I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Archive for 2013:

Finally! Rein In Loud TV Commercials With Terk VR1

You’re watching TV. The show you’re watching is at a comfortable volume. And then a commercial for some kind of facial “serum” bullshit comes across the airwaves1, and it’s so loud that you instantly lose control of your bladder. Surely the above scenario is familiar enough to any American, despite the fact that Congress supposedly did something to put an end to these shenanigans. It’s funny…the activities of Congress are usually so efficacious.

I’ve been looking for a solution to this problem for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those highly irritating things that heighten your blood pressure, and shorten both your life and the life of your TV2. Recently I decided I’d had enough, and I began researching hacky ways to take care of the problem myself. It turns out that there exists a simple $20 product called the Terk V13 that, when connected to your television, will balance out all audio and pipe it back out at a consistent volume. It sounds too good to be true, but it actually works.

You just pipe your audio through it using RCA cables, turn it on, and…that’s it. When you set the volume on your television, every sound will stay at that volume until you turn it up or down again. I haven’t touched the volume control on my TV for over a week—previously, I practically had to tape the remote to my hand.

I highly recommended that you buy one.

  1. Or through your cable, or over your WiFi signal, or whatever… 
  2. Wouldn’t you just love to fire a shotgun at that serum commercial, Elvis Presley style? 
  3. That’s an affiliate link. 

German Doofs Conclude That Popcorn-Munching Nullifies Advertising

Philip Oltermann for The Guardian:

Eating popcorn in the cinema may be irritating not just for fellow movie goers, but for advertisers: a group of researchers from Cologne University has concluded that chewing makes us immune to film advertising.

The reason why adverts manage to imprint brand names on our brains is that our lips and the tongue automatically simulate the pronunciation of a new name when we first hear it. Every time we re-encounter the name, our mouth subconsciously practises its pronunciation.

I enjoy the conclusion, but I find the premise behind it to be highly risible. I don’t believe for a second that thousands of people are subconsciously mouthing “Pepsi” right now—and even if they were, I think it’s pretty bleedingly obvious that advertising succeeds or fails on the strength of its rhetoric.

Woman Knifes Roommate Over Being Forced To Hear The Eagles

Tara McGinley at Dangerous Minds:

I’m not one to condone violence, but… I kinda get this.

Oh, I totally get this. Die, Boomer Music, die.

Wondering Why TextExpander Touch Needs To Access Your Reminders?

This has been a real head-scratcher for me over the past week as apps have been updating in advance of tomorrow's iOS 7 launch—why would TextExpander need permission to access my Reminders? Smile's blog explains that there's a very good reason:

When you update to iOS 7, you may find that TextExpander doesn't work in some apps which did work on iOS 6. Due to a change in iOS 7, those apps no longer have access to shared snippets. We have communicated with developers whose apps support TextExpander, and we've provided them an updated SDK with a new way to share snippet data.

In short, Apple has decided to break the way your snippets used to be shared between apps. Smile's solution is to store the data in your Reminders—because they're accessible even in the highly sandboxed environment of iOS. In a way, it's sad that developers have to figure out inelegant hacks like this one in order to provide basic functionality, but at the same time it does demonstrate the ingenuity of the developer community.

I wonder how many users will be refusing to give the app Reminders permissions and then writing support emails to Smile, complaining that the app doesn't work. What an (unavoidable) support nightmare.

The NSA Database Is Nothing Compared To This

Scott Shane and Colin Moynihan for The New York Times:

For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

Some of these records are 26 years old, predating by far even the dubious statues which supposedly justify this sort of intrusion. First it's terrorists. Then it's drug dealers. What next? Political dissidents? Political or social or racial minorities?

We're getting snared in a giant fascistic trap, and most of the population is clapping and shouting “Woo!”

Mandatory Blood Draws In Tennessee This Weekend

The Inquisitr:

Holidays are the only excuse most Americans need to get some alcohol in their system and party it up. This is all well and good, but the Tennessee police are demanding that you not drive in those cases. As faulty as breathalysers can be, they’re upping the ante, at least in Tennessee. Drunk or not, if you pass a DUI checkpoint this Labor Day in Tennessee and they suspect you’re impaired in any way, prepare to face the needle.

In this (and in other) piece(s), the cited reaction from John Q. Public is more or less: “I think this is good, because people die from drunks and stuff, so please flush all of my human rights down the shitter.”

America is dead.

Editorial Workflow: Cut the Current Line

I often find, while reading my notes, that I need to make a small change here or there—or else that I need to move a to-do item into an archive section, or to remove an entire item in an unordered list…basically, I often need to remove an entire line from whatever document I'm looking at. As often as not, it's nice to have that line in my system clipboard, because a lot of times I need to paste it in somewhere else.

This sort of thing is easy on a Mac, but it's often a huge pain in the something-or-other on a mobile device; you have to hold a touch until a selection loupe pops up, you have to slide both ends of it into the desired places, you have to copy, you have to scroll, you have to paste…it's really not very fun, and it often leaves me wishing I were sitting at my Mac.

Since Ole Zorn's very excellent iOS text editor Editorial was released, I've been trying to find ways to reduce this sort of friction on my iPad. One such trick is this little workflow I cooked up: it selects the entire line on which the cursor currently sits, “cuts” it to the clipboard (meaning it is removed and also placed on the clipboard), and moves the cursor to the end of the preceding line. It's triggered by a quickly-typed text snippet: xxx. Place the cursor at the end of the line, type the shortcut, and zing–line gone and copied. It's a simple little thing, but it gets rid of a really common task which is a huge pain to complete on iOS.

Here's a little companion workflow which does something similar: it selects the current line and copies it to the clipboard, but does not remove the line. Also pretty useful, this workflow is triggered with the command ccc.

Zuckerberg Wants To Help Poor People (By Selling Them)

In case you haven't heard, Mark Zuckerberg has a plan to put millions of cell phones in the hands of poverty-stricken individuals in “developing”1 nations. It sounds great, right? How could there possibly be a catch?

Oh, wait, there is a catch. Access to the Internet would be limited to only a few “key services.” Guess which giant Web service Zuckerberg considers to be “key.”

Bloomberg draws the correct conclusion:

The uncharitable way of looking at Zuckerberg’s charitable endeavor, in other words, is to see it as an effort to permanently entangle Facebook in the lives of the next wave of Internet consumers, and to attract a public subsidy at the same time.

Since what Facebook sells is “eyeballs”2, in some ways Zuckerberg's approach here is not too different from that of a logging baron who seeks a federal subsidy and access to federal land–we've all heard stories like that one for decades. What's different here—the bit that really makes my stomach turn—is the bullshit pretense of philanthropy in Zuckerberg's approach.

  1. As a politically correct term, “developing” stinks, and is hardly better than “third world.” It presumes that poorer nations in Africa and South America are striving with all of their might to arrive at a future in which Venezeula's Got Talent is the height of culture. After all, that's where “development” has led us. 
  2. Ugh, I can't believe I just wrote that. I've been in the Valley too long. 

Federal Judge Rules California Can Force-Feed Protesting Prisoners

Don Thompson (writing for the Associated Press or for the Huffington Post, or for some weirdly incestuous amalgam of the two) writes:

U.S. military officials came under heavy criticism from human rights advocates when they snaked feeding tubes through the noses and into the stomachs of terror suspects who refused to eat.

California prison officials won a court order Monday saying they could force-feed dozens of inmates who have been on a hunger strike for six weeks over solitary confinement conditions.

We've already decided not to give a rat's ass about the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, so why continue giving a shit about the Eighth? We need to keep our prisoners strong, so they can manufacture things for the good of the Republic.

Let’s Make One The Size Of A Door

Dan Seifert of The Verge:

Samsung announced today that the Galaxy Mega 6.3, the company's biggest “phone” device to date, will be available in the US this month. The Mega 6.3 has a 6.3-inch, 720p display; 1.7GHz dual-core processor; 8-megapixel camera; and Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with Samsung's user interface.

You know an Android “phone” is absolutely, positively, stupid-o-riffically too damn big when even The Verge puts scare quotes around “phone.”