Monday, October 31, 2016

More Computer Stuff ...

Back in September, I wrote a post called "Electronic Gremlins", about the difficulties in getting a new phone operational.  I'm going through pretty much the same thing again.  Now, though, it's the computers.  We finally pulled the trigger on getting a new Mac.  Buying it was simple.  Getting it set up the right way is taking a while.

We've been using a pair of Macs that we bought in the fall of 2008.  Eight years in the computer world is a long, long time.  It was right before I deployed to Iraq.  We wanted to be able to communicate with each other during the deployment, so I got a MacBook for me and an iMac for Janis.  Macs are (supposedly) easy to use and came with things like iChat (a messaging service) and FaceTime (video service).  We added Skype and a few other programs and off I went.  The two computers proved to be very reliable.  They still work, too - in fact, I'm writing this post on my old MacBook now.  But they were being overtaken by newer systems that demanded faster processors and much larger operating systems.  The software that runs on these old Macs isn't supported by Apple or other vendors anymore.  The kicker came when we got our new iPhones and discovered that they wouldn't talk to our old Macs.  Okay, okay, okay, I get the message.  Get a new computer.

So last week, I bought a new iMac.  Nice machine.  Great screen, too.  Very elegant.  Set it up, plug it in, turn it on ... and now the trouble begins.  Time to configure it.  This is NOT a trivial undertaking.  In the old days, it was simple: set up a password, set up your email, and have at it.  Now there are multiple users, multiple cloud accounts, multiple emails, multiple everything.  You can't just slam all the old stuff into a new computer, you need to figure out an architecture first.  And not knowing what needs to be considered makes the job harder.

As an example, I had originally set up our old iMac with an Apple ID using my official name because, well, that's what you do, isn't it?  Well, that became Janis' computer.  So here was her photo, all her documents, purchases, emails, and so forth, all tagged as "William Rohde".  So I wanted to change her Apple ID to "Janis".  Nope, can't do that.  The name on the account cannot be changed.  So I created a new account just for her, but had to keep some ties to the old one since there were a number of key purchases and other things that we needed to maintain.  This wasn't as easy as it sounds, since I had to create a new email account for her.  I couldn't move her regular email account over to the new Apple ID because it was already tied to the old one.  And I didn't know at first that you could have multiple ID's.  Talk about an exercise in frustration!

The architecture that I decided upon is to have three users.  One will be used only as the System Administrator, one for Janis, and one for me.  We have six Apple ID's among them that are used for specific things such as iTunes or App Store purchases, finding our iPads and iPhones, storing our documents and photos, and so on.  Getting each account, iPad, and iPhone connected with the right Apple ID and ensuring that the right iCloud accounts are used, takes a bit of thought.  This is the kind of thing that somebody who's done this before would breeze through in five minutes.  For somebody that's never done it before, it takes a while to learn the ins and outs.  I didn't know, for example, that you could have multiple Apple ID's on one device, nor why that might be something you'd want to do.  (Clif Notes version: everybody in the family use one Apple ID for iTunes and App Store purchases, then a different and personal one for cloud storage, FaceTime video chats, and so on.)

Okay, so the architecture was decided and set up.  Then I needed to get all of Janis' stuff off the old computer and onto the new one.  Apple has this thing called a Migration Assistant that makes it easy.  Connect both computers through an Ethernet cable, launch the Assistant on both, and tell it to move everything over.  And it does!  Takes a bunch of hours (your hours may vary), but it moves all the documents, photos, music, applications, emails, all that stuff.  And most of it works on the new computer, unless the software is so old that it's not supported anymore.

Sounds great, no?  Well, not entirely.  Migration Assistant does indeed move everything.  I mean everything.  You know those old games that you downloaded six years ago and haven't played since?  Yep, there they are.  Old versions of Photoshop that have been replaced by newer ones?  Them too.  Applications that you have no idea what it is they do?  No problem.  Migration Assistant even moved all the contents of the Trash, for chrissakes.  So if you think you're going to get a fresh start on a new computer, think again.  You'll have all the same old crap, just a bigger hard drive to store it on and a faster processor to deal with all those unnecessary processes running in the background.

As an example, iPhoto on our old computers has been replaced by Photos.  The Migration Assistant brought over iPhoto and had it and the photos in one place, while the Photos app had the same photos in another.  So I dumped the old iPhoto system and photos.  And I had to go through all the applications, line by line, to see if something was being duplicated, or wasn't needed, or whatever.  Fortunately, Janis didn't have all that much stuff.  Then I emptied the Trash and got back several gigabytes of storage.

I haven't yet started moving my stuff over from this old Macbook.  Last night, though, I went through all the programs on here, cleaned out as much of the old stuff as I could, and emptied the Trash.  Result: about 7 gigs of data that don't need to be transferred.

I'm not going to throw out the old Macs, though.  They're going to be my studio computers.  These things still work fine on their own, and this old MacBook can take my studio on the road if needed.  I don't need nor want an internet connection in the studio as that's a major distraction.  My studio needs are pretty basic - hell, I use paint and brushes, and that technology is hundreds of years old!  So an old computer fits right in.  Just like being an old guy: everything still works, more or less, just not as fast as the newer stuff!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Smithsonian Museum of American History

Last week, I turned over 49 matted drawings, plus an envelope with another couple of dozen small drawings, to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Yes, THAT Smithsonian.  The artworks were my "Faces of Afghanistan" series as well as assorted drawings from around Afghanistan and Iraq.

So how did my artworks wind up in the Smithsonian?  Good luck and good timing, I guess.  A while back, a colleague who was a Marine in Afghanistan and is now an artist posted that he was signing over one of his artworks to the Smithsonian.  I thought it was great and asked him how that came about.  Turned out that the museum is building a collection of post-9/11 military-related art.  He knew of my "Faces of Afghanistan" series and introduced me to the curator.  I sent her some images and descriptions of the works, and after a bit of back-and-forth, she said they'd love to have my work in the collection.

Wow.  My work.  In the Smithsonian.  Unbelievable.

Last week, I drove up to DC to deliver them.  Yes, I know, FedEx could have delivered them with no fuss and a lot less cost, but face it, how many times do you get the opportunity to deliver your own stuff to some place like the Smithsonian?  In-person is the only way to do it.  So on Friday, Oct 14, I drove into DC, into the bowels of the American History Museum, and met the curator, Kathy.  I pulled the box of drawings out of the back of the car and handed them over.  Kathy and her collections manager, Estelle, were thrilled.

They weren't half as thrilled as I was, though.  After the turnover, Kathy took me to the room where the military art collection is stored.  Imagine a room about 30 feet square, with one wall taken up with flat files up to 8 feet high.  Each drawer is marked with the contents.  There are hundreds of such drawers.  Open one up at random and you'll see some wonderful work.  I pulled open one of the WWI drawers and examined a gouache work of a soldier going over the top of a trench.  It had amazing energy - the feeling of violence and danger jumped out of the image.  Then Kathy pointed out that the artist's field art box was sitting on the shelf next to me.  On the opposite wall were racks of paintings.  More boxes and containers filled the space in between.  Various military artifacts were casually (but carefully) stored all over the place.  I felt like I was on hallowed ground.

Kathy also pulled out the artworks currently in the post-9/11 collection.  Most of them are by Richard Johnson.  He went to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times for Canadian newspapers.  In fact, he was in Kandahar just a few months before I got there.  Richard was embedded with the Canadian troops, so his artworks focused on the soldiers and their environment.  He draws with a blue pencil and his works are fantastic: full of life, showing the stresses of the environment, and nailing the conditions that the troops lived and worked in.  Take a look at his drawings on his web site:  While you're there, watch his TedEx video.  Powerful stuff.

My drawings are probably stashed in one of those drawers by now.  If you want to know when they'll be exhibited, well, probably never.  The museum has so much stuff that less than one percent is ever on view at any one time.  Exhibitions are scheduled years in advance and are subject to the interests of curators and whims of directors, as well as the willingness of a sponsor to cough up the money to pay for them.  However, most everything is available to anybody doing legitimate research.  So any curator, artist, student, or whatever, who's interested in seeing artworks from Iraq and Afghanistan can make an appointment with the Museum and see my stuff in person.  Yes, you can.  Or the World War I artwork.  Or their collection of posters.  Or any number of subjects.

So although my artworks may never be exhibited as a collection again, I'm happy with where they are.  They'll be available to infinitely more people than they ever would be if they spent their lives on the shelf in my studio.  They're part of America's attic now.  You own them.  Go see your stuff!