Greg's recent activity

  1. Comment on What products do you absolutely love? in ~talk

    Greg Link Parent
    I'm a mostly-happy Mac user, and have been for a very long time at this point, but I'm not entirely inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on pricing until they stop doing things like...

    I'm a mostly-happy Mac user, and have been for a very long time at this point, but I'm not entirely inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt on pricing until they stop doing things like adding a 300%+ markup to their commodity SSDs and RAM (they charge as much for the 2TB upgrade as they do for the entire base laptop at this point), or failing to include a basic dirt cheap USB-C cable with a charger that already costs almost four times more than the alternatives.

    I'm very happy to pay a premium for quality and design, but it frustrates me when I'm already paying that premium and they still feel the need to screw me on the basics.

    4 votes
  2. Comment on Why aren't smartphones like PCs where you have choice over your OS and get updates directly from OS vendor? in ~tech

    Greg Link
    The manufacturers would love to lock you in on the desktop as well - Apple, Google, and (perhaps most notably) Microsoft have all made overtures in that direction over the years, but they've never...
    • Exemplary

    The manufacturers would love to lock you in on the desktop as well - Apple, Google, and (perhaps most notably) Microsoft have all made overtures in that direction over the years, but they've never quite managed it.

    Why were they successful on smartphones? Because those came of age when there were already a few dominant behemoths in the tech world who had the ability to make the lock in happen.

    Why weren't they successful on desktops & laptops? A few reasons:

    • The PC market as a whole was smaller and much more fragmented when it started - there was more real competition, and attempts at monopolising (or even duopolising, as with the modern smartphone market) were more difficult. Research institutions were also instrumental consumers in the early computer market in a way that they never were for smartphones.

    • PCs have always been production tools of one kind or another: spreadsheets, documents, software, music, video. A relatively large amount of openness and local control is valuable in that context - and although that often doesn't directly extent to changing the OS, the Venn diagram of the two needs has a very large overlap. Phones are generally used more for consumption (with the notable exception of photos).

    • It's extremely difficult to build your own phone, but relatively easy to build your own PC. The latter effectively forces the OS to be at least somewhat decoupled from the hardware.

    All that said, the push to bring a sizable chunk of consumers inside the walled garden is still happening. Apple are approaching it from two sides, with the Mac App Store and potential custom chips to lock down the laptop side, and the iPad Pro to shift the tablet market towards production as well as consumption. Microsoft are shifting to subscription models so that you're paying them regardless of whether you use the software. It's unlikely they'll ever completely close down the ecosystem, simply because developers still need something to write the software on, but I can envisage a lot of consumers ending up firmly locked in within a few years.

    32 votes
  3. Comment on Share your favorite vegetarian meals in ~food

    Greg Link Parent
    It varies pretty widely by region: if the people running it are Bengali, they almost definitely eat meat, whereas if they're Rajasthani they most likely don't. Overall India is about 40%...

    It varies pretty widely by region: if the people running it are Bengali, they almost definitely eat meat, whereas if they're Rajasthani they most likely don't. Overall India is about 40% vegetarian (if you include people who eat eggs), but even those who do eat meat do so a lot less on average than comparable countries.

    Anecdotally, I've found that Indian restaurants in the West are a generally a lot heavier on the meat than most I've been to in India, which I guess makes sense: cater to the tastes of the market you're in, and all. I'm very fortunate in that a lot of the Indian food I eat is home cooked (and always vegetarian if so), but I'll see if I can come up with any good cookbook or website recommendations!

    4 votes
  4. Comment on Share your favorite vegetarian meals in ~food

    Greg Link
    Indian food, in all of it's many forms and flavours. India is pretty much the only country where meat consumption hasn't risen along with increasing wealth, and that's because a huge amount of the...

    Indian food, in all of it's many forms and flavours. India is pretty much the only country where meat consumption hasn't risen along with increasing wealth, and that's because a huge amount of the cuisine and food culture is plant based (sometimes with added dairy) by default. You get to go veggie because that's how the dish is supposed to be made, no substitutions needed!

    6 votes
  5. Comment on What products do you absolutely love? in ~talk

    Greg Link Parent
    I went with Philips Hue and the whole system has been working admirably: the colour temperatures, brightness, and so on are faultless. I made the decision mostly on the properties of the lighting...

    I went with Philips Hue and the whole system has been working admirably: the colour temperatures, brightness, and so on are faultless. I made the decision mostly on the properties of the lighting itself. No strong feelings on the software, but to be honest I barely use it since the initial set up.

    The only downside would be the price, although the three-packs of bulbs do tend to periodically go on offer if you don't mind waiting. I started with a single one in the bedroom, and pretty quickly decided it was worth the investment to do the rest of the rooms (although given I live in a tiny flat, the absolute cost still wasn't huge!). I've been hearing good things about LIFX for a similar product at lower cost, but I can't vouch for them personally.

    2 votes
  6. Comment on Governments Are Spending Billions on Software They Can Get with Freedom in ~tech

    Greg Link Parent
    I agree, and I would add that the government tends to be obliged to consider longevity and accessibility more than most private enterprise. A prime example would be the US military's ongoing and...

    I agree, and I would add that the government tends to be obliged to consider longevity and accessibility more than most private enterprise. A prime example would be the US military's ongoing and expensive problems with Windows XP machines that still need to be supported because they are integrated into critical hardware.

    If you're integrating a computer system into a multibillion dollar warship with an estimated working lifespan of several decades, it just seems like good risk management to ensure that more than one company is capable of providing ongoing support. Going open source (or at least not external closed source) allows you to take bids from multiple organisations to pick up any support contracts as they expire, or even bring it in-house if you choose. Going proprietary forces you to pay whatever the single vendor asks for, especially if you're not in a position to feasibly refit the system.

    3 votes
  7. Comment on What products do you absolutely love? in ~talk

    Greg Link Parent
    That backpack is gorgeous - I've been vaguely hoping to find something to use when I need a bit more space/weight than my everyday messenger bag is comfortable for, and I think this may well be...

    That backpack is gorgeous - I've been vaguely hoping to find something to use when I need a bit more space/weight than my everyday messenger bag is comfortable for, and I think this may well be the winner.

    Come to think of it, the aforementioned everyday bag definitely deserves a spot in this thread too - it's an extremely simple brown leather messenger from Gianni Conti, and as far as I'm concerned it is the absolute platonic ideal of its type. It's one of those rare things that does its job so well that I don't think about it at all.

  8. Comment on What products do you absolutely love? in ~talk

    Greg Link Parent
    How did I never think of this?! I'll be on the lookout for some to try next time I go food shopping.

    How did I never think of this?! I'll be on the lookout for some to try next time I go food shopping.

    4 votes
  9. Comment on What products do you absolutely love? in ~talk

    Greg Link
    Smart lighting! I have sleep issues at the best of times, and I find it far easier waking up to a full power bright white "sunrise", and then in the evening having the lighting taper off into the...

    Smart lighting! I have sleep issues at the best of times, and I find it far easier waking up to a full power bright white "sunrise", and then in the evening having the lighting taper off into the dim orange as it gets towards time to sleep.

    17 votes
  10. Comment on Trump Declares National Emergency To Help Fund Southern Border Wall in ~news

    Greg Link Parent
    I'm an outsider looking in, but the great difficulty I have here is that by basically all of the objective measures I can find, the modern Republican party does not appear to act in the interests...

    While you or I see Trump's actions as clearly insane and morally reprehensible, that's ultimately the lens through which Trump's base saw the 8 years of Obama's presidency. That, to them was just as nightmarish as we see the current situation.

    I'm an outsider looking in, but the great difficulty I have here is that by basically all of the objective measures I can find, the modern Republican party does not appear to act in the interests of the vast majority of Americans.

    Although I don't directly support either US political party, it would be fair to say I lean more left than right, and so I worry that I am also guilty of being blinded by bias. But then I look at the professed goals and morals of conservatism (which I understand but disagree with) and see very little reflection of them in the Republican party's actions. I hope I'm being rational in that observation, but I don't know how much I can trust myself.

    I guess what I'm really saying is I don't want to be a contributor to that division, but my attempts to be objective and read up on the subject all suggest that one party is, for want of a better word, worse than the other. That's not conducive to bridging any gaps - either I'm just wrong, in which case my earnest attempt to inform myself has failed, or I'm right, in which case I don't have the faintest idea what to do about it.

    10 votes
  11. Comment on Tilderinos, what email newsletters are you subscribed to? in ~talk

    Greg Link
    I enjoy Tedium, which is pretty much the exact opposite of topical (or news, for that matter). It's a series of deep-dive pieces on topics that would otherwise get a passing thought at best, but...

    I enjoy Tedium, which is pretty much the exact opposite of topical (or news, for that matter). It's a series of deep-dive pieces on topics that would otherwise get a passing thought at best, but are fascinating either despite or because of that.

    5 votes
  12. Comment on Performance on tildes.net in ~tildes

    Greg Link Parent
    All it really means is a way to get the content in a machine-readable format rather than one intended for humans. An API is essentially guaranteed to be faster than the full website, because it's...

    I only very dimly understand what an API is

    All it really means is a way to get the content in a machine-readable format rather than one intended for humans. An API is essentially guaranteed to be faster than the full website, because it's just the actual data, but it means you need some kind of viewer at the other end to interpret it.

    The website version comes with all the layout info included as well, making it slightly heavier in general. It then tends to come with a bunch of extraneous crap above and beyond that, which is what we're all complaining about!

    14 votes
  13. Comment on What are reliable sites for thoughtful content from a non-American perspective? in ~talk

    Greg Link Parent
    Monocle is another interesting one in the same vein as The Economist and 1843. More private jet adverts and branded pop-ups at Davos (seriously, not an exaggeration), plus business and current...

    Monocle is another interesting one in the same vein as The Economist and 1843. More private jet adverts and branded pop-ups at Davos (seriously, not an exaggeration), plus business and current affairs, combined with remarkably nuanced and well researched pieces on design, urban quality of life, and food.

    2 votes
  14. Comment on McConnell Says Trump Plans to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall in ~news

    Greg Link Parent
    This line of thinking scares the hell out of me. Any circumvention of process, any weakening of checks and balances, any reduction of transparency ultimately serves to benefit those who would...

    Trump may be the president to create such a privilege (if he does that is), but I think undoubtedly liberals are the ones who'll benefit the most from it.

    This line of thinking scares the hell out of me. Any circumvention of process, any weakening of checks and balances, any reduction of transparency ultimately serves to benefit those who would abuse it.

    Sure, it allows more good things to be done more quickly if the right person is in power, but the pendulum swings back the other way hard when a true power-hungry bad actor manages to take over. And you'll never get rid of them, because once they invoke whatever powers their predecessors used sparingly, the emergency lasts forever and they won't let go.

    22 votes
  15. Comment on What are reliable sites for thoughtful content from a non-American perspective? in ~talk

    Greg Link
    Sixth Tone has become one of my regular reads - it's a very solid English-language source for opinions/editorials/general news from China.

    Sixth Tone has become one of my regular reads - it's a very solid English-language source for opinions/editorials/general news from China.

    6 votes
  16. Comment on Apple, Google Criticized For Carrying App That Lets Saudi Men Track Their Wives in ~tech

    Greg Link Parent
    It's an app released by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior which provides a tracking function and explicitly mentions that "you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers]...

    It's an app released by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior which provides a tracking function and explicitly mentions that "you can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online".

    Given the laws and regime of Saudi Arabia, this strongly implies that there will be an asymmetry in how it is able used by different family members (location data, appointment data, etc. flowing only one way). Add to this that Apple explicitly takes responsibility for operating a whitelist approach in their store, meaning (for better or worse) that the question of censorship in general has already been answered here, and I would say there's a circumstantial but very reasonable case to object to this specific app without catching location sharing as a whole.

    3 votes
  17. Comment on 'Esquire' Criticized for Cover Story on 'What It’s Like to Grow Up White, Middle Class, and Male' in ~life

    Greg Link Parent
    Nice to see the overall activity picking up! It seemed as though there has been more going on around here, so that explains a lot. I'm laughing at myself a little for not consciously noticing the...

    Nice to see the overall activity picking up! It seemed as though there has been more going on around here, so that explains a lot.

    I'm laughing at myself a little for not consciously noticing the styling change - now that I think about it, the new version catches my eye much more, but if anyone had pressed me to say what changed I wouldn't have been able to tell them. I'm sure I've been overlooking some of them before, so if that's the case for others as well then I can quite believe it's also somewhat driving the feedback loop.

    2 votes
  18. Comment on 'Esquire' Criticized for Cover Story on 'What It’s Like to Grow Up White, Middle Class, and Male' in ~life

    Greg Link Parent
    Is it just me, or has the usage of these exploded in the last week or so? I can only remember seeing a small handful (definitely less than 10) of them the whole time I've been here, and I'm pretty...

    Is it just me, or has the usage of these exploded in the last week or so? I can only remember seeing a small handful (definitely less than 10) of them the whole time I've been here, and I'm pretty sure I've seen that many again in the last two days.

    2 votes
  19. Comment on Reddit raises $300 million at $3 billion valuation - interview with Steve Huffman in ~tech

    Greg Link Parent
    That's reasonable, and it's pushed me to dig a little deeper for some more robust data. The overall conclusion I can see is that the system does indeed vary by both location and time in a manner...
    • Exemplary

    That's reasonable, and it's pushed me to dig a little deeper for some more robust data. The overall conclusion I can see is that the system does indeed vary by both location and time in a manner that appears to be deliberate, as well as having detectable failures that are evenly distributed and do not appear to be intentional. The implementation happens across ISPs, however there is evidence suggesting that there is central control above and beyond that. Basically, it looks like there is some truth in both of our assumptions.

    To quote the sources directly:

    Regional variation in Chinese internet filtering - [PDF]

    "Our analysis of these results has revealed a number of trends in this filtering, most notably the prevalence of misleading responses for domains over claims that domains do not exist. Further, although the extent of filtering varies geographically, we have identified correlations in the misleading IP addresses returned in response to requests for blocked domains by different servers, implying some level of top-down involvement in the behaviour of servers."

    Analyzing the Great Firewall of China Over Space and Time - [PDF]

    "Most work discussed so far treated the firewall as a monolithic entity. Wright showed in 2012 that there are regional variations in DNS poisoning, thus suggesting that censorship should be investigated on a more finegrained level with attention to geographical diversity in measurements [47]. In addition to DNS and HTTP, the GFW is known to block the Tor anonymity network. Using a VPS in China, Winter and Lindskog [46] investigated how the firewall’s active probing infrastructure is used to dynamically block Tor bridges."

    Internet Censorship in China: Where Does the Filtering Occur? - [PDF]

    "...the most significant discovery is that unlike commonly believed, the censorship system in China is like a panopticon, where filtering does not occur strictly at border routers, but rather more centralized at AS level. "

    7 votes
  20. Comment on Reddit raises $300 million at $3 billion valuation - interview with Steve Huffman in ~tech

    Greg Link Parent
    My understanding is that there very much is a centralised list, albeit one that's continually having sites added and removed. While the subject is (almost by definition) short on primary sources,...

    As far as I know there is no central list of blocked sites; for the most part different ISPs block things arbitrarily.

    My understanding is that there very much is a centralised list, albeit one that's continually having sites added and removed.

    While the subject is (almost by definition) short on primary sources, there's substantial research into the methods and techniques used, all of which suggests a centralised authority. It may well also be the case that there is variation between ISPs, but the suggestion that it's not centralised at all (or that something this complex and robust is "some poorly maintained automated system") doesn't mesh with everything I've read on the subject previously.

    All that said, I'm not an expert on the subject and I'm definitely interested to read any analysis that suggests the opposite!

    9 votes