Technology

Technology

On TextExpander

TextExpander has long been one of my most frequently used programs on the Mac – it allows for me to drastically cut down on the amount of time I spend writing common phrases, which is especially useful for quickly typing long foreign names in my field of work (history).

For example, for my paper on Malacca last year I set a snippet so

daq#

becomes

Afonso de Albuquerque. 

(Yes, I am horrible at Portuguese names). I also have longer and much more complicated snippets I use for journaling and writing personal reviews of media, as well as frequently typed pieces of information like emails or addresses.

However, Smile Software recently announced that they were transitioning the software to a subscription-only model which would cost the end-user $5 a month, or $60 a year, and also add a syncing service. Reactions have been mixed, and even a reduced subscription price for users of previous versions has done little to mollify miffed users, who have pummelled the iOS version with multiple 1-star reviews. Personally, I’m not happy about it either, not because I fundamentally disagree with software-as-a-service, but because the new features that come with the subscription pricing don’t readily justify its high price. Syncing via Dropbox has always been simple and consistent for me, and I don’t do long-form writing on my iOS devices so the included ability to use TextExpander on iOS is wasted on me. Lastly, there’s no academic pricing or version, which was a tremendous incentive for me when I purchased version 5 of their product.

I suppose we’ll have to see whether Smile changes their policy going forward in response to the torrent of negative feedback they’ve received. If they don’t, I will likely continue to use version 5 for as long as I possibly can, or switch to another application. It’s not like there’s a shortage of text expansion applications out there.

Technology Tuesday: Flightradar 24

Flightradar24

As an aviation geek, one of my favorite apps has been Flightradar24 – specifically, the ability to point to almost any plane passing in the sky and see what aircraft it is, which airline it belongs to, and where it’s going. It’s not as useful here in Santa Barbara compared to summer at LMU for CTY, where LAX’s close proximity allows you to see aircraft any time of the day. Pretty much all we get here at SBA are small regional craft.

Twitter’s Travails

Julianne Smolinksi writing for New York Magazine on the problems with Twitter (emphasis mine):

Let me try to explain how I see it. Twitter is like a beloved public park that used to be nice, but now has a rusty jungle gym, dozens of really persistent masturbators, and a nighttime bat problem. Eventually the Parks Department might rip up the jungle gym, and make some noise about fixing the other problems, because that’s what invisible administrators like Twitter staff and municipal recreation departments tend to do. But if the perverts and the bats got to be bad enough with no recourse, you’d probably just eventually stop going.

(Additionally frustrating is that everybody is complaining about the safety issues at the park, and instead of addressing them, the city installs a crazy new slide. What? Nobody was calling for that. What about the perverts? What about the bats?)

Twitter has over two thousand engineers working for them (source: International Business Times and yet the service is still as arcane as it has ever been to use and find an audience. The number of my college friends who use the service on a regular basis is in the single digits, while many others have created accounts but haven’t touched them in the last three years. It’s a social service that provides an important need, and it sucks to see it stagnate like this.

Twitter’s Moments help people better consume the data coming through the service, but it doesn’t help alleviate the feeling that tweeting is like yelling in a deserted forest: You’re not sure if anyone can hear you, and even if there are, you’re not sure if they can hear you anyway.

Technology Tuesdays: Math Ace

When I was young, I spent a lot of time learning math on our family computer (an old Windows 98 hulk that my father and I had retrieved from the CA state surplus in Sacramento for $150). I’m so delighted that RetroSwim managed to find a copy and upload the gameplay to YouTube. “You have been terminated.” That quote is still an indelible part of my childhood.

Wealthy Tech Entitlement

Justin Keller, founder of the start-up Commando.io (never heard of it) wrote a highly objectionable blog post complaining about the plight of the wealthy tech workers who have to endure the sight of the “riff-raff” in San Francisco (emphasis mine):

The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.”

Complaining instead of showing compassion? Check. Not considering one’s own role in the process? Check. Having loads of self-entitlement? Check.

The Nice Thing About Journaling

The nice thing about journaling consistently for the last ten years is that I can see how my thoughts evolve over time, and how my emotions and processes shape what what I do and become. Let’s face it: when one has 2400+ entries in their journal, there’s a lot to read and learn from.

But mostly, I realize how god-awful my poetry was when I was 16. It’s not as bad as Vogon poetry, but it’s not something I’m particularly proud of either.

I’ve used the brilliant Day One for my journaling needs for the last four years. Prior to that, I used the now-defunct Journler, and before that, MacJournal. I ended up abandoning these two programs because their development stalled and as Mac OS X evolved their interfaces began to look more and more dated. Good UX is absolutely key for a program I use every day.

Cloud Drama

Weirdly, though the University of California system (including UCSB) utilizes Microsoft’s Office 365 Pro Plus service for all its students , it notably does not include Microsoft’s OneDrive for Business plan, which Microsoft advertises as coming with that package. I had been using the personal-level OneDrive plan instead, as it gave me a respectable 30GB of free cloud storage.

But things changed when they announced an ill-received move on November 2 that they were reducing free storage down to 5GB (making it the same as iCloud Drive, a service not exactly known for its generosity). To rub salt on the wound, Microsoft claimed in Orwellian doublespeak that they were making the change “in pursuit of productivity and collaboration”, but their actions directly contradicted CEO Satya Nadella’s cloud-first policy.

Turns out, UCSB just contracted with Box for cloud storage, and I get unlimited storage as long as I’m a student here (which will hopefully be a few years at least!). I remember using Box back in 2006 when they only had a web interface and no native-syncing client. Looks like I’ll be switching to them.

Technology Names

I’ve always named my computers with Sanskrit names – I’ve always found Sanskrit names very appealing – if I am ever going to get a name that can be pronounced in English without choking, it would be in Sanskrit. It has a certain elegance to it that English can never have (Chinese has that elegance too) =), hence the reason I’ve never felt a need to get a Latinized name. But I’ve always given my computer names in Sanskrit:

Karuna (Great Compassion): This is the main desktop computer I’ve been using since February 2004 (with innumerable upgrades to the RAM, hard drive, video card, etc.), and it used to be the name of the old Power Mac 7300 I used before. Basically, this name is always given to my main desktop computer.

Kshanti (Patience): The new Dell laptop I got a week ago was given the name of Kshanti – which is fitting since I waited six weeks for the laptop to come 😛. Yep – and plus, the name sounds really good, and patience is something we all could use a little more of.

Kalpa (A really long period of time): This goes to the no-name-brand desktop that my dad picked up one day for free. It has a pokey 1.1 GHz AMD Duron processor, and a measely 128MB of RAM – that’s most certainly not enough for Windows XP! It also came with over a thousand pieces of viruses and spyware, which took me a whole afternoon at MCOE to cleanup (hopefully, I didn’t infect other computers along the way). It takes an eternity to start up, an eternity to log in, an eternity to launch a program, an eternity to load a CD, and an eternity to shut down – hence the well thought-out name “Kalpa”.

Kanthaka (The Buddha’s horse): Kanthaka was the horse the Buddha rode for his Great Departure from palatial life, and it’s kind of fitting for this laptop – a blue Sotec bought in Taiwan that’s actually pretty speedy for the specs. Unlike Kanthaka though, this laptop is crippled (the CD-ROM drive won’t work!) and it has to be plugged in to a wall at all times. I’m born in the Year of the Horse too, so I like the name very much.

New School Website

Everybody, the new school website for IG/DVS is up. I designed the front logo on the top, and did a bit of the background, where it says “Loyalty and Filiality” in Chinese. It looks much better than our old website, which I believe hadn’t really been updated since 2002. At that point, Gray Davis was still our governor even, and Dr. Lee was our principal, and I was just a junior high student, wet behind the ears.

Interestingly, my Wikipedia article (well, mine in the sense I created and maintained it) on Developing Virtue Secondary gets more hits on Google than the official school website. As proof, see here. Isn’t that weird?