Doucebag of the Day: December 12, 2013

From AngelHack CEO Greg Gopman. His company contributes Hackathons to society.

Thanks for that.

The difference is in other cosmopolitan cities, the lower part of society keep to themselves. They sell small trinkets, beg coyly, stay quiet, and generally stay out of your way. They realize it’s a privilege to be in the civilized part of town and view themselves as guests. And that’s okay. 

Green lanes


Green-painted bike lanes accomplish what a white stripe next to the parking lane cannot. They proclaim loudly and clearly that streets are not merely sewers for car traffic, but fully multimodal public spaces. They send the message that drivers are welcome to use roads just like everyone else, but must not expect to have roads completely to themselves.

Ballmer: No chance for the iPhone

Once again a strong iPhone launch, and a chance to revisit another brilliant Steve Ballmer prediction, this time from a 2007 USA Today article. Good thing he’s going.

Now we’ll get a chance to go through this again in phones and music players. There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

flxble wood bike rack


Very cool flexible wood bike rack from Germany. Need to get someone to bring one to IBC. According to the folks at Urban Velo, it’s made out of a single piece of wood:

How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets

Fascinating article in The New York Times Magazine

In Vienna, Poitras was eventually cleared to board her connecting flight to New York, but when she landed at J.F.K., she was met at the gate by two armed law-enforcement agents and taken to a room for questioning. It is a routine that has happened so many times since then — on more than 40 occasions — that she has lost precise count. Initially, she said, the authorities were interested in the paper she carried, copying her receipts and, once, her notebook. After she stopped carrying her notes, they focused on her electronics instead, telling her that if she didn’t answer their questions, they would confiscate her gear and get their answers that way.

Get rid of the ‘beg buttons’

In just a few short months, I’m realizing that pedestrians in LA are truly second-class citizens compared to cars. There’s a mythology about how respectful cars are towards pedestrians here, but it’s false. So much is stacked against an enjoyable pedestrian experience, it’s incredible. One obvious example of the inequality are the “beg buttons” that by default install  are required to be pushed before a pedestrian can get a light to cross the street. I don’t mean requesting the light change so that one can cross traffic, but instead simply having it change to walk at the normal time when the traffic light cycles, as opposed to staying in the “Don’t Walk” state.

Making a Case to Phase Out “Beg Buttons” in Santa Monica’s Pedestrian Action Plan

These devises are sometimes disparagingly referred to as “beg buttons” by many pedestrian activists because you are essentially having to ask for permission to have a crossing signal phase. Beg buttons are one of the more subtle means by which we degrade the urban environment for walking, and Streets.MN has a handy typological guide. The buttons exist for driver convenience, not walking convenience. The absence of an assumed pedestrian phase permits greater optimizations of green times for the prioritized vehicle travel direction. It took me a long while to realize this relationship, but now I take note of everywhere I see them, or don’t see them.


Apps I Love: Triage

triage1I get an enormous volume of email every day, with several hundred received every 24 hours. Dealing with the volume is minimized a bit by utilizing Gmail filtering, which is absolutely brilliant. When mail is received, it gets filed into various folders such as mailing lists, fxphd support, fxguide press contacts, software development lists, and newsletters. In the filters, I set each to “Skip Inbox”, so they don’t show up in the Inbox. This leaves my inbox count with only direct communication I have with others, which includes time-urgent emails, non-urgent emails, as well as a few emails that don’t fit the filters.

But that’s still a lot of email to deal with and if I’m not on my computer for a while, I can easily have more than 50 emails waiting for me when I get back. That’s where Triage comes in, an incredibly simple iOS app to deal with my Inbox. It is basically a “stack” of snippets of the unread messages in my Inbox that allows me to do the following:

  • Flick up to mark as read, so when I get to my computer it’s not in my unread smart filter
  • Flick down to “keep”, which keeps it as unread so that I can deal with it when I get to my computer
  • Click to view the full message if the snippet isn’t enough
  • Reply to the email or forward it

In a way, it’s a super simple Mailbox. But I personally love the focused simplicity of what it does.

Which is helps me keep control of the emails that I truly need to deal with in a timely manner

Apps I Love: Alfred

The next offering in the “Apps I Love” series is Alfred, a killer application launcher. If you’ve never used an application launcher before (Quicksilver was a previous standard), they are great for quickly navigating through your system. But the thing about Alfred is that is so much more. With the addition of the PowerPack, it has totally changed the way I get around on my Mac.

How does it work? After installing, you’ll have a little hat icon in the menu bar where you can access the various preferences for Alfred. The app, by default, will launch on login so that it is ready and waiting to work its magic. By pressing Command-SpaceBar (note this overrides the default Spotlight command), you’ll call up the default Alfred search entry. You can then type in what you want to search for. There are lots of things you can do with Alfred…

Launch Applications
In the following example, I wanted to launch Lightroom, so I pressed Command-SpaceBar and then typed “li” (could have actually just entered “l”, since Alfred will refine its results based upon your past behavior). Pressing return will launch Lightroom. I could have launched any of the other items by pressing the appropriate Command-Number combination shown.

Pressing Command-Space and then "li". Pressing Enter would launch it.

It’s at the point where I hardly ever use the Dock to launch apps — it’s so much easier with shortcuts.

Play Music
Why would you want to use Alfred to play music? For me, it’s because the search functionality is much faster than itunes. The PowerPack has a built in mini-player which is easy to use. Just press Command-SpaceBar and type “it” Return to launch it.

The Alfred iTunes mini-player


Clipboard History
Alfred will remember your clipboard history. Admittedly this can be a bit of a security risk if you mac is open to everyone, but mine is on lockdown so it’s fine by me.

Clipboard History

Apps I Love: Fantastical

It may seem as though I’m calendar-obsessed, but frankly it’s a critical part of what we do in the collaborative workflow of fxguide and fxphd. In the Chicago offices, we have several calendars which we use to track production, term needs, and even my (insane) travel schedule.

I also love apps that are cleanly and simply designed — they look great and just work.

Put these two things together and I’ve come to rely on an app called Fantastical, which places a calendar icon on your menu bar. By clicking on this icon, you can see at a glance what you have planned for the day (or the next week by scrolling down). It’s nicely presented and always there to refer to.

But the real killer feature imho is the ability to quickly enter appointments in a human readable form. In the example to the right, I’ve simply written:

record fxphdod on monday at 5pm

And it correctly enters the event into my calendar. It’s not perfect, but it works extraordinarily well most of the time.