work from home schedule.

On the plus side, I get to wear the typical computer nerd uniform: jeans, t-shirt, and a sweatshirt of some kind since it is still cold here in the northeast United States. Since I am working from home, I am also able to use my 25-inch 5k iMac (2015) by adding in a little VMware Fusion and a company Windows 10 virtual PC [1].

With the kids starting online learning with their schools, the kitchen and dining room tables are already occupied. To help keep work and personal computing needs logically separate on my iMac, I am using the Mission Control spaces and multiple desktops feature. It is super easy to switch from my “personal” space to my “work” space with a quick Control + Left or Right Arrow. (Actually, I have three spaces: personal, Music and Home space, and then work.) A set of paired HomePods keep whatever I’m listening to sounding great.

But the one thing that isn’t “great” about my setup is the Magic Mouse 2. Yes, it looks and works great – for short bursts of work. But I found that when I was doing a trial WFH day last week, using the Magic Mouse 2 for about 10 hours was starting to get on my last good nerve. In a Windows world, the right-click action is used heavily. When I’m trying to quickly mouse around, there were too many times when the Magic Mouse 2 was incorrectly interpreting my right-click as a left-click action.

For this week, and for the duration of my WFH stint, I have switched to the Logitech M510 mouse. I have used many Microsoft and Logitech wireless mice over the years at work. The M510 is currently my favorite. (I have a black and a blue one. The black one came home with me.) With its dedicated left and right buttons, I don’t have to worry about the touch sensor misinterpreting my right-clicks as left-clicks. I also prefer the high back feel of the M510 when using it for long periods of time over the Magic Mouse 2.

The Logitech Options control panel used to customize the M510 button layout.

The M510 does have five points of customization when the Logitech Options driver software. You will also need to install the LogitechUnifying Technology USB-A receiver before the mouse will work. Both can be installed from a single download from the Logitech website. I like to keep my mouse setup pretty simple, so I turn off left/right scrolling, the side buttons, and the scroll wheel center-click features. Your mileage will vary based on your personal preferences.

Be well and stay safe.

[1] I should note that I do have my work-issued Dell Latitude 7480 laptop home with me too. I don’t skimp when buying Dell computers for employees. I do like the business class Latitude notebooks a lot, but, you know, they still aren’t Macs.

Dump Facebook, Read More Journalism

On the afternoon of October 7, 2018, I made the decision to delete my Facebook account.

I made the decision after realizing that I was tired of the user tracking, the targeted advertising, the prioritization of acquiring political campaign dollars, and the spreading of outright lies that helped to disrupt the 2016 United States presidential election and beyond.

If you are like me and can not fathom the outright lies that are already being peddled as truth on Facebook this coming election year, I urge you to do two things.

First delete your Facebook account. A support article titled, “How do I permanently delete my Facebook account?” on the Facebook website walks you through the process.

I promise you it will not the end of the world. I deleted my account and I have not looked back. Not once have I regretted my decision. I still keep in touch with family and friends by iMessage and – gasp! – calling them on the phone. I also share photos using the shared photos album feature found in the Photos app on my iPhone. Seriously, you don’t need Facebook.

Secondly, I encourage you to read multiple news sources. I’m not talking about the “content” that is shoveled into social media feeds. I am referring to “journalism.” In today’s toxic environment, it is more important than ever, in my opinion, to get local and national journalism from reputable news outlets. Read articles written by people you do not agree with to gain perspective and insight into stories. And then, after taking in good information, be an informed citizen.

I choose to subscribe and read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine. There are plenty of other places to get great journalism, including CNN, National Public Radio, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune among others. My preferences may not align with yours, and that is ok. Pick the newspapers and news outlets that you prefer, subscribe, and start reading.

Fairphone 3 – The Earth Friendly Smartphone

I recently learned of Fairphone, a smartphone company based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Company

Fairphone, as the company name implies, has at its core the idea that smartphones should be manufactured from a process that is environmentally friendly to the planet and to the people who use them. The materials used to manufacture Fairphone 3, the current flagship phone, relies heavily on recycled materials, fairtrade gold, and business decisions that promote a “more sustainable electronics industry”, according to the company’s website. In short, Fairphone puts people, the planet, and product longevity first.

Fairphone 3 Specifications

But, what about the phone specs? Fairphone 3 is a balanced, modern smartphone that is customer repairable in a way that iPhones just aren’t. Fairphone 3 runs Android 9 and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor. The 3 has a single stock configuration that has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is expandable by adding in your own microSD card, another thing that is not possible with an iPhone. Another differentiator between Fairphones and other major smartphone manufacturers? Fairphone 3 offers a replaceable 3,000mAH Li-ion battery.

The display is a 5.65-inch Full HD+ 18:9 panel. All of the expected radios are built into Fairphone 3. For example, the device supports MIMO 4×2 LTE radios on many of the bands used by carriers around the world, offering 300Mbps and 150Mbps download and upload streams, based on location conditions. Rounding out wireless package are 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi radios, Bluetooth 5 + LE, and an NFC system for contactless payment systems.

Fairphone 3 has a 12MP f/1.8 rear facing shooter that supports HRD and a 8MP f/2.0 forward facing camera. Both cameras have digital image stabilization. The rear facing camera can shoot 4K video at 30fps. In terms of the iPhone, Fairphone 3 is on par with the camera system that is on the 2017 iPhone 8.

Fairphone 3 Repairability

To improve the durability of Fairphone 3, the exterior case is made out of recycled plastic. This is a marked departure from high-end smartphones that use glass housings. If you drop Fairphone 3 on concrete, for example, you pick it up, dust it off, and put it back in your pocket. Dropping a naked iPhone on concrete can be a very expensive mistake if you do not have AppleCare+. A broken Fairphone 3 screen will set you back about €90 ($110) where as an out of warrantee iPhone 8 Plus screen repair will cost about €152 ($169).

Fairephone promotes repairability by including a screwdriver in the box with the phone. The spare parts catalog offers many replacement parts for current and previous models. To demonstrate how serious Fairphone is about self-repair, one of the two accessories included in the box is a screwdriver.

Considerations Before Buying

There are a few considerations that potential customers should make before buying.

The first is where you live. While the Fairphone 3 is widely available in Europe, it is not currently available in North America.

Second, Fairphone 3 runs Fairphone OS. The current version o Fairphone OS is a derivative of 2018’s Android 9 Pie. Given that Android 10 was just released this past September (2019), one can overlook the fact that Fairphone 3 hasn’t received an upgrade to Fairphone OS that is based on Android 10 yet. Still, it is unknown how often Fairphone releases Android upgrades and security patches to customers at the time of this post. On their website, Fairphone promises software updates for five years after a phone is released.

Third is the lack of third-party accessory ecosystem support. For example, I was not able to find any major smartphone accessories manufacture that sold a case for Fairphone. After searching several websites, I finally found Happer Studio, an independent  Lithuanian company, that makes slip covers for Fairphone 2 and as “Universal” size on eBay.

Finally, Fairphone 3 only ships with a bumper case and a screwdriver. Fairphone, the company, believes so much in their dedication to sustainability that they won’t ship accessories that you probably already have such as power delivery capable USB-C cables, charging bricks, or ear buds. (If you want first-party accessories, Fairphone does sell them on their website.)

Conclusion

I like the guiding principles behind the creation of Fairphone 3. I think it goes to show that you don’t have to be one of the top five technology companies in the world to create a product that values sustainability and end-user repair. If you live in a region that Fairphone are available, at €450, you can get a good Android-style phone that allows you to easily replace parts that break over time.

Hello, World! (Again!)

“Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!”

Ok, I couldn’t resist the play on the original 1998 Bondi Blue Apple iMac tagline when talking about this blog.

You see, for almost the last four years, I have been working full-time and taking college courses full-time to complete by undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree.  That left little time for blogging.  And so, I had a broken and mostly ignored blog hosted over on WordPress.com, and more homework than I cared to admit.

Thankfully, I am in my final 10-weeks of coursework.  I have repaired the blog here.  I’ll have to do something with my WordPress hosted blog over there.  And I’m looking forward to getting back to talking about Apple gadgets, things that interest me, and my Dad’s whacky technology hijinks.  (There was one just today involving a Windows 10 laptop, Internet Explorer 11, and one of those “Take our site survey” pop-ups.  But that’s a story for a different time.)

So, hello.  Welcome back to my weird blogging adventure that is this polymorphic blog.

-Alan

Happy Birthday, America!

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On this Independence Day, during all of the picnics, vacations, gadgets, and software, let us not forget the many men and women who gave their lives in service of this great nation starting on July 4, 1776 and all the way up to today!

Have a happy and safe 4th Of July!