Recent blog posts

The new NetNewsWire

3 September 2015

The app that keeps on ticking… NetNewsWire 4 for Mac and iOS has been released by the folks at Black Pixel. Syncing is free. Nice.

Paddling White Oak Pond in July

3 September 2015

Last paddling season I managed to squeeze a paddle in a few times per week. Perhaps I did this because it was new to me (last year was my first time kayaking) and I didn’t mind folding and unfolding the Oru 8 times a week.

This season I’ve gotten out a little less so as the days, weeks, and months of excellent weather peel away I start to get the itch more and more. In early July, just a day or so after returning from San Francisco, I knew immediately that I wanted to get back out and paddle.

So I grabbed the GoPro and went to White Oak Pond just before sunset.

At this point it takes me a cool seven minutes to build my Oru. That is, when I’m not fielding a bunch of questions from passersby who want to know what in the world I’m doing.

Who wears a GoPro strap on their head without a GoPro in it?

This guy, obviously.

Sunset continues to be the best time to get out and paddle.

Distributed web

3 September 2015

Fascinating read on Brewster Kahle’s blog (he founded the Internet Archive) about restructuring the fabric of the web to be distributed like the Internet is.

Contrast the current Web to the Internet—the network of pipes on top of which the World Wide Web sits. The Internet was designed so that if any one piece goes out, it will still function. If some of the routers that sort and transmit packets are knocked out, then the system is designed to automatically reroute the packets through the working parts of the system.

He compares that to how “the web” works:

The Web is not distributed in this way. While different websites are located all over the world, in most cases, any particular website has only one physical location. Therefore, if the hardware in that particular location is down then no one can see that website. In this way, the Web is centralized: if someone controls the hardware of a website or the communication line to a website, then they control all the uses of that website.

He goes on regarding building versioning into this new version of the web:

On library shelves, we have past editions of books, but on the Web, you don’t have past editions of websites. Everyday is a new day, unless you know to use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which may have copies of previous versions. Where the Wayback Machine was created after-the-fact to solve this problem of the current Web, in this next iteration we can build versions into the basic fabric of the Distributed Web to provide a history and reliability to our growing digital heritage.

I’m 100% on board with Kahle’s vision for a new web that has memory, versions, and is distributed.

Ben Brooks’ iPhone home screen

3 September 2015

Ben Brooks on The Brooks Review writing about removing mental overhead on his iPhone’s home screen:

The most immediate change that you notice: there is a lot less mental overhead involved in using your phone. If you take a look at my current home screen you can see that I have only 16 visible app icons, and 3 folders for 19 icons total. It used to be that the first page and dock were full of individual icons, and the second page was entirely folders.

I employ a similar tactic (though I’m not yet using iOS 9). Not only do I have all notifications off (save for SMS) but I also only have three rows of icons on my home screen. On an iPhone 6 this means two completely empty rows.

All other apps are shoved to other screens and I simply use Spotlight or Siri to open apps.

Clearing Safari’s cache without deleting your history or cookies

3 September 2015

I like to keep my browsing history and cookies intact for as long as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve searched my browser’s history to find a site I viewed months ago. And, cookies keep me logged into the services I use most. The latest version of Safari keeps a single year of browsing history (since mine shows exactly a year’s worth currently though I’m positive I haven’t deleted my history in several years).

From time-to-time, especially as a web worker, I have the need for clearing my browser’s cache (the files the browser will store locally to load things quicker during subsequent visits) so that I can be certain I’m getting the very latest version of the web site or application I’m visiting.

It used to be that clearing or deleting your cache in Safari was a wholly separate action from deleting your browsing history and cookies. Recently, and I’m not exactly sure when since I don’t do this too often, these two actions have been combined into a single menu item “Clear History & Website Data”.

Well, I don’t want to do that! Fortunately, there is a way.

First, turn on Developer features in Safari by going to Safari > Preferences > Advanced > and choose “Show Develop menu in Menu bar”.

Now you’ll see a new “Develop” menu in your Menu bar and from there you can select “Empty Caches” which will clear your cache but keep both cookies and history intact.

You can buy BB-8

3 September 2015

Given my site’s new theme (which purposefully looks as if I coded it when I was 16 in celebration of the new Star Wars film this December) I’d be remiss not to link to this story on The Verge about BB-8.

What a great toy.

Flash-free clipboard

2 September 2015

For years and years the only way to create a button on a web site that would copy something to the visitor’s clipboard was to use a Flash shim of sorts since Flash had an API that could access the clipboard.

It looks like Mozilla is going to step in and change that requirement where JavaScript will now be able to be used to access the clipboard.

Fortunately, we have a solution. The editor APIs provide document.execCommand as an entry point for executing editor commands. The "copy" and cut" commands have previously been disabled for web pages, but with Firefox 41, which is currently in Beta, and slated to move to release in mid-September, it is becoming available to JavaScript within user-action initiated callbacks.

Long, long overdue.

I saw this on Hacker News I think but I had it tucked away in Unmark.


2 September 2015

Super simple yet incredibly great iOS application from Josh Hrach, Countr helps you count things without needing to write down a bunch of numbers. The app is quick and small.

I can think of a few good reasons to have this app and I can’t think of any reasons not to.

Eliza’s first paddle

2 September 2015

The weekend after I picked up the second kayak we loaded up for Eliza’s first paddle. We chose a close location and one I knew well — The Lackawanna State Park’s Bullhead Bay.

Nice heron bro (3 photos).

I call the above photo “Friday” because this is how I feel about Fridays now.

It is so great to have Eliza with me on the water.

Developers helping designers

1 September 2015

Kylie Timpani writing on the Humaan blog:

The tricky thing, however, is that people are now finding themselves in unknown territory unsure of how exactly they should contribute. While I’m not a developer I have had conversations with developers where they have specifically pointed out that they don’t think it is their place to offer help in stages other than their own. The reasons for this range from the internal to the external — developers don’t know how to help, don’t feel “creative”, equipped or empowered enough to help or, disappointingly enough, their contributions are not welcomed by others. Especially by designers.

Read the entire post for context on the discussion around the fact that designers have been asked for years to help developers but that developers haven’t really been tasked with helping designers.

See also, if you would, my presentation from Designal Tap in March of this year which I wrote about in a post titled The pull towards design.

The two discussions… Timpani’s and my own… are not wholly connected. The former being more about including developers in the process earlier on and the latter about me being frustrated as a “developer” that can’t seem to design worth a lick.

Both topics though are really interesting.

Side note: I plan on revisiting my topic soon.

Picking up a second kayak

1 September 2015

A few weeks ago a friend told us he was willing to part with his kayak. I knew I wanted it immediately because I knew it was only a year old, I knew how much it was worth, and he was parting with it for a very fair price.

However, I hadn’t yet gotten cross bars or a roof rack for my CRV so there was a question as to whether or not I’d be able to fit the kayak inside and drive home. Let’s find out.

It “fit”.

I should have left the Oru kayak at home but I’m simply not that smart.

Issues with iOS 8.4.1

31 August 2015

Until recently iOS 8 has been a fairly solid release. I had issues with iCloud syncing — as everyone has — since the beginning but overall iOS 8 - 8.4 gave me little trouble.

I do not know if updating my iOS devices (iPhone 6, iPad Air 2) to iOS 8.4.1 is the culprit but ever since updating I’ve had a horrendous time with my iOS devices. I have two main issues; App Store does not recognize updates are available for apps, iBooks will not open.

Both of these issues are very, very temporarily solved by restarting my device. So I’ve spent the last few weeks restarting my devices more frequently than I have the passed 8 years combined.

The App Store app, after a restart, will recognize that there are application updates available for my device and I can update them. However, after opening any other application the App Store will “forget” that I have these applications installed at all.

If you take a look at your App Store’s “Update” pane you’ll notice an Update button or an Open button on the applications. The Open button shows that you have the application installed at that it is currently up-to-date. My App Store app doesn’t have that button unless I restart — so I think the App Store app doesn’t even know what apps I have installed.

iBooks, on my iPad Air 2, is an app I use a lot for both reading, highlighting, and note taking. I have a few years worth of research and ebooks in there (though, the entire library is relatively small in storage). When I open iBooks I’m presented with the “startup image” for the app but then the application crashes. If I use the app switcher I can see a screenshot of the app that iOS stores for that view… but switching to it crashes the app after a few moments.

For the first few weeks with iOS 8.4.1 I’d be able to open iBooks after a restart and so long as I didn’t close it I was fine. Now, even if I leave it on, I can’t even allow the iPad to “sleep” because iBooks will crash.

For both of these issues I’ve tried several things; full restarts, syncing with iTunes, deleting a bunch of content from iBooks, deleting apps, etc. Nothing has worked. So I think I’m at the point now where I have to do a full reset of both devices and then find someway to restore the data. I have full backups of both applications on my computer but I’m worried the problem lies somewhere in that data. So I fear losing my iBooks data.

If you have any suggestions feel free to send them along.

I’ve heard very good things about iOS 9’s stability so perhaps that release will fix some of these issues as well.

Sandbridge Virginia 2014

27 August 2015

In less than a month we’ll be heading back to Sandbridge, VA for a little getaway. We don’t normally go to the same location back-to-back for vacations but we had a great time last year and we hope to repeat it. Here are a few photos from the GoPro from last year.

I know, I look a bit crazy in this one but the waves were pretty heavy that day.

Eliza and I were able to fully inspect the house before others arrived.

My Dad and I played some great bocce games.

I had to get a little yak time in. My first time on the ocean.

Gavin teaching everyone how to vacation properly.

My mom likes to feed the birds.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we get up to this year. And, I’ll be bringing the GoPro.

An abandoned mini golf course in Scranton

26 August 2015

On our way back to Coalwork after walking all the way across town for yummy Indian food last week Kyle and I saw an abandoned mini golf course.

Tsunami stones

26 August 2015

Martin Fackler for the NY Times in 2011:

While some are so old that the characters are worn away, most were erected about a century ago after two deadly tsunamis here, including one in 1896 that killed 22,000 people. Many carry simple warnings to drop everything and seek higher ground after a strong earthquake. Others provide grim reminders of the waves’ destructive force by listing past death tolls or marking mass graves.

I think we need to have more of these types of stones for other types of disasters and we should enforce their being heeded.

/via Hacker News.

Coworking turns 10

25 August 2015

Cat Johnson marks the 10th anniversary of coworking over on the Shareable blog:

Ten years ago this month, coworking was born in San Francisco when Brad Neuberg set up some card tables and invited people to work alongside him. There are now over 3,000 coworking spaces worldwide.

I’m happy to be part of coworking in some small way. When we opened just under a year ago almost no one in Scranton had heard of coworking and even less than that understood what it really meant. Today, we have a small but growing community of people that support the space. And Fridays fill us up from time-to-time. We still have a long way to go before we break through and make coworking a mainstay of the area. I’m looking forward to looking back in 9 more years when coworking in Scranton is 10.

Kayaking Quaker Lake and Lake Carey

24 August 2015

Last weekend my friend Eric and I went paddling around Quaker Lake and Lake Carey; each in northeastern PA pretty close to the New York border and each equally different.

Quaker Lake is a beautifully clear glacial lake that does not allow speed boats or jet skis and has some really well kept and manicure homes and properties. I’m looking forward to bringing Eliza here at some point. In fact, I’ll be seeking out lakes that restrict the horsepower of the motors more often.

Lake Carey is the opposite of Quaker Lake… the smell of fuel is pretty prevalent and the speed-boaters and weekenders partying in the middle of the lake are rampant. Not my style so I likely won’t be back on the yak. However, if I ever want to get a cool Bud Light and chat about how much the local fishing laws stink I know right where to go.

Photos from Quaker Lake:

Photos of Lake Carey:

Thanks to Eric for showing me around.

Acorn 5

24 August 2015

Gus Mueller, on his blog, about taking the time to squash bugs that weren’t even reported in Acorn:

It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late. But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren't going to let that happen to Acorn. So we took a long break from adding features and just fixed stuff.

Acorn has always been good… this release looks really solid. If you’d like to support independent Mac software developers this is exactly how you do it; buy Acorn.

Disney’s steal of a deal

24 August 2015

MG Siegler on (bleh!) 500ish/Medium:

As we saw a couple days ago at Disney’s D23 Expo, the last deal is the focal point for the company for the foreseeable future. And it’s looking like it may be the steal of the bunch.

He goes on to write why he thinks the Lucas/Disney deal was such a steal.

Me, in November 2012 here on my beautiful personal blog:

So Disney, without a doubt, got a steal of a deal. But, we have to look at this transaction a little differently than just looking at the face value because Lucas took half of the money in Disney stock.
The $4 billion was split; half cash, half stock. Disney is promising to make Star Wars a much more international hit. As it stands, a huge percentage of the revenue from Star Wars comes from toys bought in the US. Disney can bring Star Wars to China, Japan and other nations where toys are a huge hit. Just not Star Wars toys. And, presumably, they can do something special in all of their parks worldwide to bring people into the parks. They can also fund, manage, and distribute new Star Wars releases, movies, games, toys - and George Lucas doesn't have to lift a finger.

Not to mention Disney’s market cap zoomed up well over $4B the very next day after the initial announcement… one could argue they’ve already made their money back from the transaction in value. Now we’ll start seeing it earn that money back in actual revenue.

/via Josh Ginter’s The Sunday Edition.

Getting off the treadmill

21 August 2015

Speaking of jwz, last night he weighed-in on the continuing trend of companies pushing the culture that to succeed in tech you must never sleep. He did so by pointing to a bunch of his older blog posts on the subject. I recommend you read them. Ultimately, though, this is his message:

Instead of that, I recommend that you do what you love because you love doing it. If that means long hours, fantastic. If that means leaving the office by 6pm every day for your underwater basket-weaving class, also fantastic.

Since he helped build Netscape and was neck deep in that culture (and made money because of it) his actions from the 90s are sometimes used against him. However, fortunately for him his words are forever recorded in the documentary Code Rush where he very plainly says that he got lucky. Most of his friends that were doing the same thing didn’t. Sleeping under your desk isn’t a formula for success otherwise all of them would have won.

While I’ve worked at startups for most of my career I’ve never subscribed to this mentality even when my own bosses were pressuring me to do so. My position at a few of the companies were threatened if I didn’t work more hours. I never gave in and I’ve never been fired from any job in my life.

Some people that I’ve worked with over the years simply could not believe I wasn’t in the office before 9am or that I would leave work before 6pm to make it to a religious meeting. Almost all of those people have less than stellar family lives, health, or the ability to do anything but work. I never looked at any of them with envy and I’m fairly certain that when they end up looking back at these decades that have passed they’ll regret not seeing more sunlight or the faces of their friends and family.

Over the last two years of building and rescuing Plain from the brink I would say that I have worked pretty hard and have definitely felt the stress of the start up choices I’ve made. Even during the worst of our time with Plain, however, I took time to kayak and go on vacation. It seems counter intuitive to workaholics but keeping a work-life balance even when you’re up against the wall may be the thing that keeps you moving forward. Working longer hours is almost never a solution to any problem. Having a clear head, less stress, and working smarter almost always is.

To that end, in fact, I think I’m going to go even further the other way. Recently Kyle and I have been throwing around the idea of a 32-hour work week. Other companies have done it and seen success. Today (Friday) I’m writing this from my home office and I plan on working a little bit this morning and then heading to kayak with Eliza. Kyle is at an amusement park with his family. Perhaps Kyle and I can somehow make it work and give ourselves even better lives and do even better work as a result.

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