WTF Weekly

my thoughts on the week that was

31 Jul 2020

It’s been almost a month since I’ve last WTF’d for you. I have been working on a lot of different projects and not managing to be especially productive on any of them. But I’m alive!! And I’m here now.

Looking at this site really makes me want to overhaul the look, by which I primarily mean the CSS and the one piece of artwork (using the term “art” very loosely). The colors are horrendous. I’m going to start a new feature branch and start fixing that problem. It may take me a while, but it will happen.

In the meantime, please ignore my previous sad life choices and read about other people’s current sad life choices.

Federal Agents Unleash Militarized Crackdown on Portland

It’s crazy in Portland. No one wants the feds here, probably not even a lot of the feds. But here they are. And they’re being jerks. And they’re making people even madder than they already were. It takes a special brand of people to say “let’s prove those idiots who say we just beat the shit out of everyone wrong by beating the shit out of everyone”, but the feds are just that brand.

The teams, which include 2,000 officials from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, are supporting the Federal Protective Service, an agency that already provides security at federal properties.

Thanks, guys!

Black in Japan: Shifting the Narrative

I found this to be a fascinating read, because way back when I lived in Japan, I thought the Japanese looked even more uneasily at the very few black people we ever saw there than they did us still rare (at the time) white foreigners. I’m genuinely encouraged to read that there are positive black experiences in Japan, or at least some attitudes towards them that are the same as attitudes towards all gaijin.

Police Are Buying Access to Hacked Website Data

If you’re law enforcement and you want information about people without having to wait for normal legal channels or face the possibility a specific warrant won’t be issued, what do you do? You pay the same hackers the bad guys do for stolen data, that’s what.

This, of course, is very similar to the problem that mass surveillance poses, which is that police using this method of data gathering will undoubtedly encounter a lot of data about people who aren’t criminals and who aren’t related to whatever case they’re supposedly working, which is the whole point of warrants and legal processes in the first place.

Law enforcement is always going to feel like they need access to all data, all the time, in order to fight crime, and sometimes they don’t care too much whether it’s all legal and ethical or not.

Google accused by developer of retaliation for cooperating with House antitrust investigation

Hey, Google, next time wait a week (or at least until Trump tweets something especially stupid) before retaliating against someone who complained about you to the government. Someone might notice. 😂

Speaking of noticing things:

Google has historically been more relaxed when it comes to approval of apps on its store. The company’s Android operating system also makes it easier to install apps without using the official app store.

Yeah… and let’s make sure not to mention that they’ve had huge problems with malware because of it, ok? Because they have.

Apple Q3 2020 results: Everything up

Tim Apple may have no problems making wildly inaccurate statements to Congress about App Store policies, but he did preside over a quarter in which Apple had record 3rd quarter earnings Y-o-Y despite the worldwide pandemic. So there is that.

Part of it is obvious: people are working from home and just generally staying home more, and their computing devices are indispensable. Still, it’s interesting that Mac and iPad did better in terms of sales increases than the iPhone did. Again, that’s in line with people upgrading or complementing work-from-home setups, but it’s still unusual for Apple.

Good job, Tim Apple! Enjoy being yourself while you can! I have a feeling the government is going to start meddling in your little App Store at some point.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me if you really think that will help.

You can find my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

26 Jun 2020

It’s WWDC time again, and it’s been a wild one, so this installment of WTF Weekly is going to veer in that direction. I promise to return to covering our depressing dystopian reality in short order.

iOS and iPadOS 14: The MacStories Overview

The most surprising news to come out of the WWDC 2020 keynote was actually not about either iOS or iPadOS, but the iOS changes will definitely affect the most people.

I really like the widgets and particularly the App Library. I know these aren’t necessarily new or innovative concepts, but they’re nice to have and as usual, the devil is in the details. I use and prefer iOS and these changes only increase that preference.

Thoughts on WWDC 2020 Day One

I really like Jason Snell’s thoughts on the Intel to Apple silicon transition here. I do agree that it seems very likely this transition, as huge as it seems to a lot of people, should be very smooth, more so than Apple’s previous two CPU transitions.

I’m also curious about how many people really do rely on being able to run Windows on the Mac. There’s been some handwringing about it (not in this article or by Jason, but in general among other people), but I wonder how much it will really affect most people. My honest guess is not very much at all.

The Future of Apps on the Mac

One thing’s clear for Mac app developers: nothing’s clear.

There are now so many ways to get an app onto the Mac that developers can be forgiven if they’re a little uncertain as to what route to go, but ultimately the options all kind of make sense depending on what you’re trying to do with a specific app and what its current state is, and probably we’ll see a wild mix of Mac apps developed in different ways for some time going forward.

WWDC 2020: The little stuff you might have missed

As always, many interesting tidbits regarding iOS and macOS developments don’t get stage (or screen) time in the WWDC keynote, or even the State of the Union. Dan Moren writes about some of these for SixColors. Read the part about the App Store review process changes and see if it doesn’t blow your mind a bit.

How Might Apple’s ARM Silicon Perform in Future Macs? We Ran Some Benchmarks!

I think one of the major surprises of the past few years has been just how quickly Apple’s custom ARM designs have caught up with x86 performance.

There are various factors involved in the shift in power balance, but the bottom line is that what was seemingly unthinkable a few short years ago, namely putting CPUs that used to be thought of as mobile processors, now looks like a great move for Apple.

PC Mag decided to see exactly what this might look like in terms of actual performance comparisons and ran some benchmarks that require a lot of asterisks and don’t really tell us much more than we already knew about the performance of the iPad Pro except that running benchmarks is fun.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

You can find more of my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

03 Jun 2020

This week in the United States, the White House called for war against its own citizens, and police around the country responded. The militarization of police in this country has long been a disturbing trend, but now it feels like no one is pretending anymore.

Threatening US citizens with military force is not something any leader should ever consider pulling out of their bag of tricks, but this administration went there almost immediately. In addition, our president praised the aggressive behavior of police in Minneapolis while taunting governors around the country for being weak. Defense Secretary Mark Esper used the phrase “control the battlespace”.

One of the most well-spoken things I’ve heard this week comes from my friend Clay Daly. I’ve often admired and respected Clay, but never so much as I have today after listening to the latest episode of Just Clay. It’s called 2020-1619=?

I urge you to listen.

This Is Fascism

The country has entered a moment in which the frog notices it is getting boiled.

America going to war with its own citizens is bad enough, but the cops are pepper-spraying Congresswomen and fighting journalists (including arresting and beating them). I am not saying this to imply that some US citizens deserve more due process than others, but I am saying that a lot of police, military police, and secret service officers deployed in our cities right now clearly DGAF.

That message has been received by men around the country, some uniformed, some not, who seem to believe that Trump, Barr, Cotton, and the border patrol speak to them directly. The message is: Join the fascist party. We’re winning.

How Trump’s Idea for a Photo Op Led to Havoc in a Park

Trump has been about lying for the benefit of the people who want to believe him since day one, and he’s continuing to work straight out of that playbook. His most recent “appearance” as commander of law and order illustrates this nicely.

What should trouble you very much about this article is how many supposedly intelligent officials enable and go along with his irresponsible1 demands. Also not surprising, but very troubling, is the eagerness with which “Father knows best” Vice President Mike Pence considered the idea of sending active duty military into the nation’s streets.

The Congresswoman Pepper-Sprayed by Police

Many white people still don’t understand that the experiences of non-whites with the police in this country are vastly different than yours. My friend Clay mentioned in his podcast that I linked to above that people treat him differently when they find out about his doctorate degree because it startles their assumptions about him. The same appears to be true about Joyce Beatty in the eyes of at least some police.

We have got to stop with the underlying assumptions of motive, intelligence, experience, and character based on skin color. We have got to stop assuming that those who point out unjust treatment are whiners who can’t get over the past and realize that it is the very present in which they and us live in different worlds based on how we’re seen and received and treated. These things are real.

Pentagon chief on shaky ground with White House after breaking with Trump over protest response

It looks like the aforementioned Mark Esper has decided today that he maybe doesn’t think unleashing the might of the military on American soil is a great idea, and this is not winning him friends in the Trump administration, a company of vipers in which ideas and dissenting views are not welcome or really even tolerated.

Twitter shuts down white nationalist group posing as Antifa after Donald Trump Jr. shares its tweet

One thing is certain, white nationalists are heeding the dog whistle and outright summonings of dear orange leader, and they’re convinced this is their moment. Social media is definitely their friend as well, because they want the type of people who believe anything shocking they read online that satisfies their confirmation bias.

Social media in general is a huge problem for the human race. We aren’t equipped to be tied together mentally 24 x 7 like this. I think Twitter has serious issues, but Facebook is unequivocally one of the worst things that’s happened to humanity in a long time.

Also: could Donald Trump Jr. be a bigger asshole?

The Pentagon’s Hand-Me-Downs Helped Militarize Police. Here’s How

Finally, it’s important to recognize how the military has enabled the current state of the police in this country. There’s no way for police to run around with military gear on and not see US citizens as the enemy in a war. It’s not psychologically possible for these guys.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

You can find more of my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com


  1. At best; fascist at worst. ↩︎

 

28 Apr 2020

At moments, it’s hard to believe we aren’t living in the end times. I can’t remember the last time I felt real optimism, like anything was possible. Just living without a constant sense of lurking disaster would be nice.

When I was a boy, I would climb a tree and feel the sun on my skin and the breeze on my face and, at that moment, the world was a place full of only good. I can’t help but wonder if today’s kids have ever felt that free, that peaceful, that sheer positivity.

Anyway, back here in the hell we’ve created in the name of making America great again, Dear Orange Leader wonders aloud in front of the entire world about the viability of disinfectant injections and light treatments, because of course he does. If only there were people who made careers of studying diseases who could assist in this time.

These “are the good times — compared to what’s coming next”

Here’s a painful read. It’s very hard to look at modern United States of America and not understand that it’s in a decline, but to see it laid bare like this, with a crystal clear diagram of what comes next, really hurts.

U.S. coronavirus cases approach 1 million, one-third of global infections: Reuters tally

Remember when the great Oompa Loompa said Covid-19 cases in the US were going to be zero? Yeah. About that…

The Pentagon Hasn’t Fixed Basic Cybersecurity Blind Spots

The Pentagon, always excited about plans involving cyberattacks against others, apparently can’t be bothered to get its own house in order. This isn’t a theoretical failure either, it’s an inability to follow through on the Department of Defense’s own initiatives for fixing what ails them, security-wise.

Have I mentioned recently it feels like everyone has given up?

How Space Tries to Kill You and Make You Ugly

You know it’s dark times when reading about how much space would love to kill us feels lighthearted and entertaining. But it’s true. Space wants us dead.

This is a truly fascinating article about all the ways we aren’t equipped to live in places that aren’t earth, which seems both startlingly obvious, and also vaguely disturbing. If our plan is to escape out into the void rather than to quit trashing the home base, basic cosmic realities combined with human biology are here to say “not so fast, earthlings.”

America’s face-mask culture is changing, and their meaning changes too

Americans are pretty stellar at being culturally clueless, and their comprehension of why people in other countries wear face masks during cold and flu season is no exception.

I hope after this current pandemic eventually passes, our current increased willingness to do the right thing and cover the mouth and nose survives. The way we’ve historically wandered around spraying germs everywhere when we’re sick is beyond ludicrous.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

You can find more of my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com

 

14 Apr 2020

Another week of social distancing, but it hasn’t exactly slowed things down for me at work. Semiconductor test is already pretty hands-on, and more so when you’re in development. I’m not one of those people who suddenly has more free time to watch movies and tv and read books and listen to podcasts. The vast majority of my work is still on-site, and while a lot of people are working from home, that hasn’t stopped them from pestering me constantly.

I have, however, been staying at home, grocery shopping aside, on my days off. And it’s going to take a long time before I’m tired of it. I’m built for this. I have more projects than time, and all I need is my iPad and occasionally my iMac to do all of them.

I do miss restaurants, but empty roads and empty buildings at work make me happy. It’s like it used to be around here 20 years ago.

What is wildly different than 20 years ago is the state of this country I currently call home. It is run by corrupt incompetents, and it is not prepared to deal with anything less than the best of times, and we are not living in the best of times.

Emergency Declared In Japanese Prefecture Hit By 2nd Wave Of Coronavirus Infections

Japan has been a fascinating contrast to much of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. Japanese haven’t apparently adopted what the rest of the world thinks of as social distancing measures, and yet has been portrayed as having largely avoided an outbreak of Coronavirus cases. But it’s hard to judge the reality from outside the country.

In fact, just last week Abe declared a state of emergency for several prefectures. It could well be that Japan was complacent about its own vulnerability to the virus.

7 Predictions for a Post-Coronavirus World

I haven’t decided if I believe the world will change once the worst of the virus is over, or if I believe it will all just go back to normal. I hope for the former; I fear the latter.

One thing I do know is that the lifestyle we’ve carved out for ourselves, with the vast majority of adults driving or riding public transportation at the same times and being forced to all show up at work during the same hours is insane. The reason everyone at work constantly looks like they want to kill themselves is because they do. We all do. Something has to give.

The pandemic has forced numerous universities to move classes online, prompting calls from students for reimbursements of tuition and expenses. If, come fall semester, universities are still teaching online, what percentage of those students will re-enroll at pre-crisis tuition levels? The worldwide remote learning experiment that is currently underway may demonstrate that higher learning can function effectively at a fraction of in-person costs. If it does, it may lead to a reckoning that transforms the delivery of higher education, particularly for less-selective universities, as students re-weigh the costs and benefits of a four-year residential experience.

If nothing else changes based on this current pandemic, I hope this one does. If it doesn’t, it won’t be long before only the very wealthy are educated in the U.S., and those people who are the exceptions will be laden with tuition loan debt their entire adult lives.

The Real Reason Veterinarians Gave a Tiger a Covid-19 Test

The news that a tiger in New York had caught the coronavirus was eye-catching. Who the hell did a tiger know to get tested so quickly?

This is both fascinating and vaguely frightening. I guess it’s not that weird for viruses to jump back and forth between humans and animals, but it still is troublesome.

Another one from Wired, and this is fascinating: the story of how Apple and Google are teaming up to enable Covid-19 contact-tracing in a privacy-considerate manner.

How Apple and Google Are Enabling Covid-19 Contact-Tracing

Look, let’s just accept the facts: the only way for society to get back to anything resembling normal in an age of pandemics is lots of testing and lots of understanding about social interactions by people who are sick.

The nightmare scenario, of course, is that governments just track us all and monitor all of our interactions and never turn it off whether or not there’s a raging worldwide pandemic. Apple and Google want to head that off, and their answer is something that respects privacy as much as possible and is under complete control of their respective iOS and Android platforms.

One potential weakness born of the desire for privacy is that it depends on self-reporting. If someone reports themself, then people can be notified that they’ve potentially contacted this person based on beacon numbers.

It will be interesting to see if this method falls victim to either failure of people to self-report when they should or, conversely, for people to falsely claim to be ill in order to disrupt the lives of everyone whose paths they’ve crossed.

Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise on their moon mission 50 years later

Tonight we ate pizza and watched Apollo 13. It’s a great movie that has aged extremely well, and it does a pretty good job of sticking to historical reality, although naturally some creative license was applied to the film.

More fascinating, of course, is the actual Apollo 13 mission and the people involved.

“Problem solving with the system we had was suited to what we had to get done, as every mission had problems to deal with,” Haise said in an interview with collectSPACE.com. “But we never considered an explosion, in the sense of being able to work around that.”

“Normally, that would manifest in a loss of the vehicle and crew,” he said.

Indeed.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

You can find more of my thoughts on tech and other projects on my personal site at scottwillsey.com