Category: Articles

Google Pixel 3A

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

I am going to break an unwritten rule of tech reviews and tell you the ending right at the top: if you want to buy a new smartphone that costs between $300 and $500, you should buy a Pixel 3A or Pixel 3A XL. It is the best phone in that price range, and it’s actually competitive with more expensive phones in one very important way: the Pixel 3A has a great camera.

For the past few years, buying a new smartphone meant following a nigh-unbreakable rule: if you wanted a good camera, you needed to spend at least 600 bucks. That, or you needed to find an older iPhone or take a shot on something used or refurbished. On the flip side, less expensive Android phones have become remarkably good recently, but they still followed the rule because their cameras are almost universally mediocre.

The $399 Pixel 3A ($479 for the larger 3A XL) doesn’t follow that rule. While it has many of the same compromises you usually make when you buy a cheap phone, the photos it takes are nearly indistinguishable from what comes out of a Pixel 3. Depending on where and when you buy it, the Pixel 3 can cost $200 or $300 more.

In 15 years of reviewing phones, I am not sure if I’ve ever been able to write the following sentence: a $400 phone has a camera that’s among the best you can get on any smartphone.

The rest of the Pixel 3A may not blow you away, but it ain’t bad, either.

WordPress 5.0 Target Date for December 6

If you use WordPress at all then you know about the upcoming WordPress 5.0 and it’s Gutenberg editor, everyone has been scrambling to get their plugins updated for it.

It was originally planned to release in November, but several WordPress business founders launched pleas to delay, and now it looks like we’re getting it in two days

This release is both exciting and nerve wracking as they bring in a new editing interface that throws what’s existing out the door, and can break a lot of what exists. 

One of the major pushes is Wordcamp US on December 7, but with 5.0 releasing on the 6, many developers will be making sure everything works rather than enjoying it.

Yes, there is still the classic editor for those who prefer the old interface, but… that won’t be installed by default. So people will need to install that plugin if they want the old editing interface.

The Mandalorian

Actor / director Jon Favreau took to Instagram last night to tease the Star Wars TV show that he’s running.

On Instagram last night, Favreau posted:

View this post on Instagram

#starwars #TheMandalorian

A post shared by Jon Favreau (@jonfavreau) on

This will be the first live action Star Wars TV show, so that should make it interesting in itself, and should make a good launching point for Disney’s Streaming service next year when it launches, much like the Titans tv show on the DC Universe streaming service this month.

The war for CopperheadOS

For anyone who doesn’t know, CopperheadOS is a source-available operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. It is based on the official releases of the Android Open Source Project by Google, with added privacy and security features. The developer, Daniel Micay, builds on the existing official releases of Android to make a more secure solution, and it works great.

Yesterday, Daniel tweeted this:

There’s also a conversation going on on Reddit as well in the CopperheadOS subreddit.

Daniel, the former CTO, has been the sole developer on CopperheadOS since day one, and part owner of the company.

His partner, James Donaldson, decided to seize control of the company yesterday.

James owns the domain on his personal namecheap account, and has demanded that Daniel hand over his GPG signing key that he created in 2009, before the company was founded in 2015.

Daniel posted in the reddit thread:

Note that the signing keys are not compromised and no updates to the OS or apps can be created now. I destroyed my signing keys to prevent any situation where users could be compromised. The infrastructure is not trusted by the OS. No OS or app updates can be created that would be accepted. There is still most of the month before the July security update at which point I can’t recommend using it anymore…

I honestly have no idea who is in the right or wrong here.

The two owners have apparently been arguing over the past couple weeks before Micay’s firing yesterday.

What the future holds for CopperheadOS is up in the air right now.

On using your iPhone to take photos of yesterday’s eclipse

Yesterday, I took my daughter to the local college so we could watch the eclipse, it was a clear day, very few clouds so we set up where we could watch it with our eclipse viewers.

I decided to take some pictures of it with my iPhone 7+, using the eclipse viewer as a filter, and this is where it got interesting.

I quickly learned that the phone, will actually ignore the eclipse itself and try to auto focus.

And despite seeing the partial sun in the viewer, the camera will show it as a circle.

I wanted to capture the actual eclipse itself as the moon blotted out the sun, so that wasn’t going to work.

So I played with the various phone apps while I waited, and found the Raw app to be the best, as I could set the settings manually, the result was a few pics that looked nice.

The first photo was taken with the camera app, you got the sun but you also got some reflection off the viewer. To use the default camera app for this, you basically focused on the sun then hit the button quickly as it would bounce back very shortly. But this pic did show the sun starting to disappear.

The second was using the Halide app, a bit better, but we still had some glare.

The final picture was taken with the raw app, it’s bit further away than the other two, since I wasn’t using any zoom, but the combination of focus and brightness let me get the sun pretty nicely.

I actually took a bunch of photos using the raw app once I got the settings how I wanted them, but this was the one I wanted to share.

AltspaceVR to shut down on August 3rd with “heavy hearts”

In a blog post last night, AltspaceVR announced they would be shutting down on August 3rd (next week).

It is with a tremendously heavy heart that we let you all know that we are closing down AltspaceVR on August 3rd, 7PM PDT. The company has run into unforeseen financial difficulty and we can’t afford to keep the virtual lights on anymore. This is surprising, disappointing, and frustrating for every one of us who have put our passion and our hopes into AltspaceVR. We know it will probably feel similarly for you.

You’ve made AltspaceVR one of the best places to be in VR (or on the internet). We won’t try to write down all of the memories that are flooding our hearts right now of all of the laughter, puns, fun and friendliness that existed in this community. There have been spontaneous concerts, new friendships, marriages, surprise serenades (looking at you Shoo Shoo!) and too many warm hugs from Claire to count. We hosted so many firsts! And we still have the record for most people in VR at one time (were any of you there at Reggie’s first performance?). We’ve also seen so many community members come into their own and host karaoke nights, improv, movie nights and meetups for people all across the globe.

We are all humbled by what you made of this virtual oasis. Thank you for spending your time building, hosting, and making the best community we could have wished for. Please take the next week to make sure those connections live on past AltspaceVR. Because if you do, then what we built will really live on.

There have been many tears and there will probably be a few more to come. We’ve given up wiping off the mist that clouds our headsets. Please join us for a final farewell party on 8/3. At the end of the party, we will be shutting down AltspaceVR.

AltspaceVR was a gathering place in VR, it didn’t matter what platform you used, there was a client for it, and you could create rooms to chat with friends, host gaming tournaments (virtual disc golf was one personal favorite).

They streamed everything from concerts to stand-up comedy tours to presidential debate viewing parties, so that you could be right there and watch it live with others, or just sit around a virtual campfire.

It was a virtual social network, and allowed their roughly 35,000 active monthly users to hang out and meet other people in a way the usual social network didn’t as easily.

It’s sad to see them shut the doors.

From Jekyll To Ghost

For the past six months or so, I’ve been using a modified version of Ghost for Coded Geekery.

Last week, I migrated the Flybase Blog from Jekyll to Ghost, it was an interesting move, but worked great, and hasn’t had any issues.

Today, I pulled the trigger and migrated this blog to Ghost.

This one was a bit trickier as it has so much content (so much that I’ve actually moved content older than two years to the Archive).

This version still uses my front matter addon, so I could do the move pretty smoothly, it was mostly a matter of importing my markdown files into a ghost import file.

Why move back to a database driven CMS?

This blog tends to move engines every few years, WordPress, Second Crack, back to WordPress, over to Camel, then Jekyll and now nearly two years later, Ghost.

Ghost fits my current writing style, it’s markdown, and I can open it in any browser (or the desktop app) and just write, then publish.

With Jekyll, I’d either write on GitHub, or use an app, or use write locally and then push to GitHub, which was fine, but not as smooth as I liked it.

After using Ghost to write heavily with Coded Geekery (my other slightly more opinionated blog), I just like that flow better, so I made the switch.

Maybe I’ll move back to Jekyll or to another blog engine later, there are even libraries to publish a Ghost blog as static files on GitHub Pages, so maybe I’ll end up with a hybrid one day.

Only time will tell though.

I do plan on updating the layout soon as well, but for now, I like this layout hence why I ported it over to Ghost.

Google Assistant

John Gruber:

Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right. This might be like Steve Jobs’s 2007 claim that the iPhone was “5 years” ahead of anyone else.

Manton Reece:

Only Google has the expertise in web services and the massive amount of data to keep going beyond basic questions. I expect both Siri and Alexa will hit brick walls that Google will get past, especially in conversational queries that let the user drill down below the most popular, superficial facts.

Caitlin McGarry:

It’s a problem that could be solved with a Siri API for app developers, but according to a recent Reuters report, Apple’s Siri shortcomings can be attributed to the company’s stance on privacy.

The company has a trio of so-called “privacy czars” who vet every decision, even inspecting lines of code that might violate laws or company standards. When Apple bought Siri five years ago, it was decided that data on what you ask Siri would be stored separately from personal data, so Siri lacks a lot of the knowledge about you that it would need to be a truly useful assistant.

Ben Thompson:

The net result is that Google has no choice but to put its founding proposition to the ultimate test: is it enough to be the best? Can the best artificial intelligence overcome the friction that will be involved in using Google assistant on an iPhone? Can the best artificial intelligence actually shift human networks? Can the best artificial intelligence win the home in the face of a big head start?


Google’s competitors, by virtue of owning the customer, need only be good enough, and they will get better. Google has a far higher bar to clear — it is asking users and in some cases their networks to not only change their behavior but willingly introduce more friction into their lives — and its technology will have to be special indeed to replicate the company’s original success as a business.

Code 8 – a film from Robbie & Stephen Amell launches on Indiegogo

Acting cousins Stephen (from Arrow) & Robbie (Flash, Tomorrow People, X-files) Amell just launched their 10 minute short film titled Code 8 and they also launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to make it into a feature film.

The movie puts us in a near future that has 4% of the population endowed with powers of some sort. Due to this and the skewed poverty line, the police have militarized, equipping robots and drones to help them keep the peace. The short film is fantastic and definitely worth a look.

They’ve got an interesting line up between the two of them, Sung Kang (Fast & Furious movies), Aaron Abrams (Hannibal, Blindspot), Chad Donella (Scandal), and Alfred Rubin Thompson (Club Dead).

I really liked the 10 minute short film, and am rooting for the feature film to get made.