Who Needs QA When You Have Oprah and Spielberg!

Apple needs to get off their goddamned pedestal, stop hosting self-congratulatory Lady Gaga concerts, and fix their fucking QA process, years-old bugs, and keyboards.

Tyler Hall: Losing Faith

My mother installed a macOS update to find that the system would no longer mount one of her external drives. It’s a common model from a major vendor. She has taught herself a lot about her Mac over the last couple years, but she certainly didn’t know to use Disk Utility to force it to mount and she shouldn’t have to. Apple’s software quality is in decline and they just don’t seem to care. They seem much more interested in establishing the company as a techno-rentier rather than continuing as one that offers a simple proposition: you pay a premium for well-integrated software and hardware that mostly just works.


A table comparing the range of playback rates that you can set on HTML video and audio elements using JavaScript. Guess which browser was a real pain to deal with on a recent project?

Supported playbackRate in Browsers
OS Browser Minimum Maximum Source Code Link
macOS v10.14.4 Chrome v74 0.0625 16.0 Chromium source code
macOS v10.14.4 Firefox v66 0.0625 16.0 Firefox source code
macOS v10.14.4 Safari v12.1 0.0625 2.0 I looked, but could not find where it’s defined in the WebKit source code. Maybe it’s in the closed Safari code?

Modern hardware can play video smoothly at even very high rates. I guess Apple doesn’t think there are use cases for playing back video beyond double speed. Furthermore, their own documentation about the ability to specify playbackRate on iOS is inaccurate. As with desktop Safari, you can set it to the same maximum of 2.0, at least as of iOS 12.

Smartphone Absorption

The moment I realized I needed to break up with my phone came just over two years ago. I had recently had a baby and was feeding her in a darkened room as she cuddled on my lap. It was an intimate, tender moment — except for one detail. She was gazing at me … and I was on eBay, scrolling through listings for Victorian-era doorknobs.

Catherine Price: How to Break Up With Your Phone

Planet Strawberry

Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism.

Ted Chiang: Silicon Valley Is Turning Into Its Own Worst Fear

Consequences of Free Speech

“The tech companies should stop censoring users that they politically disagree with or governments should regulate them as public utilities,” Torba’s spokesman Utsav Sanduja said. Last year, Sanduja and Torba founded Gab.ai, an alternative social network for free speech advocates. “Imagine if a private corporation owned all the highways and they decided to close them down whenever they feel like it — that is what it’s like. You cannot deny people a fundamental staple of the Internet.”

The Washington Post: In Silicon Valley, the right sounds a surprising battle cry: Regulate tech giants

It’s more like you claiming that you should be able to take the public highway (the Internet) to a privately owned restaurant, where you spew racist and misogynist bile, and the restaurant staff and other patrons just have to accept your presence and cannot kick you out.

The article goes on to conflate the liberal preference for legally enforced net neutrality (anyone can drive on the highway, but the restaurants along the way can make their own rules) with the desire of these morons to legally prevent private social, payment, and infrastructure networks from kicking people off for using their platforms to espouse hate (the above scenario).

The most hilarious outcome of all this would be if conservatives finally decided to abandon their preference for not using federal government power to break up monopolies, all because some Neo-Nazis got kicked off twitter.

Solving Important Problems

…when I look at what the tech industry is spending its energy on, I see them working on helping rich people find taxis more easily, selling ads more effectively, or building sexting apps. It bothers me that I might be stuck in an ivory tower, solving abstract computing technology problems that enable the tech industry to make money off silly products for the 1%, rather than solving important problems for people that need help.

William Chan: Back to SF After the U.S. Digital Service

Everyone needs an agent!

Imagine an intelligent software agent that can analyze your music library, using song ratings and volume (# of songs/albums, not dB) to determine your musical tastes (genres, artists, composers). Your agent could then monitor when favorite artists will be performing in your area (pulling ZIP information from your address book), or when a favorite composer’s work will be performed by a local ensemble, optionally checking for conflicts using your calendar.

After confirming that you are indeed interested in attending an event, the agent would then create a tentative calendar event with details like online ticketing address, location (which could link to driving directions/maps, optionally transferred to your car via a wireless connection), and the names of anyone you have invited to this event.

Eventually, an intelligent entertainment agent could notify you of movies, plays, and gallery/museum showings as well as musical events. The needed movie data could be gathered from several sources:

  • Personal Video Recorders: Tivo, MythTV, ReplayTV, etc.
  • Netflix queues
  • Rental records from major renters: Blockbuster, Hollywood Video.
  • Intelligent DVD players (currently [as far as I know] a figment of my imagination): connect to IMDB, allow you to store ratings.

The best source would be that which allows for the most meta-data; probably P/DVRs, which can store information downloaded from online guides such as the IMDB and/or manually input. Aside from Netflix, I don’t know if there are APIs for accessing rental store records.

The agent would analyze actors, directors, genre, year, view count, and personal ratings to determine your cinematic tastes (or lack thereof :-). If you have highly rated all of Cameron Crowe’s films and seen them several times, the agent would know that you may be interested in his upcoming film.

Theater performances and visual arts exhibitions are more difficult – where do you enter your “ratings” for these events? Weblogs are one potential repository for this sort of information – write an entry about a play or exhibit you saw and assign it an out-of-five star rating. Categorization and keywords could also serve as organizational metrics to be used by your personal entertainment agent.

Current problems:
  • City guide sites (AOL Digital City, Citysearch) provide event information, but I don’t think they have open APIs for non-browser user agents. Also, personally bookmarked pages could serve as sites for your agent to check – this would require the below…
  • Scheduling information for events is generally not available in a standardized format. I believe the iCal standard (possibly the reformulation in XML) could serve as such.

I imagine this fits under the rubric of the “Semantic Web,” in which intelligent software uses networked data sources and personal information to perform tasks for you.