Weeknote: Sunday 27th December

This is the last week note I’ll write this year. So, how did 2020 feel to me? I’m struck by the similarities to space travel. We have endured stretches of boredom, unable to move from the safe havens of our homes. But underneath the ennui and routine of occupying our little ships there has been a constant level of background anxiety, as our limbic systems dealt with the uncertain future by levelling up our cortisol, cranking the alertness until we are left constantly fuzzy and tired.

We have all lived on the edge. For me, this year has been yet another one that has been a holding pattern. Since my father got sick and died in the latter half of the ’00s, for one reason or another our lives have been on hold. And now, a global event that has forced all of us into shelter, put a stop to movement both physically and mentally.

Of course that’s not the only major even of the year which has dripped anxiety into our lives. For anyone who understands its potential impact Brexit has been a constant source of concern, and — until the moment it became obvious he had lost — the prospect of another four years of Trump putting American democracy to the sword didn’t help.

And yet… you would have to be extremely unaware of yourself for this year not to have forced you into some reflection about yourself and what you find important. Times like these change everyone in ways that are unpredictable, but they also coerce you into a better appreciation of what is important what, possibly, you have taken for granted. For me, it’s the ability to travel, both within the UK and overseas, and once we’ve all been saved by science I intend to spend a great deal of time on the road.


Roam

I’ve been trying out Roam Research, currently the hottest note-taking application among the kind of people who like “personal information management” as a topic. It combines three concepts in a simple way to good effect: Daily notes; two-way linking between notes; and the ability to reuse blocks of writing anywhere in other notes.

What do I think of it? The temptation with a tool like this is to try and do too much too quickly. You could try and create the perfect Zettelkasten note-taking system, and try and impose too much structure, but I think the best approach is probably the most simple: Just write daily notes, creating pages for projects and topics as you go along. If nothing comes of those projects or topics, no harm done.

It’s definitely useful for putting together Weeknotes. All I have to do is write snippets during my daily notes, then pull them together with block embeds at the end of the week. No additional writing required. Of course, the only down side to this is I need to write my notes as if they were going to be published, or sharpen them up later (embedding is two-way: if I amend a block in the weeknote, it’s changed in the daily notes too).


Chore of the week: we finally swapped the old Prestcold fridge from the kitchen for a newer one which had been in Kim’s old flat years ago. This means we’ve exchanged a 60-year-old fridge, which was still working but tended to get iced up, for one that’s a mere 20 years old. Domestic appliances, eh? They really don’t build them like they used to.


The excellent BookTrack app tells me that I have read 23 books this year. I’m not 100% sure that’s correct — I definitely don’t feel like I’ve read that many books — but I’ve definitely been reading much more than I used to. That’s been one positive of 2020: there’s been so much more time available to read.

Weeknote: Sunday 22nd November

Writing this weeknote started out as a kind of training wheels for getting back into blogging. Having not written regularly for years I needed some kind of structure to hang my writing on, and having a regular appointment which summed up what I had been doing and reading each week seemed like a good idea.

Of course, this my weeknote and not anyone else’s and because such a lot of what I do at work falls into the category of “business confidential” that precludes me talking much about it. I spend a lot of my time managing people, and intrinsically that’s not something that I can often write about publicly.

This week though, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a bunch of young people who have applied to work on some paid internships we’re running, and it’s been incredibly rewarding. It’s part of the government’s Kickstarter programme, which is designed to help employed people to get work experience and training to give them a foot in the door towards a permanent job.

Doing ten interviews in two days is always hard work, but what’s been brilliant is just how fantastic and smart and engaged the people have been. None of them have been over 21, some have been graduates and some not, but all of them have been great. What’s also heartening — and I think important — is that all of them have honed in on the fact that we do a lot of campaigning and support for mental health in the workplace, and that diversity is an enormous and important issue for us.

I think companies need to think about this: these are issues that are important to young people in particular when choosing an employer, and if you’re not focused on them, you could lose out on talent. There’s a demographic time bomb coming down the line, as the lower rates of birth impact on the number of young people entering the workforce (exacerbated by Brexit), which means that companies will need to compete for new employees in a way they haven’t had to do since the era of full employment in the 1960s.

But most important of all: the kids are alright.

Meanwhile, of course my new M1-powered Mac mini arrived. I’ve written about why I got it a bit, and I’m not going to do anything like benchmarking (the world does not need another M1 benchmark) but I’ll write more about my experience this week. So far… well, it’s a Mac. It is incredibly snappy, and with one exception, every Intel-code app I’ve run has worked well. In fact, what code the app is running is basically invisible to you: after the first time you run Rosetta, when it asks you if you want to install it, it’s hard to even se what kind of code you’re running (you have to go and look in the Info for each app, checking if it says “Universal” or not).

The exception, sadly, is Elder Scrolls Online, which has been my favourite MMORPG since I stopped regularly playing World of Warcraft a few years ago. ESO is great if you love a huge, sprawling world with enough story to keep you interested for years, a lot of variety in play styles (any character class can fill any role) and a really nicely developed world.

Unfortunately, its developers have also said they have no plans to support the M1 Macs, which basically means that over the long term they are throwing in the towel on Mac development — in two years, all Macs will be M1. Not only that, they won’t support it running under emulation, which is a shame as other games which run under emulation seem to run, and run well.

I guess they won’t be the only ones: some developers, particularly in AAA games, could use this as a chance to stop supporting the Mac. And that would be a shame because ultimately, I don’t have much doubt that the graphical and game play capabilities of this new generation of Mac will be exceptional.

So… I think it might be time to go back to WoW. Anyone got a friendly guild?

Weeknote: 15th November 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the course of the last week, some of which manifested itself as a post about a letter to my 23-year-old self which I published yesterday. A lot of the thinking has been about art, and writing, and how I’ve allowed the practice of my writing to lapse a little. Some of it was about the tools that I use, and considered what the right things are to inspire me.

I’ve been reading a book called Japonisme by Erin Niimi Longhurst over the past couple of weeks. It’s a book about Japanese culture and her relationship to it. Some of it is just about the cultural practices themselves, some about the attitudes which spawn them.

One thing apparent throughout is the Japanese understanding of the importance of tools, of choosing the right one for the job and of caring for them in the right way.

I have always unknowingly shared the late 20th Century Western attitude towards tools: disposability. And I’ve coupled this to the technologist’s approach to physical tools: there is always a better one coming out next year.

So much of how we approach technology is formed by the knowledge that whatever you use is outdated almost at the point you acquire it.

Because computers are so malleable they also invite constant change in how we work, too. The almost infinite flexibility that software provides means that we can change the process by which we create things almost at will. It also means there’s a temptation to fiddle with the way we create.

I wrote a review earlier this week of the Freewrite and I mentioned that the device is opinionated. Its lack of flexibility forces you into a particular way of working with words: first thinking, then drafting, then editing, with the role of the Freewrite sitting solely in the middle. You can’t edit on it, which means you have to adopt that draft to edit process. It forces you to codify the idea into a draft, then to use another tool to pare it back into something worth saying.

Compress fossilised trees for long enough, and you get coal. Compress coal for long enough, and you get diamonds. So much of what we write never gets beyond being coal: valuable, but not valuable enough.

The first couple of days of this week also saw me reestablish my practice of going for a walk in the morning before settling down to work. This is a very different lockdown to the last one. Last time there were almost no cars on the road. The parade of four-by fours taking children to the private school at the top of the road is back with a vengeance, leading to increased air pollution which, I have no doubt, leaves those middle-class parents wondering why their child has asthma. The cognitive dissonance which those kinds of parents manage to have never ceases to amaze me.

On Tuesday, I had the realisation that I’m 17 years away from retiring. That is exactly the distance between now and when I left MacUser magazine in 2003, and that feels like about five minutes ago. We live our lives on a logarithmic scale, inching forward like tortoises when we’re young and gradually learning to walk, then run, then sprint, until your later years start to pass by at an alarming pace. Life moves pretty fast…

Things I’ve been reading this week

Apple has some new Macs out, you might have noticed. This is a really sensible look at the new M1-equipped Macs and their implications.


A great piece of writing about the lovely new Raspberry Pi 400. Related: I am really glad the Chuck is doing actual proper blogging again. One of my favourite writers and he’s giving us more words!


A good strategic look at the M1 Macs from the fantastic team at TechPinions


It turns out that under-18s love books more than almost any other medium. How good is that?


Google has started charging for photo storage. Like Om, I think this is overblown, but also it should have been obvious that sooner or later Google would want more money. You don’t get owt for nowt, as my dad used to say.


Some really tips on how to write an article when you’re utterly bereft of inspiration. Which is about where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that.

Weeknotes: Sunday 1st November 2020

It’s hard to write anything meaningful at the moment without referring to COVID-19, and the prospect of another national lockdown makes it a subject that’s even harder to avoid. Everything is going to be dominated by this for the next month.

In the past week, I’ve done several things it won’t be possible to do for a while: walk around Whitstable and go for a meal out not once but twice. Visit friends, and have friends randomly drop in on us. Some plans we had tentatively made for the next month or so are now shelved.

The Stoics had a view of the world which suggested that you should embrace what fate has given you. Nietzsche, later, went further and encouraged you to actively love fate: “amor fati”. That means not just acceptance and acquiescence, but saying “no, I’m glad this has happened. I’ll take it.” Cameron, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, comes to this perspective when he accidentally rubbishes his dad’s favourite Ferrari.

When you’re talking about a pandemic which has killed nearly 60,000 people in Britain and which — if we didn’t lock down — would be likely to kill another 85,000 people over the winter, that can be very hard. When you have lost loved ones that’s doubly true. It feels cruel and heartless, but as a way of living your life… I can see the attraction. It’s a philosophy which was honed in an era familiar with death in a way which we in the west rarely are.

Writing rediscovered

Probably the biggest personal thing this week was beginning to read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I first picked this up in the mid-90’s, committed to doing morning pages for a while, then allowed it to peter out. I was a little busy being stupid.

This time round, instead of a chore I’ve found it something I am eager to do and to embrace. Writing three pages every morning longhand is a challenge, but it’s a good one: I’ve already rediscovered that I have a turn of phrase which doesn’t have to lapse into cliché. Some of it is going to take a little creativity to do in lockdown, but if you’re looking to rediscover your inner voice, then I really recommend it.

Meditation practice

The other thing I’ve rediscovered is the impact that meditation has on me. I’ve been meditating regularly for a couple of years, using the Headspace app, but over the past couple of months I had got out of the habit. I hadn’t stopped — but I wasn’t doing it every day, which is where you’ll find the most impact on your feelings and life. So, I’ve picked that up again, and already it’s making a difference.

Related to this, I’ve also picked up Bullet Journaling again with a little more seriousness. If you haven’t read Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method I highly recommend it. It is, as Ryder says, “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” so come for the lists, stay for just making you more attentive to your life.

This week I’ve been reading…

Evan Dando knows he’s lucky. I can’t remember how I ended up with this year-old article, but it sparked many memories of the 90s. I saw The Lemonheads quite a few times, and It’s a Shame About Ray was one of the CDs in constant rotation. The last time I saw Dando, he was sat on top of a portaloo at Glastonbury playing his guitar to everyone queuing for a pee. I’m glad he’s still alive.

This Tory government smells of corruption. It’s not just that they obviously think rules aren’t made for them, it’s that they see things like procurement process as inefficiencies, but don’t see the millions they are throwing at their friends in wasted projects as anything but “fail fast”. You don’t fail fast when you’re doing it with taxpayers money. You just fail.

There’s so much stuff about at the moment designed to help you work more effectively from home. This collection of articles and books from Microsoft is excellent — not just for working from home, but also just working generally.

Weeknote, Sunday 25th October 2020

I’ve been watching episodes of The Computer Chronicles quite a lot lately (they’re all available on a YouTube channel). It’s quite a blast from the past and makes me nostalgic for the era when computers were huge desk-bound machines which required you to type arcane commands in them to make even the most trivial things happen. I say trivial but at the time — we’re talking about the mid-1980s — what those computers could do was amazing. The idea that you could write a book and then go back and easily edit it was revolutionary. If you’re at all nostalgic about the earlier years of computing I recommend it. And yes, portable computers really used to look like that.

The earlier episodes feature Gary Kildall as co-host. Kildall was the inventory of CP/M, one of the most popular early microcomputer operating systems. According to legend, when IBM wanted an off-the-shelf operating system for their top secret IBM PC, Bill Gates pointed them in Kildall’s direction. Kildall, though, was out when the IBM people arrived — he spent a lot of time flying to visit customers — and his wife (co-owner of the business) wouldn’t sign the required NDA. So, we ended up with DOS, not CP/M on the IBM PC and Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.

Another piece of my early computing history was Byte Magazine and Jerry Pournelle’s column “Computing at Chaos Manor”. Pournelle’s columns were epics, rolling in at around 5000 words a month of rambling prose detailing what felt like every single computing action he took over the course of a month. You can get a taste of one on his website, which still looks like something from the late 90s.

I started reading Byte way back even before I bought my first computer. I was obsessed with science fiction and computers which you could actually own were like a taste of the future. And Byte was where you read all about it. Every month Pournelle would receive new equipment from vendors eager to get a mention in his column and having all that technology ¬¬– which I would have called “kit” at the time, a word I later went on to hate with a passion — sounded like a fun job.

It would be remiss not to mention that Pournelle was also a raging right-winger who consistently claimed climate change was a hoax and thought the democrats were all pawns of the Soviet Union. His fiction was often steeped in virulent militarism, and he got worse as he got older.

Eventually, of course I became a computer journalist which lead to a career in publishing and my current status as what can only be described as “a suit”. I may still wear the t-shirts, but my work is really people and business. Perhaps that’s why I’m still so obsessed with technology: it’s the link to my past.

Stuff I’ve been reading

Viticci’s review of the new iPad Air is interesting and of course as in-depth as you would expect. If you’re thinking about getting an iPad and want something powerful but not as expensive as the iPad Pro, this looks like the one to get.


One of my aims at the moment is to back to more slow reading and writing and less social media and instant reacting, so I’m using RSS more. There’s a new release of Reeder out and it’s an excellent newsreader. Highly recommended.


This is a good thread on why writing makes you smarter. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?


How do Norwegians stay happy in the winter? Part of the answer is “get dressed up and go outside” which feels like heresy to those used to warmer climes.


How do you break bad habits? By replacing them with good ones, of course.


I’ve always thought that multitasking was a myth. So is “dual-focusing”. Pay attention, Microsoft. Related: I have turned off almost all notifications on my phone and watch.


Speaking of email… Shawn is right here, the default mail client on iOS is the best one. Fight me.


Good interview with Cory. I particularly liked this quote:

Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists. In technological circles, there’s a quantitative fallacy that if you can’t do maths on it, you can just ignore it. And so, you just incinerate the qualitative elements and do maths on the dubious quantitative residue that remains. This is how you get physicists designing models for reopening American schools — because they completely fail to take on board the possibility that students might engage in, say, drunken eyeball-licking parties, which completely trips up the models.

Weeknotes, Sunday 18th October

Tuesday saw us head again to the Curzon to see Kajillionaire, which is a lovely film that I’d recommend to everyone. We’ve been seeing a lot of independent films lately, partly because I want to stay in the habit of going to the cinema and partly because… well… there isn’t much else on. A very big FU to Eon, who aren’t releasing James Bond and so are actually damaging cinemas that desperately need revenue (and yes, you can go to a cinema safely).

Seeing quite a few indie films has definitely rekindled my interest in movies, which has been bludgeoned into submission by years of mostly seeing huge films about people with various kinds of superpowers. One from last year that everyone ought to see is Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart which is a sharp little comedy. I was reminded of it by something which arrived this week, Google’s new Chromecast with Google TV. Google TV is a revelation – it has a better interface for movie discovery than anything else I’ve found, and because it incorporates every streaming service1 it works really well. It also supports movies that aren’t available to stream anywhere, letting you tell it that you want to add them to a watchlist or have seen it before, so it can base recommendations and alerts on even movies which aren’t available anywhere.

Rearrangements

It’s funny how rearranging your working space can have such a big impact on how it feels to work. For months I’ve had my office space set out with the window to the side of me and my desk facing the wall (one with some lovely pictures on it, but still a wall. On something of a whim I decided to move the desk so that I am sitting facing outside, which means I get a glimpse of sunlight. I also did away with the (quite lovely) big monitor, replacing it with a 12 South MacBook Stand which works brilliantly with my MacBook Pro.

It also works really well with my iPad Pro, which sits up at a perfect height for typing and reminds me of the way Matt Gemmell has his iPad-only work desk set up. Mine is, of course, more cluttered than Matt’s but I’m still stuck in the dark ages of using an actual laptop for some of my work.

In fact, two laptops. I’ve always liked having an up to date Mac and an up to date Windows PC. It’s an old habit from computer journalism: an effort to be cross platform, to know “how the other half lives” and not to get too wedded to either Windows or macOS. It’s a professional thing.

Of course I’m not actually a computer journalist anymore. What I should be doing is simply striving to use the best tools for my job and sticking with those. But that old habit dies hard.

The iPad as main device

Using the MacBook Stand with the iPad is a joy and a reminder that the iPad can be a perfect brilliant standalone computer. The screen is big enough to work and iPadOS means you’re not constantly bombarded with the distractions inherent in a multi-window operating system. Where most computer systems encourage you to multi-task, the single window approach of iPadOS means it’s actually harder to be distracted.

Of course plenty of people have been using the iPad as their main device for some time. However, I think we’re now at the point where it’s a viable option for most people, including ones that don’t want to go down the route of setting up endless Shortcuts to compensate for something that’s easy on a laptop but hard on an iPad.

Things I’ve been reading this week

Ulysses 21 Brings Revision Mode to iPhone and iPad Alongside Updated Design. Ulysses has been my writing tool of choice for a while for everything except work documents (we’re very heavily invested in Microsoft there, and I still love Word). Revision mode answers some of the biggest issues with it as an editing tool where the aim is to sharpen when you have written. And it’s on both iOS and macOS.


FoodNoms’ Widgets Thoughtfully Combine Goal Summaries with Actions to Make Food Tracking Easier Than Ever. Food tracking is a privacy nightmare, because all the main apps you can get for it use the data on what you’re eating to either advertise something to you or sell you some kind of expensive weight loss course. FoodNoms is designed to be private: what you log stays with you (at the moment, it doesn’t even support syncing with Apple Health, although that is in the plan).

The downside is that its food database is incredibly US-centric, and although it has the ability to use text recognition to bring in data from food labels, it’s designed for US food labelling and doesn’t do a brilliant job of UK labels. It works, but it’s sometimes confused between the amounts for portions vs 100g.


Things 3.13: Bringing Your Field Notes To-Do List to Things. Things gains support for Scribble on iPad and it’s excellent. You can literally scribble anywhere on a list in the app to add in an extra to do, which makes the Pencil a great tool for capturing idle thoughts about tasks into your inbox.

  1. Except, of course, Apple TV – Apple, please do support this!

Weeknote: Sunday 11th October

On Tuesday we ventured out to the cinema (again) to see Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks. Our local Curzon is showing many small movies (plus Tenet) at the moment, so it’s a chance to see films which might otherwise pass us by on the big screen. On The Rocks was great but what’s also interesting is this is actually an Apple Original, made for Apple TV+, that’s getting a theatrical release. And it would have been a shame to see it first on the small screen as a lot of the acting is classic face acting which works better in a dark room on a big screen

Related: there was a piece in The Guardian this week on the struggles of cinema and predictably lots of curmudgeons talking about how blockbusters were awful and kids were always talking and on their phones, and blah blah blah. I understand not liking big blockbuster movies – not everyone does – but cinema is as much about the audience as it is the film. I nearly cried when I went to see The Force Awakens and the the Star Wars fanfare came on, because I was feeding off the emotion of the audience. Cinema is a shared experience, and a focused on, and we don’t have many options for that these days.

Friday evening saw us head down to Trowbridge for the Trinity Buoy Wharf drawing prize. It was lovely be away and stay in a hotel overnight then explore a bit of the country that I’m not that familiar with. If you can get away right now, do it. You’ll feel a lot better for it.

Weeknotes: Sunday 6th September

Abbreviated this week, basically because I want to do some more reading today. But I have some links for you.

Things I’ve been reading

Online Privacy Should Be Modeled on Real-World Privacy

The entitlement of these fuckers is just off the charts. They have zero right, none, to the tracking they’ve been getting away with. We, as a society, have implicitly accepted it because we never really noticed it. You, the user, have no way of seeing it happen. Our brains are naturally attuned to detect and viscerally reject, with outrage and alarm, real-world intrusions into our privacy. Real-world marketers could never get away with tracking us like online marketers do.

I could not agree more.


Facebook Didn’t Remove Kenosha Militia Event Page

Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s previous statements that the company had removed a militia event where people discussed gathering in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to shoot and kill protesters, the company never took any such action, BuzzFeed News has learned.

But of course they didn’t.


Note Linking in Bear Expands to Include Section Linking

I really love Bear in so many ways, but I have never really had a reason to use it. It’s not a great notes app for me, because it doesn’t do handwritten notes (and being a big iPad user that’s import). Neither is it a better writing application than Ulysses.


Pixel 4A vs. iPhone SE: battle of the budget cameras – The Verge

While the Pixel wins at night, the iPhone dominates in processing power. Inside the SE is Apple’s newest A13 chip, and it’s fast — like wicked fast. I often caught the Pixel’s Snapdragon 730G processor working on images for a bit after I took them. When it comes to how quickly you can open the camera app, take a photo, and then review it, the iPhone wins.

It’s REALLY worth watching the full video for this. You won’t see a better example of why Apple’s decision to make its own processors was the right one.


Read-Only – Spectre Collie

Last week I deleted my Instagram account, because it was too important to me.

I mean you should be reading Chuck’s work anyway, but if you’re not this is a good place to start.


Weeknotes: Sunday 30th August 2020

There are a hundred little ways which the pandemic has changed our lives, often without us noticing. For example: despite being at home, work now dominates my life in a way which isn’t conventionally true. Although I’ve been pretty-religious about keeping to an eight hour schedule at regular times outside of these times, for quite a long period, there wasn’t much else to do, to get engaged with. The only rhythm left was the work.

The past two weeks of holiday have really hammered this home to me. I’ve always been someone who spends the first few days of holiday fretting about work: there is always something which has been forgotten or which I didn’t have time to finish, always some kind of loose end, and I spend those early days thinking about it and worrying. It’s ridiculous and unhealthy, but after a couple of days I’m fine.

Not this time – it took basically the whole first week – and I’m convinced it’s because the pandemic has made things worse.

We actually went out to a pub to meet people on Thursday, which meant I got drunk on two pints and very drunk on four. That was psychologically weird. Part of me didn’t want to go, and I have no idea why. Fear of the unknown.

In other COVID-related news, I was tested to see if I could donate convalescent plasma. And it turns out that my antibody levels were too low to be of any use. The actual result is just negative or positive: if it’s negative, it doesn’t mean you haven’t had COVID, it just means it’s below a set number, so it could be zero or it could be “quite a lot but not enough”. As five months have elapsed since I had the bug (I think – there were no tests available then) it was always likely that my antibody levels would have declined.

There’s also a 30% chance of a false negative. The parameters are set pretty high because taking plasma is a complex and expensive process so it’s better, as my dad would have said, to be safe than sorry.

I’m slightly glad that I now don’t have to have my own blood taken from me, filtered, and put back in – but on the other hand, I wish that I had been of some use.


Stuff I’ve been reading

There’s an interesting concept of your present-self and future-self at work in this post. It’s worth reading.


Related: Obsessions with self improvement aren’t always healthy. Sometimes it’s just good to let yourself be:

The urges are not based on anything meaningful. They come from reading a magazine, or someone’s blog, and thinking, “Oh, that would be cool!” I read lists of things I should do someday, places I should go, achievements others have done … and the idea pops into my head that I should do them. Hey cool, let’s suddenly pursue a new goal! But this new fantasy in my head isn’t based on anything that matters, just a cool image that I have in my head about how awesome my life will be once I achieve this goal.


BRB moving to Switzerland

Lunchtime is sacred time in Switzerland. When I was on maternity leave, my husband came home for lunch to help me care for our daughter. This strengthened our marriage. Many families still reunite during weekdays over the lunch hour.

https://www.vox.com/2015/7/21/8974435/switzerland-work-life-balance

The planet is fucked, redux

The madness of airline elite status:

The costliest manifestations of GS-MAD are unnecessary year-end trips, called “mileage runs” in the frequent-flier community, which are cousins to the flights Walter Kirn’s protagonist in “Up in the Air” takes to meet his goal of a million lifetime miles. I asked around to find the highest amount anyone had heard of being spent on mileage runs: the winner was fifteen thousand dollars, by a friend of a friend, in a month.

I know someone who constantly berated those of us who bought a car because we didn’t live in an urban centre with adequate public transport while flying enough air miles every year to maintain the highest tier of frequent flier class on his chosen airline. One of the flights they take has enough carbon emissions attached to run a family car for a year.

Everyone has their blindspots about the environment, and this is just one example. There’s the concerned parent that complains about air quality around their school while driving their child there in an SUV, just the two of them. There’s pretty much anyone who understands the impact of meat and dairy farming on global warming but doesn’t become vegan.

But those who travel the globe to speak and attend conferences, flying long haul more than once a year? Yeah. Those ones annoy me more than most.

Weeknotes: Sunday 16th August 2020

I missed last week’s note thanks to a huge bout of tiredness which left me pretty exhausted and sleepy all Sunday. Sorry about that. Still a bit knackered now, so this will be a pretty short one.

Antitrust is here again

Back in the mid-noughties I spent a while covering the Microsoft/European Commission antitrust investigate, the one which ultimately led to the “browser” choice” version of Windows (where everyone naturally chose Chrome, because at the time Chrome didn’t suck).

That meant I had to learn an awful lot of antitrust law, and – as I was writing for an American site – how European rules differ from US ones. The news that Apple is being sued by Epic Games means a whole new generation of technology journalists are about the learn a lot of the same stuff. It’s fun.

One thing to understand off the bat: in Europe, there’s an assumption that competition is good for consumers, and so things which restrict competition must have a VERY clear consumer benefit. No such assumption exists in the US, where immediate consumer harm is all that really matters.

This is going to make things pretty tough for Epic, because Apple can ask “where’s the harm?” and Epic needs to do the work to show it. Just a restraint on Epic’s freedom to do what they hell they want won’t be enough. And Apple has a strong case that a single app store with a fixed fee has benefited consumers by providing developers with a clear route to market, as well as something that’s much more secure than mobile app distribution used to be. Anyone who remembers the pre-App Store era will know what a shambles it was trying to get mobile software if you weren’t a nerd.


Stuff I’ve been reading

Ars Technica has a great interview with two of Apple’s leading AI experts. It’s worth remember that Apple believes machine learning is so core to what it does that it’s built in specialised ML hardware into its processors for years.


Meanwhile, Microsoft is all in on cutting its carbon emissions and making itself carbon negative. That’s both aggressive and admirable. Satya Nadella is some leader.


I’m incredibly proud of my former colleague Thomas McMullan, who has a book coming out. Tom is proper clever and you should read his stuff.