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Christopher Sikkenga

@jeena How's things with your website? Have you had to update your code often? It seems like Known is getting out of the POSSE game. https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/known-dev/orekBTTJMfg

Christopher Sikkenga

US Citizen Moves to Canada So He Must Be A Criminal

8 min read

CAN US FLAG

September has been an awful moment for my wallet, not because of spending but because clients and employers can't pay American me in Canada. Previously, a client had me sign up for a Chase service which I connected to my US account with another bank. Chase recently decided to say goodbye to freeloaders, like me, who weren't doing any banking with them. So began a month of stress, frustration and absolute disgust with customer service, computerized systems and the US, in general.

I'm a US citizen, but a legal resident of Canada. No matter what I do, I always have to file US taxes. Every other country in the world, has you file in the country of residence. Not our beloved USA. Thus, I changed my official address at my US bank account to Canada. I didn't want to appear suspicious by having a US address and also claiming residency in Canada. My bank assured me that they were fine with this arrangement.

My US bank account is a nice thing to have for traveling back home to visit. It's also necessary to pay off my student loans. Thus, I was getting paid by my US clients into that account and paying my student loans. I'm very thankful that friends in my professional network have stuck with me and cho se to employ me despite the move to Canada. It can complicate things for them and they're taxes as well.

While my problems this week are somewhat tax related, it really just comes down to getting paid. Despite having these computers in our pockets, banking is still in the dark ages. Well, I should rephrase that. American banks are in the dark ages. The security of the chipped credit card just reached the US last year? It's been a staple in Canada and other countries for close to a decade. (Plus, the US chip system never seems to ask me for my pass code. That's one of the most secure functions of it!) We hear about fabulous apps to send/receive money like Square Cash or Google Wallet, but they're US only.

"Where's the problem? You have a US account."

My address is Canadian. It's like living in a post Y2K world, where computer systems were never updated to do a 4-digit year. I literally cannot type in my postal code. I cannot choose my province from the dropdown menu. And "Heather," Google's help desk person who obviously has English as a second language because she's most likely not working at the Google campus, cannot help me because that's not in her script. Indeed, another friend talked to a family member who is at Square to help me out, and it was also a no go. Many friends suggested Freshbooks. It turns out they're based in Canada, surely they can help! "When you add your bank account, just put in a US address, not a Canadian one." Why didn't I think of that? Just lie. I'm sure that will work out for me. "News at 11: IRS Finds Canadian Terrorist Cell Using Freshbooks."

Death to Stock

Meanwhile in Canada and Europe, I've seen a number of methods to move money across borders. Here, there a number of immigrants, like me, sending money home. Wire transfer services, apps and websites can move money just about anywhere. The exception is the US. Obviously, Europe has mostly open borders and these things are a daily occurrence with your neighbor. The US and Canada are neighbors, right?

The Tax Shelter That Is Chris

The reason I am having so much trouble is because I'm a person, not a corporation. Wait, aren't corporations people now? Does it work the other way around? Am I Burger King? Did I move to Canada to escape the evil US taxes? Well, since I now have to file for taxes in two countries, hell no. Yet, that's really how I am being treated, as a criminal.

The assumption is that I fled to Canada to escape taxes. It wasn't love, happiness or any other ridiculous notion. I'm a US citizen, and complete criminal element. The thing that really gets me about the whole situation is that we live in this weird, new sharing economy. Again, sharing is in reference to the peons, us people at the bottom rung. The Uber drivers are so very happy to make their own hours and a living driving a car. The execs at the top of Uber are still playing the age old capitalism games and could care less about the sharing economy. Perhaps young startups begin with the sharing ideals, but they take on shareholders and fall into the well.

Fees, Fees, Fees A.K.A. PayPal

Search "don't use PayPal," or the classic "PayPal sucks" and you'll find a load of reasons to steer clear of them. You may even find a 14 year old rant by yours truly. I had a falling out with the service and have never used it or it's partner in crime, eBay, ever again. Guess what? It does actually work in Canada and the US. Despite my misgivings about the company, things are looking brighter, right? Setting the past aside, no. Things are probably going to get uglier.

When I made t-shirts for our podcast, Cotton Bureau only accepted PayPal, but wouldn't let me connect my account. It was that Canadian address issue again. Damn me for being an upright citizen and not lying. So, I signed up for a Canadian PayPal account.

My Canadian bank account says I can get a US account with their bank in the US and move money between the accouts without hassle. Sign me up! "No, you actually have to go to a US branch and sign up." Shoot me now. Instead, I opened a US dollar account here in Canada. Any US dollars I put in it are mine, without conversion! So, Canadian account plus Canadian PayPal, but payments in US dollars coming to a US dollar account! I win. Except for all of PayPal's fees that I can't list here because they're completely obfuscated on their site.

Oops. I celebrated too soon. It's a Canadian PayPal account. PayPal charges a fee for converting USD to CAD and vice versa. They really want that fee. Now, my option is to get paid, convert the USD to CAD and deposit it in the USD account which means another conversion by my bank. Or take the conversion into my CAD bank account. Tell me again, how I will pay my US student loans?

My Money, My Future, My Loyalties

As a freelancer, stress often comes from clients not paying your invoices. This was a whole new level of stress, not finding a method (in 2016!) to receive payment. Now, I brought this on myself. US friends reading this are thinking, "You're the one that moved there." My Canadian friends are wondering, "Why not get a Canadian job and ditch the US clients." Well, thank you for giving constructive advice, fake Canadian voices in my head. That's more helpful than the brash statement by the pompous American voice in my head.

A Canadian job would be pretty wonderful. I do what I do now based on opportunities and who I know. It's not based on me trying to avoid Canadian or US taxes. I don't mind pay taxes. Even before I moved here and had this amazing health care. Taxes give us roads, services and all sorts of things. Even if you don't agree with how the money is spent, you still owe it, in my opinion. Since I live in Canada, I owe that money to the government here, not the US government that assumes I must be a criminal for moving.

This whole episode has me seriously thinking about my US citizenship. What does it really afford me, aside from this hassle? I have family and friends back in the States, but I could still visit if I had Canadian citizenship. In the future, will my wife and I want to retire in the States? It's an option, but it's not looking very good right now.

If you read this far, hello. All of this just boils down to a reminder that Canada is a foreign country. As much as people around the world, and in the US, assume North America is basically the USA, it is simply not true. I would go so far as to say, we're not even that neighborly when it comes to money matters. Really, it's the difference between socialism and capitalism. Canada let me open a US dollar account and I can send money practically anywhere. The US doesn't want money to move outside its border.

If, for some reason, you enjoyed reading about my financial woes, you'll enjoy my next blog series. Riding the line between stupid and brave, I plan to post monthly income reports as I continue my career change journey. I don't really look forward to sharing how little I make. Yet I think it would be nice for others to see, a realistic look at writing articles rather than a carefully cultivated social media presence proclaiming that I am a successful entrepreneur.

Christopher Sikkenga

Credited As: Title Designer

1 min read

Not really a fan of The Academy, but I am loving these vignettes they're doing about the people who make films. I especially liked this one because I adore title design. I wish I knew it was a real job, or someone in the field when I was younger.

 

Christopher Sikkenga

Sometimes Twitter Feels Like This

1 min read

This creative short is well put together and has a decent script and message.

A tweet on Twitter represents our modern tastes when it comes to internet media, we only want small chunks. We read headlines, but skip the article. Perhaps, that's not the greatest practice? So, take a second to imagine that you only had 1500 words left. One, be glad it's only a fantasy. Two, be sure to communicate your feelings to your friends and family while you can. You never know what will be your last words to them.

Christopher Sikkenga

A Sundae for Robocop - A Guide for My Funeral

11 min read

My death is such a terribly frightening thought that my brain refuses to ponder it for more than 4.7 seconds. In April, I enjoyed Taryn Arnold’s For my 25th Birthday My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies and recently, I attended a funeral. These events got me thinking about how I want to go out. See, thinking about my funeral is different than thinking about not existing. For anyone that finds this post, I hope you enjoy my musings. For my family and loved ones, this is a set of instructions.

Immortality-challenged

Deep breath.

Alright, that Super Brownie Sundae Challenge at [insert restaurant here] has done me in, literally. First up, you need to make sure that the establishment doesn’t end the contest because of me. Just because I failed the 2 gallon gut buster doesn’t mean it’s not a fun way to promote their restaurant. Arguably, ending the silly promotion after my death looks like admitting guilt. Tell the owners and the media that I died doing the thing I love, eating ice cream.

Next up, what do you do with my body? What are my wishes? I guess, despite being dead, it’s respectful to do as I wish. If I’m being honest, I would simply ask not to be dead. I assume putting me in a new body or a terrifying robot is still Hollywood fantasy? Fine. So do I wish to be cremated? Or do you need to find a big enough cigar box to put me in and bury me the back yard. Presumably, next to the squirrel you saw dad hit with the lawn mower when you were 6 and forced him to perform a funeral for it. It’s only a tough question because I’d just rather not be dead.

Cremate me, I guess. We’ll get to what to do with that leftover bone and ash later.

Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

I don’t want to leave you hanging on like a yo-yo, but everyone grieves differently. Personally, my process rarely starts before the funeral. Rather than enlisting the help of a religious leader–that is, instead of paying a church to perform my service I would love a friend or family member to take the lead. Of course, only if he/she is comfortable doing it. I assume that the Hoff is either too expensive or frozen under glass in a tomb in Germany. You could ask Taryn Arnold or Justin Hall because they both have the right attitude and empathy. Otherwise a funeral director will work. Ideally, a grief counselor would be amazing.

While some find solace in faith, I believe it would be better to have professional help for mourners. If there’s a tacky printed program to commemorate my funeral service, be sure to add the name of a grief counselor and a way to contact her or him. I don’t mean to snub those with religious beliefs. I believe they will already have a support system in the form of their own pastor, priest or shaman.

As in life, the funeral is about me. One of the things that really bothers me at services is when the priest or religious leader turns my friend, or family member’s death into a commercial for his/her faith. “Don’t mourn Cindy, she’s in a better place because she put money in a dish when we passed it around and performed a sacred incantation. It’s a great reminder that you need to buy now because supplies are running low!”

I’m sorry for that tasteless portrayal of a faith leader, but that’s how I have felt so many times during funerals. I am hurt, vulnerable and dazed from losing someone very dear to me. Is this time to sell me life insurance? Are we exiting the funeral home through the back door to ignore the life insurance agents collected outside the front doors like paparazzi? No. It’s called respect. My funeral service isn’t a commercial for faith “X.” Let’s respect all the mourners and me. Let’s talk about me. It’s my favorite subject, alive or dead.

Paying the Piper

Let’s get to this “ceremony.” This is the part I like the least. Ceremony, I can’t stand it at weddings or funerals. Please don’t do any weird symbolic things with candles, sand, rope or ribbon. People have a hard enough time dealing with death. Let’s not confuse them with metaphors.

The same goes for poetry. I cannot stress this enough. I need poetry like a fish needs a bicycle. Typically loved ones reading the piece are overcome with emotions or deliver it dead pan. Pun intended. Jokes aside, this is the most important rule– no poetry. For me, poetry only serves as a distraction from the service and the mourning because I despise it so much. If someone thinks they have a poem or song that just fits, convince them otherwise or hire my friend Andy Luther to read it because he’s great at cold readings. (Should I keep a pun count?)

Here’s a novel idea, how about talking about my cause of death? It seems to be the hushed conversation of the audience but rarely covered in the service. “Chris gorged on a 2 gallon ice cream sundae, fell into a diabetic coma (diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome) and passed, shortly thereafter.” Perhaps I am so terrified of death because we don’t face it head-on in our society? I do know that mourning the loss of my uncle became very real when I was allowed to see his blue, bloated body before they cremated him. It may sound morbid, but how many of your deceased loved ones have you seen on a death bed or in a state of lifelessness? At the funeral service, they make the bodies up to look as if they are sleeping. I think it can be very hard to accept the loss if we are constantly ignoring the truth. So address my death in the service. I’m not saying to put my body in the cooler full of ice and drinks. Though, the “stiff drink” pun would be amazing.

Tell stories of our harrowing adventures together. Share tales that embarrass me, I promise not to blush. If you want to roast me, that’s perfect. Please let there be laughter at my funeral. Making people laugh brings me endless joy. There’s a talking point right there! "Chris was a cliché in life, always desperate to make people laugh."

Now, let’s eat! It might be in bad taste to have ice cream if I have truly cashed out from a diabetic coma, but the after-gathering is a very important part of any funeral. The service is the last official act to help many cope with accepting the loss, but the bland sandwiches afterwards are just an excuse to console each other. If we’re being realistic, this is the first time many of you will have seen relatives and friends in ages. This is a social gathering.

Many people say, “I don’t want a funeral, just have a party!” We have parties to celebrate events and the simple act of showing up is all you need to do to support the person or event. The party itself should be for the guests. And so, after the service, enjoy the people around you. Catch up with acquaintances, relive the old days and be present. This will be something I will be unable to do. Think about that. Use the bereavement leave from your work to see these people while you’re all in the same town. It only takes one 2 gallon sundae to take them away from you and leave you with regrets.

Heaven is a Cloud Service?

You’ve cremated the husk that stored my personality, now what? First, I don’t know what to believe anymore. Do crematories actually toast me individually, or do they load my body in with a bunch of others and melt us down together? If that’s the truth, what’s the point of holding onto the ashes of me, someone named Wilma and twenty other cadavers? Again, it’s symbolic ceremony, spreading my ashes on the beach or something. Especially if it’s me and a bunch of other people. Donate to the State park in Michigan in my name if ceremony is your thing. A hover bench with my name on it or an outhouse with excellent ventilation.

If what you get is truthfully just my ashes, do something weird with me. You can get the ashes added to a paint and commission a painting of me as Vigo the Carpathian. Have my ashes added to jewelry, stained glass or a tree.

Vigo C

Next, what do we do with digital me? Well, you can give my friend Quoc the keys and let him pretend to be me with a random update every few years. That sounds very Andy Kaufman, doesn’t it? All I ask is that my ridiculous legacy is available for people. Earlier, I wanted to make a Chris Farley joke, but I knew the Saturday Night Live clip would not be available because of the mess that is copyright. People should be able to hear my story. Presumably my death certificate reads, “Cause of death: ice cream.” That’s amazing! Don’t deny people of my ancient tweets about farts. The down side would be my likeness in VR, AR or a CG me being used to sell people things I truly wouldn’t approve of. However, you didn’t listen to my rants on Big Data when I was alive, so I assume Facebook literally owns my likeness and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway.

"Thank you for your cooperation. Good night."

As the Boyz II Men said, “it’s always hard to say goodbye.” Can you imagine doing the opposite of what Taryn did? Trying to go around to everyone you love and saying, “thanks” before you leave this Earth? That would be very hard. I’m so thankful for the 4 people I talked to today, let alone those that have had a tremendous impact on me in the last 30+ years. Thanks for the friendly conversation this morning, café employee! Seriously, saying my last goodbye & thank you to her and the other 3 people I interacted with today would be brutal. Not to mention, going through that with my wife. Yet, that’s the important thing to take away from Taryn’s “For My 25th Birthday, My Best Friends Wrote Me Eulogies.” Say it now.

So, I should take this time to thank you. Not just those of you that I call my family & friends, but even those of you that somehow found your way to this page and read this far. While I don’t have ads, the tap, or mouse click that brought you here is still a shared experience that I value. If I’m not hit by a car tomorrow, your page view may inspire me to open up about something else or bring us together in another way. Thanks for reading to the end. If I am currently on life support as you read this, please consider this blog post as my consent to be put in a cyborg-like abomination. The worst that could happen is that I become a murderous robot cleaning up the streets of Detroit.

The sundae gif at the top is from an interesting short animation from Xander Marritt & Elias Freiberger. "A reflection of life, a personification of the immediacy in the way we conduct ourselves. This shit is Bananas." Watch below and learn more at bananas.life.

Christopher Sikkenga

Replied to a post on jeena.net :

Thanks to @jeena for the share! That post seemed like mostly rambling, but I wanted to share how easy the switch is.

Christopher Sikkenga

Today - A Short Film From Jin Angdoo

1 min read

The gig economy is great when you have work. When you're not working, many people are of the mind of doing their own projects. These personal gigs are for self-care, exploration and in many cases to promote your brand and get you more work. Welcome to the age of social media, we're not people or numbers. We are brands. With that, I leave you with one person's struggle with a personal project.

 

Christopher Sikkenga

Tools to Ease the Switch from Mac to PC

8 min read

 

Previously, I covered some of my journey making the switch from Mac to PC this year and now here's some of the utilities and applications that made me more at home in Windows 10.

tinySpell

Seriously, what the ever-loving f**k, Microsoft? Why am I installing a 3rd party utility to have my computer check my spelling as I type in the year 2016? This functionality works across every app and window in Apple's OS X. Not to mention, every single smartphone on the planet. I just don't get it.

Years ago, I know that typing classes focused on speed and doing all the corrections at the end. However, that's just not how I work. I'm trying to switch this mindset now. Especially since Windows 10 supplies very little help. It makes sense that you continue to finish your thought, rather than backspacing, correcting an error and losing your flow. Yet, I still think highlighting incorrect words as you type is far superior than right-clicking and running a spellcheck application. You could still type your entire document and then go back to make corrections to the underscored words within the document, versus the extra steps involved in those clunky spellcheck windows in applications. For one, you can ignore the highlights that you know are correct, like brand names & products instead of having to punch the "ignore" button a dozen times.

I researched a few solutions and so far I have settled on tinySpell. This utility isn't perfect, the idea is that it uses one of those yellow tool tip things to highlight misspelled words, rather than the trusty underscore. I imagine this is a way for it to function in every application? Either way, I am somewhat happier with this installed. Unfortunately, the tool tip only appears after you type the word briefly. So, correct it now or you'll forget about it by the time you get to the end of this sentence.

Seer

I'm sure many of you prefer icons to descriptive lists, but I've never favored that. As much as I love being able to preview images and files with a click of a key in OS X, I didn't really set out to find a way to do this in Windows 10. I easily accepted defeat and tried to get used to using the file exporer setting which displays a preview of docs or images in a pane. This function pretty much halves the size of the file explorer window, truncating the details pane, but what are you going to do?

Then, I saw that a previous podcast guest, Alan Henry posted an article about Seer. Same as on a Mac, press the space bar on a selected file and get a preview. Boom. Color me happy.

Free Commander XE

When I was a windows user in a previous lifetime, I used Windows Commander (now called Total Commander) because I really liked having a dual-pane file manager. This allows me to move things quickly with only one file explorer window open. Total Commander and so many other dual-pane file managers also do FTP and have built in zip compression/decompression. This makes them excellent solutions as a file explorer and FTP application.

On the Mac, I used Forklift which did everything I needed it too. I even used it to rename thousands of images with a click of a button for a work gig. Currently in Windows 10, I'm trying Free Commander XE. Back when I was using Total Commander, it was a free beta. Now, it's $42 and the last time it has been updated was in 2015. So, I decided to try something different. Free Commander is missing FTP, but most of my HTML is still on the Mac. There is a beta of Free Commander with FTP and I can donate to get it after I finish testing this free version.

Launchy

Did you see that menu on Windows 10? And, that's after I did some edits and tweaks. (I should probably remove Internet Explorer's cousin Edge, because I don't use it.) Honestly, I rarely use the menu at all thanks to the Task Bar and Launchy. With a keyboard shortcut, you can launch anything you want. I'm loving this free thing! I've mapped the keyboard shortcut to my middle mouse button and that's how I open everything. Forget that terrible, nasty menu. The keyboard shortcut is ALT + Space and you get a nice clean blank asking for you to type a few characters in the document, file, bookmark or application you want to start.

Mailbird

Outlook? Yeah, no. On the Mac, I was using the great Airmail for my email needs. I'm part of the 1%. We're not rich, we just don't use Gmail. For Windows 10, I found something very comparable called Mailbird. The app is free with ads, or it seems to be heavily discounted all the time. The pro version removes the ads and gives a few more functions that don't appeal to me at this time. Of course, I've only been using it for a few months and I am tempted to buy the lifetime pro option to support the app. I feel like so few developers let you upgrade infinitely, these days. "Sorry, your license was for version 1, not version 2. Please cough up the $50 again. That's what is really tempting me, aside from supporting them.

Pidgin

When it comes to chat and messaging, I have friends spread out through many services. Apple's iMessage worked, for the most part. I use Slack for our podcast (you can join it by becoming a patron). I also have a separate app for IRC which we use to chat with folks during the live podcasts. On Windows 10, I decided to play it safe with an application that's been around for ages, Pidgin. I can chat with the old connections on Instant Messenger, and with my employers and wife who trust Google Hangouts. Obviously, using a 3rd party app for Hangouts means no video, but we don't have a webcam for the desktop.

There's a new kid in the game called, Franz, but the site was down when I recently looked at it. From the screen cap at the site I've linked, it connects you to WhatsApp, Grape, Messenger, HipChat, Skype, Telegram, Hangouts and Slack. It's an interesting combination for developers, but I don't use any of those services regularly. So I might test the Windows beta eventually, but for now, Pidgin.

Writemonkey

A recent OS X app find was the amazing Byword for writing. My co-host on the podcast, Paul, got me into Markdown which is just a way to format your plain text easily. I love it. Byword supported Markdown and is what I used (and continue to use on the laptop) to write for work, my personal sites and the show notes for the podcasts.

I poked a few different apps, but I really liked the look of Writemonkey because it was similar to Byword. Both apps convert my plain text Markdown to HTML so I can drop them on blog sites, fully formated with links. Kids, never write your posts, articles, blogs or whatever in the editors on the web pages themselves. Trust me. It only has to fail once for you to lose everything.

Calendar

This is where I need some help. Recent updates to Baikal have made it more complicated for me to continue using it. They had a package you could FTP to your site and it would just work, but have since discontinued that. Therefore, I would have to get a VPS & install the new Baikal with no guarantee that my current calendar data would survive. I'm not opposed to doing this work, but I've already got OwnCloud running for my files and it has a calendar. Thus, I moved everything to it.

The problem is, Windows 10's calendar app doesn't allow you to use an OwnCloud calendar. I haven't found many calendars at all for Windows. It would seem people are stuck using Outlook or Google. There's some workarounds and hacks to get the Windows 10 calendar to work, but they haven't been all that successful for me. My current setup is using Chromium (boo Google) to make a web app that connects to my Owncloud calendar at the click of an icon. Personally, I don't want a browser window open all the time with my calendar in it, so I would love to find a calendar application.

Function Over Form

You may have cringed at that Free Explorer screencap, or if you looked at that tinySpell web site. Hey Windows developers, 1998 called and they want their look back. I guess I should have posted a screen capture of Mailbird, which looks more like the Windows 10 style of app & settings window I showed in the last post. The truth is that things are not as pretty on the PC as they are on the Mac. Then again, if Apple spent as much time with the components inside the machine as they did with the outside, I wouldn't be switching at all. Windows 10 looks decent enough and I can customize those things I don't like. The 3rd party apps, well I can't change how they look on either a Mac or a PC. I've chosen function over form.

Christopher Sikkenga

Woe is PC? Not Quite.

8 min read

 

A few months ago, I talked my wife into a "family" computer upgrade. My 2010 Macbook is easily outclassed by modern, resource hungry applications and her laptop is a single purpose machine that she only uses when it's necessary to connect to her employer's ancient network or Mixbook. Thus, the solution was a desktop we could share. (See, a "family" machine.) So can you move from Mac to Windows? Should you? Here's my story as I moved down a new path.

 

The Road to Windows

We experimented with a tablet for my wife, but that quickly turned out to be a no go. Partly, for the lack of full applications for professionals and partly because of my incessant tinkering with the OS. We then purchased her a Chromebook and I fear that she loves it more than me, at times. As I once eluded computing is really in the cloud these days, so the OS you use is less of an issue. Her work is heavily invested in the scary, big data giant so the Chromebook is a perfect fit. There's just a few times a year she has to log into some antiquated systems from home and needs her crumbling 8 year old laptop.

As for me, I'm not a huge fan of the Google. I've left Gmail and recently moved my files from someone else's control (Dropbox) to an installation of OwnCloud that only I can access. Furthermore, I still need some serious hardware as I continue to work in digital media. I haven't been doing motion graphics and video editing as much as I did in the past, but I'd still like a machine that could handle it. After all, those is are my money-making skills. For now, until I'm discovered as a dance prodigy.

Apple has been trying to get rid of me for a while now, so I have decided to give them what they want. In 2011, Apple released Final Cut Pro X the successor to their popular editing suite of tools. They took a beating and many people in the business left Apple for good. Reading the trade magazines, I saw the writing on the wall and had my employer order Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe products work on Macs and PC, so this is not a disruptive change. Of course as I experimented with a new workflow, I continued to read about what other production studios were learning. Studios were building custom editing rigs for half the cost of Mac Pros, which Apple is notoriously bad at updating. They were finding that these PCs rendered video much faster.

What is to keep me with Apple then? The hardware is all about smaller and thinner with Macs. My previous machine was an iMac that I cut holes into to prolong its life because thin took priority in the engineering over functional. Macbook Airs have mobile chips in them and while efficient, they still aren't going to render video as well as a 16-core, custom built PC with a decent GPU. Like my melting iMac, their Mac Pros are created for style and virtually un-upgradable.

Yet, I love OS X. Part of the charm of Apple over Windows is that they control both the hardware and the software. There's no driver issues or incompatibility issues between the OS and hardware. This makes using OS X so much less problematic. I plug in my wife's scanner and instantly start scanning. She plugs it in to her Windows laptop and and has to download drivers, restart and then install software. This is an OS I have been using for over 10 years. I am comfortable with it despite the fact that it may not be as customizable as Windows.

So can this old dog learn new tricks?

 

Making the Move

I can do this. I mean, Windows has been stealing from Apple's OS X for years. Of course, Apple is no better, they've been looting ideas from linux for ages. Changing over from my comfort zone to Windows 10 has been fairly easy. I've used Windows machines at different jobs and at home prior to the early 2000s. Plus, as I said above, my wife has a Windows laptop so I've had to stay somewhat fluent.

I think that is the most troubling issue, the fact that Windows 10 is such a departure from the ancient Windows systems I know. Microsoft has dumbed down the interface considerably. However, many of the panels I'm used to, like Device Manager are still available if you dig below the easy to access options.

The Start Menu is a horrific mess. Animated live tiles fluttering around and a mass of information that you're not seeking when you push the Windows icon (formerly the start button). Thankfully, this part of windows can all but be ignored thanks to the Mac OS X-like dock at the bottom of the screen. Thus, you can add your most used applications to that Task Bar for ease of use. I've added another utility to launch programs quickly, as well. I'll put another post together with the applications I've found to replace my favorite Mac apps.

 

I love the Task View which mimics OS X's Mission Control feature. It shows all the open windows. The ability switch applications with this built-in utility mapped to thumb button on my mouse works just like it did on my Mac.

Windows' File Explorer is comparable to Finder. It's a bit clunky, but the tabs that allow me to manipulate files are somewhat useful. I mean, show hidden files with the check of a box, handy. I was never really sold on Finder and preferred Forklift on the Mac. It's a carry over from my early PC days using Total Commander, a dual pane file explorer.

 

What I'm Missing

Here's the section of my rambling opinions that will really convince Apple users not to switch, right? Well, the things I really miss are the things that OS X couldn't do for me already. I've always been a 3rd party app kind of guy. I've never used iPhoto or whatever that weird Apple word processor is. I didn't use Mail and I despise iTunes more than Godzilla hates buildings.

The thing that really hurts is not having a decent calendar. I lived with iCal for a while because it happily connected to my Baikal server which is where my calendar was stored for use across devices. Windows 10 won't let me use my own calendar. Searching for a suitable app has yet to bear fruit. It would seem that Google has really disrupted this area of development. I can find other cloud calendars, but it is nice to have an app on your desktop instead of having a browser window eating memory as it sits there everyday.

Quick Look on a Mac, just pushing the space bar when you have a file selected and seeing the image, video or hearing the audio is amazing and completely unavailable in Windows 10. Luckily, I found a 3rd party solution that I'll share in the next post.

The other real difficulty? Why the hell doesn't Windows have a universal "spell as you type" that just works no matter what window you're in? OS X does this and makes me look smart. It can be annoying as it autocorrects like a smartphone, but at least it highlights it in purple to tell you the words it has changed. Windows leaves it up to developers to add their own spellcheck in their apps? Seriously? I spent a day looking for solutions and settled on something for now.

Task Viewthe Task View

The Path Ahead

Just getting used to pressing CTRL + C, Z, V instead of the Apple COMMAND + C, Z, V has been trying, but that's on me. It's not the fault of Windows. I've been using Windows since February and not regretting it. As a professional, you use the tools you have to in order to complete the project to your client's specifications. Therefore, most of you wouldn't have a single problem making the switch. If you're deeply embedded in Apple's ecosystem with iCloud, iMessage and iEgo, I'm sure it will be a challenge, but not impossible. Again, their ecosystem is built for their devices so it is more likely to function better than alternatives that are created for all devices and OSes. However, Apple's system is far from perfect. Since they've gained a slightly higher market share targeting consumers, there seems to be a new story every week on social media about bugs or issues with Apple devices.

If you're frustrated in the Apple space, give switching a chance. Like me, try switching while you still have a Mac lying around. This way if you have some problems, you can still get work done while you iron them out. Next week, I'll publish that list of apps that I'm using to replace the things I missed from OS X.

Christopher Sikkenga

Airflow and Damn Simple Streaming to My TV

4 min read

Can I watch this on my TV instead of my laptop? Drags file to the open Airflow window and it starts playing on the television instantly. Yes. It appears that I can.

Airflow is amazingly simple and I absolutely love that. The beta application is on Mac and Windows. It works in cooperation with Chromecast or Apple TV.

Airflow 

Most “over the air” streaming innovation is focused on our mobile devices so I find it refreshing to see something for our computers. My phone battery and I thank the developer. He can be found on Reddit discussing the app in r/appltv or r/Chromecast.

Biases & Plex

Coming from a production background, I prefer wires. Producing a stage show of any kind involves many wires. Trusting a wireless mic or casting a laptop screen in front of an audience is an unnecessary risk to us old dogs.

The mic audio isn’t working? Change the cable or the mic. Wireless issues involve invisible frequency and power issues. How do you fix the invisible? Wires and hardware connections are so much better to work with. This is why I typically attach my laptop to our TV via an HDMI cable. Old habits die hard.

cloaking

Another solution for streaming from your computer is Plex. It’s always seemed like overkill to me. Though, I honestly prefer streaming things rather than having a drive full of media. Plex’s intense interface and setup makes me feel like I have to have a library of films and shows to justify it.

The Annoying Chromecast

The truly astonishing thing about Airflow is that it works flawlessly with the Chromecast. We’ve had terrible luck with the device in our home and it’s a common story around the web when it comes to casting from computers. Google’s tab casting built into the Chrome browser is wholly unreliable. When it comes to applications on Android phones the casting experiences are hit or miss. Google’s own Songza and now, Play Music both randomly stop playing our tunes.

Airflow is actually streaming files from my computer and not casting something streaming off the internet. Part of me wonders if that’s why it works so much better than the other things we’ve tried on the Chromecast. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Chromecast is worth it’s price. Furthermore, many younger people seem to be more into Youtube channels than Netflix and the Youtube mobile app is probably the most reliable app next to the beta Airflow.

Chromecast Wires

I said I liked wires.

Internet TV Is Not Here Yet

15 years ago, the idea of internet and television being married together was full of customization dreams. “What if you could choose the camera angle on your sports ball game? We’ll have access to statistics, actor bios and information galore!” Instead, cable drags it feet because ad dollars make their world go around and nobody clicks online banner ads.

Thus, we’re in this strange, in between period where people are cutting the cable and using Hulu, Netflix and Youtube to consume content because those companies somewhat understand how to make money online. However, those services can’t fill all our needs and people are still searching out content on torrents and using less than legal methods to get the programming they want. Why? People always choose the easiest method to do something. Dear content distributors, just follow this popular advice: “Shut up and take my money.”

Enough Ranting

If Netflix or streaming other services in general is your main goal I would steer clear of the Chromecast and look at the Roku family of devices. 6 or 7 years ago, I had one of the first gen boxes and loved it, but eventually it became too slow. Yes, these days televisions are building many of those features into the hardware. The issue becomes the manufacturers are the gatekeepers. Yes, you can have Netflix but not Amazon. Exclusive deals never favor consumers.

Personally, I think I might get an Intel NUC or Raspberry Pi to stream things on the TV in the near future. That is, until content distributors can get their act together. If you’ve got $35–40 sitting around, grab a Chromecast and check out Airflow because it’s really easy to send files to the television without some other service or device acting as a proxy.