1. You don’t have to be on Twitter every 2 minutes. If there’s a meme you don’t like, a perfectly valid option is to put your phone away.
  2. Silliness is good. Everything doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom serious all the time.
  3. Change takes time, and is often the result of a succession of small steps with a few medium ones here and there. Be happy when the small steps happen.
  4. Find some joy.

Is that a little reductive? Sure. But if you find yourself feeling angrier and angrier over what happens on Twitter, it might be time to reconsider how you’re using it.

My First Diablo is the newest episode of my podcast. It’s also the first episode where we have a guest: Steve Lubitz of Isometric fame. We talk video games and how that works when you have a bunch of kids in the house. I’d wanted to discuss this topic because my kids are now old enough to play console games without getting too frustrated over the experience, and I’d been out of the loop for quite some time.

Steve had some solid recommendations and now my wife and I are discussing when would be a good time to re-introduce consoles into the house. That might happen this summer when the kids are done with school, and there will be more time available to figure out limits and such. I’m thinking a Wii U would be the right way to go since there’s a better selection of kid-friendly games there. What I’m not looking forward to is all the controllers/accessories that Nintendo seems to think are required for their games. Most bundles for the Wii U come with the controller with a screen on it. I can’t tell if you can buy more of those or not1. But you can get Wii-motes, nunchucks, pro controllers, and various third party gizmos. I’m not exactly looking forward to sifting through exactly what kind of those we’ll need, nor storing them. I’m not even going to touch handheld systems.2

Video games were a big part of my childhood (some might say obsessive… I had a subscription to Nintendo Power without owning a Nintendo system). My hope is that rather than just consuming all the video game minutiae like I did, my kids will just have fun playing them with their family and friends.

  1. Amazon and other retailers seem to be sold out of official ones.

  2. Scientifically speaking, there are 327 different versions of the Nintendo DS to choose from.

Recently, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Edward Snowden took part in an ‘IAMA’ converstation on Reddit. It’s a long one, and somewhere down the page, this question was asked:

What’s the best way to make NSA spying an issue in the 2016 Presidential Election? It seems like while it was a big deal in 2013, ISIS and other events have put it on the back burner for now in the media and general public. What are your ideas for how to bring it back to the forefront?

Funny how this seems to happen. Snowden gave a tremendous answer. There’s too many great quotes to pull from his response, so I’ll just copy/paste the whole thing.

This is a good question, and there are some good traditional answers here. Organizing is important. Activism is important.

At the same time, we should remember that governments don’t often reform themselves. One of the arguments in a book I read recently (Bruce Schneier, “Data and Goliath”), is that perfect enforcement of the law sounds like a good thing, but that may not always be the case. The end of crime sounds pretty compelling, right, so how can that be?

Well, when we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day. History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews.

But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?

Ultimately, if people lose their willingness to recognize that there are times in our history when legality becomes distinct from morality, we aren’t just ceding control of our rights to government, but our agency in determing thour futures.

How does this relate to politics? Well, I suspect that governments today are more concerned with the loss of their ability to control and regulate the behavior of their citizens than they are with their citizens’ discontent.

How do we make that work for us? We can devise means, through the application and sophistication of science, to remind governments that if they will not be responsible stewards of our rights, we the people will implement systems that provide for a means of not just enforcing our rights, but removing from governments the ability to interfere with those rights.

You can see the beginnings of this dynamic today in the statements of government officials complaining about the adoption of encryption by major technology providers. The idea here isn’t to fling ourselves into anarchy and do away with government, but to remind the government that there must always be a balance of power between the governing and the governed, and that as the progress of science increasingly empowers communities and individuals, there will be more and more areas of our lives where — if government insists on behaving poorly and with a callous disregard for the citizen — we can find ways to reduce or remove their powers on a new — and permanent — basis.

Our rights are not granted by governments. They are inherent to our nature. But it’s entirely the opposite for governments: their privileges are precisely equal to only those which we suffer them to enjoy.

We haven’t had to think about that much in the last few decades because quality of life has been increasing across almost all measures in a significant way, and that has led to a comfortable complacency. But here and there throughout history, we’ll occasionally come across these periods where governments think more about what they “can” do rather than what they “should” do, and what is lawful will become increasingly distinct from what is moral.

In such times, we’d do well to remember that at the end of the day, the law doesn’t defend us; we defend the law. And when it becomes contrary to our morals, we have both the right and the responsibility to rebalance it toward just ends.

You should listen to Relay.fm’s new series on Inquisitive, “Behind the App”. Myke opens the show with how the iPhone (and smartphones in general) helped bring podcasts to a larger audience. He’s absolutely right.

Before smartphones, you had to sync everything to an iPod with your computer before you could listen to it. For me, this usually happened at home, and if I forgot to plug in my iPod and sync it, I’d go without new episodes for the day; a fate worse than death. Syncing an iPod at the office was usually out of the question. IT policy at the time disallowed connecting personal hardware to company PCs 1 and blacklisted many of the sites hosting the audio files anyway.

I could live with the first issue, but I would go to great lengths to work around the latter one. Even though the experience wasn’t as nice, downloading and listening to a podcast on my work PC was still something. Here’s how:

  • SSH into my Linux based web server
  • wget the RSS feed
  • Find the link to the newest mp3 file
  • wget the mp3
  • Copy it into a folder publicly accessible on my server (this wasn’t blocked by IT)
  • Download it locally with my web browser (this was Windows and installing something like wget was also strictly verboten from IT)
  • Listen

Easy peesy lemon squeezey, right?2 Now, if I want to listen to a podcast, I open up Overcast and see if there’s anything new. The only thing I have to think about now if I want to download over my cellular connection or not.

The future is good.

  1. For very good reason. God only knows what kind of malware you brought along with your external drive…

  2. “OK… First I’ll access the secret military spy satellite that’s in a geosynchronous orbit over the Midwest. Then, I’ll ID the limo by the vanity plate ‘MR. BIGGG’ and get his approximate position. Then, I’ll reposition the transmitter dish on the remote truck to 17.32 degrees east, hit WESTAR 4 over the Atlantic, bounce the signal down into the Azores, up to COMSAT 6, beam it back to SATCOM 2 transmitter number 137, and down on the dish on the back of Mr. Big’s limo… It’s almost too easy.” — Garth Algar

When listening to a podcast, the host will often forget a word or well known fact. Maybe they’ll say something silly like “Jedi mind meld”. Everyone in the audience knows exactly what they meant, and everyone will likely make that fact known (I’ve sure been there, and will likely continue to be).

Now that I’ve released a few episodes of my own podcast I’ve seen the other side of the microphone. Talking and thinking at the same time is surprisingly difficult after say, 8 words in. I’ll find myself stumbling over witty quips and forgetting familiar things that had been otherwise seared into my memory.

So, I have a teensy bit more empathy for Pete Carroll the day after an impressive Super Bowl Loss. Yeah, he probably should’ve run Marshawn Lynch on that one play, but I don’t know if I would’ve had the brain power to make a different decision with under 30 seconds left, in the 4th quarter, of the Super Bowl.

Podcasts are Important Business. Here’s an update.

Better Know a Jackal

The [rabid] fans of the 5by5 podcast network are informally known as “Jackals”. One of said Jackals, Mike Beasterfeld had the brilliant idea to create a podcast to interview us. I made it onto episode 28. It’s a nice little bio that you can use to gather information to steal my identity.

Less Than Or Equal

I was a guest on episode 25 of Aleen Simms’s Less Than Or Equal podcast. I had a great time talking with her and we chatted about maturity, growing up, and how having daughters changed me; specifically some specific incidents in my personal history that formed me into what I am today. Speaking of daughters…

Front to Back

We just released our 6th(!) episode. I’ve really enjoyed making this show and have learned more and more about audio editing. This time around I used some compression to make our voices sound better.

Please check them out!

The Surface was never the barnburner that Microsoft hoped it would be. People have been predicting its demise for the last year. It’s suffered from goofy advertising and lately seems to be begging the masses to please think of it instead of an iPad, anything but an iPad, oh please! 1

I’m certainly no Don Draper, but that’s not gonna prevent my ego imagination to think of how I’d do it instead. The idea is that the Surface apparently has a nice stylus/pen that can be used by artists. Penny Arcarde’s Mike Krahulik has been a fan and used them to draw their popular web comic. That’s your angle right there. Now, not many people are artists that would benefit from a refined drawing interface, but plenty of people fancy themselves as such. Nike convinced you that sneakers with compressed air in them would make you Michael Jordan, why isn’t Microsoft showing you that Surface would make you Jim Lee?

Here’s your commercial: Camera fades in to reveal someone intently working on a Surface. They’re sitting in a comfy chair, or on a couch, or some kind of hipster furniture. We don’t see what’s on the screen yet but we can see them concentrating and cranking away at something with the pen. Cut to the over-the-shoulder shot. We now see a painting/sketch/comic coming to life.

Cut to closeups of the pen drawing right on the glass. There’s no lag. The pen is able to draw with a fine point. There’s obvious pressure sensitivity. (Things you pretty much can’t do on an iPad, but without calling it by name.) They put the pen down and “smudge” things with their finger.

Finally the art is done. The artist switches to their website and immediately publishes the work.

Cut to a desk with the notorious Surface keyboard and a wireless mouse right next to it. The Surface clicks in to the keyboard, sits up on the kickstand and a modern 3D PC game (say, Far Cry 4) starts up (oh yeah, it’s got an i5 and a GPU). Display the tagline: “Make. Publish. Play.”

Wouldn’t that be more interesting than breakdancing? Wouldn’t that get you pumped up just a little bit? These days I’m a Microsoft cynic, and that would at least get me to raise an eyebrow and wish my iPad could do something like that.

If Apple is in fact working on a stylus that avenue will probably close.

  1. The funny thing is that out of all Apple’s products, the iPad is the one that has plateaued the most. Why are you aiming at that one?

Let’s take a common scenario. You are making an HTTP request and are checking the response for an error. If there is one, you’d like to post a notification and let some error handler deal with it.

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    Alamofire.request(.GET, someURL).response { (request, response, data, error) in
        if error != nil {
            let userInfo = ["error": error]
            let nc = NSNotificationCenter.defaultCenter()
            nc.postNotificationName("HTTPERROR", object: nil, userInfo: userInfo)
        }
    }

Uh oh, there’s a compiler error on the userInfo argument with the message “Extra argument ‘userInfo’ in call”. Huh? postNotificationName definitely allows for a userInfo parameter. Maybe it’s a hidden typing error? According to the docs userInfo is supposed to be an optional dictionary like of type: [NSObject : AnyObject]. My key is a String which is bridged from NSString, which is an NSObject and NSError is also an AnyObject, so what gives?

Lying

After banging my head on the wall for a while I remembered that the error variable from AlamoFire is an optional. Therefore, the correct declaration for userInfo is to unwrap the error:

1
let userInfo = ["error": error!]

And voilà, no more compilation errors.

“Extra argument ‘userInfo’ in call” is a crappy error message. The proper one should have been something about values in the userInfo dictionary not being optional.

Swift is full of these unfortunately. Between these and your friendly SourceKit crashes it’s getting untenable. My wish for 2015 is for Apple to address these shortcomings.

I posted this on Twitter. Here it is for posterity.

O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Thy rawness shall be ending
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Thy rawness shall be ending

Inside the oven you shall go
So that the juice within you flows
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Thy rawness shall be ending

O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Such gravy will you make me!
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Such gravy will you make me!

The thermometer will pierce your side
Until your temp reads 125
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Such gravy will you make me!

O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
We’ll set our teeth upon thee!
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
We’ll set our teeth upon thee!

Two yards of plastic will we turn
To avoid a chilling freezer burn
O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
We’ll save you for another meal

Each tasty bite
Each dab of meat
No other bite will fill my cheeks

O Christmas Roast, O Christmas Roast!
Within our guts digesting
Within our guts digesting

January: “We just had our biggest sales quarter ever!” – Apple, adding another $20B to their bank account.

April: Speculation of what’s gonna be in the next version of iOS.

June: WWDC. New things! Wow! Ideas abound! Flurries of productivity. “Guys, I think Apple’s playing nicer with developers now!” – some people.

July: Wow, this beta is really beta.

September: iOS Next ships! New iPhone! Ship your app! Bugs!

October: Weird rejections that don’t make any sense.

December: Blog posts and tweets about how Apple is screwing themselves with the byzantine app review process.1 Some rejections are overturned.

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