Here’s a great recap of how Netscape begat Mozilla and Shepard Fairey created a dinosaur logo based on Russian Futurism with roots in the 1987 movie They Live. I look back on those wild days of the web with fondness.
When we were in New York before Christmas, one of the things we showed Finn on our way past Madison Square Garden was the big sign on the corner of 7th Avenue and 33rd Street where I’d designed the billboard for Deutsche Bank back in the day. It was blocked by scaffolding when we walked past—we kind of had to point around all the construction to show her—but I think she understood the scale of the thing.
Over the weekend, while trying to replace a power strip behind our office cabinet, I found a couple of Addy programs from 2009 that had fallen behind other books. Figuring we’d saved it for one of Jen’s projects, I thumbed through it and suddenly remembered that we’d won Silver and Gold Addys for that campaign. I don’t see anyplace on my LinkedIn profile to add awards…
In the meantime, I’m about 75 passwords in to a migration away from LastPass and into Keychain. I’m doing it manually because I don’t want to go through Chrome to convert everything, and also because I have to change all the passwords out anyway. And having used LastPass for 7+ years, I have a lot of old records that I haven’t used in years that I’m happy to delete. It’s a slog but I’m telling myself it’ll be worth it.
I never really understood the lure of Twitter, and only posted there twice. Elon bought the whole thing yesterday, and apparently the tech world is abuzz. I think the best summation of the situation comes from Nilay Patel over at the Verge; the whole thing is one big quotable chunk, but he offers the best summation of what it is I’ve seen, and what the future holds for the platform.
…the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. You! You, Elon Musk, are addicted to Twitter. You’re the asset. You just bought yourself for $44 billion dollars.
Have fun with that, buddy.
I upgraded the PHP engine behind idiotking from 7.3 to 8.0 and apparently it made the hamsters mad and they are on strike. One of the key plugins I use for the sidebar is apparently the culprit; the author wrote it 17 years ago and apparently doesn’t want to update it anymore, so it’s officially EOL. I’ll have to spend some time figuring out how to fold the sideblog entries into the main feed, but for now things will be a bit broken.
Update: Got it working again; there was some legacy code I was using to denote the Scout syndicated posts that I need to sort out. For now, all of the sidebar posts are showing up in the main feed, which isn’t a huge problem.
I’ve been using this template for over a decade, partially because it’s not overcomplicated and also because visually it’s very simple. But it’s getting creaky as the years move onward; there are some newer templates that offer the same visual simplicity without featuring a shopping cart, integrated twitter feed, and product carousel (WordPress ceased to be a true blogging platform a decade ago). The idea of refreshing the site makes me tired, but I suppose I need to really consider it.
Way back in early 2000’s I was playing around with home automation and had varying degrees of success. That system was pre-smartphone, so it ran on your computer and used a clever plug that transmitted signals through the wiring in the house to all the connected devices. I ran it off an old iMac I’d salvaged from somewhere and used the latest version of the software, but it was still glitchy (that was the last CRT computer I owned). It worked OK but I was never really able to build a solid case for investing hundreds of dollars into the gear and software, so I gave up on it.
These days Apple has HomeKit, which is an out of the box automation framework that hooks up to a whole fleet of (relatively inexpensive) peripheral gear. I spent $20 on two smart plugs last week and gave them a try. They are simple on/off switches, so they act as slightly smarter versions of the plug-in light timers we already own. They took all of a minute to register with HomeKit, and I quickly had a light in the living room hooked up to one. With one tap on my phone, the light turns on and off. But this kind of sucks, because I can’t just walk into the room and turn on that smart-connected light without a cellphone, and we don’t live the kind of regimented life where timer-controlled lights make sense. They’re great for when we travel, and I’ll probably swap out all of the old mechanical timers this year, but I can’t think of a use case for these plugs other than that. (I’m not buying an Alexa or HomePod to voice-activate anything, before you ask).
Now that I know it works, I’m going to explore some of the more expensive options for automation—maybe a system set up to control the door locks, for example, allowing us to open the door without a key. But what I’d really like is to replace the thermostat with something programmable from somewhere other than the keypad; our Honeywell unit is about 15 years old and takes three hours of button-mashing to program every time the batteries die. The trick is to avoid the larger monopoly ecosystems; Google bought Nest back in the day and Amazon just bought iRobot—so now Bezos knows how much lint is under our couch. A couple of years ago I picked up a cheap Wyze camera for the house to see what Hazel was doing in her spare time but recently found out their system had been hacked and wide open for several years. Glad I only used that camera for the weeklong demo period.
Meanwhile, we bought a Nest doorbell cam for Bob’s house to keep an eye on things remotely, which I installed on Sunday. The physical installation went fine but trying to set it up through his phone revealed that the Verizon rep completely fucked up his account setup, so that they were sending his bills to Pennsylvania and shut his phone off for nonpayment. We’re sorting that mess out now.
Back in 2007, when he retired from the Navy, we bought Jen’s Dad a shiny new PC laptop, traded his work email for Gmail, and basically have been providing tech support long-distance since then. It’s been a bumpy fifteen years; providing over-the-phone repair service on a PC is like describing a giraffe to someone in Japan via morse code.
To quote the Captain himself, recent events have overtaken us, and it became clear he needed an upgrade. I did some looking and some thinking, and decided we weren’t going to buy him another PC—there’s just too much distance between my ancient knowledge of PCs and where they are now, and as we all know they can get fucked up in a hurry by anybody with two fingers. He’s always been averse to Macs for reasons I won’t get into here, so the obvious answer was out.
However, Finley’s school computer has impressed me over the course of the last two years even though the software provided by the school has been utter dogshit. They issued Lenovo-produced Chromebooks to the kids before COVID, and hers has been pretty bombproof with hard daily usage. I figured an OS that’s easy enough for a teenager to
not break use is perfect for a senior citizen to use; he’s only on there for email and the web anyway.
Looking around, I got a 14″ Lenovo Chromebook for a decent price at Best Buy and brought it with us to his house last weekend. Booting it up for the first time, I wound up fighting a weird verification problem that was only remedied by updating his OS. The problem there was that he’s has a DSL line and a 10-year-old wireless access point with 802.11X—limited to one connection. So the OS update took all day.
Back at home, and with his Google account information in hand, I got him up and running in minutes, and his account settings transferred over painlessly. I got into the ChromeOS settings and enlarged the fonts and screen for him, and reset the Gmail interface back to its old default—where it doesn’t try to sort what it considers “important” emails up front and hide everything else. I suspect they pushed that change, he didn’t know about it, and a lot of his email was hidden from view.
We have yet to put it down in front of him, but I’m already feeling better about this.