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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Best of 2018

This year I’m taking a slightly more comprehensive approach to my “best of” list. I’ve taken a look at previous year’s lists: 2008, 2009, 2017 and comprised a slightly more complete set.

Again, this is only the things I came across this year and can remember. I don’t keep a list throughout the year but rather rely on my memory. If you think I missed something great please reach out.

Best Blog: Becky Hansmeyer

I’ve linked to Becky’s blog 6 times this year. Mostly related to her iOS app SnapThread (which I can’t even use because I’m no longer on iOS). She openly published her thoughts, trials, tribulations, and triumphs (and new children) throughout the year. The epitome of a personal blog.

Runners up: Waxy – Andy Baio is back at it and the internet is better for it. Jeremy Keith’s Adactio is also always good. It might as well be perpetually in this category.

Best Blog Redesign: Lynn Fisher

Each year Lynn Fisher shows off her talent to build responsive web designs in a fun way by redesigning her site/blog. Go ahead and resize your browser on her homepage. Very fun.

Best (new to me) Blog: Windows Central

Hear me out. This blog publishes tons of times per day. The web site is obnoxious with ads (very thankful for RSS!). Despite that, since switching to Windows 10 this year I have been thankful to have a resource like this to keep me up-to-date with all things Windows. It has proven very useful to learn a number of tips and tricks and to know what the latest features are in Windows.

Best place: Iceland

This past September we visited Iceland – and it was definitely the standout trip of our year. The landscape, the water, the horses, the northern lights – everything was amazing.

Runner up: our trip to Kentucky this year to travel along the Bourbon trail. See this post and this post.

Best book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I certainly laughed out loud more than once while reading this book. It was a fun read and is much better than any of the movies or series I’ve seen trying to adapt it to screen. Though I did enjoy Martin Freeman in one of the more recent movie adaptations.

Runners up: The Road by Cormac McCarthy – sad, but good read. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – what a story.

Best service: Spotify

Spotify continues to be one of the greatest services I’ve ever used. Eliza and I are on a family plan and we use the service every single day at home, on the go, at work. See also.

Best album: Hollywood Africans – Jon Batiste

This is a fun album. It wanders around a little but overall it is a solid album to put on while enjoying a Manhattan (one of my requisites for good music). I also enjoyed his interview with Terry Gross about the album.

Runners up: Free Yourself Up – Lake Street Dive, SYRE – Jaden Smith (don’t @ me).

Best movie: A Quiet Place

I am hoping to watch this one again soon. It isn’t particularly revolutionary or mind blowing – but the pacing, the acting, and the overall balance of the movie is really good. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

Runner up: I just saw the new Spiderman and it is very refreshing. So glad they did something so different.

Best company: Microsoft

In my opinion, Microsoft has been firing on all cylinders for nearly the entirety of Satya Nadella’s lead. Their Surface hardware, Windows 10, Azure cloud services, acquisition of Github, Open Source initiatives, and push into mobile through Android has really been something to watch. Don’t call it a comeback but really, this company is back. See also.

Best hardware: iPad Pro 12.9″

I haven’t had time to write a proper review of this device yet but I do plan to. This is easily my favorite iPad ever – and I really, really liked my iPad Air 2. One quick anecdote; Face ID is extremely fast and works in so many more circumstances than I thought possible.

Very close runner up: Google Home Mini. We now have 3 of these in our apartment (kitchen, living room, bathroom) and we use them every single day for playing music, starting Netflix or YouTube videos on our TV, viewing photos from past vacations, and setting reminders or alarms. I hope to utilize these even more this coming year but I’m delighted at the capabilities of a device you can get for $29 (when on sale and we even got 1 for free with our Spotify subscription).

Best desktop app: Firefox

The Mozilla Firefox team is killing it this year. This browser is my favorite ever on any device. I also use it on Android and iOS. And I’m glad too given recent news re: Edge and Chrome. A few features I cannot live without at this point: Containers, Sync, Pocket (which could work in any browser but is built right into Firefox).

Runners up: 1Password – Eliza and I moved everything into 1Password this year and we couldn’t be happier that we did. Should have done so a long time ago. Visual Studio Code – Still the best code editor on any platform and certainly the best free editor.

Best mobile app: Pocket Casts

I use this app twice a day on my commute to and from work. I never have any issues with it, and every decision made by the design team seems to be right in line with what I want from a podcast app. My feature wish list for this app is relatively short and I believe they are coming with a not-too-distant-future update.

Runner up: Waze this app has saved me hours of sitting in traffic just this year.

Best tool: Trello

I’ve been using Trello more this year than any year previous and I find it to be incredibly well made. I don’t think we’ve had a single moment of downtime the entire year and, although I’d like it to be slightly less expensive for our team of ~30 I feel it is a very useful tool.

I’ve also tried to fit it into my workflow for other things like replacing a previous year’s winner; Bullet Journal. I couldn’t get it to fit. So I now have a hybrid system of using my daily Bullet Journal with Calendar and Trello.

Runner up: OneDrive – I’ve been using OneDrive this year for so many things across all platforms. The utility rarely messes up (whereas Google’s is terrible) and the space is affordable.

Best utility: DropIt

I use this small Windows utility to move files from OneDrive to two backup hard drives and Google Photos from my phone, camera, drone, and Eliza’s phone. It is far, far from perfect but I have wrestled it into doing exactly what I need.

Runner up: Snip & Sketch on Windows 10. I have this app mapped to my Logitech MX Master 2S’s middle click to quickly take screenshots and mark them up. It is an indispensable part of my workflow now working with my team. I just middle click, drag a rectangle, and CNTRL + V into any app I’m using to show my team a screenshot. I probably use this 5 times a day on average.

Best podcast: Meat Eater

I hike a lot. And I like to photograph nature. Listening to Meat Eater, and watching their show on Netflix, has given me a lot of knowledge about how to approach animals, how to know where on the landscape I’m allowed to go, and tons of other tips.

I’m also going to pick up fishing again in 2019 as a result of listening to this podcast.

Best YouTube channel: Zimri Mayfield

This guy is killing it. Each week he produces a new episode in a number of series on design. He’s incredibly quirky and likely not to everyone’s taste but I’ve found his videos both entertaining and educational.

Runners up: Tom Scott – Every video is interesting and the topics are random yet somehow of the same ilk. Nerdwriter – fast, well edited, insightful.

I had a few other categories that I’ve now dropped off because the list got a bit long. So instead, I’m just going to finish off this post with a bunch of random links to things.

Random: @jvdoming, Gutenberg, Floods Part 1 & Part 2, Docker, Cobra Kai, Dark Sky, Micro.blog, Dialog, Cash app, Blue Planet II.

Incredibles 2 was excellent. Brad Bird is a superhero.

Jurassic World 2 ⭐⭐ (almost 3)

The Dagobah cave in realtime

Todd Vaziri:

Ever since I was a kid, I wondered what the scene might have looked like in real time, and how the scene, without slow-motion, would play differently to the audience. So I created it.

I don’t write enough about Star Wars on my blog. For that I’m sorry. But this was too fun to pass at the chance to link to it.

Avengers: Infinity War ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Black Panther ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Picked up The Abyss special edition at the local library (the only place I could find it) and re-watched it after having just finished the book. So good. This is the only novel that I can say works as a companion and enhances the experience so much. Thanks library.

I thought The Cloverfield Paradox was a very fun, and funny, ride. Would recommend.

Luke Skywalker is The Last Jedi

Earlier this week I rewatched Star Wars Episode VII. It is really great. Most of the criticisms of the film do not hold up well. It is fun, engaging the entire time, and the actors are perfect. And the film fits in perfectly with the other 3 originals.

One thing I’m surprised about, and was reminded of while watching Episode VII, is the ongoing “who is The Last Jedi” discussions that I’ve seen ever since the next movie’s title was announced.

Multiple times during Episode VII – including during the opening crawl – Luke Skywalker is referred to as The Last Jedi.

Some would think that Rey may become the last Jedi. But she isn’t one. Far from it. It took Luke three films to be a Jedi (and even then, it is questionable whether or not the Council would have ever approved him). Rey isn’t a Jedi simply because she closed her eyes once and bested the loose-canon Kylo Ren.

The next movie will be Luke’s movie. While he’s teaching Rey he will be not be on the sidelines.

That being said I believe Luke at his word in the trailer. It is time for the Jedi to end. A new order of things seems to be on the brink. Perhaps someone without so much fear and hate. Someone filled with hope now that Maz Kanata was straight with her regarding her family ever returning. Someone not tied to the Skywalker lineage and thus not having Vader’s rage in them. Perhaps someone like Rey. But what will this new “thing” be? I’m excited to find out.

Jack Baty on Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Jack Baty:

Almost lost me in the first 15 minutes. Way too silly for its own good. Felt to me like they took what they thought made the first film successful and just cranked up those bits. I enjoyed the middle portion, so stuck with it.

If I had written a review, this would be it.

We saw Spiderman: Homecoming ★★★☆ last weekend. It was a fun summer flick but nothing I’d gush over.

Amazon Prime on Apple TV

Peter Kafka at Recode:

The tech giants, who are increasingly competing for customers’ time, eyeballs and money, are close to an agreement to bring an Amazon video app to Apple’s Apple TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the two companies.

Recently we’ve begun renting movies on Amazon Prime instead of iTunes via Apple TV because our Apple TV (which is, admittedly a generation behind) no longer works to rent movies. Rented movies play for a few moments than stop. All other videos (even trailers for the movies) work just fine. So we end up asking for a refund every time. So now we use Prime and it works great.

I am, however, hopeful that Amazon and Apple make this happen. It may actually get me to upgrade to the latest Apple TV.

/via John Gruber.

Watching the Jaws anthology 

For the sake of humanity, and because Netflix took the time, effort and expense of adding these movies to their library, I’ve watched Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge.

Do you know how sometimes your memory of a thing can make that thing seem better than it really was? This seems to happen a lot with things like TV shows, cartoons from my childhood, music and movies. In the case of these Jaws movies I remembered each for being far better than they really are.

Jaws stands out far and away as the best movie of the lot. Spielberg managed to squeeze in enough technique, enough suspense, some incredible characters, and a few great lines into the movie so that it seems to age a bit longer than the others. It isn’t great. If it were made today it’d be laughed at. But for the time period is was well made.

The others, they aren’t worth watching. They are laughably bad. Bad acting (even from good actors like Michael Caine), bad lines, poorly shot, and terrible editing. Notably: Every line uttered by the deputy from Jaws 2 and the “stand off” game from Jaws 3-D, also Michael Caine’s “Perhaps he has indigestion he already ate my plane”. How did any of that make the cut?

If you see these movies in the recently added section of your Netflix app skip them.

RunPee

Have you ever wondered when would be a good time to go pee during a movie? Or, whether or not you should wait through the end credits? RunPee will tell you these things.

The design of the app leaves much to be desired but if it works it is an excellent idea for an application.

 

THX 1138

Got a gift from Eliza.

thx1138

 

Thanks babe!

Some of the best movies I’ve never seen

Chris and I are catching up on some classics. Being born in 1980 makes it pretty tough to have seen some of the classics. Just old enough to know about the movies, just young enough to have not been able to see them until later on in life.

There are thousands of movies that I’d like to see. If it were possible, and not a total waste of one’s life, I’d probably watch every movie ever made. But since that isn’t possible, you go by what critics and viewers say are “must sees”, and you try to catch up with those.

So far we’ve been able to catch The Godfather Part I and Apocolypse Now Redux, both are Directed by Francis Ford Copolla. I think we’re going to round out the Godfather series before moving onto others.

Oh, side note: My pens were out by the TV again this morning.