Or, my week with an Apple Watch.

In 2013/4, as modern smart watches began hitting the market, my thoughts were, “Oh, that’s a neat idea. I’ll wait for some year-on-year advances to the functionality and single-charge longevity and get one.”

The Pebble, Apple Watch, Samsung and so many little known manufacturers launched their take on the smart watch.

Fast forward to the last week in September 2017. I ashamedly and impulsively caved to my inner Inspector Gadget while in proximity to the local Apple Store, then was drawn inside like a moth to the flame. Excoriating my mind to splash out on the latest Apple Watch offering: A Series 3 + Cellular. Aluminium in a dark “space gray”, with a nylon sport loop, and the same magnetic induction charging technology as my toothbrush. All for the princely sum of £429 (the watch, not the toothbrush).

Now, my first foray into smart watches came earlier this year, in the form of a ~£30 fitness band from Amazon (affiliate link). This watch-come-band is indeed smart and unobtrusive, finished in a satin black. It holds a charge for several days, has a nice OLED monochrome display, measures heart rate, light/deep sleep, steps and even blood pressure. And it displays the time and date. It syncs to Apple Health API in the phone via a very usable proprietary app. It can vibrate to notify of an incoming call when Bluetooth paired to your phone. The iPhone app also flashes the band’s firmware, has nice infographics, and is regularly updated.

What then—except the obvious price difference of ~£400?—differentiates the Apple Watch from the fitness band (to me)?

Well, in my week of use, I’m confident that the body metrics were more accurate with the Apple Watch. But the band offers a less bulky form factor than the phone, and at £30, I’m far less precious about damaging it than any marginal accuracy gains from the £429 watch.

In the UK, EE is the only carrier that currently has the technology allowing the Apple Watch to share the same phone number as your phone (thus allowing direct calling and texting from the watch without the phone being on).

The Apple Watch battery never went lower than 67% in 24 hours of use, but the band lasted for many days without a charge. And to charge the band, you just slid one of the straps off to reveal a male-USB socket, which plugs into any [USB] port in a storm.

The Apple Watch has no camera and did not play back any video or gifs for me (except live photos). Companion apps would prompt me to “view on the iPhone”.

At first, it was neat to have my watch tapping me on the wrist with notifications and messages, but it quickly grew tiresome. It reinforced that I do not wish for the instant, immediate and regular distractions this helpful device tap-tap-taps me with. I am happier checking my phone when I choose to, and when it is not impolite to do so.

The form factor of the watch is nice enough, though could be a bit thinner.

The swappable straps on the watch are very clever and easy to switch, meaning you could sport many different looks with only a few different bands/straps. I’d definitely go third-party for these, as the Apple steel bracelets especially are magnificently expensive.

Some of the functionality of the watch, like syncing your latest photos and some music was a nice to have, but in almost every case, all I could think of was that my phone would be better and I have it very close to hand, albeit not on my wrist (see earlier point regarding immediacy).

I purchased the official Tamagotchi app for nostalgic reasons (that prompted me to hatch each pet using my phone) and the sleep watch app which was very slick. But I couldn’t find any killer apps. Perhaps I did not research enough on the companion apps that would enhance the functionality and value of the watch. Certainly, I trawled several “best” of articles.

Even calling them companion apps, by definition means the full app is elsewhere, i.e., on the phone, and a limited version is on the watch.

Ultimately, I was quick to conclude that trying to retrofit a use case to justify this purchase was a fool’s errand.

I realise this applies equally to any purchase one might make.

I’m thankful of Apple’s no-fuss 14 calendar day return policy. The associate in the store didn’t ask why I was returning it, but I briefly stated anyway that I’ll try one again in a few years.

I do think wearable technology and the wristwatch form function has a lot of potential, but it’s still early days. It was after all only ten years ago that the first iPhone came out and it took a few years for that to have a quality third-party App Store ecosystem. The iPhone 4S runnning iOS 6 (if memory serves, that was the combination) was sublime, and even as I sit here in a flying metal fart-tube typing this article out in Byword on my iPhone 6S Plus, I do yearn for a smaller device with the same functionality but even more impressive longevity between charge cycles.

And so, this week I returned my Apple Watch and strapped-on my self-winding mechanical watch again, to put the Apple Watch money to other uses, like the upcoming Switch Mario and Xenoblade games and useful Christmas presents for my loved ones.

Oh, and I was fortunate enough to pre-order a SNES Mini from a Spanish department store online a couple of weeks after the immediate UK preorder sell-out. And that arrived today for me to power on when I got home. Looking forward to playing some two player games with the family this weekend on that. And so the consumerist cycle continues.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

Note: This post is part of a consolidation exercise, and was originally published 16 September 2011 at http://ibsimpson.calepin.co

16 September 2011

Mulling over Hans Petter Eikemo's thoughts on iPhone photo lag. Echoing his sentiments; the problem occurs as I experience some fleeting event. I want to capture it. From my trouser pocket to taking the photo takes me about six seconds, three if camera.app was open and active before I locked my iPhone. I have missed the moment. No Henri Cartier-Bresson chance; the man has met the puddle.

Hans Petter Eikemo of Ideon proposes [for a future iPhone]:

  1. When the camera app is inactive, a press on the new [camera] button will launch it.
  2. Every press captures a photo, even outside the camera app. As a remedy for the most fleeting of photo ops; you shoot instantly from the hip, and when the app is ready, you may review the results or continue to shoot assisted by the viewfinder.
  3. Press and hold the button momentarily to record video. The subsequent press stops recording.

I am against a new button, because we don't need one. The shutter release (sic - pixel sensor ready and capture) could be initiated in different ways depending on the situation. Let's go through some [iPhone] scenarios.

The phone is asleep in your pocket. You want to take a photo. Quick! Take if out of your pocket and either:

  1. double-click volume-up button (hold for video)
  2. double-click volume-down button (hold for video)
  3. depress volume-up and volume-down button simultaneously (hold for video)
  4. depress-volume-up and home button simultaneously (hold for video)
  5. depress volume-down and home button simultaneously (hold for video)

Notes:

  • A setting would allow you to enable the feature to capture photos and/or video from sleep mode. Thus, Private Percy's Privacy is Protected from Prankster Peter.
  • A setting would allow you to launch into camera.app (or not) after taking photos from sleep mode.
  • Initiating video capture from sleep mode would launch camera.app while you are shooting that video.

Any thoughts?

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

But remember, as it is, your new £300 PC can enjoy new games as-is, as well as a huge back catalogue of…every PC game ever made. It can easily emulate most old gaming consoles and computers too. That's 30 years of gaming at your fingertips, be it with keyboard and mouse hunched over a desk and monitor, or connecting to your TV and kicking back with a pad on the couch.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

“Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.”—TuxRadar, April 2013

The subject of an interesting open ballot by Tuxradar, “Would you pay for Linux?”, begins with a rather disingenuous poke at Apple and Microsoft.

Teasing this apart, we find that Apple’s operating system (Mac OS X) comes bundled with all their computers, at zero-cost. The current version (May 2013) is OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

This is accepting however, that OS X is only designed to run on Apple hardware, and that the cost of a new computer with OS X starts from £499 (Mac Mini), or laptop (MacBook Air) £849.

Bear in mind though, that you can buy a second-hand 2006 MacBook for ~£200 which will comfortably run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, or a Core 2 Duo MacBook for ~£300 that’ll run OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion without issue.

The upgrade cost for new versions of Apple’s operating system is cheap and getting cheaper:

  • 2009, £25.00: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
  • 2011, £19.99: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to Max OS X 10.7 Lion
  • 2012, £13.99: Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Case Study for Personal Computing

I have been running the same laptop (13-inch MacBook 5,1) since Autumn 2008. I recently upgraded the RAM from 2Gb to 4Gb (~£40), and installed a 250Gb SSD (~£150). The battery capacity is still 80% vs. design, after 54 months and 831 loadcycles (thank you coconutBattery).

My laptop connects to a 27-inch display (Apple Cinema Display), is capable of running GNU/Linux programs —FOSS and non-FOSS— and can also run such software as Pages, Numbers, Keynote (an inexpensive £13.99 each). It has been stable and robust throughout it’s life, and hasn’t required any fiddling to work. No viruses, slow-down or gunk, and only a handful of crashes (in almost five years, that’s not too bad).

Benefits Comparison

Benefits of using Mac OS X instead of another GNU/Linux distribution:

  1. Stability. OS X is stable and functional, with free and paid applications that work really well.
  2. Freedom+. OS X can run everything that a GNU/Linux distribution can; either natively, in a virtual environment, or by dual-booting into a GNU/Linux distribution with Apple hardware.
  3. Design. Apple hardware is so well designed and constructed that is beautiful. The same detail, care and attention is brought to their operating system, which is equally functional and beautiful.

Benefits of using GNU/Linux distribution instead of Mac OS X:

  1. Hardware choice (power and/or economy). GNU/Linux can be combined with incredibly cheap hardware (such as the Raspberry Pi) or fancy hardware, whatever you choose.
  2. Price. GNU/Linux is free and hardware which is almost as good as Apple's (physically not as nice but with equivalent or better computing power), tends to be much cheaper.

Money = labour; Volunteering = play?

Money is not by nature dirty —well, except for physical money, which is disgustingly unclean—, but monetary transactions do change or define relationships, and more importantly; expectations. The motivation to contribute to the community for free is one of play and personal reward. What is the driver for people contributing their time and effort to the community for free, to enhance a paid piece of software? The motivation is gone. Free-as-in-speech software has to be free-as-in-beer if you expect unpaid volunteers to contribute, surely?

Trying to reconcile giving away your copyright and intellectual property rights to a charitable or not-for-profit organisation versus a corporation or commercial for-profit enterprise are very different propositions. In America, they have the phenomenon unpaid-internship, which as far as I can tell is free labour for companies, with the intern benefitting from “real-world experience”.

“By the people, for the people” is a world apart from “by paid employees, for the corporation”. I understand “by unpaid employees, for the corporation” even less.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesWriting, Tech

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, cheap computer with the design intention of being for kids to learn real computer and programming skills (as opposed to just learning how to use an office suite of applications). Kudos to the Raspberry Pi Foundation for their continuing efforts to bring back computer science to schools.

After all, it was due to the availability of affordable, programmable computers in the 1980s that allowed kids then to get into making things with computers. Programming games, art and music. Being creative. The talent this fostered in Britain was immense. I believe the Raspberry Pi and it’s ilk will be the key to inspiring the next generation of talent.

As well as being a powerful tool for educational purposes—due to it’s programmable nature—the Raspberry Pi (sometimes referred to as RPi) is also an incredibly versatile box of wonders. The community that has sprung up around it has seized the opportunity of this common platform to develop new, and port exisiting applications and variants of the Linux Operating System.

A New Year’s resolution of mine was to find a use for my RPi. Well, I can happily report that I now have. Enter Raspbmc, “a minimal Linux distribution based on Debian that brings XBMC to your Raspberry Pi.” XBMC is “an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub for digital media.” The installation proved to be a simple and ejoyable experience. Thankfully, this hassle-free installation and interaction with the Linux ecosystem is becoming more common (two steps to install rather than 27).

The defaultmost popular RPi Linux distribution (sic - Operating System), Raspbian Wheezy (I have not yet found the story behind the name “Wheezy”) comes with a fully-featured desktop environment which is imminently usable and tastes just like Windows and Mac OS X; office suites, image editors, the whole gamut. All free and open source.

My setup is an original Raspberry Pi Model B with 256Mb RAM; it now ships with 512Mb for the same price (~£35). As it comes without a case, I later bought a rather groovy Pimoroni PiBow case (£12.95).

Note, the RPi doesn’t come with it’s own power supply. You have to supply a 5v micro-USB connection with at least 0.7mA. I started out using an old Samsung mobile phone charger, but have since switched to a Masterplug SRGDU62PW USB Charging Surge Protected 2m Extension Lead Power Block with 6 Sockets and a funky orange micro-USB cable.

In addition to a power supply, you’ll need an HDMI cable, an ethernet cable (to connnect to your internet router), and an SD card to hold the operating system and software. Which paves the route to RPi nirvana:

  • Raspberry Pi Model B
  • Power supply (5v, rated to at least 0.7mA, micro-USB)
  • HDMI cable
  • SD card (8Gb or more recommended)
  • Ethernet cable
  • USB mouse and keyboard
  • (optional) USB hub to expand on the two existing USB ports
  • (optional) bluetooth USB dongle (for couch-surfing)
  • (optional) wi-fi USB dongle (for your RPis all over the house)

I use separate memory cards for each distribution. Currently: - Chameleon for retro emulation - Raspbmc for media centre - Raspbian Wheezy for learning more about Linux and maybe someday programming a game.

There is an Amazon affiliate link below if you don’t already own one and want to remedy that. Honesty policy: I get a little cash if you buy through this, which I will undoubtedly spend buying more gadgetry. Thank you if you use it.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

CriticMarkup is a new toolkit for editors to mark-up documents. It’s syntax appears to be quite simple. There are five types of Critic marks:

  • Addition {++ ++}, e.g., App{++les++}
  • Deletion {-- --}, e.g., Orange{--s--}
  • Substitution {~~ ~> ~~}, e.g., {~~Tomato~>Tomatoes~~}
  • Comment {>> <<}, e.g., {>>Is a CriticMarkup’ed document going to be readable?<<}
  • Highlight & Comment_ {== ==}_, e.g., {==Will a CriticMarkup’ed document look like goobledygook?==}{>>Depends on what tool you’re going to view it with.<<}

The Gitosphere is already responding by integrating CriticMarkup into popular text-editors, such as MultiMarkdown Composer.

In contrast to CriticMarkup, Aza Raskin’s Bracket Notation is an even more elegant and simple method, which makes a lot of sense and doesn’t require jazz-trumpet Vimeo tutorials to fully appreciate. The only deviation I make from Raskin’s method is, as suggested by Koralatov, to use curly brackets instead of square brackets which ensures it doesn't conflict with Markdown's link syntax..

“The solution is simply three sets of square brackets and some customs: the first set of brackets denotes deletion, the second set denotes addition, and the third set denotes a comment. Apparently, a similar model is used to keep track of edits in the United Nations.”

Examples of Bracket Notation:

  • Delete {}, e.g., I like green {oranges}. becomes I like green.
  • Add {}{}, e.g., I like green {}{apples}. becomes I like green apples. (because nothing is deleted and apples is added).
  • Substitute (Delete & Add) {}{}, e.g., I like green {oranges}{apples}. becomes I like green apples. (because “oranges” is deleted and “apples” is added).
  • Editorial Comment {}{}{}, e.g., Cats are evil. {}{}{Ed - You are a mean and likely unattractive cat-hater.} (no changes are made but the editor has been offended by the author and left an unconstructive comment in response).
  • Substitution with Editorial Comment {}{}{}, e.g., I like green {oranges}{steak}.{Paleo sense is tingling. Need more fresh meat.} becomes I like green steak. (with an editors comment about paleo).

Not to knock CriticMarkup too hard (I do think it’s neat and visually arresting), the beautiful, mathematic simplicity of bracket notation is hard to beat. As Raskin concludes:

“It’s a simple solution to a possibly complex problem. It shows that sometimes the solution to an interface problem doesn’t involve inventing something brand new, but reusing something old.”

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech, Writing

This piece is intended as a homage to games in general, a discussion of my experiences with gaming platforms, and a proclamation of my love for gaming, speaking as a rapacious appreciator of this wonderful interactive art form. This is not a controversial PC Vs. Consoles opinion piece. That would be an utter waste of time and energy. The main points I shall put forward are:

  • The best single-player games are timeless and yield inestimable value to appreciative gamers.
  • To enjoy today’s cutting-edge PC games as their designers intended is expensive.
  • Delaying your gratification a few years could save you a fortune. Patience is also, I’m reliably informed, a heavenly virtue. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having the money to spend on a killer gaming rig now…
  • Though you can enjoy PC gaming masterpieces such as Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth [2006] or Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines [2004] today with a relatively inexpensive gaming machine.

It has been seven years since I owned a capable beast; that story is told elsewhere. High-end gaming PCs are like racehorses: even the finest are retired after only a handful of years. In the aughties, they were incredibly expensive both to buy and to maintain.

Costly, not just in money, but in time. You could spend £1,000 and a year later, your machine would struggle to play the latest games as they were intended to be seen. A three year-old powerhouse from 2003 would struggle to keep up with the games of 2006. Some expensive transplant surgery would be needed:

‘Let’s see. We’ll need a new Graphics Card, and ooo… a bit more RAM. Oh, that graphics card is going to need a bigger power supply, and then your motherboard will be the bottleneck. Hmm, the CPU you currently have is a different socket from the motherboard you plan on getting. The case is nice though; you can keep that.’

With consoles, like the Sony PlayStation 3 or the Microsoft Xbox 360, we have a platform that has a longer modern life, with the most recent (seventh) console generation set to last at least eight years with no mandatory hardware upgrades required. Excepting replacement of the whole console due to unfortunate but not uncommon catastrophic failure, the cost of maintenance in pounds and hours is negligible.

For me, this isn’t a case of owning a PC or a console. You can have a horse and pony, donkeys, chickens, turtles, and any other animal or beast. If you have the room for it, can afford it, and will give it the love, care and attention it deserves, then you should have it, else you should set it free. Having a loft full of aged animals [read - decrepit computer hardware] is maybe not good for you, or for them. Minimalism be damned; for posterity these cherished pieces still hold personal, sentimental value to the geeks who grew up with them. It is a love that cannot be emulated.

Albeit it can be emulated, some of the time. Getting a hold of the original joypad and via a USB adapter, most Windows and *nix systems support programs that allow nostalgic trips to the best old games, and classics missed first-time round.

A computer is required then, but how expensive does it need to be? Well, what are you going to use it for? Today’s cutting-edge games require today’s cutting-edge hardware (to be played as intended). Whereas games of five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago don’t. Highly capable hardware will set you back £700 to £3,000 (you could probably get something pretty amazing on the price/performance curve somewhere in-between).

Older games and games consoles can be had for a fraction of the price at wondrous flea markets like eBay. The point I’m getting to is this: what do today’s cutting-edge games offer that games of yesteryear do not? Apart from the obvious improved graphics, sound and scope, the main difference I feel in today’s best games is the influence and refinement from past effort. They are informed by their forebears. Only in the best examples the gameplay has evolved and past foibles and poor decisions mitigated; by standing on the shoulders of giants.

However, the excellence of new games does not preclude the timelessness of any past treasures. There are lifetimes of sublime gaming experiences to be had from the body of games that have already been released. Like other forms of entertainment, you will never have the time to enjoy them all. To pick wisely, there is a world of enlightened people who have enjoyed certain games a great deal, and felt compelled to reach out and tell others. For this Retro Gamer magazine is an ideal source of nostalgic ambience to read as you comb eBay and the like for old computer games and systems.

There are plenty of standalone masterpieces, and the timeless ones will always be available to us in the future. I knew this when I ducked out of the PC arms race in 2006, just as MMORPGs like EVE: Online and World of Warcraft were coming to the fore. Social online games such as these are outwith the scope of this piece though. Here I am a proponent only of offline gems such as the life-changing Final Fantasy VII.

Moving forward with this logic, spending a modest amount on a gaming PC, a current generation console, and older consoles today would allow all the treasures of the recent era all the way back to the dawn of the computing age to be played. This logic further permits that around £500 every four years would allow you to have amazing gaming experiences now, equivalent to spending £2,000 every year or two to stay on the bleeding edge of technology.

Most modern games are multi-platform and though the graphics may not be as good on the Xbox 360 as they are on a Water-cooled GTX 51200 3570k blue-LED Horsey i9, the experience and gameplay may be not be diminished at all by the inferior graphics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Happy gaming.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson

The Elcor (an elephant-like monotone talking species from the videogame series Mass Effect) prefix all verbal communications with an implied emotional tone, or a pseudo-emotive statement. This, @cactopops (on app.net) pointed out, is an incredibly effective way of conveying tone in text-based communication (without simplifying to emoji I might add). Prefixing tweets and app.net posts with an emotional perspective or statement hashtag would allow our tone to be more clearly encoded in our message.

There are further upsides to communicating this way. My favourite example is this. If you do not know what tone you are trying to encode, then what value does your message have? Do the words alone convey the tone (especially given the contraints of short-form writing)? As an excercise in emotional self-awareness, if you write the tone of your message first, that allows you to check yourself before you wreck yourself before you hit send or publish. Is emotion required? And will your message be positively or negatively charged?

Also, think of the trending and stats possibilities if there is a large uptake in communicating this way. Picture this…

  • #FishingForLuls (Moral Trolling)
  • #ProvokingForAngryReaction (Immoral Trolling)
  • #PointlessMiniPublicDiarising
  • #WithMuchAnger
  • #Thankfully
  • #Sincerely
  • #Cautiously
  • #Apologising
  • #Humbly

While researching this post (to see if this was an isolated phenomenon), I found another post, by Nick Sheridan: “Talk like an Elcor day: Walk with the aliens! Talk with the aliens! Grunt and squeak and squawk with the aliens!”, and many forums which have experimented with speaking like an Elcor.

In very short-form communication (think 140 – 265 characters) with strangers and accquaintances, what better way to communicate than like an Elcor?

(Please feel free to share yours in the comments section of this post.)

It’s getting to that time of year where many of us will be in a post-Christmas, post-gluttonous, dazed shellshock. Where we turn our greedy eye from the pickings of Christmas’ carcass for a brief, weary stare into the near-future. For this post I give a tip of the Santa hat to Koralatov who led me to the Hacker News post on 2013 Learning that inspired me to write this.

These resolutions I am about to make; how can I stop myself forsaking them? How can they be achieved? Let’s move forward with the mindset that these resolutions are all centred around learning and developing new skills.

Forming a resolution

When setting any learning objectives I would recommend putting them to the test:

  1. Why do you want to learn it? How will it benefit you, and what will you use your new skill for, e.g., to write a book, communicate with foreign friends, or type super-fast without having to backspace every few words to correct a spelling mistake.
  2. How long will it take to learn?
  3. When will you make the time to learn it?
  4. These (one, two, and three) can be consolidated into the following question: Are your learning objectives all SMART, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound [or variations thereof]?

If your early learning objectives can’t be made to at least survive the above probing, I would suggest they be reworked or binned. The fact that every resolution you publicly announce will remain a fairly permanent testament to your future integrity invites a haunting guilt (or potentially valuable lesson) if you fail; and a prideful joy if you succeed.

My 2013 Resolutions

As an example, my 2013 personal resolutions are published below, and I invite you to do the same in the comments of this post, bookmark it and visit any time to share your progress/completion. I will be posting my updates and linking back to this post.

  1. For fun and to improve my computing skills: Learn how to use my Raspberry Pi effectively (learn linux), and put it to use at least once a month.
  2. To communicate with my in-laws better: Learn enough Farsi (Modern Persian) to have a conversation and understand the meaning of overheard conversation.
  3. To become a more effective typist: Learn to touch-type (for real) at least 70wpm with >95% accuracy by July 2013.
  4. Become a better cook: Write down, practice and commit to memory at least 20 recipes that can make-up a staple repetoir.
  5. To ultimately design and knit my own jumper: Learn the basics of knitting and knit at least five different items by June.
  6. To ultimately make my own stoneware: Learn and practice ceramics. Buy all equipment by June to begin after knitting and finishing Project Management degree.
 2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

2013 Resolutions Gantt Chart (Milestone and Summary View)

This isn’t Stand By Me, and I don’t want to split-up a fight by dying of a wound from a stray knife. But I do want to talk about piracy and lean on a couple of pieces published by Matt Gemmell and Harry Marks.

Matt Gemmell wrote about how it’s better to develop for iOS because piracy isn’t an issue, as it is for Android. Harry Marks agreed, but picked up on a previous piece by Matt Gemmell advocating music and movie piracy.

After you filter through the emotional charge, cancel out any conflicting hypocritical statements, you can pare away the arguments presented in both pieces by Gemmell. They make an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Marks concluded from Gemmel’s posts:

Here’s what I’ve gathered:

  1. If you’re a software developer trying to make money, locking things down means you get paid and you don’t have to live out of dumpsters for the rest of your life.

  2. If you make movies, TV shows, or music, piracy is okay because we’re the ones getting dicked over by a locked-down system designed to put food on the tables of content creators.

That’s not what I gathered from Gemmel at all. But his aggressive writing doesn’t win him any favours and can easily lead to being misinterpreted. Write angry; read angry. Are all producers equal, or are some (software developers) more equal than others?

The key message, Gemmell did make:

We’ll buy stuff if it’s convenient to do so, and if the price is reasonable. Any sensible business would thus have as its goal “make our stuff convenient to buy, and price it reasonably”.

Piracy might be driven by horrible Digital Rights Management (DRM) for purchased (not rented) content; perceived high pricing; inconvenience of purchase & delivery process; and exclusive access, e.g., Game of Thrones cannot be bought by everyone. I assume —and please correct me if I am wrong— that you must live in America and have a TV subscription that includes HBO to access Game of Thrones.

I live in the UK and subscribe to Spotify, Netflix, and LoveFilm. These services let me listen to and view an unlimited amount (from limited catalogues) of music, TV series, and films. Good enough, cheap enough, and with plenty enough choice for me. Renting rather than owning. Existing in the cloud, where DRM is not a concern.

I wonder how much piracy has been mitigated by these services? I wonder how fair a deal content creators are getting, and if new business models are able to support great new music, TV, films and books.

I’ll save discussion of Abandonware (primarily old games that are no longer for sale and no longer supported by their original creators and copyright holders) for a future post.

Ultimately the way to mitigate piracy is:

  • make it reasonably priced
  • make it easy to buy and download
  • allow anyone to buy it (never turn down people who want to give you their money)

And bonus points for purchased content (not rented content):

  • allow people to download and keep it offline
  • no DRM

Mutt is “a small but very powerful text-based mail client for Unix operating systems”.

The problem I find with many clever computer programs, is that they are written by people who are exceptionally intelligent and demand a large amount of specific knowledge to install and use. Considering myself competent in using computers, but not knowing much about the command-line, nor *nix of any kind, exploring the possibilities can be a devilish but rewarding challenge.

For free software to be truly free (as in both beer and speech), it should be easily installable and configurable by any literate adult. By that, I mean my mum should be able to follow the documentation to install and use the software. Any prerequisite knowledge not in the documentation should be referenced right at the start. There should be no or as low as possible a barrier to entry for everyone.

Why should we care about free and open source software? That’s a discussion for another day. But I will say this. People are working together to develop software that is useful to us, and sharing their working so anyone can contribute and make the software better.

I propose all software should have a mum’s guide. Especially free software:

  1. As a way to attract newcomers who feel generally that free (as in speech) software is unfamiliar and hard to learn, and;
  2. To lead with a good example for others to follow.

If the software cannot be installed and configured successfully, is that a fault of the user or the developer(s)?

So here is mutt for mums (on Mac OS X). Basic muttrc supplied by Koralatov.

Note: Although this is written up to be informative (and a little tongue-in cheek), I will be user-testing this with my mum. Don’t slam me for errors in this case, as I am proving a concept. And yes, I am also aware that my mum would not use Mutt over a GUI mail client.

Prerequisites

Installing Mutt

  1. Open Terminal by pressing the cmd key and space bar together, begin typing terminal, and hit enter when terminal is highlighted. Or, you can go to your Applications folder, open the Utlities folder, then double-click on Terminal.
  2. (You will have installed Homebrew per the prerequisites section above.) type the following command: brew install mutt
  3. Next install msmtp. (a smtp mail client for sending email). Type the following command: brew install msmtp

Setting up Mutt

This should be enough to get your started, but you’ll need to fill in your password in the appropriate places, and create the following folders by typing the command mkdir, leave a space, then type the folder name, and finally hit enter):

mkdir ~/mutt
mkdir ~/mutt/cache
mkdir ~/mutt/cache/bodies

You also need to create the following files (create files by typing the command touch, leave a space, then type the file name):

touch ~/mutt/sig
touch ~/mutt/aliases

To edit text files, we will be using a program called Nano. To use nano we type the command into our terminal.

nano ~/mutt/sig

Type in your signature, e.g., mine below. Use ctrl key and oh key together to save, hit enter, then use ctrl key and ex key together to exit. Signature editing with Nano

Your aliases file is populated in the following fashion, one entry per line (spacing is optional, but there must be at least one space between each part of the entry):

   alias son Iain Simpson <iain@m.com>
   alias bob1 Bob Robertson <bob.robertson29145@uk.magicalunicornmail.com>

Setting aliases is handy for later. When you are sending mail to someone, you can write bob1 in the To: field, rather than bob.robertson29145@uk.magicalunicornmail.com

Setting muttrc

This step involves editing two files (muttrc and msmtprc) using Nano, e.g., nano ~/muttrc

Firstly copy the text below (highlight with your mouse then press cmd key and c key together to copy). (We will paste this into Nano later.)

COPY FROM NEXT LINE, starting # muttrc

# muttrc
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------
# BASIC SETTINGS
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------
## IDENTITY
set        realname            =   "Your Name"
set        from                =   "your@email.com"
set        use_from            =    yes
set        hidden_host
set        envelope_from       =    yes

## ALIASES SETTINGS
source   ~/mutt/aliases
set        alias_file          =   ~/mutt/aliases
set        sort_alias          =     alias
set        reverse_alias       =     yes

## CACHE SETTINGS
set        certificate_file    =   ~/mutt/certificates
set        header_cache        =   ~/mutt/cache/headers
set        message_cachedir    =   ~/mutt/cache/bodies


# LAYOUT
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------
## INBOX SETTINGS
set    sort           =  "reverse-date-received"
set    index_format   =  "%4C  %Z   %-18.18L   %-30.30s   %{%b %d %H:%M}"
set    markers        =   no

## CLEAN HEADERS
ignore      *
unignore    From Date Subject To CC
hdr_order   From To CC Date Subject

# FORMATTING
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------
## COMPOSITION
set     autoedit        =    yes
set     recall          =    no
set     include         =    yes
set     tilde
set     editor          =    nano
set     signature        =   ~/mutt/sig
set     delete          =    yes
set     fast_reply      =    yes
set     fcc_clear
set     include         =    ask-yes
set     move            =    no
unset   reply_self

## FORMAT SETTINGS
set    allow_8bit       =    yes
set    charset          =   "utf-8"
set    send_charset     =   "utf-8"
set    locale           =    en_GB
set    use_8bitmime     =    yes
set    indent_string    =   "> "
set    wrap             =    78
set    smart_wrap
set    attribution      =   "On %D, %n wrote:\n"
set    date_format      =   "!%a, %b %d, %Y at %H:%M"
set    forward_format   =   "Fwd: %s"


# SERVER SETTINGS
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------
## IMAP SETTINGS
set    imap_user        =   "your@email.com"
set    imap_pass        =   "your password"
set    mail_check       =    60
set    check_new        =    yes
set    imap_keepalive   =    900

## SMTP SETTINGS
set sendmail = "/usr/bin/msmtp"
set sendmail_wait = -1

## FOLDERS
set    spoolfile       =   "imaps://imap.1and1.co.uk:993"
set    folder          =   "imaps://imap.1and1.co.uk:993"
set    record          =   "imaps://imap.1and1.co.uk/Sent"
set    postponed       =   "imaps://imap.1and1.co.uk/Drafts"
set    mbox            =   "imaps://imap.1and1.co.uk/Archives/2012"
set    pager_stop

STOP COPYING after set pager stop

  1. Type the following command nano ~/muttrc
  2. To paste into Nano, click within Nano, then press the cmd key and vee key together, or secondary click (right-click). That’s it. Secondary click
  3. You will need to look through the file using the arrow keys and change the IDENTITY, IMAP and FOLDERS settings. (You may need to google your IMAP settings, e.g., google search for AOL IMAP settings)
  4. As before, when finished editing, press ctrl key and oh key to save, hit enter, then ctrl key and ex key to exit.

Setting msmtprc

Lastly we will edit msmtprc. Following the same steps as above, copy the below and edit. Edit your host (per your googled IMAP settings), user and password.

nano ~/msmtprc

COPY FROM NEXT LINE, starting # msmtprc

# msmtprc:
# ----------------------------------------------------------------------

account default
host auth.smtp.1and1.co.uk
port 587
auth on
user your@email.com
password xxxxx
auto_from off
from your@email.com
tls on
tls_starttls on
tls_certcheck off

STOP COPYING after tls_certcheck off

Edit your host (per your googled IMAP settings), user and password.

RUNNING MUTT

To run Mutt, open a Terminal window (by pressing the cmd key and space bar together, begin typing terminal, and hit enter when terminal is highlighted), type mutt and hit enter. Mutt will open and provided you entered your settings correctly in muttrc and msmtprc, you will be receive and send mail. Now you just have to learn the keyboard shortcuts, and you’ll be navigating and managing your mail very speedily indeed. To exit mutt, just hit the ex key.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech

12 days is a long time in the world of Dropbox blogging1. The attention being given Dropbox publishing engines by the likes of the brilliant 5by5 podcasts; is like pouring water and warmth onto a thirsty young plant. Scriptogr.am especially is adding features and refining quality in quantum leaps2.

All of my recent writing online has been about writing online. Since being alerted to the existence of Calepin (via Koralatov) last November, promise was shown that my wish for the ideal static-site generator would be fulfilled.

Now I’ve finally stopped looking and am ready to settle down. Yes, I’ve been made aware of more engines. To name a few (in the reverse-chronological order that I learned of them): DropType, Skrivr, Second Crack, Octopress.

But, I am confident that Scriptogr.am has what I’m looking for, in droves. My next post will be about something other than Dropbox publishing.


  1. Blogging is [apparently] dead. Long live publishing. I must admit to preferring the term _publishing_ over _blogging_. (I can see how the availability heuristic when applied to each term will always prefer publishing; which implies integrity, editing, serious, thought-out, etc. rather than, say for example, “LOL! Look at my catpuss”.
  2. I am writing this using Scriptogr.am’s online text editor. It’s everything iA Writer should’ve been, and more.
Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech, Writing

Title: Regarding Calepin and its new Competitors

Date: 2012-01-05

@calepinapp: You have one competitor starting now (@scriptogram), and more are bound to come. After all, your idea is a very good one…

I didn’t publish the tweet above because it deserves discussion. As is so often the case, Twitter is not the place for serious discourse.

As of 5th January 2012, Calepin (a recently developed service from Jökull Sólberg for generating a static site from markdown files in your Dropbox) is no longer alone. Scriptogram has joined the fray. Both Calepin and Scriptogram are being rapidly developed. The current differentiator is Calepin’s stance on not having custom themes, its willingness to explore paid options, and its greater level of polish. More on that soon.

Both services promise to have custom domains and other exciting features coming soon. What do you want from your publishing platform?

The functionality I’m looking for:

  • easy to publish markdown text files into a static site
  • pages as well as posts
  • online and offline editing of text files (paid)
  • custom domains (paid)
  • custom themes (paid)
  • CSS inject (paid)

Scriptogr.am’s homepage currently states all the features above will be free with their service. Why? I’d prefer to pay for it.

This is only the beginning of a new plethora of services coming to market. The marriage of geek with design in recent years (thanks to the world-wide web) is producing new and interesting children (or iteratively better Ripley clones as in Alien: Resurrection if you like).

New services are coming thick and fast. Hat-tip to Koralatov for pointing out yet another emerging service: Skrivr

In conclusion, I want simplicity in how I get my writing onto the web, and control of that content. All these new services have the potential to fulfil that. Some will rise to prominence, and I will be loyal to those that fit best.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech, Writing

How much would you like pain-free and pretty hosting of your words on the web? A tool that just works, and gets out of the way of your writing. I have hunted high and low for a long time to find such a grail.

And now I’ve found it1 in Calepin: “the easiest way to self publish online” You write a piece in Markdown2; save in your Dropbox; visit calepin.co; click publish3; and you’re done.

One-click publishing: No updates. No danger. No tears. Having experimented with Wordpress, Tumblr, Squarespace, and HTML+CSS, I can happily say that Calepin has blown me away. I’ll be switching my main site to Calepin once custom domains and themes are supported.

Calepin is stable, new and evolving. Made available to all during November 2011, the creator is taking good feedback and making Calepin even better.

Write. Publish. Done.

Thank you Jökull Sólberg for creating and sharing this.


  1. Well actually, Koralatov told me about it.
  2. Markdown is a wonderful plain-text formatting system that is easily [human] readable and can also be processed to output structurally valid HTML.
  3. First-time setup takes less than sixty seconds.
Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech, Writing

Through the vernacular of a once loyal MS Windows user, Siegler takes our hand1 and walks us through what is so great about the newest iteration of Mac OS X, 10.7 Lion.

But the following is my relationship with Apple, inspired by Siegler’s account:

The year was 2005. I bought my first iPod, a 2nd generation iPod Nano, with a John Lewis voucher work rewarded my team with as a thank you. I still have this iPod, still use it, and still appreciate the design (except for the earphone jack being on the bottom instead of the top of the unit).

It was my gateway drug to Apple.

Windows kept me prisoner by merit of the time and energy I had poured into getting to know her. It can be very hard to leave a relationship, even one riddled with mental and emotional abuse. Oh, the time I invested trying to maintain a stable Windows install.

And then in 2008, my resistance to Apple eroded. With my laptop’s Windows install coughing and spluttering; streams of digital bile, gobbets of BSOD sputum and error messages all over my attempt at having a quiet night in with my computer, I finally caved.

I saw the latest Aluminium bodied MacBook. I recalled the glint in the eyes of my friend whenever he talked to me about Apple, and his growing collection of Apple hardware. I weighed it up: Stable; sexy (hardware and software); usable; and with minimal tinkering required, but plenty of scope there if you want to.

Right, I thought; enough is enough. My mail-order computer was in the post. The bloated and sluggish hag of a Sony Vaio, barely a year old, was quickly shown the door. More than a decade of pain and strife, gone. Untethered, I was; free.

Have I looked back since?

No.

None of the Apple equipment I have enhances my abilities or talents to get things done. How could they? They are only tools. Fine tools, but tools nonetheless.

But, I haven’t had to reinstall the operating system, tweak much, or waste hours repairing, sharpening, and tidying. Lion is still fast on my nearly three year old MacBook. Also, the flicking between desktops makes good use of my relatively lo-res 13″ screen. It looks like my next notebook [hardware] upgrade is still years away.2


  1. I find Siegler’s article passionate, not sycophantic.

  2. Okay, so I also have an iPad 2; an iPhone 4; and several iPods.

Posted
AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesTech
TagsApple