justin․searls․co

iCloud is still syncing with iCloud

Setting up a new M2 Ultra Mac Studio (review: it is nice) has revealed a whole new crop of WTFs in the onboarding process (Setup Assistant no longer encourages enabling FileVault? What?) and offboarding process (this screen has been sitting here for hours as I wait to wipe my previous Mac).

Super neat experience so far.

UPDATE: two more neat screenshots. Free of charge.

It's better to fix the root cause of software problems, but seeing as Bethesda has chosen to continue using their in-house, 26-year-old Gamebryo engine—which is famous for literally nothing other than its signature "Bethesda jank" flavor of bugginess—I guess Phil Spencer and Microsoft have made the calculated decision to send wave after wave of QA employees until the NPCs reach their internal jank limit:

I’ve trained GitHub Copilot on my salty comments

After fighting to learn Sorbet in order to release a type-safe version of Mocktail, it seems that my energy has rubbed off on my AI copilot a bit.

You can either read (NYT Paywall) or listen (in a brisk, 18-minute podcast rendition), but whichever you choose, this piece feels like a triumphant synthesis of several ideas Ezra Klein has been slow-cooking over hours upon hours of interviews on the various podcasts he's hosted over the last decade. If you have an Internet connection or participate in an economy, I strongly recommend you read and reflect on this column.

Many of the themes Ezra hits on are things that I've felt compelled to write about here, even back in the mid-2010s when I only blogged semi-annually. Like the "mysterious" reason that productivity is flat despite so many breakthroughs in information technology. Or my various exhortations that the best thing Apple could do for humanity is help users save themselves from notification hell. And more recently, the kinds of work that AI will both replace and create for us.

Anyway, Ezra's diagnosis is bang on and I'm in such violent agreement with his take here that I struggle to even imagine a counter argument. It seems to me the reason why such a profound and clear truth can fail to take the world by storm is that these are mostly systemic issues that represent collective action problems. After all, if your boss wants you to reply to e-mails within 5 minutes, or if your coworkers will judge you for not being a green bubble in Slack all day, what can you really do to reclaim your individual ability to focus?

Still, we probably each have more control over how much of our focus we cede to technology than we probably admit to ourselves. Always worth taking a moment to think about.

This may be a humble forum post, but it's a great example of the sort of entertainment that:

  1. Would be greatly enhanced by immersive visuals and audio
  2. Would leverage Apple's dominant position in the music industry
  3. Hasn't really been done before

Apple gave up on trying to host in-person iTunes/Apple Music Festivals, but they never really made sense for any other reason than strengthening ties with the recording industry. Something like this makes more sense. More intimate. Easier to manage. Cross-sells their headset by leveraging their platforms and services in a way "only Apple could do".

Neat idea. Wouldn't be surprised to hear something like this tomorrow.

Apple Announces Reality Pro

One thing I've been thinking about for a while is the ability of LLMs to generate convincing-enough-for-somebody-to-run fake leaks, so I decided to try my hand at creating a fake Apple leak.

I'm too cheap to pay for ChatGPT+ and I'm too lazy to have done this via OpenAI's GPT-4 API, so I used Bing Chat to take a crack at generating the Apple Newsroom article that we'll see go up on June 5th after Apple announces its headset. I figured that there was so many recent rumor round-ups and so much prior art of Apple Newsroom articles that it'd probably do a halfway decent job of this.

Here was my prompt:

Write me a press release in the style of an Apple Newsroom story announcing the new Apple Reality Pro headset that's based on only the most recent set of Rumors from Mark Gurman and MacRumors

I thought its response wasn't half-bad:

But wait, there's more…

How to Pack Light

When I first pitched doing a RubyKaigi "Field Report" summary for Test Double, my wonderful and benevolent boss Cathy Colliver suggested that I make a short video explaining how I pack so light for each trip. It took me a few weeks to get around to it, but here it is!

I've been living with this setup for about 6 years now and have barely changed a thing. If there's a headline to be had here, it's that the less you carry, the less you have to worry about.

If you'd like to try out this lifestyle, here are some links of stuff in the video:

You'll never guess what happens next…

Travel Advice from Bing Chat

Over the last three weeks, I've been playing with Bing Chat as a sort of international travel and language advisor, and I've learned a few interesting things along the way that may help others get more creative with how they use AI.

There are three main categories where I've found Bing Chat helpful:

  • Generating ideas of where to go and what to do next
  • Translating phrases that straddle nuanced cultural differences dictionaries and translation software can
  • Answering "why" questions that would normally require a human

There's also one "gotcha" that's particularly interesting, but I'll cover that at the end.

Okay, I'm interested…

Go To Yakushima

Today I'd like to tell you about a very special place that not very many people will ever get the opportunity to visit.

After concluding my duties as a field reporter of RubyKaigi 2023, I found myself with a luxurious seven or eight days to myself. While at Kaigi, I asked several Japanese friends where I should visit in the southern island of Kyushu. Almost to a person, they said "Kagoshima".

So, I went. And it was great! The weather was warm, the nature was beautiful, and the people were easygoing.

Immediately, I wanted to go deeper. I got it in my head that if I went somewhere even more inaka I could prove I was a Real Vlogger by going on an adventure and then making a YouTube Short set to an epic piano score.

But… where to?

Spoiler alert: there's more to this…

Apple’s LiveText is incredible

I mean, just look at this screenshot. I can confidently take a photo of a friend’s hand-written note, search for one Japanese word that I knew was written on it to find it, then select the text and paste it into a translation app, maps, etc.

Coin lockers

In Japan, it's customary to use a coin locker at a train station to store your bags, so that you can spend time visiting a place without lugging all your stuff everywhere.

Unfortunately, this coin locker only takes five ¥100 coins (I've been spoiled by newer ones in Tokyo and Osaka that take IC cards like Suica) and I only had a single ¥100 coin on me.

So I went to a 7-Eleven to change a ¥1000 bill to coins and the attendant told me that they can no longer break change. So then I bought a bottle of tea in cash, but because these days you pay with cash using an automatic machine mounted in front of the register, it gave me back one ¥500 coin and three ¥100 coins. So I still only had four ¥100 coins when I needed five to use the locker.

So then I turned around and bought a donut with the ¥500 coin in order to break change again and this time I received three more ¥100 coins.

All so that I could pay ¥500 to use a coin locker… always an adventure!

A convenient truth

Lots of good convenience store discoveries this week!

  • A pizza sandwich filled with wieners and taco meat.
  • Bread-flavored gummies.
  • Fried and seasoned chicken skin, closely resembling the bottom of a KFC bucket
  • A canned whiskey that comes pre-mixed with water.
  • Individually-packaged cups of orange jelly housed in a larger cup
  • Sparkling water that's been fortified with… a lot of fiber?
  • Tangerine-flavored gummies designed to look like little popsicles
  • Frozen chocolate banana chunks made with otherwise-wasted bananas

So much innovation!

Kanazawa's all right

Had a great half day in Kanazawa, even though it wound up being a bit of a speed run. Omicho fish market and Kenrokuen garden are both popular tourist spots, but I found the local restaurants and bars to be really exceptional, both in service and food quality. If you like fresh fish, you really must visit someday!

Golden Week Rush

I'll never understand cultures that synchronize everyone's vacation time. Similar to August throughout Europe, most Japanese folks get Golden Week off in May. The upshot is that everywhere is crowded, hotels are expensive, and there's nothing to do because everything's closed.

The first 5 restaurants I'd picked out in Shinbashi were all closed. Presumably, because their Tabelog rankings were high enough to justify the lost revenue. Alas.

I'm staying at a hotel with an (onsen-style) public bath and so I wore the provided yukata and slippers to the bath. But when I got out, someone had taken my slippers.

So then I had to decide if I was going to be the gaijin that steals some other person's slippers or the gaijin that walks through the hotel lobby barefoot like some kind of animal.

No good option.

I had too much to drink last night so I immediately checked my phone upon waking to make sure I stayed out of trouble and realized that all I did was write a (5-star!) review on ProductHunt for buttondown.email

What the hell's wrong with me.

Ten Trips

Since my study abroad in 2005, this marks the tenth time I've visited Japan. It's amazing how much technology has changed the experience of international travel. The convenience is undeniable, but it feels like I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the challenge of having to figure out how to survive with no Internet access.

Heading to Japan this morning to undertake my first field report as a Test Double foreign correspondent.

My Uber arrived early, we encountered no traffic, and I breezed through security. Even the Delta lounge was empty. So with my luck, that means my flight is sure to disappear over the Pacific.

Nice knowing you!