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This is honestly where I have got 80% of my election news for the last 2 months. So good



Crypto and You

3 min read

So you want to learn more about the encryption debate.1 Well, take a knee, gang, its .

Flash back 10 years ago. No one gave a shit about cybersecurity unless you were in China or a ghostwritten Tom Clancy novel. Then, as people started using networked services in more places, the information leaks began. It was still not an issue for the government (particularly, law enforcement), because useful data was just as accessible to them as it was to nefarious agents, like hackers or Facebook.

In 2013, the Snowden leaks began to paint a picture of just how much our own security agencies relied on cybersecurity weakness in their day-to-day operations. Snowden had trouble finding a journalist who could figure out how to use PGP to read his heavily encrypted messages to disseminate this information.

The leaked information made Silicon Valley companies very angry. So they began to encrypt transmissions between their data centers, as well as building it into their email, messaging, and mobile operating systems.

Now, encryption is just lots of math. Ever watch a movie about code breakers in WWII? Encryption. The only difference now is that common computers can do a lot more math in a short amount of time. But before this point, it was never viewed as particularly important to consumer software.

Think of it this way. In the same way that a gun is an offensive weapon, encryption is a defensive weapon. It protects your information from prying eyes, whomever that may be.

So now law enforcement has a problem. This technology is widely available, even to enemies of the state. Their proposed solution is to break it. Or to put it in their words, make it work for some and not for others. Kind of like how if you point a gun at something or someone you like, it will not fire. Because it only works in certain situations.

This is obviously a farce. As the old argument goes, if we outlaw guns, only law breakers will have guns. Since enemies of the state are not likely to stop using encrypted communication if it is outlawed, the only people without it will be law-abiding citizens. Effectively the exact opposite of the stated goal.

Remember this when some idiot presidential candidate2 tries to tell you how encryption is bad because terrorists are bad. The only benefit of outlawing encryption is to spy on you.

  1. I know there is a new John Oliver monologue about this. I haven't seen it. I hope he makes some of these points better than me.


    via GIPHY



Year In Review 2015 and Week In Review 2016

2 min read


I am a dad and have no time for non-dad-related things anymore. So my year in review, which I produce purely for my own leisure and amusement, is several weeks later than usual (see previous years). As such, it includes one week from 2016, which will then be excluded from next year’s review, if I remember.1

From what I heard of the outside world, 2015 was mostly a shitshow. But Dad Land has been good to me. So in the spirit of Chris Lacy’s …Of The Year posts, I present 2015 Of The Year.

Spoiler Of The Year

There is a new Star War. All the are talking about it! The review that most reflected my reactions is here.

Depressing Summary Of Social Issues Of The Year

America Has Lost The War Against Guns, by Greg Howard

Donald Trump Of The Year

In a surprising upset, it is John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile.

Shithead Of The Year

This is a nod to the consolation prize on Doug Loves Movies, where Doug calls who/whatever the audience member wants “a shithead.” The winner here is bats. Runner up is, again, Donald Trump.

Crippling Realization Of The Year

Having a child in a hospital NICU costs more than fully-loaded late-model Honda CR-V.2 There is probably a joke there about having one implying getting the other, but it makes me too depressed.[3]

Resolution Of The (New) Year

Always check your privilege.

Also, visit Clickhole more often, for insightful social commentary and Hodor information.

2016 Week In Review

I was locked out of my work laptop for the first 3 days and the biggest news story is these Oregon jamokes. Also, my son needed surgery to remove a dermoid cyst (he is fine). At this point I’ll take 2015.

  1. I won’t remember.  ↩

  2. Sure, insurance covers most of it, but they don’t give you 36 months to pay off the difference.  ↩

  3. Fine print: does not include the hospital bills for the mother.  ↩


This is pretty cool, but I keep thinking about the Terminator saying "my CPU is a neural network, a learning computer"



2 min read

Dear Cheryl1 (my NSA angel),

Hi there. I have been reading (but you knew that) about the latest cycle of ad blocking, and how it will be the end of advertising/journalism/the internet as we know it2. It is fun to remember how pop-up blocking was also the end of internet advertising as we knew it!

Anyways, my favorite piece to come out of all this is a talk transcript by the head of Pinboard.3 I encourage you to read it yourself, but here are some choice pull-quotes.

On ad morals:

The ad networks’ name for this robotic deception is ‘ad fraud’ or ‘click fraud’. (Advertisers like to use moralizing language when their money starts to flow in the wrong direction. Tricking people into watching ads is good; being tricked into showing ads to automated traffic is evil.)

On regulation:

When I flew over to give this talk, I wasn’t worried about my plane falling out of the sky. Eighty years of effective technical regulation (and massive penalties for fraud) have made commercial aviation the safest form of transportation in the world.

On smart refrigerators:

Samsung recently got in hot water with their smart refrigerator. Because it failed to validate SSL certificates, the fridge would leak your Gmail credentials (used by its little calendar) to anyone who asked it. All I wanted was some ice, and instead my email got hacked.

On living in San Francisco:

You wouldn’t hire a gardener whose houseplants were all dead. But we expect that people will trust us to reinvent their world with software even though we can’t make our own city livable.

Seriously, it is ten minutes of reading well spent.

Have a great day,

  1. The NSA is an equal oportunity employer.
  2. Here is the same guy from that editorial (he is EIC, btw), two months earlier, lamenting the terrible mobile web user experience, which is almost entirely caused by ads and trackers.
  3. My least favorite piece was Marco Arment’s, who, after proclaiming ad blockers the future and creating the most popular one on iOS, probably found out it was blocking ads on his own site.



Beginning the move to Known

2 min read

Moving the blog to Known has been in the back of my mind for a while now, so I finally pulled the trigger. This has been a fun weekend project, now spilling into Tuesday. Wordpress maintenance has become too cumbersome for my needs, and Known has been a breath of fresh air. Some notes from my experience:

  • Invaluable installation instructions in the Known documentation, as well as here. The only issue I kept having was where to place the uploads directory, and how to point to it.
  • Really, reeealy looking forward to importing my old blog content here. I know that Wordpress import is on the horizon, and I forsee it bringing a large influx of personal sites to their hosted service.
  • I love that the functionality works out of the box.
  • Chrome handles it very well on Android, but I need to play around with it more to figure out how to reply. Almost needs to be its own app...
  • Facebook thinks I am a robot when I try to setup POSSE here, even after I answer a captcha and verify my mobile phone. So they don't get to see any of these posts.

I have not written many posts lately, as evidenced by my Wordpress page (currently at Hopefully this refresh will kickstart some creativity.


The Internet as a Megaphone

3 min read

We live in exciting, sometimes terrifying times. It has become fashionable to carry a device on your person at all times with more computing power than NASA's Apollo command center. Products raise millions of dollars to essentially communicate with that smart device from several feet away. The most popular uses of of these mobile devices are to shoot round birds with a slingshot at makeshift towers built by pigs, and to broadcast any minute detail that pops up in the ol' brain bucket. Broad new horizons.

However, users of these devices (and the services they enable) bring with them horizons that are neither broad nor new. Certain , previously ignored and subsequently rendered powerless, now have the means to broadcast globally and connect like-minded individuals regardless of geographic location. This message amplification has the ability to force society to progress with great strides, as with the LGBT community. But for some reason, the net-positive effect does not happen with everyone. The most recent instance of this is Gamergate.

In years past, I might have identified myself as a gamer. In the sense that "I enjoy and often play video games in my free time", it is an accurate descriptor to this day. After the past few months, I would be reluctant to identify myself this way. If you have successfully avoided any Gamergate news up to this point, good on you. Keep it up. If you feel like being sad about life, read this summary from Newsweek with actual Twitter statistics, or this in-depth summary about the implications of this type of movement.

Upon further research, this seems like a deeper cultural issue, unrelated to . I would say it is an American issue, but it is likely present elsewhere too. Kathy Sierra, a prominent tech figure, has now had to essentially leave the internet for the second time in less than 10 years. Before that, several private personal pictures of celebrities were leaked, of which there was a single male (and he was collateral damage, as he was dating one of the targeted female celebrities). Even before that, dumb old white guys were talking (seemingly sincerely) about "legitimate rape" in congressional election coverage. The megaphone created by our newly-connected society seems to have pretty terrible opinions about on an alarmingly consistent basis.

TL;DR The only way I know how to help is to write about it. I will be a parent soon. It scares me to think that the difficulty of that kid's life will be so greatly affected by a single genetic coin-toss.


HTC One (M8) Flash Review

2 min read

The phone du jour is the One M8, and I am a phone connoisseur. My JUMP-grade came up, and I had to pull the trigger. The Nexus 5 was a fantastic phone, but it was lacking in a few areas: battery life, camera, and tap to unlock. So I pulled the trigger and have been using this beast for a few weeks. Here are my thoughts so far.

  • HTC makes a really pretty device. The Nexus is very utilitarian, which comes from prioritizing price over build quality. Samsung and LG focus on adding mostly-useless crap and letting their phones look like a Band-aid and a child's toy, respectively [see update]. I would rather have brushed aluminum and front-facing speakers than a heart monitor and 4 different ways to unlock my device and take a screenshot simultaneously.
  • Speaking of speakers, the BoomSound speakers on the One are amazing. Before, I was living in a world where cell phone speakers were just supposed to be low-quality and tinny. Not anymore.
  • Blinkfeed is OK, I guess. If there were a way to add my own RSS feeds, it might be useful. Hopefully they will add this feature (or make it less complicated to find).
  • Motion Launcher needs to be on all phones, from now on. It makes so much more sense than the side buttons.
  • T-Mobile bloatware is dumber than Verizon bloatware. They offer you a 30 day trial for voicemail transcription, but only if you agree to pay $4 per month after that. All for something Google Voice does for free.
  • The camera is pretty solid. The low resolution freaks people out, but it is a , not a Nikon. Standard smartphone cameras don't take good pictures in low light, but this one does pretty well. The editing tools are great as well. The Duo Camera is just ok - it is not a necessity, but adds some editing options to close-up pictures: [caption id="attachment_1281" align="aligncenter" width="600"]greetings Charlie greets me[/caption]  

All in all, the HTC One M8 is a solid phone, and I would recommend it to anyone. It comes at a premium price, but it is the one phone available right now that has the looks, feel, and function of a premium device.

Update: LG announced the G3 while I was writing this, and it looks like a phone that an adult would use.


Productivity in the Age of Angry Flapping Birds

3 min read

I am a flip-flopper. The newest thing is always best; the grass perpetually greener. It is why I just got a new phone, and why my employer using Windows XP (!!!) on all employee laptops until late last year drove me crazy.

In addition, my favorite form of procrastination is reading about new ways to do work. All the bases are covered - the illusion of work, thinking about work, theoretically improving future work - to feel productive without actually being productive. Lifehacker is the ESPN1 of feeling productive, my main source of finding new ways to work (especially the How I Work series).

This is most likely the reason that I cannot choose a to-do/note-taking/organizer program. There are so many, but I think I finally have it narrowed down to about 4.

My previous favorite was Workflowy, basically an infinite nested list. Todo.txt is the open-source nerd tool, which just uses a .txt file. Trello makes everything into a bulletin board with cards pinned on it, and Evernote does all the things, everywhere.

Cost $49/yr Free Free for personal $45/yr
Photos No No Yes Yes
Tagging Yes Yes Limited to 6 Yes
GTD-oriented3 Kind of Yes Maybe Definitely
API Working on it... Unnecessary Yes Yes

They all work great, but at slightly different things. Evernote would be the best option, with its ability to store photos. but most of its function comes from storage, not helping me to process that storage. I am still figuring that bit out, and will probably use one of the other tools to do it.4

My favorite right now is Trello. I tried it a year or so ago, and it seemed better suited for group projects. Now, they have a better mobile client, and the documentation is easier to find. Also, the keyboard shortcuts5 are great and make using it fun. I would highly recommend using one to sort out daily life. None of them will meet all your needs6, but you can make them work together to hit all your bases.

  1. Come to think of it, ESPN : sports :: Lifehacker : working. What percentage of ESPN's programming is actually showing a sporting event? 
  2. OK, you got me, those are all referral links. Throw me a bone :) 
  3. I'm only about a quarter of the way into the book. But from all the lifehacking articles I've read over the past few years, I know the concepts. When my wife tried reading it, and stopped in roughly the same place to go do something else, I told her she clearly learned all she needed. 
  4. There are ways to connect all these services to Evernote on the backend - forwarding Workflowy logs to Evernote, syncing with Trello boards, and todo.txt
  5. Keyboard shortcuts are the stickshift of the internet. Not always necessary, but makes things a lot smoother, and people who always use them swear by them. 
  6. That is more of an existential problem than a productivity problem. 


To Jump or not to Jump

2 min read

I am a gadget enthusiast, so when T-Mobile announced their JUMP program a year ago, it caught my attention. If you haven't heard of it, the program allows you to trade in your device after 6 months for a new one. It also offers insurance on the device. From the outside, it looks like a ripoff. Here's why it's not.

A flagship phone will cost you around $650. If you get it through T-Mobile, you are paying $0 down and $27/month. JUMP costs $10/month, so after 6 months, you have paid $162 for the phone, and $60 for insurance1. T-Mobile pays the difference, regardless of the condition, and you walk away with a new phone.

Doing this on your own will cost you $600-700 up front, plus the time to sell a device (and ship it to the buyer). And if it breaks in that 6 months, you are on the hook for repairs or a replacement.2 You may get slightly more than the 75%3 of the price T-Mobile "pays" for it, but not enough to offset the streamlined transaction and insurance.

The real issue is whether it is prudent to upgrade a phone every 6 months. Probably not, but right now the HTC One hits some checkmarks4 that my Nexus 5 did not, and I've already paid for the JUMP, so I am pulling that trigger as soon as I am eligible.

  1. I'm not sure about other insurance plans, but T-Mobile also covers theft and loss. Basically, you are paying to always have a phone. 
  2. I have been down this road, about a week after paying in full for the phone. Then it is another 1-2 weeks before it comes back from Samsung. You never need that insurance until you do. 
  3. If you are not grandfathered in, they only pay half the cost of the phone. It is basically the same story, just over 1 year instead of 6 months. 
  4. Battery, external storage, tap to wake. 



Streaming Music Throwdown

6 min read

I have been experimenting with the various streaming music offerings, since it is the future of music consumption.1 Due diligence seems to be the only way to differentiate these rapidly-changing and -improving services, so here we go. Time for another table post.

ServiceGoogle All-AccessRdioSpotifyPandora
Price/month $10 $10 (decreases for multiple accounts) $10 $3
Import ability Upload (available for free) Matches2 Matches N/A
Radio recommendations Seemingly random Ok & adjustable Sparing Repetitive integration Third party3 Yes Yes Third party
Ads on free version No Yes Yes Yes, lots
Desktop No Basically a browser window Yes No

Current champ

Google's music app is pretty great, and when the All-Access part was released it seemed like the perfect complement to complete the service. In my opinion it is no longer doing what the All-Access part is meant to do - helping me discover new music. I guess in the most basic sense, I have heard some songs on there that I had not heard before (not memorable enough for me to bookmark them or add them to a playlist though).

The major feature of Google Music is that you can upload your own library of songs, but people forget that this is not part of the paid service; you can do this for free. Paying just adds the ability to play songs that you did not upload, and roll them into its sub par4 radio stations. Regardless of whether I keep the All-Access service, the music locker facet is invaluable and the best implementation I have seen.

Dark horse

Spotify is probably the biggest player in this space right now (I admit I did not give it a lot of credit on the first draft of this post), but it seems like a mess. I still cannot figure out how to add songs to my library without putting them in a playlist. This must come from years of managing a large library, but I do not want to organize my collection this way. Their radio offering seemed just OK - I tried it again for this first time in months (my starred playlist station) and hit the same 2 albums 5 out of the first 6 plays (The Suburbs and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but still).5


Pandora is kind of in a different boat, but I have used it several times over the past year. The algorithmic muscle of Pandora is great but the idea has yet to be fully realized. The fact that it can only pull from a library of 900k tracks6 limits its usefulness as a recommendation engine. The ads are a bit frequent, but not quite enough to warrant paying.

And the winner is...

Rdio seems like the front runner to me. It has many of the same top-flight features as the other two services, but with a little more attention to detail. The design is fantastic, and the organization is much more straight forward than Spotify. It feels much more social within the service than GMusic, but hitching to a Facebook account is optional rather than mandatory7. The radio recommendations can be adjusted between "familiar" and "adventurous," depending on what you feel like listening to.

There is one feature Rdio has that GMusic and Spotify definitely do not: the queue syncs between devices. This means when you start listening on another device, you are on the same song in your playlist or station. This detail by itself is nearly enough reason to switch.8 You can also mark items for download to your mobile device from the web player, which I know Google can't do.

The only gripe I have seen about Rdio is that it does not advertise its bitrate. Spotify and Google stream at 320 kbps on wi-fi, and Pandora is something like 160 kbps unless you buy a subscription. My argument is that if I hear something that I like but is low quality (on terrestrial radio or over a cellular connection), I am going to purchase it in a high quality format (CD, FLAC, vinyl - audio quality is a rabbit hole in itself). Things that are in a low bit-rate that I don't need to hear again are not a problem. Moot point.

So there are my thousand-plus-word thoughts on the state of streaming music (Beats Music not included, because it is too new). TL;DR: Google Play's best feature does not require the paid version, and Rdio is the intuitive, good-looking underdog with a can't-lose attitude that wins my pick for best streaming music service available.

  1. The second footnote of this link mentions Plex, and while they have a media server, it doesn't support some basic music player functions, like playlists. I am sure this will be remedied in the future, but until then it is behind all the rest of the services listed here. 
  2. Matching with Rdio requires WMP or iTunes, which sucks because I actively avoid both. I don't think Spotify is as strict on sources. 
  3. This basically means no for Android. The only scrobblers I have tried read from the system audio player, which then catches all the podcasts I listen to as well. It would get the job done, but it is also really annoying. 
  4. The quality of the radio is a function of the feedback you give it, and only gets better over time. It did get better, but the quality definitely plateaued much sooner than I would have liked. This could be a function of what I listened to on the service, but Rdio and Pandora are both still improving their suggestions in my opinion, with roughly the same amount of feedback. 
  5. It does not help that their web player seems to be blocked at my place of employment. Desktop player is (or was) fine, but I have never successfully started their web player.  
  6. The largest library for comparison belongs to Spotify, which has over 20 million tracks. Google and Rdio are not far behind. 
  7. The best social analogy I have heard is Spotify : Facebook :: Rdio : Twitter. Yes, I have lots of friends on Facebook, but there are few that share my music taste. 
  8. integration is more that enough reason to switch, with this kind of history