1. Good On You Macgasm

    July 17, 2013

    Joshua Schnell at Macgasm has announced that they will no longer be covering Apple rumors.

    …I can’t really stomach writing the same story year after year. You can pretty much take an entire years worth of iPhone rumors, and rewrite them again the following year by changing iPhone 5 to iPhone 6. I’m not even joking, it happens a lot.

    This is welcome news. The entire Apple product rumor ecosystem is a toxic cesspool that hasn’t generated anything other than page-views in years and it’s high time that “respectable” Apple news outlets stopped pandering to it. Hopefully more sites will follow this example so we can return to those heady days when people writing about Apple put some actual effort into it instead of acting as stenographers for Digitimes.

  2. WWDC 2013: Can’t Innovate My Ass

    June 24, 2013

    One of the more dramatic reveals during the 2013 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWC) Keynote presentation was the unveiling of the newly designed Mac Pro. To review some history: the Mac Pro, in its current incarnation, is a workstation-class desktop computer initially released in August 2006. The latest revision to the Mac Pro line was released in June 2012. In terms of the Macintosh product line, the Mac Pro traces its linage directly back to the Macintosh II.1 While the specifics of this type of computer have necessarily evolved over the years, there are a few key items that have always been considered essential to the definition:

    • Desktop” or “Workstation” class CPU
    • The ability to install large amounts of RAM
    • Fast and plentiful options for external connectivity
    • Available options for added internal storage
    • Available options for internal expansion via slots.
    • Connectivity for external displays

    For people of a certain vintage—myself included—this is the very definition of a “computer”. It’s also a definition that Apple has turned on its head.

    Of the points listed above, I’d argue that there are really only three that are unique to the Mac Pro among the Apple product line. Those would be the high-end CPU and the internal storage and expansion slots. Every other Apple computer2, from the lowliest MacBook Air to the 27 inch iMac share the other points to a greater or lesser extent. It is interesting, then, that Apple has deleted two of those “Mac Pro only” features from the new Mac Pro: specifically the ability to add additional internal storage and expansion cards.

    I’d argue that Apple has taken this route because they have the ability, possibly unique among major PC vendors, to ask what is the actual job a product is intended to do.

    I’d like to take a brief aside to point out that I’m not necessarily arguing that Apple is making the right choices with the Mac Pro. The Mac Pro has yet to be released to the market, and will succeed or fail on its merits. What I want to focus on is the culture within Apple that allows the experiment to even be performed.

    I think it’s safe to say that, when faced with the task of producing a next-generation workstation computer, any other computer manufacturer in the market today would have taken a familiar path. Slap in the latest Intel processor, give it a shit-ton of internal RAM slots, HD expansion bays and PCIe slots, bolt on a few of the current industry standard expansion ports (as well as a full complement of every port used in the last fifteen years—who knows, someone may want to use their $5000 workstation with a PS/2 mouse and a VGA monitor) and call it a day.

    What Apple has done with the Mac Pro is go back to the drawing board and ask, what does a “workstation” do, and how can it best get that job done.

    As I wrote above, the current generation of Mac Pro, along with the Dell workstation I used as an example, trace their design linage back to the dawn of personal computing. Things have changed vastly since then. Now, instead of “massive storage” meaning a shit-ton of spinning disks crammed into the chassis, professionals are using Storage Area Networks (SANs) and Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems. Instead of “expansion” meaning a motherboard the size of a pizza box to accommodate an array of expansion slots, “expansion” is being handled by fast busses such as Thunderbolt 2. Instead of performance being solely determined by the clock-speed of the CPU, high-end computing applications often utilize parallelization to leverage massively parallel GPUs.

    Apple obviously looked at those trends and engineered a product to leverage the new realities of computing. Will the Mac Pro succeed? Only time and the market will tell. What the very existence of the new Mac Pro tells us is that Apple is not done looking at products and questioning the assumptions behind them—and that is what real innovation is.

    1. Of course, outside of the Macintosh product line the lineage continues even farther back. 

    2. I’m explicity excusing iOS devices here, so don’t start with me. 

  3. App.net Invitations

    June 19, 2013

    The good people at App.net have graciously provided me a link so that readers here can sign up for the services’ free tier.

    For those who don’t know. App.net is an open service that provides a backbone for developers to build amazingly cool services and applications. Some of the sorts of things people are building on App.net include file-sharing and storage, location check-ins, group messaging and, of course, Twitter-like social netorking. The Free tier allows you to follow up to 40 people, gives you 500 MB of App.Net storage and allows you to upload files 10 MB or less. Free accounts can be upgraded to full accounts for $36 a year or $5 a month.

    I’m finding myself posting more to App.net every day, so if you want to keep the angry drunkenness flowing, give App.net a try.

    Click here to sign up for App.net

  4. WWDC 2013: Apple’s Signature

    June 17, 2013

    A week ago today Tim Cook and other Apple executives delivered the Keynote address to the 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). You can read extensive coverage of the event at any number of tech blogs, but a quick list of the announcements includes OS X Mavericks, updated MacBook Airs, iWork for iCloud, iTunes Radio, a re-imagined Mac Pro, and iOS 7. Having had a week to digest the information it’s now time to reflect on what they mean for Apple. In future posts I’ll go into specific thoughts on the individual product announcements but for now I want to focus on the overall tone of the Keynote and the future of Apple.

    One comment that I’ve seen bandied about that I absolutely agree with is that last Monday’s event marks the first Apple event of the truly post-Steve Jobs era. It’s true that there have been several Apple announcements since Steve’s retirement and passing, but I really feel that this Keynote is the first one that was wholly conceived by an Apple under Tim Cook’s regime — and it was awesome.

    If there is one word that could be used to characterize the performances given by Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and Craig Federighi on stage it would have to be “relaxed”. Instead of the focused intensity of a Jobsian event we had executive cracking-wise about “green felt” and “innovation my ass”. This was a presentation delivered not by an authoritarian leader, but by a collaborative team. I’m heartened to see Tim Cook realize that his strengths are not Steve’s. Much has been made of the changes that Tim Cook has made in the last year to Apple’s product management structure. I think it’s obvious from Monday’s event that a Cookian structure of collaborators can work just as well, if not better, than a collection of independent fiefdoms.

    There was another thing Apple unveiled on Monday, not a product explicitly announced at the Keynote, but something that I think is crucial to understanding Apple and its corporate vision. It takes the form of a set of videos, one that was shown before the keynote and a television commercial that has been running in heavy rotation. You can view the videos on the page that Apple has created for them here. I believe that, together, these videos lay out Apple’s vision of the future. The text of the advertisement is as follows:

    This is it.
    This is what matters.
    The experience of a product.
    How it makes someone feel.
    When you start by imagining
    What that might be like,
    You step back.
    You think.

    Who will this help?
    Will it make life better?
    Does this deserve to exist?
    If you are busy making everything,
    How can you perfect anything?

    We don’t believe in coincidence.
    Or dumb luck.
    There are a thousand “no’s”
    For every “yes”.
    We spend a lot of time
    On a few great things.
    Until every idea we touch
    Enhances each life it touches.

    We’re engineers and artists.
    Craftsmen and inventors.
    We sign our work.
    You may rarely look at it.
    But you’ll always feel it.
    This is our signature.
    And it means everything.

    Designed by Apple in California.

    I can sense already the response from the more cynical in the audience: “overblown bullshit” and “hippy claptrap” but I think this perfectly captures the spirit of Apple. It addresses the constant calls from the Wall Street analysts and ADHD-addled gadget bloggers for Apple to move into every possible market and sector. It explains why Apple’s executive team takes such umbrage at shoddy knock-offs. More than anything, though, I think it lays out, in as explicitly a way as is possible, the “vision” foolish writers claimed Tim Cook failed to articulate in his D11 appearance:

    We spend a lot of time
    On a few great things.
    Until every idea we touch
    Enhances each life it touches.

    In my opinion this has been, from the return of Steve Jobs at least, the singular goal of Apple. Not to make all the moneys, not to dominate markets, not to impress bloggers but simply to make products that enhance our lives.

    I know that the neo-Luddites and hipster cynics will scoff at that statement. My response to them is simply “fuck you”. With the iPhone a large number of people now carry in their pockets a device with more computing power than the vast majority of humanity has ever experienced. A device that puts the sum total of human knowledge and culture at, literally, our fingertips. A device that enables communication and collaboration across the world.

    I look at my mother, 71 years old, who has never used a computer in her life. She now uses her iPad habitually to access information. The iPad has empowered her more than any single device created in the last fifty years, and it has done that job so seamlessly that she barely even notices.

    This is Steve Jobs’ vision, it’s Tim Cook’s vision, it’s Apple’s vision and the signature is their promise to keep trying to live up to that vision.

  5. The Real Problem with iOS Concept Videos

    May 14, 2013

    My pal Harry C. Marks writing for Macgasm recently wrote an interesting post examining the way design nerds are missing the point of iOS concept videos titled This Week in “Nerds Ruin Everything”: iOS Concepts.

    It’s a well written post that cuts to the core of why designers produce things like operating system concept videos and product mock-ups:

    These designs, regardless of how realistic they may be when compared with Apple’s design guidelines, are less about expectations and more about building résumés. To waste pixels and time deconstructing how un-Apple like they are misses the point entirely.

    Harry’s dead right that the point of concept videos and product mock-ups is not to predict the future direction that Apple, or any company, might take their products. It’s to show what the designers themselves are capable of. Anyone judging the video or mock-up itself is missing the point in the worst way possible.

    On the other hand, there is one group using these concept videos and mockup who absolutely need to be called on their bullshit. That is the gadget blogs who use these proposals as more grist for the shitty-rumor-pageviews-mill. Cases in point:

    Let’s start with this shitty article from the Huffington Post UK, iOS 7 Concept Video: Is This The Future Of The iPhone? (VIDEO). I don’t know Huffington Post, could some random video that you cribbed from TUAW be the “future” of the iPhone. Wait, I do know, and the answer is fuck you.

    The next example in out shit-parade comes from Tom’s Hardware (The Authority on Tech) who feels that Concept Video iOS 7 Hints at Possibilties. This turd features a staple of the current crop of shitty commentary about Apple interfaces, the retarded slam at Scott Forstall:

    With the recent departure of Scott Forstall (former Senior VP of iOS Software Dev), Apple have subsequently replaced him with Jony Ive. With this change in management many people are hoping to see some major changes in the UI of iOS. Previous versions of Apple’s mobile operation system have all had their ups and downs, but with a consistent cry from the public to change the notifications system and user interface.

    Yeah, that dick Forstall. I mean what did he ever do for Apple1. I have a wake-up call for the author of this crap: “People” aren’t hoping for major changes. “The public” isn’t crying out for changes to the user interface. The only people clamoring for those things are change-obsessed gadget geeks—and they aren’t people.

    Moving on, TUAW takes hyperbole up another notch with iOS 7 concept video shows intriguing possibilities. Ooooh, I’m intrigued. Wait, no I’m not. What’s the opposite of “intrigued”, “outrigued? Is that a word? Fuck you, it is now.

    The Next Web likes itself some overblown language with the headline A stunning concept of what Apple’s iOS 7 could (and perhaps should) be like [Video]. This particular piece is based on the Simply Zesty concept that Harry writes about in his article. Now, I grant you that the video itself is a decent enough bit of work (bearing in mind its true purpose) but the design proposed shows a complete lack of understanding of Apple and Apple’s design aesthetic. That’s fine when you’re showing a design as an example of your skills. It’s completely fucking unacceptable when you are a major tech blog proposing that this design is something that Apple (perhaps) should adopt.

    I could go on — seriously I have another 5 tabs open in my browser right now with similar bullshit — but there’s really no need to. This is the problem with design concept videos. It’s not that they exist. They exist for good reasons and, when viewed in that context, can be useful. It’s when the shit-bags in the gadget press use them as yet another arrow in their quiver of rumor-mongering bullshit that they become annoying.

    1. Well, other than bring the iPhone from a concept to the most dominate smartphone is history. But other than that he was useless. 

  6. Announcing Recipes

    May 13, 2013

    One of the non-tech things that I like writing about most on this site is cooking. Amusingly enough, the most frequently viewed posts on the site have consistently been my various recipe posts. Given that, I’ve decided to collect my recipes into a centralized location. There is now a new item in the site’s menu that leads to a list of my recipes. These aren’t anything special, just some things I’ve had work out well for me.


  7. Nerds Ruin Everything

    May 08, 2013

    It pains me to write this post. Not just because people I know and generally respect are going to see themselves reflected in the statements I’m about to make and will inevitably take offence at them — but also because merely broaching some of the topics I’m discussing here will trigger the very behavior I’m complaining about just as surely as saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror or mentioning Mike Daisey on Twitter will summon them from the depths of Hades. Nonetheless, the time for silence is over.

    Nerds ruin everything.

    There, I said it: nerds ruin everything. From science fiction, to technology, to food, to personal grooming — once the nerds arrive in force, things go to shit.

    What I’m talking about here is a very specific characteristic of nerdhood: the compulsion to not only over-analyse and pick apart any aspect of human existence to the point that there isn’t a single iota of joy left in the thing but to righteously and arrogantly proclaim that their personal preference vis-à-vis that topic is the one and only correct opinion.

    Case in point, and the final example that drove me to the keyboard: Recently on App.net there was a “debate” — running for at least two days — over fucking peanut butter. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t welcome a robust discussion about nut butters. I actually quite enjoy people sharing their opinions about things. Often during such discussions I’ll learn about something that I never knew about — this is a good thing. What isn’t so good is the inevitable declaration from some nerd that their preference is the only valid one, and everyone else is an uneducated Philistine. One could argue that the App.net discussion was all in good fun — and for some parts of it I’d agree with you. Unfortunately the nerd obsession with holding the One True Opinon™ comes through in many of the responses.

    Sadly this shit isn’t limited to App.net nut butter debates. It permeates the very fabric of online discussion.

    I don’t think regular readers of mine will have any problem recognizing this behavior in discussions about technology. CLI vs. GUI, Mac vs. PC, iPhone vs. Android, Google vs. Apple. This shit happens so often in the tech world that my Angry Mac Bastards cohorts and I coined a word to describe the mindset: Highlanderism. It’s rarely enough for a technology, product, or company to merely do well. It must utterly dominate any and all competitors. Similarly, the average technology nerd is all but incapable of accepting that someone might make a different choice than them. Apple users are “fanbois” who only care about looks and don’t use their tech for “real” applications. Android users are “freetards” who just want something cheap and can’t appreciate the divine products that sprung, Athena-like, from Steve Jobs’ forehead et cetera, et fucking cetera.

    In my experience, though, the absolute worst offenders when it comes to this shit are food nerds, or “foodies” as they are sometimes called. Take this Serious Eats article about making the “best” grilled cheese sandwich. Now bear in mind we’re talking about grilled fucking cheese here. Any definition of “best” will be highly subjective but that’s not what I want to point out here. What I want to highlight is the utter fucktardery of some of the comments. Take this gem from commentor JRWStormy:

    This is why, regardless of the fact that I love a lot of what goes on here, I’ll never take Serious Eats, um, seriously. You can’t call yourself a food blog, and a “serious” food blog at that, when you’re such fanboys of “pasteurized processed cheese food.” It comes up all the time at A Hamburger Today, and now there’s a Food Lab post (by a Beard Award nominee, no less) advocating for the use of fake “cheese.” If the government requires them to put the word “food” on the label so you’ll know it’s food, it’s not food.

    Oh Lordy! How could these heathens recommend “fake cheese”. Ignoring the fact that processed cheese, while possibly not up to one’s delicately honed foodie tastes, is by no means “fake” the original article—in the next fucking paragraph—goes on to recommend Gruyère, Compté, Fontina, Taleggio, Brie, or any young cheddar. But no, a cheese that doesn’t live up to some random twat on the internet’s refined tastes was mentioned…HEATHENS!!

    I could go on. It would be trivial to find uncounted examples of this shit in forums, blog posts, and social media discussions by the thousands; but what’s the point. I despair of changing this behavior, but I’ll try with this advice:

    Nerds, you who feel so passionately about the trivial shit that most of the world gives no fuck about, hear me. Understand that other people may hold different opinions than you without it reflecting on your choices. Understand that people’s preferences are shaped by many factors. If someone prefers cheap supermarket peanut butter (laden with “bad stuff” though it may be) or chooses to make a sandwich with Kraft Singles that does not make them a horrible person. Maybe they like the taste of Jif because it calls to mind the simpler times of childhood when the very last thing on their mind was the ingredients list on their PB&J. Maybe they like a good old grilled Kraft Single sandwich because it reminds them of the lunches their now-departed father made them as a kid. Who fucking knows, and more importantly it ain’t yours to fucking judge.

  8. Using Forecast.io With GeekTool

    April 15, 2013

    Lately I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to honing my coding and scripting skills. The problem, for me, has always been that I have a very difficult time focusing on learning a language or toolset without a specific application to motivate me. To that end I decided recently that I would very much like to use Forecast.io’s public API to drive my GeekTool weather display.

    For those who don’t know Forecast.io offers a public API with pretty generous terms for this sort of usage. Basically you get 1000 free API calls a day. That’s more than enough to update the weather every two minutes or so.

    So, without further ado, here is my (extremely) quick and dirty Python script to pull down the local current weather conditions and display the summary and current temperature. I have GeekTool set to run this every 120 seconds. Fair warning, this script is amateur work to the point of silliness. I’m positive there are better ways to do pretty much all of it.

    #! /usr/bin/python
    # coding=utf-8
    import json
    import urllib
    output=strSummary+', '+strTemp+end

    There you go. Comments are welcome, but dickishness will be met with extreme violence.

  9. Dropbox as a Content Repository

    April 04, 2013

    In my previous post regarding the technical changes that I made when rebooting the blog here I mentioned that the one aspect of the new setup that I considered to be novel enough to merit a separate post was using Dropbox as a universal content repository to allow me to administer the site from anywhere with Dropbox access. This is that post.

    First some background. When I initially began to scope out switching The Angry Drunk to a static blogging engine, one of my hard criteria was the ability to author content and manage posting from my home Mac, my work PC, my iPad, and even my iPhone. The nice thing about most static engines is that they accommodate that requirement by avoiding control panels, web apps, and databases and simply working from a directory or directory of text files.

    My initial thought was that I would use some sort of file-transfer software, such as that built into Panic’s Diet Coda to handle the file transfer and use the ssh abilities of the app or Panic’s Prompt to handle the command line stuff. That system would have worked, but it would have been annoyingly clumsy.

    Fortunately, while reading the many useful articles that Gabe Weatherhead has written about his transition to Pelican I came across a link to a post detailing how to setup Dropbox on a remote host. I’ll forego going through the Dropbox installation and setup — as the post does a better job of that than I could. Of course, if anyone has any specific questions feel free to hit me up.

    One I had installed Dropbox I ran into my first issue. During the setup I naturally attached the server to my normal Dropbox account. About 30 seconds after hitting enter I realized what a mistake that was. The last thing I want is my entire Dropbox directory mirrored on the paltry two gigabytes I’m paying my hosting provider for. I quickly canceled the transfer, deleted the Dropbox directory and had myself a think.

    While it is possible to control what directories are synced to a particular host via Dropbox, configuring that on the command line was more effort than I was willing to put into this. What I ended up doing was signing up for a new Dropbox account that will be used solely for this site. I then deleted all the crap that Dropbox adds by default and created a single pelican directory there. I then shared that directory with my personal account so it now shows up in every place I have Dropbox.

    Inside the Dropbox-hosted pelican directory I placed all of Pelican’s support files as well as the content directory that Pelican looks for. The structure looks like this:

    |   |--pelicanconf.py
    |   |--pelicanconf-pub.py
    |   |--publish.sh
    |   |--annex
    |   |--blurbs
    |   |--extra
    |   |--images
    |   |--links
    |   |--pages
    |   |--post
    |   |--tools
    |   |--pelican.log

    The configuration directory contains Pelican’s configuration file(s) and a small shell script that manages rebuilding the site. The content directory contains the raw Markdown files that build the content.

    The content is segregated into directories based on the post type (posts, pages, blurbs, annex posts, and linked-list items). The images directory contains image and video files. The extra directory contains web-server support files such as .htaccess and robots.txt. The tools directory contains my mint and Fever° installations.

    The logs directory contains a logfile that I’ll explain in a bit.

    Lastly, the themes directory contains the templates and CSS that make up the site’s custom theme.

    Because this is all contained in my Dropbox directory, and because everything in here other than media assets is a plain-text file, I can edit these files, and thus the site, anywhere that I have a text editor and Dropbox.

    The final bit of this whole system, and the part that I’m somewhat proud of is the publish.sh file and the two Pelican configuration files. The reason there are two configuration files is that one has content and output paths that make sense on my local iMac, while the other has paths that make sense on the web server. I have a publish.sh script on my iMac that calls the first local-config file while the server-side script calls the remote-config file. This way I can build the site to my local machine for testing, or the remote host for publishing —using the same content and theme files— by choosing which script to run.

    For reference, here is what publish.sh looks like:

    echo "begin sitebuild - publish" >> /home/dlines13/pelican/logs/pelican.log
    date >> /home/dlines13/pelican/logs/pelican.log
    /usr/local/bin/pelican /home/dlines13/pelican/content -s /home/dlines13/pelican/configuration/pelicanconf-pub.py >> /home/dlines13/pelican/logs/pelican.log 2>&1
    date >> /home/dlines13/pelican/logs/pelican.log
    echo "end sitebuild - publish" >> /home/dlines13/pelican/logs/pelican.log

    Going through the script line by line the script writes a header to the pelican.log file, writes the date and time to the log file, runs Pelican calling the “publish” configuration file and writing any messages to the log file, writes the date to the log and finally writes a footer to the log.

    In addition to manually running publish.sh my web server also has a cron job to run the script every 30 minutes.

    So my workflow goes like this:

    1. Write a post in whatever text editor is at hand
    2. Save it to the appropriate folder in Dropbox
    3. SSH into my host and run publish.sh or
    4. At a minimum wait up to 30 minutes for the cron job to run the script.

    There you go.