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Pilch

Ajit Pai can go [TO VIEW REMAINDER OF STATUS UPDATE, YOU MUST UPGRADE TO BLAST! 100MBPS SERVICE. TO ADD THE COMCAST TRIPLE PLAY, PLEASE CLICK HERE]

Pilch

Replied to a post on pilch.me :

An update: we've entered Disney phase with the Moana soundtrack. But if I say "1-2-3 UH!", he can sing the first line of Hey Ya

Pilch

The Elusive Private Cloud

3 min read

It is the DMZ week between the two major developer conferences of the year, I/O and Appple's WWDC. Shots were fired by Google in the form of free and unlimited photo storage and an omnipresent search assistant for its upcoming OS update. fans have already begun reflexively asserting that "Google ain't no thing":

Everything has a price. With Apple, you typically pay them money, and they sell you premium products and services in return. That type of cost and relationship is easy to understand.
With Google, you typically pay them attention and data, and they give you free or cheap products and services in return. That cost and relationship is harder to understand.

First of all, no, it is not hard to understand. For decades if not longer, services have used advertising to mitigate cost to the user. Ever listened to a radio, or read a newspaper, or received junk mail?

Second (and more nitpicky), you would be hard pressed to find anyone else making the argument for Apple offering users more choice. I am running a custom launcher, a third-party SMS client, and readily switch between three different browsers depending on my use cases. Ever tried that on iOS? */android-troll*

Apple CEO Tim Cook even joined in:

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

The first takeaway from this is that the Apple camp is placing a priority on while at the same time knocking "so-called free services" down a peg. This implies that privacy is only available to those who can afford it. This sentiment is much larger moral hazard than allowing tailored advertising to subsidize service.

The most important takeaway, however, is that this sentiment could turn into Apple's Waterloo if they don't make some major improvements to their services. Google Photos has long been superior to iPhoto, only to be hamstrung by its dependence on Google's misunderstood social network. Google solved that problem this year by separating them. Apple needs to give people a reason to pay out the nose for their competing product besides "hey, we won't check out your pictures."

Google offers value in exchange for information, which is why they are seen as a pinnacle of innovation. Apple offers value in exchange for cold hard cash, which is why they are seen as a walled garden surrounding a mountain of cash. Hopefully Apple's private will open up and rain some new ideas on WWDC this year, instead of nude photos of celebrities. */terrible-apple-troll-pun*

Pilch

Year-Listicle In Review 2014

5 min read

Lots of pretty terrible things happened this year. It wasn't all bad though. Here were the bright spots. (And here is the review of last year.) Enjoy the verbose headers.

A reminder on how to make listicles:

MUSIC I ENJOYED THIS YEAR THAT MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN RELEASED DURING THIS CALENDAR YEAR

PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN BY ME (OR SOMEONE ELSE) THIS YEAR WHICH WOULD CAUSE ME SADNESS IF THEY WERE DELETED OR OTHERWISE LOST

Or: In Case You Can't Tell, We Have A Dog

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="1667,1669,1666,1571,1548,1544,1526,1525,1673,1674,1672,1529"]

MOVIES I WATCHED THIS YEAR AND WILL LIKELY PURCHASE ON DIGITAL VIDEO DISC (OR OTHER FORMAT) BECAUSE I ENJOYED THEM

Interstellar

http://youtu.be/0vxOhd4qlnA

St. Vincent1

http://youtu.be/9dP5lJnJHXg

Birdman

http://youtu.be/-umj5cxtgBA

The Grand Budapest Hotel

http://youtu.be/1Fg5iWmQjwk

The Lego Movie2

http://youtu.be/fZ_JOBCLF-I

ARTICLES I READ THIS YEAR AND THEN BOOKMARKED AND PROBABLY SHARED SO OTHERS WOULD READ THEM AS WELL

The Future Of Culture Wars Is Here, And It's Gamergate - Deadspin

In many ways, Gamergate is an almost perfect closed-bottle ecosystem of bad internet tics and shoddy debating tactics. Bringing together the grievances of video game fans, self-appointed specialists in journalism ethics, and dedicated misogynists, it's captured an especially broad phylum of trolls and built the sort of structure you'd expect to see if, say, you'd asked the old Fires of Heaven message boards to swing a Senate seat. It's a fascinating glimpse of the future of grievance politics as they will be carried out by people who grew up online.

Playing With My Son - Medium

If you have a kid, why not run experiments on them? It’s like running experiments on a little clone of yourself! And almost always probably legal.

It’s disappointing how many people have children and miss this golden opportunity, usually waiting until they’re in their teens to start playing mindgames with them.

My 14-Hour Search for the End of TGI Friday's Endless Appetizers - Gawker

The day after "Endless Appetizers" was announced, I went to TGI Friday's in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay. I wanted to challenge the hubris of a company co-opting the infinite for a marketing gimmick. I wanted to demand accountability from copywriters.

I wanted to call their bluff and eat appetizers until they kicked me out, to seek the limit of this supposedly limitless publicity stunt.

I soon learned the limit does not exist.

Squirtle, I (Should) Choose You! Settling a Great Pokémon Debate with Science - Scientific American

But no matter what my relationship to Pokémon is now, I can’t deny that it was one of the driving forces in my nerdy life. And like any fanboy or girl who has ever played the original games, Pokémon was singular in that it provided me the first life-altering choice in my young life: Which of the starting Pokémon—Squirtle, Charmander, or Bulbasaur—should I pick? It felt like a digital “Sophie’s Choice,” with any decision rendering two Pokémon forever un-catchable, destined to be used against me by my rival.

THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE MEDIOCRE PEOPLE - The Rumpus

...We can’t all be grand visionaries. We can’t all be Picassos. We want to make our business, make our art, sell it, make some money, raise a family, and try to be happy. My feeling, based on my own experience, is that aiming for grandiosity is the fastest route to failure. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are 1000 Jack Zuckermans. Who is Jack Zuckerman? I have no idea. That’s my point. If you’re Jack Zuckerman and you’re reading this, I apologize. You aimed for the stars and missed. Your reentry into the atmosphere involved a broken heat shield, and you burned to a crisp by the time you hit the ocean. Now we have no idea who you are.

Programming Sucks - Peter Welch

You can't restart the internet. Trillions of dollars depend on a rickety cobweb of unofficial agreements and "good enough for now" code with comments like "TODO: FIX THIS IT'S A REALLY DANGEROUS HACK BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG" that were written ten years ago. I haven't even mentioned the legions of people attacking various parts of the internet for espionage and profit or because they're bored. Ever heard of 4chan? 4chan might destroy your life and business because they decided they didn't like you for an afternoon, and we don't even worry about 4chan because another nuke doesn't make that much difference in a nuclear winter.

BEST NEWS OF THE YEAR THAT CANNOT BE TOPPED, EVEN IF I WAS AWARDED THE POWERBALL JACKPOT BY A RECENTLY-RESURRECTED J. H. CHRIST

A healthy baby Pilch is on the way. It's a boy.


  1. Hey, there's a St. Vincent in the music and movie section! Not pictures or articles though. Maybe next year.
  2. I've already declared that we are a Lego Movie family. Not a Frozen family.

Pilch

Announcement

1 min read

 

Excited to announce we are expecting! Our family expands this spring.

Picture by my wife, cameo by Charlie.

Pilch

Less than meets the eye

4 min read

imageI am a fan.

It takes a lot to admit that anymore. That admission comes with a lot more baggage now than it did 10 years ago. It is a bit like being a Los Angeles Clippers fan; things started to get pretty good, but then the guy in charge is super racist1 and is kind of mad that people found out about that and goddammit he's going to take everyone down with him.

My allegiances lie firmly with Hasbro, who I assume ghostwrote the current movie, as they have since the beginning. I own numerous shape-changing action figures, and will continue to buy them2 because secretly I am a nine year old with no self control. Even my USB drive is Ravage (a knock off, but still).

I write all this to frame my review of Transfomers 4: Hey, Mark Wahlberg! Right?3 It is, in the words of Charles Barkley, T-R-B-L turrible.

(Edit: I wrote this in the few days following the theatrical release, but haven't had time to publish until now. The review holds up, but some of the references would have made more sense in June. Deal with it lol)

I rewatched the third one, because a) I am a glutton for punishment, b) I've already said I am a Transformers fan, and thus own all the , and c) because I wanted to confirm the my theory that they are steadily getting worse. I think it holds.

The first one had just enough of Spielberg's touch to be pretty good. The second one was critically panned, and probably rightfully so, so several actors and writers jumped ship. Seemingly the only goal of the third movie was "don't be actively racist again", which they accomplished by killing of Ken Jeong (best character in the movie) before they could do any damage. And for the fourth, they basically took a cookie cutter to the third movie and said LaBeouf, Turturro, Jeong, Patrick Dempsey ==> Wahlberg, Tucci, TJ Miller, Kelsey Grammer4. And DINOSAURS!

Basically, the movie plot can be boiled down to this quote, from the writer of the goddamn movie:

When you’re talking about aliens, robotic machines which disguise themselves as vehicles and animals, you start to make your peace with the idea that logical sense doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all.

Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but expanding it to include plot and character development is another. "Making the robots the main characters? Allowing natural human interaction? Using the dinosaur robots before the last 15 minutes of a near-three-hour film? Nah, those would make logical sense. Oh, a samurai that transforms into a Bugatti Veyron AND a helicopter? Now you have something. Get Ken Watanabe on the phone."

My only recourse is to not pay to see the film (which I already did). I can only sit back and watch Michael Bay ruin the rest of my childhood. So, Michael, if you are reading this: STAY AWAY FROM CAPTAIN PLANET. NO. STOP IT.


  1. Michael Bay is not super racist. I'm not saying that. Whoever wrote these jackasses, or Ken Watanabe's lines in the new film, is secretly racist. Not super racist. 
  2. How can you not want to buy this?  
  3. My love of Mark Wahlberg comes from the fictitious 'Mark Wahlberg' character from the podcast Doug Loves Movies. It is the best. It is how I learned that he greenlights the first script given to him every month, and that they used live ammo on Lone Survivor - he only hit 3 extras and a PA. His review of Transformers: "You think it's 3 hours because it's bad?" 
  4. Which you would think would be an improvement, right? Not really. 

Pilch

Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living

1 min read

Reflections on how to keep the center solid as you continue to evolve. UPDATE: The fine folks of Holstee have turned these seven learnings into a gorgeous letterpress poster inspired by mid-century children’s book illustration....

Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living
from Pocket via IFTTT

Pilch

Pooch plunge 2014

1 min read

[gallery columns="2" ids="1543,1544,1545,1546,1547,1548"]

Pilch

Cable cutting and the World Cup

1 min read

imageA cable cutter tries to watch the national team's World Cup opener: in the background, an unused television and home theater setup, and in the foreground, a 7 inch tablet broadcast in Spanish. Thanks Univision, and "thanks" ESPN.

Also, Clint Dempsey FTW!

Pilch

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.

Pilch

Phablet Couture, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Touchwiz

5 min read

I've had a Galaxy Note 2 for about 6 months. I bought it because I got the itch to upgrade, and it was the best phone available at the time (caveat: on Verizon. I would have gladly gone with the One, or 4, or any other flagship device that skipped Verizon for reasons I outlined a while back). Being a ROM aficionado, I knew hardware was the biggest factor for me. My loyal Galaxy Nexus was a solid phone, but with heavy use it would die by early afternoon without a charger nearby. Better processor and gigantic battery (and dearth of options) made the Note 2 a no-brainer.

But I heard a panelist on a recent episode of This Week in Google (could have been All About Android too) talk about the zen of wanting the phone you have, or something like that. It is a noble concept, and I tried to live up to it with my previous phone (until I didn't). But it is easy to do with a Nexus device, or an iPhone, because you are at ground zero of the operating system. So I dove down the rabbit hole that is , to look for enlightenment.

Been down this rabbit hole before

This was a formidable challenge, too. After spending my first 2 years of smartphone ownership in the hellscape of MotoBlur, my reluctance for anything but AOSP (or stock Android, to the uninitiated) cannot be overstated. My initial reaction to any overly skinned version of Android is usually minor wretching. The Verge put it well in their review of the new Note 3:

Pen Window is almost something you have to see in person to really grasp how silly it is.

This can be said for many features packs into these phones. I am supposed to live with this device for 2 years, according to my carrier. I am not looking for "silly."

That being said, there are some very useful features. Before, I would have to download Tasker, re-learn how to use it, and hack around to get settings automated on my phone. Samsung preempted this use case and launches menus automatically when I do things like plug in my headphones or pull out the S-pen stylus. It follows that if I do those things, I am going to do something with my phone. Touchwiz lubricates that interaction.

The S-pen would probably increase smartphone adoption among the older demographic if it were packaged with more phones. There is something satisfying about pulling it out and launching the built-in note app and jotting things down. It is still not faster than typing; the last several years have conditioned me to type faster than I write. But I am still conditioned to remember things that I write down with a pen or pencil.

The size is not that big of an issue, pun intended. You acclamate pretty quickly. I do miss being able to reach the opposite upper corner of the screen with my thumb, as Google has slowly moved Android design to use it more often for menu overflow. Other than that, though, I have no trouble operating the phone with one hand. Touchwiz (and now Swiftkey, actually) uses customizable keyboards for one-handed use on larger devices.

Greener grass

For all its usefulness, I keep pining for features that are native to newer versions of Android. Dash Clock has probably been the first app I install on every 4.2.x-and-up ROM I've used since it was released. Actionable notifications are fantastic, and I often use the abililty to expand and minimize them at will. And it pains me to use a phone with hardware buttons anymore after the GNexus proved them to be unnecessary. Samsung, though, has kept this phone running the software it was released with, nearly a year later. The only reason it will get a 4.3 update at all is Samsung's ill conceived smartwatch that (as of right now) only works with the Note 3.

But there is still that part of me, once I arrive back on , that misses the pen features and the other custom Samsung firmware. So I would switch back. I have been indulging this fickle dual-boot scenario for almost a month. I still haven't landed on one or the other.

Luckily, this first world problem has solved itself. My wife has an upgrade, but Verizon won't let us keep our unlimited data if she uses it. I did some research and found that T-Mobile covers our area, has unlimited data, and will save us a bit over $500/year over the course of our next contract (In fairness, VZW would save us ~$300/year if it took away our unlimited data). We can stick it to Verizon, and I can finally hop to the flagship phone I was looking for 6 months ago. Hello 5!

Pilch

The trouble with mobile

4 min read

I am stuck in the second half of my 2 year phone contract. The first half is when the phone is all new and shiny and the manufacturer keeps it up to date with current software. The second half is when all those benefits fade and you are still on the hook for another year. For whatever reason the a one year contract tier is now a thing of the past. Locked down or contract-free are the only options left.

On top of that, my contract is with Big V (for “Voldemort”, but worse). Verizon has built a great network, but it is horrible for tech enthusiasts (I have no experience with AT&T, which is probably just as awful, but in different ways). I don’t have a landline (and who could afford one with the price of a smartphone plan?), so sticking with solid service seems to make sense. But I also don’t make many calls, so my gigantic cell phone plan is mainly for data. That’s not so bad, because it is unlimited. At least, until Verizon caps my data when I renew my contract.

Other random VZW problems:
- Can’t use their phones anywhere outside the US without paying out the nose. This is a Sprint problem too, because neither use GSM technology, but I’m not sure that Sprint requires you to hack THEIR OWN global phones to get them to work correctly
- They instated this fee two weeks before my last official upgrade (mostly just personal bitterness there)
- They don’t fight for users’ privacy rights. Even Comcast and AT&T pretend like they care.

Clearly, they are an easy target for user ire. Rightfully so, because of how much of my time and my income is spent on them and their phones. But this brings up another major problem. Demanding the highest quality devices from the company with the highest quality wireless service should not be the leap in logic that the market is making it out to be. New flagship phones are coming to VZW late or not at all, and I believe the reason is the Galaxy Nexus Saga.

In October 2011, Google unveiled Android 4.0 and its flagship device, the Galaxy Nexus, exclusive to Verizon in the US. Presumed to be the ideal phone on the ideal carrier, it would receive timely updates from Google because it ran stock Android (the specific reason I bought it!) while running on the fast VZW LTE network. But then the phone was delayed for a month while Verizon disallowed Google from putting its own Wallet software on the phone. After release, each new Android iteration would update international and unlocked GNex units, leaving VZW customers months behind. The phone is finally up to date as of March, over a year after its release. I have heard it called the Fallacy Nexus (by nerds), and I am inclined to agree.

The problem with mobile computing is this carrier influence. Even five years ago, the hardware and software used for personal computing was controlled by (surprise!!) the hardware and software companies selling the computers. Now that most personal computing is done on phones, the phone companies have changed that dynamic. They push the innovators into conservative design decisions, market only the devices that kowtow to their demands, and preach “pay no attention to the duopoly in the corner.” Until they function like a (mostly) dumb pipe like cable internet, this is the way the world will be.

via Tumblr http://craigpilcher.tumblr.com/post/52243082687

photo: Scott Ableman via Compfight

Pilch

Off the beaten Path

3 min read

I will start off by saying I am a Path apologist. I love the app; it is my go-to for sharing moments from my phone. The design is cutting edge, and the concept works well. I began using it around their second major release (found out about it here) before their last privacy kerfuffle. This was serious, but they fixed the issue almost immediately. They ended up paying an FTC fine for accidentally collecting this contact data from minors (which, again, it immediately deleted).

Path went on its merry way, creating new ways to interact for to copy (see: Path’s search and Graph Search, launched in beta a month later). But when the only major story about you has been a privacy issue, that seems to be all anyone remembers. This past issue frames new attempts at growth in a bad light, which is why the tech media is accusing Path of spammiing users’ contacts.

The “spam” in question, which, albeit annoying, is far preferable to whatever other monolithic networks are doing without telling you. Furthermore, it is most likely due to user error. I have never heard any of my contacts complaining about spam from Path (contacts - please correct me if this assumption is wrong), and I know from use that there are 2 prompts to go through before Path gets any of my contacts’ info. It invited a couple family members, but only when I specifically told it to do so. Path’s biggest issues here are occasional lag time (which is probably why these “spam” messages were sent after this guy uninstalled the app) and selecting everyone for invite by default. It is a little uncouth, but it is an easy fix - last I checked (after the latest update), the “Invite Friends” list left my contacts unchecked by default.

I realize that some people see this as a second strike on privacy, but the team at has shown that, while they make a few sloppy mistakes every once in a while, they are committed to fixing those mistakes and keeping users’ trust, not alienating them as the tech media seems to think. No matter how douchey the CEO might be, people should soon realize Path makes a product they would enjoy greatly, and is FREE TO USE. They occasionally accidentally use your data to contact people you know, and then fix it when they realize the mistake. In my book, that always beats selling your data to people you will never meet.

via Tumblr

photo: Wally Gobetz via Compfight

Pilch

Facebook Break

3 min read

I finally uninstalled the Facebook app on my phone about two weeks ago, mostly because it sucks. I checked back a few nights ago via the browser, and I had not missed much of anything (except an old friend getting engaged - congrats!). The next logical step is to stop sharing things on Facebook. For the better part of a year, I have prided myself on doing my sharing almost exclusively through third-party avenues (because I want control over my data, and I am a social network hipster), and the only step left is to stop.

Why do I go back, even to share? Because everyone else is there. Facebook has been around for eons in Internet Time. In the beginning, it functioned more like an actual "face book", which people did not update daily. However, it was still people you actually knew and wanted to keep up with. Those roots continue to reinforce themselves over time as you build a digital archive of yourself, but what is left is a gargantuan filter bubble. It is much harder to break out of a filter bubble of people you know IRL, which Facebook knows. That is why the point of the site was lost somewhere between the immediate, actual, meaningful connections and "Your friends like Diet Coke, you should too!" (Of course, this could all change in a week.)

The laundry list of things Facebook actually does is pretty impressive until you consider that several other places offer the same service, usually better. General status updates work very well on Twitter; if it is longer than 140 characters, get a blog. Dropbox, Flickr, and Picasa all offer picture storage and sharing, with the added bonus of export. Instant messaging can be done with GTalk, iMessage, or the mother of all internet communique: email. Link sharing and other content curation are Tumblr's forte. Foursquare has check-ins locked down. Personal moments meant to be shared with only close friends and family can be set up easily in Path or Google+. In fact, G+ does pretty much all of this, and shares it more intuitively than Facebook.

Lifehacker beat me to it, but the way Facebook has adapted their advertising is annoying, albeit nefariously intuitive. Ads themselves are not all that bad. The service has to make money somehow. Google is basically an advertising company, but aside from the search results page it is generally unobtrusive, and the service is good enough that it warrants forgiveness. Almost all the services mentioned are ad-supported, and the alternative to that is paying your own way with something like App.net.

So, for those visiting from my Facebook link, welcome to my page. You may see it pop up occasionally on my FB feed in the future, but independence has to start somewhere. One last cleanup of various outdated likes and other personal details, and I will be on my way. This is a break, not a full-on deletion (because how else will I occasionally use Spotify?). And if they change and improve somehow, I will gladly eat these words.

Pilch

The Master List Tracker, Feb. 2013

1 min read

As an Android user, I am sick of developers picking iOS over Android as their initial mobile launch. It may be that I don't understand the difficulty of porting between OS'es, or that about half of Android users are running a nearly 3-year-old version of it. But when something like Vine, which has the engineering power of Twitter behind it, forgoes the majority of the smartphone market by making an iOS-only application, it irks me. Remember, it was only after Instagram released on Android that it sold for $1 billion.

That is why I am starting this list. It is all the applications that I have seen or tried that don't bother to cater to my sector of the market. I will try to update it frequently, as I find out about new ones (and there are always new ones).

The Master List