Essential Apps

05/10/2018

This is an ordered list, but it really has no particular order. I use all of these apps every single day and are essential to my productivity.

  1. 1Password: I addressed this app earlier in the week.

  2. Bear: A note-taking and writing tool. I’m using it to compose this post. I use it to take meeting notes, write memos, and blog.

  3. BBEdit: I’ve been using this app since at least 1996, making it the oldest program I use (yes, this dates back to classic Mac OS.) This is just a text editor, but what a text editor it is. I use it for composing HTML, CSS, and editing Python and JavaScript. It handles very large text files with speed that few other editors can match. It has powerful find and replace functions (want to do a find and replace with regular expressions? Want to do it across dozens of text files simultaneously? With BBEdit, you can.)

  4. Soulver: This is the best calculator I have ever used. It allows you to work through math functions just like you would do on paper — building out your functions and calculations, and even giving them text annotations and headers. It fills a niche for me that would be cumbersome with a spreadsheet. I use Soulver dozens of times per day to calculate advertising spends for my clients. I use it on my Mac and on my iPhone.

  5. Things: My second brain. All of my tasks, to-dos, shopping lists, and projects go in here. An email comes in that I need to act upon? It gets forwarded into Things. We need more dish soap? Into the shopping list in Things. I receive a Slack message that requires a follow-up? Thanks to Zapier I can star the message and it will be automatically dumped into Things.

Passwords

05/05/2018

Via: The Verge

Like sunscreen, it can be a hassle to apply, but it’s an easy way to stop yourself from getting burned.

The reasons are simple: you need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these , or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked ( like they do all the time ) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.

The Verge needs to pin this article to the top of their site every month as a reminder for everyone: do not use the same password for everything.

I’ve been a user of 1Password for 5 or 6 years. All of my passwords are stored there. If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you the passwords for any of my email accounts, my Amazon account, or the dozens of others that I might have to use in a week. They are all unique and very secure.

I have a single password that unlocks my 1Password information and then the software does the rest whenever I need to log into something. I can rest easy knowing that if any of those services are compromised that it won’t mean the rest of my accounts are also in peril.

If you are using the same 1 or 2 passwords for everything that you do online, then your information has probably already been compromised. That is no exaggeration. Do yourself a favor and get a password manager, and start living a more secure life.

PCXL Magazine November 1998: Ping-Free Partying

03/03/2018

via Donde Quake 2:

Who Needs Online Gaming When You Can Lug Your Kit Around Town to Shout Abuse at Complete Strangers? Online Gaming is Dead. LAN Parties Are Where It’s At.

In retrospect, online gaming was just getting started, and most kids today can’t tell you what a “LAN party” is, but this is still a fun look back.

The LAN party culture of the late 1990s and early 2000s defined the multi-player gaming we enjoy today. I was in college during these years, and LAN parties were a huge part of my life. Lugging my computer to another dorm, or to another apartment, and gaming until the next day. Online gaming is certainly more convenient, but there is something incredibly satisfying about staring down your opponent after a victory.

Those were fun times.

Burning Out: What Really Happens Inside a Crematorium

03/02/2018

via Popular Mechanics:

Four decades ago, less than 5 percent of American were cremated when they died. Now that figure stands at nearly half. This is how cremation actually works, and the story of what happens to a culture when its attitude about how to memorialize the dead undergoes a revolution.

Really interesting article. I had a surface-level understanding of this process, but they really dig in with some interesting details about the cremation process.

The cremator’s rule of thumb is that 100 pounds of human fat is the equivalent of 17 gallons of kerosene. If you have a body that weighs 400 pounds, at least 200 of it will be fat that will burn rapidly. If you put that person into a very hot machine, as the cremation unit tends to be at the end of the day when it’s been running for hours, the chamber may emit smoke and odor out of the stack.

I don’t know if it’s a matter of growing older or simply growing up, but I do find myself thinking about death more often these days. I suppose I should have a plan in place for what to do with my remains, but I have no idea what to do.

Email is your electronic memory

02/15/2018

From the FastMail Blog:

Yesterday, Google announced that Gmail will use AMP to make emails dynamic, up-to-date and actionable. At first that sounds like a great idea. Last week’s news is stale. Last week’s special offer from your favourite shop might not be on sale any more. The email is worthless to you now. Imagine if it could stay up-to-date.

More:

Over time your mailbox becomes an extension of your memory – a trusted repository of history, in the way that an online news site will never be. Regardless of the underlying reasons, it is a fact that websites can be “corrected” after you read them, tweets can be deleted and posts taken down.

I agree with FastMail here. I look to my email as a source of “truth”. I can count on it to be static and unchanging. I have an archive of emails stretching back to around 1996, and I count on all of remain unchanged forever, safe in my archive.

Also not to be discounted are the legal ramifications of dynamic emails. I work in politics and, while not frequent, my emails have had to be turned over for discovery in litigation. That entire process assumes that the contents of emails have remained unchanged and will be turned over in the same state. AMP tosses that entire premise out the window.

AMP for email is a bad idea.

Also, if you’re in the market for a new email provider, FastMail is fantastic. I’ve been using them for a number of years and they are absolutely the best. Fast, reliable, trustworthy, and inexpensive. Visit this link to sign up.

Apple Backs AV1: What Does This Mean for the Future of Video Codecs

02/06/2018

Apple Backs AV1: What Does This Mean for the Future of Video Codecs:

Earlier this month, Apple joined the Alliance for Open Media (AOM), which is working on the next-generation AV1 video compression standard. It’s interesting that Apple is now supporting AV1, after having just announced backing HEVC in both devices and software tools (i.e., publishing, browsers).

The importance of free and/or open high-quality video standards cannot be overstated.

Site Transition

01/21/2018

I think I change my website CMS as frequently as I do my keyboards…

Anyway, this site is now running on WordPress. It’s still in an Azure-hosted VM, but now I’m just another WP drone. I think the last mainstream CMS I used for my personal site was MovableType, from maybe 2002-2007. Since then, it’s been static pages, either hand-coded or generated with Pelican. Last year I moved to Ghost but it left a lot to be desired.

I think I’ve gotten it mostly configured how I want, and most of the content (sans images) has been migrated. The theme still needs some tweaks, but I’m relatively happy with things.

And then there were two…

10/09/2017

Windows Central reporting:

Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore, has today clarified the company’s stance with Windows 10 Mobile and what it’s currently doing in the mobile space. In a series of tweets on Twitter, Belfiore states that as an individual end-user, he has switched to Android, and that Windows 10 Mobile is no longer a focus for Microsoft.

To me, this remains the second-biggest business story of the 21st century (the debut of the iPhone, tied directly to this story, is the biggest.) It is shocking how Microsoft was the biggest and most influential software maker of the last 35 years and yet completely missed the boat on mobile. Their mobile OS strategy is now completely dead.

Let that sink in: the mobile revolution happened, and Microsoft is only a surface-level player. They make apps and provide services for mobile operating systems and hardware which is not their own.

In hindsight, Steve Ballmer’s 13 years as CEO of Microsoft marked one of the most catastrophic missed opportunities in the history of business. Microsoft had all of the incentives, resources, and experience it needed to put together a compelling competitor to the iPhone in 2007. Case in point, after the iPhone debuted, Google immediately changed gears and shifted Android from a Blackberry competitor and into something that looked a lot more like an iPhone.

From 2007-2010, Microsoft continued to fumble around with Windows Mobile 6.5 and eventually Windows Phone 7. They did not understand or appreciate what was happening to the market which they themselves had created.

Microsoft never managed to bring to market a mobile product which was compelling enough for consumers to purchase in enough numbers that made the platform compelling enough for developers. I think Windows 10 Mobile could have been that product, but it came five years too late.

Satya Nadella has done an incredible job pivoting Microsoft into a focus on services, entertainment, and hardware. But imagine what could have been! Instead, today Bill Gates carries an Android

Old Mail

10/09/2017

Ernie Smith has a great history of Eudora, one of the most important computer applications of the 1990s.

In early 1997, two applications were in the process of taking over the internet, and both had roots in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One of those applications, Netscape, became a bedrock of how we surf the web. The other, Eudora, put a graphical twist on email.

I wasn’t much of a Eudora user myself. I envied the powerful filtering abilities it possessed, but I never much cared for the UI.

My client of choice in that era was Claris Emailer, which was both gorgeous and functional. These days I use MailMate and Mail.app (the latter because MailMate doesn’t support Exchange.) If you look at those apps (and really, most other email apps, including gross Outlook) the influence of Eudora is undeniable.

Tim Cook Gets It

07/01/2017

From his recent commencement address to the MIT Class of 2017:

Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us. It takes our values and our commitment to our families and our neighbors and our communities. Our love of beauty and belief that all of our faiths are interconnected. Our decency. Our kindness.

I’m not worried about artificial intelligence giving computers the ability to think like humans. I’m more concerned about people thinking like computers without values or compassion, without concern for consequences. That is what we need you to help us guard against. Because if science is a search in the darkness, then the humanities are a candle that shows us where we’ve been and the danger that lies ahead.