Twetiquette

Oh, hello. Welcome to Jeffrey’s Internet Etiquette Soapbox, where I passive-aggressively explain to you how obnoxious you are based on the trivial actions you take on a trivial social network!

Retweeting when someone replies to you with a compliment
The cardinal sin. There is no reason anyone would be at all interested in what some random person thinks of you. Your mom stopped caring when you turned five.
Retweeting when someone includes you in a jumble of usernames with the “#ff” hashtag
Congratulations! Someone thinks you’re worthy enough to be part of the cast of characters in their Final Fantasy fanfiction. Your followers already follow you. When they see that you’re included in a list of people to follow, they second-guess whether they should have followed you in the first place. Do you want that?
Retweeting when someone replies to something that you say
Unless what the person says is funny or interesting in its own right, there’s no need to retweet them for all your followers to see. Not even when they’re answering a question. We don’t want to be invited on a quest to discover the answer, since no one cares but you. If anyone did care, they’d check the replies to your question themselves.
Putting pound signs before words, or concatenating words prefaced by a pound sign
Pound signs serve no purpose; remove the key from your keyboard. I don’t care that it’s also the key for “3”.
Telling people where you are
No one has to know that you’ve left your basement. Take it to Google Latitude, where no one will hear about it. Have you ever bragged about patronizing McDonalds before the advent of Twitter? There’s no reason to start doing so now.
Posting nothing but how relaxing of a day you’re having
One can only surmise that you are only relaxed when you’re tweeting something pleasant, and at all other times you’re a nervous wreck.

In summary, if you ever stop to think about whether what you’re about to post has any relevance or use to anyone besides yourself, the answer is probably “no”, so put your phone away and pay attention to the tree you’re about to walk into.

My take on the iPhone location services hubbub

Tech sites and developer blogs have been reacting to the recent release of iPhoneTracker, a Mac OS X app that can easily plot where you’ve been, and when, since you started using your iPhone. While it might sound “scary” or “creepy” from the get-go, it’s not horrible – it carries roughly the same privacy concerns as leaving your laptop or phone unlocked and inadvertently allowing people to peruse your recent calls, emails, or other personal data.

Some Mac/iOS developers on Twitter have been bemoaning the backlash from this not-so-new revelation – that the iPhone keeps track of every time you geolocate and stores it in a relatively easily-accessible database. I’ve heard arguments like, “this outrage is coming from a population that regularly checks themselves into Foursquare,” or “you’re at fault if you let this information get into the wrong hands.” I think these defensive statements are missing the point, and border on zeal toward Apple.

I need to reiterate my stance on this issue, lest I be grouped in with the down-with-Apple FUD crowd (or with the non-Apple-shareholder crowd): I don’t think this is a very big deal. As it’s been stated over and over again, recently: cell phone companies track your location and record your calls all the time, so the DHS or FBI or whoever can come down hard on you if the need arises. A history of where you’ve been over time might even seem useful to some. But I still think that blame can be placed on whoever at Apple decided to retain this tracking data indefinitely, and do so in an easily-accessible database file.

The reason Apple stores location data on your phone is so those who explicitly opt-in to provide “diagnostic” data to Apple can help improve their geolocation services. If Apple’s phones can tell them where Wi-Fi networks are physically located, then even devices without GPS technology can still be geolocated rather confidently. It’s a fascinating effort that I have opted to take part in, but I have two main concerns, which I have yet to hear good answers to:

  • Why has Apple decided to retain tracking data on your phone indefinitely? According to Apple’s terms, diagnostic information might be sent up to twice a day. If that’s the case, why isn’t the data destroyed locally afterwards? Why can’t I destroy it without starting from a fresh iOS installation? Is there any further use for it?
  • Why is it so easy to access this tracking database? When you sync your iPhone to any computer, the tracking database is saved along with the rest of your backup – and applications like iPhoneTracker have access to these files without administrator privileges.

I am not an iOS developer, and I can’t even claim to know the ins and outs of file permissions, let alone how the internal storage of my iPhone works. But I do find it alarming that this file can be accessed and I won’t even be notified or requested for permission. iPhoneTracker was created as proof of this. It’s child’s play for a malware developer to access this database and upload the information anywhere, and you don’t know the first thing about security if you trust in good faith that this sort of thing won’t happen.

I’m not mad at Apple. I’m not mad, period. I just have some unanswered questions, and it’s hard to get them answered amongst the squawking from all sides.

P.S. one non-argument I read earlier is that Android keeps a cache of your location tracking as well. I will hold Google equally responsible, but only if that cache can be accessed without root privileges, and if it is stored indefinitely. I might be wrong (by all means, prove me wrong), but I don’t believe either to be the case.

WordPress ahoy

I have moved my blog to WordPress! It’s been a long time coming.

I’ve been holding out on leaving LiveJournal, mostly because I didn’t see TOO many shortfalls over other blogging software. It still allowed me to do whatever a blogger needed to do. But upon realizing that the future of LiveJournal is a bit sketchy, and that they’ve been placing JavaScripts all over my page that don’t do anything, and the only reason there aren’t ads all over my page is because I paid them a bunch of money a few years ago to become a “Permanent Member,” I decided it was time to pack up.

In other news, I’ve been hanging out today recovering from arm surgery, in which a big metal plate was removed from my arm, which was originally installed after I was in a car/bike accident earlier this year. I’m sure once my incision closes up and my bone heals (needs to fill in the holes that were left by the plate being screwed in), I’ll be able to regain the majority of the range of motion I lost.

I seem to be recovering pretty well, in fact – not a lot of pain, no more bleeding, and my diet was back to normal just hours after I woke up from the operation. And I spent all day moving from LiveJournal to my WordPress installation, so I haven’t gotten totally bored from lazing around at home just yet.

Social media

A few nights ago, I went to Ümloud, a charity event at DNA Lounge. They had a raffle, and I bought a few tickets. The lady selling the tickets happened to have a Square device on the phone she was using to accept payment, and I thought it was so cool that I decided to pay by card instead of cash. Shortly afterwards, I received my fancy email receipt and tweeted about it.

Since then, that tweet’s been retweeted by Keith Rabois, an investor recently hired by Square, and I’ve been followed/mentioned by Sangeeta Narayan, a recruiter also working for Square. This is part of a social media strategy, that’s for sure, but I really wonder if scouring the Internet for nobodies like me and boasting about it on your Twitter stream is really an effective use of time.

I’m assuming I’m being used as yet another example of a satisfied customer, thereby enforcing the strength of their brand. That’s fine – they can use something I’ve publicly posted on the Internet – but I’m sure there are other, more influential Twitterers (companies that use the product, for instance) who can be courted and formally quoted. I guess more press doesn’t hurt… but for someone like me who has seen social media make its place on the Internet, the simple act of being retweeted by an investor gives me an uneasy feeling. If you’re going to subjugate me as a consumer, I’d prefer you do it in private, like it used to be in the good ol’ days.

The weirdest part, though, is the fact that the recruiter wants to talk to me. What more could they possibly want from me? I called the thing “fancy” and that I’m “fond” of the payment method. Do they want to mail me release forms so they can put my quote on their website? Or, since this person’s a recruiter, does the mere fact that I put “web developer” “I develop webs really good” on my Twitter profile bio mean that they want to hire me for their web software engineer position? Why would simply using and talking about their product make me cut out for that position? That’s like hiring someone who likes eating McDonald’s to work as their VP of marketing (shudder).

Cool quote bro

“Neither the full-body scanners or the enhanced pat-downs are making anyone safer. They’re more a result of politicians and government appointees capitulating to a public that demands that “something must be done,” even when nothing should be done; and a government bureaucracy that is more concerned about the security of their careers if they fail to secure against the last attack than what happens if they fail [to] anticipate the next one.”

The most concise and accurate analysis about the whole TSA debacle that’s currently making waves in the media. Bruce Schneier has been writing a few (very similar) essays about this, and they are all required reading. You must be prepared to discuss them in tomorrow’s class, or you get an F. >:[

Pac-Man iPhone Wallpaper

Updated for iPhone XS/Max/XR.

This wallpaper uses actual sprites from Pac-Man, and is probably as close to exact as you can get it. Here’s what it looks like on my phone (as of a few years ago):

Instructions for use:

  • Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn “Reduce Motion” OFF
  • Tap through to the following images, and hold down to “Save Image”
  • From your Photos app, go to your Camera Roll and press the lower-left share button
  • Choose “Use as Wallpaper”
  • Keep “Still” chosen and do not move/scale
  • Choose “Set”, then “Set Home Screen”
  • Go to Settings > General > Accessibility and turn “Reduce Motion” ON

I’ve made a few variations – one with no ghost home, one with no top/bottom border, and one with neither. But you can also download the PSD (5, 6-8, Plus, X, Max/XR) to make your own.


The following links are for iOS 8 to iOS 7:


The following links are for iOS 6 to iOS 4.2:

  • Ghost home and borders (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No ghost home (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No borders (3GS, 4, 5)
  • No ghost home or borders (3GS, 4, 5)

P.S. – the iPhone 4 versions are not just upscaled versions of the iPhone 3GS ones – Apple knocks each icon down by a single pixel once it’s twice as big, so I had to nudge each wallpaper down by 1.


The following links are for iOS 4.1 and below:

  • Ghost home and borders (3GS, 4)
  • No ghost home (3GS, 4)
  • No borders (3GS, 4)
  • No ghost home or borders (3GS, 4)

Europe Trip Omg

Anna and I are going to Europe! For 2.5 weeks! In November!…

Yes, we’re really, really jumping the gun and planning way too far in advance. But what the heck there is not much else to do during downtime at work. At this point we’re planning on visiting these places:

  • London
  • Paris
  • Cinque Terre
  • Rome
  • Venice
  • Munich
  • Berlin
  • Amsterdam

We’ve already bought some pretty cheap airplane tickets. We’re planning on taking trains from place to place, and using as many sleeping cars as possible to save time and money.

Doing this in 2.5 weeks is a little ridiculous, so we are considering dropping Rome, Venice, Amsterdam, or some combination thereof. We’ve never been to Rome but there are definitely enough churches to see along the way, I’ve been to Venice but hear that it’s murky and ugly in November, and I’ve also been to Amsterdam and while it’s beautiful, I’m not really sure what there is to do for 2 days unless you plan on taking mushrooms.

I’ve been nerding out in planning this thing. We’re using Google Wave to collaborate on all the aspects of the trip – airfare, trainfare, lodging, things to see, dates and locations, etc. etc. The events we’re proposing so far are on a Google Calendar, which I am sending through Yahoo! Pipes, entering into Google Maps, and back into an iframe in Google Wave so we can see a map of places we plan to go to. I’ve already put a Google Spreadsheet together of possible times, durations and fares for train travel from place to place.

The only real downside to planning so far in advance is that we have so long to wait and obsess over it. I’m hoping that when the time comes we aren’t too jaded or disappointed, but it’s not a genuine concern. In the meantime we can learn more about the places, cultures, and languages, so when we’re there we don’t just hang around the biggest tourist attractions we can find.

This also means that there’s time for you out there in blogland to give us suggestions on what to see and what to skip. C’MON, DO IT.

jeffreyatw.com v13

After a few years of my site sitting around and doing nothing, I decided I’d have it continue to sit around and do nothing… IN STYLE!

I made my site all HTML5 and CSS3-ey by using more semantic elements and some nice gradient and shadow stuff. The site looks best in Chrome, but degrades gracefully in other browsers. I load my portfolio’s section names via Django, and I request my Twitter and LiveJournal feeds via JSONP. Furthermore, there is only one image on the page, the photo of me – everything else is done up in CSS. All in all, it’s a pretty and pretty simple site.

24 Hour Comic

Sophie, Kane and I each did a 24-hour comic this weekend. Here’s mine:

http://jatw.us/memes

The comic’s only 10 pages and I did it in 10 hours. I stayed up another 8 hours and made another 13 pages of random autobiographical crap. Then I went to sleep. This is the first comic I have drawn on paper in 5 years.

Can you name all the memes in the comic? Here’s the cheat sheet under the cut:

SPOILERZ!