SD Card Hell

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My sister takes a lot of photos, and at events (school concerts, trips, etc.) the whole family takes a lot. Because we never bothered to save them to a computer, we accumulated stacks of SD cards (most not even full), each being the single location of all the photos they stored.

No more.

I saved all of them to the family’s media server today. It’s not complicated:

  • insert the card directly or via USB dongle (mount it if you’re running Linux)
  • drag all the pictures to a folder (GUI) or copy them with cp (UNIX terminal)
  • move them around until you’re at the destination (preferably just put them there initially, though in cases with several gigabytes of files I moved them to my local machine before moving them to the final destination on the server)

I got to listen to podcasts while I worked, so it wasn’t a bad way to spend a few hours indoors on a Sunday.

These innocent photos have been rescued from SD Card Hell. Now I have to rescue them from Unsorted Folders Hell.

Disaster season

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With Hurricane Harvey in the news and devastating the lives of the people of Houston, natural disasters are at the forefront of our thoughts right now.

We here in Montana have one of our own: fires. None of them are particularly close to us, so we’re completely safe. But some of them are large and growing. Winds have carried smoke across a vast area. It lays thick in the air.

I wanted to show the effect, so here are some photos from last August mixed with some taken this morning from similar angles, to make clear the differences.

The image quality differs a little between the two sets: last year’s photos came from my old iPhone 6, this year’s from the better camera of my new iPhone 7. I think the heightened visual difference drives home the point anyway.

It’s been so dry here that I’ve joked that it looked like the beginning of Interstellar. That’s bad for crops, but we’ve had droughts before and can cope with them.

Fire is a whole other force of nature: outright destruction instead of gradual decay. It is a threat to be monitored and extinguished as early as possible to prevent true disaster. Not everyone has been as lucky as we’ve been. Where we escape with some itchy eyes and a little coughing, others have lost large amounts of land. I haven’t heard of a lot of property damage yet, but I would guess it’s only a matter of time.

The fires arrived within the last couple of weeks and pop up as fast as firefighting crews can get rid of them. And there’s not a drop of rain in the forecast.

The bad beginner

I have a lot of “hurry up and wait” work this week: updating operating systems, transferring files, etc. So as I wait for those to get done I’m sorting some of my digital clutter.

These windows into the past are good reminders that no one starts off being good with computers (or probably anything).

For example, this is a screenshot of a SQL table schema.

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I could probably think of more useless ways to store and retrieve this information than this (maybe a gif?) but not many. Just open the database with a client and run the command. Or if you must store it locally, try this great new invention called copy-and-paste.

Artifacts like this should remind us that we were all beginners at one time.

Avoiding overwork

In high school and my first two or so years of college, I worked a lot. I was never a “workaholic”: I took breaks, tried to avoid weekend work, and usually got enough sleep. But I dedicated a lot more time and energy to my work than I should have.

It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort, my last two years (and especially my last semester) of college, to discipline my use of time that I realized how unhealthy my schedule still was. I spent a few months getting full nights of sleep, stopping work at 8pm almost every night, and seldom working more than four hours or so over the weekend. I took only 12 credit hours, the lowest of my educational career.

This is a vastly better way to live.

I’m often dismayed to see stories like this (Lifehacker, links back to HBR):

How to Stop Working When You’re Off the Clock

A few weeks ago I ended up going camping in rural Idaho for a few days. Purely by accident, the trip ended up being the first time I’ve truly disconnected for any significant period of time from the internet in probably 10 years.

Turn your work phone off (or log out of your work email on your phone), stash your computer away rather than leaving it out and ready to be turned on. The harder you make it to access that work stuff, the more you’re likely to think twice about it before using it.

What are we doing to ourselves, such that we feel driven to ask this kind of question, to write about it, to publish it, to click it? Education is supposed to (among other things) empower us to improve our overall wellbeing, and never being able to escape your job pushes that out of reach.

I have to think hyper-connectivity is a big part of the problem. There’s now an expectation that an educated worker be available instantly at any time by phone or email. Major companies revered in our culture require employees – not nurses, not emergency personnel, just office workers, programmers, designers – to be effectively on-call 24/7. This is called being “passionate” and “dedicated” rather than “a serf.” (Self-driving cars could make this worse: it’s easy to imagine an employer saying, in effect, “Oh, you have a 30-minute commute? Great! Here’s some work you can do on the road! Call me as soon as it’s done and I’ll send the next thing.”)

To be clear, I work diligently and intelligently when I’m at work. It’s a major contributor to my ability to disconnect later. But when I’m off the clock, I’m not working. I’m living all the non-work parts of my life.

“Off the clock” is a flexible condition, of course. If I was in a classic full-time, working-for-a-company job rather than an entrepreneur, and especially if I was in a managerial or supervisory position, being “on the clock” could require much more time for me than it does now – with, I hope, a corresponding boost in income and lifestyle. If that’s a conscious tradeoff, then fine, but I suspect many of us are not that willful with our time.

Even in that context, I expect I would be the same person I am now. I would still draw a line between work and non-work. A vacation, for me, would be a vacation. And I would cling jealously to holidays as opportunities to reconnect with family and friends. I just prefer these to be choices I make, rather than choices I outsource to my employer.

Time is our greatest constraint, the ultimate non-renewable resource. I intend to use it with the discipline and discretion that requires.

Free knowledge

… still has to be paid for.

I donated $5 to the Wikimedia Foundation to support Wikipedia last week. It’s not perfect, but it is one of a handful of large-scale organizations dedicated to making basic factual information widely accessible.

The information age can be a great public good – or it can be a tool for propaganda, misdirection, and concentration of power. Participating in Wikipedia is one way (among many) to push in the direction of the former.

Plus it’s fun: Your periodic falls down the Wikipedia article rabbit hole have to be paid for somehow.

You may want to donate as well.

An old airport

One benefit of running my business is that I get to interact with all kinds of people, with more backgrounds than you might expect of a small rural area that skews older, whiter, and less educated than the population of the country.

Yesterday I visited a retired pilot and airport operator to help him post an airplane ad to this website. He also let me look at his planes and told me just a little about them.

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My client’s 1964 Cessna 206.

From just a few minutes of conversation, I was impressed by his accomplishments. He flew solo for the first time in 1971 and since has accumulated 23,000 hours of flight time. The plane he’s selling has 10,000 hours on it – with no wrecks and no corrosion. I’m not sure how much time he still spends on the planes, but his pride in them was palpable. (He also has quite a collection of hand-braided keychains, zipper pulls, and reins.)

Not everyone who’s interesting is a jet-setter at Davos or a reality show host. You can find interesting people anywhere.

How it’s going

I’m now about a month into the business I wrote about when last I shared anything here. That’s enough time to at least get a sense of viability.

Turns out, it is viable, and my bet that computer services would be in demand in the area proved correct.

I’m now working with a few local businesses on large projects that will guarantee me a revenue floor for the next month or two at least. I’ve also conducted several house calls to local customers, with more on the way. I’ve been able to set rates that are high enough for me to make good money off any given project while still coming across as reasonable to the public. (This is an advantage of the business I’m in: I have extremely low monthly and annual overhead, so I can set my rates lower than a bigger firm.)

I want to keep growing and potentially broaden the geographic base of my market. The fact that I’m even able to consider that makes me feel that this business is already a success.

With all the business setup done, I intend to make time for more frequent creative outputs here and at the other spaces I’ve created on the web.