Biggest Current iOS Gripe

The barrage of notifications for calendar invites that you’ve seen and dealt with on other devices when you unlock your phone for the first time in a while is so horribly annoying. It’s caused me to inadvertently decline invites when I’m trying to swipe the notification away.

The calendar knows I accepted the invite. Why is it giving me this blast of prompts? I think this started in iOS 10, but I hate it.

If You Aren’t Already Using a VPN, Time to Start

I mean, everybody wants to make sure their ISPs can sell their data, right?

I was particularly saddened to see Rep. Massie on the list of those voting for this measure. Having worked for him (years ago), he is certainly smart enough to understand the technical implications here, but voted out of the idea that the free market was already doing a good enough job of this (i.e. Comcast won’t sell your data without your permission, for fear that you’ll leave for a competitor).

The problem is that, in great portions of this country, there’s no free market for ISPs. In most locations, it’s a local monopoly. I’m lucky: in my city, we have two cable providers, plus high speed fiber (fios). In the town I grew up in? One cable provider. And then DSL, if you live in the right spot. The house I grew up in? No DSL. No options.

Anyway, use a VPN. Most sites are using HTTPS these days, which is helpful, but your ISP will still know what name you looked up, what IP came back, and how long you were on the site. If you want to be careful, switch to an open DNS provider, and use a VPN. Most DNS providers will also use your data, but they will at least give you the option to opt-out. (As backwards as this sounds, I’d recommend Google Public DNS).[1]

For VPN, both Cloak and TunnelBear are reasonably cheap (probably less than you pay for 1 month of internet) and easy. Or, if you’re so inclined, roll your own.


  1. Google’s DNS privacy is pretty clear—“We don’t correlate or combine information from our temporary or permanent logs with any personal information that you have provided Google for other services.”  ↩

Was Sun One of the Powers That Created Captain Planet?

It took about 4 months of back and forth and permitting. Two and a half days of actual work on the room. A couple of visits from a friendly inspector to make sure everything was kosher. And, finally, a 30 minute visit from a nice tech to setup the wifi.

In the end, we’ve got an array of 26 solar panels producing energy on our roof (and setup in a location that you don’t really see from the street).

Screen Shot 2017 03 27 at 4 27 54 PM

Unfortunately, we’ve only had a couple of sunny days since then, but on a cold, but sunny, day in March, they produced about 40 kWh of power, which I think is more than what we’d use on a normal day. It’ll be interesting to see how we do in April and May. I’m optimistic this will have really nice returns for us.

So far the only real issue has been the monitoring software, Enlighten from Enphase. When working, it’s really nice. But, while my end is reporting pretty regularly, the website seems to go long whiles between updating. And, over the weekend, it just seemed flat out down. I’m hoping I can figure out a way to pull info from it. It looks like there’s an API, so I might be able to wire up a Homebridge plugin to pull data from it and then list usage on my HomeKit apps.

(And, no, Sun wasn’t one of Captain Planet’s people. Earth, Water, Wind, Fire, Heart. I guess maybe Fire counts?)

The end of CAPTCHAs?

Looks like Google has figured out how to use a “CAPTCHA” (those awful “what are these words”, “which ones are numbers” tests) without actually using one.

CAPTCHAs have always been a bad solution to a real problem. I’m assuming this new solution is some set of client-side/user-agent evaluation, IP reputation, and behavioral (i.e. how does the mouse move on the page). This is probably going to be a similar solution to what CloudFlare does, where they’ll let traffic through to your site automatically if they trust the reputation of your IP/browser, might delay you if they need more data, or ask you to fill in an old-school CAPTCHA if they can’t tell.

While CloudFlare got there first, Google’s reCAPTCHA is so much more widely used that it could greatly reduce how often those awful (but, often, necessary) CAPTCHAs show up.

(Via Ars Technica)

New Podcast Love: Song Exploder

After listening to Hrishi Hirway (and Josh Malina) on The West Wing Weekly podcast (which is just getting up to one of the best episodes in the series, so catch up now!), I finally listened to Hrishi’s other podcast, Song Exploder.

Man, it’s good.

Right now, while we’re in Peak Podcast[1], I’m finding myself gravitating to podcasts that are either less than 30 minutes, or are in the 45 minute range done by people that I can reasonably understand when I play the podcast at 1.5x speed[2].

Song Exploder is a music podcast, is almost always between 12 and 20 minutes, and is about one song per episode. There’s no continuity to worry about, so if I don’t like the song, I just skip the episode.

Frequently, though, it’s a song or band I’m already a fan of, or at least curious about. And listening to how a song gets created—either the incredible work that goes into it, layer by layer; or the random ebbs and flows of the universe—is pretty fantastic listening.

On top of that, you often hear the stems and tracks of a song as it was created. It’s pretty remarkable at times. For example, the Solange episode, where you can hear her voice isolated or the CHVRCHES episode when you hear the initial jibberish track and then the real vocal track.

Anyway. I’m late to the game, but you can catch up on this podcast over the course of a few hours, and you get to listen to some great music while doing it.


  1. ™ me.  ↩

  2. I know, I’m a heathen and a horrible person. But, most people talk far too slowly for me in real life already (I am working on my bad habit of jumping to the end of your sentence so that I can speed you up). When they talk on a podcast, they enunciate and drag things out. It’s interminable. There are few podcasts (music podcasts, This American Life, Harmontown) where I find the normal cadence required for the enjoyment of the show. Everybody else gets the 1.5x treatment. Sorry.  ↩

We’re #1! We’re #1!

US News and World Report just (well, last week) ranked Massachusetts the top state in the country. In this uncertain time, when the broader country is doing its damnedest to literally regress against the progress we’ve made over the last decade, it is heartening to live in a state that has been at the forefront of that movement.

That being said, it’s not all rosy here in the Bay State. We have a massive income inequality gap, have a bias towards the portion of the state living inside 128, and have (at best) a public infrastructure in need of significant overhaul.

However, the state is ready for it’s next leader (sorry, Governor Baker), who’ll come in and take up the mantle of continued progress. With the right leadership, there’s an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot[1], and solidify Massachusetts place as guiding force for the broader US.

Also, the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox aren’t so bad.


  1. There’s clearly an opportunity to rethink our public transit system, which is a key factor in helping to unlock economic opportunity and close the income gap. If I had 10 million dollars, I would start a VC fund focused on companies in the Western part of the state (I mean, it’s not like everyone out around Amherst is a dummy). (There are some funds out there, but I think there’s an opportunity to really blow it open.) Massachusetts has a lot of workers who need to be moved to jobs that are ready for the next few decades, i.e. clean energy, being the easiest example. There’s also got to be some remedy to the housing issue, so that Boston doesn’t end up like San Francisco.  ↩

A Tip for Recruiters

I work with a lot of recruiters (particularly tech recruiters). The vast majority of them are incredibly nice people who really are trying to help me fill a spot on my team. They’re able to get a job listing out and do the legwork of sourcing candidates, and after some trial and error, we can usually zero in on a candidate.

Some recruiters, however, are just awful.

There’s one recruiter right now (and, if you’ve ever talked to me, or had me return an email, it’s not you), who I will never do business with. Let me lay out the scenario, and see if you can figure out why.

  • Office phone rings, don’t recognize number, ignore and wait for voicemail
  • Cell phone rings, same number, no voicemail
  • Office phone rings, different number, ignore and wait for voicemail
  • Cell phone rings, that same number, no voicemail

That was within 2 minutes.

I did some googling, and it turned out that the number was a recruiter’s office I’d worked with before, and the other number seemed to point back to a particular person. Linkedin confirmed that person was a recruiter in that office.

Ok. Douchey, but I figured this person would leave a message or send an email, and then we could go from there.

Nope.

A few hours later?

  • Office phone
  • Cell phone
  • Office phone
  • Cell phone

This repeated every day for a week. And now it’s every other day or so. That’s just lazy. How hard is it to leave a voicemail, or send an email, or even send a stupid Linkedin message?

I’ve blocked the numbers on my cell phone. Shortly, I’ll do the same on my office phone. There’s enough recruiters who are willing to make my life easier (in exchange for the opportunity to make their company some money, and build a relationship). If you’re just trying to annoy me into answering the phone, why would I ever work with you?