jarrodwhaley.com

I make films. I'm also a nerd.

Posts in technology:

Tweet Like A Nerd

Are you a nerd? Want to tweet from the command line? Try Luka Pušić’s bash script. Works on Linux and OS X.

Here’s An Idea:

A Chrome extension which lets you read:

OR:

  • view anything at all on the most incompetently built Web site ever, Dumbshit Central;

…and then sets your computer on fire, just after displaying a pop-up message which reads:

KILL YOURSELF. QUICKLY.

Samsung Is Hilarious

Allow me to belatedly (and perhaps superfluously) make a quick comment on this whole Apple vs. Samsung rigamarole: Ha ha ha, hahahahaha. Ha. Ha! Ha.

But on a serious note: How can anyone find it acceptable that Apple spent five years pouring brainpower and money into inventing a thing that every single human wants, and Samsung said, “yeah, that looks like it’ll kill our phone business, let’s shit out a cheap copy ASAP and then act all righteous about having shat a sub-par simulacrum.” Come off it. Which do you turds hate more: Apple, reason, or quality gadgetry?

OS X System Service – Converts Markdown Files To HTML Files

I needed a way to batch-convert a bunch of Markdown files to corresponding HTML files, so I wrote this simple OS X system service which does just that. I thought it might be helpful to others, so here you go. Happy nerding.

Note: This service presupposes that you have Fletcher Penney’s Multimarkdown installed in usr/local/bin. Edit the path in Automator if necessary.

Download:

FoldingText Is Badass

I admit when I first heard about FoldingText (via Brett Terpstra, I believe), I had no idea why it might be something I’d want to use. On the surface it’s a Markdown editor with foldable headers, but underneath it’s a lot more than that. You can easily drop to-do lists and timers into your document using plain-text only–in other words, you type “todo.timer” on one line, hit return, type “write for 15 minutes,” and bingo, you have a timer.

It’s still in beta, but I recommend it anyway. It’s probably the best, most efficient productivity app I’ve ever tried. If you use a Mac and find it useful to organize your work, go grab FoldingText.

You Have To Love Linux

Imagine an error message like this one in the context of any other operating system. It’s folksy, overtly helpful, exquisitely verbose…this is what happens when real people write error messages, without being filtered through committees and Corporate Bullshit Machines.

WARNING your program is becoming multi-threaded, but you are using an ObjectiveC runtime library which does not have a thread-safe implementation of the +initialize method. This means that any classes not already used may be incorrectly initialised, potentially causing strange behaviors and crashes.
To put this into context, the runtime bug has been knoown for several years and only rarely causes problems … the easy workaround being to ensure that any classes used by a new thread have already been used in the main thread before the new thread starts.
If you are worried, please build/run GNUstep with a runtime which supports the +initialize method. The GNUstep stable runtime (libobjc) and experimental runtime (libobjc2), available from the GNUstep website and subversion repository, should both work.
To disable this warning (eg. for an application which does not suffer any problems caused by this runtime bug), please set the GSSilenceInitializeWarning user default to YES.

Progress Vs. Regression, Redux

Last week, when the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display was unveiled, the old debate over whether users want “hackable” hardware or not was reignited. I’ve previously added my initial comments to the discussion, but the talk continues–and some fairly dumb things are being said by otherwise smart people. I think the dumbness could stand to be pointed out, because it only diminishes whatever valid arguments they make.

It all started when Kyle Wiens of iFixit published an opinion piece on Wired.com in which he lamented the steady progression away from easily-upgradable Apple hardware. His primary points of contention: this new MacBook Pro follows the MacBook Air’s lead with soldered-in RAM chips, features a battery which is glued to the aluminum case, and is sold with a display which is fused directly to the front glass. These design decisions make for a smaller enclosure, but they also make it very difficult to replace any of the computer’s components. One’s only choice is to have the machine serviced by Apple itself–and if you end up wanting more RAM, for example, you have no options at all. You’d better pay for the extra RAM when you buy the laptop, because even Apple won’t add it for you later.

On the other side of the debate are the Apple-centric bloggers. Here’s Peter Cohen, for example, taking the people-want-simplicity argument to a completely comical extreme:

Clearly many consumers are happy with the tradeoff, which makes for easier use from a wider swath of people who don’t want to be concerned with the myriad fussy intricacies of computer use. It’s not Apple’s fault that the vast majority of consumers who want iPads don’t give a damn about hacking it. Apple’s simply responding to a market need.

He’s right that people don’t want to have to tweak and twiddle with their computer all of the time, of course, and if he’d simply leave his argument right there, I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. However, when he claims that making things user-replaceable makes life hard for the non-geeks, he loses me. Take an iMac, for example. It’s possible that there has never been a computer with more easily upgraded RAM. There is a little door held in place with three standard Phillips screws. Beneath it are the RAM slots. That’s it. How, Peter, is that accessibility negatively affecting an average user’s experience with an iMac? How many iMac users even know that door is there? OK, you might (or might not) be able to argue that this sort of concession to the nerds drives up the price–but you can’t claim that it makes the computer worse for anyone. This same principle can applied to the MacBook Pro: if you don’t want to crack it open, don’t crack it open.

Don’t get me started on batteries. No market has ever cried out for non-replaceable batteries. Can you imagine Joe Consumer complaining that it’s too easy to buy a new battery? It’s absurd. And perversely, maybe no one has benefited from the glued-in battery trend more than iFixit!

The real point to be made here is that the industry is moving this way whether the geeks like it or not. It would be foolish to believe anything to the contrary. But is making that point such a big deal that we’re willing to claim that nobody would ever want to change a battery? Isn’t this sort of blindness just giving the Apple-haters a little ammunition? Won’t they just (rightfully!) point out how flawed your logic is?

It’s Actually a Full-Size, Professional Violin

Don’t get me wrong–I like John Gruber. I think his opinions are pretty spot-on almost all of the time. I’m not sure that’s the case, however, with his takedown of iFixit’s complaints about the non-upgradability of the new Macbook Pro with Retina Display:

Do you hear it? That’s the world’s tiniest violin, playing a sad song for the third-party repair and upgrade industry. And that violin was made by Apple and can’t be disassembled.

His point about this being Apple’s prerogative is taken; I agree with him there. But this isn’t just about third-party repairs. Lots of us want to be able to futz with our own hardware. A nerd like me ought to be able to add RAM to his “pro” computer, at the very least. A fixed, non-upgradable computer makes sense for a consumer-targeted product, but I’m not sure it makes quite as much sense for a “pro” model. I really don’t think this is a particularly whiny complaint.

In-N-Out Gets It

People like In-N-Out Burger. A lot. They like it because the food is good–better than the food at similar drive-through restaurants. It’s better because the ingredients are fresh; the meat is never frozen, and they cut the potatoes for the french fries right before dropping them in the oil. But the food is also better because they keep their menu simple. You can get a hamburger, cheeseburger, french fries, a milk shake, or a soda. And that’s all you can get (yeah, there are those “secret” variations, but they’re just twists on existing things, and not products per se). They don’t feel an insane urge to add some disgusting monstrosity to their menu every week. No, the menu has stayed exactly the same since the first store opened in 1948. That is an important point: they only do a few things, so they do those things well.

They care about their product more than they care about graphs and focus groups and mined social-media data. That means the product is objectively better than those of the competition. And they do very well. Their fans are rabid.

This is how you do really well in business–or in art, or in life, or in anything. Focus on a narrow range of things, and do them really, really well. Put your emphasis on the product itself, not the sales thereof. If you make a good product, people will want it. It’s an idea that been around for a very long time, and yet almost everybody gets it wrong.

But there are a few companies who get it.

WISD Updates Nocs; Go Get It

Nocs, an incredible text editor for iOS, has submitted an update to the App Store, currently pending approval. No word yet on what new functionality might be included, but that info would seem shortly to be forthcoming.

Nocs is the best (and geekiest) way to write text on an iPad or an iPhone, in my humble opinion. Full support for Markdown (including HTML export, easy previewing, custom CSS, etc.), full Dropbox integration (including a real file browser), and local file storage / organization. I fully recommend it for any sort of writing, whatsoever. I even wrote this post with it. Get it here.

Note: It’s a free app. They do a $65 “sale price” thing on June 4, the proceeds of which are donated to “democratic movement groups” in commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which ended unpleasantly on this date in that year. The app will be free again on Tuesday.