Chris Hannah

Personalised radio station #

I was browsing Hacker News just now, and I came across an interesting question asked by user l2silver:

[What is the] most interesting tech you built for just yourself? - Hacker News

It’s an interesting question, and I’m sure a lot of tech people could some up with something interesting. But probably none as delightful as this answer from sriram_malhar:

My MIL is 93, and the only tech she can really deal with is turning on the radio and TV and changing channels.She is fond of music from old classics (from the 60’s and earlier), so I hooked up a Raspberry PI with an FM transmitter and created her own private radio station. She tells me what songs she likes and I create different playlists that get broadcast on her station. It preserves the surprise element of radio, and there is nothing in there she doesn’t like.The tiny FM transmitter is surprisingly powerful. Her neighbours (of similar vintage) are very happy too, so their requests have also started coming in :)

Now, that’s personal tech. My favourite part of it is that it still preserves the feeling and spontaneity of listening to radio. Perfect solution, and requires no extra learning at all!

UK regulators cause Microsoft/Activision Blizzard merger to collapse #

Tom Espiner & Will Harris, for BBC News:

Microsoft’s president has attacked the UK after it was blocked from buying US gaming firm Activision, saying the EU was a better place to start a business.The move was “bad for Britain” and marked Microsoft’s “darkest day” in its four decades of working in the country, Brad Smith told the BBC.The regulator hit back saying it had to do what’s best for people, “not merging firms with commercial interests”.The UK’s move means the multi-billion dollar deal cannot go ahead globally.

When I heard about this potential merger, I can’t say I particularly cared much, apart from the effect it could have on one of my favourite games, World of Warcraft. But now I’ve read more about the potential monopoly it could give Microsoft, and also their childish response to the decision, I’m coming quite happy that the UK blocked the deal.

Even though the UK regulator has blocked the deal from happening (of course, there will be appeals), I would very much appreciate it if the US and EU regulators did the same.

Multiple device support is coming to WhatsApp #

WhatsApp is finally adding support for multiple devices sharing the same account:

Today, we’re improving our multi-device offering further by **introducing the ability to use the same WhatsApp account on multiple phones.**A feature highly requested by users, now you can link your phone as one of up to four additional devices, the same as when you link with WhatsApp on web browsers, tablets and desktops. Each linked phone connects to WhatsApp independently, ensuring that your personal messages, media, and calls are end-to-end encrypted, and if your primary device is inactive for a long period, we automatically log you out of all companion devices.

This was one of my biggest annoyances when I was going through a phase of switching back and forth between my iPhone and Pixel. This is going to make a whole lot of people’s live easier.

One-off upgrade fees are more honest #

I’ll get right into it, I think most app subscriptions shouldn’t exist.

Not because I have a vendetta against subscriptions, but because in most cases, they are used as a substitute. They are used as a mask to hide the lack of real upgrade pricing.

When a developer feels like they need to have a continuous stream of money coming in, for them to work on and improve an app, it’s because they want security to allow them to continue. They want reassurance that they won’t be wasting time.

A more honest solution would be that if you work on a major update to an app, that you could make it available alongside an upgrade price.

It then gives agency to the user, where they can make a decision on whether they want to pay for an upgrade. Sometimes an app works for you, and there’s no extra value to be gained. Other users may appreciate the increase in functionality and would be willing to pay for it.

It also assures the developer that they can work on an upgraded version of their app, and not have it lose them time or money. From both existing users upgrading, and from the potential of new users.

If I suddenly announced that Text Case was moving to a subscription model, I expect a lot of people wouldn’t be best pleased. Sure, I could make the argument that this would come with regular updates, but what if someone is fine with the app how it is? Why would you need to pay for something you don’t want?

But at the same time, if I spent months working on a whole new version of the app, I’d feel a bit weird releasing it to everyone as a free update. But if I could make it both the new default version for new customers and offer it to existing users at a much smaller upgrade price, that would make a lot more sense.

Feedback results #

Yesterday, I asked for feedback on how people read my blog, and some thoughts on a possible newsletter, and their preferences. Well, the results are now in, so I thought I’d share them here.

The first question was to find out some primary information on how people primarily consume my blog, to provide a foundation for further questions.


114 responses.

  1. RSS - 61%
  2. Social Media Links - 25%
  3. Website - 12%
  4. Other - 2%

It’s clear to see RSS being the clear winner here, which did surprise me a bit, to be honest. I thought it would be a bit more even.

The next was asking for preferences on a method of delivery**.**


85 responses.

  1. A blog post that’s also sent via email. - 47%
  2. No newsletter, just blog posts. - 45%
  3. Separate newsletter on a dedicated platform. - 6%
  4. A members-only blog post and free email. - 2%
  5. </ol>

I suppose this was the main question I needed to ask. How would people want a newsletter, and I guess if they wanted a newsletter? The answer here seems to be that all content should be on the blog, and the idea of separating a newsletter or making it members-only wasn’t popular at all.

Finally, I wanted to ask about what content people would want in a newsletter.


72 responses.

  1. An essay that goes deep into a topic/situation. - 35%
  2. A collection of links, thoughts, etc. - 28%
  3. One written article per month. - 24%
  4. Personal updates, current affairs, opinions, etc. - 14%
  5. </ol>

At first glance, this seems quite even, but I think there’s a potential to group together a single article per month and a deep dive/essay per month. Combined, it’s seemingly 59% of people that would prefer a single piece of original writing, rather than a collection of links or smaller thoughts. I think this matches what I would prefer to write as well.

Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised with the number of responses and feedback I received from these questions. I think that was mainly because of the kind people on Mastodon that boosted my posts.

Regarding the results, I think overall it shows that the people that read my writing, tend to do so via RSS. And while there are somewhat mixed thoughts on the form a newsletter could take, what I took away from this was that the majority of people would want any content also delivered via the blog/RSS feed as well.

This makes me think that firstly, people seem to be happy with the blog as it is, which is honestly great news. But it also shows me that the people that read my writing, don’t want me to start posting content either elsewhere, or via a medium that excludes my blog.

While I don’t want to blindly follow the results, it does appear that the best method for the current readers is that any content that forms part of a newsletter is available to read on the blog, regardless of the content.

What I now need to think about, is the type of content that I would like to write about in a newsletter, and how that would fit people’s preferences. Along with whether this would be a regular newsletter where the issues are also available on the blog, or simply an option where all blog posts are available to be delivered via email. Similar to how the content is available via RSS.

Anyway, a few things for me to ponder.

Practical uses for AI generators #

I meant to link to this when I first read it a few days ago, but Matt Birchler wrote a great piece on his practical uses for AI generators:

If you follow me anywhere online, you know that I’m enamored with the potential of these “AI” generation tools and I’m trying as many as I can get my hands on. Tons of apps are integrating text generation using OpenAI’s API, which actually makes it stupid easy to bring software into any app. All the magic happens automatically on the back end, and all you need to do as a dev is post text to their very simple endpoint and show the result to your user, and it feels like magic.So while every app is adding AI features, I wanted to look at practical uses I’m using these tools for today.

From what I’ve seen so far about the various AI generators, this list was the first that made me interested in trying them out for myself.

“I didn’t pay for Twitter Blue” #

As I mentioned in my recent post regarding Twitter’s blue checkmarks, the situation is getting even more messy now that Twitter seems to be reinstating the checkmarks for some popular accounts.

TechCrunch - Twitter reinstates Blue verification mark for top accounts — even if they didn’t pay for it:

After removing thousands of legacy verification checkmarks on April 20, Twitter is restoring the Blue tick marks for large accounts — even if they didn’t pay for subscriptionsOver the weekend, multiple top accounts (with more than 1 million followers) got their verification marks back. However, many of them, including writer Neil Gaiman, footballer Riyad Mahrez, musician Lil Nas X, actress Janel Parrish Long and British TV presenter Richard Osman said that they didn’t pay for the blue badge.

Wasn’t the idea that Twitter Blue democratizes the blue checkmark/verified status?

Blue checkmarks #

It’s incredible to see the effect of the various recent changes on how the “blue checkmarks” are given out, and what they seemingly represent to different demographics of people.

Before the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk, my rough idea of a blue checkmark was an indicator to say that an account was who it said they were. Although typically only popular accounts and pop culture celebrities were the main beneficiaries of this option. I’d argue that this is probably how most people felt.

I’d also argue that the blue checkmark was something that people would have liked to have on their accounts. Because it seemed to be given to a limited group of people, there was a kind of status associated with it. Now, it seems to represent all sorts of things to people.

Essentially down to two changes - firstly that it (mostly1) isn’t given out based on status or popularity, and secondly that you have to pay for it, as it now comes as part of a Twitter Blue subscription.

There are certainly other parts of the Twitter Blue deal, and I’m personally trying them out myself2. But for most people, it seems as if the view is that all you’re really paying for is the checkmark. Which I guess is probably true for some people. And to others, it’s not as important.

Based on my earlier view on what the checkmark meant, before it was freely3 available, I think it’s good that people can verify themselves4. But there certainly seems to be an issue with the perceived status of having the checkmark.

What I personally find odd, is how celebrities are using the “well I’m not paying for my checkmark” angle to somehow virtue signal. Although I would estimate that some of that is probably a masked dig at Elon Musk, rather than the specifics of having a verified account or not.

I can’t say I really care what the checkmark means. But this whole situation has seemed to have spawned a bunch of little internet tribes, and it’s a bit boring, to be honest.

I briefly saw some of the #BlockTheBlue nonsense the other day on Twitter, and for a while, people on Mastodon couldn’t seem to utter the T-word. It all seems a bit childish to me5.

Right now, I guess, we all just have to adjust to what the blue checkmark now represents. And typically, it’s that a user has subscribed to Twitter Blue, and has at the very least, verified their phone number.

When you think about it, isn’t it odd that only a certain group of people were able to get verified accounts anyway?

  1. There seem to be cases at the moment where either Elon himself or Twitter is activating Twitter Blue (or maybe just the checkmark) for some accounts. I guess to some this may be funny, I just find it a tad weird, to be honest. ↩︎

  2. I’ll probably write about this soon, but I can’t say I’ve noticed a big difference at the moment in how I used Twitter before and after I signed up for Twitter Blue. ↩︎

  3. You know what I mean. ↩︎

  4. Even if it just means associating a phone number with an account, and having it go through some kind of validation on their end. ↩︎

  5. From all sides. ↩︎

Most websites should be served statically #

I’ve had this thought for quite some time, and it’s that most websites don’t need to be served dynamically. For example, most blogs that are powered by WordPress or Ghost will dynamically fetch the relevant content and build the page every time a visitor visits a URL1.

There’s nothing stopping sites from being built dynamically, using centrally stored content, and various templates that can be put together to build a complex website. It should just happen once, and then the generated static content can be efficiently served again and again, until the source content changes, and triggers it to be rebuilt.

This is much more relevant for blogs since the content on the page doesn’t change, except for possibly a web font, or a JavaScript snippet for analytics or an advert. However, these are usually externally sourced, and won’t affect the static HTML code that can be served to your users2.

This may sound a bit ironic, since my blog currently runs on Ghost, and serves content dynamically3. Although, I am working towards a solution for that, by building my own static site generator, Arbok.

  1. Yes, I’m sure some people have a caching mechanism installed, but I wouldn’t say it’s everyone, and it really masks a problem rather than fixing one. ↩︎

  2. Another benefit of this, is that you can bundle together resources into a final .html file, such as any CSS styles. Which reduces the number of requests the browser needs to make when visiting your page. ↩︎

  3. Although if you have a look at your browsers web inspector, you’ll find that I’ve already done some work to reduce the size of my website. ↩︎

The iPhone 15 Pro: Overengineered Buttons for Absolutely No Reason #

Tim Hardwick, for MacRumors:

The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will use a new ultra-low energy microprocessor allowing certain features like the new capacitive solid-state buttons to remain functional even when the handset is powered off or the battery has run out…

For a while, I’ve been thinking that the iPhone may be my next phone. I thought they’d refine a few things, and also switch to USB C finally. But the idea of these “new capacitive solid-state buttons” make me think otherwise_._

The user ersan191 posted comment on the post, which I think mirrors my thoughts on the recent “improvements” to the iPhone:

Seems like they are running out of things to overengineer at this point.