Google Reader Apocalypse Extremely Fucking Nigh

Those dicks at Google are shutting off Reader at the end of the week, and the world is in a mad tizzy trying to find a feed reader that will continue to function.

First a word on why it is stultifyingly stupid that this is even a problem in the first place:

I want to read my feeds on three devices: a desktop computer, an iPad and an iPhone; and have all three of them know what I've already read. Simple, right?

I'm reasonably happy with Reeder on all three devices, and I was reasonably happy with NetNewsWire before it.

So if you want to keep "what I've already read" in sync, all you need is to store that state in some shared area. There are probably dozens if not hundreds of different, low-impact ways to share a single .newsrc file among three devices: Dropbox, iCloud, IMAP, CalDAV... the list goes on.

Instead, these people all decided instead to depend entirely on the Google Reader web site for storing that state, and so now they're fucked.

Once Google inevitably fucked them all, Reeder, instead of doing the obvious thing and storing its state on Dropbox, has decided to cozy up with some new Google Reader clone web site, that you have to pay for, and, oh, sync only works on the iPhone version, not Mac or iPad. Wha? Is there anyone in the world who needs to sync their feeds between two different phones? I kind of doubt it.

So, Reeder's dead.

Currently everyone and their mother is scrambling to write some new web-based replacement for Google Reader, but I don't want that, even a little bit. I want a pair/trio of apps that synchronize. I have no interest in reading my feeds through a web site (no more than I would tolerate reading my email that way, like an animal).

So, of this new batch of tail-light-chasers, the best reviewed of the bunch is Feedly.

I spent an hour today using it. It's horrible. I almost gave up after ten minutes but I made myself stick it out for a full hour, since there really don't seem to be better options and I wanted to be sure.

On the plus side:

  1. It's very pretty.
  2. Importing my Google Reader feeds was easy.

But here's what's wrong with it:

  1. There is no documentation. None. You'd think a feed reader wouldn't need much in the way of documentation, but they tried to "innovate" the UI in all sorts of "creative" and non-obvious ways, so, yes, it's a problem. As just the first example you'll encounter: in a list that begins with "Today" and "All", that "All" doesn't actually mean "All", it means "All Unread". Self-documenting my ass.
  2. There is no desktop version, only a web page. There's also a Safari extension, but I can't tell what if anything it did when I installed it. Maybe it alters the web page in some way? I have no idea. See also: no documentation of any kind.

  3. There is no Next button! You go to the next article by swiping right. This might sound like a good idea to someone who has gotten high on some kind of high-octane "designer" fumes -- button-clicking, it's so passé! we swipe now! -- but as someone who actually tried to use the thing it's a disaster for two reasons:

    1. It's an RSI horror-show! Seriously, after ten minutes, both of my hands hurt from the thumb to the wrist from all the swiping.

      Using this thing will cripple me.

    2. Swiping horizontally only works about 2/3rds of the time anyway. A ridiculous proportion of the time, when I tried to swipe horizontally, it would interpret that as vertical swipe instead. And once a vertical swipe has begun, you can't reinitiate a horizontal swipe until the screen has stopped jiggling up and down in its spastic skeuomorphic dance.

      Here's me trying to go to the next article:

      • Swipe
      • Swipe.
      • Swiiiiipe.
      • Sigh.
      • Tap. Hold. Release. Wait.
      • Swiiiiiiiiiiiiiipe. There it goes, finally.

      This is the most annoying thing since the fact that you can't click on the Trash button in the iPhone Camera app until it has stopped doing it's wiggly little dance from deleting the previous photo. You have to actually sit there and wait for the animation to end before you can click it again. SKIP INTRO, MAN. Heresy.

  4. There's a list of articles, one per line, stacked vertically on the screen. After you've scanned your eyes to the bottom of the screen, how do you see more? You scroll it up, right? Ha ha ha. No. You swipe right. Madness.

  5. There's no "Unread" indicator. If I want to mark an article as unread to come back to it later, I have to pop up the "Share" menu and click on the "O" (see also: no documentation) and the only way you know whether you've clicked on it properly -- instead of missing it by 2 pixels and just dismissing the menu, which looks exactly the same -- is to notice the brief flash of text saying "marked as unread" at the top of the screen that then immediately vanishes. So I end up doing it at least twice because I never know whether it took.

  6. The UI (in the iPad version) hangs solid all the time. I think it might lock up every time it encounters a post with an embedded Vimeo video in it, but I'm not sure. What I do know is that when I encounter one of these toxic posts, this is the dance I do:

    • Realize I can no longer swipe.
    • Click the home button.
    • Either kill the app, or just launch it again.
    • It displays its splash screen for 20+ seconds, then crashes.
    • Launch it again. Wait while it re-polls all the feeds.
    • This time it works... but every article that I read last time is unread again! So as I try to page forward through them, the one that makes it crash is still lying in wait like a landmine.

    This is unforgivable. Not losing user data is the prime directive of any application. What I've already read is the only data this app generates and they lose it.

  7. There seems to be no gesture to mark an article read without selecting it -- like some kind of swipe on the article list or something -- so as far as I can tell there is no way to delete these landmine-articles without doing "Mark All Read". But, maybe there is and I just haven't discovered it -- see, again, no documentation at all.

  8. I can't pinch-zoom to zoom in on images. They scale to the width of the screen and no larger. Come on.

  9. There's no way to edit the "vertical ellipsis" menu to leave out the mysterious, incomprehensible icons of services that I do not use. (They think the Safari icon is an arrow in a circle. "Clipboard" is a piece of chain. WTF?)

  10. "Mail" always mails the whole HTML page instead of just a URL. It does not even include the URL. WTF? And it includes not one but two self-advertisements for Feedly in the HTML when it does so.

All I want is a version of Reeder that stores my .newsrc on Dropbox.

And that has a "Next" button on the right side of the screen as well as the left. Oh god please yes.

But we can't have nice things.


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Youtube download escalation

Youtube has deployed further youtubedown countermeasures. I do not yet have working counter-countermeasures.

When extracting URLs from the url_encoded_fmt_stream_map you have to append a &signature= parameter to make it work. This used to be in the urlmap as sig=, but now it is sometimes s= and encoded differently: when use_cipher_signature=True, you have to munge it before it will work. Consensus seems to be that this is actually a cipher, not a different kind of hash. I translated the cargo-cult Javascript code I found here to Perl, but it doesn't work. (Pretty sure my translation is correct, so the algorithm is wrong.) Some discussion here.

Dear Lazyweb, any ideas?

We need a working version of the decipher_sig() function in youtubedown. Or, alternately, a URL that returns the old-style un-ciphered signature.

Some examples of videos that are no longer downloadable: Chvrches, Emika, Icona Pop, Gotye.

Previously, previously.

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jwz mixtape 129

Please enjoy jwz mixtape 129.

That Onili video is really something. Enjoy it before it gets taken down.

The Happy Fangs video is awesome because it was part of a "shoot a video in 24 hours" contest. (They won!) There were gonna shoot part of it in the DNA Dazzle Room but didn't have time.

Psycho Delia may sound familiar to you as she used to be half of Robots In Disguise.

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Current Music: as noted

Facebook "Shadow Profiles"

I'm shocked, shocked that they could let this happen.

As a result, if a person went to download an archive of their Facebook account through our Download Your Information (DYI) tool, they may have been provided with additional email addresses or telephone numbers for their contacts or people with whom they have some connection. This contact information was provided by other people on Facebook and was not necessarily accurate, but was inadvertently included with the contacts of the person using the DYI tool.

They dodge by saying, "Describing what caused the bug can get pretty technical", but it's pretty simple.

  • Alice (that's you) does not share their private email address or phone number with Facebook.
  • Alice has two friends, Bob and Carol.
  • Bob knows Alice's secret phone number. Carol does not.
  • Bob uses the "Find Friends" tool and uploads his phone's address book to Facebook.
  • Facebook now adds Alice's private information to their dossier, since Bob disclosed it.
  • Carol uses the "Download Your Information" tool. Carol now has Alice's secret phone number.

However, Facebook's PR flacks are being circumspect about the source of the data in these "shadow profiles". They used the "upload your address book" scenario as an example, so we know that's happening. But it also seems extremely likely to me that they also populate these shadow profiles with data sourced from other "partners", e.g., advertisers, merchants, or sites that use Facebook logins as their authorization mechanism.

It's also not clear whether Alice and Carol had to actually be friends for Carol to get Alice's data, as they say "their contacts or people with whom they have some connection". That last bit could mean "friends of friends". It could mean they both play Zynga games. Who knows.

I would be surprised if this information was not also available to the creators of any apps you use. Once you've authorized an app, they get basically everything on you and your friends.

They also don't say what other information is in these "shadow profiles". This bug disclosed email addresses and phone numbers, but presumably they have collected a lot more than that, e.g., home addresses. Because why would they not? Bob "gave" it to them.

The fact that these shadow profiles are being compiled at all is horrible. That it takes a monumental privacy fuck-up for people to become aware of it at all is a problem.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Acupuncture Is Theatrical Placebo

Anesthesia & Analgesia Magazine:

Curiously, given that its alleged principles are as bizarre as those on any other sort of prescientific medicine, acupuncture seemed to gain somewhat more plausibility than other forms of alternative medicine. As a result, more research has been done on acupuncture than on just about any other fringe practice.

The outcome of this research, we propose, is that the benefits of acupuncture are likely nonexistent, or at best are too small and too transient to be of any clinical significance. It seems that acupuncture is little or no more than a theatrical placebo. The evidence for this conclusion will now be discussed. [...]

We found evidence that these responses seem to follow a common trend of early rapid improvement in symptoms that slows down and reaches a plateau 6 months after the start of treatment, although the size of response varied widely. We found a similar pattern of improvement in symptoms following any treatment, regardless of whether it was index, active comparator, usual care, or placebo treatment. [...]

Since it has proved impossible to find consistent evidence after more than 3000 trials, it is time to give up. It seems very unlikely that the money that it would cost to do another 3000 trials would be well-spent.

I had acupuncture years ago as treatment for RSI, and my experience was exactly this: early rapid improvement in symptoms that slows down and reaches a plateau. Also, it involved electroacupuncture, which they characterize as "essentially transdermal electrical nerve stimulation masquerading as acupuncture."

Pull the wool over your own eyes!

Also, tuttles.

About a year ago the dedicated folks at the Marine Stranding and Rescue Center in Virginia Beach, VA brought two sea turtles in to a clinic where I was working for evaluation and possible acupuncture treatments. Both turtles had problems with mobility.

Amazingly, we found references to a few acupuncture points in turtles, so myself and a second acupuncture trained veterinarian began with these. I coupled these treatments with chiropractic adjustments on their necks. [...] I finally added some Chinese herbals into his protocol, and we began to see the improvements that we were looking for.

Previously, previously, previously.


How does world's oldest water taste? Terrible.

Nearly 1.5 miles beneath Earth's surface, scientists have found pockets of water that have been isolated from the outside world for 1 billion to 2.6 billion years.

What is very, very old water like?

What jumps out at you first is the saltiness. Because of the reactions between the water and the rock, it is extremely salty. It is more viscous than tap water. It has the consistency of a very light maple syrup. It doesn't have color when it comes out, but as soon as it comes into contact with oxygen it turns an orangy color because the minerals in it begin to form -- especially the iron.

So you've tasted it?

I have to admit I have tasted it from time to time. It tastes terrible. It is much saltier than seawater. You would definitely not want to drink this stuff.

We are interested in the saltiest waters because they are the oldest, and tasting is the quick-and-dirty way to find which are the most salty. I don't let the students do it, though.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Current Music: EMA -- Marked ♬

Youtube scaling, again

Something broke recently, and my Youtube embeds stopped working in Firefox. The Play button does nothing, though the image is the right size.

Dear Lazyweb, please tell me how to fix this.

  • Safari 6.0.3, OSX: Works.
  • Safari, iOS 6.1.4: Works.
  • Chrome 24.0, OSX: Works.
  • Firefox 21.0, OSX: Play button fails.
  • Opera 12.15, OSX: Wrong size: only top left quarter is visible. Play button works.

Weirdly, the Firefox Play button animates when you click it, so it's receiving the event! It just does not then play.

Any ideas?

Update: Well, no, nobody had any ideas. So I've reverted it back to the Old Way, where the video is not scaled, but half the time people will see the "Window is too small" bullshit when they hit play. God dammit.


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The World of Black-Ops Reputation Management


Whoever he was, it seemed that "Xander Fields" had built a whole Potemkin universe of positive-press websites that amplified made-up praise, often by made-up people, for a handful of rich folks with messy online reputations. I was now deep down in a rabbit hole but hadn't yet landed with a satisfying thud. Who was "Xander Fields"? [...]

I e-mailed Tom and set up a call. He was cagey about what he said but in some ways fairly up front. Metal Rabbit Media, he said, was a boutique shop for the online reputations of very wealthy people. He worked by mining the client's history of publication and philanthropy, then pumping up the volume to drown out all else. Basic service costs $10,000 a month, Tom said, which could make Phin's total bill, running from the first website in December 2010, nearly $300,000. (Which made me think: Just who was scamming who here?)

Previously, previously, previously, previously.
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I've been hearing about -- but not reading -- @twentitled for at least a year, because hey, "tech douchebags act like douchebags" is a dog-bites-man story if there ever was one.

But today a friend inside Twitter said, "Our comms team was crying a river over this today."

So I'm passing it along because anything that makes the Twitter Comms Team cry is good and should be encouraged. They are bad people in a despicable line of work, and I gleefully endorse anything that makes them fail in their ham-handed attempts at media manipulation.

So let's hope this "trends", as the kids say today.

Self-Loathing Twitter Employee Chronicles the Doom and Decadence of San Francisco's Most Tax-Exempt Startup:

Meet Twitter Entitled, an unfortunate and pitifully hilarious collection of overheards within the headquarters of Mid-Market's golden goose. It's blood-boiling, really -- like watching Veruca Salt tantrum her way through Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

#1: There is so much fatty food here, they should pay for gym memberships.
#2: They do
#1: Ugh, whatever.

Every time I notice the valet has adjusted my seat, I honestly consider just parking the car myself...

the seared tuna at lunch was good, but the caviar on the tartare was meh.

fucking BART, I'm late for my massage.

I like the free Square readers we get from Jack, but without free iPad's also, they're unusable.

How many times can they possibly serve Wild King Salmon Steaks for dinner? I'm all for Salmon, but a little variety would be nice.

#1 Bike to work day?
#2: Oops, I took an Uber.

Anyone want to charter a helicopter with me in Vegas?

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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