Monday, 28 October 2013

Upgraded to Mavericks

I have been less than excited about this "upgrade" to my laptop's operating system. My impression is that things are slower - despite everyone else claiming that it is supposed to speed things up. I wait for apps to open that use to be there instantly. There are times when I sit staring at the little spinning multicoloured disk for what seems like far too long. I keep losing interest when new tabs I have opened in Safari to see a linked web page remain completely empty - and the blue colour on the address bar remains stubbornly at 10% across.

I have read in several places how this new system will be able to better to handle multiple displays - including using a tv through AirPlay and Apple TV. Apparently you can set it up so one display shows something different from the other. So I could, in theory, use it to have a Safari window open on my tv showing a video. But no matter what I tried I could not get the display icon to show up at the top of my screen. I even went through a software update on my Apple TV to see if that helped.

The answer apparently is that my MacBookPro is too old.

(Apple says that AirPlay requires a second-generation Apple TV or later and a 2011-era Mac or later.)

So if I wanted to use my HD tv as a display, I need to go out and buy a new Mac. 

I have the strong impression that this upgrade is free because it will push people with older Macs to buy new ones. 

That was certainly the pattern in the days when I ran Windows on PCs. The rate of obsolescence was driven by the system - and was one reason why I started putzing around with Linux. I could keep older machines going for longer with no loss of performance. Now I am inside the Apple walled garden, things seem to be going the same way.

Indeed just recently I learned that I was not the only one who has an older Mac who finds this new OS version has slowed things down. But then that did come from someone who makes a living selling new computers

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Review: Armstrong's War

At the Arts Club Theatre Revue Stage until November 9, 2013

"World Premiere" although it has previously been seen and reviewed as “a fully staged workshop production (prior to its official World Première in October 2013 at the renowned Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver)” at the Finborough Theatre in London (with a different cast).

I had not read anything about this play before I saw it last night, so I had no expectations. In writing this review, I think it would be great if you could share that experience. But because it has received so little attention here so far - it opened on  October 17 - the theatre was mostly empty. It must be terribly dispiriting for actors to p[lay to rows of empty seats. But you wouldn't know that from the performances of the two person cast, who both give it their all. Great performances and really good chemistry. You can get a synopsis of the the plot from the review I linked to above. All you really need to know is that Michael (Mik Byskov) is a wounded Canadian soldier and Halley (Matreya Scarrwener) is the Pathfinder (a sort of superior Girl Scout) who reads to him.

Matreya is a 10th grade student at Kitsilano Secondary School and already has an impressive resume of tv work. It is her professional theatre debut. It is also Mik's debut on the Vancouver stage. And I will be willing to bet that we will be seeing a great deal more of both of them in future - and one day you will be able to say "I saw him/her when they were just starting out ..."

I did not know that Stephen Crane (author of the never out of print "Red Badge of Courage") was born after the Civil War - and indeed never fought in any war prior to writing it. Colleen Murphy has not fought in Afghanistan either, but I felt I understood a lot more about that conflict having seen this play of hers. It also makes you think very hard about the nature of truth and fiction. This play is fictional but has the ring of truth throughout. There are times when the audience laughs. Sometimes I laughed too - but at others I felt like shouting to the rest of them to stop laughing, such is the sensitivity of the subject matter. I have never fought in any war, but that does not reduce my appreciation of its horrors or reduce my desire for peace.

Please go see this play, and then tell your friends about it. It deserves to be seen by a much bigger audience. You will not regret the 90 minutes (no interval) you spend at the Revue Stage. Promise.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bluetooth to the rescue

It is a very unfortunate development, but CBC Radio 2 now has commercials. This blog post explains why. Blame Stephen Harper & Co for their ritualistic destruction of all that Canadians hold dear.
"Radio 2 gives Canadians a unique listening experience with its distinct format that doesn’t exist anywhere else on the radio dial. "
Which is true, but only to an extent. In terms of what I can pick up on a short length of wire antenna inside my 6th floor apartment, I have to agree. But that does not mean that I cannot find a source of classical music when I want it. And the CBC's earlier decision to limit classical to a few hours of the day (9am to around 2:10pm) means that I have become a user of other services. Just not FM radio through my stereo speakers. I can get music from the internet, which means using the rather tinny speakers on my MacBook Pro or headphones. I don't like wearing headphones. I have yet to find any that are really comfortable for any length of time, even though the sound quality produced by some of the (very expensive) Klipsch ones my son had (they got stolen, of course) are very good indeed. There is also the availability of streaming audio over the tv. Galaxie provides five channels of classical - and on Telus TV they can be found on these channels

Pop Classics 7860
Baroque 7852 
Classic Masters 7856 
Chamber Music 7854

There's opera too, if you like that sort of thing. 

Again the speakers on the tv are not bad but not up to the standard of my stereo system.

Ideally I thought that it should be possible to play the internet through the receiver. I noticed that it does have a DMPORT on the back with a slot that looks similar to a USB or HDMI cable. But different I am sure. Sony did at one time make a cradles/docks that could be plugged into this port for an iPod. Not that I possess an iPod (see my remarks about earphones above). But the only way to acquire such a thing now is through channels like eBay. There are actually quite a variety there but these things are not cheap and many sellers are not willing to send to Canada. 

It occurred to me that even if I could not buy one from Sony there ought to be other makers given the ubiquity of iPods and stereo systems. So I asked in London Drugs, where the salesman said that a dock isn't actually necessary. He showed me how he could play music from his smart phone over some speakers they had set up. All you need, he said, is Bluetooth connection. Plug that into the back of the receiver (it comes with both a jack plug and converter to two audio channels) and the music starts playing.

And, of course, you do not actually need an iPod. Any recent smart phone, tablet or computer has Bluetooth. It took me a little bit longer than that to set up, but not much. I had to do a bit of poking around in Settings, and it took a while for "pairing" to work. But right now I am listening to KING FM Seattle's classic music station through my stereo system speakers and iTunes on my MacBook. I can even control volume from my keyboard. Plus of course I can play anything that has been downloaded to the computer, or streamed. 

And yes there are "messages from our supporters" on KING FM which are only marginally less intrusive than the "four minutes of advertising per hour" permitted on Radio 2 by the CRTC

So quite why people would be willing to cough up $150 plus shipping and duty for an old Sony dock I cannot explain. I have an iHome iBT52 portable USB Bluetooth Receiver and it cost ~$50. And I did not have to wait for a courier to deliver it.

And I can also access the CBC streaming classical channels on line too. At present they don't have ads there except when you start a new stream - and not always then either.

UPDATE January 2, 2015

There are some bugs in Yosemite that might be interfering with Bluetooth.