Logitech M585 Wireless Mouse

Since late 2017, I've used the Logictech M705 Marathon wireless mouse at work. I loved everything about this mouse. It had great battery life, even when only using 1 AA battery (it supports two batteries for even longer life, at the expense of extra weight). The weight of the mouse with one battery was terrific; not too light and not too heavy. To top it all off, it had great extended button placement at my thumb, allowing me to quickly browse back and forward in my web browser with a quick click.

This past December, however, I started noting phantom double clicks when single clicking, a problem that quickly got annoying. Searching around the internet informed me that this is a common problem with Logitech mice, and is a sign that the physical switch under the left mouse button is failing. I immediately headed to Amazon to pick up another M705 when I discovered a ton of negative recent reviews. Apparently, Logitech has actually changed that product, dropping some features and cheapening the body, while keeping the same model number (how can any company rationalize doing this, by the way?).

Persuaded to stay away from the newer model, I opted instead for the Logitech M585. Having had this new mouse for a few months now, I'm fairly pleased. The mouse is smaller physically, and not as sculpted as the M705, which is a minor drawback to me (the M705 had a real nice feel in the hand). However, this new one still fits my hand well. Pointing accuracy is dead on. The 585 supports moving between multiple machines, but it requires external software (on both systems), and that was enough of a barrier that I didn't bother.

Time will tell if the mouse holds up to daily driving, but so far so good.

Photos from Space

Mar 25, 2021

I've been following the ongoing saga of the ship stuck in the Suez canal, and I find it very interesting. It's pretty clear that we're building boats that are too big. Anyways, a post from The Verge today linked to an incredible photo taken from space. The resolution on this photo is really mind blowing. The more I think about this, however, the more I've got to believe that this capability has existed for a long, long time. The US military has likely had photographic capabilities like this since the cold-war days. I wonder what kind of photos they can take today?

Regardless, it's really amazing that you could take a photograph of stuff on the ground, from outer space, and be able to see even small details in said photo. Incredible!

Here's a fascinating video on the history of the man that started the Chef Boyardee brand. I had no idea!

One of the well known tenets of Python is:

There should be one (and preferably only one) obvious way to do it.

There are plenty of places in the Python universe where this tenet is blatantly ignored, but none tickles me quite like shutil.copy and shutil.copy2. Both methods copy files from one location to another, with one (and apparently only one) difference, as the documentation for copy2 spells out:

shutil.copy2(src, dst, *, follow_symlinks=True)
Identical to copy() except that copy2() also attempts to preserve file metadata.

I'd love to know what motivation the author of the (very poorly named) copy2 method had for adding it to the library. Was adding a preserve_metadata argument to copy() not sufficient for some reason? That's what any sane developer might have done.

The Jubilant Gardener

Mar 18, 2021

If you're interested in gardening, or know someone who is, my wife has started a website aimed at providing gardening advice: The Jubilant Gardener. New posts drop twice a week: gardening articles on Wednesdays, and Christian devotionals on Sundays. Her latest post on how to prune plants is solid. Follow the feed if you're so inclined, and feel free to share with those who might enjoy gardening related articles.

Ads on YouTube

Mar 12, 2021

I watch a lot of YouTube, and I do so across a couple of different platforms: via computers and via my phone. Watching on my phone through the YouTube app has, in recent months, become nearly unbearable. Ads roll constantly on nearly every video, with no easy way to avoid them. On my various laptop computers, I have the luxury of using uBlock Origin, which keeps those ads at bay. Not so on my mobile device.

I get that Google wants to monetize their platform (and that hosting videos is expensive), but the ads are now worse than commercial television! I guess the increase in ad frequency is intended to drive people towards signing up for YouTube premium. I'm too much of a cheapskate to spring for that service, especially given that it's $12 a month, which is 33% more than a basic Netflix account costs.

Are there ad-free ways of watching YouTube on mobile?

I primarily listen to music from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. There's a ton of great music from those eras, some of which goes under the radar. This is the first in a new occasional series where I share some of the gems I've found that others may overlook.

My first entry is an album I only recently stumbled upon from a band I never paid much attention to (much to my regret!). The album, from 1977, is "Even in the Quietest Moments..." by Supertramp. This album is terrific, wall to wall, which is a recurring theme for this group (their more popular albums Breakfast in America and Crime of the Century are also consistently excellent, and I recommend both).

The opening track from this album (Give a Little Bit) is a well known radio hit, but my favorites are the title track, as well as the epic closer Fool's Overture, which clocks in at nearly 11 minutes. Give it a listen!

I knew the greatest show of all time spoofed lots of great films, but I'm not sure I ever realized just how accurately they did it. This video details some of the best parodies in seasons 1 through 5, along with a side-by-side comparison with the source material. The writers (and animators) truly paid attention to detail!

Tom Scott's YouTube channel is always a delight, but his most recent video on why YouTubers have to declare ads is a real treat. It's long-ish (30 minutes), but I highly recommend it.

I ran into a problem at work today with a custom template tag I've written in a Django project. The tag works as follows:

{% if_has_team_role team "role_name_to_check" %}
<!-- block of HTML to be included if true goes here -->
<!-- otherwise, all of this is skipped -->
{% endif_has_team_role %}

I'm using a custom tag here, rather than a simple conditional, because the underlying check is more complicated than should be expressed at the template layer of my code. The problem came when I nested other conditionals in this block:

{% if_has_team_role team "role_name_to_check" %}
  {% if some_other_condition %}
    <!-- a nested element -->
  {% endif %}
{% endif_has_team_role %}

This setup was throwing an error. While searching for a solution to this issue, I stumbled upon this StackOverflow question. Reading the question, it matched the very problem I was having. At the end of the question, I noted that I was the original asker, 5 years ago; ha!

The solution I had accepted back when I asked this was, at best, a workaround. It turns out that a simple typo in the code was to blame, and fixing that typo solves the problem. It's a nice feeling to answer your own question, even if it takes five years to do it.

On Working From Home

Feb 3, 2021

We're closing in on a full year since the COVID-19 lock down took effect here in North Carolina. I've been working from home every week since the beginning of that lock down (mid-March 2020), and so far I really like it! In fact, once my employer opens its campus back up (whenever that may be), I'll likely continue to work from home for the majority of the week. Here are a few of the pros and cons that I see, in no particular order:

Pros

  • Terrific Commute: I love not having to fight traffic or traffic lights twice a day, and I'm saving about 40 minutes total per day sitting in my car.
  • Saving Money: I'm driving less, which means I put way less gas in my car (I've filled up exactly 3 times since last March). I also eat out way less, which has reduced my lunch costs considerably.
  • Home Cooked Meals: Speaking of lunch, I get to eat home cooked meals every day. I rarely took in a lunch of my own to work, so this is a nice perk.
  • Spending Time with Family: Having lunch with my wife and daughter every day is a real treat, and is time I otherwise wouldn't have with them.
  • Fewer Distractions: Distractions in my employer's open work office environment were a real nuisance, as were the interruptions from co-workers who would stop by to ask a question.

Cons

  • Home Cooked Meals: Although I love eating home cooked meals for lunch, I'm also missing a few of the places I used to visit (I haven't had a Bojangles biscuit in nearly a year; the humanity!).
  • Spending Time with Family: I miss interacting with humans other than my wife and child.
  • Separating Work from Play: When your work lives where you live, it can be difficult to separate yourself from the work world. I occasionally find myself doing work during hours of the day I would normally be doing something for pleasure. I suppose this comes down to discipline, for the most part.

Merlin Bird ID

Jan 23, 2021

One of the tools I've been using in my backyard wildlife identification efforts is the Merlin Bird ID app (I'm using the Android version). This app is aptly named, because the ID capabilities are like some sort of dark magic!

There are a fair number of useful features in this app, none more so than the photograph identification tool. You simply upload a photo of the bird you want to identify, select the date and location where you spotted the bird, and the app gives you a list of possible birds. Each entry has information on the bird itself, and a number of excellent photos to compare your candidate against. In most of the trial cases I've given the app, only two or three candidates are usually returned, a testament to just how smart the "brains" of this thing are (all of its recommendations for my photos have been spot on so far).

Another feature that I haven't used much yet is the bird-call feature. While examining details on a bird, you can listen to a number of its calls, which makes identification by ear a lot easier. I cannot recommend this app highly enough!

Backyard Wildlife

Jan 17, 2021

We've had a bird feeder in our backyard for a few years now, but I've only ever half-heartedly watched the birds that come to it. This year for Christmas, my wife requested (and received) the addition of a suet feeder. Between the cold of winter, the never ending lock-down of this god forsaken pandemic, and my general boredom, I've been spending a lot more time actually watching the birds that visit our backyard. More importantly, I've also been photographing these birds, as well as other wildlife we see around our house. This Backyard Wildlife album is the result. As an aside, this is the first public photo album I've published since 2019!

I can emphatically say that I now enjoy watching and identifying the birds that visit. Prior to this endeavor, if you had asked me how many different types of birds come to our feeder, I would have guessed 10, maybe 12. As of this writing, I have photographed 26 different species of birds in and around our house. I've seen a few more which have yet to be photographed (some birds, it turns out, are fairly difficult to shoot). As a result, this album will be a living album; I plan on adding to it as I shoot new pictures.

My self-imposed criteria for this photo album is that all photos must be taken from the area immediately surrounding my house. There will be no duplicate species photos (with the exception of variants by sex), and I will replace photos over time with improved versions as I am able (a few photos are fairly rough, due to the birds' ephemeral visits). If you have a bird feeder in your yard, take the time to watch the birds that come. You'll be surprised at what's right in your backyard! If you don't have a feeder, be sure to get one; it's great, cheap fun.

Here are a couple of teaser photos from the album:

I've been doing web development in some form or fashion since 1999 (as an aside, the Wayback Machine even has a snapshot of one of my old websites; what a world)! I probably started picking up JavaScript way back in the early 2000s, as my web developing knowledge improved. Since web browsers are generally really good at supporting the old way of doing things, my knowledge of JavaScript has been pretty stagnant for a long time.

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon The Modern JavaScript Tutorial, a terrific resource for learning how to do things the modern way. I'm working my way through reading it, even taking the time to go back over the basics. I've already learned a lot; some of what I've been doing has apparently been deprecated for a while now, which was interesting to learn.

I've also learned about features I hadn't seen before (the nullish coalescing operator being one of those). I recommend it if, like me, you're still living in the dark ages.

The Carnyx

Jan 5, 2021

I stumbled upon the following museum lecture from 2015 on YouTube, highlighting the carnyx, a Celtic war horn that was used thousands of used ago (and only recently reconstructed!). If you have 45 minutes and an interest in either history or music, I highly recommend watching.