• 2021

  • Anders Snylund’s Bulletproof TypeScript useLocalStorage hook

  • I’ve found myself using localStorage more and more these days. Turns out there’s a fancy hook for that. Not surprised! But where’s the love for TypeScript?

    Turns out, Anders has done the refactoring for us:

    import { useState } from "react";
    export const useLocalStorage = <T>(key: string, initialValue: T): [string, typeof setValue] => {
      const [storedValue, setStoredValue] = useState(() => {
        try {
          const item = window.localStorage.getItem(key)
          return item ? JSON.parse(item) : initialValue
        } catch (error) {
          return initialValue
      const setValue = (value: T): void => {
        try {
          const valueToStore = value instanceof Function ? value(storedValue) : value
          window.localStorage.setItem(key, JSON.stringify(valueToStore))
        } catch (error) {
          return error
      return [storedValue, setValue]
  • DALL·E: Creating Images from Text

  • We’ve trained a neural network called DALL·E that creates images from text captions for a wide range of concepts expressible in natural language.

  • 2020

  • Refactored and Re-loaded

  • It’s a tough business to manage a website.

    Between, the pandemic, looming anxiety, and a medically necessary surgery to repair my right knee (more on that later), it seems I’ve left my website in a sorry state for a few months now. I migrated my website to a static infrastructure thanks to Gatsby and Netlify earlier this year. I’ve largely been really happy with this setup of publishing in WordPress, and triggering Netlify page/post generations via a web hook. The pagespeed score alone was incredible. I could sing praises all day long, but what I want to write about today, is refactoring.

    I let my v1 repo sit untouched for roughly 8 months. Yikes. I had plenty of errors and was hastily written. It was not typed at all, and was largely a mess. I decided to get serious, and wrote a list of must-haves for a v2:

    • Typescript baby
    • styled-components
    • Better support for more post types (such as bookmarks or projects)
    • More effective linting setup and better error handling
    • Client-side Apollo-powered GraphQL queries for bookmarks and dynamic content where possible (such as comments, coming later)
    • DRY out the code base, and remove unused dependencies
    • More effective theming approach

    A tall order indeed. However, it was possible! I powered through it, and renamed my .js files to .ts and .tsx and largely followed Gatsby’s own provided typescript example, which was really helpful when it came time to debug build-time errors locally. As I was working on this refactor, I scoped out Brian Lovin’s website and just fell in love with the feed/timeline style he uses to organize his bookmarks. So, naturally, I took great inspiration from him to build something similar:

    I’m pretty pleased with the results. I’ve wanted something like this for a very long time. So, I want to take a moment to thank Brian for open sourcing his site (although his site is powered with next.js, it was an inspiration none the less). It paved the road for me to investigate a path forward building a similar suite of components using Apollo Client and wp-graphql.

    Ultimately, the list of changes and new features led to this nightmare diff (mostly configuration and newlines to get typescript working):


    But it built successfully, and I was happy to finally have Typescript at the ready.

    Up next, I will be finally adding back the commenting ability to my blog posts (and maybe setup a proper site search?). After that, I’ll probably add some portfolio and personal work. But, until then I will be resting comfortably sipping IPAs and mulled wine during this holiday, playing video games and pampering my two buds, Frank and Kevin:

    Merry Christmas!

  • Replacing Pre-installed Mac OS PHP Version with Homebrew’d PHP Version

  • This was a long and winding path. Every couple of years I go through the same problem. New PHP version, determine installation method, feverishly Google. Sigh.

    For my own sanity. I thought it was best to record my workflow. I tried installing PHP via a tried-and-true method:

    brew upgrade
    brew install php

    Awesome. Easy enough right? I now should have PHP 7.4 (as of writing it should be 7.4, that is) installed via Homebrew. Yet when I ran php -v the terminal output was infuriating incorrect:

    PHP 7.3.3 (cli) (built: Mar 30 2019 08:43:01) ( NTS )
    Copyright (c) 1997-2018 The PHP Group
    Zend Engine v3.3.3, Copyright (c) 1998-2018 Zend Technologies
        with Zend OPcache v7.3.3, Copyright (c) 1999-2018, by Zend Technologies

    What gives? Why is it still showing the system pre-installed PHP? I Googled and searched for answers frantically to no avail. Then, finally it hit me. My damn .zshrc file. I still have the old installation in my $PATH. To update, I simply removed the old line. Next I added the php keg, so it’s in my $PATH:

    echo 'export PATH=/usr/local/Cellar/php/7.4.9/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.bashrc
    source ~/.zshrc

    I reloaded my shell with source ~/.zshrc and now, when I run php -v I see some results:

    PHP 7.4.9 (cli) (built: Aug  7 2020 19:23:06) ( NTS )
    Copyright (c) The PHP Group
    Zend Engine v3.4.0, Copyright (c) Zend Technologies
        with Zend OPcache v7.4.9, Copyright (c), by Zend Technologies

    Hope this helps someone else who just wanted to install a damn PHP version but may have overlooked their shell configuration “run commands,” after upgrading with Homebrew 🙃

  • Photos of the rare P-series iPhone prototypes running Acorn OS

  • The iPhone has no doubt been a crazy success since the early days. But how did the iPhone end up being such a success? Speculation, rumors and the lack of a design-first company in the market left Apple wide-open to squeeze into a already crowding market of cell phones and catalyze the smartphone industry into the behemoth that it is today. It took years of research, iteration and trial and error to produce the first iPhones. Apple was prototyping devices in secrecy with fabricators in China as early as 2005 with Foxconn and Pegatron. Looking back, we can see the design lineage and early ideas that were afoot in the company.

    Early on, there was a bet that the clickwheel, an invention of the successful iPod could be re-used in the iPhone. Thanks to @DongleBookPro, and (a few others over the years), we have some interesting images of late Acorns OS. Apple installed numerous diagnostic tools on these devices such as fabricator diagnostics, carrier and engineering diagnostic UI. Hap Plain of Cult of Mac put together this video showing just how rudimentary some of these early P-series iPhones worked here:

    The rudimentary touch-operated Acorn OS that ran on these prototypes eventually were refined and became the much beloved iOS. For further reading I recommend 9to5mac’s piece on the history behind Acorn OS and how it came to be.

  • ByteDance in talks to sell TikTok to Microsoft

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, ByteDance, the parent company behind TikTok is in talks to sell the app to Microsoft. As a primer, Microsoft prefers to buy their innovations instead of inventing or building them. No shame there. It’s literally how Microsoft has done business for years. They bought MS-DOS (QDOS) in 1981 from a Seattle software firm. In 2016, they purchased LinkedIn for $26B. A pretty hefty price-tag.

    How much do you think Satya Nadella will pony up for TikTok? $10B? $30B? Who knows. What we do know, is that the entire deal could evaporate (or at the very least go on hold). You see, the two parties are waiting for guidance, and approval from America’s favorite dictator — President Trump. Yesterday he said he was going to sign an executive order to force the app to cease operations in the US. Everyone is waiting to make moves until he literally makes an executive decision.

    Regardless, it’s unclear just how profitable TikTok could be, but they’re investing heavily in a in-house business-first ads platform. Think… Facebook or Twitter. I think that’s pretty telling. I guess we’ll have to wait until the curtain is pulled back to know more.

  • LA Metro Says TAP Transit Cards May Support Apple Pay Later This Year

  • According to this official tweet from LA Metro:

    It’s happening! It’s long been known that LA Metro has been working on upgrading its TAP system, and it’s about time. Contactless payments are clearly the future. New York City has had it for nearly a year (although, not all 472 stations support it yet). I wonder if TAP contactless will be live by the time iOS 14 hits the ground running?

  • Trump Administration Drops Plan to Strip Visas From Foreign Students in Online Classes Amidst Lawsuits

  • After 17 States, and the three of the Big Four decide to sue to the Trump Administration, do they rescind their racist plan to strip visas from foreign students. As a backdrop, we’re currently in the midst of colossal pandemic, with nearly half of million dead so far.

    Pretty foolish of the Trumpist to try to pull this stunt. In normal times, under a normal president, this would be political suicide months before an election. Hell, I’d normally say this was unbelievable, but honestly this was expected. Look at his racist executive actions with DACA. Thankfully, that order was blocked by the SCOTUS ruling just a month ago. But, DACA recipients still remain in a legal limbo until Congress passes a law to grant them citizenship.

  • Websites that look like desktop GUIs

  • Came across this post on Hacker News and just had to share it here too. This is one of my favorite things to see on the web and it never fails to make me smile. My favorite is JS Paint, I mean just look at it!

    Behold, MS Paint (essentially) in a broswer!

    I never really considered cataloging them in a blog post until now. Simone’s list is pretty great, check it out here.

    Update January 22, 2021: Check out this one from NBC’s The Office.

  • New site, who dis

  • I haven’t developed a new WordPress theme for this website (that I really loved) in a long time. So naturally, it was time to re-examine my personal tech stack. If you personally know me, you know I’m a WordPress advocate. Big fan of ol trusty.

    There’s a few problems with WordPress I’ve been hung up on for a while now. It can be a bit slow (sometimes). Media managing can be painful on the front-end. Deployment processes are… all over the place. Historically, I’ve been a huge fan of Trellis from Roots. While we’re at it, I was a big fan of Bedrock too. Finally, I work with React and JavaScript all day long — why can’y my personal website run on a modern tech stack too?

    Well, I came across this post from Chris Coyier, and I was pretty much sold on the JAMStack concept immediately. At work, and at other organizations like Twitter, server-rendered pages are stupid fastest. Heck, they’re typically standard these days for most web apps. Enter the Gatsby + WordPress stack. Why abandon years of publishing paradigms when you can keep them?

    There’s no shortage of tutorials on the Gatsby + WordPress setup. Initially I played around with some starter projects, like this one. I personally started (and later forked) with egghead.io’s starter. It’s pretty spectacular out-of-the-box, and if you enjoy love @emotion theming or styled-components, I think you’ll dig too. But, really Gatsby itself has a lot to love. For example, Gatsby has drop-in support for server-rendering. Super cool stuff. I really enjoyed Juliano Rafael’s (@frontendwizard) notes on this subject:

    Progressive image loading? Inlining of critical CSS? Painless PWA configuration? You name it, Gatsby got you. It is really impressive. Don’t believe me? I encourage you to try it out.

    The solution for images is so good, that is constantly referred as a strong point of Gatsby, even thought it actually is a plugin. All you gotta do is add a couple of plugins into your Gatsby config file and you’re good to go. Your images will be available on the GraphQL API at build time and the image component will handle all the resize, picking the best file format and everything else. You even get a blur up effect to improve the user experience for free.

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously. These web apps freakin purr. I’m overdue for writing a full tutorial on this subject, so stay tuned. But, for now I want to share a high-level overview of the technical lift I undertook for my site migration.

    My order of operations (yours might be slightly different):

    Now that we have our API-site prepped for deploy-hooks, exposed the frontpage and menus endpoints — we’re ready to consume the API with our server-rendered React app powered by Gatsby. Here’s a sample of my gatsby-config.js file:

    resolve: `gatsby-source-wordpress`,
    options: {
      // Your API WordPress source goes here.
      baseUrl: `example-api.stephen.news`,
      protocol: `https`,
      // Fetches posts, tags, categories, etc from the baseUrl.
      includedRoutes: [
      useACF: false,

    I absolutely love this setup.

    All of the un-fun configuration stuff is already handled by the WordPress/WP REST API side, and all of the actually fun conventional interface building is done on the… well, the interface side. A complete separation of church and state, if you will. It’s a thing of beauty. Absolute zen.

  • Mondo releases an Original MSX2 Metal Gear Video Game Soundtrack 10″

  • The MSX2 was a home computer that pre-dated Nintendo’s Entertainment System (NES). Just like the NES, the MSX2 had a top-slot cartridge port. It was a pretty cool design, and other home computers that came before (and after) it featured a similar top-slot design. Here’s a MSX2 computer fabricated by Phillips:

    The MSX was originally release in 1983, however this specific model produced by Phillips was released in 1986.

    Japan (as is normally the case) was ahead of the curve, as they believed a home computer could be at the center of every home. Oddly enough, they were right.

    One of the smash-hit titles that was released for the MSX2 was Metal Gear (メタルギア) in 1987 by Konami. Metal Gear was a legendary action-adventure stealth and espionage video game title. The game, and the franchise that followed, was so successful that successors and sequels continue to be produced to this day. Here’s the original Metal Gear artwork:

    Special Force Group: Fox Hound — heck yeah, so sick.

    This had a legendary musical score (check out a sample here). The original score is credited to composer Motoaki Furukawa. He was a key member of Konami’s in-house band (that’s right, Konami has an in-house band), Konami Kukeiha Club. The band has been in operation since the 1980’s.

    Mondo, a purveyor of extraordinarily fine goods, t-shirts, media, sci-fi paraphernalia and god-knows-what-else — is dropping a 10″ original soundtrack pressing of Metal Gear replete with new artwork and camouflage colored vinyl:

    This premiere physical release of the soundtrack is cut at 45RPM, and features all new original artwork by Paul Mann that pays tribute to the 80’s action films that inspired the game, and is pressed on heavyweight Camouflage colored vinyl.

    If you are a fan of chiptunes, looking for an edge-up on your next DJ set, or simply just a Metal Gear superfan, this record is an absolute must-have. You can pick up this super-dope limited release at Mondo, here.

  • Will Netflix survive the streaming wars?

  • The short answer: it’s unclear.

    What is clear, is that the streaming wars are becoming increasingly expensive. Everyone is vying for the customer’s prime-time attention. Just to watch the latest new original series X on streaming service Y is a mind-bending calculation. Just between those two variables alone, and conservative estimates on new original content: roughly 10 services with original content, 5 new series per year at 10 episodes each, comes to about 250 episodes to stream. That’s roughly 250 hours worth of content to stream pear year. America’s greatest export is after all, entertainment.

    That’s a lot to keep up with, and that doesn’t even include cable studio production releases that come from favorites such as FX or SYFY.

    Professor Scott Galloway makes a great point that SVODs that have an economic flywheel (e.g. companies that attract customers via Prime or iPhone sales, and enjoy the benefits of staying within those ecosystems such as Prime Video or Apple TV+ respectively) are immune to economic downturns. A couple of obvious giants that fit that mould are Amazon and Apple:

    Chart: No Mercy / No Malice, Professor Scott Galloway

    Following that rubric, Disney+ doesn’t enjoy the flywheel designations and Netflix is experiencing an especially painful truth — producing original content is very expensive:

    I’m not even sure Netflix gets out alive. Netflix is now the US economy, vulnerable to a spike in interest rates as it takes on increasing amounts of debt to fund staggering investments in original content. The original gangster can’t rely on gross margin dollars from Mandalorian action figures, handsets, or paper towels (no flywheel). The key question is can Netflix’s first-mover advantage/skill be replicated in other markets.

    If Netflix isn’t careful, when the next recession or economic downturn hits, (reminder: the American deficit is nearing $1 Trillion) it’s entirely possible that Netflix won’t survive.

  • Foxconn’s production continues to be recalled as Coronavirus takes hold

  • Apple generates $27M in profit every couple of hours.

    That’s important to understand because the fuel for that economic furnace is powered by people. You’d think it’s devices (and it is really), but at the end of the day, it’s people who assemble these ivory devices. Apple’s device sales generate the bulk of their cash. That’s why Apple has been focused on other revenue segments such as services and entertainment recently. Foxconn, is Apple’s primary fabricator and production darling, located in Shenzhen.

    The majority of confirmed COVID-19 cases are in China, and as The People Republic of China contains its spread, only a fraction of workers are allowed to go back to work. Foxconn is deeply affected by this. Only about 10% reported back to work in Shenzhen last week. That’s painful for Apple, but for Foxconn, every day they aren’t producing, it eats into their margins as production estimates slip. They’ve begun to recall workers back to their factories in phases according to the Financial Times.

    If only Foxconn would’ve built this mysterious factory in Mount Pleasant sooner. In fact, Foxconn has yet to manufacture a single thing in Wisconsin at all. They risk losing their Republican-apportioned tax credits and now they risk their razor-thin margins due to an outbreak that could have been contained much sooner.

  • 2019

  • Sonos Speaker

    Sonos is bricking old devices with ‘Recycled Mode’

  • Chris Welch reporting at The Verge writes:

    Late last week, Sonos was called out on Twitter by Devin Wilson for its practices around sustainability. The company drew particular attention for a “Recycle Mode” software feature that, once activated, begins a countdown that eventually renders older Sonos devices basically inoperable. Recycle Mode is part of the trade-up program that Sonos announced back in October, which lets customers get a discount on newer Sonos speakers like the One, Beam, or the Port that Nilay just reviewed.

    At first glance, the Recycle Mode seems like a good idea. Except for this one crucial feature of the Sonos App:

    Recycle Mode is a state your device enters 21 days after recycling confirmation in the Sonos app. In Recycle Mode, all data is erased and the device is permanently deactivated so you can safely and securely dispose of it. Once a device is in Recycle Mode, it cannot be reactivated.

    Wait. What the fuck? This is so fucked. I’m all for reducing, reusing and recycling. But, I prefer to do the reducing and reusing first.

    Forcing customers to brick their devices, to force them to recycle is not ideal. In fact, forcing consumers to brick their devices should be illegal. It turns out that recycling isn’t even the most effective way to recover materials. Simply put, shipping our recyclables to China (or elsewhere) for processing isn’t working. As a result, many cities are moving away from recycle programs. In fact, many are forced to recover energy from plastics and trash by burning it in furnaces, and in many cases this is the most green scenario. So, why on Earth is Sonos doing this? To edge up profits in this fierce smart-speaker market of course.

  • Every Two Weeks, a Language Dies

  • Nina Strochlic at National Geographic writes:

    Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century.

    In rare cases, political will and a thorough written record can resurrect a lost language. Hebrew was extinct from the fourth century BC to the 1800s, and Catalan only bloomed during a government transition in the 1970s. In 2001, more than 40 years after the last native speaker died, the language of Oklahoma’s Miami tribe started being learned by students at Miami University in Ohio. The internet has connected rare language speakers with each other and with researchers. Even texting has helped formalize languages that don’t have a set writing system.

    Other languages have not been so lucky in a post-internet world. Many, will never return from extinction. But it’s true that being more connected, we have more opportunities to connect and preserve our ancestral dialects and languages. In National Geographic’s article, they share a video of two surviving speakers of Gottscheerish:

    For more information, check out WikiTongues, the seed bank of the world’s languages.

  • Travis Kalanick Sells Remaining Uber Shares, Leaving Board

  • After selling more than $2B of his shares, Travis Kalanick has severed his final ties to Uber. The New York Times reports:

    Travis Kalanick, the founder and former chief executive of Uber, has stepped down from the company’s board of directors, severing his last tie with the company. 

    Mr. Kalanick, 43, started the Uber in 2009 with co-founder Garrett Camp, and grew it from a small start-up to a behemoth that defined the ride hailing industry. The company went public in May, and has since struggled on the public market. The board forced Mr. Kalanick to resign as chief executive in 2017 after a series of sexual harassment and privacy incidents.

    Talk about selling out. Kalanick’s reign of burning a seemingly endless supply of cash may have finally come to an end, but Uber continues to hemorrhage cash. Travis has been riding the IPO pony to cash out slowly (which, I should add, many others were not so lucky). A majority of his shares have been locked-up since the IPO, which is why he didn’t sell them en masse. There’s no ambiguity about this $2B conclusion, he’s done with Uber.

  • Dennis Muilenburg Fired From Boeing Amid 737 Max Crisis

  • The New York Times reports:

    The company has been mired in the worst crisis in its 103-year history since the crashes of two 737 Max jets killed 346 people. The plane has been grounded since March, and Boeing has faced cascading delays as it tries to return the Max to the air. 

    The company said David Calhoun, the chairman, would replace Mr. Muilenburg on Jan. 13. Until then, Boeing’s chief financial officer, Greg Smith, will serve as interim chief executive, the company said.

    Firing Muilenburg won’t mend the damaged reputation nor will it fix the highly problematic MCAS system that plagues the 737 Max aircraft, but it will catalyze Boeing to switch gears. Never mind the fact, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft test over the weekend was an orbital failure.

    Previously, the ramifications of Boeings accumulated failures had begun as a slow moving tidal wave affecting airline operators such as Southwest being forced to leave Newark. Now, as the plane’s future remains unclear, aerospace supply chains have begun to feel the pressure as well. Boeing, just a week ago — halted the production of the Boeing 737 Max airplane. As many as 8,000 suppliers and third-party vendors will be affected by the halted production.

    Not good.

  • Interfaces, People and Machines: Good Design Goes Beyond Just Good Looks

  • Interface: people, machines, design, is a new show exhibiting at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in New South Wales, Australia. From the exhibition’s description:

    Interface: people, machines, design explores how design has been applied to information technology products; about how a handful of companies made complicated technology appealing and easy to use. What they did effectively was, look at what you do, think about what you need and create what you want. Interface is about the visionaries who started some of the great consumer product companies of the 20th century, including Olivetti, Braun and Apple, and how the designers and engineers they hired found a means of imparting their ideals into the products they designed.

    I’m a huge fan of user-centric design. We often forget that everything is designed. While most items are not thoughtfully designed, the most successful are (and therefor, plenty of products are emulations or forked from original products without permission, such as mass-market SEM watches). The Conversation has an excellent summary of the exhibit core-focus on human-centric engineering and design:

    While we nowadays associate interfaces with digital computing, this show suggests we should think otherwise. Tactile buttons, knobs, dials and machined surfaces abound.


    Featuring the work of well-known designers such as Dieter RamsJonathan IveEttore SottsassSusan Kare and Peter Behrens, the show does more than acknowledge the genius of the “superstar”. It also presents an “archaeology” of how material, function and form morph across time.

    More than this, Interface underscores the importance and continuity of what we now call “user-centered design”. It shows this across a range of practices – and not just modern information design.

    2+7 Telephone. Designed by Marcello Nizzoli, made by SAFNAT, Italy, 1958. Powerhouse Museum
    Divisumma 18 portable calculator, designed by Mario Bellini, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1973. Photo: Powerhouse Museum. Powerhouse Museum

  • Microsoft Announces New Next-gen Console, Xbox Series X

  • Pretty big announcement from Microsoft happened yesterday. Tom Warren for The Verge reports:

    Microsoft has been working on Xbox Series X under the name Project Scarlett previously, and today’s naming follows confirmation from Sony that it’s choosing PlayStation 5 for the name of its next console. Microsoft is also claiming Xbox Series X will be the “fastest” and “most powerful,” in what could be a reference to having a more powerful console than Sony’s PlayStation 5.

    Earlier this month, Project Scarlett (the alias the Xbox has been known as up until now), officially became Phil Spencer’s (Phil is Microsoft’s Head of Xbox) primary console at his home:

    Well, now we have a few more details, and can expect it to go on sale in 2020. It kinda looks like a boxy Mac Pro with a slot-loading disk drive. While we don’t have a list of specs or internal photography, looking at this design so far I would be concerned about thermals. The Mac Pro wrestled with that problem til the very end, and the Series X is supposed to be playable resting upward or on its side like a soundbar.

    Here’s the new trailer, it’s a little over-the-top, but definitely a tour-de-force of creative CGI that can be appreciated. The console appears around 1:18

    Here’s a few stills from the video:

  • “Raspbaby Yoda” Raspberry Pie

  • I hope you’ve been following The Mandalorian on Disney+. Wether you have (or have not) seen the show yet, matters not. All you need to know is, Baby Yoda, (or as he is officially known, The Child) is pretty much the cutest thing ever to grace the Star Wars universe.

    What happens when you combine stellar baking artistry and a love for the cutest alien sidekick ever? You get a Raspbaby Yoda. Get it?

    You can follow this incredible pie artist here on Instagram (via u/ThePieous on Reddit).

  • Duolingo Earns $100M in Annual Bookings, Raises $30M from Alphabet

  • Duolingo’s Premium subscription offering, which launched in 2017, has contributed to a meteoric increase in annual bookings. It continues to invest more and more R&D into AI and machine learning to power its tutoring software and growth. Duolingo raised some serious money from Alphabet bringing the total valuation of the charming Pittsburgh startup, to roughly $9 billion:

    Popular language learning app Duolingo has raised $30 million in a series F round of funding from Alphabet’s investment arm CapitalG. […]

    Duolingo claims 30 million users are actively learning languages on its platform, and it has emerged as one of the most downloaded educational apps globally. Since its last funding round more than two years ago, it has more than doubled its employees from 95 to 200 and has opened additional offices in Seattle, New York, and Beijing. It also now claims annual bookings of $100 million after it launched its premium plan in 2017, a significant increase from the $33 million it drew in last year.

    (via VentureBeat)

  • Lil Bub, the Internet’s Favorite Cat Has Died

  • From Mashable:

    On Monday, Lil Bub’s human, Mike Bridavsky, shared the sad news on social media, along with a side-by-side photo composite featuring the first and last photo the two took together.

    Per the post, Lil Bub was born in June 2011 and passed away on Sunday, Dec. 1. She was born with several genetic anomalies, including a rare bone condition called osteopetrosis, disproportionately small limbs, a lack of teeth, and an extra toe on all four paws. According to Bridavsky, before she died she was battling an “aggressive bone infection.”

    Rest easy Lil Bub, you showed us love and you will be missed 💔. Lil Bub passed away at the young tender age of 8, but may she will live on forever in our hearts.

  • The Motorola RAZR is Back

  • Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge reports:

    The hinge is also a bit stiff so you won’t be able to just whip it open with a flick of a wrist — closing it with one hand also involves some more finger contortions to start the closing action. It’s just more practical to close it with your other hand.

    Even with these caveats, the whole opening and closing mechanism is supremely satisfying to do, with crisp snaps in both directions. Snapping the phone shut to hang up on a call is a particular delight; there really is no better way to end a call than the classic flip phone snap, and it’s excellent to see that Motorola has kept it alive here. The hardware feels great, too, with solid-feeling stainless steel and glass on the outside and a wonderfully textured back that’s nice and grippy, which is essential for not dropping it while flipping it open and shut. (It is a fingerprint magnet, though.)

    A freaking… hinge! Did you hear that?!

    Photo: The Verge

    Pretty wild right? What year is this? Check out The Verge’s review video below. At the 1:20 mark, Chaim makes a fantastic point. All the other foldables seem to have run into the same problem. They all have terrible hinge designs, among other unmemorable product design issues. For other unknown reasons, most of the other devices fold hamburger style instead of hotdog. Perplexing really. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Fold? It was atrocious, and If you recall, it failed spectacularly.

    Sure, the new RAZR isn’t exactly the most beautiful smart device either. It does after all run on Android and will likely employ Google RCS. Nonetheless, it does raise some eyebrows. It brings Motorola back into the fray, and it brings the flip back to smart phones in such a memorable way. One major upside for this design? No more glass screens, which means no more cracked screens for those that fumble (myself included). I think that’s a bright future we can all hope for.

    Overall, I’m not sure if I would love it owning a RAZR (I never owned the original RAZR in the first place, but I did own a Sidekick 3 once upon a time), but it has certainly piqued my interest. I think it’s entirely possible that this foldable mobile-device paradigm just might make a comeback. What do ya’ll think?

  • 100 Drone Light Show

  • Firefly is a company focused on delivering highly choreographed drone shows for venues, performances and entertainment. It takes a lot of time and money to get FAA certified these days for piloting a single drone. Programming a fleet of these is really remarkable, and takes some serious planning and skill. If you ask me, this much much cooler than a fireworks show.

  • FarmWise, and the Rise of the Agribots

  • From TechCrunch:

    Automating agriculture is a complex proposition given the number and variety of tasks involved, but a number of robotics and autonomy companies are giving it their best shot. FarmWise  seems to have impressed someone — it just raised $14.5 million to continue development of its autonomous weeding vehicle.

    Currently in the prototype stage, these vehicles look like giant lumbering personnel carriers or the like, but are in fact precision instruments which scan the ground for invasive weeds among the crop and carefully pluck them out.

    A pretty impressive, lumbering, weed-pulling, beast-of-a-prototype. It looks like an absolute unit too:

    Image: FarmWise

    These sorts of bots have became very well known in the auto industry, the textiles industry, and now they’re coming to agriculture. Simply put, they’re designed to replace mundane awful tasks previously occupied by human hands. In the long-scheme of things, this is a good thing. Not-so-fun jobs should be automated. Improving the quality of life for mankind is a good thing.

    But, if you think your job can’t be automated, think again. We have robots writing headlines and blog posts, self-writing their own programs, nailing roof tiles, and just about everything else (questionable or otherwise) in-between. That may sound really scary (and it is a little bit). The long-arc of these sorts of innovations will make create abundance with little effort, and will ultimately lead to a world where a majority the human-race are unemployable. I won’t claim to know the solution to that problem, but is an unavoidable outcome (see below) we should debate and talk about more freely, because it’s happening faster than you think.

    I’m serious about the nail-gun wielding roofing-robot. It’s really something to behold:

    Further Watching:

    If you have 15 minutes and you’re convinced your job can’t be occupied by automation, I urge you to watch CGP Grey’s film, Humans Need Not Apply. It’s a gripping must-watch short.

  • 16.6M Personal Details of Ecuadorians Leaked Online

  • From Forbes:

    Some 20.8 million records, within 18GB of data, were exposed on an unsecured server located in Miami, Florida, which appears to be owned by an Ecuadorian company, according to the researchers. The entire population of Ecuador is 16.6 million; the difference can be accounted for by way of duplicated records and others which are not related to citizens of the South American country.

    Terrible news. You read that correctly. The entire population of Ecuador has now been put at risk of identity theft. This was about on par with the Experian Breach that exposed 15M consumers accounts which including social security numbers and tax information.

    At this point, the entire country of Ecuador should declare identity bankruptcy (that should be a thing), and re-issue everyone new personal identification secrets and give everyone affected notice. Oddly enough, this leaked private information also included Ecuador’s favorite squatter, Julian Assange.

  • A Visual History of the iPhone’s Camera Bump

  • Photo by @benjaninja8 via Imgur:

    iPhone camera placement and product design, 2007 – 2019.
  • Apple Music for the Web is Here, and it Continues to Run on Ember

  • As some of you may know, I’m an avid Apple Music user (shocker). I’ve never really been a big fan of Spotify as some of my friends and co-workers are. It’s always seemed like a second-hand service to me. They’re meddling in my favorite podcasts, they rob musicians of their dues, they maintain a music player that catalyzes scandals and increments false play counts. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Spotify is selling their users data, wether or not you’re a Premium or Free subscriber.

    Umm, no thanks.

    But, enough about all that preface. Previously, when I’m away from my home computer or iPhone, and want to listen to my Apple Music library on my work computer I only had one option. I had to sign-in to Apple Music on my work MacBook.

    Well, now I don’t have to anymore! Enter the Apple Music for Web (beta) web app!

    Apple Music for Web (with dark mode enabled no less)

    I’ve only played around a little bit with the player, some of my radio stations and my music library for a couple of hours now. I have to say, it’s a pretty great beta! Not too many bugs, it’s a decent start.

    I had read a long time ago when Apple Music originally launched, that the Apple Music application on MacOS was Ember-powered. I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical at the time. But lo and behold 4 years ago, the evidence:

    I was able to hunt down a few recent job postings at Apple for Software/UI Engineers that required some Front-end experience with Ember, React and/or Angular. Very curious right?

    So, that got me thinking, I wonder if the Apple Music web app itself is still an EmberJS web app? Welp, let’s just inspect this bad boy!

    Well, well, well. Hello old friend.

    Confirmed! Apple Music is indeed still leveraging Ember for the front-end. Makes sense. Ember is very mature and stable (it also lacks some of the baggage that other open-source frameworks comes with). Looks like Ember needs to update their “Ember Users” page! This was a pretty cool find!

    The timing is conspicuous here. Apple is just now getting skin in the web music player game, as iTunes prepares to deconstruct itself in MacOS Catalina this fall. It means that this was likely their game-plan all along. Very impressive coordination. Apple wants to beef up their music services marketshare, and for good reason too — Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge writes:

    As for the logic of adding a web interface, the move allows Apple to bring Apple Music to other platforms — like Chrome OS or Linux — without having to develop and support a custom app for each platform. Web support also puts Apple on par with its biggest competitor in the music sphere: Spotify. The Swedish streaming service, which became the first platform to hit 100 million paid subscribers earlier this year, has offered a web player for years that allows subscribers to access music without having to install a full-fledged app.

    Also, if you’re interested in learning how to make a web app, or for that matter how to create an Ember app, start here. Ember maintains an excellent library of documentation, guides and tutorials.

    Update: I discovered to my chagrin, that AirPods continue to work as expected with the Beta. That is to say, if you have your AirPods configured to pause music with a double-tap and you’re listening with a paired Mac over the web Beta, double-tapping will pause your music. Nicely done Apple. It’s the little things that matter most.

  • GameStop Lays Off Over 100 People, Including Half of Game Informer Staff

  • From Andy McNamara, Editor-in-Chief at Game Informer:

    Yesterday, as part of a GameStop restructuring plan, our parent company eliminated the positions of about 120 employees across its various offices. We lost seven members of our team – our cohorts, compatriots, and friends. They shaped us and made us who we are today, just like every member of the Game Informer team who passes through this company.

    Welp. That sucks. I haven’t visited a GameStop in years. Probably won’t visit one ever again to be honest. That’s not out of spite either. Hell, I barely play video games these days at all. Let alone buy used games or consoles. I’ll tell you what definitely do — read Game Informer online.

    I have a deep suspicion that these layoffs (or any others that follow in the coming 90 days for that matter), have to do the damned inverted yield curve:

    So for the curve to invert implies that investors are forecasting that something unusual will happen. Something that will push future interest rates down low enough to justify long-term yields being low despite the risks. Something like a future collapse in private sector investment demand that makes government borrowing cheap. Or something like a series of Federal Reserve moves to try to reduce interest rates and spur more economic activity.

    In other words, a future recession.

    And, indeed, if you look at the historical track record, every time the two-year/10-year inversion has happened, a recession has followed.

    Sigh. We’ll know if we’re in a recession in 6 months. The winds of change are pretty good that Trump will astroturf the U.S. economy in an ego-driven, exploitative ego-driven (and as a reminder, 100% totally avoidable) trade-war with China.

    Regardless, GameStop is shitty business, even if Game Informer is a great online and print publication. It’s umbilical cord to GameStop is financial poison. The parent company that manages the magazine is just absolutely terrible. The level of incompetence mismanagement is gargantuan. They closed hundreds of stores in 2012. GameStop was caught intentionally deceiving customers in 2017, and the company has been trying to sell itself to private equity firms for pretty much half a decade. Perhaps, instead of peddling snake oil — they should hire back the seven game journalists, and should spin off the publication wholesale to someone who cares. Microsoft, The Verge or shit, even Rooster Teeth are all wealthy contenders happy to expand their media empire. Literally anyone would benefit from the editorial prowess Game Informer brings to the gaming beat.

  • Microsoft Hires Apple’s Former Siri Chief, Bill Stasior

  • Stasior has an incredible resumé. A small selection of the giants he’s been stationed at include: Amazon, A9, Alta Vista, (and now Apple joins the A-list) Oracle and various positions at MIT before that.

    According to CNBC’s reporting, he led the growth of Apple’s machine learning initiative which wasn’t siloed to the Siri product alone:

    He said that he expanded the team from 70 engineers to more than 1,100 people and that he “played the leading role in bringing modern machine learning to Siri and Apple.” Apple said in 2018 that Siri was being actively used on more than 500 million devices, and earlier this year the company said that Siri would sound more natural in the forthcoming iOS 13 release. Apple previously made gains in this area through AI work.

    Microsoft has always been a company who grows throw acquisition, but recently they’ve been on a hiring spree. Which isn’t normally their modus operandi for acquiring talent. Something tells me they’re laying the pipework for an aggressive regime of ML and Voice growth in the coming years.

    I find this to be curious timing. Given Apple’s vestigial connection to its Jobsian past. Jony Ive has essentially severed that connection with his departure and newly launched design firm LoveFrom. Apple hasn’t engaged in this sort of assault from software and hardware competitors in decades.