Perhaps being a tech geek is about to stop being cool

Beginning - Matt Gemmell

Most importantly, everything I write is now for myself. It’s just me, and whatever happens to be on my mind at the time. For better or for worse, it’s all strictly personal.

Occasionally, I’ll still write about technology - but only because it happens to be on my mind. I’m very unlikely to write about programming, and there isn’t going to be any new source code. Certainly no apps. Those things feel like part of the past, for me.

I’ll be (and have been) writing a lot more about writing, which is my main focus. My thoughts on issues that are important to me, and whichever topics take my fancy at the time. That’s all I can promise.

Maybe it's just me but after a long period of blogs just chugging along, recently it feels like there is a lot of change in the air. Old faithful blogs suddenly feel a little stale and there is a drive toward diversification from traditional tech and geek subjects toward a wider, more challenging and interesting remit.

Matt Gemmell is one of the most refreshing and inspiring voices in this evolution. One of many and one of the best. But, it makes me wonder if this is a forward indicator of a wider phenomenon.

Perhaps being a tech geek is about to stop being cool.

This generation is so used to 'tech being cool' we have almost forgotten that for most of the history of time being a tech nerd was the centre of un-cool. The zenith of, 'Cross the road to avoid that loser', un-cool.

The tide was always going to change and in the context of broader history, I'm sure 'geeks being cool' will be seen as the aberration rather than the norm.

Perhaps this is the start. The desire to read more about Art, Literature, Music, Politics, Sex etc. on blogs and less about the pixel size on the next wristwatch might be the start of - 'For goodness sake, don't invite the tech guy to the party. They'll only bore everyone with that Node v Java Script conversation whilst the rest of us are trying to have fun.'

Just saying, Bankers in red braces with mobile phones the size of bricks were cool once.

Evernote almost out of the hot water

I love Evernote. It's one of the best apps around and it's on my very short list of platforms (actually, it's much more than an app) that I couldn't do without. It's a platform hub that sits at the centre of a lot of my daily workflows. As I mentioned in this post amongst many others.

Just like Stephen Hackett, I was troubled by the emergence of the context feature which Stephen detailed well in his post, On Evernote's new Context feature, and why it's a problem — 512 Pixels

Evernote has responded with a good and pretty open post allaying many of the key concerns particularly, those concerning the privacy of user data. It’s good to read:

Does Evernote share any user data with publishers or other partners?

No. If you click on a Context-suggested article and it opens in an Evernote note or a browser, publishers will see these clicks as web visits, just like they would if you went to their website on your own. Publishers do not see any connections between those views and an individual Evernote user and they never see the content of your notes.

It such a shame that Evernote then goes on to fudge the issue with the following paragraph of what can only be described as ‘lawyer’ or ‘PR’ words. It appears to be deliberately opaque to leave room for the fact that context suppliers are paying to be part of the program.

Questions and Answers About Context - Evernote Blog

How does Evernote make money from Context? Evernote makes money by providing products and features end users are happy to pay for. We think Context is a powerful feature that will help people do their best, most informed work. It’s one of several features that people enjoy when they sign up for Evernote Premium or Evernote Business.

A bit of straight talking would have been so much more refreshing (and more in the typical Evernote style) along the lines of either:

1) “We don’t make any income from content suppliers for the context feature”

Or (as I Suspect is more likely)

2) “We do make some income from content suppliers for the context feature but be assured that we are determined not to turn our users into a product that we are selling to content providers.”

I’m sure Evernote gets why (2) will make many loyal, premium subscribers nervous but I wonder if they understand that being a less than direct with the truth makes the same group even more nervous.

Everyone gets that Evernote needs a sustainable, profitable model. Many would be happy to pay a little more each year to keep the pure utility of the service without any slippage toward the google-fication of the operating model.

Once you become a custodian of people's private data, you get a huge responsibility to be completely transparent about how you are using it. If news organisations are paying for the opportunity to put their links in front of Evernote's premium customers based on the context of private data - Evernote's users deserve to be told this. Clearly and concisely with all the boundraries laid out for how this might evolve.

London is over (for the previous generation)

London is over...and it's about time too - Telegraph

Dr Johnson never had to wait forty minutes to be wedged in a stranger’s armpit on the tube – a daily occurrence for any of us who happen to live in that vast, vomitous mass that is sneeringly referred to by the wealthy as 'Sarf London’, even if parts of 'Sarf London’ are more expensive than truffles sprinkled in gold and served on a platinum plate with diamond detailing.

He never had his toes broken by a wheely suitcase, and he was never sworn at by a cyclist who careered into him after running a red light. Had Dr Johnson come to London now, he would have been completely exhausted by it. People would be shouting blue murder at him as he slept-walked slowly through Victoria Station; they’d be elbowing him out the way as they raced to be swallowed whole by the tube.

I share many of the sentiments of this piece as I head out of the smoke to my decrepit county pile each Thursday or Friday evening. But, the truth is; It's not that 'London is over', it's that Bryony (& I) are older.

Apple apparently ruining notification centre in iOS

Goodbye, Drafts Widget (For Now?) – MacStories

[Drafts] which we reviewed in October, offered a handy Notification Center widget to open the app in draft creation mode. The widget could launch Draft to a new empty draft or, even better, create a new draft based on the contents of the clipboard.

Today, after a few weeks of back and forth with App Review, Drafts' Greg Pierce said he was told to remove buttons from the widget, therefore making it useless.

As Greg Pierce tweeted

…if what they are telling me is true, expect Evernote and other widgets which have similar shortcuts to be removed as well.

Apple, grow up. We all love the functionality of Today View widgets. Like many people, I use the Evernote, Drafts and Fantastical ones many times a day. Don't allow dogma to make life harder and destroy creativity.

If you want to live on the intersection of technology and the liberal arts, sometimes, you have to learn to go with the flow and not behave like the 100lb gorilla when things evolve.

If it's what your best developers and most advanced customers want - you should probably be doing it.

(Posted from Drafts in iOS)

Twitter client bad behaviour

Twitter to snoop on every app on your phone - Telegraph

In a post on its help centre web page, Twitter said it would target people who use its app on all mobile devices that run Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems.

"To help build a more personal Twitter experience for you, we are collecting and occasionally updating the list of apps installed on your mobile device so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in," the company said.

The information, which Twitter calls a person's "graph data" will be used to "improve 'who to follow' suggestions that share similar interests; add tweets, accounts or other content to your timeline that we think you'll find especially interesting, and showing you more relevant promoted content".

If ONLY we'd have all taken up App.net...

There is an interesting paradox here. Most real people use Facebook. Most geeks don't (and sometimes this means they forget that most real people do) but most geeks do use Twitter.

As it moves inexorably toward the Facebook crime sheet - Will the geeks stop using it? Marco Arment thinks not.

New Twitter search API won’t be available to third-party clients – Marco.org

We’re all just one compelling feature away from leaving our third-party apps on our own. For some of us, this full-archive search will be that feature. What’s next remains to be seen — I suspect direct-message enhancements may be — but I bet third-party clients will lose half of their users within two years without Twitter ever having to explicitly kill them.

We won’t even be angry at Twitter — we’ll move to the official apps voluntarily, and we’ll look back on all third-party clients like we look back on Tweetie, vanity link shorteners, and third-party image hosts today: as relics of a quickly abandoned past before we all started using Twitter’s better, newer features. You’ll see.

Maybe Twitter will let the geeks keep their own little ghetto. It won't make any difference to the economics.

Beats becomes Apple music

Apple to push Beats to all iPhones according to FT - BBC News

Apple is planning to push its Beats streaming music service to every iPhone in the new year, according to a report in the Financial Times newspaper. Apple will include the Beats app in its latest update to the iOS operating system

A spokesman for Spotify said, "On balance, we have had better f@**ing weeks."

Seriously though, I predict a tie into iTunes Match were one subscription buys you the entire Beats catalogue plus anything else they don't have that you choose to upload. One unified space for all your music.

Will it be called Beats or iTunes?

Neither - my prediction, Apple music.

Unless it's better quality than 256k MP3/AAC, this correspondent won't be getting excited.

This Weekend's homework

This weekend fuel your soul by spending a couple of hours perusing second hand vinyl LP stores and find yourself a copy of Rickie Lee Jones Eponymous 1979 album.

Don't buy a digitally remastered copy. Get a 1979 original analogue pressing. Pay whatever it costs, Rickie fans are too cool to haggle.

Go home. Listen.

Listen to music.

Starting Gun Fired on Apple Watch Development

Initial Impressions for WatchKit - David Smith

In the first phase we will be able to build Glances, Actionable Notifications and iPhone powered apps. The last of which has me most excited.

Apple took a clever approach to handling the extremely constrained power environment of the Watch (at least initially). To start with 3rd Party apps will run in a split mode. The Watch itself handling the UI parts of the app with an iPhone based app extension doing all the heavy lifting and computation. This is architected in such a way as to enhance interactivity (it isn’t just a streamed movie) while still keeping the Watch components very lightweight.

I reckon that somewhere between 25% and 33% of all my interactions with my phone could be categorised as Glances or Actionable notifications. What's the next thing in my calendar? What's the next item on my Things to do list? What was that SMS? Pause the Downcast player. etc. etc.

In the new post watch world, 1/3 of the time, my phone stays in my pocket.

Cool.

Also, great new income stream for the developers of all our favourite apps.

Cool.

Details

iOS 8.1.1 Brings Fixes for Share Sheet Extension Reordering, iCloud Crashes – MacStories

Share sheet extension reordering should have been included in iOS 8.0 two months ago, but somehow Apple managed to wait until November for this fix. Before iOS 8.1.1, you could tap & hold extensions in the share sheet to rearrange them, but their position wouldn't stick at a system-wide level – notably, closing and reopening an app would immediately reset the extension order you set.

In iOS 8.1.1, extensions in the share sheet now stick across different apps and their order persists across app relaunches and system restarts. Again, I tested this for two weeks on the beta of iOS 8.1.1, but I also ran tests on my iPad today and the fix is still in place.

It's nice that this is fixed but I can't help think that there are only about 10 people in the whole world that would even notice.

iOS 8 Email Extension

iOS 8, Email, and Extensions – MacStories

I don't know why Apple hasn't enabled extensions in Mail for iOS 8. If time constraints are to blame, hopefully Dispatch and CloudMagic are proving that the ability to act on messages and integrating with storage providers is a much needed step for processing email on iOS devices, and Apple should take note.

I love the elegant interface of Mail and its new gestures for triaging messages, but the same limitations of six years ago still largely apply. For Mail to be truly desktop-class, Apple needs to build support for the latest iOS extensibility features, and I'm looking forward to updates next year.

Totally right. My number one wish list issue for iOS 8.

The Luxury of Time

In Winter - Matt Gemmell

As I reach the depth of my sleep, in that period from around 3AM to 4AM, I see some awful things. I couldn’t begin to count the number of mornings where I’ve sat on the side of the bed, feet gratefully on the floor, shivering in the dark (and hoping I haven’t woken my wife). I’ve watched 5AM arrive on the bedside alarm clock so many times that it’s become seasonally normal. I always get back to sleep afterwards, at least, which is a mixed blessing.

...

I return to bed, and watch the clock, and eventually I sleep again - with more strange surroundings, uncertain motives, and unfamiliar landscapes. When dawn creeps under the curtains and I wake up, I’m profoundly grateful for the daylight. I get up, and for the first half an hour or so my emotions are uncomfortably close to the surface.

Only Matt could write about nightmares and still make it a beautiful piece of prose.

I suspect more people than we imagine do the waking bolt upright at 4.00am thing - following an unpleasant or terrifying dream.

I do it. I used to do it a lot. It happens a lot less now and seems to have improved through two things I do. These work for me. I have no idea whether they would help others similarly.

1) I restrict myself to two cups of coffee a day, (whether caffeinated or not) one when I rise and one no later than midday and normally earlier. No tea. When everyone else is drinking tea and coffee, I default to hot water.

2) I have turned the context around about waking in the night (or finding it hard to get off to sleep). I have convinced myself about a truth. The truth is; I don't have enough time in my life. I don't have enough time to read all the books I want to read or listen to all the podcasts I want to hear or a million other things.

So, I have genuinely changed my attitude to being awake from - 'what a pain, I should be asleep' to 'OK, good, an opportunity to listen to an other hour of....'

I keep an old iPad by my bed, with a very comfortable, soft, tiny in ear headphone and when I wake at 4.00am, I don't dwell on the dream, I don't wonder about how long it will take me to get back to sleep, I listen to Siracusa arguing with Gruber about file systems or the Football Weekly crew arguing about whether Spurs are any good. I enjoy the time rather than regret it.

Obviously, no Twitter clients, email or any sort of reading or notifications. And, with all due respect to the podcasts mentioned above - the more banal - the better. This is not intense time. This is my luxury time. This is my luxury time to spend on gentle, frivolous, insignificant but interesting things.

I can chose to think about what ever I wish and at four am I chose frippery.

Christmas List

The Christmas Catalog — Tools and Toys

The holidays cannot — and should not — be defined by the height of our Christmas tree nor the depth of presents at its base. My wife and I have been married nearly 10 years and we have two beautiful and rowdy boys. For me, the things I want most are the things I cannot buy: time, health, memories, deep conversations, roaring laughter, rest, and the opportunity to serve others.

With this in mind, our 2014 holiday gift guide is a bit different. We have done our best to avoid listing out a vast array of crap that has found the inferior sweet spot between impractical, unaffordable, and meaningless.

Love this.

The restorative power of moving coils and valves

After a long week, when you are home on Friday evening for the first time since 6.00 am on Monday. After a few too many meetings, a few too many business dinners, too many KPI reports, too many plane journeys, too many train departures, too many 'I need to just catch you before' and one or two 'let's see if we can squeeze in a conference call at 6.00 your time to touch base on...

My recommendation for total restoration is a glass or two of Sancere, a complete play through of this:

image.jpg

On this:

image.jpg

Through this:

image.jpg

Total restoration of the soul. 

They're Back

BONANZA! - Relay FM

1: Arkansas Chuggabug

November 4th, 2014 · 59 minutes Matt and Myke are back together. They start off BONANZA by welcoming listeners new and old and coining a name for the audience listening live, before going on to explore their new venture—International Fun-Run Relay Racing.

They're back. Baby.

Taylor Swift Removes Entire Catalog from Spotify

Taylor Swift removes music from Spotify - FT.com

Taylor Swift’s record label has removed her entire catalogue of music from Spotify, betting that the star can make more money from conventional record sales than through streaming. Spotify responded to the move on Monday by publishing a blog post calling on the artist and her label, Big Machine, to change their minds and rejoin the service.

Apparently Ms Swift said, "We are never, ever, getting back together."

Retina IMac - short test drive

I’ve been stuck in the wilds of Scotland for the last week so haven’t had chance to play with a new iMac Retina, until today, when I stole 30 minutes between meetings to nip into Regent Street and barge some tourists out of the way in the Apple store to get hands on.

As a purchaser of one of the first 13” Retina MBP’s, I am a bit cynical about the compromises required to deliver Retina displays. I switched back from the 13” R MBP to an 11” Air this summer, driven by the excessive fan noise, weight and battery life of the former. I was pleased to hear from many reviews that fan noise wasn’t a big deal for the iMac.

Jason Snell reported:

Now about that fan. I am not among the most sound-sensitive people around, since I’m often working with music playing or headphones in. However, even I notice when I’m recording a podcast and my MacBook Air’s fans are loudly blowing because some runaway app is using way too much processor power. When I ran stress-testing processor and GPU-based tests on the iMac, the fan would definitely come on, and in a quiet room it was audible. It was also, to my mind, vastly quieter than the fan in my MacBook Air. The iMac’s not going to match the Mac Pro for quiet fan blowing, but neither is it going to beat out any Mac laptops in a contest to see who can make the most noise.

On my 13” R MBP I set the screen size to the highest resolution (No point in having all of those pixels if you don’t use the real estate) and this allowed me to have Mail App, Calendar and Evernote adjacent and viewable simultaneously. Great for productive work flows but soon the fan would be spinning at medium. Switch to watching a full screen video on BBC iPlayer and the fans would be so loud you’d have to set the volume to max to hear the audio.

So the first thing I did with the Retina iMac was set scaling to max to see how much real estate I could get. Good, but not as much as my present dual 27” cinema displays - Can’t give myself an excuse to purchase one based on that then.

I then opened 5 tabs in Safari, opened Keynote, Numbers, Garage band and iMovie where I set the pre-loaded beautiful people movie running in the preview screen. I then started to resize and move the Garage band window and it was bad.

Not a bit bad but very, very bad. I could move the cursor half way across the screen and one or maybe two seconds would elapse before the window resized. When I started to drag the window around the screen the stutter was palpable.

I restarted the machine and tried it again just in case something was amiss but got the same result. My test drive was halted very prematurely. With a lot of action on screen, the UI felt more like treacle than butter with a distinct disconnect between user action and response.

I realise the immense engineering capability that goes into a 5k display and take no pleasure through being able to glibly catch it out. In fact, it left me a little sad. No excuse at the moment for me to buy one of these machines.

It left me wondering if I just had a rogue machine (it was base spec) but it was the only one in the store so I couldn’t try an alternative. I also wonder if being on max resolution makes a big difference that might not be making it into the reviews generally.

I’ll try another machine when I see one but, for now, for me, it’s in the wait until it’s in the fabulous third generation bucket.

Dr. Drang low post

Low post - All this

The north (near) side of the plug was put in tension by the wind. The crack started there and progressed rapidly over the cross section until the fracture was complete. Do you see the small cracked piece near the south (far) edge? That’s what’s called a compression chip and is commonly found on the compression side of brittle materials that fail in bending. Even if the post had been taken away, leaving only the piece in the ground, the compression chip would have told me which way the pole fell.

There are some other interesting things we can see in this failure. First, the concrete looks to be pretty strong. The clue to this is in the broken aggregate. Weak concrete tends to break around the aggregate; strong concrete tends to break through it. Of course, if the aggregate itself is weak—and there’s always some weak aggregate in concrete—this can be a false clue. In this case, though, aggregate of various colors and types are broken, and that’s a pretty good indication that the stronger aggregates as well as the weaker ones have failed.

Alternatively, Dr. Drang, you could have just painted the post.

The future of computing

“San Francisco Treasure” Jony Ive Talks Apple Watch at SFMOMA Gala | Re/code

“Obviously, you’re not going to read ‘War and Peace’ on your wrist. But for lightweight interactions, for casual glancing, it’s absolutely fabulous,” he said. “And I think this is the beginning of a very important category. With every bone in my body I know this is an important category, and this is the right place to wear it.”

The future is a big ass phone in your pocket (bag) and a 'watch' on your wrist for all the trivial / instantaneous interactions.

Nothing else required.