technology

dafuq does RSS even mean, seriously

Source: How would I improve RSS? Three ideas (Interconnected)

We rely heavily on RSS to find things to read and keep up with The Noise on the Internet. We also tend to shun newsletters cos RSS is a much better tool for them and en’t nobody got time for yet more email.

We’re aware of other initiatives like JSON Feed but they require re-implementing RSS into something else. Maybe the solution is an evolution of what the protocol currently is?

Start with a proper name for the protocol though. Bonus points if someone figures it out how to make it recursive.

And a special version of Flash for games only?

Are we ready to revisit some of the ideas of the early web again? There are trends that suggest we might just have come full circle – and I like it.

Source: The Return of the 90s Web | Max Böck

The only sites that won’t have an RSS feed are those of corporate entities that explicitly depend on keeping people on their sites, like fb.

Hopefully some enterprising engineer at google has found the Google Reader source code and are bringing it back to life…

Tie yourself together

Over and over again, I’ve seen people fix some wireless-related problem and go “wow, I had no idea how much better this could be!” • Wireless protocols often silently operate in an extremely degraded state that makes them substantially worse than wired equivalents.

Source: Wireless is a trap | benkuhn.net

I live in an apartment building that is located within the city core of my city. When I scan for WiFi networks I can see at least 25 from my main workstation. On my laptop, standing in the middle of the front courtyard, you can see at least 40 networks. Mind you, this is only WiFi networks; I’m not including everything else that might be using the 2.4 GHz spectrum, like Bluetooth or other kinds of wireless devices.

I switched to wired devices a long, long time ago precisely of unreliable connections, network lag, and the fact that WiFi optimization is more of an art than any sort of science, and that’s before you bring in newer WiFi versions. I just recently rewired my apartment to have Ethernet all over and be able to throw around 4K media with abandon.

Now if only the USB Implementers Forum would get its shit together, that’d be awesome

Biking is THE fucking best

Bikes may still look roughly the same, but looks can be deceiving.

Source: How bicycles have changed in the last 25 years | Ars Technica

Linking to this as I look at my Trek 2018 FX2 I bought after my trusty Gary Fisher was stolen from my apartment building’s basement; by the looks of it one of the tenants is a motherfucking thief as signs have gone up about parts and bikes being stolen.

Oh right, back to the subject at hand… I remember bikes 25 years ago looked very different from what they look like now. Wondering what bikes are going to look 25 years from now.

Code isn’t racist… or so you would think

I researched white supremacist groups and visited the same sites that my husband frequented. After a month of clicking on platforms that ranged from The Drudge Report to The Daily Stormer and reading about the alleged takeover of Illuminati Elite, my computer turned into a Nazi.

Up until then I hadn’t realized that my computer, like me, was ethnically Jewish. The ads that normally filtered through my Facebook feed were preoccupied with celebrity gossip, yarn sales and timely reminders from Chabad.org advising me to pre-order kosher lamb legs for Pesach.

Source: I Married A White Supremacist – Eugene Weekly

This is what constant optimization in the name of marketing does to computing systems. A never ending echo chamber that will happily keep feeding you the same things over and over as they cannot tell what is “wrong” or “right” or “uncouth” or “proper”. They can only do as they’re told.

Then there is the fact there is software that is inherently racist, misogynist and discriminating in all sorts of ways.

When you pay attention to what you type on

At work I use a Thinkpad w510. It’s one of those big slabs of computing that brings you joy to use. It has ye olde scissor switch keyboard that everyone knows and loves. I hear the new chiclet style keyboard is decent… but just that, decent. This keyboard is the real deal, behold:

Thinkpad W510 Keyboard

There’s only one problem. The machine has a Nvidia Quadro FX 880M. This is a really damn nice GPU to have on a laptop and I’m thankful for it. The problem is it runs hot, uncomfortably so for the workloads that I throw at it. This means I ended up having to use an external keyboard to avoid having my left hand run a full 10° higher than the rest of my body. I ended up with this, a regular Apple iMac keyboard:

Apple iMac Keyboard

Since I’m using it on Windows I have to deal with Apples outright disregard for its hardware users on platforms that are not macOS. Now, with this said, I’ve been looking for years for a PC keyboard that has the same key feel as the stuff Apple makes plus a few things:

  • Volume control buttons.
  • Media control buttons.
  • Full set of home keys and numeric keyboard. None of that weird ultra-minimalist keyboards that make you regret using a computer.
  • A full set of F-keys
  • Macro keys would be nice to have
  • Have it be wired. Wireless sucks and it’s insecure. If it must be wireless then give people the option to use an USB cable instead.
  • USB hub.

At home I use a Corsair Gaming K55 RGB keyboard. It’s got all the goodies I outlined above minus the USB hub but it does have backlighting:

Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard

It’s a nice piece of kit. Not that loud since it uses regular plastic switches as opposed to mechanical, but you can still feel a nice clack when the keys bottom out.

So basically what I want is a flat keyboard like Apple makes but with a bunch of extra keys. Got some benefits for it:

  • Wired means you don’t have to worry about battery life.
  • Flat means you can pack it in a bag with a minimum of fuss.
  • The minimalist look will make people lose their shit.
  • The keys will still feel really nice on long typing sessions.
  • They won’t hear you typing at the coffeehouse across the street.

I’ve been looking for something like this for years, and no manufacturer has stepped up to the plate. They’re all trying to chase the look Apple has but they come up severely lacking when it comes to the functionality. This would be a keyboard for people who are not afraid of buttons on their devices— say, DIP switches on the back to emulate various settings, like the CODE keyboards do. If some Chinese upstart were to start making a device like this and not load it up with a secret keylogger it would probably do pretty well for itself.

But what do I know. After all I’m only looked at as a kitchen hand these days.

Let’s give it a shot

Many times over the years we’ve heard Windows users say they wish that third-party apps could update with Windows Update; that’s more or less what the Windows Store offers.

Source: Even if you hate the idea, Windows users should want Windows 10 S to succeed | Ars Technica

I’d be willing to give it a shot. I’ve seen others bitch about these things but the reality is that trying to keep apps updated on their own is a total pain in the ass, requiring the perennial use of batch scripts, or things more recent like ninite.com. I love ninite.com but its functionality is something that should not be needed at all.

Hell, even Linux has the equivalent of an app store. It’s just call a package manager. If Microsoft enabled a powershell interface the the Windows Store then it’s going to be really damn useful for sysadmins.

In the future-now, TV watches you

Vizio recently updated its privacy policy to say it has begun providing data about customers’ viewing habits to companies that “may combine this information with other information about devices associated with that IP address.” The company does not promise to encrypt IP addresses before sharing them.

Source: Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s Watching You – ProPublica

Yet another reason to have your television just be a dumb screen that pushes pixels at your eyes, and have the smart bits live elsewhere.

With other devices (Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, etc, Chromecast, etc) you at least know they’re trying to get that information but you can opt-out of most things.

DNA/Dongly Things

Now why is this? Well, there’s one possible theory, which is that just as Xerox is really in the business of selling toner cartridges, Sony is really in the little dongly power-supply business.

Source: DNA/Dongly Things

USB 3.0 Type C cables for everything.

Technological skill vs. Ego

The Phone Dragnet That Caught the World’s Top Drug Lord – Slashdot.
Anatomy of an Apprehension: The Three Keys to Catching El Chapo Guzman.

The first thing that popped into my mind was that most people purporting to be narcos will always use top of the line phones, usually iPhones. As cool as these things are, they are remarkably easy to poke full of holes if you’ve got the right toolset, just like governments do. That’s even before the arrest of a narco leads to government having physical possession of the device, and as we all know once someone has that, all bets are off.

It is specifically mentioned they were using satellite phones, all the more to avoid monitoring by Mexican carriers who deny any kind of monitoring takes place, but is widely rumored to be happening on a national scope. These phones are made for durability and reliability, not security, so the extraction of data was probably even easier.

The narco adoration of bling (their version of it) with expensive electronics (phones, computers, televisions, cars) is proving to be costing them victories, specially because most of the time they simply don’t know how how to use them.

Most of these people did not get any form of higher education. If they did, they did not learn how to use the technologies available to them properly. If they do know how to use it, they will usually stick to the most basic form of usage, as they do not care to learn more. Advanced functions like encryption would simply be done away with due to usage complexity.

Any sort of advanced usage would necessarily lead to the need of having a proper IT support staff, even if it’s just the one guy who fixes cartel computers. Having precisely such a thing would be completely out of the question, as then someone would have far more knowledge about a cartel’s operations than even the top boss does.

Another, more important factor, is ego. These people see themselves as guys who get stuff done, who want to be where the action is. To be left behind in a support role on a permanent basis is, put simply, inconceivable to them. Internal cartel divisions have started precisely because of this.

Hopefully now that el Chapo is back in custody, things will calm down… although it is very unlikely. One can only hope for the best.

ignore the code: Crappy Computers

So the sentiment that «entry-level» computers are good enough for casual users is exactly backwards: casual users are the ones that need high-end computers, while proficient users are the ones who can work around the limitations of low-end computers.

ignore the code: Crappy Computers. via Daring Fireball.

The man puts into words something I’ve attempted to explain, unsuccessfully, to anyone who asks me for recommendations regarding computers.

The question usually goes “What computer should I buy?”. When I answer they should buy a MacBook, they say I’m an idiot for suggesting they buy something that expensive. Then I tell them to buy a Thinkpad, and they think it’s ugly. Then they go out and get a cheap Dell, them come to me complaining it’s slow.

I’ll just give this argument, and hope the person is intelligent enough to catch the argument.

Agreed.A “gadgets off” policy means you will be paying attention to your surroundings. This means you will respond to them. Should there be an emergency, you may faintly remember the indications from the people working on the plane.When you don’t pay attention, you become the douchebag who doesn’t want to move because he’s too busy playing Angry Birds Space on an iPad. You become the idiot who is playing music so loudly through the headphones that everybody hears it.Having devices turned on through a flight offers people yet another chance to become assholes that get in other people’s way.

Opinion: Shutting down your gadgets at takeoff and landing: not such a bad idea

Of snobbish shops

Even though I wrote this a few days ago, I got pissed off again when I was translating this.

Two weeks ago I decided to get a new battery for my third-get iPod since the battery gave out a long time ago. This would be the second time I change it and judging by this situation, the last before I buy a more recent model of iPod.

The first time I changed it was after I found this place called D’Newton. This store prides itself in being the only authorized distributor of Apple products in the whole northwest of the country. This was as long as you could actually get to it, given they moved from Zona Río to Plaza Mundo Divertido and didn’t update the store’s website. The only way you could find out about their new location was by a simple sheet of paper taped to the door of their old location. When I went to their new location they had the right battery in existence so I bought it there and then. Changed the battery without too much problem and that was that for a long while.

This time around I went to the store and they didn’t have the battery in existence… but it could be ordered. I paid the required amount and was told they would have the battery next week. That next week I was told they still didn’t have it… but they would have it next week.

On Friday I called them up and was told all their providers had the wrong type of battery in stock and would have to wait at least another week. I was also told they had gotten a third-gen iPod for repairs and could sell me that iPod’s battery at a reduced cost and reimburse me the difference in cash.

So I went to the store… and was unpleasantly surprised when told they did have the new battery in stock but I would have to leave my iPod in for the night. I explained to the guy in charge I was told an iPod had been turned in for repairs and I was offered its battery at a reduced price.

This guy once again told me I would have to leave my iPod for the night because the technician had ‘lots of work” and it wouldn’t be ready right then. This is where I got annoyed… changing an iPod’s battery doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes and doesn’t require any parts to be soldered. And I’m not taking into account that they would have charged me for having the technician change the battery.

By now I’m showing my annoyance. I asked if they had the battery available so I could take it home with me. The clerk went to the technician and came back with the battery. He gave it to me along with my reimbursement and went home.

I get home, take my iPod apart… and turns out the damn battery isn’t the correct one. It’s too wide and won’t fit in the designated space inside the iPod.

The old battery is narrower and even leaves some empty space.

Here you can see how both batteries compare to each other, with the ‘new’ battery on top of the current battery.

The old battery on top of the new battery

Truth be told, I’m extremely disappointed with the level of service this store has given me. I’ll go later in the week to see what can be done about this; hopefully this mistake will be corrected without too many issues.

If anyone from Apple reads this, please take care who gets the privilege of being an “Authorized Distributor.” People who try to screw you at every turn, stores that close on Sundays — the only free day for many — and companies who believe themselves a government agency (or AT&T, Verizon) by giving you the runaround don’t really deserve the title.

I’ve gotten better service out in a street stall. Those guys will even tell you where they are on a determined day to keep you as a customer. You don’t want to walk the streets following the guy? At the nearest tianguis surely there is a stall that can help you get what you want.

De tiendas creídas

Escribo esto bastante molesto.

Hace quince días decidí comprar una batería nueva para mi iPod de tercera generación, dado que la batería ya había caducado hace mucho tiempo. Esta seria la segunda ocasión que se la cambio y a juzgar de esta situación, la ultima antes de que compre un iPod de manufactura mas reciente.

La primera vez que la cambie fue después de dar con la tienda D’Newton. Este lugar se jacta de ser el único distribuidor autorizado Apple en todo el noroeste del país, siempre y cuando hayas dado con el lugar, dado que en aquel entonces se habían mudado de Zona Río a Plaza Mundo Divertido y no habían actualizado su pagina web. Solo te enterabas por una misera hoja de papel pegada en la puerta del local en Zona Río. Al ir a su nuevo local tenían la batería adecuada en existencia y aproveche para comprarla. La cambie sin mayor problema y así duro durante un buen rato.

En esta ocasión fui a la tienda y resulta que no tienen la batería en existencia… pero la podían ordenar. Pague la cantidad requerida por adelantado y me dijeron que la tendrían para la siguiente semana. A la siguiente semana me dijeron que no había llegado el pedido… y que la tendrían a la siguiente semana.

Hoy viernes marque por teléfono y me dijeron que todos los proveedores tenían la batería equivocada y que tendría que esperar mínimo otra semana mas. También me dijeron que les había llegado un iPod tercera generación para reparación… y podían darme la batería usada de ese iPod a un costo reducido y reembolsarme la diferencia en efectivo.

Fui a la tienda… y menuda sorpresa me llevo cuando me dicen que tienen la batería nueva pero que tengo que dejar mi iPod para que se la cambien. Le explique a esa persona que tenían un iPod para reparación y me habían ofrecido la batería de ese iPod a un costo reducido.

La persona me dijo que tendría que dejar mi iPod hasta el dia siguiente por que el técnico tenia “mucho trabajo” y no estaría listo en ese momento. Es aquí donde comenzó mi molestia … reemplazar la batería de un iPod no toma mas de 10 minutos y no requiere soldar partes ni nada por el estilo. Eso sin tomar en cuenta que el cambio de batería realizado por el técnico tiene un costo adicional.

Ya molesto pregunte si tenían la batería para que me la llevara. La persona fue con el técnico y salio con la batería. Me la dio junto con mi reembolso y salí a casa.

Llego a casa, desarmo mi iPod… y resulta que la maldita batería que me dieron no es la correcta. Es muy ancha y no cabe en el espacio designado para la batería.

La batería anterior es mas angosta y hasta sobra un poco de espacio.

Aqui se pueden comparar ambas baterías, con la pila actual encima de la pila ‘nueva’

The old battery on top of the new battery

Francamente estoy muy decepcionado con el nivel de servicio que esta empresa me ha dado. Mañana iré a ver que se puede hacer al respecto; ojala y corrijan su error sin demasiados contratiempos.

Si alguien de Apple lee esto, por favor fíjense a quienes le otorgan el privilegio de ser ‘Distribuidores Autorizados’. Gente que te trata de fregar cada que puede, tiendas que cierran en domingo — el único día libre de muchos — y empresas que se creen agencia gubernamental realmente no se merecen ese titulo.

Me han dado mejor servicio en los puestos de un sobreruedas. Hasta te dicen en donde se ponen en determinado dia, con tal de conservarte como cliente. No quieres andar siguiendo al vendedor? En el tianguis mas cercano seguro hay un puesto que te puede ayudar.

Del otro lado del rango celular

Estos dos están muy, muy lejos de las grandes pantallas multi-tacto tan adoradas por el jet-set digerati, quienes se están cagando los pantalones cada hora de una manera bastante olorosa.

Nokia 1100
Imagen tomada de la pagina de producto oficial de Nokia

Motorola C200
Imagen tomada de la pagina de producto oficial de Motorola

Aunque ya son son fabricados, mucha gente aquí en México jura por ellos. Yo personalmente se que son capaces de resistir la batalla diaria. Cuando el armazón ya esta muy rayado, es simple ponerles uno nuevo. Las únicas instancias que los he visto fallar es cuando el usuario quiere su destrucción, pero contra eso no hay mucho que un diseñador industrial puede hacer.

Aunque estén bloqueados en la red de algún proveedor resulta mas barato comprar otro de algún otro proveedor que desbloquear el que ya tienes. Por lo regular son vendidos con minutos pre-pagados, así que no te arriesgas al iPocalipsis o forzados a activar el aparato en algún lado.

También para considerarse es su uso mientras viajas. Deja tu celular caro en casa y consigue uno de estos — o una variante — cuando llegues a tu destino. Evitaras pagar roamin y otros problemillas técnicos — tu sabes de cuales estoy hablando — además de tener un numero local con el cual la gente puede contactarte sin pagar larga distancia. Esto funciona bastante bien si cambias mucho entre locaciones. Si lo pierdes o te lo roban no te va a doler mucho. Puede que sea útil desbloquear uno de estos en caso de que si viajes mucho.

Aquí esta por ellos y sus sucesores.

At the other end of the cellphone spectrum

These two are far, far away from the big multi-touch screens so adored by the digerati jet-set, who are crapping their pants hourly in a very odorous way:

Nokia 1100
Image taken from the Nokia official product page

Motorola C200
Image taken from the Motorola official product page

Even though they’re not made anymore, lots of people here in Mexico swear by them. I personally know they’re able to resist most daily carnage. When the shell becomes too scratched, it’s simple to change it over to a new one. The only instances I’ve seen them fail is when the user actually wants their destruction, but against that there isn’t much an industrial designer can do.

Even if they’re GSM locked in to their providers, it’s actually cheaper to buy a new one with another provider than to unlock your existing one. Since they’re usually sold with pre-paid minutes, you don’t risk the iPocalypse or forced to activate the device somewhere.

Also to be considered is their use while traveling. Leave your expensive phone at home, get one of these — or its variants — when arriving at your destination. You’ll avoid roaming charges and other hi-tech hijinks — you know the ones I’m talking about — and you’ll have a local number people can reach you at without paying long distance. This specially works great if you go back and forth between locations. Plus if you lose it or it gets stolen you won’t hurt for it. It might be worth it to have one of these unlocked if you do travel a lot though.

So here’s to them and their successors.