It’s Compulsion, Not Obsession →

January 07, 2015 |

Fantastic essay by Ben Brooks on the natural compulsion we as nerds feel to find and own the best:

And so I, and fellow nerds, find new macros, new apps, new tools, new systems. We have a never ending need to find the best, whether that is tools, or processes we want them both. We can’t settle until we’ve reached a point where we know we’ve reached peak zen because what we own, or how we do something, is subjective seen by us as the best.

I’m writing this on an iPad Air, but I know there is an iPad Air 2 and I know it is better. I want it, but cannot afford it. But it’s better and knowing that kills me a little inside, however at the same time I recognize that I have the best I can afford and it is only in that realization which I can take comfort and move on.

I’m not impervious to this feeling, and battle it every time I look at my 6-and-a-half-year-old iMac. It’s only a fraction of a second, but it happens. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort to be able to distance yourself from the need to have the best, but I have found it’s entirely possible.

There’s also some measure of personal satisfaction in getting the most out of your beloved, albeit outdated tools. To squeeze the last bit of functionality out of them before eventually replacing them. I know I don’t have the best Mac right now, but that’s OK, because there was this one time, not that long ago, when I did. And I still remember what that felt like. Just as I know that one day, not that far from now, I will feel it again.

Because, let’s not kid ourselves, when my iMac finally kicks the bucket, I’m definitely getting the best Mac I can buy. It’s the circle of life, after all.

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Philae lander is missing →

January 06, 2015 |

Lisa Winter, IFLS:

While Philae initially landed on the target landing site, the harpoons meant to secure it to the surface failed, and it bounced twice before coming to rest (albeit tilted slightly) on the shady edge of a cliff.

This location was problematic, as it meant that Philae would not receive enough sunlight to recharge its solar panels. After about 60 hours of transmitting data about Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Philae’s battery ran out and the probe went to sleep. There had initially been some optimism that the probe might wake back up as the 67P/C-G gets closer to the sun next summer, but there’s just one problem: nobody knows where the heck it is.

Man, that sucks. I sympathize with the guys at the European Space Agency; I lose my keys all the time and it is not fun.

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The Booq Mamba Slim Courier Bag review on Tools & Toys →

January 06, 2015 |

Great review by Josh Ginter, as ever. Small, slim messenger bags are my preferred way to carry my everyday gear — a 13” MacBook Pro, a notebook and a pen, among other things — and the Mamba Slim Courier seems ideal for the task:

The shoulder strap has a nice shoulder pad that is comfortable for long periods of bag carrying. Again, the shoulder pad is made of the same material as the rest of the bag, so durability isn’t in question. The shoulder pad is folded around the strap and secured by two snap-buttons, so if you become tired of the shoulder pad, it isn’t difficult to remove.

The shoulder strap is arguably the single most important feature of a messenger bag, and one of the most difficult to do well. The ability to slide the shoulder pad along the strap, for example, is absolutely critical to the functionality of the bag. It’s remarkable just how many manufacturers get this wrong. I’m very conscious about this particular feature when browsing for messenger bags, and I’m glad to see they nailed it here.

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Cabel Sasser on pulling Coda from the Mac App Store →

January 06, 2015 |

Cabel Sasser, on the Panic blog:

We’ve well-documented our struggles with Coda 2.5, Sandboxing, and the Mac App Store — first a warning in 2012, then this year when 2.5 shipped. Apple tried their best but realistically speaking we simply would have had to cut numerous Coda features, like the Terminal, MySQL local access, editing files as root, and more. To be honest, I was pretty nervous to be pulling Coda from the Mac App Store. But when we finally did it, I felt an incredible, almost indescribable sense of relief — mostly because as we began to wrap up bug fix releases, we were able to immediately post them to our customers within minutes of qualifying them. My god. That’s how it should be. There’s just no other way to put it — that’s how you treat your customers well, by reacting quickly and having total control over your destiny. To not be beholden to someone else to do our job feels just fantastic. (Also to not pay someone 30% in exchange for frequent stress is a fine deal.)

I’m happy to see removing Coda from the Mac App Store didn’t really hurt their sales. The Mac App Store is a fantastic way for developers to reach a wider audience but understandably, it’s not for everyone. Panic is a unique company, and it makes all the sense in the world for their apps to be sold independently through their own distribution channel.

Via 512 Pixels.

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Marco Arment’s way too popular day →

January 06, 2015 |

Marco Arment, on the aftermath of his “Apple has lost the functional high ground” piece:

Instead of what was intended to be constructive criticism of the most influential company in my life, I handed the press more poorly written fuel to hamfistedly stab Apple with my name and reputation behind it. And my name will be on that forever.

Had I known that it would go as far as it did, I never would have written it.

I understand his feelings, but I think he’s being way too hard on himself. I don’t believe he can be faulted for “handing the press more poorly written fuel”. It was far from being poorly written, for one, and sensationalist pieces were always going to get published, regardless of how carefully Marco had measured his words. Those outlets were obviously not interested in publishing accurate reports on his original piece, and they would have twisted his words to fit their narrative anyway.

I believe Marco’s original piece has merit, and it needed to be published. The quality of Apple’s software is a real issue and, despite all the noise, Marco has ultimately done Apple — and all of us, really — a great service by calling them out on it.

That said, I get how hard it must be to see your name attached to some of those sensationalist pieces, and it’s extremely unfortunate. We all end up losing when a great writer and developer like Marco gets pushed so far as to feel the need to censor his own work.

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Federico Viticci on the quality of Apple software →

January 06, 2015 |

iOS ninja master Federico Viticci shares his view on whether Apple has really lost “the functional high ground”:

My problem with most commentary to Marco’s piece is the binary interpretation of Apple’s software releases: that they should either do new stuff or fix bugs. That’s too simplistic and shortsighted. Software is never bug-free, but there’s a threshold where it’s good enough to be shipped. I want to see Apple get better at releasing updates like iOS 8 and Yosemite with a better balance between novelty and stability. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. I don’t want to see Apple “taking a year off” to fix iOS, as that wouldn’t be beneficial to the company and its developer community. Considering Apple’s scale and the uncharted territory of several iOS 8 and Yosemite features, that’s a tricky proposition.

I very much agree with Federico in that the right approach to improve the stability and quality of Apple software is probably not to slow down to the point of no new features. There’s quite a bit of wiggle room between “slow down” and “no new features”. The key, as ever, is finding the right compromise.

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To File or Pile? →

January 05, 2015 |

Interesting article by Roberta Kwok, on how a study found out that “filers”, the people who clean up their desks by organizing papers into files, end up keeping many more useless papers that “pilers”, those who just let papers pile up on their desks until the mess is unbearable:

Why? Filers, eager to clean off their desks, might automatically store papers that are in fact useless (a disorder that the study authors dub “premature filing”). Once they’ve put the effort into organizing that paper, they’re reluctant to throw it out. Pilers, on the other hand, can gleefully toss their messy stacks without feeling guilt over time wasted on sorting. As one piler explains, “[I]t really wasn’t well-organized yet, anyway… So, it wasn’t too big a thing to stand there with a pile of papers over the trash can and ruthlessly throw them in.”

Sounds about right. It’s surprisingly easy to convince ourselves to keep storing useless stuff forever, just in case we need it one day.

Please note that this also affects “digital filers”: junk stored on your hard drive is still junk, even if it doesn’t take up much physical space. This is particularly relevant in light of this other linked article from earlier today.

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How to disappear completely →

January 05, 2015 |

David Cain spends 90 minutes in a darkened sensory deprivation tank:

With no stimulus, time really seems to stretch out. After I’d lost track of my body, I realized I had absolutely no idea how long I’d been in there, only that it could only have been a fraction of the full 90 minutes. By that time I was extremely comfortable, much more comfortable than I ever get in bed or in an armchair.

One completely unexpected effect was that my ability to imagine became supercharged. I pictured being in a hammock on the beach, and some very specific details came flooding in — the smell of hot sand, the feel of my bare feet on a sunlit nylon rope, the sense of being away from Canada, even.

That must have been quite an experience. Although looking at those tanks, I wouldn’t get in there in a million years if not for the fact that there’s no lock on the door.

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Hayao Miyazaki, the master of childhood dreams →

January 05, 2015 |

Nice piece by Mike Hale for The New York Times:

Many things contribute to the enchantment of the 11 animated feature films Mr. Miyazaki has made, beginning with “The Castle of Cagliostro” in 1979. Their sheer pictorial beauty, in the lush, painterly style he developed during years of apprenticeship as a hands-on animator for film and television and as a comic book, or manga, artist. Their swooping, beautifully constructed action sequences, breathless scenes of racing, leaping and, always, flight — in vintage airplanes, on broomsticks or mounted atop mysterious beasts. And, of course, the beasts, spirits, demons and familiars themselves, a seemingly inexhaustible menagerie of companions and impediments for his plucky young heroes (who are most often heroines).

Hayao Miyazaki is without a doubt one of the most talented and accomplished filmmakers ever. “The Castle of Cagliostro” is a personal favorite of mine, but there’s a special kind of magic in all of his films, something that stems from his unique understanding of the human spirit:

You know it when you feel it: the mastery of tone and emotion, embodied in every gesture, expression, movement and setting, that give the films a watchfulness, a thoughtfulness, an unaffected gravity. To watch a Miyazaki movie is to remember what it was like to be a smart and curious child.

Via Kottke.

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