I had hoped, almost selfishly, that Christopher Hitchens’ cancer might spare him for a little longer, so that we could enjoy more of his wonderful writing. Alas, no.
Hitch was just about a year older than me, and like me he moved to the USA in 1981. We were both socialists in our youth, and we each spoke out about our atheism in a country and culture which mistrusts and despises non-believers. But it would be silly to stretch the identification further. I loved his writing, particularly his book reviews, even as I was infuriated by his melodramatic politics. I admired his courage and determination to live life to the fullest. I’ll miss him.
I got my Kindle Fire yesterday, unboxed it, and… I was horribly disappointed. The out-of-the-box experience was awful: slow, inconsistent, stuff timing out, difficulty connecting to the network. I put it aside, because I had a busy work schedule. This morning I picked it up again. Still unusable. I checked the online help resources, FAQs… nothing.
I contemplated returning it.
Then deep in the bowels of the Kindle discussion groups I came upon this thread. So I started to play around with my wireless access point. I use an Apple Airport Extreme (APX), with an Airport Express as an extender. There are lots of devices connected to this network – at least a dozen (PCs, Macs, tablets, phones…) – and they all work flawlessly. I’d configured the APX WiFi as “Radio: Automatic”. I switched it to “Radio: 802.11a/n – 802.11b/g”. Instantly the Kindle Fire started working properly.
I still need to run a few tests to see if this change has any negative impact on the rest of my network, but right now I’m happy to have a usable Kindle Fire
If all goes according to plan, this will be my penultimate posting on the subject of my cataract surgery. The second (left eye) procedure has gone even more smoothly than the first. Intra-ocular pressure didn’t fluctuate, and recovery was uneventful. At the end of my post-op checkup on Wednesday, they tested my vision as 20/20 in both eyes. I asked if they could flip the chart to the 20/15 page, and rattled off the last line without any hesitation. I have another checkup scheduled next Tuesday; in a couple of weeks I’ll have a final meeting with my ophthalmologist, followed by a session with the optometrist to design the right reading/computer glasses for my new eyes.
During the last year, my cataracts had become significantly worse. I remember back in August, walking through the cafeteria at Yahoo!, looking out for friends whom I might join for lunch, and not being able to make out a single face. They were all just face-shaped blurs. And so I was expecting that the surgery would restore my vision to what it was before the cataracts became intrusive. What I hadn’t anticipated was that I would wind up with vastly BETTER eyesight than before. I started wearing glasses at the age of 4, and even with correction my vision was never better than 20/20. Now… well, it’s a revelation. I hope I don’t get used to it too quickly: I’m enjoying the experience too much!
It looks beautiful. (Of course, it looks like every other black rectangular tablet with rounded corners – are Apple’s lawyers listening?)
Unfortunately, I can’t set up email on it. My IMAP configuration for geoffarnold.com, which works on my MacOS, iOS, Android, and various other clients, won’t work in webOS.
I’m working my way through configuring the rest of the settings and downloading a minimal set of apps. For some reason, the settings for each subsystem are handled in an individual “settings” application. This is remarkably tedious.
UPDATE: Thanks to Steve, I got email working by installing a new certificate on the TouchPad. Like most of the apps, it’s visually appealing but relatively inefficient in its use of screen real estate. (Users of recent releases of Skype will empathize with this.)
A few more observations:
Registering clicks in the browser seems hit-or-miss. Navigating something like Google Reader or the “Manage your Kindle” page at Amazon is frustrating.
Speaking of Kindle, the TouchPad Kindle app is visually appealing but remarkably fragile. Whenever I navigate away from that app for more than a few seconds, I get a popup informing me that the Kindle app has crashed. Yes, I know it’s marked as “Beta”, and it’s unlikely that a non-beta version will ever be released, but even so…
In order to install the new SSL certificate, I had to connect the TouchPad to my iMac via USB. From the Finder, it looked as if I was simply attaching an external USB storage device. However when I tried to eject the device, Finder reported it was busy. I did a “Force Eject” anyway, and when I next looked at the TouchPad I found that hundreds of JPEGs from my Pictures folder had been copied to the device. my Facebook account had been downloaded to the TouchPad. Strange…
This morning I had the second cataract surgery, replacing the lens of my left eye with a synthetic replacement. It was uneventful, which is — in its way — an interesting comment on human adaptability. I was surprised by how a procedure that I had experienced for the first time in my life a few weeks ago could feel routine. Of course I’m not planning to do this again, so this learning and adaptation is largely wasted, but even so….
The process was not exactly the same, of course. I had a different anesthesiologist who dialled in a slightly lower level of sedation. This meant that I was much more aware of things: while I didn’t feel any pain, some steps were slightly uncomfortable, and therefore more distinctive. So I could tell when the broken-up remains of my lens were being aspirated, and the way the doctor “polished” the capsule prior to inflating it and inserting the new lens.
After the first procedure on my right eye, the contrast between “old” and “new” was so startling that I overlooked the fact that my eye was quite uncomfortable for a couple of days, and it took over 24 hours for all of the effects of the procedure to subside. Unrealistically, I expected the second operation to give me perfect eyesight immediately, and I was briefly disappointed. But over the rest of the day things settled down nicely.
One consequence of the second operation is that I can no longer cheat: I really need reading glasses for all close work. During the period between the first and second procedures, I could read things by bringing them close to my “old” eye, even without glasses. That’s over, for ever. I’m not sure exactly how I will organize my life going forward; right now, my impulse is to leave reading glasses all over the apartment, just in case I unexpectedly need a pair! (Don’t worry, Kate — I won’t!) Perhaps I’ll switch from wearing t-shirts to shirts with front pockets, just to carry my glasses. I certainly don’t like wearing them around my neck on a lanyard….
Tomorrow morning I have my first post-op checkup. Hopefully my intra-ocular pressure will return to normal more quickly than with my right eye. I’ll be working at home for a couple of days, since I don’t want to drive until everything’s settled down. When I do, I’m looking forward to improved twilight and night driving. Even with glasses, my cataracts used to cause glare from headlights and streetlights, which was becoming quite stressful. And now… well, I just looked out of the window (it’s 11:30pm here), and light sources were beautifully clear, with no glare at all. Let’s hear it for bionic eyes!
Tim Bray just posted a nice blog piece about his new phone: a pre-production Nexus Galaxy running Android 4.0 (code-named “Ice Cream Sandwich”). There are some really nice features in this release, which is, of course, what we’ve come to expect. These days, competition in many markets is driven by features, and less attention is given to price, performance, quality, and customer service.
But will I ever get to use these features? Here’s the comment I posted on Tim’s piece:
Yes, Tim, it all looks very nice. But I’m still waiting for AT&T to get around to updating my Samsung Infuse 4G from Froyo to Gingerbread (promised in August, already shipping in Canada). I have no idea if AT&T and Samsung will ever put Ice Cream Sandwich on the Infuse, let alone when. I read your account of the new features, but I have no idea whether it’s relevant to me.
For me, this is the biggest bug in the Android business model compared with iOS: it’s completely unpredictable. All of the players – Google, handset makers and carriers – contribute to the mess. And so I’m not surprised that so many apps are so unstable: the test matrix is ridiculously big.
In contrast, when an iOS release comes out, I know exactly what it will run on, and which features will be available on my device. Moreover I can install it immediately.
This summer, I decided to try life outside the “walled garden” and replaced my iPhone 4 with the best Android device then available. I have to report that so far, life outside the wall sucks. This is a shame. I guess I could hack it, but great products shouldn’t need hacking….
Yesterday I had the last post-op inspection for my right eye, and got the paperwork for the countdown to next Tuesday’s procedure for my left. By now, two of the eye drops had run out, but I was still taking the steroid Durezol. My doctor decided that by now it was doing slightly more harm than good (probably elevating the intraocular pressure a bit), and so I’m finished with it. My vision continues good — better than 20/20 — and there are no complications. I’m still getting some eyestrain from sustained reading, which means taking regular breaks (which is advisable for all sorts of reasons), and when I’m tired my asymmetric vision is a bit unpredictable, but overall things are going fine. As I mentioned before, the biggest issue is driving in twilight or darkness – DON’T.
On Saturday I’ll start on two of the eye drops — the antibiotic Vigamox and anti-inflammatory Nevanac — in my left eye, three times a day. Kate will drive me in to the Surgecenter (such a clumsy name!) on Tuesday at 7am, and I should be home by lunch.
This morning I was belatedly going through the materials I’d brought home from the Surgecenter, and found a laminated card and a booklet. The latter was the “Product Information” for the synthetic lens. It advised me (in tiny print) that I should keep the card and show it to any eye doctor that I encounter in the future. (What, no micro-RFID tag embedded in the lens?) Reading the booklet reminded me of one of the things that has impressed me about all of this. The surgical techniques are wonderful, and I’m very grateful for the skill of my ophthalmologist, and the way this procedure has been made simple and painless. However all of this medical wizardry would be nothing without the extraordinary materials science that has gone into the creation of the lens. Think about it: a clear, plastic lens, with carefully calibrated UV filtering, refractive index and curvature, designed to remain crystal clear for many years, and capable of being rolled up so that it can be inserted through a 4mm incision and allowed to unroll into place. It’s an acrylate/methacrylate copolymer; the lens is 6mm across, and the diameter across the “legs” is 13mm. That’s impressive….
Wall Street and even some Apple fanbois were disappointed that Apple chose to release a minor upgrade to the iPhone 4 rather than a kick-ass, “this changes everything” iPhone 5. But I was delighted. Let me explain.
A few months ago, I decided to see what life was like on the other side of the “garden wall“, and I replaced my iPhone 4 with a Samsung Infuse 4G. Thin, big gorgeous screen, powerful CPU, bags of memory, the latest Android OS, and “4G networking” (whatever AT&T meant by that – certainly not LTE): I was determined to test “the best of the rest”.
Unfortunately, it has not been a great experience. The startup logo from AT&T exhorts me to “Rethink Possible”, and I have done so: I realize that it is possible that someone could create a crap product and try to compete with Apple.
What came I say about this puppy? (This is not a compliment: I’m not a dog person.) The battery life sucks. I’m lucky to get through 8 hours before the warning messages start appearing. OK, I’m syncing both IMAP and Exchange email in the background, but I’m usually in range of a WiFi AP. Often, I’ll take the phone out of my belt holster and it will be hot, as though it’s been running some CPU-intensive app, but Task Manager shows nothing running. Even so, the power just melts away. I’ve tried many of the apps that have been created to deal with this weakness of Android (and that should tell you something right there!), but nothing helps.
So of course I charge it whenever I get the chance, and at night I put it in a cradle next to my bed, with an alarm set. Unfortunately the phone insists on waking up, beeping, and turning on the screen when recharging is complete – usually at 3AM. This does not endear it to me or my loved ones.
There are lots of other annoying glitches, some of which are still mysterious. There is some package – not an app: no apps are running – which will occasionally vibrate the phone. If I power cycle the phone, it goes away. Because I receive corporate email on the phone, I’ve configured it to require a passcode to unlock it. However whether I have to unlock or simply swipe seems totally random.
But the most infuriating problem is the random hangs. I get one or two a week, and I usually have to power-cycle the phone by holding down the power button. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and I have to resort to sliding off the back case and popping out the battery. This evening, I encountered a new problem. I was riding on the Green Line under Boston streets; I fired up the Amazon Kindle app, and everything froze. I power-cycled the phone, and when it came back most of my apps were unavailable. Touching the generic icon produced the bizarre message that the app was not installed. Eventually I left the subway system, powered the phone off and on, and everything came up OK. From browsing similar accounts on the web, it looks as if Android needs to sync with MarketPlace on powerup. This is, obviously, absurd.
Yesterday I was just about ready to give up on this piece of crap, buy a new iPhone 5, and swallow my pride (and the penalty for early upgrade). But Apple came to my rescue by releasing the iPhone 4S, which is not quite compelling enough to make me switch back. Yet. So I’ll wait until I’m eligible for a penalty-free upgrade in January, 2013 (sigh!), or whenever the iPhone 5 actually appears. Thank you, Apple!
We went out to dinner this evening, and by the time we drove home it was twilight and all the cars had their headlights on. And that really sucked: my myopic left eye was overwhelmed with glare from every light source, and it really interfered with the image from my “new” eye. I reduced the problem by closing my left eye whenever possible, but of course my depth perception instantly disappeared.
So I think I’m going to have to minimize night-time driving until after my second operation. Bummer.