16 June 2018

Driving Miss Daily

Once upon a time, Douglas Adams had a radio show with a totally uninspired name he couldn't tell enough people wasn't his idea called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future. It only had a few episodes and has only aired every few years, but it's easily-available on the Radio 4 site... wait, what in Hel's Realm is RealPlayer? Anyway, their last episode was about the idea of convergence, what we today may refer to as the Internet of Things. IoT is a common name in the hacker/maker/modder community and refers to a networking of several specialized devices. Probably the best, most common example of IoT if you're still lost on the concept would be any sort of peripheral you can control with your smartphone, like a bluetooth speaker or a lighting system. Instead of one gadget that does everything, it's several gadgets that do a few things. Almost 20 years earlier, for this radio program(me), one of its speakers painted a scenario in which the technology to make connected devices would be so streamlined and inexpensive you'd literally pick up a gizmo off the street, post something, and then drop it back on the ground before carrying on with your day. Hyperbole aside, while we're nowhere near using our tablets the way some countries use bicycles, there's probably a drawer somewhere in all of our homes that would make anyone from back then think we'd made it. 
Unless you're crazy diligent about trading in your smartphones or you've got some wicked protection plan for your tablets, you've likely held onto more than a few. Those that aren't taking up real estate in your junk drawers are probably lucky enough to be dedicated music players, alarm clocks, cameras, gaming devices, and maybe even digital sketchbooks. Such was the case for my Xperia Z Ultra, a very early entry into the "phablet" market, and still impressive in terms of size and resolution. It was my gateway to a fully-digital workflow. I'd done digital art before when I had my laptop, but I was still scanning drawings and bringing them into GIMP as layers to rearrange and edit. I'd long since given away my little Bamboo tablet because I never got used to the hand-eye disconnect, and I didn't have a mouse to get around the hassle of using a trackpad or trackball. My first Android phone was so small and the drawing apps available were so rudimentary I never bothered with that either. When I got that Sony, however, it was a whole new world, especially when I came across Zenbrush. Between that and Pixlr, it became my daily driver. I ended up giving away my laptop because I stopped using it. I still don't have a proper home computer apart from the old Chromebook I mentioned in my last journal entry. Over the next few years of having the Xperia, I started to move away from the single device setup into a multi-gadget workflow again when I decided I wanted Zenbrush 2, which wasn't going to be available for Android. That was when I resolved to get my first iPad, the mini 3. As you might imagine, I started using the Xperia less and less for drawing. Later on and totally out of the blue, I had to send my Xperia in to Sony to fix a bricking issue. This was going to take some time, so because I'd bought the phone unlocked, I had a golden ticket with my cell carrier to get just about any phone I wanted. I'd been seeing some YouTube videos about shooting videos using only an iPhone, so I thought I'd give that a go. I got my iPhone 5C, used it for a few weeks and fell in love with the camera so much that when I got my Xperia back, I kept the 5C as a dedicated camera. Following Inktober 2017, I upgraded my iPad to the Pro, and sent off the mini 3 with the 5C to an Alzheimer's charity to be repurposed as music players for the elderly. I was also eligible again for an upgrade with my carrier, so I got the SE to use as a backup in case I needed to send in my Xperia again. January rolled around and for my trip to Albuquerque to see family, I decided I didn't want to bother with two chargers (as my iPad goes with me everywhere), so migrated to the SE and simply never bothered going back to the Xperia
This created kind of a goofy situation that probably shows off how persnickety I can be more than anything about convergence. As I only use my iPad for drawing, and the SE's smaller screen isn't always desirable, I used the Xperia around the house for music, Twitter, Comixology, and occasionally drawing. Unfortunately, it's developed a fatal flaw. 
I'd looked into sending it in to Sony again a few months ago because its USB cover had broken off. It turned out whatever protection plan I had in place that let me get it fixed the first time wasn't available anymore and I never realized how long I'd had it. They literally told me to find a third party to fix it because they couldn't even give me an Out Of Warranty repair quote. This had happened before I migrated to the SE, so maybe I unconsciously saw the move as inevitable. It was also reaching a point where apps like Facebook and Instagram stopped working because its version of Android was so old. 
Fast forward to about a week ago, when I set it to charge up overnight and awoke to find that it couldn't get past about 74% battery life and was hot to the touch. I didn't think much of the heat because it's got a big battery with a charger that pumps a lot of amps through it, so hand-warmer was also on its list of duties. I figured something got jostled loose or maybe the wall adapter was going, so when it drained down to critical, I plugged it in again and left it plugged in all day. When I turned it back on, it was still stuck around 74%. I discovered that the instant I plugged it in, my app that monitors my CPU temp would immediately warn me of overheating. Using a different wall adapter with a lower amperage made no difference. Either the charging circuitry inside the phone was going out, or the battery itself has finally lost its full capacitance. My money's on the former, but in either case the only way I get more than a few hours of use from it is to turn on its Ultra Stamina mode, which only lets me access a handful of applications (mostly phone and camera related), reducing it to an alarm clock that is literally on its last day unless I decide to tempt fate and charge it up again. 
The app that took up the most space was Autodesk Sketchbook, and while I had backed up PSD files of most of my stuff some time ago, I realized how long it had been, so I spent about an hour one night when it was plugged in backing up everything to Google Drive.
Let that be a lesson to you digital artists out there. Even if you've already heard it, here it is again. There are two types of backups, those that fail and those that haven't failed yet. 


How long ago did you do that? Too long. Do it now. How many storage solutions have you got? Not enough. Get one more. 

Anyway, it's not like I stood to lose anything super precious; even when I drew on the Xperia, they were often silly little comics or cartoons for blog posts or Twitter. Still, it's an important habit to keep up, and I only wish it was this convenient and streamlined back in the day of using Zip Disks on my iMac

This marks the end of an era, with Hanging Lanterns as the last painting on my Xperia Z Ultra. Thanks for everything, big guy. 

I think 4 years is a pretty good lifespan for a smartphone.