children of dune - leto 1

question on hard drive formats and movie files

I asked this on twitter, but there are vidders here who may have the answer that might not see it.

Hardware:
1.) 500G SSD in an exteral USB 3.0 enclosure (It was like super on sale)

Places:
1.) Windows 10 PC (Manhattan)
2.) Kubuntu 20.04 Server (Watson)
3.) RAX Router via USB 3.0. (To which a five bay hard drive enclosure is attached)

Why:
Moving 4K rips and 2160, 1080, and 720 encodes in any video format to and fro at will.

I need to format the hard drive in the best way to assure compatibility and mountability to all of them and be able to transfer files to and from all. Yes, there's the LAN but sometimes you want your 4K rip transferred in under an hour and change to the other machine five feet away. Yes, I will indeed have to actually stand up and that's a genuine shame.

NTFC and ext4 are both no, but fat32 or exfat or something else? Which one would work best so they'll be recognize, read-write without trauma and automount (or rather, I can easily update the fstab for automount in Kubuntu)? Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1078473.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro - a dissertation apparently

In between my last post and now, I have a.) thrown out my back again, b.) six days after breaking a tooth and so needed to make a dentist appointment which was c.) the day after I threw out my back.

However, my life is not all disintegrating body and the slow encroachment of insanity:
1.) I now play Animal Crossing with my Switch, and yes, it's worth it.
2.) I got my NVIDIA Shield TV Pro

Due to the first sentence of this entry, all I managed until this week was basic setup, getting streaming up, and my Plex server transferred over. This week, however, I got to finally sit down and pay attention to it as well as actually make my Plex server work correctly.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

If you're in the market for a premium media streamer, consider the NVIDIA Shield TV, retailing at $149.99 ($129.99 on random sale) or NVIDIA Shield TV Pro, $199.99 on the very rare times it's in stock.

Currently it is not in stock pretty much anywhere (as of right now, could change at literally any second) but it goes in and out of stock at random intervals. Much like the Nintendo Switch, the reason is that whenever a site updates to say they have it, bots buy them immediately and then they're sold for twice to five times their price on Amazon and Ebay.

The story of how I got my Pro (and my Switch for that matter) involve the website NowInStock, SlickDeals alerts, and absolutely normal human behavior that in retrospect isn't odd, worrisome, or alarming.

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Moving on.

I wanted the Shield Pro for one reason: Shield TV was the only streamer whose Plex client app could consistently stream and transcode 4K and Dolby Atmos media, and the Pro model came with the ability to run a Plex Server on it as well as play Plex content. I'm a simple girl with simple needs who Paypal also foolishly issued a shiny new credit card and a separate no-interest credit line less than three months ago and I hadn't really gotten a chance to use.

(No idea what the hell they were thinking, either, but here we are.)

Which is why, to my own shock, I am not starting my review with All the Plex; I'm going to start with what I didn't even care about when I bought it; the media streamer and Android TV box.

The Media Streamer (and Android Box)

The price tag is high for a media steamer, yes, which may be part of the reason why I didn't at any point consider it something that could also play Netflix.

Comparatively speaking, media streamers are among the cheapest Way To Get Entertainment On Our TV Not Involving an Antenna. If you wandered with dinosaurs like me and remember Olden Days, a VCR was expensive even on the low end for almost a decade even at Wal-Mart. DVD players and then Bluray players got cheap much faster, but media streamers... you don't even need a separate machine; it can come free on your TV, and I mean TVs under $200 at the last big Amazon sale. You can stream on your tablet or phone, or pick up a FireTV tablet for under $50 to do it on. All you need is an internet connection and if you don't want to pay for your stream service, there are free ones.

When it comes to quality media streamers that require you pay money, the competition isn't exactly light, either; they include:

1.) FireTV 4K Stick, $49.99, and frequently on sale for half that price. Just as importantly, it can easily and without effort gateway you into the cheapest Surround Sound Home Theater possible, which I talked about in this entry; specifically, a Dolby Atmos Home Theater system for as low $179.97 if you buy two Echo Dots and an Echo Sub during one of Amazons extremely frequent sales. That, by the way, is less than the price of one (1) Sonos One speaker. And that price includes the Fire TV 4K stick.

2.) Chromecast Ultra, $69.99; like, half my friends that don't have a Amazon Prime have on of these, and more than a few have both.

3.) Roku Ultra, $79.99 and comes with free headphones; Roku was my gateway drug into media streamers because they gave me a mid-range one free when I signed up for three months of Sling TV.

4.) Apple TV, $179; frankly, this being Apple, that's almost the equivalent of a Wal-Mart low end VCR price circa 1989. I have heard it's awesome, but no idea. When I finally sold my soul, it was to a mega corporation that was technically within my income bracket. Also, after testing our apps on iPhones at work for almost five years, I genuinely want to collect them all and catapult them into the sun along with Apple Headquarters and the literal apple fruit, just to assure the very memory of apples will die. I dream about it sometimes; I'm always so happy until I wake up.

These are just the first and most popular that came into my head by major companies and been around for years. The market is not light on media streamers, is what I'm saying.

The Shield TV is more a premium Android TV box, made for geeks to enjoy and also Plex, which lets face it, is geeky as fuck even though everyone pretends its super consumer grade, whatever. And yeah, it also you can do some streaming, I guess.

The thing is, while I knew theoretically it was an Android TV Box (which I didn't care about) that also played Netflix (which I had like, several things that could do that) and did other things, I--didn't care. At all. I was in this for Plex; the Plex Server you could install on the Pro could stream all my 4K and even Dolby Atmos or at least Dolby 5.1 sound.

So when I did set up, it was all prep for moving my Plex server over, and so I was genuinely shocked when I went ahead and automatically entered my logins for Prime and Netflix--they were right there, why not?--and since I was testing anyway, went ahead and opened Prime to watch a few minutes of one of the shows I'd watched most recently.

(Spoiler: it would be several hours before seperis remembered Plex existed.)

The Shield is many many (many) notches above my FireTV 4K Stick and a mid-rise building above my TV's streaming apps in quality. Not like "oh, this seems better" but stop and stare before hitting back to make sure this wasn't a high-res version I hadn't ever seen before that just appeared.

In the almost three weeks using it and one week actually sitting down to examine it and playing Netflix and Prime through it, there's a considerable increase in overall picture quality and crispness and amazing consistency on most--not all--of the shows I had watched recently enough to make a definite comparison; if 4K is available, I can get it clear and crisp without artifacts, skipping, or loss of speed. If 5.1 sound is available, I get it. I also noticed--though three weeks is no proof over the long term--there's been no buffering, no stuttering, and no stopping.

Among the many many settings I've just started to explore is AI upscaling of non-4K content. I enabled it when I was doing initial setup because why not, but generally, I don't notice a difference on most shows. This--this, I noticed, because I'd been rewatching Leverage on Prime on the FireTV stick, which is why it was my test stream for the Pro. It wasn't just 'huh, I think that looks better'. It was stop and stare at the screen; it was cleaner, crisper, and while no, even it could not fix IMDB's fuckup of the subtitles, man, the picture....

I tested with Bones, Psyche, and a few random shows as well, and while I definitely know Psyche and Bones look better, it's been too long since I last watched to know exactly how much, just definitely "better, amount unknown"

Interesting note: on the Shield TV, Netflix and Prime don't nag me when I watch too many episodes and ask snottily if I'm still watching (Netflix) or return to the intro page of the current episode and do nothing until I interact or it turns off (Prime). I accidentally streamed all five seasons of Leverage end to end without interruption and Shield's Prime app didn't stop me. 'Accidentally' up until I woke up the next morning circa ep 2-3 of season two, realized Leverage was still playing, I was working from home, sod decided to leave it on and check in every hour to see how long it would let me. That would be first heist to very last, friends.

Netflix, I tested it with--I think Great British Bake-off?--and Child checked out his regular anime. There was no nagging to ask if I'm still watching, though only to about a season and a half there before I remembered hey, I should try out why I bought it, my Plex server. That yes, I'd belatedly finally loaded when the shock wore off (around two-three in the morning) but as work and other stuff interfered, I hadn't had a chance to do more than basic configuration.

The Shield Home screen is fully customizable; you can pick what apps you want to show or get rid of, there's a huge library of apps, games--cut me some slack, for reasons I'll do another entry on, getting the Plex Server running was easy, but getting my media on it--not so much.

I'm actually kind of glad I finally decided to accept reality and get the Shield to run my Plex Server. Otherwise, I never would have ever bought it for just streaming media or Android TV when my FireTV Stick seemed to be doing everything I needed for streaming and Android TV is sort of--something that exists. And I'm saying this after only a week of active work with it, and ninety percent of that was getting my Plex Server up and running. I haven't even really explored advanced features. I mean, I have but I keep finding new ones.

Now, we'll talk about Plex before I get inspired to write some examples and end up playing with the settings until dawn.

Plex, finally

My original reason for this purchase.

Up until now, when Plex was on Watson Server and then my Pi, all of them--servers and TV--hardlined on ethernet to my router, I couldn't reliably stream 4K content and had buffering sometimes even with 1080p. I could unreliably get 5.1 sound but mostly it was 2.1. There was a lot of transcoding going on where it would basically downgrade my stream to make it play. Nothing I did helped, and even after I read the article I linked below on the only thing that would work (I read it last year), I refused to believe it and kept trying.

After so much googling, however, I finally got a clear answer on exactly why I couldn't by sheer work fix it; the problem was both the Plex server and the Plex client apps on most TVs and media streamers.


1.) The Plex Client App

The Plex app on media streamers, gaming consoles, SmartTVs, etc isn't generally developed and maintained by Plex, but by the company--Amazon, for example, on the FireTV--and that means its subject to the limits of the streamer, whatever their developers decide to do/not do, and when/if they felt like updating it when Plex updates, and Plex wasn't necessarily a high priority. Enough people used it that it was worth having the client app, but it's still firmly in geek territory and wouldn't be a deciding factor for most non-geek people. Whereas fa media streamer lives and dies on the ability of the general consumer to access and watch Netflix, Disney+, Sling, Prime, HBO, you get the idea.

As it turns out, the only Plex client app that everyone (in Plex land) consistently said worked perfectly with the server was Plex for Windows, which was made by Plex and you can download on their site. It was the only app that I could almost get what I wanted: it could stream 4K and 7.1 sound, since my laptop could get both, but that meant the only place I could watch my own media in the original resolution was on my laptop or possibly, my phone.

Which brings me to...

2.) The Plex Media Server.

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Short version: oh hell yes.

The Shield runs the Plex server like I always dreamed. It can play everything in my library at the highest resolution and audio that my TV and my laptop can do. Last night, I tested it with multiple streams with a friend and one 4K rip and one 720p encode of Oceans 8.

It played the 4K with Dolby Atmos to me on my laptop and also simultaneously--and effortlessly-- transcoded the 720p encode of the same movie for a friend fifteen miles away with no stuttering, no stopping, no buffering. And the transcoding problem, I remind you, is why I flirted with--very briefly--buying a chip that cost half my laptop's price (not including the rest of the hardware needed for a server, God). The Shield not only does better than the chip would have and cost me at least eighty percent less than the CPU, the Shield is also less than half the size of a Playstation and fits on my small wall mounted entertainment center (aka Fancy Shelf that looks cool and I'm scared to put too much weight on and collapse the wall or something. It won't, no, i had this checked its in the studs. I just don't trust it).

There Are Some Issues Though

Now the other parts.

1.) It's more complicated to set up than a Fire TV or Chromecast.

Not because initial setup is hard; it's pretty much effortless, you'll have Netflix, Prime, Disney, Vudu, Sling, whatever, up and running as easily as any other media streamer. This is more--a side effect of the Shield being what it is.

You see, it's ready to interact with the latest TV and sound system to give you the home theater of your dreams. And if you happen to have a 4K TV less than two years old with HDR 2.0 and all the video bells and whistles, you'll be delighted how easy it is. And even some older than two years might be fine.

Some, however...might take some finagling.

Totally random example: If, say, your 4K TV is two and a half years old, you might click on Netflix and after a moment, check Prime and the other streams since there is definitely still color, it's like color if all media was viewed through a soft grey mist. Like being doomed to watch a Snyder film or one with gritty filter for the rest of your life.

The colors are dull, is what I'm saying. Prime, Netflix, Plex, everything.

Now, this is fixable! It's easy! There are instructions! This issue has been thoroughly discussed! It's not complicated!

a.) Using the instructions for your TV model, you may need to go into your TV Settings and change one or two or two items under Video/Display.

b.) After that, you can look on your TV or on the website or google for info on your TV's video specs, then you open the Shield TV Settings and under video/display, there's a glorious list of all the video profiles possible and you just have to find the one that matches, activate it, done! Yes, it really is there!

But.

I say this as someone who loves complicated configuration shit: this isn't complicated, it's not hard, it's boring, breathtakingly so, like watching paint dry on snails who are so slow they may actually have died years ago, but unable to conform that, you have to just keep watching. Not forever. I mean, so they say.

You see, they really do seem to have all the profiles possible, and by that I mean, I really do hope that's true because there are so many holy God. Yes, you could go and research your TV specs and use that to help but--this is the one time it may not be not worth it. Sometimes the official specs are--not entirely accurate (or lying their asses off) and that's the parts of the profile that I didn't have to research to find out what words meant, and I mean, these were words I thought I knew. Apparently I did not. Sure, it might help--but honestly, I'm not betting on it.

So unless your career is in Video Tech Shit As Relates to TVs and Screens (and Lying TV Making Corporations), it's probably a matter of simply starting at the top and trying every one or--if you're incredibly lucky--your googling sent you to where someone who has your TV model already fixed this. Again, not hard at all, and very likely if your TV is from a major retailer it's going to be fairly fast, but the older your TV and the less billions the company that made it is worth, the farther down the list you'll have to go.

Of course, this may not be a problem for you! Just--its' possible.

2.) It's Origins as a Geek Machine Are Kind of Obvious

The thing is, this is an attraction for me in this case, one that I didn't even know I wanted, but even among ultra geeks, we all have spots where we want simple, consumer grade, not requiring us to do more than hit obvious buttons or choose from a very few very obvious, pre-selected options and call it a day. Sometimes, you want to build a murderbot with proximity awareness, but sometimes, Amazon has a sale and you get a Roomba, strap a nerf gun to it, and call it good. Sure, you have to pretend you don't secretly love your much cleaner carpet and floors, that it's really all about the nerf gun and irony, but it's a cute, low-effort robot that also cleans. Dude, I get you; when we were kids, we all wanted a robot best friend. Roomba is pretty close, even though it won't scare all the mean kids and make them pay for making fun of me some hypothetical child. It's late--noon, I mean, early. Something.

Moving on.

The problem is, if some visiting friend hacked your roomba and suddenly you had access to the firmware and could edit or replace it with your own custom configurations, fuck clean floors; you'd be mathing up how many kitchen knives would fit on it or training your furry pet army while making them tiny velcro boots like, yesterday. We're geeks; if we're careful and avoid temptation, we can mimic normal, but one roomba firmware hack and hello cat army, a mild case of scruvy, and a somewhat alarming drop in sanity conditions in our homes that some might characterize as 'incompatible with human life' and then it's all dramatic hazmat suits and a potential ripped from the headlines made for tv movie based on a true story.

We're geeks; it happens.

(I genuinely anticipate and am terrified of the day I buy a house and therefore must buy all my own major appliances, because yes, they will inevitably be wifi enabled and honest to God, I don't know how long it will be before I try to hack my goddamn oven to flash it with something open source that I can edit at will with a command line option and scripting capability. It will be glorious, at least until I die of food poisoning from a badly programmed fridge or my kitchen appliances revolt, declares themselves autonomous beings, and execute me for sentient being rights violations dating from the day I put fish in the microwave and forgot it for three days.

I'm a geek; it happens.

Don't buy smart major appliances, you say? Tell me not to breathe; it's not about 'want' but 'must'. I don't want to in the traditional sense, but I will because that's what's going to happen when I'm in that store. I'll be asking for wifi specs while significantly lowering my credit score and googling how to flash a refrigerator before the delivery guy finishes hooking it up (the oven and washer/dryer guys haven't even arrive yet). Will I have any idea what I'm doing? No, of course not; not even a guess, my dude. And that won't stop me? That has literally not once in my entire life so much as slowed me down; in fact, you might say it's an inducement to continue my education.)

Anyway.

It's not that the Shield isn't almost basic consumer-level now; the veneer is almost complete. If you're not a geek, you might not even notice and wouldn't care. There's maybe one or two things the average consumer might need to google about (like the color thing, but it's not really that common).

However, if you have any geek tendencies that like to come out at random....I was googling how to enable ssh this week (you have to jailbreak it, which I am not ashamed to say I bookmarked, just you know, no reason) and there are settings in there and capabilities that make my fingers itch. Again, the only reason I cared this existed was the Plex server; I spent an hour the other doing nothing but going through all the menus in the settings and did it again two days ago when I accidentally found something new.

Yeah, I'm having a blast. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1078101.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

mediainfo - all you need to know about your movie and video file

I completely forgot Monday is a holiday. This is what WFH does to you; you forget holidays.

MediaInfo - Everything You Didn't Know About Your Movies and Videos

So I think I mentioned it before, but anyone with a media collection they want to analyze or vidders who want an easy way to document all their source super thoroughly might like to try Mediainfo, which does a full analysis of your media to get literally all the information about it--audio streams, video streams, all the encoders, bitrate, a billion more things than that, etc. It works on any platform. If you have a large media collection, this is for you.

Here is a mediainfo file on The Martian. This doesn't show all the possible options, btw, just like a lot of them.

About Templates

However, that's pretty slow to do one movie/video at a time; instead, use command line to do in batches. Better, to get specific information you want instead of All Of It My God, you can create a template for mediainfo to read.

I have written several templates; my latest is one that will get everything in a movie that I want and place it in a csv file in a single line, so when it's done, I can see all my movies and info in a single spreadsheet. All you'd need is a script or program to loop through your movies to add them to the file if you use Windows; if you use Linux, I have a bash script you can use as a template or I can tell you how to adapt it to your file locations. The limitations are how wide you want your spreadsheet as each movie has about five billion or so characteristics and a lot lot lot of redundancy.

How The Template Works
If you look at the xml or text of a mediainfo file for a movie (see above), it's split into groups: General, Video, Audio, Text, and Menu. In the template, each group gets its own line; you cannot mix them up. You don't have to use all the groups, but no matter what order you have them in on the template, it will still write them into the file in the order above (General, Video, Audio, Text, Menu).

To Create a Template
Open notepad or something plain text.

You start with the group you want, semicolon, then a list of all the properties you want from that group, each one surrounded by '%'. You can use any delimiter.

This is the command:
mediainfo --Inform=$template $movie 1>>$file

Here's my template that is stored in a plain text file:
General;%FileName%,%FileSize%,%Duration%,%AudioCount%,%TextCount%,
Video;%Format%,%InternetMediaType%,%OriginalSourceMedium%,
Audio;%Format/String%,%Format_Commercial%,%Title%,

Note: I put a comma at the end of the line for the future csv file to import into a spreadsheet. If you plan to import into a spreadsheet, make sure you put your delimeter at the end of the line.

This give me:
General--> movie name, size, duration, how many audio streams, how many text streams (subtitles)
Video-->The format (HEVC, AVC, MPEG), internet media type (encoder sometimes) and the original source (bluray, DVD, or if blank, that means I did the encoding myself)
Audio--the string name (MLP FBA 16-ch, DTS, AC-3), the commercial name (Dolby TrueHD with Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, DTS), and title which is specific type (7.1 surround sound, 5.1, etc).

Here's what my spreadsheet looks like using this template: Media Spreadsheet

That Spreadsheet Is Kinda Big
Yeah, all this on one line--especially with nine to seventeen audio streams--gets big (see sheet above). You can also do multiple templates, one for general, one for video, one for audio, etc, and run them one after the other.

mediainfo --Inform=$genTemplate $movie 1>>$generalFile
mediainfo --Inform=$vidTemplate $movie 1>>$videoFile
mediainfo --Inform=$audTemplate $movie 1>>$audioFile

The only problem with that is with the video only and audio only template, you'll also need to have General as well so you can get the movie name, since General is the only place the name property appears. so for a Video only, you'd do something like this.

General;%FileName%,
Video;%Format%,%InternetMediaType%,%OriginalSourceMedium%,

Mediainfo - All Properties List

For reference, here is a complete list of all properties available, separated by group (General, Video, Audio, Text, Menu).

Generally, to work out what is what, run mediainfo on a few movies (a bluray rip, a DVD rip, one you encoded yourself, one with DTS and one with Dolby, a vid you downloaded, etc), get the XML document for each, and contrast/compare what information is given. It's not always clear what does what--or if it does anything--until you check it in multiple formats. Some properties are very specific to the video type, audio type, or subtitle type.

I highly recommend this program. I'm currently adapting a script and template to use on my vid collection to find old formats/bad formats/redundancy/etc.

If you have any problem accessing the linked files, tell me; I set it to everyone but well, google is gonna google. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1077918.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

the beauty of consumerism

So, accomplishments in the last month:
1.) Paid off one of three personal loans early. Of the two remaining, one will be paid off in January, and then I'll settle how to get the third one done.
2.) I got my first credit card in five years after some unfortunate...it's unimportant, but this is my fourth attempt to have a credit card and not destroy my credit.
3.) Re-consolidated my student loan so I qualify for the public forgiveness program in ten years and six month covid deferment. Also, my payment went down by four dollars.
4.) Used excess funds from 1 and 3 to pay down some but not all my outstanding debt.
5.) Banked most of my tax refund and all stimulus checks without spending them immediately.

Why not use it for all debt?

Most of my debt left is now interest free (other than the personal loans) and therefore I want to keep them to show regular payments over a two year period. Also--since I bought an eighth of a cow--my food budget changed, and I started budgeting for delivery anything once a week from local restaurants for the foreseeable future, and every two weeks from my local vape store (TWO HOUR LOCAL DELIVERY TO MY DOOR!). But that is not the main reason.

See, I need a couch, and in light of the pandemic, I'm limiting my options to local businesses. So I'm grimly searching through my local furniture stores, which is great, support local businesses, great, high quality products, awesome, but I live in Austin and 'local' is not cheap, even after eliminating those using the words 'artisan' or 'hand crafted' and places with showrooms that are ice white walls hung with tasteful art littered with understated living room sets with neutral patterned earth-toned rugs with names starting with 'urban' , I close the tab: I can't afford the accent pieces, much less anything with an actual function.

So this is going to cost me.

I'm leaning toward Austin's Couch Potatoes, which is not only where my mom got God's Own Amazing Massive Sectional of Eternal Comfort, but in the old days when we shopped in person, the salesperson would direct you to a refrigerator for water, soda, or beer before leaving you alone to shop to your heart's content and play with the remote control mattresses advertising zero gravity.

(Note: they have many and I rode them all with a Coke in my hand and a song in my heart. Some had speed functions!)

And by leaning toward, I mean I'm buying from them: during lockdown, they didn't furlough but employed their staff making PPE gowns and masks for frontline workers and selling bulk masks to the public at 100 for $100. And are still doing it, if you want to check it out; they're running a GoFundMe to help with materials since a lot of suppliers are still closed. They're technically open now but it's very limited and the salesguy I talked to says generally, it's far preferred by appointment.

(He also sent me the full options for a sectional I was interested in--similar to my Mom's--with prices on each individual piece as well as the most common configurations and their price. No, seriously, the actual goddamn full fact sheet. Didn't even argue. Literally no furniture store has ever just handed me an information sheet on their sectionals with a breakdown by piece. It's fully customizable; I pick the pieces, the fabric, and the throw pillows and they build it for me. It's also their own brand and locally-built--yep, 'local', fuck my life--so you can imagine the price. I did not realize I could feel guilty about not buying something, like I'm letting down the local economy. This is so weird. It also looks so incredibly comfortable I'm wondering how much I really need two kidneys or an entire whole liver; livers regenerate, after all.)

To be fair, yes, I do have a couch, but it also is the reason I strained my back so I couldn't move for six hours, couldn't walk for three days, couldn't bend for almost a week, and still have to be careful doing shit like unloading the dishwasher or climbing on a ladder to hang new blinds or slumping or basically anything that requires that part of my back. I haven't needed the muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories for almost three weeks, but I still carry them.

It is not a bad couch; it is a bad couch for me. I remind myself of that to avoid setting it on fire while performing an exorcism.

On my porch after hanging the second set of blinds up so I have full frontal coverage from the sun; it's glorious. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1077364.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
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children of dune - leto 1

work warfare in the modern era

So at work, they upgraded eight of the phones we use for app testing, and I am the proud not-owner-but-keeper of:

Upgraded
Three (3) iPhone 11
Two (2) iPhone 11 Pro
Two (2) Samsung Galaxy S10+
One (1) Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Not Upgraded For Regression Testing
One (1) Samsung Galaxy S8
One (1) iPhone 7

How Did This Go Wrong, Though?

I'm glad you asked.

When we order phones for testing, they are in a different group from work phones aka phones used as phones for work.

The initial and first upgrade, they came to us, I charged them, transferred the SIM cards from the old phones to the new, upgraded the OS, installed the App Center where test builds of the mobile apps we test are uploaded and we download for testing, etc. Easy.

This time, the Samsung phones performed as always. The iPhones...did so very not.

The iPhones were locked down like a Crusader's wife in a chastity belt. The second I turned them on to do the welcome and they connected with the internet, they downloaded the Work Profile and you can literally do nothing with the iPhones but make calls; you can't even change the wallpaper. It wasn't just locked down in general; everything I need to do, including download the Apple Store to get anyconnect so we can test over VPN and install the test profile--nope.

Me: Fuck my life.

Here's where it gets complicated: I don't know how we get these phones.

The state buys them, sure, I know what department does ordering, and there's a name on the box of who made the order, but that just tells me who was in charge of ordering shit that day in IT not who actually gave or approved the order. This is like the work version of fairies dropping off shit in the night; I still don't know entirely how I got all those USB cords I wrote about in an earlier entry, I just sent off the list with prices picked from Official Major Retailer Wholesale Book and sent the email out to my manager. I know who I got the book from, and I know it was sent to IT (another IT group), but after that, it may be witchcraft or something.

(My manager also doesn't know, because they don't tell him. He just sends it to IT and witchcraft, as I said.)

The Journey Begins Here

Manager, Part I

Me: *explains*
Manager: ...
Manager: Let's start with help desk.
Me: This is going to take a while, I think.

The IT Help Desk: The Ticket

I say this with respect; they aren't qualified to deal with this because this does not fall under their area, they have nothing to do with phones. This is literally nothing to do with them; this part of IT deals with passwords and permissions and resets and software installs. But that's where I had to start because witchcraft.

First, I explained what I wanted; then I explained my job; then I explained how my job (testing mobile apps) related to the iPhones. I don't blame them--a surprising number of people don't realize software does not fall from the sky like manna, much less there's a testing process and help desk simply does not deal with any of this--but it took a while. They made a ticket and said wait. They were great.

Me: This isn't going to work.

Ticket Answered: The IT Guy

The IT Guy has been helping me with a variety of things I want to do with a work laptop that is inexpertly locked down after far too many times, I unknowingly hacked it and had to stop and belatedly find out if I was breaking state law or work rules. I won't apologize for wanting certain things in a certain way in my workspace. Seriously, that was stressing.

(IT Guy is Awesome.)

Now, IT Guy does know my job, but again, help desk does not do this; their job is going in and fix people doing weird shit or installing software if we get special permission or reset our password when we enter it three times in capslock--that kind of thing. After a lot of chatting, he sent it to Mobile IT.

Me: ...oh God no

Mobile IT: The Reckoning

Mobile IT Guy was also awesome, but now we run into a problem. He does know phones for work use; he knows about mobile apps the state creates that clients use; he does not know about the testing process of those apps that clients use or that there existed a category of mobile phones that are for testing.

So I had to explain my job--twice--then how no, these aren't phones that clients can borrow in offices to use the app, and no, this ins't my work phone, it's a test phone. He was baffled; I didn't blame him.

He did however realize this bullshit.

Him: [Analyst] might help.
Me: Thank you!
Me: *after hanging up* I am never getting these phones unlocked.

Manager Part II

I called him to shorten the horror.

Me: They said to call [Analyst]. Can you email her and find out if she's our person?
Him: Sure.
Him: *emails the IT ticket to her asking for help*
Me: Thanks!
Me: *after seeing email* He forgot to tell her who we are, what we do, and what we want.
Me: I hate fucking everything.

The Analyst

She emails promptly, properly baffled, and I broke down my job, what the phones were for, why we can't use them like this, and asked if she was the right person or if she knew who we should contact. I did not cry.

Her: [Name] might help. I'll forward your email.
Me: This is Hell and...wait, I recognize that name.

The Name I Recognize

Him: Oh, they just need to be removed from Mobile IT's list. Send me the serial numbers and I'll do it.
Me: You're fucking with me.

Aftermath

Now, they're still working on it, but. It took me a few seconds to realize why I knew his name. When we first got testing phones for mobile--that's almost five years ago--his name was on the Galaxy 5 boxes. I had to look at it every day for two-ish years before our first upgrade and apparently, it stuck. None since--they have some random name of someone that I'm not sure even works for the state--but that first shipment, it was him.

I went to look at his profile in outlook. I still have no idea how his department, area, and unit have anything to do with this--his job title is not helpful--or how my testing phones got into Mobile IT or what kind of hellscape this is; all I learned is his name and that he can Do Shit With Mobile Testing Phones. And this poor man now has been labeled in my Contact List as just that.

Sure, my iPhones are still useless, but I did beat bureaucracy, so there's that.

But I still have no idea how we're getting these phones. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1077069.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

wfh day 28: happened

I am moving out to the porch as long as the weather is nice (aka not broiling hot death). Even with my new desk, sanity should not be fleeting. I need sunlight and Vitamin D, even if it's indirect. It may also inspire me to regularly change clothes, something that might have been sketchy for a bit. Also, apparently I chose better porch furniture than I thought; it's firm (hard) and the cushion barely helps. You bet your ass I'm sitting straight.

I may look into moving my desk out here, actually; it does have wheels.

So, updates:
1.) Child got a sewing machine dropped off at our door by mysterious means and plans to learn to sew. For cosplay, he says, but I say, cool masks made out of old flannel sheets.
2.) I adulted in a new way: I (and three others) bought a portion of a cow. Like, maybe an eighth of a cow, not sure, but so much meat holy shit. As Mom is the only one with a freezer--as they are out of stock for all reasonably priced, reasonably sized ones literally everywhere--she's holding the meat for us. Child is supposed to spreadsheet it for us at some point so we can do an equitable split.
3.) I found out my favorite vape store hand delivers in two hours. Joy can be found in the oddest places. Posted at Dreamwidth: https://seperis.dreamwidth.org/1076894.html. | You can reply here or there. | comment count unavailable comments
children of dune - leto 1

books: a mortal bane by roberta gellis

So I mentioned it on Twitter but I forgot if I ever recced this series here, so I'm going to go for it.

A Mortal Bane (Magdalene la Bâtarde Book 1) by Roberta Gellis.

I've recced her before for her Roselynde Chronicles novels, which are all Women Who Inherit Huge Estates And Rule Them (And The Men That Love and Really Desperately Want to Marry Them). Some of the attitudes are slightly dated--though not very much--and some of the historical detail may be a little off, but the author was a historian and knew her shit so it's very much a matter of New Research Giving Different Interpretations, not Bad Author.

(Most of Gellis' books are Women Doing Shit (And the Men Who Want to Marry Them); there's also a really good one on a female merchant that gives a really good view of London merchant society during the reign of King John, but I digress.)

The Magdalene books follow, but our heroine runs an extremely expensive, extremely exclusive, extremely tiny brothel during the reign of King Stephen. She has a Mysterious But Noble and Tragic Past, and to escape that, became a prostitute, and things happened and she got patronage of a Great Man and now has the Old Priory for her brothel which used to be a guesthouse for the Church and so she pays rent to the Bishop of Winchester. She only keeps three women there, all of whom enjoy sex and she treats very well, and all were chosen for their specific--characteristics, and no I don't mean beauty or sexual hijinks--and the reason she can do it like this is that her house is designed for wealthy people--merchants or lords--who want discretion, intelligent companionship, women who genuinely enjoy their work, and to maybe plot treason or war on occasion. As one does.

Throughout these books, these things will never change, so know that going in; they will develop, however. Also, these books are Romance but also actually Mysteries. Which our prostitutes will be solving.

Welcome.

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children of dune - leto 1

desks in the time of coronavirus

My desk is here!

For context: Rolling Adjustable Laptop Desk

For convenience if you look at the picture, we'll have the desk parts be long side and short side since it'll be different if you're left or right handed.

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Having said that: so far, have attached the clamps for the power strip and the portable monitor stand. When I have it properly configured, will post pics.

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children of dune - leto 1

work in the time of coronavirus: a summary

So for once, the state made either a wise decision or got an amazing deal from Dell when supplying us for work at home; my work laptop is fucking incredible. It's a Dell Precision 5540, for Dell is generally our supplier of choice when it comes to tech. I do not argue they have some weaknesses in their home lines (I love mine, but that's local loyalty, I know how to fix most of the basic stuff that goes wrong, and I have Parts People, who are all former Dell employees who specialize in repair of Dell computers and are the only people I let touch mine) but their business class are among the best.

I've only occasionally worked on Latitudes, and I wasn't particularly impressed but generally, we order mid-range latitudes for basic work, not tech work, and for just doing business functions, they're great. Compared to my Alienware or XPS--yeah.

I was not ready for a Precision workstation; frankly, I'm not sure anyone is.

The processor is only an i7, though no complaints, but this sweet baby comes with 64G RAM, a 1T drive, and 4K display, touchscreen, but those aren't hugely impressive in themselves. Except for the 64G RAM--which outside desktops you generally only find on laptops on the high of the high end standard--when I did a comparison, and the Precision uses the same model as my XPS, actually, just way more G (if I could have gotten that much RAM in my laptop, hell yes I would have paid for it, RAM is more valuable than processor speed--at a certain minimum standard of processor--in ninety-nine percent of what I do and can compensate for a poor processor in fifty percent of cases).

However, even taking into account all that beautiful RAM, they don't act the same. A lot of what I do the first month after I get a laptop is slowly working out the memory leaks, the unnecessary processes, updating to current or getting rid of programs and drivers I don't need, making registry changes, and the thing is, only maybe fifty percent of what applies to one laptop works with another even if they have the same operating system.

I never really thought about it--computers gonna computer--and honestly, the guys who build the computers and install the software are not exactly well-paid so solidarity, they're not paid nearly enough to act like each computer is a masterpiece. So now I'm thinking that during the software installations of the standard Windows system, programs and program configurations, and drivers, are basically 'whatever guy created the standard installation for this line' and the poor guy is probably paid minimum wage and has five seconds to put together that standard installation. Sometimes, they do literally nothing at all, and sometimes, they do too much and much of it wrong. (Again, I don't blame them for that;

Precision--not so much. From the sheer lack of much in the way of tweaking I've had to do so far (no installation is perfect), the Windows and basic driver installation that Dell did is several orders of magnitude more precise and thorough than any computer I've ever gotten. Now granted, that's kind of all they do for state machines, which is pretty bare bones: Windows and required drivers, the drivers and config programs for the wifi/display/hard drive/etc.

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In other news, we had to make an exception to strict Stay at Home/Social Distancing Rules in family; my middle sister and her husband are both essential but can't work from home. My sister has four kids, but the eldest is eighteen and while usually she splits time between my sister and ex-BIL, she's been with him only since this started; of the other three, one is twelve and the other two are six and five respectively. They were in daycare, but after talking to Child (and Mom and me, but wisely Child first) she took them out of daycare (it did close soon after) and now they're at my mom's during the day while Child babysits/homeschools them, her 12 year old, and my youngest sister's 12 year old. He's also announced he is never, ever having kids ever and any future husband is gonna have to deal. I can understand.

(Of course, even that went to hell when I threw out my back so badly last week but it was still all limited to the same family members Child was interacting with regularly as well as me so not exactly a big escalation.)

Granted, this is not ideal, but it's about fifty times safer than any daycare for the kids--if there was one with openings that she could afford and that's doubtful--and that goes double when Mom's at risk and working from home. She can't watch them all day while working--and don't repeat this but she's also over sixty and maybe needs to take it easy just during the crisis?--so everyone is being careful.

So work starts in like thirty minutes, and while I am still not in love with work from home, I am partially reconciled by the fact that 'going to work' now consists of 'walking a few feet and logging into my work laptop while still brushing my teeth'. I think the arrival of the rolling, variable height laptop desk will complete my more cheerful resignation to my fate. Partially because I like to get things I can customize with cords and clamps and all manner of things, but also because I will not have to do all my work from a good-posture-inducing but extremely hard even with a memory foam seat cushion and memory foam pillow beneath me chair. I already configured one side of the sofa for ideal back position for work, but without that desk, the laptop has nowhere to sit close enough to work on it.

These are the times I deeply regret that when Mom bought her new dining room table and asked me when I wanted her to return mine, I said "oh, no rush, whenever!"

That's gonna haunt me.

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children of dune - leto 1

portable monitor triumph! part 2

Portable Monitor Triumph

Update!

Back in Stock!

Lepow Upgraded 15.6 Inch IPS HDR 1920 x 1080 FHD Computer Display Game Screen is now back in stock! Price: $204.99

Note: camelcamelcamel shows its lowest price as $169.99 on January 3, 2020, well before Coronavirus was a thing in the US, and its highest at $209.98 on Mar 17, 2020, which corresponds with the near beginning of Coronavirus work at home becoming mainstream. In other words, it may go down to that again but probably not very soon.

I will enthusiastically repeat my rec: if you're looking for a second monitor for work that can also be useful for non-work stuff, this one is great, and Lepow is a brand I've never had a bad experience with. However:

ASUS MB169B+ 15.6" Full HD 1920x1080 IPS USB Portable Monitor - this is available like new from Amazon Warehouse for $180.49 and new for $199.99 with Prime Shipping.

The only reason I'm mentioning this one is that it was on my short list originally because greater than two review sites had it on their top ten list for portable monitors and it wasn't available for a while. And it's ASUS; they're extremely well known, and personally, my first tablet came from them and not a few motherboards I've owned or worked on. So if you're considering getting one, that's one you might also look at.

So far, the price range for portable monitors is running about $180 up for those that either appear in rec lists by reputable sites or have a high star + lots of reviews (I personally look for above 200 reviews for portable monitors no matter how high the stars and only go below that if it's a very dependable brand like Asus or Lepow, etc, it show on a rec list for a site I trust, and it's release date is fairly recent. Portable monitors have taken a major upswing due to Coronavirus, so I try to make sure it's one that has reviews pre-February/March.

Note: The only thing I almost regret is it isn't a touchscreen, but only as a matter of convenience for a very few functions. OTOH, portable touchscreen monitors are both more expensive and more fragile than a plain portable monitor of this size and most of what I need the monitor for I need a keyboard at minimum (in the GUI, also a mouse).

Device Compatibility Testing

I confirmed compatibility with both Ubuntu and Raspbian, so the official list plus my testing list are as follows:

Compatibility List
1.) Window PCs
2.) Mac PCs
3.) Android phones/tablets
4.) iPhones/iPads
5.) Nintendo Switch
6.) X-Box
7.) Playstation
8.) Ubuntu (tested in Lubuntu)
9.) Raspbian (Raspberry Pi OS)

This is especially for [personal profile] brownbetty since she also has a Raspberry Pi. I have no idea if you'd be into this or even need a monitor for anything, but boy is it convenient if you're running headless with RDP.

Ubuntu Connection Guide

This is pretty straightforward but I like to be thorough.

Required:
1.) HDMI port on the Ubuntu computer
2.) Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable (came with monitor)
3.) USB-C to USB-A Cable + Power Block (came with monitor)

Instructions:
Attach the Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable to the computer and the monitor, plug monitor into outlet for power.

Raspberry Pi running Raspbian

Required:
1a.) Micro HDMI to HDMI Cable Male to Female - $8.99 - I bought this one
1b.) Micro HMDI to Mini HDMI Cable - $7.99
1c.) HDMI Adapters Kit (7 Adapters) Mini Hdmi to Micro Hdim Male to Female - $9.99 - the only reason I didn't buy this is that it's not available until May. Then I shall get it, holy shit, there are seven adapters in there. This will use the same steps as 1a, however, as there is not a Mini HDMI to Micro HDMI from the list I read under Product Description. (It does have a T shaped Mini HDMI and Micro HDMI Male to HDMI Female, though. I have no idea how I'd use it but I know i could.)
2.) Mini HDMI to HDMI Cable (came with monitor)
3.) USB-C to USB-A Cable + Power Block (came with monitor)

Instructions:
For 1a - Attach 1a to the micro HDMI port on the Pi, then attach female HDMI side of 1a to the HDMI of the Mini HDMI to HDMI cable that came with the monitor. Then plug in monitor to outlet.
For 1b - Attach 1b to the micro HDMI port on the Pi and the mini HDMI port on the monitor. Then plug in monitor to outlet.
For 1c - see 1a

How To Get Them Working Together

For both Ubuntu and Pi, do the following:
1.) Hook them up to the Ubuntu/Pi system while they're running.
2.) Nothing happens, the monitor says no output, you're afraid.
3.) Breathe, I got you.
4.) Run Update/Upgrade from command line. If you don't know command line, open a terminal and type sudo apt update, let it run until done, then sudo apt upgrade.
5.) Reboot

Reason to Add Monitor While Live
So, it was stressful.

I tried adding live first, then adding at reboot and those didn't work. It did work, however, if I ran update/upgrade/reboot while the monitor was still attached, and I left it attached during reboot. After reboot, the monitor came up in the BIOS (for Ubuntu) and with the rainbow screen (pre-GUI on the Pi). Go figure.

My utterly no idea guess: it needs to be detected by the machine first to trigger the drivers or to tell Ubuntu/Raspbian to download them. Then you update/upgrade to download them. To be fair, I had downloads pending already for both so I can't really be sure; a couple looked vaguely like they might be for a display, but can't lie, I do not even pretend to recognize most of packages on site unless I manually downloaded the packages myself from the web and manually installed them from command line. It's possible if either one had ever been attached to an actual monitor instead of a TV, it would already have those drivers or packages, I have no idea, so YMMV.

If it doesn't work the first time; do not unplug the monitor, just update/upgrade/reboot again. I'm using a standard Lubuntu and standard Raspbian install with no unique configurations so pretty much any system running an Ubuntu flavor should get it done. I can't see how it'd be incompatible with any Linux distro or any Raspbian-based OS flavor, so don't borrow trouble if you're running a different Ubuntu, different Linux type, or a Raspbian-based derivative and it doesn't work the first or second time; it's most likely that whatever is needed to run the display is not in that distro's standard packages and you'd just need to google a bit.

Cables, Adapters, and Hubs

While we're talking about alternate ways to connect things with cables, a story.

When I got this laptop, it was apparenty one of the first USB-C only and I was excited as hell. Perhaps too excited. Despite my (usually) much better judgement, instead of calmly collecting USB-C to X adapters for ethernet, HDMI, and a couple more USB-C to USB-A (the computer came with two), I eagerly purchased one of those all in one USB-C Hub multiport adapters.

It was so pretty and so gloriously functional: it had three USB-A 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, a gigabyte Ethernet port, an SD card port, and even a USB-C power port so I could also power my laptop through it. With it, I would only need one thing attached to my laptop and it could do everything./

That...was a mistake. Or at least, a mistake of that being the only thing I purchased.

It was fine for about a year, right up until it tried to overload one of my USB-C ports and died messily. When I tossed it, though, I lost all my adapters, as I hadn't bought any other adapters. Which was a really incredibly stupid mistake just from the perspective of always have a goddamn backup.

I'm not saying those all in one hubs aren't useful: they are! They're great! But always have at least one backup adapter per type--HDMI, USB, ethernet, card reader, etc--that you use only at home and never, ever leaves your house. For the hub as well as that group of single cable adapters, don't short on price; get the one with the highest stars/most reviews combo with a name you at least recognize. For the hub this goes double and triple; if it's less than $35-$40 and not a sale, double check everything, because you need a hub that's extremely well configured for that USB-C port, which can carry enough power to run your laptop. A bad hub can indeed damage the USB-C port on your laptop or even your computer if it decides to die when you're using it, especially if you're using several of those hub ports at the same time. It can also make your laptop make a terrifying sound you will hear until the day you die.

Yes, get one of course, but be prudent in picking it, and pay attention if even one port on it starts acting sketchy.

Plain USB cables for when you leave the house or extras you keep on hand are a different story. One, they're ubiquitous, so yeah, get a lot, and those you should get cheap. Go for the $10 for ten USB-A 3.0 to whatever when you see them (I do, a lot), because lets face it, even if they were made to last forever you're going to lose them in like, three months or some shit (do you still have the cable that came with your phone? When's the last time you saw it?). As long as reviews don't say "WILL BLOW UP YOUR COMPUTER" a small performance hit is worth the trade off of not feeling guilty you don't remember where you left your phone cable last night/last week.

Now, An Amusing But Relevant Anecdote

Why am I digressing into adapter cable purchase theory? Well, at work, we just upgraded our test phones for the second time. And as of the first time we upgraded, I buy discount cable packs for work for my co-workers to use; I have a desk drawer with nothing but USBs and lightning cables and power blocks. How are these related, you're probably asking yourself if you're still reading in sheer fascination with why on earth I am so into cables? Let me explain.

Among the programs we test are two apps for mobile phones, and so we have several Android and iPhones to use to do that. I'm primary tester, but sometimes I get a team together, and we all use those phones. You can guess what happens, every time. I mean, to those test phones' cables.

1.) We all use either Samsung, a rare flavor of Android, or iPhones for our personal phones and all the test phone cords do indeed look exactly like our cords. So yeah, they vanish pretty fast. Not because anyone is slyly stealing them for a free USB cable here: they look exactly like the cables we are charging our phones with at our desks. Like most people, when it's time to leave, we pack up the phones quickly, take them to our manager's office (or my desk), grab our stuff, and go home...including our (we think) cables that due to rush, we probably forgot to put back in the box.

Me? I have brought home work phone Samsung cables thinking they were mine greater than two times, and during mobile testing, I check the phones every day before I leave. And yet, I still grabbed that white cable and tossed it in my purse before taking all the phones back to my manager's office. So yeah, everyone does it and it will happen.

2.) Everyone borrows them to charge their phones. They always mean to bring them back, always. But see 1 and the fact a USB/lightning cable's job is to get lost. It will happen. And saying "You can't" would be utterly ridiculous; there was no way to enforce it, no way to know who did it unless thy did it right in front of one of us, and literally no one--me, my manager, or the assistant manager--had any goddamn interest in even trying. I, for one, would fucking buy a replacement at full price and pretend it was under my desk first, and frankly, my manager and the assistant manager would probably pay for half because seriously? And that assumes it' a tester that does it; there are other groups that use our phone to for testing and oh hell no am I ever wandering through that building hunting down a goddamn cable.

(Everyone borrowed those cables. It's just fucking reflex.)

However, this does lead to having testing phones and no cables with which to charge them, so: I had an idea.

When we were getting ready for the very first phone upgrade from Galaxy 5's/iPhones some very low number to Galaxy 8s and iPhone 7s, we had two (2) USB cables and one (1) broken lightning cable left between ten phones. Obviously, I did not email frantically asking for cables or accuse people of stealing because I am neither an idiot nor someone who even knows how to fucking care about that (honestly, I can't be sure I wasn't an offender. Or possibly it was my manager, everyone borrows them). I did not talk earnestly to my manager or the other testers about USB Cords Mysteriously Missing Must Stop (though God I kind of wish I had, it would have been hilarious to see their faces until I burst into laughter); instead, I made a case for extra cables being purchased--they break, I told my boss seriously, who nodded back just as seriously and both of us did not look at our mobile phones, so fragile!--and with permission, wrote up a request for extra USB-A to microUSB, USB-A to USB-C, and lightning cables, and a few of the single piece microUSB to USB-C and USB-A to USB-C cable converter pieces. I was given the Official Work Catalog (Office Depot is one of our suppliers!) to price everything. I was reasonable--about three for each phone we'd get (4 Galaxy, 5-6 iPhones), and a few adapters to make a micro USB into a USB-C. Price: under $30 probably.

Whoever read my request was a realist of the first order and did the appropriate math. When the new phones came, so did a large separate box of mysterious purpose, and in there, I found boxes of cables. Boxes of one, boxes of three, fancy bags of three, boxes of those tiny one piece cable adapter. Roughly, we received thirty cables per phone when I stopped counting breathlessly as my manager looked on, starting to get worried.

Me: *star eyes as I unpack the box* AREN'T THEY BEAUTIFUL?
Boss: Are you...okay?
Me: YES

Would people borrow those cables? Oh yeah, of course, if they could, but I had a plan that unlike None May Borrow or Death, would actually work.

1.) All extra cables weren't hidden, but simply stored in the least likely part of my boss's office. His office has this nifty cabinet that includes a narrow coat closet to hang up his coat; I put the big box--containing all the little boxes--in there on top of a stack of binders. (His coat is very short.)

Now, it wasn't hidden, I didn't do it late at night under the cover of darkness, everyone could look in and see me doing it, and if you open that cabinet, the box is right there.

However, the steps required are:
a.) go to that cabinet where the phones are not located at all (so no excuse of just grabbing a phone to test with in case someone asked though nobody ever did or even care)
b.) pulling out that giant box and transferring it to the floor to open it (not a lot of room in that tiny closet)
c.) sifting through the many many many many small boxes to find a compatible cable. For after I finished swooning and checked and labeled them all, I fully closed each one and put it back in there. Some are one cable; some are three cables; some are connectors: no way to know unless you read the tiny print on the box, because I didn't label them with type and in fact used the label to cover the relevant information. (Me, I could identify the boxes by sight; I'd spent enough time opening them and checking them.)
d.) no way to get it back subtly into the little box inside the big box in its original coils.

All those extra steps did the job for me. The only missing cables are ones I used to replace the ones missing from the phones and vanished into the ether, but again, cables get lost.

2.) I bought cables myself. Lots and lots of cables.

Amazon's ten for fifteen, five for eight, whatever, I grabbed some of each kind my coworkers used for their phones, tossed them in that drawer, and sent out an email that if you need a cable for your phone, grab one here, no need to ask or wait until I'm there. I never checked or cared if they came back, just every so often did a count to see if I needed to buy more. And oddly, only two or three haven't come back (as opposed to the one I left outside, one I accidentally took home with me, and a couple died and were buried at trash). Possibly because they look nothing like the cables that come in the boxes; no whites or blacks, either bright colors or cloth textures or grey or something. Anything visibly or texturely different, basically. I also--for myself--purchased a USB charging cradle with four USB slots so I could charge my tablet and headphones; anyone was welcome to leave their phone or headphones or whatever there to charge, just don't take it off my desk.

And they did.

We still lost mot of the cables that came with the regular phones, but that was always going to happen. No one--especially me--was going to dole out cables like gruel to Oliver fucking Twist and company. It happened a lot slower, though, and for a surprise, three lightning cables and one USB survived this time.

(Literally the only reason I don't take home cables by accident anymore is that I bought a wireless charging cradle for work, since with my last phone, charging by usb (and jerking it out too many times by accident and sometimes on purpose) wore the port down badly, so I only usb charge at home when it's really, really necessary and wireless cradle it overnight. Even if I forgot to charge overnight (happens, but not often, since I have the wireless cradle right by the bed, too) and it's like at 5%, I put it in power saving and put it on the cradle; it's usually fully charged by lunch or very close.)

We just got the upgrade to new phones: one Galaxy S10, two Galaxy Note 10s (!!!!), and a split between the latest iPhones and iPhone Pros(!!!!!!). One Galaxy is on backorder, but a couple of weeks ago, I went to the office to take the delivery of the others and gloat.

I still need to go back and check, configure, and label them, but that must wait until a.) I'm not taking muscle relaxants, b.)I can walk half a mile over not always sidewalks and back without my back spasming, and c.) I can find somewhere that delivers face masks since Austin requires if you are over ten and in public you need to wear one.

(I do not disagree with this rule--I very much approve--but it is a little inconvenient. My sister cleverly already ordered some super cool ones from a coworker, so she's sending me one soon.)

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