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Updated: IEM Chat Alerts using Adium and Growl

The public Iowa Environmental Mesonet chat rooms, which relay real-time NWS products over XMPP, have moved to a new conference server (conference.weather.im), so I updated my reasonably popular (popular has a strange meaning on this blog) post about how to set up popup alerts using Growl to reflect this new info. I also have confirmed that the message phrasing in NWSChat (the National Weather Service’s private chat system for emergency managers and media members) is the same as what is relayed over the public weather.im chat server, so those of you who use Adium with NWSChat will be able to take advantage of Growl’s priority system. I know Growl is less popular now that Notification Center is integrated into OS X, but Growl is still immensely powerful for the right use case (and this is still a great one).

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Twitter is restoring the old blocking scheme.

Good news.

As a side note, this would be a good opportunity for Twitter to look at a mute feature, which roughly would be the new blocking behavior, just implemented alongside the block feature that forces an unfollow. Third-party apps have been doing this for a long time; it seems to make sense to give people the ability to curate their feeds more carefully if someone is being loud (like live-tweeting sports, for instance).

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WordPress 3.8 is out.

WordPress’s new development methodology — developing major new features as plugins — has several huge wins in the admin area in this release (including the new design). It’s a great release and is worth the time to upgrade.

Two good reads on Twitter’s new blocking scheme

Update: Twitter is reverting to the old block functionality.

I’m not a huge fan of Twitter’s new blocking scheme. These two posts do a great job of explaining why:

hypatia dot ca:

Blocking, even on a public account, is surprisingly effective at dealing with low-grade harassment. Most harassers just aren’t that invested in the person they are bothering, and putting up the tiniest roadblock will make them move on to their next target. I had this conversation with a Googler shortly after G+ shipped, as its blocking behavior was at the time the same as the new Twitter behavior. I have no idea what it is now because I hate G+ and don’t use it, and I realized that this may be unintuitive to someone who hasn’t experienced harassment before – but trust me, as someone who has, it works a lot of the time. Which is great!

The Daily Dot:

Unfortunately, by enacting this policy change, more people will simply lock their accounts to bring back the capabilities of the “old” block. Not exactly the transparency Twitter is hoping for.

A week or so with Mavericks

A few observations from a little over a week on the final release of OS X Mavericks (which is worth $20 and I still cannot believe Apple released for free):

  • Safari 7 might be good enough to switch to permanently. It just absolutely flies and its ability to pick out links from my Twitter timeline and present them as a continuous reading list is really nice (unless a friend gets hacked and sends spam, anyway).
  • I just replaced the battery in my MacBook Pro on Wednesday, and I am getting better life out of it with Mavericks than any prior operating system version. Over the last few years, Apple has been steady at work bringing features back to OS X from iOS. Seeing what they’ve learned from engineering for mobile power consumption come back to the Mac just enhances the value of the hardware that much more. I particularly like the ability to see which programs have the most “energy impact” (their terms, not mine) on the machine in Activity Monitor — a great nod to power users from a company that is increasingly struggling with power users, IMO.
  • The UI feels much more responsive. It really is impressive how my aging MacBook Pro still feels fresh and plenty fast even on the newest OS X upgrade — I’ve gotten over four great years out of it and it looks like that will continue for at least one more year. I am more than a little surprised to hear that people are having issues with performance of all things — by all measures, performance is up across the system.
  • I never knew just how many sites disabled form autofill until the advent of iCloud Keychain. I wonder if sites will rethink their policy on form autofill for login pages now that Safari can generate strong passwords on autofill-enabled forms. I also wish iCloud Keychain would have gone as far as its MobileMe predecessor; it gets awfully inconvenient to retype some exceedingly complex passwords in locations other than Safari.
  • Multi-monitor support in Mavericks is such an improvement over the Lions it isn’t even funny, but it still has some room to improve. My typical workstation setup puts my MBP directly underneath my external monitor; the screens are positioned to stack one on top of the other. It works well with one huge caveat: the Dock (which I align on the bottom of the screen) doesn’t follow me from screen to screen. It is undoubtedly difficult to get the Dock to take a vertical stack into account, I can imagine, but I can’t be alone in this configuration.
  • I’ve signed up for push notifications from the New York Times; one has not yet come through, though. I’ll be interested to see what their editorial standards for triggering a push to Mavericks machines will be. (For those who might be wondering: Yes, I’m looking into how I can implement this on chswx.us.)
  • Mavericks bundles PHP 5.4; this is working fine for WordPress development with my existing MySQL 5.5 install and the built-in Apache, though I think I’m going to switch to Homebrew versions of the aforementioned at some point in the near future (and trade Apache for nginx). I’ve decided to replace the built-in Vim 7.3 with a Homebrew-built version 7.4. The only major catch right now is getting the PHP xdebug module up and running, though I chalk that up to not putting too much time into trying to get it fixed (this machine won’t be my primary work machine shortly). I’m not seeing too many performance differences or other issues otherwise.
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Admin upgrade in WordPress 3.8?

I’m really, really liking where MP6, the new WordPress administrative look and feel, has gone in its recent releases (especially now that I can switch to a lower-contrast color scheme, which I’m using on this installation of WordPress). It is time for it to land in the WordPress core.

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Fast Company: All Of The Ways Apple’s New Free Mac OS Hurts Microsoft Windows

Apple’s quest to bring iOS “back to the Mac” has now gone beyond the contents of the software in two key ways:

  • Free upgrades.
  • A steady, proven release cadence of one operating system per year, which increases the value proposition of a Mac purchase and helps get years out of one machine in an age where people will just toss PCs after a couple years.

In four years, my mid-2009 MacBook Pro — which shipped with Leopard — has gotten Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and now Mavericks. Contrast that with the computer I built in 2003 with Windows XP Professional: It was rendered mostly obsolete by Windows Vista (which arrived three years later), so I stuck with XP (with a Linux dual-boot as well).

So much iOS 7 frenzy, so little time

A lot has been written about iOS 7′s release since yesterday. I’ll spare you those nitty-gritty details. If you’re interested in a high-level overview about how it all works and what to expect if you’ve yet to get it installed, I think James Williams did a really superb job at showcasing the big things.

From a personal perspective, I offer these thoughts:

  • iOS 7 feels lighter and more effortless to use than its predecessors. I’ve thought this since I first put beta 2 on my daily-driver iPhone 5 and I still think this now.
  • I stopped noticing the icons about a day or so in the first time. They are not the end of the world, nor are they a sign that the operating system is somehow horribly flawed. Is there room for improvement? Sure there is. That improvement will come as this look matures.
  • My excitement wasn’t around the public availability of iOS 7 itself (I’ve been running the gold master build for a week) but was more focused on finally seeing what app developers have done with the new interface. It’s impressive what some have done in three months, while others simply reskinned their existing apps to keep up (anything built against the iOS 6 SDK looks tremendously out of place). My best advice is to not judge iOS 7-ready apps by what came out on Wednesday — it will take more time for new conventions to really work themselves out in the iOS 7 world. The emphasis on using the full screen for content should yield some tremendous creativity and excellent design — I’m pretty excited to see what people come up with.
  • iOS 6 has looked gaudy and heavy for a few months now. It’s such a jarring difference going back and forth between the two looks.
  • My iPad 2 is finally starting to show its age — it does feel a little slower and the iOS 7 interface is just inferior on a non-Retina display device. (I’ve seen it on a fourth-generation iPad and it is just gorgeous.)
  • Some of the special multitasking gestures on the iPad feel awkward now, especially swiping four fingers up from the bottom of the screen to get to the task list. Before, the foreground view (active app or home screen) would slide up, revealing the linen-backed task list panel underneath. Now, swiping up continues to display the multitasking UI, but the active window slides up and to the left, which just does not feel natural. This definitely needs some work.
  • I will never get over seeing non-geeks get really excited for a new release of an operating system. It wasn’t long ago when similar enthusiasm would draw blank stares and the friend zone.