Descent to Parody

[But] what started as a Steve Jobs TED talk has become a parody — a decadent pageant of Palo Alto executives, clothed in their finest Dad Casual, reading ad copy as lead-ins for vaguely sexual jump-cut videos of brushed aluminum under nightclub lighting. The events are exhausting love letters to consumerism complete with rounds of applause from the laptop-lit faces of the tech blogging audience when executives mention that you (yes you!) can hold the future in your hands for just $24.95 per month or $599 with trade-in.
The entire event is at odds with our current moment — one in which inequality, economic precarity and populist frustration have infiltrated our politics and reshaped our relationships with once-adored tech companies. But it’s not just the tech backlash. When the world feels increasingly volatile and fragile, it feels a little obscene to gather to worship a $1,000 phone. Serving journalists pastries topped with gold leaf doesn’t do much to help either.

Charlie Warzel: The Last Apple Keynote (Let’s Hope)

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.

playbackIRate

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