Meta: No longer automatically cross-posting
I’ve disabled cross-posting from baty.blog to Micro.blog/Twitter/Mastodon. I like not worrying about force-feeding every single thing I publish to other feeds. If I post something I want to share more widely, I’ll post links directly.
This feeling started with my wiki. I just write stuff there without worrying about where it’s going to “go”.
For those few who truly want to read everything, there’s RSS
My Dad and I
Happy Father’s Day, dad!
Please don’t cancel Keanu (The Outline)
Please do not cancel Keanu Reeves. Please. Keanu Reeves is the closet thing we have to Mr. Rogers and we already don’t deserve him as it is.
I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I’ve always rooted for Keanu and it’s nice seeing him getting so much good press lately.
The Dropbox updates are fine
I keep a shit-ton of stuff in Dropbox. I’ve been using it with nary a hitch for many years. Dropbox was the first syncing option that didn’t completely suck, and it’s still better than the rest (I also use iCloud and Syncthing).
Sure, sometimes the Dropbox app uses too much CPU. On the other hand, sometimes iCloud loses data. And no one enjoys configuring Syncthing. Point is, Dropbox is the closest thing I’ve ever found to hassle-free sync across everything. The recently added Smart Sync is awesome. Add to that, Paper, which is quite nice, and darn good sharing options and I still feel like Dropbox is a winner.
The new Dropbox adds a bunch of stuff that, at first glance, made me think, “Ah, hooey, what’s this Evernote-level bullshit, now?!”
Then, I used the new desktop app all day today and am already finding the changes useful. It’s too early to be sure, or to review, but I think we all knew that Dropbox had to do something, and I think they may just be figuring out what that something is. If you don’t care about the new stuff, just keep using it the way you always have.
For a different take, Michael Tsai is collecting some of the more snarky knee-jerk reactions.
Ben Thompson (Stratechery):
I find this tremendously exciting, and sorely needed. For years I have been wondering which company will build the “operating system of the cloud”, and this seems like a very credible attempt to do just that. The new Dropbox app is basically a new version of the Finder or Explorer, with communication and collaboration built-in.
To that end, Dropbox will never achieve the same level of integration, given it has to partner with other companies, but it doesn’t need to: the idea is to have good-enough integration so that all of the apps it is integrating with can win on their own merits. In other words, I would go further than Houston: the new Dropbox isn’t simply complementary to a product like Slack in particular, it promises to make Slack a much better product in its own right, particularly when viewed from that higher, more wholistic level that Microsoft has focused on.
It remains to be seen how this plays out. It’s easy to succumb to the usual knee-jerk cynicism, but I’m not ready to dismiss it quite yet.
Bug Fixes (Paul Ford)
Paul Ford, NYT Magazine:
But in the end, the software works or it doesn’t. Politics, our personal health, our careers or lives in general — these do not provide a narrative of unalloyed progress. But software, dammit, can and does. It’s a pleasure to watch the code change and improve, and it’s also fascinating to see big companies, paid programmers and volunteers learning to work together (the Defense Department is way into open source) to make those changes and improvements. I read the change logs, and I think: Humans can do things.
Daily software stack as of June 06, 2019
Because things change, I’ve jotted down the list of apps I use to manage my “stuff” daily as of today. Below each is a quick list of the types of things for which it’s used. At some point I’d like to go into more detail, but by the time I do that everything changes again.
The list is longer than I would like, but I can’t seem to narrow it down further. The highlight here is that I’m unable to get rid of Emacs, so it remains an important part of my process. I fear that it always will, and that I’ll have to get good at it, eventually.
- Task management via org-mode
- Long-form journaling via org-journal
- Time tracking
- Document production
- Too much of my spare time
- The Control Center: Connects everything to everything
- Project management
- Personal and work event timelines
- Links to interesting things and to their concepts
- Project notes
- Visual/Concept mapping
- My note-taking “inbox”
- Blog posts, tech notes, and ideas percolate here until ready to be moved somewhere more permanent
- For finished notes that I may want to share or access quickly on the go
- All sorts of wierd text processing
- Occasionally as a writing environment
- Markdown writing. Mostly blog posts. I just really like writing here.
I got back into Twitter about a month ago. I thought I missed it, but it turns out I only missed small portions of it, and those portions have been drowned out by pessimism, hyperbole, hate, and self-interest.
Here’s how I tried making Twitter into a pleasant experience again:
- Unfollowed everyone and started over.
- Disabled retweets
- Muted lots and lots of keywords.
- Tried having a good attitude
And still, my feed was awash with the usual awful, depressing, tedious noise of people determining that “Something is BAD!!!” and yelling incessantly about it without a single rational suggestion about how to make it less bad.
There just isn’t enough signal to go with the noise. I’ve had to stop visiting Twitter again.
Dark Mode Isn’t ‘Easier on the Eyes’ for Everybody (Vice)
Samantha Cole, Vice
In the end, more display options are better, and people should use whichever lighting theme they want. It’s great that dark mode is coming to iOS for people who it helps, but there’s simply not evidence to make the blanket claim that dark mode is “easier on your eyes.”
Vice adds to the recent spate of articles confirming my biases against some of the widely-touted benefits of Dark Mode.
How did journalists file before Google Docs? (CJR)
Amanda Darrach, CJR:
By the summer of 1863, competition was fierce. A New York Tribune reporter was about 10 miles from Gettysburg, trying to cover a cavalry raid, when the battle opened. The town’s telegraph operator told him the wires had been cut. “The Trib’s man gathered up a work crew, rented a handcar from the president of the railroad, and took off to find the break and repair it,” Tucher says. “In return, he demanded that the telegraph operator not let anyone else but him use the wire, and sent off a scoop.”
Apple’s Audacity (Ben Thompson)
Ben Thompson, Stratechery:
it was fun seeing what Apple came up with in its attempt to build the most powerful Mac ever, in the same way it is fun to read about supercars. More importantly, I thought that sense of “going for it” that characterized the Mac Pro permeated the entire keynote: Apple seemed more sure of itself and, consequentially, more audacious than it has in several years.
“Audacious” is a good word for it.
Apple…emphasized privacy at every turn, and did so with passion: it felt like the fight for privacy has given the entire company a new sense of purpose, and that is invaluable.
In short, it is clear that privacy has become more than a Strategy Credit for Apple. It is a driving force behind the company’s decisions, both in terms of product features and also strategy.
Cynics scoff, but I believe that Apple’s push for privacy is the right thing and a good thing.
The Mac Pro and display fill a large gap in Apple’s professional product line. Prices are reasonable for the professional user. If you want one at home, you are an idiot.
It’s amazing to see so many people complaining about the cost of something they have no real use for and could never fully utilize even if they think they could.
I am idiotic enough to want one at home, but not enough to actually buy one.
I should just get really good at Emacs
Last week during a hectic couple of days at the office, I dropped out of Emacs/Mu4e/Org/etc. and used my “old” apps instead. I didn’t have time to figure out how to best search for files in Projectile or why mbsync is being so slow or how to easily read multiple emails at once in Mu4e. My usual apps had me covered. I didn’t have time to look up the best way to do a fancy find-and-replace of a large text file in Emacs. I already know how to do that in BBEdit.
It occurred to me that when I have the time and am not feeling lazy, using Emacs for things like email and task management is superior. Superior, but harder. When something’s urgent, I don’t have time to figure everything out right then, and I tell myself that dammit, I shouldn’t have to! So, I ditch Org-mode and Mu4e and most of Emacs and go back to Things or OmniFocus and Mail.app or Mailmate and BBEdit and everything gets easier.
Trouble is, I don’t think it gets better. The problem is simply that I’m not good enough at Emacs. I’ve changed the way I use Emacs so often that, even though I’ve used it for years, I haven’t had time to get really good at it.
First it was Spacemacs, then Doom Emacs, then I rolled my own, then back to Spacemacs, and now, finally, back to rolling my own. Each of the “starter kits” does everything differently, meaning muscle memory isn’t helpful since it doesn’t work once I switch everything around…again.
I have a theory that this would not be a problem if I focused and spent the time to get better at using Emacs. By Emacs I mean vanilla Emacs with a few hand-crafted customizations. No one will change key bindings out from under me or introduce a behavior I didn’t expect.
I will simply need to bury myself in it, learn the native keybindings, tweak what annoys me, and improve my skills through repetition and study.
For starters, I probably shouldn’t be writing this in Typora 😣.
Moving to Startpage for search
As a user and fan of DuckDuckGo for several years, I am a little disappointed to say that I’m switching my default search engine to startpage.com.
This change has felt inevitable for a few months now. Several times each day I have to re-run my DuckDuckGo search using Startpage because DDG fails to find something I’m sure should be somewhere on the first page of results.
Today, for example, I was linking to Maciej Cegłowski’s article about securing congressional campaigns. I can never remember how to spell his name, so I typed “idle words pinboard author” into DDG and this is what I got back…
That wasn’t helpful, so I ran the same search using Startpage and got this…
See what I mean? And this isn’t a rare exception. I want to support non-Google and privacy-focused alternatives when it makes sense. I rely on search all day long and need better results than I’ve been getting from DuckDuckGo, so for now it’s going to be Startpage
What I Learned Trying To Secure Congressional Campaigns (Maciej Cegłowski)
The candidate was hardest person to secure. They were too busy to come to the training. They didn’t want to move off their Loudong SB250 phone because it had all their favorite Flash games from the Yahoo store on it. Three different antivirus programs competed for dominion over their Windows 7 laptop.
A noble effort.
When “Read-Only Friday” might still make sense
The t-shirt I’m wearing in the above photo is having fun with the idea of “Read Only Fridays”, the policy of never deploying code or making significant infrastructure updates on Friday afternoons. This has been popular with development teams, because if something were to go wrong, people could end up working throughout the weekend. Nobody wants that.
I’ve read a couple articles recently ridiculing teams that adopt a Read Only Fridays policy. After all, modern continuous integration tools, testing, and deployment processes have gotten so good that teams should no longer fear deploying at any time.
Of course, this assumes that they’re able to use all those modern tools and processes. For example, I manage a number of legacy projects that remain important to the client and their users, but no longer have the attention or budget for modernizing or retro-fitting unit tests that were never written in the first place. Of course you could argue that they should have been written, but for whatever reason they weren’t, and never will be, so here we are. We don’t release those projects on Friday.
In other cases, we develop and maintain web applications for larger companies requiring long, drawn-out approval processes before any changes are deployed. Then, even after everything has been tested and approved, they might find some unforeseen side effect or behavior change an upper-level individual hadn’t considered, so they freak out and want things “fixed” immediately. Continuous integration magic or unit tests don’t prevent this, so we don’t deploy on Friday.
And what if a dev team isn’t perfect and maybe had an off day and didn’t write perfect integration tests and something slips through? That can happen to the best of ’em.
So sure, the goal is to use the tools and processes that allow for stress and error-free deployments any time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations when we’re just better off not deploying on Friday.
Have a great weekend!
At first, I thought this title-free design was intended for single-window apps, but Apple also uses it Safari and Xcode. And it’s been appearing in third-party apps like MarsEdit, OmniFocus, and ReadKit—a shame
I wish that most, maybe all, apps still had title bars. Title bars a great at things like, oh, showing a title and giving me a consistent drag target. I move windows all the time, and it’s gotten too hard to drag windows, since the only place you can use to drag is covered with buttons.
Fontifying org-mode DONE items
I use the beautiful Nord-emacs theme with Emacs. By default, DONE items in org-mode aren’t as easily distinguishable from the other states as I’d like, so I change the fonts like so…
(setq org-fontify-done-headline t)
'(org-done ((t (:foreground "PaleGreen"
((((class color) (min-colors 16) (background dark))
(:foreground "#5E81AC" :strike-through t)))))
This changes the font color to something more subtle and also uses a Strikethrough format to the entire heading. It looks like this…
I’ve switched back to Blot’s “Console” theme for baty.blog. My thinking is that this better reflects its more technical bent, now that I’m posting non-tech things over at copingmechanism.com.
UPDATE (2019-05-28): As wonderfully nerdy as it is, “Console” is hard on the eyes. Trying “Rosa”.
I’m Upset: “Eating Healthy” is too much work (The Outline)
Casey Johnston, The Outline:
Why is the subset of food I should be eating so vanishingly small compared to all the food I can buy? Why is it so hard to make normal, healthyish food, and why is there so much other irresponsible livelihood-endangering food all in the way?
I’ve been working on some dietary changes and I’m upset too.
My computer is home to most software ever written. I try every new app I hear about, but rarely do I delete them once I’ve stopped using them. Of course I keep a bunch of them around, “just in case”.
The problem with the “just in case” apps is that I find myself launching them simply as a distraction or something “new” to play with.
This morning I deleted the apps that I don’t use, or that I don’t want to use right now. Those apps were…
Cardhop, Portacle, Agenda, Amethyst, Capture One, Skelotron, Curiota, Dashlane, Diarly, EagleFiler, Elephant, Fantastical 2, Fork, Ginko, iA Writer, Klib, Launchbar, Mailplane, MailSteward, Marta, Memory Tracker by Timely, Notability, Notebooks, OmniFocus, Oni, Pathfinder, Postbox, Shiori, SnagIt, Spark, TheArchive, Tiddly Desktop, Timeular, Twitterific, Vanilla, Vivaldi, Yoink
There are a half-dozen or so remaining that I should delete, but haven’t yet. This is a good start, though.
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