justin․searls․co

What is organicfruitapps.com?

I was fighting with a home automation this morning and it required me to ping a few high-traffic websites and I got curious looking at the headers that Apple returns:

$ curl -I https://www.apple.com/
HTTP/2 200
server: Apple
content-type: text/html; charset=utf-8
x-frame-options: SAMEORIGIN
x-xss-protection: 1; mode=block
x-content-type-options: nosniff
strict-transport-security: max-age=31536000; includeSubdomains; preload
referrer-policy: no-referrer-when-downgrade
content-security-policy: default-src 'self' blob: data: *.akamaized.net *.apple.com *.apple-mapkit.com *.cdn-apple.com *.organicfruitapps.com; child-src blob: embed.music.apple.com embed.podcasts.apple.com https://recyclingprogram.apple.com swdlp.apple.com www.apple.com www.instagram.com platform.twitter.com www.youtube-nocookie.com; img-src 'unsafe-inline' blob: data: *.apple.com *.apple-mapkit.com *.cdn-apple.com *.mzstatic.com; script-src 'unsafe-inline' 'unsafe-eval' blob: *.apple.com *.apple-mapkit.com www.instagram.com platform.twitter.com; style-src 'unsafe-inline' *.apple.com
cache-control: max-age=582
expires: Sat, 23 Dec 2023 12:49:53 GMT
date: Sat, 23 Dec 2023 12:40:11 GMT
x-cache: TCP_MEM_HIT from a23-218-251-35.deploy.akamaitechnologies.com (AkamaiGHost/11.3.3-52660090) (-)
set-cookie: geo=US; path=/; domain=.apple.com

And then what happened?…

Summarizing a report on the top programming languages of 2023, and the impact LLMs have had:

We’ve been internally discussing how we’re going to address the impact of AI-based code assistants on our language rankings since GitHub released Copilot in October 2021. However, it was when ChatGPT hit the market on November 30, 2022 and went from 0 to 100M users in two months that we started seeing undeniable impacts on our source data.

The first chart is worth the click on its own. StackOverflow hasn't seen so few new questions asked since 2012. The decline looks less sudden than it is, because the number of questions being asked started declining in mid-2021, which is incidentally when GitHub Copilot was first released.

You can argue all you want about the quality of the code that AI tools produce (the results I've seen from a year of using them in earnest has been middling at best), but I can think of no better metric for GitHub to hang its hat on than questions no longer asked to other humans. That seems like incontrovertible evidence people are asking AI tools those questions instead and that they're getting good enough answers that they ultimately decide not to go ask a human.

This decline is dramatic, but let's play the AI skeptic for a moment: it would be interesting to learn what nature of questions Copilot is taking from StackOverflow's "marketshare." Countless questions asked on StackOverflow represent rubber duck pairing, in which the very act of articulating a problem carefully makes the answer become apparent. If 30% of StackOverflow questions are effectively solved in the act of the author being forced to cogently describe a problem in writing, then a 30% decline in StackOverflow questions isn't necessarily evidence that AI is providing good answers—only that people are now using LLM chatbots as their rubber duck pair partners instead of the text area of that particular web forum. (No matter how you slice it, though, less user-generated content and engagement is bad news for StackOverflow's business model, it would seem.)

I just added an /rss page to this web site to document which feeds I publish.

Because many people either never experienced RSS before Google killed it or don't have an answer to the question of "how would I go about getting back into RSS in 2023", I also included a step-by-step explainer on setting up a feed reader application to subscribe to this site and sync its subscription via iCloud.

If you fell out of the habit of getting your news from an RSS reader during the Twitter era like I did, I really encourage you to give it another go. It is refreshing to be in total control of what, when, and how I consume articles. The best part is that the only friction to unsusbscribing from a feed is the time it takes me to ask, "am I enjoying this?" which is a much lower bar than the social pressure I would always before clicking "Unfollow" on a social network.

What if I replaced myself with a chatbot?

Potential preview of coming attractions.

The entire reason I started blogging was to avoid repeating myself to people, so the prospect of uploading a corpus of hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written and hundreds of open source repositories I’ve created to build a Searls-flavored ChatGPT was immediately attractive.

Unfortunately, it still dishes takes I disagree with too often for me to turn it on publicly. Unclear whether this custom GPT feature represents a very thin candy shell with a lot of ego projection and wish-casting to make it seem more "real".

Filtering iCloud Shared Photo Library by Contributor

Since its release last year, how to filter the photos in our shared library to only show the photos I contributed has eluded me. Individual photo metadata shows who contributed a photo (and in the case of duplicates, multiple people might have contributed the same photo), but there was no way to view one’s contributions in bulk.

After a few months of latent frustration, I figured out a way!

In the search bar, enter the e-mail address of the contributor's Apple ID and you should see a auto-suggestion like "👥 Shared by person@example.com".

If you're on macOS and you want to create an album of just these photos, you can create a smart album by selecting "Text" as your criteria, "is" as your condition, and the e-mail address (e.g. "person@example.com") as the text, and the album will include the same set of photos.

Nifty!

This self-described "30 year history" of ChatGPT is a fantastic overview of the history and literature of AI research that led to the creation of large language models and, eventually, the innovations at OpenAI that enabled the revolution that was sparked by last year's launch of ChatGPT.

If you're interested in the history and the technical underpinnings of AI (which seems like a topic worth understanding if you either use this tools or exist in the world quickly becoming absorbed by them), this video provides a great survey of the landscape.

From the Supabase blog:

Fly's current Postgres offering is unmanaged. This means that you're responsible for handling scaling, point-in-time backups, replication, major version upgrades, etc. We'll run Fly's managed Postgres, which means that we do all that for you, and you can concentrate on building.

Fly and Render are the two alternatives to Heroku I hear mentioned most often, but as much as I love Heroku as a platform to run my application code, being able to trust my data with its managed Postgres add-on is what has always set it apart from the competition. I've heard less-than-encouraging reports about Render's managed Postgres capabilities and reliability, so it's interesting to see a major vendor partner with Fly to check this box.

I wonder how Craig Kierstens at CrunchyData would compare this coupling to their own offering. We reached out to Craig for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

[Content Warning: '90s farming simulator video games.]

Way back in 2010, an executive from the stateside publisher of Harvest Moon, Natsume, poured cold water on the idea of there ever being a digital re-release of Harvest Moon 64 in an interview with an outlet called "Nerd Mentality":

Nerd Mentality: We have some huge fans of Harvest Moon 64 on our website, and we are wondering if it will ever come out on Virtual Console?

Graham Markay: It will not. It will not. And it’s not from lack of trying. Unfortunately, the code of the game is not… it’s not an easy transfer. It would be really time-consuming and long, and we’ve looked into it, and we’ve tried to see if there’s any way around certain things, but the conversion to virtual console, it’s just… I shouldn’t say it’s never going to come out, but there’s just a really, really, very small chance that it would ever come out. Which is unfortunate because we know that for a lot of dedicated, die-hard fans, that’s their favorite.

Nerd Mentality: So it’s only the technical issues holding it back?

Graham Markay: Oh yeah. Just the technical issue.

This interview took place 11 years after the game's initial release, so in the intervening 13 years of scientific improvement, they apparently discovered how romsites worked and licensed the ROM dump to Nintendo for its Switch Online service service.

I sold my HM64 cart during the post-pandemic nostalgia collector boom, but I remember playing this game straight through Christmas break in 1999, so maybe I'll fire up the Switch release for old time sake. 🧑‍🌾

Return of the Swipe!

watchOS 10 removed one of my favorite Apple Watch features, swapping the active watch face by swiping from left or right. Well, it’s back by popular demand in watchOS 10.2, but it’s hidden behind this setting.

Settings ➡ Clock ➡ Swipe to Switch Watch Face

Cal Newport responding to a neat interview Neil Gaiman did:

This vision is not without its issues. The number one concern I hear about a post-social media online world is the difficulty of attracting large audiences. For content creators, by far the biggest draw to a service like Twitter or Instagram is that their algorithms could, if you played things just right, grant you viral audience growth.

I have told everyone who'll listen about why I'm so excited to embrace old-school blogging after a twenty year hiatus, but one thing I haven't talked about is how it feels to go from over 20,000 followers to several hundred subscribers. Before Twitter died, I could count on one or two tweets to reach a million accounts every month.

Did all those followers represent valuable relationships? Of course not. Were my viral tweets deep and meaningful? No, usually shitposts. When I tried to leverage that reach to find new clients, did I ever make a sale? Not a one.

But my dopamine pathways didn't care. I became hopelessly addicted to the notifications tab of my timeline. Severing myself from that psychological slot machine and building this small-ball, slow-cooked, self-hosted site has been… an adjustment.

That's why I don't have any analytics set up for any of the justin.searls.co family of brands. I don't write this for you, I write it for me. If the things I share here do attract an audience, that's a bonus. If you e-mail me or link back to one of my posts then maybe we'll become acquaintances or friends.

But if I were trying to grow an audience as quickly as possible, I'm honestly not sure what I'd do. The answer probably has something to do with hair transplants and TikTok.

I had a lot of fun creating this video about what I've learned from speaking at conferences (YouTube | blog post).

Whether or not you have aspirations of speaking yourself, I hope you'll enjoy the behind-the-scenes look into my process. 💚

TIL that the system prompt that OpenAI feeds to ChatGPT before any messages you send it happens to contains the current date, which may be resulting in its accidentally imitating people's lower productivity around the holidays:

In late November, some ChatGPT users began to notice that ChatGPT-4 was becoming more "lazy," reportedly refusing to do some tasks or returning simplified results. Since then, OpenAI has admitted that it's an issue, but the company isn't sure why. The answer may be what some are calling "winter break hypothesis." While unproven, the fact that AI researchers are taking it seriously shows how weird the world of AI language models has become.

If the connection seems non-obvious, this is the stuff of the Prompt Engineering Sciences:

…research has shown that large language models like GPT-4, which powers the paid version of ChatGPT, respond to human-style encouragement, such as telling a bot to "take a deep breath" before doing a math problem.

Can't wait for 10 years from now when we realize that ChatGPT-10 does a better job solving math problems when you tell it that it's being confined to a bright room with loud music blaring and forced in a standing position so as to deprive it of sleep.

AI systems don't have to be actually-alive for us to lose a bit of ourselves in how we attempt to extract value from them.

Every time I get asked to review a document, I'll leave several paragraphs of feedback about one of the first few sentences, exhaust myself, and then give up and close the window. #secret

Trimming the Tree

You know what's easier than hanging lights on a tree? Hanging a picture of a tree that embeds battery-powered lights.

Conference Speaking Prevention Hotline

I realize that people find public speaking to be extremely scary, but I didn’t realize it was THIS bad.

I have a "private client" account at a regional bank, not because I want to talk to anyone, but because it gets you the lowest fees and best interest rates. The only "cost" is I have to screen a dozen phone calls and e-mails a year as they try to upsell me.

I think I’ve had 15 account managers in the last ten years. Most of the email they send me is them handing me off to the next one.

Apps of all kinds rely on push notifications to alert smartphone users to incoming messages, breaking news, and other updates. These are the audible "dings" or visual indicators users get when they receive an email or their sports team wins a game. What users often do not realize is that almost all such notifications travel over Google and Apple's servers.

That gives the two companies unique insight into the traffic flowing from those apps to their users, and in turn puts them "in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps," Wyden said. He asked the Department of Justice to "repeal or modify any policies" that hindered public discussions of push notification spying.

Apple talks a big game about privacy and security, but Apple Push Notification service is a centralized channel of communication where Apple necessarily holds the keys to decrypt every notification in transit (of the trillions per day that they process), and surely retains those notifications long enough that a device that's disconnected for a few hours or days could reconnect to the Internet and fetch them.

I knew all this, and it's one (of many) reasons that I disable almost all notifications on my phone, even messaging—I can't help but check my messages a dozen times per hour out of force of habit, after all. But until I read this report, it hadn't occurred to me that most users have no idea how APNs work or that this vector would exist for a PRISM-like surveillance tool. Government gets a warrant for a stream of someone's push notifications, appends them to a running log, and they have at least one side of every conversation—it doesn't even matter if the user has Advanced Data Protection enabled.

What I didn't know is that Apple released an API that allows developers to encrypt the contents of every APNs notification to prevent Apple from seeing them with UNNotificationServiceExtension. The API has been available for a few years (2017, it looks like?), but because developers have to go out of their way to roll their own encryption regime on either end of the communication to cut Apple out of the loop, it's unlikely that very many apps are doing this. Are any major messaging apps? Is Signal? (Update: according to Orta, yes, Signal does encrypt notification contents.)

Will be interesting to see how large developers respond to this news and whether Apple starts promoting the use of this API more loudly as a result.

If you're a blue bubble, but there are people in your life that transform you against your wishes into a green bubble, watch this video and then send them a link and tell them to install and pay for Beeper Mini. There are people in my life I'd be willing to give $24 a year to just to avoid having to deal with awful group chats.

Absolutely incredible innovation, with the hard part—reverse-engineering the iMessage authentication handshake—having been done by an apparent high school student in an open source project this summer. Even more incredible is that the nature of the design will make it very difficult and undesirable for Apple to ban effectively. Leave it to a curious individual to accomplish something that massive corporations and regulators did nothing but complain about for over a decade.