Downgrading screens, misogynists losing money, and some Apple stuff

I recently downgraded my screen – my ThinkPad is a 1920×1200 display – so I think John Gruber has got this a little wrong. There is much more to a screen than resolution, and even relatively low-resolution screens now look much better than they used to. It’s not just about the number of pixels.

Dreadful misogynist and racist Vox Day, AKA Theodore Beale, has apparently lost $1m to a crypto scam while trying to crowdsource money for a right-wing superhero film. Just think, only a few years ago, that sentence would have drawn a blank look from everyone. What times we live in.

In case you’re not familiar with Vox Day’s oeuvre, he attempted to manipulate the ballot for the 2015 Hugo Awards to ensure only right-wingers got on the list and was a prominent supporter of Gamergate. He’s an all-around piece of shit, and losing money to a scam couldn’t happen to a nicer person. If you want to check out the deep cuts of his awfulness, We Hunted The Mammoth has you covered.

Chris Hynes (via Michael Tsai) tells the story of Apple Mail’s first importers. I love stories like this.

Michael, by the way, is the creator of SpamSieve, which is still the best way to filter out spam on any Mac. I bought my copy when it first came out in (I think) 2006, and I am still getting updates now, which goes well above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect from commercial software.

The cost of YouTube Premium’s family plan is getting massively hiked up. Well, when you have a monopoly on video, that’s what you can do. Of course, it’s still “free with ads” if you want to put up with incredibly intrusive privacy-violating tracking.

Completely unrelated, an extension to gPodder allows you to subscribe to YouTube channels and automatically download new content, where you can watch it locally. If you do this, though, support creators by subscribing directly to them — most creators have Patreons or other methods of giving them money while bypassing the egregious middleman that is YouTube.

One of Microsoft’s cleverer things on Windows is creating both Windows Subsystem for Linux — which lets you run Linux apps — and Windows Subsystem for Android. You can guess what that does. There’s now a public development roadmap for Android app support on Windows. What’s nice about it is how it fills in gaps in the Windows app ecosystem, such as having a good Kindle book reader on Windows tablets. It’s much more useful than the equivalent in the Apple world, where iPad apps can run on Apple Silicon Macs, mostly because the Mac app ecosystem is now so much strong than Windows.

Of course, it’s out of date now — things move pretty fast on Brexit Island — but John Lanchester’s article on “Thatcher Larping” is still an excellent read. You subscribe to the LRB, don’t you? You should.

It’s interesting looking through this piece by Cory from 2010 about why he wasn’t going to get an iPad. I think some of it’s proved wrong, but some are pretty prescient. In particular, I think the idea that the iPad’s user interaction model was all about consumption was correct (although I didn’t agree with this at the time). Enterprising users and developers have pushed the platform to be focused on creation too: Matt Gemmell writes and publishes novels on his. But it’s pushing and hacking and so on. Apple has finally acknowledged that the hardware is capable of much more than that, but it is now struggling to retrofit a more powerful and creator-focused user interface on it — and I think iPadOS 16 is the point when the bough breaks. Apple’s best option would be to make the iPad more open, of course (at least as open as the Mac) but I get the feeling there is still something of a religious war internally about doing that.

Paul Thurrott has reviewed the ThinkPad X13s, the first ThinkPad running on an ARM processor. It neatly illustrates the biggest issue with ARM outside Apple: battery life declines as soon as you push performance up to levels comparable to Intel. Paul was getting only six hours from this machine, which is terrible.

Terence Eden writes some good advice about how to write a literature review. Having had to do one, I wish I had read this before I did it. It would have saved me a lot of pain.

As I mentioned yesterday, Ubuntu 22.10 is out; of course, I’ve upgraded. I had to reinstall Wine (the Wine version in Ubuntu’s repo’s is ludicrously old) as 22.10 removed my hand-installed Wine 7. Thanks guys. And Ubuntu is really pushing Snap still. I am not religious about this, but I want Snaps to be at least up to date, which is probably one reason they have posted on the Steam snap.

COVID 19 is tailor made for our culture

I should start with this: I’m not an expert. You should listen to those that are.

COVID is an almost perfect virus. It rarely kills its host. Unlike its distant relative MERS, which makes people ill fast and kills them before they get chance to infect many others, it creeps up on you.

In fact, for the majority of sufferers, they will remain ambulatory. They may have outward signs, like a cough, but they may not – and our culture has trained us to keep going if we feel under the weather, to ignore symptoms.

It hits us when economically we’re weak to it. Zero hours contracts mean there is a pool of people who have no choice but to keep working, and a set of businesses that are built around the idea that you don’t have to keep people on staff. If you’re under 50, you’ve never really experienced a dangerous infectious disease that spreads like this. Yes, there was HIV, but that could mostly be avoided. COVID can’t.

But it also hits us when we’re mentally unprepared.

I’m 53, and as a child I was vaccinated against two things: smallpox (one of the last wave of children to get the smallpox vaccine); and polio. I got my immunity (such as it is) to measles, mumps, scarlet fever and German measles the hard way, by contracting the disease. And I remember the steps my parents had to take to keep me isolated (no playing outside, stuck in my bedroom, no friends visiting, EXTRA COMICS) because some of those diseases could kill other children. And, of course, could have killed me, although their undoubted worry didn’t register at the time.

If you’re younger than me, you’ve grown up in a world where most of the major childhood infectious diseases didn’t exist: you’re used to infection being something that either you didn’t have to worry about (colds, seasonal flu) or affected someone else, somewhere else.

And if you’re older than me (OK, boomer)… well, you should know better.

The generations currently alive are probably the first in history not to have anyone who remembers the last global pandemic in them. The influenza of 1918 was a distant memory to my grandmother, born in 1910, but for anyone of my mother’s age or younger – everyone currently alive – the danger of pandemic has faded from the collective memory.

Having lost the folk memory, all we have to keep us cautious and keep us alive is the knowledge of experts, and yet we also live at a time when major Western countries have turned away from an understanding of the important of expertise. Brexit, the pride in ignorance that characterises Trumpism, all show us that the respect for expertise which built post-war prosperity has vanished. Even amongst my generation, the notion of the “wisdom of crowds” tell us that while everyone can’t be an Einstein, if we all click our heels and wish three times, a hundred of us can add up to one.

No one is going to crowdsource a new treatment for COVID. Wikipedia isn’t going to discover a vaccine.

Social media allows accurate information to pass faster than before, which would be a ray of hope were it not for the fact that rumour, speculation and outright lies spread faster. The old, early internet idea that “good information drives out bad” is probably still being touted by the Digerati somewhere, but it’s really now pretty laughable.

And of course the news that your local supermarket is running out of bread can spread faster than ever, letting the well-off drive down in their cars and buy up the last remaining stocks to put in their chest freezers, while the poorer wait for a bus and find shelves empty. We have even forgotten that “panic buying” doesn’t mean everyone gets a fair share, it means that the poorest and weakest will go hungry.

Never has a culture been less prepared for a pandemic, and never has a virus had a better chance to become endemic in a population. COVID almost seems tailor made to capitalise on every single weakness in our culture, from expert denial and anti-vaccine madness to our lack of experience of pandemic to the way our economy is structured. I said earlier it was almost perfect. I was underplaying it. I think it actually is the perfect virus for our times.

But it’s not hopeless, and life will go on. These are obstacles, and it is down to each of us as individuals to use them as ways to improve ourselves, to do what we can for others, to make ourselves better people for the experience. “Amor Fati”, as the Stoics said.