In 2014, I had some funds in Canada that I wanted to invest – the CAD to USD exchange rate was too awful back then I didn’t want to convert it. However, as a non-resident of Canada, I was highly limited in what I’m able to invest in. I thought I’d take advantage of a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) until I found something better to do with the money. A TFSA is similar to the ROTH IRA in that it allows for tax-free growth. So I figured I’d give it a try…that was a mistake.
It turns out that non-residents of Canada cannot make deposits into a TFSA. When you do, a surprisingly high tax kicks into place: 1% per month on the total invested. If you leave funds in a TFSA all year, you’re paying 12% tax on it. And that’s not on the interest, it’s on the principal. Ouch! Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this – and there was no warning to me before making the investment. Luckily I invested late in the year, so the fees I had to pay were a little more than one month. No one likes receiving a surprise tax bill in the mail though!
Bottom line: unless you live in Canada, don’t put money into a TFSA.
The journey continues! By month four, I was starting to really get the hang of OS X, and most of my questions were more about “Why did they do that?” versus “How do I do that?”. I’m still no power user, but slowly the mysteries of OS X are unveiling themselves to me…
- I am puzzled by what OS X does with videos and resolution. It looks like, in the case of video (because nobody like tiny videos), Apple will automatically double the playback size of a video; normal is a 2x zoom. This can cause some confusion if you’re working with videos – I’m not entirely convinced this was the right decision for Apple to make, but you can certainly play video at 2x size and have it look fairly good so there’s not a bit quality loss here visually.
Above: the default size of a 1920 x 1080 JPEG as viewed with Lily View.
Above: the default size of the QuickTime player for a 1080p video.
Above: the QuickTime video reduced in twice by two steps – close to proper size.
Continue reading A Mac User and His New iMac – Month Four
I’ve slowed down taking notes on my “learning OS X” project – largely because I seem to have gotten over most of the rough edges – but I still have many notes to share from the intense first few months. Here’s what I was experiencing in month three.
- I’m not clear why/how, but the Microsoft Office updates for OS X are really terrible. The download takes forever – I’m on a 40mbps connection, but because there’s no speed indicator I’m not clear if the updates are gigantic or the update server just dishes up the bits slowly (hello Xbox Live!). The install progress also takes a while. The number of updates is fairly frequent (feels like almost weekly), and it’s a process that’s simply far too slow. Microsoft really needs to do better here. It would be great if updates for Office came through the App Store, but I imagine Microsoft has reasons for not using that delivery mechanism…
Continue reading A Mac User and His New iMac – Month Three
A friend of mine started working for LeEco a few months ago, so I’ve been introduced to this curiously-named, but wildly ambitious Chinese company who is entering the US market in various categories (mainly audio and TVs for now – Android bikes and electronic cars may come later). Oh, they also make smartphones. LeEco sells their products via LeMall, a site where their already-affordable products often go on “Flash Sale” for 50% off, meaning these Leme Bluetooth Headphones that are already cheap at $39.99 go for a simply-crazy $14.99 (which is what I paid for them). So how do they stack up? Here’s a quick review.
Continue reading LeEco Leme Bluetooth Headphones Review
Last year, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, Roku released an updated streaming media player: the Roku 4. I’d become a huge fan of Roku players, having owned three of them over the years. It was a big product for them – and for the consumer – look at the sheers size of it above compared to the Roku 3! The flagship feature it brought to the table was 4K playback, which made it one of the few mainstream streaming media boxes to offer it at the time.
What I wasn’t prepared for though was the sheer size, the fact that it had a fan (a mostly quiet one, thankfully), and the heat output. What’s surprising: I never used it to play any 4K content, yet it still seemed like the Roku 4 was being pushed hard. You’d think that the chips capable of playing 4K wouldn’t bat an eye at playing 1080p, right? The Roku 4, despite it’s amped-up hardware for 4K playback, didn’t have a much faster overall UI or channel launching speed. To be fair, I pre-ordered it and I’m sure Roku has optimized it with further updates.
I ended up returning the Roku 4, and until I get a 4K TV I’ll stick with my current combination of three Roku 3s, Fire TV, and an Apple TV. There’s no such thing as too many streaming devices, right? 😉
When we moved to the USA four years ago we didn’t get cable, and instead have relied upon a combination of Netflix, Amazon Video, iTunes, and for a short while Hulu, for our media consumption. Being cord-cutting video streamers means we don’t often watch shows until they’re off the air and we’re usually behind the mainstream in terms of watching hit shows. We’re OK with that. Every so often though, we run across a show we wish we’d watched sooner because it’s just so damn great. The Newsroom is one of those shows. I came across this clip on Facebook and marveled at the lines written for Jeff Daniels (as well as his delivery).
(apologies that you have to click through to watch that video, the “owner” disabled remote embedding for some reason)
Leaving the politics out of it – to call it a left-leaning show would be an understatement – the writing of Aaron Sorkin on this show was just so intelligent, witty, and…sharp. Every line is clever and cut like a razor blade. I wish I could live in a world where people were that consistently witty! The other aspect I really enjoyed was the way the show talked about real events – it brought a sharp reality to the otherwise normally fictitious world of TV.
Sadly, The Newsroom was cancelled after only three seasons. The reasons why vary, but I’ll forever wish we could have seen more seasons. Imagine what Sorkin would have written for Will McAvoy to say about Trump!
It’s become a common refrain for Apple to position iPads as being laptop replacements. It reached a fever pitch with the introduction of the really damn big iPad Pro last year. As much as I love my iPad – it’s my most-used personal computing device, more than my phone most days – and as impressive as my new 128 GB iPad Pro Jr. is (that’s what my friend Todd Ogasawara calls this model, Apple’s naming is silly), Apple is simply not allowing the iPad hardware, and iOS, to evolve to the point where it would seriously cannibalize sales of their laptops. Now I admit for some people who use their laptops for pure consumption, an iPad may in fact replace their laptop 80% of the time. I know my sister hardly touches her laptop any more once she bought an iPhone + iPad.
For me, there are three reasons why my iPad still can’t replace my laptop – and they aren’t what you might expect (such as not having an always-attached keyboard). Continue reading Three Reasons Why My iPad Can’t (Yet) Replace My Laptop
My wife and I love watching, and collecting, movies. We both have a passion for great stories and big action movies, so we’re not one of those couples where one person likes the romantic comedies and the other only watches horror movies. I feel very grateful that I have a wife who is excited when I say I want to watch Braveheart or Black Hawk Down for the seventh time. 😉
One of the realities we faced though when we had our first child almost seven years ago was suddenly watching a movie would take two, three, even four nights (depending on the length of the movie – I’m looking at you Lord of the Rings Extended Edition) because you always don’t have those 2-3 hours uninterrupted stretches any more as a parent. That’s fine if you own the movie, but digital rentals have traditionally been 24 hours. You click play at 7pm on a Monday night, you’d better be finished by 7pm the following night. There have been two instances in the past where we’ve had to re-rent a movie a second time in order to finish watching it.
Clearly, the people making this change to the rental window timeframe know what it’s like. Thank you Amazon for understanding what it’s like!
And for the record, John Carter was quite entertaining – nowhere near as bad as it was said to be. 🙂
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
– Albert Einstein
I kind of fell off the posting wagon with this series of Mac updates, so this one has notes that date back to January/February. Still, I wanted to share them. 🙂
- I had a two week break from using my iMac over the Christmas holidays, and I honestly missed it. Not in a “throw my Windows laptop against the wall because I want to be using OS X” kind of way, but using the actual hardware – the amazing screen, the huge trackpad, the fast performance – the reasons why I still very much enjoy using desktop computers and could never be 100% laptop-only.
- I ran into a strange issue: I’d installed a trial version of an app called LilyView – it’s a stripped down, fast photo viewer that allows me to use the keyboard arrow keys to move through images in a folder. Something, inexplicably, the OS X Preview tool does not do. I liked the tool, so I bought it from the Apple App store. I ended up with two copies installed – neither one indicated it was the trial version. So I deleted both, re-installed the commercial one from the App store. It would be nice if there was some sort of app intelligence here.
- Setting global preferences inside an app is kind of crazy, but apparently that’s what you need to do to change email clients. I found the setting in Mail where you specify which email client to use for mailto links, I changed it to Outlook 2016, I verify the change, I exit Mail, I click on a mailto link in Chrome, and Mail opens up instead of Outlook! I’m baffled. So I did some more research, and when I tried it again maybe 30 minutes later, it all worked. WHAT? It’s worked fine since making this change.
- OS X is really inferior with what details it offers on Get Info. From Windows, I’m used to seeing pertinent information about media files. Resolution, audio bit rate, video bit rate, EXIF data for images, meta tags for music, etc. In Finder, I have the Preview pane turned on, and I see duration, sample rate, and bits per sample (weird terms Apple is using), but they’re all blank. Maybe it’s a network share limitation? Not sure why; data is data. In order to examine the metadata on my MP3 files I had to use my Windows 10 laptop to access it, then MediaMonkey to change it.
- And speaking of Get Info, I selected a bunch of files, then Get Info, and was immediately assaulted by the Get Info window for each and every file. Yikes! How do you select a group of files and get info about them, say the total size?
- I connected my HTC One to the USB hub and it wouldn’t show up as a device. The phone knew it was connected to a computer – I had various options for file transfer, charge-only, etc. – but despite various modes I put the phone in I never saw it in Finder. Not sure what magic pixie dust I need here to have it show up as a storage device…hmm. Looks like I needed to install Android File Transfer. I’m genuinely surprised by that!
Continue reading A Mac User and His New iMac – Month Two