Remembering

I was talking with a friend yesterday about sentimentality. She told me about a Journey concert t-shirt she’s kept from years ago because it reminds her of a fun night. I don’t share this mindset at all and it reminded my of a great post by Jack Shedd written almost three years ago about photographs:

I don’t want to stare at some photo of me at 21 when I’m 50 and contemplate everything I was, or could have been. I don’t want to have to drown in partial truths, grasping at a falling memory to paint in details. I’d rather either remember, or not. Rather know, or forget.

This is how I feel.

There is no value in reminding yourself of something you would have otherwise naturally forgot if not for an artifact you’ve kept for that purpose alone. The truly defining moments of your life you will remember; photographs, t-shirts or not.

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GeekDesk Review

Not being one for in depth research I went to The Wirecutter’s standing desk recommendations. Everything they reviewed and recommended were far too small for my taste. The GeekDesk came in multiple large sizes and looked great. I bought it.

I’ve been using it for over a month now and love it.

As expected standing is great for about 30-45 minutes after which I’m happy to be able to drop it back down to sitting.

I like it so much I switched to a standing desk at work. Work’s standing desks aren’t dynamically adjustable. They’re set to a specific height perfect for standing and come with a high stool. They’re good too but the GeekDesk’s ability to switch between a normal seated position and standing is far superior.

An unexpected but huge benefit of the GeekDesk’s fine grained height control is that this is the first time ever I’ve had a desk at the perfect height in the seated position. Even if I never stood it would be worth it for that alone.

It was easy to put together, feels very sturdy, is finished nicely and the height presets make it simple to operate. Without the height presets it’d be frustrating to operate. Switching between sitting and standing takes one button press and around 10 seconds.

Highly recommended.

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Things to know about living in San Francisco

It somewhat pains me to link to 25 Things I wish I knew before moving to San Francisco because of the link bait title. How would knowing that SF is dog friendly, people like costumes or that you can easily find great views help you at all before moving here?!

But I digress, it has some stuff I want to respond to.

Learn the streets that include the Tenderloin and don’t walk there at night and avoid any Muni buses that will take you through there on your trip.

In my experience the danger of the Tenderloin and other “bad” areas has been hugely overstated. The main streets at night are totally safe. MUNI through the Tenderloin is safe. I wouldn’t choose to walk down a dark alley alone at night but the whole neighborhood shouldn’t be written off.

Palo Alto and Mountain View are farther away than you think.

Yep. It’s over an hour each way and many companies put on fancy shuttles. I know a bunch of people who are satisfied making the commute but I wouldn’t be here if I had to spend over 10 hours a week on a bus or train.

The MUNI is the bus system in San Francisco that most San Franciscans have a Love-Hate relationship with.

I hate MUNI. It’s slow and unpleasant. There’s a bus route that goes directly from my apartment to work. My bike ride is 15 minutes, the MUNI ride is 40 minutes. The maddeningly frequency of MUNI stops (almost every block) is what makes it so slow. It also makes for a jolty and uncomfortable ride.

I haven’t ridden a MUNI train but they look much better. BART (a different kind of train…) is faster and more comfortable but I often hear reports of BART trains breaking down with long delays.

My advice would be to not make any decisions based on heavy use of public transport, especially MUNI buses. Much, much better is getting around by bike. Which brings me to my next point.

The hilliness of San Francisco is vastly overstated.

There are certainly areas with the famous extremely steep hills: Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, some areas of Pacific Heights but they are localised and easily avoidable. The majority of the 7x7 mile city grid is flat and getting around by bike is easy.

SF is a super fit city.

It’s rare to see hugely overweight people who were common back home. Consistently great weather and incredible natural environments in and around the city plus readily available, cheap and healthy food everywhere make it easy. Without consciously trying I’ve lost weight since getting here.

If you tried apps like Foursquare and Yelp in other places and weren’t impressed, they’re worth another shot here.

This is amplified for me coming from Australia to the US. Google Maps here is incredible: public transit directions with times and schedules, indoor maps, super high res satellite images and blazing speed. Amazon Prime has totally changed my life. Zipcar, Uber, Netflix, Rdio. All that great stuff I’d read a lot about but never got to use before getting here.

It’s easy to get lost in exploring San Francisco, but what really makes the city great is what lies just beyond. No matter what you love doing or your favorite climate, there’s great places to visit within a few hours drive of San Francisco.

I ride my bike in Marin County at least a few times a week but I’ve met people who’ve lived here for years and have never been there. It’s so close and so beautiful. The same goes for the area around La Honda south of the city. I’ve had many literally breath-taking moments less than an hour ride out of the city.

PBR is pervasive in San Francisco.

PBR is terrible beer-flavoured water and it’s a complete mystery to me why anyone drinks it. It’s especially perplexing in a city stacked to the brim with tiny bars with huge beer selections on tap. Many of them local and delicious. But for each PBR-drinker I’ve met a beer aficionado who appreciates an SF micro brew. San Franciscans are big beer drinkers. Big drinkers in general.

San Francisco is a city with something for everyone.

Yes!

And further to that the people in this city are exceptionally non-judgmental. Maybe it’s the liberal politics or the regular sightings of things like roller-skating men in underwear but you need not be ashamed of your passions or your idiosyncrasies here. There’s a huge amount of tolerance and acceptance for who people are. It’s a hard thing to articulate but no one talks behind people’s backs about something that would be considered weird back home.

The one piece of advice I’d give to people moving to San Francisco would be to lose any hint of self-consciousness. It’ll help you find like minded people, people who aren’t like minded won’t think you’re weird and it’s just plain liberating.

I can’t overstate how positive this is. I still catch myself voicing thoughts about the weirdness of something only to be met by a San Franciscan’s non-judgmental indifference. With each day I find myself becoming more accepting too.

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Social San Francisco

Mike Davidson recently moved from Seattle to take a job leading Twitter’s design team in San Francisco. He’s noticed some things about the general social vibe here:

San Francisco, however, much like New York, is more of a melting pot. People come here from all over, don’t have high school and college friends to congregate with all the time, and live in tiny matchboxes, so they are more likely to go out and meet new people.

The effect isn’t dramatic, but I notice it almost daily. More people make eye contact, more people say hello, and more people go out at night. It’s a nice change of pace.

I’ve noticed and have been enjoying the same thing. Without consciously trying I’ve struck up conversations with people on buses, in elevators, at grocery checkouts and on my bike while waiting for the lights to change. Back home these kinds of interactions would be actively avoided or shut down as quickly as possible. I like it better here.

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San Francisco

I live in it now. I wasn’t looking to leave Australia or even the ABC but when the offer came from Flickr I couldn’t refuse.

It came while I was on holiday in France which added something extra to my already surreal experiences there. I love Brisbane, I love Australia and there’s few American cities I’d leave for but San Francisco is one of them.

Getting into and working in the United States isn’t easy and it was a long process. I used the lead up to exhaust my leave, sell almost every possession and spend a lot of time with friends and family.

Selling or giving away all my stuff wasn’t the liberating experience I thought it might be. At the time and now that I’m settling here I’ve realised again that I’m not a minimalist.

The process hasn’t daunted me at all which I credit to barely missing a day cycling. Bike commuting, racing and general riding is huge in San Francisco and the best places to do it are beautiful and accessible. The cycling scene is very different to that in Brisbane and my urge is to recreate what I had back home but I’m fighting that ill-advised goal.

By sheer coincidence I met Mike Fowler, a fellow vegan, bike rider, front end web developer and recent addition to the city bizarrely working at Findery, Caterina Fake’s new company. We found a place together in a great spot we’ll stay in for six months before finding something more permanent.

A month in and I love San Francisco. The general vibe is liberal, friendly and relaxed. A friend described it as a playground for adults and now that I think about it, I’ve seen an absurdly low number of children since being here. San Franciscans love complaining about the weather but as far as I’m concerned it’s ideal. There are delicious cheap (and often vegan) places to eat everywhere. The riding in Marin County just North of the city is gorgeous. I’m trying every cafe, bar, food co-op, park and bike shop, quickly finding favourites.

I’m enjoying all the perks of being in this city and this country: Uber, Zipcar, Netflix, Amazon Prime, oh man, Amazon Prime has changed my life. Almost everyone knowing exactly what a “web developer” does is nice too.

And as for work, it’s even better than I’d hoped. I’ve been a paying Flickr user for over six years and I’m excited about being part of its future. It’s chock full of very smart cool people and with Marissa Meyer at Yahoo’s helm there’s a lot of positivity in the office.

2012 will be quite a year for the concise history.

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Follow the Frog →

This commercial was posted to Reddit with the title “Amazing commercial you cannot stop watching”. I think it sucks.

It would be silly to uproot your life to lead an uprising against logging companies in Nicaragua, wouldn’t it!? Yeah! Well, just buy these products and you are absolved. Ahh, a clear and at peace conscience.

It’s like telling an obese person they’re never going to exercise six hours a day, that’s crazy, just eat these weight loss chocolate bars. A kind of straw man logical fallacy.

Quitting your job and moving to the jungle is dumb and ineffectual but buying a Mars Bar with a special logo on it shouldn’t release you of all other responsibility. A certain level of guilt is good. It forces you to be conscious of the results of your actions in all parts of your life.

I don’t like anything that sells itself as a golden bullet to any significantly large problem. Especially when the golden bullet is buying stuff.

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Learnable Programming →

You may remember Bret Victor from his excellent presentation on radically transparent “live” programming IDEs at CUSEC 2012.

Learnable Programming is half follow-up to that presentation and half response to teachers misinterpreting its message. It’s an enlightening read interspersed with short videos which perfectly illustrate his point.

Bret’s focus is on teaching programming but eliminating the opacity in programming environments and languages would be hugely beneficial to the most experienced software developer.

In the section on showing the state I didn’t immediately understand the Processing’s matrix scale and rotation states. Three seconds into the video demonstration of Bret’s ideal programming environment and exactly what was happening couldn’t have been more clear. It makes me rethink everything I know about writing code.

Via Daring Fireball.

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Just a Name

Jack Dorsey thinks we should stop using the word “users”:

It’s time for our industry and discipline to reconsider the word “user.” We speak about “user-centric design”, “user benefit”, “user experience”, “active users”, and even “usernames.” While the intent is to consider people first, the result is a massive abstraction away from real problems people feel on a daily basis.

I disagree. I have no problem with the terms “user-centric design”, “active users” or “usernames”. They’re succinct and descriptive names with no inherent prejudice. And I don’t know if the billionaire creator of Twitter is where we should be getting our lessons on “real problems people feel on a daily basis”.

Ross Floate thinks it’s a step in the right direction:

‘Users’ is a terrible term. Designers and developers employ the word ‘users’ when they’re thinking of the idiots they have to pre-empt, work around, and otherwise fix things for. ‘Users’ is a hostile label, spat out by people who don’t shave below their jawline. I’m happy to see it go.

Again I disagree. There’s nothing about the word “users” which inherently implies idiot. If you think people who use your product are idiots you have to “pre-empt, work around, and otherwise fix things for” I don’t know how calling them something else changes anything.

You’re already hostile, you’re already in the wrong mindset. Just as convincing a racist stop using the N word doesn’t make them any less racist.

Marco Arment also dislikes the word:

I’ve had similar thoughts for a long time, and I also find that the term “user” is slightly disrespectful and evokes a flippant attitude from service operators.

What!? It’s hard to believe he’s talking about the word user.

John Gruber brings some sense to the table:

The bottom line is how you treat them, how much respect you have for them — not what word you use to describe the people who use your product or service.

Right!

Dorsey quotes the dictionary definition for the word at the beginning of his post:

A person who uses or operates something, esp. a computer or other machine.

To me that sounds like a damn accurate description within the context of software and product development. If you feel user is a derogatory or disrespectful name that’s nothing but your own biases and negative mindset at play.

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Raw Nerve →

Raw Thought by Aaron Swartz is my favourite blog. Over the last two months he’s been writing an excellent series of articles on “getting better at life”. It’s called Raw Nerve and I’ve been looking forward to each new piece. Aaron is well read and backs his advice with real research which he’s often personally implemented in his own life.

Knowing that writing helps me organise and understand my thoughts on a subject and in an effort to better internalise Aaron’s lessons here’s my own short summary of each Raw Nerve piece.

Take a step back

There are many more options than you might immediately see or consider. Don’t be fooled into thinking choices are binary (eg. should I stay in this job or take this new job). You can invent new options and it will make you feel in control of your life rather than trekking down a series of forks in the road.

Believe you can change

Believing intelligence can be grown with work and perseverance is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It puts you in a growth mindset where you’re willing to tackle problems because you know it’ll improve you and the result is that it does. Believing that you are any one thing (dumb, introverted, slow, etc.) and there’s nothing you can do about it is what’s making you that way.

Look at yourself objectively

Sure it sucks to be told about a flaw in yourself but it’s much worse to continue with that flaw for the rest of your life. Seek out and embrace honest criticism, face and deal with your flaws. It is better than temporary shame or embarrassment.

Lean into the pain

Cognitive and physical strength work the same way; pushing your limits to a painful level makes you stronger. Shying away from a difficult mental problem is like abandoning your run or putting away the weights at the first feeling of burn. Don’t allow what you’re already good at to become a fence around potential new experiences or growth.

Confront reality

Doing things that are so grandiose it’ll be impossible tell if it fails is avoiding failure as much as doing something very easy.

Cherish mistakes

Analyse mistakes to find out what really went wrong. It may be several levels deeper than where it first appears and your solution may be nothing but a band aid. Write it down. It’s hugely advantageous to avoid making the same mistake multiple times.

Fix the machine, not the person

It’s unlikely people around you enjoy being annoying or doing a bad job. Rather than admonishing them or writing them off as a terrible person apply what you know about yourself, that you can get better, and do what you can to change the situation around them to improve things for both of you.

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Living Out of the Moment

Reddit user CheesyGoodness went to a Jason Mraz concert:

We got 3rd row center seats to his show last night. Throughout the whole show just about everyone around us was holding up their cameras, ipads, whatever for the entire fucking show.

Everyone knows how I feel about this kind of behaviour but it really bothers me so I’m going to go on about it forever.

Using a camera like this is the epitome of not living in the moment. It’s sacrificing the present so that your future self will be able to reminisce about your past self.

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The Philips S10 Cordless Home Phone →

Your challenge is to design a phone handset ideal for one thing: holding it to your ear and having a verbal conversation. A sharp-edged, rectangle brick is not the ideal design for this purpose. It’s dainty and uncomfortable. This is seriously better.

Where the small, sharp-edged, rectangle brick does work is as a mobile device you carry everywhere. You never have to carry your landline handset outside of a phone call, optimising the design for that purpose is crazy. I argue that the sharp-edged rectangle brick isn’t even ideal for a mobile device; the previous curved back iPhone felt more comfortable in hand and the newer iPhone 4 and 4S choose looks over physical comfort. A perfectly fine compromise to make.

But who cares? The iPhone is successful, ignore the context and just copy it! I give it a year until we see iPhone “inspired” garage door openers and light switches.

Via The Loop.

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TextMate 2

Marco Arment soon after the news TextMate 2 went open source:

But I suspect that it’s more likely that it will just get abandoned. TextMate 2 was just sent to retire on a farm upstate, kids.

I didn’t feel this way. Years of stagnant development is a stronger suggestion of abandonment than going open source. Odgaard silently toiling away obviously wasn’t working and a change could only be for the positive.

I’ve been using TextMate for over six years. Beside a web browser it is my most used application ever. It grew with me as I expanded my own bundles and modified the defaults to the point where TextMate without them is almost useless to me. I, like Marco, was disheartened by the lack of development and would occasionally trial alternatives, none of which lasted long. The truth was that even after five years without significant update TextMate was still my preferred tool. Nothing suited my workflow better, nothing was faster.

When the TextMate 2 Alpha was released I was elated. After a few quickfire updates it was stable enough to switch to full time. There’s nothing earth shattering in the 2 update but it doesn’t need to be when the foundation has been so solid for so long.

I met the open source news with indifference. Assuming future Mac OS compatibility I could have used TextMate 1.5 for another 5 years and the 2 alpha is even better.

It turns out that a farm upstate is a productive environment for a text editor. Since the source was posted to Github updates have been rolling in regularly with long release notes full of substantial bug fixes and improvements. At this point in time I’ve never held more optimism for the future of my favourite text editor and favourite app.

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Medium and Other Similar Startups

I have a subconscious filter for buzz about new things. Most of the time it means I avoid wasting time checking out and thinking about things that disappear from the internet’s collective consciousness as quickly as they appear. The rest of the time I’m late to join in on something that’s good enough to survive and remain popular beyond the initial buzz. This is a minor issue; I was a year late to Twitter yet still there two years before it was truly at a used-by-celebrities-and-your-mum level of popular.

Sometimes people whose opinions I value participate in the buzz around a new thing and I’m persuaded to check it out. That’s what happened with Medium, a new something from Evan Williams.

Timeline of events:

  1. Visit the the homepage. I have no idea what this is.
  2. Edit the “Your text here” field. It does nothing.
  3. Replace background photo with my own. OK, good… Why?
  4. Final option: sign in with Twitter. “Medium will be able to post tweets as you“… Urgh! I click authorise anyway.
  5. Still nothing. Click the “What is this thing?” link.

Not so much an explanation of what Medium is but rather a stream of consciousness around publishing, the internet in general, human progress, the media and how Medium, while “Truth be told, we’re just starting the journey of figuring out what all that means”, is an evolutionary leap so easy and elegant to use that it’s not even available to the public yet.

But what is Medium? Well, “Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer”. By this point it feels like they’re deliberately being opaque.

There are some examples of Medium in use which gives the best clues yet of what it actually is. The concept seems to be ad-hoc blogs with multiple contributors and a voting system. Sounds like something that could potentially be popular.

Here’s another incomprehensible product introduction, this time in video form from Branch.

It’s not clear what the service does nor what problem it’s trying to solve. In the case of these two, investigating to find an answer reveals that they’re very thin layers on top of existing technology or slight deviations from established ideas.

As a counter example, here’s another new service launched recently: Terms of Service; Didn’t Read. What it does is obvious within seconds. The problem it solves is obvious. The problem is worthwhile.

When I see stuff like Medium and Branch (and Color and Path and Stamped and I could go on) I’m immediately reminded of the top answer to the Quora question Silicon Valley: What are some things I’d be shocked to learn about the outside world?:

Most of Silicon Valley is focused on building products for the top 1% of the world’s population. Most of the world needs solutions to problems we rarely talk about, in areas like health care, agricultural production, sustainable construction, citizen activism and empowerment, childhood education, affordable transportation, supply chain optimization, community solidarity and efficacy, etc. And I’m not solely referring to base of the pyramid topics (like clean water access), either. The average “middle class” citizen outside the US doesn’t have as much luxury to indulge in existential crisis and loneliness.

“How and where do I publish my thoughts” is a problem for a tiny minority of the world’s population. In 2012, the people who have that problem and no solution is a small sliver of that tiny minority. People looking for a slightly improved or slightly different way to publish their thoughts is an even smaller group.

You don’t need to be eradicating HIV or developing drought-resistant corn to be doing worthwhile work and I’m not saying there’s no room for refinement or making things for small audiences. But if it’s difficult for me to decipher what it is your service does or work out what problem it solves (no matter how small) and you struggle to define it yourself, maybe there’s better ideas out there.

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Being Realistic About Email

Matt Gemmell gets real in his piece, Managing Email Realistically:

You, however, are a normal person, and the time you’d spend on all those formal task-management rituals is better spent aimlessly surfing the web, or even going home early. You’re just an ordinary lassie or laddie who gets too much goddamned email.

I think Matt is out of touch with what is a truly realistic scenario for the ordinary lassie or laddie:

  1. Most people don’t have jobs that require the use (or at least significant use) of email.
  2. Those who do separate their work and personal email completely. That is, outside of office hours they don’t check their work email and vice versa.
  3. The amount of email people get that actually requires a response at all is very small.

His "reply within 24 hours list" betrays his grasp on email reality: clients, luminaries, bloggers, journalists whose names you know, people donating to you and people buying you stuff. Very few people will ever get email from any of these people.

After earlier suggesting GTD systems "are not for normal people; they’re for obsessive-compulsives who just happen to prefer filtering email than counting toothpicks or quadruple-checking that the oven is off" Matt suggests filtering email:

If you have multiple projects and clients, chuck the emails in per-project non-inbox folders; your non-work email shouldn’t ever get past ten unanswered messages at any time.

But it’s followed with one of two pieces of advice I agree with:

If you literally don’t have time each day to do that simple piece of filing, you’re getting too many work emails, and you need to actively start cultivating a reputation as a simmering psychopath who may or may not bring a weapon into the office if he gets just one more stupid email.

This year I developed a reputation at work for despising meetings and it worked, I’ve only been invited to one meeting all year to the benefit of my real productivity. I believe technical solutions can alleviate problems like too much email but this kind of "social engineering" really works well.

That combined with automatically deleting (as Matt suggests) or simply unsubscribing from every newsletter, social network notification and PR announcement list will wipe out your email burden to the point where no systems, rules or bankruptcy are required.

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The Cloud

This image is used as part of EMC’s marketing, often with the tag line "cloud transforms IT".

Stupid cloud

It makes sense to me as a marketing tool to non-technical people: "this internet stuff is really expensive, complicated and often the source of problems, simplifying it is desirable". But as a web developer who often finds himself administrating systems the idea of applications and infrastructure being as simple as a cloud is almost offensive.

It really bothers me is when it’s used in a technical context. See The Rackspace Open Cloud with Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds. If I’m at the Rackspace website I’m in the market for off-site web hosting. I know what I want and need: a computer hooked up to the internet in a datacenter, not a cloud.

It’s a marketing term designed to make the complexity seem like magic. It’s my job to make that that complexity seem like magic and I don’t like it being treated as though it’s as simple as purchasing your very own “hybrid cloud”.

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App.net or Twitter with a Better Business Model

Me, four months ago:

Build Twitter as it existed years ago, mimic the APIs simply with a different host and I think you’d have great success.

That’s App.net. The opaquely named and described (“real-time social feed”) service that’ll be a Twitter alternative, mimicing the API and asking for money from users instead of advertisers.

I love Twitter but it’s been moving in an uncomfortable direction contrary to my desired use of the service (i.e. never via the website or official clients) for a while.

App.net’s ideology matches mine:

We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.

I’m glad they’re taking it on but I have two concerns.

Firstly, why fund this using the Kickstarter model? It’s a software project already well underway, I don’t know why a huge capital base is required. They haven’t taken a single dollar to this point and they’ll be taking on paying customers once the services is live. Is the half million just to fund development between the alpha and launch? The Kickstarter-like fundraiser feels like a gimmicky cash grab to me. It’s certainly been good for proving demand exists but there’s a reason ongoing projects like these are against Kickstarter’s terms of service.

As of this writing they’re $40k away from the goal with 45 hours remaining. It looks like they’ll reach the $500k but what if they fell, say, $5k short? Would they abandon an idea they’ve already partially implemented that there’s obviously significant demand for? I doubt it.

Secondly, $50/year is a lot. I’m all for software financially supported by users but a social networks’s value increases exponentially as the user base grows. $50 is a significant barrier to growth, especially when there’s established and completely free competition. I think limited free plus premium paid accounts (à la Flickr and Strava) makes more sense in this context. That said, I’ve pre-registered an account and I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

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A Better iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac Home Stereo

Speaker docks for iPhones, iPods and iPads are expensive, ugly or offer plain terrible sound quality. Often they’re all three yet they’re popular. Your iOS device is a great interface for browsing and selecting music having to dock it significantly diminishes that experience.

For a couple years I’ve been running a great sounding, good looking and cheap sound system based on Apple’s Airport Express which any of my devices or computers can wirelessly interface. I couldn’t be happier with the setup yet it seems surprisingly rare. Here are the details and the cost breakdown:

You can’t buy an amp exactly like this new but a lot of low-powered, 1970s Japanese-made amps were made and there’s many available second hand. Similar models were made by Marantz, Pioneer, Sansui and Yamaha. My exact model is for sale (as of this time of writing) on Ebay for $88. A little hunting and patience and you’ll find a great deal. Alternatively, check the storage cupboards of your parents/aunties/uncles/grandparents. Everyone used to have these hooked up to their phonographs and you might be surprised by how many are floating around your extended family unused. Seriously.

Despite modern models made by these same manufactures costing 10× more the electronics powering them have changed very little and sound quality is indistinguishable to a regular listener. They lack features like remote controls and many input options but these are unnecessary when used with an Airport Express.

While I was lucky to get a free set of speakers, the exact same pair can be found second hand on Gumtree for $80. Similar sets come up on Ebay all the time but even a nice set of new passive bookshelf speakers don’t cost a great deal.

The Interface

Home hifi setup

Any device or computer running iOS or Mac OS connected to your wireless network can stream music to the Airport Express attached to the amplifier using the magic of Airplay. That means you can use iTunes, the great Music apps on your iOS device, the iOS Remote app playing music from your computer or any other audio producing app (including YouTube, Spotify, Rdio) to wirelessly send audio to your hifi setup.

With my full music collection on my computer most commonly I’ll use the Remote app on my iPhone or iPad to select music on my computer which is played through my hifi system using Airplay. When people see me do this it blows their minds.

It’s a great experience to lay in your bedroom or sit outside, search for and select music to play from the big music collection on your computer using your iPhone and have it play through your high quality hifi system in your lounge room. Even the volume can be controlled remotely. Compare it to having to get up to skip a song on a docked iPhone, hit next on a computer keyboard or seek through a CD.

I’m no audiophile (and have nothing but sympathy for those who are) but the quality of sound out of this system is fantastic. Despite the low wattage it’s loud too, much louder than I could ever turn it up in my apartment building.

This setup is one of the very few things, especially in the world of electronics, that isn’t only ideal in its quality and usability but is also low cost and accessible. If I lived in a bigger home I’d replicate it in every room.

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Facebook Propaganda

Reddit user mr17five does a great job tearing down a terrible article from the Daily Mail about the way not being on Facebook makes you a potential psychopath:

The article sets out to immediately assert that facebook is “such a pervasive force in modern society” that it would almost be foolish not to have one. This is known as argumentum ad populum, or more commonly “bandwagon fallacy.” Just ignore the fact that over six billion people (over 85% of Earth’s population) do not have facebook accounts.

A subset of the world’s mass murderers also didn’t drink a litre of beetroot juice for breakfast. If you don’t drink a litre of beetroot juice for breakfast “some” “experts” “might” think that you “could be” a “psychopath”.

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Healthcare

Buzz Andersen:

I simply went without health insurance for awhile to finish Birdfeed (it’s shockingly expensive in New York State—far more even than, say, California), and I know a surprising number of my peers in the indie Mac/iOS community have done the same thing at various points. And we’re the crazy ones. I guarantee you a lot of people are too scared by the cost of health care to even consider starting their own businesses.

Having been born and grown up in a country that provides free healthcare to all its citizens, having seen the care provided to almost everyone I know and myself personally (warning: a little gore) over the years, it is difficult for me to even comprehend the idea of going without health insurance in the USA.

If I understand the situation correctly, when a US citizen gets sick or injured without insurance, they have a choice between getting zero treatment, and therefore potential death or lifetime disability, or complete financial ruin.

Even if they have insurance, the insurance provider is a huge corporation who’s profits depend on not providing coverage.

I still can’t fathom it.

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