All posts by Andy Affleck

I was born. The rest is being worked out as we speak.

Catching Up

MASH-flyerSo, I should probably have posted about M*A*S*H before, you know, the show opened. At least I posted it while it still has three performances to go… not that I expect this site will generate audience for the show.

Anyway, I directed M*A*S*H and have a wonderfully talented cast and crew. It’s been a fantastic experience and I will be sad when it is over.

In other news, we’re having the BIG tree in our back yard taken down today. It has rot visible high up at the site of where an old branch was removed years ago and we were thinking its was local to that spot until a piece of bark right at the ground level blew off in a wind storm two weeks ago and we could see the rot underneath. So, rather than wait for it to call on our house, we called the tree peeps to take it down. This makes me incredibly sad as this was a huge, beautiful tree, a swamp maple, and losing it means a lot less shade in our yard. A lot less.

We’ll plant some new trees to make up for it but it will be years before they give us real shade in the summer.

And that’s all the news to report today.

Pop Overs

I saw an article about new relatively inexpensive alternative bands for the Apple Watch and I wanted to check them out. So I clicked on the link taking me to the website. Before the page had finished loading, I was confronted by a pop-over asking me if I wanted to sign up for their newsletter/email/whatever. I had only just arrived. I had not even yet seen what they had to offer or if I was even interested in their stuff.

Imagine if you were walking by a store and thought the window display was interesting so you stopped to look. Suddenly, a man with a clipboard runs out and stands in front of you asking if you want to be on their mailing list. Dude, I’m just looking at your window to see if I am even interested in walking into your store. Slow down.

I see pop-overs with greater frequency and they have to be the most irritating trend on the web today. Sure, pop-unders and pop-ups were annoying too but at least it’s easy to have a quick CMD/DNTRL-W ready to make them go away. This new trend requires me to figure out where the close button is (upper left? upper right? in the body of the ad?) And you can make a case that the intent is working: I have no choice but to look at the ad in order to just get rid of it.

But it’s not working. First off, I refuse to read them. When they pop up, I concentrate only on getting rid of it as fast as I can. If it takes me more than 1-2 seconds to figure that out, I will, more often than not, close the page and never return to that website.

Yeah, I know, these sites need ads to survive. But ads that are interesting, entertaining, informative, or in some way relevant to my life will get my attention. Those that are pushy, annoying, or irrelevant to me will get ignored.

And don’t get me started on Amazon’s piss-poor ads. I, like many people, use Amazon to research purchases. For example, I needed a cordless screw driver and I read reviews of various options on Amazon. I needed it that day so I then went and bought the winner at the local Home Depot. And then for the next few weeks, all I saw were ads for cordless drills. (Once, for a play I was in, I needed a prop deck of girlie playing cards. My ads for the next long while were… interesting to say the least.)

I do like that in Gmail, Google gives me some options to customize the ads I see and I do make use of that. Same with Facebook. I will turn off ads and provide Facebook with the whys of my decision. But the rest of the world needs to catch up. And everyone needs to stop using pop-overs. Seriously.

Little Shop of Horrors

LSH-flyerHot on the heels of a return engagement of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) (which I sadly forgot to blog about before it happened), is the next show I’m doing: Little Shop of Horrors. I don’t think the show needs any introduction. I’m playing Mr. Mushnik (the shop owner) and details of the show are on the poster (here) and the link (above).

Friends Zone at 20

friends
In early 1994, I was the Manager of Dartmouth’s Computer Resource Center, an artisanal pre-sales and consulting office in Dartmouth’s Computing Services. One morning, the Director of Computing stopped by my office and handed me a floppy disk and told me to check out what was on it. I popped it into my computer and saw that it contained a single application, Mosaic 0.9b. Curious, I launched it and thus began my experiences with the World Wide Web. Within a week, I had created Dartmouth’s first Web site (and one of the first 50 college web sites in the world, near as I could figure at the time). By fall, I created my blog (one of the first ever) and was looking for new, higher-profile projects.

I noticed that TV show websites were becoming a popular and I sought out a show I could get in on. My big obsession at the time was The X-Files so I reached out to the webmasters of one of the better sites offering my help. They told me they had things in hand and didn’t need any help so I cast about looking for other things I could do.

In the fall of 1994, Friends premiered and I noticed that since there was no USENET newsgroup for the show, people were talking about it in alt.tv.mad-about-you, much to the chagrin of the folks there who didn’t care for Friends or who were just OCD about things staying on-topic. It had no website, no mailing list, no newsgroup. And, hey, I really enjoyed the show. So, I sprang into action. I created alt.tv.friends, a LISTSERV mailing list, and a website.

Soon after, a supervising producer of Friends reached out to me to start providing some information back to us fans on the list. He told me that they put the Episode Guide and FAQ up outside the writers’ room to help with continuity. A thriving fandom had been born.

But by around January 1995, as people on the mailing list began to get to know one another more, topics began to stray from the show to talking to each other about anything. Friends were being made. This upset those people who preferred the list stay on-topic and there began to be some anger running around. I decided to split the list into two lists: Friends-TV for discussions only about the show, and FriendsZone for folks to just hang out.

On February 6, 1995 the list was created and the first subscribers began to appear.

The history of this virtual community is long and storied but the short version is that, 20 years later, it is still around. While there is still a mailing list, it is almost never used. Instead, a Facebook group now carries most of the conversation.

And this weekend, in Las Vegas, a group of these folks are getting together to celebrate the 20th anniversary. I wish I could be there with them but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I hope they all have a great time and post a lot of pictures.

Happy Birthday Zone!

Fixing “Trust this computer” Problem

I had a strange problem crop up on my iMac running Yosemite and both of my iDevices (iPhone 6, iPad 4). When I plugged either in, I would get a dialog on the iMac saying photos could not be imported because the device was locked. On the devices themselves, I would be asked to Trust this computer. This happened every. single. time.

In the system.log, there were error messages to the tune of:

11/7/14 7:16:52.086 AM usbmuxd[57]: AMDeviceConnect (thread 0x1002fe000): Could not connect to lockdown port (62078) on device 1076 - [long ID number here]: 0xe8000084.

Digging further, I discovered that there is a directory, /var/db/lockdown, that contains a plist for each device connected to the Mac over the years (and since I have been leading an iOS Dev Team for Ozmott, I had a lot of devices listed in there!) and it seems that, for some reason, changes were no longer taking. I am not sure why. There were no errors related to permissions or otherwise.

On the advice of a thread I found online after some extensive Googling, I removed the lockdown directory. Theoretically, it would be recreated by the system. However, it wasn’t. Now when I connected my devices, I got the following errors:

11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM com.apple.usbmuxd[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: No such file or directory.
11/7/14 7:22:44.510 AM com.apple.usbmuxd[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: No such file or directory

So, I created a new lockdown directory using sudo mkdir lockdown. Then the errors changed to:

11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM com.apple.usbmuxd[57]: WriteDataToPath unable to create file /var/db/lockdown//SystemConfiguration.plist.tmp: Permission denied.
11/7/14 7:27:09.767 AM com.apple.usbmuxd[57]: CreateAndStoreBUID WriteDataToPath failed: Permission denied

The directory was owned by root (because I created it using sudo) and clearly needed to belong to the usbmuxd process. Directories belonging to processes are named for the process preceded by an underscore. So I executed: sudo chown _usbmuxd lockdown.

That worked. Plugging in my devices resulted in the same dialogs as before but once I told the iDevices to trust the computer, new plist files were created for each and subsequent connects/disconnects have not had the errors recur. We’ll see if this sticks over time but at least I know how to fix it, even if temporarily.

Update 18 December 2014: The problem routinely returns. After I leave my computer running for a day or so, the problem comes back. I haven’t needed to resort to the fix above as simply rebooting my computer fixes it. It’s safe to say that something I am running on my machine is responsible. Now for the sleuthing…

Update 15 January 2015: Solved! Thanks to this thread on Stack Overflow, I have a solution that works! When this happens, open up a terminal and type

sudo launchctl stop com.apple.usbmuxd

And it restarts the broken usbmuxd process and things are happy again.

French Press

French Press, Mug, and CreamI have a new obsession: French Press Coffee at Brewed Awakenings. Brewed is a chain in Rhode Island that has fantastic food, pleasant interiors, and, honest to Gods, the best damn coffee I have ever had. Their regular stuff is pretty good but on a whim I ordered the French Press one morning. I figured they’d make it fresh for me and I’d take it and go. But, it turns out, you are given a french press pot, and all the other supplies you need and after a few moments, you pour yourself an amazing cup of coffee. Along with my favorite breakfast sandwich, I now go there after I drop my son off at school and spend about an hour working into my day. It’s the perfect time to have breakfast, sip my coffee, and review my schedule and to do list. When I get to my home office, I am ready to start my day and the coffee is an amazing sustainer. More than any other coffee I have ever had, I feel like it just keeps me going.

I’m doing a lot of reading and research on modern parental attitudes towards their kids and social media. I’m writing about this on my other blog, Navigating the Waters (and am overdue to post something but I want to finish at least one of these books first). One thing that I am finding over and over is the fact that so much of parental attitudes towards their kids (both from Free Range Kids and from It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens) is due to the echo chamber of the media.

Noam Chomsky famously put forth the idea that news is often biased by what sells. One example (from an article by him I read in grad school and cannot for the life of me find online to cite here) is how in the 80’s, the New York Times reporting on the Sandinistas and Contras in Nicaragua was overwhelmingly anti-Sandinista, something that did not reflect the reality on the ground. He contends that the reason the paper did not print more than a tiny handful of pro-Sandinista op-eds is because the common belief was that they were horrible people and that saying otherwise would hurt newspaper sales. Essentially, news is a business and they have to print what people accept. If they don’t, people won’t buy the paper.

Regarding teens, the dominant meme in the media is that they are in constant danger and social media is a horrible thing that is making their lives hell, making them dumber, hurting their future, and all kinds of things like that. I will speak about this in greater detail in a forthcoming article in Navigating the Waters. But I find it a fascinating subject. And I see the media trying to combat it but they are doing it in a ham-fisted way with the false equivelency. Now they will present one side of the story and in an effort to be fair, they will present something or someone on the other side, regardless of how ridiculous it might be. This is why, despite the vast majority of scientists accepting global climate change, we always have to hear from the one who does not agree as if this dissenting view is equal to the other. Same with giving equal time to intelligent design/creationists despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for any of that and there is overwhelming evidence on the other side. This is why any time someone comes out and says that social media is actually a good thing in the lives of many teens, we have to hear from so-called parenting experts who have done no research and only have their unfounded opinions to share tell us how wrong the researchers are.

This brings me back to my morning french press. Brewed has a policy of always having Fox News on at least one of their tvs. Much has been written and researched about their complete lack of objectivity and the many subtle things they do to influence opinions. And they are hardly the only ones who do it, they’re just the most blatant.

I just find a nice seat where I don’t have to watch it (spoiler: It’s Obama’s fault, whatever it is) and I’m happy. Every so often, MSNBC is on for some inexplicable reason and I watch other regulars get worked up about it. “Can you turn off that propoganda and put Fox back on?” I am amused.

But I think about media that caters to specific groups. People get what they want to hear. Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. I try to get my news from multiple sources to get a more complete picture. This includes the New York Times, BBC, Al Jazeera, and so forth. But I have a liberal arts degree from Dartmouth College and if any one thing was drummed into my head it was to always find as many sources as possible.

Despite all that, I love my morning french press. Much as Colin Firth’s saddest time of the day is driving Aurelia home in Love, Actually, mine is realizing I am near the bottom of my morning coffee. But the swirl of dark brown at the bottom of my cup promises one last blast of flavor before the end. Reminds me of camp coffee when we’d camp with my son’s troop. There were always grounds in the coffee. I loved it. I called it the crunchy surprise at the center.

I really like coffee, did I mention that?

Fear and Panic vs. Education and Common Sense | Navigating The Waters

My latest article is up! Fear and Panic vs. Education and Common Sense | Navigating The Waters. This echoes some of what I have said before about parents being responsible for understanding what their kids are getting up to online but it also points out something that is so often neglected in the media: the rules for being safe and for being a good person are basically the same online and off.

Getting Back in Touch/Looking for Work

There is one upside to looking for a new job, you get to speak to a lot of friends and colleagues you haven’t spoken to for some time. I try to stay in touch with people and there’s quite a few I do manage to speak to regularly (and one I keep finding jobs for and owes me more than a few *cough* *cough*) but there are those few that I have not been in touch with for some time. So, today I sent out an email to a large number of people looking for ideas/leads/encouragement/whatever and I’m getting all these great emails back from people and getting caught up on their lives. So, silver lining.

The flipside, of course, is that I am, in fact, looking for new work. I’ve had a wonderful 3 years leading the development team at Ozmott but by April 1, I need a new job. I’ve learned a great deal these past few years that I can bring to my new employers and am looking forward to learning new things there as well. So, there it is. Resume available on request, just drop me an email at Andy at the domain of this website (really not that hard an email to figure out…)

Oh, and if you did not get an email from me (and you think you should have) then I humbly apologize and invite you to chastise me in an email (where I will blame an out of date email address for the problem.)

The Digital Nomads | Navigating The Waters

My latest blog post on my new blog is up: The Digital Nomads | Navigating The Waters.

Navigating the Waters

Today I launched a new experiment, Navigating the Waters: a blog for collecting my more formal writings (versus this site which is more off-the-cuff). We’ll see how it goes. Please pop over and take a look.