Digital Hygiene

It was high time I cleaned up my internet presence. An exploit-riddled Wordpress install, billing that failed every month, domain in the clutches of a site from 2004, and email being fed through the google-brain. I've wanted to write on this site for ages, and each time my digital infrastructure would offend me so much that I'd never get around to publishing. The solution? Sort this shit out. And then write about it, obviously.

What Was Wrong

There was nothing actually wrong with any of the companies I was using for my internet setup. It all worked, just, but it was so scattered it really felt like I wasn't in control. Plus the email-reading thing. There was that.

My domain was with Easyspace. It was fine, but not exactly a nice user experience.  And since I care so much about user experience this seemed wrong. I like orange as much as the next guy, but the site is leaning towards RyanAir levels of busyness. 

My hosting was with 34sp, a company I chose as they were local (when I lived in Manchester) and gave me the kind of access that meant I could install whatever I wanted: Drupal, Wordpress, my own binaries and scripts. But time marches on, and right now I'm not maintaining anyone else sites, and my own needs are simpler. 

My email was with Google. Eesh. Like everyone else, in 2004 I scrambled to get an invite and move my mail to the startup-turning-to-superpower Google. Gmail was truly revolutionary: web mail that didn't suck. IMAP access, spam filtering, enough space for anybody and a cool address to boot. In 2011 while Google Apps For Business was still free I moved buy private address there too, thinking I was getting all these things for free. Nowadays, the privacy tradeoff just makes me feel little but sick. My email is just for me and my dog, thank you.

What Is Right

My domain is with Hover. There's really not much to say: it was easy to setup, easy to move to, and easy to makes changes.

My hosting is with Squarespace. I didn't have to write any Python, PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Ruby. But if I wanted to, I could.

My email is with Hover. They have an option called "Big". It's big enough.

New Design

It's simple. It's also incomplete. I'm starting basic and will iterate and elaborate as I go. I don't get to do a lot of visual design generally, and so I'll likely use this site's design to try new things out.

My font is Garamond. Because it is 2015 and we are all adults here.

My colours are an orange for highlighting, a complimentary blue for links, and a black for contrast.

My template is Bedford. A great starting point and I have a soft spot for Brooklyn.

New Content

Steady on. For now I have just moved my original blog and the page for Map Overlay. New content will follow, in the form of new projects, new goals and new thinking. The main reason for overhauling number23 was that the scattered nature of all the parts was adding complexity to every change, and decision fatigue would set in each time I wanted to add something small, leading to procrastination and digital denial. Now that I'm back in control of all my horses, things are looking up for my creative output.

So there you have it, a new site. I'll try not to leave it so long next time.

If anyone tells you podcasting advertising doesn't work, I tell them that this site is brought to you by HoverSquarespace, and Pact Coffee.

Back To Where They Came From

Back in the eighties and early nineties, we had home computers. These home computers were sleek all-in-one beasts, could be plugged into family TV set, and very importantly, were used for leisure. Not to play down the significance of the Apple Macintosh, it was actually the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga that stole the show in my generation. And why was this? Games.

Let's face it: the majority of Atari STs and Amigas were used almost entirely as games machines, with maybe a little bit of time spent in Deluxe Paint, Degas Elite and STOS. (To be fair, one of my my best friends wrote a DBMS while I played Lotus Elite Turbo Challenge, but I suspect he was the exception.)

And then something happened: dad brought his work home from the office.

Enter the IBM PC (and compatibles). The big, boxy, beige machines invaded the home, straight through the front door: families only needed one serious computer, and what better to pick than the one that was already familiar from the daily grind?

The PC, while running all manner of CAD and spreadsheet packages very well (remember when we called apps packages?) wasn’t so hot on the games front at first. From the humble beginnings of Sierra graphical adventures games and some dodgy flight simulators, games on the PC went from strength to strength as the teenaged children of the aforementioned father spent their weekend job money on sound cards, graphics cards, motherboards and processors. One upgrade at a time, the office PC became the home-office PC, the family PC, and finally the gaming PC.

The next twist in the PCs unusual life was the explosion of home internet. The internet gave the PC more strings to its bow: no longer just a productivity and gaming machine, it was now the information and communication hub of the home. And lest we forget shopping.

While all this was going on in the spare bedroom, games consoles were enjoying a parallel life in the living room. Each generation of console became more powerful, more accessible, more mainstream. Some people preferred the PC for games, others the console, but before long we were all playing the same games, on almost the same hardware.

So what was next for the PC? Well, what many didn't see coming was PC becoming so cheap and portable that everyone got their own. The PC unwittingly really did become the personal computer. And then the iPhone happened. And we all realised that actually, that was what we really wanted when we said personal computer. The iPhone, in hindsight, marked the major step in giving us a personal computing device that could manage most of the tasks that most people want to do.

The iPhone spawned the iPad which spawned numerous other tablets, and we now live in a world where an iPad will do 90% of the tasks 90% of home PC users. This is not to say that the PC is dead. Far from it. The PC is the best tool for many, many tasks, but the majority of those tasks are associated with work, not leisure. The PC is the ideal tool to be used in many workplaces for years to come. And yes, I'm talking about Windows PCs with mouse and keyboard input: this paradigm is actually fantastic for many productivity tasks, that are just horrendous when carried out on touch screens or machines held in one hand. Even the ecosystem that has grown up with them, the enterprise market, is in many ways a mature and solid setup, that like the sub-optimal "design" of the mammalian eyeball, is actually quite fit-for-purpose.

The thing is about the PC: we just don't need one at home anymore. Consoles and set top boxes provide us with amazing gaming and entertainment. Tablets and smartphones provide us with much better ways to consume news, knowledge and information, and to communicate and remotely socialise. These devices all do what they were designed to do where for years the poor PC had to limp along, doing it's best. It's time to give it a break.

I’m not calling time on the PC: I’m just saying it’s time for the PC to go back to the office.


NSURL on iOS 7

There's a subtle change in the way URLWithString: works on devices running iOS 7. On iOS 6, spaces at the end of the string used to be percent-encoded and a valid NSURL object was created, but on iOS 7 the method will return nil. For example:

NSURL *urlOne = [NSURL URLWithString:@""];
NSURL *urlTwo = [NSURL URLWithString:@" "];


iOS7 (null)

A non-encoded space inside the string will mean nil is returned on both platforms: it's just this edge-case that is the oddity. Arguably this is actually a bug that has been fixed, and you should be encoding your strings anyway, but it's worth checking your URLs (or running stringByTrimmingCharactersInSet: over them as standard) so you don't get burned by this little beauty.