AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

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Casey Liss tries Amazon Prime Now →

December 02, 2015 |

Casey Liss recently tried the Amazon Prime Now program, which allows customers to get free 2-hour delivery or $8, 1-hour delivery on a selection of products:

I placed an order for 5 items, all of which were physically fairly small, at just before 4pm. When I placed the order, I was able to choose a two-hour window for delivery. For delivery between 4pm and 6pm, it was $8 extra. For delivery between 6pm and 8pm, it was free. I chose the latter.

Deliveries run from 10am to 10pm, and I had the option of selecting a delivery window tomorrow.

A tip is strongly recommended; it must be charged to a credit card. You can’t give cash, and you can’t use a gift card balance. However, you can change the tip amount even for a little while after delivery. The app defaulted me to a 10% tip, rounded to the nearest dollar.

Sounds awesome enough, but a 10% strongly recommended tip isn’t exactly what I’d call free. Also, that they suggest a tip at all makes me think these couriers probably aren’t paid very well, which would discourage me from wanting to use the service in the first place.

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My review of the GORUCK Wire Dopp, an organizational sleeve designed to fit the front slant pocket of the GORUCK backpacks, was published today on Tools & Toys.

This was one of those cases when I actually changed my mind about a product after owning it and using it for a while. That’s why I always try to spend a substantial amount of time with any product before reviewing it.

For the first few days after receiving it, I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of it was, and whether I could recommend buying it as an accessory for your GORUCK rucksack. It just seemed too bulky for something designed to hold small items, and stuffing a relatively big sleeve in an already space-constrained pocket didn’t seem like a particularly smart approach.

Then I gave it some thought. On one hand, at $25 it’s well within the impulse-buy price range, and it’s just as well made as all GORUCK products. On the other hand, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my GORUCK bags that this accessory could solve.

Then I thought about it some more, and realized how I never actually used the front slant pocket on any of my GORUCK bags.

The truth is, as cool-looking as it is, that front pocket is not exactly practical. When the bag is full — which is to say, always — this pocket is so compressed by the rest of the bag’s contents that getting my hand inside to grab anything was hard enough for me to avoid using the pocket entirely.

If that pocket was supposed to act as a convenient place to store a few small items for quick and easy access, it wasn’t really performing as intended.

It turns out, the Wire Dopp solves this problem beautifully. By keeping everything inside a sleeve that folds in on itself like a bifold wallet, grabbing an item is as simple as getting the Wire Dopp out of the front pocket, and then finding the item inside.

After a few weeks with it, I now use that front pocket more than ever. I also use the Wire Dopp with my other non-GORUCK bags, and even as a standalone item.

It’s not a perfect accessory, but at $25, the benefits of the Wire Dopp are well worth the price of admission. If you’d like to read more about it, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

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November 28, 2015

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee, my weekly roundup of interesting writing.

Issue #25: The worst app, the brain vs. the heart, and 20 years of Pixar animation

With the Thanksgiving holiday and the Black Friday in the US, this was kind of a slow week on the writing front and as a result, this issue contains fewer items than usual. That said, these are all great pieces well worth your time.

Enjoy.

Apple Pencil review | Myke Hurley →

Great review by Relay FM’s Myke Hurley, guest-posting at The Pen Addict:

Let’s face it, it is extremely unlikely that any digital experience is going to ever be able to replicate the feel of a pencil or a pen gliding across a piece of paper. The joy that we all feel when using our favourite combinations are unlikely to ever be matched by glass and plastic. But that’s not what this product is about.

What I was looking for from the Apple Pencil was to be able to write naturally on the screen, in the size I usually write, and it visually match what I would expect to see.

And it does.

The worst app | Allen Pike →

Allen Pike had to deal with a very uncomfortable support situation recently: a scammy developer had listed his email address as the official support contact for a terrible app. Even worse, when he attempted to report the offending app to Apple, he discovered just how messy the procedure can really be:

Unfortunately, one does not simply contact Apple about an app. The official way to complain about an app is via the “Report a Problem” link from when you buy the app. Of course, I’m not going to buy this scam app just to complain about it, so I dug up an alternate form to report a problem. Maddeningly, one of the required fields on that form is an order number - the one you receive when you buy the app. Stalemate.

The good news is, he finally managed to get the app taken down, but he did have to shell out $3.49 CAD to buy the app in order to get Apple to engage. The whole story is surreal.

Which do you enjoy more? | Ben Brooks →

Ben Brooks continues to fire away one awesome article after another in his quest to meet the 50,000-word goal he set for himself this month. In this one, he writes about the internal struggle many people feel between making emotional purchases and rational ones — or, as he put it, between the heart and the brain:

But the middle, the people who adopt some, but not all of the new things — they aren’t any better off, because no one adopts only the right things at the right time. You can’t actually be in the middle, you just can only be less extreme. In other words you may desperately try to print shipping labels from USPS, but at the same time refuse to send email because the hand written letter is the highest form of correspondence.

People who straddle both extremes like this aren’t any better, they are just weirder than people at either of the two extremes. Because at least those at an extreme end are consistent with how they act.

Agreed. I’m afraid I’m one of those weird people straddling both extremes. In point of fact, to use one of his own examples, I just spent way too much money on a leather Brixton messenger bag from Ona, but I also own all three of GORUCK’s original backpacks. Similarly, I’m all over Amazon and same-day Prime shipping for most of my purchases, but I shave using a decades-old straight razor. I own the current-generation Sony α7 II, but I spend countless hours shooting and scanning film with a Canon AE-1 Program camera that is older than I am. I subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music, but I also own a growing vinyl collection and a 35-year-old record player.

It’s complicated.

Like Ben said, it’s all about making choices you can be at peace with. Sometimes I find that peace in the latest and greatest technology. Others, however, I’m all about the traditional stuff. At the end of the day, whatever works for you is the right choice. So be at peace.

The Silicon Valley suicides | Hanna Rosin →

Incredibly in-depth story by Hanna Rosin for The Atlantic, where she tries to uncover the reasons behind recent teen suicide clusters in Silicon Valley. This is investigative journalism at its best:

Suicide clusters—defined as multiple deaths in close succession and proximity—feed on viral news, which feeds on social connections. McGee and the other administrators worried about vulnerable students reading too many details and overidentifying with Cameron. He had played basketball for years, so he knew people at both public high schools in town; his sister was in middle school; he seemed to have friends everywhere, and the grief was gathering momentum. Diorio had been the head of guidance at Palo Alto High (“Paly,” as it’s known in the community) in 2009 and 2010, during the last suicide cluster, but the big differences this time, she told me, were smartphones and social media. All day long, kids at Paly could get updates from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. By second period many already knew it was the Caltrain, again. That day, like every day, you could hear the train from most of the classrooms, passing every 20 minutes or so. That day, one student later told me, the warning whistle seemed like the cannon that goes off in The Hunger Games every time a kid dies.

Fuji 35mm f/1.4 vs. Fuji 35mm f/2 | Jordan Steele →

Jordan compares Fuji’s new and affordable 35mm f/2 lens with the highly-regarded 35mm f/1.4 lens, and the results are surprising:

Both lenses are quality optics, but it’s clear to me that the 35mm f/2 shows some clear improvement in optical quality over the 35mm f/1.4. Both will do a great job, and the f/1.4 lens draws beautifully while providing that extra stop of speed, but the 35mm f/2 shows what Fuji can do with an extra few years of lens design for the X-Series.

The 35mm f/2 completely outclasses the faster f/1.4 lens in terms of sharpness throughout most of the aperture range, especially in the corners. Best of all, it costs $200 less. Unless you absolutely need that extra stop of speed, the new lens appears to be a significantly better value.

The Quest for the Absolute | Benoit Lapray →

This awesome project by photographer and digital retoucher Benoit Lapray showcases several superheroes pursuing solitude in nature. I love the gorgeous landscapes and how he paints these very popular characters in a completely different light. Great stuff. Via The Phoblographer.

VOTD: A Tribute to 20 Years of Masterful Storytelling from Pixar Animation | Ethan Anderton →

Ethan Anderton, writing for /Film:

While Pixar Animation is nearly 30 years old, it’s only been 20 years since the company ventured into feature length, computer animated filmmaking with Toy Story. The film was an instant classic in 1996 and it spawned two successful, acclaimed sequels with a fourth installment on the way in 2017, and it was just the beginning of what the animation house had to offer.

In celebration of Pixar’s milestone anniversary this year, editor Kees van Dijkhuizen has paid tribute to Pixar with a supercut of the films they’ve made over the years, from their early shorts to this year’s feature films. You might find yourself getting some tears in your eyes since it’s accompanied by Michael Giacchino‘s score from Up.

Definitely keep some tissues handy:

Afterword

It seems my weeks go by faster and faster with each issue. I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing, but I’ll take it.

In case you missed it, my review of the Sony α7 II camera was published on Tools & Toys earlier in the week. I’m quite happy with how this one turned out, but as they say, there’s no rest for the wicked.

I’m already working on my next review, which will definitely be shorter, but also hopefully remain useful, entertaining, and interesting to read. Those are three of my goals whenever I write a review — or anything else, for that matter. As accustomed as I am to reading and writing those pieces by now, it’s sometimes still easy to get too focused on the details while losing sight of the big picture, the greater point you’re trying to get across in the piece.

With product reviews, the goal is clear. Any review worth its salt should, at the very least, give you a clear idea of how the product works, what kind of results you can achieve with it, and what kind of user experience you can get out of it.

The specifics and technical details, while important, come in a distant second for me. Whenever I read a review, I don’t need it to tell me details I can read in a spec-sheet. It’s fine that those details are there in the article — and they should be — but it’s not the reason I’m reading.

For that reason, I try not to obsess about that when writing a review. Instead, my focus is usually on what it feels like to use a product, and whether it’s one I’d recommend to others. That, to me, is the ultimate test to any given product.

The α7 II, like most of the products I’ve reviewed, passes that test with flying colors.

I believe that’s all for this week. The next one things will probably be back to normal, whatever normal means on the Internet.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thank you for reading.

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A matter of respect

November 26, 2015

Those of you who have been following the Samantha Bielefeld saga may already know that a few days ago, new information was made public that caused many people, myself included, to question our role in this whole thing.

It appears — at this point I consider it proven — that Samantha Bielefeld’s real identity is actually a man named Victor Wynn Johnson. Not only that, but this man has been accused of being a pathological liar and a conman in the past, long before Samantha ever entered the picture.

For obvious reasons, that has some very important implications.

Actions

That a man would pass himself off as a woman in order to use a very real and serious issue — the struggle of women in tech — to get attention is already bad enough,1 but it gets worse.

If Bielefeld’s identity is finally confirmed as Victor Johnson, that also means he staged the whole harassment claim that got the ball rolling in the first place, and ended up becoming this huge mess that’s tarnished many a reputation, including mine.

If the above is unequivocally confirmed, despicable doesn’t even cut it.

You may reasonably ask for proof. Currently, the strongest evidence we have was published yesterday by Amy Jane Gruber. Samantha’s IP address matches that of Victor, a fact that can be verified by inspecting the headers of email messages received by John Gruber from both identities.

Now, I’m well aware that IP addresses don’t unequivocally identify people, but we’re talking needle-in-a-haystack odds here. Add to that the fact that both Samantha and Victor had a very similar — and quite uncommon — joke in their blog’s footer, and it becomes as close to a smoking gun as we can realistically expect to get.

I mean, seriously, if you’re a harassed woman, what are the odds of you using the same joke in your blog AND having the same IP address as the man you’ve publicly accused of harassing you?

Right now the only thing that could surpass this level of proof is an outright confession from Victor, but that doesn’t appear very likely. Samantha, in turn, has denied the accusation of being Victor. That may be enough for some, but at this point I consider the burden of proof to be on her.

Which brings me to my next point.

Consequences

For clarity’s sake, I will continue to refer to this person as Samantha and use the female pronoun “her” when commenting on the actions carried out under that identity.

The way I see it, there are two separate issues at play here: Samantha’s criticism of Marco Arment over the patronage model for Overcast, and her alleged harassment at the hands of Marco’s friends and followers.

Those two issues are obviously related, but they are indeed separate. I maintain that many of the points she made on the patronage issue were valid, but the fact that she would fabricate harassment claims just to get attention strikes me as one of the most dishonorable things one can do on the Internet. And when that comes at the expense of a developer’s reputation, the whole thing becomes downright disgusting.

As I said on twitter yesterday, I may still agree with many of her points, but I can’t, in good conscience, support her anymore.

Some people argue that the fact that she made valid points should be enough to redeem her. That she shouldn’t be condemned because she was speaking the truth about important issues in the Apple community that nobody else was willing to talk about.

I could not disagree more with that assessment.

It all comes down to respect. Faking harassment to get attention is just about the most disrespectful thing I can think of, and it completely squanders whatever measure of trust I may have felt towards this person before.

I have no time and attention for someone who clearly does not respect me as a reader. Even if she’s right about patronage, or whatever else she keeps writing about in the future.

Luckily, Samantha Bielefeld does not exclusively own the rights to complaining about the economics of the App Store — or any other topic, for that matter. We do not need her to be the voice to agitate the consciences of the developer community. Others will surely pick up that fight, and I will be glad to support them instead.

An apology

I’ve been writing here at Analog Senses for over six years now. Throughout that time, I’ve always done my best to be respectful towards my readers. I have never taken any shortcuts, and I have never published anything I didn’t honestly believe to be the truth, to the best of my knowledge. That is a line I will never cross here.

When I wrote about this last month, I was going off publicly available information. Clearly others knew more about the situation than they were letting on,2 but I didn’t. I took Samantha’s claims of being harassed at face value, and by publicly defending her, I staked my reputation on that claim.

I was wrong about her, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Had I not spoken up about it at the time, I feel I would have done even more of a disservice to my readers. When something like this happens, I don’t want to be the person that watches from the sidelines, too afraid of getting in trouble to do anything about it.

That said, I should have been more careful and gotten my facts straight before placing my trust on this person, and especially before asking you, my readers, to do the same. I was wrong, and I’m very sorry I misled you.

I also owe someone else an apology, and that someone is Marco.

I made several assumptions and character judgements about Marco in my piece that painted him as petty and vindictive. Those assumptions were not only unwarranted, speculative and colossally wrong, they were extremely out of place, and inappropriate.

I am really sorry for that.

I may disagree with some of his business decisions, but I deeply respect Marco. I had no right to question his character, and truth be told, I’ve never witnessed anything that would make me think badly of him as a person.

Surely Marco has done enough over the years to earn the benefit of the doubt, and I am ashamed I didn’t give it to him. If I were ever accused of something like this, I’d like to be given the benefit of the doubt, too. After all, what good is a reputation if we turn on each other at the first sign of trouble?

Moving on

I don’t think we’ll ever get 100% conclusive, unequivocal proof of Samantha Bielefeld’s real identity, but honestly, at this point I don’t really care anymore. I’m moving on, and I suggest you do the same.

I hope I can live up to your trust in the future, and the best way I know how to do that is to get back to work. I have a lot more writing to get done before the holidays, including several reviews in the pipeline. Clearly I have my work cut out for me, which is just the way I like it.

I know I usually say this, but today I need to say it more than ever:

Thank you for reading.


  1. Not to mention the fact that he used that attention to launch a membership program and take people’s money under false pretenses.

  2. I don’t want to put anyone on the spot, but I can’t help but feel that if those people had gone public before, it would have saved a ton of headache for everyone.

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The Ultimate Holiday Millennialsplainer Guide →

November 25, 2015 |

Sid O’Neill:

This week, families will gather to argue heatedly over lukewarm turkey, pallid vegetables, and the dregs of the Franzia. Here are some of the topics that will inevitably be introduced by some uncle (who probably doesn’t even read Slate or HuffPo) and some tips on how to decisively win the ensuing battle.

Great stuff.

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So I pulled a Siracusa — with all due respect — and wrote about 11,000 words on the Sony α7 II for Tools & Toys.

This is the most in-depth review I’ve ever written, and there were still a few more things I could have said about it.

I’ve owned the α7 II for 3 and a half months and in that time, I’ve used it extensively as my main camera. I now feel as comfortable with it as I’ve ever felt with any other camera, and yet I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do.

This is without a doubt the best camera I’ve ever used, although I do miss a few of the features I had grown accustomed to on my Olympus E-M10. That goes to show what an incredible value the little E-M10 is.

If you’d like to read more — much more — about the α7 II, head on over to Tools & Toys to check out my full review, or feel free to send it over to your read-it-later service of choice.

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