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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Feedly, Micro.blog.

Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

I’m excited for The Last Jedi on Saturday. I still have two films to watch before I complete a re-watching the saga in the Machete Order.

Evergreen blog post traffic

Rod Hilton, creator of the aforementioned Machete Order, in December 2015 just as The Force Awakens was released:

Wow, this Machete Order thing got big! After the post first “went viral” and got mentioned on Wired.com, I started getting around 2,000 visitors to it per day, which I thought was a lot. But then in the months before Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, it blew up like Alderaan, peaking at 50,000 visitors DAILY. This year, over 1.5 million unique users visited the page. It’s been nuts.

This sort of thing happens on my blog as well. I have several posts that get tons of seasonal traffic. A few examples are my wireless GoPro file transfer tips, when an NFL game goes into overtime, and my thoughts on Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. There are a ton more too. I believe my all-time record for a single day’s traffic on a single post was 11,700+ views. So no where near what Hilton gets. These posts get thousands and thousands of hits some weeks and nearly zero others. I think it is fun. I don’t engineer my blog for these types of things.

I’d bet Hilton’s blog is getting hit yet again with the release of The Last Jedi.

SOLO

Ron Howard:

Hey #Twitterville we just wrapped production so here’s a special message #StarWars

Follow the link for his video.

Cute. Howard seems to be having a ton of fun with this, which I think is great given the circumstances he walked into. I also think the name is great. It is what Jabba calls Han. SOLO.

Attending the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic: The Music of John Williams (audio)

This past weekend Eliza and I attended an orchestral presentation by the NEPA Philharmonic that featured musical scores composed by John Williams – my favorite score composer.

Forgive the audio quality, the fact that I forgot to record more than I did, and that at the end I yell “it’s all over” so fast that it is unintelligible. I was quite literally blown away by the presentation. I cried (both at Jurassic Park and during Leia’s theme), I laughed (at the conductor playing the role of Indiana Jones), and my spirits were soaring (during Hook!).

Not my best audio bit so far but definitely my favorite.

Download

Finished Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Looking forward to the next two installments as I hear they are even better.

Welcome back JJ!

Rian Johnson: “Luke is The Last Jedi”

Rian Johnson in The New York Times:

It’s in the opening crawl of “The Force Awakens.” Luke Skywalker, right now, is the last Jedi. There’s always wiggle room in these movies — everything is from a certain point of view — but coming into our story, he is the actual last of the Jedi. And he’s removed himself and is alone on this island, for reasons unknown.

Told you.

Repost: Noah Read on Trevorrow’s exit

👉 Noah Read:

Heard the news about SW IX director. After seeing how Disney handled Rogue One’s director and the results I’m optimistic. They seem to be good stewards, with the humility to make changes when necessary.

See also.

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.

Colin Trevorrow out as Star Wars Episode IX Director

Bryan Bishop reporting for The Verge:

Lucasfilm’s creative process has been a bit of a mess lately. Rogue One had to undergo extensive reshoots before release, and earlier this year producer Kathleen Kennedy took the extraordinary step of firing directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller of the standalone Han Solo film just two weeks before the end of principal photography. Ron Howard has since been brought on to finish the film, but the 11th-hour move raised questions as to why things were allowed to progress so far — particularly when massive creative differences apparently existed between Kennedy and Lord and Miller.

And now Trevorrow has “bowed out”. Doubtful. More likely shown the door.

There are two ways to look at all the messy, behind-the-scenes, musical chairs that has happened during the tumultuous first 3 films out of Lucasfilm since Disney bought it and Kathleen Kennedy took over.

One the one hand, you can think things are an absolute mess and surely something is wrong over there.

Or, you can look at it the way I believe the truth really is… making productions this large is a very messy and difficult business. This sort of thing happens more often than you and I think about. It is just that Disney and Lucasfilm are under a bit more scrutiny than many other film houses. Also, I like to think that Kathleen Kennedy is doing an amazing job. She’s making the really, really hard choices of completely firing people – forsaking the loss of time, money, and momentum, in order to ship a superior product.

Yes, there were reshoots for Rogue One. But the Rogue One we saw was very, very good. What if she (and, likely, others) didn’t force the issue to do reshoots? What if she didn’t fire the co-directors of the new Han Solo movie and recruit an Oscar-winning replacement? And, what if she kept Trevorrow on (even though he has a fantastic first name)?

It is very easy to point out that things could be wrong. But, it is more likely that this sort of thing is remarkably hard to do without some ego casualties.

My guess is that Episode IX will be better for it. While I enjoyed Jurassic World it was far from great. I think Trevorrow has a bit more work to do before you hand him the most beloved franchise of all time. I say bring in a heavy-hitter that wants a crack at Vader’s kid’s legacy.

Wearing a Star Wars shirt, like a proper 35 year old white male.

Chuck Wendig is writing a Star Wars novel

Chuck Wendig is writing a Star Wars novel. He writes:

I cannot feel my legs, and I have been drunkenly pirouetting wildly around the house for months, making lightsaber sounds and forcing my four-year-old on a steady regimen of Star Warsy goodness. I am geeking out hardcore over here.

We live in interesting times. Where we can follow the blogs and the tweets of the people that bring us our favorite things.

My interview on The Way Station

On App.net I asked if anyone had a podcast that I could be a guest on. And, wouldn’t you know it Noah Read had one and graciously invited me to be a guest on The Way Station.

We had a nice, relaxed, geeky chat about my career, about Plain and Barley, and a bit about Star Wars of course. I recommend giving it a listen.