Hi, I’m Dwayne. I’m a freelance web developer. I spend most of my time writing code, reading random things on the internet, and playing PC games. I created this website to share what I’m working on and reading about. Check out the about me page for info about me, and the tech page for more about the website.

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Re: Apple employees are organizing, now under the banner #AppleToo

The backlash against Apple’s treatment of their employees continues to build. From the new AppleToo website:

For too long, Apple has evaded public scrutiny. The truth is that for many Apple workers – a reality faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender, and historically marginalized groups of people – the culture of secrecy creates an opaque, intimidating fortress. When we press for accountability and redress to the persistent injustices we witness or experience in our workplace, we are faced with a pattern of isolation, degradation, and gaslighting.

I’ve been seeing a lot of discussion lately about how badly tech companies are treating (and in many cases straight abusing) their workers. But just like AppleToo says, Apple’s secrecy meant it’s always been more rare to hear those kinds of stories from their employees. It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing a whole lot more about the negative parts of a company culture built on Steve Jobs' brand of abrasive asshole.

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So it’s definitely been a while since my last post.

I was pretty heads-down for a while working on my last client project. It took up most of my time and had me stressed for a while, so I wasn’t writing much. Then the project ended and I immediately jumped into a few large projects of my own, which are causing me a much much better type of stress.

First was the self-hosted live streaming experiment; then, when that didn’t work out all that well (video encoding takes a lot more processing power than I want to pay for right now), I started rewriting my entire web chat and chat bot code to be more useful/impressive and work in more places. The new version of the chat bot, which is now integrated into the website app, has become one of the biggest software projects I’ve ever worked on.

A diagram explaining the different parts of the DwayneBot chat bot architecture.
I'll be talking a lot about what this is and why I did it later. In the meantime, here's a diagram I made showing what I've been building.

Because it’s fully part of the website now, some other changes I made to the website are held up until I deploy this. And because those things are held up, I haven’t been writing anything. I have literally been working on this project any time I’m sitting at my computer for weeks straight.

But I’m finally getting close to deploying so you’ll definitely hear more from me shortly.

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The Apple TV still isn't good

Jon Porter from The Verge:

When we tried the HBO Max app for ourselves, we found it doesn’t seem to support the new remote’s D-pad. Instead, we could only use the remote’s touchpad circle, which is technically an element of the remote you’re supposed to be able to disable. Scrubbing using the touchpad works, just very badly. The cause of these problems appears to be a recent app update, which replaced the standard tvOS playback UI with HBO’s own (and apparently far less capable) version.

I have been complaining about the Apple TV (the remote of course, but also tvOS itself) for a long time now. If there’s anything to like about Apple, it’s that they usually try to enforce some type of good design sense throughout their hardware and software. Yes, there are a lot of shitty apps on macOS and iOS, but when it comes to the stuff that goes through their App Store, they at least pretend that they would like all of it to look, work, and generally be designed well.

With that said, why are most1 of the major tvOS apps on the platform able to be approved on the App Store without having even the basics in place? What’s the point of Apple releasing a platform like this if they aren’t going to enforce the very thing that makes people buy Apple products? If some of the most important apps on the platform reduce the video watching experience to just being able to play and pause videos, why bother buying the Apple TV (the most expensive product in this category right now) at all?

I think the answer to the first question is that Apple really doesn’t have any leverage to push companies like HBO to actually make good apps. They can’t really just kick HBO Max off the Apple TV App Store without it being a major issue for them, so why would HBO actually do the hard work of making a good tvOS app2 if they can just make one however they want instead? Can you really call tvOS a good platform if nobody making the major apps has any reason to make them good?

We just ordered one of these new remotes a few days ago. Partially because the old one really is trash, but also because we were suspecting we’re having hardware issues with the original (although the problems we’re seeing might just be because of shitty software 🤷🏾‍♂️) so we figured it made sense. But based on what I’m reading, watching HBO will still be a terrible experience even with the new remote anyway, so I’m already frustrated with it before I even have it.

  1. I’ve had a problem with YouTube on the Apple TV for so long now. They’ve insisted on custom interactions that feel out of place on tvOS in their app the entire time I’ve used it. ↩︎

  2. I think most macOS/iOS developers would agree that it takes a lot of very hard work to make well designed apps for these platforms. Apple provides a lot to developers to make apps that work well for users, but that doesn’t make it easy to actually make happen. It sounds like the HBO Max developers are writing a lot of custom code to control the video playback experience, and I’m guessing it’s because 1) it usually feels easier to do that than to fight with the built-in tools/APIs to get things to work the way all the stakeholders want it to, or 2) they use a lot of cross platform code to simplify development for Roku, Chromecast, smart TVs, etc. These kinds of things are understandable from a code/budget perspective, but they always screw up the quality of the app. Every single time. ↩︎

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UI Design in The Expanse

I’m really into The Expanse.

I’ve heard of the book series since before the show was announced, but I didn’t actually get around to reading it until after I’ve seen a few seasons of the show. I used to read on my commute a lot right before COVID hit, but my pace really slowed down a lot since I don’t regularly sit on trains for long periods of time anymore.

Anyway, one of the many things I really like about the show is their vision of all the tech we’ll be using in the future. As a tech guy who’s into sci-fi, I end up seeing a lot of devices/interfaces/tech in shows that either don’t make sense or don’t look good or realistic in any way. The Expanse manages to do such a good job with the technical details.

I just came across the website HUDS+GUIS, which talks about different interfaces from films, games, concepts, etc. They just did an article on UI design in The Expanse. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re into future tech and design. And The Expanse is definitely worth a watch if you like sci-fi.

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Freenode and Libera.Chat

Freenode, the IRC network that’s been around since 1998, is dealing with a hostile takeover situation that led to most of the staff members leaving the organization (and the IRC servers of course) over the past day or two.

At some point, freenode users saw this message pop up in their chat clients:

[Global Notice] Hi all. It feels like my moral responsibility to inform all users that administrative control of freenode and its user data will soon change hands, and I will be resigning from freenode staff effective immediately. It’s been an honour to help you all.

Some of the operators who left the org started up a new chat network called Libera.Chat. A few of them also posted messages (kline, Md, Fuchs) about the situation.

According to the messages, it sounds like Andrew Lee, the guy who took over the organization, doesn’t have the best intentions (I don’t really know what that means for an IRC network) for it, so if you’re on the network you might want to consider leaving. If anything just because it seems like a decent amount of people did actually switch over to the new thing (or just decided to finally use Discord or Slack instead of IRC) so I’m guessing freenode will just start dying off at this point.

I’ve seen some people on Twitter talking about being on the network (or at least having it configured in an unused IRC client) for most of their online lives so it’s just kind of a weirdly sad day for them. I’ve heard about it for a long time (back when I was messing around with Win 98 registry keys to get rid of the mIRC registration prompts) but I never really used IRC all that much to feel too bad about it.

I’ve used it a lot in the past year or two though after I decided to run my own IRC server, mostly just because I thought it would be fun to make the bot I’ve been working on live there. Feel free to join if any of this article made any sense to you.

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Re: Changes at Basecamp: A Fan Translation

Jason Fried, CEO at Basecamp, wrote a very badly received post yesterday about changes he would like to see at the company, which can be summed up as “no more political discussions, just focus on work.”

I just came across a “fan translation” of the post that pretty much captures how I first read it.

This may look like compression. A reduction, an elimination. And it is. It’s precisely that. We’re compressing X to allow for expansion in Y. A return to whole minds that can focus fully on the work we choose to do. A return to a low-ceremony steady state where we can make decisions and move on. A return to personal responsibility and good faith trust in one another to do our own individual jobs well. A return to why we started the company. A return to what we do best.

Look, I’m just asking you to stop thinking about climate change, state murder of black lives, the ever-increasing reach of corporations, and the hollowing out of society and just get back to making me money. Is that so hard?

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Re: Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes

From The New York Times today:

But Mr. Zuckerberg has also been blunt about Facebook’s feelings on Apple. “We increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors,” he said in an earnings call this year.

Even on that point, Mr. Cook has disagreed.

“I’m not focused on Facebook,” he told The Times this month. “I think that we compete in some things. But no, if I’m asked who our biggest competitors are, they would not be listed.”

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iOS 14.5 is out

iOS 14.5 just dropped.

I need that ability to unlock the phone with my watch when I’m out with a mask. This is the most excited I’ve been about an iOS feature in a very long time.

Some other notes about this release:

  • This is the one that adds App Tracking Transparency, the thing that Facebook is really upset about. 🙂
  • Siri doesn’t default to a female voice anymore (you have to pick a voice when you setup the phone). Defaulting to female voices for virtual assistants was a mistake, so I’m glad they’re trying to address it.
  • More emoji of course! There’s always more emoji.
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Re: Are Outdoor Mask Mandates Still Necessary?

Speaking of COVID and trying to get back to normal, I just read an article from Derek Thompson at The Atlantic, asking about the necessity of wearing masks outdoors:

The coronavirus is most transmissible in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, where the aerosolized virus can linger in the air before latching onto our nasal or bronchial cells. In outdoor areas, the viral spray is more likely to disperse. One systematic overview of COVID-19 case studies concluded that the risk of transmission was 19 times higher indoors than outside. That’s why wearing a mask is so important in, say, a CVS, but less crucial in, say, the park.

At the restaurant, however, I saw an inversion of this rule. Person after person who’d dutifully worn a mask on the uncrowded street took it off to sit still, in close proximity to friends, and frequently inside. I felt like I was watching people put on their seatbelts in parked cars, then unbuckle them just as they put the vehicle in drive.

I’m still gonna wear masks when I’m out of my apartment most of the time, even after being fully vaccinated, for a few reasons:

  1. I feel better these days when I see someone wearing a mask, so I’ll wear one myself
  2. In NYC, people like standing deep inside other people’s personal space, so masks make even more sense here
  3. In the Winter, they helped with the cold; now in the Spring, they’re helping with pollen
  4. Regardless of the situation, a mask just might help prevent another person from getting sick

That being said, yeah taking into account what we know about the virus, outdoor mask mandates aren’t very necessary. But it probably still helps the situation though.

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Re: Global COVID Cases Hit Weekly Record Despite Vaccinations

I spent the past few weeks feeling annoyed that everyone I know here in the NY/NJ area (and a lot of people I know in CA) were able to get appointments for vaccine shots well before I did. In the meantime though, global COVID cases just hit weekly records…

Jinshan Hong at Bloomberg:

The worrisome trend, just days after the world surpassed 3 million deaths, comes as countries are rolling out vaccinations in an effort to get the virus under control. The data from Johns Hopkins University showing a 12% increase in infections from a week earlier casts doubt on the hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.

The weekly increase surpassed the previous high set in mid-December. While infection rates have largely slowed in the U.S. and U.K., countries in the developing world – India and Brazil in particular – are shouldering surging caseloads.

I’m glad parts of the world are figuring out the vaccine situation and starting to get back to some kind of normal, but overall we are nowhere near done with this thing.

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Languages of New York City

I just came across this very cool interactive map of languages spoken in New York City from the Endangered Language Alliance, with breakdowns by world regions, countries, language families, neighborhoods, etc.

From the project info:

With speakers of approximately 10 percent of the world’s 6000-7000 languages, the New York metropolitan area is the most linguistically diverse urban center in the world, probably in the history of the world.

This map is committed to representing in particular the smaller, minority, and Indigenous languages that are primarily oral and have neither public visibility nor official support.

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