Pretty productive morning already.

Read a chapter from my book using the Kindle app and pushed a code change up to a Rails application using Textastic and Working Copy.

All from my iPhone.

We had a great time this morning doing breakfast with Santa at The Bothy restaraunt in Glasgow. A hearty breakfast followed by a story with Santa and then that all important matter of seeing if you’re on the naughty or nice list. Thankfully Drew made the nice list!

Where does the open source community go after GitHub?

The decision by GitHub to renew their contract with the Immigration and Customers Enforcement agency is still a significant point amongst developers. Despite several GitHub staff who have quit over the decision, it still looks like the company will not back down.

There is now an open letter and petition from many of the open-source contributors and maintainers who chose to host their projects on GitHub. In it, they are asking GitHub to cancel the contract and commit to a higher standard when it comes to making business decisions that have an ethical impact.

I think it’s excellent that organisations are being called into question about their business dealings. However, what happens if a company doesn’t change its position on an ethical stance.

If GitHub doesn’t cancel the contract, will we see a mass migration of projects away from GitHub? That’s an option. That is until the next source code hosting is called into question about a business deal.

Took a day off from work today, to well, do some work of my own. Pretty productive day.

Is gaming helping destroy the environment?

With the help of Claire Barlow from the University of Cambridge and John Durrell, a specialist in superconductor engineering, The Verge’s Lewis Gordon goes through the components and materials that go into the Playstation 4 and go over their impact on the environment.

They start with the console’s top lid, which is made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). This is, in fact, virgin plastic and isn’t made from already recycled plastic. From the lid alone, there is a huge cost in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that is produced from only manufacturing the lid of the console alone.

Let’s hypothesize that the 511 grams of ABS spread throughout the machine are actually virgin plastic. How might it have been produced? This is where things get trippy. Like almost every form of plastic on the planet, ABS is made from petrochemicals that are derived from petroleum, the fossil fuel we commonly refer to as crude oil. The substance materialized over millions of years as fossilized organisms like zooplankton and algae were covered by stagnant water and further layers of these dead animals and plants. Try to imagine not only how slow that process is (geologists call this “deep time”) but also the near-instantaneous speed at which the oil was extracted from the earth. Now consider its carbon residue just sitting in the atmosphere, slowly helping make the planet hotter. As I stared at the plastic, these head-spinning thoughts flashed through my mind.

The environmental impact of a PlayStation 4

Materials such as gold and tin are used on the circuit board of the console. While only a small amount of of these materials are used, the mining process means that vast amounts of water are needed to mine the gold as well as the use of chemicals to make the gold easier to mine. If you think your console only contains a small amount of these materials, then consider the fact that Sony has sold over 100 millions units of the PS4 since it’s launch. Now you start to realize just how much goes into mining the gold for these consoles.

Low-cost thinking extends to the limited use of more expensive metals. Occasional pieces of gold materialize on the main circuit board where various components are held in place by a tin-based solder. When it comes to the open pit and hard rock mining, the extraction methods responsible for some of the world’s gold (as well as the copper and neodymium found in the machine), there’s the actual blowing up of the earth. But enormous quantities of water are also required for mineral processing, dust suppression, slurry pipelines (to transport minerals in remote areas), and, last but by no means least, employees’ needs. Another extraction process called cyanide leaching sprays the toxic chemical over mined ore to dissolve the gold, thereby making it easier to extract. This comes with its own ecological and health risks if the cyanide leaks into the local area. Each method is grim for the environment where metals are often scattered diffusely throughout the rock.

The environmental impact of a PlayStation 4

Finally, there’s the lithium-ion battery in the console’s controllers. It too has a damaging impact on the environment.

The PlayStation 4’s 8.9 billion kilogram carbon footprint leaves out other environmental impacts like pollutants that don’t end up in our carbon-soaked atmosphere. Take the controller’s lithium-ion battery, the same kind of chargeable technology powering electric cars. Lithium is produced by drilling holes into salt flats — usually found in massive crater-like lakes — and pumping brine to the surface. The important bit, lithium carbonate, is subsequently extracted through a chemical process. In recent years, pollution from the extraction process has led to the death of animals and crops, severely impacting local communities in countries like Argentina and China. The lithium that makes our controllers wireless is just another material that scars not only the landscape but the lives of those who call it home.

The environmental impact of a PlayStation 4

This piece by Lewis Gordon really hits home the cost of technology on the environment. The manufacturing impact of technology devices isn’t going to change overnight. With such a huge market, I wonder if it would take pressure from consumers to make any kind of difference. I certainly would consider other environmentally friendly options if they become available.

As for running costs, we have two PS4s at home. I play for a few hours a week, and my eldest son probably plays for longer, but my wife and I encourage him to take breaks. We have a smart meter at home where we can monitor just how much energy we are using, and we always try to reduce our demand for energy, but it’s not easy. Especially during the darker months of the year where we don’t really go out that often.

Can we ever get to a point where we can balance the demands for technology so that they don’t impact on the environment?

The book reading continues this month with Conn Iggulden’s Shiang: Empire of Salt (book 2) and Jame Clear’s Atomic Habits. I’ll also read A Christmas Carol just before Christmas, like I always do.

Grammarly for iOS. One of those great apps that I use daily but rarely give it a second glance.

Still, have to try

Curtis McHale has some words of wisdom when it comes to deciding to work towards something more than just a 9 to 5 job.

The things we want are hard, we may fail.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother trying.

Good Things Are Hard and Have High Failure Rates, We Should Still Try

I enjoyed working for myself. In faact I loved working for myself. But it came with a risk. The risk was that I focused on long term contracts with fewer clients, so while the long term looked good, I found it difficult to maintain that run of long term client work. Eventually I found myself unable to sustain the work and I started looking for full-time work.

Now, two years later, I’m building a product on the side for a market that I have some knowledge of. There’s no guarantee that my product will be a success though.

Every week I spend a half hour going through some RSS feeds and a Twitter list of organisations that are the target market for my product and a Twitter list of competitors. The market is healthy and there’s plenty of worldwide opportunities for my product, but there are times when I doubt myself and I think the product will fail to take off.

It usually lasts for a couple of days and then I find myself shaking off the thoughts of risk and I through myself into the backlog of work I have to do for the product.

I have to at least give it a try.

I’m really impressed with Fathom’s website and analytics app. The landing page to sign up to analytics dashboard is one of the most fluent and easy to do sign up processes I’ve ever had to do.

Does the world need more search engines?

It’s a question posed by the tech team behind the seach engine Cliqz. Sure, they might have a vested interest in seeing more traffic going to their own search engine, but I think they’re onto something.

We need more search engines.

Google has a huge share of the search market but it has hardly lived up to it’s long running ethos of don’t be evil. What started as a great search engine with a range of good products around it, has turned into an ad platform that hoovers up data on every Google service you use.

I’m starting to wonder though if it’s not so much more generalist search engines we need, but more specialist search engines instead.

We’re at the point where we have billions of web pages, but depending on the search we want to do, even filtering through the search results can be difficult. We will always need generalist search engines, but what about search engines that focus on a particular type of search or information?

We already have a number of these specialist search engines. I’ve used job search engines over the last few month to look for specific roles in the contract market. I’ve had some success with my results on these specialist search engines but not much more than using a generalist search engine like DuckDuckgo. That’s only one example though.

There has to be more examples and matching specialist search engines to match them. And if they don’t exist, why can’t we build them?

I’m looking for a domain name for a junior golf event. The name is quite long so I’m using just the initials of the event name for the domain name. My first choice of the typical .org and .net TLDs has already been taken.

I’m considering using the .golf TLD. It’s more expensive but it has the benefit of standing out a bit more. But then I could go with .org.uk and save some money.

Decisions, decisions.

Adaptive product naming

A favourite saying of mine is Phil Karlton’s quote about hard things to do in computer science.

There are only two hard things in Computer Science: cache invalidation and naming things.

— Phil Karlton

I can’t say that cache invalidation has given me major issues in the past but naming things has always been a challenge. If I was to take this beyond the realms of programming though, I would say that naming anything is a difficult thing to do.

My portfolio of web applications include DailyMuse, Markcase and WriteAbout. I find it hard to get away from the compound naming theme. It’s just a way of naming things that I stick with. It’s easy to do, but it feels like it lacks imagination. I would love to come up wth alternatives that don’t follow this convention but everything I have come up with didn’t feel like a good fit.

The other thing I don’t like about compounded product names is deciding whether to upper-case the second word or leave it as lower-case. GitHub’s branding is clear that they favour upper-casing the second word, but there are examples of other brand names that are made of two words that just user a lower-case word for the second word. Take Feedbin for example.

For my bookmarking service, Markcase, I choose to use the lower-cased form instead of MarkCase, and I have to say I prefer it.

I’m working on something that is bigger than anything I’ve worked on in the past. I’d like it to become my full-time gig eventually so it’s quite important to get the naming of it right. I do have a name for it, but I’m torn between whether to use the upper-case form or the lower-case for.

I am edging towards the lower-case form. It reads easier and looks better in the different styles that I have for it.

I find all aspects of branding and marketing quite a challenge. I’m creative to an extent, but I’m definitely not well-versed enough to launch a huge marketing campaign. To get my product off the ground though, I’m taking little steps in executing it and learning as I go. I might not always get it right to begin with, but adapting the product and the marketing as I go, is better than not doing anything at all.

I think I made it through Micro.blog’s Microblogvember. It’s been fun to do and has helped keep me posting. I aim to keep it going through December.

I’ve started using Todoist again.

Bullet journaling on its own doesn’t cut it and Things is limited by the fact that it’s only available on Apple devices. I’ve only been using Todoist for a few days but it’s like I never stopped using it.

Last day of my two month focus on basic functionality for my Rails product. For December and January the goal is to refine these basic features and also integrate social media into the application.

A few better alternatives to hunting for bargains for #blackinkfriday. Golf, gaming, coding and reading.

I wonder if this idea for an iPod app will make Kurt ditch his beloved iPod?

I suspect not.

Are your inboxes making you anxious?

CJ Chilver’s reminds us that we can reduce our anxiety by reducing the number of inboxes that we have.

There’s a lot of productivity advice out there about what to do to organize and process your many inboxes. But the best rule is often forgotten: have as few of them as possible.

Eliminate Extra Inboxes

I still use Feedbin on a daily basis to filter for the important stuff, and I even follow a few accounts on Twitter using it.

The biggest benefit I get from using Feedbin is that I’m in control over what I choose to see and read. That’s a big positive in a time where platforms are pushing algorithms that decide for us what we should read.

The themes I’m building for my Rails product are hardly fantastic to begin with, but they are improving with each iteration. The goal isn’t to have themes with the best design, it’s to simply be better than what’s already out there for my target market. I’m close to doing that.

Messaging apps ... which one?

An interesting look at choosing the right messaging app.

I use iMessage as my default messaging app, closesly followed by WhatsApp. From time to time I use Instagram’s built-in messaging as well, but that’s a rare occurence and always reserved for one-liners from friends and family.

Ideally I’d like to be using Signal as my default messaging app, but getting others on board with it is a problem. Most people I know are not aware of the privacy implications of most messaging apps they are using, so they just use what everyone else is using. The big problem here is that many of these now fall under the control of Facebook.

Another Lego set complete for Drew!

There are some nice little touches on this year’s Christmas set with the light brick and the detail inside.

Just need to dig out the others sets tomorrow night when we put the tree up!

If my website is my little corner of the Internet, then I need to invest a bit of time in ensuring it’s a worthy property to visit.

Even though the Ruby programming language is no longer flying high as the most popular language for web applications, it’s rich community of people and gems remains strong.

Michael Wade’s rules for Thanksgiving officially mark the start of this fine holiday. Yes, I know we don’t celebrate it in the UK, but it’s definitely a holiday that I would like to adopt.

Going to mix up my learning goals for 2020 by focusing on Go and React. Picking a couple of technologies that are popular and quite different. Hopefully Go will provide an alternative as Ruby for the command line and who can argue with React’s popularity.