Listening | “Fjäril” from Meadows

At the time of this blog post I am listening to ”Fjäril” from Meadows’ The Emergency Album.

Meadows bio from Spotify:

Born and raised in the small town Söderköping on the east coast of Sweden, the finger style guitarist and songwriter Christoffer Wadensten have traveled the world the last couple of years. Playing clubs, festivals, living rooms and theaters around Scandinavia, Europe, UK and USA. In autumn 2016 Meadows released his home made debut EP ”The Only Boy Awake.” In April 2017 the title track of the EP was featured in the Netflix series ”13 Reasons Why,” which brought him into millions of living rooms.

Oldenburn Internetzeitung in Germany described Meadows as ”In the jungle of the many songwriters, he is an exceptional artist. He just knows how to captivate his audience,” and Nerikes Allehanda in Sweden said, ”The humble but confident presence creates a connection to the audience that is…let’s say: amazing.” Based on listening to just Fjäril alone, I cannot disagree.

Fjäril translates to ”butterfly” in the English language. I did not look this up until after I had listened to the song many times, and learning the translation of the track name, it made such sense.

Meadows’ finger style of guitaristry is perfect for this, and he wrote this song so much for his style, by my reckoning. As you listen to this 1m 45s journey you’ll hear his fingers flutter across the strings.

The song starts out with a beautiful flourish of notes that changes tone back and forth, ending with some harmonics. Taking a slow, somber, and reflective turn, he slows down. The mid section of the song is lower in pitch, more deliberate, and contemplative. Around the one minute mark, the tempo increases and the flourish of notes returns. The flutters. The buildup to the end of the song has such forward movement, and delivers you directly to the completion of the song, which slows down and ends on a resolved note.

From an audio standpoint, the track is quite literally just guitar. No percussion, no samples, no vocals, and no other instruments. And it doesn’t feel the least bit lacking. Meadows manages to fill the track so fully with just his guitar. The detail and texture in the recording are nice as well, with the listener able to discern the movements of his fingers across strings and carefully pinging harmonics, but without any scratching or other unwanted artifacts. It is simply beautiful, moving, smooth and skillful guitar.

If you’re looking for a peaceful afternoon listen, look for further than ”Fjäril” from Meadows. You won’t be disappointed.

Happy listening,

~ Griff

 

 

Review: Schiit Modi 2 Uber DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter)

I feel the Modi 2 Uber is a great little device that dramatically improved the quality of my listening for a smaller stack of cash. If you aren’t using a DAC currently, need multiple inputs, and can find one used, don’t miss out on picking it up!

We’re back for another Schiit review and this time we are looking at the Modi 2 Uber, one of the US-based company’s entry DACs (digital-to-audio converters).  I picked up the M2U for about $90 around the same time I picked up the Magni 3, which I also recently reviewed here.

As with the Magni review and to keep things as consistent as possible, note the following:

  • Source: Desktop PC using both Spotify and some FLACs
  • Amp: Schiit Magni 3
  • Headphones: Hifiman HE-400i
schiit-modi-2-uber-angle
‘ Schiit Modi 2 Uber front view. Pardon the dust.

The M2U takes up the exact same footprint as the Magni 3 at 5 x 4 x 1.8 inches
making them a wonderful pair to put side-by-side or made into a little Schiit-stack. While the measurements in the specifications are about 0.4 inches different, in reality they stack directly atop one another with no variance in size whatsoever.

schiit-stack-front
The Modi 2 Uber makes a great companion to the Magni 3 for many reasons, its matching form factor and size being one of those.

The front of the device, in Schiit fashion, features the manufacturer logo and model name. From a functional standpoint, the front also features the button to change inputs and three white LED indicator lights to display which input the user has selected. The chassis of the device–like the Magni– is made of metal with smooth curves in the front and has a lightweight but nice feel to it. Unfortunately, Schiit went with a plastic button, not dissimilar to the plastic knob they used on the Magni. The cheap input selector really takes away from what would otherwise feel like a faily premium device. Additionally, the plastic input selector button gets quite loose quickly when it shouldn’t, from a design standpoint.

schiit-modi-2-uber-rear
Modi 2 Uber (rear view)

Moving to the rear of the device, we find the RCA output connection, a coaxial input, optical input, and the USB input for your computer as well as the power toggle switch and 16V barrel power jack. I am using the M2U with the USB input connected to my custom desktop computer and the optical input connected to a Sony PlayStation 4.

One of my favorite things about the Modi 2 Uber–apart from the improvement to the sound it provides, which we will get to shortly–is the fact that it supports multiple inputs. While not a breakthrough in technology, this is easily a requirement in DAC choice for me, as I often wish to change inputs. Besides, once I tied my PS4 to my DAC and better headphones, it’s hard to go back to lesser headsets. Despite a flimsy input selector button, the M2U handles input switching nicely with very little delay or lag and it is as simple as the tap of the front button. But let’s be honest. What’s really important here is the sound. After using the Modi 2 Uber for about 8 or 9 months, here’s what I think.

I’m always wary of treble, as it tends to hurt and tire my ears if not well-delivered. Because of this, I chose three different tracks to test treble in this review.

  • Listening to the famous ”Rosanna” from TOTO, trebles were balanced and analytical but without being too harsh. Around two minutes into the song when there are some higher harmonies, both parts come through clearly. The various horn lines and parts throughout the song are a bit higher in range and are energetic to listen to without fatiguing your ears, which was great for me. I’m I sucker for good brass and woodwind action in music.
  • Additionally, I of course listened to ”Water Night” by Eric Whitacre, as I always use this song to examine treble performance as it contains at least 4 soprano and alto parts and complex, swelling harmonies–much due to it being composed by Eric Whitacre. From the 2:00 to 3:00, and especially at 2:40, the soaring soprano melodies complement each other and build beautifully without feeling ”crunched” into the upper-end and maintaining their airiness.
  • Finally, also from Eric Whitacre, I had to use ”Lux Arumque” for its incredible, soaring solosist and other soprano delights. With this track, I often find through lesser hardware that some of the highest parts of the song–such as at 0:48–that, while beautifully written, are typically delivered in a cringe-y and harsh ringing fashion. This was not the case when listening via the Modi 2 Uber. Treble sections were well-placed and detailed without any ringing or harshness.

Moving on to the mid-section, which is often a rather busy part of music that can get flat and jumbled.

  • ”La Luna – binaural” from Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra is a special favorite of mine, and it’s always the first song I listen to when testing any hardware. This trade sounds very, very wide and I enjoy that tremendously. The main guitar line falls largely in the mid-section and was clear, detailed, and stood out from the accompanying rhythm guitar.
  • Stick with me here, because this isn’t my usual listening. ”Shake It Off” from Taylor Switch–and much of her album 1989–is well-mastered and has plenty going on to analyze. I had no trouble identifying the various parts that are usually jumbled over each other. The various horn lines were fun to listen to in the background. Little did I know that there is a sort of synth-y organ part for most the song. I had no idea. I knew the pitches were there, kind of, but had never really realized the part. Additionally, vocals were clear and percussive parts were easy to identify and keep track of, including small snaps and claps far in the background.

Lastly, but definitely not least, the bass.

  • You know what I’m playing. ”Bad Guy” from Billie Eilish has a bold, groovy, and textured bass line from the get-go and remains one of my favorite songs to listen to in terms of modern popular music. With each note the bass hits, you can really hear the texture and detail of the string actually vibrating, versus the level note you generally hear through lesser hardware. Additionally, the bump of the drum line is just…energetic and punchy. But not a glance to the face, punchy like when listening through your car stereo or included mobile phone earbuds. More like a thin layer of memory foam hitting an immovable surface that is infinitely hollow underneath with a resounding thud. It’s great, and the M2U makes it sound better than I’ve previously heard it.
  • The iconic ”Money” from Pink Floyd is another favorite of mine. It’s always been good, but I’ve particularly liked it since it was featured in the movie The Italian Job. It’s another one of those songs that just has a great bassline rooting the song the whole way through. While less punchy than other songs, but texture in the bass line is still enjoyable and percusive bass is very full and natural. The details that the M2U delivered in this region while keeping things smooth was impressive to me, especially having come from no DAC whatsoever.

Over all I have been very happy with the Schiit Modi 2 Uber and it has its place on my desk and will continue to get regular use. My only complaints are that the input switcher button is loose and cheap-feeling, the device gets quite warm during medium to long listening sessions, and that it uses a wall-wart style power plug that takes up a ton of space. This is a weak point for all of Schiit’s entry gear, so be advised of that. Beyond those three complaints, I still feel the Modi 2 Uber is a great little device that dramatically improved the quality of my listening for a smaller stack of cash. If you aren’t using a DAC currently, need multiple inputs, and can find one used, don’t miss out on picking it up!


Schiit Audio founded by audiophiles Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat and–despite the German-sounding name–is a US-based company producing fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps, the first DTS home theater surround processor on the market, and much more. More information on Schiit Audio can be found on their website, https://www.schiit.com/

Review: Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amplifier

Overall, the Magni 3 is clean-cut, smooth, and easy listening for a relatively small price tag.

While the availability of the Magni 3 has dropped a bit since I purchased the amplifier, and its successors the Magni 3+ and Heresey have become popular, the Magni 3 remains a solid choice for driving many headphones in a simple, straightforward fashion that you’ll never tire of. I can gladly recommend it without hesitation.

Looking for a relatively affordable headphone amplifier that isn’t a piece of Schiit? Well, the Magni 3 doesn’t fit that bill due to its manufacturer’s comical name, but don’t be fooled by the terrible pun–this headphone amplifer is a great entry amp for the budding head-fi enthusiast.

I picked up the Magni 3 on Amazon for about $119 at the time (this was probably about 8 or 9 months ago). This would be my third headphone amplifier as I experimented with some of the different lower-budget products available on the market. For the purposes of this review, do note the following:

  • Source: Desktop PC using both Spotify and some FLACs
  • DAC: Schiit Modi 2 Uber
  • Headphones: Hifiman HE-400i
The Schiit Magni 3 (front view). Pardon the dust and scratches; this is a real-life look at it in use, not a product photo meant to advertise or market the product.

The front of the device features the Schiit logo and the Magni name, a cylindrical gain adjustment knob, a white power status indicator LED, and a 1/4” female audio jack to connect your headphones. The construction of the device is nice and lightweight, but premium-feeling with the smooth metal body, rounded edges, and drilled cooling vent on top. My only complaint here is with the gain adjustment knob. While the body is made of metal, the knob is a plastic material that is textured/brushed to look like stainless steel. It also has some play in it and causes other issues–but more on that further down.

The rear of the device features RCA input from your DAC or source, a gain switch (hi or lo), and an RCA output option. The power switch and power adapter jack are also located on the rear. Footprint wise, the device is stunningly smaller than product photos would have you imagine, checking in at only 4.5 x 5 x 1.4 inches. Luckily, this small device packs a bit of a punch–especially if you’re not used to using a headphone amplifer, and it does so without generating much heat.

I’ve spent the better part of the past year listening via the Magni 3 and have yet to come up with too many complaints. I listen to just about everything with the exception of country and heavier metals. The rest of the spectrum is game, including various genres of rock, pop, jazz, indie, alternative, anything and everything electronic, big band, and choral/choir/orchestra.

The most noticable difference to me was how smooth everything sounded. When I first got a headphone amplifier, I thought of making things louder, and with that, I envisioned harsh treble, rattling bass, and just a general loudness where the details get lost. Not to worry, though, because that couldn’t be further from accurate with the Magni 3.

Over the course of the past 9 months I can conclude that bass and lows are beautifully smooth with no unwanted noise or grain–just clean, strong bass. Listening to Billie Eilish’s ”Bad Guy” without the amplifier provides some dull knocks on-beat and some slurred bass line that gets lost toward the lower end. Through the Magni 3, the lower end is cleaned up tremendously. The bass line has a heavy groove to it with specified and unique pitches, varitions, and direction. The beat offers an actual thud that you can feel.

Trebles feel placed and smooth; no troubles with fatigue were had in longer listening sessions. Listening to ”Water Night” by Eric Whitacre offered soaring and swelling soprano notes that were not at all garish or fatiguing. Various phrases which are difficult to listen to direct from the source, are not at all jarring with the Magni 3. The phrases swell beautifully, as directed by Mr. Whitacre, and have tremendous placement and energy.

The mids and vocals surprisingly did not get muddled or lost at all with the overall amplification. ”Sir Duke,” from legend Stevie Wonder is incredibly forward and crisp, and the vocals are not at all muddled or lost amid the numerous instruments and rhythms accompanying him. Each instrument is heard clearly and the vocals are completely…unable to be ignored.

Everything seemed to have its place, including silence, especially during pianissimo phrases in choral music or in the ethereal ”Formed by Glaciers” from Kubbi–which was actually silent. With the exception of one scenario: when adjusting the gain knob. I noticed after a month or two that when turning the gain adjustment knob, some noise, grain, and scratchiness could be heard. The knob did eventually start to feel cheap and flimsy compared to the metal body, which is an oversight, in my opinion. But I digress.

The other notable thing for me was that the Magni added a slight; warmth to the sound, when listening without an EQ. While some prefer this, others won’t, and that’s okay. Luckily that can be adjusted in software equalization should you so desire.

Overall, the Magni 3 is clean-cut, smooth, and easy listening for a relatively small price tag.

While the availability of the Magni 3 has dropped a bit since I purchased the amplifier, and its successors the Magni 3+ and Heresey have become popular, the Magni 3 remains a solid choice for driving many headphones in a simple, straightforward fashion that you’ll never tire of. I can gladly recommend it without hesitation.


Schiit Audio founded by audiophiles Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat and–despite the German-sounding name–is a US-based company producing fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps, the first DTS home theater surround processor on the market, and much more. More information on Schiit Audio can be found on their website, https://www.schiit.com/

Employees don’t leave jobs–they leave managers.

Introduction

If you’ll bear with me for a bit, I’d like to share an experience with you. We’ve all heard the age-old phrase “If you take care of your team, your team will take care of you.” If you’ve not heard that exact verbiage, you are likely familiar with any of theses similar phrases: “Take care of your employees and your employees will take care of you.”

It seems logical enough, yet so many managers and others in positions of leadership fail to espouse the theory. More than likely, every person will run into such a situation during their career. I’ve had more than one of these experiencing, but only one that really affected me to the point where I feel it important to share it; my treatment by a particular person in a position of leadership–despite the lack of leadership demonstrated. My treatment by this person, and the company’s leadership team, was bad enough that it affected my mental health. I became depressed and anxious, hating my life, and by the end of it all, had sought medical care.

The Situation

Let’s set up the situation. I worked for a company in a rural part of the state. The company and its properties had been around and well-known by community members for more than 40 years. My departmental team consisted of myself and my boss, Joe. We served hundreds of employees effectively and efficiently, and had a good reputation with everyone. We were both a bit underpaid for what we did, but we loved our jobs and looked forward to work each day.

Company LLC bought our company and Joe and I now had a new big boss, Kevin. To his credit, Kevin had extensive experience in our industry–but primarily abroad, and primarily in very, very large metropolitan areas. Initially, he seemed like a laid-back and funny kind of guy. But the longer I worked under him, his true nature began to show. Everything we had in place, was incorrect and not good enough. Why use this vendor instead of that vendor? “Because it was what was in budget at the time, and is stable and performs perfectly.” But it wasn’t a vendor he liked, so it was wrong (mind you, he wasn’t with the company when such an action was taken, so how could we possibly conform to his preferences in the past).

In the early days of the acquisition by Company LLC, he stopped by our town a few times, but the visits grew fewer and fewer. When he was around, he would show up in cargo shorts and flip flops (our culture was more of a business-professional setting, with us wearing dress shirts and slacks). He would spend the entire duration of his visit on the phone with various people, instead of actually interacting with us locally. When he did interact, it was “F*** this,” “F*** that,” “F*** you.” I brushed it off, as I’m not one to take things personally, and not everyone is as overly nice as Joe and I. Bit by bit, new companies and locations were acquired, and as such, other departmental personnel were acquired as well.

I had a historical record of stellar performance spanning multiple companies, and a fantastic track record in our company pre-acquisition by Company LLC. My diligence and commitment were quickly realized and put to work with Company LLC. I was made the technical lead for our team of technicians, and it was verbally communicated to me that I was expected to oversee and assist the other technicians with anything they were working on, in addition to my existing workload. No worries, I was happy to help, and liked our less-experienced techs and wanted to help them grow in their knowledge and abilities. I was not supervisory to them, so I was essentially getting the fun part of mentoring and managing, but without the actual management responsibilities (hire, fire, discipline, time and attendance, etc.). Sweet gig, right?

It wasn’t. Kevin’s communications became less and less frequent, and when they existed, they were simple directives: “I want this done,” “Make sure this happens,” “Teach Scully/Richard how to do this.” Interactions were by phone or email, and typically consisted of two sentences at most. As more and more other companies and locations were acquired, there were more and more things that I required from him in order to be able to accomplish that which he requested. This would have been fine, if he ever responded and provided those things which were necessary to complete the requests. In the meantime, I completed each request as per industry best practices and standards as I usually did.

I became increasingly frustrated with the situation. I was putting in long hours — 14 hour days, often 6 or 7 days per week. At one point I worked approximately 30 days on without a true day off. This was becoming common at Company LLC, and many of the other employees were receiving compensation increases proportionate to the additional work they were taking on–but I had received no such increase. All to try and complete requests and assignments that had no details or instructions. I voiced my frustrations to my long-time direct boss, Joe, and my new big boss, Kevin. Kevin scheduled a call between me, Joe, and himself as a “resolution” to my frustrations. The call was brief, and consisted mostly of Kevin making feeble attempts to sound concerned, and ended with him telling me that if I had communication concerns, to route them through Joe and that would work better.

In the coming weeks and months, I routed everything through Joe, and still did not receive responses, guidance, or feedback on anything that was going on. Work was pervading my entire life. I was unhappy at work, and I was always working. In the small amount of time I got to spend with my wife at home, I was unhappy there as well, and it affected our home life. My mental health worsened tremendously. In the coming weeks and months, we went through hiring more than 4 technicians, all of which quit quickly due to the low pay, long hours, and poor treatment from Kevin.

I again expressed my concerns, and they fell on deaf ears. As a last resort, I met with Jennifer, our HR Manager, to discuss my concerns and see what could be done. The HR Manager and I started at the old company around the same time, and she knew me well for my glowing performance record. I explained the communication (or lack thereof) issues that were occurring. I expressed how the work environment had become hostile. I explained how my work life was never-ending and pervaded my home life. I explained how I sought medical treatment for my depression and anxiety. I explained all that the situation had cost me. She was very concerned by my experiences and said that she would go straight to the new owners with these concerns, as what was going on was not right and needed to be resolved some how.

Two days later, I become aware of the results of my meeting with HR. Kevin called me a liar, and said that I never worked as many hours as a I did (despite what my time sheet and daily/weekly reports showed). I was told that I was not worth any more to Kevin than what I was paid, and that instead of compensating me for the work I did, that they would be demoting me and reducing my responsibility. My rights, privileges, and access were restricted and my job got progressively more difficult as I had to rely on Kevin more and more, and was continually met with more and more silence. Jennifer advised that I should at least try to smooth things over with Kevin, so I wrote the below message and sent it to him:

The Letter

Kevin,

As I know you are well aware, I had a conversation with HR recently about my frustrations here at work as of late, after I had already had conversations with Joe, as well as you and Joe together, trying to make known my concerns and frustrations. The result of my meeting with HR was Jennifer playing messenger from you to me, and I now have some information that I am happy to have. Please bear with me as I have some things I wish to communicate in writing as don’t want to cause any miscommunication or misinterpretation. I understand that you shared with Jennifer some dissatisfaction with my attitude these past couple of weeks. Putting my reasoning or justifications aside, I acknowledge the poor attitude that has resulted from my organizational and corporate frustrations, and I wish to apologize for my attitude and seek your forgiveness.We are all under a lot of stress and have a lot to do, and I likely have not made any of that much easier with my frustrations and display of unhappiness with the situation. I do not wish for the current situation to become a barrier between you and I, nor between our team and success. I only went to Jennifer as I felt like you are I were not communicating as we should have been, and I wanted to try and get things right between us. Again, I think we have the makings of a great team and an impressive organization. I am happy to do what I can to help drive this forward in a team setting, receiving feedback along the way.

My largest frustration has not been money—that was just worsened by my other frustrations. I made that clear in my conversation with Jennifer. My largest frustration has been that I want nothing more than to do what you and Joe need for us all (the 5 of us—and more, should we keep growing) to be an amazing team and give Company LLC and its employees what it needs to become a seriously cool thing in the [our] industry. I think we have the makings of a great team here. I think Company LLC is setting up to be a huge player in the industry, which is an exciting thing of which to be a part. I have been frustrated because I am hearing things—delayed and eventually—but hearing things about your frustrations, disappointment, and dissatisfaction with my performance regarding certain situations and the way I have done things over the last couple of months when asking to do things. I have just learned about this; I was unaware of these dissatisfactions until late after the face of each situation. In no way do I want to do anything that does not result in what you want or that does not match your goals for our department. I’m a loyalty‐ and team‐oriented person.

I have also been frustrated at the number of things that I require your input on, but that you are too busy to assist with. Now this isn’t chalked up to just be your fault and I am not trying to point this huge finger of blame at you—you’re doing many things and are very busy with the acquisitions, mergers, and standardizations. I get it. But being the person that all the end [employees] dump their frustrations on because things are not getting done does get tiring, and I just want to help them. All I want to do is what is needed and be a part of our success. I like helping people. I’ve yet to have a job where it isn’t my job to help people. It’s kind of my thing!

We’ve had a lot of misunderstandings and miscommunications, you and I. Including what you thought to be a hierarchy of authority where you thought I was putting myself above Scully and Richard as their boss. Please be assured that is not so. “Lead” implies the foremost with others, not over others. My title is not supervisor, nor manager, nor director. Nor did I intend to make it appear as such. I provided Richard a document which showed path of knowledge and assistance seeking. IE, if he can’t resolve an issue, I’m a logical choice for him to reach out to for assistance. If the two of us cannot resolve it, we would go to Joe. Heaven forbid Joe and the two of us not figure it out, we could finally get a hold of you and ask for your help, etc. Rather than immediately going to the top of the chain for every little thing. Joe indicated that you did not like my documentation and procedural guides because I did not clear them with you first. I do apologize. You and I discussed this multiple times and had even agreed on getting the other [team members] access to the knowledge base which I created so carefully over my years with the company prior to your company purchasing ours. That is from where those guides came. I have since rescinded access for everyone except you, Joe, and myself and will not provide any of our team step by step guides as previously discussed unless approved by you first. This is just one such instance of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Now that I have some information about things that you are not happy with, I will be doing my best to rectify these things. If I need clarification on any of these things, I will turn to Joe for clarification and further information. I had not previously rectified them because I was not previously aware of these things. If you have things that you would like done a certain way, I am eager to hear from either Joe or yourself how you’d like them accomplished, and I will ensure those things are done to your liking. If I accomplish something in a way that you do not like, please feel free and open to communicate with me to let me know, that way I can correct the situation and improve for the future. The good thing about feedback and communication is that if I am told that something wasn’t done right and that it should be a different way, then I can then take that information and use it to correct, adjust, and improve. Historically, I have a glowing performance record across multiple organizations and it is my desire to keep it as such and do what I can to be of assistance to our team and our organization. I don’t plan on being worse. I only plan on being helpful. My goal is to always ensure constant personal growth an development, and to encourage that in those around me as well.

Now that I have been made aware Joe is involved in our extra-state locations (whereas the opposite was originally true) and that he is involved in ticketing (which I understand is another recent development I am just learning of), I will be turning to him as a closer resource as he becomes more familiar with the Old Co. legacy systems, the people, and our awesome new team member, Scully. I know you plan to try to distance yourself from a communication standpoint from the day‐to‐day operations as you focus on the numerous acquisitions, mergers, integrations, etc. and let Joe help you more with the day‐to‐day. I will do my best to bother you less and route it all through Joe as I now understand that is your desire.

Jennifer did relay that rather than increase compensation to match market value based on skills/experience/abilities, that you would rather decrease responsibilities to try and even things out with your determined value. That’s fine, it’s your department and you delineate that as you see fit. If you’d like me to continue working with Scully and Richard to help them, great. If you want me to just focus on our intra-state locations, that’s fine. If you want me to focus on just my city’s locale, that’s also fine. If you would like, I can transfer all my extra-state tickets to Scully. If you’d like, I can assist Scully and Richard on an as‐needed basis. Just let me know how I can best help you and our team. Please know that I am willing to do as much work as is needed—same as when we first discussed when we initially met five months ago. I just want us to all communicate so we all can do our jobs to the best of our abilities. I have no problem with work. I’m a driven team member willing to help. As long as I know what I am supposed to be doing, I’ll be doing that! I would ask, please, that if there is anything you ever need done, or a way you would like things accomplished, or something you wish to say or ask, do not hesitate. I am always wide‐open to communication, conversation, and teamwork. Anybody here in my city will tell you, I’m here to help. And as anybody in our extra-state locations can tell you, I’m happy to. We just need to have some better communication and structure, I promise that I will be doing my part.

Hopefully I’ve made some kind of sense. Please accept my humblest apologies for any issues or frustration I may have caused you.

Thank you,

Griff

The Outcome

I tried to humble myself, assign myself some of the blame, and apologize. The response I got? Nothing. No response. Instead, I continued to receive near radio silence, no help, no instruction, and only criticism and harshness relayed from Kevin through Joe. If my experiences to date had not been slap-in-the-face enough, this certainly was. I begin searching for work immediately. Kevin wasn’t going to be the bigger person, so I figured I was going to have to be–in a different way than I had previously tried.

I nearly immediately found an opening at another company with a local site. The next month was spent quietly interviewing, having meetings, survey taking, and eventually signing an offer with that company. They wanted me to start on Thursday if possible. I considered letting them know that I would need to give a two-week notice, but decided against it. I had no reason to be loyal to Company LLC or Kevin. They’d never given me a single reason to be loyal–and that’s saying something coming from me, because I am typically an intensely loyal employee. So I walked into the HR office the next morning and handed Jennifer my resignation letter. She looked said, as we were close friends, and I could tell that she was disappointed in how the company had been treating me and the lack of resolution to my concerns. Resignation complete, I walked out the doors of the building. In that moment, I felt the most enormous weight lifted off my shoulders, and a grin spread across my face. I was free.

I went on to start with the new company and loved it. Every day, I looked forward to going to work. The difference in company morale was incredible. Everyone was kind, excited, and happy. High-fives were an important part of the culture. After just a few short months, I had traveled to many of our locations, met lots of amazing people, and settled in. Months felt like the best years.

In the time since, Company LLC has gone through several more technicians and cannot keep a solid team together. The company has people quitting like its going out of style. They have an average rating of 1.5 stars on Glassdoor, and all their employee reviews share similar narratives — overworked and unappreciated employees, ignorant and blind/deaf management, and poor company culture. It’s not terribly surprising, given the behavior of top-level managers such as Kevin.

Moving Forward

The reason I share this story is to reinforce the title, and introduction. Employees don’t leave jobs–they leave managers. If you take care of your team, your team will take care of you. Company LLC failed to take care of their teams, so their teams are not taking care of them. In parting, I would like to provide some advice to anybody who is in a similar situation. Don’t wait to start looking for a new job, a new team, a new company. Don’t feel guilty. Apply, call, interview, and network as much as possible and get yourself out of that toxic situation. There are good people and good companies out there. Don’t sacrifice your career, life, health, and sanity for a manager that is not willing to do the same for you.

Be well, my friends, and best wishes in your professional endeavors.

~ Griff

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6

Released in August of 2019, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 becomes the new Samsung standard for tablets, in place of the Tab 4 and Tab 5Se. I  picked up the Tab S6 on an open-box deal from Best Buy (no deal or sponsorship). I have previously owned an iPad Mini years back, as well as the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, though I no longer have either. The itch for a tablet was strong, and this time around, Samsung won the vote. But why? Let’s take a look at some of the selling points.

Price | The Tab S6, without the open-box deal I got, currently retails for roughly 650.00 USD for the base model. However, if you keep an eye out, you can snag an open-box deal on one for about 200.00 USD less! And at that price point, this tablet really packs a punch. Why?

Specifications | Because 650.00 USD (or 450.00 USD in my case) gets you a 10.5 inch screen, 128 GB of solid state storage, 6 GB of RAM, and a snappy octa-core processor. The base price even includes the tablet’s pen like with the Microsoft Surface, which other tablet manufacturers either don’t have (looking at you, Kindle) or require you to purchase separately (Apple).

UX | Obviously the user experience is a big deal, since I’m going to be the user experiencing the tablet. I was looking for a true tablet experience for while I am away from my custom desktop computer. I’m big on customization and versatility. I have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ running Android and enjoy it very much. The Google Play store has a huge variety of apps available, including the Microsoft Office suite, WordPress, as well as apps for social media, photography, games and other entertainment, as well as utilities that can be useful for an on-the-go IT professional such as myself. Additionally, while I like the Samsung flavor of the graphical user interface, Android allows me to overlay my own preferred launchers should I so desire–and without having to root or jailbreak my device to do so. I am currently using the Microsoft Launcher.

So thus far I’ve mentioned a few things that I really like about the device. But what cons are worth mentioning?

Downfalls | Let’s start with the pen. It is made of a plastic, which feels a bit light and cheap–though I suppose I didn’t expect too much for an included accessory. It pales in comparison to the pen that comes with the Microsoft Surface, and is also not as good as the Apple Pencil.

Despite being too light for my taste, and a bit cheap-feeling, my biggest gripe comes to storage of the pen. There is a shallow groove on the rear of the device beneath the camera lens. This groove has two magnetic points that hold the pen in place–uh, sometimes. The pen falls off the groove or gets knocked out of place easily, and the groove is difficult to find without looking at the rear of the device. I’ve lost my pen quite a few times in the last two weeks. To further my compaint, snapping the pen to the rear of the device means that the device can no longer rest flat on a surface such as a table, desk, and also restricts the use of some wall mounts. It also happens to be right where I prefer to hold the device while on the go, which is a bit inconvenient. None of these things will necessarily be a downfall for you, but they were for me. After extensive use, I’ve found that it is actually quite difficult to attached the pen to it’s groove without looking directly at it, and that the pen falls off quite easily, which has become annoying.

Further, the pen has less functionality than I would like. The S Gestures that you can do to interact with the OS are convenient and nice. Unfortunately, that is where the interaction runs out. The pen can be used as a replacement for your finger in other apps, but the button will continue to function in relation to the OS, not the app, thus prohibiting a large amount of usefulness. One thing I want to be able to do is hold the pen, lean back, and flick it up and down to scroll up and down a webpage or other app, but alas, this functionality seems to be missing.

Really, the pen was the only complaint I had with the purchase–and though I have things I wish Samsung had done better, the pen is still functional and is not uncomfortable to hold for short amounts of time. The pen might be a dealbreaker for you, or you might never touch it? So what am I doing with the device?

In the weeks that I’ve had the Galaxy Tab 6S, I have used it to import photos from my Canon DSLR (no additional software required), edit RAW image files in Google’s Snapseed photo editing application–which is shockingly good for being free, browse Reddit, the internet, access banking information, VPN into my home network, VPN into my work network, remote access and administer both workstations and servers, and listened to plenty of music and watched videos on YouTube.

I have had zero issues accomplishing what I need to. In fact, just earlier this evening my wife and I were at dinner and I had the tablet with me. I got a call from work with an emergency. I wouldn’t have lugged a laptop with me, but I happened to habe the tablet. Within a minute or so, I was VPN’ed into our company’s network, accessed a server, and did what I needed to do to assist an employee.

Similarly, the other night I had the opportunity to pick up my camera and create some images of my wife. I didn’t want to wait to import the photos on my desktop and process them there, so I plugged my camera into my tablet, imported the photos, and processed them, in Snapseed. Within 10 minutes I had a couple of fantastic images to share.

I’ve found that overall the tablet has conformed to my needs and flexed to every situation I’ve found myself in thus far. It has been a good buy. Would I buy it again? Most likely! Given that I like to use the pen and the pen is quite subpar, I likely would not pay full price for one, but I would willingly pay open-box or used pricing again. If you’re looking for a powerful daily driver of a tablet, then this might just be the ticket for you!

Do you have a Galaxy Tab S6? Let me know how you like it in the comments below! Cheers.

~ Griff


 AUGUST 2020 UPDATE

I had to come back to update this post after having used the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 for a longer period of time, as well as having traveled with it.

In the original post, I spent a fair amount of time griping about the terrible pen magnet/storage on the rear of the device. I’m sorry to say, but I am going to spend a moment griping about it again. Over the last several months, I have been constantly frustrated with the pen not attaching without careful placement, the pen falling off the magnet, and my inevitable loss of the pen since it fell off the magnet somewhere. Sure, you can get a case that secures the pen–but this should not be necessary. By design, the pen should be easy to keep track of, use, and stow. This has become a major downside to the device, for me at least. But onto more positive things.

One of my primary questions was whether I could use the tablet as a replacement for my laptop when traveling. The short answer is: absolutely! I spent the week of my recent vacation reading books, browsing the web, writing for this blog, editing a couple of casual photos, playing games, doing email, and a couple of other tasks, including troubleshooting some stuff with my parents’ home network. I had brought my laptop–just in case–and found that I didn’t pull it out even once. The Tab S6 was all I needed! Now, a qualification is necessary here. I did bring my Logitech MX Master 3 bluetooth mouse and my Keychron K6 bluetooth mechanical keyboard for when I was writing my blog posts, but otherwise, the tablet by itself was just fine.

So, my verdict after such extended use and travel with the Tab S6, is that I highly recommend it, but do note that some kind of case or other solution to keep track of the pen will be absolutely necessary.