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Upgrading pip packages

Let’s upgrade something, like Jinja2:

$ pip upgrade Jinja2

Wait, damn it. Do this:

$ pip install --upgrade Jinja2

One of these days we’ll have a unified, standardised syntax for package managers.

The Facebook market failure

The thought-terminating cliche about Facebook goes if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. And it’s transparently specious:

  • If you’re a millennial and don’t have a profile, good luck finding a job. Recruiters routinely search Facebook profiles to make sure you’re on the up and up; an absence of one leads to the assumption you deleted or blocked it out of shame for what it contained.

  • Facebook maintains shadow profiles of unregistered users, based on patterns of others.

  • Merely having an account will result in you being tracked online, unless you’re extremely proactive with opting out and using privacy tools. This should all be opt in, of course.

None of this, even recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica, should be surprising or new, though at least the latter are finally making more media outlets take notice.

The core problem is, Facebook is a success by our current metrics of making money and having lots of users. Only when those motives are aligned differently will we see a change.

The more I think about it, it looks like one of the biggest market failures of all time, where the welfare of people is impacted by its growth.

555 pages

According to my site pagination heading, we’re at 555 pages of posts here. Naturally I thought that was a great repeating number, and also the number of the world’s most widely-used IC:

The 555 timer IC is an integrated circuit (chip) used in a variety of timer, pulse generation, and oscillator applications. [..]

Introduced in 1972[3] by Signetics, the 555 is still in widespread use due to its low price, ease of use, and stability. It is now made by many companies in the original bipolar and in low-power CMOS technologies. As of 2003, it was estimated that 1 billion units were manufactured every year. The 555 is the most popular integrated circuit ever manufactured.

This puts me at 13.63% of a J-Walk Blog.

Rubenerd Show 374: The Odawara episode

Rubenerd Show 374

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

41:36 – I'm in Tokyo for AsiaBSDCon 2018 and annual leave. Too much audio to process! So for now, have this clip of Clara and I talking about our day trip to Odawara. Topics include the Train Simulator route of yore that inspired the trip, the Odakyu Luxury Super Express, walking past restaurants, Clara cat spotting, dango balloons, Odawara Castle, Ito En milk coffee, Denny's, ikiben, shiba inu dogs, Foursquare/Swarm, and getting back to Kudanshita.

Recorded in Odawara, Japan. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released March 2018 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

Subscribe with iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or add this feed to your podcast client.

Tokyo 2018

Photo holding my bag with sakura!

It’s official, I’ve broken my #postaday2018 challenge, never to be mentioned again. I did it in 2011, but not this year!

But it was broken for good reason, I’m in Tokyo for annual leave, and attending AsiaBSDCon. This is the first day on the whirlwind trip that I’ve cracked open the laptop to type something that wasn’t notes from a presentation, or to charge my exhausted phone. As much as I love writing, exploring will take precedence, especially when Clara and keep adding more places to see!

(Photo above is of Clara and I at the Ueno park, with budding sakura and a bag being held with a swish new FreeBSD Foundation handle grip!)

Tokyo ain’t no Osaka—heh—but it’s an amazing place. Busy and crowded for sure, but it all just works. We’re too early for the full sakura bloom, but we saw a couple of trees crowded with tourists! And AsiaBSDCon was everything I’d hoped it’d be; I even got photos with some of my heros. And the views from the Tokyo Tower and other places eclipse New York; no small feat.

More details and thoughts when I get back to a keyboard; but for now it’s time to look like an awful gaijin weeb tourist with a camera and Mashu bag tag.

Flat, mobile designs reduce usability

While we’re talking usability, Zorro shared this Register story on Slashdot reporting that users navigate flat UI designs 22 percent slower. An AC posted this in response, which I have to quote in full:

It’s more than just change for the sake of change. It’s a bunch of stupid valley hipsters and brain-dead suits who don’t know the first thing about visual communication, throwing away nearly forty years of GUI design standards and principles (which have been tried, proven, and I would dare say perfected, over that span of time,) just so they can make something that looks trendy and sophisticated, when it’s really just annoying. When people complain, they assume the problem is with the user, and not with the bullshit design ideas that they’re embracing. (So in a lot of ways, an interface that’s like them.)

It’s bad enough that so many sacrifices have to be made for palm-sized touch screens (don’t even get me started on these,) but piling ugly pastel colors, flat interfaces, gigantic empty margins and spaces, unreadable fonts, and cryptic icons that roam from page to page, all on top of that, has made the smartphone user experience an exercise in frustration. Whenever this rot spreads to other platforms (especially design choices that only make sense when you’re dealing with a touch screen, on a platform where the touch screen is absent) I just groan and shake my head and ask, “Why? Why would you do this to your program?” Deliberately reducing the usability of your programs, especially for new users, just for the sake of looks is not a valid artistic decision! Function first, form second, it’s the golden rule of design!

Despite prescriptions of “fanboyism” levelled at me over the years, I still use an iPhone because its the least-frustrating device on the market today. Well, among other reasons. I maintain PalmOS was the closest we came to a great mobile UI.

Discoverability is my biggest interface design concern. We used to put things in predictable places; think menus, toolbars, and consistent icons. We were coming from text-based interfaces where there was a cognitive overhead of having to remember where things were, the specific syntax of certain commands, and application-specific shortcuts.

Now we’ve come full circle. Features are hidden away with gestures, or under a hamburger icon without a consistent position, or application-specific metaphors for problems that were already solved. Yay, we’re back in the early 1980s, only with better GPUs!

But I think this trend even pre-dates mobile UIs. Microsoft began removing menubars with Windows Explorer in Vista in an attempt to mimic the unified titlebar and toolbar of Mac OS X. Except the Mac was able to do this because it has a persistent menubar. As I said in 2009:

This got me thinking then: wouldn’t it be great if it were somehow possible to merely swap in the explorer.exe file from Windows 2000 — the last version of Windows I believe had a genuinely usable interface — into Windows 7?

Oh you fool, you have no idea what’s in store!

On the Linux desktop, GNOME and its default apps — I use that term deliberately — now put menu items in a single hamburger icon, and removes further UI cues. Ditto the most recent versions of Firefox. It’s the classic erroneous conflation of minimalism and ease of use Einstein may have warned us of.

I haven’t confirmed this, but my gut also tells me these trends coincides with the wider adoption of the term UX over UI. Either way, it’s just the latest generation thinking they know better than the people who came before them. As a member of this generation making the same mistakes of the past, please stop. Our parents figured this out already!

More regressive web design stickyness

A website screenshot showing a persistent chat window and newsletter signup popup over the page content

Here’s another example of regressive modern web design. After dismissing the lightbox newsletter signup popup, we’re inundated with a faux chat box and persistent sidebar popup.

We can put pressure on sites doing this by not visiting them, or closing the tab and not reading. But my concern is this is near universal now. Only an industry-wide backlash will change this.

The good news is all of these elements use fixed positioning, so its easy enough to target them with a toolbar bookmarklet like Kill Sticky Headers. If you fixed position anything in your CSS, I’d wager you it’d be greatly improved if you didn’t.

Keysmash #3 icon

I enjoy throwing brief keysmashes into the Mac, and seeing what comes up. Here’s our third foray into the unexpected:

Gresham, Sir Thomas | ˈɡrɛʃəm |
(c. 1519–79), English financier. He founded the Royal Exchange in 1566 and served as the chief financial adviser to the Elizabethan government.

Wait, that’s the same one we did before, and the time before that. Carry on.

Rockmelon and life

The ABC have updated us on this tragic news:

There has been a third death linked to a national outbreak [in Australia] of listeria related to rockmelons. [..] Victoria’s deputy chief health officer said five Victorians had been infected, and that one of those people had died after being hospitalised.

We go through life watching both ways before crossing the street. We eat right, get enough sleep, avoid fights, and enjoy life’s pleasures in healthy moderation. Or we aim to, at the very least.

We can do absolutely everything right. And die from eating a rockmelon.

The cynical version of me after my previously–healthy mum died from the big C threw up his hands in desperation and shouted fuck it, we’re fucked anyway, and went on a spiral of caffeine manias that ended up causing all manner of problems.

But now I think it’s quite the opposite. We can improve our odds for living, but it’s also a beautiful chance that we exist at all. So it’s even more critical we treasure it.

It’s cliché, but there it is.

How does one push 0.4 of a commit?

Speaking of GitHub, I noticed this delightful graph on a new private repo.

The y-axis denotes the number of commits, which for me is one.

For those with screen readers, they’ve interpolated the other values as 0.2, 0.4. 0.6, and 0.8. I guess when you’re upper bound to 1, what else are you going to put along there?

Still, I’d love to see how one does a fraction of a commit :). I wouldn’t want to ask too loudly though, in case that creepy as all hell Octocat were the one to respond. I would have thought anime would have inoculated me against such feelings, yet here we are.