Before the smartphone

Coming soon (with any luck) to a screen near you: General Magic, A Documentary Feature:

Judging by the trailer, John Sculley is not going to come out of this smelling of roses.

General Magic, the upcoming documentary, is a tale of how great vision and epic failure can change the world. The film features members of the original Mac team along with the creators of the iPhone, Android and eBay.

These designers, engineers and entrepreneurs saw the future decades before it happened. General Magic captures the spirit of those of us who dare to dream big and the life-changing consequences when we fail, fail again, fail better, and ultimately succeed.

I realise it’s not going to be showing up in my local multiplex: I’ll settle for it eventually turning up somewhere I can (legally) pay for it, download it and watch it.

[Via Cake, via Extenuating Circumstances]

Memories

Not one but two announcements that remind me how long I’ve been playing round with this internet thing and how times have changed:

I left Demon Internet years ago once it became clear that their new owners were much more interested in selling comprehensive telecoms packages that running an ISP, and last time Suck was being updated I was reading the site using Windows 95. but never mind: both the ‘zine and the ISP helped to show me what the internet was good for. It’s sad to to see them both disappear from the internet.

Best Films of 2018

David Ehrlich’s latest annual medley of imagery from The 25 Best Films Of 2018 demonstrates once more that there’s plenty of good work out there every year, it’s just a question of how hard you have to look to find it.

By virtue of this list being published towards the end of the calendar year, there’s invariably a bunch of the films on Ehrlich’s list that either haven’t opened in the UK yet or that I didn’t catch during their relatively brief release window outside London. Some I know I’ll not get to see any time soon because I refuse to fork out £10 a month to every streaming service out there, but a list like this at least focuses my attention on what might be worth making some effort to track down.

[Via kottke.org]

“What do you mean you’re not willing to electrocute your cat? It’s a cat! It would do the same to you in an instant!”

John Scalzi shares a story of an encounter with Automated Customer Service in the not too distant future:

Thank you for calling the customer service line of Vacuubot, purveyors of America’s finest automated vacuum cleaners! In order to more efficiently handle call volume, we rely on automated responses. To continue in English, press one. Para Espanol o prima dos. […]

That Purge Mode is a doozy!

[Via Metafilter]

Professionalism

Note to self: if you’re going into business with David Heinemeier Hansson have all your ducks lined up and know what you’re doing. Because otherwise, he’ll end up calling you out for your failings online:

[…] Now I’ve ended up writing a long tirade, and I completely accept that some people might gag with summary like: “So they gave you a bunch of money, fucked up a few things, but now the books are back in stock, so why do you care?”. Because I do care. Because we didn’t write this book primarily to make money, but because we had something urgent to say, and wanted as many people as could benefit from that message to hear it. But yes, I’m writing this to process my own frustration, if not outright rage, as well.

A bridge pretty thoroughly burned, I’d say.

The First

I suspect that Channel 4 might be a little disappointed that their screening of The First doesn’t seem to have captured the public’s imagination. I’d seen a couple of reviews after the first episode that tended to lean heavily on the “Sean Penn’s show fails to lift off” line, which is about the angle you’d expect a busy TV reviewer who had only seen the first episode to go with.1

The show was originally made for Hulu, and having looked around online I’ve found a number of reactions from critics who’ve seen all eight episodes in the first season. Clearly the show isn’t imminently going to find itself canonised as part of the Golden Age of Quality Television, but it sounds a lot more promising than you’d think from the reaction to the first couple of episodes. As Todd VanDerWerff puts it in his review of the show for Vox:

This is not a show about the people going to Mars. It’s a show about the people going to Mars.

As I understand it, the show’s only just going to start the journey to Mars at the end of the first season, which is not to say that it’s pointless prior to that. Sean Penn’s character, an experienced astronaut.2 He finds himself bonding with the relatives of the doomed crew (who had been his crew until his being unseated as the team’s leader for reasons we’ve not gone into as of episode 2) in the wake of the accident, and making the case through the media for a manned space programme earnestly but with a certain gravitas it seems he’s earned through his previous space exploits, all while he’s also dealing with the recent return into his life of his estranged daughter, who has had her share of problems and is still coming to terms with the disappearance of her mother, his wife, a few years ago.3 Penn is a more than capable lead for this show, and I suspect that by the time we get to episode eight he’ll have cemented himself as the rock against whom a good cast4 have assembled to tell a good, mature story. It probably won’t be the flashiest of stories, but it could be something special given time.

Stack Overflow at 10

There’s a certain amount of irony in the proposition that one response in the comments on Jeff Atwood’s post commemorating the 10th anniversary of the launch of Stack Overflow was to suggest that the post be marked as a duplicate of https://stackoverflow.blog/2018/09/27/stack-overflow-is-10/.

I think Jeff Atwood puts it best himself:

Interesting, so we can close posts as duplicates across completely different websites now? Fascinating. I hope all websites on the internet get the memo on this exciting new policy!

For what it’s worth I’m the most amateurish of programmers, and over the years I’ve found Stack Overflow immensely useful. Read the answers carefully and there’s an astounding amount of useful information in there.