Twin Size Mattress – The Front Bottoms (Wolfox Cover)

This week, my band and I recorded a cover to one of my favorite Front Bottoms songs, Twin Size Mattress. What made this song especially fun to play was the couple of tempo changes it has, the very fluid dynamics throughout, and particularly the intensity of the last section. Wolfox is Connor Kruysman on vocals, Mike Bearce on bass and vocals, and myself on guitars, drums, and audio production. Enjoy!

U.S. defense contractors say Russian threat is good business

Capitalism is great in certain domains, like consumer technology, commodity goods, transportation, and much more. But it’s terrible in others, when compassion or foresight beyond the quarter or even the human life span is needed, like with private prisons, climate change, and arms. Here’s The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”

Did you think Lizard People was just a conspiracy theory? These military-industrial corporate thugs would stoke the fires for World War III, straightfacedly talk about the “history opportunity” to their investors, and non-ironically say they’re “just doing their job” and “if it wasn’t for me, it’d be someone else.” Capitalism doesn’t work as well here because it makes the category error of comparing the money in this industry against the value of a human life. I hope they’re ready to be scorned by the history books.

AT&T, Apple, Google to work on ‘robocall’ crackdown

For a couple of different reasons, the frequency which I received automated telemarketing is increasing, and I find it quite annoying. The phone call used to be something casual, when I was a kid, I’d call people just to see what was going on with them. Because text communication and cell phones, this is no longer necessary, and in fact, I suspect most people find phone calls rather intrusive, what with the ringing and having to pause talking to everyone else. Which is why telemarketing is so annoying. Thankfully, Reuters:

The chief executive of AT&T (T.N) will announce Friday that 33 companies including the telecom giant, Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) are joining an effort with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crackdown on robocalls.

Despite these companies actually holding one another by the throat, these fierce rivals all agree: robocalls suck.

iOS and Android market share

The latest version of iOS is on 87% of devices, according to iDownloadBlog, in stark comparison to 15% of Android users being on the latest version of Android. You must consider, however, that Android has more users, where the latest official numbers indicate that iOS has 1 billion active users where Android has at least 1.4 billion active users. So for developers targeting customers, the latest and greatest iOS is on 870 million devices and the latest and greatest version of Android is on 210 million devices. When you also consider that iOS users spend 4X as much on platform, it really becomes difficult to justify starting a business on Android.

Twitter, ISIS, and free speech

The New York Times:

Twitter suspended 235,000 accounts that promoted terrorism over the last six months, as part of a continuing effort to keep people from using the social network for extremist causes, the company said Thursday.

This is completely okay despite being an affront to free speech because Twitter does not owe you (or ISIS) anything. Twitter’s interests are with their advertisers, and when the any speech goes against their motivations, it is completely up to Twitter to deal with it the way they want (and they will). It gives everyone at least one compelling reason not to centralize their speech and surrender their freedom, especially when hosting text is so cheap.

Apple wants to add cellular service to their Watch

The Verge:

Apple won’t be adding cellular connectivity to the Apple Watch this year, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The company had planned to incorporate the technology and uncouple the Apple Watch from the iPhone, but ran into issues related to battery life.

I wasn’t an early adopter of iOS, but I imagine the early days made it clear that the small screen of the original iPhone was good enough for many tasks typically reserved for a sit down computer and keyboard, and this expanded year over year as the device’s capabilities and functionality expanded. Just like WiFi and Bluetooth are good enough for most uses when compared with their wired alternatives, and this continues to expand as the technology becomes more capable. Regardless of whether this is true of the iPhone, I definitely find that the Watch is good enough for many tasks, namely switching songs, adjusting volume, short phone calls, and canned messages. With WatchOS 3 this expands somewhat, bringing the option to draw your letters to form messages, and in other ways. Perhaps the Watch has a relationship with iPhone, in Apple’s mind, the same way the original iPhone had a relationship with the Mac. To add to a polemic spin to this, if you look at Apple’s present Mac line-up, we all know how that went for the Mac.

Twitter rolling out quality filters

Twitter:

Last year we began testing a quality filter setting and we’re now rolling out a feature for everyone. When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior. Turning it on filters lower-quality content, like duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated, from your notifications and other parts of your Twitter experience.

It seems to me that every Twitter user is really demanding on the free service, expecting it uphold principles of free speech and filter hate speech from their feeds and not get any money for doing it. Twitter is iconic, every commercial and celebrity is constantly peddling hashtags, and yet there’s no clear way forward for Twitter to profit on that.

The future is now, well, next month, and only in Pittsburgh

Bloomberg:

The plan seemed audacious, even reckless. And according to most analysts, true self-driving cars are years or decades away. Kalanick begs to differ. “We are going commercial,” he says in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “This can’t just be about science.” […] Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved.

Even given the various hedges, specifically that these cars still have drivers in them and that it’s a test program running only in Pittsburgh, this is huge news. I imagine there are various meetings going on right now at Apple, Google, Tesla, Ford, and more, where people are throwing their laptops. While there’s a lot of technological barriers to success still, the biggest hurdle, I’d argue, is still the hearts and minds of the people. I’ve heard many times that people think self-driving cars are cool, but “they wouldn’t want to beta test it” and “like to be able to control their vehicle.” This is a step in both advancing the technological front and changing the culture, all while being “first to market.”

We should expect responses from competitors.

Closing federal private prisons over the next 5 years

From the Washington Post:

The Justice Department plans to end its use of private prisons after officials concluded the facilities are both less safe and less effective at providing correctional services than those run by the government. […] The goal, Yates wrote, is “reducing — and ultimately ending — our use of privately operated prisons.”

“They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security,” Yates wrote.

This is a major victory of people over profit: it is just so dangerous to incentive corporations to treat prisoners like Candy Crush treats its customers, looking for “recidivism” like its “yearly active users”. There’s a long way to go, because this is just federal contracts, but I am so pleased to read this. The companies that run this racket had their stock price crash. Think about that: someone invested in a company because of their belief in the growth of the prison population.

Death & Magic: MUST DIE! Album Review

DM_YourEDM1Death & Magic from OWSLA artist MUSTDIE! is an succinct and exciting “dance” album. Although truth be told, I think only Transformers or robots more generally have got the moves for the searing synths and driving bass that MUST DIE! delivers. The album isn’t tremendously original, but it makes up for this is superb execution. If you’re like me, you need heavy bass music if you’re ever going to write a line of code, and Death & Magic delivers there.

Deliverance: Culprate Album Review

maxresdefault-2 Culprate’s 2014 Deliverance is a sophisticated, somber, and confusing electronic album. It’s constantly on the verge of throwing you into a classic dubstep “wubby” drop, but Culprate practices restraint while finding other ways to surprise the listener. It’s like dubstep crossed with the elevator music played in a very well-to-do apartment building. The album is at times completely carefree, flouting the need for structure, familiar instruments, or tropes of the electronic genre, but these moments are almost always matched by little snippets of something recognizable. Culprate jumps freely to and from the listener’s comfort zone, soothing them into a comfortable trance only to throw something unexpected at them, but not without tastefully reminding them of the song’s melody soon thereafter. Highly recommended.

Sausage Party Movie Review

timthumb.phpSeth Rogen’s latest star-studded comedy is as silly as it is sublime, but it’s a little too ambitious for its own good. The slapstick and and off-color jokes are pretty well-delivered and funny, but a couple times these narratives tried to be critical and edgy, and this fell flat. Specifically, the way the food objects deal with race and religion should have stuck to just getting (admittedly cheap) laughs instead of trying to make a point about the Israel/Palestine conflict. It was also too ambitious with the number of storylines and themes it tried to address: the food-item protagonists explored skepticism, atheism, racism, the forth wall, love, and more, when one of these topics would have done. The consequence of this is there is never a dull moment, but that’s at least in part that you’re trying to make sure you remember which big topic the sausages are now addressing. All-in-all, this was a high-quality stupid movie, and I highly recommend you go see it in a dirty moving theater with stale popcorn for the full cinematic immersion.

The upcoming Apple products

Mark Gurman reporting for Bloomberg reveals (via Katie Floyd) that his sources indicate:

  • Dual camera lens on the Plus-sized iPhone;
  • A touch-sensitive home button which doesn’t “click”;
  • The removal of the headphone jack;
  • An industrial design similar to the iPhones from the last two years.

If these are all true, and everything else being equal, I will probably not upgrade my iPhone this year. I have a 6 Plus that’s still going really strong despite constant abuse in the form of not having a case, always using Bluetooth, using a lot of wireless hotspot, lots of graphics-intensive video games (Grand Theft Auto games, mostly), and other demanding uses. For photography I really care about, I tend to use my Nikon D5200, and the iPhone 6 Plus camera is good enough for casual snaps.

I’m ready to be really wowed by Apple’s new Mac offerings however. Also from Mark Gurman (via Michael Tsai via Hacker News):

The most significant addition to the new MacBook Pro is a secondary display above the keyboard that replaces the standard function key row. Instead of physical keys, a strip-like screen will present functions on an as-needed basis that fit the current task or application.

Apple’s learned a lot about how to make a great touch screen, but thought of replacing the power and escape buttons with software is not exactly what I had in mind with new Macs. I was hoping instead for top-of-the-line CPUs, GPUs, and higher default RAM and disk space. Perhaps the strip will have some Force Touch technology built into it that’ll give tactile feedback to those power users expecting to have a key there. I’m also uncertain of the light strip as a user experience considering that I do not look at the keyboard when using a computer, and arguably shouldn’t have to. This discussion does remind me of this classic XKCD:

workflow

I use UITextViews infrequently enough to forget about their custom font bug but often enough that I should really never deselect “editable” or “selectable” using the .xib file. And it makes me mad every time!

I use UITextViews infrequently enough to forget about their custom font bug but often enough that I should really never deselect “editable” or “selectable” using the .xib file. And it makes me mad every time!

The ad-block cold war

The web advertising industry is facing an existential threat: ad-blockers. The beauty of browsers is that, for the most part, web pages are still static files that you download and execute locally and safely. You can control everything very precisely, choosing to not download certain IPs, block whole file extensions, or a combination of these two the circumvent any advertisements. This is probably impossible to overcome. Additionally, the people that tend to be ad-block users tend to be future consumers of expensive things like cars, houses, investment products, razors, whatever. And this is only growing, here’s a chart demonstrating this from PageFair:

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.25.51 PM

And this is a pretty serious problem. Some of the most important businesses run on advertisements: search engines, journalism, random web utilities like JSON formatters, etc. Google is used by doctors, mechanics, programmers, almost every professional, to do their job better and faster. Yet people are increasingly saying no to Google’s business model.

This commentary comes on the heels of Facebook’s ongoing cat-and-mouse game with AdBlock Plus. Here’s TechCrunch’s report:

Adblock Plus launched a workaround to Facebook’s adblock bypass today that ham-handedly removes posts from friends and Pages, not just ads, according to a statement provided by Facebook to TechCrunch.

I think everyone here is at fault. Facebook is releasing thousands of lines of user-hostile source code, putting tremendous effort into continuing to go against their users wishes. Meanwhile, AdBlock Plus claims no moral high ground, as they’re not really protecting people from advertisements and tracking, their protecting users against the advertisements and tracking that doesn’t pay AdBlock Plus to be white-listed, according to the Wall Street Journal:

Eyeo GmbH, the company behind popular desktop ad-blocking tool Adblock Plus, now accepts payment from around 70 companies in exchange for letting their ads through its filter. Eyeo stipulates that they must comply with its “acceptable ads” policy, meaning their ads aren’t too disruptive or intrusive to users.

That is Facebook’s hard-earned money, but that doesn’t mean I’m either removing my ad-blocker or ecstatic to use Facebook’s product, rather just that the web advertising industry is morally bankrupt and soon to be actually bankrupt. And this is not a good thing for all of us who rely on actually important ad-supported businesses like the Wall Street Journal and Google. I implore you: if you find something that’s critical to your day-to-day life like software, information, or anything digital: find out how to pay them money so that your both on the same team. Today, doctors are using a product that’s funded in part by pharmaceutical companies showing ads to them. Journalists are paid by the same companies that are polluting the earth, building defective products, or other scandals that need to be investigated by journalists.

Which makes the inevitability of the demise of digital advertising on the web so scary and exciting.

Vote your conscience

If you’re a liberal and you oppose the TPP, this is the worst election cycle. If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you’ll likely be voting for TPP. If the issue is important enough to sway you away from the Democrats, you’re voting for Donald Trump, who apart from having some objectionable soundbites, is not at all liberal. Despite Bernie Sanders significant victories in changing the Democratic platform, Hillary Clinton is still at best a moderate corporatist verging on being indistinguishable from the moderate right. As evidence, consider what the Kochs think about this election:

Representatives of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who helped to bankroll the rise of the tea party, warned the brothers could sit out the presidential campaign entirely — or even back Hillary Clinton.

When I express these concerns to fellow liberals, there’s this narrative that leftists need to “bite the bullet” and vote for Clinton in fear of a Trump presidency. Here’s RMS’s take on this attitude:

As happens every four years, plutcratist democrats are saying that we have to vote for their Republican-in-Democrat’s-clothing or else a worse Republican will win.

If we listen to them, we will never get anything better than plutocratists.

I encourage everyone to vote as though everyone was going to vote the way you do. Vote for the candidate you want to win, not the candidate everyone tells you to vote for, for any reason, including “your vote for a third-party is a vote for the major party candidate you oppose” (which is simply false), “he/she is the worst because of [scandal]!” (mostly propaganda), and “I agree with you, but you have to be practical” (there’s nothing wrong with being idealistic).

Instagram adds Snapchat features

Something I’ve wanted to say for a long time but never found an opportunity is that the term “social media” doesn’t describe the phenomena well. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and co. are all distant forms of socialization and as “media” it’s quite difficult to hold Tweets or Stories in comparison with, say, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or the 24 hour news cycle. The term “social media” is the cleaned up version for job titles and business plans. Networks is much better. With that introduction, consider this exposition of changes to Instagram from Caitlin McGarry of MacWorld:

Instagram carries a pressure that other social networks don’t. Every photo must be perfectly composed, your feed artfully curated, otherwise you won’t rack up double-digit likes. Quelle horreur! (But seriously, it’s depressing when only a couple followers like your carefully crafted image.) It’s not uncommon for people to use high-end photo-editing apps to add gloss to their images before sharing them to Instagram.

There’s a grand irony in Instagram, that is was created and to make sharing photos easy and painless, and now it’s become difficult (because of their new “Stories” feature) and “depressing” (her words). I encourage everyone to reconsider whether social media is worth the price, which of course isn’t monetary, but in submitting your intellectual property and becoming addicted to their social currency.

Alive With The Glory of Love – Say Anything (Wolfox Cover)

After 2 hours in my basement with Mike Bearce on bass, Connor Kruysman on vox, and myself programming drums and playing guitar, a cover of a definitive song, “Alive with the Glory of Love”, from one of my favorite bands, Say Anything, came to be. We did this cover live, all playing at the same time, in a single play through. Check it out and let me know what you think!