1. Old Timey Radio Podcasts

    February 11, 2014

    Some time ago I decided to stop listening to tech podcasts for reasons which are both irrelevant and well-known to most people. Instead I’ve spent my commutes with old radio dramas from a variety of sources. They have the advantage of generally being under thirty minutes in length and being utterly devoid of technology product rumors. Additionally, they often have some damn fine stories to boot. It occurred to me that some of my readers might be interested in this so I’ve decided to share some of my sources.

    One of the most comprehensive sources for radio dramas is Relic Radio. They have mysteries, science fiction, comedies, horror stories, westerns, and war stories. You can find all their podcasts on iTunes.

    A show that is a particular favorite of mine is Suspense!. There are a few different podcasts collecting this show, but here is the iTunes link for the one I subscribe to.

    Last but not least. Welcome to Nightvale is a newer—and highly popular—podcast drama that takes the form of a community radio show set in a community unlike any other. You can find them here on iTunes.

    There you go. Just a few things to listen to that don’t involve self-absorbed bloggers talking about what products Apple should make. You can thank me later.

  2. Thoughts on Google’s Acquisition of Nest

    January 14, 2014

    I don’t currently own a Nest product and now that Nest has been purchased by Google I almost certainly will never own a Nest product. Here are my reasons for coming to that conclusion.1

    1. Google has a bad track record of maintaining products: There really isn’t a lot to say here. The record of Google’s long-term maintenance of acquired products is a charnel house of badly maintained and abandoned software and services. While this isn’t a huge problem with software and services, it is a huge issue to me when we’re talking about an expensive piece of hardware that sits at the core of my home’s climate control system.

    2. This purchase is almost certainly not about the product itself: My buddy John Welch made an interesting point on App.net. There is a very good chance that this purchase is more about Nest’s portfolio of patents relating to learning hardware than it is about cornering the thermostat market. Additionally, bringing Tony Fadell into the fold gives Google something that it desperately needs: someone who actually has a clue about consumer hardware design.

    3. Google’s consumer support is atrocious: Well, Google’s enterprise support ain’t no great shakes either but let’s focus on what’s important. Everyone reading this blog has heard stories of Google’s horrific “look it up on the web / here’s a Google Group if your lucky” method of “support”. While that model is (barely) acceptable in the world of software and services it is absolutely untenable in the world of consumer hardware. This is even worse when you consider that the Nest thermostat is a device meant to connect to a system that most consumers have absolutely no experience with and, if installed improperly can theoretically destroy a system that costs thousands of dollars to replace.

      From what I’ve seen Nest has done an admirable job of making the process of tying a Nest thermostat into an existing HVAC system as consumer friendly as possible, but I’ve also read numerous tales of woe from tech luminaries unable to get a Nest thermostat to work with their system. This shit ain’t simple2

    4. I just don’t trust Google: I’ve listed this last, because the previous three points are actually sufficient for me remove Nest devices from consideration but honestly if the previous issues didn’t exist, this would be enough. I simply don’t trust Google to not put it’s all-consuming desire for data above my privacy. In some instances this isn’t an issue to me but when applied to a device that sits in my house tracking my coming and going it crosses the creepy line.

    1. Note that tribal loyalty to Apple is not among these reasons. 

    2. I have a fairly extensive, if not precisely licensed, level of experience with home electrical systems. This stuff is more complicated than the average tech pundit knows. 

  3. Will The Real iPad Please Stand Up

    November 02, 2013

    The iPad Air is now on sale and making its way into the hands of the blogoratti and the Retina iPad mini will be arriving later this month. Unfortunately this fact heralds the oncoming blitz of self-indulgent tech bloggers smugly proclaiming either the iPad Air or the Retina mini to be the “real” iPad.

    This is fucking stupid.

    I know that the default narrative in tech punditry is that there can only be one of any given thing in a category but that is a stupid narrative and it needs to stop. Proudly proclaiming that the “real” iPad has arrived, as many did after the announcement of the iPad mini last year only makes you look like an idiot. Playing the same game this year with the iPad Air is just fucktarded.

    After the initial iPad announcement in 2010 I wrote a post explaining my rationale for purchasing an iPad. In that post I posited that the iPad shouldn’t be looked at as a laptop replacement, but as a laptop alternative. The relevance of that concept as applied to the iPad Air vs. iPad mini debate is that the “correct” choice for any given person is going to be determined by their existing ecosystem of devices.

    For example, prior to the iPad my computing setup consisted of an iMac and an iPhone. The original iPad filled my need for a highly functional portable computer that didn’t force me to replicate my existing OS X environment. That need will now be met by the iPad Air.

    The contrary example would be someone who already was using a laptop; perhaps in conjunction with a desktop machine, perhaps not. For that person the original iPad would not have made as much sense and the iPad mini would have been a more likely purchase. Now that the iPad mini is in every respect other than size identical to it’s larger sibling that decision makes even more sense.

    In both cases the choice of which iPad is the “real” iPad is based on personal needs. The pundits proclaiming one iPad “realer” than the other are simply projecting their particular situation onto the general public…again

  4. Editorial Workflows: New Post

    September 09, 2013

    In my previous post about Editorial workflows I demonstrated some simple workflows that didn’t rely on any Python scripting. In this post I’d like to follow up with one of the more complicated Python-based workflows that I’m using for The Angry Drunk.

    Since my first post last week there have been a few interesting developments in the world of Editorial. First, just a few hours after I published my post, Federico Viticci announced that he was expanding his Siracusa-class review of Editorial into an eBook. I haven’t had a chance to explore the book yet but if the review is anything to go by, the book should be well worth the price.

    Second, the developer of Editorial, Ole Zorn announced a searchable workflow archive.. This is awesome news for those of us interested in developing workflows.

    Now on to the workflow.

    The workflow I’m going to discuss there is Create New Post. This workflow creates a new Markdown document at the root of Editorial’s local storage with a title and headers based on user input.

    This workflow, in its unaltered form, is probably useless to anyone but me. However it could easily be adapted to work with any blogging system that is powered by specifically formatted text files. This workflow is inspired by, and heavily influenced by Gabe Weatherhead’s Create New Time Stamped Files workflows. Here’s how it works:

    First the user is prompted to select from a list of post types. The selection is converted to lowercase and saved to a variable postType. Then the user is prompted for a post title, which is saved to the postTitle variable. Next comes a conditional block. If the postType variable is link the user is prompted for a linked-list URL. Of course this is also saved to a variable. Finally the user is prompted to chose a post status from a list, which is converted to lower case and saved to the postStatus variable.

    Next a Python script is run.

    #coding: utf-8
    import workflow
    import editor
    import datetime
    #gather variables
    post_title = workflow.get_variable('postTitle')
    post_type = workflow.get_variable('postType')
    post_eurl = workflow.get_variable('eurl')
    post_status = workflow.get_variable('postStatus')
    #generate filename
    file_name = datetime.datetime.now().strftime('%Y-%m-%d')+'-'+post_title.lower().replace(' ','-')+'.md'
    #generate post title and date
    post_title_case = post_title.title()
    post_date = datetime.datetime.now().strftime('%Y-%m-%d %H:%M')
    #generate post metadata
    if post_type == 'link':
        post_header = 'Title: '+post_title_case+'\nAuthor: The Angry Drunk\nDate: '+post_date+'\nPostType: '+post_type+'\neurl: '+post_eurl+'\nStatus: '+post_status+'\n\n\n'
        post_header = 'Title: '+post_title_case+'\nAuthor: The Angry Drunk\nDate: '+post_date+'\nPostType: '+post_type+'\nStatus: '+post_status+'\n\n\n'
    #generate a file with the generated file name and content
    #return the filename to the workflow.

    The script begins by importing the workflow, editor, and datetime python modules. workflow and editor contain functionality for integration with Editorial workflows and the editor itself. datetime is self-explanatory.

    The script then gathers the variables from the workflow via workflow.get_variable() and assigns them to internal variables. Then the script takes the post title, appends the current date, replaces all spaces with dashes and adds “.md” to the end. This code doesn’t check that the resulting filename is valid on a given OS but it will do for most simple titles.

    Next the script uses the post title and today’s date to generate the Post Title and Post Date fields used in my Pelican setup. At this point an if/else block generates the header text, including an external link if the post type is “link”.

    Then the script uses the editor.set_file_contents() statement to create a file at the root of the local storage1 with the specified filename and contents. The file name is also exported to the output of the action for the next step in the workflow.

    Finally, the workflow opens the file that was just created. I enabled the “pause” setting on this action because without it, the workflow often was trying to open the file before it was completely created. The pause setting avoids that issue.

    1. I could write the file directly to Dropbox storage, but that precludes the workflow from functioning while offline.