Suns arena wrap-up

The vote’s over and Talking Stick Resort Arena gets a remodel. Some final thoughts on the matter…

From the outset of the discussions about what the City of Phoenix should do with Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, it seemed like it was a fait accompli that the $230 million remodeling project proposal would pass, despite the posturing and outrage from some on the City Council. And they got their way, passing a deal that, in my opinion, punts the decision on what to do with sports in the Phoenix metro area for 10-15 years and still doesn’t answer any long-term questions about a combined basketball/hockey facility to share with the Arizona Coyotes.

It’s not a secret that I’m against public funds going to fund sports stadia, even if those funds are allocated from some pot of money that’s theoretically not paid by the taxpayers of that city (e.g., hotel taxes). Nothing in law prevents those funds from being used elsewhere (see page 2 of this PDF file).

In the month-long effort of councilsplaining (credit to Neil deMause for that wonderful word) why Talking Stick Resort Arena needed public funds for its remodel, one of the arguments made by the Suns and the City was that downtown Phoenix would be struggling if the Suns were to decamp for other places. Even if you discount that argument as pure absurdity seeing how the Suns only play 41 games at home per year during the regular season and the few other concerts and events happening there, downtown Phoenix still seems to do OK on the remaining 300-ish days.

The Downtown Phoenix of 2019 is far different—and far better—than the downtown Phoenix of 1992, when the then-America West Arena opened. It is starting to become active again not just during the day but at night. Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue are becoming vibrant arts corridors above and beyond the major monthly art walks. All of Arizona’s public universities have major presences Downtown and support biomedical research (ironically, built on land originally assembled to be a new stadium for the Arizona Cardinals). People are choosing to live downtown. And, perhaps most importantly, light rail links downtown Phoenix with some of our metro area’s most important places.

As an advocate for central-city Phoenix, I recognize I’m in the minority opinion on this matter. It was enlightening to see all of the organizations doing their full-court press to pass these subsidies for the arena and to see our councilmembers parrot the talking points put forth.

May Phoenix not become Glendale and have to close parks and libraries just to pay a stadium bond debt.

Pixel 3 exFAT camera importing update

Good news! An update on the exFAT-on-Pixel 3 adventures I chronicled from earlier this week. It only requires the purchase of an app.

Back at the start of this week, I wrote about my issues with not being able to import photos from my standalone Canon DSLR camera to my new Google Pixel 3 XL because the Pixel doesn’t support the exFAT file system natively. I’m happy to say that I have good news and I’ve found a workaround that only requires the purchase of an app.

Before I get into this, I’m just going to write here that your results may vary and that I’m not responsible for any loss of data you may have as a result of this. Be sure to practice good data hygiene and backup responsibly.

My solution hinges on the “Microsoft exFAT/NTFS for USB by Paragon Software” app available on Google Play. Whilst the app is free to download, exFAT support requires a $5.99 in-app purchase. This app is unique in that it’s not a standalone file explorer, it’s an interface mechanism between the USB SD card reader and some other apps, including the default Files app on the Pixel. Here’s how it works:

If the captions aren’t viewable, the steps are as follows:

  • Step 1: After connecting your SD card reader to the USB-C port, launch the Microsoft exFAT/NTFS (etc.) app. Tap on MOUNT. (The UNMOUNT button is shown after the device has been mounted.)
  • Step 2: In the Files app, you’ll see that a new option is there: the Paragon File System. That’s your SD card.
  • Step 3: You can now browse your SD card and copy/move/whatever files from the card to local storage or cloud storage.
  • Step 4: When finished, go back into the Paragon app to UNMOUNT the device. Unplug the SD card reader and you’ll be good to go!

My explorations are still continuing because although I can easily copy-and-paste the SD card files, there is no mechanism that I have discovered so far that won’t copy duplicate files. By default, if you ask the Pixel to copy a file, if it’s a duplicate file name, it will just append a (1) next to the file name before the file extension.

Explorations are continuing! Isn’t that the great part about learning about new technology?

Importing photos from external camera to Pixel [UPDATED]

Because Google doesn’t include exFAT support on their flagship Pixel phones, importing photos is a pain. For now.

This post has been updated: see the update at the bottom of this post.

After many years, I changed my smartphone over from an aging iPhone 6S to the newly announced Google Pixel 3 XL. So far, I have to say that my experience has been wonderful but there have been a few idiosyncrasies with the Pixel 3 that I don’t know if they’re just because I’m thinking about them in an iOS manner or if they’re actual issues. One of those issues is importing photos from an external camera memory card.

A major caveat is that I am not a professional photographer. Photography is a hobby of mine and I try to get better at it for my own use and sanity. I’ve developed a workflow that’s centered around Adobe’s Lightroom Classic CC with bits that work in the cloud. Despite being a tech person, I’m not fully a cloud devotee–yet.

On the iPhone and, by extension, the iPad, the photo ingestion process from a camera memory card was simple: Insert an SD card into the Lightning Camera Connection Kit, launch Photos, hit Import All, and Bob’s your uncle. It was that old Apple ethos of it just worked.

Maybe I need to back up here for a moment: There are actually four variations of Secure Digital, or SD, cards: SD, SDHC (SD High Capacity), SDXC (SD eXtended Capacity), and SDUC (SD Ultra Capacity). The dividing line between each variation is based on total size of the disk, which you can read here from the SD Association, the standards-bearer of SD cards. What’s germane to this essay is that SDXC and SDUC cards both default to the exFAT file system, which was developed by Microsoft and is proprietary to them.

For reasons unknown, although Android is able to read exFAT file systems and Google’s own Pixel Slate is documented to read exFAT, exFAT isn’t supported on the Pixel 3 XL. When you connect a exFAT-formatted memory card to the Pixel’s USB-C port, you get this lovely message:

Goodness, even on my Google Chromebook, I can play around with exFAT-formatted drives (and the OS helpfully suggests backing up the contents to Google Drive!):

The obvious workaround is to format the disk to a file system that works on the Pixel 3. But the problem is this: If you reformat that disk on, say, the camera, then it is formatted by default to exFAT. Oops. Formatting the disk deletes the contents of that disk and then you wouldn’t be importing any photos.

OK, so what are some other alternatives? Well, there’s the Canon Camera Connect app. Setup is easy with the Pixel 3’s implementation of NFC (woo!), but there’s this problem: The app only transfers JPEG files over from the camera, not RAW files. If you’re shooting RAW+JPEG, then the JPEG file from each pair will transfer. If you only shoot in RAW, then a 400-500 KB JPEG file is developed and that’s what is transferred. It works in a pinch but it’s a hardly ideal solution for importing photos.

Now it’s back to the drawing board. I had so hoped that I could make my new Pixel the center of my digital life and use it as a sort-of notebook computer on the road but that seems to be a bit challenging. If only Google would license exFAT to be able to be used on their flagship product!

UPDATE, 17 January 2019: A follow-up post on this has been made that outlines a fix using an app available on the Google Play app store.