Month: March 2017

  • It’s World Backup Day, are you backing up?

    It’s World Backup Day, are you backing up?

    It’s World Backup Day today, and every March 31st. The idea is to remind people to back up their stuff, because it’s horrible to loose your precious data.

    People don’t backup their data because it’s hard. Companies like Apple are trying to solve that with automatic backups to their respective cloud services, and that’s great. It’s gotten a lot easier to backup photos in particular over the years.

    I have several layers of backups.

    • All iOS devices backup to iCloud.
    • I have a Time Capsule in the office that backups up my Macs whenever they’re there.
    • I also have a Time Capsule at home, doing the same thing. Redundancy!
    • Most workfiles live in Dropbox and/or iCloud Drive. That means that they sync and that I get version control over them. It’s not a backup per se, but it’s an extra layer of protection.
    • My Macs all backup off-site using BackBlaze (use my referral link if you want to give it a go, that’ll get me free months).
    • I have a FTP server where I upload all my photos on a monthly basis, just in case.

    Despite all this, I still feel I should be doing more about backup. My mobile devices in particular feel vulnerable, because although iCloud restores (and synchronisation) have yet to fail me, it’s often the only layer of backup safety I have there. I’m looking to get a wifi disk and a couple of those Lightning USB sticks to do sanity backups.

    Also, it’s worth repeating that synchronisation is not a backup. If you have all your files in Dropbox and someone gets access to them, deletes them, then they’re gone. The 30 day versioning feature makes it possible to restore lost files within Dropbox, but that only helps if you know that you’ve lost a file. Synchronisation services such as Dropbox are great, but they are not backups.

    Backup. Even Ray Spass does it.

  • Your online activities are for sale

    US citizens lost a little bit more of their privacy the other day, when Congress made sure that internet service providers will be able to sell customer information, such as web browsing history, in the future too. Yes, too, because this isn't new, just cemented now (barring president Trump's signature). The Verge:

    It’s hard to see this as anything but a major loss for consumers. While reversing the FCC’s privacy rules will technically just maintain the status quo — internet providers have actually been able to sell your web browsing data forever (it’s just not a thing we think about all that much) — they were about to lose permission to keep doing it, unless they got explicit consent or anonymized the info.

    It was the Republican party who voted this one through, so while there are lists of the traitors to the internet and whatnot, you should probably call your representatives no matter what.

    Want to know what the ISPs can actually sell? Motherboard has you covered, and it's pretty scary reading. You might want to consider getting yourself a VPN (Zenmate, Tunnelbear, and NordVPN are easy to use), use secure messaging apps such as Signal or iMessage, and live in incognito mode until the Big Brother Corp nastiness passes. If it ever will.

  • The Deck closes

    The Deck, one of those minimalistic and overly nice ad networks, is throwing in the towel. Founder Jim Coudal writes about the journey, which is interesting for those of us who’s been in the so-called blogosphere since way back when.

    In 2014, display advertisers started concentrating on large, walled, social networks. The indie “blogosphere” was disappearing. Mobile impressions, which produce significantly fewer clicks and engagements, began to really dominate the market. Invasive user tracking (which we refused to do) and all that came with that became pervasive, and once again The Deck was back to being a pretty good business. By 2015, it was an OK business and, by the second half of 2016, the network was beginning to struggle again.

    John Gruber and his popular blog Daring Fireball was number four in the exclusive network. He has a lot of good things to say about The Deck, but this snippet from his post underlines why The Deck stood out:

    I was chatting with Jim earlier this evening. Someone wrote to him to ask, “Why didn’t you sell the network instead of shutting it down?” Jim’s answer: “The Deck was built exclusively on close, personal relationships. I don’t think those are mine to sell.”

    Things do change, advertising isn’t what it used to be, and The Deck really shouldn’t have lasted this long. That’s a compliment, by the way.

  • Publishers Weekly gives Haunted Futures a starred review

    Haunted Futures, cover by Gábor Csigas

    This is good news: Publishers Weekly has awarded Haunted Futures, a science fiction anthology featuring the likes of Warren Ellis, S.L. Huang, Jeff Noon, and, well, me, with not only a review but a starred one.

    There is an entry for every speculative genre, including space exploration (Gethin A. Lynes’s “Remember the Sky”), Lovecraftian horror (Lynnea Glasser’s “Guardian of the Gate”), and postapocalyptic feminism (Pete Rawlik’s “Retirement Plan”), and each story lives up to or exceeds its genre’s expectations.

    Read more about Haunted Futures here, or preferably over at the publisher’s site. Hat’s off to all the writers in this one, but most importantly to Ghostwoods Books’ very own Salomé Jones and Tim Dedopulos. Job well done, guys.

  • Medium publishers are worried

    And rightly so, I might add. First Medium made the big push to get online publications to sign up for their publishing program, and then they change the whole thing. This is just one of several quotes from this Poynter piece that I think every small online publisher should read. It's a great reminder that there are no surefire solutions at the moment.

    "Right now, we're very concerned about the future of our site's partnership with Medium," said Neil Miller, the founder of pop culture site Film School Rejects. "What we were sold when we joined their platform is very different from what they're offering as a way forward."

    Tread carefully with Medium, and any other platform you don't fully own, if possible. This piece still resonates true to me on the matter.

  • Let's talk about the AirPods

    Let's talk about the AirPods

    I’m interested in sound and abhor bad headphones. The fact that great music is consumed through crappy cheap in-ear headphones is a travesty. And yet, here I am sitting at an airport, tapping away on my iPad Pro, and listening to an audio book using Apple’s wireless option, the AirPods.

    Let’s get one thing straight right away: The AirPods doesn’t offer great, even good, sound quality. The talk time is about 90 minutes, then you need to charge them. They’re expensive, the fit isn’t perfect, and white is so 90s.

    And yet, despite all this, the AirPods might be the best thing to come out of Apple in a long time. They’re magical.

    Because you see, where other wireless options feature a wire between the headphones, and are generally bulky, the AirPods are anything but. Truly wireless headphones isn’t anything new, but ones that doesn’t suck, doesn’t skip or loose connection, that’s rare. So rare that I haven’t found a serious contender in the same price range, or even ones above. That’s the other thing, because while the AiPods cost a pretty penny, they’re actually not even expensive compared to the competition. Rumor has it Apple is selling them at lower margins than they usually do, and I find that easy to believe.

    None of this is the magical part.

    Pairing is instant and obvious with an iOS device (all others are stuck in Bluetooth hell). It just works has never been more true, the experience is so seamless that I jump between devices without a second thought.

    Take out an AirPod and it pauses the playback. Put it back and it resumes. In fact, if the AirPod isn’t in your ear, it isn’t on. Not the first to feature this, but I daresay these things have never worked so well.

    AirPods aren’t for listening to music, however they’re certainly good enough to play some in the background

    I’m not a fan of Apple’s headphones (also known as EarPods), they fit me poorly and if the cable gets slightly caught in my clothes they’ll almost fall out. AirPods are wireless, no cables, and while the fit could be better I can exercise without worrying that they’ll dislocate. In fact, I can see how some people forget that they’re wearing them in the first place.

    Fucking magical, that’s what it is. The AirPods are the first pair of headphones where I don’t mind the sound quality. Battery life isn’t an issue, not only do they charge in mere minutes within the sleek battery case, it’s more than adequate for listening to music on the commute. I don’t want to turn off the world when I’m in traffic, I want to hear my surroundings should something happen.

    AirPods aren’t for listening to music, however they’re certainly good enough to play some in the background. I’d say you’d have to reach professional DJ level in-ear headphones if you want to really listen to music as it was meant to be heard, and even then you’re still worse off than over-ears.

    As far as phone headphones go, the AirPods are as good as it gets. Full of compromise, sure, but also so completely superior to everything else in terms of life fit. The competition has a lot to live up to, and I can’t wait for what’s yet to come.

  • You might be breast-feeding a vampire merperson soon

    Yeah, that headline isn’t even remotely true, but it’s the kind of absurdity that strikes me when I’m looking at the list of proposed emojis for the 5.0 release. Surely some of these, like breast-feeding and hipster beard as well as vomiting and the steamy room (aka sauna) lady, make sense, but when was the last time you felt the need to express your monocle-ness? Not so sure about that last one.

    Mages, fairies, genies, super happy zombies, elves that looks like hobbits with pointy ears, vampires, and of course the merperson all makes sense in today’s Game of Thrones-infested popular culture. Very on point, just like the somewhat sad T-Rex looking at his pitiful arms.

    The full list of Emoji 5.0 can be found here, if you’re interested.

  • Royal Jordanian Airlines turns laptop ban into advertising

    Royal Jordanian Airlines are using Trump’s laptop ban on airplanes for marketing, and it’s brilliant. There are several tweets going viral, this one stands out to me though:

    Pop over to The Atlantic for the whole story.

  • Stuff I fit in my headphone case

    Stuff I fit in my headphone case

    My over-ear headphones of choice currently is the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless. They’re tight over the ears, more so than a lot of people like, and feature neither phone features nor noise-cancellation. I like them for the raw sound quality, especially when listening to classic rock, as well as how they block out most of the world without ruining the sound with white noise.

    The P5 Wireless come in a little case or bag, containing a micro USB charging cable and a headphone cable if you’re out of battery or just want to go analog. What they probably didn’t know when they designed said bag was that it would be perfect to store some other everyday items I need when I travel.

    Stuff currently in my headphone case when traveling

    The actual bag is to the left, black and soft with an even softer inside to protect the headphones. It has a magnet lock that is just right in terms of strength.

    Other than the P5 Wireless headphones, pictured on the upper right, I fit a Kindle Oasis (center), an Apple Pencil (between the Kindle and the headphones), as well as a cleaning cloth (lower right). The two black cables are micro-USB for charging and the aforementioned headphone cable for analog listening, with a Lightning adapter should I need one. Finally, I have a spare Lightning to USB cable in there, because why not?

    All that in a headphone bag. It could fit more, I’ve been known to carry extra cash, passport, and travel documents in it too. It’s a spacious bag, without being too big for its primary purpose. I want to protect my headphones when I’m traveling, the headphone bag lives in whatever primary bag I have, but being able to stick these other little things in there is very useful. When I get on the plane, for example, I’ll just bring the headphone bag to my seat – it contains everything I’ll need.

    Small things like this makes travel easier. Maybe you have something similar that you’d like to share? Let @tdh know on Twitter, I love to hear about stuff like this.

  • Workflow and Sucuri acquired

    Apple has acquired Workflow, and immediately updated the app to remove integrations with services such as Uber. There’s going to be some noise about this acquisition because of that particular update, but overall it might mean that so called power uses (sic!) might get more out of iOS out of the box. Workflow lets you create workflows (obviously), which are basically scripted actions, much like Automator for macOS. The user interface is a lot more user friendly than its macOS counterpart, so it’s probably not a far stretch to imagine Workflow crossing the border, one way or the other.

    In other news, the hosting company GoDaddy, who’re so desperately trying to fix its reputation, has acquired Sucuri. That means that they now have one of the premier WordPress hosts (WPEngine), and the best security scanner, for the platform.

  • Medium's paywall

    Medium is launching a paywall paid accounts, asking you to be a founding member. This means some of the content on the free publishing platform will be hidden from non-premium users. From the announcement:

    You’ll have access to exclusive stories from leading experts, including your favorite Medium writers, on topics that matter not just today, but tomorrow too.

    As always, own your content online, if you can. By all means, publish to Medium if you like (I’m playing with that), but make sure your online home is your own.

  • Freewrite launches Sprinter web app

    Astrohaus, makers of the distraction free smart typewriter known as Freewrite, is branching out. Well, sort of: Sprinter is a web app looking to convey the distraction free writing experience of the Freewrite.

    Sprinter tries to replicate the Freewrite experience

    From their announcement email:

    The idea behind creating Sprinter is that it is meant to introduce new people to the concept of ‘distraction-free’ writing with as low a barrier as possible. While we can’t convey all of the awesomeness of using the Freewrite with a browser-based app, we tried to transfer as much design thinking we could into Sprinter. Since there is no way to have a true distraction-free experience in a browser, we implemented writing goals directly into the interface. By default, you start with a 15-minute goal which is meant to get people quickly started and keep them engaged despite being surrounded by the Internet.

    You can try it yourself here, but please note that you’ll need a Postbox account (free) if you want to save your writings.

    Shameless plug: If you’re into writing in the web browser, and distraction free writing experiences, you should definitely check out BlankPage. Yes, I’m somewhat involved, but that doesn’t make it a bad choice, quite the contrary I’d say!

  • I’m not very good at being sick

    Is it a skill to be good at being sick? I guess it could be, because I completely lack it. I’ve been struggling with a lingering cold for close to three weeks, and it finally came into fruition on Friday. Meetings cancelled, stayed out of the office, all that jazz. Saturday was slow, I was exhausted, but no harm done because hey — it’s the weekend after all. I felt better so I stayed up late, had some interesting conversations… Then I did it all over again on the Sunday, and thus my morning shower on the Monday consumed whatever energy I had to offer that day.

    I always do this, just like everyone else. You start to get better, you feel better, you’re bored, so you overdo something. Like staying up late, like going to a party, like starting a project, like working too much. Whatever it is you do when you’re at the brink of not being sick anymore, the result is always the same. The backlash hits you hard, you’ll have to rest even more, that sort of thing.

    My brain is the first part of me that gets well. It fires up before I’ve even really succumbed to the illness, and it has no patience whatsoever with a feverish body. My brain wants to write. It wants to write code. The brain wants to produce something because it’s the only part of my body that’s functioning. Except it’s not, it’s delusional, even more than normal.

    I also write long paragraphs when I’m sick, or so I’m told

    I’ve learned to take it easy when I’m sick, for medical reasons but also because most of the things I create in this state will either be thrown out, or put on ice. I never write fiction when I feel crappy, it taints the story somehow. Sometimes I squeeze in a freelance piece, blog post, or such, but never anything that requires a lot from me.

    Can’t feed the brain, oh no, it’ll just barge on and through, and then suddenly I’ve launched a new site, started a company, pitched an idea that I can’t possibly follow through on because when I’m well again I have all that other stuff that fills my days.

    I also write long paragraphs when I’m sick, or so I’m told.

    My timing couldn’t have been better though. There are no huge looming deadlines, just some in the distance, well under control. There is, however, a princess to save. I’ve been spending my days on the couch, playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch (which I enjoy tremendously, as you might recall). It might very well be the best Zelda-game to date, rivalling A Link to the Past. I won’t be able to tell until Breath of the Wild has battled with Father Time, any comparison now would be flawed. And yet, that’s where my mind is at the moment.

    This is a great game (buy from Amazon)

    Open world games, where you can roam the vast landscapes and (more or less) shape your in-game destiny appeals to me. I love The Elder Scrolls and have spent so many hours playing Skyrim that it frightens me sometimes. Games like these take time, you have to immerse yourself in the world and figure out who you want to be. It’s a bit like a role-playing game that way, the old school kind with dice and pens and paper and candlelight and nerds in a basement. I like it.

    This is also the only way I can make sure I get the rest I need. By chaining myself to a game — Breath of the Wild at the moment — I also make sure I don’t get caught up in something new. I won’t start at short story, rebuild my site (err…), or start any kind of a project. I’ll be too busy exploring the wilderness, farming and cooking and killing monsters and solving puzzles. Possibly writing about it, but that’s fine, it’s connected, it’s not my brain picking the locks to my self-imposed open world prison.

    Anything to give myself time to get well again. Whatever works, right?

  • A photo session with me, and Jim Beam

    The other day I swung by my good friends Björn and Cheyenne in the Kraftlabbet studio to have my picture taken. This is not something I generally enjoy, but Björn likes to play around, and I was promised beer and bourbon, so what could possibly go wrong?

    As it were, not much. The end result are two photos in both color and black and white versions.

    I call this one The serious whisky drinker
    The serious whisky drinker in black and white
    This one’s dubbed The smug whisky drinker
    Smugness in black and white

    Thanks for a fun afternoon and evening, friends.

    On a side note, I’ve updated my about me page, where there are high resolution versions of these photos as well, for PR purposes. Or you could use them as wallpapers, I guess…

  • 90,000 words on an iPhone

    As you probably know, I write a lot on my iPhone, and have proposed smartphones to be great writing aids when working on a novel. I love to hear about other people’s experiences using mobile devices.

    Melody Joy Cary sent me this wonderful email about her novel writing using an iPhone, which is impressive to say the least: over 90,000 words and counting! She agreed to let me publish her letter, so here’s Melody:

    I’ve been writing a novel almost solely on my iPhone for nearly a year now, which includes several dry spells where life got crazy. At the beginning, I was averaging about 1000 words/day. I’m currently at over 90,000 words, all but one chapter written strictly on my phone. The chapter that went on my computer was narrated by a different character so I typed it to be able to more easily change the style.

    This is my first novel that’s made it past an idea and a couple pages, so it’s been an adventure and I definitely think I’ll continue writing novels on my phone after this one is completed. I don’t outline so I’m not sure how much longer it’s going to go… My goal was 100,000 words since it’s a fantasy novel, but there’s still a ways to go before the final battle…

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my own experience with writing a novel on an iPhone. I think it’s not only feasible but very doable. For me, it’s not always practical to pull out my computer when I want to write, and I know if I had tried to write this on my computer I wouldn’t have been able to do what I’ve done so far.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with writing a novel on an iPhone. It’s encouraging to hear that an actual professional (compared to an amateur such as myself) is similarly experimenting with the same writing platform that I chose.

    Best of luck to Melody and her writing. I’m planning to follow up and see how she does.

    If you’re interested in writing more using your smartphone, check out the archives here. My latest post on the matter was a bit of a post mortem on the project that landed me on (the story is lurking behind a paywall, I’m afraid).

    How are you using your smartphone for writing? If you want to share, tweet to @tdh on Twitter.