Extratone

Extratone is an online magazine covering technology, music, culture, and media with an ongoing passion for New Culture and a duty to further its voices.

by David Blue

Mablis Festival Dot no

A not altogether-cohesive review of July reads and research.

In case you're similarly long overdue for a reminder that beautiful things are still being made on the internet...

After nearly a year of relative sobriety from my old, once-severe addiction to Web Site hunting, it occurred to me just yesterday that some explicit wandering as I once did for days at a time – through the clever, innovative, and uniquely tasteful projects through which an astonishingly-original few give their whole thinking (and often physical) selves in obscurity despite how little financial (and often professional) incentive is maintained by those who unknowingly need it the most – might be the best feasible remedy to my current, most perplexing state of faithlessness and bafflement toward the ambitions of trades and cultures I feel I once so thoroughly understood. A great portion of you are surely undergoing your own manifestations of the same hopelessness – I cannot ever remember a time in my life when global events were so utterly discouraging so relentlessly.

Design and The Open Web

In this present when every element of American reality is so much more incessantly ugly than we could’ve ever imagined, let’s take at least a momentary respite to look at some visually irresistible and/or super sick Sites on the truly-resolute Open Web to assure our existential selves that yes, beauty shall not cease to exist. For better or worse, my #1 goto source to find innovative, delicious web design has always been Typewolf, who announced last fall that he will not be continuing his “Site of the Month” section, though his relentless “Site of the Day” roll will continue, unhindered.

Zeff Cherry

Recent Discoveries

Poolside.fmPoolside.FM is a retro digital oasis for your summer” | The Verge

Audio

Those of us for whom the Podcast medium became a trusted and relatively regular one in our lives long before anyone figured out how to make a real business out of it – certainly eons preceeding the original startup podcast-only (apparently HBO-like publication – Gimlet Media – to be successfully launched. Now, though, your mom – perhaps even her mom – listens to podcasts, and what was once a The single Missouri alumni at The Verge, Ashley Carmen, explored the proliferation of podcasting and the process by which it became profitable.

In 2009, only 11% of the U.S. population had listened to a podcast in the past month.
How podcasts became so popular | The Verge on YouTube

Whilst trying out Garageband for iOS’ new sample packs, I sampled the accompanying video to the article and produced the best “track” I’ve ever made with the app (for whatever that’s worth.)

Speaking of Gimlet Media: the latest episode of my longtime favorite of their podcasts, Reply All, is a sort of condensed remake of my favorite podcast episode of all time (of any show, not just this one) in which hosts Alex Goldman and P.J. Vogtmaintained an open telephone line for 48 hours and spoke with a whole bunch of people (mostly Americans) about... whatever. The result was beautifully human, if you’ll forgive my use of the cliche. I tend to revisit it when I’m feeling particularly isolated from and/or confused about the general ambitions of the people around me. I’ll be honest: I didn’t pay much attention to my first listen through the new episode, but I can tell you that it is worth your time, at least.

I was distraught when Spotify bought both the aforementioned Gimlet Media and the social audio turned podcasting app Anchor – both of which I (rather ridiculously) felt a special personal ownership over. (The latter, especially, because they reached out to me early on to feature Extratone’s channel on their music section.) However, it appears that both are being treated fairly well in the 18+ months since their acquisition – probably because they’ve been making Spotify money.

Further Reading

Other Favorites

#software #design #web #typography #division

Shife Sphere

Extratone is proud to be hosted by Write.as – a new sort of blogging content management system built atop Markdown and maintained by a company which explicitly shares our commitment to a better, Open web.

Write.as is the social media hater’s blogging platform | The Irish Times

Typography

Colors

Bilge Byline

by David Blue

'Metamorphosis' - Blank Banshee

Perhaps nearest and dearest of all to the hearts of more casual, Twitter-bound vaporwave fans, Canadian-sourced Blank Banshee has apparently been distinctly Offline as of late. When Bandcamp's Simon Chandler interviewed them about their last full release – MEGA – in 2016, he asked “will we have to wait another three years until the next Blank Banshee release?” Banshee replied with a definitive “no,” and they were technically correct – it's 2 years, 9 months later and Metamorphosis has been on Bandcamp for two whole weeks.

Considering the lack of results my queries for reviews of the thing have returned so far, I thought it prudent to make you aware of its existence. I'm not even remotely qualified to assess vaporwave records, but if you have some thoughts you'd like to publish, I'd love it if you dropped me a line.

#music #news

by David Blue

Mastonaut Full Screen

Premium desktop Mastodon clients incoming?

Since you last heard from us, the federated social network Mastodon has scaled tremendously in usership and steadily grown technologically into an incredibly robust and dynamic platform. Perhaps inevitably, Eugen Rochko and his gaggle of open source developers have continued to embarrass the living fuck out of Twitter's team – at least for those who've continued to pay attention (i.e. those of us whose sense of aspiration has yet to perish.)

I planned on getting ahead of an innovative wake in iOS development by watching closely for the first “premium” Mastodon clients to come out, which I suspected (quite correctly) would carry the first substantial risk-taking on the part of plucky social apps to be seen on the goddamned App Store in what felt like eternity. Unfortunately, I've ended up far too deep in screenshots/insights from Toot! and Mast, creating a bit of an overwhelming obstacle in comparing and/or reviewing the two without sinking deep in my regular, pretentious hole. (Though both of them are absolutely gorgeous, fascinating, and impressive projects which you should invest in and follow if you're interested in the future of federated social whatsoever.)

That said... I'd like only to mention and briefly demonstrate the first premium desktop Mastodon client, Mastonaut, which I had the privilege of experiencing momentarily last night.

Mastonaut Add Instance

In the interest of brevity (and because I was unable to continue fucking around for any length of time,) I'll just list some observations:

  • The entire GUI experience is distinctly uncluttered (or perhaps barren, depending on your subjective desires from this sort of thing,) but duplicates dearest TweetBot's functionality impressively well considering its age as an independently-developed product.
  • Keyboard shortcuts! Fuck me, God.
  • I love the live-updated instance directory search (above) as a second landing for first-time users.
  • Though I did actually have to repeat the first-time login process after freezing and subsequently force-quitting Mastonaut, I think you'll probably place the blame on my own immediate and inpatient window management mania considering how smoothly it all went the second time around.

To be honest, Bear, Spark, and recent other beautiful Mac applications beckon me to buy or hack myself into MacOS again. If I have time in the near future, I'll show you why.

#macos #mastodon #software

by David Blue

Martin vs.

Hodges Speedway

It has continued to astound and comfort me tremendously throughout my life that the same redneck-ass institutions of my rural youth – tractor/truck pulls, dirt track racing, demolition derbies, etc. – continue in places such as these, virtually exempt from the tumult of global change. The last time I was in the bleachers, “premium handsets” meant flip phones and many of the junker entries would be considered viable restoration projects, today.

Personally, there is nothing more existentially easing than stumbling upon this bit of car culture now and then, though it always brings up a nagging question: what the hell am I doing in this office? Thank you, Missouri. I’m sorry I talked all that shit in high school. It’s good to be home.


#auto #rural #home #photography

by David Blue

Licking Dark

My girlfriend very generously offered to go for a drive with me yesterday evening, though neither of us particularly expected to end up parked at 5:40AM outside a little Diner called Ziggie’s some four hours away from home. I managed to learn a bit about driving apps and briefly flood my Jetta’s intake long enough to stall it after fording some flood water a wee bit too rapidly.

Since I’ve begun working in Kansas City and occasionally commuting from Columbia, I’ve found incentive to revisit the crowdsourced driving directions mobile app Waze, which I recall being very excited about in early 2016. It’s smoother now, yet devoid of that pseudocountercultural sense in a design sense. Functionally, it is still the most reliable method of police detection I’ve ever encountered – in this Second Era of my Waze usage I have yet to see a single Missouri Highway Parol car sat in the center of I-70 that hadn’t been reported on Waze first – even at crazy hours on weekday mornings – which should be all the reassurance one needs regarding the immediate future of their userbase.

Downtown Licking

I'm using Waze to drive to to Licking, MO, arriving at 2:24. Watch my drive in real-time on the Waze map! David Blue on Twitter

Somehow, I was unaware until this morning that Waze allows you to “share” your route by generating a link to a web app of theirs that will live track your progress. Though I can’t actually imagine too many use cases for this, I still think it’s cool. Anybody who’s interested in stalking my every move should follow me on Twitter – where I’m sure I’ll be sharing more drives from now on – and/or DM me and just ask me to enable 24/7 location-sharing for ya!

On the topic of mobile apps for those folks like me who’s only real hobby is just fucking driving around, I did actually find mention in a listicle from a real motoring enthusiast’s publication. “Seven Apps That Will Help Improve Your Driving Experience” is not exactly the sort of advisory article I remember seeing in Road & Track considering that it actually only contains one single app even vaguely related to True Driving Pleasure called Greatest Drive.

Users contribute their favorite routes and with Yelp integration you can either pick a destination to find the most scenic way to get there or find a good spot to eat along the route you've already chosen.

Of course, it’s nowhere to be found on the App Store, but it sounded relatively foodist anyway.

Other notes:

  • Licking, Missouri may have a silly name, but the data says it’s struggling. Look for the median household income.
  • Apparently the premier mile-tracking app right now is Microsoft’s MileIQ, which I’m going to continue to try because I can’t resist automatically-generated PDF reports, ever.
  • I gave my girlfriend administrator roles for my derelict joke Facebook page Boiler Explosion Memes and she’s somehow managed to get it to almost 100 likes / +25,000% impressions in just a matter of days!!!!

#rural #photography #home

by David Blue

Surface Laptop 2

Assuming Jesus Christ is in your thoughts this evening before yet another anniversary of his birth, I am infinitely astonished by the truth in what I’m about to suppose with you. If the Son of God was living today, most of us have agreed for a long time now that he’d use marijuana recreationally – big fuckin whoop. I think it’s far more interesting and appropriate (we all know his birthday was wholly reconfigured into a consumerist holiday long ago) to speculate on how he’d behave after finding himself inadvertently in the market for a new laptop within the ~$1000 range (following a stubbed toe whilst walking on water incident, perhaps.) Surely, it would not be entirely holy for him to opt in to the Foxconn-complicit world of Apple, Incorporated, nor the openly-blasphemous one created and exuberantly grown by Google LLC, and I’m afraid he’d be too much of an End User idiot to integrate any of the sparse Linux-dedicated hardware available. In May of 2017, however, Billy Gates’ old Microsoft finally released “the laptop we’ve always wanted them to make,” but could its recent update be truly worthy of our Lourde and Saviour? Or your newly-enrolled offspring? Should you sprint downstairs and swap out the new MacBook Air you just bought?

From an entirely valid perspective, an observer might declare my last two months of 2018 to be an outright shameful period defined by hypocrisy and traitorous betrayals. After finally taking the time to explore the full narrative surrounding Linux and the bloody tale of Microsoft’s cruel genocidal destruction of countless creative software projects throughout computing’s adolescence (see: “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish,”) I eventually declared myself “100% Open Source” and began outlining an essay designed primarily to express that Linux is finally ready to be the operating system of the people without succumbing immediately to the brand of cybercrackpot illegitimacy associated with the L-word in the minds of the general public so readily thanks to decades of misinformed, condescending neckbeards. Such a feat would require entire new planes of cultural awareness and dialectal delicacy, yet certainly result in zero personal reward from even the best possible outcome, yet I proceeded to ponder the subject very deliberately all the way through October because I genuinely believed in a new democratized future of computing. 2018 had been my Grand Awakening to the idyllic possibilities of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) across the whole applied spectrum from office suites to social networks, yet – as two thousand eighteen comes to an end – I’ve managed to find myself among the most jaded, soul-sapped tech community I have yet encountered: Microsoft Administrators.

Complimenting this Linux-laden culture in which I was not so long ago deeply embedded was a confused and frustrated outlook regarding what I felt were excessive and completely idiotic sacrifices across the industry’s hardware design to the greedy, gluttonous god of Lightness. It seemed only reasonable to Myself As Consumer that the entire buying public should exclusively seek designs prioritizing greatest possible performance and battery life, even from portable computers and smartphones, so I assumed my perspective on this updated iteration of Microsoft's most laptopy Surface laptop – which exists in large part to compete directly with Apple's beloved (and just-updated) MacBook Air – wouldn't be at all useful. However, a few weeks ago, my employer prompted me with a sweet sweet ultimatum: for the sake of a tax break, I want to spend ~$1000 on a laptop for you as soon as possible. Yes, I know I should consider myself a very fortunate man – this wasn't even the first time I'd been surprised with the “hey, I want to buy you a laptop but it has to be today” experience, and may even be considered a sort of sequel to my Tales of Whirlwind Manic Consumerism, but it’s ultimately one of the most idiotic strategies to achieve a major purchase decision and completely inadvisable for anyone on a budget. Still I was indeed thankful to be put in a nearly-identical situation of Consumer Electronic haste, and have come to be especially appreciative of the specific time I was approached as such: just one week after Microsoft launched the Surface Laptop 2.

Considering the vast majority of its users are trapped inside my television, there’s no harm in covering the Surface brand with our virtual palm for a moment. If you’ll indulge me so, you’ll notice that Microsoft has actually delivered unto us The Laptop II – as in, the sequel... the successor to every other laptop computer yet conceived... but does this one machine truly represent the second coming of the Notebook Christ? Naturally, it would be a bit zealous to stand behind this extreme statement with 100% sincerity, but there truly are certain elements of this Personal Computing product's execution which do indeed will its user to expect and/or desire from others in coming years. As I've stated before, I also simply cannot help but be jazzed by such bravado from the mouths of even a company with as crooked and hateful history as Microsoft's. (Note: no other technology company has actually achieved what Microsoft historically has in this regard, and hopefully none ever will again.)

I must be honest: it hasn't yet been two months and I've already scuffed and perhaps even stained the beautiful maroon alcantara surrounding my machine’s touchable body, but it’s occurred to me that I might draw upon the vast library of automotive interior tutorials available on YouTube – and even purchase some of the alcantara care-specific products they recommend – in order to really maintain the exterior of the Laptop II. After all, alcantara was undeniably car culture’s material first. I should also confess that objectively, the Surface Laptop II is the best-suited computer for my personal uses that I’ve ever owned or used for any length of time. Subjectively, I don’t think all of the hardware design touches that make it so – like its keyboard layout, divine 3:2 aspect ratio, and particular I/O complement – have yet had the chance to seduce my emotional brain into truly loving it as much as I certainly should by any reasonable measure. For my own sake, I hope I’m able to fall in child-like infatuation with its magic, but in the interim, I believe the coldness of my heart should hopefully preserve any useful commentary I might have to add. Though this is undoubtedly the most timely review of a hardware product I’ve ever published, I’d still ask that you indulge my perspective suggesting the importance of considering it part of a package with its operating system, considering that the whole of tech media would’ve unanimously declared it the year’s “best laptop” were Apple’s aging, but still widely-adored MacOS absent from the frame.

I've tested a bunch of laptops this year, running the spectrum of 2-in-1s, Chromebooks, MacBooks, gaming laptops, etc. Everyone's needs are going to be different, which is why there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all for laptops. But enthusiasts’ laptops aside, I strongly feel the Surface Laptop 2 is the best laptop of the year. And by that I mean the best laptop for most folks' needs.

With as much humility as possible, I must add that I myself am anything but “most folks,” yet my experience so far with the product has been one of astonishing compatibility and battery life. Using recommended power settings, the Surface Laptop 2 endured four hours and twenty-two minutes of a workload it wasn’t particularly designed for including heavy web browsing, image manipulation, brief audio/video capture with OBS, and moderate subsequent editing in Audacity and OpenShot. Dan Seifert – Vox Media’s “only Windows user” – reported “about seven hours” of Microsoft’s claimed 14.5, but frankly, I don’t know what any of y’all are doin – I’m just thankful this machine is a better marathoner than any other I can recall owning. While we’re on the subject, I consider Microsoft’s inclusion of a magnetically-attached power cable and unassuming auxiliary USB charging port on the attached power supply to be personal godsends – further evidence, even, that the Surface Laptop 2 was actually designed to be nice to use. For the sake of those readers actually in the market for a new laptop who’ve somehow found themselves here, though, Raymond Wong’s review for Mashable is the most thorough offering you’ll find – it’s quoted front and center on Microsoft’s web page for the Laptop II, even – but it’s important to mention that his critical comparative perspective predates the late launch of its ultimate competitor, the new MacBook Air. Rather pitifully, however, his colleague’s “good, but not great” resolution suggests that Apple failed to challenge Microsoft’s relatively moderate update enough to warrant any revision, and that Mashable as a publication stands by my new laptop’s Best of the Year title, for whatever it may or may not be worth to you.

If the new MacBook Air came in at the same price as the old one, it would be a steal. Sure, you pay for the privilege of being able to use macOS on the Apple ecosystem. But in years past that also meant access to cutting-edge features and design. As pretty as the MacBook Air is, there's nothing that innovative about it. In today's Apple, it seems, privilege amounts to just staying current.

You won’t find many others who regularly invest editorial merit in publishing 2500+ word laptop reviews anymore, which I’d concede is plenty reasonable in the Surface Laptop’s case, at least. Perhaps your first point of comparative entry should be a barely-dated conversation between Kara Swisher, Lauren Goode, and Dan Seifert on Too Embarrassed to Ask regarding the original’s odds of truly competing in the “premium laptop” segment (if you’d prefer to hear from those who struggle to take it seriously, that is.) Assuming the original product direction of the Surface line still stands, Microsoft doesn’t actually intend to sell at high volume, especially when it comes to this runt of the marque, which does not hesitate to omit itself from the popular discourse of the moment surrounding tablets as the future of all computing to which all of its siblings have contributed so much. Though I shall always remember my dearest Libel (the special edition Spectre x360 with which I built most of Extratone) with great respect and deep fondness – I think it’s even worth mounting on some sort of plinth – the significantly-cheaper Laptop II has already demonstrated true value in its “premium” segment bragging rights with far superior materials and build quality. If you’re looking for the prettiest possible slice of magnesium lightness but aren’t the sort to have followed the story of Microsoft’s first venture into personal computer production since it began in the last year of the Mayan calendar, it’s worth your while to read Joshua Topolsky’s projections of the project’s impact on the popular narrative surrounding Microsoft from history’s freshest possible perspective: the eve of the first Surface tablet’s launch.

The entire tablet was designed in-house by Microsoft's teams, and if you believe what was said in the presentation yesterday, design and functionality in hardware has suddenly become a big deal in Redmond. That's a big shift, and it's an important one. The announcement of the Surface shows that Microsoft is ready to make a break with its history — a history of hardware partnerships which relied on companies like Dell, HP, or Acer to actually bring its products to market. That may burn partners in the short term, but it could also give Microsoft something it desperately needs: a clear story.

A pungent stigma festered from Microsoft’s history of inadequate and inelegant public relations (especially compared to its greatest longtime rival) has remained in relentlessly obvious orbit around every “significant” Windows and Office update for so long that its status quo has grown into a truly inhibitive force for all parties involved. Topolsky is unquestionably a compromising favorite of mine, but it’s hard not to decry then-CEO Steve Ballmer’s failure to comprehend Josh’s day-after insight in the whole three months that passed before his Seattle Times interview in September, 2012. Ultimately, The Big M is either incapable of understanding any alternative utopic Visions of Computing to its own, or simply overwrought with the same counteraspirational carelessness its culture has always depended upon. In analytical terms regarding Ballmer’s utilization of the forum’s opportunity to finally tell the fucking story, at least, the timidity of a term like “pre-eminent software” as a viably bright new beacon in contrast with “people would say we were a software company” (emphasis mine) – as if Steve-O himself doesn’t even have the power to publicly describe his company’s function as its #1 man – combined at the apex of what was almost impressively-negligent behavior.

I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, (but) you'll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company. Which is a little different. Software powers devices and software powers these cloud services, but it's a different form of delivery...

Don’t make the same mistake I did and wear yourself out trying to extract the meaning from these three sentences – there’s none to be found. Ultimately, whatever opportunity the Surface project could have provided for Microsoft’s identity has been vastly overshadowed by its success as last resort supercatalyst to restore any sense of dignity and pride within the hardware companies who produce the vehicles. In Fall 2017, The Register quoted industry gossip regarding the company’s new CEO Satya Nadella and his intent to “exit the product line” because “overall they are not making money [and] it doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” but newcomers to this conversation should know that no subsequent reporting has corroborated anything but a sustaining future of the line, though the measurable rate of innovation in Microsoft’s products continues to leave much to be desired. Now that you’ve heard from the experts, though, allow me to expand our lens a bit and examine what the Surface Laptop 2’s existence suggests as per The Present & Future of Computing.

The Clam Clan

In case I’ve yet to mention it, all of my tech writing is in substantial debt to my much-older and child-oriented siblings for providing 8 nieces and nephews over the course of 11 years – if not for any reason but the perspective offered by the slightest observation of their day-to-day lives. In this profoundly bizarre and historic technological sprint our species is experiencing, the differences in their respective relationships with consumer tech as they’ve grown up are fascinatingly… disturbingly significant. My eldest niece Abby was born four years after myself in 1998, and her younger sister Amber just quite three years later in 2001. All three of us are Aquarians who went to the same public schools (aside from 2 exceptions on my part,) and the two sisters have been close, significant influences on each other all their lives, yet the way Abby and I use and think about computers differs significantly from Amber’s. Our first real PCs introduced an important social and intellectual vehicle to our pre-teen lives, and both of us still “live on” our machines as young adults. For us and many others from this short-lived microgeneration of ours, budget laptops like the Dell Inspirion 2200 (which served as the first “real computer” for both of us) introduced the internet and Being Online as a State of Being with AIM groups, MySpace, and Yahoo! chain mails before smartphones and tablets were capable of doing so.

Amber prefers to use her iPhone for most everything and regards her computer as a tool for work – it’s booted up and down exclusively for that purpose, which is significantly healthier than the habit Abby, myself, and many of my Online friends developed: we left our computers running and Logged On all the time because we were otherwise unreachable. We learned from origin to depend on them for 100% of our computing tasks – from streaming Pandora to playing Flash games within six billion open browser tabs – which likely explains both our ADD and its resulting influence on the ease with which our personal computers can distract us. As a Journalism student and professional photographer, Abby uses the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, and [Insane Blogger] David Blue has spent years looking for an alternative, becoming the first and only iPhone user to make extensive use of its Bluetooth keyboard support in the process, but both of us are entirely uninterested in the rest of the industry’s insistence on convertibles, removable keyboards, or ‘professional’ tablets. I wish the Linux community was finally ready to drop the elitist pretenses plaguing its nerdy history; I wish I could finally tell someone like Abby that a machine like the System76 Galago Pro could slot itself into her workflow without losing her time or compatibility – that the reputation surrounding Linux People had finally lost most of its validity and her desire to learn more about computing as a young woman and Power User would be met with respectful and worthwhile conversation from their end. Unfortunately, I’ve still found some of the Old Guard to be elitist, socially behind, and juvenilely possessive, as if computing was still the niche interest from their 1980s and 90s childhoods. Though this conversation certainly warrants its own essay in the future, I’ll just express now that it’s a real shame some folks don’t realize the entire point of making great things is ultimately to give them to the world.

The opportunity I’ve had in the past year to finally get my Linux distro frenzy over with and out of my system managed to both radicalize and democratize my understanding of MacOS, Windows, and Linux as they are in the present. While I had nothing better to do, fiddling with Ubuntu Studio and Linux Mint to the extent I did throughout Spring and Summer led me to further appreciate the value of keyboard shortcuts, gave me my first real proficiency with a command line, helped globalize my comprehension of my own technological privilege, reacquainted me in a huge way with both the true history of software and my own personal past as an experimental test tube baby of Microsoft’s, and helped to answer a lot of questions I’d worried over for years about why software seemed like it simply couldn’t improve anymore. While it’s true that important open source projects like ElementaryOS continue to sprout from the Linus Extended Universe and the growing Open Source community on Mastodon is filled with brilliant, helpful, unpretentious, and remarkably curious enthusiasts (probably because many of those I’ve interacted with so far are non-cis and/or non-white,) little ole me was able to stumble upon some totally unnecessary and excruciatingly ignorant sociopolitical commentary by way of the white, middle-age host and his undoubtedly-white and staunchly libertarian caller on a live broadcast of the Ask Noah Show. (It’s not as if I haven’t said ignorant and very ugly things too, but I wasn’t a forty-something father on a semi-professional talk show representing an entire community.)

Essentially, I was quite frustrated and disappointed to find that Linux is still let down most by its own community, but the operating system itself is still much further along on its way to becoming a real alternative for the average user than mainstream tech journalism would have you believe. However, in my case, finally taking the time to really learn about Open Source computing also helped me understand (surprisingly) why Apple and its environment continue to be the best and most popular choice for professional applications. Linux Mint gave me tremendous power in enabling me to alter, specify, and redesign the most minute details of its interface, but I couldn’t have foreseen how all-consuming such power would be for someone like myself. In retrospect, I’ve realized that I ended up spending more time perfecting my custom LibreOffice Writer shortcuts than I did actually writing – I somehow found myself in a mind state which justified unironically creating a shortcut for the Shortcuts menu. Though I swore I’d never succumb to the bewildering hobby of collecting and exploring different Linux Distributions, it took no time at all for me to fill a folder with disc images of the installers for almost a dozen different interpretations of the operating system after I’d made the simple concession to myself that I’ll just try Ubuntu, that’s all. The most profound realization from all this (arguably otherwise wasted) time: for a user like me, a walled garden is actually the best place to be productive because apparently, I don’t have the self-control to keep myself from running away and/or fixating on completely unproductive tasks without its boundaries. I think this phenomenon is perhaps the worst culprit in the persistence of the aforementioned divide between “computer people” and everyone else who simply uses computers, as I’m sure any one of the latter could tell you after all of five minutes with a Linus type.

The most comprehensive and somewhat-urgent revision to illustrate the significance of this contrast from my perspective regards the exceptional iOS/MacOS markdown-based notetaking app Bear. Frankly, my own “Word Processing Methodology” essay from June has already become problematically out of date (and therefore embarrassing) in terms of my own knowledge of the segment and its history. Though I promised the conversation was “done,” I’ve continued to explore further into word processing’s history as well as its current state. “I had a go at Bear’s free iOS experience and saw little functional difference from DayOne,” the old, negligent, cursory David Blue noted, but if I’d simply been willing to cough up a bit more time and just $1.49 a month for Bear Pro, I’d have spared myself such shame and realized that the hype around this app really is 100% justified. Bear is the most beautiful iOS app I’ve ever seen, but I’m now also fully qualified to declare it the most effective execution of “distraction-free” writing software to come along in the past 25 years. Developer Shiny Frog’s secret is their perfect balance between capability and simplicity. It turns out, Daily Content Lord Casey Newton’s word on this matter really was worth more than mine, not to mention more succinct: “Bear may look simple, but there’s power underneath the surface.”

Those longtime Linux and Windows diehards who’ve tolerated me thus far, listen up: MacOS may be ancient, neglected, and full of incongruencies, but its single-minded methodology paired with Apple’s iCloud really does make it the most effective and elegant environment for most people to simply get shit done. It’s clear that many of you have realized the importance of simplicity for compact and/or educational distributions, but let me just add that the democratization of Linux provides a gargantuan development opportunity to make something that beats MacOS at its own game without starting from such a shitty premise and all of its resulting compromises – all without detracting from any other technically-minded distributions whatsoever. That is the magic of The Distro, remember?! If you’ve existed in a similar state of confusion to that of my entire adult life regarding the appeal of Apple products – despite having once been an extensive OSX user, myself – you’re very welcome for the insight. Instead of paying me for the profound self-improvement I’ve just provided, try prioritizing this newfound knowledge the next time you talk to your MacBook Pro-loving friend about their workflow. If you’re like myself, you’ll find their arguments have magically transformed from the bewildering bullshit they’ve always seemed to be into challenges for future competing operating systems to surpass Apple’s old bitch and excel in because MacOS and even its much-younger iOS counterpart – as well as the billions of people who depend on them – desperately need real competition in order to maintain their viability, much less become what products of the world’s wealthiest company should be.

Yes, the manner in which these operating systems are perceived really is an important discussion prompted by a product as insignificant as the Surface Laptop 2 because as you read, the industry is bracing for another paradigm shift in computing, which many believe (preposterously, I might add) could be as significant and disruptive as 2007’s introduction of the iPhone. This machine of Microsoft’s and its “new” MacBook Air counterpart could potentially be the last designs to carry us to a computing future where the tried-and-true clamshell design is forgone entirely by the mainstream, but Apple’s release of this year’s new iPad Pro prompted even the most Cupertino-loving tech commentators to respond with genuine discord along with a few long-overdue shouts of “are you crazy?!” I’m very proud of The Verge’s Nilay Patel, in particular, for so eloquently deconstructing its usability for all but the very wealthy. “It is impossible to look at a device this powerful and expensive and not expect it to replace a laptop for day-to-day work,” he reminds us in the introduction to his full review of the updated product, along with a beautifully transient sentiment which I think we all needed to hear again: “I don’t think people should adapt to their computers. Computers should adapt to people.” Even something as consumerist and bourgeois as the introduction of another pricepoint-burgeoning Apple hardware flagship can turn a simple tablet review into a much-needed manifesto for a user-centric way forward for the industry, which is itself worthy of celebratory encouragement.

I’ve favored The Verge and its cast long past the point of excess throughout the span of my work about technology, but Nilay’s review and its accompanying episode of The Vergecast are truly special and profound gems of content that shouldn’t be passed up. Apparently – as the Editor-in-Chief immediately insists as the episode begins – his “ongoing theory” that “the more important you are, the less actually important work you do, and the more likely you are to be an iPad user” roused anger from “that whole class of [billionaires,]” but the experiences behind his argument actually suggest that Apple’s own favorite child of late – into which it has begun investing and thereby implicitly sponsoring over its much older brother as the ultimate heir of the majority’s future computing – has unequivocally failed to do its part in growing the iPad Pro into the “laptop replacement” we’d all heard so much about. Of iOS 12’s performance as an operating system beneath true work-related tasks, he exasperates “you have to spend all of your time figuring out how to do stuff instead of doing stuff,” which I couldn’t help but hear as echoes of my own late Linux lamentations. As thankful as I am to have finally achieved enlightenment of the Planet Apple, I’m afraid I was pitifully late: its very natural laws underwent their most brutal tests of the 21st century this past year. Now that I’ve finally come to adore the elegant effectiveness of a new generation of iOS apps like Bear, I’m faced with yet another of the episode’s statements of weight: “I think it’s time to stop pretending that the future of computing looks like Apple’s restrictions.” On the opposing end of the line, the world’s first trillion-dollar company’s other major product release of 2018 managed to disappoint even the most fanatical fans of its original operating system’s best-selling platform with an insultingly mediocre update to the MacBook Air marque upon which it once so fondly doted.

My best friend’s parents bought her the original Surface tablet when she enrolled in art school, and her frustration with its lackluster keyboard (among others) leads MacOS alternative-seeking users like us to wish Microsoft had started with a traditional design like the Surface Laptop first. Perhaps Apple and Microsoft’s emphasis on their tablets is nothing but a bit premature for the most current crop of users, and the rest of my nieces and nephews will expand upon an entirely different methodology of usership when they receive their freshman computer. Those elders of us who still take the Clamshell form seriously and love printing our documents are apparently facing a future industry saturated with products we can’t believe in, but it’s up to you to decide if this issue is worth expending your energy in advocacy for either camp. With my 120+ word per minute proficiency with physical keyboards, I for one have been completely bewildered by the iPad as anything but an indulgence for reading text on the web, and I’m pleased as punch with my Surface Laptop 2. Even if it proves to be the last new computer I’ll ever own to come as optimized for my use, I’m just grateful and astonished it happens to be the best yet.

#hardware #microsoft #future

by David Blue

Siri Shortcuts

Apple's latest mobile OS update might've seemed mundane, but Siri Shortcuts gives users vastly more power than Apple customers have ever before experienced.

Back in 2016, Pokémon Go, overclocked Apple Watches, pissing wearables, and What You See is What You Get blogging services all claimed unprecedented casualties among consumers according to Futureland's iOS 10 episode, which we did our absolute best to dramatize in order to survive what was expected to be the dullest event on record. We'd only that day been first made aware of Boomerang photos and the mysterious nature of “Live Blogging” as an occupation. AirPods were introduced and subsequently shit on, and the comparatively archaic 3.5mm analog audio jack was confidently parted with, finally. At least I got over “forgetting” about Live Photos because it's rapidly becoming difficult to keep stuff on the phone now. I am coming sincerely close to believing none of this is real, anyway. Today, though, it’s a damned straight ballgame, isn’t it? Months have passed since Apple pushed out its major mobile OS release of the year to more little rectangular computers than any one person could speedcount in a lifetime and YouTube is already recommending me dozens of videos about the next one. At this point, you and I are already aware of the iOS development community, who has already been using Internet Operating System 12 on their personal devices for more than half a year by the time your irises are landing here. Hopefully, all but two or three stranded, dying explorers in the arctic have updated their iPhones and iPads by now, and why wouldn’t they?

Our expectations from this ritual are completely alien compared to those we’d need to anticipate from the event 5 or 6 releases ago, when one’s phone had to be sent away (in a sense) to latch itself tight to the stability of a desktop-class product in order to undergo a lengthy, destined metamorphosis. Sometimes, backups via 30-pin to USB-2.0 cables took hours, after which the custodian may or may not find their companion’s replication had completed successfully. If it had, one had to be sure to close any applications apart from iTunes to provide a working environment of utter silence – restarting after finishing the download was my own preferred method – before entrusting the despicably unreliable software to whittle away in a sometimes frantically rebooting, feverish procedure with near life-threatening stigma: it wasn’t uncommon for an update to inexplicably fail, “bricking” the subject iPhone and requiring that one take two whole steps in the wrong direction and restore it from the entire backup they’d just created (hopefully) in order to… make another, precisely-identical attempt, for lack of variables or alternatives to the process. However, if the user planned sufficiently and made a point to begin the whole charade immediately upon arriving home for the evening, these potential frustrations could be compensated for, and odds would favor counting on their smartphone to emerge safe and sound from the procedure just before bed, when even those holding the second-newest product in the lineage would have just enough screen time to notice that text entry, web page loading, and window management had noticeably slowed before sighing and tossing their device toward the darkness.

THE CHER TWEET EMBED

These days, one would need to try very hard to be inconvenienced by iOS updates. My iPhone 8 Plus is two or three times more powerful than my laptop at the moment, and my new friends’ WiFi connection is better than what the State government uses internally, back home. I haven’t needed to physically back it up more than once or twice since I bought it — iCloud stores the lot for $4.99­ a month anyway. I blinked once watching Riki-Oh with high school friends some time ago and all of the sudden, a 1.6GB download isn’t really a big deal. Siddown and watch your Instagram stories for twenty minutes, and hey! You’re ready to update! Somehow, I have abruptly found myself in a reality in which I am the obvious bottleneck and my 100 words per minute on a smartphone keyboard, even, is no longer fast enough: my fucking phone is now waiting on me when it updates. The keyholder is the whole goddamned holdup.

So, what possible purpose could there be in pounding out this “Review” of a free software update that’s in no way optional (waiting a month is no longer a rational minimization of risk — it’s just dumb,) not any more difficult to attain than the bills currently waiting in your mailbox, nor allowed by the nature of mobile operating systems to compete with any cross-platform alternatives? For myself, it’s proved a gratifying tradition of sorts and a good use of my apparently-abundant time if only for the record's sake (hello, future web archivists, neohuman and otherwise!,) but this release – assuming I haven’t overlooked something – is the most globe-shucking of all because of one single featureset: Siri Shortcuts. However, the v ast majority of the intra-Apple press' coverage of this release has come across nearly as unconcerned with them as I was originally. Take Macworld's iOS 12 Review, for instance: it was the first result in my Google search for “iOS 12 review,” yet Siri Shortcuts are only mentioned in the bottom quarter of its first page. When I recorded the “iOS 12 Review” episode of my “podcast,” I spoke as if I was somehow the only person on the planet who comprehends the profound implications of this software addition – which was, of course, more of an absorbent acquisition – but I have since discovered one gem, at least, which has continued the conversation in a most superb manner. It's a technology podcast called Supercomputer, and it's hosted by Alex Cox and Matthew Cassinelli – the latter of whom developed a significant amount of the iOS app Workflow (and wrote most or all of its documentation, apparently,) which Apple assimilated as Siri Shortcuts. Both are extremely knowledgeable and competent commentators on – as far as I can hear, at least – virtually the entire iOS *lifestyle*. (For those on the outside who've never stepped in: laugh if you must, but yes it is a lifestyle, still, and it's new thought leader isn't exactly coming up short these days.) iOS is technically software, yes, but it leaves an intractable itch for some greater, transcendent term.

WORDPRESS GUTENBERG / SIRI SHORTCUTS IN MY PAJAMAS

In just forty minutes, without any prior knowledge about this feature, I was able to create a Shortcut which sends any given handset's IP address and precise GPS location (among other mundane metrics) in a text message to my phone number. I could share this shortcut among my other submissions to Sharecuts or ShortcutsGallery.com, where any iOS user could download and subsequently send this information back to my phone. (Don't believe me? Have a go at it yourself and I'll send back a screenshot if you'd like.) I accomplished this without any particular skills or education in software development or cybersecurity – without any real malice, even – I was just playing around. As far as my recollection goes, Apple has never included such a powerful, potentially-dangerous piece of software in a standard software update before. It's both absolutely brilliant and sortof a ripoff to be so entrusted for the first time. In many ways – like my Disable Bluetooth & WiFi shortcut – Siri Shortcuts represent an awfully half-assed solution to some of the most basic, longtime incongruencies within iOS. Sure, it's great that I can just make myself a shortcut to completely disable my phone's WiFi and Bluetooth activity with one press or Siri command (combining “type to Siri” with Siri Shortcuts basically enables a form of Command Line functionality in iOS,) but frankly, one should've expected the world's largest company to do it themselves in perhaps the second of third version of this operating system instead of saying okay, here are the tools – you do it! in its twelfth.

I've found it inevitable when speaking on iOS to avoid discussing the other literature available on the subject at any given time. The depth to which technology media has assimilated the habits and mannerisms of a single American company is absolutely mind-boggling, regardless of its history, its market share, or even its recent trillion-dollar valuation. Dozens of media companies – CultofMac, MacRumors, Macworld, 9to5 Mac, AppleInsider, iMore, and... more – exist solely to cover one single independent company: Apple, Incorporated. One wonders how the sum total of the individuals involved with and these organizations compares with the total number of employees working for the company their careers are (for the moment, at least,) entirely centered around. (Further interesting questions: are there any comparable situations anywhere else in Western capitalism, and if not – doesn't this sort of attention constitute some kind of Monopoly, even if it was not necessarily an anti-competitive one?) For “reasonable people,” the image one conjures up of The All-The-Time Apple Beat does not lend to envy, but let's choose to limit ourselves to only the most casual forms of speculation. I do not wish to mock them, for I, too remember the sensation of The Apple Drug from an unfortunate time in my childhood development when I was willing to wear a cheap sweatshirt branded with a stupid Mac vs. Windows Users joke unironically to a real live public Junior High school. There are few more embarrassing admissions, except perhaps admitting that a part of me genuinely yearns to return to this level of enthusiasm, as misplaced and cringey as it was. It's the addiction to the mystic; it's aspirational in its democratization. Billionaires are running the same operating system and much of the same software as I am every day – even the most followed person on any given platform is still accessing it through the same interface I might be. These are incredible truths, but they also reflect a dangerous lack of competition in a product category that has become more essential to day-to-day human life than any other in just three or four blinks of an eye.

INDIE ALTERNATIVES TWEET

Fuck David Blue, though. Who are the real, hard-hitting minds who've kept this industry and this company in check? Well, it's funny you should ask that, because the people's quirky New York Times tech critic of late – the esteemed Farhad Manjoo – has just concluded a five-year-long technology column with some essential (if perhaps a bit unoriginal) advice: “just slow down.” If you're still following along, you shall surely enjoy clicking some of his links, and I would certainly encourage that you do until you're out of free articles, at least. When Manjoo speaks, Apple listens: his January decree for Apple to bend with the industry wind and build “a Less Addictive iPhone” is convincingly prophetic considering Screen Time – probably the most mulled-over iOS 12 addition. As someone who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (however much or little that may mean to you) just one or two years after I began using my/the first iPhone, I've developed a history of what he might call Addiction to iPhones in variable oscillation touching both extremes. I carried my first-generation iPhone for almost 5 years – as you can imagine, it was far from a 100%-functional device toward the end of that bell curve. In contrast, I've also stood in line at dawn for two iPhone launches, jailbroken, listened to podcasts only about apps (far before they were good,) and been compelled to chronicle and reflect upon all of it for as long as I can remember.

There's no denying that the iPhone has had a profound effect on my life mostly thanks to my own choices, which is why it's worth telling the vast majority of you that features like Screen Time will never help you achieve whatever vague conception of reduced usage you may have. If you haven't yet quantified the figures you'll find within it in mental estimates, you aren't really concerned at all and if you have, Screen Time will only confirm them. Using reminder notifications to optimize your appflow makes no attempt at all to actually escape the mentality of the behavior you seek to lessen from yourself. Another app is still another app; a notification reminding you to stop using an app does nothing but add still more stimuli. If you want to stop using the phone so much, *stop* using the fucking phone. If you are truly concerned about how your handset companion has changed your life, turn it off for a week/month/quarter – however long you possibly can. By that, I mean no more or less than what you can manage without getting fired/dumped/expelled/etc. If you have truly reached this point, anything less is probably worth it. There is simply no other way to get a clear picture of how it's changed you.

Google, Facebook, and the rest of the industry are well aware of this, but know they can't actually advocate against the fundamental mechanism that drives their businesses, so they express concern by doing what they know: building more software. Apple is in a slightly different situation: they still need you to buy their phones – and even to look at them – but not past the point of hurting yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically because those injuries tend to hurt one economically. Screen Time's purpose is to keep us thriving and buying, but the only effective solve for this can only be communicated in garbage cinema language: you must find it within yourself. I am actually the worst person from which to model your life, except perhaps for my iPhone use: unless there's little else worthy of my attention, my phone is not out. Even if checking my emails, Mastodon, Twitter, etc are my default tasks, there are infinitely many besides that come first. Every once in a while, it's okay to finish an important message while walking down the street or waiting at a stoplight if things are urgent, but I can guarantee you that my attention is better consolidated on traveling in 95% of cases – moving with purpose and then focusing on my composition after I've arrived is almost always more efficient. I realize that I'm cowboying it here and sound like your Dad, but I'm better with iOS than he is, yet I've never publicly run into anything while looking down at my smartphone in 10 years of hardcore use. Find somebody who's company makes you forget about all of this for hours at a time and treasure them. Also: stop playing games on your phone. What the hell are you doing? Read a blog! Explore the wonders of the open web! Your peers, your battery, and your elderly future self with thank you for it. (One exception is playing word/trivia games with your partner. That's very cute and good for you.)

I was elated to see that even Apple supports my age-old cause for Twitter Lists. Also, the new function in Apple Music allowing the user to search by lyrics appears to work very well...

To get back to specifics, the new Photos application is now basically what it should have been all along, 3D Touch has been virtually eclipsed for those strange bastards among you who never liked it, and the release's most democratically-redeemable feature is optimization, which even on my iPhone 8 Plus was blatantly noticeable and very welcome. However, probably the best insight to come out of my long, rambly End User review was the revelation that basically any other human activity is a better use of time than applauding Apple for learning to hold new features off until they've been thoroughly tested and focusing instead on smoothing existing software. In fact, I'd argue there is absolutely no reason for someone like me to say anything even remotely positive about the world's wealthiest company ever again, though that doesn't apply to The Verge or Chaim Gartenberg, who's review – for the record – was much more useful to 9999 times more people than anything I'll ever write. However, isn't it sortof unreasonable to expect anything but absolute perfection from Apple at this trillion-dollar juncture? A handful of varying interpretations of absolute perfection per product category, even.

With gorgeous, iCloud-enabled premium apps like [Bear] (https://twitter.com/NeoYokel/status/1063486573197561857) in the picture, integrating wholly into the Apple environment has maintained its relative rank above the alternatives to its specific minimal-esque utilitarian niceness which appeals so strongly to those people among both consumer and professional buyers. Readers from within this culture recognized a short time ago that iOS is in the process of replacing MacOS as the star component of this environment across the board, though there's at least a moderate journey ahead before it truly reaches this achievement for the median user. For myself, iOS 12 improved the experience of using my 8 Plus and certainly gave me something intriguing to play with in Siri Shortcuts. For the rest of the world's billions of daily iOS users, I say be as insatiable as possible – always expect more.

#ios #iphone #software #photography #future

by David Blue

CR-V Sunset

I would argue that this is the best Honda’s CR-V has ever or will ever look, no thanks to my photographic decisions.

After 9 or so years and over 100,000 miles, I have totaled my mother’s 2010 Honda CR-V – the car I drove cross-country for the first time at significant distance (St. Louis to Washington, D.C. in essentially one sitting,) and once complimented for being the best possible aesthetic compromise of its near-universally and aggravatingly-compromised breed. It was my her first 1st owner experience, which is frankly a bit of a shame. If I’m completely honest, my late stepfather’s decision to outfit this utterly utilitarian vehicle with enough kit to break the $30,000 within a segment that has always clung to the 20s as one of its truly communicable advantages feels less-than-ideal in retrospect, but what can I say, really? It was not exactly a proud thing, but it did transport a lot of young families and shelter us as we’ve navigated more blizzard-like conditions than should be the norm for what is, essentially, an expensive, extended Civic.

As per some particulars of my upbringing, I tend to get almost alarmingly attached to vehicles, but it’s hard to say I’m sad to see the CR-V go from all but the most sentimental senses. Objectively, it’s simply not as high-value or as competent a vehicle as it and its contemporaries are still made out to be by automotive media, pop culture, or the presumptions in the average consumer’s discourse. Though it was never intended to be luxurious, the resulting automobile ended up costing real luxury money.

The Event

It’s odd to have been driving so long without incident (pretty soon I’m gonna be able to say “I’ve been driving for twenty years, bitch!) and then suddenly find oneself at fault for the accident which claimed the life of the single most sublime, defining object in his existence. This incident, though, was entirely the fault of the other driver. My best friend and I were Northbound, crossing the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road at precisely the point where it becomes College Avenue, where we were t-boned directly on the CR-V’s driver’s side rear wheel by a mid-2000s Mazda 6 that decided to run the red light. It’s hard to guess the speed of impact, but the driver’s side side airbags deployed (as you’ll see from the attached photograph,) and the CR-V was spun nearly 270 degrees around the axis of the front wheels. Neither of us nor the 6’s driver was injured, but both of our vehicles are surely totaled.

CR-V Fucked

Third-Generation CR-V Ownership in Retrospect

Two or three years ago, I recorded some (not particularly conclusive or informative) thoughts with my iPhone as I drove the old engorged Civic to the grocery store, when ends abruptly after I said “I think one time I did try to go fast.” Like most surviving crossover nameplates, though, the narrative began with a genuinely good idea: Hondarize and modernize the Suzuki Sidekick template on top of the Civic's platform and charge just a bit more for it – and like the rest, too, the concept has soured tremendously as both crossovers and the compact sedans upon which they're based have grown and fattened under their ever-increasing burden of safety and convenience features. (I say “burden” and not “expectation,” specifically because I know a grand total of zero informed people who are at all thrilled about increasing gross weights across every industry segment.)

This CR-V was my mother’s first and only crossover following a three-car line of one or two-owner-used, well-equipped V6 Accords in her garage – the later two from the era when Honda’s mid-sized sedan became a surprisingly dynamic driving machine as advances in drivetrain performance intercepted a point in the developmental timeline just before gross weights spiked up toward their current safety and electronic equipment-bloated figures. (In other words: in the sweet spot when engines were growing more powerful but just before the Accord and its peers got fucking fat.) In 2010, the CR-V was almost attractive looking as specced by my stepfather: the combination of the roof rack, bonnet bra, and EX-trim 5-spoke alloys managed to resolve most of the discrepancies in the shapes I've seen from other examples, but it also drove its price above the $30,000 mark. To be fair to Honda, this decision could almost be considered a sortof breach of function considering the CR-V's original ultra-mass-produced, utilitarian purpose.

Interior

Neither the leather nor the nav/infotainment system has aged very well, but it should be said that the latter is still 100% functional in 2018: it interfaces well with my iPhone 8 Plus with only the occasional “this device is not supported” hiccup (easily resolvable by simply re-booting the connection, in my experience.) I'm not sure how astonished I should be by the fact that the GPS still offers reliable routes 99% of the time, albeit through a user interface design that seems to grow more and more dated by the passing few seconds one may have to wait for it to calculate. Accommodation remains about as uncomfortable as it was on day 1: thanks to its hard leather and the super-upright seating position common to crossovers, I must continue to insist that operating this car is a wholly unnatural experience, but its interior surfaces shall always place well in a contest of robustness and longevity, as they certainly should.

Drivetrain

Perhaps the greatest letdown of this model year (2010) is its legacy four-speed automatic transmission, and I assume the next year's inclusion of a brand-new five-speed unit drastically improved its driving experience. The specific regret one feels when such a development arrives a year after buying any new car is one my stepfather still didn't deserve, yet he was not spared. However, if you, the reader, cannot be dissuaded from buying a CR-V of this generation for whatever goddamned reason, know that you must choose an example from 2011-onward if you want to retain your sanity. No, ye olde four-speed wasn't quite as bad as the transmission that virtually ruined Dodge's new Dart singlehandedly, but it certainly shows its age even for the most inattentive or merciless driver. Without it, I would vouch for the 2.4L four-cylinder's performance as adequate, but its contribution was and forever shall be let down by the aging transmission's developing Alzheimer's. Simply put: they are an unacceptably mismatched team.

Though I shall forever argue that part-time all-wheel-drive is almost never actually justified in normal use – and yet inadequate for any “extreme” use, for that matter – Honda’s hydraulic “Super-Handling All-Wheel-Drive” did indeed aid our CR-V’s way in a handful of circumstances throughout my mother’s ownership, though neither of our memories of these are robust enough to cite specifics. The single no-bullshit blizzard we experienced was the same type I managed to navigate years later in a sub-compact Chevrolet to reach MagFest 2016, if perhaps less intense. I would speculate that the system increases mechanical drag – and therefore fuel consumption – to a degree that couldn’t possibly justify what little aid it has offered in our use, at least.


#auto

by David Blue

Tweetbot 5 for iOS

On Win­dows XP bal­lot day, I spent my beat­nik-ass time mar­veling at the (seem­ing­ly) abrupt avail­abil­i­ty of some gen­uine­ly inno­v­a­tive social apps on the Apple App Store for the first time since iOS 7(?) Of course, I am aware that rea­son­able peo­ple would regard a “sneak peek,” NDA-vio­lat­ing, per­fect­ly Adobe Pre­miered app review to be pret­ty fuck­ing lame, and I won’t dis­pute any accu­sa­tions to the tune of “just an insane white guy with a Word­Press site,” but I still believe it’s impor­tant to talk about soft­ware espe­cial­ly because vir­tu­al­ly every­one uses it (as opposed to qui­et­ing down just when these apps and the peo­ple who make them attain the most advan­ta­geous pos­si­ble posi­tion to fuck the whole world.)

That said, I’m going to keep this as brief and unre­vi­sion­ist as I can: Tweetbot’s lat­est iter­a­tion may actu­al­ly jus­ti­fy the ded­i­cat­ed sub­red­dit I’ve just dis­cov­ered! (Reddit’s the last place any­one wants to talk about apps, I guess.) I’ve com­plained at length about Twitter’s increas­ing­ly hos­tile (but jus­ti­fied, sortof ) treat­ment of its once aston­ish­ing­ly diverse land­scape of third-par­ty clients and tools, yet I’d hon­est­ly grown sig­nif­i­cant­ly in accept­ing that the dynam­ic would nev­er again see the pow­er of the world’s most cash-stuffed com­pa­nies deliv­ered into the sweaty hands of small, kooky one and two-man teams, and it nev­er would’ve occurred to me that Tweet­bot was still around — much less get­ting ready to update its trusty old app with a release that would sud­den­ly make it clear­ly more sta­ble and bet­ter-look­ing than its last com­peti­tor: the Native Fuck, itself, which has also under­gone sig­nif­i­cant cos­met­ic surgery, recent­ly. Name­ly, they moved the one fuck­ing but­ton that’s giv­en the app a usabil­i­ty pre­mi­um over its mobile web-based low-rent clone.

“The com­pose but­ton has been moved to the bot­tom right-hand cor­ner and “floats” as users scroll down their time­line. That means the but­ton is always avail­able to quick­ly send a tweet when the mood strikes.”

Yeah okay, Matt.

We’ve got a shiny, new com­pose but­ton to unveil on Twit­ter for iOS! Eas­i­er than ever to use, the float­ing icon is promi­nent­ly dis­played and per­fect for one-hand­ed scrolling and Tweet com­pos­ing. Pro tip: Press and hold the icon to access your drafts, pho­tos, and the GIF gallery. -@Twit­terSup­port

Twit­ter Sup­port is no @Cher, yeah, but it seems strange that less than a thou­sand of Twitter’s more than 300 mil­lion month­ly users would both­er to engage with the announce­ment of a sig­nif­i­cant fun­da­men­tal change to its infra­struc­ture. Imag­ine if the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment announced via White House press con­fer­ence that every stop­light in the Unit­ed States was going to have its yel­low light removed to “stream­line work­flow” with­out any fur­ther expla­na­tion, yet only 1000 total Amer­i­cans even both­ered to tune in to the tele­vi­sion cov­er­age across all the news net­works. It’d be strange, yeah? Well, y’all are using Twit­ter more than you’re dri­ving, I’ll bet. Next time, get out and vote on my Twit­ter poll , you fas­cist!

In my Twit­ter glo­ry days — that is, when I used to spend the entire­ty of every one of my com­mu­ni­ty col­lege class­es Tweet­ing from my phone — there was a healthy offer­ing of third-par­ty clients on both mobile and desk­top that filled the eng­lish of the era’s soft­ware media with an absolute­ly bar­bar­ic brand-beat­en pile of lin­guis­tic Twit­trash. After Twin­kle — one of the ear­li­est and ugli­est ways to use Twit­ter ever — you’d have to choose between Twit­pic, Tweet­deck, Twit­ter­counter, Twit­ter­feed, Twhirl, Twit­turly, Twt­poll, Retweet­ist, Tweepler, Hel­lotxt, Twit­dom, Tweetscan, Tweet­burn­er, Tweet­vi­sor, Twit­ter­vi­sion, Twibs, Twistori, and Twit­bin. These are just a few I picked up from a 10-year-old TechCrunch report list­ing the top 21 Twit­ter appli­ca­tions by traf­fic. Twibs .

Now, I have to stop myself from dig­ging too deep here and attempt­ing some­thing absurd like The His­to­ry of Twit­ter Clients, but the fuck­ing mate­r­i­al is there! I could spend an entire after­noon going through YouTube search­es and gad­get blogs because it brings me back to that time when I lived every day assum­ing these things were going to con­tin­ue to aston­ish for my entire adult­hood. So many incred­i­ble ideas! How­ev­er, I’m going to save them for lat­er and focus on the cream of the crop, so to speak: Twit­terif­ic and Tweet­bot, which has been a long­time favorite of mine. As I said, it was in com­mu­ni­ty col­lege that I first ponied up mon­ey for Tweet­bot 3 on my iPhone 4S sim­ply because the hype over it among app and gad­get nerds was so bonkers that it man­aged to spill over into my life, despite the fact that iOS7 and I were hav­ing seri­ous issues in our mar­riage.

If you trust Mark Wat­son with your life as I do, you’d bet­ter believe that Tweet­bot has been “ a scream­er ” since its very begin­ning, when it pio­neered the Pre­mi­um Poweruser seg­ment, for which a demo­graph­ic appar­ent­ly still exists. It was fast, yet always notice­ably smoother than the native app, just as the newest release is today. I must point out, though, that the blog­gers and YouTu­bers who’ve insist­ed that Tweet­bot or Twit­ter­rif­ic or any oth­er pre­mi­um app could replace the native Twit­ter app entire­ly on iPhone even before they were stripped of a most live/push func­tion­al­i­ty (which I’ll come back around to in just a moment,) are undoubt­ed­ly lying to them­selves — as good as they got, they nev­er over­took Twitter’s own app in imme­di­a­cy terms, which is almost inevitably going to present fun­da­men­tal deter­rence on the part of the active Twit­ter user who intends to rid them­selves of the default pedes­tri­an avenue of admin­is­tra­tion. Tweet­bot solved a lot of things, it real­ly is daft when it comes to noti­fi­ca­tions. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if they came a few hun­dred sec­onds late — it’s that they’re nev­er pre­dictably or con­sis­tent­ly so, which sev­ers entire­ly the human per­cep­tion of engaged plugged-in-ness, if you will. It’s the same phe­nom­e­na Chuck Kloster­man explores best in the con­text of DVRing live sports to watch lat­er.

It’s dif­fi­cult to project fic­tion­al sce­nar­ios that are more oblique and unex­pect­ed than the cra­zi­est moments from real­i­ty. We all under­stand this. And that under­stand­ing is at the core of the human attrac­tion to live­ness. We don’t crave live sport­ing events because we need imme­di­a­cy; we crave them because they rep­re­sent those (increas­ing­ly rare) cir­cum­stances in which the entire spec­trum of pos­si­bil­i­ty is in play.
-“Space, Time, and DVR Mechan­ics” by Chuck Kloster­man`

Tweet­bot is unques­tion­ably a more thor­ough envi­ron­ment in which to explore Twit­ter than any oth­er third par­ty client, but it can’t do the live thing. Please do com­plain to Twit­ter, Inc. about the API sit­u­a­tion if you’re so inclined, but the sit­u­a­tion we’re going to find our­selves in

All I’m try­ing to say is, there is no fuck­ing rea­son you’d delete the Twit­ter app — hide it away in a fold­er and nev­er ever open it again if it dis­gusts you so, but leave its noti­fi­ca­tions set­tings on so that it can keep itself busy in there. Now that is a smart work­flow! In fact, it was mine! And it did work for such a long time that you’d prob­a­bly for­get about the arrange­ment in no time were there not the occa­sion­al obvi­ous dis­crep­an­cies between Tweetbot’s Mention’s tab and the native app’s instant noti­fi­ca­tions. There has nev­er been — nor will there be, I think — a client for Twit­ter that can replace some use of its own prop­er­ties.

I think Tweet­bot 3 made me into my own ridicu­lous equiv­a­lent of a “Poweruser.” Things are a lit­tle hazy now, but I know that I depart­ed my main Twit­ter account just before the app’s release, and I didn’t come back until 2015. I was going to school in the same old mall build­ing that housed the tool store in which I was also work­ing in full-time, which is sure­ly the only expla­na­tion for the shame­less­ness I demon­strat­ed in bring­ing a wire­less Apple Blue­tooth key­board to my class­es and plac­ing it behind the phone on what­ev­er sur­face was in front of me so that I could lean for­ward and type into iOS with my nose damned near touch­ing the screen. Strange­ly, I was not able to ver­i­fy when Blue­tooth key­board sup­port was added to iOS, but we’re going to con­clude for the sake of con­ve­nience that it was first includ­ed in the imme­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor to the iPhone 4S I was using then.

The cognoscen­ti have been on Twit­ter for years now. Stephen Fry, the web service’s patron saint — in Britain at least, joined in 2008. How­ev­er, it wasn’t until ear­ly 2009, xsome­where around the time that Fry tweet­ed while stuck in a lift, that the ser­vice went tru­ly main­stream. Men­tions of Twit­ter, usu­al­ly involv­ing celebri­ties, could be found in news­pa­pers and on break­fast tele­vi­sion.

Top 10 tech­nol­o­gy high­lights of 2009 ” | The Telegraph

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already seen the demos and skimmed reviews at least. You should know by now whether or not Tweet­bot 5 is worth it to you in pure­ly func­tion­al terms, but I think we should all acknowl­edge that this release of Tweet­bot is like­ly the last com­pet­i­tive third-par­ty Twit­ter app for iOS. The mess that is Twit­ter, Inc. has made clear this year that it intends to pri­or­i­tize its own clients over main­tain­ing the APIs nec­es­sary for oth­ers to receive push noti­fi­ca­tions. And when I say “its own,” I’m also refer­ring to our dear­est Tweet­Deck, which they in fact absorbed. From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, it makes sense: only “six mil­lion App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-par­ty Twit­ter clients between Jan­u­ary 2014 and July 2018,” accord­ing to TechCrunch. I nev­er expect­ed to see Tweet­bot on the App Store charts again, nor would I have con­sid­ered that Echophon, Tweet­Cast­er or Twit­ter­rif­ic would have been left avail­able. They’re on the App Store, at least, and I can con­firm that they all tech­ni­cal­ly still work, but it’s safe to say they’re show­ing their fuck­ing age. Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, though, are not just satel­lite prod­ucts of the plat­form — they lit­er­al­ly built it. These two are the poles that have spent Twitter’s life­time thus far demon­strat­ing for the com­pa­ny and its user­base their own respec­tive inter­pre­ta­tions of a mobile social appli­ca­tion. Today, they are unit­ed — along with Talon and Tweet­ings — in a plea for con­tin­ued access to the plat­form they helped estab­lish on behalf of Twit­ter users and devel­op­ers around the world.

Both Tweet­bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic are in their 5th ver­sions, and nei­ther has actu­al­ly changed much since iOS 7. (Twit­ter­rif­ic appears to still be in the same ver­sion num­ber.) Fac­ing the grow­ing walls around the ser­vice, one strug­gles to imag­ine them sur­viv­ing more than one or two iOS releas­es, but I’ve been wrong before. (In fact, I dis­cov­ered yes­ter­day that Look­book is still around some­how.) By the time iOS 7 came around, the new native Twit­ter app still looked fuck­ing ter­ri­ble. When Tap­bots released Tweet­bot 3, every­thing about its visu­al expe­ri­ence was beyond any­thing we’d seen on the iPhone before and its effec­tive­ness as a Twit­ter tool was imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able in con­trast with even Jack’s brand-new app and mobile web expe­ri­ence. The ani­ma­tions were taste­ful and smooth and the “pro user” label on Tapbot’s demo­graph­ic allowed them to ful­ly explore the func­tion­al­i­ty of iPhone’s ges­tures sep­a­rate any bond with the hypo­thet­i­cal­ly least-capa­ble user.

This is a dynam­ic which I am appar­ent­ly unable to avoid across just about all of my sub­jects — includ­ing dig­i­tal media — so you may take it as gen­er­al­ly unrea­son­able or extreme, but I’m near­ly as tired of being treat­ed as an idiot user as I am an idiot read­er. Read­abil­i­ty is to Usabil­i­ty, etc. It’s espe­cial­ly aggra­vat­ing when I could do so much more if devel­op­ers would just assume I’m capa­ble of any knowl­edge acqui­si­tion or intel­lec­tu­al growth what­so­ev­er. Except for a few left­over key­board short­cuts, the native Twit­ter app’s only func­tion are the most obvi­ous to engage with, as per the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dards of use, which would make per­fect sense if it was paired with com­pe­tent invest­ments in Acces­si­bil­i­ty, but Twit­ter always appears to detest the sub­ject, even while qui­et­ly putting in some of the work. Thanks to Mastodon’s explic­it and vis­i­ble acknowl­edge­ment of acces­si­bil­i­ty by way of just one young Ger­man man and a vol­un­teer team, we cer­tain­ly know it’s not because it’s an expen­sive one at all. (The “if Mastodon can do it than Twit­ter can def­i­nite­ly fuck­ing do it” argu­ment can be expand­ed almost with­out lim­it.)

Some­where out there is a social media man­ag­er using a screen read­er whose pro­fes­sion­al­ism has been under­mined by the belief that the update is avail­able to every­one. We deserve equal access to the tools our peers take for grant­ed, and the secu­ri­ty to know that we will be able to do our jobs tomor­row regard­less of updates. -Kit Englard for The Out­line

I would like to com­mend myself now for mak­ing it this far with­out men­tion­ing Lists — a sub­ject which I’ve already Tweet­ed and writ­ten about exten­sive­ly — but this time, I have the won­drous bless­ing of two pre­miere mobile soft­ware com­pa­nies who rec­og­nized the poten­tial pow­er in list func­tion­al­i­ty to dis­pel or avoid most of the inher­ent risks assigned to the usage of a social net­work like Twit­ter and bet heav­i­ly on it. Nei­ther can be uti­lized to the fullest with­out lists and wouldn’t it be such a shame to not get your money’s worth? Tap­bots expand­ed their cura­tive abil­i­ty tremen­dous­ly by adding cus­tomiz­able fil­ters to any time­line in Tweet­bot, allow­ing the user to infi­nite­ly manip­u­late incom­ing posts with any com­bi­na­tion of every vari­able sup­port­ed by the core Twit­ter code itself. With­in a mat­ter of sec­onds, you could cre­ate a fil­ter that will exclude all Tweets except for those from unver­i­fied accounts that men­tion “blimps” and include a media attach­ment and apply this fil­ter to any of the app’s time­line views — includ­ing Home, Men­tions, Pro­file (your own Tweets,) your Favorites, and your Search­es — every­thing but your Direct Mes­sages can be sort­ed this way.

Tweet­bot for iOS Tips,” Tap­bots Tweet­Bot and I accom­plished a lot of sort­ing togeth­er, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me had it not crept to #1 Paid Social App again a few weeks ago that per­haps my bias towards Twit­ter lists could be entire­ly attrib­uted to my ear­ly use of Tweet­Bot and Twit­ter­rif­ic, which allowed me to amass a Fol­low­ing count of over 5000 with­out phys­i­cal­ly per­ish­ing or men­tal­ly dis­in­te­grat­ing to the point of unde­ni­able insan­i­ty. How­ev­er, by the time Tweet­Bot 4 was released in 2015, it had long since swapped places with the native app with­in my iPhone’s home­screens and was only used when I felt par­tic­u­lar­ly like Tweet­storm­ing from a sta­tion­ary sit­u­a­tion. From my wire­less Apple Key­board, this meant Cmd (⌘)-N to com­pose a Tweet and ⌘-Enter to send it.

Today — in Tweet­bot 5 — this con­tin­ues to be a tried-and-true method of Tweet­ing Tweets on Twit­ter, smooth­ly and effi­cient­ly, as always. Return­ing to Ye Olde Alter­na­tive in 2018 yields both famil­iar and new­ly-imple­ment­ed goods: ani­ma­tion and audio noti­fi­ca­tions are car­ried over and/or updat­ed as need­ed to main­tain a flu­id and fresh expe­ri­ence. The abil­i­ty to switch between its intel­li­gent­ly-cho­sen col­or themes with a two-fin­gered ver­ti­cal swipe, alone will be jus­ti­fi­ca­tion enough for many users like myself to hand over anoth­er $4.99 to the Tap­bots devel­op­ers who’ve man­aged against all odds to one-up Twitter’s own mobile app devel­op­ment one last time. Over any oth­er alter­na­tive app, Tweet­bot 5 retains the robust qual­i­ties nec­es­sary to achieve #1 Paid Social App sta­tus on the App Store despite its new API shack­les.


#software #ios #twitter

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