Posts in: tech

The Iconfactory’s Project Tapestry is interesting and pretty, but feels like reinventing the wheel and throws RSS under the bus (emphasis mine):

Blogs, microblogs, social networks, weather alerts, webcomics, earthquake warnings, photos, RSS feeds - it’s all out there in a million different places, and you’ve gotta cycle through countless different apps and websites to keep up.

What in the world are they on about? RSS feeds do collate all of this. How is what they want to do any better than textcasting? I can see how it’s worse — it would be view-only, without posting and editing.

Every month since November has been as busy as I’ve ever been at work, so I completely missed the MarsEdit update where @danielpunkass added a character counter to the micropost panel, along with the ability to attach photos. Kudos!

Screenshot of the MarsEdit micropost panel containing the text of the current post.

Here are two products that work wonders for reducing travel anxiety:

Both are small and affordable, especially if you set a price alert.

Bullet bit, and Kagi is now my default search engine. An unexpected benefit was their LLM, which gave good answers to a standard set of questions. Between Apple coming out with a new platform, services popping up left and right and a blog resurgence it’s like mid-2000s without the financial crisis.

Apple's App Store is not a walled garden, it's a dumpy casino

I have been reading with interest about the Epic versus Apple in-app payment saga, but have no respect for either of the parties. Epic, because they pretend to care about the developer ecosystem when all they want is to be the gatekeeper instead of the gatekeeper. Apple, because they claim higher ground, The words “Apple” and “higher ground” in the same sentence of course bring to mind Marco Arment’s essay, but the ground Apple lost 9 years ago has since been reclaimed. wanting to keep their walled garden pristine and free of bad actors, while the garden is in fact overgrown with weeds. Where the roses bushes used to be there are now squatter tents pitched, mangy dogs guarding the perimeter. The magnolias are on fire. Somewhere in the distance a mother cries for her lost child.

You see, our four-year-old has developed an interest in sea animals. Sharks in particular, but any saltwater organism will do. To nurture that interest, I scoured the iPad App Store for anything that a) features the ocean and b) is in the 4+ age category. I should have known better than to trust Apple’s own search, because the results were a disaster: “games” that let you play for all of 30 seconds before serving you a noisy add that can only be closed by tapping repeatedly on an 8-point sized barely visible white “x” even after the mandatory 1-minute lockout period when all you can do is watch low-resolution mock-ups of what may or may not be the game that you will get if you are successfully tricked into downloading whatever they are selling; or “edutainment” products that pop up offers for $99.99 in-app purchases after each tap; or once-reputable game developers who deck out their 4+-approved shark simulators with so many bells, whistles, and requests to buy their in-game currency that you may as well have sent your child to an Atlantic City casino. And not one of the good ones.

In what universe, then, is Apple’s repeated shakedown of Hey not simply evil? Why is the company protecting its adult users from the horrors of an app that is unusable without an externally created account, but is just fine with four-year-olds being bombarded with advertisements and offers for double-digit in-app purchases of worthless game credits? Having even half-way decent curation and a usable search screen would be ideal. Any one of those without the other would also be acceptable. As of January 2024, the iPad/iPhone App Store has neither, and it is a disaster. And Apple has the gal to charge 15–30% for the privilege of being listed in that pigsty.

If Apple’s other App Stores — Mac and AppleTV — are not like that, it is only because they are not worth the scammers' attention. In less than 24 hours I will log into a different Apple store and pay almost four thousand dollars — about a thousand more than my first ever monthly paycheck as a medical resident a dozen or so years ago — for the privilege of playing with their new doohickey. I can only hope that Vision Pro does not become too popular: a 360° full-immersion experience of the iPhone/iPad App Store would not be pretty, though lovers of gross-out horror may be appreciative.

The Washington Post has your weekend reading covered: “He spent his life building a $1 million stereo. The real cost was unfathomable”.

The faded photos tell the story of how the Fritz family helped him turn the living room of their modest split-level ranch on Hybla Road in Richmond’s North Chesterfield neighborhood into something of a concert hall — an environment precisely engineered for the one-of-a-kind acoustic majesty he craved. In one snapshot, his three daughters hold up new siding for their expanding home. In another, his two boys pose next to the massive speaker shells. There’s the man of the house himself, a compact guy with slicked-back hair and a thin goatee, on the floor making adjustments to the system. He later estimated he spent $1 million on his mission, a number that did not begin to reflect the wear and tear on the household, the hidden costs of his children’s unpaid labor.

So it goes…

Middle school smart phones

There is a big change in how Generation Z and whatever follows deals with technology, and of course it is parent-driven. Our eldest is a 6th-grader and we are among the youngest, if not the youngest, parents in her class. We were both in our late 20s when she was born, which was considered geriatric in Serbia but is practically a teenage pregnancy for DC standards. While most of her classmates have smart phones, she is not getting one until she has a driver’s license — whenever that happens — and will have to live the hard-knock life of Apple Watch at school and the iPad at home.

To our older friends this is nearly child abuse. However will they develop socially, they ask, as if TikTok were a social network and grammatically incorrect emoji-laden texts the only means of communication. Won’t they miss out on important interactions… on their way from home to school and back, I guess? Friends our age and younger don’t yet have middle schoolers, but most agree with our stance. Dumb phones and/or smart watches are good enough for safety. Roblox et al on a tablet can replace the hour-long conversations over landline phones of generations past. So what need exactly does an iPhone fill, other than assuaging the fear of missing out?

Not everyone in a generation is the same, of course, but there are overall tones. In keeping with the economic hardship, stunted maturation, and the general pessimism of the millennials, I predict our tone to be “not so fast, young’uns”. By the time our youngest is in 6th grade, seven years from now, the smartphone tweens should be in the minority.

Calendar interoperability is underappreciated. I use iCloud for home, Google for the University and Office365 for work, all from a single app, which also handles invites and scheduling. Other people can see my various calendars in their own software, seamlessly. We should make everything a calendar.

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Image by Midjourney v6. The prompt was my own.

Watercolor painting of Santa sitting at a small dinner table in a cramped apartment eating Chinese takeout with two robots.

“Typically the most important thing is not how you do the optimization but rather what you decide to optimize." This is in regards to a school bus route optimization disaster:

The program — developed by graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — uses artificial intelligence to generate the routes with the intent of reducing the number of routes. Last year, JCPS had 730 routes last year, and that was cut to 600 beginning this year…

So, people thought you could eliminate — pardon, optimize — 20% of the routes without consequence. Don’t blame AI, which is nothing but an incantation used to make someone’s magical thinking a reality.