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More on Facebook

Some folks had a little fun with me yesterday, when I posted about not outsourcing your online presence to Facebook. Once the link was tweeted by Marco Arment (thanks, Marco!) my site promptly got bombarded. And because of poorly configured cache settings on my part after a recent update (long story), my entire server crashed hard.

Maybe you should have posted that to Facebook?

This wouldn’t have happened on Facebook!

And so on.

Fair enough. I deserve that.

Here’s the thing, though: In the face of this issue, in fewer than 24 hours, I managed to move that post, along with my entire blog, onto a new server1, using a completely different blogging engine, point my DNS over to the new server, and maintain the same link retweeted yesterday, so that article can now continue to be read for years to come. And I can do that again whenever new technology either makes that necessary or desirable.

Try doing that with a Facebook link.

  1. Shout out to Curtis Herbert for helping me configure the new site for maximum robustness. And it looks pretty spiffy, too.

Outsourcing Your Online Presence

The original post by Marc Haynes was public, which I know because I do not have a Facebook account, but here’s what it looks like for me without being a Facebook user — a full one-third of my window is covered by a pop-over trying to get me to sign in or sign up for Facebook. I will go out of my way to avoid linking to websites that are hostile to users with pop-overs.

(via Daring Fireball)

As someone who hasn’t logged into Facebook for more than three years, I have to say, I totally agree with the sentiment here. Whenever I follow a Facebook link, and the crap banner pops up trying to get me to log in, I immediately hit the back button and curse the jerk who tricked me into clicking.

Look, I get that I’m the nut who doesn’t want to use Facebook. I’m not even saying don’t post your stuff to Facebook. But if Facebook is the only place you are posting something, know that you are shutting out people like me for no good reason. Go ahead and post to Facebook, but post it somewhere else, too. Especially if you’re running a business.

The number of restaurants, bars, and other local establishments that, thanks to crappy web sites they can’t update, post their daily specials, hours, and important announcements only via Facebook is growing. That’s maddening. Want to know if we’re open this holiday weekend? Go to Facebook.

Go to hell.

It’s 2017. There are a million ways to get a web site set up inexpensively that you can easily update yourself. Setting up a Facebook page and letting your web site rot, or worse, not even having a web site of your own, is outsourcing your entire online presence. That’s truly insane. It’s a massive risk to your business, and frankly, stupid.

Apple Podcasts Studio at WWDC - For Whom is this Designed?

So Apple has made a studio available during WWDC for people to record podcast episodes during WWDC. This is one of those things that sounds really cool when you first hear about it. But then you spend a few minutes thinking, and you start to wonder “What’s the point?”

I don’t mean to trash Apple here. I think they are trying something new, and I applaud that. But let’s go over what we know so far and see how it benefits anyone making podcasts.

  • Time slots are limited to one hour. This is a good thing, but it disqualifies 90% of tech podcasts. All kidding aside, if you have a show with multiple sponsors, you need to record for at minimum an hour, probably longer. (That’s the real reason those shows go on so long, folks.)
  • You have to reserve on the morning of your recording, starting at 7am. If someone beats you to the slot, you’re out of luck. So you get five chances at a lottery ticket, essentially.
  • Apple will record the show for you using pro equipment, and hand you the raw audio files at the end of the session. That’s it. No editing services. No posting.
  • All the participants in your podcast have to be ticket-holders to WWDC, as far as I can tell.

So, given all that, who will get anything of value out of this opportunity?

Established pro podcasters with advertisers

If you have a show with a regular schedule, you probably want to record a WWDC episode. Before you heard about this studio, you already made plans to record in a hotel room, or a conference room, etc. You will pack all of your equipment for recording regardless, because you have no idea if you’re going to get one of the coveted slots in the Apple studio. So at best, you might get something to talk about for the first fifteen minutes of your show, if you happen to get a slot, and if all your hosts happen to have WWDC tickets and want to burn an hour session on recording rather than going to a lab, etc.

Newcomers to podcasting

You don’t have pro equipment. Maybe you have no idea how to record a show. You happen to win the lottery and get the studio for an hour. Great. And the end of that hour, you will have a few beautifully recorded audio files. Now what? You still have to edit the episode. Publish the episode. Get artwork1. Build a web site. Find an audience.

Recording podcasts is the easy part, folks. Chances are, those files will sit on your hard drive and never be published, let alone heard by anyone.

Casual podcasters

Finally, some people who might get some benefit out of this. Maybe your mics aren’t super great, and you aren’t a sound engineer. You and your co-host(s) all happen to have WWDC tickets. You weren’t planning on recording an episode that week while you were in San Jose, but if you happen to win the lottery, sure, why not? You’ll have one great-sounding episode in your feed, and something cool to talk about (recording from Apple’s studio in San Jose.) The Apple Podcasts Studio is perfect for you. A nice perk, if you happen to get to use it.

That seems like a very small group of people who will actually get much out of this endeavor.

What if Apple, instead of simply recording a show for you, actually spent the hour training podcast hosts on equipment choices, techniques for compression, mic technique, etc? What if they showed you how to use Logic more effectively? What if they taught you how to edit for content?

Basically, an Apple lab focused on podcasts.

There are so many opportunities there for Apple to actually help improve the state of tech podcasting. But I don’t see any of that happening next week, unfortunately.

Apple is known for meticulous design in its products. I don’t see much evidence of that here. At least not based on what we know so far.

Maybe next year.

*Update: *A few people have pointed out on Twitter that perhaps some podcasting announcement is in the works for WWDC that could shine more light on this studio. Perhaps it’s a bit early to cast judgment on this whole idea. Maybe Apple has a new podcast producer app for iOS that they’l be showing off, or something. That’s fair. We’ll see if there’s more up Apple’s sleeve than meets the eye. If not, I’m sure a few podcasters will find this useful, in any case. But it’ll still be a bit of a missed opportunity if there’s no more to it than what we know so far.

  1. I’m available for design services, if you’re interested.

x2y 1.2 and iCloud Sync between macOS and iOS

When I created x2y for Mac, I had to decide, as you always do, which features would make it to version 1, and which would be pushed back until later. Very early in the process, I punted on iCloud sync of the common aspect ratios list. I had done sync for iOS devices before, but this time it would involve syncing between iOS and Mac devices. I didn’t even bother researching the process. I just figured it was non-essential and moved on.

Then, sometime after version 1 shipped, and I was deciding on what was next, I got it into my head that a simple key-value store sync between macOS and iOS wasn’t possible. (I don’t know why, but I certainly believed it for months, even though it’s totally not true.) Since the iOS version is currently using a simple key-value store sync for iCloud support, I figured sync for the Mac was now going to involve migration of current data to Core Data. It would mean an update of both the macOS and iOS versions, and it sounded like a massive headache. So I punted again for a few months.

Then a few weeks ago, I decided to have a look at just what would be involved, and I soon learned the truth, that key-value store sync between iOS and Mac is actually easy. Just make sure the container identifier is the same for both platforms, and the data will be available on both platforms.

In my case, since iOS was already using its default container, I just needed to tell macOS to use the iOS container. One value changed in the entitlements file, and I was in business.

Since x2y for Mac is quite a bit newer, there were some differences in how I was storing the list of aspect ratios. But it was trivial to convert the data and get the sync going.

It helps that I’m not doing a really robust sync here. This ratios list is the sort of thing you are likely to only change every so often. I didn’t want to risk date comparison mistakes, duplicates, etc. It’s much more of a “make a change on one device, and the entire list gets replaced everywhere else” sort of thing. Which has worked out perfectly well on iOS all these years.

At the end of the day, it’s a simple dictionary. No reason to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

x2y prefs window
x2y prefs window

I did have to add a Preferences window for the first time in a Mac app. That was fun. While I was doing that, I decided to implement an option for not saving your full screen status between launches. I have written in the past about full screen and Mac apps, and I continue to believe that far too many apps don’t save full screen between launches, which is quite annoying. But after talking with some folks on Twitter and elsewhere, it did seem reasonable that there may be some people who switch between their laptop screen and their connected external monitors who may not want the full screen state to be remembered. So I gave my customers a way to turn it off.

x2y version 1.2 is now available on the Mac App Store. As always, a review is appreciated if you are using the app and enjoy it.

Thoughts on the passing of Sir Roger Moore

I was born in the 1970s. Thus, my conception of James Bond will always be embodied by Sir Roger Moore. While the popular opinion is that Sean Connery will always be the “definitive Bond”—whatever that means—to me, Sir Roger Moore is the essential Bond, if for no other reason than he had to endure the biggest challenges the role has ever faced.

Connery invented the role, and he did that very well. Every Bond after Moore got to put his own spin on the role. But that was only possible thanks to Moore. Yes, there was Lazenby in between. But George Lazenby almost killed the franchise1 If anything, the move to Lazenby, then back to Connery in Diamonds are Forever made Moore’s job as the “new” Bond even more difficult. Someone had to put a new spin on this iconic character in such a way as to not only be accepted, but to ensure that anyone coming after him had the freedom to do the same. Not many franchises survive the recasting of the lead. For Bond to go on for more than 20 films, it needed to survive this transition several times over. This is an incredibly difficult challenge, and Sir Roger Moore pulled it off.

If it weren’t for Moore, in other words, the Bond franchise would have been dead decades ago. He certainly wasn’t getting any help from the script writers and directors during this period.

Moore’s Bond was dapper and smooth, yet took himself far less seriously than Connery’s. He was smart and talented, but he was vulnerable and capable of being outwitted. He was just more human than Connery ever was in the role, for lack of a better term.

And he survived one of the most difficult periods of male fashion in recent memory. All with a grace that no other actor could have pulled off, I believe.

My longstanding theory is that Roger Moore is the best of all the actors so far at playing Bond, the character. Unfortunately, he never got to play that character in a really good movie. All seven of his movies as Bond are deeply flawed in one way or another. A few, I’d argue, are amongst the worst in the franchise. And none, I’d argue, are amongst the best of the franchise. Yet he’s still the best Bond, as far as the man playing the role goes.

What follows are my brief takes on all seven Roger Moore James Bond films, in order of release date.

Live and Let Die (1973)

Not only a bad movie, but arguably one of the most racist Bond films, even when judging it within its own time. One of the best theme songs of the franchise, yet one of the worst movies of the franchise. I find this film unwatchable for the most part, despite part of it taking place a few blocks from where I once lived in Harlem. It has no Q, for crying out loud. And to top it all off: Sheriff J.W. Pepper. That’s all you need to know.

The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

We go from one of the best theme songs to easily the worst theme song in Bond history. A better movie, however, than Moore’s first, though not by much. Christopher Lee makes for a great villain. Sheriff Pepper inexplicably returns, despite being godawful in the last film2 And Bond is driving an American car, which is never a good thing.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Many argue that this is Moore’s best Bond film. And I see that point of view. It’s not my favorite, but it’s probably second on my list. There was a sense of campiness around the Bond franchise during this period that doesn’t age well at all. While I love that Roger Moore brought a dry sense of humor to the role, the scripts of these films take the humor of the franchise to the point of self-parody3 It’s a marvel the franchise survived this period. Having said all that, this is one of the more coherent scripts that Moore was handed.

Moonraker (1979)

The worst Bond film. There’s no way to argue otherwise. Unintentionally funny for more than two hours. Unwatchable. A sad attempt to compete with Star Wars. Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax is perhaps the one saving grace of this film. Totally wasted, along with Moore, in a script that makes little sense from start to finish.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

This is the best of the Moore Bond films. Some argue it’s formulaic. Some say it doesn’t do anything to advance the series. I’ll take it over the crap Moore was handed prior to this any day of the week. It has the Lotus (though they blow it up fairly early on). It has a great theme song sung by Sheena Easton. It has an awesome early 80s funky score by Bill Conti that dates the film in a good way. And it has Bond turning down the advances of a teenage girl. Which, while that sounds like a given, is actually a step forward for the character. I could do without all the skiing, but that’s true of 90% of all Bond films. This is as good as it gets during the Moore era, unfortunately.

Octopussy (1983)

This was the first Bond film I actually saw in the movie theater. I went with my father, and I remember the experience fondly. Unfortunately, watching the movie again later as an adult, it didn’t hold up to my memory of it as a child. It had so much potential. But then they put Bond in clown makeup, for crying out loud. What were they thinking?

A View to a Kill (1985)

Roger Moore’s final portrayal of Bond. A lot has been said of Moore’s age by the time this film was made. And that’s fair. He was getting too old for the role. And the film has its share of that silliness that drives me nuts about the entire Moore era. (The prolonged chase scene in the fire engine, for instance.) But here’s what A View to a Kill has going for it that I believe makes it underrated: Christopher Walken as a great classic Bond villain. A master plan by the villain that doesn’t involve nuclear missiles, for once. Grace Jones, who was an unconventional choice and good match for Bond. Arguably one of the top five theme songs in a franchise that has a lot of great theme songs. And a pretty cool end scene on the Golden Gate Bridge. Not the best of the Moore Bond films, but far from the worst.

All in all, Sir Roger Moore was handed a shit sandwich with Bond from start to finish. And yet he carried the franchise for more than a decade, reinventing the character for my entire generation. I’d say that was quite an accomplishment.

So godspeed, Sir Roger Moore. May you rest in peace. You had an impact on so many lives, my own included. I hope you were able to appreciate it while you were with us.

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is a controversial film amongst Bond aficionados. I don’t hate the film as much as some, by any means. But one thing I will say is that everything I don’t like about OHMSS centers around Lazenby’s approach to Bond, which was so different from Connery’s, but not in a good way.

  2. This is, by the way, not a disparagement of the late, great Clifton James, who portrayed Pepper. He was a fine actor who played the part about as well as can be expected. I just find the character loathsome and completely out of place in a James Bond film.

  3. You know how C3PO and R2-R2 are the comic relief in Star Wars, but then Lucas got it into his head to add Jar Jar Binks to Phantom Menace? Like that.