Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Editing" Hardware


Yesterday I found myself "modding" one of my 12-yr old son's Nerf guns. One of his buddies had done it, and now he wanted to. We grabbed a bunch of tools/gear and sat down to hack away. I've built physical things from the ground up plenty of times. Following instruction manuals, or not, to constitute some sort of hardware (models (custom and pre-defined), PCs, bikes, skateboards, furniture, etc...), but I'd never really "mod'ed" anything.

My boy was using the word in a way we didn't as kids. It was weird. We sat there pressing play/pause/rewinding some other kids' YouTube video on how to modify this particular model gun to do some new cool things. The mods were really all about removing limitations put in place by the manufacturer for undoubted liability reasons. It was a ton of fun!

And they my son said something that broke my brain a little. He picked up one of the foam Nerf darts and postulated out loud: "I wonder if we can edit this dart." I'd only ever used that word in the context of code or content. I'd never even heard it used in the context of something physical. He sat there pivoting the foam in his hand, looking at it; wondering. Wondering how he could tweak this physical thing and "edit" it to do something else.

He's growing up in a world of 3D printers and prolific "mod" instructional tutorials online. He's starting to think about the physical world the way I thought about software.

Such a trip.

What's next?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Where Did The Journalism Go?

With Circa dead, I lost what I considered my last shot at reasonable "news" consumption. I'm aware Circa was "editors" and not "journalists," but they did a decent job editing stuff together and letting me walk down categories of content I wanted, instead of being spoon-fed crap by media outlets. Circa dying was a big blow for me.

Anyway, I've asked this before, but now I have to again, what are folks doing for their "daily" news content consumption?

Twitter's decent for "real-time," but it can feel like an echo-chamber, and I can't find a website that isn't ad driven and using near child-labor to produce what they call "content." Really long-form stuff I think I have covered (Foreign Affairs... Economist... Atlantic, Sunday NYT), but short/mid-length stuff, and daily stuff feels like a void. Digg's daily email rollup is kinda cool, but falling into link-bait status quickly. Brain Pickings has been great, but not "frequent" enough. I get into satirical stuff like John Oliver and Louis C.K., but I have to temper that stuff as I quickly get depressed over how awful the world seems to be.

I guess Flipboard "cover stories" and other of their magazines/sections are serving me pretty well these days too. A friend thinks Flipboard will rule the world in the coming years, and I think they're right. Yea, Flipboard's probably my go-to these days, but I'm wondering if there's a consistent and reliable source for daily content produced by actual journalists (people who have dedicated their lives to non-biased (as much as possible) to understanding and reporting news. Anyone???

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Canon 5Dsr First Impressions

1/8000' exposure, f1.8, ISO 100, 50mm
I've been using the new Canon 5Dsr for a few days now. I'm quite certain it'll replace my 6D, but I want more time with it to be sure.

The Good
  • 50 megapixels; 8,688 x 5,792 resolution. Great for landscape shots and stuff you want to print big or view in really high res.
  • Mirror lock-out support to minimize/eliminate camera shake. This is awesome for landscape shots.
  • Better bracketing support.
The Bad
  • Canon thought it'd be cute to drop the on-board GPS and WiFi capabilities that the 6D had. I used both of those features all the time. I'm not about to add-on an off-board GPS device (clutter), and I'm trying the Eyefi card for WiFi capability. The card and camera support in-menu enable/disable of the wifi radio on the card, so you can control it as to not deflate battery time of the camera battery.
  • It's really big.
  • It's really heavy.

50Mp?!?!

If I didn't do large format printing of pics, I wouldn't have bothered buying this camera. 50Mp is just huge and you really feel it when transferring pics (using native SD card slots and of course via WiFi) and importing them into your app (e.g. Lightroom). The files are massive, and rendering software really has to work to do its thing w/ the files. That said, I do print things in large format, and I'm super excited to be able to effectively double my capabilities there.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Google Inbox: I Tried

I was in the first wave of Google Inbox users when they started leaking it out into the world. I can't remember when that was, but I've been using Inbox exclusively now for at least a few months. I'm done using it now and am moving back to mail.google.com and native Google gmail apps.

Let me start by saying that of the three application protocols (HTTP, SMTP, IMAP) in the world that actually matter, two of them are email related (the latter two). The lowest common denominator implementations of said email protocols are the only impls that matter, and the same goes for email clients (web or otherwise) implementations. Google knows this, and so I thought they'd get it right with Inbox. However, the vi shortcuts that gmail has leveraged for nearly a decade now, don't work in Inbox. I thought I could get along without them, but, I can't. I can only assume the hardcore email client engineers on the mail teams in Google are revolting against Inbox's high-level email abstraction UI metaphors, and therefore the shortcuts aren't being prioritized in Inbox. I suspect they eventually will (it's just not that hard to build them in), but until then, I'm back on gmail proper clients.

Inbox got a lot of things right.

Inbox got some key things really wrong.
  • Search results presentation. Trying to guess which results are most relevant for me, and presenting those first, has long been a broken approach. Don't do it. Give me chronological results. I know how your search algorithms work... let me drive from there.
  • Search operators. I spent years mastering these, don't take them away from me. You're a search company first and foremost, don't forget that.
  • select/copy. Selecting text in an email and copying it doesn't work on iOS.
  • And the biggie... keyboard shortcuts. Few if any of them work.
  • GUI state refresh. Going in/out of the iOS app causes full GUI state refresh causing me to have to reload searches and find scroll positions again. That's a bug.
For a general email user, I suspect Inbox is pretty sweet. As a power email user that uses the keyboard a _ton_, it's not so good. Let me know when the above list is fixed and I'd happily give Inbox another try; in general I like the new UI.