I never would have predicted that in 2021 I would be using a text-mode file manager from the 1990s, a command-line based to-do list program, and, at least sometimes (by choice!), the Vim text editor.

Tonight I published a huge update to the website for my first iOS app: SwiftoDo. What was once a one page site with a very outdated template is now a Hugo-based site full of information. There is a lot more that I could add, it is now so much better than my old site I had to publish it.

I have been up way too late for the past three nights, because I am working on a website. I bet a lot of micro-bloggers can relate. 😀

James Hoffman’s AeroPress video

Last year when I was looking for something soothing to watch on YouTube, I came across James Hoffmann’s many videos about coffee, coffee machines, coffee products, and so on. I have watched a ton of them, mostly because I like his voice and demeanor. His latest video is about the AeroPress, which I have used for many, many years. I actually learned something new from it: People use the funnel, which is meant to help put your coffee grounds into the press without making a mess, to brew coffee into cups with mouths too small for the bottom of the AeroPress. I have to try that! He also states in the video that the AeroPress is easy to make good coffee from, but is difficult to master. I actually put very little effort into my AeroPress use—far less than I used to when I first starting using it. I have found that my AeroPress brewing technique, no matter how sloppy or lazy, doesn’t seem to affect my coffee all that much. It prefer not stressing about it anymore.

Linux on the M1 Mac Mini

The Linux kernel is gaining Apple M1 support. I have been wondering if, years from now, I can move my M1 Mac Mini to a home app-server role, running Linux, when it gets too old for Xcode and stops getting macOS updates. I have a Celeron based PC doing that for me now, but it runs hot and can be noisy, too. If a machine can run Linux, it extends its lifespan considerably for me.

Relearning how to type without arrow keys

Yesterday I turned off the tap layer on my Anne Pro 2 keyboard which is basically only for using Fn, Fn2. right-Ctrl, and right Swift keys as arrow keys. (The keyboard does not have dedicated arrow keys.)

I did this because I think the tap layer causes me a lot of problems, like the cursor moving up a line when I just meant to press the Shift key for its normal function. I also think it may be contributing to double keypresses somehow, but it could also be that I am still not used to the Khial Box White switches, which have a different actuation point than the Cherry MX Blues I usually type on.

Now, I am trying to get used to typing Fn + WASD for arrow keys. It’s not too bad, but it makes some keyboard shortcuts in Visual Studio Code, like “expand selection” (Ctrl+Alt+Shift+Right Arrow, which is nowFn+D) almost impossible to pull off. I even started looking into switching to Vim or a Vim-mode plugin for Visual Studio Code, so I didn’t have to use arrow keys at all. I gave up Vim pretty quickly, though. I know enough Vim to exit it (ha!) and edit config files, and that’s more than enough usage for me right now.

All in all, my typing has been more accurate since turning off the tap layer, but I have also had to think about how to use the arrow keys each time I use Fn+WASD, especially if there are other modifier keys involved. I have found myself using the mouse a lot more for text selection and navigation than I am used to, which is reminding me of how I used a Macintosh at school when I was a kid.

I both wish that I could give up coffee and that I could drink twelve cups of it a day. 🤷‍♂️

My (first) failed attempt to flash QMK on my mechanical keyboard

I wasted an hour last night trying to install QMK firmware on my work computer’s mechanical keyboard, a Durgod Taurus K320. I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love that it has the best build quality, rigidity, stabilization, keycaps, and typing feel and sound of any of the many (many!) keyboards I have owned over the years. I hate that its software is buggy: so buggy that sometimes the keyboard hangs and I have to unplug it to fix it; so buggy that I have to plug it in directly to my laptop rather than through a USB hub; so buggy that that I cannot program its layers the way I want to.

Very recently, someone figured out how to run QMK firmware on it, which could resolve the stability and customizability problems I have with the board. Unfortunately, I was not able to figure out how to flash the firmware to the keyboard. The main problem I faced was that the keyboard was not recognized by the QMK Toolkit software (on Windows) even after I put the keyboard into bootloader mode, and even after I started messing with the bootloader firmware using Zadig.

After lots of tries, I couldn’t figure out. I think I dodged a bullet, though, because I’m not sure QMK can control the RGB backlighting, which, on this keyboard, is necessary to see the key legends. Fortunately, despite me trying to mess with it, my keyboard still works as well as it did before. It’s not perfect, and I really would like to create a more robust Fn (function key) layer, but I will live with it for now.

🎵 I’m listening to Gaslighter by The Chicks again today. It is one of my favorite albums of 2020. Everything is great about it, from the catchy choruses to the close harmonies to the clean production. My favorite part of it is the songwriting, which is fueled with righteous anger and makes for compelling country-pop music.

Today I discovered that there is an open-source community creating a modern GUI file manager for Windows. It’s called Files and it is OK and seems to be heading in the right direction. It is a shame that Microsoft essentially abandoned feature development for their file explorer many years ago.

We are getting ready to go to the zoo today. It will be our first post-pandemic outing as a family that isn’t to a local park. I’m looking forward to it, and think it will be safe for us because we will be outside pretty much the entire time.

Today I made the mistake to look up someone I knew while I was in high school. I was reading an article about illegal drugs, and thought about a high school friend’s younger brother who ran into some drug problems about 20 years ago. Sadly, I discovered that he died last year. I can only conjecture, but it seems, based on what else happened to him over the past few years, that drug problems led to his premature death. Learning about what happened to him made me very sad.

Apple Arcade just got a huge update of new games, including some mobile classics

As reported by Andrew Webster in The Verge:

Apple’s gaming subscription service just got a massive influx of new titles. The headliner is Fantasian — the latest release from the creator of Final Fantasy — which is joined by other titles like new versions of NBA 2K and The Oregon Trail, and World of Demons from PlatinumGames. As part of the update, the service is getting two new categories of games: Apple calls them “Timeless Classics” and “App Store Greats.”

I literally just canceled my (second) Apple Arcade free trial twelve hours before this announcement. I just can’t seem to get into Apple Arcade at all. For the most part, the reason is that I find my iPhone 12 mini to be too small to be a compelling gaming device. Secondarily, I don’t want to get into a complex, involved game on my iPhone or iPad. I prefer my mobile games to be simple things that can be jumped into and out of, more like the “Timeless Classics” that Apple is now adding to Apple Arcade. It’s too bad for Apple Arcade that I already own almost all of those games.

Fully vaccinated people may travel, CDC says

As reported by Lena H. Sun and Lori Aratani in The Washington Post:

Federal health officials gave the green light Friday for fully vaccinated people to resume travel as an estimated 100 million Americans have had at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, and evidence mounts of the shots’ effectiveness.

That’s good news, but it doesn’t make me want to go out and travel by plane or train anytime soon.

I am fully vaccinated, but my kids are not (because, of course, there is no approved vaccine for children yet), and that dramatically limits my desire to travel, eat in indoor restaurants, or do any indoor activities in public unless they are absolutely necessary. I understand that it is probably quite safe for me to do some of these activities (provided I wear a mask, etc.), but it seems to me that doing so would still be (even more) uncomfortable and unpleasant (than it was before).

My wife and I have been talking every day about what is OK or not OK for us to do now that we are vaccinated. Despite both being vaccinated, we are still not comfortable dining in restaurants or staying in hotels (don’t even talk about flying!), but we have realized that we are way behind our friends and acquaintances in terms of risk taking. We remain concerned about our children being explored to the virus, and about the rising and “extremely high” (per The New York Times) COVID-19 risk level our county is currently at. It just doesn’t make sense for us to change our behavior that much yet—at least not until the local COVID infection numbers go down quite a bit, which won’t happen until after a lot more people get vaccinated.

⚾️ For the first time in over a year I have a baseball game on in the background as I work. I hope to get by the with MLB “free game of the day” offering this year, rather than paying to subscribe to the season package. There was no free game for the season opener yesterday, though, so I’m watching a spring training game.

Today I was very happy to find a command line todo.txt app that works on Windows.

📺 The Sopranos

My wife and I started watching The Sopranos a few days ago, and we are hooked. Both of us watched the show sporadically while it first aired, but didn’t catch much of it. Back then, I subscribed to HBO only during free trials I received from switching cable providers after I moved, so you could imagine I didn’t catch that many episodes. Now we subscribed to HBO Max to watch something else, and are likely sticking with it for a long time now.

After a few evenings of work, I completed an update of my Simple Call Blocker app and submitted it to the App Store tonight. It feels good. Now I plan to start the revision of my other apps’ website.

🎵 I’m enjoying the new album, Obviously, by Lake Street Dive. I think, though, that if I heard this album when I was a kid I would have hated it. My music tastes have broadened considerably since then.

After a few days of work, I just published my new, Hugo-based website for one of my iOS apps: Simple Call Blocker. The site is not as beautiful as I would have liked, but it is way better than it was, and now I have a framework I can use to add more content to it if I need to.

OpenAI’s text-generating system GPT-3 is now spewing out 4.5 billion words a day

James Vincent reports in The Verge:

The best-known AI text-generator is OpenAI’s GPT-3, which the company recently announced is now being used in more than 300 different apps, by “tens of thousands” of developers, and producing 4.5 billion words per day. That’s a lot of robot verbiage. This may be an arbitrary milestone for OpenAI to celebrate, but it’s also a useful indicator of the growing scale, impact, and commercial potential of AI text generation.

The obvious industry target for auto-text is journalism. It is already being used there for sports reporting, and could probably be used for local government reporting too. There are other areas it will encroach on that are news-adjacent (think financial news or business book digest services like Blinkist), like education and entertainment.

I’m an auditor, and I think that, eventually, auto-text is going to destroy about 50% of our billable hours. Auditors spend a ton of time writing. We document our procedures. We record our work. We summarize our findings. We write reports for our clients. Making sense of all the work, both for our own understanding and for our client’s, for the sake of writing it down, takes a lot of time. Moreover, the simple act of typing it out and, especially, hyperlinking everything together so we support our conclusions, requires a lot of manual work. Some of this work is communicative, but a lot of it (like the hyperlinking part) is mechanical. Consequently, much of it is ripe for automation.

I think, though, that transforming this laborious and time-consuming writing process into something auto-generated by a bot would produce a lot more information but a lot less knowledge than we had before. You gain a lot more understanding how a company, business process, or control works by writing about it than by reading about it. Why? Because writing is thinking. To write well is mentally strenuous. It requires you to think how you would communicate an idea to someone else, notably someone else with a different perspective and different knowledge than you have. At the end of the writing process, you should understand your subject backwards and forwards and from all sides; you could probably describe it in a number of different ways; and you will likely remember the gist of it, and specific nuances about it, for far longer than you would if you had just read about it in a report.

The world won’t end, and few will shed tears, when AI writes audit reports and work papers. Audits cost money, and businesses mostly don’t think they benefit from them. If it makes the auditors less knowledgeable, however, side effects will develop, and those will be long-lasting. Knowledgable auditors help make good control environments possible, which leads to more stable and more solvent companies. Decreasing the understanding of auditors could make systems and processes more unstable and less trustworthy over time. Additionally, knowledgable auditors often move to the business side and go on to manage well-controlled organizations. While the auditor-to-manager career path will likely continue, such moves would not result in the same level of management quality if the auditors don’t have to think as deeply about what they are auditing as they did before the AI text-bots took over. Neither of these side effects bodes particularly well for the people the auditors and the audited companies (and their fancy AI) serve.

One inexplicable thing I discovered today was that the git repo for one of my iOS apps did not have a working remote defined. It was pointing to a repo on BitBucket that doesn’t even exist any more. The the heck I have I been doing with it over the past couple of years?

I am putting the finishing touches on the website I am rebuilding with Hugo. I hope to go live with it sometime next week. I forgot how much work there is in building a website—even when you are not coding its theme.

Today was mostly about family time and the Passover Seder. It was a great day.

There is no perfect template—just pick one

I stayed up late last night drafting a new, Hugo-driven version of one of my websites. I went from having nothing at all built to having about one third of the site done in a couple hours. The result, I think, will be more plain (and maybe more ugly) than the existing site, but it will be less janky on mobile devices.

I sank a lot of time over the past week looking for a Hugo theme that is perfect for my needs, but I couldn’t find one. For the sake of achieving my simple goal of refreshing my tiny websites, I gave up the goal of visual perfection, and am driving forward with a theme that I think is OK that works well enough for me.

From my perspective, I want my site to be easier to maintain and add content. That is more important to me than having a site that looks really slick. My old websites don’t look slick anymore, anyway: No one is fooled by outdated HTML templates into thinking that my very niche apps are developed by a huge, sophisticated software corporation.