Private Gun Ownership and Resistance

There was an interesting question posted on /r/history yesterday.After a lot of answers deviating from history and moving the threads to political topics - the mods locked it down and gutted it.

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Macbooks and upgrades

I’ve been using a previous generation Macbook Air (pre-redesign) for years now. It’s a “travel laptop” - I don’t need it to be powerful. My main computer is a PC that I built 2 years ago that is plenty powerful.

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Google Play Store and Monopolies

Success of smartphones OSes has always been determined by the app ecosystem it provides.

Users want a safe and convenient way to get new apps. Google and Apple succeeded because of the apps available for your average user. This power however has now led to a duopoly where Apple or Google are the judges who can make or break your app. (Android atleast allows for third party marketplaces like F-Droid for example. And at the end of the day, you could always side load apps)

There’s been an interesting discussion on HN today. As Apple and Google want a monopoly on payments - both of them tend to remove apps for in-app purchases bypassing the middleman and their 30% or so cut. (Understandable to an extent - apps could misuse such purchases)

Open-source apps removed from Play Store for donation links

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History of the GT40

It all started with a business deal gone bad. In 1963, Henry Ford II, “the Deuce,” decided he wanted Ford Motor Company to go racing.

So begins this article - chronicling the story behind the GT40. Its a fascinating story involving larger than life characters and great achievements. A must read article for petrolheads.

Ford vs Ferrari - The True Story behind the GT40

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Apple Removes HKMapLive (Again)

After initially backtracking and permitting the HKMapLive app, Apple has bowed to Chinese pressure and removed it from the store once more. This is an utterly disgraceful move by Apple.

Apple justifies the move by saying,

We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place to discover apps. We have learned that an app, HKmap.live, has been used in ways that endanger law enforcement and residents in Hong Kong. Many concerned customers in Hong Kong have contacted us about this app and we immediately began investigating it. The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement. This app violates our guidelines and local laws, and we have removed it from the App Store.

This is a piss-poor justification. Almost any could be used for nefarious purposes. iMessage, Waze, Whatsapp - all could be used for criminal purposes. That’s not really a reason to remove it.

HN Discussion

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Logs have become a liability

Something I agree with.

Relevant comment by EdwardDiego

The author touches on the cargo cult belief that data has inherent value, so collect all of it, hire a data scientist or ML expert and point them at it, and watch the value flow!   Seems to come from the same place as the belief that the Cloud magically makes everything resilient and scalable without any extra effort on your part. Just put it in the cloud, and then give your CTO a bonus for suggesting the cloud, and suddenly you don’t need to worry about sysops.   Don’t get me wrong, “log all the things” is a good place to start when you need to figure out what’s actually worth logging - but it needs to be followed by a rigorous prune.   Otherwise your data-lake turns into a data-swamp, you collate a lot of noise that makes it harder to find signals, and people eventually end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out what’s actually used, if any, when Hadoop gets full or the S3 bill gets too high.

HN Discussion

Original Post

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Trackers on the Web

This is an interesting article I read today. This opinion piece on the NY Times - facilitated by The Times’s Privacy Project reports the following,

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Debunking Science Denialism

This is an interesting study on combating misinformation, that seems so prevalent these days.

Getting accurate information across in the face of this science denialism is something of a minefield, as there is evidence that attempts to correct misinformation may backfire, further entrenching the beliefs of science deniers instead. In their paper, Schmid and Betsch present some good news and some bad: rebutting misinformation reduces the ensuing level of science denialism, but not enough to completely counter the effect of the original exposure to misinformation.

Dismayingly, exposure to the denialist arguments had an overall negative impact on attitudes and intentions, regardless of the rebuttals the participants heard. But the rebuttals did successfully mitigate this negative impact. To test the robustness of their results, Schmid and Betsch conducted five replications, testing that their results remained the same in different population groups (students compared to a national sample) and cultures (Germany and the United States). They also tested whether the same rebuttal tactics worked for climate change and whether the presentation—with the debates delivered in audio or written format—made a difference.

The results, write Schmid and Betsch, suggest that advocates can pick the strategy they’re more comfortable with. Critically, they saw no evidence of a backfire effect and, in fact, tentatively suggest the opposite—that people who were more vulnerable to the misinformation on offer were more likely to benefit from rebuttal.

Two tactics effectively limit the spread of science denialism

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Lifetime of Airpods

I’ve been using my Airpods for a few months now. Although I’ve not seen any degradation of battery life so far, it is inevitable. I can only hope that they last long enough for them to be worth their price.

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The Case Against Lawns

I’ve long disliked the boringness and the tedium of lawns. This is a great article about it, written by the author of McMansion Hell which has a series of amusing posts about terribly designed “mansions”.

The lawn is, and has always been, a status symbol. Lawns have their roots in the English estates of the 16th century, where wealthy landowners planted turf grass for their cattle to graze on, and on which lawn sports could be played. These lawns, and later iterations such as the mathematically tidy gardens of Versailles and other elite estates, required meticulous hand-scything by hired servants to keep the turf grass at a handsome and desirable length. The few who could afford such a massive deployment of labor took pride in their lawns, which were, until the 19th century, only affordable to them.

The case against lawns

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On Disbelieving Atrocities (1944)

It is fascinating and somewhat sad that this essay from 1944 still applies today.

Discussion on HN

(Highlights mine)

On Disbelieving Atrocities

Arthur Koestler (Jan. 1944)

There is a dream which keeps coming back to me at almost regular intervals; it is dark, and I am being murdered in some kind of thicket or brushwood; there is a busy road at no more than ten yards distance; I scream for help but nobody hears me, the crowd walks past laughing and chatting.

I know that a great many people share, with individual variations, the same type of dream. I have quarrelled about it with analysts and I believe it to be an archetype in the Jungian sense: an expression of the individual’s ultimate loneliness when faced with death and cosmic violence; and his inability to communicate the unique horror of his experience. I further believe that it is the root of the ineffectiveness of our atrocity propaganda.

For, after all, you are the crowd who walk past laughing on the road; and there are a few of us, escaped victims or eyewitnesses of the things which happen in the thicket and who, haunted by our memories, go on screaming on the wireless, yelling at you in newspapers and in public meetings, theatres and cinemas.

Now and then we succeed in reaching your ear for a minute. I know it each time it happens by a certain dumb wonder on your faces, a faint glassy stare entering your eye; and I tell myself: now you have got them, now hold them, bold them, so that they will remain awake. But it only lasts a minute. You shake yourself like puppies who have got their fur wet; then the transparent screen descends again and you walk on, protected by the dream barrier which stifles all sound.

We, the screamers, have been at it now for about ten years. We started on the night when the epileptic van der Lubbe set fire to the German Parliament; we said that if you don’t quench those flames at once, they will spread all over the world; you thought we were maniacs. At present we have the mania of trying to tell you about the killing, by hot steam, mass-electrocution and live burial of the total Jewish population of Europe. So far three million have died.

It is the greatest mass-killing in recorded history; and it goes on daily, hourly, as regularly as the ticking of your watch. I have photographs before me on the desk while I am writing this, and that accounts for my emotion and bitterness. People died to smuggle them out of Poland; they thought it was worth while.

The facts have been published in pamphlets, White Books, newspapers, magazines and what not. But the other day I met one of the best-known American journalists over here. He told me that in the course of some recent public opinion survey nine out of ten average American citizens, when asked whether they believed that the Nazis commit atrocities, answered that it was all propaganda lies, and that they didn’t believe a word of it.

As to this country, I have been lecturing now for three years to the troops and their attitude is the same. They don’t believe in concentration camps, they don’t believe in the starved children of Greece, in the shot hostages of France, in the mass-graves of Poland; they have never heard of Lidice, Treblinka or Belzec; you can convince them for an hour, then they shake themselves, their mental self-defence begins to work and in a week the shrug of incredulity has returned like a reflex temporarily weakened by a shock.

Clearly all this is becoming a mania with me and my like. Clearly we must suffer from some morbid obsession, whereas the others are healthy and normal. But the characteristic symptom of maniacs is that they lose contact with reality and live in a phantasy world. So, perhaps, it is the other way round: perhaps it is we, the screamers, who react in a sound and healthy way to the reality which surrounds us, whereas you are the neurotics who totter about in a screened phantasy world because you lack the faculty to face the facts. Were it not so, this war would have been avoided, and those murdered within sight of your day-dreaming eyes would still be alive.

I said: perhaps, because obviously the above can only be half the truth. There have been screamers at all times-Prophets, Preachers, Teachers and Cranks, cursing the obtuseness of their contemporaries, and the situation-pattern remained very much the same. There are always the screamers screaming from the thicket and the people who pass by on the road. They have ears but hear not, they have eyes but see not. So the roots of this must lie deeper than mere obtuseness.

Is it perhaps the fault of the screamers? Sometimes no doubt, but I do not believe this to be the core of the matter. Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah were pretty good propagandists and yet they failed to shake their people and to warn them. Cassandra’s voice was said to have pierced walls, and yet the Trojan war took place. And at our end of the chain–in due proportion–I believe that on the whole the M.O.I. and B.B.C. are quite competent at their job. For almost three years they had to keep this country going on nothing but defeats, and they succeeded. But at the same time they lamentably failed to imbue the people with anything approaching a full awareness of what it was all about, of the grandeur and horror of the time into which they were born. They carried on business-as-usual style, with the only difference that the routine of this business included killing and being killed.

Matter-of-fact unimaginativeness has become a kind of Anglo-Saxon racial myth; it is usually opposed to Latin hysterics and praised for its high value in an emergency. But the myth does not say what happens between emergencies and that the same quality is responsible for the failure to prevent their recurrence.

Now this limitation of awareness is not an Anglo-Saxon privilege, though they are probably the only race which claims as an asset what others regard as a deficiency. Nor is it a matter of temperament; stoics have wider horizons than fanatics. It is a psychological fact, inherent in our mental frame, which I believe has not been given sufficient attention in social psychology or political theory. We say, “I believe this,” or, “I don’t believe that,” “I know it,” or “I don’t know. it”; and regard these as black-and-white altematives. Now in reality both “knowing” and “believing” have varying degrees of intensity. I know that there was a man called Spartacus who led the Roman slaves into revolt; but my belief in his one-time existence is much paler than that of, say Lenin.

I believe in spiral nebulae, can see them in a telescope and express their distance in figures; but they have a lower degree of reality for me than the inkpot on my table. Distance in space and time degrades intensity of awareness. So does magnitude. Seventeen is a figure which I know intimately like a friend; fifty billions is just a sound. A dog run over by a car upsets our emotional balance and digestion; three million Jews killed in Poland cause but a moderate uneasiness. Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts. We are unable to embrace the total process with our awareness; we can only focus on little lumps of reality.

So far all this is a matter of degrees; of gradations in the intensity of knowing and believing. But when we pass the realm of the finite and are faced with words like eternity in time, infinity of space, that is, when we approach the sphere of the Absolute, our reaction ceases to be a matter of degrees and becomes different in quality. Faced with the Absolute, understanding breaks down, and our “knowing” and “believing” become pure lip-service.

Death, for instance, belongs to the category of the Absolute and our belief in it is merely a lip-service belief. “I know” that, the average statistical age being about 65, I may reasonably expect to live no more than another 2.7 years, but if I knew for certain that I should die on November 30, 1970, at 5 A.M., I would be poisoned by this knowledge, count and recount the remaining days and hours, grudge myself every wasted minute, in other words develop a neurosis. This has nothing to do with hopes to live longer than the average; if the date were fixed ten years later, the neurosis-forming process would remain the same.

Thus we all live in a state of split consciousness. There is a tragic plane and a trivial plane, which contain. two mutually incompatible kinds of experienced knowledge. Their climate and language are as different as Church Latin from business slang.

These limitations of awareness account for the limitations of enlightenment by propaganda. People go to cinemas, they see films of Nazi tortures, of mass-shootings, of underground conspiracy and self-sacrifice. They sigh, they shake their heads, some have a good cry. But they do not connect it with the realities of their normal plane of existence. It is Romance, it is Art, it is Those Higher Things, it is Church Latin. It does not click with reality. We live in a society of the Jekyll and Hyde pattern, magnified into gigantic proportions.

This was, however, not always the case to the same extent. There were periods and movements in history-in Athens, in the early Renaissance, during the first years of the Russian Revolution-when at least certain representative layers of society had attained a relatively high level of mental integration; times, when people seemed to rub their eyes and come awake, when their cosmic awareness seemed to expand, when they were “contemporaries” in a much broader and fuller sense; when the trivial and the cosmic planes seemed on the point of fusing.

And there were periods of disintegration and dissociation. But never before, not even during the spectacular decay of Rome and Byzantium, was split thinking so palpably evident, such a uniform mass-disease; never did human psychology reach such a height of phoneyness. **Our awareness seems to shrink in direct ratio as communications expand; the world is open to us as never before, and we walk about as prisoners, each in his private portable cage. **And meanwhile the watch goes on ticking. What can the screamers do but go on screaming, until they get blue in the face?

I know one who used to tour this country addressing meetings, at an average of ten a week. He is a well-known London publisher. Before each meeting he used to lock himself up in a room, close his eyes, and imagine in detail, for twenty minutes, that he was one of the people in Poland who were killed. One day he tried to feel what it was like to be suffocated by chloride gas in a death-train; the other he had to dig his grave with two hundred others and then face a machine gun, which, of course, is rather unprecise and capricious in its aiming. Then he walked out to the platform and talked. He kept going for a full year before he collapsed with a nervous breakdown. He had a great command of his audiences and perhaps he has done some good, perhaps he brought the two planes, divided by miles of distance, an inch closer to each other.

I think one should imitate this example. Two minutes of this kind of exercise per day, with closed eyes, after reading the morning paper, are at present more necessary to us than physical jerks and breathing the Yogi way. It might even be a substitute for going to church. For as long as there are people on the road and victims in the thicket, divided by dream barriers, this will remain a phoney civilisation.

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Brexit and the border issues

These are some of the clearest videos I’ve seen explaining the issues with the Brexit border issues.

And this follow-up video makes it even more clear - that Britain is making some really daft demands and being intransigent.

It’s like watching a car crash. A country that I admire greatly marching towards the “cliff edge”, leaving everyone confused.

Note: Youtube embed links need JS to work.

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Spotify vs Apple: Anti-trust case

Spotify’s EU antitrust complaint could be a serious threat to Apple

I’m no lawyer but this case does seem pretty solid. I’m conflicted on this. I do think that Apple’s policies are anti-competitive, but a part of me says Apple should be allowed to do this on its platform.

“Spotify probably has a pretty good case in Europe,” argues Chris Sagers, a legal scholar and antitrust expert at the Cleveland-Marshal College of Law. Apple’s efforts to prevent Spotify from bypassing Apple’s in-app purchasing rules “looks like garden variety anticompetitive exclusion to me,” Sagers said. “I think it will to the European Commission as well.”

Apple is also not allowing apps to let customers know that they can sign up for Premium subscriptions on their website. It’s ridiculous that Apple doesn’t allow companies to let their customers know about the situation.

Sewell said Apple had rejected Spotify’s app because “the in-app purchase feature had been removed and replaced with an account sign-up feature clearly intended to circumvent Apple’s in-app purchase rules. This feature exists only for the purpose of avoiding having to pay Apple for your use of the App Store by emailing customers within hours, directing them to subscribe to Spotify on its website.”

European authorities are unlikely to look kindly on this kind of behavior, Sagers argues.

“Apple taking exclusionary steps to keep developers paying high fees to get their software onto people’s phones looks anticompetitive,” he told Ars. “The European Commission has seemed receptive to that kind of theory. And it looks worse when the firm also just happens to be selling competing products.”

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Elon Musk and the Whistleblower

Musk is made out to be rather cruel and capricious in this article.

When Elon Musk Tried to Destroy a Tesla Whistleblower

The leaker, they determined, was one Martin Tripp, a slight man of 40 who’d spent his career in a series of low-level manufacturing jobs before finding his way to the assembly line at the Gigafactory. Tripp later claimed to be an idealist trying to get Tesla to tighten its operations; Musk saw him as a dangerous foe who engaged in “extensive and damaging sabotage,” as he wrote in a staff memo. He implied that Tripp had shared the data not only with the press but also with “unknown third parties.”

On June 20, the company sued Tripp for $167 million. Later that day, Tripp heard from the sheriff’s department in Storey County, Nev. Tesla’s security department had passed a tip to police. An anonymous caller had contacted the company to say Tripp was planning a mass shooting at the Gigafactory.

When the police confronted Tripp that evening, he was unarmed and in tears. He said he was terrified of Musk and suggested the billionaire might have called in the tip himself. A sheriff’s deputy attempted to cheer up Tripp and then called Tesla to tell the company that the threat, whoever had made it, was bogus. Tripp wasn’t dangerous.

After the article about the “Big Hack”, I’d advise some level of skepticism with Bloomberg articles. But if these allegations are in anyway true, Musk should face real world consequences.

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"Smart" rubbish

I really don’t like “smart” IoT products. As a self-professed tech-enthusiast, people are often surprised by that. There’s simply too much at risk and too much bullshit there for me to trust such devices to work as expected.

No guns or lockpicks needed to nick modern cars if they’re fitted with hackable ‘smart’ alarms

Honeywell’s server outage leaves people out in the cold (or heat)

“Smart” devices leaves too much in control of third-party entities (often incompetent or shady). Devices you buy could suddenly stop working when the company goes bankrupt (as many IoT startups do). Companies could use it to gather data and monetise it. Companies could just turn out to be incompetent and leave a glaring vulnerability unpatched. Is it possible that your “smart” device contains an undisclosed microphone?

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The H-1B visa and outsourcing giants

H-1B visas are misused by outsourcing giants. That much is very clear to me. As an Indian tech guy, this is really annoying.

H-1B: Outsourcing giant games visa system to discriminate against non-South Asians in hiring, lawsuit claims

An interesting response by HN user raincom,

Delivery managers at WITCH (Wipro, Infy, TCS, CTS, HCL) outsourcing firms are paid based on how much they can earn from every account. So, this drives them do many things. One of the consequences is the perception of the said discrimination. Delivery managers prefer a cheaper resource to an expensive resource. They also practice this in India: that’s why every team in India is filled with 80% freshers or those who get paid $5k per annum in India.

In the states, they look for the cheapest resource to fill a position. Often times, they find spots that just require warm bodies to add billable hours. Guess, who would they go for? They will hire some H4 EAD who asks $65K per annum in NJ. These people are happy to get some job and experience.

In old days, companies used to have lots of people coasting in their jobs. Now, WITCH companies have captured that profit in a two prong process: offshore to India and charge the client $30 per hour per person, then pay some desperate college grad in India $3 per hour. And capture that $27 per hour.

This is similar to outsourcing the manufacturing, as the middle layers capture the profit, by paying peanuts in China and by getting rid of expensive employees in India.

Edit: basically, these companies are making money off of outsourcing lots of bullshit jobs. They are NOT eliminating bs jobs. In fact, most of WITCH company onsite people are project managers pretending to be super smart workers.

This is an essential truth to the outsourcing companies in India. This is also pretty much common knowledge to engineers in India.

These companies make good use of the glut of “qualified” engineers in India - most of whom lack employable skills, and pay them a decent lower middle-class salary (by Indian standards) and sell their services to companies (and misrepresent their experience).

I often get annoyed at people who complain about Indian engineers after working with outsourcing companies because when you pay peanuts, you’re going to get the bottom of the barrel.

It’s true that Indian employees are cheaper but they aren’t that cheap. $5k per annum will only get you the desperate ones. Pay about $25k or above and you’ll get better engineers.

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Cashless stores

I’ve been seeing posts about various cities considering legislation to ban cashless stores.

The first post I saw was Philadelphia banning cashless stores (following in the footsteps of Massachusetts which has apparently banned them since 1978, that’s foresight I guess).

Sorry Amazon: Philadelphia bans cashless stores

Just following that I saw a post on HN linking to a City Lab post saying New York is considering similar legislation.

As More Cities Ban Cashless Businesses, New York Wants to Follow

I usually go cashless, primarily using cards or mobile payment methods. I really don’t like dealing with cash, although I realise the benefits of privacy and convenience when using it.

However I don’t think cashless stores are a good thing. Cash exists as a low barrier way to handle money. You don’t need a bank account. You don’t need a smartphone. You don’t need internet to conduct a cash transaction. And I think by going cashless - stores are in essence discriminating against the poorer segments of society.

So logically, you’d think I’m in favour of such legislation. But I’m not so sure.

Handling cash is generally much riskier than handling transactions via card or mobile payment methods. As a capitalist at heart, I’m in favour of letting businesses decide how they are to accept payment. High-end brands and many bespoke brands employ a great amount of discretion when choosing their customers and I think they should be free to do so.

I’m quite conflicted and I don’t think this is necessarily a good move to make.

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Apple to repair phones with 3rd party batteries

I think this is long overdue. As someone who uses Apple products on a daily basis, I’ve always disliked its repair and service policies.

For too often Apple needlessly lets gadgets go to waste when it is fully possible to repair them. Far too often Apple just junks entire logic boards or even entire devices for something that could be fixed with a minor component fix.

This is a step in the right direction I suppose.

Apple no longer refuses to fix iPhones with third-party batteries

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Notepad++ drops code signing

With version 7.6.4 - Notepad++ no longer performs any code signing.

3 years ago DigiCert donated a 3 years code signing certificate to the project, and every good thing has its end, the certificate has been expired since the beginning of this year.

I wasted hours and hours for getting one suitable certificate instead of working on essential thing - Notepad++ project. I realize that code signing certificate is just an overpriced masturbating toy of FOSS authors - Notepad++ has done without certificate for more than 10 years, I don’t see why I should add the dependency now (and be an accomplice of this overpricing industry). I decide to do without it.

I really don’t get the need to waste money on certs for PC software. I think this was a pretty good decision to focus on the actual project (which is something I’ve used for more than a decade now.) than on wasteful certs. Looking at the pricing for code signing simply boggles the mind.

Notepad++ 7.6.4 released

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Spotify in India

Spotify was recently launched in India. I’ve been using Apple Music for about a year now. Google Play Music for a year before that.

I signed up to Spotify to try it out, and I was immediately disappointed. A lot of music that I wanted to listen to - simply wasn’t available. This is probably because of their ongoing legal kerfuffle with Warner Music.

Despite this initial disappointment, I’ve grown to love the experience. Spotify Connect seems so intuitive and just works. Its a real shame that Apple Music does not support such a feature. Handoff for music would be lovely. Apple needs to get rid of iTunes. It still feels like an application from the early 2000s. iTunes just does too much and too poorly.

iTunes needs to be 2 applications; one to deal with backup, restore and sync and one to deal with media (buying, streaming and library management).

The experience of switching from the Music app on iOS and iTunes (on Mac or PC) should be as seamless as switching between Spotify on desktop and the Spotify app on mobile.

As I’m in a complain-ey mood, I might as well say that Spotify discovery is so much better than the experience on Apple Music.

However, as it stands today - Apple Music is a subpar experience. And that’s why I’m primarily using Spotify, atleast until I feel like listening to Fleetwood Mac. Which Spotify doesn’t have in its library in India.

Update (16 Oct 2019): I’ve now switched back to Apple Music. The issues with the Spotify library necessitated this move back. While I will miss Spotify’s playlists - Apple has finally added a Dark mode. Yay - I suppose.

Spotify adds 1 million unique listeners in India in less than a week

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A blog. Sort of.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve felt a growing discontent with social media. As such I’ve started deleting my accounts on multiple sites. I’ve grown to prefer pseudo-anonymous identities - like on HN or Reddit where a username exists to maintain history. I’ve wiped out most of my social media presence. Leaving this and Twitter (@chartriceratops).

I’ve created this simple site for me to put longer posts on. Not a blog per se, but just an open place for me to dump my thoughts.

jekyll-logo

This site is based on the Jekyll Now setup on GitHub.

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