Pocket Casts Notifications

Yesterday, my phone started to show two notifications for the release of a new podcast episode in Pocket Casts. First, I tried to fix the issue by deactivating and then re-activating notifications but that didn’t help.

What fixed the situation for me was to sign out of my syncing account and log right in again.

Sierra and my Printer

One of the most successful1 articles on my static site has been created as the result of taking notes while fixing the installation of a printer driver for my Dell laser printer while running the El Capitan beta.

Frankly, I was expecting that the issue went away after the product release of El Capitan. I was expecting that driver developers would quickly find a way to provide a seamless installation experience in the times of System Integrity Protection (SIP).

I was more than surprised that this article sparked such a resonance. And I was even more surprised to learn from commenters that the issue obviously persisted long after the product release.

Naturally, I was having mixed feelings when ticking the list of actions for the installation of my new computer, and “install printer driver” came closer and closer.

I went to Dell’s website and downloaded the latest driver for my C1765NFW printer. I started the installation and everything went its way just smoothly.

The printer started printing and I was relieved to see that I didn’t have to apply my own recipe to get the stupid thing behave properly.

So that problem thankfully seems to have gone for good.

  1. In terms of the number of commenters. 

This is Brilliant

Ben Brooks about a new policy for using the overhead bins in United’s fleet:

United has a new ticket fare, where no luggage is included in the price (except what fits at your feet). If you want overhead bin space, or to check, you pay. I actually love this, though I would much rather checked luggage be free and overhead charged for everyone.

If you have been on a flight recently (say last 3-4 years) then you likely know how big of a shit show it is when you board a plane. There’s so many people with bags that are clearly too large to carry on, or people with clearly too many bags. Tons of gate checking — in all I think people not following rules, add tremendously to the overall boarding time.

This is a brilliant idea, if you want my opinion. Here’s why: until recently, I used to wait in line to board the aircraft as early as possible in order to catch a space in the overhead bins for my stuff.

No longer. I’ve stopped putting my moderately sized Synapse 25 into the overhead bin after flight attendants (I kid you not) started to yank it out again to make space for the luggage of people who obviously don’t care about rules1.

And, yes, Ben is right: it usually takes an unnecessary amount of time for people to walk around the aircraft, desperately seeking for a vacant spot overhead.

I’ve witnessed (extreme) cases where this dance was going on for at least ten minutes until everyone got a place for their stuff2. Sure, ten minutes are not that much but ten minutes can make you miss your connection flight for no other reason than the selfishness of other people.

Personally, I’d be curious to see how the luggage situation develops if (more) airlines started to charge for carry-on luggage that is too big for putting it under the seat in front of you.

On the bright side, not even wanting a spot in the overhead bin makes a big difference for me: boarding is suddenly so much more relaxed.

  1. Come on! For at least the last five years, the carriers that I usually fly leave totally no room for interpretation regarding the number and size of allowed carry-on luggage. 
  2. After all, there are only so many bins and luggage must be stowed for departure. 

Using the Kindle app for Audio

I listen to podcasts nearly every day, and I think I have a pretty good feeling how playing podcast episodes impacts the battery life on my devices.

That’s why I was stunned to see what happened to my battery after a modest amount1 of time spent listening to an audio book played by the Kindle App on iOS.

There’s a word for what the Kindle app did to my battery of my plus-caliber iPhone, and the word is slaughter. Within said time period the charging level went from well above 50% down to 8%.

And, as could be expected, it gets significantly worse if the audio goes to the internal speaker.

I did a quick search on the Internet, and indeed found complaints about the Kindle app’s impact on battery life here and there. But these were mostly years old and probably do not represent reliable data points for the current app.

I guess I’ll finish the book reading …

Update (2016-12-03)

Predictably, I tried the Kindle app again, trying to verify the astonishing effect of the first time. This time, the loss of battery life was way less pronounced, and not even close to the frustrating result of my first try.

Therefore, I can’t help but come to the preliminary conclusion that my experience must have been a fluke, despite the fact that I really didn’t do anything else with my phone than listening to the audio book.

Whatever happened during that period, it does not seem as if the Kindle app could be blamed for it. The book is not finished, so maybe there will be further opportunities to either reproduce my initial impression or get reassurance that it was just a one-time effect.

  1. Around an hour, if I remember correctly. 


Only Evernote does what Evernote does. Just in case, I’m talking about the ability to store lots of documents and notes, sync all of these between a bunch of devices, and provide a world-class search over your entire repository.

And yet, the advent of “features” like “Context” or “Work Chat1 may be taken as an indication that Evernote is evolving into a direction that makes me start to worry about the long-term viability for my intended purpose.

If you’re an Evernote user you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, you probably don’t care.

Anyway, while I’m actively2 using Evernote on a daily basis, I’m always on the lookout for alternative solutions that could better fit my needs long-term.

Enter DEVONthink. I’ve had it on my radar of potential replacements for Evernote for quite a while. The Mac app convinced me on the spot, but the mobile counterparts (a.k.a. DEVONthink To Go) left a lot to be desired.

This extended to syncing options but also to the general functionality and stability of the apps. Note that this asessment applies to the 1.x versions of DEVONthink To Go

This has changed in the meantime, DEVONthink To Go has been released in early Augst. It is taking benefit from an improved syncing technology that has been rolled out on the Mac version previous to the new mobile app3.

Development of DEVONthink To Go continues at a steady pace4, and I couldn’t be happier with it. Naturally, the app follows the same approach as Devonthink for Mac. This means that new content appears in the inbox of a database, which is roughly an equivalent to a notebook in Evernote.

DEVONthink To Go does not sync in the background. However, in most cases, a short syncing period as the app starts up doesn’t really take that much time. I’m getting used to that quicker than I thought I would.

One detail that makes DEVONthink in general stand out from Evernote is meta-data. I love that I can assign a URL to a note or document in my database. That’s a simple feature, but pure genius in day-to-day work.

Search is another discipline that left much to be desired in V1.x of DEVONthink To Go. V2.x has improved in that regard, although it does not reach the level of the Mac app. The latter, in it’s most expensive incarnation, is required to OCR documents in the database.

This ability to OCR documents comes by default in Evernote, and the quality of the results are mostly good. The OCR algorithm of DEVONthink Pro Office, however, plays in a different league. The results that I get from DEVONthink Pro Office are simply outstanding.

In contrast, DEVONthink To Go does not do any OCR at all. It would be really nice if it did (and I would pay real money for such a capability, especially if it delivers on the level of DEVONthink ProOffice). On iOS, there’s no shortage of apps5 capable of running an OCR on a document. But the results are on average just not as good.

To summarize, there’s a stable chance that I’m going retire my Evernote account soon. I’m still in the process of evaluating DEVONthink, but it is already safe to say that it would take some serious issue to get me back onto Evernote.

  1. Yes, I heard about it. Just in case. 
  2. and, more or less, happily 
  3. When the new technology was announced I was skeptical at first, because the 1.x version of DEVONthink to go was so much behind, it was almost hopeless. I was pleasantly surprised to see the progress made between V1.x and V2.0. 
  4. The current version, as of mid November, is 2.0.6. 
  5. My personal favorite is Scanbot 

Step Two

From an e-mail to subscribers:

As you know, some of the best Instapaper features were limited or gated behind the Instapaper Premium paywall. Now that we’re better resourced, we’re able to offer everyone the best version of Instapaper.

This is the second milestone on the road to assimilation. Optimism wasn’t warranted when the news about Pinterest acquiring Instapaper broke, and it is even less warranted now.

Converting a paid product into a freebie is done with the intention to put it on a growth trajectory to gain as many users as possible in the shortest amount of time. Then step three happens.

I’ve been a long-time active user of the Instapaper product, but this is now coming to an end. I don’t want to be part of the growth. I’ve tried Pinterest once, didn’t like it, and have no motivation to return.


For context, I have more or less stopped watching Apple keynotes because in my day-to-day life, I just don’t have the time to watch live and I usually have few motivation for watching the recording.

Whatever, I did watch the “Hello Again” event, primarily because I was sitting in a hotel room with plenty of time to kill. This time, I was even pretty interested in what was about to be introduced. That’s because I’m totally in the market for a new Mac, and my hope was that my new computer would be unveiled in the event.

After all, if Apple takes the trouble to organize a press event you can expect around 90 minutes of presentation. There’s got to be something to talk about1, it couldn’t be all about the rumored touch-sensitive function key replacement, right?

In the first segment of the keynote, however, Tim Cook went through a lengthy introduction of the TV app for tvOs and iOS, that is ironically not going to be available on the platform that this event was dedicated to. Off to a good start, I guess. No matter how often the line about “the Mac being in Apple’s DNA” is repeated, this was already starting to look bad.

And, frankly, it didn’t get better. It was all about the touch-sensitive function key replacement. Look, we have a demo. And then, another demo. And if you still didn’t get it, here’s another one. And then, a Jony Ive vide. Got it?

It was so much about this one feature that the low-end model that does not have a TouchBar was not even mentioned until it could no longer be hidden.

I went through all of this because I wanted to see the price points Apple was going to shoot for. That’s where my jaw finally dropped. These computers have gotten really expensive with this new generation.

Five years ago, I was able to purchase a mid-tier configuration 15″ MacBook Pro for less than the underpowered, bottom of the line 13″ configuration that is available from now on.

I did a calculation of what would be the lowest spec-ed configuration of the non-touch-bar model that I could call decent and came out north of EUR 2500. And this is not even taking into account the EUR 200 worth of dongles required to make the stupid thing usable. No way, Apple, no way.

Long story short, effective the day after the event, I’m officially out of the market for new MacBooks.

I will still use a Mac, but it will either be a years-old MacBook Pro, or I will switch to an iMac. You can get2 an SSD-equipped 5K iMac for pretty much the same money as a halfway decent configuration of the bottom of the line late 2016 13″, no TouchBar MacBook Pro.

All I wanted from the event was a decent, affordable laptop that I can run macOS on.

The worst thing about this is that it is not only me. I watched other people respond to the event, and I talked to some. And what what I took from it was that many others pretty much reflected my frustration about the situation.

On the bright side3, without the event and the latest product launches we wouldn’t have something as awesome as this hilarious “review”.

  1. Given the “hello {qualifier}” tag line 
  2. I should probably say: you can still get. I wonder how much longer this holds true. It is probably a good idea to act now. 
  3. And that’s how I usually like to close an article. 

Fiery Feeds

The category of RSS readers is one of those categories of apps on the app store that has one genre-defining member: Reeder. Iconic design (if not “opinionated”, as the say), advanced gesture control, packed with features, polished to perfection.

It is hard to be an avid reader of RSS feeds and not, sooner or later, come across Reeder on iOS or macOS. It is hard to find any flaws in the app. Granted, Synchronisation with the feed source may not be the fastest in the industry. Reeder doesn’t get updated very often1. Finally, for extracting truncated feeds, Reeder relies entirely on Readability being up and running.

Which it sometimes isn’t. In one of those periods of Readbility being down for a longer period of time, just a couple of days ago, I thought it would be the time to check out another RSS reader app that’s in my “Upshots” folder of apps that show potential but may not already be there.

Enter Fiery Feeds. I have it on both my iPad and my iPhone for a couple of months already, and used it here and there2. My early days with Fiery Feeds were not so much convincing, and every time I gave it a spin I returned to Reeder within the course of minutes.

However, Fiery Feeds gets updated frequently. And those updates, over time, really make a difference. Like I mentioned, Readbility had some downtime and I started to use Fiery Feeds instead. And this time it stuck, maybe because of Readability‘s prolonged outage I was motivated to spend the time to use Fiery Feeds in earnest, as opposed to halfheartedly doodle around until the real deal was back.

Let’s get this out of the way: Fiery Feeds is way less polished and perfect than Reeder, not even close. I had a hard time coming from Reeder, where you can start a swipe from anywhere on the screen and the app will just get it. Fiery feeds, in contrast, follows the general iOS pattern of recognizing swipes initiated from the edge of the screen only.

On the plus side3, Fiery Feeds is crazy customizable in terms of the reading experience, even in comparison with the generous amount of options provided by Reeder. Control over the options is also more fine-granular than the corresponding approach in Reeder. Also, full-screen reading in landscape mode, something I was missing more and more while using Reeder.

Reeder‘s sidebar is quite spacious, and that leaves only so much room for the article. Fiery Feeds gives you options to control the width of the sidebar in three steps. Set the sidebar’s width to “narrow” if you like that better. And it is possible to hide the sidebar from the article view entirely with the tap of a button.

Fiery Feeds doesn’t rely on Readability for extracting text from (truncated) feeds. The app relies on a server run by the developer that uses open-source software modules for text extraction. It is possible to choose between two different modules with different extraction characteristics.

I have to say that the results in terms of extracted text is quite good, in some cases the result is better than what Readability comes up with. Across all my feeds, I can totally live with the results.

Fiery Feeds has my recommendation, even if I may return to Reeder at some point. Let’s see.

  1. But hey, what’s the point of updating something that’s already perfect. 
  2. I think I was initially tipped off by the Twitter feed of Gabe over at Macdrifter
  3. And I have to say that this is really big in my books. I’m a sucker for customizable apps. 

Programming Sucks

Remember that stuff about crazy people and bad code? The internet is that except it’s literally a billion times worse. Websites that are glorified shopping carts with maybe three dynamic pages are maintained by teams of people around the clock, because the truth is everything is breaking all the time, everywhere, for everyone. Right now someone who works for Facebook is getting tens of thousands of error messages and frantically trying to find the problem before the whole charade collapses. There’s a team at a Google office that hasn’t slept in three days. Somewhere there’s a database programmer surrounded by empty Mountain Dew bottles whose husband thinks she’s dead. And if these people stop, the world burns. Most people don’t even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn’t make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

If you are in the market for reading some crazy rant, read this. It goes like that from top to bottom.