You’ve heard of “Browser Wars” this is my “Browser Woes” (An Aspie Brain Coping With Change for Change’s Sake)

I was a FireFox user for a long time. For years, its layout and rich extension community meant I could get it to work exactly “just so” for my needs. I had it laid out with the standard Windows Menu bar at the top.. the toolbar with URL bar next down but searching from the URL bar was disabled and there was an explicit search bar next to it so I never accidentally searched when I meant to type in a direct URL. It had my script and ad-blocking tools there too… then below that a marvelous tab bar with up to 3 rows of tabs and buttons to Close all tabs and new tab right there then the main browser window and a status bar at the bottom so when I hovered over a link I could sanity check before clicking.

All was good from FireFox 4 to version 28.

Then, DISASTER: everything changed.

Firefox for whatever reason (I assume because Google Chrome was beating them numbers wise) they completely redesigned their UI to look/act more like Google Chrome. They ditched the separate search bar, they moved where the address bar was in relation to tabs, they ditched the status bar…

In short, they made it look/feel just like Chrome which I was EXPLICITLY NOT USING BECAUSE I DIDN’T LIKE IT!

I was able to dig around and found that there was an official FireFox branch meant for enterprise/extended support, called ESR (Extended Support Release) where they would keep around an older build (I think roughly v26 was the last pre-Chromification .. and continue to support it for a couple years. This was what I did.. because .. UGH CHANGE!

As that clock was ticking down a project called PaleMoon came to my attention. Apparently I was not the only person who thought that the change in direction to “be more like Google Chrome” was a bad idea. They “forked” Chrome at v28 and started building/maintaining their own (FireFox is Open Source so this is totally fine) Every time FF would come out with security updates, they’d port in the updates but leave out the changes that related to the updated interface.

This was great – FireFox kept making it more like Chrome and PaleMoon kept just making it work like it always did.

Then, on November 14m, 2017, FireFox upturned the apple cart.. they released “Quantum” which entirely killed NPAPI plugin architecture. This is a fairly involved, geeky subject I’ll not delve into except to say that even though I was happily on PaleMoon, this was a problem for me. You see, PaleMoon was able to just use the same plugins as FireFox. Even with PaleMoon forked nicely there were customizations I used certain Extensions for. Those extension authors never heard of PaleMoon but they didn’t need to .. it “just worked” for us PaleMoon types.

However, with Quantum, FireFox utterly changed everything and every plugin author needed to make new ones. Some just /RageQuit and others dutifully replaced their old extensions with the new ones.. but that left PaleMoon users stuck – because very few if any extension authors continued to make updates/fixes/security patches for PaleMoon. Soon, the whole architecture of PaleMoon needed to be redesigned as it could not use Mozilla plugins site anymore. PaleMoon had a few dedicated extension devs who did maintain their extensions for that fork.. but over time, it got fewer and fewer.

However, what really did me in: Facebook (surprise)

I’ve been used to dealing with little issues on and off in lots of sites as I use heavy script and ad blocking.. but I’ve always mostly been able to work out how to adjust settings so I get minimally annoyed, but usually, I can get things working.

Facebook though.. they seem to design their client-side code (JavaScript and the like) for the current Google Chrome, and other browsers are left playing a “watch and update” game in some respects. FireFox is pretty on top of it as it may not have Google’s market share, they are still able to be reactive enough. However, PaleMoon, my savior since v28 changes in FireFox? not so much. They’ve been falling afoul of multiple glitches in FB caused by FB tweaking code to be Chrome-centric and not worrying about niche browsers (I don’t blame them for this – I blame them for a lot but not this).

So, I am stuck with not being able to use PaleMoon on the social site I use to keep up with my friends… I finally got upset enough that I installed FireFox so I could use it to get around a couple of the nastier glitches.. like one where I can’t post new posts to my timeline (but can to groups and other feeds .. just my own timeline)

And then I set about seeing if extension devs had come up with enough extensions to force some of the more egregious Chrome-Isms in FireFox to behave.

I’ve been digging a while but I think I managed to find all of the things I need between Extensions that finally updated and some hidden about:config options and some (ironically named) tweaks to userChrome.css

I’ve made a new note ( HOWTO: Tame FireFox Quantum so it Stops Trying to be Google Chrome ) with the details of what I did / do so anyone interested in fixing some of the deficiencies I’ve seen in FireFox can play along.

Ultimately, I recognize that most of this is my own “Aspie Brain” not coping well with change. But honestly, I’m mostly OK with change when there’s a need for it.. I HATE “change for change’s sake” and certain UI design decisions really feel like that.. and it really throws me for a loop some days.


Goodbye Samsung, Hello Moto

It’s been a few years.. My Samsung Galaxy 6 was still quite functional, but my service provider (Sprint) was not. I got really tired of the spotty signal strength outside of major metropolitan areas.

I had been considering moving to T Mobile the next time I needed to change phones/carriers. I did the cost comparison and essentially, I’d have to pay about the same (around $60 per line for my phone and my wife’s). So it came down to just waiting till the time was right to switch…

I was at a camping event in Western PA with some friends and we got talking about cell phones and service providers. She had some seriously glowing reviews for Google FI. Enough so that I checked out their offerings, and decided to make the switch. There was a decent promotion with a “buy two phones, get full service credit for the price of one of them”, so we switched.

Cutting to the chase, going with Google FI has cut my monthly phone bill to less than half what it used to be, service quality is superior in several ways. The phones themselves are quite good… and I’ve only got some minor and highly technical (surprise on that one) complaints.

Over all I’m super happy with the move and with the Motorola Moto X4 phones.

Techie Minutia

Multiple Carriers / seamless handoffs

Google FI is a different carrier.. they have this really interesting model where they partnered with several different carriers so that instead of being “PCS” or “GSM” or “CDMA” carrier, they’re .. all three.

They have a partnership with Sprint, with T-Mobile, and with US Cellular. Their phone then looks at the three available carriers in a given area and picks the one with the best signal.. seamlessly. Actually they also will attempt to do WIFI calling using available open WIFI network, and unlike my experience with the Samsung under Sprint, they can seamlessly hand off between a WIFI call and a carrier so that you don’t lose connection.

Let me just kind of pause a moment and let that sink in.

I work from home so I’m very often on my home WIFI network. The Samsung Galaxy S6 under Sprint had WIFI calling and it worked quite well when I made or received calls from home. However, if I was on a call and stepped out of the house.. say to walk around the block while chatting with my mom. As soon as I lost the WIFI from my house, the call dropped. I could call back and pick up on cell, but it could never hand off.

Google FI however, handles this seamlessly.. and even more interestingly, because I have Xfinity, and there are a lot of Xfinity hot-spots in my neighborhood, the phone is switching from cellular carrier to neighbor WIFI and back multiple times over my 2 mile walk around the block and you’d never know the difference in terms of call quality.

It’s really the big selling point for me for Google FI

Not-Exactly-Unlimited Data

This one kind of scares some folks off Google FI. Unlike the other major US carriers who all offer “unlimited text, calling and data” plans, Google FI actually charges for data by the GiB.

However, they have this thing they call “bill protect” which kicks in to cap your bill.. so you pay about $20 for the phone connection and then $10 per GiB used for the month.. but they cap the fee at 10 GiB (For a 2 phone plan) ..

Our 2 phone plan is capped at $135/month .. and since I was paying about $120/month every month for the unlimited plans with Sprint.. the WORST CASE would be about the same.

However, I’ve been actually paying just about $60/month in actual bills. We use as much data as we need .. my wife uses more than me as the place where she works has crap WIFI, but we’re basically half the cost with all the service

About the Moto X4

Google FI’s unique setup means that not all phones are capable of using the type of SIM they use to achieve their multi-carrier hand-offs. At the time we were signing up, the two options for new phones were the Google Pixel 3 and the Moto X4.

The Pixel 3 was absolutely among the best / most modern phones available at the time. The Moto X4 was their “more budget conscious” offering. I’d have gone with the pixel, but that phone has no physical headphone jack, and I’m just not ready to fully embrace the wireless earbud thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had dorky Bluetooth earpieces for a long while.. I was using them before they were cool (oh hell they were never cool were they?) and while I liked them for calls, the batteries would die etc.

These new wireless earbuds.. I just can’t cope with them for 2 reasons:

  1. I have run countless wired earphones through the wash and ruined many – it sucks when you do that to a $30 pair of headphones.. I can’t imagine doing it to a $200 pair
  2. I listen to podcasts/ lectures when I’m going to sleep.. while my phone is charging. I have to use earphones because my wife can’t stand stuff playing when she’s trying to sleep.. with those wireless earphones, they’d be dying from lack of charge or if I used the little wired headphone jack dongles.. then the phone can’t charge

So, yeah, I know that the world is going this direction and sooner or later I will need to deal with phones without my beloved mini headphone jack.. but not today, Google, not today.

The Moto X4 has the jack and honestly, all the features we want. The camera is quite nice. I really like that it has a built in second lens which is super wide angle. The fingerprint reader is so much better than the Samsung (it’s way faster and fails to read way less often), and it has a micro SD card slot so I can make up for its rather anemic 32 GiB storage

One down side though: NOBODY sells accessories (cases, screen protectors, belt clips etc…) in local stores – you pretty much have to buy those online at Amazon.

Adobe Lightroom Tricks and Tips (pt 2)

I’ve been doing a massive push to get my digital photo archives up on my Smugmug site. In that process, I’ve had to somewhat relearn Lightroom and come to terms with some idiosyncrasies about Lightroom and also with Smugmug.

I started out with the idea that this would be one quick article with a few (maybe 10) quick tips.. but as I began to order my thoughts, I realized there’s actually a lot here.. so I will break this up into a few articles

Here then is the second section: Keywording in Lightroom

Will Publish

I was having this odd Smugmug experience where I *knew* for certain that I had applied a given keyword to an image / set of images.. but they simply were not showing up. I got so frustrated I even reached out to Smugmug support. They indicated that they did not see the keywords in question in the images and they were not removed either.

I was at a loss.. until I read an article elsewhere with some good tips/tricks and lo and behold the magic smoke I was looking for. “Will Publish”

If you go into your Library module then look in the right under Metadata till you find the Keywording section, you can see the default under keyword Tags: “Enter Keywords”. Change this to “Will Publish” and you will now see only keywords that are set up to actually export

So, what’s going on?

It turns out that when a given keyword was created, it may have been set to not actually export on publish. When this happens, you have a valid keyword that shows up and you can use in Lightroom, but the keyword won’t end up being put in the image you publish / export.

This seemed at first to be silly – after all, I wanted to export my darn keywords.. but it turns out it’s highly useful for more advanced Keywording techniques – hierarchical keywords.. see more below

The gist here though is that if you have a keyword that is not exporting, see if it’s missing from the Will Export view of the image.. if it is missing go to the Keyword list, find the keyword in question, right click and choose the Edit Keyword option and ensure that the “include on Export” option is checked.

Keyword Hierarchies

When I first started using Lightroom, I just used “flat keywords”… add a keyword for “MA”, and another for “Longmeadow” (my former hometown in MA), and then ensure that any images I want to tag for location in Longmeadow, MA I would select both keywords.

This is all well and good, but there’s a lot of magic that Lightroom can do here…

So, if you open up the Keyword list, you can try this… make a “parent” keyword such as a state name (“MA” for Massachusetts in my example), and then add a town in that state (“Longmeadow” in my example). Now, click on Longmeadow and drag/drop it onto MA.

You should now have a MA tag with Longmeadow as an indented sub tag.

Now, if you go and add “Longmeadow” to an image, it will bring “MA” along for the ride … maybe…

Why Maybe? because you need to ensure that the MA tag and the Longmeadow tag are both set up as Include on Export, and further, you must ensure that the Longmeadow tag has the “Export containing keywords” option set. If these are all true then you will be able to tag Longmeadow on a photo and the MA will get added automatically.

You can have many levels of parent/children/siblings…

For instance in my case, I have a tag I named “_world”. It’s a top level organizational tag (I also have “_years” for year of capture and “_meta” for keywords pertaining to meta info like “HDR”, “B&W” etc…). Inside, _world, I have _USA (another hidden tag), then each state where I have photos. so my tree looks like this:

				Windsor Locks

Now, I did not have to, but for matter of mnemonics, I chose to use an underscore to prefix a tag where I mean it to be “invisible” on export.. those tags are set to not include on export.. they’re merely Lightroom organizational tags.. so now when I type Longmeadow, it will tag the image with Longmeadow, MA. However, I don’t tag my USA photos with USA or US.. for now.. but if I ever wanted to change that I would just edit the tag to USA or US and change it to include on export and all my photos would update…

You may have noticed.. there are some dupes… I have Springfield in both MA and VA and Windsor in both ON and CT. Welcome to the real power of hierarchies… If I go to to add the keyword clicking on the link in the keyword list, it will add the appropriate one .. if I go to type it will give me the two options and I can select the right one.. and when used with a keyword that has multiple parents, it notates it using Parent>Child notation.


Using the Keyword List

This is another small tip.. the Keyword List once set up can be really useful for quickly finding all photos that have a given keyword.

In the list, if you notice there is a checkbox to the far left of a keyword. this may be blank, checked or a minus.

Blank means no currently selected photos have this keyword.

Minus (-) means some of the currently selected photos have this keyword
(or that some selected photos have children of this keyword selected)

Checked means that all currently selected photos have this keyword

There is also a white arrow to the far right. If you click this arrow while in the Library module, Lightroom will display all photos that have this keyword in the current library screen

Smugmug Limits on Keywords

While I was in contact with Smugmug support, I got one bit of clarification that you may find useful: Smugmug supports up to 100 distinct keywords per photo.

This is per photo and there’s not really a limit on length of a given keyword.. just that it will ignore any keywords beyond #100

The Digital Sorceress

Adobe Lightroom Tricks and Tips (pt1)

I’ve been doing a massive push to get my digital photo archives up on my Smugmug site. In that process, I’ve had to somewhat relearn Lightroom and come to terms with some idiosyncrasies about Lightroom and also with Smugmug.

I started out with the idea that this would be one quick article with a few (maybe 10) quick tips.. but as I began to order my thoughts, I realized there’s actually a lot here.. so I will break this up into a few articles

Here then is the first section: Lightroom general tips

Lightroom Flavors – Standalone vs Creative Cloud

Adobe has been pushing their “Creative Cloud” services for some time now. On the one hand, this may be a good deal for some – their current offering for photography is a bundle with Lightroom and Photoshop for $9.99 a month or so

For those who never had Lightroom as a standalone app, there may well be good reasons to choose to use the Creative Cloud version. However, I started out with Lightroom 1, so I’m kind of married to my ways.. I wanted the standalone version… and it was surprisingly difficult to find the right option to purchase the upgrade and get the standalone version and installer.

If you just go to, and follow links to Lightroom or products you inevitably get force to the Creative Cloud versions… the Buy now buttons only lead to Creative Cloud options. It’s like Adobe doesn’t want you to find the standalone versions… the trick is they call it “desktop”. As of this writing (October 13, 2017), the correct link for the US store where you can find the standalone versions is:

Lightroom UI – Second Second Screen

I can’t tell you how many times while editing, I’ve gotten the “second screen” up by accident and it’s covering up my web browser (which I use to edit /view / adjust my Smugmug site while working in Lightroom)

When it’s in full screen mode, it takes over the whole second monitor and provides no clickable buttons to close or minimize.

To get out of this mode either find the second monitor button on the bottom of the UI (screen cap to come) and click it, or use the F11 key to shut it down.

Lightroom UI – Getting Stuck in odd view

So you’re editing away … maybe typing in keywords or captions and suddenly the UI changes. The UI goes gray or black and all you see are your photos.

Congratulations! you’ve just entered “Lights Out” mode.

This mode exists to help you better examine your images without the User Interface (UI) “polluting” the view with light from itself. Personally, I find it annoying and the first time it happened it took me ages to figure out how to get out of it.

The secret.. is to press the L key. Each press toggles to “next lights out view”. There are 3 modes: Gray, Black and Oh gods, thank you for NORMAL. Just press L until the display returns to sanity

Lightroom Catalog – Network Share

Common wisdom (and any official Adobe support site) will tell you that no, you can not host your Lightroom catalog on a network Share.

From a technical perspective, this makes some sense – you really don’t want multiple people editing the same catalog at the same time – Lightroom wasn’t built for this (it’s extremely complex to code a system where multiple people may be editing the same things at the same times.. or to prevent such with check-outs / check-ins etc…). Also, almost any network share will be slower than almost any local hard drive, and performance may be hindered.. so it’s not really a good idea.

Despite all this, there is a kludge that allows you to work around it. I’ve been using it for nearly as long as I’ve been using Lightroom. I am not sharing my catalog with anyone else, I just wanted it to be on my home server where I have regular, religious backups running, etc…

This has served me well until now. However, I was noticing a serious slowness to my processing when I was dealing with massive bulk changes. In the past, my workstation had a spinning hard drive and the network drive was realistically just as fast for most operations for me. However, my workstation is a high end gaming laptop with SSD drives and it is screamingly fast.. and the catalog just can’t keep up.

So, in this case, I moved my catalog to my laptop, but kept the photos directory on a network share. This lets me still take advantage of my serious server storage and religious backups.. but lets the catalog work with its disk IO intensive operations screamingly fast.

OK, you’ve been warned and now, I’ll share the hack if you absolutely can’t live without your Lightroom catalog being on a network share.

The magic smoke is that you can’t just map a network drive through the Windows share.. if you do, Lightroom will detect that it’s a network drive and will not allow you to put a catalog there. Instead you must use the subst command:

		subst DRIVELETTER: \\servername\Sharename

So, in my case, I use drive L: (for Lightroom dontchyaknow) and so I would use

subst L: \\myServerName\LightroomShareName 

I had put this in a small batch script that I put in the startup folder for my login so it maps nearly as soon as I log in.

NOTE: The drive will show up in Windows explorer and always claim to be a “disconnected” drive.. but it works properly like a normal network drive and Lightroom absolutely does allow you to use it even though they’d rather you didn’t.

Renaming/Upgrading Catalogs

I know that when I upgrade Lightroom, it needs to upgrade my catalog. Furthermore, I know that when I do this, it automatically backs up the original, etc…

However, I am a control freak. I want to manually back up my own catalog and make a new one with the new name.

Start by using Windows Explorer to make a full copy of your catalog directory.. in my case, the original was L:\LRCatalogs\LightroomData-4 (for Lightroom 4). So now you have L:\LRCatalogs\LightroomData-4-Copy

		Rename LighroomData-4-Copy to LightroomData-6		
		Cd into LightroomData-6 and rename LightroomData-4.lrcat to LightroomData-6.lrcat
		Rename LightroomData-4 Previews.lrdata to LightroomData-6 Previews.lrdata

NOTE: I do all that then I point LR at the new catalog.. it will then proceed to make a BACKUP of the LR catalog named LightroomData-6-2.lrcat or similar… You can rename that if you choose… use the same basic process.

The Digital Sorceress

Five Things I’ve Learned While Telecommuting

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a job that has allowed me to telecommute for the past two years. It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that I was lucky enough to have had the following conversation with my boss:

ME: “Um, boss, what would the chances be that I could move 500 miles away and keep my job … you know – telecommute?”

BOSS: ~thoughtful look for a moment~ “I don’t see why not”

ME: “COOL! Thanks. Do we need anyone else’s approval?”

BOSS: “I’ll double check with ~general manager~. but he shouldn’t have a problem” … next day … “You’re good to go”

Two two years later, I do not regret it for a moment… and neither has my boss.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been work – a lot of work. What surprised me most was how much work I had to do on myself. You see, I’m a bit of a workaholic. I’m the type of gal who gets a great deal of my sense of personal satisfaction from feeling that I do a damn good job at what I do. This caused me to have to do a bit of mental adjustment and self-monitoring to avoid over-stressing… to strike a proper balance between work and life.

Anyone who works in a field where it is possible for folks to work remotely has probably had ~that co-worker~ the one who says they’re “Working from home” when they’re really “Working” (intentional use of quotes there) from home…. or to put it bluntly – fucking off.

Well, when you’re full-time telecommuting… even when you’re actually working your arse off, there will always be those who assume you’re not actually working. Either because they’re jealous, or because they would just use it as an excuse to goof off on the company’s dime.

So long as those with that attitude are not your boss and are not in your immediate chain of command, you’re generally ok … but surprisingly, there’s one person who you would never expect to feel that way about you … and that’s you.

Yep, because:

Telecommuting Makes You Feel That You Need to Constantly Prove Yourself

I spent the first 6 months of my telecommuting job never taking a lunch break, and never, ever actually logging off work “at quittin’ time” I would regularly end up “staying late” and checking up on work stuff at all hours because I felt I had to prove how much I was working.

I’ve always done that to some extent as it’s my nature as a Type-A personality – I worry, but I kind of went into hyper-self-critical mode thinking I wasn’t working hard enough that everyone was going to think I was screwing around.

It took my boss pretty much ordering me to take care of myself – to take lunch breaks and relax, to trust that she would tell me if she had an issue with me before I finally got the message and reached a good place in my head so that I stopped burning myself out.

That being said,

Staying “Part of the Team” Takes Active Effort

In a regular office environment, just showing up at the office every day – grabbing your coffee, taking a bathroom break – others see you (note to self: proximity of “bathroom break” and “others see you” may not be the best mental image); they know you’re there.

Also, it’s amazing how much input/feedback you get from simply passively hearing the office chatter and from seeing who is talking to whom or who has been in the bosses office with the door closed for the last 30 minutes.

That office gossip and the environment is full of useful information that we make use of… but being “out of sight” can mean “out of mind”… and if you’re not careful to actively participate, there’s a danger of being left out.

My coping mechanism for this was to use Google Hangouts to keep an active conference with my boss and the two other engineers on my team (another of whom was also a telecommuter) we basically made our own little virtual office, and that really made a huge difference. Even with the sound off, my co-workers and I could see when the others were on a phone call or were away from the desk – not in a big-brother kind of way, but in a way that mimics a traditional office.

When all you have is Email and IM, it’s hard to get a feel for someone’s presence and current state… if you IM them or email and they don’t respond right away – are they ignoring you? or are they on a call ? or are they on lunch? In a meeting? Having a chat with someone who is stopped by to ask them a question? abducted by aliens? Who knows?

With that video conference, my co-workers could see me talking on the phone, and I could see them having a conversation with one of the sales reps who stopped by to ask them a question – just kind of getting that visual feedback we take for granted when we are in the same office.

However, it goes beyond that – it means always making sure to keep an eye / ear out for an IM or email coming in and trying to give quick feedback (to the others in the office who may not be in the hangout) so that you don’t leave anyone sitting around waiting for you to get back to them.

There are some really big benefits to working remotely – for you and for your co-workers. one of the most surprising was

Telecommuting Reduces Sick Days

This happens both because you can “tough it out” without worrying about spreading the ick around (which means ~they~ don’t get sick… continuing the chain) and it also means that you are likely to miss out on the latest plague that everyone else who IS in the office trying to tough it out keeps passing around.

Your average office is a veritable Petri dish… because far too many folks are either afraid of getting yelled at or they’re saving their sick days for when it’s important (Monday morning hangovers) or for taking their sick kid to the doctor (after politely bringing the ick into the office)

Working remotely, you get to break that cycle and it’s amazing – Other than an occasional migraine attack, I’ve not needed any sick days… EXCEPT FOR THAT WEEK I ENDED UP IN THE HOSPITAL WITH A COLLAPSED LUNG AND PNEUMONIA BECAUSE I GOT THE OFFICE PLAGUE FROM A QUARTERLY TRIP INTO THE OFFICE yeah that was fun. I can legit say that my job “tried to kill me” that one time.

Still, that week of my life (Actually, I pretty much lost a month to that plague, but only missed about a week of work), I have gotten back more time because…

No Commute Means You Get WEEKS of Your Life Back

Personally, the longest commute I ever had was a 45 minute drive each way (no traffic) that would regularly turn into a 1.5 hour drive due to traffic… and the shortest commute (aside from my current Telecommute) was about 15 minutes each way which never had any traffic… On average, over my career, I’d guess that I spent about 7 hours a week commuting. That’s ~350 hours or 8.75 work weeks a year. That’s twice as much as my vacation accruals.

Okay, so I do drive 7 hours each way to visit the office once a quarter but that’s still 1/15 of the time I spend telecommuting – and since it’s a business trip, I get paid mileage and per-diems on my travel days – hell, I ~could~ fly, but I am the “fly only if it’s more than 8 hours driving” type – I kind of ~like~ road trips where I’m not stuck losing my mind in bumper to bumper traffic…

Oh yeah and that’s one down side:

You Lose Tolerance for Even Minor Traffic

Nobody really likes being stuck in traffic… well, I’m sure Rule 34 even applies to that , but ewww… but most normal people will understand that traffic sucks.

However, one of the things I though would happen when I started telecommuting was that I’d be less annoyed on those occasions when I did encounter it simply for the fact that “at least I don’t deal with this every day”…


It’s turned out to be exactly the opposite. I’ve gotten very very used to not dealing with traffic every day – you might even go so far as to say “spoiled’ because OMG! WHY IS SHE DRIVING SO SLOW!!!!

Yep I’m even less tolerant. I guess I should have seen it coming – I mean I’ve been a user of ad blocking browser add-ons for ages… so when I sit down at someone else’s PC (like doing tech support for my partner or my mom) ALL I SEE ARE THOSE GORRAM ADS! because I’m so used to NOT seeing them that I have lost the ability to mentally block them out.

Well, traffic is just like that to me – any little bit of it gets to me because I’m completely spoiled by not having to deal with it every frigging day.

On the whole, I think I’ve managed to find balance. I have been able prove my worth and to maintain the self-discipline needed to make telecommuting effective for both me and my employer. However, I never lose sight of just how damn lucky I am to have a boss as open to telecommuting as mine has been.

Here’s hoping my luck will continue.

The Digital Sorceress

Server Migration Fun

I’ve been with my current web hosting company for quite a few years… I can’t recall precisely how many, but it’s safe to say just short of a decade.

Over the years, they’ve been a great hosting company, and they’ve worked with me through a couple different upgrades as my hosting needs increased.

However, over the last year or so, I’ve been working toward the goal of removing myself from being a web hosting provider for others as I just haven’t had the time to keep up with the demands of PCI security (For one of my customers who hosted her own storefront and shopping cart/checkout system which I helped design), and just general business of hosting headaches.

So, this weekend is the penultimate pay-off of that slow transition – I’ve officially moved myself and my last hosting customer to new virtual servers and am shutting down my dedicated physical server.

This change allows me to keep all the features and hosting my remaining hosting customer and I had working just the same, yet significantly cut the monthly cost. (I was paying more per month for my dedicated server hosting than I pay for heating or electricity in my home.. seriously.

I will just say that Netsonic has been a seriously good web hosting provider and that Adam and Bleau in particular have been super helpful and awesome over the years. I look forward to continuing to host with them for a long time – but only being responsible for my own web sites and leaving the support and maintenance to someone else.

PaleMoon, Please do not Disappoint!

I’ve been a long-time FireFox user – the tabbed browsing features and certain vital add-ons like NoScript and FlashBlock make it a good “default web browser” that makes web use fairly safe (almost all web-delivered malware requires JavaScript and/or Flash or other vulnerable plugins… so by not having flash and turning off scripts by default, it’s a lot less risky)

Anyway, several versions back, FireFox completely changed their UI … making it look and work a lot more like Chrome. If I’d have wanted Chrome, I’d have used Chrome dammit!

So, I held back updates on FireFox for a bit until I found PaleMoon ( – it’s a “fork” of Mozilla FireFox which keeps the old UI / tabs… but keeps up with security updates.

I’ve been a happy user ever since… until I started noticing a HUGE slowdown on web sites … bad enough that I was double checking my system for malware and badly behaving programs …out of desperation, I tested in Chrome and FireFox and everything was “snappy”


So long, Apple, Hello Samsung!

After 6 years with iPhones (a 3GS followed by a 4S) I’ve finally made the switch to an Android device… a Samsung Galaxy s6 to be precise. My switch over is nearly complete, and I thought I’d share a few observations and tips with anyone else making the switch.

For those switching from iPhone … pay attention: the iPhone and iOS are delightfully free of most shovelware/trialware/crapware. OK, yeah, they have that annoying Nike tie-in thing (at least my iPhone 4S did) and there are a few other apps that were pretty ~meh~ but Apple apparently used quite a bit of muscle to keep the cellular providers from loading up your phone with the usual pile of trialware.

On my brand new Galaxy, most of the trialware / crapware was easy to spot and remove. However, there was one glaring exception. The built-in Voicemail app comes with this “Voice to text” feature and other “premium” services enabled and in “free trial mode” for 30 days after which (if you fail to notice it) you’ll be charged an additional $7.99 a month for…

Seriously? I would have just installed it and found a highly rated replacement app and paid for it… except you can’t actually uninstall it because it’s part of the phone. You have to be really careful to go in and disable the Voice to text and text to email features and tell it you want to unsubscribe, then click that you want to opt out of all future free trials and click Yes I really Mean it another couple times.

I just really hate things that give me a free trial after which I will be billed monthly unless I cancel. This form of trialware marketing is NOT the same thing as shareware (software that is free for N days and then stops working or has reduced functionality unless you buy the full version… that is at least honest. It’s the things that are hooked directly to your phone bill/account and are set up to AUTOMATICALLY agree and bill you monthly after your trial.

I think they’re getting a large percentage of their sales from people who just failed to notice rather than from people who used it and really liked the features and consciously decided to buy it.

Just kinda shady in my book.

Some Missing Stuff Isn’t Missing…

I almost missed the built in calendar and calculator apps … the Samsung Galaxy has this two-tier system – there’s an Apps app that shows you ALL the apps on the device, but the main home screen(s) are essentially your chosen pages/layout where you can put your most used apps.

It’s hella convenient for hiding stuff you can’t uninstall but don’t care about, but it also makes it easy to forget to look to see if there’s a built in high-quality fully free version of the app you’re looking for.

… and Some Stuff Really ~is~ Missing

I’m an avid listener to several podcasts, and I was aware of the fact that there’s no “default” Android podcast app (I did my research on the phone and OS so I knew to expect this). I just up and paid for PocketCasts. It’s got really good reviews, and it’s simple and works enough like the iPhone Podcasts app that I’m right at home.

Sounds. I miss the sounds from my iPhone.

Yeah, what a silly thing to miss, but man did I miss them – this is likely my mild Aspberger brain… I just got hardwired to the particular bleedeep, bleedeep of my calendar, and the mild bonng of a new email and the RIIINGGGGGG RIIINGGGG of the classic phone. I really found the default sounds lacking.

However, Android being so open – I could just connect to a PC and drop sound files into the Ringtones and the Alerts and Notifications folders… and I found this article which covered the topic in more detail that I needed.. what I needed was the link to a ZIP file containing all the extracted .ogg files used by the iPhone: [here]. VICTORY!

However, Android being so open – I could just connect to a PC and drop sound files into the Ringtones and the Alerts and Notifications folders… and I found this article which covered the topic in more detail that I needed.. what I needed was the link to a ZIP file containing all the extracted .ogg files used by the iPhone: [here]. VICTORY!

Porting Data To the New Phone

Samsung really nailed this one… They’ve got an app called SmartSwitch and so long as you have a USB-A female to MicroUSB Male adapter and your iPhone charging / syncing cable, it’s quite painless.

You just connect the devices together and run the app and it discovers all that’s on your iPhone, and then asks what things you wanted. Since I already copied my music (MP3s) over to the new phone from my network, and since I already backed up my photos to my main network storage, I got to skip the majority of my iPhone contents, but the big thing was I got my entire text message history, my entire phone call history (important to me) and most importantly – all the contacts that were up to date in my iPhone but that I had not kept synced with my Google account.

The Verdict

This new phone is one nice piece of tech – it’s got a hell of a nice camera and I’m LOVING the Phone calls over WiFi (basically, using VOIP when you’re at home and have a better Wi-Fi connection than cellular signal).

Once I got a handle on all the trialware, found equivalent Android apps to the iPhone apps I used most, got my classic iPhone sounds back, the Samsung Galaxy s6 us really a great device.