Blog Tinkering

I spent an hour or two yesterday tinkering with this blog’s colour scheme — switching it from oppressive greys to a somewhat lighter feeling. The colour and font choices were inspired — by which I mean copied and pasted from — Quanta Magazine’s beautiful Arrows of Time page, although my lack of design skills has produced something much clumsier and more homely looking.

I also experimented with adding a few images. There’s still a lot of work to do with those, partly because I’m not really sure what purpose I want them to play. I don’t want them to take over the page, but I don’t want them to seem like little thumbnails. They’re also way too heavy and not very responsive. Hugo has some image processing abilities that may be helpful, but looking into them will have to wait for next weekend.


Halide Instant Raw

I recently cleared up a longstanding confusion I had about Halide. I thought you could export a RAW image that had been processed with Instant RAW as a RAW file and continue your edits in another program, such as Lightroom or Darkroom. It turns out that you can’t. Instant RAW is a proprietary process, so Halide doesn’t send the adjustments it has made when you export as RAW. To use Instant RAW as a starting point, you have to export as JPEG and edit that file, which limits the range of edits that you can apply.

I often like what Instant RAW does with my photos, but I’d still like to do a bit more with them. If my understanding of the Adobe docs is right, DNG files can store this kind of information, so it’s not impossible. It’d be nice if Halide’s makers could work something out with the Darkroom people to transfer the adjustments but to obfuscate them in some way.

That said, my pictures are not photographic masterpieces. I’m probably not losing much by exporting them as JPEG and making a few minor edits except the geeky satisfaction of knowing that I’m editing in RAW.


Not Quite My Own C64

My first computer was a Commodore 64. Way before I had my own though, I had access to one at the local public computer lab—aka, K-Mart. The local library had a few C64 magazines full of BASIC programs ready to be typed out, but magazines, for some reason, could not be loaned. I can’t clearly remember, but I think there was also a rule against them being photocopied. Otherwise why would I, as I clearly remember, have spent hours copying these programs by hand into an exercise book? Maybe I just didn’t have enough money.

After I’d got one down and more or less checked, I rode my embarrassingly non-BMX bike to K-Mart, where I stood for hours typing away on the display machine. It seems strange now, but I don’t remember anyone ever asking me to move on or stop what I was doing. The majority of the programs I tried out threw up a SYNTAX ERROR, caused either by my hunt-and-bash typing, poor copying, or the frequent flaws in the magazine text.

Sometimes, though, they worked, and when they did it was like hitting a home run. I had no way to save these programs, though, so when I was done I had no choice but to just walk away, leaving them to be wiped when the power was shut off for the night.


Non-breaking Em Dashes

This little snippet of code from Robin Sloan is very nice. It’s basically a regular expression that rewrites your HTML so that a line will never begin with an em dash. It also bookends the em dash with very thin spaces, which look just a bit nicer.

Now I have to work out how to apply it to the posts on this site, which are generated by Hugo. It’d be relatively easy if I were just running Hugo locally and deploying from my local machine, but I’m using Netlify to build and deploy. It seems like it might be possible to do if I write a plugin that runs after a build. All I have to do is work out what Javascript is needed to run the regular expression, get it to do that to a bunch of files at once, and then discover what magical incantations are needed to make the whole thing work.

Sounds like a nice holiday project.


Sounds Like a Threat

John Gruber on the AI hurdles facing Apple’s self-driving cars:

But how can the division behind Siri — a product that gets confused about what you mean by “What time is it in London?” — make a car that safely drives around a parking lot, let alone roads? “This car is as smart as Siri” sounds like a threat, not a selling point.


Apple Silicon Games

Apple Silicon Games lists over 400 games and reports on how well they run on Apple’s M1-based laptops.

Happily, Disco Elysium, the only game I’m likely to be playing for the next year or so—because it’s so deep—seems to run great. In fact, it’s already been updated to run natively on the M1.


Missing Inception Subs

Yesterday, Sony released a firmware update for a bunch of recent TVs that added, amongst other things, support for the Apple TV app. It seems to work great. I had a quick look through all my iTunes movies, and the 4K ones all look superb. One weird glitch I ran into is that Japanese subtitles don’t work in Inception. They work in every other movie I tried, and work in Inception on my Mac and phone, but not the TV. I wonder whether an app update will fix it or if it’s an issue with the encoding of the video file itself and, presumably, out of Apple’s hands.


Big Sur Bricking Older MacBook Pros

According to MacRumours

Users are reporting that during the course of updating to ‌macOS Big Sur‌, their machines are stuck displaying a black screen. Key reset combinations, including NVRAM, SMC, safe mode, and internet recovery, are all reportedly inaccessible after attempting to install the update, leaving no way to bypass the static black screen.

It appears that the overwhelming number of users experiencing problems are owners of the late 2013 and mid 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro, but it is unclear exactly how many users of these models have been affected. It is also of note that these are the oldest models supported by ‌macOS Big Sur‌.

Yikes. That’s exactly the MacBook I have. I was very close yesterday to updating to Big Sur to see whether it might fix a longstanding issue. Very glad I didn’t.


Handheld Commodore 64

Cem Tezcan’s mockups of an imaginary handheld Commodore 64 with built-in control pad and mini tape drive are adorable.


The New Wilderness

Maciej Ceglowski on privacy in the age of surveillance capital  —

This requires us to talk about a different kind of privacy, one that we haven’t needed to give a name to before. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll call it ‘ambient privacy’–the understanding that there is value in having our everyday interactions with one another remain outside the reach of monitoring, and that the small details of our daily lives should pass by unremembered. What we do at home, work, church, school, or in our leisure time does not belong in a permanent record. Not every conversation needs to be a deposition.

The New Wilderness