Did you come to my blog looking for blog posts? Here they are, I guess. This is where I post traditional, long-form text that isn't primarily a link to someplace else, doesn't revolve around audiovisual media, and isn't published on any particular cadence. Just words about ideas and experiences.
Installing a Content Blocker on iOS 9 Public Beta
After spending 3 weeks abroad, literally afraid of opening anything resembling an article in Safari, I was eager to come home, install a beta operating system, and take advantage of iOS 9's now-famous content blocking API. There are a few projects on GitHub that do this, but the most evolved seems to be Block Party.
Let's try out installing a content blocker on an iPhone for ourselves. The instructions below are mostly complete and a bit inane, so it's up to you whether you're better off just waiting the 4–6 weeks until iOS 9 is released to the public.
First, there are some pre-requisites:
- Install iOS 9 beta; I'm using Public Beta 3 from beta.apple.com
- Install Xcode 7 onto a Mac (requires dev account)
- Clone or download a ZIP of the BlockParty repo
With these in place, it's time to open BlockParty.xcodeproj
How to Internet in Japan
If you're reading this, then perhaps you enjoy having fast, easy access to the Internet. If so, and you're heading to Japan anytime soon, then perhaps this guide will be of use to you.
When traveling to Japan, access to their mostly-excellent wireless network is not always easily attained. In the past, I've used T-Mobile's free unlimited international roaming as well as mobile hotspot rental services, but both have significant drawbacks — extreme throttling and terrible battery life, respectively.
Here, I'll document a much more convenient way to get Internet access, by way of purchasing a prepaid data-only SIM card. First, a few prerequisites:
- An unlocked phone that can join international GSM networks (this guide covers my use of an iPhone 6, but virtually any GSM smartphone is supported)
- The means to make your way to the first floor of a Yodobashi camera, though other electronics stores ("Denkiya-san") may work as well
- (Somewhat ironically) an Internet connection, to download a configuration profile
- Roughly $35
Constants and Variables
They're a million million worlds. All different and all similar. Constants and variables. -Elizabeth, Bioshock Infinite
A lesson I learned early in my career as a programmer was to be wary of accidental creativity. If you're the type of person who really cares about getting the details right, it's critical to first decide which details truly matter. Not doing so is a recipe for endless frustration, as one will inevitably be distracted and defeated each day — sweating more arbitrary decisions than meaningful ones.
There is a bunch of prior art on this point, from studies on the paradox of choice to cognitive depletion and even Steve Jobs turtleneck lore. It's pretty intuitive, after all, that eliminating routine decisions should free up energy for our brains to do other (presumably more valuable) things. However, we tend not to see many interesting examples of the types of constants people set for themselves. And even more importantly, there is rarely discussion on the aspects of our lives that people might intentionally keep variable.
I guess I'll go first.
How-to make your iPhone Dimmer than Dim
When I'm trying to read my iPhone (or iPad) in bed, I'm liable to wake up my spouse with the device's backlight, even when the screen is set to its lowest brightness setting. Moreover, it's hard for me to fall asleep immediately after staring at a relatively bright screen.
Up until last night I thought I was just out of luck unless I installed flux, which would never be worth the security and stability issues raised by jailbreaking a device. Fortunately, Olivier Lacan commiserated and relayed a tip that iPhone's accessibility settings can be lightly abused to decrease the strength of the backlight below its lowest setting. (We've known the hardware is capable of this given that iBooks has always allowed you to.)
Because the Lifehacker guide Olivier linked was a bit hard-to-follow, I figured I'd help by illustrating a how-to do this with a few GIFs.
Studying Japanese with a Nintendo 3DS & Google Translate
I was interested in using videogames to practice my Japanese reading and listening comprehension, so after some initial thinking, I decided to buy an imported New Nintendo 3DS. Here are some notes on how I went about that and what I'm doing to use games primarily as an educational tool.
There are lots of import sites out there that will get you a good deal on Japanese game products, but I wanted to (a) get fast, reliable shipping, (b) have some kind of return policy, and (c) not risk customs headaches. As a result, I decided to buy the device off Amazon's US site from a third-party merchant using Fulfillment by Amazon so that I could get Amazon Prime shipping and Amazon support for returns.
I ended up purchasing this model (Amazon referral link) and then hunted for an Amazon Prime-able merchant under the sellers list, like so:
Will your iPad's Apple SIM allow you to buy ala carte prepaid data from AT&T?
When Apple announced iPad Air 2, I was most excited by the prospect of Apple SIM. That excitement waned when we learned AT&T would lock Apple SIMs to its network upon their activation (so much for that layer of indirection enabling competition). Still, I held out hope that maybe an Apple SIM could be used to purchase pre-paid data from an iPad and then be plopped into and used by an unlocked iPhone 6.
Let's see how that went.