Matthew Ernisse

Edited: December 13, 2017 @20:47

I'm not currently subscribed to Patreon largely because when money on the Internet is concerned I have a long wait and see what happens cool down. There are a lot of Internet start ups that come and go like a flash in the pan and a lot that get bought quickly and morphed into something else. If you are going to have some way to charge me money, I need some stability. I have no problem being an early adopter, as long as you don't have a link to my bank account or credit card (even through a third party).

Seems like a safe and sane option to me.

That being said, since Patreon seemed like it was gaining traction, espeically with people that I respect who are creating things, I started collecting links to the Patreon profiles I was interested in backing in my private wallabag instance with the intention of eventually subscribing and throwing some beer money into the hat.

Of course Patreon goes and screws it up, so I'm at the very least putting that idea on hold.

Dave Jones of the EEVBlog just posted a good video about what they are doing from the creator's point of view.

You can go and read Patreon's explanation and decide for yourself, but I get a huge waft of crap off this. I have a hard time trusting the direction this is going in and until that trust is restored I won't be giving them money.

Update

I'll just leave this here...

December 11, 2017 @13:37

Summary

A while back I posted an initial review of iOS 11 and a follow up along with a what I admit was a bit of a rant about a beta of iOS 11.2.

The long and short of my complaints was basically:

  • Home Control keeps re-enabling itself on the lock screen
  • Podcast app no longer auto-advances episodes in a feed
  • App search is broken when Siri is disabled
  • Visual style is bulky and redundant
  • Native video controls are tiny
  • Control Center radio controls are wrong

I'm happy to admit that of the 6 or so grievances, the two that really hurt my daily usability of the device are fixed.

They also restored the force touch app switching on the iPhone 7 much to my delight.

Sadly... the Home Control bug seems to remain. At this point I'm going to stay away from anything HomeKit since I do not want to risk a stranger being able to control my home even with my phone locked.

Home Control WTF

Podcast app returned to form!

Not much to say, just works now. I was delighted the other evening while listening to King Falls AM when the next episode just started playing.

App Search, searches!

App Search Setting

I stumbled on this a bit accidentally. Sometime after I upgraded to iOS 11.2 I installed a new app (something I pretty rarely do). In doing so my natural motion is to into Settings and disable Siri and Search since it defaults to on (even when everything else is off...). As I ticked the switch to off I was shocked to see a new option appear! Turns out it does exactly what I want. My use the phone like clover+space on the Mac workflow is now back at my finger tips. Incidentally this is when I tried the force touch app switch and found it has been restored to my loving embrace. I'm sure my thumb will be thankful that the days of the double tap are numbered.

Conclusion

This is really the release that 11.0 should have been. I still think that Apple's release quality has suffered from their relentless pace of releases, but given the continual march of security updates and bugfixes I would still not suggest anyone lag behind the current version if they can reasonably help it. Honestly a little inconvenience of a crap release is nothing compared to a remote code execution vulnerability.

December 05, 2017 @22:51

This morning the UPS guy greeted me with a new Ubiquiti UniFi access point destined for use at work. I have been using a Mikrotik RB951-2HnD as a router and access point but I'm wanting to take advantage of 802.11ac various reasons so I ordered a UAP-AC-IW to replace the built-in Mikrotik WiFi. I'm still going to use the Mikrotik as a router and switch.

New AP!

To prep for the new AP I setup a new site in UniFi, re-created the network profiles and loaded in the IP range for the work segment of my network and the local RADIUS servers for WPA-Enterprise. I did this about a week ago so it was all ready for the big day. The other piece of business was making sure I had layer 3 adoption setup. I chose the DHCP option and setup the Mikrotik to hand out my UniFi server's IP as indicated.

[admin@bdr01] > /ip dhcp-server option export compact
# dec/05/2017 23:00:13 by RouterOS 6.40.5
#
# model = 951Ui-2HnD
/ip dhcp-server option
add code=252 name=proxy-pac value=\
    "'http://****.ub3rgeek.net/proxy.pac'"
add code=43 name=unifi-address value=0x0104c0a****

[admin@bdr01] > /ip dhcp-server network export compact
# dec/05/2017 23:01:46 by RouterOS 6.40.5
#
# model = 951Ui-2HnD
/ip dhcp-server network
add address=192.168.***.***/28 boot-file-name=pxelinux.0 dhcp-option=\
    proxy-pac,unifi-address dns-server=192.168.***.***,192.168.***.***\
    domain=work.ub3rgeek.net gateway=192.168.***.*** netmask=28\
    next-server=192.168.***.*** ntp-server=192.168.***.***

New AP pending adoption

I was impressed with and a bit surprised by the whole process. The Unifi software was smart enough to realize that the new AP was located in the new site (I assume because I told it the network address for the new LAN range) and promptly dropped it in the list of devices for the right site. After pressing adopt and waiting for the firmware update and provisioning process I was greeted with an alert that confirmed that everything was working.

Old AP is now a rogue

The Mikrotik is now being seen as a rogue! A quick disable of the wlan interface in RouterOS and everything just jumped over to the new UAP-AC-IW AP! It's really nice when things just work like they say on the tin.

I really couldn't be happier with these things. I wrote a bunch about the setup at home before and I'm pretty happy to see the success continue.

Hopefully my luck will hold out...

Another new toy

👍 💯 🍺

November 29, 2017 @19:46

I've been playing Elite: Dangerous on and off for a little over a year now and there have been a time or two where I thought that it might be a sweet experience in VR, but honestly not even flying around the black has been enough to really light the lust fire...

Approaching Blackmount Orbital

But man... This sure has.

With this being a real close second...

🍸 🍜

November 28, 2017 @10:10

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the Internet is under attack, but if it does, or if you want to know what you can do about it read on.

Call Congress

  1. Demand Progress - They have a number of causes they are working on including Net Neutrality.
  2. The EFF - The OG defender of rights in the digital age.
  3. NY Times Video - What Is Net Neutrality
  4. NY Times Topics: Net Neutrality
  5. Wired - Here's How The End of Net Neutrality Will Change the Internet

The Internet can only succeed if it remains open and free. Billions of people across the globe rely on it and if we allow corporate profiteering to take over then we will stifle so many of the core values not only of the Internet (it really has no values, being a collection of interconnected, yet privately run networks and all..) but of society itself. Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, the ability to protest and communicate, and to innovate are all things we've held dear as a people for much longer than we've had the technology to communicate.

I spent almost a decade working for an ISP back before the 2015 Title II classification of Internet providers. I watched the executives of said ISP and its brethren (it's a small world in the "string wires across the globe" business after all) work harder and hard to try to find ways to squeeze more revenue out of their customers. Data caps and pay-per-gigabyte plans were the envy of the American ISP, though customers were very vocally against it and the market isn't quite oligopoly enough to pull the trigger so the tactics switched to quieter changes. Things like search engine and browser hijacking to DNS query redirection, and general data collection.

I can tell you that the infrastructure was already largely in place back in 2010 to enact the horror stories of blocking, throttling and extortion of content providers that people are presently worrying about.

This isn't science fiction, or scaremongering. It's already sitting there. Waiting for marketing to put a nice spin on it and the lawyers to say it's not a liability to use it.

If we give this up... it may take us decades to undo the damage, not only to ourselves but to the world at large. While a global network of networks, a lot of the infrastructure people use every day is located here in the US of A or is owned by US based companies, so what we do has deep effects globally.

If you live in the US, please look at the links above and put pressure on your elected representatives or if you can afford it, why not buy a FCC board member... I hear Ajit Pai is already spoken for though.

Call Congress

Edited: November 14, 2017 @15:00

Screenshot from MacRumors

I feel like I should explain why this irks me so. Apple just made a change so drastic in the functionality of their user interface (remember that Control Center is supposed to provide you with quick access to common functions from anywhere within the operating system) that they feel the need to present the user with a modal pop-up dialog box explaining why the user's understanding of the effect of the action that they just took is wrong.

This is antithetical to good design. The user interface shouldn't need a system native dialog box that pops up to apologize for itself. It should be self-explanatory. The user's intent is clearly to turn off the radio, but Apple has decided to redefine what they think the user wants and then drool all over themselves to try to be "transparent" about it.

Lets get back to the part where the UI did what the user actually wanted, that was nice.

Dear Apple, This shit is still just WRONG. Stop it. Whomever let this out the door in the first place is bad at their job. Whomever has let this fix out the door is also bad at their job. Yours Truly, Matt

I think I'm mad, largely because I'm afraid this is indicating the direction that Apple is heading and that I'm going to have to get off the ride. I really don't want to do that. Linux on the desktop and phone is still a really terrible user experience.

November 05, 2017 @18:50

I think this would be the perfect dystopian future.

See also, and also.

November 04, 2017 @12:50

It's probably a testament to the iPhone that I even have these gripes. I was never much of a mobile web user before and compared to others I am sure I'm not much of one now, but I do look at things on my phone now more than I used to.

I'm going to pick on a couple sites in specific but a whole metric boatload of the mobile web seems to do this crap and I'm sure there are thousands of words hidden away in private wikis about this particular user experience pattern and how great it is at driving app engagement or some other complete steaming pile of naval gazing wrongness.

Sin The First: Modal

I recognize that most people like apps, I don't. I also get that website owners want to associate their website with their app (and I remember watching a WWDC talk wherein some of the iOS security features may require this association), so they toss the <meta> tag into their markup and viola, this crap happens.

App Whoring

Now I will admit that Apple has improved this behavior, it feels like these banners don't appear as often as they did in previous versions of Safari / iOS but it is still something that you should be able to turn off.

Dear Apple, Let us compromise for the sake of sanity. We can just add a toggle in Settings.app -> Safari -> Advanced called 'Disable App Discovery' or some crap. Surely that isn't unreasonable or difficult?

Love, Matt

Sin the Second: Inline

I will give reddit a bit of credit here, they at least only seem to do this once. After you get the magic cookie that says you've made the obvious error of not getting their app they shut up. Unless you happen to be like me and periodically clean out your cookies and rotate your advertising identifier in the vain and silly hope that it makes it harder on the digital panopticon.

Won't you please consider our wonderful app

The part that bugs the crap out of me is how hard it is to hit that stupid link. Someone clearly doesn't actually want you to use their mobile website.

ARE YOU SURE?!?

Oops! You clicked on something, time for some more disruptive and somewhat misleading 'user experience'. In this case 'Take Me Back' actually means 'Do what I told you and show me the thing I tapped on like I would expect you to do.' I guess that is probably too wordy to put in a button.

Sin The Third, Begging

This one has that whiff of desperate basement dwelling neckbeard all over it. Like seriously, my mom uses my app, so you really should too. I won't fix your computer if you don't download my app and rate it 5 stars in the app store.

imgur has their legs spread SO WIDE for you

Lets see... button in the header bar, overlay button in the bottom with bonus points of 'tiny dismiss tap target' and huge screen-sized ad inserted in the content.

Yep, they really would like you to install their app.

An Open Letter To Web Designers

Dear People Writing Websites, Knock this crap the redacted off.

Hugs and kisses, Matt

The really odd thing is that in a number of cases the mobile web sites are better than the desktop ones, and I'd have no complaints if it wasn't for this nonsense. Reddit is a good example of this. Their desktop website pales from a usability perspective compared to the mobile version and yet they feel the need to promote their app. I assume it is so they can better data mine your phone and sell you out for more profit, because I can't fathom what other benefit a native application would bring.

Further Reading

The beatings will continue until the situation improves.

Official soundtrack of this post: Pigface - The horse you rode in on

November 02, 2017 @20:48

Wherein I feel like I am the product again...

So lets do a little thought experiment.

  • Company says "We sell you things, we don't sell you to other people."
  • Company makes this thing they sell you.
    • You hand over lets say, $900 for this thing.
  • Company has a monopoly on software distribution on this thing.
    • Company keeps 30% of the money you pay to any third party software developer who makes applications for their thing.
  • Company has a monopoly for payments made inside of applications running on their thing.
    • Company also keeps a percentage of that money.

So, you have this distribution channel that is the only way to (for normal people at least) install software on a device they claim to have sold to you.

Ignoring how completely despicable that premise is... you would think that at least for the appearance that they actually mean that whole "Unlike our $competitor, you aren't the product" stuff, perhaps they might not try to squeeze every single plug nickel out of you.

It is not shocking in the least, but at the same time I find it both disappointing and a bit offensive when this happens:

Ads in the App Store, iOS 11.1, iPhone 7

Now, I don't know for sure if this is new in iOS 11.1, though I suspect it is. It seems to happen in a way that has slipped past my network-wide ad-blocking filters, and when you add it to the rather horrific application discovery experience that is the App Store in general the whole thing just smells of a really ill advised money grab.

"Hey, finding an app you might like on the App Store sucks, how do
we fix that?"

"Oh, simple, we don't and we charge people to promote their apps in
search results and stuff in the App Store!"

"Brilliant!  Get this man a raise!"

print("\(thing) sucks, but everything else sucks more.")

let thing = "Apple"

Double Face-palm

I'm sure Steve Jobs would be so proud.

October 26, 2017 @20:33

I have been trying to get AWStats running on my Debian 9.2 (Stretch) web server. It has been fighting me. This is as much a note for future me as it is for you.

To Start With

Now I don't think this is something I added to the stock Debian Apache config, but just in case this is my Apache LogFormat. It ends up writing out to /var/log/apache2/other_vhosts_access.log. This keeps all the logs for all the activity on the server in one place and makes things nice and neat. Of course the stock Apache LogFormat in AWStats assumes one domain per log file.

LogFormat "%v:%p %h %l %u %t \"%r\" %>s %O \"%{Referer}i\" \"%{User-Agent}i\"" vhost_combined

So, to start I will assume you (future me) have done the usual apt-get update and apt-get install awstats dance by now, and have read /usr/share/doc/awstats/README.Debian.gz (if only to get the Apache config directives you need out of the sample config fragment).

I threw together a quick config with a SiteDomain set to www.going-flying.com but nothing happened. As forshadowing I will remind the reader that I recently setup HTTPS on that domain.

tl;dr...

The big gotcha is that %virtualname in AWStats matches the entire %v string from the Apache log, so basically ssl hosts need the :443.

In the base awstats.conf.local I have:

LogFile="/var/log/apache2/other_vhosts_access.log"
LogFormat = "%virtualname %host %other %logname %time1 %methodurl %code %bytesd %refererquot %uaquot"
SkipHosts="localhost 127.0.0.1"

Then the magical incantation you want in your per-domain config files is:

Include "/etc/awstats/awstats.conf"
SiteDomain="www.example.com:443"
HostAlias="www.example.com example.com also.example.com"

🍺

Edited: October 18, 2017 @14:03

I have been meaning to play around with containers for a while but for the life of me have not found a real reason to. I feel like without a real use case, any attempt I'd make to learn anything useful would be a huge waste of time. There are a bunch of neat toys out there, from running random ASCII art commands to a crazy script that 'emulates' some of the insane Hollywood style computer screens, as well as base images for all manner of application stacks and frameworks, but all of those are easily installable using your favorite package manager.

None of this really made me care enough to install and learn anything about any of the container ecosystems. I do like the idea of containers as sandboxes but as a macOS user I have that built in for free, so I have no impetus there either.

Still, there is a lot of talk about containers in the development community so I have been keeping an eye out for a use-case where I could justify investing time in them. Lately my primary development work has been creating various bespoke Flask applications. Flask comes with Werkzeug and a simple server built in, so I typically just run the internal server, iterate on the code, and then commit to my git repository. Eventually Puppet comes along and does the heavy lifting to deploy the changes to production. This works really well and I can't really figure out a reason to shoehorn a container into the process..

Docker on Aramaki

Turns out the excuse came from this web site. As I have written about before this entire site is generated from a home brew Python script. It takes all the design from templates and blog articles from markdown files and is triggered from a git post-receive hook on the web server. This lets me make a very fast web site that doesn't rely on any dynamic pages or API calls. The one drawback of this method lies in the differences between viewing pages over HTTP/HTTPS versus off the local filesystem. To test the site locally I was hand-editing some of the output to change some of the URLs from paths that would work on the website to paths that work on the local filesystem. This was getting annoying and frankly is just the thing to replace with a very small shell script.

I initially thought about modifying the build script to use filesystem paths when building locally, but that would just add complexity and potential for breakage. I then thought about fooling around with the web server built into macOS but I am generally loathe to mess around with things in the bowels of the OS lest I do something that Apple breaks in an update. In the end I figured this might finally be a good excuse to pull together a Docker container running Apache, that included the Python bits that the site builder needed and then in true ex-sysadmin fashion wrap it up in a nice shell script.

This resulted in a pretty reasonable work flow.

  1. Update working copy of site.
  2. Run test.sh
    • build Docker image
    • copy working copy into Docker image
    • launch an instance of this image.
    • Open a browser to the URL of the local Docker instance.
  3. Verify things are the way we want.
  4. Fix and GOTO 1 or continue.
  5. git add, commit, push to remote.
    • git hook deploys to production.

Now to be fair there are probably easier ways to do this including using a staging branch that is served on another domain name, directory, or on an internal VM. This would save me from building, launching, and cleaning up images. I could use my normal publishing work flow and scripts to simply do the right thing and then merge back to master when I'm ready to deploy the site to production.

But that doesn't give me an excuse to play with 🐳 Docker. 😁

Details

As of the time of writing these are the main pieces that make this work flow possible.

Dockerfile

FROM debian:latest
LABEL version="0.3.0" \
    vendor="Matthew Ernisse <matt@going-flying.com>" \
    description="Build and serve going-flying.com"

RUN apt-get update \
    && apt-get install -y \
    apache2 \
    python \
    python-pip \
    && rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/* \
    && mkdir -p /var/www/going-flying.com \
    && a2dissite 000-default

COPY docker/going-flying.conf /etc/apache2/sites-available
COPY . /var/www/going-flying.com

RUN a2ensite going-flying \
    && pip install \
    --requirement /var/www/going-flying.com/docker/requirements.txt \
    && /var/www/going-flying.com/build.py

EXPOSE 80
CMD ["/usr/sbin/apachectl", "-DFOREGROUND"]

This is pretty straightforward. I take the Debian base Docker image and install the bits I need to build and serve the site. I also have a very basic apache configuration fragment that points the server to the location I will be copying the site files to (the same location as in production so the script doesn't have to care). I then simply copy the working copy of the site into the image and run build.py on it.

test.sh

#!/bin/sh
# test.sh (c) 2017 Matthew J. Ernisse <matt@going-flying.com>
# All Rights Reserved.
#
# Build and run a copy of the website inside a Docker container.

set -e

echo "going-flying.com test builder."

if ! which docker 2>&1 >/dev/null; then
    echo "docker not found."
    exit 1
fi

if [ "$(uname -s)" != "Darwin" ]; then
    echo "Not running on macOS.  Exiting."
    exit 2
fi

cat << EOF

                    ##         .
              ## ## ##        ==
           ## ## ## ## ##    ===
       /"""""""""""""""""\___/ ===
      {                       /  ===-
       \______ O           __/
         \    \         __/
          \____\_______/

EOF

echo "Building image..."
_image=$(docker build --force-rm --squash . -t going-flying:latest | \
    awk '/^Successfully built [0-9a-f]+/ { print $3 }')

docker run --rm -d -p 8080:80 --name going-flying $_image > /dev/null

open "http://localhost:8080"

echo "Container running, Press [RETURN] to end."
read
echo "Stopping..."

docker stop going-flying > /dev/null
echo "OK."

This just does the docker build and docker run dance that causes a container to be running. It can probably be simplified even further but it gets the job done. The biggest thing was to make sure that I wasn't leaving a pile of images and whatnot laying around. And not having to remember the different command line switches needed to make it all Just Work.

build.py

The only other change was a hook in build.py that changes the base URL of the site from the normal https://www.going-flying.com/ to http://localhost:8080/. It does this by simply detecting if it is running in a Docker container and changing an instance variable.

def is_docker():
        ''' Return True if we're running in docker.'''
        if not os.path.exists('/proc/self/cgroup'):
                return None

        with open('/proc/self/cgroup') as fd:
                line = fd.readline()
                while line:
                        if 'docker' in line:
                                return True

                        line = fd.readline()

        return None

[ ... later in main() ... ]

        if is_docker():
                BuildConfig.urlbase = "http://localhost:8080/"
                print ":whale:  container detected."

I was skeptical at first if this was going to be worth it, but after using this for a few site updates, I honestly feel that this was easier than many of the alternatives and in the end let me go back to fixing a bunch of style and template bugs that I had on the TODO list for some time. I'd call that a result that was worth the effort. I look forward to finding more places where a container fits into my work flow. It might even turn into an excuse to run a private registry and start playing with some of the CI tools to run builds.

Errata

It turns out that Safari doesn't like to auto play videos not in view when the page loads. I tried to slam together some JavaScript to 'fix' this, but your milage may vary. If the videos aren't playing you should be able to right click on one of them and say 'show controls' then hit play.

October 13, 2017 @19:10

I monitor the DSM version on my Synology NAS with my icinga2 instance and sometimes alerts pop while I'm not in a position to run the upgrade using the normal GUI process.

This is rare enough that I almost always find myself trying to remember how to do it via ssh(1) and after flailing around aimlessly for a while I ultimately figure it out. This time I figured I'd write it down so I can at least find it in the future.

Basically synoupgrade is what you want.

Synology DS214se

admin@nas01:/$ sudo synoupgrade --check
Password:
UPGRADE_CHECKNEWDSM
Available update: DSM 6.1.3-15152 Update 7, patch type: smallupdate, restart type: none, reboot type: now
admin@nas01:/$ sudo synoupgrade --download
UPGRADE_DOWNLOADDSM
New update has been downloaded
admin@nas01:/$ sudo synoupgrade --start
UPGRADE_STARTUPGRADE
Start DSM update...
Finish DSM update, reboot now!!

Broadcast message from root@nas01
    (unknown) at 19:00 ...

The system is going down for reboot NOW!
October 12, 2017 @22:00

iPad Impressions

I mentioned a few things in my first post that I thought might be better on the iPad than the iPhone.

iPad iOS 11 Screenshot

I like the new task switcher a lot, and I can see potential in the dock if you don't turn off all the iCloud features. I was wrong about the video stuff though, that's still too small and garbage.

iPad iOS 11 Screenshot

I Still Think This Stuff is Ugly

iPhone iOS 11 Screenshot

The more I look at it, the less I like the huge text block at the top of the tab screen. It feels like such a huge waste of screen real estate which feels antithetical to the entire point of designing a mobile UI.

Control Center Is Doing Radios WRONG

I ran into this last week as I was flying to Las Vegas for a work conference. I turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when I'm traveling for a number of reasons, but mostly battery life. It looks like tapping the radio icons in Control Center does not actually turn off the radio but disconnect you from the currently connected items, leaving the radios on, draining your battery, and broadcasting information out into the aether. You have to actually go into Settings to turn off the radios. Thankfully Airplane Mode seems to actually disable the radios so my battery didn't get murdered on the flights but the last thing you want to do is walk around a technical conference in Las Vegas with un-needed radios in your phone looking for something useful.

The long and the short of it is that those buttons should disable the radios not disconnect them.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

October 09, 2017 @15:40

There are a lot of reviews of iOS 11 out there already and as is almost always the case, people are complaining that things changed. This is not that. Part of the reality we live in with our consumer-oriented technology demands is that things change. As a whole iOS 11 seems to be an improvement over previous versions and in general I'm happy with it.

The Good

Security

Apple continues to take security seriously, now requiring passcode authentication after repeated failures as well as after reboot. Also requiring the phone to be unlocked to exfiltrate data is an improvement. This focus is especially important with the continued focus on privacy and security in the face of difficult times all across the world. This kind of behavior should be the default on all mobile devices.

Third Party Location Use Alert

iOS 11 Screenshot

In previous versions it seemed that Apple Maps was the only navigation program that would present you with the blue bar across the top of the screen, letting you know it was actively using your location (and providing a low-friction way to task switch back to navigation). Obviously you shouldn't be using your phone while driving 😔 and the DND While Driving mode is a nice feature (though I doubt anyone is really using it) but since the Podcast app is now broken (see below for more), if you find yourself changing music or some other totally reasonable action while driving it is nice to just be able to tap on the header to go back to your navigation app.

Phone Controls While Locked

This is seriously great. Not having to unlock the phone to toggle mute, or to switch audio outputs, or to end the call is a great thing. Even if you don't fanatically toggle mute while on conference calls, at the very least this has totally gotten rid of the 3 seconds of awkward silence after you say "goodbye" while both parties root around trying to get to the 'end call' button.

The Bad

Stupid Home Control Bug (still)

iOS 11 Screenshot

I think this has been around as long as the Home Control feature has been in iOS. I remember it on my iPad Mini 2. It seems that when you turn this off, it always ends up turning itself back on. Thankfully I don't have any HomeKit devices because frankly this is a security bug. I don't want someone to be able to see or interact with my home automation without being authenticated. That's just... shocking. It's like having a lock on your door that doesn't need a key. What is the point?

Podcast App Now Basically Useless

iOS 11 ScreenCast

I listen to podcasts while driving, mowing the lawn, working around the house, and sometimes while working at work. I am DEEP in the back catalog of most of the podcasts I listen to so I don't want to have to stop what I'm doing and pull the phone out to navigate to and select the next episode. In previous versions I have not had to. For some reason now the built-in Podcast app stops after every episode, even if there are more unplayed episodes already downloaded to the device. This seems strange for Apple as it increases friction using the device.

App Search Completely Useless

iOS 11 ScreenCast

I don't like having a pile of apps on my home screen. This is similar to how I use my MacBook Pro. I toss everything in a folder and search for what I want when I need it. On the Mac clover+space works great. On the previous version of iOS this same workflow worked well. Swipe down, type two or three letters and the app you want is probably listed. Tap and launch.

As full disclosure I have always had Siri and all the related Siri features off since I have had it on all my iOS devices, but in the past this worked great.

Now however you have to type the entire and exact name of the application for it to show up. This makes the workflow much more difficult and cumbersome. More friction for no reason.

iPhone Force Touch App Switching Gone

With all the focus on the iPad, multitasking on the iPhone lost a really handy feature. In iOS 10 you used to be able to force touch on the edge of the screen and get the task switcher. This was less movement and already had your thumb on the screen to switch or close apps versus the double-click home gesture. Again, more friction for no reason.

The Ugly

New Apple Visual Style

iOS 5 Screenshot

I feel like this is the most subjective of the changes. While the UI has changed a LOT over the years and is largely an improvement I can't help but by a little bothered by the waste of space that comes along with the new design language. The fairly ubiquitous search bar just off the top of the screen is nice but the giant title of the app you just clicked on seems... a bit superfluous. Maybe this is less of an issue on the larger screen devices like the iPhone X and the iPads, on a regular iPhone 7 you have a solid 1/4" of the display taken up by quite literally the name of the thing you just tapped on.

Why?

Native Video Controls Now TINY

iOS 11 Screenshot

I don't have a lot to say about this, but the native video player controls are now much smaller and harder to hit. The volume overlay is better but the rest have gotten markedly worse. Most of these aren't a huge issue but trying to hit the full screen or AirPlay buttons has become much more painful. Like I said about the visual style this may be less of an issue on the larger devices, but on the smaller screen standard devices it is pretty irritating.

Overriding Settings To Default On Upgrade

One of the more ugly things that iOS 11 did upon upgrade was to turn on a whole bunch of features that I explicitly turned off in iOS 10. Things like iCloud, iMessage, and Siri turned themselves on without warning. I declined the iCloud Drive feature during setup but a bunch of the other features popped on and iCloud added itself as an 'Account' automatically. I can imagine this was part of some preferences migration in the phone since things clearly have changed but it seems like the case where the user had previously disabled all this had not been tested or possibly (worse) someone had decided to ignore the user's wishes and turn this stuff on again. It seems like I caught it before it started syncing anything back to the Apple mothership, but it feels like a potential privacy leak. At the very least it required an audit of all of the options in Preferences to verify things weren't being uploaded to Apple which was a waste of time and added friction to using the device.

Conclusion

I Miss Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Headshot

You can say a lot about Steve Jobs. He certainly had a very storied career. For all the drawbacks of his fanatical and perhaps ego-driven attention to detail one thing that was true under his stewardship of Apple was his focus on polish and reducing user friction with technology. This version of iOS, while being largely good is somehow lacking the polish that I would otherwise have come to expect. I don't know if it is the reality that he's gone and his curated plans for the products he shepherded into life have finally ended or if it is the inexorable pressure of the market on Apple to continue to 'innovate' on a very aggressive 12 month cycle. Either way it is a stumble, and while all technology is created by humans who are by their very nature fallible and under enormous pressure to remain the most valuable company in the world, I do hope that these things get polished away instead of becoming a canary in the coal mine for the future of the product.

You Should Still Upgrade

All of the nits I picked above aside you should still upgrade. The security and stability updates alone are important enough to warrant keeping current.

Steve Jobs headshot used under license, see here for details, iOS 5 screenshot from Softpedia

September 30, 2017 @00:02

So I Heard You Like Videos

As a follow up to my Favorite Podcasts post, I figured I would talk a bit about my favorite Youtube channels. A while back I wrote a Flask app to take a bunch of different web services that I didn't feel like having accounts on and turning them into RSS feeds. In the case of Youtube I combine the RSS feeds of each channel into a single RSS feed that I subscribe to. This makes it a lot easier to keep up with the periodic deluge of videos without having to fool around with a bunch of bookmarks or having a Google account.

Top 10 12 uh, bunch?

I currently am following 26 channels, according to my app, and writing about all of them frankly sounds exhausting. I imagine reading all that would be pretty exhausting too, so here are a sampling of them in no particular order.

EEVBlog

The OG Youtube electronics channel. The lord and savior of the tear down. That Aussie Bloke. There isn't a whole lot to say about Dave's channel that has not been said elsewhere, if you have any interest in electronics at all and you have somehow missed him I'd highly suggest you go review his channel and website. From circuit design, PC board layout, gear reviews, and random rants there is a bit of everything. I can't heap enough praise on this guy.

AvE

I hope you have a vice handy... you will need it. AvE is hard to pin down, home of the BoLTR and follower of our Lord and Savior of the tear down Chris is... a rare breed. Uncle Bumblefack seems to spend most of his time in his home shop showing the rest of us how much fun it can be to just chuck up some random scrap in your Boxford lathe and make chips. Not nearly as politically correct as This Old Tony or professional as Abom79 or beautiful as Clickspring his channel is a slice of life with a slightly oiled up bend to the left. Well worth the watch if you are in the market for some tools for your own shop, you will likely stay for the dose of fooling around and laughs.

bigclivedotcom

I love Big Clive. He's kind of like Dave Jones from the EEVBlog if Dave happened to fall in with the carnival instead of designing circuit boards professionally before discovering Youtube. Clive tears things apart with gusto and builds random things out of LEDs and USB leads he got from the 1£ shop. Sometimes he plays with high voltage but not nearly to the level of mikeselectricstuff or tesla500, but lately he's been keeping it safer for those of us who like to follow along at home. Clive is a consummate professional scot, living on the Isle of Man and doing slightly dodgy things for our viewing pleasure. Did I mention that I loved this guy? For extra credit and a bit more digital electronic bend see also Julian Illet.

Scott Manley

Another scot, this one now living in the Bay Area. Probably most known for his Kerbal Space Program videos of which he has HOURS of. Scott takes his formal science background and uses it to do wonderful things in that game. I found him originally looking around at the aforementioned KSP videos and then later ran across him again looking for Elite: Dangerous videos. I was hooked and went through a large portion of his back catalog. If you ever wondered how rockets worked or why people keep talking about delta V when shooting things into space then you'll do worse than dropping by Scott's channel.

Penny Arcade TV

I'll admit, I really only watch for the Acquisitions Incorporated stuff these days since PA: The Series ended (worth a watch if you have not seen it). If you enjoy D&D and somehow have not come across this show guys then go. Go now. Seriously. I'll see you in something like 90 hours. Ok done? Great, go over to WoTC's channel and watch Dice Camera Action.

A Dose of Buckley

The second Canadian on my list, and the only comedy/rant channel. Buckley is sort of my sprit animal. He's mostly known for his 'Worst songs of...' videos but he has several different music and society themed rant series. I am particularly fond of Scumbags of the Internet.

Leo Moracchioli/Frog Leap Studios

Leo makes the most metal covers on YouTube. I can't put what he does in words and truly make you understand how great he is. The production value of both the audio and the video is fantastic. This guy is just absolutely killing it. Do your ears a favor and go spend 10 or 20 hours watching his stuff.

Ok, I'm done. You have your mission should you choose to accept it.

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