Author Archives: Michael Descy

Introducing: Simple Call Blocker

Recently I released a new iOS app: Simple Call Blocker.

It is a free utility that lets you block unwanted calls to your iPhone. Unlike most of the call blockers on iOS, it allows you to block whole ranges of numbers, such as your phone number’s extension, for free. You may also whitelist numbers, ranges of numbers, or all your contacts’ phone numbers, so that they will not be blocked by this app, even if they are in the blacklist.

The Simple Call Blocker website explains it in more detail.

Why did I write it?

I wanted to write a small, relatively simple app that would allow me to explore the following things:

  1. iOS application architecture: I have been reading books and articles on iOS application architecture, and decided to create a new app to practice new techniques, such as the use of coordinators for navigation rather than storyboard segues, that I have been learning.
  2. algorithms and operation queues: I started the app by writing some simple algorithms for creating sequential phone number ranges to load into an iOS CallKit directory extension. The last thing I wrote was a multi-threaded operation queue for processing blacklist and whitelist rules and refreshing the iOS call directory extension that actually blocks the phone numbers.
  3. Core Data: I avoided learning Core Data for years; that changed with this app.

Overall, the app was a lot of fun to write. It took me about a month in my after-hours “free time” to create. The overall process has made me a better iOS app developer. I’m excited to bring forward the skills and concepts I developed on this project to future work.

Why a call blocker app?

I started getting neighbor spam calls, so I downloaded nearly all the iOS call blocking apps I could find. There were fewer such apps than I thought there would be, all of them seemed amateurish in some way or another, and all of them (as of a month ago) required an in-app purchase or a subscription to block my neighborhood exchange. I wasn’t willing to pay for that feature in any of the apps that I tried, because all of those apps weren’t that good. Plus, blocking an exchange, or a continuous range of numbers, is pretty trivial, so I thought I could create an app that did that, and offer it for free to people.

So is this just a “practice” app?

No. It is well-written and works as well as iOS’s Call Directory extensions allow it to. It has a rough edge or two, though, in that it reloads its directory extension and reports success or errors back to the users, rather than trying to prevent the user from ever encountering an error from being reported by the directory extension loading process.

What that means is that you can ask Simple Call Blocker to block more numbers that iOS will allow—there is an undocumented limit—and the app has to wait for the CallKit Directory Extension’s load process to report success or failure before it can tell the user what is going on. I decided not to try to impose limits on how many numbers could be blacklisted, but instead allow the app to report the Directory Extension’s errors, if any, back to the user. I figure that the undocumented maximum number of blocked phone numbers probably is dependent on whatever hardware is in your phone, and probably is increasing in every new iPhone model.

The Simple Call Blocker directory extension is coded extremely conservatively, and it optimized for very low RAM and system usage. If iOS cannot load it, it is because the user put too many numbers in the blacklist, or because it is still loading numbers from a prior attempt.

Releasing the app for free, I think, makes it OK that it may not work exactly as users expect it to.

What is the future of this app?

I plan to support it through various iOS releases, but otherwise not improve it too much. After all, it is a free app.

I want to know more!

Go ahead and download the app in the iOS App Store (it’s free!), and check out the FAQ online.

On Internet Trolls

DON’T FEED THE TROLLS, AND OTHER HIDEOUS LIES” is a great article by “Film Crit Hulk” on our collective failure to respond properly to internet trolling culture.

A Twitter follower reminded me of a line in the famous parable from Bion of Borysthenes: “Boys throw stones at frogs in fun, but the frogs do not die in fun, but in earnest.” Defenders of trolling insist it’s all just a joke, but if trolling is inherently designed to get a rise out of someone, then that’s what it really is. In many cases, it is designed to look and feel indistinguishable from a genuine attack. Whether you believe what you are saying or not is often immaterial because the impact is the same — and you are responsible for it, regardless of how funny you think it is.

I think that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of trolling. It isn’t a joke. It isn’t done for the lulz. “It’s just a joke” is an obvious cover for bad behavior.

It reminds me of an episode from my youth. In high school I had a friend who had a stash of Playboy magazines that he got (I think) from an older brother. Somehow we found out about them, demanded to see them, and teased him about them as we thumbed through them together. “Why do you have these” we would ask, teasingly, knowing full well why he had them. My friend’s face would grow bright red and we would stammer: “because they’re so funny”. When pressed, he would double down on it: he would swear, up and down, that he had them because they were hilarious. Sure they were.

It puzzles me, why we act as if it’s even possible that verbal abuse on the internet is “just a joke”. A decent response to “it was just a joke” is “it doesn’t matter”.

The biggest mistake we ever made with trolls was making the question of abuse about how to placate and fix them instead of how to empower the people they hurt or manage your own well-being in the face of them. Like so many abused people, we thought the solutions involved walking on eggshells and not provoking them back. But instead, we must acknowledge “that we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about who we pretend to be.” And that means acknowledging the awful, terrifying power of jokes and the immunity we seek in “not being serious.” This is exactly why people troll in the first place. Because deep down, they know it’s serious, and that’s exactly why it makes them feel powerful.

In the online world, people who violate community standards should be banned from those communities. Gathering spaces online are not public spaces: almost all of them are owned by private companies or individuals. Freedom of speech is up to the owner of the space; the level of discourse there directly reflect’s the owner as well. By law, they might not be legally responsible for the content of their site, but they are ethically and morally responsible for it, regardless. Owning and running a site where terrible things happen should be a black mark on a company’s or a person’s reputation—and that should matter.

It would be nice if people started to care about reputation again, and if bad reputations led to lower profits and lower stature in the global community. Sadly, we are in a time, right now, where that does not seem to be the case.

Re-committing to Pinboard, after many months away

I’m re-committing to Pinboard, after a year or more away from it. I’m happy with what I am doing now, and thought I would document it in case anyone else wanted help understanding how to use the Pinboard effectively, especially if their usage lapsed, as mine did.

What is Pinboard?

Pinboard is an “antisocial” cloud bookmarking service. You can keep all your bookmarks there and use its barebones website or third party apps and browser extensions, all using an open API, to access them. It’s a paid service, run by a single person, with a clear and straightforward business model. When I signed up, I pre-paid for ten years of service. Part of my impetus for using it again now, after having abandoned it for, well, nothing, is the sunk-cost fallacy. The other, more important part of that impetus is that I really like the simplicity and speed of Pinboard, and I like the Pinboard iOS client I use, Pinner.

What do I use it for?

I use it for three things:

  1. To host my bookmarks in a cross-platform, always accessible way. I can get to the same bookmarks in Safari on my Mac and iOS, and in Chrome on Windows.
  2. For research and archival purposes, especially for programming projects I am working on. I can search these bookmarks on keywords, title, or description to review the best of the web pages I previously read on a topic of interest.
  3. As part of a homegrown “read it later” service. I can send article URLs to Pinboard from various apps, and read them later using Pinboard’s website, an app or browser extension on my Mac, and an app on iOS or Andriod.

Number 3 used to be the primary purpose of Pinboard to me. I had signed up as part of an effort to get replace Pocket with something more privacy focused. After many years of using Pocket (formerly “Read It Later”) to collect articles I was interested in from the huge stream of RSS feeds I parsed every day, I wanted a change. Primarily, this was because I became uncomfortable with Pocket’s business model: Why was it free? How did they really make money? What were they doing will all the data they collected on me?

I also wasn’t crazy about some of the UI changes made to Pocket over the years. I wanted more control over the reading experience, too, which is something that using a web service with an open API would give me. It helps that, at the time, Safari’s Reader View debuted, and I thought it was fantastic.

I was pretty obsessive about channeling all the articles I read through Pinboard, so I had a one-way workflow from discovery to reading to marking read. I never deleted anything from Pinboard, either. I thought I wanted a history of all the articles I ever read, in case I wanted to search through that history later. (Of course, I never did that.)

Why did I stop using it?

I stopped using Pinboard for three main reasons:

  1. I started reading Twitter more than actual articles linked to from it. The constantly updating timeline was incredibly addictive, and less mentally taxing to follow than reading complex articles from actual publications. (I have since given up Twitter because it was too addictive for me to handle responsibly.)
  2. My wife and I had kids, meaning that I no longer had a bunch of downtime after dinner to catch up on all the articles I had bookmarked to read later. I would still send stuff to Pinboard to read later, but I would never actually read the articles.
  3. My wife and I subscribed to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. I started reading from those publications, from their apps, a lot more than scouring RSS feeds for articles from a dozen sources. Reading from their apps did not fit very well with my Pinboard workflow.

Overall, Pinboard became a graveyard for links I didn’t actually want to read. Instead of a useful resource, it was a junk pile full of stale content.

Digging out of a mess

I took the following steps to return Pinboard to a useful utility for me:

  1. I deleted everything I had in Pinboard—over 3,000 bookmarks that were doing me no good. Most of these were articles I imported from my RSS reader (Reeder) or Twitter (via Tweetbot), read once, and then just left in Pinboard.
  • I installed Shiori on my MacBook Pro. Shiori is a Pinboard bookmark launcher and editor. It’s like QuickSilver for Pinboard—hidden until you need it, only a keypress away, and accessible from anywhere. I set it up so that Control+Option+Command+P brings up the bookmark search window (from anywhere), and Control+Option+Command+B brings up the bookmark editor.
  • I set up Pinner on iOS. Pinner is a full-featured Pinboard client. It will open Pinboard bookmarks in Safari or within Pinner, via Safari View Controller. It has two app extensions for creating bookmarks. The first extension, “Quick Pin”, has no UI, and is for quickly adding bookmarks to read later. The second extension lets you edit, interactively, all the metadata associated with the bookmark prior to saving it.

My workflow

I developed a new workflow to work with Pinboard, so I don’t end up with a mess of useless bookmarks again. Honestly, though, calling it a workflow is an exaggeration. I basically decided to manage Pinboard with a simple set of rules.

I will continue to use Pinboard both for permanent bookmarks, which mostly involve specific technical documentation about Swift and iOS development, and for a read-it-later service, which are bookmarks I want to keep around temporarily, some of which I plan to keep long term.

  1. Bookmarks I would keep in Safari, for sites I would log into (banking websites, personal websites, blogs, GitHub, BitBucket, etc.), are stored as private bookmarks with tags. All of these bookmarks are also tagged “Safari” so I can pull them all, as a group, with a Pinboard search.
  2. Bookmarks for articles to read later, and everything else, are saved with the “read later” flag set to “true”, primarily by using Pinner’s “Quick Pin” extension or the “send to Pinboard” command within Reeder (my RSS reader app of choice).
  3. I regularly use Pinner or Shiori to browse my “read later” list. Basically, I had to kick the Twitter habit.
  4. After I read articles marked “read later”, I delete the bookmark, or choose to save it. I am pretty ruthless about deleting bookmarks now, which is the opposite of how I used to be. If I don’t read something after a few days, I will just delete it.
  5. Rarely, I will choose to save the bookmark. If I do so, I edit the bookmark’s metadata to remove the “read later” flag and to add keywords and a description. I open copy the first paragraph of the article to the bookmark’s description field, so it’s clear to me later on why I saved it.

So far this workflow has been working well for me. I collect “read later” bookmarks throughout the day, read through them in the evening, and delete almost all of them at the end of the day. My Pinboard bookmarks list is much smaller than before, but contains only good stuff that I want to act on, either now or later.

A Hardware Keyboard Shortcuts Tip for Drafts 5

Drafts 5 is a great app for capturing thoughts, drafting notes, and capturing tasks, and quickly sending them, via Actions, to other apps or services for further processing. The typical workflow is:

  1. Launch Drafts
  2. Type a draft
  3. Launch an Action to process the draft

On iPhone, swiping left from anywhere to pick an Action is right at your fingertips, since you are typing on screen. On iPad, if you type with an external keyboard (which I highly recommend), launching an Action is a little more cumbersome. By default, you have to move your fingers off the keyboard and reach up to the screen to get to your Actions list. There is another way to launch Actions, however, that doesn’t require you to move your fingers off the keyboard.

Custom hardware keyboard shortcuts

Drafts 5 lets you assign custom hardware keyboard shortcuts to any Action. This is an extremely rare, and extremely powerful, feature. You can configure hardware keyboard shortcuts for text formatting commands and to insert text snippets (such as today’s date) into your draft. You can also define a set of hardware keyboard shortcuts to use to complete your drafts.

I use Drafts 5 throughout the day to write microblog posts, notes, and tasks and send them to where they need to go: Dropbox, Ulysses, my to-do app SwiftoDo, and so on. For all my most-used Actions that process drafts, I use an easy-to-mash but hard to accidentally type accelerator, Control+Option+Command, plus one letter, when I complete my draft and want to send it on its way.

I use the Control+Option+Command accelerator only for Actions that complete drafts, so it’s always clear to me when I type it that I am ending my draft and sending it somewhere else.

Here is my list of hardware keyboard shortcuts, each of which I find incredibly useful:

  • Control+Option+Command+D: save draft to a Dropbox folder
  • Control+Option+Command+U: save draft to a Ulysses Inbox folder
  • Control+Option+Command+T: send tasks in draft to my todo.txt file via SwiftoDo
  • Control+Option+Command+M: post draft directly to Micro.blog
  • Control+Option+Command+G: search for draft text in Google
  • Control+Option+Command+A: search for draft text in App Store

Each shortcut is easily mapped to its Action via the “Edit Action” dialog. (See the photo that accompanies this blog post.) If you forget what custom shortcuts you created, hold down Command while editing your draft, and all the custom shortcuts you defined will appear in the standard iOS hardware keyboard shortcut pop-up display.

These hardware keyboard shortcuts don’t necessarily save me a lot of time and trouble, but they make my Drafts workflow on iOS feel fast and comfortable. I highly recommend setting some up for your own iPad Drafts workflow.

What would make me upgrade my Series 1 Apple Watch

I love the Apple Watch. I didn’t always, though. When I first tried on a Series 0, a couple weeks before it was released, I quickly made the decision not to buy one. I thought it was too expensive and that it was not immersive enough. I had been expecting an iPhone for the wrist; what it was instead was a wristwatch with some extras. Six months later, however, I relented and bought one, mostly because Target was offering the Space Gray Sport model at a deep discount, and I wanted to pick a holiday gift for myself that my family members could chip in for.

I quickly grew to love the Apple Watch, despite its slow speed and lack of viable third-party applications. The first-party Apple Watch applications alone—such as Messages, Workouts, and Weather—pleased me very much. Caller ID on my watch was great for avoiding telemarketing calls at dinner. Something as simple as having the temperature always available on my watch face far more useful than I had anticipated.

I have a Series 1 now because my Series 0’s screen popped off due to battery swelling after almost two years. Apple covered it under an extended warranty and sent me a Series 1 for free. The Series 1 is much faster than the Series 0, and is not going to be obsoleted by Watch OS 5 in the fall. Still, it isn’t as fast, and consequently as useful, as the Series 3. I fully expect a new Apple Watch model to be released later this year, which will be even faster.

If I still had the Series 0, I had planned to upgrade this year, for increased performance alone. Now that I have the Series 1, I am not so sure. My Series 1 has great battery life, but is starting to show performance problems. Workouts, for example, take a long time to start. Third party apps are still, largely, useless for me, for the same reason. Despite these problems, most of the features of the Apple Watch are still working just fine for me.

The main feature that would tempt me to upgrade, at this point, would be new or better health monitoring features. The idea that the watch could save my life, by monitoring for irregular heartbeats, is very compelling to me. I would welcome and pay for any additional features in that area. If they are confined to newer hardware, I would definitely upgrade to get them. I care more about that sort of thing than I do about increased speed, cellular or GPS connectivity, or (if the rumors are true) a larger display area.

“Recess” and “Good Bones”, or selling the world to my children

There’s more beauty in this world than you can guess

Recently, with the help of someone on Micro.blog and Apple Music, I have turned my family on to the music of Justin Roberts. His band plays children’s music in a power pop style. His music is really catchy, and his lyrics are wry, funny, very kid-friendly (my daughter sings them all the time), and sometimes also play to the parents on emotional level as well.

My favorite Justin Roberts song, by far, is “Recess”. Like the best power pop songs, this song has more hooks and ideas in it than most albums do. The lyrics are cleverly and consistently written from the point of view of a bored kid stuck in a classroom, waiting for the recess bell to ring:

Can’t you hear the blacktop callin’?
Classroom clock is stuck or stallin’
There is nothing that will pass the test
Unless it’s recess

In the second and third pre-chorus endings, the lyrics expand out beyond the tedium of the elementary school classroom to the wonder of the outside world:

One more dotted I
One more crossed T
Then we’ll be runnin’ free
There is more beauty in this world than you can guess

That last line resonates powerfully with me. Seeing the beauty in this world is something children do naturally. I think we forget how to, as we get older, and our knowledge of history and current events expands, and our experience of life evolves from dreaming of what our lives might be to actually living them day-to-day. Our dreams get smaller and more finite as time passes. As we get older still, we relearn to see the beauty, in a different way—with a wonder that is tinged with sadness. As an adult, I see that the splendor and joy of the world is counterbalanced by its disappointments and horrors.

The world is at least fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative estimate, though I keep this from my children

The line “There is more beauty in this world than you can guess” always makes me think of the contrasting sentiment expressed in the poem “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith:

Good Bones
BY MAGGIE SMITH

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

This is a profoundly powerful poem that I read in college and have never forgotten. As an adult and a parent, I return to it often. It has always made me feel, in some way, like a teenager who concludes, upon first entering the adult world, that I have been sold a bill of goods: nothing is as nice or easy or fair as my parents and mentors (and, let’s face it, TV and movies) told me it would be. This poem distills all the disappointment and disillusionment that experience and maturity bring into seventeen simple and somewhat humorous lines. I love how it ends on a note that is somehow both cynical and hopeful: “You could make this place beautiful.”

Selling the world to my children

It’s my job, as a parent, to sell the world to my children. I want to tell them the good—now, while they are young—and the bad—later, when they are older. In both times, now and later, I have to remember that Justin Roberts and Maggie Smith are both right about the world. It contains all the beauty that has any meaning. It also contains all the horrors that have ever befell anyone. The most important thing I have to teach my children is that they can make it better—they just have to try, even after the veil of childhood innocence has fallen, and they see the world for what it really is.

The calm before the WWDC storm

WWDC is in a little more than two weeks. As a hobbyist developer, I don’t go to big, expensive conferences 3,000 miles from my home. But I do eagerly await it each year. Last year I was so excited about it that I went as far as calling it “nerd Christmas”. This year, though, I’m not looking forward to the keynote, the new APIs, the betas, and so on.

There have been no substantive leaks about what will be announced, and no one’s predictions so far have been that compelling. That’s in stark contrast to last year, when I practically knew what iOS 11 would bring to the iPad, based on rumors and speculation. This year, the most exciting leak we got is that a cross-platform macOS/iOS development framework will not be announced this year.

As a user and a fan, I basically want Apple to announce a rebuilding year. iOS 12 should be a maintenance release. They can make their software faster and more stable. They can make Siri a lot better. They can fix bugs. Other than that, I don’t want a radical UI overhauls of any of their operating systems (as if the latter would ever happen). On the hardware side, I’d love to see them refresh the MacBook Pro and iPhone SE sometime this year, but my expectations for an announcement at WWDC are very low.

As a developer, I don’t really want to worry about having to support new frameworks or features. Just upgrading from one iOS framework to the next one can sometimes take days of work before all the kinks are worked out. Even upgrading Xcode to a new major version is, as a Swift developer at least, a little scary. New versions of Xcode have not been stable or bug-free for me since Xcode 8 was released. The recently released Xcode 9.3.1 has been working really well for me, though, and I’m loath to give it up anytime soon. I’d love WWDC to be about Apple fixing the numerous, relatively minor, UIKit bugs that I’ve had to work around, but past history leads me to believe that iOS 12 will just have another set of odd bugs to work around.

Premature Optimization

In programming, there has long been a warning in computer science to avoid premature optimization. Donald Knuth called it “the root of all evil”. I find myself thinking about this all the time—not so much while programming, but when I’m thinking of spending money on myself, or telling people how to spend their money on me, as for birthday or Father’s Day gifts.

I’m at an age now where I have everything I would ever want. But…everything I have could still be a little bit better. To wit:

  • I have awesome headphones that I love. I want better ones. And different ones.
  • I have a home server that is underpowered, but quiet and extremely reliable. I would love one with enough power to could run virtual machines, but I don’t really need it.
  • I have a clicky mechanical keyboard that I love. I want a better one—that lights up, unnecessarily, or has colorful keycaps.
  • I have an Apple wireless keyboard for my Mac. I want to replace it with the Apple Magic keyboard, even though I already have an Apple Magic keyboard for my iPad.
  • I have a Series 1 Apple Watch that I love. I would love, even more, a Faster Series 3.
  • Let’s not even talk about iPads and Macs.

These few things are some of my material obsessions. What they have in common, for me, is that they have all been satisfied by things I already own, upgrading to newer or better versions would cost a lot of money (way more than anyone would spend in a gift for me), and the upgrade would be only marginally better than what I have, so I’m not sure if it would even make me happy.

Despite knowing all this, I can’t stop thinking about upgrading what I have to something better. I always want to optimize my experience with the things I enjoy. But, until the things I have break down and are no longer useful, it is too early to upgrade them. Doing so would be indulging in premature optimization, which be wasteful, which is “the root of all evil” to me.

Someday, my headphones will break, my keyboards won’t be compatible with my computers, my server won’t support the OS I want to run, and Apple won’t support my hardware anymore. That’s when I will upgrade these things—after I have extracted every bit of their value. Until then, I will just daydream about, and feel a little guilty about obsessing about, premature optimization.

My slide into audiophile territory, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about my realization that I have become an audiophile. The prior post examined what it means to me to be an audiophile.

It’s about spending money, right?

Calling yourself an audiophile is a little like calling yourself a rube and not realizing it. That’s because being an audiophile is a hobby marked far more by spending large amounts of money on speakers (I include headphones here, of course)—speakers that sound only a tiny bit better than much less expensive speakers, than on anything else. At worst, it’s conspicuous consumption wrapped in a superiority complex, or an obsession that has gotten embarrassingly expensive. At best, however, it’s about finding new ways to enjoy the music you love, enjoying that music an awful lot with the equipment you have, while keeping a level head about your budget and equipment’s price-to-performance ratio.

I, of course, include myself in the latter camp. I’ve spent a good amount of money on headphones at this point, but I am mostly interested in extracting as much value out of them—as many listening hours and as much enjoyment as possible—rather than on what the next better set of headphones will be.

But why spend a lot more money on a tiny improvement in sound quality?

I care an awful lot about music. I’ve found, quite accidentally, that there is more detail to be heard in the recordings I love, provided I have better speakers or headphones to listen to them with.

I never thought I was missing anything when I listened to everything through $10 Sony earbuds that I would have to replace every three months or so. When I got my first pair of over-ear headphones, though, it opened a new world for me. I heard details in the music I had never noticed before. The soundstage sounded wider. Instruments sounded more distinct, realistic, and separate from each other than I had ever heard before. Drumbeats had a more visceral impact, due to headphone drivers being much larger than those I was used to. On a more basic level, the over-ear headphones had better isolation than the earbuds did, blocking out outside noise, allowing me hear my music even better. Listening to music, something I loved already, became more fun and more exciting than ever before.

Those first over-ear headphones, which I credit for opening my eyes to the benefits of higher-end gear, were nothing special. They were a SteelSeries 7H gaming headset, which I received for free in exchange for writing a review. At the time, it was a $130 headset; today they are being sold for $21, proving that you don’t have to spend outrageous amounts of money to get better audio quality. I’m not saying they are the best headphone ever. Compared to Apple and Sony earbuds, though, they sound fantastic. I never would have realized it, if I hadn’t picked them up.

The headphones I’m wearing right now cost a lot more than those SteelSeries cans, and they reveal details in the music that the SteelSeries cannot. They are objectively better. But the much cheaper headphones are still just fine, and sound way better than whatever free pack-ins you got with your smartphone. I enjoyed them and would probably still be using them to this day if they had not broken. (Headphone durability is a separate issue from sound quality, and can be worth spending more money on.)

The jump from $10 headphones to $130 headphones was definitely worth it to me. Each jump up in price I have made since then was worth it, too. (I didn’t get all my headphones for free!) If I hadn’t tried headphones better than the ones I was used to, I never would have known that better sound was even possible.

What about the law of diminishing marginal returns?

After a certain dollar amount, each additional dollar spent on audio equipment buys you less and less of an improvement in quality. This is the law of diminishing marginal returns, and it’s a very real thing.

Audiophiles can spend stupid amounts of money on headphones and speakers. (To me, the “stupid” threshold is over $400; it may be way higher or way lower to you.) Some headphones cost well over a thousand dollars. Still other models, designed, I think, for for people with more money than sense, retail for three thousand dollars or more. Some speakers cost tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, some people spend hundreds or thousands on receivers, amps, DACs, and whatever other signal processing they want to use to drive their headphones or speakers. The audiophile hobby can get extremely expensive, if you have the money and are never satisfied with what you have. It doesn’t have to be, though.

In my opinion, you have to stop spending money on audio equipment at some point. If you are never satisfied with what you have, the problem may be something other than not having spent enough to buy decent hardware. You can still be an audiophile without buying new equipment all the time or going broke (or merely being ripped off) on over-expensive gear. It’s about the love of the game—the love of music and the gear it plays on—not the love of spending or the fear of missing out on an even better thing.

SwiftoDo Development Notes, April 2018

Weekly updates to SwiftoDo came to an end in early April, but work on SwiftoDo has continued apace.

What’s next?

I am working on an update, version 2.12.0, that includes a couple minor, but long-requested features: (1) a setting to preserve priority on completed tasks and (2) a default priority setting for new tasks. Implementing these features required lots of behind-the-scenes effort. Consequently, neither could be completed in less than a week.

I am currently working on improving the Dropbox code that (1) checks whether SwiftoDo is authorized to access Dropbox, and (2) reports this to the user in a clear and actionable way. This is necessary because Dropbox can de-authorize SwiftoDo for various reasons, including when I upgrade the Dropbox library I am using, which is exactly what the version I am working on does. When this happens, SwiftoDo will alert the user after an upload or a download fails. Based on user reports, however, this notification doesn’t always happen, which can lead to data loss if the user does not realize you are working offline.

Once I finish my work on the Dropbox-related code, I can release this version.

What’s after that?

After I complete version 2.12.0, I plan to focus my efforts on implementing iOS 11 Files integration. Everything else, other than fixing critical bugs, will be put on hold.

The basic mechanics of Files integration are not hard, but they are not really meant for a to-do app—especially one that manages two files. I am unsure if it would require uses to re-open their todo.txt and archive files periodically, after the app is killed, or every time you wish to archive, which may be annoying to users. I am not yet sure how it will affect archiving, manual sync mode, and whether offline access would be possible.

In a best-case scenario, Files integration will eventually allow me to get rid of the Dropbox-related code within SwiftoDo, and rely on Apple’s and Dropbox’s native integration.

In a worst-case scenario, I won’t be able to get Files integration working without giving up too many features or conveniences of the current app.

So, after version 2.12.0 is released, you may not hear from me for some time about development, but I will be hard at work nonetheless.