Marco.org • About ▾

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

Gotta have the morning ‘joe.

GPOYW

Strategery ($2) is awesome — it has quickly become my most-played iPhone game.

It’s like a simple, fast version of Risk. Once you get good, you can breeze through a round in a few minutes. And there are a lot of different options (map size, army placement, land-grab mode) that significantly change how it plays and which strategies are effective, giving lots of replay value.

Quick tips and notes:

Go get it.

It is no longer tenable for economists to claim that the self-regarding, rational actor model offers a satisfactory description of human decision making.

James M. Gowdy, Behavioral Economics and Climate Change Policy (via squashed)

Hasn’t this always been the case? Conventional simple economics models are always inaccurate because a non-negligible portion of people don’t behave rationally and in their best interests.

Google reveals “secret” server design

I love this stuff. Note the efficiencies:

Since air conditioning is extremely power-hungry, efficient separation of hot and cold air is essential. It looks like they move all of the hot air to channels along the outside walls of the shipping container, leaving only the center air-conditioned. That way, cold air doesn’t need to run along the exterior walls in hot weather.

Those Google people are smart.

This is the future of social media. Aren’t you looking forward to cheesy auto-responses from every product, service, or company you ever mention? See the future, today!

Marc LaFountain:

<whitewhine>To my surprise, no one seems to make an HD shower radio.</whitewhine>

I’m more surprised that anyone knows that HD Radio exists.

Of course, if someone were to be a huge fan of it, it wouldn’t surprise me that it’s Marc. Given his love of early-adopting technology (he owned 2 Kindles before the majority of the country knew that they existed), it wouldn’t surprise me if his current HD radio sits next to a DIVX player, a Newton, and a 32X.

So maybe instead of getting your company on twitter, paying marketers to mention you are on twitter, and paying people to blog about your company, forget all that and just make awesome stuff that gets people excited about your products….

mathowie (via 43folders)

Marc in response to my HD-32X post:

As CourtneyJ noted, analog radio stations have been promoting HD Radio for years. So, I’m surprised at the small number of available HD Radio receivers in the market. Despite the prevalence of HD Radio stations and advertisements, it doesn’t seem to have yet gone anywhere close to mainstream.

It doesn’t surprise me at all. Just because a new technology is an evolutionary replacement for an old one doesn’t mean that it will catch on quickly — or at all. I wrote about this effect 5 years ago regarding DVD Audio and SACD, then again 3 years ago for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

The key problem is that an A/V technology cannot replace an entrenched predecessor based on quality alone. People don’t care about quality. Higher fidelity, higher definition, higher contrast, more channels… nobody cares. Our parents may have finally purchased that nice new TV, but they’re probably still running a regular interlaced DVD player into its composite video input, and they don’t care.

New media formats and delivery technologies need to significantly improve on features and convenience to replace their predecessors. The cassette could be played in the car and recorded. The CD and DVD offered immediate nonlinear seeking (and looked cool as hell compared to audio cassettes and VHS).

SACD and DVD-Audio never took off because quality was their only improvement. And new format adoption comes with a cost (new hardware, reduced versatility until it catches on — you couldn’t, for instance, play your new SACDs in your car or computer) that must be tolerated by early adopters, so it needs to be very compelling in other ways. The new formats brought nothing new on the same scale that led the adoption of CDs. And hardly anyone was complaining that CD audio wasn’t good enough.

Blu-Ray has the same problem, even now that HD-DVD is dead. DVDs are fine for most people. They can buy a DVD and play it everywhere they possibly want to watch a movie: their cheapo DVD players connected to their TVs in every room, the DVD player in the car to keep the kids quiet, and the crappy Dell laptop from work that they take on the plane. The geeks can also easily and quickly rip the DVD to store it on a giant hard drive and have it available for networked playback devices (Apple TV, modded Xbox, Xbox 360, etc.) or portables (PSP, iPod Video/Classic/Touch, iPhone). The only significant adoption Blu-Ray gets is as a side benefit of purchasing a PS3. By and large, the market isn’t rushing out to buy Blu-Ray players and replace their video libraries again.

So quality is the only thing going for HD Radio. And if you think about where radio is usually used nowadays, quality is even less relevant than in our parents’ misguided home theaters. FM radio’s quality is perfectly fine for people in cars, construction workers, restaurant kitchens, warehouses, cubicles, and small stores. HD Radio provides no other compelling reasons to switch: no new features, no new abilities, no problems solved. And it provides plenty of reasons not to: high cost, no portables, low availability in cars.

It’s no surprise, then, that nobody’s heard of it and it hasn’t caught on. And I don’t think it’s necessary to qualify that with “yet”.

On “stale” coffee

Peter W. Knox:

The scene - Company cafeteria. There are a row of coffee pots. You pick up a cup and pick a pot and pour coffee into your cup. But there’s always a few options and you can see a coffee level gauge on the front of the pot that indicates just how much coffee is left.

I’ve been regularly going for the highest level (ie. the most full) coffee pot to get my coffee, figuring that the ones closer to being empty have been up there longer and therefore are not as hot/fresh.

You’re doing it right. Not only are the full pots likely to be the freshest, but there’s another issue that you’re conveniently avoiding with hot-plate coffee makers (those that heat the bottom of a glass carafe for a while after the coffee’s made, rather than insulated metal thermal-carafe pots that aren’t heated from below).

Applying more heat to coffee that’s already brewed degrades the flavor, making it more bitter over time. (This is one reason why percolator coffee is so bad: it’s continuously recycled and reheated through the entire brewing cycle.)

Black coffee doesn’t “go bad” otherwise — I once drank from a cup of great coffee that was left in my car overnight in the winter, and it tasted great, despite not being at an ideal temperature. (Obviously, the rules change if you add dairy, sugar, or very hot weather.)

When people pour a cup of “old” coffee from the office drip pot, it tastes bad because it has been toasted for a few hours by its carafe heater, not because of its age.

The effect worsens as the coffee level in the pot decreases: the same amount of heat per unit of time is applied regardless, so the lower the coffee volume, the more heat is applied to each unit of volume.

So the worst coffee you can get is the last cup of a drip pot that’s been sitting there on its heating element for two hours.

On reheating coffee

Dan:

Marco is answering coffee questions today, so perhaps he can clear something up for me. Microwaving coffee. Good, bad, or horrible?

[…]

I just need to add a bit of heat, so I’ll frequently throw the mug of coffee in the microwave for thirty seconds. It fixes the temperature problem, but from my unscientific observation, it significantly degrades the flavor. Am I imagining this? Why does it happen? Is it really doing something to the coffee’s flavor or is it just that my conception of great coffee is so antithetical to my conception of something that comes out of the microwave that I feel I’ve committed some sort of sin against propriety and project this guilt onto my tastebuds?

Microwaving coffee makes it taste very bad, quickly and conveniently. I still do it when desperate, but I’ve found a better way.

The best way to have hot coffee over many hours, without re-making it every time you want some, is to thermally insulate it so you don’t need to reheat it.

My preferred way to achieve this is the 117-year-old technology embodied by the simple Thermos vacuum bottle. Get the largest one that you’ll want to fill on a regular basis. The Thermos Nissan briefcase-bottle lineup is great:

When you make coffee, pour the amount you want to drink right now, then immediately pour the rest into a nice Thermos bottle and close it. (By the way, I’m referring to Thermos Nissan as the brand, not as the generic, diluted term of calling all vacuum bottles “thermoses”. Thermos Nissan’s products are top-notch. Get the best.)

It will stay hot for about 6-8 hours and acceptably warm for at least 4 hours after that. And that’s with the smallest bottle, not being full the whole time. The bigger the liquid volume, the longer it stays hot.

It’s not a perfect solution: one problem is that the metal is slightly porous, so it imparts a slight metallic taste to the coffee. It’s relatively minor for the first few hours, and gets stronger as the day goes on. The effect gets weaker as the Thermos gets older, and you can accelerate the aging process a bit when you first get it by filling it up with boiling water and leaving it for a few hours. This would probably be alleviated with a glass-lined bottle, if you can find a good one and don’t plan on dropping it.

Look, twitter can only out-Facebook myspace for so long until web 3.0 comes along and makes Instapaper the new tumblr. Garyvee AJAX reblog. iPhone.

Lee Sharingtime: “a snippet from my now-famous web 4.0 talk on how twitter is facebooking the social networking world. Hire me to speak at your next tech conference! I give a great keynote.”

After moving in, however, she discovered the apartment had some quirks, including […] an acupuncture parlor down the hall that stayed open very, very late and served a male clientele.

New York Times. Subtle.

Al Zacharia, apartment broker extraordinaire

When I moved here, I didn’t know anything about the area. I only knew that I wanted to live in a nice but affordable apartment in Westchester. I didn’t live here yet, so I had to arrange everything remotely with only a couple of weekends to visit and find an apartment.

I combed through Craigslist and booked a bunch of showings for the same weekend. I didn’t have much money and didn’t see the point of paying a broker’s fee, so I booked mostly no-fee showings. There was only one fee-based broker that I was planning to see last, simply because they had spammed Craigslist with a bunch of their listings.

Every non-broker apartment was awful.

Then Tiff and I sat down in Al Zacharia’s office. He had a very thick accent and we had difficulty communicating. We had to answer every question 3 times, and he artfully dodged most of ours. I didn’t even know which town I wanted to live in — I just wanted something nice, and they had apartments in every town along the Long Island Sound. But Al figured out what I wanted. Within the first minute:

“You want nice? Yes? You want Larchmont. Come, I’ll show you.”

He showed us two apartments in one building. That’s all he wanted to show us. And the first one was great. Perfect location, perfect town, and the best building in town. From meeting him to parting ways, I don’t even think 30 minutes passed. I took that apartment, and had to pay him a $1600 fee for this service.

I resented paying that fee until this week.

Now that we’re looking to move, we’re aggressively looking at apartments again. This time, we’re already local, so we can go down to our new neighborhood almost every evening for showings. (And we have.) We’ve seen a couple of no-fee listings, and they’re terrible so far. Almost everything we’re seeing is from fee-based brokers. But they’re all much more expensive, wanting higher percentages of higher rents — we’d be lucky to pay only $1600 for their fees.

After seeing one or two that we request from listings, all of the brokers show us their leftover inventory, wasting our time and theirs, despite failing to match at least some of our major criteria. Some brokers are better than others at avoiding this, but most are pretty bad. We’ve now seen almost 20 apartments, and only a couple were even remotely worth considering.

We finally understand the value of Al Zacharia. One building, one day, exactly what we wanted.

I wasn’t just paying him for 30 minutes of his time — I was saving weeks of mine.

Benefits of environmentalism

The other day, I painted a bleak picture of the reality of true environmental responsibility being more expensive and less convenient, in general, than our current lifestyle. But it’s not always that way, and there are a lot of benefits.

You may not be able to own a house, or you may need to compromise on some of your “requirements” and get a smaller one. And while your parents or grandparents may have been able to afford vacation homes, you probably won’t. But look at the massive amounts of time and money that go into maintaining a home (or two). How many rooms do you have now? How much time does it take you each week to keep the place clean? How much do you enjoy doing that? And how clean does it end up being?

In reality, if you’re in or a near a big city, you’ll probably be renting for a while. But that’s not so bad, either. Isn’t it nice not to shovel snow in the winter or mow the lawn in the summer? When was the last time you had to worry about how expensive it’ll be to repair the roof? And have you ever had to move when owning your property? It’s a lot more complicated and potentially a lot more expensive (especially now). As a renter, you don’t need to care that the real estate market is crashing or your neighborhood’s land values are decreasing or the furnace needs an expensive repair. If the building falls apart, you can just not renew your lease and go somewhere better. The owner’s stuck with it.

You’ll probably need to make do with less stuff. But stuff sucks. The more stuff you have, the more space it takes up, the more you have to dust, the more you can lose, and the more you have to pack if you want to move. Your stuff weighs you down. Life is generally easier with less stuff.

Meat production is incredibly energy-inefficient, so it’s environmentally responsible to eat less (or no) meat. Read this. Generally, we should be eating more plants: a lot of leaves, stems, and roots, and moderate quantities of fruits, nuts, and seeds. These should replace large quantities of the meats, oils, sugars, and processed starches that constitute most of the modern western diet. In addition to being more environmentally and ethically responsible, this also makes people much healthier and happier, which drives health-care costs down and dramatically improves (and prolongs) lives.

By using your feet or mass-transit for much or all of your transportation, you save (literally) tons of wasted resources in automobile production, operation, maintenance, and disposal. Walking and biking are also great exercise, making you healthier and happier. And you save a lot of time, money, and frustration by not using your car and sitting in traffic every day. Even if it makes sense to keep a car for occasional use (travel, shopping, etc.), you’ll save dramatically on fuel and maintenance costs by not using it in your everyday commute (or using it for a much shorter distance), and it’s likely to last much longer.

There are tons of other benefits to an environmentally responsible lifestyle. What am I forgetting?

Tonight I’m playing “Test Instapaper 1.4 for a really long time while it’s running under the debugger so I can finally figure out that one last annoying crash.”

Couches and USB extension cables are critical iPhone-app testing tools.

Hey Jared, what probably exploded if my electricity goes out for a second at the same time that it sounds like someone dropped a large stack of wood from a sizable height about a block away?

Avoiding the blogger trap

Through a series of coincidences, some lucky positions, a few prominent inbound links, and just pure longevity and endurance, the size of my site’s audience is finally nontrivial. It’s nowhere near the point where putting up awful AdSense ads would generate enough to pay my electric bill, and by any other prominent blogs’ standards, it’s completely insignificant.

But I have enough readers now to cause two problems:

  1. I can’t express any opinions without being willing to accept a significant negative response. Anything I say could inadvertently end up getting linked from a popular site or mentioned on a popular podcast and I could get hundreds of angry emails and people all over the internet calling me an asshole and distorting my argument into flamebait. (Have you seen what happens when Alex Payne or Joel Spolsky express opinions about programming languages?) And if I say anything about other companies in my field, even lightheartedly or constructively, I’ll get pressure from investors to censor myself. (Even that sentence might get me into trouble.) With an audience, I’m much more accountable for what I say.
  2. I start feeling obligated to raise the average quality of what I post and stay within the bounds of what people expect me to write about.

I don’t have anything else to say about the first point for now, but the second point is relevant to nearly everyone who has a popular blog.

They feel pressure to make every post a hit while also maintaining a healthy post frequency. And if the frequency drops, the pressure increases to make every post a superstar.

Some people want it this way: they enjoy keeping their standards up and want only the best on their site. But their site is their outlet, and if they still want to publish anything that’s not “good enough” or not “relevant” for their popular site, they make second blogs or turn to Twitter.

But what if a prominent tech blogger wants to write something about scrambled eggs or show off a really great photo of his child that won’t fit in 140 characters and TwitPic? Or what if tech is slow and all of his new post ideas are on other topics for 3 weeks?

Often, this “unfit” content goes unpublished. Or it gets relegated to a secondary publishing outlet with no audience and no context in this person’s life.

To me, that’s a trap. And I refuse to fall into it. I’m still going to feel free to post photos of breakfast and argue about pillowcase assembly even if I get famous and become an A-lister (which I really don’t see happening, but am presenting here for the sake of argument).

I’m not just about technology, just as John Gruber’s not just about Apple products and Merlin Mann isn’t just about index cards and Steve Yegge can speak briefly and Jeff Atwood enjoys Rock Band and Paul Graham is a great cook and Ted Dziuba likes stuff and pretty people take shits and maybe, just maybe, there’s an area of Michael Arrington’s life in which he isn’t a dick.

People aren’t so one-sided. Everyone has a life that goes much deeper than the topics on their blogs.

I never wanted to work for a big company because it increases the likelihood of being pigeonholed, and I don’t want to be “the ______ guy” for any one thing.

I don’t need to be an authority on anything. I don’t need you to agree with my arguments. I know this is probably too long, too broad, and too egotistical for the mass market to read, and you most likely skimmed over it. I wrote this just now, and I’m going to publish it now, even though it’s Sunday and it won’t see peak traffic. I don’t want to write top-list posts 10 times a day. I don’t want to be restricted to my blog’s subject or any advertisers’ target demographic. This site represents me, and I’m random and eccentric and interested in a wide variety of subjects.

I do my own thing. I don’t need you to like it. That’s not why I do it.

But ultimately, I think people do like this sort of thing. Why do you think reality shows are so popular?

As more people start realizing that there are better reasons to write blogs beyond trying to squeeze pennies out of ads, I bet we’ll see a significant movement toward tearing down these barriers. We’ll see more complete people blogging their whole lives, not just trying to emulate magazine columns or news sites. Some of them will get large audiences, but most won’t — and it won’t matter.

YES!

Found the problem, finally: a deadlock in the background updater.

1.4’s almost done!

I bought the mug version of Steven Frank’s geeky design.

Is the constant stench of a new tenant’s cigarette smoke (coming into our apartment through the closed hallway door) a hostile enough condition to get me out of my lease a couple of months early?

Topherchris: Keep it on the QT

I’ll have you know that the Answers feature is completely original and has nothing to do with Twitter. It allows responses of up to 141 characters.

Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?

Texas State Rep. Betty Brown (via skidder)

Thanks, FileMagnet

The new tilt-scrolling icon in Instapaper 1.4 was designed by Joshua Keay for FileMagnet, and he offered it to me for free. Thanks, Josh!

FileMagnet is the only other application I’ve seen that implements tilt-scrolling well. If offline access to a collection of your own files (Word, Excel, PDF, photos, music, movies, anything) is your thing, give it a try — it’s much more suited to that role than Instapaper (which is optimized for web pages), and it’s a very nice app.

The cherry kind is also good. Not as good as the honey, but a nice occasional change for variety.

Why is this search-keyword spam allowed in app descriptions? And it’s not just under the radar — this is a top-25 app!

The App Store is seriously broken, and I don’t see any indications that Apple cares about problems like this.

Here goes. Pro gets updated first.

(Ignore that “Date Submitted” field — that’s the date I submitted the first version, not this one.)

Translations from Park Slope real-estate listings to real life

“Bedroom fits a queen-sized bed”: The bedroom only fits a queen-sized bed. If there’s any additional space, they’ll say it fits a king-sized bed or bedroom set.

“Close to shops”: On the loud avenues.

“Close to restaurants”: Above a restaurant.

“Brand new building”, two bathrooms in a 1-bedroom, overuse of the word “luxury”, or describing the apartment as a “residence”: It’s an unsold condo in a high-rise on 4th Avenue that nobody wants and they’re trying to get people to rent them until the condo market recovers.

2-bedroom “convertible”: It’s a 1-bedroom with an area that could, theoretically, be walled off to create a second “bedroom”, formerly a dining room or alcove, usually in an undesirable or inconvenient location that couldn’t be fully private (e.g. requiring you to walk through it to get to the master bedroom or kitchen). But they’ll charge the 2-bedroom price.

1-bathroom apartments with a “master suite”: The only bathroom is directly off the bedroom, so guests need to walk through your bedroom to use the bathroom.

“Jacuzzi”: Water jets in the bathtub.

“Cozy”: Small.

“Charming”: Small.

“Garden”: Small concrete slab as a “backyard” next to everyone else’s small concrete slabs. And it’s included in the square footage. If the listing doesn’t include a picture, it’s probably bad.

“Garden level”: Basement.

“Terrace” in a large building: A convenient smoking area directly above everyone else’s convenient smoking areas. Oh, you don’t like the smell of smoke?

“Outdoor space”, without specifying it as a garden, terrace, or deck: It’s the fire escape.

“Well-lit ground floor, but not by natural light”: Basement with no windows. (A listing actually said that.)

“Open kitchen”: The kitchen is in the living room.

Links for more information using a URL-shortening service: Likely spam or scam.

Unspecified square footage: Tiny.

Doesn’t advertise a dishwasher: Doesn’t have one.

“Convenient laundry”: No laundry in the unit or the building. There’s a laundromat down the block.

Apartment number in a brownstone followed by a letter, e.g. “2F”: It’s not the full floor, so it’s going to be small. (A typical brownstone floor is usually about 20x50 feet, including the stairs and hall.)

No pictures: It sucks.

Pictures only of the neighborhood or the outside of the building: It sucks.

Any rooms not pictured: They probably suck.

More than one neighborhood named in the title: The apartment is in the least desirable one.

When your sole metric is the number of times that pages on your site are loaded (and, that those delicious and life-sustaining ads are served along with them), it becomes unbelievably tempting to start doing things that you know are total bullshit.

Merlin Mann: Free as in “Me”, a great article about creative motivations and web traffic that you should really read.

Phish — Backwards Down The Number Line (March 6, 2009 in Hampton, VA)

This new Phish song gets stuck in my head a lot. I think it’s safe to assume that this one will be on an upcoming album and will be a common inclusion in their live sets for a long time.

Zoya:

things I am loath to do

• reach out

• touch base

• advise

We need to set up a knowledge transfer session to download from everyone so we’re all on the same page. If you refuse, we may be required to encounter a coaching opportunity before it becomes an issue that requires a performance review. Can I ping you later?

California’s biggest energy utility announced a deal Monday to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity from a startup company that plans to beam the power down to Earth from outer space, beginning in 2016.

PG&E makes deal for space solar power (via wreckandsalvage)

No! Haven’t they ever played SimCity? It’s microwave power! What if the beam misses? It’ll explode in a giant square fire!

Since Reagan’s, Bush’s, Clinton’s, and Bush’s serial deregulations of the financial services sector, however, bankers became fabulously rich. They called themselves the “Masters of the Universe.” They came to dominate contributions to politicians, and facilitated the takeover of most major US newspapers, all the while using debt as their mail tool to make money (burdening those newspapers with such debt that many are now going out of business because they can’t repay it). By 2005, fully 40 percent of all corporate profits in the US came from the financial services sector – a group of people who didn’t produce anything at all of value, nothing edible or usable, nothing that would survive into future generations. They invented fancy derivative “products” that they “sold” at high commission rates around the world so others could “make money with money.” In fact, they weren’t making money – they were taking money. Behavior that would have been criminal during the Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations became “normal” and was even encouraged: more than half of all the graduates from many of America’s top colleges and universities went into finance so they could get in on the very lucrative scam.

Thom Hartmann (via azspot)

Laptop Hunters: Homeless Frank

(thanks, John Gruber)

Those 12-hour, 120mg doses of pseudoephedrine (original, meth-making Sudafed) make you incredibly dizzy, woozy, and generally useless. I learned this during a sick day at home on my couch.

David has unfortunately learned this minutes before a flight to New Zealand.

Search: over.

Victory celebration.

From the standard Blumberg lease agreement.

The number of successful large scale communities out there is quite small. … So maybe, just maybe, that’s not what the web is built for. Maybe it’s built for small scale communities. Maybe we need to reframe the way we think about this stuff and worry less about ‘scalability.’

Noah Brier (via fascinated, betaworks)

We miss David. We didn’t know what else to do. (It really counts down.)

In related news, it’s surprisingly difficult to take a good picture of a TV.

Update: They’re gone. Enjoy your new copies of Instapaper Pro, everyone!

I have 37 spare promo codes for the Instapaper Pro 1.3 iPhone app to use before 1.4’s approved. Who wants one? Email imshamelesslycheap@marco.org (really).

To use one, go to “Redeem” in the iTunes Store (front page, right side, “Quick Links”).

Update: They’re gone. Enjoy your new copies of Instapaper Pro, everyone!

Our apartment search is over: we signed a lease last night for this great apartment.

Despite the misadventures and skeptics, after a few weeks of searching, we found an excellent place in a great location that fits our criteria very well.

Can’t wait to move in.

Rejected.

See that middle icon, there? The one that Joshua Keay designed for FileMagnet and generously offered to me for Instapaper 1.4?

That’s prohibited in the App Store because it depicts an iPhone, and Apple rejected Instapaper Pro 1.4 because of it.

We’ve reviewed Instapaper Pro and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because of an Apple trademark image.

Citing this:

You may not use the Apple Logo or any other Apple-owned graphic symbol, logo, or icon on or in connection with web sites, products, packaging, manuals, promotional/advertising materials, or for any other purpose except pursuant to an express written trademark license from Apple, such as a reseller agreement.

It’s the same occasionally enforced rule that blocked an update to the immensely popular Pocket God app a few weeks ago (here, here).

I don’t know enough about trademark law to know whether Apple needs to defend against this sort of use, but it seems like a stretch to say that an abstractly drawn icon depicting a device (which resembles many other phones as much as it resembles the iPhone) is trademark infringement.

The App Store is great in a lot of ways, and it’s still an amazing deal for independent developers. It’s just frustrating when the problems crop up, because compared to nearly everything else about the whole setup, the problems seem so arbitrary, avoidable, and developer-hostile. For instance, this problem wouldn’t be nearly as frustrating if approval, even for minor updates to established apps, took less than 7-14 days.

Regardless, I’m not interested in playing the “resubmit the same thing and hope to get it past someone else” game. I’m going to make a different icon from scratch that doesn’t contain any depictions of any Apple products (can I use arrows, or does that violate the arrow key on Apple’s keyboards?), resubmit, wait another 9 days, hope I get accepted this time, lose a few weeks of the increased sales that the new version will generate, and chalk it up to another annoying cost of doing business on the App Store that I can’t do a thing about.

That’s OK, though. I’m putting 1.4’s rejection delay to good use so what I release next will be much better.

This could be a problem.

GPOYBCW (thanks for the design, Jacob)

Amazon thinks this is “related” to rechargeable AA batteries.

This is me losing horribly, as usual, at geoDefense.

It’s a fixed-path tower-defense game (the path is predetermined in each level and you just build towers around it — you don’t make your own maze freely like you do in Desktop Tower Defense or Fieldrunners).

It’s gorgeous, with warping and bouncing wireframes fluidly exploding all over the battlefield. And it’s hard. I beat every Easy level, but on Medium, I’m only able to beat the first one (“Speed Round”). This one, pictured, is “Sneaky Snake!”, the level most likely to at least guarantee the quickest death. (I still can’t figure out exactly how anyone’s supposed to beat it. I’ve tried lots of low-level towers, a few high-level towers, different kinds of towers… nothing lasts more than 6 waves.)

The game’s frustratingly difficult and it drives me crazy. Yet, I keep playing. If you like incredibly difficult, fast-paced tower defense games, give it a try.

Yes! If there’s one force in the universe stronger than my ability to lose every Medium level in geoDefense, it’s the force that makes sure that I’m proven wrong about whatever I say very quickly after I commit it to the public record of the internet.

The cost of AA environmentalism

We’ve been burning through AA batteries like crazy recently: our new camera flashes use 4 each, and we started using electric toothbrushes that use 2 each. Then there’s remote controls, Wiimotes, and just about everything else in the universe that runs on AAs.

I’ve been using those generic yellow IKEA batteries that usually run $1 for a 10-pack. They’re not great, but you definitely get your money’s worth. It’s pretty horrible to dispose of that many batteries, though, so I ordered some good NiMH AA rechargeables from Amazon today.

Total cost for 20 quality NiMH AAs (2500mAH) and a decent charger: $82.43. (I know you can get cheaper ones, but even with no-names, you’re probably spending at least $60 for 20 batteries that are really 2500 mAH and a charger that doesn’t suck.)

Had I spent that same amount on IKEA batteries, I’d have over 800 of them. And I’d never have to worry about whether they’re charged.

Great! I needed batteries that were ideal for my Discman and Game Boy.

I love coming in before everyone else and trying to figure out what happened the night before. (previously)

Overcoming a nasty mood

For a variety of reasons, I’ve been in a negative mood all morning:

This blog post is serving as self-therapy, so I’m going to now attempt to reverse or minimize the nasty mood by looking at the positives here:

You know what? I feel better now. My life is awesome and I have no reason to complain. Thanks, Tumblr new-post textarea.

Overall, 52 percent think a television is a necessity. That is the lowest figure since that question was first asked in 1973.

What’s a Necessity? (via Mike Hudack)

AIR apps are like modern day Java applets… sure, they run on every platform. But they also suck on every platform.

Loren Brichter, the great developer of Tweetie

I think I’m the only Tumblr employee without “Director” in my title.

Screw wireless. Fast, reliable, wired Ethernet for life. (Or until it gets replaced by something better…)

Lessons from an Apple Genius

My iPhone started bugging out earlier today, refusing to complete a sync despite multiple reboots. I tried a Restore, and it failed, citing error code 2005 and effectively bricking the phone.

I brought it to the Genius Bar, where it promptly began accepting a restore from their computer. I asked the Genius what might have caused this to work there but not at home.

“What kind of Mac do you have at home?”

“A Mac Pro.”

“Which generation?”

“Harpertown.”

Identifying it in this manner was a subtle attempt to communicate to this gentleman that I was likely to be full of my own technobullshit, and therefore it would be unwise to try to engage in a technobullshit discussion. By doing so, I was hoping he’d skip the newbie language and just give me a concise, technical explanation.

Unfortunately, he didn’t pick up the cue. He proceeded to go on a far-too-long tangent of some of the most priceless wisdom I’ve heard in a while, including:

Without boring you with the details, rest assured that all of these are complete, 100% bullshit.

Genius.

Tiff labeled our Thai leftovers. Apple wouldn’t approve mine.

This game is so mean to me.

As if it were a swarm of bees, you should stay away from the SyncServices folder in Mac OS X.

Apple support document HT1865

Air Force One Backup Rattles New York Nerves (thanks, jhalickman)

I’d love to know who thought it was a good idea to fly a 747 followed by F-16 fighter jets at low altitude around lower Manhattan without telling anyone what was going on.

Apple’s rumored talks with Verizon

USA Today reports:

Verizon and Apple are discussing the possible development of an iPhone for Verizon, with the goal of introducing it next year, people familiar with the situation say.

But last week, Tim Cook said:

From a technology point of view, Verizon is on CDMA, and we chose from the beginning of the iPhone to focus on one phone for the whole world. When you do that, you really go down the GSM route because CDMA really doesn’t have a life to it after a certain point in time.

Sounds like a contradiction, but I think Casey Liss nailed it:

Yes, everyone (including Verizon) is moving to a compatible 4G technology called LTE, but even if that were to start happening in 2010 as news media is reporting, I understand that to be more than just a software update on all of their equipment. Thus, if we take my understanding/assumption to be true, they’ll need to update all of their towers with new equipment, thus eliminating the one major draw of Verizon: their ubiquitous network. This 4G iPhone will only be able to use their updated towers, not the entire Verizon coverage area AT&T users are lusting after.

Tim Cook’s remark makes a lot more sense now. He didn’t say that there would never be a Verizon iPhone — he just implied that there were no plans to make a CDMA iPhone.

We’ll probably see a Verizon iPhone once Verizon has a large enough LTE deployment, but there’s no way that’s happening in 2010. To give some perspective, Verizon started large-scale deployment of EVDO in 2004, but there were still large areas of their network that weren’t upgraded to EVDO as recently as 2007. I’m not sure how much of their network is still left without EVDO coverage, but I bet it’s nontrivial. (Verizon users: ever see your phone drop from “EV” to “1X”?)

Since they plan to start deploying LTE in 2010, they probably won’t have enough coverage to realistically deploy a high-profile, LTE-only phone until at least 2013.

I really don’t want to know what you did 20 years ago. I don’t want links to other people’s ideas. I want to know what you want to do, why you want to do it and how we will all be better off because of it.

Bijan Sabet: Looking for a job? Be helpful.

Brasil Coffee House has a great way to make an iced cappuccino. Normally, iced cappuccinos don’t really exist because there’s no good way to make iced foam, so people who ask for them at other coffee places usually just get an iced latte.

At Brasil, they blend milk and ice in a commercial drink mixer (like this) until the ice is very finely ground. It creates an iced substitute for cappuccino foam, and it works surprisingly well.

Jeff Rock:

Emily is referring to it as ‘my Kindle’ now. Now what am I supposed to read? Real books?

Ugh.

Tiff stole mine, too. Join the club. Marc was smarter than us and just bought two from the beginning.

The rumored Apple mini-notebook/big-iPhone

I’m having a hard time believing anything I’ve heard so far, mostly because I can’t really see why any of these devices would be particularly compelling for many users or good for Apple’s product line.

Business Week:

Verizon Wireless is in talks with Apple to distribute two new iPhone-like devices, BusinessWeek has learned. … One device is a smaller, less expensive calling device described by a person who has seen it as an “iPhone lite.”

Apple has previously said that they don’t intend to make a phone that doesn’t run the iPhone OS, and their goal is to keep making the iPhone itself more affordable. I don’t see Apple starting a mass-market iPhone model that doesn’t run the iPhone OS — they’re reducing non-iPhone-OS devices, not adding them. (For example, I doubt there will be any more meaningful updates to the iPod Classic, and that line will probably cease production within 2 years.)

Possible explanations: Verizon’s releasing another bad iPhone copycat by another company and there’s a lot of talk around it internally that mentions the iPhone, or Apple was negotiating with Verizon to try to get a nice subsidy for a future LTE iPhone to have low price with 2-year contracts.

The other is a media pad that would let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos, the person says. It would place calls over a Wi-Fi connection. [The BusinessWeek video report further elaborated to say that it’s between a mobile phone and a netbook in size, similar to the Kindle’s size.]

This is similar to Craig Hockenberry’s Front Row To Go idea with the added Verizon/WiFi-calling component, but there are a number of problems with such a device:

It would be uncomfortable to place calls with a device this size. You couldn’t hold it up to your ear, so you’d have to use the earbuds and mic or a wireless headset. Then what do you do with the device while you’re on the phone? Where do you put it? Are these video calls? Are you holding the device the whole time?

Why do they need to talk to Verizon about it? If they’re building in cellular internet service, why wouldn’t they release it for AT&T instead? A Verizon (CDMA/EVDO) data device couldn’t be sold anywhere else in the world, and Tim Cook sure sounded like he wasn’t interested in that sort of thing.

Which OS does it run?

What will it cost? It’s probably safe to assume that the larger screen (which, keep in mind, is a touchscreen) and required larger battery with a useful amount of storage will probably require that it costs more than the iPod Touch ($230-400). This is especially true if it has significantly more DRAM and processing power, which is likely for some of its assumed roles and distinction from the Touch line. But it also probably can’t approach the MacBook’s $1000 entry point for positioning reasons. So it would probably cost $500-600.

Who’s buying this thing? Is it really enough a market for Apple to invest any significant amount of resources into? Are there really that many people who want a $500 device too big to fit in their pocket yet too small to be useful as a general-purpose computer (especially without a keyboard), to fill a gap that doesn’t really seem to exist for most people, that probably won’t remove their need for a mobile phone and a laptop?

If this demand really exists, why hasn’t anyone else been able to have even remote success in it? They’ve certainly tried. For a while.

Apple has always found creative and amazing ways to prove my “they won’t do it” predictions wrong, but this one’s a hell of a stretch. This time, it’s not just a question of whether they can do it well. It’s a question of why they’d want to do this sort of thing at all.

I’m just not seeing how it all fits together.

If you enjoyed the Dead Like Me TV series, absolutely never see the follow-up movie. Wow, that was just about as awful as they could have possibly made it.

Real Life Twitter by Dan.

“Just got to New York City. What are good things to see and do here?”

Hilarious. (via rickyv)

iPhone game recommendations?

I have a long flight tonight and wouldn’t mind getting some new games.

The kind of stuff I like and some of what I already have:

What I don’t like:

What’s good and relatively new, even if it’s not on the Top lists?

Already tried: Eliss, Zen Bound, Frenzic, StickWars. Also, please don’t overwhelmingly all suggest the same handful of games — I’m looking at EVERY suggestion anyway, so the more, the better!

Edge has been suggested a few times, but it has disappeared from the App Store. Maybe Mobigame didn’t renew their ADC membership.

BOUGHT SO FAR TODAY: Pocket Tanks, Drop7, Trism, Archibald’s Adventures, Flood-It!, Fruit Juice Tycoon, Jabeh, Slay, LightBike, reMovem, Touch Physics, Primrose, UniWar

Office 2010 Screenshots Preview What’s to Come

And… I’m glad I’m over here in Mac-webdev-land, not over there in Windows-Office-world. It’s amazing that anyone over there gets anything done at all. (Do they?)

They’ve come so far

Found a good roaster in Happyland, Arizona or something like that.

Ads via The Deck