Change Eve Home to Fahrenheit

Thanks to Ronald Reagan, I only have an intuitive understanding of temperature when it’s expressed in Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, but understandably, the Eve Room environmental monitor defaults to Celsius. (I almost wrote “centigrade” there, which should also tell you something about me.)

Finding how you to change the units from Celsius to Fahrenheit is surpassingly difficult. It’s challenging to Google, and it’s not part of the device’s “Frequently Asked Questions” (WTF?).

Here’s the answer: You have to use the Eve app, which is sort of bullshit, but there you go. As a HomeKit user, I didn’t have the app installed, and I had to download it just to change this one setting. (I only figured this out accidentally, by the way.)

On the whole, I’m happy with the Even Room environmental monitor. The build quality is great. But the battery life is poor. And it doesn’t alert you when the power is getting low, it just silently dies and stops working. Sort of like Reagan.

macOS tip: You can pause printer jobs

As I’ve mentioned before, my printer is not located in my office, which is inconvenient when I’m doing a lot of printing, such as producing my series of Bizarre Fact Files.

An additional time-saving technique that I use is to pause the printer, run several jobs, then go put the appropriate paper tray in place before resuming the jobs. Not having to go back and forth between my computer and printer saves me about 70 stair steps. Here’s how it works:

Before printing, open System Preferences > Printer & Scanners, then double-click the printer in the Printers list. In the window that appears, click the Pause button. Important: Do not close the window where the Pause button appears.

screen shot of printer window

Next, print the file as you normally would. When the warning message about the printer being paused appears, click “Add to Printer.” Repeat for each document that you want to add to the printer’s queue.

screen shot of paused printer window

To take this even further, I created a Keyboard Maestro macro, triggered via Alfred Remote, to unpause the queue when I’m on the other floor. You’d need both of these pieces of software — which I recommend — to do this, so I won’t dwell on the details. But, briefly, you need to trigger the macro via Keyboard Maestro’s web server. The macro source is available at this gist.

The sad death of computer magazines

I am sad that there are no more American computer magazines. See these two articles for the ugly details:

I grew up with Family Computing and K-Power, then fell in love with Mac User, Byte, ST Format, and Dr. Dobb’s Journal. As a college student, I dreamt about someday being a columnist. (And I ended up doing some ad hoc writing for several of them. It was always a treat to be published like that, but it was a side gig, so the dreams of my youth were only partially fulfilled.)

Perhaps this reveals something about the adult that I grew to be, but these are some of my fondest childhood memories. Looking over the code printed (!) in the magazine, dutifully typing it all in, then finding my mistakes and making it work taught me about computers, writing, and myself. The code was an incantation that invoked magic, and not only could I wield it, I could actually understand it through study.

Today, Readly provides me with enjoyment of the few computer magazines that remain, including HackSpace, MagPi, Retro Gamer, and Linux Format. (All of which are British, by the way. British magazine racks are outstanding.)

But I hold out hope for a retro-resurgence in the US. Even after the shocking death of Playboy, it managed to return to newsstands (in a much lamer form). Hope springs eternal.

The sad death of AM radio

In a parallel universe, I’m a disk jockey, or maybe a newsman. Being on the radio was once a career goal for me, and very few of my friends know that I almost earned a degree in broadcasting. Almost, because I was one class short of earning a dual-major in “broadcast communications” in college. (I really should have just taken the extra class and gotten it done, right?)

So, I’m sad that AM radio is waning. (Catch me in the right mood and I can even explain the physics and practical differences between AM and FM — it was part of my course of study.)

Today, even though I have some excellent Tivoli receivers, most of my “radio” comes over the Internet courtesy of Tune-In or another streamer. Other than the now quaint call letters (another mini-lecture that I can deliver on demand), I don’t even know from which band — or in which city — the stations I listen to exist. Hell, now that I think about it, some of them aren’t even licensed and don’t broadcast over the air at all.

But old-fashioned AM radio is still my guilty pleasure when I’m driving. The last car I bought, a few years ago now, didn’t initially have an AM radio, but I was happy to discover that the AM band was an option hidden in the settings of the navigation system. Many manufacturers have dropped it completely, but recently, I read that congress is considering mandating its return.

(That, frankly, is probably motivated by the conservative politicians who know that AM has become a key method by which right-wing con artists spread their propaganda to rural Americans.)

But back to my listening on road trips — if you’re persistent, you can usually find a weak AM station that is broadcasting hyperlocal news. You’ll hear reports of new businesses, quaint weather references, and best of all; radio auctions.

The first time I heard a radio auction was driving across Oklahoma. If you’ve never heard one, the basic format is that people call in and describe household (or farm) items that they have for sale. Let’s say, a leatherette couch. Then, other listeners call in and make offers to buy it. Cash money. The radio host takes their bids on the air and keeps track of the highest one.

During these calls, everyone gives their phone numbers, names, and sometimes addresses over the air. Hell, maybe they all know each other anyway, but as a city guy, this free exchange of personal information always surprises me.

In addition to being quaint, the radio auction is great “Gladys Kravitz” entertainment. Some callers will talk about when and where they bought an item, what they like about it, and why they’re selling it. As in “My last kid moved out so I ain’t got no need for the couch cuz I set in the Lazy Boy. It only has two cigarette burns but you can’t notice them if it’s not sunny out.”

If AM radio goes away, I guess I’ll have to start listening to podcasts. Please, Congress, don’t make me do that.

Book Review: God, Human, Animal, Machine

This 2022 publication by Meghan O'Gieblyn is subtitled Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning.

gordon meyer holding book cover

I’m not certain how to categorize this book. If the book is journalism, it’s overly dense and repetitive, but appropriately neutral in its perspective. If it’s intended to be an academic tome, it’s superficial, omits too many important precedents, and lacks a thesis. But it does raise several significant questions and offers some interesting insight.

The author is a former fundamentalist who seems to have replaced her Christian belief system with fundamental materialism. (I should clarify that I am not a fan of either position.)

As I was reading this book, there were many occasions when I almost decided to quit and let it go unfinished. But, I kept reading, as there were just enough intriguing (but largely underdeveloped) tidbits to pull me along. By the time I reached the end, I felt like I had finished a big tub of movie theatre popcorn. I enjoyed it, but with some shame, and I knew I probably should have stopped myself sooner.

What kept me going was the contemplative observations about technology, and my heart sung at citations to the work of the great sociologist, Max Weber, and more rarely, Hegel. But throughout the book, I couldn’t help notice the complete lack of references to Marxism. At first, I was irked that the book ignores a wide swath of relevant scholarship, but I eventually chalked it up to the author’s Wheaton Bible College education, where the writings of Marx were probably forbidden.

Aside from Weber, I was also glad to find discussion of Ray Kurzweil. Clearly the singularity is relevant to her discussion and perspective, and she addresses it quite well. But there are a few other relevant works that I was hoping she’d bring into the conversation. The writings of philosopher Robert Anton Wilson would provide broader context to her observations, and the books The Soul of A New Machine and What The Dormouse Said would steel her arguments.

Here are just a few of the tasty nuggets that I collected from the book:

  • Our brains can’t fundamentally distinguish between interacting with people and interacting with devices. (Clifford Nass, Stanford)
  • Metaphors die when we forget that they are metaphors and take them literally. This has happened to the “computational theory of mind.” Our brains are not computers; our computers are not brains. But you’d never know it by listening to people talk about A.I., and other technologies.
  • For most of human history, we accepted that our lives were being watched, listened to, and supervised by gods and spirits. Not all of them benign.
  • Science set aside consciousness because it is too difficult to study objectively. This led to metaphysical avoidance, and eventually, metaphysical denial.
  • If the fascists in Florida want to protect people, they should focus on transhumanism (a concept born of the 1800s) instead of transgenderism. (This sentiment is mine, not the authors, to be clear.)
  • Wikipedia goes to great lengths to obscure the human authorship of its articles to imbue itself with the aura of a holy text.
  • The theory of a “participatory universe,” briefly mentioned in the book, led me to this interesting summary.
  • The author’s college offered only one course in Literature, and it was focused exclusively on works with Christian themes, such as stories by C.S. Lewis.
  • Standardized testing is all about making students look good to an algorithm.

I know this review has a bit of a negative tone, but ultimately, I was left with 35 notecards of compelling tidbits or references to explore. That’s a successful book, even though I didn’t always enjoy it. If you’d like to dive into this book for yourself, pick up a copy at the Amazon. I found mine at Barbara’s Bookstore.

Blink No More

blinnking red light gif

I know this is a pipe dream, but I really wish that manufacturers could agree that a solid light means “OK” and that a blinking light means “attention.”

To me, it’s very natural. A blinking light is “help, help, help” not “I’m OK, I’m OK, I’m OK.”

But I’d settle for the opposite, if that’s the best I can get. The situation right now, where some devices blink when they are fine, and others do not, just undermines the communication that status lights are supposed to provide.

YoLink and SwitchBot are the two most annoying offenders in my networking closet, as of today, anyway. When I add a new device, who knows who might join their ranks.

A friend pointed out that annoying lights can be muted using dimming stickers. I haven’t tried them, but I might. Because my next rant will be about LEDs that are just too damn bright.

Furthermore, you kids stay off my lawn!

Synology’s broken Download Station app

I don’t think too much about my Synology NAS device. Its “DSM” operating system is chock-full of apps and options, most of which I ignore, apart from dutifully keeping them up to date.

However, there is one Synology app with which I have a love/hate relationship: Download Station. The main feature of Download Station is downloading torrent files. But I don’t use for that. The feature that I (attempt to) use extensively is automatically downloading files distributed via RSS enclosures, such as podcasts.

Sadly, however, Download Station has a fatal flaw and I can’t rely on it. It is unable to follow server-side redirects for attachments. (The biggest offender using redirects in RSS feeds are the bastards at

Synology knows that Download Station won’t follow redirects. I reported this bug and their tech support has acknowledged that they can reproduce it. They say that it is in their queue and will be addressed in a future release.

They’ve been saying this for three years.

Clearly, Synology doesn’t care that Download Station is broken.

Oh, it gets worse. When Download Station encounters a redirect, it keeps the download task in its queue, even though it will never be able to complete it. Eventually, the queue fills up, and Download Station completely stops working until the queue is manually cleared.

I have not been able to find a replacement for Download Station that runs on the Synology, so instead I use the butt-ugly gpodder (on my Mac) to download the podcasts that Download Station can’t handle. Then, I dig through the gpodder underbelly, find the files, and manually copy them to the Synology drive for later use.

At some point, my Synology device will die. (I’m already on my second one.) When it does, I probably won’t replace it with another. Their lack of response to this issue has soured me on any future business.

Tile trackers are a waste of money

If you read my overview of AirTag cases, you might be wondering why I don’t use Tile products, as their thin, notched design doesn’t yearn for a case.

Well, I did use Tile, until the arrival of the AirTag. I took a half-dozen Tile Pro tags on a long trip to Europe, and they were nearly worthless. It was common to go a week or more without the tags ever being seen on the network, even by my device.

The issue, as far as I was able to determine, is that the tags are only seen by devices that have the Tile app installed. And there simply aren’t enough of those to make for a robust and useful location network. (Although this doesn’t explain why my phone, positioned mere feet from the tag, sometimes still couldn’t see it.)

When I switched to using AirTags, I thought I might be able to sell my Tiles on eBay. But seeing that they are going for pennies on the dollar, clearly other folks have figured out their underperformance too. (I ended up recycling mine.)

Trust me, if you want something that can actually locate your items, your answer is AirTag. It’s remarkable how well they work.

Aldi’s AirTag Keychain

I have tried several AirTag cases and keychains. They’re universally overpriced, and each one has flaws that make me feel vaguely dissatisfied with having purchased them. Here are some of the ones that I have tried, followed by a surprising discovery that ends up being nearly perfect.

First up is Apple’s Leather Loop. It is chic, pricey, and impracticable for any application where it could be subject to rough handling. But the quality is excellent, and it turns your AirTag into a fashion accessory.

Belkin’s version of the Leather Loop, which is made from plastic and paracord, is better priced but still expensive for what you get. If dangling your AirTag is your jam, though, it’s a less pretentious and more secure alternative.

Bellkin does better with their AirTag Secure Holder and Keychain, which was one of the first third-party cases on the market and, at the time, amusingly omitted the word AirTag in any of their labeling or marketing. (Go figure.) Its plastic construction is sturdy but doesn’t add any appreciable bulk, so that’s nice.

Elevation Lab’s TagVault is, by far, the most rugged and secure holder that I have tried. My issue with it is the Torx screws used on the enclosure, which makes changing batteries in the AirTag a pain in the butt. They’re a silly addition that only adds inconvenience, not security.

Pelican Protector AirTag Sticker is a holder that I’m very pleased with, but it’s very much for niche applications. If you want to hide an AirTag in your car, this is a fine choice.

Finally, we come to the most unexpected, inexpensive, and practical AirTag case that I have found. The Aldi Quarter Keychain. If you’re not hip to Aldi grocery stores — a cousin of Trader Joe’s — they rent you a shopping cart for 25¢. I guess it’s charming, and has given rise to various quarter-holder keychains so that shoppers can keep a coin close at hand. Aldi occasionally sells these keychains at the checkout counter for less than two bucks. And they’re nearly the perfect size for holding an AirTag. Just enlarge the opening for the coin slightly, using a sharp knife, and Bob’s your uncle. Seriously, if you don’t mind the Aldi aesthetic, you won’t find a less expensive and more useful AirTag keychain. (If you miss them at your local Aldi, you’ll find plenty of higher priced alternatives at the Amazon.)


STFU ScanSnap Update annoyances

A while back, there was a big controversy when Fujitsu updated their software to be 64-bit clean and stopped supporting older ScanSnap models.

Eventually, Fujitsu relented and added support for the older units. Thank you very much.

Now, they’ve done it again. The latest ScanSnap software no longer supports my perfectly functional scanner. But the last version that does support the unit seems to function just fine on the latest macOS.

So, just keep using the old version, right? Sure, except that Fujitsu’s auto-update mechanism is a royal pain in the ass. Every few days, it will tell me that a new version is available. Additionally, the user interface for declining the update is (intentionally?) deceptive with a double-negative, making it easy to accidentally apply the update and screw myself.

Worse yet, the update notification not only steals focus, it prevents the computer from shutting down until you answer its inhumane prompts!

The solution to this annoyance is to turn off the ScanSnap’s auto-update function(s). This is accomplished using a separate app that you might not have noticed among all the detritus that Fujitsu installs. See the screenshot below for all the details.

AOUpdater screen shot