Alien(s)

I knew that there was a long-standing strain of fandom built around the core concepts of Alien vs. Predator, but I had no idea it was set in stone like this:

I do love this response from @tafkao:

In 800 yrs time, architectural historians will be locked in furious debate over whether the sculpture is Alien school or Predator school.

11:30 am · 10 Jun 2018

(Further reading: see, for example, this.)

[Via Sentiers #43]

Best iPad Ad Ever?

A few months ago I bookmarked Serenity Caldwell’s iPad video and somehow never got round to posting about it here.

It’s a very nice piece of work, but somehow I’m not persuaded that I need to rush out and upgrade to an iPad capable of working with an Apple Pen. In principle I understand that all sorts of people with actual artistic ability can do amazing things with an Apple Pen and an iPad/iPad Pro, but that’s not me. Tragically1, one of the best features of my iPad Mini 4 is that it’s small enough to be genuinely portable in a way that a 10.5″ or 12.9″ iPad never can. I’ll take portability over an Apple Pen any day.2

[Via Memex 1.1]

Frenemies Forever

Novelist John Lanchester ponders whether economists and humanists can ever be friends?

[Hanson and Simler’s…] emphasis on signalling and unconscious motives suggests that the most important part of our actions is the motives themselves, rather than the things we achieve, such as writing symphonies, curing diseases, building cathedrals, searching into the deepest mysteries of time and space, and so on. The last sentence of the book makes the point that “we may be competitive social animals, self-interested and self-deceived, but we cooperated our way to the god-damned moon.” With that one observation, acknowledging that the consequences of our actions are more important than our motives, the argument of the book implodes.

The issue here is one of overreach: taking an argument that has worthwhile applications and extending it further than it usefully goes. Our motives are often not what they seem: true. This explains everything: not true. After all, it’s not as if the idea that we send signals about ourselves were news; you could argue that there is an entire social science, sociology, dedicated to the subject.

Apparently not.1

LinkedIn: The Game

Beating LinkedIn: The Game is tricky, but not impossible. If you can believe this guy:

The general goal of LinkedIn (the game) is to find and connect with as many people on LinkedIn (the website) as possible, in order to secure vaguely defined social capital and potentially further one’s career, which allows the player to purchase consumer goods of gradually increasing quality. Like many games, it has dubious real-life utility. The site’s popularity and success, like that of many social networks, depends heavily on obfuscating this fact. This illusion of importance creates a sense of naive trust among its users. This makes it easy to exploit.

To novices, the game appears to be open-ended, and impossible to “beat” in any clearly defined sense. But it is, in fact, possible to win at LinkedIn. I have done so, and you can too, by following this short strategy guide. […]

This would be even funnier if I could just shake the premonition that a few years from now some high-flying junior minister in the DWP will announce that in the interests of reassuring hard-working taxpayers that their hard-earned money was being used to fund the most agile, modern and thoroughly digital solution to the problem of unemployment available, all claimants of Universal Credit would be required to provide evidence that they had registered with Microsoft’s LinkedIn service and that they had pursued at least 10 job opportunities a week. Even more importantly, Microsoft had kindly agreed to take up a contract to police this target and consequently a portion of existing DWP staff in Jobcentres would be transferring to the private sector to work in the new MSDWP service, which would also be taking over the contract to run the Universal Credit system.

Magically, this move would both allow the DWP to wash their hands of all responsibility for administrative cock-ups in Jobcentres, but also bring to an end all those boring National Audit Office reports that kept on rating the Universal Credit programme as risky and over budget.1 You might laugh, but give it a few years and some Ayn Rand-reading acolyte a decade or so out of university and a couple of years into his or her tenure as a Conservative member of Parliament will think this the best way to distance the government from the embarrassment of Universal Credit. The main problem will be finding someone within Microsoft both senior enough to agree a deal of that size and dumb enough to not recognise this for the hospital pass that it would be.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

Atari 520 STM

Having just read The Jackintosh: A Real GEM – Remembering the Atari ST, I feel a massive nostalgia rush coming on:

After Commodore Founder Jack Tramiel was forced out by his board, he decided, after a brief hiatus, to get revenge.

Tramiel knew that a 16-bit computer was next on the horizon for Commodore, and he wanted to beat them to the punch. So, in early 1984 he formed a new company, Tramel Technology (spelt without an ‘i’ to encourage people to spell his name correctly), and lured a number of Commodore engineers to jump ship and come work for him. […]

Back in the late 1980s, after several years of following Sinclair Research’s product line up to and including the Sinclair QL1 I found myself tempted by the Atari 520STM, the model with a decently high-resolution (for the day and price) monochrome monitor. OK, so the 520STM was never going to be a games machine, but it was a cracking little workhorse for Desktop Publishing (I adored Timeworks Desktop Publisher) and I spent way too much money on nifty GEM-based word processors and spreadsheets over the years. That first version of Digital Research’s GEM environment worked beautifully on the hardware, to the point that several years later when I finally gave in to the rising tide and bought a Windows 95-based machine for my personal use (having long since been using DOS/Windows systems at work) I genuinely felt like I was taking a step down usability-wise and looks-wise.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

Replacing Instapaper

As time passes and EU-based users find themselves waiting in vain on word from Instapaper’s owners, our thoughts inevitably turn towards replacing Instapaper:

I chose Pinboard, not because it is the most slick service – it is very minimalist – but because it works, and for everything I read, it will likely be there for as long as I pay them to be.

The thing is, Pinboard is terrific at storing and organising a list of bookmarks, but that’s only part of what Instapaper was good for: it’s the other half of the process – the seamless storage of articles so that my queue of unread items was available (offline if I wanted it) to read at a moment’s notice – that I’m missing. As far as I can see, the solution the linked article proffers, ReadPaperback, is entirely an online solution to the reading-a-stripped-back-to-readable-text-version-of-an-article problem that Instapaper used to solve so nicely for me.1 Perhaps that’s the best we can do in Instapaper’s absence, but it’s not really solving the problem I wanted solved.

The prolonged silence from Instapaper’s current owners makes me wonder what, precisely, they were doing with our Instapaper user accounts that a) was at risk of bringing down the wrath of the GDPR on them, and b) made their lawyers think that it would be as well not to allow EU users anywhere within a mile of their service.

[Via The Overspill]

Dancing in Movies

When I first saw a link to Dancing In Movies a week or so ago I wasn’t all that impressed: yes, someone had put a lot of effort into stringing together clips from nearly 300 films but I wasn’t getting a thrill from it. But now I’ve taken (several) further looks at it and I love it! I think on the first viewing I was too obsessed with identifying the sources of the clips, and as they’re such short clips I found myself overwhelmed by the need to try to mentally catalogue them in real time and was too busy to get round to appreciating the art of the compilation itself.1

Fortunately – perhaps it caught up with me on a day when my case of trainspotter’s syndrome was in remission – I saw it again the other day, and this time I just settled back and enjoyed the quirky spectacle of it all. Magnificent stuff, strongly recommended.