April 2019 Links
The makers of Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher have done an interview profiling Jon Hicks. Notably, it’s not about how he uses their products but rather a bit about his inspiration and history.
I’ve long been a fan of Jon Hicks’ work, so this was nice to read.
Josh (no surname given) wanted to find use the smallest amount of CSS needed to make a web page reasonably comfortable to read. The end product was only 58 bytes long.
After posting about this on Reddit, Josh was pointed to the
ch unit in CSS. It was new to me too. Reading up on
ch, I’m not sure it’s any better than using
em, but I’ll be giving it a try.
Danial Arshad Khan, writing at Gearnuke:
The Nintendo Switch’s latest major update, Switch Firmware 8.0.0, was released last week and it included a ton of additions like a software sorting function and Save Data transferring to another system function. There was another addition however that Nintendo didn’t mention in the patch notes – “boost mode”.
It seems that game software must be updated to take advantage of these performance enhancements.
I was still running version 1.5 of The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild so I conducted a very informal test this afternoon. After updating to the latest version, which takes advantage of the ‘boost mode’, my save file loaded about two seconds faster – a most welcome change.
Matthew Cassinelli loves Reeder and it shows. He writes at length about his reasons for liking it so much, how he uses it and how he’d like to see it improved.
I can’t disagree with him. Reeder has been my preferred RSS reader on iOS for years, with Unread occasionally taking my attention. I’m not quite sure about this new version yet, though.
I have aspired to be a DEVONthink user for a few years, but something about it has never set right with me. I’m a long-time user of Yojimbo, which despite being a bit long in the tooth, feels more at my pace.
If this new version of DEVONthink clicks with me, it would almost certainly supplant Yojimbo. I would be quite sad to part ways with it.
It’s Gruber’s turn to beat the drum about what a ‘podcast’ is – and is not. You’ll not be shocked to read:
A podcast, to me, is a series of audio episodes available over the web. At a technical level, it’s an RSS feed, and the RSS feed has entries for each episode, and each episode has links to the actual audio file (in MP3 or AAC format, but usually MP3) and other metadata.
A definition any rational person could agree with.
See also: Music, Radio…Podcasts?
I missed this excellent interactive infographic produced by the New York Times last year. Enter a place name and a year to see a chart of how the weather has changed over the years.
It was easy to recall that my childhood years were cooler, but one never knows how much memories are tainted by youth. This clearly demonstrates that the summers are getting hotter, at least where I’ve been. Chilling – and certainly not literally.
Brent Simmons, also expressing my feelings:
With every tightened screw we have less power than we had. And doing the things — unsanctioned, unplanned-for, often unwieldy and even unwise — that computers are so wonderful for becomes ever-harder.
And now comes Marzipan, and I can’t help but worry that it’s another tightened screw. …
People will probably tell me it’s generational. And maybe it is. But if we don’t have this power that is ours, then I don’t actually care about computers at all. It meant everything.
Ethical.net, a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is ‘discovering and sharing ethical product alternatives’, have produced this enormous list of such substitute products and services. In addition, they’ve also compiled lists of conferences, magazines, podcasts and books which can help us each live more ethical lives.
…ethical means moving in the direction of least possible harm against other people, animals and the planet.
None of us are perfect at this, but work like this done by Ethical helps make it easier for us to get better at it.
Peter Davison-Reiber has written and released his first iOS app:
Today I’m very excited to announce the release of my first ever iOS app, Grader+. It’s a simple utility app, primarily designed for teachers marking tests and exams.
If I were still a teacher who marked papers, I’d be even more excited for this. Nonetheless, I downloaded it and bought the premium features upgrade. It was my way of saying ‘well done’ and tacking on a gold star.
In this article for The Guardian, Kate Lyons explores the opening lines to fairytales in different languages.
Like the author, upon reading this I felt that English’s ‘Once upon a time…’ opening was lacklustre by comparison. I’ve no doubt become numb to it as I read out at least one story book per day at work.
I’ve since changed my mind – ‘Once upon a time…’ can do a fine job of conjuring the quixotic, dreamy world of fairy stories. One need only loosen their taut adult mind and allow the feeling of the words take hold.
Side note: It wasn’t included in the article, but the Japanese opening for fairytales is 「昔々…」 which translates to ‘Long, long ago…’.
(Via The Morning News.)
Neale Van Fleet, designer at Rogue Amoeba:
Unlike some more linear updates, the design and conceptualisation of SoundSource 4 began from a nearly blank slate. This is a story of how we got to our eventual release.
Design evolutions like these are fascinating to me. They’re also excellent reminders that designs must evolve and are iteratively becoming better.
On the subject of the software itself, I’ve been using it for a while now to keep separate output volumes for sound effects and app audio. This new version’s boost features are a welcome addition, definitely improving the output from my MacBook Pro’s speakers.
Matt Haughey observed – and felt – a rocket launch:
Light travels much faster than sound, so you hear T-minus 3, 2, 1, and then you see a blast of smoke and then you see the rocket rise and then you see the flame, and being two miles away, it takes about 12-15 seconds for the blast at the speed of sound to reach you. For a long moment your eyes deceive your ears and you wonder if any of this is real. Then you hear the sound. Then you feel the sound.
Experiencing this must be terrible for your ears, but I’m no less envious.
These precepts, or their spirit at any rate, have fuelled my writing the past few months. Though the sentiments have been expressed before, seeing them again – in another’s voice – is always welcome.
(Via Josh Ginter.)
Dr Drang is doing hard work for the rest of us:
Back in October, after over ten years of using LaunchBar, I decided to give Alfred a try. Five months is, I would say, a fair trial, and while there were a few things about Alfred I preferred, last week I returned to LaunchBar and am happy to be back.
I too have tried to switch to Alfred but never have I dedicated more than a couple of weeks to such a sojourn. I cannot help but return to LaunchBar. By the features, the two applications are nearly identical. Something about LaunchBar always feels more ‘normal’ to me, however. I shouldn’t be surprised, having established habits and muscle memory with it over the past decade.
LaunchBar 6 is now almost five years old. Though it has seen regular updates during that time, I can’t help feeling that it is becoming neglected. I desperately hope that Objective Development are dedicated to its continued development.
This is Walt Grayson’s Movable Type template for generating a JSON feed of your blog posts. When I started publishing a JSON feed a couple months ago, I employed John Gruber’s
glue trick to stitch entries together in a beautiful (and valid) way. Walt’s template employs a more elegant approach using the
__last__ loop meta variable. Excellent idea.
A valid JSON feed also requires certain characters to be escaped. Walt’s script uses Gruber’s EscapeForJSON Plugin to accomplish this (
escape_for_json). Newer versions of Movable Type ship with an
encode_json tag modifier which could presumably be used instead.
Jeff Johnson has just released version six of his web browser add-on, StopTheMadness. The plugin, available in Safari, Firefox and Chrome, has always fought against sites to prevent them overriding and disabling browser features.
This version prevents link auditing in Safari using the HTML 5 anchor ‘ping’ feature. Johnson recently discovered that Safari no longer honours a hidden preference which previously disabled the feature. Similarly, Chrome will soon drop a similar preference.
In explaining his concerns with the ‘ping’ feature, he takes browser vendors to task:
Worth noting: Firefox disables the ‘ping’ feature by default.
Helvetica has been painstakingly renovated and expanded to make Helvetica Now. In this interview, Charles Nix, the type director at Monotype, speaks about one point which makes this new version considerably better, optical sizing:
…when you see it and you use it, because of the optical sizing, it’s like being reintroduced to an old friend. It’s amazing. I thought I knew Helvetica. I thought I didn’t need Helvetica. And then I see this Helvetica Now and I suddenly realize that’s it not what I thought it was.
Whilst I don’t expect to have much use for it myself, this update is rather fetching.
Jeffrey Zeldman writes:
…the health of Firefox is critical now that Chromium will be the web’s de facto rendering engine.
Even if you love Chrome, adore Gmail, and live in Google Docs or Analytics, no single company, let alone a user-tracking advertising giant, should control the internet.
I primarily build this site to render correctly in Safari. Not that this site figures into the equation, but since reading this, I’ve installed Firefox to do some testing. Everything was mostly as expected, but at least one issue needed correcting.
As a side note, Firefox is so much better than it was in the past. It now feels more like a proper Mac citizen and it has some really helpful development tools to boot.
Owing to difficulties with their Blogger system, this year’s Name of the Year tournament has been relocated:
In the meantime, expect all of this year’s polls and posts to be published via Deadspin.
Colour me surprised by this news. It’s too late to vote in the first round, but at the time of writing, we’re in time for the second. You can see all the candidates in the full bracket.
A definition of ‘podcast’ from Dave Winer, who wrote the technical specifications to make podcasting possible:
A podcast is a series of digital media files made available over the open web through an RSS feed with enclosures.
Make no mistake:
If an audio file is not available over the web, or is behind a paywall, or is otherwise exclusive it may be a very fine worthwhile thing, but it is not a podcast. Being accessible openly in a standardized format, RSS, is essential to something being a podcast.
Jared Sinclair has been through hell this weekend after Tumblr unceremoniously deleted his blog. Let this serve as a reminder to us all to:
- Own our data
- Back up anything at all precious
Even with these values well-instilled in us, it’s still easy to become complacent. I’m pleased that it worked out in the end for Jared, but we may not all be so lucky.
I nearly started work on writing a plugin to accomplish this myself. I was writing an article and wanted to link to a specific section in a previous entry. Then it occurred to me that surely someone had written such a plugin.
Indeed someone had done. Beau Smith, a former Six Apart employee, made this plugin. With a tiny tweak, it was precisely what I wanted. Fortunately for us, he’s also posted Heading Anchors on GitHub just in case his site were to ever go down.
Laura E Hall has written a book on the history of the Katamari Damacy series of games:
Based on new interviews with Katamari creator Keita Takahashi himself, game designer and writer L. E. Hall explores the unlikely story of the game’s development, its unexpected success, and its lasting cultural impact. Along the way, she uncovers Katamari’s deep roots in Japanese culture, in contemporary art, and in the transformative power of play itself.
The Katamari Damacy games, especially We Love Katamari, remain some of my all-time favourites.
I’m very much looking forward to reading this.
(Via Andy Baio.)
Until I started making this site last year, I hadn’t done any web development in a number of years. Once returned, I discovered that miracles had been worked in the meantime. Chief amongst these miracles was Flexible Box Layout, or Flexbox. I could wave goodbye to the tenuous old-style layout devices.
Though Flexbox works wonders, for a mind like mine, some of how it works isn’t easily understood. The ability for items to grow and shrink according to a numerical basis was a concept I had come to terms with not understanding properly.
The Flexulator is a tool to help visualise how these work. Whilst there’s still maths it’s easier to ignore and just play and see how it works. This definitely helps bridge the gap between reading the docs and getting the output you expect.