The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden has recently been released in the UK. If you've enjoyed his previous work definitely give this a go. I thought it was an enjoyable high quality production.

Posted on 20 Aug 2017, 11:08 a.m. by toadwarrior

Web bloat

Dan Luu wrote an article some time ago about web bloat which I generally agree with and feel this is a problem. From a personal point of view I don't think I should see performance worse than I find in 3D games when reading text. Sometimes you can see this on websites that have massive JavaScript libraries to download and that's before considering the affects on mobile devices' performance and battery life.

While it's not ideal that my phone's battery won't last as long there is another issue which Dan touches on and I won't repeat. But it restricts who can view your site. Quite often people forget the internet is global and not everyone lives in San Francisco.

Another reason I dislike the bloat is more often than not it adds nothing. Share bars, flashing and moving content. These distract, constrict the viewing area and generally make reading much harder. Reproducing browser functionality is just bad programming. This is reinventing the wheel and often less efficiently and to not benefit to the user. As fun as it may be to add a new feature on your website please consider if it exists already. Especially if it's a back button.

On a lighter note, he's also plotted the performance of various terminals and Emacs does quite well.

Posted on 18 Jul 2017, 8:53 p.m. by toadwarrior

First impressions of Air Pods

I went into my local Apple Store the other day just to try the demonstration pair of Air Pods. With the 6 week wait time I thought there is no way I want to order them, wait and then end up returning them. Well, luckily they had them in stock and the fit was really good with my ears so I got them.

I've had them awhile now and I'm definitely sold on them. My only other experience with wireless headphones is with the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones and the Bose SoundSport earphones and in both cases they've been great. In fact I'm using the QC35 headphones right now.

In both cases their range isn't as good as I get with the Air Pods which in the case of the QC35 headphones that seems sort of illogical. They're much bigger and therefore should surely be able to broadcast a strong better signal but apparently not. Oddly enough the SoundSport headphones also have a superior range to the QC35 headphones. The SoundSport ones allow me to mostly get around most of my home without cutting out.

So I'd have to say where I use them they're generally fine with regard to range. Battery life on both is certainly fine for my needs too. The QC35 headphones are not really an outdoor headphone and certainly shouldn't be sweated on. So when I'm active that leaves the SoundSport headphones and while they are wireless from the phone, which is great, they're not wireless from each other. They'll catch on clothes or my backpack and some times it's just that there's enough friction on my skin and maybe it's the weight of them but that's enough to some times pull them out. My ears just aren't very compatible with the range of ear pieces they give and there.

So that's how I got where I'm at and decided to give the Air Pods a go and the benefits in my mind are

In fact the only reason I touch them is to make sure they're actually there. It often feels like you've got nothing in your ears. Siri also appears to work better. Though I must say I generally don't have issues with Siri outside of using her/him with my Apple TV and Apple Music.

I don't know what it is with Siri but I can talk about the same things and I get the correct results unless I'm asking for said thing from apple music and then it goes comically wrong. It's just embarrassing.

Of course should they ever come out there is a much higher risk of them going in the drains or becoming lost if I were cycling though really I shouldn't be listening to music and cycling anyway.

The ability to pause and play the music just by taking one air pod out is just so handy and convenient.

If there is one downside I'd say double tapping them seems a bit hit or miss at times. I use that for siri (resorting to just pulling one out for pause / play). Aim I meant to aim for the black part at the top or more at the bottom or shouldn't it matter? I'm not sure to be honest. It usually works but it will fail at times.

And it should be noted they're not entirely magical. Being further away from the music playing device and, as an example bending down so the signal has to go through my watery mass, plus multiple concrete walls and not being more or less lined up with the device (height seems to matter more at further distances with all bluetooth devices) does cause it to start cutting out. However, that's just the nature of wireless headphones. Sending signals through water or bodies made mostly of water just seems to be quite hard.

All in all I'd have to say they are the most satisfactory bluetooth headphones I've ever had. Other need to look at what Apple has done and replicate it.

I think the best thing will be for Bose to do something similar to the W1 chip added or at least something similar.

Posted on 16 Jun 2017, 10:04 p.m. by toadwarrior

Emacs theme of the moment

If you're looking for a good light theme I'd suggest Leuven which is included in emacs but the previous link is the best way to get the latest changes.

If there is one thing I'd complain about it's the rainbow parenthesis colours which are quite poor and I'm working out my own combination. Otherwise it seems fairly solid.

Posted on 10 May 2017, 8:19 p.m. by toadwarrior

new hardware and software from apple

Both iPhone 7 and Apple Watch 2 look really good but I will likely pass on them for one reason really. My iPhone 6 and Apple watch 1 work perfectly fine. I'm trying not to be wasteful and replace my items too soon. In terms of Apple watch it's easy to feel that way. With iPhone 7, it's much harder. The jet black colour, superior screen colours, camera and waterproofing are very, very tempting. As someone using strictly bluetooth headphones with my iPhone I don't mind the lack of the headphone jack and welcome it if it will push companies to improve wireless headphones. It is so much better without the wire. I think I would find it hard to go back to wired headphones even as they currently behave.

So with the things I can and have been using - iOS 10, macOS Sierra and watchOS. I am generally happy.

  1. macOS is generally a solid upgrade. So far the only thing that bugs me is the white notification centre while using the dark theme. It looks very much out of place.

  2. iOS 10. Changing things around is ok and generally it's all ok. I'm not sure how I feel about the whiteness of everything. I'm also not sure about making many of the fonts larger. But the things I use the most are generally quite good. I do think the music app is improved but to be honest it was a bit of a mess before so it would be hard to not improve it. However on that note why is not so hard to "heart" songs? It's hidden from the lock screen and requires digging through menus when in the music app too. Someone should be told off for that. When listening to music I don't want to unlock my phone and certainly not dig around menus to heart a song.

  3. watchOS. In so many ways it's almost like a new OS. it's so much faster, the new layout of the activity app is perfect. The improved data from the workout results. It's all good. However there is one move that was down right awful. You used to have numerous items in the "swipe up" menu which included a now playing screen which always held the right context for podcasts and music and worked with 3rd party apps like spotify. Which ever screen you used last would be there when you swiped up again. It was perfect. Now "swipe up" reveals a bunch of buttons many of which I'll never use on a daily basis. Seriously, airplane mode needs that sort of prominence? If I want to access the sort of apps that were there before I need to click the side button which used to have your friends list. That would be fine but on top of clicking it I need to then click the app to focus it. Getting to "now playing" is downright painful now. I've alleviated some of this by creating a watch face that has the music app but that means it only works on music. Not podcasts. It needs to be far more effortless. if I am using that now playing screen there's a good chance my hands are full and I want to only work with a minimal number of single finger flicks.

All in all there are regressions amongst the three aside from watchOS' painful issue with "now playing". I'm pleased to have updated across the board. That said seriously apple, sort the "now playing" portion of watchOS. I'll help with the suggestion. Swap the functionality of the button and swipe up. Putting swipe up back to what it was and putting the screen of useless buttons behind the button.

Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:15 p.m. by toadwarrior

Kaspersky calls out security parasites

Many next generation security solutions rely on the handwork of someone else without contributing back. A problem I think we seen software in general thanks to business friendly open source licences.

Anyway I suggest have a read of Eugene Kaspersky's article Darwinism in IT Security, Pt. 3: Time to Deal with These No-Good Parasites

And for those who might be interested my solution to open source is give it away under the GPL and nothing else. If someone wants it for their business without sharing back have a dual licence requiring money so they're at least funding develop via paying you for your work.

Posted on 1 Jun 2016, 7:43 p.m. by toadwarrior

My thoughts on Google IO

It's been awhile since Google IO and having some time to think about it I have to say I don't think there is anything I can be happy about. I'd even say it feels like Google has nothing to offer but to steal away privacy from its users.

The two key items Allo and Duo (see the verge video on Allo / Duo for more info) which is their messaging and video apps.

Duo, if you're an android user just turns the phone camera on as it rings. Does no one at google take their phone to the toilet? Why would anyone consider this a good idea?

Allo wants to listen to your conversations which I'm sure the government is happy about and to be fair there's nothing strictly wrong about simply encrypting on the wire and having helper bots At least they're open about it.

What is concerning about Allo is that it does offer end to end encryption and in my opinion it presents it really poorly. It's not the default option and worse yet it's called Incognito mode, it has a black background with a shifty looking guy in the background. Yes - that's how incognito more or less works on Chrome but the implication is that you're doing something wrong. You're the bad little spy hiding in the dark.

Why not call it privacy mode and drop the shifty looking man? It doesn't have a negative connotation and arguably privacy is more simple language.

Oh and of course these chat / video applications aren't compatible with previous Google chat / video applications. Google isn't a contender in chat and they're not going to be if they keep burning their own loyal customers. To go slightly off topic we need chat to be like email. People shouldn't need 5 or more chat applications to talk to all their friends. XMPP is there but obviously companies won't touch it. They want a monopoly.

Lastly there's Google Home. I'll just say I'm not happy to have an advertiser listening to my every word.

But disregarding that what can Google really offer me? Unlike Amazon Echo which comes from a company with plenty of good and services I would want to use Google doesn't really offer anything. Yes there are services like Google Music but I'll be honest investing in Google services just seems like a recipe for disappointment. They still kill their services a bit too quick to trust them.

The services where Google has been a leader they still fail at. Telling me obvious things like where the local Tesco is something I don't need maps for and if I did any provider does that just well. Something I'd need Maps for are things like local businesses which Google maps still fails at. The business you see in that link is not on that side of the street and certainly not inside a courthouse.

Is that the sort of quality I can expect from Google Home when I step outside of Google lowest common denominator expectations? Again to be fair, You can't blame google for not getting it right. Trying to provide AI is a near impossible task. It's still largely smoke and mirrors and works off of assumptions which make it only work if you're like everyone else. Where you can blame Google is for trying to convince customers it's anything but that.

Marco Arment is implying that apple could mean BlackBerry's fate by not going doing this route. I don't think he entirely understands what the implications are or he doesn't care. I'm personally happy that Apple values my privacy but also I'm happy they don't just throw things at the wall to see what sticks and kill off what doesn't. I've got better things to do than to signing up to yet another take on messaging by any company.

Posted on 22 May 2016, 11:09 a.m. by toadwarrior

My wish list for Apple

Now that everyone is taking time to explain what they want from Apple I felt ir was time to give my exceptionally short list.

Do away with the idea of 'pay once, update forever' in the App Store. If some companies would like to continue selling their apps that way it's fine but it's unsustainable and, I imagine, why the App Store is full of clones and unhelpful toy-like apps. If you go ahead with this then when I search for scanbot I'd imagine seeing one result from the scanbot author. Leaving me only capable of purchasing the latest or, after clicking into its page, seeing a version listing.

Start taking copyright infringement, scam-like apps and other App Store dreck more seriously. It's starting to feel like a shithole. I think we're only lucky that Google is worse in both these respects so developers have no choice.

We have a pro iPad so give us Xcode for iPad or some other means to write code. Compiling isn't necessarily a must but we're long overdue for some useful apps for programmers.

That's it, that's all I'd want.

Especially with a supposed pro iPad coming out its time to start looking after professionals. Having a 'pro' iPad and using it to play with fashion apps would just be sad.

Posted on 24 Mar 2016, 10:08 a.m. by toadwarrior

JavaScript: The inefficient parts

My relatively new macbook rarely has any problems with the tasks I give it. I can watch HD video while listening to music and do virtually any task other than play games and never have to think about hearing the fan or feeling the heat of a cooking macbook.

So in what world is it acceptable that viewing a single photo album within Google Photos should cause my system to feel like it's on the sun and sound like a jet taking off?

Photo albums should be a perfect match for web technologies and yet we can still get it so wrong with what are supposed to be some of the smartest people on the planet in terms of software development.

Perhaps that a good sign that we should be looking beyond HTML and JavaScript and develop proper tools for building applications on the web. The cost of all the additional energy spent to execute tasks poorly in JavaScript to date could probably fund housing for all the homeless people in San Francisco. I think it's time Google heads back to the drawing board.

Posted on 1 Mar 2016, 10:53 p.m. by toadwarrior

Lookwell

Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel made a pilot starring Adam West as a washed-up actor believing he can fight crime in real life called Lookwell.

For now you can watch the Lookwell pilot on Youtube.

This could have been comic gold.

Posted on 3 Jan 2016, 7:18 p.m. by toadwarrior

A couple of great Christmas gifts

Two of my favourite gifts this year were an AeroPress Coffee maker and a Summit microfibre towel.

The towel is basically like a giant glasses cleaner. You don't realise how handy something like that could be. For starters when going exercising it will certainly soak up the sweat, you can rinse it out and it will be dry in relatively no time (at least compared to a normal towel). But the other nice benefit will be that I could also use it to more quickly clean larger shiny surfaces like my TV screen. Though I'll have to think twice if I want to do that with my "sweat towel".

The AeroPress is perhaps the best gift. It lends itself to experimenting with coffee making more than other devices in my opinion, it's quite cool and feels "sciencey" when you're making it.

I'm not sure I'll get to the point of participating in the World Championship but I get why people do it. There are some cool apps for recipes. I like OchoCoco's app AeroPress Recipes and Timer but £8.00 for an app that feels like it might have been abandoned is something I'm not sure about. However I really like how it's done and the fact he's defined an open recipe format rather than locking people out.

Posted on 3 Jan 2016, 5:23 p.m. by toadwarrior

The website obesity Crisis

IdleWord's talk on the website obesity crisis was one of the best things I've read in some time and it sums up pretty much how I feel about where web development is heading.

As we enter 2016 I can look back on 2015 as the year I've embraced ad blockers. Part of that is because Apple and their content blocking system makes it work so well but that maybe covers 5% of the reason I've made the switch. I still prefer a free web and don't mind ads as such. However ads are becoming so bloated and so are the websites they're featured on.

In an increasingly mobile world that relies on slower battery powered hardware it's downright criminal what some web developers do so I feel it's in everyone's best interest to block them. Be fair and contact the website to let them know why.

Then hit up 1Blocker for iOS and Adamant for OS X Safari isn't too bad. It has some quirks on certain pages of sites like LinkedIn which lead to disabling and re-enabling it but the overall benefit from it makes it work it.

Posted on 1 Jan 2016, 11:40 p.m. by toadwarrior