Month: June 2021


At last, we have a new teaser for the Apple TV+ take on Asimov’s Foundation trilogy:

Given that it’s a ten-part series that we still know very little about, it’s difficult to form a coherent opinion on what turns out to be a series of very brief, context-free clips from what will presumably be an epic, expensive show.

It’ll give all us geeks something to talk about this Autumn, that’s for sure.

Get Happy

Note to self: invest in a box of face masks featuring the sort of happy, smiley face modern employers like to see.

Canon Information Technology actually announced its “smile recognition” cameras last year as part of a suite of workplace management tools, but the technology doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention. Indeed, the fact it passed under the radar is a good illustration of just how common surveillance tools like this are becoming — and not just in China.

Although readers in the West sometimes have a tendency to dismiss the sort of surveillance described by the FT as a foreign phenomena, countries like the US and UK are just as culpable. […]

Such modern-day Taylorism is not restricted to blue collar jobs, either: many modern software suites like Microsoft 365 come with built-in surveillance tools. And with more people working from home because of the pandemic, more companies are deploying these features for fear of losing control over their workers. (Or, for a slightly more cynical read: they’ve always wanted to use these tools and the pandemic provides a handy pretext.)

One day Excel is going to demand that I flash it a smile that convinces it that I’m genuinely, unquestioningly happy before it agrees to do me the favour of recalculating the figures I’m pointing it to,1 at which point my time on this Earth will be done.

[Via Sentiers]

  1. To think, we used to imagine that the machines would win by pointing a ray gun at us and threatening us with extermination. Those were the days. 

Emotional about Windows

Rumour has it that Windows 11 is much more than a new theme slapped onto Windows 10:

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay ties the new look to eyebrow-raising statements about emotion: “We understand the responsibility of [functionality and practicality] more than ever before, but it must also be personal—and maybe most importantly, it must feel emotional.”

As I type this, my work laptop is generating and saving off several thousand Excel files (courtesy of some VBA code I wrote the original version of several years ago) to my laptop’s local SSD, prior to my using File Explorer to copy those eight thousand-odd newly-created spreadsheets into a folder on a networked drive on our intranet where internal users will be able to see the spreadsheets come Monday morning.1

Trust me, Panos, Windows 10 is already generating plenty of emotions in this user as I navigate my way through all the nooks and crannies of the Windows user experience that I need to in order to get this done.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

  1. There are reasons why I don’t have Excel create those files directly to their eventual location on the network, mostly having to do with how much slower the process is if I get Excel to save files to the networked location as it works its’ way down the list I’ve given it. Copying the spreadsheets over in a single batch at the end of the process is a net win, even if it takes around half an hour after I drag-and-drop the files over to the correct folder’s icon on the network drive for Windows File Explorer to pop up a dialog telling me it’s started the file copying process. 
, 26 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

Brewster’s US$100 million

Stolen from The Cloud Genie:

There’s a joke that I’ve always been partial to: a software engineering type rubs a lamp and a genie appears. The genie says that he’ll grant the engineer $1 billion, but only if they can spend $100 million in a single month with three rules. “You can’t gift it away. You can’t gamble with it. And you can’t throw it away.” The software engineer responds with “Well, can I use AWS?” The genie responds with “okay, there are four rules.” […]

[Via The Tao of Mac]

, 24 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

In memoriam

Jon Hicks, being a graphic designer and a Mac enthusiast, chose to memorialise his father in a very particular way:

Growing up I was subconsciously inspired by the different aspects of design that he introduced to me, from mid-century vinyl record covers to architecture and signage. In particular, his distinctive architect’s handwriting was very evocative to me, and I decided I should try and capture it as a font. It could be something carrying his name that outlives him, and also something else to talk to him about.

Not something that everyone would care about,1 but Jon Hicks had the tools and the inclination, so why not?

  1. If it was, someone would be offering this sort of thing as an automated service you can access via an app, with the service using Machine Learning to extrapolate letters that weren’t included in the sample and to equalise character sizes and so on. For a premium fee, the supplier would offer to lock the resulting font file down so that only the paying customer could use it (because clearly there’s a risk of rampant forgery, or so we’d be warned.) Fidelity-wise, the results would very likely be considerably less good than what Jon Hicks can do manually, but in fairness that’s not the sort of thing that it’s easy to quantify. 
, 19 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .


David Allen Green wondered How Neil Gaiman kept control of the Sandman characters:

The character ‘Death’ has not become a member of the Justice League, and “Destruction’ has not been brought out of retirement to battle with Darkseid and Dr Manhattan.


Neil Gaiman explained that, basically, “I’ve always been aware that [Warner Brothers studio, the owners of DC Comics] own the characters I created for them when I was 26, and legally can do whatever they want with them. But I’ve tried to make it a more attractive proposition for them to work with me than to end the working relationship, and they’ve always stepped up.”

At the moment, between his involvement in the various TV and audio adaptations1 of his work Gaiman must be feeling as if he’s cracked it. But he’s also sufficiently aware of the history of the comics industry to understand how frequently creators are disappointed by the fate of their creations in others’ hands. It’s overwhelmingly likely that one day the Corporation currently running DC Comics will decide to hand some future whizzkid the rights to the Endless and tell them to have at it.

The best we can hope for is that a) this happens after Neil Gaiman has passed on, so he doesn’t have to see the big-screen versions of Dream and his sister Death2 envisioned by some hack and have to struggle to come up with a diplomatic response, and b) by some small miracle the result is at least an interesting addition to the story of the Endless. Less Zack Snyder’s take on the Justice League, more the Damon Lindelof take on Watchmen.

  1. Showrunner on the Good Omens TV adaptation, producer on the impending Netflix version of the Sandman series, cast as the Narrator in the Dirk Maggs-produced audiobook of the Sandman series, producer on the TV adaptation of American Gods. Even the latter experience must be somewhat reassuring, insofar as even though it’s been cancelled before it reached the end the experience of working on a major show based on his work has to suggest that Gaiman has some handle on what it takes to put his brand of fantasy on screen, of how it’s never as simple as throwing money at a project to convert a story from one medium to another. 
  2. It’s unclear whether the other Endless have enough mass market profile to show up. Maybe they’ll get to appear in a cameo at the start or end, just for the sake of reminding everyone who has the rights to them. 

Dammit, Apple!

Dammit, Apple. When we all hoped that the idea behind iPadOS was that it’d permit differentiation between the platforms, this was not what we had in mind.

Yes, it’s an incredibly trivial, even frivolous, feature and yes, other platforms have had similar visual effects for years so it’s not as if Apple have led personal computing towards some new frontier here. The point – as with last year’s failures to expand on widget placement on the iPadOS homescreen and bring the App Library to iPadOS – is that it looks as if creating iPadOS meant formalising the iPad’s place one step further back in the queue for features than iOS.

Not that anyone was in any doubt that was the case, but formalising the ranking of the platforms like this two years running is just depressing. This is a rare case of Apple adding some old-fashioned quirkiness to their platforms again, and it’s astonishing that the iPad misses out on it. I’d be amazed if there was some deep technical reason why this app couldn’t be brought to iPadOS at the same time as iOS, and even if there is one I suspect ultimately it’s driven by Apple choosing not to expend the time and effort to make it happen on iPadOS.

, 12 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

A magical collaboration circus

Food for thought from Ed Zitron’s Where’s Your Ed At:

[In…] my tiny little walnut brain I am imagining that we’re about to see, as vaccinations climb and people return to normal, a culture war between those that believe workers should be in the office and those who believe that there should be a “hybrid approach,” by which they most likely mean you get a few days a week at home. It’ll start by saying “oh just a day or two here and there,” but it’ll grow into either a full of mostly full return to the office.

[Via @adrianhon]

, 10 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

The Good Place

Good to see the Nebula Awards getting this one so thoroughly right:


The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”, Michael Schur, NBC (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal)

Strange to think that the series finale aired several weeks before the first lockdown. We’ve had plenty of excellent science fiction this last year or so – The Expanse and Devs being the clearest small-screen genre highlights – but nothing quite matched the sheer delight of seeing what Eleanor Shellstrop and friends were getting up to week after week, and the way they absolutely pulled off the landing. Chidi talking to Eleanor about how what was facing him before she woke would be like the water in a wave returning to the sea still gets me every time, dammit.1

If Apple TV+ ever gets round to buying the rights to non-Apple content – I don’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon – but work with me here – the rights to The Good Place should be very high on their to-buy list.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

  1. I verified that by watching the series finale again this morning, after reading the news of the show’s Nebula win, and it still does it to me now. 


Nothing more to be said.

[RT by @charliestross]

, 6 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .
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