The Psalms

A narcoleptic yokel on software and culture.

David Blue Sleepy Transit


http://extratone.com/ http://bilge.world http://asphaltapostle.tumblr.com/ https://davidblue.bandcamp.com/ https://bandcamp.com/davidblue http://vk.com/davidblue https://500px.com/NeoYokel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Extratone https://facebook.com/asphaltapostle https://flickr.com/davidblue https://imgur.com/user/NeoYokel https://getpocket.com/@extratone https://github.com/neoyokel https://instagram.com/asphaltapostle https://linkedin.com/in/cyberyokel https://medium.com/@NeoYokel https://open.spotify.com/user/12186620218 https://open.audio/@DavidBlue https://snapchat.com/add/mommilitia https://twitter.com/NeoYokel https://vimeo.com/extratone https://vine.co/asphaltapostle https://www.imdb.com/name/extratone https://www.last.fm/user/Crazyhooligin https://www.twitch.tv/Dieselgoth https://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=seYjUMcixeGvpOehekSOXg https://youtube.com/extratone https://peertube.live/accounts/extratone/videos https://pixelfed.social/Davidblue https://pleroma.tilde.zone/b https://tilde.zone/@b https://writing.exchange/@b https://diasp.org/public/davidblue http://davidblue@diasp.org/ http://fedigram.social/davidblue http://mastodon.social/@DavidBlue http://mastodon.technology/@DavidBlue http://radical.town/@DavidBlue http://toot.cafe/@DavidBlue http://www.extratone.com/tech/mastodon/ https://baptiste.gelez.xyz/@/davidblue/ https://dolphin.town/@e_4030 https://expshift.com/@b https://fosstodon.org/@DavidBlue https://github.com/Plume-org/Plume https://linuxrocks.online/@blue https://mastd.racing/@blue

The Crossing Auditorium

Askeptical spectacle in the day-to-day typhoon of Faith’s modern enterprise.

The year I was given my first generation iPhone was the last of 14 through which my mother was still comfortable enforcing my obligation to attend Sunday morning church service. She and my stepfather had migrated 18 months or so prior from [Suburban Church of Mediocore Dope Christ-Appropriated Lukewarm Dilluted Prog Rock and The Occasional Teachings of Protestant-ish Side-Glances at The New Testament] to the New York Times-appointed champion of Columbia Missouri’s 20-Year-Long Quirk the Church! Soverignty Crusade: The Crossing. Like its competitors (of which my parents’ previous church had ranked quite poorly,) the blatantly death-cult-sounding House of God includes its own artisanal, latte-equipped coffee shop (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually a Starbucks affiliate at this point,) a regularly-replenished catering table full of doughnuts immediately to the side as one enters, and a sophisticated childcare operation staffed no less thoroughly than my public elementary school.

Since 2007, the church has been expanding from its first home (as a functional place of worship, anyway,) which lies within 1) line-of-sight from one of Nancy Walton’s properties, 2) a mile of the southernmost exit off US-63 – mid-Missouri’s primary North⟺South roadway – and includes a powered pump-arrogated pond, though the majority of the acreage is blackened by pragmatically-arrayed big box store-caliber multi-rowed parking. Ye, by night, it is flooded in coordinately-distributed cold white light suspended by the same uniform steel poles which guard long-term airport lots. Naturally, the entry and exit points for the asphalt spread are arranged deliberately opposed so that four figures’ worth of God’s children may be fed, digested, and evacuated through their weekly appointment with Christ as efficiently and hassle-free as possible.

God’s ~white~ children become especially sensitive to entirely-trivial delay or other perceived deviation from Their Expectations when inside an automobile thanks to a rampant misconception that simultaneously allows them a renewed sense of control over their environment. Psychoanalytic observation has suggested it is catalyzed by delusions of physical anonymity, exemption from civic responsibility, and a titanically-inflated perception of their personally misattributed contributions to the perpetuation of the universe. This vehicular component of the customer experience is a fundamental ingredient in The Crossing’s stellar member retinenance record – the single metric above all quantifying a Christian organization’s overall effectiveness in accomplishing the faith’s (mostly cross-denominational) evangelistic Prime Directive / General Order Number One as abridged by Christ himself to the Pharisees after his resurrection: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of [The Holy Trinity].” I did not take the opportunity to sample The Crossing’s baptismal services, but I’m sure sufficient combing of the church’s Yelp! page would yield as qualitative an analysis of such a “service” as you could possibly imagine. (Notably, it would appear the “lowest” review is the singular 4/5 star entry.)

I do not mean to disparage The Crossing, specifically nor even organized religion, generally, but instead to emphasize the absurdities which have leapt just as readily into what I’d specifically call The Business of white protestant Christianity over just the course of my own maturation as it has into any other aspect of our lives. The difference, of course, is the universal set of exceptions – and the particular age of said exceptions – which religion maintains, societally. The perspective formed by my own experiences having grown up wholly embedded across the spectrum of white midwestern Christianity – including two years of vigorous and quite academic study of the Bible in a tiny private school headquartered in the basement of a Lutheran church – lends to a particular skepticism, amusement, horror, offense, and existential astonishment that latches my fascination into a not-entirely-voluntary hold.

(Before I go on, I suppose I should also note that it’s been at least two or three years since I last set foot inside the church building at all – my only recent experiences/engagement with The Crossing has been with their digital content from a relative distance.)

Apple Leadership Headshots

The ludicrous parallels between Apple events and services at The Crossing, especially, come immediately to mind every single time I watch one (live or otherwise,) as they did just weeks ago when I first engaged with this summer’s WWDC keynote. Pastors Dave Cover, Keith Simon, and Shay Roush all look, dress, speak, and photograph exactly like Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Scott Foristell, Jony Ive, and just about any public-facing leadership figure we’ve ever seen giving an Apple Keynote. They’re hilariously interchangeable, as are other explicit aspects of the typical Sunday morning service at The Crossing. As far as I can tell, the church as a whole only uses Mac computers and the projections in the main auditorium/worship hall – mostly sing-along hymn lyrics and referenced bible verses – are exclusively created through Apple’s office presentation software, Keynote, just as the company itself does for its “Keynotes.” This was immediately obvious to me upon first entering that space because they both use the default theme – typography, color palette, transition animations and all. Indeed, during the sermons, the three pastors would take command of the slides by fairly inconspicuously clicking what I’d imagine must be a very sweaty Apple Remote in the exact same manner in which Tim Cook and his underlings still do.

I JUST REMEMBERED DAVE EXPLICITLY USING MENTION OF APPLE PRODUCTS IN HIS SERMONS

The Crossing on WordPress

Nay, the likenesses do not diverge when comparing the fundamentals of the two organizations more broadly: The Business of the faith is very much a volume business, which also describes Apple’s contemporary strategy with perfect precision. It’s been a few years since “ecosystem” ceased to be an exhaustive buzzword in tech media discourse, perhaps because the term falls very short in expressing the change in global Apple scale. My recollection of high school biology has failed to produce a scientific substitute, but I find Matt Honan’s “very lovely swamp” exceptionally said in 2014, but the fact of the swamp’s becoming generally lovelier in the interim – in a less linear fashion than would have been ideal, mind you – leaves ample room, I think, to fear and respect whatever it was that we then called The Apple Ecosystem in 2014 as a ruling deity or daemon (just as Google’s sought to be, recently.)

The church live streams every fucking keynote sermon in HD on Vimeo, not YouTube. (I had no idea Vimeo offered “professional streaming services” until this moment.) They have a fucking iOS app (apparently developed by an outfit called Subsplash, who had the audacity to include analytics meta tags following the root of their website within the in-app attribution button) which features a calendar-bound tool containing full-text preparatory reading material from scripture, on-demand audio and video recordings

I genuinely wonder quite often if the individual who set the digital template for the sign in front of our Portland neighborhoood’s Episcopalian church paused to look at the text he was arranging: “PRAYER REQUESTS BY EMAIL.” I'm not sure any of this really means anything, but it's sure spectacular to look at.

#software

Mablis Festival Dot no

A not altogether-cohesive review of July reads and research.

In case you're similarly long overdue for a reminder that beautiful things are still being made on the internet...

After nearly a year of relative sobriety from my old, once-severe addiction to Web Site hunting, it occurred to me just yesterday that some explicit wandering as I once did for days at a time – through the clever, innovative, and uniquely tasteful projects through which an astonishingly-original few give their whole thinking (and often physical) selves in obscurity despite how little financial (and often professional) incentive is maintained by those who unknowingly need it the most – might be the best feasible remedy to my current, most perplexing state of faithlessness and bafflement toward the ambitions of trades and cultures I feel I once so thoroughly understood. A great portion of you are surely undergoing your own manifestations of the same hopelessness – I cannot ever remember a time in my life when global events were so utterly discouraging so relentlessly.

Design and The Open Web

In this present when every element of American reality is so much more incessantly ugly than we could’ve ever imagined, let’s take at least a momentary respite to look at some visually irresistible and/or super sick Sites on the truly-resolute Open Web to assure our existential selves that yes, beauty shall not cease to exist. For better or worse, my #1 goto source to find innovative, delicious web design has always been Typewolf, who announced last fall that he will not be continuing his “Site of the Month” section, though his relentless “Site of the Day” roll will continue, unhindered.

Zeff Cherry

Recent Discoveries

Poolside.fmPoolside.FM is a retro digital oasis for your summer” | The Verge

Audio

Those of us for whom the Podcast medium became a trusted and relatively regular one in our lives long before anyone figured out how to make a real business out of it – certainly eons preceeding the original startup podcast-only (apparently HBO-like publication – Gimlet Media – to be successfully launched. Now, though, your mom – perhaps even her mom – listens to podcasts, and what was once a The single Missouri alumni at The Verge, Ashley Carmen, explored the proliferation of podcasting and the process by which it became profitable.

In 2009, only 11% of the U.S. population had listened to a podcast in the past month.
How podcasts became so popular | The Verge on YouTube

Whilst trying out Garageband for iOS’ new sample packs, I sampled the accompanying video to the article and produced the best “track” I’ve ever made with the app (for whatever that’s worth.)

Speaking of Gimlet Media: the latest episode of my longtime favorite of their podcasts, Reply All, is a sort of condensed remake of my favorite podcast episode of all time (of any show, not just this one) in which hosts Alex Goldman and P.J. Vogtmaintained an open telephone line for 48 hours and spoke with a whole bunch of people (mostly Americans) about... whatever. The result was beautifully human, if you’ll forgive my use of the cliche. I tend to revisit it when I’m feeling particularly isolated from and/or confused about the general ambitions of the people around me. I’ll be honest: I didn’t pay much attention to my first listen through the new episode, but I can tell you that it is worth your time, at least.

I was distraught when Spotify bought both the aforementioned Gimlet Media and the social audio turned podcasting app Anchor – both of which I (rather ridiculously) felt a special personal ownership over. (The latter, especially, because they reached out to me early on to feature Extratone’s channel on their music section.) However, it appears that both are being treated fairly well in the 18+ months since their acquisition – probably because they’ve been making Spotify money.

Further Reading

Other Favorites

#software

Yes, I am still managing to waste my time digging up and re-arranging some very old content, but I just couldn't resist. Somehow, it didn't occur to me until yesterday evening that I could sort through the original video files of my old vines fairly easily in fucking Google Photos and blast them through iMovie for iOS into a full montage relatively easily.

Some of these are very cringey...

Yes, I'd love to finally get around to my ultimate romantic editorialization on that most dearly departed social network, but things are way too jumbled right now, obviously.

#meta

You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong. You might as well have the brain of a tank. You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again. Since the same generally goes for them with you, the whole thing is really a dazzling illusion empty of all perception, an astonishing farce of misperception. And yet what are we to do about this terribly significant business of other people, which gets bled of the significance we think it has and takes on instead a significance that is ludicrous, so illequipped are we all to envision one another's interior workings and invisible aims? Is everyone to go off and lock the door and sit secluded like the lonely writers do, in a soundproof cell, summoning people out of words and then proposing that these word people are closer to the real thing than the real people that we mangle with our ignorance every day? The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you.

#quote

Summer Coldfront relentless, the country keeps doors and walls reverberate all but rest in summer’s heat

I remember the dawn and dusk – the open palette, gradiented above opposite a front overtaking me, on the 4030, tilling terraces ’round the North 180

growing here is not a war with Earth, but a chronological board game, won by the punctual and patient

I am neither of these, but I am fond of a good emergency

and it all plays out for me; the torrent released in Missouri haste big drops turn to steam on the labored muffler too much to do; getting it over with, God cries in heaves, quickly, around here

#poetry

Mastonaut Full Screen

Premium desktop Mastodon clients incoming?

Since you last heard from us, the federated social network Mastodon has scaled tremendously in usership and steadily grown technologically into an incredibly robust and dynamic platform. Perhaps inevitably, Eugen Rochko and his gaggle of open source developers have continued to embarrass the living fuck out of Twitter's team – at least for those who've continued to pay attention (i.e. those of us whose sense of aspiration has yet to perish.)

I planned on getting ahead of an innovative wake in iOS development by watching closely for the first “premium” Mastodon clients to come out, which I suspected (quite correctly) would carry the first substantial risk-taking on the part of plucky social apps to be seen on the goddamned App Store in what felt like eternity. Unfortunately, I've ended up far too deep in screenshots/insights from Toot! and Mast, creating a bit of an overwhelming obstacle in comparing and/or reviewing the two without sinking deep in my regular, pretentious hole. (Though both of them are absolutely gorgeous, fascinating, and impressive projects which you should invest in and follow if you're interested in the future of federated social whatsoever.)

That said... I'd like only to mention and briefly demonstrate the first premium desktop Mastodon client, Mastonaut, which I had the privilege of experiencing momentarily last night.

Mastonaut Add Instance

In the interest of brevity (and because I was unable to continue fucking around for any length of time,) I'll just list some observations:

  • The entire GUI experience is distinctly uncluttered (or perhaps barren, depending on your subjective desires from this sort of thing,) but duplicates dearest TweetBot's functionality impressively well considering its age as an independently-developed product.
  • Keyboard shortcuts! Fuck me, God.
  • I love the live-updated instance directory search (above) as a second landing for first-time users.
  • Though I did actually have to repeat the first-time login process after freezing and subsequently force-quitting Mastonaut, I think you'll probably place the blame on my own immediate and inpatient window management mania considering how smoothly it all went the second time around.

To be honest, Bear, Spark, and recent other beautiful Mac applications beckon me to buy or hack myself into MacOS again. If I have time in the near future, I'll show you why.

#software

Single Page, All of Unicode (Inverted)

The Psalms is proudly hosted by Write.as – a new sort of blogging content management system built atop Markdown and maintained by a company which explicitly shares my commitment to a better, Open web.

A somewhat-outdated version of this site's theme is listed among others in Writeas' official themes list. The full, up-to-date CSS and JS can be found below and on in this GitHub repository, which I created in November, 2020 as an experiment in using Git to track editorial changes. (That means you can see current in-progress drafts!)

Typography

Body Text: Adobe Caslon Pro

Nav/Headers/Other: Proxima Nova & Variations

Colors

The Psalms 3.0 Palette

Download The Psalms 3.0 color pack for a limited time here.

Code

The Psalms’ GitHub Repository also hosts the technical documentation for its Write.as theme. Download the latest “release,” here and/or view the raw CSS here.

The Psalms Drafts Theme

Drafts Theme

If you happen to be a user of agiletortoise’s infamous Drafts app on iOS and/or MacOS, I have just released a quite-uncanny theme on the new Themes Directory emulating The Psalms’ reading experience which I am quite pleased with.

Licking Dark

My girlfriend very generously offered to go for a drive with me yesterday evening, though neither of us particularly expected to end up parked at 5:40AM outside a little Diner called Ziggie’s some four hours away from home. I managed to learn a bit about driving apps and briefly flood my Jetta’s intake long enough to stall it after fording some flood water a wee bit too rapidly.

Since I’ve begun working in Kansas City and occasionally commuting from Columbia, I’ve found incentive to revisit the crowdsourced driving directions mobile app Waze, which I recall being very excited about in early 2016. It’s smoother now, yet devoid of that pseudocountercultural sense in a design sense. Functionally, it is still the most reliable method of police detection I’ve ever encountered – in this Second Era of my Waze usage I have yet to see a single Missouri Highway Parol car sat in the center of I-70 that hadn’t been reported on Waze first – even at crazy hours on weekday mornings – which should be all the reassurance one needs regarding the immediate future of their userbase.

Downtown Licking

I'm using Waze to drive to to Licking, MO, arriving at 2:24. Watch my drive in real-time on the Waze map! David Blue on Twitter

Somehow, I was unaware until this morning that Waze allows you to “share” your route by generating a link to a web app of theirs that will live track your progress. Though I can’t actually imagine too many use cases for this, I still think it’s cool. Anybody who’s interested in stalking my every move should follow me on Twitter – where I’m sure I’ll be sharing more drives from now on – and/or DM me and just ask me to enable 24/7 location-sharing for ya!

On the topic of mobile apps for those folks like me who’s only real hobby is just fucking driving around, I did actually find mention in a listicle from a real motoring enthusiast’s publication. “Seven Apps That Will Help Improve Your Driving Experience” is not exactly the sort of advisory article I remember seeing in Road & Track considering that it actually only contains one single app even vaguely related to True Driving Pleasure called Greatest Drive.

Users contribute their favorite routes and with Yelp integration you can either pick a destination to find the most scenic way to get there or find a good spot to eat along the route you've already chosen.

Of course, it’s nowhere to be found on the App Store, but it sounded relatively foodist anyway.

Other notes:

  • Licking, Missouri may have a silly name, but the data says it’s struggling. Look for the median household income.
  • Apparently the premier mile-tracking app right now is Microsoft’s MileIQ, which I’m going to continue to try because I can’t resist automatically-generated PDF reports, ever.
  • I gave my girlfriend administrator roles for my derelict joke Facebook page Boiler Explosion Memes and she’s somehow managed to get it to almost 100 likes / +25,000% impressions in just a matter of days!!!!

#photography

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

Assuming Jesus Christ is in your thoughts this evening before yet another anniversary of his birth, I am infinitely astonished by the truth in what I’m about to suppose with you. If the Son of God was living today, most of us have agreed for a long time now that he’d use marijuana recreationally – big fuckin whoop. I think it’s far more interesting and appropriate (we all know his birthday was wholly reconfigured into a consumerist holiday long ago) to speculate on how he’d behave after finding himself inadvertently in the market for a new laptop within the ~$1000 range (following a stubbed toe whilst walking on water incident, perhaps.) Surely, it would not be entirely holy for him to opt in to the Foxconn-complicit world of Apple, Incorporated, nor the openly-blasphemous one created and exuberantly grown by Google LLC, and I’m afraid he’d be too much of an End User idiot to integrate any of the sparse Linux-dedicated hardware available. In May of 2017, however, Billy Gates’ old Microsoft finally released “the laptop we’ve always wanted them to make,” but could its recent update be truly worthy of our Lourde and Saviour? Or your newly-enrolled offspring? Should you sprint downstairs and swap out the new MacBook Air you just bought?

From an entirely valid perspective, an observer might declare my last two months of 2018 to be an outright shameful period defined by hypocrisy and traitorous betrayals. After finally taking the time to explore the full narrative surrounding Linux and the bloody tale of Microsoft’s cruel genocidal destruction of countless creative software projects throughout computing’s adolescence (see: “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish,”) I eventually declared myself “100% Open Source” and began outlining an essay designed primarily to express that Linux is finally ready to be the operating system of the people without succumbing immediately to the brand of cybercrackpot illegitimacy associated with the L-word in the minds of the general public so readily thanks to decades of misinformed, condescending neckbeards. Such a feat would require entire new planes of cultural awareness and dialectal delicacy, yet certainly result in zero personal reward from even the best possible outcome, yet I proceeded to ponder the subject very deliberately all the way through October because I genuinely believed in a new democratized future of computing. 2018 had been my Grand Awakening to the idyllic possibilities of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) across the whole applied spectrum from office suites to social networks, yet – as two thousand eighteen comes to an end – I’ve managed to find myself among the most jaded, soul-sapped tech community I have yet encountered: Microsoft Administrators.

Complimenting this Linux-laden culture in which I was not so long ago deeply embedded was a confused and frustrated outlook regarding what I felt were excessive and completely idiotic sacrifices across the industry’s hardware design to the greedy, gluttonous god of Lightness. It seemed only reasonable to Myself As Consumer that the entire buying public should exclusively seek designs prioritizing greatest possible performance and battery life, even from portable computers and smartphones, so I assumed my perspective on this updated iteration of Microsoft's most laptopy Surface laptop – which exists in large part to compete directly with Apple's beloved (and just-updated) MacBook Air – wouldn't be at all useful. However, a few weeks ago, my employer prompted me with a sweet sweet ultimatum: for the sake of a tax break, I want to spend ~$1000 on a laptop for you as soon as possible. Yes, I know I should consider myself a very fortunate man – this wasn't even the first time I'd been surprised with the “hey, I want to buy you a laptop but it has to be today” experience, and may even be considered a sort of sequel to my Tales of Whirlwind Manic Consumerism, but it’s ultimately one of the most idiotic strategies to achieve a major purchase decision and completely inadvisable for anyone on a budget. Still I was indeed thankful to be put in a nearly-identical situation of Consumer Electronic haste, and have come to be especially appreciative of the specific time I was approached as such: just one week after Microsoft launched the Surface Laptop 2.

Considering the vast majority of its users are trapped inside my television, there’s no harm in covering the Surface brand with our virtual palm for a moment. If you’ll indulge me so, you’ll notice that Microsoft has actually delivered unto us The Laptop II – as in, the sequel... the successor to every other laptop computer yet conceived... but does this one machine truly represent the second coming of the Notebook Christ? Naturally, it would be a bit zealous to stand behind this extreme statement with 100% sincerity, but there truly are certain elements of this Personal Computing product's execution which do indeed will its user to expect and/or desire from others in coming years. As I've stated before, I also simply cannot help but be jazzed by such bravado from the mouths of even a company with as crooked and hateful history as Microsoft's. (Note: no other technology company has actually achieved what Microsoft historically has in this regard, and hopefully none ever will again.)

I must be honest: it hasn't yet been two months and I've already scuffed and perhaps even stained the beautiful maroon alcantara surrounding my machine’s touchable body, but it’s occurred to me that I might draw upon the vast library of automotive interior tutorials available on YouTube – and even purchase some of the alcantara care-specific products they recommend – in order to really maintain the exterior of the Laptop II. After all, alcantara was undeniably car culture’s material first. I should also confess that objectively, the Surface Laptop II is the best-suited computer for my personal uses that I’ve ever owned or used for any length of time. Subjectively, I don’t think all of the hardware design touches that make it so – like its keyboard layout, divine 3:2 aspect ratio, and particular I/O complement – have yet had the chance to seduce my emotional brain into truly loving it as much as I certainly should by any reasonable measure. For my own sake, I hope I’m able to fall in child-like infatuation with its magic, but in the interim, I believe the coldness of my heart should hopefully preserve any useful commentary I might have to add. Though this is undoubtedly the most timely review of a hardware product I’ve ever published, I’d still ask that you indulge my perspective suggesting the importance of considering it part of a package with its operating system, considering that the whole of tech media would’ve unanimously declared it the year’s “best laptop” were Apple’s aging, but still widely-adored MacOS absent from the frame.

I've tested a bunch of laptops this year, running the spectrum of 2-in-1s, Chromebooks, MacBooks, gaming laptops, etc. Everyone's needs are going to be different, which is why there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all for laptops. But enthusiasts’ laptops aside, I strongly feel the Surface Laptop 2 is the best laptop of the year. And by that I mean the best laptop for most folks' needs.

With as much humility as possible, I must add that I myself am anything but “most folks,” yet my experience so far with the product has been one of astonishing compatibility and battery life. Using recommended power settings, the Surface Laptop 2 endured four hours and twenty-two minutes of a workload it wasn’t particularly designed for including heavy web browsing, image manipulation, brief audio/video capture with OBS, and moderate subsequent editing in Audacity and OpenShot. Dan Seifert – Vox Media’s “only Windows user” – reported “about seven hours” of Microsoft’s claimed 14.5, but frankly, I don’t know what any of y’all are doin – I’m just thankful this machine is a better marathoner than any other I can recall owning. While we’re on the subject, I consider Microsoft’s inclusion of a magnetically-attached power cable and unassuming auxiliary USB charging port on the attached power supply to be personal godsends – further evidence, even, that the Surface Laptop 2 was actually designed to be nice to use. For the sake of those readers actually in the market for a new laptop who’ve somehow found themselves here, though, Raymond Wong’s review for Mashable is the most thorough offering you’ll find – it’s quoted front and center on Microsoft’s web page for the Laptop II, even – but it’s important to mention that his critical comparative perspective predates the late launch of its ultimate competitor, the new MacBook Air. Rather pitifully, however, his colleague’s “good, but not great” resolution suggests that Apple failed to challenge Microsoft’s relatively moderate update enough to warrant any revision, and that Mashable as a publication stands by my new laptop’s Best of the Year title, for whatever it may or may not be worth to you.

If the new MacBook Air came in at the same price as the old one, it would be a steal. Sure, you pay for the privilege of being able to use macOS on the Apple ecosystem. But in years past that also meant access to cutting-edge features and design. As pretty as the MacBook Air is, there's nothing that innovative about it. In today's Apple, it seems, privilege amounts to just staying current.

You won’t find many others who regularly invest editorial merit in publishing 2500+ word laptop reviews anymore, which I’d concede is plenty reasonable in the Surface Laptop’s case, at least. Perhaps your first point of comparative entry should be a barely-dated conversation between Kara Swisher, Lauren Goode, and Dan Seifert on Too Embarrassed to Ask regarding the original’s odds of truly competing in the “premium laptop” segment (if you’d prefer to hear from those who struggle to take it seriously, that is.) Assuming the original product direction of the Surface line still stands, Microsoft doesn’t actually intend to sell at high volume, especially when it comes to this runt of the marque, which does not hesitate to omit itself from the popular discourse of the moment surrounding tablets as the future of all computing to which all of its siblings have contributed so much. Though I shall always remember my dearest Libel (the special edition Spectre x360 with which I built most of Extratone) with great respect and deep fondness – I think it’s even worth mounting on some sort of plinth – the significantly-cheaper Laptop II has already demonstrated true value in its “premium” segment bragging rights with far superior materials and build quality. If you’re looking for the prettiest possible slice of magnesium lightness but aren’t the sort to have followed the story of Microsoft’s first venture into personal computer production since it began in the last year of the Mayan calendar, it’s worth your while to read Joshua Topolsky’s projections of the project’s impact on the popular narrative surrounding Microsoft from history’s freshest possible perspective: the eve of the first Surface tablet’s launch.

The entire tablet was designed in-house by Microsoft's teams, and if you believe what was said in the presentation yesterday, design and functionality in hardware has suddenly become a big deal in Redmond. That's a big shift, and it's an important one. The announcement of the Surface shows that Microsoft is ready to make a break with its history — a history of hardware partnerships which relied on companies like Dell, HP, or Acer to actually bring its products to market. That may burn partners in the short term, but it could also give Microsoft something it desperately needs: a clear story.

A pungent stigma festered from Microsoft’s history of inadequate and inelegant public relations (especially compared to its greatest longtime rival) has remained in relentlessly obvious orbit around every “significant” Windows and Office update for so long that its status quo has grown into a truly inhibitive force for all parties involved. Topolsky is unquestionably a compromising favorite of mine, but it’s hard not to decry then-CEO Steve Ballmer’s failure to comprehend Josh’s day-after insight in the whole three months that passed before his Seattle Times interview in September, 2012. Ultimately, The Big M is either incapable of understanding any alternative utopic Visions of Computing to its own, or simply overwrought with the same counteraspirational carelessness its culture has always depended upon. In analytical terms regarding Ballmer’s utilization of the forum’s opportunity to finally tell the fucking story, at least, the timidity of a term like “pre-eminent software” as a viably bright new beacon in contrast with “people would say we were a software company” (emphasis mine) – as if Steve-O himself doesn’t even have the power to publicly describe his company’s function as its #1 man – combined at the apex of what was almost impressively-negligent behavior.

I think when you look forward, our core capability will be software, (but) you'll probably think of us more as a devices-and-services company. Which is a little different. Software powers devices and software powers these cloud services, but it's a different form of delivery...

Don’t make the same mistake I did and wear yourself out trying to extract the meaning from these three sentences – there’s none to be found. Ultimately, whatever opportunity the Surface project could have provided for Microsoft’s identity has been vastly overshadowed by its success as last resort supercatalyst to restore any sense of dignity and pride within the hardware companies who produce the vehicles. In Fall 2017, The Register quoted industry gossip regarding the company’s new CEO Satya Nadella and his intent to “exit the product line” because “overall they are not making money [and] it doesn’t make sense for them to be in this business,” but newcomers to this conversation should know that no subsequent reporting has corroborated anything but a sustaining future of the line, though the measurable rate of innovation in Microsoft’s products continues to leave much to be desired. Now that you’ve heard from the experts, though, allow me to expand our lens a bit and examine what the Surface Laptop 2’s existence suggests as per The Present & Future of Computing.

The Clam Clan

In case I’ve yet to mention it, all of my tech writing is in substantial debt to my much-older and child-oriented siblings for providing 8 nieces and nephews over the course of 11 years – if not for any reason but the perspective offered by the slightest observation of their day-to-day lives. In this profoundly bizarre and historic technological sprint our species is experiencing, the differences in their respective relationships with consumer tech as they’ve grown up are fascinatingly… disturbingly significant. My eldest niece Abby was born four years after myself in 1998, and her younger sister Amber just quite three years later in 2001. All three of us are Aquarians who went to the same public schools (aside from 2 exceptions on my part,) and the two sisters have been close, significant influences on each other all their lives, yet the way Abby and I use and think about computers differs significantly from Amber’s. Our first real PCs introduced an important social and intellectual vehicle to our pre-teen lives, and both of us still “live on” our machines as young adults. For us and many others from this short-lived microgeneration of ours, budget laptops like the Dell Inspirion 2200 (which served as the first “real computer” for both of us) introduced the internet and Being Online as a State of Being with AIM groups, MySpace, and Yahoo! chain mails before smartphones and tablets were capable of doing so.

Amber prefers to use her iPhone for most everything and regards her computer as a tool for work – it’s booted up and down exclusively for that purpose, which is significantly healthier than the habit Abby, myself, and many of my Online friends developed: we left our computers running and Logged On all the time because we were otherwise unreachable. We learned from origin to depend on them for 100% of our computing tasks – from streaming Pandora to playing Flash games within six billion open browser tabs – which likely explains both our ADD and its resulting influence on the ease with which our personal computers can distract us. As a Journalism student and professional photographer, Abby uses the new 15-inch MacBook Pro, and [Insane Blogger] David Blue has spent years looking for an alternative, becoming the first and only iPhone user to make extensive use of its Bluetooth keyboard support in the process, but both of us are entirely uninterested in the rest of the industry’s insistence on convertibles, removable keyboards, or ‘professional’ tablets. I wish the Linux community was finally ready to drop the elitist pretenses plaguing its nerdy history; I wish I could finally tell someone like Abby that a machine like the System76 Galago Pro could slot itself into her workflow without losing her time or compatibility – that the reputation surrounding Linux People had finally lost most of its validity and her desire to learn more about computing as a young woman and Power User would be met with respectful and worthwhile conversation from their end. Unfortunately, I’ve still found some of the Old Guard to be elitist, socially behind, and juvenilely possessive, as if computing was still the niche interest from their 1980s and 90s childhoods. Though this conversation certainly warrants its own essay in the future, I’ll just express now that it’s a real shame some folks don’t realize the entire point of making great things is ultimately to give them to the world.

The opportunity I’ve had in the past year to finally get my Linux distro frenzy over with and out of my system managed to both radicalize and democratize my understanding of MacOS, Windows, and Linux as they are in the present. While I had nothing better to do, fiddling with Ubuntu Studio and Linux Mint to the extent I did throughout Spring and Summer led me to further appreciate the value of keyboard shortcuts, gave me my first real proficiency with a command line, helped globalize my comprehension of my own technological privilege, reacquainted me in a huge way with both the true history of software and my own personal past as an experimental test tube baby of Microsoft’s, and helped to answer a lot of questions I’d worried over for years about why software seemed like it simply couldn’t improve anymore. While it’s true that important open source projects like ElementaryOS continue to sprout from the Linus Extended Universe and the growing Open Source community on Mastodon is filled with brilliant, helpful, unpretentious, and remarkably curious enthusiasts (probably because many of those I’ve interacted with so far are non-cis and/or non-white,) little ole me was able to stumble upon some totally unnecessary and excruciatingly ignorant sociopolitical commentary by way of the white, middle-age host and his undoubtedly-white and staunchly libertarian caller on a live broadcast of the Ask Noah Show. (It’s not as if I haven’t said ignorant and very ugly things too, but I wasn’t a forty-something father on a semi-professional talk show representing an entire community.)

Essentially, I was quite frustrated and disappointed to find that Linux is still let down most by its own community, but the operating system itself is still much further along on its way to becoming a real alternative for the average user than mainstream tech journalism would have you believe. However, in my case, finally taking the time to really learn about Open Source computing also helped me understand (surprisingly) why Apple and its environment continue to be the best and most popular choice for professional applications. Linux Mint gave me tremendous power in enabling me to alter, specify, and redesign the most minute details of its interface, but I couldn’t have foreseen how all-consuming such power would be for someone like myself. In retrospect, I’ve realized that I ended up spending more time perfecting my custom LibreOffice Writer shortcuts than I did actually writing – I somehow found myself in a mind state which justified unironically creating a shortcut for the Shortcuts menu. Though I swore I’d never succumb to the bewildering hobby of collecting and exploring different Linux Distributions, it took no time at all for me to fill a folder with disc images of the installers for almost a dozen different interpretations of the operating system after I’d made the simple concession to myself that I’ll just try Ubuntu, that’s all. The most profound realization from all this (arguably otherwise wasted) time: for a user like me, a walled garden is actually the best place to be productive because apparently, I don’t have the self-control to keep myself from running away and/or fixating on completely unproductive tasks without its boundaries. I think this phenomenon is perhaps the worst culprit in the persistence of the aforementioned divide between “computer people” and everyone else who simply uses computers, as I’m sure any one of the latter could tell you after all of five minutes with a Linus type.

The most comprehensive and somewhat-urgent revision to illustrate the significance of this contrast from my perspective regards the exceptional iOS/MacOS markdown-based notetaking app Bear. Frankly, my own “Word Processing Methodology” essay from June has already become problematically out of date (and therefore embarrassing) in terms of my own knowledge of the segment and its history. Though I promised the conversation was “done,” I’ve continued to explore further into word processing’s history as well as its current state. “I had a go at Bear’s free iOS experience and saw little functional difference from DayOne,” the old, negligent, cursory David Blue noted, but if I’d simply been willing to cough up a bit more time and just $1.49 a month for Bear Pro, I’d have spared myself such shame and realized that the hype around this app really is 100% justified. Bear is the most beautiful iOS app I’ve ever seen, but I’m now also fully qualified to declare it the most effective execution of “distraction-free” writing software to come along in the past 25 years. Developer Shiny Frog’s secret is their perfect balance between capability and simplicity. It turns out, Daily Content Lord Casey Newton’s word on this matter really was worth more than mine, not to mention more succinct: “Bear may look simple, but there’s power underneath the surface.”

Those longtime Linux and Windows diehards who’ve tolerated me thus far, listen up: MacOS may be ancient, neglected, and full of incongruencies, but its single-minded methodology paired with Apple’s iCloud really does make it the most effective and elegant environment for most people to simply get shit done. It’s clear that many of you have realized the importance of simplicity for compact and/or educational distributions, but let me just add that the democratization of Linux provides a gargantuan development opportunity to make something that beats MacOS at its own game without starting from such a shitty premise and all of its resulting compromises – all without detracting from any other technically-minded distributions whatsoever. That is the magic of The Distro, remember?! If you’ve existed in a similar state of confusion to that of my entire adult life regarding the appeal of Apple products – despite having once been an extensive OSX user, myself – you’re very welcome for the insight. Instead of paying me for the profound self-improvement I’ve just provided, try prioritizing this newfound knowledge the next time you talk to your MacBook Pro-loving friend about their workflow. If you’re like myself, you’ll find their arguments have magically transformed from the bewildering bullshit they’ve always seemed to be into challenges for future competing operating systems to surpass Apple’s old bitch and excel in because MacOS and even its much-younger iOS counterpart – as well as the billions of people who depend on them – desperately need real competition in order to maintain their viability, much less become what products of the world’s wealthiest company should be.

Yes, the manner in which these operating systems are perceived really is an important discussion prompted by a product as insignificant as the Surface Laptop 2 because as you read, the industry is bracing for another paradigm shift in computing, which many believe (preposterously, I might add) could be as significant and disruptive as 2007’s introduction of the iPhone. This machine of Microsoft’s and its “new” MacBook Air counterpart could potentially be the last designs to carry us to a computing future where the tried-and-true clamshell design is forgone entirely by the mainstream, but Apple’s release of this year’s new iPad Pro prompted even the most Cupertino-loving tech commentators to respond with genuine discord along with a few long-overdue shouts of “are you crazy?!” I’m very proud of The Verge’s Nilay Patel, in particular, for so eloquently deconstructing its usability for all but the very wealthy. “It is impossible to look at a device this powerful and expensive and not expect it to replace a laptop for day-to-day work,” he reminds us in the introduction to his full review of the updated product, along with a beautifully transient sentiment which I think we all needed to hear again: “I don’t think people should adapt to their computers. Computers should adapt to people.” Even something as consumerist and bourgeois as the introduction of another pricepoint-burgeoning Apple hardware flagship can turn a simple tablet review into a much-needed manifesto for a user-centric way forward for the industry, which is itself worthy of celebratory encouragement.

I’ve favored The Verge and its cast long past the point of excess throughout the span of my work about technology, but Nilay’s review and its accompanying episode of The Vergecast are truly special and profound gems of content that shouldn’t be passed up. Apparently – as the Editor-in-Chief immediately insists as the episode begins – his “ongoing theory” that “the more important you are, the less actually important work you do, and the more likely you are to be an iPad user” roused anger from “that whole class of [billionaires,]” but the experiences behind his argument actually suggest that Apple’s own favorite child of late – into which it has begun investing and thereby implicitly sponsoring over its much older brother as the ultimate heir of the majority’s future computing – has unequivocally failed to do its part in growing the iPad Pro into the “laptop replacement” we’d all heard so much about. Of iOS 12’s performance as an operating system beneath true work-related tasks, he exasperates “you have to spend all of your time figuring out how to do stuff instead of doing stuff,” which I couldn’t help but hear as echoes of my own late Linux lamentations. As thankful as I am to have finally achieved enlightenment of the Planet Apple, I’m afraid I was pitifully late: its very natural laws underwent their most brutal tests of the 21st century this past year. Now that I’ve finally come to adore the elegant effectiveness of a new generation of iOS apps like Bear, I’m faced with yet another of the episode’s statements of weight: “I think it’s time to stop pretending that the future of computing looks like Apple’s restrictions.” On the opposing end of the line, the world’s first trillion-dollar company’s other major product release of 2018 managed to disappoint even the most fanatical fans of its original operating system’s best-selling platform with an insultingly mediocre update to the MacBook Air marque upon which it once so fondly doted.

My best friend’s parents bought her the original Surface tablet when she enrolled in art school, and her frustration with its lackluster keyboard (among others) leads MacOS alternative-seeking users like us to wish Microsoft had started with a traditional design like the Surface Laptop first. Perhaps Apple and Microsoft’s emphasis on their tablets is nothing but a bit premature for the most current crop of users, and the rest of my nieces and nephews will expand upon an entirely different methodology of usership when they receive their freshman computer. Those elders of us who still take the Clamshell form seriously and love printing our documents are apparently facing a future industry saturated with products we can’t believe in, but it’s up to you to decide if this issue is worth expending your energy in advocacy for either camp. With my 120+ word per minute proficiency with physical keyboards, I for one have been completely bewildered by the iPad as anything but an indulgence for reading text on the web, and I’m pleased as punch with my Surface Laptop 2. Even if it proves to be the last new computer I’ll ever own to come as optimized for my use, I’m just grateful and astonished it happens to be the best yet.

#hardware

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