justin․searls․co

I've been curious for a while if it might be possible to trick iMessage into formatting a link preview for takes I post to my blog as if they were Mastodon posts.

Turns out, it is possible! Inspect my <head/> to see how 🤯

Infrared saunas are something else

As a fan of saunas and steam rooms generally, I’d always kind of wanted one for use at home. Now that we have the space on our pool deck, I finally (ahem) took the plunge and bought one from SalusHeat (though our model is in cedar).

A bunch of people had told me that infrared saunas confer certain therapeutic medical benefits, but it all struck me as a typical Internet wellness marketing scam. In particular, most of what I read was about near infrared (the light closer to the visible spectrum), but—being a cheapskate—most of the saunas in my price range (including the one we bought) emit far infrared, which penetrates the body more deeply.

Anyway, now that we have had it for a couple days, I have two major takeaways:

  1. A max temp of 65ºC seemed really low compared to traditional saunas, but it turns out you're basically being microwaved, so even if the air temp isn't 95º, you'll sweat and feel as if it is

  2. Holy cow is this effective treating deep muscle pain and soreness. Between lifting weights and riding roller coasters, I occassionally find myself with pretty severe neck and back soreness, and nothing I try really helps much. 40 minutes in this thing punctuated by a couple cold plunges into my pool? Total game changer

Anyway, if you're sauna curious, I figured I'd feed Google something about these infrared ones because they appear to not be marketing bullshit. It may separately be the case that I'm gonna be absolutely riddled with cancer from whatever EMF this thing is emitting, but at least I won't be sore!

I love writing scripts against the ChatGPT API that are intentionally constrained to particular input and output formats. Here's one I wrote this morning to help me write spreadsheets with a REPL-like interface to continuously improve the output until I'm happy with it.

A tale of artificial intelligence in four acts

I was wondering if I should keep dragging my hacky little OpenAI API wrapper class from script to script, so:

  1. Search rubygems.org for "gpt"
  2. Find one called chat_gpt described as "This is OpenAI's ChatGPT API wrapper for Ruby"
  3. Click the "Homepage" link
  4. The code repository is archived and contains the disclaimer "NOTE this code was written by ChatGPT and may not work"

Great job, everyone.

MacRumors, based on forum and social media posts:

Over the past week, some BMW owners have complained that their iPhone 15's NFC chip no longer works after charging the device with their vehicle's wireless charging pad, according to comments shared on the MacRumors Forums and X, formerly known as Twitter. Affected customers say the iPhone goes into a data recovery mode with a white screen, and the NFC chip is no longer functional after the device reboots.

Apparently it wasn't enough for BMWs to damage themselves during normal use.

This video gives a pretty good perspective of what gaming-oriented VR enthusiasts think of Meta's Quest 3 headset. Reading the coverage of their event, it seems like Zuck and company are embracing the device as more of a game console than a metaverse client.

This seems smart, because more people want immersive VR games than want a metaverse client.

But it's really interesting to consider the Quest 3 rollout with knowledge of how Apple carefully framed the Vision Pro as being built for computing, going well out of their way to ever use the phrase "virtual reality" and with gaming as a total after thought. In fact, visionOS doesn't allow for immersive roomscale apps, which dramatically decreases the number of games that could be ported to it.

What consumers want from VR, so far: games.

What Meta is giving them: games (with the hope that they will convert people into social metaverse experiences).

What Apple is giving them: a computing platform (with an express deemphasis on gaming, to the point of kneecapping its capabilities).

Watching this play out will be a great test of Apple's ability to "skate where the puck is going". I suspect later revisions will allow for better game capabilities but (like the rest of their platforms) never enough to excite gamers. Meta, meanwhile, happily lets gamers use their sold-at-a-loss headset as a wireless or wired dumb terminal connected to a more powerful gaming PC.

My 2¢:

  • Meta will indeed capture a lot of market share, but (similar to the Wii) most devices will play a couple games and then collect dust. And the people who buy Quest units won't be the same people who want the experiences Meta really wants to offer. The most likely case seems to be that they'll start to look more and more like a traditional game console platform holder like Sony or Microsoft. And, unlike their current business, that's at least an honest one that can turn a tidy profit without selling out their customers
  • Apple Vision Pro will sell in such low volumes for the first several years that we'll keep hearing premature obituaries from the media until 7 or 8 years from now Apple is able to break through with a mainstream computing platform by sheer force of will

If you ever had to settle for "Sudafed PE" instead of "Actually works Sudafed", you will want to know about the FDA's vote validating everyone's perception that phenylephrine is useless as a decongestant:

Advisers for the Food and Drug Administration this week voted unanimously, 16 to 0, that oral doses of phenylephrine—found in brand-name products like Sudafed PE, Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion, Mucinex Sinus-Max, and Nyquil Severe Cold & Flu—are not effective at treating a stuffy nose.

I got sick in Greece and noticed straight away that low-dose pseudoephedrine is widely available over the counter and without any ID or registration requirements. This ruling definitely makes one wonder how the industry will respond if the only available decongestant sells in low volume because it's kept behind the counter to prevent people from using it to cook meth.

Great reader e-mail over at TPM:

Musk’s behavior has been atrocious. But he shouldn’t have been allowed to be in that position in the first place. That’s on the Pentagon and the US government more generally. In the first rush of enthusiasm and support for Ukraine, Musk shipped a bunch of free Starlink devices to Ukraine and agreed to cover the cost of the service. Later when he cooled on Ukraine he started threatening to shut the service off if the Pentagon didn’t pick up the tab. That’s standard mercurial behavior from Musk. But of course the Pentagon and more broadly the US should be picking up the tab. Much as I loathe the person Musk has turned out to be, I remember thinking at the time, how can this even be a question? Of course they should pick up the tab. The idea that we’d leave it to the whim of someone like Musk to be covering the cost of mission-critical technology for an ally at war is crazy.

This was my thought at the time. That Musk's offer to blanket Ukraine with Starlink satellites and terminals was "free as in blackmail", especially if it bypassed (what would have surely been expedited) defense procurement processes that would have mandated their availability and security.

Now Musk has half the US government over a barrel, with no real way out until credible competitors to SpaceX emerge.

DeSantis's campaign manager, emphasis mine:

“Iowa is a real state for us because of its education — it’s a highly educated state — because of income, because of Bible reading,” said Jeff Roe, in audio obtained by POLITICO. “New Hampshire is a terrible state for Donald Trump. That’s a terrible state for him. He’s gonna get like 28 percent. Now there is more people who will have a slice of that and some people are just betting on New Hampshire overall. But he’s going to lose the first two states. We’re going to beat him in Iowa.”

When you're a conservative that doesn't believe in school and for whom universities are bastions of a woke ideology, the two hallmarks of the highly educated are apparently income and Bible reading. TIL.

This essay almost exactly mirrors my feelings about the AI innovations we've seen spring forth over the last year. If you know me at all, you know that I've made my career by sticking my head in the sand and ignoring new technology trends in favor of following the market's fundamentals, even when I'm very excited about those innovations personally. (It's why I'm still making full-stack web apps instead of building everything with native Apple SDKs.)

That said, I've been dismayed to see so many of my friends that reside along the same pessimistic-bordering-on-cynical gradient continue to be stubbornly dismissive of AI as just another fad. This isn't crypto. The real-world economic impact of only the most basic tools has already been profound, and humans are nowhere close to catching up with its implications for a huge swath of jobs in the knowledge economy.

Sure. Few claim that LLMs possess human-like intelligence, “think” like humans, or exhibit self-awareness. Then again, there are also schools of thought that argue that humans are also just glorified response generators. Regardless of philosophical dispositions, it is important to note that a large number of white collar jobs on top of which economies are built involve just reasonable amounts of comprehension, bounded decision making, and text generation—paper pushing, “code monkeying” and whatnot. Really though, probabilistic text generation that maintains context in numerous computer and human languages while being meaningful, useful, and conversational, at the same time exhibiting at least an illusion of reason, in what world is that a trivial achievement ought to be dismissed with a “just”!? Those goal posts have shifted hilariously fast.

Ever since my post about AI and jobs in March, I have felt my take was overly optimistic. The obvious limitations of the tools we see today (e.g. LLM hallucination) do indeed limit the practical application of AI, but the potential for composability to address these concerns is sobering (e.g. a supervisory model that audits and reinforces the accuracy of an LLM's hallucination) and should distress anyone who would prefer that AI didn't devour the middle-class economy.

The rumors in the run-up to the iPhone 15 have been particularly maddening when it comes to the inevitable switch to the USB-C connector.

Speculation therefore remains rife about the USB-C port capabilities of the iPhone 15 lineup, and nothing is certain beyond the switch from Lightning. Rumors suggest the cables supplied in iPhone 15 boxes are limited to USB 2.0 data transfer speeds at a rate of 480 MBps, which is the same as Lightning.

In contrast, the iPhone 15 Pro models are expected to be supplied with cables capable of USB 3.2 or Thunderbolt 3 trans

Here's what I would have predicted a year ago: iPhone 15 would get a USB-C connector with USB data speeds and fast-ish charging speeds, and the Pro models would get a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port with typical transfer speeds and slightly faster-than-the-15-but-nothing-like-a-MacBook-fast charging speeds.

Simple, straightforward, consistent with other products as well as Apple's strategy of widening the segmentation between the phone lines.

The rumors have confirmed this at every step if that's what you'd been expecting. But as far as I can tell, everyone reporting on Apple rumors seems to be befuddled. Last week it was Thunderbolt 3, which has effectively been discontinued across the rest of Apple's line. I realize they need to work to put clicks on the table like everyone else, but they almost seem intentionally dense on this one.

Vision Pro has its work cut out for it

I’m as excited for using Vision Pro as a remote display for my Mac as anybody, but the fact that neither of my brand new, clean install Macs can initiate screen sharing reliably doesn’t bode well that it’ll somehow work better in a VR headset.

Love too set up a new iPhone

I love the iOS Photos widget

Every time I unlock my phone I'm greeted with an oddball memory. If you don't have the Photos widget on your first homescreen, you really should.

I got a chance to sit down with the Changelog crew for a second time this year. This time it was to discuss the provocative blog post I wrote last month. It also featured my colleague Landon, who got to represent The Youth in tech today.

It was a great discussion. It's not technical and doesn't require much prior context to follow. I'm also always blown away by how much better the Changelog's audio engineering is than any other programming podcasts I've heard. Anyone that can make me able to listen to myself is working some kind of magic.

If you use Apple Podcasts (as I do), here's the direct link.

The iTunes revolution of selling individual songs for 99¢ was something I fought against at the time, because I conceived of my favorite albums as complete, integrated works. I worried decoupling the song from the album would optimize the industry to pump out ever-more-saccharine pop hooks.

It’s interesting now, looking back and seeing the thread connecting the 99¢ song to infinitely-scrolling algorithmic video feeds as the logical endgame. Back then, I could never understand why someone would want to buy a single song ala carte, and today I can't get my head around the appeal of TikTok or Instagram Reels. 🤷‍♂️

Your PS5 analog sticks are melting!

UPDATE: A few folks told me that WD-40 works to resolve this and… they were kind of right! Just buy a pen applicator and dab it on.

Years ago, I unpacked an old PS3 and was disgusted to realize that the controllers’ analog sticks had all melted into gooey, sticky black blobs. I wondered if they’d gotten too hot at some point, somehow, but it turns out that the low-grade rubber and oil Sony used just inevitably denatures over time. I figured they’d have fixed this in later generations, but it turns out they haven’t! Both my PS5 controllers are now completely unusable after sitting idle for six months.

Entropy always wins… neat!