Marco.org • About ▾

I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

(via mikehudack)

He even has good taste in cameras! (is that a 5D with one of the short L primes?)

I just got the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. I love the keyboard (a wireless version of the excellent Natural 4000 that I had been happily using for 3 years).

But I don’t like the giant “baseball” mouse. I don’t mind the steep angle as much as I thought, except that it forces you to keep your entire hand very high above the desk, which makes me severely lose accuracy. And it has one of those mushy, notch-less Microsoft scroll wheels that you can’t easily wheel-click because it tries to tilt to the sides. So I’m happy ditching it and accepting my nice $70 wireless keyboard, and I’m now shopping for a good wireless mouse.

I like:

I don’t like:

I’m testing an MX Revolution from the office, and I like the switchable freewheel/notchy scroll wheel more than I thought I would. It’s a very heavy wheel and gives a nice flywheel effect, spinning freely after you let it go for a few seconds. It’s completely different from a mushy Microsoft wheel. I’d even say it’s the best scroll wheel I’ve ever used — for scrolling. But it has no middle-click function: it can’t, because clicking the wheel is what toggles it between notchy and flywheel modes.

So here’s what I’m considering:

Price isn’t a factor here because they’re all in the same $50-80 range and this is something I’ll use many hours a day for years.

Any thoughts? I think I’m leaning mostly toward the MX Revolution at this point.

Graham’s awesome outfit today

Angie’s awesome lunch

Fine.

lfarm:

You convinced me. I’m going to go get myself one of those iPhone things. Like, right now. Here’s to hoping the line isn’t insane.

White Chocolate, you’ve been good to me.

It only took one dinner with 5 other iPhone owners (and Graham). That was easy.

Jon Steward rips McCain’s recent ads and interviews apart. (thanks peterwknox, petersantiago)

Dysfunctional App Store reviewers

Tal Atlas:

Apple really should only allow reviews from people who actually purchased the app.

I can’t keep repeating this enough. Nearly every paid app has an unfairly low star-rating average because they all get a bunch of low-star reviews from people who haven’t even tried them complaining about the price.

From the reviews of iTrans NYC Subway, a $9.99 app:

1 star from Ben Andrews xxx: “Lower the price… and I’ll totally buy this! $5 sounds fair.”

3 stars from Jevaun: “Uh… maybe at a lower price…”

1 star from ellerykurtz: “Let’s see…I can pull up MTA website map on the internet….or I can ask the token booth clerk for a free map…..or I can pay money for something that is already out there for free?”

3 stars by Simon Lin: “Price is too hight. lower the pirce, i will buy it immediately….”

2 stars by Rolandzj: “I would wait until the price drops”

1 star by Missing Metro: “I am not buying this one unless the price drops—-$4.99 sounds about right. In the meantime, I will wait for another devvelopr to come out with a NYC subway application that is appropriately priced.”

1 star by retarded app: “If you really would like a portable NYC subway map just find a HIGH rez picture of one online & save it to your iphone”

3 stars by kev777: “I know plenty of other people with iPhones in NYC and they’d love this app and would recommend it to their own friends too but they would never fork over $9.99 for it. Never. Make it $4.99 and myself plus the many other friends I know with iPhones will buy quicker than you can say, ‘MTA.’”

Now let me put this in perspective:

It takes a special kind of asshole to complain that $10 is too much for an iPhone app, yet $5 would be perfectly justifiable.

Rock Band mishap… we have two of everything else, but not two TVs.

We’re making do. (That’s a wheely whiteboard.)

VMWare Fusion 2.0 beta 2 successfully runs Half-Life 2 under virtualization. It’s nowhere near native speed, but it runs. (On my 8-core Mac Pro with an 8800 GT, it runs like I’d expect from a 1.8 GHz Athlon with a Geforce 4.)

This is very impressive — I had no idea that hardware virtualization was advanced enough to pull this off.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been using Parallels Workstation (VMWare Fusion’s rival) since its release, and even though VMWare came late to the party, Fusion is a far better, more stable, and more polished product than Parallels. It’s so good that, if I used Windows more frequently than once every few months for browser testing, I’d happily pay for Fusion even though I already paid for Parallels.

Galcon (Phil Hassey): Perfectly suited for the iPhone

From iphone-reviews:

★★★★★ (iTMS)

If you like strategy games, this is probably the best you can get on an iPhone. Intuitive interface; short battles; and a good difficulty ramp, perfect both for learning the game and to give you one hell of a challenge when climbing up the ranks. I read on Hassey’s blog that multiplayer will be coming in the next version as well, which will make this game truly ultimate :)

This game is excellent. Highly recommended.

An equally good question is whether McCain is ready to lead. For a man who will turn 72 this month, he’s a surprisingly immature politician—erratic, impulsive and subject to peer pressure from the last knucklehead who offers him advice.

Jon Alter (via squashed)

“The Container Store” delivers on its promise

The best reason to go to Mamaroneck

Weekend Netflix review

Rocket Science: Good, cute, funny. Excellent cinematography. Worth a rental.

The Pursuit Of Happyness: Not bad, but what a tremendous downer. The entire movie is highly emotionally stressful. Shouldn’t have ended the night with it.

“Spotted in Brooklyn.” (via Spartacus, thanks)

Dear Something Awful Forums,

I’ve been a member since 2002. I was a member of other vBulletin and UBB forums for 4 years before that. I’ve never had my passwords guessed, stolen, hacked, phished, or otherwise discovered.

This (relatively) recent password policy is completely ridiculous. You are an internet humor discussion forum. You are not the NSA.

This discourages me from returning. I want to keep loving the SA Forums, but I don’t have time to visit constantly like I used to. When I come back every few months and want to browse around and maybe reply here and there, forcing me to choose yet another 12-character all-symbol password since my last one expired is a very bad way to welcome me back.

Draconian password requirements like yours only encourage Post-It-note security. And you’re smart enough to know better than to force your users to do that.

Love,
Marco

courtneyj:

I have a Law & Order problem. I need help.

Watch Criminal Intent. It’s so terrible that it can ruin your love for the real thing.

Don’t use the Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000

After a few more days of use, this mouse is even worse than I originally thought:

It’s still very new to me, but I’m not seeing the ergonomic benefit. Its immense size requires me to exert more effort just to move it and keep it stable enough to achieve high precision. I can’t find a good mouse speed — achieving high enough precision requires me to slow it down so much that I have to pick it up and scoot it back more often. And I still miss targets, so I spend more time using the mouse because I have to move the pointer slowly and for longer durations.

All of this results in more mouse movement, so even if it’s at a great hand-angle for ergonomics, the other factors outweigh this benefit.

I love the wireless keyboard: a wireless Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000 (you have to be kidding me with these product names, Microsoft). But that’s the only reason to get the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000. Skip this terrible mouse.

(My MX Revolutions are on their way.)

I’ve been asked again and again for my response to the now infamous McCain celebrity ad. I actually have three responses. It is a complete waste of the money John McCain’s contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country’s time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States.

Kathy Hilton (via bg5000)

I’m positioned in the absolute worst spot relative to the office’s air conditioners. The corner around my desk is always full of hot air, and the two air conditioners freeze the middle people so much that they turn them off.

(Also, drawing with Scribble is hard. And Scribble developers: please offer the ability to send a PNG directly from the app. It’s much nicer quality than JPEG for drawings of this type.)

The autoresponse from White Whine submissions.

Urban Decay: A set of buildings in a state of decay, by Keith Thorne.

(via Rocketboom)

TextMate’s awesome Markdown icon.

It was inevitable.

“It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.” (via sexartandpolitics)

I wouldn’t get your hopes up too much, Peterthese numbers are laughably wrong.

I’d love if Marco.org got that much traffic, but sadly, that’s not the case… and while I do run ads, they’re overestimating my daily profit by about a factor of 15.

(The “estimated worth” is simply the daily ad revenue for 2 years.)

Wow.

Very impressed with ThePlanet.

Hop Devil, tonight, 6:30ish

Come celebrate the completion of Tumblr’s big server move with me (nothing exploded!) by having a few great beers tonight at Hop Devil.

129 St. Marks Place (corner of St. Mark’s and Ave. A)

We’ll be getting hot dogs and tater tots beforehand for a few minutes at Crif Dogs down the street. Highly recommended if you want food before (or after, or during) the beer.

I’m loving the MX Revolution so far.

I didn’t like the Logitech Control Center software because it does weird things to scrolling speed and behavior, but one cool thing: you can configure the auto-unlocking scrollwheel with the Logitech software, then uninstall it, and the setting sticks.

Without the software, special button mappings don’t work, but USB Overdrive can remap the buttons to whatever you want.

Disabling comments discourages most people from responding negatively, but not all of them. Thanks, Zach Thawley!

(For whatever it’s worth, this article was one of the most-commented-on articles on my site before I disabled comments. Most of them came from this Reddit thread which echoes identical sentiments.)

David’s Crif Dogs order. All three. He was upsold by the cashier.

Amazon affiliate links and credibility

Fuckin’ Nerd in response to my Amazon affiliate link in my mouse post from earlier:

Is it really necessary to try to make money through giving a positive review for a product and adding a referral link? I love your apps Marco and I understand you need to make money to continue doing it, but even the $5 you make off of this is not worth sacrificing the spirit of what your tumblr is used for, unless I’m mistaken.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I include Amazon affiliate links. Usually, I don’t. But I link to Amazon a lot, since I’m often talking about my opinions of specific products, so even if I only affiliate-tag a small percentage of my Amazon links, it’s still more than a handful.

The thought process behind this isn’t “Let’s make some money from Amazon by writing some posts with affiliate links”, but rather, “I’m linking to Amazon anyway, and I always manually shorten their ridiculous URLs anyway, so I might as well throw this affiliate tag on the end in case anyone actually buys the thing from my link.”

I’ve never made an affiliate sale. Not once. I’ve been occasionally sticking referral links in posts for more than 4 years now without a single sale. Most people don’t make anything meaningful from Amazon links, but I’ve made a big fat $0.00.

I didn’t think that anyone really cared about sticking affiliate tags in Amazon links, but risking my credibility isn’t worth the slim chance to make a few cents. I’m not going to go through and remove them all, but I’ll certainly default to “off” for future Amazon links.

[K]now-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.

Paul Krugman (via squashed)

But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class.

BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » The myth of the creative class (via fred-wilson, artistspaid)

I always have the hardest time figuring out how to simply browse a photo set on Flickr, one photo at a time, in order, showing big versions. This little widget does not work the way I expect it to.

I’m probably missing the “right” way to do this.

I love the helpful picture here.

(link from nostrich)

My first karaoke outing. This is very odd but kinda fun.

I think the manufacturer of the karaoke machine was being paid per LED.

I still have trouble with the use of the world blogging - Why can’t we just say writing? Sure, I agree that blogs have changed many things about how we communicate and what we expect from people who write online, but at the end of the day when someone puts words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, the skill is writing. I don’t care where those paragraphs end up, or what technologies are used - the biggest challenge is to write well.

scottberkun.com (via azspot).

I’ve never liked the pigeonholing associated with the word “blog”. Until relatively recently, it was a negative term used to dismiss online writing as low-quality, unprofessional, and worthless. I kept denying that my site was a blog for a very long time because I didn’t want to be so easily dismissed.

brieflynoted:

View of Manhattan from the ferry

Great shot.

Let’s fix App Store reviews

…by giving positive reviews to the apps we enjoy using.

Reviews tend to be disproportionally negative because most satisfied people never think to say anything. I’m guilty of this, too — there are plenty of apps (and products, and websites, and people) I’ve been very impressed by, but never took the time to say anything nice. And from what I can tell, this is common for everyone.

The App Store’s reviews only suck because of people like me and you who forget to leave positive reviews. So let’s fix it.

Rules:

Tonight, I went through and left positive reviews for the apps I enjoy most:

Your turn!

But then, I’m not convinced it’s the cheating that matters to us so much as the power of judging and condemning strangers. That’s what keeps the gossip rags going - they feed the public with a steady stream of fallen heroes, the powerful at their weakest, the beautiful at their ugliest, the famous at their most damaged. It makes us feel superior when we’re feeling otherwise insecure. Gossip culture has surpassed religion as the ultimate opiate.

debauchette (via peterwknox)

It’s 10:40 AM.

  1. When did I add that bank account again? (time_t 0 plus my GMT-5:00 offset, I’m guessing)
  2. Considering I’ve had this PayPal account since 1999 and have never spent more than $100 with it in any given month, do you honestly think that I’m itching to spend $7,500? What percentage of PayPal members actually spend anywhere that much with the service, ever?

Tumblr Staff:

Please help us test Tumblr v4!

We’re getting ready to push our biggest interface overhaul since last November, and we’d love to get your feedback.

Nearly every piece of the interface has changed. We’ve tried to perfect the presentation of the Dashboard, and the retooled interface will enable a lot of the new functionality we’re prepping to launch.

It’s still early, so please let us know if anything seems funny.

You can access the beta at www.tumblr-beta.com.

The Russia/Georgia conflict in three sentences

By Dan:

After Georgia broke away from Russia, South Ossentia and another province tried to break away from Georgia, succeeding autonomy-wise but failing map-wise.  As Georgia cozied up to the United States, Russia cozied up to South Ossentia, deploying “peace-keepers” and distributing Russian passports like candy.  After Georgia decided to crush South Ossentia and its rebels into subission, Russia decided to “defend the peace” … by crushing Georgia—or at least its military—into submission.

Thank you. This actually helps a lot.

I rolled through my usual collection of Audiophile Wank Tracks in my listening tests…

Dan’s Data review of the Beyerdynamic DT 880 headphones. I’m in the market for a new pair of home headphones, and Dan’s Data is always my first stop for headphone reviews.

My home-open-headphone quest has ended: I decided to splurge for the Beyerdynamic DT 880. (buy and support Dan’s Data)

My previous home headphones, the Grado SR 60, are the best-sounding, best-value, least-comfortable headphones I’ve ever used. They sound great and I felt great having only spent $60 on them (it’s really the best-sounding pair of headphones for the price, ever), but I can only listen with them for about 20 minutes before my ears ache (from pressure, not volume).

Dan loves his comfortable Sennheiser HD 590, but:

Overall, he seems to rate the Beyerdynamic as best sounding and second-most comfortable. Since the most-comfortable pair isn’t available and has an annoying huge plug, I can deal with second-best, especially since I’m coming from the worst.

The only other drawback to the Beyerdynamic is a high impedance, making it difficult for portable audio players to give them enough power to get very high volume. This isn’t a drawback for me since I’ll use these almost exclusively from my AC-powered Mac Pro at medium volume.

My last home headphones lasted me 6 years. Here’s hoping for the best with the new set.

NOTE: Before buying “open” headphones, learn what that means to make sure it’s what you really want. The backs of each driver are an open-air grille, not sealed plastic. Outside sound will get in, and inside sound will get out — people around you will not appreciate hearing your music, so only use open headphones in places where you’re likely to be alone or with people who unconditionally love you. Open headphones, therefore, are not appropriate for most workplaces. In return for this inconvenience, they’re lighter, more comfortable, and most importantly, they sound much better than closed headphones.

(via inky, aco)

Products I’m still very happy with after a while

King Corn is excellent.

Nice people at Slicehost.

(by Mareen)

I absolutely love this graphic in Vimeo’s recruiting post.

This strange combo USB-Ethernet cable came with our new DSL modem.

If you’ve got a list of 20 things you should be doing, pick the most important one or two and then just let go of the rest. You will never upload your music to every one of these sites. You will never contact every person. You will never enter every contest. Just take the one or two things that would make the biggest difference in your career, do those one or two, then stop. Turn your attention to the next one or two most important.

Sivers/Ferriss to 37signals (via deplorableword)

The Homer (via Ted Roden)

This is what happens when you give your customers everything they ask for.

Taken for posterity: I’ve never seen anywhere near this much stuff on David’s desk. It usually contains:

Literally. That’s it.

I bet it pains him to sit down at this. You can tell he’s really busy.

Quick review: Beyerdynamic DT 880 headphones

These just arrived.

Holy shit. They’re amazing. (This is always my first audio-quality test song.) First impressions:

I wish I could wear open-backed headphones at work.

These are worth every penny.

This is cool — when you buy Avery labels, you can go to their website and download a program to easily print on them (it knows about all of the Avery products by number, so you don’t have to measure and line everything up).

It’s much easier than trying to use the Photoshop or Word templates.

I’m skeptical that a Evangelical Christian megachurch is the place for serious political discourse.

topherchris: When Barack Met John…

The new vs. the old.

Eric Johnson: Cliffs of Dover

Yet another song I’ve purchased because I enjoyed it in Guitar Hero III. I can only get 3 stars on Hard on this one. Listen and you’ll understand.

Instapaper Pro submitted to Apple

Here goes!

Apple’s approval process has been faster recently, so I don’t expect this to take more than a few days (although we just started a weekend). Expect a demo video of a very exciting feature soon.

If someone don’t want my content…it is their own personal Hell.

An affiliate-marketing spammer regarding Tumblr’s refusal to host his spam (like last year). Wow.

I can’t stop playing this song.

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife 1 & 2 (album info and backstory)

Instructions:

Sidenote: You may be envious that I was able to post an 11:20 song into a 10 MB size limit and have it sound good. At least, if you’re a geek. Here’s my method:

The resulting file should be just under 10 MB. For this song, it ended up being only 172 KB (1.6%) under the limit. And it sounds great.

Oh, and this album’s only 7 bucks. What are you waiting for?

Anticlimactic

We launched the first part of search today. I’ve worked on this for a long time, and the result is… a little text input on the side of tumblelogs. And I couldn’t be happier. (At least until we get a segmenter.)

Search is one of the great unappreciated functions of the internet: it’s incredibly difficult to get right (and I’d argue that nobody ever has), but the result of great execution is nobody noticing. It’s such a basic navigational element that we (rightfully) expect everything to have a little search box near the upper-left corner. We only notice when search isn’t there. Getting search right is about as noticeable as speeding up the database server.

But I’m not one for the spotlight. I’ve always loved behind-the-scenes stuff like this instead. In high school theatre, I did stage crew. When I held barbecues in college, I always stayed by the grill. Now, I mostly program the back-end for Tumblr and keep things running quickly, and my side project requires tons of difficult, complex code to do something very simple (save a complete web page for reading offline).

I think it’s partly a geek thing: I don’t need or seek the validation of others to be satisfied with my own work. I do it for myself and the sake of anyone who might benefit. I love doing little things that almost nobody will notice, such as making checkbox labels clickable or shortening my Amazon URLs, because they satisfy me. In part, I think this contributes to (or is a result of) my independent nature. I do things for me, and it just so happens that it sometimes benefits others.

It also builds a healthy appreciation for well-executed details. (There’s a reason why detail-appreciative people tend to use Apple products.) When I come across something that’s subtly polished in one of these ways, I can recognize and appreciate the amount of effort that went into it. Hardly anyone else cares, but I get excited by minutia.

I like my world.

Things I’ve come to appreciate today:

The domain-name search has gotten so ridiculous that I now have to just think of two random words that someone probably already hasn’t thought to combine.

Gothamist: Conecakes, Yay or Nay? (via superamit)

Nay. I’d hate to eat one of these:

I know — that’s why I’ll hold onto this radio as long as I can. It came out right before the FCC decreased the transmit-power limit on consumer FM transmitters and sued XM and Sirius for violating it.

My trusty Starmate Replay broadcasts Sirius solidly throughout my entire building (and pretty far into the parking lot across the street) on 88.1 FM. Everyone in the area can tune to 88.1 and wonder why Howard Stern is on the air on this peculiar “station”.

This is the only FM transmitter I’ve ever used that doesn’t suck. It’s the only one that can provide a static-free signal to a radio within a few feet of it — it’s just an added bonus that “a few” in this case means about 50. (Yes, I’ve tried using different frequencies with the crappy transmitters.)

Transmitters made after this one are all dramatically weaker. Ever used one of the iPod FM transmitters? They’re all completely worthless. You can’t even get a clear signal with the radio 8 inches away.

My only complaint about my Starmate Replay is that it doesn’t have a line-in jack so I can use its FM transmitter with other inputs.

Saddleback

I watched Obama’s segment, but I can’t get through McCain’s. I wanted to watch the whole thing for fairness, but I’m 21 minutes into McCain’s segment and I have to stop here.

Every response is ridiculous and completely devoid of substance. Dan nailed it:

McCain doesn’t like questions like “What does your faith mean to you.” His answer was something like, “It mean’s I’m saved. Uh, I’m redeemed. Let me tell you a story about when I was a prisoner of war.” (I am not making this up.)

Any hope of a reasonable debate will be absent in this election, yet again, just like the previous two presidential elections.

Merit-based pay for teachers

This is one area in which I strongly disagree with Obama.

I come from a teacher family. I’ve always been surrounded by teachers. None of them want this. (And none of them like “No Child Left Behind” either… because it basically means “No children in rich neighborhoods left behind”.)

The problem isn’t bad teachers. Sure, there are bad teachers — I certainly had my share of them. But here are some of the many reasons why many of our country’s children, especially the poor, aren’t learning well enough or aren’t graduating:

Now, how many of those situations are the teachers’ fault?

Moreover, these problems tend to be concentrated geographically and more frequent in those with low socioeconomic status, so schools in bad neighborhoods will have many more students in these situations than the schools in richer, nicer districts.

Under No Child Left Behind, “underperforming” schools lose funding, usually closing down and merging their students into other districts. Why would that help any of these problems? It actually makes many of them worse.

An underperforming school can hardly be blamed for the problems of its neighborhood. Rather, it should be used as a tool to help address some of these problems. For underprivileged children, school is often their favorite place to be: it’s a safe haven from the brutal world of their home life.

Merit-based teacher salaries would only cause sensible teachers (none of whom can afford to take lower salaries) to leave these schools and flee for the rich suburbs. The only teachers remaining would be the ones who weren’t good enough to get jobs anywhere else — so we’d be leaving our worst teachers in the worst neighborhoods where the kids need the most help.

Now, most privileged people (myself included, and by “privileged” I mean that we didn’t endure most of the conditions above) hear the idea of merit-based teacher pay and think it’s great. You think of that one “bad” tenured math teacher who was an asshole or that crazy English teacher who gave you a B- on that paper. But those aren’t the teachers that this would affect.

We were middle-class white kids in the suburbs. Despite that asshole math teacher or that crazy English teacher, we still came out perfectly fine. Our schools would have done well with or without those teachers because, ultimately, the quality of the teachers really doesn’t affect the school’s graduation rate or the students’ standardized test scores.

We did well because we were middle-class white kids fortunate enough to have great home lives and parents who cared about us. Our teachers had it easy. They don’t deserve any more or less money than the brave teachers in poor districts who endure a daily world full of tragedy and poverty.

One benefit to the App Store and iPhone SDK limitations

WeatherBug was one of the first widespread applications to come bundled with spyware. (Technically, I think it was just adware, but nobody distinguishes anymore.) So I’d never trust it enough to install a desktop app.

But I’m fine installing their iPhone app because I know that given the restrictions imposed by both the App Store TOS and the SDK’s sandboxing, it can’t possibly do anything harmful or sinister on my iPhone.

Criticism

…of my merit-based pay for teachers post (“merit-based pay” hereafter abbreviated as MBP because I’m tired of typing it):

Dan:

I wouldn’t mind if some of the best teachers were paid a bit more. And some other teachers would probably work a little bit harder or become discouraged more slowly if there were a bit of a financial incentive. And I don’t really know that seniority and years of education is the best way to incentivize excellence. But what fair metric can you use to measure who the best teachers are? […] I’m all for merit pay—but only if somebody smarter than I am can come up with a good way to measure merit.

I think this is a bit like arguing that communism should work if we could only think of a good way to get around those nasty little problems that crop up in reality.

I don’t see how any pro-MBP argument can be valid without supplying a corresponding valid performance metric. And I don’t think anyone has figured one out yet.

Mike Hudack:

I’m sorry Marco, but there are bad teachers out there. There are also amazing teachers. We need a way to distinguish. […] My aunt is a teacher. She’s spent her entire 30+ year career teaching in shitty inner city schools. She will readily tell you that while the students’ home lives and neighborhoods cause problems that the real problem is the school system, the teachers and the administrators.

Don’t twist the argument — I’m not saying that the school systems are perfect or that there aren’t bad teachers. They’re incredibly dysfunctional and have tons of problems that I’d be happy to elaborate on in separate posts.

But these problems won’t magically go away if we start paying some teachers more money (and correspondingly decrease the pay of others?).

Mike continues:

Nearly every other profession in America carries risks and rewards associated with performance. Teaching is one of the very few remaining that does not. It is time for that to change.

Not every profession has easily measured performance. Mine sure doesn’t.

Teaching in a public school is a government job. The government is the largest employer in the country, and very few government agencies have merit-based pay (I actually don’t know of any, but I’m assuming that there probably are some). Government pay scales are public and standardized.

Jack, by email:

Your post about merit pay is riddled with horribly offensive categorizations of urban students. Yes, poverty does bring many challenges, but to say that a majority of students who struggle in school fit into the categories you describe is entirely inappropriate and misguided. […] If the families I work with were to read your post, they would be quite upset and offended. To say that they “don’t care” couldn’t be further from the truth. Your upbringing has significantly hampered your perspective on this issue.

Come on.

  1. I never said these were all urban students. I actually have no experience with or knowledge of inner-city schools — only poor suburbs.
  2. I never said that the majority of students who struggle in schools fit my list of horrible family environments.

Here’s what I said:

But here are some of the many reasons why many of our country’s children, especially the poor, aren’t learning well enough or aren’t graduating:

Any family that would take offense to my post is a family that it most likely doesn’t describe. And it’s incredibly presumptuous of you to make assumptions about my upbringing.

One final note. If anyone would like to argue the benefits of MBP, especially regarding any particular metric that should be used to determine salary:

  1. Where does the money come from?
  2. Is this only a system of bonuses, or do the “bad” teachers’ salaries decrease?
  3. If “bad” decreases are used to fund the increases, what happens when many bad teachers are forced to quit and there aren’t enough left to offset the cost of the bonuses? Isn’t that the goal?
  4. Would the bonus money be better spent restoring some missing positions that have been cut in many districts, such as physical education, art, music, and theatre?

I think mrc summed it up best:

God, public education is so fucked, I don’t even know where to begin.

Braid is one of the most innovative games I’ve seen in a long time. If you have an Xbox 360, go get the trial from the Live Arcade section.

This looks awesome!

Different audiences

www.marco.org:

tumblelog.marco.org:

Nik demonstrates an exercise in requesting the least-healthy “salad” possible from the Chicken Deli:

Oh yeah, and buried under all of that is some lettuce, the only vegetable present.

I love salads. (Yes, the Doritos were the side dish.)

[Self-linking] is the natural tendency for any site using an ad model where page views are directly correlated to revenue. This is why news sites break up stories over multiple pages, too. It’s a crummy practice, and in the long run, sites that succumb to this temptation are doing so at the expense of their credibility. Readers learn, remember, and resent when links on a certain site tend to be a waste of their time.

John Gruber

Dan on McCain’s response to “What does your faith mean to you?” during the Saddleback interview:

McCain’s entire statement of faith essentially boils down to one story about when he was a prisoner of war.  It’s a pretty touching story.  One of his captors was unexpectedly kind to him.  Later, on Christmas Day, when the prisoners were let out to stand for a few minutes in the sun, the same guard silently came up to McCain and drew a cross in the dust between the two of them, left it there a minute, then erased it, all without saying a word.

It’s quite a story.  And it’s an even better story if it’s true.  The problem is that it didn’t appear in McCain’s earliest account of his story in 1973.  It’s also strikingly similar to a passage from “The Gulag Archipelago” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, released in the U.S. in 1973.  We also know McCain is a fan and reader of Solzhenitsyn’s work, as evidenced by this article Solzhenitsyn at Work by John McCain.  Is the story true?  Does it recount a common sign used both in Vietnam and in the USSR?  I don’t know.  It’s enough to raise some eyebrows and perhaps prompt a bit of investigation.  If it were a copyright case, it would be enough to get it to a jury.

McCain has repeatedly shown during this campaign that he’s willing to say and do anything that his advisers tell him will poll well.

Whatever credibility he had before this campaign was completely gone months ago. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he actually did pirate this story — that does seem like the simplest explanation, and the most likely to be true.

No more meetings at Starbucks

mikehudack:

Check out Les Halles.

That’s right below our office. We’ve only eaten there once (when Pownce came to visit us) because it’s relatively expensive and we usually get take-out from delis.

The menu is very French and confused us.

Waiter: (taking our order)
David: Do you have anything like a cheeseburger?
Waiter: (points to a $20 foie-gras hamburger)
David: Can I have that, but without the foie gras, and with mozzarella cheese?
Waiter: (looks annoyed) We only have gruyere.
David: OK, one of those.
Me: Make that two.
Pownce people: We’ll just have some fries.

It was the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had.

karmcity:

Then why the hell does everyone seem to be worried that he may win the election?

Because he’s polling very well, despite his campaign’s massive failings and missteps.

Because we definitely didn’t get a fair, legal, valid election in 2000, and it looks like we didn’t get one in 2004 either (Diebold, Ohio, etc.), and yet the message from both the media and the majority of the population has been “Shut up, accept it, and move on.” We haven’t had a democracy in 8 years.

Because we currently face more domestic issues than we have in my lifetime, but a very large voting block is basing their presidential vote on stupid shit such as whether the candidate opposes abortion and gay marriage, despite 8 years of having a candidate believing exactly what they wanted without anything changing on either front.

Because he’s on the wrong side of nearly every issue that has caused the majority of the problems we have today.

And most of all, because he’s a privileged, arrogant, easily corruptable asshole. We’ve had one of those in office for 8 years already, and there’s even a chance he was elected to that position the second time.

So forgive me if I don’t trust the population of the United States to make a good decision.

[…W]hen McCain says he believes life begins at conception (cheer!) it’s pretty meaningless unless he’s asked to explain how that would be translated into policy. Are blastocysts entitled to child support? Do all late periods need to be reported to the Ministry of Health? And, of course, my favorite: Are those who implant multiple embryos during IVF treatments, knowing full well that most will die, guilty of negligent manslaughter?

Eschaton (via sexartandpolitics, jessicagoldharalson)

One of the side effects of shoehorning the App Store onto the iTunes Store architecture, but not doing a very complete adaptation and skimping on many of the details, is that I get email “receipts” for $0.00 whenever I “purchase” free apps.

Making a feature of undoing a feature

Instapaper’s biggest appeal on the iPhone is that it works offline: even on this device that’s considered an always-connected “internet communicator”, one of the most important features an application can have is the ability to work when it’s not connected — or in a way that won’t use the connection even if it’s present.

I was the only person doing that at first, but people are demanding it for other apps as well. The New York Times recently added offline caching (although it needs work). Evernote has been criticized since day one for not having it, and I’m sure they’re working on it. And Apple left these gaps wide open since Safari and the YouTube app hardly cache anything. (There’s definitely a market for an Instapaper-like “watch later” service for videos… I don’t want to make it, but I’d love if someone else did.)

It’s interesting that Apple gave us nearly-universal connectivity, or at least as close as we can get with today’s infrastructure, but it’s still so slow and unreliable (through no fault of Apple’s) that it’s a huge benefit for people to be able to bypass it.

(The iPod touch also exists.)

Get good at iPhone app development

I keep getting emails from people who want me to develop iPhone apps for them. The very few people I know who have this ability are booked solid for the indefinite future. There’s a big market here for developers.

If you’re looking to learn a new programming language and platform, and you’re at least moderately familiar with C, I strongly suggest that you look into this.

Requirements:

Rewards:

Trust me, it’s worth it if you can do it.

A note on OpenClip

I looked at the code for OpenClip, the much-publicized iPhone copy-and-paste API for third-party apps. I was very curious about where exactly they stored the clipboard data, since what they’re claiming really shouldn’t be possible. The Developer FAQ is vague:

OpenClip utilizes a shared space on the iPhone. Applications that use the OpenClip framework can access this common area to write to and read from…

Applications are installed into their own directories named with massive random strings, like this:

/whatever/Applications/474F785BFD/

That app’s document files would be stored here:

/whatever/Applications/474F785BFD/Documents/

As far as I can tell by a quick glance at the source code, this is how it works: OpenClip apps create their own subdirectory called OpenClip if it doesn’t already exist in the Documents folder and save the clipboard data in a file there, e.g.:

/whatever/Applications/474F785BFD/Documents/OpenClip

To paste the copied data, it iterates through every app’s directory, looking for that OpenClip directory, and reading the clipboard data if it finds it.

See the problem yet?

This means that applications can read any data from other applications. This is a very bad thing, a tremendous security hole, and definitely not allowed by the SDK agreement.

The FAQ states:

OpenClip is 100% SDK kosher. Using Zac White’s “open clipboard” technique, copy / paste between applications is now 100% legitimate and 100% possible.

Unless I’m missing something about how this works, or I’m misreading the code, this is almost certainly very prohibited, and likely to be patched (and disabled) by a future iPhone software update.

And if I’m correct, any application that uses OpenClip is likely to be delisted from the App Store. I won’t go anywhere near it.

UPDATE: Daryn clarifies with the relevant part of the SDK agreement:

The SDK Agreement states that an Application may only write data within its designated container; it doesn’t address reading data, so technically, this is not in violation, as each participating app writes within its own space […]

That’s a minor technicality, and I’m sure Apple will gladly update the terms to include prohibitions against reading files in other apps’ data directories.

And it’s still a huge security hole for other applications’ data directories to be readable. Using this, an app can read any saved authentication information in any other apps — for example, an app could steal your Flickr API key from any other apps that you’ve trusted with access to your Flickr account. Or an arbitrary app could read saved passwords from a password-manager app.

You could argue that the apps should be encrypting stored sensitive data, but in practice, I bet this isn’t the case:

So despite being technically allowed by the SDK, I bet this won’t last long, and I sure as hell won’t risk my app (and presumably my developer membership) on it.

I was thinking how easily people get stuck in places. I mean, first of all you need a place to live, and they put you on a lease so you have to stay a certain amount of time, and then you need a job to pay for your place to live, but in order to get to a job you need a car, so you pay for car insurance, which is way too expensive, and the cost of gas which is also too expensive. So you’re basically working to pay for things that only facilitate the working, and maybe have a little on the side to buy big things to put in your house that’ll be a hassle to move if you want to leave, and not worth as much if you re-sell them, so you just stay in the same place paying for all this worthless crap just because you wanted a job.

Justin Johnson

I had almost forgotten about my favorite cable TV show. Thanks a lot, Jared.

“Today, on How It’s Made: car radiators, hatchery chicks, phyllo dough, and cross-country skis!”

FINALLY!

I signed up for their text-message alerts 2 months ago. In that time, I’ve had exactly three alerts. I replied to the first two within 15 seconds each, and both times, they were already out of stock.

So I finally got it for list price. I’d be damned if I was going to pay $250 to a third-party reseller.

yes, i own a sewing machine and know how to sew and i do it with some frequency. now, before any of you open your mouths in guffaw, please note that i also own not one, but two chainsaws.

Jared

From an NYC bathroom. (via allisonweiss, keithgessen)

We don’t condone vandalism, but thanks.

Argh, PHP

I love dynamic typing, but…

$a = "look I'm just a string";
$b = 0;
if ($a == $b) { return "come on, really?"; }

This has caused two separate bugs of mine this afternoon, both of which took way too long to find.

Great, they’re still around?

Every time I see someone post a screenshot of Windows Vista, I’m resurprised about how incredibly ugly it is.

Geeky

I’m currently watching The Wire on my laptop while waiting on Long Island with nothing to do. I’m pretty proud of this, because I didn’t remember to bring a copy of the video with me.

I know my home IP, but the only forwarded port is SSH. I tried using scp to copy the video file directly, but I can only upload from home at about 200 KB/s, so it would have taken an hour just to copy. I didn’t want to wait that long, and Quicktime refused to stream-play the partial file as it downloaded. The only way to convince Quicktime to play the file would be to read it from a mounted network share.

I found out what the AFP port was, but I didn’t have it forwarded. My home computer has VNC enabled, but the VNC port isn’t forwarded either. So I SSH-tunneled to enable VNC forwarding, then used VNC to use the router’s web config interface and enable AFP port forwarding.

But the file was still too big to stream in real time.

So I used command-line ffmpeg to recompress the movie at a lower bitrate. And I’m recompressing the next few episodes simultaneously (gotta love 8 cores) as I happily watch the first episode in Quicktime on my laptop.

McCain’s world is a brighter, simpler world.  But it’s not the one the rest of us live in.

Dan, in John McCain is the Prettiest Princess in Imaginary Land.

Unfortunately, massive blocks of the voting population live in the same imaginary world and vote based on empty promises regarding it.

Mario Kart Wii

(I know I’m late to this party.)

I’ve never played Double Dash or the DS versions — the last game I played in this series was (the excellent) Mario Kart 64.

First impressions:

And, while this is unrelated to Mario Kart specifically, it’s worth saying: the Wii’s graphics, limited to 480p over component video, look horrible on a 42” plasma — especially after playing an Xbox 360 over HDMI for a few months. I know that graphics weren’t the focus of the console’s design, but at least give me 720p over a digital interface so I can have sharp text, greater brightness range, and fewer wires (I love HDMI for that). The Wii’s low resolution is embarrassing in 2008, especially for a system that still costs $250 and is still in short supply.

Anyway, Mario Kart seems good so far. It will get better as I figure it out and get used to the mechanics.

Things that make me feel like we’re missing the point of modern technology

  1. Having to insert a different plastic disc for every different console game.
  2. Having to drive to a store to acquire these plastic discs (or have them delivered on a truck, in a box, from a far-away warehouse).
  3. Having to store the plastic discs and their giant plastic cases on a shelf somewhere.
  4. Having to purchase a new game license if the plastic disc is lost or scratched, which could happen a lot since I have to keep inserting and removing it.

Steam has the right idea here: just let me pay you with a credit card and download the game onto my computer’s (or Xbox’s) hard drive, and tie it to my account so I can download and play the games I’ve purchased on any compatible hardware without having to keep and swap stupid plastic discs and sit through slow disc load times and copy-protection checks.

I gave in

and started using the analog stick to steer in Mario Kart instead of the wheel. I’m now enjoying the game a lot more.

(And thanks to those who informed me how the lightning cloud works.)

Allison Weiss is great

Watch the video, get the free album, then buy the others (the latest one’s also on AmazonMP3).

VMware Fusion faithfully reproduces everything about Windows.

Does this mean that I can charge for updates if I want to?

Can I charge a different price for updates than I do for new licenses?

This would be an interesting way to fake a subscription payment model if Apple and your customers were cool with it. You could have a timebombed app that stops working 2-3 months after you build it, then issue paid updates every month. Of course, a true subscription billing capability would be a lot nicer.

While I don’t like the idea of having to pay $2-7 per month for dumb games (cough), the pay-once-and-use-it-forever model can’t necessarily cover developers’ costs of some apps, such as those that depend on a costly-to-run web service (e.g. Instapaper).

MobileMe Keychain sync… not recommended

Even after disabling Keychain sync, my laptop still exhibits weird behavior that I suspect is related (it was never problematic before I had MobileMe):

And while it’s not Keychain-related, Contacts sync still has some people who just generate weird little conflicts very frequently on little stuff like buddy icons and which number is the primary (and these are contacts that I never edit).

One more Mario Kart Wii question:

Do I really have to push the “1” button for the brake, even in nunchuck mode where it’s inconvenient to reach? I tried the obvious ones (B, nunchuck buttons) and none of them seemed to do it.

And what happened to the jump-skidding-turning thing that everyone did in the N64 version? How do I do that? Or has it been removed?

(OK, that was two questions.)

Strange day at the office.

McCain’s Vice-President Announcement (via fuddmain)

I’m fat.

Wii Fit just informed me that I’m 22 pounds over my ideal weight (I’m 5’7”, 168 lbs.), so with its help, I’m going to try to lose at least 1.7 pounds per week for the next 6 months.

(This is not a game for people who don’t like to be told that they don’t have perfect bodies.)

jgh:

I’m unfollowing anyone who trash-talks John McCain’s years of service to our country. You can hate his political views as much as you want, and you can think of him as some dementia-riddled ne’er-do-well who will put this country in the shitter, but it crosses the line to mock his evident love of our country and his years of serving in our armed forces.

Careful — that’s a fine line.

It would be ridiculous to suggest that McCain hasn’t served his country, or that his military experience is somehow invalid, or that he’s not patriotic. (Although McCain has no trouble saying that Obama hates his country and isn’t patriotic. But we’re above that.) It’s offensive to deny that anyone in the military hasn’t served his/her country.

But it’s perfectly valid to criticize McCain for using his POW experience where it doesn’t apply, including its common use as a “get out of question free” card whenever he’s asked something inconvenient.

Watch in HD on Vimeo

Instapaper Pro is now available!

This video demos one of the key features: tilt scrolling. Pro also remembers your positions in each article and has adjustable fonts. See other features of Instapaper Pro.

(If you buy it, please leave me a quick review in the App Store, positive or negative — I’d rather the reviews come from actual users than random passers-by in the store who didn’t actually buy it. Thanks!)

Jagged Little Pill

Tiff and I recently did a thought exercise: If you’re going to be on an island forever, etc.:

Alternately:

Tiff picked Jagged Little Pill for the second one. I was surprised, so I decided to listen to it straight through for the first time in about a decade and objectively evaluate it. And it’s really good — for one, it’s still just as good today as the day it was released, 13 years ago. It’s timeless. And nearly every track is good (an important qualification for this category).

You may not know, but Alanis Morissette recently released an acoustic version of the entire album. It’s not as good as I expected, but it’s not bad.

Sidenote: I don’t usually get into music with female singers. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it’s because I can’t easily sing along (it’s usually far out of my range). Or maybe I was just too self-conscious and embarrassed to like music by women. I think Allison Weiss is first female artist I’ve bought music from since Jagged Little Pill.

noraleah:

This is awesome but it’s bringing back all my paranoid feelings.

Understandable. You can be as vague or precise as you want when you enter your location in the Customize panel: you can leave it blank, or just enter a city name or ZIP code, and it’ll just stick the dot for you in the middle of that area. (That’s why there are a lot of people mysteriously in the middle of Manhattan.)

Your location is only what you tell us in that Customize panel: we’re not tracing your IP or anything else like that. You can even be a joker and stick yourself in the middle of the ocean if you give it a latitude/longitude point.

David loves this.

Online music economics

This thread argues, from someone knowledgeable about legal music royalties, that web app designers carelessly ignore the proper way to legally play music online (paying royalties to SoundExchange). Essentially, we’re all a bunch of cheap pirates.

But I don’t think that’s it. It’s much simpler than that: doing it legally is economically infeasible.

Even with today’s cheap bandwidth, the cost of serving a decent-sounding MP3s is already prohibitively expensive for nearly any startup. (And the royalties, if paid, add an additional 2-3 times the bandwidth cost.)

I’m not arguing that pirating music should be OK — but the royalty rates for web radio (and anything that’s treated as “web radio” for royalty purposes, such as Muxtape) are so ridiculous that nobody can stay alive doing it legally. And, knowing the music business, that’s probably intentional: they really don’t like losing control of any part of their precious vertical monopoly.

The choice that web app designers have isn’t whether to pay the royalties or not — it’s whether to have music functionality at all. If you argue for legal royalty payments, you have to accept the reality of that argument: no online music startups.

Come on, Parallels… I have 6 GB of RAM, and you won’t let me assign more than 412 MB to a VM?

Tip

Don’t use the PHP Memcache module’s pconnect method when using eAccelerator. After a while, Apache child threads start crashing.

This behavior doesn’t occur when using the regular connect method.

The excitement across from our office today.

One of the things I’ve never tried to do is exploit my Vietnam service to my country, because it would be totally inappropriate to do so.

John McCain in 1999 (via mattlehrer, noraleah)

Wow, I really use TextMate a lot.

My first entry for Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself Wednesday (GPOYW), complete with bonus Tiff while we look for suit jackets at Macy’s.

Generalizations

“People on Tumblr are all _____…”
“Tumblr is full of _____ fans…”

Tumblr is a lot bigger than the handful of popular New York users and those who follow them.

I love Ted Dziuba.

My first non-5-star review. Now my average is ruined, doomed to be 4.5 at most forever.

(I made it through the first 8 reviews, all 5 stars. This was #9.)

Thanks, silver-dragon! I’m now a member of the elite club of iPhone app developers with non-customers “reviewing” with 1-star ratings to complain about the price.

Todd: “It looks like Fred’s blog!”

McCain will be the oldest first term president in history with a history of health concerns. If America is concerned that Obama isn’t ready, how could anyone say Palin is?

Andrew Sullivan (via wiesen, mikehudack)

(via soupsoup, jdel, jakehurwitz)

I wonder how she feels about being a total pawn.

Jon Post, on McCain’s VP pick. (via sarahcolombo, allisonweiss)

C/C++/Objective-C programmers:

Tired of these bugs?

if (x = 5) { /* Oops, accidentally set x to 5 */ }

Use GCC’s -Wparentheses option, which will generate warnings whenever you do this. (In Xcode, it’s in Project Info: GCC 4.0 - Warnings: Missing Braces and Parentheses.)

If you actually intend for the assignment to be the evaluated value in a conditional, just give it an extra set of parentheses:

if ( (x = 5) ) { /* That's better */ }

The extra spaces are optional. That’s just the style I like for these constructs to make it very clear during code reading that you intended to do this.

(via bijan)

Ads via The Deck