Gone from Suck to Blow

Want to move a URL or other text between your local computers, and they're not all Mac/iOS where universal pasteboard mostly works? There's smart ways, and then there's how I do it:

# note: needs Apache turned on. sudo apachectl start
mac% cd /Library/WebServer/Documents
mac% sudo ln -s $HOME/Sites
mac% cd
mac% cat bin/blow
#!/bin/zsh
pbpaste >$HOME/Sites/suckblow.txt

raspi% sudo apt-get xclip
…
raspi% cat bin/suck
#!/bin/zsh
curl -s "http://mac.local/Sites/suckblow.txt" |xclip -i
xclip -o

And in the reverse set, pbcopy is the Mac equivalent of xclip -i. In practice, I don't run a server on my RasPi but I rarely need to paste the other way, just sometimes scp files.

Now on the Mac, I copy some text, type "blow" in iTerm2. On the RasPi, I grab terminal and type "suck". It can take a few seconds, and then the text is in clipboard.

Without running Apache (or other web server, but I'm a caveman), you can use scp to grab the file, then cat it into xclip -i.

Happy blowing & sucking!

Apple Destroys App Store History

Note, currently all my old apps like Perilar, DungeonDice, etc. are off the store. They all still work. Apple wants me to pay $100 extortion, recompile a bunch of old code that maybe takes minutes, maybe hours or days of catching up to "modern" APIs, before I can resubmit.

And once they start requiring Monterey instead of Big Sur, I have to buy new hardware to even do that, my iMac just misses the deadline for support (but they still give me a notification a couple times a month to "upgrade" to Monterey, so smart & classy).

And my reaction these days is basically "fuck you, App Store". I could pay them nothing, and spend that effort on my Mystic Dungeon Club Javascript games, or my Scheme games (shipping real soon now!), and then I'm the only one who can disappoint me. Most of my JS stuff works on an iPad just fine; I'm not really inclined to try resizing for iPhone or Android, but in theory they'd work, too.

My little Glitch.app, full of mostly-not-allowed tools which I don't distribute but sideload, doesn't currently run, and I think I can get it to reload on the free account. If not, I guess I don't glitch. I could probably rewrite a lot of it in Pythonista, assuming that survives the App Store-pocalypse.

I have no problem with Apple's 30% cut, 15% would be better but hey, whatever. It was a nice storefront for a few years there, anything less than the 50% cut retail takes was warranted.

But every other part of the App Store policy is so noxious, all that's left are shovelware predatory gacha games from China, "social" (masturbatory pictures of yourself) network garbage, and AAA studio teaser games, but not the real games. And now they're just gonna make it impossible to get anything from the good era.

I literally use my iPhone now as a, uh, phone. It's almost back to the 2007 release set of Apple apps, because nothing else is any better. The iPad has several more useful tools, and I worry that they'll be removed by this policy.

Android fanatics, note that you are not helpful:

Earlier this month, the Google Play Store similarly announced it would begin limiting the visibility of apps that
“don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version.”

What I'm Watching: Severance

Well, it's on TV+ which normally I treat like a sub-Disney® quality back-alley shithole gutter of the most boring shows ever conceived by AI to lull Humans into submission before mulching the species (that popular one? That's the one I mean.), but Severance seems fun! Very Office Space, and The Office, and Better Off Ted, crossed with Paycheck (best Baffleck movie; mediocre PK Dick adaptation; worst John Woo), but even more brain fucking and crying. Also some of the Stargate SG-1 episode "Beneath the Surface".

A woman (Britt Lower) wakes up in a windowless underground office, doesn't know who she is. A man (Adam Scott, very punchable face but I'm not sure where I've seen him before) cries and then goes to work and is chipper and kind of pointless. The office job is pointless, maybe relentlessly stupid. Maybe it'll make more sense later? Their outside lives are frankly not that good for the kind of pay you'd expect to get for taking this job.

The office maze is driving me a little crazy. I'm pretty sure it's just a grid. They walk & talk right, right, right, left and are somehow in a different corridor. But they all look the same. The "break room" and "wellness room" are just like the "break pods" at one corp job I had, where it was almost literally a punishment to be sent there if you were having a rough time of it.

The office procedures are repetitive nonsense. The coffee is Rwandan. Literally blood coffee.

The biggest irony of this show is that it looks and acts like Apple already does. If Timmy Apple could do this to people, he absolutely would. Forcibly. With drill holes in the skull. He's already threatening people with their jobs or coming into the UFO-shaped office to catch plague, what's a little endless torture in a fluorescent-lit Hell? How did this get past their own self-awareness and PR?

Also doesn't help that they're promoting in pre-roll fucking ads wecrashed, a documentary about WeWork's cult, rise, and fall, which looks excessively like Severance. This isn't really an SF show, it's just how corporate workplaces already are. The cyberpunk dystopia of my yout' is here.

I'm not a fan of the episode length, nearly an hour. Half inside, half outside; but at least so far the inside is fun, light, gets to the point and tells the story, while the outside is long meandering talks with people that drag on for an endless eternity with maybe a minute of plot. I'm going nuts sitting thru this junk. Half length, and it'd be twice as good, as I often say about these bloated streaming waste-of-hours. I don't get it; there's no advertising, so why make it take forever?

TV+ continues to be the absolute worst app in a long cycle of shitty apps from Apple. I select the show in the main TV+ window, but can't see the title of each ep. Guess the next one's the first unlabelled video blob? Then it opens a player window. Of course you can't even screenshot, I have to use my iPhone camera if I want to take notes or something (like the weirdo keyboard, or the partial floor map). I'm surprised Apple hasn't embedded a "don't take pictures of this" signal in the show. Yet. Just wait until they issue Eyes with content filters.

★★★★☆ so far, aside from the pain in the ass of watching it on TV+.

Mac Icons for PDFs

I have a great many folders of PDFs, mostly grabbed from archive.org magazine_rack, ataribooks, etc. The trouble is when I open a folder of these, Finder makes preview icons for a few of them, then gives up and they all show a generic "PDF" icon. What I want is a persistent icon for the first page!

First, you need osxutils:

% sudo port install osxutils
% man seticon

And my icontool.

sips (Scriptable Image Processing System) is a built-in tool on the Mac, incredibly powerful image converter. I'm not gonna do anything fancy with perspective ratios or padding, just use it to get an image.

Now create pdficonset.zsh:

#!/bin/zsh
export CG_PDF_VERBOSE=1
find . -type f -d -iname "*.pdf" |while read -r f; do
    echo $f
    sips -s format png $f -o thumb.png && \
    icontool.zsh thumb.png thumb.icns && \
    seticon -d thumb.icns $f
    rm -f thumb.png thumb.icns
done

Run it in the parent directory, and boom! All nice icons.

[update: added a little better error-safety. CG_PDF_VERBOSE just gives better but still not useful error messages.]

I don't have the problem as bad with CBZ/CBR comics; they'd be trivial to extract the first page from, since they're just ZIP/BZIP files.

Green and Blue Bubbles Again

Some disreputable right-wing rag is pushing the Google-paid-ad conspiracy theory that Apple promotes bullying to get kids to prefer blue bubbles and iMessage to green bubbles in Android trash. Whenever this comes up, the mainstream rags never mention the real difference: Security vs. insecurity, encryption vs. everyone in the world able to read your messages.

Preferring blue bubbles is good behavior, whether kids know it or not. It has end-to-end encryption, it never even touches Apple's servers in plaintext. Anything you send, you know only the person you sent it to can ever read it. (note: You should not use iCloud backups, because those WILL store logs in plaintext)

A green bubble means it's insecure SMS; it can be read by cops, the phone company, anyone with a "Stingray" radio packet decoder in the area, and anyone who's SIM-cloned your device, which can be as simple as a single phone call to the carrier. Google is criminally negligent still shipping SMS as their "IM" in 2022.

Use iMessage if you can, Signal, Telegram, LINE if not.

Don't use WhatsApp, it's owned by Facebook and just as bad spyware as anything owned by Google.

M1 MacBooks Pro

I love beepy music made from Apple system noises. This is not the first!

I could not care any less about HomePod (I have cheap but acceptable stereo BT speakers in every room) or AirPods (BT lag into my ears makes me dizzy). So do with these as you will. I'll be using cheap wired earbuds or expensive wired cans forever.

M1 names combine the ugly internal product number with marketing "Pro". "Max" implies you can't get better. Who'd need more than 64GB RAM? Should be one or the other, like "Apple Chip Pro", or "M1P-10-16-32" (cores-gpus-ram).

MacBook stats are given in mm & lb. PICK ONE SYSTEM!

"The physical keys replace the Touch Bar." Almost like it was a gigantic mistake everyone hated. And MagSafe is back! Multiple ports and SD card reader! It's 2013 again!

What would you do if you had a million bucks? LCD, 3 XDRs, & a 4K monitor at once! (actual cost of the shown system is ~$25K).

How's the notch gonna work with fullscreen programs like Notch's game Minecraft? Just a blank spot. Might obscure the compass in Elder Scrolls games, too. Maybe it just blacks out the entire upper area in fullscreen, wasting real estate but not being stupid. I dislike the notch thing in every device, desktop more than others.

Battery life & GPU performance are awesome, no kidding. Faster than anything Apple shipped in a desktop even, my iMac 5K has a low-end AMD Radeon.

The 16" with M1 Max, 64GB RAM, 4TB SSD, is $4899, still less than a single XDR monitor. 14" with M1 Pro, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD (get a cheap thunderbolt drive for storage) is $2899, almost reasonable.

I'm not, I think, actually getting this; the iPad Air satisfies my portable needs at present. I want the M1 Max in a Mini format, so I can wire up any monitor (not a $6000 XDR).

But if I took a new dayjob, I'd do it in a minute.

The Death of iTunes

So, I was listening to my last playlist, and realized I don't own one of the albums, so I figure I'll grab it off iTunes…

No iTunes app. No "show in iTune Store" action on the album page (Share has since shown back up, because Apple Music is non-deterministic). There's an iTunes Store on my phone, but I want to download it here on my desktop. Fine, where's the store page. It's… missing. After some duck searches, turns out you have to open Apple Music Preferences, check "iTunes Store" in a little grid. I didn't deselect this, it came deselected, meaning NOBODY is going to see it.

Once that's done, Store is back in the sidebar, and clicking it shows the good old storefront, account links, etc. But how do you search? Search box just shows Apple Music (streaming). WAAAAAY up in the top-right corner is a selector for Songs or Store. Now I'm on the album. And it's $8.99. Yeah, there's no DRM, but you know, I can get this elsewhere.

So I went over to 'zon and bought a used CD (a little cheaper), because I can rip that lossless. At least they want my money.

And like that, with no announcement, Apple killed their store.

What Are You Doing, iCloud?

I often use Pythonista for automation or just code goofing off on the iPad. And unfortunately, the only ways Apple has allowed to get files into it are:

  1. Download with some other app (Dropbox or Readdle Documents, mostly) and share, one-way into it and no way out like a roach motel, or
  2. Put the file in iCloud, and it "should" sync automatically.

This is 100% an Apple policy problem, #1 demonstrates other apps can use networking just fine.

So on Mac I open iCloud (only in Finder, it's a stupid long path in shell), Pythonista3, try dragging the now-annoying disappearing proxy icon… can't drag it. So up a folder and I can drag THAT into shell.

Now in my CodePy folder, ln -s LONGICLOUDPATH icloud and voila, convenient access. Move my working project in there.

Make changes to a file, look in Pythonista, and it's all good. Make a new file, wait… it never shows up. Finally I open Files app on iPad, see if it's there, and NOW it syncs.

Maybe Pythonista is getting old and missed a notification, I notice the keyboard row isn't coming up, but Apple's incompetent garbage service iCloud/MobileMe/iTools has been failing to sync files for 15 FUCKING YEARS NOW, and I'm goddamned sick and tired of it.

This is why I give Dropbox money every month, because their syncing always works.

4/20 Apple Event

Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

  • Timmy Apple dressing exactly like me (his watch strap is different) is not cool. He's a fucking MBA from Duke & IBM, should only be in a suit or a track suit.
  • Moneymoneycard.
  • Purple iPhone.
  • Find My needs a noun. I suggest Find My Shit.
  • Geotracking every object you own is totally not creepy (even with privacy features).
  • Sofa cave is fucking awesome, I want a videogame of that.
  • TV+: BUY CONSUME THIS IS YOUR GOD
  • Using Queen songs to advertise fucking sportsball comedy: Lame.
  • TV 4K: Eh. Maybe fixes my mediocre TV. New remote is slightly better, but I want a 500-button universal remote for it.
  • Mac M1 is faster than everyone else, yes. I already have 16GB RAM in my six-year old iMac, and it's barely adequate under Tacos Bug Sir macOS Big Sur. It needs to be 32, 64, or more GB for any serious machine now, but M1 is still limited to 16GB. So that's a hard pass this year.
  • iMac color: Not just silver! But you can't see the back on most desks, so there's just the little bezel. I don't want vibrant, bright, I want dark, black so black it eats light; not just because I'm Hotblack Desiato, I need neutral colors for pixel-fucking art; colors distort my vision! I don't like wafer-thin, I want fat chunky computers with wind-tunnel fans for cooling. Losing 3" from my iMac 27" would be lame. Guess not.
  • iMac Keyboard: Actually looks like a really good improvement. I wonder if the big numpad boy with touch ID will even work on my old iMac? It'd be nice.
  • iPad Pro M1: Sweet, here an M1 with shitty 16GB RAM is excellent, because iOS doesn't eat 8GB just to exist. I'm putting the 11" & Pencil 2G on my shopping list; notebook, not giant wall of video. I don't like any of the keyboard cases because they have no ESC key. I'd rather use a soft keyboard or carry around this silly Magic Keyboard. Of course, needing it depends on me ever leaving the house again.

Update:

iPad Pro models with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB of storage will come with 8GB RAM, while iPad Pro models with 1TB or 2TB of storage will feature 16GB RAM.
Juli Clover

Portable Computing Devices

"Dr Ed Morbius"[sic] posts The Case Against Tablets and one of the most unusable tables I've ever seen (too much data with no affordances, and Diaspora's design crops anything complex). But the premise is interesting, especially as I'm considering my next wave of new hardware. He's just going about it the wrong way (no, really, Samsung of the exploding batteries is bad? Tell me more news.), and then frustrated he can't succeed by going the wrong way.

So, luggables have been around since (counting only devices usable by the general public) Osborne I (1983, 10.7kg), tablets since Kyocera Kyotronic 85 aka TRS-80 Model 100 (1983, 1.4kg), laptops since Toshiba T1100 (1985, 4.1kg). It's been possible to have handheld computing since at least the Apple Newton MessagePad (1993, 640g), and Palm Pilot 1000 (1996, 160g). I've used but didn't own most of those, mind, just a Sharp PC-3, Psion, slightly later Toshiba and IBM laptops I hated, a bunch of Palm devices. I read many ebooks (Baen's early CDs of ebooks were great! Pity they mostly ship right-wing milsf these days), and 160x160 2-bit grayscale is not ideal. I have, as they say, seen some shit.

These days, the choices of hardware are a little better, thousands of suppliers, almost all of which fit into a few categories:

_ iPhone iPad Apple M1
Laptop
Android
phone
Android
tablet
Microsoft
Surface
Cheap
Windows
Laptop
Pricy
Windows
Laptop
Price mid-y mid-y hi-r low-g low-g hi-r mid-y hi-r
Weight/Bulk low-g mid-y hi-r low-g low-g to mid-y mid-y hi-r hi-r
Battery hi-g hi-g hi-g mid-y low-r mid-y mid-y low-r
Performance hi-g hi-g hi-g mid-y low-r to mid-y mid-y mid-y hi-g
Security hi-g hi-g hi-g low-r low-r mid-y mid-y mid-y
Books low-r hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g hi-g low-r low-r
Video mid-y hi-g hi-g mid-y hi-g hi-g hi-g hi-g
RSS/news sites mid-y hi-g hi-g mid-y hi-g hi-g hi-g hi-g
Social media hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g mid-y mid-y low-r low-r
Online shopping low-r mid-y hi-g low-r mid-y mid-y mid-y hi-g
Reference hi-g mid-y low-r hi-g mid-y mid-y low-r low-r
Videogames mid-y mid-y hi-g mid-y mid-y mid-y low-r hi-g
Writing low-r mid-y to hi-g hi-g low-r mid-y mid-y to hi-g hi-g hi-g
Programming mid-y mid-y hi-g low-r low-r mid-y mid-y hi-g

Figure out the things you care about, and pick whatever has the most green, maybe yellow, avoiding red cells. Now you know what to buy.

What do you actually care about?

  • Price: You do largely get what you pay for in this category. Apple's devices aren't really much more expensive than equal hardware, but they never ship anything in the bottom price category. They do gouge on the top memory prices, which is unpleasant. But any Apple device will last for years longer than Android or a cheap PC, and have good resale value. The incredibly low prices on Android stuff is tempting, but it's a trap ("get an axe").
  • Weight/Bulk: These days almost everything's under 2kg like a good sword, but holding up an iPad over your head in bed is very liable to fall and break your nose; this is one place where a phone or phablet is superior. Obviously holding a heavy laptop up is incredibly dumb, and they're completely useless while moving, standing, etc., can't be propped up anywhere, are just always in the way.
  • Battery life: It's easy for manufacturers to lie about this, but if you run a real workload, you quickly see how wasteful any x86 PC is. Everyone else, it comes down to power management.
  • Performance: Only matters for Videogames and maybe programming. But Apple's been putting absurdly powerful CPUs and GPUs in their mobile devices, A12 is essentially the same as the M1 in the new Macs. Only the fastest AMDs or Intel are even competitive, and those burn too much power to be good mobile devices. Benchmarks are hard to compare exactly, but: anandtech on A12Z puts it pretty high against laptops. 2 years later, that's the SOC that's now in the lower-end iPhone and iPad.
  • Security: I'm not trying to be biased here, but if you are concerned with security at all, you really only need to look at those first three columns. There's just no alternative at present.

    Only a fool would trust anything running Android, they often ship with malware, everything in the stores is contaminated and has ridiculous lists of permissions, and they stop updating at "EOL" which may come as soon as it ships, rarely more than 6-12 months later. Do not put anything of value or interest to others in your Android device.

    Microsoft wants to be good at security, but is functionally terrible at it. They live in an open sewer of constant attacks, and have cardboard walls of bad software. Your mobile device may be pwned and all your files crypto-ransomed the second you connect it to the Internet. MS monthly updates sometimes wipe drives or lock you out, those are just from the last year, I'm sure they'll fuck up new ways this year.

    One can, one supposes, install BSD or Linux on a laptop, but that just makes it unusable for most of the tasks below.

    You know who actually seems able to keep secure borders? The walled Apple garden. Other than nation-states getting physical access to an older device, and if you're not stupid enough to turn on iCloud backups for things you need to stay private (iMessage!), you are almost entirely safe on iOS or Mac OS.

The tasks you might reasonably do with a portable computing device are:

  • Books: Cannot be read comfortably on a small screen, or landscape laptop. Needs a good document management program. On iOS, there's Readdle Documents, which is a great storage/reading hub for almost everything. On the Mac, I use Murasaki to read epub, except those in Apple Books. On Android, I've found ReadEra and Simple File Manager do that well, are pleasantly minimalist, and are not apparently run by criminals out to rob you, unlike 99% of Android software. I guess on Windows you can just keep things in folders and click on them? As noted every time I have to use Windows, I don't know how people use that.
  • Video: Not ideal on small screens, but I've found almost everyone has caught up now. Everyone has players for all the major streaming services, can play web video fine. Android file management of videos is awful. Windows seems OK at this. The real losers, tho, are BSD and Linux laptops; they can't do any DRM video without jumping thru excessive hurdles. I've been fighting this off and on for a decade with my side terminals, and mostly end up playing video on the Mac desktop instead.
  • RSS/news sites: Relies on having a big screen for 2-pane or 3-pane view, and good RSS reader. I use Reeder on mobile, and Feedbin on desktop; there's inferior but functional apps on other platforms.
  • Social media: Doomscrolling is best done at arm's reach, where you can instantly push home or just throw it away to get away from it. You need a camera attached, so I don't consider laptops suitable at all. Can you imagine someone holding their laptop over their lunch or up for a selfie?
  • Online shopping: Requires multiple tabs, note-taking, preferably a spreadsheet. On the latest iPads, you can split-screen a notepad or Numbers and a browser, which definitely helps, but a laptop or desktop works best here. I don't know how you would even do this on Android, where programs rarely keep their contents when hitting Back a bunch of times.
  • Reference: Here I mean on-the-spot "what's the answer to X?". Mostly checking wikipedia or Memory Alpha. So just a tiny bit of typing in search, maybe poke at a couple followup links, not extensive reading. 12 years ago I started doing this with my Treo, and it was addictive. This is an ideal use of a smartphone, every second that passes until you can Kirk someone with your online knowledge, it becomes less interesting.
  • Videogames: All mobile devices suffer from shitty controls. Cheap computers suffer from shitty GPUs; these days mobile GPUs are better. Macs don't have as many games as Windows, the official hybrid Excel/Call of Duty OS, but it's fine. The whole category shouldn't exist, we should just play games on the Switch or consoles, but it persists. Go play catch with your dog, it's more fun than poking at a tiny screen.
  • Writing: Long-form writing depends on screen, keyboard, and editor. There's plenty of BT keyboards for every mobile device. The original iPad had a keyboard dock stand which I bought with mine, and used until I got a better one; I now mostly use a Zagg keyboard with it, or just type on-screen. The current low-travel keyboard cases for Surface, iPad, etc. are kind of awful to type on, but they're very portable. Laptops will always win here, you can sit upright at any table and type ergonomically, and still have functioning hands in a decade. Even with an external keyboard, I find phones too small to compose much text on.

    The editor situation is more complex. I love Editorial (by the author of Pythonista), and it's great for writing text in Markdown, and is scriptable. Pages is fine for short, pretty documents, but it's incredibly slow as your document gets long, and very fiddly when you adjust layouts. There's dozens more on iOS, of varying quality. MS Word runs on iOS, Android, and something called "weeendows"; it's mildly awful but standard. I've found no native Android writing programs that weren't hate crimes, but I'm not super motivated to try every one.
  • Programming: As noted in Programming on your Phone, there's only a few good environments for iOS, but Pythonista is so good it makes up for a category. I've now seen a few Android programming environments, and they're comically, hatefully bad. Surface would be fine, except it's Windows; the only way to dev on that crap is a giant IDE that really needs a high-end desktop computer. Again you might put BSD or Linux on a laptop, but now it's useless for anything else.

I don't rank Drawing, even though that's a very important task for some people, because I'm not qualified to evaluate it; I can draw stick figures and collage art/"memes", but is the Apple Pencil super great? Maybe. What do the others have? No idea. Apparently MS reinstated MS Paint to their program store?

In hardware, I ignored e-ink readers because I find them unusable; a 2-4 second lag when flipping pages or trying to type anything is just unacceptable. We have cheap, low-power, high-refresh-rate LCD screens now, there's absolutely no benefit to e-ink. If you can stand it, fine, but I have no idea how to evaluate a thing I can't even look at.

(my table's not ideal because WordPress fights me; writing this in BBEdit/multimarkdown, I had the column labels rotated 90° with CSS, but for some reason WP positioned them wrong! I could render the HTML and paste that in, I guess, but then it's not easily editable later. And the margin of my site theme is a pain; I keep threatening to rewrite the style sheet entirely. Also, I'm aware there's colorblindness, but safe colors for them look awful to everyone else; so read the -r -y -g labels.)