A day in the park, AR-style

Took my friend out to the park to escape the hellish news cycle for a bit.

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This was done by hacking an ARCore demo via the Unity3D game engine, viewed through a first-gen Google Pixel. The little bits of animation were drawn in Clip Studio Paint, exported into a Unity sprite animation.

I feel like I understand the basic concepts behind AR, but there was so much to learn in order to get this far: finding my way around the Unity environment; a bit of the C# language; the scripting engine; how to actually create an animated sprite; a bit of Android development kit, et al. I still don’t understand how everything works, but just like fixing an old watch, you can learn a great deal from tearing stuff apart and reassembling it.

September 29, 2018

Spotify to allow artists to upload music directly

Spotify is testing a US-only beta program that allows musicians (or their teams/labels) to upload music directly. It’s an add-on to the existing Spotify for Artists service. The requirements are here. Allegedly this will be “free to all artists, and Spotify doesn’t charge you any fees or commissions no matter how frequently you release music.”

You’ll need a Spotify subscription, and it’s unclear to me whether or not it needs to be a premium (paid) version. If so, it’s a nice perk to add to an already $120 USD annual subscription.

I can’t imagine it’d be completely free. It still costs Spotify money to store, stream and otherwise manage all that digital music.

No idea yet on what happens to your music if you cancel your subscription, though! When I was learning to write iOS apps, I had to pay Apple $99 USD per year for the privilege of keeping my apps in the App Store. Suffice to say, you can no longer find my Metafilter Radio app there. Does something similar happen to your music if you let your Spotify subscription lapse?

Who knows? I doubt most indie artists (read: no promotional budget (or desire)) will make enough from teeny-tiny streaming royalties to cover a paid annual Spotify subscription. That said, streaming royalties aren’t the real indie game — it’s access to the music-listening world that counts.

September 27, 2018

Fire and Motion

A classic 2002 post from Joel Spolsky:

When I was an Israeli paratrooper a general stopped by to give us a little speech about strategy. In infantry battles, he told us, there is only one strategy: Fire and Motion. You move towards the enemy while firing your weapon. The firing forces him to keep his head down so he can’t fire at you. (That’s what the soldiers mean when they shout “cover me.” It means, “fire at our enemy so he has to duck and can’t fire at me while I run across this street, here.” It works.) The motion allows you to conquer territory and get closer to your enemy, where your shots are much more likely to hit their target. If you’re not moving, the enemy gets to decide what happens, which is not a good thing. If you’re not firing, the enemy will fire at you, pinning you down.

It took me another fifteen years to realize that the principle of Fire and Motion is how you get things done in life. You have to move forward a little bit, every day. It doesn’t matter if your code is lame and buggy and nobody wants it. If you are moving forward, writing code and fixing bugs constantly, time is on your side.

One day, you work on the lyrics. The next day, you work on the guitar parts. The next day, you work on drawing feet…

September 3, 2018

Why GitHub Won’t Help You With Hiring

Ben Frederickson:

There are already a bunch of great posts arguing against requiring GitHub contributions as part of the hiring process. I particularly recommend The Ethics of Unpaid Labor and the OSS Community and Why GitHub is Not Your CV. While both of those posts give excellent reasons to reconsider asking for open source contributions when hiring, my take here isn’t about why it is ethically dubious to require open source contributions or why GitHub isn’t great for showcasing your projects.

Instead, this post is about why GitHub profiles just aren’t all that useful when looking to hire developers.

In 20 years of working and hundreds of interviews and phone screens, I’ve rarely, if ever, looked at a candidate’s GitHub.

September 2, 2018

How to teach yourself hard things

Julia Evans:

Even though I think I’m pretty good at it now, I still find breaking down “I’m confused about X” into specific questions about X takes work. For example, I only came up with those questions about Rust references 3 years after I’d first used Rust. The reason it took so long is that I had to decide to actually sit down, notice what I found confusing, and focus on figuring out what I was confused about. That takes time!

But I do think that this is something that you can get better at over time. I’m much better at breaking down what’s confusing to me about a programming thing than I was and much more able to unstick myself.

September 1, 2018

Hello, augmented world!

Google ARCore and Unity demo

Yep, I’m teaching myself of bit of VR/AR tech. This is the Hello AR sample application for Android, built and deployed with Unity, running on a first-gen Pixel, which I picked up specifically for AR experiments. VR is cool, but I think AR is cooler and has more interesting applications.

Just starting to tinker and see if this is something I’d enjoy doing more of.

August 30, 2018


For decades I’ve used that word to describe both my career and hobbies, and it’s always had a sort of negative connotation. Dilettante. Jack of all trades; master of none. Rank amateur. Tourist. Unstudied noob, unworthy of serious consideration.

In other words, the path to impostor syndrome. Ha ha! Ha.

Apropos of nothing I recently found the dictionary definition:


n. (pl. dillentanti) – a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. (mod.) “a dilettante approach to science.”

Sounds a lot like beginner’s mind to me. But then I latched onto this:


Mid 18th century Italian, from dilettare (“to delight”); from Latin delectare (“to be delighted; to enjoy being/doing”)

To enjoy being. I like that very much.


Years ago I had an idea: all blogging software should have a built-in feed reader, sort of like an old-school blogroll that doubled as an RSS reader. Point being: if we want to encourage folks to create blogs, why not make it easy to get hooked on reading them? It would provide a bit of that ambient humanity that keeps people coming back to social media.

Tumblr kind of has this, but I haven’t seen this anywhere else, although all the glue is there. If blogging is to undergo a resurgence, it seems like we need something like this. I’m intrigued by Adam Mathes’ idea of providing a public list of feeds similar to robots.txt, possibly along with a rel="alternate" link that allows future software to discover it. Here’s hoping some smart engineer at WordPress or Perch glues this stuff together. (n.b. yeah, I know it’s not trivial to run a feed reader service, just saying that it’s achievable.)

So here’s mine. I’m actually aghast that, once I pruned long-extinct feeds, only 50 feeds remained, and even some of those are dormant. I’m looking forward to expanding my reading lists based on what others are already starting to publish. It’s hard finding new voices in the roar, but like most things, personal recommendations are a great thing.

August 27, 2018

Things I Noticed Watching “The Running Man (1987)” On Hulu

Things they got wrong:

  • Helicopters from 1978
  • Low-def CRT technology survives the 00s
  • Phones get bigger
  • US divided into paramilitary zones
  • People in the paramilitary zones fight over resources while managing to dress like goth-punk badasses
  • When told a lie, then told the truth, people believe the latter

Things they got right:

  • Fake news
  • 80s fashion makes a strong comeback
  • Reality TV
August 26, 2018

Blogging is hard

Harder than it used to be.

This post was supposed to be about progressive rock.

This website will turn 20 years old this year. I revisit posts from the first ten years and barely recognize this idiot who seemed to know so much and posted several times a day and didn’t care so much about being wrong.

Today I stop and think: have I thought this through? Does this need to be said? I’ve become less confident in organizing my thoughts.

The point I was going to make about prog-rock was about how I don’t listen to much new stuff. There are scores of bands creating music that sits nicely alongside canonical, genre-defining work from decades ago. But it doesn’t grab me the same way.

Because IMO prog-rock is best discovered when you’re a teenager, just learning how to play drums or guitar, and one summer someone hands you a mixtape that blows your mind and for a while your whole life becomes an obsession with odd time signatures and the Mixolydian mode.

Returning to blogging is hard, because in some ways its lost a sense of potential energy. The shared sense of being part of something that is happening right now is missing. (That energy seems abundant on Instagram.)

When I read about or hear people longing for a return to blogging as a respite from the chaos of social media, I wonder if what we’re really missing are the days when blogging was the New Thing. Back when everyone introduced themselves with a URL instead of a Twitter handle; when the addiction cycle was email > blogroll > message board instead of Twitter > Facebook > Instagram. And back when we were certain that something good was going to come from all of this.

Blogging may not be dead but it sure feels like it went underground, like prog-rock.

August 25, 2018
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