The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2015-10-04T01:12:18+00:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. How to learn things you’re not interested in Nic Lindh 2015-10-03T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/filofax.jpg" /></p> <p><i>The Filofax I used to run my life for a decade. iPhone 6 for scale.</i></p> <p>Back in college I took a one-credit geology lab class as part of my science requirements. The final exam was going to be simple: Identify 30 rocks. That was it. Identify the 30 rocks.</p> <p>So I dutifully made calendar entries in my <a href="">Filofax</a> to go to the lab once a week and learn to identify the damn rocks. Sat there at the bench and stared at the rocks. And got nowhere. The damn rocks just sat there and stared back at me.</p> <p>Failure was not an option, so I started going twice a week to that miserable geology lab to stare at the rocks.</p> <p>Nope.</p> <p>I was going to fail that final so bad.</p> <p>Then I realized I couldn&rsquo;t make myself learn about the rocks because I didn&rsquo;t care about them. <em>What if I made myself care?</em> So I lied to myself. It took some effort, but I managed to talk myself into caring about rocks. Majesty of our planet, the huge forces at work to form everything around us, etc.</p> <p>And it worked. Once I convinced myself I cared about rocks, learning to recognize them was easy. Learning about something you care about is a joy.</p> <p>Yes, I aced the final.</p> <p>The trick is to really convince yourself you care. And yes, that can be close to impossible. </p> <p>A few years ago I decided to become conversant about American football. It&rsquo;s a topic that comes up in casual conversation way more often than I&rsquo;d like, and all I can do is to go to the happy place in my head when people are talking about it. Which is fine, really. I like the happy place in my head. But let&rsquo;s give it the old college try, shall we?</p> <p>So I sat down to watch a game with my iPad at the ready, and started looking up the terms the announcers were using on WikiPedia. And yes, I had plenty of time to look up terms since the game stops for commercials every 20 seconds or so. <em>Mmmmm crappy beer.</em></p> <p>After a while I felt I had a pretty good grasp of how the game works and what the terms meant.</p> <p>So a few weeks later I decided to check myself and watched another game. <em>Nope.</em> Remembered nothing. No idea what they were jammering on about.</p> <p>The fault here was of course that I had done this as an intellectual exercise without convincing myself I actually cared.</p> <p>You have to care.</p> Yearning for the Cold War Nic Lindh 2015-09-25T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Despicable human being though he is, Trump is inarguably good at verbal gymnastics, and his slogan &ldquo;Make America Great Again&rdquo; is resonating with a large section of the GOP base.</p> <p>And <a href="">the GOP base is mostly old and white</a>. Look at the audience pictures from a Trump—or any other GOP candidate, for that matter—rally: A sea of old, white people who look like they&rsquo;ve had hard lives and want to make somebody pay. </p> <p>These are people who grew up during the Cold War, when things were simpler. Russia was an Evil Empire and America was good. We had a common enemy to define ourselves against and above all, we were winning. Living standards were constantly going up and the average white family did better and better year over year.</p> <p>New cars in driveways, larger and larger houses: America was truly the Land of Opportunity.</p> <p>This view of course ignores the realities of minorities, but for the average white American, things were indeed good and getting better.</p> <p>And then we won. The Evil Empire fell. And then progress for the average white person stalled, especially in the rural communities where most of the GOP base live. It&rsquo;s grim, watching your community dwindle and gray as the young people move away to the cities and your infrastructure crumbles.</p> <p>Things got a whole lot better for minorities, though. And if you&rsquo;re not particularly reflective, it would be easy to put those things together in a <a href="">zero-sum game</a>. <em>Their gain must come from our loss.</em> Fuelling a simmering undercurrent of racism.</p> <p>So then, it becomes potent to say, as most politicians targeting the GOP base do, &ldquo;We&rsquo;re taking America back!&rdquo;</p> <p>Which is a great slogan, utterly void of detail: Taking America back from whom, exactly?</p> <p>Which is never spelled out, but nudge-nudge wink-wink, <em>we know, don&rsquo;t we</em>?</p> <p>Is it the Eastern liberal elite? The gays? The United Nations? The Mexicans? Is it—<em>looks over shoulder and lowers voice</em>—the Jews? </p> <p>It&rsquo;s a bigot fill-in-the-blank.</p> <p>But back to &ldquo;Make America Great Again.&rdquo; </p> <p>If you were growing up white in the &lsquo;50s and &#39;60s, America was indeed great—the city on the hill where every year things got better and opportunity was boundless. The looming presence of the Russian Evil Empire was a large part of the solidarity of the time—it was the common enemy, the enemy that defined you by what you were not. Which is extra important in an adolescent country made up of more-or-less recent immigrants, struggling to agree on a definition of exactly what it means to be American.</p> <p>The common enemy binds a people together and enforces a national character. Combine this with a rapidly growing economy, and you have an extremely powerful kind of safety and belonging.</p> <p>A large part of the strategy of far-right candidates these days involves evoking that new enemy, that new galvanizing force. Sadly there&rsquo;s no accompanying plan for how to make the economy better enough to help most people, but let&rsquo;s shelve that for right now as we talk about the Enemy.</p> <p>Enter radical Islam. </p> <p>We need a new Evil Empire to galvanize us and with the Russians still licking their wounds—and we beat them once, so it&rsquo;s kind of ho-hum, isn&rsquo;t it?—we need a new enemy. If you watch FOX News, there&rsquo;s a lot of worry about ISIL and Sharia law.</p> <p>ISIL is a bunch of bronze-age anger addicts, and unless you are living in the Middle East it is really not a concern. (If you live in the Middle East this bunch of assholes is a massive problem, of course.)</p> <p>Would these idiots love to commit terror acts in the US mainland? Of course they would. They would dance jigs if they could blow up a post office in Cleveland. But will they be able to? Probably not. They&rsquo;re kind of busy terrorizing the people in their area. Plus that ever since 9/11 America has been hyper-paranoid about terrorism, so it&rsquo;s way harder to attack us now.</p> <p>But ISIL, idiot thugs though they are, and as neutered as they are compared to the real Evil Empire, are the best fit as boogey men for the people who long for the days of the Cold War.</p> <p>America will be made great again when we, as Americans, make it great. No matter how comforting it is, manufacturing an enemy isn&rsquo;t going to do anything except make a lot of old white people in rural areas more agitated than they really should be.</p> <p>The problem isn&rsquo;t the minorities. The problem isn&rsquo;t ISIL. The problem isn&rsquo;t Sharia law.</p> <p>The problem is a system that doesn&rsquo;t care about old white people, apart from keeping them angry and voting.</p> The one sentence rule Nic Lindh 2015-09-18T00:00:00+00:00 <p>A lot of times when working on a project—or your life—you find yourself stuck. And the ideas come in. Should I do this? Should I do that?</p> <p>Especially at the exhaustion stages of a project—or your life—it&rsquo;s common to just want to <em>pick one</em> and get it over with. But which one?</p> <p>Pay attention, class, here&rsquo;s where I get as life coach as I ever get: As a boy in Sweden I read a chess book that said, paraphrasing, &ldquo;If you can&rsquo;t tell yourself in one sentence what a move will accomplish, it&rsquo;s not a good move.&rdquo;</p> <p>That&rsquo;s <a href="">Sun Tzu</a> level discipline.</p> <p>&ldquo;If you can&rsquo;t tell yourself in one sentence what a move will accomplish, it&rsquo;s not a good move.&rdquo;</p> <p>Try it the next time you have an urge to do something. Can you tell yourself, in one sentence, what that action will accomplish?</p> <p>If you can&rsquo;t, that action will most likely take you to the same place you&rsquo;re at, or worse, just a little farther down the road.</p> Digital hygiene for online security and safety Nic Lindh 2015-08-22T00:00:00+00:00 <p>As we lead more and more of our lives online the risks of losing control of your accounts get more dire, including both our money and our reputations.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t want to end up completely paralyzed by paranoia, but you don&rsquo;t want to make yourself a target, either. This post is written for &ldquo;normal&rdquo; people who aren&rsquo;t likely to be targets for concerted attacks, but instead are more likely to get caught up in automated attacks perpetrated by criminals.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re Jennifer Lawrence, you need to get way, way more paranoid than this. But you&rsquo;re probably not.</p> <p>The basic problem we have is that securing computers is incredibly hard—it&rsquo;s something humans just did not evolve to be good at—so sooner or later some site you use <em>will</em> be cracked and criminals will make off with whatever information they found. This information will then be sold and traded and used in various creative ways to attack other sites and institutions in a chain of awfulness.</p> <p>Remember, though, that for most people these are automated attacks that go for the low-hanging fruit, so some basic hygiene will protect you well. The steps below will help you lock your digital doors and windows. Let&rsquo;s go through the steps.</p> <h3>Protect your email account above all else</h3> <p>Arguably your most important accounts are your email accounts—if somebody takes control of your email that person can send password resets from pretty much any other site and it&rsquo;s game over.</p> <p>This means yes, you should use a <em>unique</em> and <em>complicated</em> password for your email.</p> <p>Again, your email accounts are the keys to <em>all your other accounts</em>—guard them carefully.</p> <h3>Use two-factor authentication everywhere you can</h3> <p>Two-factor authentication combines something you know (your password) with something you have (your phone). Some sites will send you a text message with a verification code, some will use a special app on your phone—such as <a href="">Google Authenticator</a>—to verify your identity.</p> <p>If you use a site—like GMail or Dropbox—that offers two-factor authentication, <em>turn it on, now!</em></p> <p>This is the single most powerful thing you can do to increase your security online.</p> <h3>Don&rsquo;t reuse passwords</h3> <p>This one is obvious—if attackers get a hold of your user name and password from one site, they will attempt to log in to any site they can think of with that same combination. If you&rsquo;ve reused passwords across accounts, boom, they&rsquo;re in.</p> <p>But, you sigh, I have so many accounts there&rsquo;s no way I can remember unique passwords for all of them.</p> <p>True. Neither can I. Neither can Batman. In 2015 a password manager is <em>required</em>, not optional. Is it a pain? Yes. Is it more of a pain than having somebody break into your accounts? No, it is not.</p> <p>A good password manager makes it easy to generate hard-to-crack, unique passwords for each one of your accounts. Personally I use <a href="">1Password</a> on my Macs and iOS devices and it&rsquo;s working great for me. (Not an affiliate link—I genuinely use and recommend it.) If you find another one like <a href="">LastPass</a> or <a href="">KeyPass</a> that works for you, go for it. Just pick one and <em>use it</em>.</p> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve converted over, you only need to remember the one (very strong) password you set up for the password manager itself.</p> <p>Note that if you&rsquo;re in the Apple ecosystem, Safari on the Mac and iOS has a very bare-bones password manager built in, which is certainly better than nothing.</p> <h3>Lie on the security questions</h3> <p>This one is a bit more paranoid, but with the ease of finding personal information these days, the shadow of an automated attack that finds out the answers to common security questions <em>en masse</em> is lurking. So, lie. If the question is, &ldquo;What street did you live on as a child?&rdquo;, answer &ldquo;James Bond&rdquo; or something nonsensical like that.</p> <p>Obviously, you&rsquo;re going to have to write down your dirty lies somewhere, like your password manager.</p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>Increasing your online security mostly requires changing your thinking a bit to become more conscious of the risks. Follow the tips above and you&rsquo;ll avoid at least automated trawls from criminals on the net.</p> <p><em>Note:</em> You might follow all these tips and still end up a victim. Nothing is guaranteed. Be careful out there.</p> <p><em>Style note:</em> The word &ldquo;hacker&rdquo; used to mean somebody who did clever things with computers and has since be co-opted to mean &ldquo;computer criminal.&rdquo; By not using it in that sense in this post I&rsquo;m doing my tiny part to bring the word back to its real meaning. If you write for public consumption, please consider not misusing &ldquo;hacker&rdquo; to mean &ldquo;computer criminal.&rdquo; You can write two words instead of one. I believe in you.</p> Closing loops Nic Lindh 2015-08-07T00:00:00+00:00 <p>One of my favorite take-aways from the brilliant <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=getting%2Bthings%2Bdone&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1439001309">Gettings Thing Done</a></em> is the idea of open loops.</p> <p>Modern life is cursed with the fact that our brains are unable to handle the complexity we inhabit. This is why your brain reminds you to write an email while you&rsquo;re in line at the grocery store, or to schedule a meeting while you&rsquo;re driving home from work. Your brain wants to sit in front of a fire on the savannah and think about the best place to go for tomorrow&rsquo;s hunt, not handle a ton of different projects and obligations.</p> <p>Which is why the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology works so well: You write things down and then you look at the list of things you&rsquo;ve written down and your brain can stop worrying about it. </p> <p>It&rsquo;s genius in its simplicity.</p> <p>But there&rsquo;s still the issue of open loops. How many projects do you have in various stages of completion? How much data do you have to load to get into the groove of each different project? How much overhead do you have in keeping up with the progress of the different projects?</p> <p>(Note that in GTD parlance, &ldquo;project&rdquo; simply means an end state you want to achieve that will require more than one step. Booking a flight is a step toward the project vacation, for example.)</p> <p>One thing that&rsquo;s been helping me reduce stress is to <em>actively</em> strive to avoid open projects—anything I can do to end a project takes priority. Even if the project is small or the tasks required to wrap it up are easy, it&rsquo;s still open and it&rsquo;s still consuming mind space.</p> <p>The same amount of work spread over fewer projects <em>feels</em> like less work even though it isn&rsquo;t. It works for me and I hope it can help somebody else reduce their level of stress.</p> Jade Helm and the fever swamps of patriotism Nic Lindh 2015-08-04T00:00:00+00:00 <p>There&rsquo;s always been an undercurrent of demented paranoia in American politics, and one of the side effects of the new media revolution is to allow it to spread more and more every year. Hence the topic of this post, the Jade Helm drama, which if you&rsquo;ve lived in blissful ignorance is <a href="">ably summarized on its own very long Wikipedia page</a>. </p> <p>Personally I think that when the U.S. history books of the future are written they will cite the Jade Helm controversy of 2015 as a delineator for when the splinters in the Republic really began to show. But then, I&rsquo;m inclined to view things through the lens of the fall of the Roman Republic. History will show if I&rsquo;m insightful or just a crank.</p> <p>Note this is not a matter of liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. It&rsquo;s a matter of people with a grasp of sanity and people without.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s dig in. Jade Helm, if you&rsquo;re lucky enough to be ignorant of this whole situation, is a military term for a training exercise they conduct every so often where they simulate meeting an opposing force the armed forces train to defeat. It&rsquo;s known as Jade Helm because during the cold war the armed forces created complete uniforms for these forces which included helmets colored jade for easy identification.</p> <p>As I type this the military is conducting a large-scale exercise in infiltration and concealment in several states, including Texas, which was chosen since its geography resembles certain other countries where those forces may have to deploy. Think desert.</p> <p>Which seems rational, right? The military has to train in order to be effective in hot situations, does it not?</p> <p><em>Nope!</em> Here&rsquo;s where the fever swamps come in and why I believe this is such a huge deal for the Republic. See, a sizable minority of, not to put too fine a point of it, lunatics, have convinced themselves that this operation is just the cover for a cunning plan by the U.S. government to—read the next bit slowly—invade Texas.</p> <p>You might be saying, &ldquo;Huh, why would a government invade its own territory?&rdquo; And that would be a good question. And it&rsquo;s where you and the fever swamps part company.</p> <p>There are a bunch of other paranoid oooooh-kays added to the mix, including the suspicious closures of Wal-Marts that are clearly going to house Chinese and Russian soldiers or perhaps be food dumps for the occupiers or perhaps be internment camps for Patriots, underground tunnels, and ice cream truck mobile morgues. Here&rsquo;s a <a href="">brief roundup of some of the conspiracies</a>.</p> <p>Take a moment to center your chi and then let&rsquo;s talk about the basic idea here. Which you would say is a fringe lunatic thing and you would be correct, except, and this is why this one will go in the history books, this idea has spread enough that the <a href="">governor of Texas has ordered the National Guard to keep an eye on things</a> and every potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate asked about Jade Helm is giving the most vague answer possible in order to not upset the base. It is no longer an idea for the most deranged message boards: The idea that the U.S. government is planning to invade itself is, if certainly not mainstream, way outside the Black Helicopter fringe.</p> <p>Why is this?</p> <p>First off, there&rsquo;s always been a paranoid, delusional strain in American politics. Douglas Hofstadter wrote <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1438308831">the seminal work about this</a> in the 1960s and his words ring like they were written yesterday. If you&rsquo;re interested in this at all, Douglas Hofstadter is the place to start.</p> <p>Though back when Hofstadter was working, it was a small core of fringe elements who believed the Jewish conspiracy, the United Nations Black Helicopters and the Illuminati were factors in American politics.</p> <p>But it&rsquo;s spreading. When the governor of an American state has to kowtow to ideas the military are plotting to abduct freedom fighters in its own country, something has changed.</p> <p>If you spend any time at all online looking around the places where Dastardly Plots to Destroy Freedom are discussed, you find that almost everybody involved considers themself a Patriot (yes, capital-P). These are people who believe in the Constitution of this great nation and who see it being corrupted by people who hate America.</p> <p>According to them, every day the people who hate America go to work, check the Gay Agenda to make sure they&rsquo;re not getting in the way, and then pinch away at the Constitution any way they can.</p> <p>Hofstadter had this to say about the idea that the people you disagree with are anti-American:</p> <blockquote> <p>The two-party system, as it has developed in the United States, hangs on the common recognition of loyal opposition: each side accepts the ultimate good intentions of the other. The opponent’s judgment may be held to be consistently execrable, but the legitimacy of his intent is not—that is, in popular terms, his Americanism is not questioned. One of the unspoken assumptions of presidential campaigns is that the leaders of both parties are patriots who, however serious their mistakes, must be accorded the right to govern. But an essential point in the pseudo-conservative world view is that our recent Presidents, being men of wholly evil intent, have conspired against the public good. This does more than discredit them: it calls into question the validity of the political system that keeps putting such men into office.</p> </blockquote> <p>The idea that the person you have an ideological disagreement with isn&rsquo;t just coming from a different angle than you, but that this person <em>hates your country</em> is what takes it from politics to feverish paranoia. For extra credit, do a Google search on &ldquo;Does Obama hate America&rdquo; and see what you find.</p> <p>And this is where things get very interesting from a psychological standpoint. These are Patriots who want to preserve their country, but who have found that the government of this country are in fact out to destroy it. That is, the democratically elected representatives of this country are actively anti-American.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s key for this world view that the American government hates America and the Constitution.</p> <h3>But why the military?</h3> <p>All Americans have grown up being taught to respect our Armed Forces. And we should. Every soldier who puts themself in harm&rsquo;s way to protect their country deserves our respect and above all our help when they come back from their battle fields. </p> <p>But notice how the Jade Helm hysteria has changed this: Now the might of America and its soldiers is turning toward small cities in Texas, which will be invaded and taken over, the true Patriots taken to concentration camps in chains. Or tunnels under Wal-Marts. Either way, it&rsquo;s bad.</p> <p>How is this not utterly insulting to our Armed Forces? American citizens are now believing that their soldiers (many of whom come from their communities) are anti-American thugs who will smile as they disappear True Patriots? How does that jibe at all with respecting the Armed Forces?</p> <p>Again, if this was contained to the fever swamps it would be one thing, but when the governor of Texas feels the need to appease people who believe that the young men and women from their own communities are now coming to establish prison camps for their fellow citizens because … uhm … freedom? something is horribly broken.</p> <h3>A crumbling Empire</h3> <p>It&rsquo;s not hard to see why people would become disenchanted—travel small-town America and you see communities falling apart from the lack of work and the infestation of drugs, an infrastructure that&rsquo;s falling apart, young people leaving as fast as they can rent a U-Haul, a shrinking middle class and a general feeling of malaise.</p> <p>(If you don&rsquo;t believe me, drive two hours from the metropolis where you live and stop at the first small town you get to. Then walk around for a few hours. Visit the Wal-Mart. Then tell me what you saw.)</p> <p>But in the Patriot mind this is not because America is having a systemic problem but because the enemy is succeeding, hurting America every day through its cunning conspiracy. America is the greatest country on Earth so the decay you see every day must be due to a conspiracy of powerful enemies. It can&rsquo;t be due to a long series of bad decisions since America by definition is great, so it must be due a conspiracy, and not just any conspiracy, a conspiracy large enough, powerful enough to bring the greatest nation on Earth to its knees.</p> <p>A conspiracy only a true Patriot can see.</p> <p>And after Jade Helm is concluded, the humvees drive away and it turns out nothing apart from a military exercise has taken place, the true believers will know that it&rsquo;s only because they watched the military and kept them from executing their horrible plan.</p> <p>Because having a few people in camouflage clothing hanging around would surely stop a plan by a military and a government to take over its own country in its tracks.</p> <p>And then the rumors of the next conspiracy will begin to circulate…</p> How to install Jekyll on Amazon Linux Nic Lindh 2015-08-01T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Figuring out how to install <a href="">Jekyll</a> on an EC2 instance running Amazon Linux took some googling around for me, but like most things, once you know how it&rsquo;s easy.</p> <p>Run the following commands:</p> <div class="highlight"><pre><code class="language-text" data-lang="text">sudo yum update -y sudo yum groupinstall &quot;Development Tools&quot; -y sudo yum install ruby-rdoc ruby-devel -y sudo gem install therubyracer sudo gem install jekyll </code></pre></div> <p>The dev tools group install will install way more tools than you actually need for this purpose. Whatevs.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t need <code>therubyracer</code> if you already have Node installed.</p> <p>Note that this is just the Jekyll part. Wrapping your head around EC2 in general will require some quality time with Amazon&rsquo;s documentation.</p> <p><em>This was tested on an Amazon Linux AMI 2015.03.</em></p> Will the Apple Watch be a success? Nic Lindh 2015-07-11T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/apple-watch.jpg" /></p> <p><i>It's watches all the way down on this hairy arm.</i></p> <h3>Where I&rsquo;m coming from</h3> <p>I&rsquo;m the kind of person who has worn a watch since I can remember, and have a neurotic need to know the exact time—and to be able to know it by a glance at my wrist. Which is what kept me wearing a watch after I started carrying a device that told the time and was synced to an atomic time server in the sky, in other words a much more accurate time piece than the analog collection of springs on my wrist. But pulling a phone out of my pocket and turning on the screen isn&rsquo;t exactly <em>glancing</em>.</p> <p>I have worn a <a href="">Pebble</a> since you could buy them in stores, and loved it for both providing interesting ways for me to see the time and for putting notifications on my wrist. Granted, the Pebble was not what you&rsquo;d call a handsome piece of hardware, especially the low-resolution black and white e-ink display, but triaging notifications on the wrist was <em>huge</em>.</p> <p>Other things the Pebble allowed, like quick timers for the BBQ and the gym, as well as controlling music and podcast playback right there on the wrist were also huge. But the Pebble certainly felt like the first iteration of a product category. </p> <p>And kudos to them for all the things they got right within their limitations as a start up and first-mover.</p> <p>But now the Apple Watch is the new sheriff in town. (I can&rsquo;t speak to the <a href="">Android Wear</a> product line since I don&rsquo;t have an Android phone and so could never use one. I wanted to, but sadness, could not.) </p> <p>The Apple Watch is confusing people, I think, by being several different things in one, and some of those things more successfully than others.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s take a look at the main roles the Apple Watch inhabits.</p> <h3>As a watch</h3> <p>It sits on your wrist and tells the time, as a watch by definition must, but unfortunately that functionality is the weakest since battery constraints makes the watch go through most of its life with its screen off. Glance down at your wrist and you&rsquo;ll see the void, unless you jerk your wrist to wake it up.</p> <p>Which unfortunately is pretty hit and miss. Sometimes it wakes and sometimes it doesn&rsquo;t. Sometimes, if you&rsquo;ve been too wrist-active, it wakes up for a fraction of a second, then goes back to sullen darkness.</p> <p>This means you can&rsquo;t just glance at it like a traditional watch: You have to jerk your wrist, and when it&rsquo;s not in the mood to cooperate you end up having to tap the screen. This can make it hard to steal a glance at the time in polite conversation.</p> <p>Basically you have a slab of metal and glass on your wrist that requires you to either jerk like you&rsquo;re having a petit mal or tap on it to be able to tell the time. Neither of which you can do in a discreet fashion. Not to be too harsh, when the wrist motion works, it&rsquo;s great—move wrist, see time, go on with life—but that it so often doesn&rsquo;t is incredibly frustrating and a huge problem for the primary purpose of a watch.</p> <p>Really hope the next version will have a way to just show the time continuously. You know, like a watch.</p> <h3>As a fitness device</h3> <p>Apple did a spectacular job of turning the watch into a <a href="">clicker trainer</a> for humans. It lets you know about your movement achievements during the day in a relentlessly positive way and since our human wetware is miswired enough that encouragement from an inanimate object on our wrists actually makes us happy, it does work to make you move around more in daily life.</p> <p>Though realizing you&rsquo;re <em>that</em> easy to manipulate may bring some sadness during quiet contemplation.</p> <p>From a psychological standpoint it&rsquo;s spectacularly well done. Really, if you&rsquo;re interested in psychology you should purchase an Apple Watch just to see how well subtle manipulation can be done. Which, since it&rsquo;s manipulating you to do something that is good for you, I am in favor of.</p> <p>It also tracks your heartbeat and logs workouts, which functionality is a bit rougher. When you&rsquo;re going to work out, the watch provides a list of different activities to choose from, like outdoor walk, elliptical, stair stepper, etc. which lets the device understand better how much you&rsquo;re actually moving, but it doesn&rsquo;t have modes for many common activities like yoga, weight lifting and Pilates. Which seems to mean the little watch brain has to guess a bit more about how many calories you&rsquo;re burning and what the heck it is you&rsquo;re up to.</p> <p>But it&rsquo;s early days and I&rsquo;m sure Apple engineers are working on adding more kinds of workouts. It would be nice if the device became smart enough to figure out what kind of workout you&rsquo;re doing just by the motions of your wrist, but that may be a bit too close to magic to be reasonable.</p> <p>The core of exercise monitoring is of course the heart rate monitor. Let it be said that it&rsquo;s incredibly cool a watch includes a heart rate monitor. <em>This thing tracks your pulse all day just by sitting on your wrist.</em> That&rsquo;s the kind of thing <em><a href="">Mondo 2000</a></em> got all kinds of excited about more than 20 years ago.</p> <p>But the heart rate monitoring is far from perfect and sometimes either stops taking measurements, with the activity app futilely struggling to get a new reading, and sometimes, frustratingly, seems like it&rsquo;s only measuring half your heart rate.</p> <p>There I am in the gym, lifting weights, and all of a sudden my heartrate drops from 109 to 54 beats per minute, staying there for a few minutes until whatever wires were crossed managed to uncross themselves. (It was kind of scary the first time—<em>oh Lord, am I dying?</em>)</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve seen this during yoga, weightlifting, and walking, so it doesn&rsquo;t seem to be activity related. And no, I don&rsquo;t have a wrist tattoo. Sometimes the heart rate monitor just cuts your heart rate in half.</p> <p>This of course throws off your average heart rate for the workout. <em>Dammit, I want credit for the work I did!</em> </p> <p>I&rsquo;m assuming Apple engineers are aware of this and working to fix. Unless my heart and wrist are indeed special.</p> <h3>As a notification filter</h3> <p>As mentioned above, the huge thing the Pebble did for me was to be a notification filter. Meaning any notifications I would have seen on my phone I first saw on my wrist without having to take the phone out of my pocket. Which is so, so nice. Seriously, if you haven&rsquo;t had notifications on your wrist, you&rsquo;re missing out on the next level of connected society.</p> <p>The Pebble was always limited in that it couldn&rsquo;t choose which notifications I wanted to see on my wrist and which on my iPhone—if it was a notification, I saw it in both places. Apple, as the platform owner, doesn&rsquo;t have those limitations. With an Apple Watch, you can pick which notifications you want on the phone and which you want on the watch <em>and</em> if you&rsquo;ve dismissed a notification on the watch it&rsquo;s dismissed on the phone as well.</p> <p>Which is as expected—it&rsquo;s good to be the platform owner.</p> <p>An angry sidebar here: To all the people who wrote articles about how awful it would be to have your wrist disturb you all the time because your phone was set to have every notification possible on and the watch would light up like a Christmas tree and oh, the horror. First: Use a device before you write annoying Luddite horse shit articles about it, OK? Call it a think piece if you want, but all it is is you masturbating into a keyboard for money; and Second: Turn off notifications you don&rsquo;t care about, you nimrod. If your phone is bothering you all the time about things, <em>you can turn that off</em>. Why do you live with a device that you can do with as you want and decide to let it give you a stroke? Why would you do that?</p> <p>OK, I feel better now. It&rsquo;s just, why do you have Luddites writing about technology except you expect your readers to all be Luddites who will agree with your alpha-Luddite and in that case why are you even covering technology except to make your readers feel better about their Luddite tendencies and if that&rsquo;s the reason, don&rsquo;t you have something better to cover than to pander to your readers&rsquo; insecurities? And yes, I&rsquo;m looking at you, <em>New York Times</em> and your bird-brain <a href="">digital dog collar</a> article.</p> <p>The watch does a great job as a notification triage device, especially since the watch and iPhone talk back and forth and know which notifications have already been dismissed on the other device. It&rsquo;s very nice and just like TV remotes the kind of thing you scoff at before you have it and then once you have it you wonder how you ever lived without it. Really.</p> <h3>As an object</h3> <p>The physical object that is the Apple Watch is divided into two pieces: The watch and the strap. Apple has done a magnificent job of creating a way for straps to be easy and quick to swap. The kind of job, incidentally, the watch industry could have done 100 years ago if they had cared. Creating a standard mechanism that makes it easy to swap straps does not require expertise in semiconductors and CPU architectures. But the watch industry didn&rsquo;t care. Because who wants the kind of animal for a customer who can&rsquo;t afford to hire a jeweler to change straps? (Or the kind of customer who doesn&rsquo;t enjoy deep-diving into purchasing exotic tools and learning a skill only useful for his hobby? (And yes, the &ldquo;his&rdquo; in the previous sentence is deliberate—only us men get ourselves that deep into the weeds.))</p> <p>I am a simple man, so I bought an Apple Watch Sport with a rubber strap, and you know what? It&rsquo;s gorgeous. It&rsquo;s the cheapest one you can get—although starting at $349 for the lady size it&rsquo;s certainly not cheap—and it is a beautiful object. It is a bit too thick, really, to pass for a regular watch, but it&rsquo;s not cartoonish in any way, and the materials are solid and just &hellip; nice.</p> <p>This is a nice object, and with an impending infinity of straps coming, you can bet Apple will make an absolutely stupid amount of money in the holiday season. Plus, you will be able to find one you really like.</p> <h3>Final thoughts</h3> <p>Will the Apple Watch succeed? Obviously that depends on your definition of success. Will it be a juggernaut like the iPod and iPhone? Doubtful. Living on your wrist makes it by definition more of a niche product since a lot of people simply don&rsquo;t like to have things on their wrists and will require a really good reason to spend $349 and up on a watch. That reason, at this point, is notifications and fitness. If you&rsquo;re a naked wrist in 2015 and you&rsquo;re not interested in either, it&rsquo;s going to be a tough sell.</p> <p>Which isn&rsquo;t to say a killer app can&rsquo;t appear—it&rsquo;s early days and there may be some activity the Apple Watch is a total gimme to disrupt. What that is I couldn&rsquo;t say, and if I could say I wouldn&rsquo;t because I&rsquo;d be mortgaging the house and betting every dollar on it.</p> <p>Adding to the problem is that few people will see a clear reason why this thing makes your life appreciably better. After the initial hype dies down I think it will be a hard sell for people not used to wearing watches, especially naked wrist types who aren&rsquo;t into fitness or health.</p> <p>But for people who wear watches and fitness enthusiasts it will make a lot of people happy. Especially after Apple figures out how to make the thing tell time <em>all the time.</em></p> <p>I predict the Apple Watch to be a moderate success in that it will find die-hard fans but will not move anywhere near the volume of units of the iPod or iPhone. Though it might be remembered fondly by historians a few hundred years from now as the first wearable to find mass market appeal and then ushered in the age of embedded devices.</p> Book roundup, part 19 Nic Lindh 2015-06-22T00:00:00+00:00 <h2>Non-fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";sr=8-1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard, by John Branch</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Anybody who knows me knows that very few of my neurons are occupied with sports. But I am interested in humans, and the troubling, dishonorable way organized sports has dealt with issues like head trauma and the pain of athletes&rsquo; broken bodies made me pick up <em>Boy on Ice</em>.</p> <p>And it&rsquo;s disgusting. The callous disregard of Boogaard&rsquo;s teams as he spirals into prescription pain killer abuse from the need to dampen the pain of his injuries enough to stay on the ice as an enforcer is horrifying.</p> <p>Also, I had no idea ice hockey had gotten that brutal and the scenes of the audience roaring its approval and bloodlust at the constant fights does not compare favorably with the Romans at their games.</p> <p><em>Boy on Ice</em> is well-reported and well-written and deals with an important issue, but it runs much longer than it really needs, devolving into a seemingly endless list of games Boogaard participated in, who he fought, the weather that day, and on and on. Though perhaps it only felt that long since I&rsquo;m not a fan. Your mileage may vary.</p> <p>And speaking of not being a fan: For all that&rsquo;s holy, people, it&rsquo;s <em>by definition</em> a <em>game</em>. Should people really get crippled and die for your entertainment?</p> <p>Wait, don&rsquo;t answer that.</p> <h3><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=difficult%2Bmen&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1428950509">Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution, by Brett Martin</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Tracks the inner workings of the latest golden age of television, shows such as <em>The Sopranos</em>, <em>The Wire</em>, <em>Deadwood</em>, and <em>Breaking Bad</em>, how they were greenlit, the economics behind the scenes and of course the showrunners who brought them to fruition.</p> <p>Basically it&rsquo;s a litany of damaged men being difficult-to-deal-with <em>artistes</em> while creating shows about damaged men being difficult-to-deal-with in even more sociopathic and violent means than the showrunners themselves.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s an interesting look into a notoriously weird industry and how some people—all men, in this case—managed to create art despite the intentions and interruptions of the people holding the money bags.</p> <p>As a sidenote and something I&rsquo;ve never thought about, there&rsquo;s a discussion about the golden age of American film in the 1970s that makes the argument that it was possible because of most movie theaters being located in the inner cities and how when the theaters moved into the suburbs the spell was broken and Summer Flagpole Blow Stuff Up became a thing, as it relates to the golden age of television becoming possible as cable TV became a thing, freeing the creators from the shackles of pleasing mainstream audiences and the motivations TV executives projected onto the mass audiences.</p> <p><em>Difficult Men</em> is a good read for anybody interested in how dramatic television gets made and shows how much of the business is sheer dumb luck and timing and the constraints creators operate under, but it does feels a bit neutered, like the really good bits are being held back.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=restaurant%2Bman&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434853096">Restaurant Man, by Joe Bastianich</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>Bastianich has made his fortune creating hip restaurants and <em>Restaurant Man</em> is his telling of his journey. As a person who enjoys eating and cooking, I found it both interesting and revolting—turns out the restaurant business is horrifying and something I want to never get involved with, even as a customer.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s an interesting read, even if Bastianich&rsquo;s in-your-face alpha male from New York schtick gets very tiring very fast. And Bastianich comes across as a person I never want to meet. The words <em>Christ what an asshole</em> did flit through my mind many a time while reading <em>Restaurant Man.</em> But be that as it may, it is an interesting look into the world of celebrity chef-dom.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-3&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">The Red Line, by John Nichol</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Tells the tale of the bloodiest night of RAF&rsquo;s Bomber Command during World War II, the disastrous Nuremberg raid, a poorly conceived and executed bombing run where nearly 700 men were shot out of the sky in a single night.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve read <a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=bomber%2Bcommand%2Bmax%2Bhastings&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434858464">Bomber Command</a>, Max Hastings&rsquo;s magisterial work on the RAF&rsquo;s bombing campaign, <em>The Red Line</em> doesn&rsquo;t add much new information, but it adds much color to the experiences of the bomber crews, who, like so many soldiers during WWII, went through such horrific events it&rsquo;s amazing most of them were able to return to society after the war.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=cunning%2Bplans%2Bwarren%2Bellis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434939164">Cunning Plans: Talks by Warren Ellis, by Warren Ellis</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A compilation of recent talks by writer and Internet mad man Warren Ellis about the intersection of magic and technology, the haunted future, and general very smart weirdness. Well worth reading and thinking about and only $0.99 in the US, so worth taking a chance on if you&rsquo;re not familiar with the oddness that is Warren Ellis.</p> <h2>Fiction</h2> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=seveneves&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434853197">Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Neal Stephenson is one of those frustrating writers who are so talented and smart you develop a complex just reading them. <em>Seveneves</em> continues that tradition. But it really is two novels in one—the first one being a tale of the world preparing for an inevitable apocalypse, and the second one picking up the story of the survivors 5,000 years later.</p> <p><em>Seveneves</em> is a throwback to Heinlein-style hard sci-fi where Smart Engineers Solve Problems and normal humans get in the way with their Emotions and Politics. (Though without the troubling misogyny of that genre.) It&rsquo;s a very nice mode for Stephenson to work in and allows him to move a fast and sleek plot efficiently forward with his usual elegant prose.</p> <p>The first part of the novel is a compelling, breathless page turner, an extremely well-engineered techno thriller, and then the 5,000 years later part drops a full dubstep wub-break as Stephenson imagines the results of the decisions made in the first part, allowing the novel to shine in a more speculative way.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s an impressive work, though marred a little in the second part by supposedly rational people making some strange choices and people having a jarring ability to look at their own societies from the outside in with much more detachment than seems possible (even allowing for genetic changes).</p> <p>But, quibbles. <em>Seveneves</em> is an event and you should read it.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=nemesis%2Bgames&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434853035">Nemesis Games, by James SA Corey</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The fifth book in the Expanse series, it, well, continues the Expanse series in extremely able fashion.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re already in the fold you&rsquo;ll want to read this, duh, and if you&rsquo;re not, well then you probably don&rsquo;t like amazing space opera.</p> <p>Not much more to say about <em>Nemesis Games</em>—you know if it&rsquo;s your bag or not.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=milkweed%2Btregillis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852230">Bitter Seeds, by Ian Tregillis</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Bitter Seeds</em> is the first novel in the Milkweed Triptych, followed by <em><a href=";sr=1-2&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=milkweed%2Btregillis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852300">The Coldest War</a></em> and <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=milkweed%2Btregillis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852350">Necessary Evil</a></em>. This review is for all three novels since it&rsquo;s kind of silly to think of them as three novels—it&rsquo;s one novel that&rsquo;s been split into three. If this review intrigues you, start with <em>Bitter Seeds</em> then be prepared to get into the other two installments.</p> <p>Because it&rsquo;s a doozy. This is really intense alternate history World War II and Cold War history work that mixes in magic and what seems like magic but apparently is not and a powerful, haunting sense of dread and regret.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s close to impossible to talk about the plot of Milkweed without spoling things, so let&rsquo;s just say that Oh, those Nazis and their mad scientists and the horrible decisions they force their enemies into.</p> <p>If you like speculative fiction, the hard price of impossible choices, and tight plotting, you&rsquo;ll like the <em>Milkweed Triptych</em>.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=mechanical%2Btregillis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852148">The Mechanical, by Ian Tregillis</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Strange, ambitious alternate history (again from Ian Tregillis) about a world where the Dutch discovered how to build Clakkers—basically steam punk sentient robots—and callously use them as slaves.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a powerful novel tinged with pain that acts as a meditation on free will, subjugation and (who saw it coming?) sentient zeppelins.</p> <p><em>The Mechanical</em> is a trip and if you&rsquo;re into fantasy, sci-fi or speculative fiction it&rsquo;s a given.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=angles%2Bof%2Battack&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852578">Angles of Attack, by Marko Kloos</a>★★★☆☆</h3> <p>An enjoyable continuation of the series started in <em>Terms of Enlistment</em> (<a href="">my review here</a>), but a little frustrating in that it doesn&rsquo;t advance the reader&rsquo;s understanding of the implacable enemy humanity is facing, known as the Lankies.</p> <p>Nevertheless, you like the series, you&rsquo;ll like this. If you&rsquo;ve never heard of it, start at the beginning with <em><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Terms of Enlistment</a></em>. Good, classic sci-fi.</p> <h3><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=city%2Bof%2Bstairs&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1434852109">City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>City of Stairs</em> is very exciting—a fresh take on fantasy with unique world building and seductive prose. Reading it is a bit like having a fever dream, in a good way. It&rsquo;s a very hard novel to summarize without spoiling the experience, so just take my word that if you like fantasy but are feeling a bit tired of the usual pseudo-middle-ages Tolkien vibe, you&rsquo;ll find this refreshing.</p> <p>There are quibbles, like that a major plot point hinges on a super intelligent intelligence operative not seeing what&rsquo;s right in front of her face that mar the experience a bit, but they&rsquo;re only quibbles. <em>City of Stairs</em> is fresh and exciting.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> Links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through them I get a tiny kickback from Amazon. It doesn&rsquo;t cost you anything.</p> Let’s all chill out about the iPad sales numbers Nic Lindh 2015-05-13T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/ipad-with-case.jpg" /></p> <p>In its <a href="">second quarter 2015 report</a>, Apple revealed that iPad sales <a href="">are decreasing</a>. This naturally caused much gnashing of teeth in the Apple blogosphere. Is iPad a failure? Will Apple cancel the product?</p> <p>But if you think about it a little, comparisons to iPhone (of which Apple sold astronomical amounts) aren&rsquo;t useful or fair. </p> <p>iPhone sales are special in that carrier subsidies are making people upgrade more than normal, especially in the States, and your phone is a very intimate piece of technology that gets used hard every day, so at the end of a two-year contract, the device is usually pretty banged up. </p> <p>Not to mention the tragedy of broken screens.</p> <p>iPad on the other hand is usually used around the house or office and takes less of a beating.</p> <p>But most importantly, Apple still supports all but the original iPad with software updates. Is iOS 8 a bit pokey on older iPads? Yes, it sure is. Which hurts nerds, who are often super sensitive to lag, whereas &ldquo;normal&rdquo; humans tend to not really care when their devices are a bit slow. For the things most people do with iPad—Web surfing, email, social media, second screen, and reading long-form—it&rsquo;s acceptable for most people.</p> <p>Again, this is unlike nerds, who grind their molars every time Safari reloads a tab.</p> <p>I ride a commuter bus to work together with other office drones, and am always looking at how people are using their devices. Obviously I can&rsquo;t read the text on people&rsquo;s screens, but I can see if people are on Facebook or texting or playing games. (And can report it&rsquo;s been a while since I saw Candy Crush, so yay humanity!) </p> <p>In this completely unscientific study of other members of the disappearing middle class who happen to ride the same bus as me, there&rsquo;s about a 50-50 split between iPhones and Android phones, with the Android phones skewing to phablets, but the few tablets I see are all iPads (and a few e-ink Kindles)—I&rsquo;ve yet to notice an Android tablet. </p> <p>The thing that continues to amaze me is <em>how tolerant people are of lag</em>.</p> <p>And Android phones tend to have intolerable amounts of lag, especially when scrolling. Go-stop-go-go-stop-go-go-stop.</p> <p>The other day I watched a middle-aged woman playing a Breakout clone on her Samsung phablet and it lagged enough for me to want to throw the thing out the window just watching her play. <em>It&rsquo;s a twitch game! And it lags!</em> But she seemed unperturbed.</p> <p>Non-nerds are lucky they don&rsquo;t see or just don&rsquo;t care about device slowness—it saves them a lot of money.</p> <p>Knowing all this, it makes sense for iPads to be on the same upgrade cycle as laptops. People will upgrade their iPad when it breaks or there&rsquo;s an app they really want that they can&rsquo;t get. Until that happens, every new version of iOS makes it a bit more sluggish, but so what?</p> <p>And the things people do on their iPads are often the exact same things they would have used a laptop for. Turns out, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s just a big iPhone&rdquo; is genius—once somebody is comfortable with their iPhone and their laptop implodes, why not spend the same or less money than a new POS laptop would cost on an iPad that they know how to use? It&rsquo;s a safe bet, there&rsquo;s almost no learning curve, and they&rsquo;ll have to spend just as much time administrating their iPad as they do their iPhone—basically none.</p> <p>If you view iPad a laptop replacement, it makes sense for volumes to be lower and replacement cycles longer. We will find out if this thesis holds water soon, if Apple stops supporting the iPad 2s with iOS 9, as seems likely. If so, there should be a pickup in sales as they&rsquo;re replaced.</p> <p>Putting on my nerd cap, I really wish Apple would get more aggressive about differentiating the iPad from a software perspective and make more out of the form factor, but keeping it a large iPhone is probably a much better path for the masses. And remember, Apple is interested in making mass-market products, not nerd toys.</p> <p>As an aside when it comes to tablets in general, the few non-iPads I see in the wild, while anecdata, speak to the troubles Google are having in that space. Don&rsquo;t know if it&rsquo;s chicken or egg, but the one thing that grabs me every time I use my own Nexus 7 is how few Android apps are optimized for tablets and how perfunctory most of those adaptations are. As an example, look at Twitter. Their Android app is terrible in general and full-on insulting on a tablet.</p> <p>For people who want a light-duty laptop replacement, iPad will continue to fill a need. A smaller-volume need than iPhone, sure, but a real need.</p>