External hard drive not showing up in Windows when transferred from a Mac

This is another one of those “Andrew is an idiot” posts that I’m sharing with the world in case someone else comes across this problem with an obvious solution.

I’m in the process of migrating from my MacBook Pro back to Windows for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here. This means transferring a bunch of information I’ve been keeping on external drives formatted for Mac to my Windows computer.

So I went into Disk Utility on the Mac and reformatted one of my external drives as ExFat instead of MacOS Journaled. A drive formatted for ExFat can be read by both Windows and MacOS, so that’s what you need if you’re doing a big transfer.

I then spent the better part of the day copying and pasting stuff from one external drive on the Mac to the new one and let the copying and pasting run in the background. I have about 2TB of stuff sitting on those external drives so it took the better chunk of the day checking on it off and on.

This morning everything was transferred and good to go, so I plugged the drive into my Windows machine.

Nothing happened.

Weird. I tried connecting the hard drive directly to my computer rather than using a USB hub. Still nothing happened. I tried restarting my Windows laptop, but that didn’t fix it either.

So I plugged the drive back into my MacBook, did a double tap to bring up the properties, and sure enough the damned drive was formatted MacOS Journaled.

Now I could’ve sworn I formatted this thing as ExFat, but I learned a lesson. Always double check before you do a big data transfer. I formatted the drive again, triple checking that it was ExFat this time, and now I’ll be spending another day copying and pasting things in the background.

Lesson learned. Always double check.

Parallels freezing MacOS Catalina when waking from sleep

I’ve noticed an annoying bug with Parallels that cropped up in late 2019, affecting multiple versions of MacOS going back to at least Mojave, and it appears to be an issue a lot of people are having if the long topics on their forums are anything to go on.

The bug is simple, but pernicious. If Parallels is running when you put your Mac to sleep then there’s a good chance your Mac will freeze upon waking up.

I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out why my computer kept freezing before realizing it only happened when the machine had gone to sleep or I’d closed the lid with Parallels running. Like we’re talking Parallels is running in any capacity, and not just the Virtual Machine is open.

It looks like they’ve known about it for awhile now and on the tech support forums they’re still asking for bug reports and not saying anything about when or if a fix is forthcoming.

If you’re having this issue because you use Parallels on MacOS then there is a simple, if slightly annoying, solution: make sure you close Parallels entirely before you put your Mac to sleep.

Annoying? Yes. I wish they could’ve fixed this by now, but speedy reliable support isn’t something built into the price with Parallels. At least it’s a workable solution if Parallels is part of your workflow.

Apple switch from Intel to ARM spells uncertain future for Dragon on Mac

Rumors are circulating that Apple is about to make a move from Intel based CPUs to ARM. They’ve been using ARM processors in their mobile devices for years now, and switching away from Intel would give them more control over their hardware which is something Apple has been (in)famous for since they abandoned the homebrew feel of the Apple IIe.

I know what you’re thinking. “What does Apple switching their processor have to do with me, a writer?”

Simple. If you’re relying on Dragon for your writing then that software’s future on Mac just got that much more uncertain.

Nuance famously and abruptly dropped support for Dragon for Mac back in late 2018. Anyone who used Dragon for Mac knew that was no great loss. The Mac version of the software was overpriced with very little of the functionality that makes the PC version worth using.

Of course the end of Dragon on Mac meant people who wanted Dragon dictation on their Mac were left with the options of using Bootcamp or a Virtual Machine such as Parallels. I’ve tried both and prefer using Parallels when I need to hop into Windows to transcribe dictation from a recorder.

The thing is, that compatibility with Windows is only possible because Apple and Windows machines were using the same hardware under the hood. Apple switching to ARM rather than Intel processors could potentially mean a return to the bad old days when it was difficult, if not impossible, to get Windows functionality on a Mac.

Sure there might be emulators that allow people to still run Windows on these rumored ARM-based Macs, but adding a layer of slowdown via emulation isn’t going to be great for a resource hog like Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Right now this is all speculation based on a rumored announcement, but if you’re a writer using a Mac who still relies on Dragon for part of your writing workflow then you need to at least keep it in the back of your mind that the future is uncertain. It will be interesting to see what Apple says about the future of Bootcamp when they make their announcement, and how the makers of popular VM software like Parallels respond.

Daily Summary 3/21/2020 and 3/22/2020

It was a busy weekend, though of course there’s not much to tell the weekend from weekdays now that the kiddos are home all the time. Usually I could tell when it was Saturday or Sunday because my wife and kids were home, but now with the quarantine that’s changed!

I still got some work done in the evenings though. Here’s a summary for both days since I didn’t get around to writing a post yesterday.

3/21/2020

  1. Didn’t get any writing done.
  2. Revised 7090 words.
  3. Revised one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook.
  4. Recorded one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook.

3/22/2020

  1. Dictated 5239 words.
  2. Revised 11062 words.
  3. Didn’t get any recording in

All in all it was a decently productive weekend!

Daily Summary: 3/20/2020

I missed the update for 3/19, but honestly I didn’t get a whole lot done that day. Having the kiddos home because of the quarantine means there are days when I get a lot done, and days when there’s not much at all getting accomplished. Everyone’s gonna have to learn to be flexible in these trying times, but I count my blessings that I’m able to take care of the kiddos and still do my job!

So for 3/20/2020 I:

  1. Wrote and dictated 10225 first draft words.
  2. Revised 8085 words.
  3. Recorded one episode of a writing podcast I’m working on.
  4. Edited one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook I’m working on.
  5. Recorded one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook.
  6. Sent out advance copies of Spellcraft to interested people from my lesfic ARC list.

Not a bad day of productivity considering my work from home environment has drastically changed in the past week! I’ve learned to have my computer out on the kitchen island and ready to go so I can squeeze some work in when the kids are distracted, and I’ve worked with my wife so we can both balance our work from home time.

In other news: Spellcraft, linked above if you want to check it out, launched earlier this week and is doing very well for a book released with zero promo under a new pen name with no mailing list push!

Daily summary: 3/18/2020

The world is going crazy right now and I’m adjusting to having my wife and kids at home, so I figured there’s never been a better time for starting up these daily summary threads to keep me accountable!

So here’s what I got done on the day that was March 18, 2020:

  1. I helped my eldest and got through all of his elearning assignments for the day.
  2. Dictated 7605 words of my 7500 goal for the day.
  3. Revised 10337 words.
  4. Recorded two chapters for an audiobook version of a GameLit story I hit publish on.
  5. Refreshed my KDP page throughout the day wondering what was taking so long for my GameLit story to publish.

All in all I’d call it a pretty productive day considering I have two kids at home and my wife working from home indefinitely!

Plagiarist targeting Royal Road authors

Just what it says on the tin, folks. Click over to a forum post from Royal Road about a serial plagiarist who is taking free stories posted on Royal Road, adding a bit of window dressing, and posting it on Amazon as their own content.

The good news is if you ever find yourself in this situation Amazon is very good at responding to DMCA takedown notices. I’ve had someone copy my content before and the stuff was down within a day of me submitting a takedown notice.

The bad news is the people on Royal Road probably won’t be able to go after this person for damages unless they registered their copyright, which is unlikely if they were posting it on a chapter by chapter basis on a free publishing site. Remember kids: the DMCA makes copyright yours at the moment of creation, but you only get to go after someone for damages if you pay to register that copyright!

Does this mean you shouldn’t post to free sites like Royal Road? Not necessarily. They can be a good way to gather attention. I’ve personally found that it’s better to try and build an audience on the paying platform you want to eventually publish on rather than trying to build an audience on a site where people are accustomed to free and you try to convert them to paying, but there are people who’ve made it work.

So if you’re popular on Royal Road beware and keep an eye out for your work appearing under a different byline on Amazon or other ebook retailers!

Rest in Peace, Christopher Tolkien

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Christopher Tolkien passed today at 96. Ninety-six years is far to short a time to have such a figure live among us, and yet he had a long and good life which is all one can ask for.

J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy, but without the son we wouldn’t have the vast trove of materials that have come out since the elder Tolkien’s death. There would be no Silmarillion, no History of Middle Earth, and the modern fantasy genre would be lessened due to the lack.

Roads go ever ever on, and may he find a good road wherever he is now.

Protip for anyone having quality issues with Dragon Naturally Speaking on a bluetooth headset

Don’t use a bluetooth headset with Dragon Naturally Speaking.

No, seriously. Don’t use bluetooth with DNS. Get a wired headset or microphone, or a headset that has a dedicated wireless receiver.

Read on for a more detailed description of the problem and the two weeks of frustration and troubleshooting that led me to this conclusion. One of my most popular posts ever is about me being an idiot and forgetting to connect a cable on a Huion tablet, so here’s hoping this will help as many people!

Getting back into Dragon Naturally Speaking

I’ve been switching back to DNS and trying to make it work. I’ve discovered that talking into a recorder and then transcribing is never going to give me the accuracy that I need, I was spending way too much time fixing errors for it to be a productivity booster, but talking directly into the computer is surprisingly accurate.

At least it was surprisingly accurate on my gaming laptop. Not so much on my Mac. Which was a problem considering I’ve gotten used to the Mac ecosystem and rather prefer it to Windows.

I banged my head against a wall for a week trying to get Dragon to work on my Mac. I tried running it in Parallels, but Parallels kept crashing. On the rare occasion it would work I couldn’t get clean dictation out of Dragon. Then it would crash again and totally freeze my system.

I tried switching to Boot Camp and using a Logitech H800 bluetooth/wireless headset. I connected it to my Windows install using Bluetooth. I still wasn’t getting the level of accuracy I was getting on my gaming PC.

I was convinced for about a week that the issue came down to RAM. My MacBook Pro “only” has 16GB of RAM, but my Asus ROG gaming laptop has 24GB of RAM because I’m insane and an upgrade was cheap a few years back.

So I used the Asus laptop for a week, convinced I was going to have to bid my beloved Mac adieu. Until a few days ago when I was using my Logitech headset with the computer, and noticed that the quality took a nosedive when I stepped away from the computer.

The non-obvious blindingly obvious solution

I’ll give you one guess as to where this is going.

If you guessed that I was using the onboard microphone on my computer and not the Logitech headset then you’d be absolutely correct! I’d connected the microphone to my computer and set it up in Sound in Control Panel, but I didn’t tell Dragon to switch user profiles and use the Logitech microphone.

So Dragon was using the onboard mic. That’s what was giving me the pristine quality.

I still wanted to be able to get up and move around while dictating, so I made sure Dragon was listening through the Logitech bluetooth headset and started dictating. Immediately the quality of transcription took a nosedive. It was doing that annoying thing where it inserts stray articles in between words, or just not putting the right words on the screen at all.

I’d gone from pristine quality talking into the default laptop mic to terrible quality talking on a dedicated bluetooth headset that gets a five star rating from Nuance in terms of compatability.

Dubya. Tee. Eff.

The test

Curious about this development, I decided to get my MacBook Pro back out and see if the quality was any better using the onboard microphone versus using the Logitech headset in Boot Camp. I loaded a profile for the onboard mic, started dictating, and…

It was coming out just as nice as what I was getting on my gaming PC. Imagine that.

I also kept getting notifications that Dragon was getting low quality audio. That didn’t seem to affect the quality of the transcription coming through, it was looking good no matter what, but if I wanted to use Dragon without a constant annoying pinging from Windows clearly I needed a better Mic.

Even more curious now, I connected the USB wireless dongle that comes with the Logitech headset and tried dictating a few more paragraphs. Once more everything was coming out quite nicely. I tried walking around the room and dictating, and still the dictation was pretty close to pristine. There were a few extra words thrown in here and there, but it wasn’t every other word like on bluetooth.

Clearly the dedicated USB wireless connection did the trick.

The conclusion

After all this frustration I won’t be going back to dictating on my ten pound beast of a gaming laptop, but I also won’t be dictating using a bluetooth connection. I’d tried dictating using a pair of Powerbeats Pro before buying the Logitech headset and the quality was spotty.

I figured the problem was that the Powerbeats weren’t designed for dictation. That’s why I got the dedicated Logitech headset. I even thought it was working well, until I realized my dumb ass was wearing the headset but talking into the wrong source.

I told you this was going to be like the post where I forgot to plug in a USB cable on the back of a tablet.

The common factor is bluetooth. Connecting a 2.4ghz Logitech wireless USB dongle just works. I imagine the same could be said for a wired connection or any other headset that uses a dedicated wireless connection rather than bluetooth.

The bottom line is I plan on using Dragon a lot more now for my first drafts, but I’m not going back to bluetooth to do that dictating.

Review: Midway

I wasn’t sure what to expect when walking in to see Midway. On the one hand the critics haven’t been too kind to it, it currently sits at 44% on the Tomatometer over at Rotten Tomatoes, but on the other hand it’s a sprawling World War II epic in an era where those aren’t in fashion done by Roland Emmerich who isn’t exactly a critical darling.

I figured I’d give it a chance. As with Pearl Harbor back in 2001, I figured even if it was a turkey there’d be some nice visuals that brought the battle to life. After leaving the theater I can confidently state that Midway is a confused and messy spectacle that gets in its own way too much for that spectacle to pay off.

Let’s start with the good. I enjoyed the performances all around. Ed Skrein as Dick Best and Patrick Wilson as Edwin Layton were standouts, which is a good thing since the movie spends most of its runtime cutting back to them. Woody Harrelson was interesting as Nimitz, and Mandy Moore had me asking myself if that was actually her until the credits rolled.

Okay, so that’s out of the way. Onto the mess and the spectacle.

The biggest problem with the movie was that it was trying to tell too many stories in one film, and even the two and a half hour runtime wasn’t enough to cover everything. Characters are introduced in quick vignettes or frantic action sequences that switch so often that by the end of the movie I had trouble following who was who and why I was supposed to care about what they were doing.

Some of that overstuffing is justifiable. It’s a big story and one of those days that history turns on. There was a lot to cover. The unforgivable sin that Midway commits is that it spends too much time on things that really could’ve been dropped and the narrative would’ve been fine.

Everyone watching in the states knows what happened at Pearl Harbor. There are entire movies dedicated to that day alone. Did we really need it rehashed so people knew why America was at war with Japan?

The bits with Aaron Eckhart playing Jimmy Doolittle on his infamous raid were also interesting and pretty to look at, but it adds nothing to the overall plot. I get the feeling that the scenes of Doolittle landing in the Chinese countryside and witnessing Imperial Japan’s war crimes against the local population was shoehorned in because it was financed in large part by Chinese investors. It’s nice to see a major motion picture touching on Japanese war crimes, something that tends to get lost in the pop culture narrative of World War II, but it only adds to the bloat.

Of course we’re not coming to an Emmerich movie for well thought out characterization. His movies are all about the spectacle. Midway is a war movie with a healthy dose of action. If those action scenes were done well then it might’ve gone a long way towards saving the movie and, at the very least, making it a staple of high school history classes.

Unfortunately even the action is downright confusing. I enjoy reading nonfiction accounts of the war in the Pacific for fun. I’m familiar with what happened at Midway and how it went down. Even I had trouble following exactly what was going on once things really started going, and I imagine that’s only going to be worse for people coming in without much knowledge of what went on in the Pacific between Pearl Harbor getting bombed and the atomic bombs being dropped.

Finally there was a bit at the end that didn’t sit well for me. The movie ends with a dedication to the American and Japanese sailors who fought at Midway. I love modern Japan. I took three years of the language in school. I’ve been steeped in their pop culture just like every other millennial. To quote Marty McFly, all the best stuff comes from Japan.

Having said that, I take issue with the movie being dedicated to soldiers and sailors who were fighting on behalf of an authoritarian regime who did terrible things in China, on the islands they occupied, and to any soldier unlucky enough to be captured as a POW. It reads like Ryan’s tone deaf toast to the troops, all of them, in The Office, only in this case the cringe is real and I doubt anyone is laughing.

I went into Midway hoping it would be one of those movies that wasn’t really for the general public. The kind of war movie that adorns the shelves of dads and history buffs around the world that can only be appreciated by someone who is into seeing the dry nonfiction histories on their bookshelves being brought to life.

It wasn’t. There are some engaging performances and the usual amazing visual, but Midway is one of those movements where the sum total of its parts winds up a huge mess rather than an engaging viewing experience.