Weeknote, 2nd October 2022

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Go down to Brighton. Kim doing a drawing group with some Proper Art Friends(TM) while I have a mooch around, see old sites, and generally enjoy sitting around and doing some writing. Then do something fun in the evening and back on Sunday.

HOWEVER… we took one look at the prices of the hotels and decided to cut it a little short, staying only on Saturday. That meant setting off at 8am to get there for 10. Plenty of time. It’s only an hour and three-quarters drive.

Except the M2 is closed, and there is a diversion. A diversion and a queue. A long queue.

Three hours later, we’re finally there. I’m pretty good in these circumstances because once there is nothing you can do about something, I relax about it all going horribly wrong. And Kim wasn’t too late.

With no hotel to check into, I spent the day wandering around, going back to old haunts and sitting around. I got a decent chunk of writing done, too — over 1200 words, which doesn’t sound like much but is more than I’ve been doing for a while — and managed not to drink myself into an over-caffeinated mess.

I met up with Kim after her course had finished at 4pm for a quick pint with a couple of her artist chums. Which turned into three pints. In fact, as I had sneaked one while I waited, four. I am not the kind of man who can drink four pints. More important, Kim couldn’t drink three pints and drive us to the hotel, which was out at Preston Park. Hence we ended up walking back this morning in the rain.

Of course, I also had no change of clothes and no charger. So my first, slightly hungover stop was the car to pick both up, then a nearby Costa to charge my phone.

All of which makes me realise how much I have come to rely on smartphones. Instead of trusting that when we arrange to be at a place with people, we will be there, we want the belt-and-braces of being able to send a message to someone, to check where they are and if they’re still coming. And it opens up the possibility, too, of not coming: if you text someone beforehand, you can just rearrange.

Reading and watching

Stephen Baxter released The Thousand Earths this week, and I have already finished it — one of the benefits of being around for a weekend without much arranged to do is the speed at which I read (something I should remember). Like some other Baxter works, this one involves a plot that revolves around the far history of the universe, in this case, trillions of years. It’s a decent read, with some good ideas, but the end feels rushed, and as with quite a few of Baxter’s novels, the secondary characters feel like caricatures designed to nudge the plot in the direction he wants to go.

Also started, Chokepoint capitalism by Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow. If you have been following Cory’s recent blog posts about monopolies and how they come to dominate the creative landscape, you will find this familiar territory — but of course, with a lot more detail.

A trip to the cinema while in Brighton to see Moonage Daydream, a documentary about David Bowie. I love Bowie with all my glam heart, but this was an incoherent mess that went on too long despite jumping from 2000 to Bowie’s death with virtually no mention (and how could you miss out Tin Machine… ok, well, that was one good thing).

Episode six of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power delivered in a big way. I can’t wait for the next one, and I wouldn’t count myself as much of an LOTR fan.

Weeknote, 25th September 2022

Today was a bit of a double art extravaganza, as we went down to Folkestone to see Sara Trillo talk about a project she is currently working on about dene holes. Deneholes are interesting earthworks dating back to the bronze age, and consist of a shaft dug down, usually between 50-100ft, meeting the chalk. Whoever built them then excavated, mining some of the rich chalk, probably for use as fertiliser. There are estimated to be around 10,000 across Kent and Essex and very few anywhere else. Sara has been researching them to do some kind of artwork.

Also, we looked at our friend Judith’s piece, A Square of Time: Prelude, which features Kim’s voice reading.

Folkestone is a fascinating place for art at the moment. It reminds me of Brighton when I first lived there, with the kind of cheap semi-derelict spaces artists can afford to use and has a proper creative feel to it.

And we’ll be down in Brighton next weekend. Kim is attending a two-day drawing event. On the other hand, I will be hanging about somewhere and hopefully getting some writing done.


Ah, writing. I have been putting off writing more of my short story. I hit a wall with it: I have a beginning. I have an end. I have an idea for a middle. But when I try and write that middle, it just doesn’t seem to work.

Of course, the only thing to do is to keep writing it. As Cory Doctorow wrote:

What I realized, gradually, was that the way I felt about my work was about everything except the work. If I felt like I was writing crap, it had more to do with my blood-sugar, my sleep-deficit, and conflicts in my personal life than it did with the work. The work was how I got away from those things, but they crept into the work nonetheless.

You can’t get away from the work. Part of my thing is that I haven’t yet established the habit of writing coherently. I don’t — yet — show up at the same time, every day, to write. It’s still something that I do as and when I can. But that can change.

Reading and watching

I’ve started reading An account of the decline of the Great Auk, according to one who saw it by Jessie Greengrass, and crikey, it’s good. I love short stories — I’ve always preferred them to novels — and Greengrass can really write.

In parallel (yes, I have a problem with this), I have been dipping into Words are my matter by Ursula Le Guin. Le Guin’s non-fiction is as good as her fiction, and I recommend you read it.

I’d recommend you read Kaspersky’s report on How smartphone makers track users, as it’s a real eye-opener. You probably won’t want to use the version of Android you get with your phone once you have done it.

We are still watching Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and enjoying it. The one thing to note is that the various strands are currently a little ungainly and uneven. You’ll care about some much more than others.

Deep in the depths of the satellite channels, on Talking Picture TV, you will currently find some repeats of The Outer Limits from the early 1960s. One episode they showed this week was the classic Demon with a glass hand written by Harlan Ellison. Set your devices to record.

On the fine art of not finishing

I learned, over time, not to be a finisher. I would start grand projects, read the first 20 pages of a hundred books and write the beginnings of a hundred blog posts (much like this one). All of them are fragments — I have a folder on my computer called “fragments” — and none of them is finished.

It took me a long time to learn this, using the power of habits to make myself a master at the heavenly craft of completing nothing. I wasn’t always great at it, but through the sheer application of walking away from things I start, I have come to the point where I can consider not finishing what I started as my profession, my true calling.

And now, I am ready to take the next step and make this my full-time job!

Failing to finish things gives you an amazing feeling of accomplishment. The words you would have written but never got around to are the most perfect ones you can imagine. The exceptional middle and ending of the work, which you just couldn’t put to paper or screen, will always beat anything you ever actually wrote.

I would recommend failing to finish things to anyone. You will never have a greater sense of achievement. Go forth, young person, and stop when you feel like it.

Weeknote, 18th September 2022

This has been a week of tech-futzing and annoyances. I converted my ThinkPad back to running Windows because I was desperate to use Aeon Timeline for part of my writing project. That was a big mistake for two reasons. First, I could have just used my Mac to run it. I have no idea why I didn’t just do that. Second, I have really grown to dislike Windows.

Not, I should say, because of the interface. Windows has never looked and worked better overall. Microsoft took the opportunity with Windows 11 to get rid of some of the crufty old settings which hadn’t been updated since the Windows 7 era (and in some cases, Windows XP). It’s just a lot nicer to use.

However, they are also determined to lock in – sorry, “integrate” – more of their services and software into the operating system. That nifty little widgets panel offers you your task list, in Microsoft To Do. You can see news and weather, but only Microsoft News and Weather. And if you click on a link, it’s opening in Edge not your browser of choice.

It’s clear that, like Apple, Microsoft sees services as the way to go to build revenue. Making Windows free to update probably still rankles, and they would like some revenue back, please. But that kind of stuff is not for me.

The Mac, too, is frustrating me for a few reasons. Don’t get me wrong: there is so much to love about the Mac, and my M1 Mac mini continues to be a delight. But again, it feels like a system that is becoming something Apple controls rather than me controlling it, and when things go wrong they often take far more futzing about to fix than they should.

Case in point: I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop using the very fast internet here to do some big downloads. Except that my Mac won’t properly connect to the WiFi. Apple uses its own system process to handle connecting to wireless networks which require authentication, showing you a little mini-window for you to login.

Except that it doesn’t always appear. Sometimes, when you have connected using another device, it connects, but doesn’t bring up the window – and because the network sees the Mac as another device it doesn’t properly connect. It claims to have connected, but it doesn’t log in, so you have no connectivity.

Sometimes all you need to do is turn WiFi on and off and it will work properly. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and you need to restart. And sometimes, like today, it just will not connect no matter what you do. I have even tried invoking the system application which does the captive WiFi connection, with no result.

There is probably a preference somewhere which will fix this. Maybe there is some cache that needs clearing. But whatever it is, nothing on the internet helps.

That’s very different to the world of Linux, where almost every problem you will ever encounter has been solved by someone and documented. The only problem I’ve ever found which doesn’t have a fix is, ironically, running Aeon Timeline in Wine. But to be fair, I never really tried particularly hard – and if I find a solution, you can bet that I’m going to document it.

And I still hate the MacBook Pro keyboard. Yes, I know that new MacBooks have reverted to sane key switches, but when I have tried them they still feel crap to me. Not as crap, but still crap. I’m now used to a mechanical keyboard, and only something as good as the ThinkPad’s keyboard suffices on a laptop. I have turned to the dark side.

There is a more serious and less grumpy point to all this. I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with the integration which Apple and Microsoft are focusing on. It’s not that the services are bad – in Apple’s case, at least, they are excellent – it’s that putting your entire computing life in the hands a single supplier seems like a bad idea. You only need to look at what happened to the man who Google believed had abused his children to see how bad it can get.

And I’m less happy too to have all my documents stored in the cloud. It is hugely convenient. It means that for about a decade I haven’t had to think about backing up, as everything is in iCloud or OneDrive and easily accessible. But it also feels like I am putting too much in the hands of companies which I don’t really trust.

Thankfully, at some point I have connected my phone to this WiFi and it is happily reconnecting, because the network recognises it. So I downloaded a nearly 6Gb file on my iPhone, and had to transfer it to the Mac later. Thankfully AirDrop did the job well.

So I lost a day to reinstalling Linux. I know. I know. This time, rather than Ubuntu, I went for the Ubuntu-derived Zorin OS. It’s designed to be as simple as possible to pick up for Linux novices and I think it hits that mark well. It includes nice little features like making using Windows applications easier by letting you just double-click on an installer while it adds Wine in the background.

This weekend is when the first tranche of new students arrives at the University, so the coffee shop I was writing in is full of parents taking their children for a coffee before they head back to whatever corner of the country they have come from. Outside the window there’s the constant bustle of wheeled bags going past, and our close will have more than one car load of people circle round it, with a parent saying “I don’t think this is the university…” before going back and finding the real thing. We should put up a sign.

It’s fun listening to the guy who works here ask each parent in turn if they have had far to come, telling them there’s more seating downstairs, pointing them in the direction of the shop or the library or Sainsbury or wherever they are off to next. Then there are the small groups of students who are obviously new, meeting for the first time and going for a coffee to chat. Or to sit awkwardly in semi-silence.

It brings back memories of my own first trip to college when my dad drove me down to Hatfield. Unlike many families I see, my mother didn’t make the journey: she was upset that the last of her babies was leaving home, and didn’t want me to see her cry. She also gave my dad strict instructions that he was not to use the M1 and to use the A1 instead, because motorway drivers were madmen and she didn’t want him to drive at the crazy speed of 70 miles an hour.


This has been a terrible writing week. I have struggled to get my head down and write. I don’t have any excuses: I have a good idea where the story is going and I have had the time available to keep writing, but I just… haven’t.

Reading and watching

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is actually very good. The characters and (especially) plot are better than Tolkien, who I tried to reread a while ago and found dreadful. Like a lot of people I read Lord of the Rings young, and raced through all three books in a week or two. I vividly remember staying up late and reading it in bed, gripped by it.

Sadly I haven’t retained that love – or perhaps I have just grown into better writing.

On Michael Moorcock

I once wrote a letter to Michael Moorcock. I have no idea how I found some kind of address for him — possibly via the Hawkwind fan club I was a member of — but found it I did. And sometime later, he was kind enough to write back.

I have almost no recollection of what I asked him (probably something trivial about Elric), but I recall that I had asked him if he would read a story I had written. He politely declined, explaining that not reading other writers’ unpublished work was his number one rule. I think he said something encouraging about continuing to write.

There was, of course, a certain element of teenage braggadocio involved in this. I had not written a story at all. In fact, I had never written a story, not a word of fiction. But I reckoned that if Moorcock did want to have a read of something, I could probably rattle something out fairly sharpish and get it back to him. How hard could it be?

Moorcock has remained one of the touchstone writers of my life, and his Dancers at the End of Time trilogy (and associated short stories) remains a sequence of books that I return to repeatedly. His association with New Worlds also connected me to Ballard, M John Harrison, Samuel Delaney and many others I have read throughout my life.

There are three lessons that I learned from Moorcock.

Don’t let the confines of genre bind you

Moorcock is a genre writer, with much of his output coming from fantasy and science fiction’s weirder end. However, he hasn’t let himself be limited to this, playing with the forms of the modern novel and writing things which have as much in common with Iain Sinclair as Edgar Rice-Burroughs. His real theme isn’t fantasy, but the fantastical, something which can be found in everyday life.

Tolkien was the worst thing to happen to fantasy

I might be exaggerating: I am sure that even Moorcock would say that other writers (cough Hubbard, Lovecraft cough) were worse people and worse writers. But, while acknowledging Tolkien was a pleasant enough man and very welcoming towards him when they met, he certainly had no time for Tolkien’s fiction:

“It would be the same if we were talking about Warwick Deeping or RC Sherriff. It’s the British character sentimentalised, the illusion of decency, that whole nonsense of ‘no British boy would do this sort of thing’. It was also the tone of the BBC when I was growing up. I hated it.

Middle Earth is a place which celebrates the pre-industrial hobbits while the rabble — the orcs — are notable only for their brutality. When Saruman’s orcs are creating machinery, they are a pretty thinly disguised analogue of the industrial working class. But they are regarded as brutes, and their enslavement by Saruman is barely acknowledged.

It took me a long time to realise how odious Lord of the Rings was: Moorcock led the way.

Write, write and keep writing – but plan first

In his early years, Moorcock was capable of writing 15,000 words in a day , an insane amount of words unless you’re writing something that is unpublishable. Not only was his writing publishable, but it was also published.

How did he maintain that pace? As he told Hari Kunzru, mostly, it was all in the planning:

“It’s all planning. I’d have been in bed for three days, during which I’ve had time to sketch out the story. Then I spring out of bed and I’ve got a straight nine to five – or nine to six or seven – regime, which frequently includes taking the kids to school, then I just sit down and go through with an hour break for lunch. When you write that fast the book really does start to write you, you get high on the book. It’s partly lack of sleep, it’s partly the sugar – in my case I only had strong black coffee because it kept me going.”

Leaving Ulysses?

I wrote a little about this in my weeknote but I thought it was worth expanding a little on why I’m looking at Obsidian as a potential replacement for Ulysses.

I’ve used Ulysses since it first came out, and it is my favourite writing tool. I love the way it lets you break down writing into smaller more manageable chunks, as well as its focus and typewriter modes and its ability to tag and organise your work. It can also publish straight to a WordPress blog or export into virtually any format you want, which is the icing on the cake.

The part that I don’t like is the way Ulysses stores your work. Yes, underneath everything, it’s Markdown. But it’s stored in iCloud, and the files aren’t exposed — they’re hidden inside a library. I have enough experience trying to get large amounts of content out of cryptic file stores to be wary of anything which complicates the file structure.

Case in point: Apple’s Photos app. The photos themselves are hidden inside a library. You can export them from Photos — Apple makes this commendably easy — but in practice, for a library of any size this kind of export is impossible. I tried exporting around 10,000 images, and after a while, Photos just crapped out. Perhaps that was unsurprising, given it had started to use around 80Gb of virtual memory (it’s a testament to Apple’s system design that it had gotten that far).

The last thing I want is my writing to suffer the same fate. My writing is probably even more important to me than my photos. I have often found inspiration in going back and finding old writing, reworking and polishing it, and publishing. I also use Ulysses for storing notes and what I call “fragments” — little notes usually from real life about places, people and things I see. Often these will end up in later work, which is really important. I don’t want to lose them to weird data corruption affecting an undocumented and obscure library.

Coupled with this, Ulysses is an Apple platform-only application. That’s fine if you want to use Mac, iPad and iPhone all the time, but that’s not how I tend to work. Since I bought my ThinkPad X1 Carbon last year, it has been my preferred laptop, running either Windows or Linux, because it combines good (matte) 14in screen, performance and battery life, and its fantastic keyboard. Going back to using my 16-in MacBook Pro after working on the ThinkPad is torture for my poor fingers.

I really want Ulysses, but working on any platform and using just plain Markdown files in a folder structure. The good thing is there is something which comes close to being exactly that: Obsidian.

Obsidian is best known for being part of the wave of personal knowledge management applications that allow you to use two-way linking between documents to create a knowledge graph based on what you read and write. However, it’s also possible to use it to create a simple but powerful writing environment.

Setting up for writing

Obsidian isn’t known for being a writing environment. It’s designed as a notetaking application, and out of the box that’s what it’s set up to do: text notes linked together with two-way links. Turning it into a replacement for Ulysses takes some setup.

The good news is that several people have gone down this path already. Curtis McHale has written and created YouTube videos on all the things you need to do to get Obsidian into shape as a writing environment, and the folks at The Sweet Setup have also trod this path.

You will want to install a few add-ons to make it work. I won’t go into how you enable third-party add-ons, as there are plenty of guides to doing this, but here are all the ones that I have found useful.


This is a great addon, still very much in beta, which recreates Scrivener and Ulysses’ ability to let you re-order scenes and then export them into a single draft. I’m sure there’s more to come from this plugin, but it’s already a lifesaver that makes it possible to use Obsidian for long-form writing.


Pandoc lets you export into various formats, including Word, PDF, and much more. You will need this if you send your work off to publishers or editors. You will need to install Pandoc on your computer first (sadly, it won’t work with mobile devices).


Templater lets you create templates which include variables. I use it to make templates for regular posts, such as the one for my weeknote, which includes the date in its title.

Typewriter Scroll

I love typewriter scrolling — it’s one of my favourite features of Ulysses. This keeps the line you’re typing in the middle of the screen rather than gradually moving down towards the bottom. This plugin also has a neat focus mode which greys out paragraphs you’re not working on, allowing you better focus.

Word sprint

This plug adds a sidebar which gives you a Pomodoro timer for your work and prompts you to keep writing. It’s a little bit annoying, but if you’re the kind of person (like me) who occasionally stops writing to stare into space, it will keep you on the right path.

Readwise integration

One plugin I thought deeply about using was the one that offers integration with Readwise. I’ve been a Readwise user for quite a while, with all of my annotations, highlights and comments from applications like Kindle, Matter, Pocket and more going into it. It’s a great tool for storing all that kind of information. The plugin downloads all your notes in a handy format into a folder in your Obsidian vault.

Having all my highlights and notes from Readwise integrated into the application I write in is incredibly powerful. It means that all the quotes which I might refer to are easily found and linked to, and because Obsidian allows you to split the screen and use two documents at the same time you can easily refer to a note about a source while you are writing.


Can Obsidian really replace Ulysses? The initial signs are promising. Today, I have written over two thousand words and published a blog post which isn’t bad going. I’ll probably save this to publish another time, which means I will have another post in the bag.

The real test for me will be when I start writing fiction with it. So far, I have used Scrivener or Ulysses for my fiction: Obsidian could, in theory, replace both. It can also become where I put all those fragments of writing I mentioned. I’m certainly going to give it a go and see if it really works for me.

Google isn’t bored of Android

John Gruber, writing about Counterpoint Research’s note that iPhone has overtake Android in US usage share:

I also continue to think Google is bored with Android. Two years ago I wrote: Do you get the sense that Google, company-wide, is all that interested in Android? I don’t. Both as the steward of the software platform and as the maker of Pixel hardware, it seems like Google is losing interest in Android. Flagship Android hardware makers sure are interested in Android, but they can’t move the Android developer ecosystem — only Google can. Apple, institutionally, is as attentive to the iPhone and iOS as it has ever been. I think Google, institutionally, is bored with Android. Nothing in the last two years has changed my mind on that. Android is certainly still a thing for Google. It’s a priority. But it’s nowhere near the top of Google’s priorities. Nothing ranks higher amongst Apple’s priorities than the iPhone and iOS. Year after year, that difference in prioritization adds up.

There’s clearly a difference in importance between Apple and Google. Google created Android initially because it feared a Microsoft-dominated mobile world where the big beast of Redmond could lock them out of the nascent smartphone ads market. Apple created the iPhone to be the next big thing, something they could charge their usual margins of 30%+ on hardware.

But saying Google is “bored” of Android is wide of the mark. Both Android 13 and the forthcoming iOS 16 are similar in the way they fill in the gaps. Neither offers anything radical. Apple is revamping the lock screen, which is nice but overdue. Google extends its nice “Material You” tricks, which balance the interface’s colours with the wallpaper.

Both operating systems have really reached what you might call the Windows 7 era: users don’t particularly want radical change because they like the way things work now. And neither Apple nor Google is inclined to make their own Windows 8…

Weeknote, Sunday 4th September 2022

I spent yesterday at Interesting 2022, organised by the redoubtable Russell (Not T) Davies. Of course, the talks were all great, but it was also nice to bump into friends I hadn’t seen for a while, including Phil Gyford, Nick Ludlam, Zelda Rhiando, Matt Jones, John Willshire and many others. And it was great to finally meet Purplesime too.

This was the first time I’ve been out to any conference-style event since before the pandemic started, and it was a reminder of all the things that COVID robbed us of. Seeing friends, listening to talks, having fun — all the kinds of social stuff that previously were part of everyday life just vanished for a while. And, worse: it takes time to get used to doing them again. It’s not just a case of returning to normal, as the “new normal” was something we all got used to.

Afterwards, we took a long stroll down to the South Bank and went for a drink in the Royal Festival Hall. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been to the RFH since the “official” end of the pandemic, but it was great to go up to the member’s bar and look out over the Thames, something I used to do a lot when I worked just across the river.

I’ve been trying out Obsidian for my writing. My favourite writing app is Ulysses, but it has two issues: it’s only available on Apple devices and stores its files in an opaque way on iCloud. I would like something that’s cross-platform and which uses plain simple files in a regular directory — and Obsidian fits the bill for this. I tried it out a couple of years ago and didn’t like it because of its lack of a proper live preview as you write (unlike my friend Jason Snell I don’t want to see the Markdown all the time).

The way I tend to work involves a lot of quick note-taking. I have always been a jotter, writing down descriptions of people, places and events and quickly putting down any ideas I have. This is mostly out of necessity: I have a terrible memory. I always have thought it’s one of the reasons I made a good news writer because my bad memory meant I had to quickly get into the habit of writing everything down.

This means a good mobile client is essential, and Obsidian has one. It lacks Ulysses’ integration with the share sheet, but I have other tools I can use to save items, which means they end up in Obsidian.

Out of the box, though, Obsidian is a pretty poor writing environment. It lacks things I have come to rely on, like focus and typewriter writing modes, the ability to export as Word documents, and even the ability to break down a piece of writing into sections, dragging and dropping them into the right order. This last one is absolutely essential for fiction, where I tend to write in small discreet scenes.

The good news is that Obsidian is infinitely extensible using plugins and has a great community behind it who have built almost everything you could want. There’s a Longform plugin which lets you write and reorder scenes. There are typewriter scrolling and focus modes and Pandoc for exporting in virtually any format you could want. There are even plugins for footnotes and activity trackers so you can keep an eye on writing progress.

One thing I definitely like is the way you can use templates in Obsidian. It’s a very powerful system that, with the addition of the Templater add-on, lets us use things like variables in a template.

If you are considering using Obsidian for more than just note-taking, I recommend Curtis McHale’s site. Curtis has done a huge amount of work digging through the plugins and has many videos recommending the best stuff for writers, whether you’re creating long or short form, fiction or non-fiction.


  • About 750 words on a short story which has been newly renamed Abigail Harvey returns home. It’s a short story about a woman’s relationship with her mother. It’s been fun writing fiction!

Reading and watching

We finally got around to watching the new Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series on Amazon last night and you can see where the money is going. It was, in almost every sense, epic. And that might be why I found it a little hard to engage with: it’s all a little overwhelming at this point.

I’m still reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a wonderful exposition on writing and life that I would highly recommend.

Please won’t someone stop the bullshit about RCS?

I am so tired of how tech sites preach the gospel of RCS as the “solution” to interoperability between messaging on Android and iOS, based on nothing more than parroting Google’s “talking points”.

Android Police:

Google is also calling attention to the fact that SMS and MMS are older and less secure than the RCS standard that’s now common on Android phones: While one-on-one RCS conversations are encrypted, SMS and MMS conversations aren’t.

The RCS standard- which Apple could adopt as an additional layer of fallback for messages- does not include support for end-to-end encryption in single or group chats. Instead, Google has built its own proprietary encryption extensions on RCS. Unfortunately, they only work if you use Google servers for messaging and with Google’s Messages app. Although Google has published top-level technical papers, there is no way that open clients, or Apple, can support Google’s proprietary encryption at this point.

The comments on that Android Police article prove just how well Google’s PR campaign is landing with some — and how important it is for tech sites to start getting this right. The comments are full of people talking about how Apple is stopping messages from being secure by not adopting RCS as if it was part of the open standard that Apple could adopt.

Now, of course, I am sure Google would be “happy to work with” Apple to support its proprietary encryption. But that would mean Apple effectively handing over control over messaging standards not to a standards body but to Google. Anyone who thinks that is likely to happen doesn’t know Apple. And anyone who says it should happen doesn’t don’t know Google.

Google wants to encourage the adoption of RCS because it offers another platform for advertising. And although messages sent between Android users (using Google’s app) are encrypted, and Google can’t read the content, it can track who you are messaging, which gives it a significant data point about who your social circle is. In addition, that gives it data about the strength of relationships in your social graph, which it hasn’t had much insight into since the decline of email as a personal communication method.

Adopting RCS, of course, also counters the real target of Google’s strategy here: Meta. WhatsApp is wildly popular, particularly outside the US, and Meta bought it in the first place to get access to that social graph data about who you message most often. So Google needs a counter, and RCS adoption — with its proprietary extensions — is what it is pinning its hopes on.

Miscellany, 6th August

Web3 provides both anonymity and accountability, they said. It has its own built-in protections against bad actors, they said. Oops.

It’s usually worth watching Windows Weekly, but this week included a long section on how Microsoft just can’t get Windows releases right — the cadence, how it communicates, everything. It’s well worth a look.

Speaking of classic Microsoft idiocy, its (very nice) little video editor Clipchamp used to have three paid tiers plus a limited free version. That was too complex; rightly, it has hacked that back to a single subscription price.

Unfortunately, that price is $11.99 a month, and you will need to link your account to a Microsoft account. It’s a nice product. But it’s not a $143.88 per year product.

Meanwhile, iMovie continues to be completely free on Mac, iPadOS and iOS. Clips is completely free on iOS and iPadOS. Clips even uses Lidar to let you put 3D objects in your videos.

That $148 a year probably adds up to the difference in price between a Mac and a PC over three years, too.

Microsoft really is clueless sometimes.

But don’t leap too quickly into AppleWorld. Here’s Apple again putting ordinary people’s rights in fifth place behind its need to placate the PRC, its need to make 40%+ margins on everything, freedom of speech and human rights in general. Privacy is guaranteed — as long as you’re not Chinese. Remember when they hid the Taiwan flag from customers in Hong Kong?