Rubénerd

By Ruben Schade in s/Singapore/Sydney/.

But Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done it!

Steve Jobs wouldn’t have released an iPhone 8 and a X! He wouldn’t have approved of the notch, or the Pencil, or the charging port on the new mouse, or a gold Apple Watch!

He also wouldn’t have approved of the hockey puck mouse, or the G4 cube, or GUI pinstripes, or an impersonal doughnut-shaped office complex, or back-mounted ports on the iMac. Except, he did.

Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done it is the new this wasn’t designed well. It’s an inflated expectation he couldn’t even fulfil now.

There are legitimate criticisms, but how Steve would have hypothetically responded to a device is irrelevant. Whether you like it or not, Apple is a different company now. As it should and must be.

Posted by Ruben Schade

What’s new in the Debian installer

I missed a few of these nuggets when Debian 9 Stretch came out:

Support for the powerpc architecture has been removed.

This makes me sad :(. My first Mac was an iMac DV, but my iBook G3 is still probably my favourite computer I’ve ever had. It’s had Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Yellow Dog, Gentoo, the BSDs, but I guess no longer Debian – and Ubuntu by extension. I don’t blame them, but feels like the end of an era.

The installer and the installed systems use a new standard naming scheme for network interfaces. ens0 or enp1s1 (ethernet) or wlp3s0 (wlan) will replace the legacy eth0, eth1, etc.

I also don’t blame them, but good news its easy to rename back.

Since 64-bit PCs have become more common, the default architecture on multi-arch images is now amd64 instead of i386.

Solid idea, though glad i386 still exists for my Pentium MMX tower :).

Also, as the installer now gives an easy choice of desktop selection within tasksel, only Xfce CD#1 remains as a single-CD desktop system.

Good, Xfce is the still best *nix desktop environment.

Support for HTTPS has been added to the installer, enabling downloading of packages from HTTPS mirrors.

That’s cool, I don’t need to install apt-transport-https in my Ansible playbooks for repos like the tirelessly-maintained Sury. Actually now that I re-read, it says added to the installer, still not sure if it’s installed by default now.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Amagi Brilliant Park #03

In our continuing series reviewing Kyoto Animation shows that I missed when they first aired, we take another spoiler-riddled look at the next episode of Amagi Brilliant Park.

What - albeit predictable - relief, Kanie has taken on the gargantuan task that Sento spent obsessive time researching him for. So what would a Kanie regime look like? The episode explored three possibilities, with real-world results I was surprised to see given the otherwise fantastical elements of the series. Like, I dunno, mind-wiping bullets?!

The first, clean the damn park! The first two episodes dedicated much of their art and scene-setting to emphasise the parks’ dilapidated state, from unmaintained rides to general dirtiness. Sento reached into skirtspace and had a predictable answer for staff consternations, though already we’re seeing Kanie’s attitude as one of attracting flies with honey rather than vinegar.

Which leads to the second, entirely predictable solution from a teenage gentleman for park promotion, easily summarised in one screen capture. Kyoani tends to be more tasteful than some other production houses I could mention, but it didn’t stop them reaching for the inevitable “beach episode” early on, with the entire female cast. Clara was less than impressed, though not surprised!

What was encouraging was the utter failure of the plan, and the introspection to point out that booth babes and other such contrived attractions don’t translate to patronage. Moffle defending his honour upon the accusation of knockoff-ism – knockoff-ism? – scored more video hits than their mizugi advertisement, albeit without making much impact on patronage either.

With sex and violence ruled out, what will they need to do? Actually sell the park’s now-sparkling attractions? Absurd!

Which leaves two unpalatable but likely necessary solutions: take those ticket prices and wages, and slash them! It understandably led to some… acrimonious reactions. It does give some insight into tough choices those in charge often have to make, though I’d hope Kanie could attract more patrons first before resorting to such measures. Maybe the super cheap tickets could be the key? Right?

I’m sorry, but Sento’s deadpan expressions and voice are still my favourite.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Marriage equality

I sent in my postal survey answer on Australian marriage equality this morning, because it’s perfectly reasonable to “vote” on the rights of a minority! But the absurdity is just beginning.

How we’re “voting”

International media organisations have been saying Australians are voting on marriage equality. They can be forgiven for doing so, because the current situation is so muddy and silly, like a pet pig called Kevin Bacon.

It’s not a referendum, or even a plebiscite, because the current conservative government couldn’t get the numbers in the senate to allow them to ask it. Reasonable parties concluded any formal vote on the issue would result in vicious smear campaigns that would demonise people.

Imagine that, a civil debate on the rights of a minority descending into lies, moving of goal posts, and other bullshit? Good thing the public tone of the debate with this current system has been so civil. HAHAHA! Hahaha! Haha. Hah.

So instead, the government tasked the much maligned Australian Bureau of Statistics to send the weakest, most watered-down form of public participation imaginable: a non-binding postal survey. As you’d expect, there are already reports of people being sent multiple letters, finding letters in rubbish bins, or not receiving any at all. In other words, business as usual.

There’s also the cynical, but inescapable, idea that postal surveys were specifically chosen to advantage older voters, rather than – or in addition to – an electronic system that younger voters would be more likely to use. I don’t think that holds water, there’s no reason younger voters would be in any way more socially progressive.

UPDATE: The tone of the above may have been lost on a few of my readers here. I was implying that, yes, younger people tend to be more socially progressive. I’d hoped the bemused, exacerbated tone of this whole post would have communicated that. Never mind, nothing that a quick aside can’t address. Unlike the ABS or Australia Post, seemingly.

Why it’s a waste of time

When these “votes” are tallied, the government doesn’t need to act on the results. It’s the big ol’ suggestion box of Australia! No those aren’t garbage bags, we at Australia™ take your opinions seriously, and they’ll be raised at our next board meeting.

What will likely happen is anything less than 90% in favour will be advertised as an “unclear” preference from Australians (pardon, the “Australian People”), and they won’t do anything. The proverbial can will be pulled out of the latest NBN deployment and kicked down the road, resulting in no change.

The next politician who uses the phrase “Australian People” will be kicked by one. If you can give me some warning though so I can wear some steel-toed boots, that’d be great.

I’ve read some political strategists that claim this was the entire point of the survey. The government can be seen as doing something for rights, but they don’t have to actually implement anything they find distasteful. They get their discrimination cake and can eat it too! Though I wouldn’t do the latter, it’s probably poison.

The whims of social media

But that’s not all. Social media has predictably been volcanically erupting with bizarre criticisms of the survey that have nothing to do with the process or igneous rocks. Ignoramus rocks, perhaps.

  1. People are saying they’re sick of hearing about it. It’s a good thing they haven’t lived their whole lives with it, and just want closure with a proper vote. They’d likely have burst a few blood vessels by now.

  2. People feel victimised for voting no. Seemingly without any form of introspection or ability to detect irony, as they vote no to victimise a minority.

  3. People will be voting no as a protest against the above. That’s so many levels of absurd, I’m not going to insult yours or my intelligence dissecting.

There are aspects of Australia I love, but its current political climate is not one of them. The good news is, they’re erecting a pen around their meeting place so they can’t spread.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Video: Bit dusty next door

So that’s why our office balcony was covered in grit this morning!

Posted by Ruben Schade

No more plain text Zendesk

I missed this news from Zendesk owing to… an errant spam filer. There’s Morissetian-irony there somewhere.

The plain text editor is being removed from Zendesk Support. If you are currently using the Plain Text Editor in Zendesk Support, you need to enable the Rich Text or Markdown Editor before the removal date.

Their explanation for the feature removal:

Maintaining an older version of a feature or product when a new version is available limits our ability to ensure a valuable experience with the new functionality and takes time away from supporting the new functionality. All of our text editor investments/enhancements will be going into the Rich Text Editor, so this will be an overall much better experience for our customers.

And a subsequent clarification:

One of the mains reasons for removing Plain Text is that both Markdown and Rich Text are much richer experiences. Having the three options has led to a lot of confusion about what each editor option does.

I would have thought keeping a plain text editor would be less overhead than maintaining a markdown parser or rich text editor, but I can appreciate the support and maintenance overhead.

I’d argue though for something where email is the central feature, plain text should be an option. Technically proficient users communicate with plain text for many reasons, and aside from anything else, rich text – rendered from markdown or a rich text editor – isn’t a good image.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Amagi Brilliant Park #02

In our continuing series reviewing Kyoto Animation shows that I missed when they first aired, we take another spoiler-riddled look at the next episode of Amagi Brilliant Park.

Having established the magical premise of this mysterious park, this episode focused on convincing our intrepid, self-absorbed protagonist to assist this failing enterprise. Clara still thinks he’s cute, despite his less than enviable personality traits. Or at least, thus far.

Firstly though, we establish that indeed he did receive powers to read people’s minds. Though as Sento cleverly deflected when he read hers, it only works once. I’m relieved this constraint exists; it’d be too easy to use as a writer’s crutch otherwise. It also seems he can turn it on at will, which would lead to situations where he’s avoiding doing it for a more opportune moment to try it out. But how would you know when best to do it, if you can’t read their mind first? Boom!

Sento’s deadpan voice is becoming my favourite aspect of the series. Ai Kakuma does a stellar job imparting a sense of disinterested aloofness masking concern, without sounding flat. Few Japanese seiyuus can do this really well, and almost none of the English dub voice actors I’ve heard can.

Ditto the public happy faces of the overworked staff, and their subsequent required recovery in massage chairs! I’m sure there’s some not too subtle social commentary there on how all service and retail staff are treated. Seriously though, it amazes me that people feel like they can be dicks to retail workers, are you phallic-sizes in such need of compensation? Wow, that went blue quick.

In terms of explanations, we got some answers about how such a gigantic amusement park run by teenagers can exist. The equivalent of an Australian local council almost seemed to relish the idea of closing the facility after repeated deadlines failed to hit targets, thereby establishing them as themselves the villains of the series, and starting the clock on the primary series plot.

Kanie also can’t be bought off by cute lead negotiators too, HAH!

The final scene with Kanie accepting the chance to turn the park around was classic Kyoani, with the stirring emotional response and lofty words. It can get to the level of cringe sometimes - Euphonium comes to mind - though Kanie himself later admits he was doing it intentionally to instill confidence.

Okay Kanie, someone with no business chops and limited social skills, how are you going to turn this around? No pressure.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Trump

There are big Australian political movements going down now, from electricity rates and renewable plants, to LGBTI and refugee rights. Meanwhile, Singapore has a new president, and there are questions about the reliability of the MRT of late.

But globally, these pale in comparison to what is happening now with Trump, and I don’t feel I can be silent on it.

Based on my server stats, the majority of my readers are American, some of whom may be Trump supporters. So I feel it’s incumbent upon me to reach out and let you know what those of us outside the US see.

The world doesn’t fear Trump. At worst, we feel second hand embarrassment. When we’re feeling charitable, we think he’s hilarious. If the aim of his bluster was to intimidate, he’s failed. Completely. He’s the butt of more jokes than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and that’s saying something.

Think of that crude relative of yours who regularly disgraces themselves with their antics. Or if you’re lucky not to have one, imagine one. Now picture they’ve come to dinner with your in-laws, or friends, and done or said something stupid in front of everyone. That’s how we view your executive branch right now, and his supporters as family. We’re not afraid of him, beyond what he might say to the attractive young waiter, or how much potato salad he’ll drop on the pants he may have remembered to put on before coming.

The problem is, despite some hiccups, I still view America as a force for good in the world. Maybe that’s my naïvety showing through, but it makes this whole Trump episode that much more tragic.

America will pull through, like it has done in the past. But for those of you still clinging onto this increasingly untenable position that Trump is somehow this great negotiator that’s going to settle the score with the rest of the world, all I can say is, he’s not. And the sooner you realise it, the sooner we put this whole sordid affair to rest.

Posted by Ruben Schade

Pointless list #1: People I like and dislike

I wasn’t stuck between the moon and New York City this week, but I was stuck on the tarmac at Sydney Airport for half an hour. Sorry Russel Brand, you were no Dudley Moore.

So I made two pointless, unordered, and incomplete lists. Enjoy.

Dislike

  • People who cut off ambulances
  • People who ask for an “expresso”
  • People claiming moral authority who aren’t
  • People who are on this list
  • People who label a “vegetable pie” with beef in it

Like

  • People working in climate science in 2017
  • People tirelessly maintaining old Exchange servers
  • People who smile when they walk past
  • People who are on this list
  • Artichoke farmers

Posted by Ruben Schade

Apple’s September 2017 kit

I’m sure everyone’s waiting with baited breath about my hotcakes on the Apple announcement this weeks. That should have been hot take, but hotcakes is a delightful autocorrect.

The new Apple Watch

This was easily the most interesting part of the keynote. The original watch was billed as a second iPhone screen, with a heavy emphasis on apps. This time, they’re taking health much more seriously, which is wonderful.

For some context, I use my first-gen Apple Watch for multiple timezones, weather, and fitness tracking, and nothing else. I think I’ve looked at the app launcher twice. Anything that improves these core features makes me happy :).

The 4K Apple TV

This is skating to where the puck is going. Most of us don’t have 4K televisions or content, but good to see this getting some attention. Except for the horrible remote.

iTunes

Removing the App Store from iTunes is being widely hailed as a victory for slimming down bloated software, but I’m disappointed for a few reasons.

  1. It really should have been spun out to its own application, if the goal was to slim down iTunes. It’s not without precedent; we all used iSync back in the day for our devices; a modern day equivalent with an App Store would make sense.

  2. Backing up apps is only possible through iTunes, so that’s gone.

  3. Transferring any meaningful amount of data to an app is tedious enough to be infeasible on iOS. You really need the iTunes app interface to select and transfer content.

I’m not as self–absorbed to consider this a huge mistake for Apple, especially given how most people do software updates. But it’s a huge mistake for their power users.

The iPhone 8

I’m relieved and happy this exists, for reasons that are as much to do with what the iPhone X is. Wireless charging brings it closer to what the Palm Pre had – the phone I held so much hope for – and they fortunately backported the A11 from the X to it.

It’s not enough of a replacement for my dinner-tray size iPhone 7+ to fork out some more dough, and I tend to upgrade phones every three years because I develop odd attachments to them. But I can think of at least a few family members on old phones who’d really benefit from it, especially for the improved camera optics.

I wonder how many more of these they’ll sell in countries with large Chinese populations, too?

The iPhone X

The name is a homage to the original Mac OS X naming scheme, which I kinda like. The wireless charging is a solid step, and the A11 sounds impressive. About everything else I have reservations.

The biggest is the inevitable but regrettable switch to OLED. These screens are awful for those of us with above average close-distance vision. The screen shimmers when we move our eyes across them, and they’re grainy as all hell. I tolerate it on the watch because I only glance at it, the phone’s another story. If you tend to use your phones for a few years instead of jumping on the upgrade bandwagon, you’ll likely get some serious burn–in on from recurring UI elements too, unless Apple have taken steps to mitigate this, like the old school Apple TV with plasma screens. Maybe they have.

I’m creeped out by FaceID, I tend to either unlock my phones flat on tables, or reaching for the TouchID in my pocket, so I’d probably just disable it. It feels like a needed-feature to replace the home button, now the screen covers the whole unit.

Except, it doesn’t. The top screen protrusion for the camera and speaker is asymmetric and ungainly, surprising for Apple. It also persists during video playback, which is a recipe for serious consternation for OCD sufferers, or those of us who play one on TV. Having a permanent black bar flush with that for the indicators would have looked much better.

(UPDATE: I’m surprised since writing this that the protrusion has caused the most hang wringing. People are calling it the bump, the unibrow, the notch. I’m sorry, but there’s only one unibrow, and as much of an Apple fan I am, they can’t match him).

We should all reserve final judgement till we play with this new gear, but if I were on an iPhone 5, Android – or Palm Pre! – today, I’d be snapping up an iPhone 8 without question.

Posted by Ruben Schade