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What's new in Electric Pork 0.61

Two main changes in v0.61.

  1. There's a Linux version. You can get it on the download page. It seems to work exactly like the Mac version. I also plan to create a Windows release, but have a few other things I need to get to first. 
  2. There was a setting that allowed you to tweet in reverse order. Now that threading works properly it's just not a good way to do it. 
I've enabled comments for this post. The previous posts in this thread may also have useful info.

An idea for the acoustics of restaurants

I went to a group dinner last night in NYC, it was great, but it was hard to make out what people were saying. Some people have booming voices and move their lips visibly. Those are relatively easy to follow. Others have high pitched voices or cover their mouths. My ears and brain have a lot of trouble processing that. 

And then people, having trouble being heard, raise their voices until everyone is screaming, and the problem gets worse and hearing never gets easier. 

I recorded a few seconds of random conversation around the dinner table last night. See if you can make out what anyone was saying. 

I wonder why no one has designed a restaurant that solves this problem. I used to do sound work for music when I was a kid, in a strictly amateur way, but I learned the basics. The acoustics of a room is determined by its surfaces. If the walls are hard, like brick or stone, sound reflects, and the room is loud. If you put soft stuff on the walls, they absorb the sound, and the room feels quiet. This is why recording studios have thick sound-absorbing foam on the walls. They want just the sound coming from the instruments and the amps, nothing reflective. If they want that effect, they can add it. They don't want the room to add any sound of its own. 

So why not design a restaurant so that the walls absorb sound? It would be the place people go to have a quiet evening of conversation. Or just to not go insane trying to be heard! :balloon:

How do journalists read news?

I'm going to a journalism conference in Italy in a couple of weeks. 

I wondered how news people get their news. Is it systematic, or do they rely on whatever comes their way on Twitter or through email?

Do they use a news aggregator like Yahoo or Memeorandum? Or an RSS reader?

Are they happy with what they use? Do they think their system could be improved? 

Then, how do they share links with others? Post to Twitter, Facebook, email or?

As a person who develops news reading and publishing systems, I'm embarrassed to say I have very little idea today how people do that, or if the systems they use are good, adequate, great or whatever.

House Repubs stand for America

I've asked many times over the last few months when the Repubs in Congress would show some spine and help the country dig out of the mess we're in with Russia and Trump. Basically our country has been invaded, there's a pretender in the Oval Office, and we have to get him out before he can do more damage to the country. That's the problem.

Now the Repubs have done something, and we should be showing appreciation, not condemning them, though they probably don't mind the condemnation because it's the air cover they need with their constituents.

Here are some (imho) irrefutable facts.

  1. The hearing that was held yesterday couldn't have happened if the Repubs hadn't scheduled it. They are the majority party in Congress. If they don't want hearings, then there are no hearings. 
  2. They knew the Democrats would do what they did. It made the Democrats look good with their constituents. In normal times that alone would be a non-starter for the Repubs (and for the Dems if they were the majority party). But these are not normal times. They have acknowledged that by scheduling the hearings and providing a stage for the Dems and the directors of the FBI and NSA.
  3. Before you give them too much credit, however, if Trump's approval rating weren't low and going lower, none of this would be happening.
  4. They come from districts that, for the most, voted for Trump. Their constituents need to see them defending him. Even though it's a charade, because as I said in #2, they knew the Democrats would ask the questions they couldn't. 
  5. The only thing they could do that's better is start a select committee, or call on the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor. With yesterday's testimony, that seems more likely than it did before. I suspect this is the goal of Nunes and the other Repubs in the House (and of course the Democrats as well).
  6. Reading tea leaves, but it's not much of a leap, the Repubs in Congress have decided, correctly, that Trump must go. They are doing what they have to do to both make that happen and to not commit career suicide if at all possible. The Repubs are taking a risk that they will be discovered, or that Trump's approval rating could suddenly go up, which could happen, if for example if there were a 9/11 level terrorist attack on American soil. So there is some courage involved. Trump knows he's being crossed, and in order for it to work he must stay weak. Whether he will is an unknown. 

There's more to Electric Pork

Electric Pork is the UI but underneath it, it's running inside an app called electronRunner, which is nodeRunner, running in Electron.

I think I'm figuring out how to build something like what we had in Frontier in JavaScript.

The big new idea is that Electron is the right environment to do it in, because that's where Frontier ran too. On a graphic platform with a powerful OS.

That's already in there. You can enable the nodeRunner features by flipping a switch, and that will be configurable in an upcoming release.

The president lies

The president lies.

Example: He said during the campaign that Hillary Clinton was the founder of ISIS. We knew then and now that she is in no sense the founder of ISIS. 

He lied saying that she started the birther lie. And many many more lies

I have a relative who lies the way Trump lies. He knows he's lying. He knows I know he's lying. He knows I know it isn't worth the trouble to engage him on the lie. I have no idea why he does this, and I don't care.

The things that Trump lied about during the campaign weren't consequential. Everyone knew that Hillary Clinton wasn't the founder of ISIS. He kept saying it. Shrug. 

He lies about things that are consequential now. And they are escalating. It's as if he's testing the water, to see what happens. If nothing happens, he will keep escalating until he hits some kind of limit.

His staff, while they haven't exactly said he's lying, they call it joking, or they explain that you can't take him literally, or that he has alternate facts. These are all ways of avoiding saying the words. But the net-net is they are telling us that he lies. 

So we know that he lies. Pretty much everything he says is a lie. I can't recall him saying anything that wasn't a lie. 

We are always deciding if this is acceptable. You can say that the Republicans in Congress will never do anything, but the fact remains that given our form of government, which is well-specified, the fact is that we accept, up till now, that our leader lies.

At some point presumably we will decide this is not acceptable. 

Dems must not be thinking

I don't know what the Democrats are thinking. Every day the Repubs dish up new disasters, and the Dems aren't channeling that info to the people who they're screwing over. If they don't do that, what do they do? It's not clear they have figured out that they too can go direct, that they don't have to go through journalism. They can do what Trump does, only more responsibly, in more adult-like ways. The new publishing technologies are not limited to trolls and emotional infants.

We don't do campaigns right

We should do something other than march and yell slogans and root for our candidate. Because they always say stuff that they can't do. It's as if we decide to go crazy the one time when we have any power. Think that's not by design? What if we were really thinking about what we want and need?

So the campaigns are a big waste of time, money and human energy. They accomplish nothing. But what if instead we decided to solve problems with our campaigning. Back in the early 00's I wanted blogging to be something that sprouted up out of campaigns. Or what if we had teach-ins, or did community construction while trying to lift the prospects for our candidates. Or cleanup after a storm. All the supporters convene at a soup kitchen on a given Sunday to feed homeless people. Or just go for a hike all around the city to spread the good energy for our candidate and get some exercise. 

Even if you didn't get elected, something good will still come from the campaign. And the best part, win or lose, the efforts could continue after the campaign. The people would be mobilized around real work, real issues, making things better, 12 months a year, every year whether or not there's a big election. 

Why is the menu in the title bar crazy?

Next question -- 

Why is the menubar for my app so crazy?

Thanks in advance for any ideas...

Update #1

I tried the same experiment with the Quick Start app for Electron, with the same results. 


Electron app has a ? for its icon on Ubuntu

I want the Linux version of Electric Pork to have an icon in the dock.

Right now it's showing a question mark.

Here's what I did.

  1. When the app is ready, where I create the new BrowserWindow, I added an icon value that is a NativeImage. Here's the code.
  2. Here's the PNG file. I didn't know what dimensions to make it so I made it large. It occurs to me that might be the problem.
  3. The app launches, but the icon in the doc isn't what it should be.

Note -- I originally just provided a path to the icon, and verified that the PNG file is at the location it was pointing to. Here's the code for that version.

Any help much appreciated. ??


Tech could buy journalism

Re the tech industry capitalizing journalism, an idea that journalism talks about a fair amount. 

Why wouldn't tech just buy journalism?

For example Facebook has a market cap of $405 billion.

Google is worth $596 billion.

Apple is worth $740 billion.

Microsoft is worth $502 billion.

Amazon is worth $407 billion.

In comparison you could buy 100 percent of the New York Times Company stock for $2.35 billion

Ubuntu Electric Pork to try

I've got a Ubuntu version of Electric Pork.

Still a bunch of loose ends to work out, but it works. 

Download here.

Report problems in comment.

Biggest headache, getting it to recognize the icon, so it appears as something other than a question mark in the dock

Blogs are pretty good

People say blogs are dead, but this blog ain't!

I had a new product to test, Electric Pork. I knew there would be problems because I'm still learning how the underlying technology works. I needed people to test it before it could be unleashed on the world.

I had a private group that I used for this, but the people there weren't responding. I guess it was a lot to ask the few people who were there to keep testing stuff over the years. So I had to do something or just give up and I'm not ready to do that, yet.

So I took a chance and wrote a post here, with comments turned on, and a critical mass showed up. We got a lot of bugs out, and so many people used it that I think we caught most of the ones that new users will see, and got them fixed. The product was also regression tested, meaning that bugs I introduced while fixing bugs were also caught and fixed. 

The software now feels stable. Not perfect, by any means, but not embarrassingly broken. 

So I wanted to say three things.

  1. If you believe in your blog, you might find there's enough mass there to do something with your peeps.
  2. Thanks to the readers of this blog who still are the best and smartest and most loyal people in the world. 
  3. Electric Pork is pretty good if you find yourself writing tweet storms. 

Next up, I'm going to organize the docs and wrap this baby up and get onto the next thing. :balloon:

Max 500 words per day

I heard an author interviewed on NPR yesterday cite an example of another author who writes exactly 500 words a day. Even if he's in the middle of a sentence, in the middle of dialog. He stops. 

The next day it's easy to get started because he just picks up where he left off. Sure it might be trouble to remember all the detail, but it's a lot easier to do that than staring at a blank screen wondering how to get started. 

Why that's interesting -- that's more or less how I keep my momentum going, day to day, on programming projects. I try to leave off in the middle of something pretty easy, and leave good notes so I don't have to look for a warmup project for my next session.

PS: Sorry I don't know the names of either author. There isn't an easy way to search past shows on WNYC. It might have been yesterday, or it could have been the day before. 

Today's rescue site: reader.liveblog.co

I love the feeling of restoring a broken site with a bunch of good writing on it. Today's rescue site is reader.liveblog.co.

Here's an example post from the site. A question I would have asked the actor who played Mike on Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.

You have to scroll down to read it, but it's expanded. And it has Facebook and Twitter metadata, even though all its sibling content surrounds it. That means it's a dynamic page.

The tools in the left margin are neat. It's navigable using touch. And there are permalinks everywhere, it seems. Try clicking on the Eye icon.

Why it broke: I forgot to map reader.liveblog.co from Heroku to the Digital Ocean server that took its place. 

Thanks to Facebook for including links to stories on this site on my On This Day page. 

It bugged me every time I saw one and it went to a dead page on Heroku. That's motivation. 

Done. Now on to the next thing! :balloon:

Are you a bot or just happy to see me?

A story I like to tell. 

When I was a kid I had a penpal from Scotland. 

One day I got a letter from him that said, right in the middle of a sentence, "sometimes my mother writes these for me."

I think that's what's happened with Facebook. After the election it came out that a lot of the contrarians on Facebook were bots. From then on, when someone I didn't know dropped an idea in the middle of a thread that didn't seem to fit in, I just deleted it. I've developed a nose for these things after all these years of online life. And err on the side of deleting bot-like messages, even if you think there's a chance a real human posted it. Because a human behaving like a bot isn't all that different from a bot.

I stopped using Windows when I realized I could easily switch to a Mac and leave all the malware behind. Kind of the same idea.

Facebook may be in a death spiral, like they talk about for the insurance industry. Facebook needs people to be interesting. We are the product. If we stop using it, well that might be why it feels so empty now. And the ecosystem spins down.

Another idea. How hard would it be for Facebook to simulate a person? Post the things they would post about current events. Make new friends. Even long after they're dead. It could be that Facebook is the context in which The Singularity happens. 

That might be how they overcome the empty feeling that's there now. They can invent new people. 

Radio3 and Facebook

I'm having a problem with Radio3 and its connection to Facebook.

I had it working for a few years without trouble, but then around the end of last year it required me to log to Facebook on every time I used it to post a link. 

I also get notices from Facebook telling me that the app is using an old API that will stop working on March 27. I go to the "version upgrade tool" page, but it has no recommendations.

I've approached this problem twice, through docs and searches, and came up with nothing. As far as I can tell I am still calling the API the way it was intended to be called.

But I'd really like to get it smoothed out again so it remembers its logged in like it used to.

Here's the file that contains my Facebook API interface code. I know it's really rude but I can't think of what to do next other than post a pathetic public plea for help. 

I also prepared two videos demoing the problem and the workaround, from a user perspective. 

How to bootstrap a tech hub

Over the years lots of cities have wanted to replicate the success of Silicon Valley. I have some ideas how to do that, and why the way they've been going about it is wrong. 

I migrated to Silicon Valley in 1979, from Wisconsin, where I was previously a graduate student in Computer Science. I had an idea for a product, and a working prototype, and couldn't find people to partner with in Madison at the time. There were no computer stores, just a few consultants, and very few people with personal computers. I had one of course. I couldn't wait until they were commercialized. Too good an idea. 

I also got BYTE Magazine, and all the ads were for places in California, places like Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Los Gatos. I looked at a map and saw they were all in about the same place. So I figured that was where I should go. So I loaded up my hippie van and drove there, and found lots of people who, like myself, were excited about the future of personal computers. 

If I were a country musician I'd go to Nashville. But I made software so I headed to Palo Alto. That's how I explained it to my friends at the time.

I was drawn to the original Silicon Valley, very early for PCs, so I have some idea what the appeal is and how I decided to go there. The most important thing was seeing that other people like me were already there. That was what drew me there.

Today there is no BYTE Magazine, but there are other ways developers find out where they should go. If I were going to do it today, I'd try to build an association between my locale and a popular open source project, or a new project started by someone who has credibility as the leader of a project. It's the technology and personal leadership that matters. Company names matter too, but only if you're hosting the company headquarters.

Usually localities go for large capital investments, tax breaks for big corporations, or infrastructure like high-speed networks. Your small state or city might find the money to do that, but that's not your advantage, there almost always are other places with more money to throw at BigCo's and infrastructure. and the money is better spent on education and open source, where it will have a more lasting effect. 

Those two things, education and projects, will do more to fuel the development of your tech culture than the presence of an outpost for a company headquartered in the valley. They will always see it as an satellite, the important jobs will still be in Menlo Park, Cupertino or Sunnyvale. 

Expanding on this idea -- a university-sponsored open source project would be even better. It can easily and inexpensively host conferences. People will come to your school to get educated on the project, and graduate having already made contributions. Mid-career project participants could return to university to teach, or to gain new skills. And the students in turn would put down roots in your community so they'd be more inclined to stay there after graduating. 

In my own case, had Madison had enough other people to work with, I might have stayed in 1979, because it has a lot of things going for it as a tech center. At least it did at the time. 

So what would step one be? Recruit the people who start open projects, and give them incentives to relocate. Treat them the way you'd treat talent for your local sports teams. Money is a good thing, but you should also have liberal laws, great things to do. Even if nerds never go out they like to think they could, and their families like it. 

Consider Boulder as an example, they have the Rockies and a fine university. Good places to eat and hang out. Bike paths. Denver, a major city, is nearby. A big airport. All the basic ingredients for booting up a tech culture, and that's exactly what's happening in Boulder. 

Fast Internet would be good too. And a liberal governor and attorney general who's ready to push back against oppressive policies from Washington.

Electric-Pork is ready for you to try

So far only a few people have used the new Electric Pork software. I need other people to try it out and let me know if it works. 

Historically that's often been the readers of this blog! So you are hereby enlisted. If you have a few minutes, and a Mac, and something to say that's more than a couple of tweets long, please download the software, log on via Twitter, and post something.


Other things to look at.

After you've posted you will have an RSS feed. Mine is located here. Yours will be at a similar address with your Twitter username in place of mine. The names are case-sensitive, so be sure to spell it in the same case as your Twitter screen name.

Try out the settings. You can change the delay between tweets, reverse the order add a hashtag to every tweet, and configure your RSS feed. Click on the gear in the command panel to the left of the text area to access your settings. 

If you have questions or comments please post a comment here

If it works say so please, and provide a pointer to the tweetstorm you published. 

No there's no plan for a Windows version so don't ask that question, please, because I just answered it. :-)

Thanks for your help testing the new software. 

Questioning Russia's spin

My heart sank when I saw that WikiLeaks was going after the CIA.

So predictable, I wrote on Twitter. We must be getting close to the smoking gun in the connection between Trump and Russia. They know it, so now Putin is dumping his oppo research file on the CIA and using his mouthpiece Julian Assange to rep it.

Last summer when the DNC emails were coming out I pleaded with friends in academic journalism, let's run seminars for reporters on the technology of email, to build confidence so their reports will be more accurate, but it went nowhere and the result was devastating. 

Now here we are again

Then I read this morning a column in the NYT by Zeynep Tufekci, saying that the press was naively accepting Assange's interpretation of what the CIA leaks mean, and no surprise to me, he's lying about their significance. Too late, the press is reporting otherwise. Then on a walk this afternoon I listened to the excellent Daily podcast, also from the NYT, that as Tufekci predicted they would, accepted Assange's premise.

Look at how the press waits until the CBO scores the Republican health bill before passing judgement. Clearly we need something like the CBO to evaluate Wikileaks type claims. People who have reps to lose, have deep technical backgrounds and know how to ask the questions, if they don't have expertise on a specific subject. So reporters aren't out there on their own, trusting someone so wholly untrustworthy as Assange. Something like Snopes or ProPublica, to take the time to evaluate the claim, and while they're deliberating the press will know to withhold judgement. 

My story of ObamaCare

I learned in 2002 that health insurance is mandatory for everyone. Really no exceptions. I needed life-saving heart surgery at 47. Totally off the scale in terms of probability. I had health insurance, a COBRA plan that was set to expire. Luckily it was still in force when I needed the surgery.

Of course, when it lapsed, I had a pre-existing condition. I didn't even try to get insurance as an individual. Instead I got a job, thinking it provided health insurance, but it didn't. It was at a university. I had a health plan. Big difference. It meant I could use the university's health care system. I got my meds at a huge discount. But if I needed surgery, always a real possibility, I'd be out of pocket.

Luckily this was in Massachusetts, where they had ObamaCare before the rest of us. I still couldn't buy health insurance as an individual. So I started a company, with one employee, and we voted in a health plan. I was covered. Whew. 

In two years, after the university appointment lapsed, I was back on the road. I lived in Seattle, Florida, Calif and now New York. The insurance company had figured out that my mailing address was no longer in Massachusetts, and were making noises like maybe they didn't think I was covered. They kept paying for doctor's visits and meds, and I kept paying the huge premium, my fingers crossed that if I needed surgery, I would be covered.

When ObamaCare came about, I switched immediately. I now was in a network, so I was limited in the doctors I could use. At times this was inconvenient. But I knew that in an emergency my health care would be covered. That's what really mattered. Confidence. I've since used it for a complete test of my heart two years ago. It was not cheap. But needed. I paid nothing, it was covered.

I still pay a lot. My premiums are not subsidized. But they are half what my old Massachusetts premiums were. And have not gone up at all since I started with ObamaCare.

For me, an independent developer, ObamaCare was the answer. Without it I would not have insurance. I'm absolutely sure of it.

One more thing, I am really offended by what the Repubs say about users of ObamaCare. I know how important health care is. Ryan and Chaffetz clearly have no clue. But they will find out, because we all get older, and life teaches you a lot, and one thing it teaches is how important health care is.

Clearly they have not even talked with real people who use health care. Don't they have parents? Aunts and uncles? Have any of their children gotten sick? Of course they all have great health insurance, but maybe their cousins don't. Paul Ryan's neighbors in Janesville? Or Chaffetz's congregation in Utah? Do they talk with their preacher or rabbi about this? Do they understand the purpose of health insurance? I guess not, judging by the so-called health plan they are proposing. 

They have no business making my health care decisions for me. And the way they're lying to confuse people. Ugh. They deserve no mercy. What they're doing will kill people for sure. Many many people. 

Electric Pork coming soooon

A new version of Little Pork Chop is coming shortly, possibly in a day or two, depending on how it goes. 

Here's what's new -- it's now a Mac app. 

And it has a new name -- Electric Pork. That's because it's built using a very nice piece of software called Electron, that allows a developer (i.e. me) to combine a server app with a web interface into a nice downloadable package. 

I like it because I don't have to host the software that does all the tweeting. There could be thousands or even millions of users, pumping out tweet storms all night and day, and my servers wouldn't be in the middle of all that. 

Which makes it possible for anyone to use it, with no whitelist. ;-)

To begin with I'm looking for a small number of people who can tolerate buggy software and know how to write a decent bug report to give it a try. If you feel up to that, post a comment here, and I'll get you set up as soon as it's ready for testing.

Health care is socialist

A few years ago I wrote that The World Is Socialist

It was meant to be a provocative piece. Get you thinking. 

Along these lines...

In the US we always try to make everything fit into a market. 

But some things resist that treatment.

For example, if it were to snow two feet tonight in NYC, how would you treat that with market economics? When I go out my front door, would I have to contract with a shoveler to clear a path for me to the subway? But if I did that, the people following me would get the same service for free. So the natural thing is to pool our money and pay a shoveler to clear a path for all of us. That way each of us pays a fraction of what it costs. You can see where this is going. Pooling our money is another word for tax. It's been given a bad name by persistent marketing, but it's still a good idea, and for natural events like snowstorms, any other approach is basically unworkable.

It takes a little imagination to see disease as a natural disaster like a snowstorm, but that's the best model for how it actually impacts a community. We don't know who will get sick, or when. So rather than take a risk that you'll be the one who gets the expensive disease, we pool our resources to pay a share of what the treatment would cost each year. And either way we're lucky. If we don't get sick but paid a small tax, we're happy. Not so happy if we're the one who gets sick, but at least we get the treatment we need, don't die, and also are not be bankrupted by our misfortune.

I'm not going to go into all the detail here, but every way you look at it, disease follows the pattern of a natural catastrophe. So the only reasonable way to fund treatment is to pay taxes, and that's it. In the U.S. we've privatized the insurance, but maybe it's time to fully bite the bullet and just make it a tax. That's the debate we're having, over many decades, under all the noise. 

PS: When I teased this piece on Twitter I suggested an alternate title.  :-)

Chaffetz is bad rep for Repubs

This is so humiliating to be lectured about the economics of health care by someone who seems to have no understanding of it.

I don't know where to begin but it isn't a choice for me. I can't buy health insurance without ObamaCare, not at any price. I have the money to pay for it. I have been very responsible with my money. Don't lecture me on health insurance young man. 

Here's what he's missing. The insurance industry, left to a completely free market, will only insure young, healthy people, and will cancel their policies as soon as they get sick.

Market economics don't work for health care. You'd think if any of them ever got sick, or have family members who have, they would know this. Maybe they do know it but their hearts are so dark they can lie like Chaffetz might be doing here. Either that or he is ignorant. There is no third choice as far as I can see.

The earliest Lydon podcasts

In the very early days of podcasting, I kept a weblog of all of Chris Lydon's shows. It was a Manila site and had an RSS 2.0 feed with enclosures, with all the shows. The site has since been converted to WordPress, and the people who did the conversion preserved the feed and its enclosures. The podcasts are still linked into the feed after all these years. Excellent preservation work! ;-)

On Sept 3, 2003 I wrote a post on that site that points to a zip archive of all of Chris's early podcasts in a single 413MB download. The internet was slower back then, because I said in the post it might take as long as five hours to download. Hah. I just downloaded it in a few seconds. 

It includes interviews with (in alphabetic order):

Harold Bloom, Ed Cone, Daily Kos, Robert Fisk, James Gleick, Glenn Reynolds, Julie Powell, Stephen Kinzer, The Real Preacher, Elaine Scarry, Doc Searls, David Sifry, Slugger O’Toole, Polly Toynbee, Eugene Volokh, David Weinberger, and myself. He also has a full Howard Dean speech, given in Concord, NH, and interviews with people who were present at the speech.

I totally forgotten that we had done this. It came back to me via an email from a librarian who wanted permission to use these podcasts in an archive of early podcasting. Of course we said yes. 

People wonder why we should preserve the history of the web. This is why. Now fourteen years later we can hear those podcasts and compare them to what is being produced today. I believe this work will stand up well.

PS: As a backup I uploaded a copy to scripting.com.

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