New Site, No Trackers

For the last 10 years this site has run on WordPress. I started out pretty happy with WordPress. But it’s not slim and it has way more stuff than I really need. You have to add JetPack in order to write in Markdown. I didn’t like it when they replaced the traditional editor with the new Gutenberg block editor. I tried to like it but it broke writing in Markdown, and while I’m sure it’s great for most people, I found it atrocious to use.

Over the last few days, I’ve rebuilt this site. It no longer uses a self-hosted WordPress instance; instead it’s static html created by jekyll. Everything is in a git repository, which builds and deploys the site when I push to the master branch.

I’ll miss using MarsEdit, a fantastic Mac app which I used frequently to post here. I’ll need to build new Shortcuts on my iPad to post using Working Copy.

It’s worth it because everything these pages load is now hosted on this domain. Google Analytics, jQuery, JetPack, and a bunch of other cruft are all gone. There are no trackers and no third party scripts. I would say there is no javascript but I need it to do infinite scroll. That isn’t built yet but it’s coming.

And it’s fast. Page Speed = 100.

Impeachment Drama and Divisiveness

The impeachment proceedings in the Senate are in full swing, and John Bolton's conveniently timed leak of allegedly new evidence from his book which is still under review by the National Security Council has stirred more enthusiasm for the Senate to call witnesses.

John Healy writes in the LA Times:

Still, if the Senate decides to not call witnesses, it is a reminder of the short-term thinking that pervades even such consequential issues as impeachment. Because even if they don’t think Trump should be removed from office, they shouldn’t buy the argument that a president can flatly withhold documents and witnesses from Congress unless the House conducts an impeachment process by the president’s rules. They’re setting a precedent here that will provide a road map for future obstruction.

Senators are only asked to "buy the argument that a president can flatly withhold documents and witnesses from Congress" because the Democrats who control the House chose not to wait for the judicial proceedings to compel those documents and witnesses.

In 1792, President George Washington declared that he didn’t have to provide internal documents demanded for a congressional investigation into a disastrous military loss by Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair to Native Americans. Since that time, there has been tension between the legislative and executive branches and their respective duties of oversight and faithful execution.

We have a well established system for litigating executive privilege. This process allows for considered weighing of facts within a fair legal system, and it works. But it isn't fast.

Reagan asserted executive privilege during the Iran Contra Affair, the documents were still tied up in court 3 years later during Oliver North's criminal trial, and were not released until 1993, seven years after the events in question. It took seven years to litigate Obama's assertion of executive privilege over the documents associated with the "Fast and Furious" gun tracking program. Having the truth 3 years after Obama left office was not politically advantageous, but its difficult to argue that it wasn't fair.

Trump's call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, during which the alleged offenses occurred, took place on July 25, 2019. The whistleblower complaint came in August. The only precedent set by the Trump impeachment is the shallowness of the evidence, testimony, and legal record of the case.

Back to John Healy:

As Philbin argued Thursday, “If there’s both some personal motive but also some legitimate public interest motive, it can’t possibly be an impeachable offense.... There’s always some personal interest in the electoral outcome of policy decision, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The hole in that argument is the notion that there can be any legitimate public purpose in a president asking a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen who is that president’s political rival.

If this impeachment was about discovering a "legitimate public purpose", then the Congress should be just as anxious to discover whether a prominent political figure was seeking personal enrichment from a foreign country in exchange for future political favors as they are to determine whether another prominent political figure used his current political position to compel a foreign power to investigate one of his opponents.

If there was corruption in the Biden's dealings with Ukraine, then Trump's actions serve a legitimate public purpose. If not, then Trump is guilty as charged.

However, the current impeachment circus has nothing to do with discovering the truth, it's a circus with every player grasping for political and/or personal gain.

Time To Do The Hard Thing

From John Mauldin's latest weekly newsletter, Thoughts From The Frontline:

Whatever happens in the 2020 elections, governing such a bitterly polarized country will be tough. Which means the economic problems I’ve described will fester and probably get worse. That leads nowhere good.

The only way out of this, the only way to preserve what we have and get through the 2020s, is for people to set aside their tribal loyalties, work together, and find solutions. That means none of us will get everything we want. We’ll have to compromise in unpleasant and distressing ways.

I always have liked his newsletter, but this one really hit home for me. And I love his optimism:

We’re Americans. We can do hard things.

iPad or MacBook Pro

I love MacOS. Until 2008, I had been using Windows at work and Linux at home. Then I got my first MacBook, and have been all in on MacOS since. I love the beautiful apps, the automation capabilities, and the underlying BSD operating system. I endured many years of terrible Microsoft Office applications on the Mac. My home computer is a hackintosh that does everything an iMac Pro can do at less than half the price. My last two MacBook Pros (Apple would probably say I should call them MacBooks Pro, but I'm not going to do it) have had awful keyboards, but I'd rather run MacOS on crappy hardware than Windows on great hardware. The moment Apple releases a 13" MacBook Pro with a good scissor keyboard, I'm buying one.

I have had many iPads over the years and it's always been a supplement to my laptop and my phone. They have all been in the 9 inch to 11 inch range, I've never had a big one or an iPad mini. I currently have an 11" iPad Pro and it is a fabulous piece of hardware. I used to have the 10.5" iPad Pro, and it's excellent too. The Smart Keyboard makes me crazy. I hate the globe key which brings up the emoji picker. I would be eternally grateful if someone who matters at Apple mandated that all of their keyboards had a proper inverted-T arrow key setup with full size keys.

Many times in the last few years I have run experiments to see if I could use my iPad instead of my Mac. Although I hate the emoji key, it has never been the hardware that's held me back. It was always the software. iOS was just not good enough.

This summer Apple introduced iPadOS with better multitasking, a desktop class browser, Shortcuts with parameters, and a massively improved Files app. After it was released this fall, I tried again to go iPad only. This time it was the apps that held me back, not the operating system. Many of my applications did not support key iPadOS features like Split View.

I feel sorry for app developers; I think the summer of iOS 13 has been the buggiest one yet, and it's especially jarring considering how smooth iOS 12 went last year. Slowly but surely, app developers are getting their updates out that fully support the new operating system features.

Of the applications critical to my workflows, GoodNotes was the first to get updated, and they managed to ship a new version of their app the same week as iPadOS. iA Writer came next, and between these two apps I can now do all my writing and note taking on the iPad. Combined with the new desktop class Safari, I finally felt comfortable with a broad range of tasks.

But a few of my apps still weren't good enough. Outlook on iOS is good, but not great, and still doesn't support multiple windows. Which is a real bummer for a single app that has contacts, email, and your calendar. We use Exchange at work, so Outlook is almost a necessity. Microsoft says it's coming soon, but it's not here now.

In the last couple of weeks, I think I finally turned the corner. I started a new job, and we don't use Microsoft stuff. So I didn't need to use Outlook. I've long used Spark for my personal email. I started using it for work email too, and this week it got a nice update which supports multiple windows; finally you can write a new email while browsing the thread your are replying to.

The Omni Group also shipped OmniFocus 3.4 with support for multiple windows. Clearly multiple windows are a big deal for me. Of all the other capabilities these app updates contain -- improved keyboard shortcuts, dark mode, parameterized shortcuts -- it's the multiple window support that makes me feel like I can get real work done.

I'm still missing a couple of important things. Neither Fantastical nor Calendars 5 yet support multiple windows. It would be really great to have OmniFocus and the calendar set up in Split View, while still having the full screen calendar available in a different space.

It's great that we have a mechanism for third-party file providers, which allows any developer to integrate the documents from their app into the system Files app. However, several of the file providers I use do not support all of the capabilities of the iOS API. Specifically, I really wish Dropbox, Nextcloud, or Google Drive supported open-in-place. This would allow well-built apps like iA Writer to seamlessly read and write files directly to any file provider.

iPads have made great progress, and I can use one for much of my real work. I might even feel like I could use an iPad instead of a MacBook Pro. I'll always want a desktop Mac for grinding out the company 2020 financial model, writing python code, and doing any music work in Logic or Finale. I also need my desktop Mac to organize and backup all my data: family pictures and videos, movies, and fonts.

But now, I think I have finally arrived at iPad or MacBook Pro, instead of iPad and MacBook Pro. That is, until that 13" MacBook with a scissor keyboard comes out and I'm back to and.

Starlink Is An Ocean Of Gold

Casey Handmer teaches us why SpaceX needs Starlink:

There are only few trillion dollar industries in existence: energy, high speed transport, communications, IT, healthcare, agriculture, government, defense. Despite common misconceptions, space mining, lunar water, and space-based solar power are not viable businesses. Elon has a play in energy with Tesla, but only communications provides a reliable, deep market for satellites and launch.

Elon Musk’s first space-related idea was to spend $80m on a philanthropic mission to grow a plant on a Mars lander. Building a Mars city will cost maybe 100,000 times as much. Starlink is Elon’s main bet to deliver the ocean of gold needed to philanthropically build a self-sustaining city on Mars.

Some of Musk's ideas, like the cybertruck, seem ill-conceived. Nobody I know who owns a truck, and I know lots of people who own trucks, would buy this monstrosity. Casey walks through the physics and the economics of a cloud of satellites to cover the earth with internet access. Starlink is not some marijuana induced dream. Casey's calculations estimate a middle of the road cost of $0.003/GB.

The SEA-WE-ME 4 is a major submarine cable running from France to Singapore, commissioned in 2005. It is capable of transmitting 1.28Tb/s, and cost about $500m to deploy. If it operates for 10 years equivalent 100% capacity, with a 100% overhead for capital costs, then the price per bit works out to be $0.02/GB. Transatlantic cables are shorter and a bit cheaper, but the undersea cable is just one entity in a long line of people who need money to deliver data. The middle of the road estimate for Starlink is 8 times cheaper, all in, than just the undersea cable.

This is the best thing I've read about space in years. Highly recommended.

via Om Malik