kites can't jive (May 2020)

May was all about catchy, guitar-drive tunes (and a band whose name you can’t say in polite company). Lot of local artists too: what better time to discover the artists around you than when you can’t go see any of them live?

I discovered some great acts. dave the band and Suss Cunts are both Australian and Molly Payton is from New Zealand. Close enough.

Here are my musical highlights for May.

Yoch! Bangers, Vol. 1 by dave the band. Catchy indie rock with an Aussie pub rock twist.

Temper – EP by Suss Cunts. “Vaxxer” is an anthem for the misinformation age.

Mess – EP by Molly Payton. Molly Payton is going to be a big deal.

Stranger Fruit by Zeal & Ardor. Combine old school blues and black metal but make it work. It took me four years to come around to Zeal & Ardor.

I Laughed, U Cried, We Swapped. by cbakl. Stylish instrumental hip-hop for when you want people to think you’re cooler than you really are.

I update the playlist as I stumble on music I like. Check it out.


Only monsters reply all

Lavender Baj, writing about the “shopping cart” theory, for Pedestrian:

Well as the theory goes, whether or not you return the shopping trolley determines what kind of person you are. Why? Well because there’s no real consequences to NOT returning the trolley, nobody really cares if you do or don’t and there’s no reward for doing the right thing. But that’s just the thing, we all know that putting back the trolley IS the right thing.

“A person who is unable to do this is no better than an animal, an absolute savage who can only be made to do what is right by threatening them with a law and the force that stands behind it” the post reads.

Related theory: the reply-all response.

I teach at an Australian university. This morning, I woke up to a nightmare in my email inbox. Someone (who later claimed they were “hacked”) sent a link to an email list. It has 4,600 people on it. How many people do you think hit “reply all” to say they want to be unsubscribed from this list? Too many. How many people do think then hit reply all to say “stop using reply all” with a few sanctimonious exclamation points. Again, too many.

Pressing “reply all” is the easy way out. In some situations, it’s good office politics. “Visibility” and all that. Defaulting to it requires no thought. And, in situations like this, it means you don’t need to do the work required to figure out who manages the list. (Someone was ID’d as the list manager, by the way. That person then had to hit reply all to tell everyone that they, in fact, don’t manage the list.)

And these people are moulding the minds of young Australians.

Reply all is the communications version of the shopping cart. Not pressing reply all requires thought, consideration, and a desire to not mindlessly gunk up 4,599 other inboxes. Pressing reply all is easy. It signals your wanton indifference to the lives of others. It’s an email hand grenade into the trenches of my already riddled attention span.

Put the shopping cart away. Don’t reply all unless you actually have to. Be a decent human being.


Bookwork Adventures is gone and there no words

John Walker, eulogising a classic:

There’s been a murder. And no one seems to have noticed. One of my favourite ever games, released during the peak of PopCap’s glory days, is simply gone. Not just no longer on sale, but seemingly erased from history, from the current timeline. Bookworm Adventures (and it’s sequel), the adorable word-spelling combat game, has been Shazammed right out of existence.

I spent hours playing Bookworm games. If I could get it on a platform, I did – iOS included – and give it a spin. It was relaxing: no time limits, no microtransactions. Just a little worm and some words.

The world is a little bit darker today.


Improv comedians are suffering because of COVID-19

Ryan Broderick in his great newsletter Garbage Day, writing about the plight of improv comedians (and a truly batshit meme):

This comes from my friend Billy. He dropped it into a group chat I’m in and said, “Ryan, can you please use your weirdo knowledge and explain this to me?” Apparently, a guy he knows from improv shared it on Facebook. Quick aside: It seems like improv comedians are being affected particularly hard by COVID-19. I heard about a disastrous Zoom call my friend was on recently where like 50 improv comedians all went one by one through the grid doing bits at each other. Truly grim stuff.

The ”this” in question? A drawing of Shrek and Fiona angrily watching doctors steal sauce from the knees of a anti-5G protester.

There’s a lot going on here.


John Gruber on the state of iPhone and Android CPU Performance

John Gruber with the shot:

But one gets the feeling that if these performance tables were turned, you’d hear a lot more about the relative benchmarks of Android vs. iOS devices from Android-focused websites than we do now. Because it’s not just that Apple’s new $400 iPhone SE offers faster performance than any Android phone money can buy, but that the two-and-a-half-year-old iPhone 8 has better single-threaded performance than any Android phone today — and the iPhone 8 was the phone Apple discontinued for the new $400 iPhone SE. Apple discontinued an iPhone that, if it were an Android phone, would be the fastest in single-threaded performance on the market today.

And on the flip side, what do you get for $400 in Androidtown? Amazon sells the Motorola Moto Z4 for $500. Let’s just spot the Android side $100. The Moto Z4’s single-threaded Geekbench 5 score is about 500. That falls short of an iPhone 6S, a phone from 2015.

And the chaser:

What makes our actual situation unprecedented in personal computing history isn’t that one company has maintained a decade-long CPU performance edge over the rest of the industry, but that that one company is keeping those chips exclusively for its own devices.


Mastering tech as an expression of power

Jess Hill, writing about power in her fantastic book on domestic abuse See what you made me do:

The capacity to show power and control is the standard by which men are measured: whether it’s their ability to master technology, run vast business empires, dominate discussion, rob a bank, or exhibit physical and emotional mastery. How and what they control doesn’t matter, so long as the create the impression of being in control.

And when this control is threatened, men lash out.

Amazing how one paragraph can say so much about the kinds of anger and abuse you can see in nerd communities. And why Silicon Valley loves stoic philosophy so much.


5 nit-picky changes I want to see in iOS 14

Some people have ideas that would push iOS forward. Make it a better, richer, more nuanced platform. Something that will enrich both your personal and professional lives.

Not me.

My grievances are smaller. Some would say more intimate. People may dismiss them as “petty”. To them I say “You lack the courage to sweat the stuff that, really, doesn’t matter.”

Here are my 5 nit-picky – nay, brave – changes I want to see in iOS 14.

Edit snooze time

Occasionally I want to snooze my alarm. But I want to snooze for a period other than 9 minutes. That’s what the iOS alarm snooze is set to – 9 minutes – and it can’t be changed.

And it’s set that way for arcane reasons: apparently it’s because of the hardware limitations of the first clocks with a a snooze function.

Surely we’ve transcended our love of the failures of yore? Apple certainly haven’t, in the software-clock department. Don’t keep sleeping on courageous change, Apple. Let us set our snooze time.

Preview wallpaper on both lock and home screens

You can have different wallpapers on your lock screen and your home screen. Mine are always different. But you can only preview a new wallpaper on your lock screen. A travesty.

Sometimes my choice for the home screen clashes with my app icons. That just won’t do. A preview would save me a lot of time.

This, however, is dangerously close to be a good idea.

Swap snooze and stop buttons for alarms

I want an alarm to get me out of bed when willpower won’t. And willpower never will. Right now, the iOS alarm is letting me down.

Design is about prioritisation. You make the things you want your audience to do more prominent. Apple wants you to stay in bed. When your alarm goes off, the snooze button is front and centre and brightly coloured. The stop button? Small and tiny and grey.

Apple wants you to snooze. Sure, it might be the more commonly used button. Sure, accidentally pressing the off button has more downside than accidentally pressing the snooze button. But Apple needs to take a stand for standing up in the morning.

Don’t indulge my stay-in-bed bullshit, Apple. Indulge my overly-opinionated-about-buttons bullshit. Swap the snooze and stop buttons.

Pick whether the time on lock screen is light or dark

iOS changes time and date on your lock screen would to black text if you have a light enough wallpaper

It’s inconsistent and weird.

If you have dark text and you preview a new wallpaper, you’ll see black text. But! If you then set that wallpaper and Apple doesn’t think it worth that dark text, it’ll revert to white. Even if you prefer it the other way.

I want to experience photos of my white cat being an absolute weirdo on my lock screen. I also want to see the time on my lock screen in a comfortable way.

Let me decide if I want to make the time on my lock screen black. Give me that option.

View time as analogue clock

I have a passion for making choices that make my life more difficult in a small, meaningless way. It’s usually for aesthetic reasons.

Thus: let me display the time as an analogue clock. Not on the lock screen. In the top left-hand corner of the phone when it’s unlocked.

Now, I admit, this would be noticeably less useful than a digital clock. I understand this. But, Apple, you let me view the time as an analogue clock in macOS’s menu bar.

It’s daft. It helps no-one. But I can do it. And I like the way it looks. Bring it to iOS. I make like noon and bring my hands together in prayer.