Saturday, October 10, 2015

Being in the Plus Club

The only thing that's changed is everything. - Apple
I've had my new iPhone 6s+ for a few weeks now and it was an awesome choice. When it first showed up it seemed enormous and two weeks in, everyone else's phone seems tiny. It fits fine in all of my pant pockets - I mean, it's huge, but it doesn't fall out or feel like it's going to bend. I was really curious if I felt I could replace my iPad Mini with it - the jury is still out on that one.

The number one issue I have with trying to use this beast as my primary casual computer is the number of apps that don't work in horizontal mode or work bizarrely.  I'm looking at you Google Hangouts!  The Google Hangouts contact list only works in vertical mode, but when you're in a conversion with someone it works fine in horizontal. Really? REALLY! This type of insanity is everywhere. That means that I can't consistently hold the phone horizontally and be happy and I really want to do that.
Ignoring that horizontal gripe, it's great. I was worried I wouldn't be able to use the phone with one hand, but I use the cool double-tap feature to bring the top of the screen down ALL THE TIME, because I so often have a baby in my other hand and it's perfect. It makes this monster phone work fine one-handed.
I really wish all of the multitasking features worked on the phone so I could do PiP video, split screen, etc. But for now I'll work with what I have and see if I care about upgrading my iPad mini. I'm super-happy that I have unlimited data on the phone and I really want just keep burning through it.
Sadly - SADLY - I'm writing this on my laptop because Blogsy works on the iPad, but not the iPhone, and because Google Blogger only runs in vertical mode.  I am just now thinking I might have been able to pull this off in the web version... but nah.

Finally - reading comics on the big phone is plus ungood compared than reading them on the iPad mini.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Throw Away Your Memories

I ended the work day and stepped out of the office to find that my wife had taken all our movies and CDs out of the cabinets. "Hey, could you figure out if there is anything in here worth keeping, and we'll just donate the rest."

My childhood movie collection: "Secret of Nimh," "Flight of Dragons," "Dark Crystal." All on VHS.
My highschool music collection: "The Murmurs," "Peter Murphy," "They Might Be Giants." All on CD.
The thing is - we don't have a VCR in the house. We don't even have a CD player in the house.  All I could say is, "I need a moment." I got emotional.
My rational and emotional sides needed to have a conversation. Because in reality I know that I am never going to watch those VHS tapes or listen to those CDs again. The movies? The songs? Sure - I'll definitely watch those movies on Netflix and listen to those songs on Spotify, but I will never use those physical copies of it again. So rationally, I should just give them up so that we can use the space to hold crafts for the kiddos. Crayons, pens, coloring books, etc., make a lot more sense to store these days than decades old media I can't play.
It's hard to give up the totems. There were hard times in my past on those things helped to carry me through them and it feels like that imbued those actual physical items with gravitas.  THIS HERE!  This here?  This CD holds a hundred nights of wandering in the dark pondering the meaning of life. It holds a piece of me inside it.
In the end - it's almost all going to go on to new homes. I'm keeping The Murmurs. I'm keeping the Sailor Moon CD. I'm keeping ALL the VHS tapes. Beyond that, I'll make due creating new totems in my life.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Just Attach It on the Side

My new iPhone 6s+ didn’t show up today. I ordered at it 3:17am EST on pre-order day with the expectation it would show up on day one, but I got a notification from AT&T saying it would be late. Sad, right? There’s no people visiting my town or anything. I was excited that I did get a ship notification this morning with the FedEx delivery day for Monday. So, a little late, but not much - I think I’ll manage. Nothing like the Apple Watch fiasco where I had to wait an entire month!

Anyways, before I go the earlier ship notificatio, I was feeling bummed about having to wait a few weeks to get my phone and so to tide myself over I did some shopping therapy an order myself a couple of Mounties so I could side-mount my devices on my computer. This is pretty awesome, right? Running Duet on my iPad to give me an external display, and then running Reeder in full screen mode - AWESOME!

When I take the train to the office this week I am going to be able to mount my enormous iPhone on the side of my computer and watch movies on it. I’m super excited about this.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Fellow nerds, I thought we had this figured out - stop getting angry at the ad-blockers. It’s a cycle.

In the early 2000s we all learned to hate popups, side-pops, and the dreaded popunder (I’m looking at you X10 camera). So we started installing blockers all over the place and then the browser makers added in popup blockers, we all backed down and stopped installing the agressive 3rd party blockers.

TiVo came out in the early 2000s and we freaked out that it was the end of television. Only, it wasn’t. Sure, we skip most commercials, but we watch some, and now we have embedded advertising where the CIA uses Skype to plan operations in Homeland and Netflix and the like. Everybody is getting paid.

In 2015 the mobile phone is becoming the dominant web browsing platform and it’s a decade slower than the desktops - so when you’re serving us ads designed for a desktop, we freak out, and get extremely excited about blocking the insanity threatening mutually assured destruction.

You know what happens next, right? Ads get rejiggered to be faster, mobile optimized, and maybe not even do cross-site tracking. Then we all just simmer back down and get lazy about installing the blockers on the next upgrade. This is the cycle.

The moment I heard about Peace by Marco, I installed it. There was a time I thought Marco was kind of an arrogant jerk, but after listening to him talk for years, I’ve realized he is arrogant, humble, and smart. It’s a weird little combination - but the result is that I have a lot of faith in the Marco brand, so when Peace came out I was super excited. When I realized his app was also blocking ads on his site, it reassured me of the Marco brand. When he pulled it from the store, I was sad, but hey, do what ya gotta do.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In This Particular Season

Youth is wasted on the young, and free time is wasted on people without children. - John Siracusa

When Mrs.Chaos was pregnant with the first kid my friends jokingly said, "prepare to give up all your hobbies for the next 3-5 years." I laughed along knowing there would still be time in life to play and work on things. That's what naptime and after bedtime is for, right?

I fell into the pre-parents trap by grossly misunderstanding how I would want to use time. Writing apps? Learning Swift? Yeah, I haven't done that. Playing all the great games that have been coming out? Yeah, I haven't done that. WWDC, PAX, etc? Yeah, I haven't done that.

I *DO* think that I estimated the required time commitment roughly right in my brain, what I didn't think about was the optional time commitment. If I asked for an hour every couple of nights or on the weekend to do my own thing, I'm sure that Mrs.Chaos would be happy to oblige, but the thing is... given an hour of free time do I want to use it lock myself into the office and play with Swift? Or do I want to use it play trains with my family? In hindsight, the answer is obvious.

So many pieces of my life that I used to use to define myself - "I am an awesome developer, avid socialite, video game player, movie enthusiast" have dropped away to make room to define myself as a father. I try not to look back longingly on the time I had to do those things, because I don't want to make the time in my life to do them rigth now.

There was the essay "Are You Lonely, Mama?" aimed at the isolation that new mom's feel. Funny thing is, if you're a work-from-home dad like me, all the same points hit. A lot of the dads out there head into the office and it's not all business, they chat in the coffee room, go out to lunch, etc. Work from home? I sit at a desk in the front office all day and I have a lot of meetings on the phone, but there is not time for social.

From that essay, the line that resonated the most to me was:

You will never be more loved and wanted and needed as you are right now... in this moment. - Kristen Lavalley

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Plus Club

It's been two years since I upgraded my phone and that means my two year contract expired and I get to upgrade. I have to say this has been one of the more complicated pricing decisions I’ve had in a very long time.

I know everyone hates their phone company (just like they hate their internet provider and cable provider), but I’ve been happy with AT&T over the years. I got my very first phone on AT&T Wireless, which became Cingular, which became AT&T, and it’s been fine. I was a day #1 buyer of the first iPhone and have been carrying along my unlimited data plan the whole time.

Still, AT&T has been trying to get me off the unlimited data plan. I ran ALL the numbers basically the only way to keep the Unlimited data plan at the same 2-year ownership cost as AT&T Next or the Apple Replacement program, I had to sign another two year contract. I think eventually I’ll probably get off the unlimited data, but I like to keep it as long as I can.

These were my rough calculations for 64GB iPhone 6s+ with AT&T:

  • 2 year contract: $399 up front & $30/mo data plan: $1,119
  • Apple Pricing with Unlimited: $42.45/mo phone & $30/mo data plan: $1,738.8
  • Apple Pricing with 3Gb data: $42.45/mo phone & $15/mo data plan: $1,378.8
  • AT&T Pricing with Next 24 with 3Gb data: $35.37/mo phone & 15/mo data plan: 1,208.88

I moved up the iPhone 6s+ - yep, I’m joining the plus club. I used to pooh-pooh the idea than anyone used their phone for real computer, but then I had two kids. I probably do 80% of my non-work computing on my phone at this point because it’s the device I have when we’re at the park, at the mall, at our friends houses, wherever. I just don’t have a chance to use a real computer any more.

I’ll admit I’m super intrigued to be using my plus-size phoned with my bluetooth Apple Keyboard. Absurd? Sure, but perhaps, just perhaps, absurdly awesome?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Little Genetics

Mrs.Chaos asked me, “I need some help. I have five tables, each with six people. I’m going to have three rounds of games where I want everyone to rotate tables and meet as many unique people as possible.” It’s straight out of my college Putnam prep class.

The thing about problem solving in preparation for the Putnam exam is that while every problem could be proveable solved using mathematics, most problems could ALSO be solved using some sort of brute force algorithm I could write a program for. I was also always confident I could write the program to brute force it, but not always confident I could figure out the mathematics to solve.

So when Mrs.Chaos asked me that question I thought to myself, “I might be able to solve this problem using combinatorics or linear algebra, but I *KNOW* I can write a program that will solve this program."

I cranked on it for an hour, and wrote a great a basic genetic algorithm to solve it. I say, basic, because it randomly generates solutions and then checks the average number of other people everyone gets to sit with. Repeat forever and keep tracking of the best solution.

I gave the best solution to Mrs.Chaos and she started looking and said, “Oh. Sorry. People can’t be at the same table more than once.” Hmm, now it was more like one of those crazy algorithm interviews I’ve done. You solve the problem and then they add an arbitrary constraint onto the problem.

Simple enough, I added the contraint, “no one can sit at the same table more than once” and ran 1,000,000 iterations. No solution. I ran another 1,000,000 iterations. No solution.

I can trivially construct a non-optimal solution in my mind, so I know it’s possible, it’s just, apparently, rare. I made it a weak constraint, “optimize towards people not sitting at the same table.” After running another few million iterations I got a solution where only 2 people repeat tables and everyone sits with an average of 13.5 other people.

Anyway - now is the real question: do I rewrite it to actually solve the problem or just call it a day?

The Putnam Exam. Man that thing was crazy - the hardest major undergrate math exam. There are three problems and the median score is zero out of ten. The scoring:

1 point - you solve the problem
2 points - you get the optimal answer to the problem
3 points - you prove you got the optimal answer to the problem