Doxie Scanner
#338 Henry, Tuesday, 12 April 2016 5:40 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: doxie scanner)

Recently, my friend Kevin was in town. He had made a massive leap from an Android world and an anti-Apple world, to pro-Apple and anti-Google. He bought an iPhone and iPad and wanted advice on using iDevices in a mostly Linux world. Which is pretty much what I do.

He bought a book called The Ultimate iPad: Your Digital Life at Your Fingertips by James Floyd Kelly. This is not a book like "how to use iTunes" but more on how to incorporate an iPad into your life to save you time and effort. I found it a really interesting book. One chapter was devoted to scanning. He recommended two scanners. The first was a little portable scanner called the Doxie Go WiFi scanner. Cost $225.

Doxie Go Wifi

This little scanner is about eleven inches long and 2 inches by 2 inches. Runs on rechargeable batteries. Has memory inside, but will take an SD memory card to extend the memory. You feed paper in at the front, it scans it and stores it. Keep doing that. Later, press the button on the back, it turns into a small network. You switch your iPad to use that network, run the Doxie app, import all the images and optionally delete them from the scanner, and then you can manipulate them. You don't need a computer attached. Just scan into the Doxie, and when convenient, suck the images out of the Doxie and into your iPad.

The Doxie app will let me rearrange the images, bundle them into packages, and then export them to Dropbox. You can do a lot more with it, but that's my workflow. Scan everything like receipts, letters, documents, tickets, opera programmes, souvenirs, brochures, manuals, anything at all that I want to keep. I import them to the iPad, bundle them, turn them into PDFs and push them out to Dropbox. Then I file them. Then I shred the original paper.

So anything new that arrives gets scanned and filed and shredded. I've been making steady progress at the huge backlog of paper I have. By end of year, I might have that all gone. The Doxie is small enough to travel with. Batteries last a long time. The author of the book will scan everything and shred it. Later he pulls the images off the Doxie. I'm not that trusting. I don't shred anything until I know I have the files out of the scanner, off the iPad, and saved and backed up.

I've been getting taxes ready, and had to send a lot of documents and data to the tax preparer up north. The Doxie has been a huge help with that.

Some of the time I manage to get documents in straight, but most of the time I tolerate a small tilt. There is Mac software, and I could connect the Doxie to my Mac via USB and import the scans that way and then correct the tilt, but that's too much effort.

For flimsy receipts, and photos, and tattered and torn envelopes, it comes with a small envelope. You put the item in the envelope, feed it through, and you get perfect images.

The only limitation is the size of the page you can feed in. Maximum is regular letter size, which is slightly larger than A4. Anything bigger will be truncated.

I thought I would use this sporadically, but found that I use it every day. I never realised just how much paper crap came my way.

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Resurrection of Backblaze and Drobo
#337 Henry, Monday, 11 April 2016 5:43 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: macmini macbook backblaze drobo)

You've probably heard me whining about this for two years, and I'm going to whine a little bit more.

I have a Mac Mini, and have a Drobo attached to it, and BackBlaze attempting to backup from it. The Drobo will be improperly dismounted on a regular basis, and the Mac Mini cannot go a day without crashing or getting the spinning beach ball of death. I've had the Mac Mini back to Apple repeatedly, they allegedly have replaced the motherboard, but that had no effect. For what I want to use it for, it is a completely useless setup.

If I want to backup to the Drobo, I have to power on the Mac Mini, attach the Drobo, backup, then dismount the Drobo and then power down the Mac Mini. Anything to do with backup is a totally manual operation. And BackBlaze does not ever get enough time to finish its initial backup.

My first year of BackBlaze is almost over. I can either cancel it and not renew or do something else. Given that I haven't been able to do the initial backup, it's been a total waste.

I bought my Mac Mini brand new in 2014. It's a lemon. It's a piece of shit.

I had to make a decision about BackBlaze. In the long term, I no longer trust Apple for Mac Minis. Drobo only runs on Macs and Windows, and I don't have Windows. I don't see it being a long term solution. I will start building something I can use under Linux. BackBlaze is a neat idea, but won't run on Linux, so my future with it is limited. But there had to be something I could do in the short term. There was.

I have too many old MacBooks lying around not doing anything useful. Time to make them do something useful.

I pulled out the Mac Mini and replaced it with my 2006 white MacBook. The MacBook is stuck at 10.7.5 = Lion, and can't be upgraded past that. I was worried that the Drobo and BackBlaze would not work. The Drobo attached just fine and works as expected. The Drobo Dashboard will crash while searching for a Drobo. I don't need the Dashboard to run the Drobo. It was a neat tool to change settings and get a visual look at the Drobo, but it isn't essential. BackBlaze installed okay, and backs up nicely.

I wasn't sure how to set up the MacBook to run as a server, and am still experimenting. The computer is set to never sleep, but it will shut down the screen and hard disks after a short time. I can ssh in from my Linux box, I can vnc from my Linux box, and I can screen share from my MacBook Airs. I can also walk up to it and start typing. I leave the lid open. I am going to buy one of those electrical timers and turn the power off for an hour twice a day. That will exercise the battery and hopefully keep it in reasonable health.

So far it's been running a week. The Drobo has not improperly dismounted. BackBlaze is running nicely and is close to finishing its initial backup. I have a great sense of relief. I can access the Drobo easily. I can backup at any time. I can now start cron jobs to automatically and regularly back up my data to the Drobo. Finally, I can access the Drobo the way I wanted to.

I am very happy that finally I have a working solution. Only problem is - it's a 2006 MacBook. It can't last forever. When it dies, I will replace it with the 2006 MacBook Pro. When that goes, I will plug in one of the 2011 MacBook Airs, and when that goes, I hope to have a Linux solution in place.

The thing that pisses me off the most is that a brand new Mac Mini bought in 2014 turned out to be a lemon, and a piece of shit, while a 2006 MacBook I bought used in 2008 is still going strong and doing what the Mac Mini could not do - stay up more than a day.

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Shittiness Rule Of Apps
#336 Henry, Saturday, 12 March 2016 1:28 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: app)

Every app will eventually be upgraded to the point where it is useless for its original purpose.

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Waze irritations
#335 Henry, Saturday, 12 March 2016 1:14 PM (Category: Apple)
(Tags: waze)

I've been using Waze for a few years, since my brother Chris introduced me to it. It's been good over the years, but it's been degrading. The interface has changed several times, and when I used it this week, I had no idea what to do.

I have a couple hundred apps on my iPhone and I use most of them regularly. I have had to memorise hundreds of icons and dozens of navigation methods. I am sick of it. I want a unified, consistent interface across apps so I don't have to remember what is what. And don't get me started on gestures. I am sick of gestures. If I used three or four apps and had to memorise a limited number of gestures, I could cope with that. But not hundreds. I want Apple to offer a global settings option to ignore gestures.

But the big irritation with Waze is its insistence of offering to direct me to work each morning. I turn Waze on, put it on the seat beside me, and glance at it occasionally to check the traffic. Well, I used to. Now, I set it beside me and drive off and when I glance down it's got a dialog box up asking me if I am driving to work and want directions. And I can't see the traffic. And I'm driving, so I don't have time to pick it up and look at the screen and work out how to answer NO, don't give me directions to work. Seriously, I've been driving to work to the same place for 18 years now, so I've driven this same damned route over 4,300 times, so I don't need bloody directions. Don't offer them to me. I have hunted through the settings for a way to turn this off, but there isn't one. And lately, it's decided to only offer the dialog box for a short while, then assume that the answer is yes, and start giving me directions. I nearly blew a gasket when it started doing this. I'm driving, I rarely get red lights, so I can't just pick it up and turn directions off. And I've found that after the latest interface change, I don't know how to stop it from giving directions.

So once again, an app has been upgraded and upgraded to the point where it is useless to me. I'm done. Fuck you, Waze. I deleted the app. I'll use Google Maps for directions. It shows enough traffic issues for me. But it doesn't get pushy. And the interface hasn't gone shitty yet. And there's still Apple Maps if Google Maps devolves.

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Nook frozen and beaten
#334 Henry, Saturday, 02 January 2016 1:25 PM (Category: Gadgets)
(Tags: nook)

We're going on a long flight soon to Hawaii. I like to read part of the way. Most of my reading is done with my iPad these days. But the battery runs out so quickly. It might last on a four or six hour flight, but our longest flight is 10 hours and the iPad doesn't survive. And the iPad is heavy. You don't notice it for the first hour or two, but after four or five hours, you do notice how heavy it is. I've got an iPad Air and it is so much lighter than my original iPad 2.

I have a little Nook Simple-Touch. I don't use it much as the screen is too small, but the battery is great, and it's really light. I dug it out to get it ready and fill it up with books. It was flat. I plugged it in, and charged it. And it wouldn't come back up. It froze on this screen.

Frozen Nook Simple Touch

Most attempts at rebooting and restarting took it to this screen. Twice I get further and was able to check the settings. The battery status was shown as unknown, and the battery icon showed a question mark. So maybe it was the battery that was bad. Then it rebooted and went back to that frozen screen. I played with it for a week, but couldn't get any further. So I took it apart. I wanted to get a photo of the battery so if I had to replace the battery I knew exactly which one it was. It's a struggle to pop the top off, but once you do, there's not much inside. The battery sits beneath the cover, there's one single motherboard and the screen. Really simple and light. I disconnected the battery too.

Nook Simple Touch opened up

While it was all opened up, I charged it again, but did it differently. Up till now I had plugged the USB charging cable into the same wallwart I use for the iPad. This time I plugged it into my computer. It happened to be closer and easier. And something different happened. The charge light went orange. Hmm. I left it a while and the charge light turned green. I disconnected it, and fired it up and it worked perfectly. The settings section showed that the battery was good and fully charged. So I put it all back together again.

Then I did some research. On the Nook website, the instructions say to charge it from the wallwart they supply, or plug it into your computer. Do NOT plug it into other wallwarts as this may damage the battery. Well, it sure did. So I'll remember that for the future. I'll charge it from the computer from now on. I guess that the iPad wallwart puts out too much power for the Nook. Lesson learned.

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