January 22, 2023

7 Things This Week, 2023-01-22

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.

1️⃣ I found this guide to writing image descriptions immensely helpful. I like to work within frameworks, so the Object-Action-Context idea gives me a structure to go off of. [🔗 Alex Chen // uxdesign.cc]

2️⃣ Scotty Jackson makes a great point about AI in this post. It reminds me of the Ted Lasso quote, Be curious, not judgmental.” [🔗 HeyScottyJ // heyscottyj.com]

3️⃣ The Climb on HBO Max is…interesting. It’s almost like watching a satire of rock climbing but knowing that it’s trying to be serious. I can’t fully recommend it, but I’m going to keep watching. [📺 The Climb // hbmomax.com]

4️⃣ Apple is playing a game that works with their newest TV+ ad. [📺 Call Me with Timothée Chalamet // youtube.com]

5️⃣ Matt Birchler had the most accurate headline about Twitter’s third-party API demise this past week. [🔗 Matt Birchler // birchtree.me]

6️⃣ The news that AmazonSmile is shutting down was a huge bummer to me, too. I’ve made a point to always use AmazonSmile because every little bit helps. The Verge had a great postmortem and an even better suggestion to Amazon on how it could have more transparently broken the news. [🔗 Barbara Kransoff // theverge.com]

7️⃣ 4 (The Pink Album) by Lukas Graham came out this week, and I love it. [🎵 Lukas Graham // album.link]

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7 Things

January 21, 2023

Sven’s Excellent Fediverse Explanation

The ever-helpful Sven Dahlstrand (@sod) on Micro.blog:

You know how email is this cool thing that mostly just works. You can have an @gmail.com address and send a message to someone with an @hey.com address and vice versa.

Someone else can run the email server on your behalf, or you can run one yourself in a closet from home. You can have one email address, two or five, or how many you want.

Also, you can use whatever client you want. Gmail’s web-based client, a fancy app on your phone, or a text-based one in a terminal. They might have different features and user experiences, but they all speak email.”

I think a lightbulb flashed on in many people’s minds from this reply. It’s hard to imagine a more cogent and accessible explanation of Mastodon/Fediverse/ActivtyPub than this. The usernames might look weird right now, but I think it’s something that will pass with time. I’m sure email addresses used to look silly when they were new, too.


January 20, 2023

Loving ‘More Space’ Mode on iPad

I gotta say, one of my favorite features to come out of iPadOS 16 this year has been the increased screen density that comes with the More Space’ option in Display Zoom. For years, I’ve longed to get the benefit of two full-sized apps side-by-side like you’ve always gotten with the 12.9-inch iPad. But I’ve never wanted to carry around that lunch tray of a tablet. So I suffered the inefficiencies of being limited to compact views when using two apps at a time and given too much jealous side-eye to those larger iPads with their gloriously unconstrained screens.

But no more! If you haven’t yet tried it out yet, fire up your iPad Air (5th gen or later) or 11-inch iPad Pro and head to Settings → Display & Brightness → Display Zoom and choose More Space’. Everything will scale down a little smaller, providing just enough room that you can use two apps in their 50% mode without them converting to a compact layout.

Screenshot of Drafts on the left with Safari on the right in the full-size layouts.
I find the full-size layouts most helpful when taking notes whiles browsing in apps like Safari. I can switch between notes and tabs all the extra clicks.

While text and UI elements are a bit smaller, I still find them completely usable. Certainly no smaller than on the iPad mini. Your mileage may vary based on your eyesight, but I think it’s the best way to use the roughly 11-inch iPads.

In fact, it’s almost like getting a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, but without the added bulk and weight. So, thanks, I guess, goes to Stage Manager, which brought about the necessity of this feature. The apps themselves needed to be able to scale down to show the rest of the Stage’s UI. So even though I’m not rocking Stage Manager day-to-day, I’m pleased it’s given me this treat.

Side-by-side comparison screenshots of the iPad screen with and without Display Zoom. One shows just text and a list of podcasts. The other shows text and sidebar, and the currently playing podcast and playlist episodes in the ‘more space’ version.
Just look at the difference!

January 18, 2023

Well Played, Apple

Whelp, they got me. Whereas yesterday there was none, today there exists a HomePod for the HomePod mini to be mini” to! Just yesterday, I wrote:

I got excited about that last-minute big HomePod rumor, but alas, no sign of a new big brother in the family.

I thought the Mac mini and MacBooks Pro announcement would be the only new products we saw from Apple for a while, but they’ve gone and done a double-hitter! Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a longer run of press release announcements like the that week back in March 2019, which was like a clearing of the decks before a full-on keynote later that month.

As it is, I got a shock of excitement when a buddy texted this morning, NEW HOMEPODS!!!!!” Like in the days of old, I rushed to apple.com to check out the newest goodies with all the thrill of Christmas morning. It was fun to be surprised by Apple once again.

As for the second-generation HomePod itself, there seem to be relatively few new whizz-bang features since the original (temperature and humidity sensor, S7 chip, Thread radio, and Ultra Wideband chip) — and a few regressions (fewer tweeters, fewer microphones). That being said, I’m still delighted that it exists. I haven’t had any of the failures that have plagued other first-generation HomePod owners, but if I did, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace it with the new one. The impeccable room-filling sound quality and convenience of Siri as a hands-free kitchen assistant have been firmly planted in our home. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to slot something else in its place if and when the original dies.

However, I did do a double-take at the new HomePod’s price: $299. That’s the same price that the original sold at when it departed for the big orchard in the sky. I would have bet that Apple would shy away from that high of a price, considering that they struggled to sell even the first batch they manufactured.

On the other hand, Adders, writing on their microblog, makes a good point about the price compared to another Apple audio product:

I just don’t understand why people think £250 for Airpods Pro - single user devices, with a lifespan of a few years - is fine, but £299 for a HomePod, a whole household device that will last half a decade or more, is not.

It remains to be seen — well, heard — if the new HomePod’s quality can stand confidently next to the original’s. But I remain hopeful! I do wish, though, that Apple had bitten the bullet and added a physical audio input. That way, if the software ever does crap out, its high-quality hardware could live on. So it goes.

January 17, 2023

A Few Thoughts on Today’s M2 Pro/Max Macs

Although for a while there, Apple seemed like the only company rallying against speeds and feeds”, they’ve really dived back into them. And even though we’re only a few chips into the Apple silicon translation, already my eyes glaze over and ears muffle up when they’re blazing through the stats of these, admittedly, incredibly chips.

Day-to-day, the only M2 chip improvement I’d be excited to have is more and faster unified memory. I see the This Website Is Using Significant Memory” message from Safari far too often on my RAM-maxed M1 Max mini.

I’m happy to see the Great Mismatched MagSafe Cable Debacle is over.

Mac mini now starts at $599! That’s a pleasant surprise. Although to be fair, I can’t remember what it started at yesterday. Probably $699.

The odd-numbered GPU cores in the M2 Pro are, well, a little odd. Probably due to binning.

Oh hey, the MacBooks Pro got proper HDMI 2.1 support — improved from HDMI 2.0 — which had been a notable miss on an otherwise stellar port lineup.

I got excited about that last-minute big HomePod rumor, but alas, no sign of a new big brother in the family.

I had also hoped that when the next Mac mini update materialized, it would bring with it the silver and black mini” version of the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. But I haven’t heard anything about that particular white (well, black, in this case) whale. And — checks apple.com/store — well, well, well…the plot thickens:

Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and Magic Keyboard listings on the online Apple Store
But…are they new?

So it looks like the Magic Keyboard (not that Magic Keyboard, this one) did get updated today. It’s got the New” badge and a mouthful of a name I don’t think it had before. The go-to keyboard that Apple wants you to buy is now officially known as the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID for Mac models with Apple silicon”. There is another version known simply as the Magic Keyboard” which lacks the Touch ID button and is compatible with all Macs — including Intel ones like the lone Mac Pro. Both still charge via Lightning rather than USB-C. And neither comes in that glorious silver frame with black keys. 🙁

I’ll just leave this here:

Release the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID in black/silver without the numeric pad, you cowards!

And finally, I was glad to see some new faces presenting the products today. And, as much as I like Johny Srouji in his lab, Tim Millet, as heard on Upgrade, did a great job introducing the new chips. I could see Tom moving up the chain into Johny’s position down the road.

All-in-all, we got some very welcome — if unsurprising — upgrades today.

January 16, 2023

Pew Pew

9to5Mac has a nice roundup of lesser-known effects that you can activate just by sending specific texts.

In what (I think) was a complete coincidence, I had a friend send me one of these this week.

Pew pew!


January 15, 2023

7 Things This Week, 2023-01-15

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.

1️⃣ I fucking started two. [🔗 Kev Quirk // startafuckingblog.com]

2️⃣ This is a raw, heart-wrenching, yet uplifting story from Alena Smith about going through, well, a lot in the hope of birthing and raising kids and not dying. All while writing and directing the excellent Dickinson. [🔗 Alena Smith // nytimes.com]

3️⃣ It Seems super unfair that truckers don’t get overtime pay (they’re typically paid by the mile), so things like delays, cargo loading, and inspections are all basically free labor. [🔗 David Zipper // theverge.com]

4️⃣ It makes total sense to me that what is essentially a sophisticated predictive text program nailed so many of the correct” responses to these prompts. But it’s still pretty wild. [🔗 JONAS DEGRAVE // engraved.blog]

5️⃣ Scruff the dog picked up over a thousand water bottles last year. The Good News Podcast has the details in a tight three minutes. [🔊 thegoodnewspodcast.fm]

6️⃣ Jacob Collier is officially on my shortlist of performers I want to see live. The guy is supremely talented. Just watch this short of him building a loop with like half a dozen instruments in just 60 seconds. [📺 Jacob Collier // youtube.com]

7️⃣ I will never unsee the use of Papyrus in the Avatar logo. And now you won’t either. [📺 Saturday Night Live // youtube.com] (Via Jason Kottke)

Take a Chance

Thanks for reading 7 Things. If you enjoyed these links or have something neat to share, please let me know.

7 Things

January 15, 2023

‘The Shit Show’

Craig Hockenberry of The Iconfactory (creator of Twitterrific), on the demise of the the Twitter API for third-party clients and what comes next:

One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone is going to great lengths to make something that replaces the clients we’ve known for years. That’s an excellent goal that eases a transition in the short-term, but ignores how a new open standard(ActivityPub) can be leveraged in new and different ways.

Federation exposes a lot of different data sources that you’d want to follow. Not all of these sources will be Mastodon instances: you may want to stay up-to-date with someone’s Micro.blog, or maybe another person’s Tumblr, or someone else’s photo feed. There are many apps and servers for you to choose from.

It feels like the time is right for a truly universal timeline. That notion excites me like the first time I posted XML status to an endpoint.

I feel that excitement too. That’s why I’m all in on Micro.blog for my social media, pared with this, my very own old-school blog and website.


January 10, 2023

Fuck It, We’re Doing Four Stars

What’s the best system to rate media or products? Grades from F to A? Stars from one to five? A simple thumbs up?

Online catalogs like Goodreads and Letterboxd stand behind their five star standards. Amazon and eBay give percent ratings out of 100. Netflix takes thumbs up and down and converts them to a percentage as well. But faced with adding ratings for books I’ve read to my own short reviews on Micro.blog, I’ve waffled.

At first, I just shifted over my out-of-five book ratings from Goodreads. But too many were the cowardly three stars. Did I like it or not? Even I didn’t know! And don’t get me started on how you can do half-stars, which essentially make them out of ten instead. Too many choices! I briefly courted with ratings out three. Bad/okay/good seemed like it should be enough for anyone. But I quickly saw how any odd numbered rating system has the same fatal flaw: it allows you to sit on the fence between good and bad, deflecting an actual decision.

And so, as you might have guessed from the title, I’ve landed on four-star ratings. Poor/okay/good/great, as it were. Or oof/eh/ooh/wow. Four stars forces a definitive decision, and leaves just enough room for nuance — unlike thumbs up/down. Three stars communicates a positive recommendation and four that it was stand-out, while two or one says that it can probably be skipped or was notably bad.

I should have realized that Matt Bircher had already landed on the correct format. ★★★★

January 8, 2023

7 Things (That Are Random Books on My To-Read List) This Week, 2023-01-08

A weekly list of interesting things I found on the internet, posted on Sundays. Sometimes themed, often not.

1️⃣ Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer [🔗 goodreads.com]

2️⃣ Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown [🔗 goodreads.com]

3️⃣ Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson [🔗 goodreads.com]

4️⃣ Black Wings Beating (Skybound, #1) by Alex London [🔗 goodreads.com]

5️⃣ Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp [🔗 goodreads.com]

6️⃣ The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss [🔗 goodreads.com]

7️⃣ Rabbits by Terry Miles [🔗 goodreads.com]

Take a Chance

Thanks for reading 7 Things. If you enjoyed these links or have something neat to share, please let me know.

7 Things