official donut

If we’re counting devices as screens, I have six:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • iMac
  • Gaming/Linux tinkering computer
  • Raspberry Pi 4 (also for tinkering)
  • DevTerm (for the tinkering)

This isn’t including the PlayStation, the Vita, the Switch, or the TV itself. 

And yet! Yet! 

I keep looking at laptops. 

Earlier this year I turned in my old MacBook Air and iPad Pro to buy a new iPad (the old one developed a weird lag early on, and stopped being responsive to the pencil. This appeared to be a common problem with that model). Getting rid of the MacBook Air was actually better for my productivity with creative projects. I loved that laptop, and I would not hesitate to say it was probably my favorite ever computer. But I had an iMac I built to last 5 years, and a very new gaming PC, and the MBA would get me the most in a trade in. 

What I want is a writing device I can use on the couch. I’ve augmented my iPad with a Brydge keyboard, and that works *pretty* well, but trying to bend a bunch of systems to what I need them to do is a challenge. Also, I should have sprung for the keyboard with the trackpad, but that’s not the point right now. The point is, a laptop would make things easier.

I’ve looked at a lot of options. The practical option would be to buy a Dell on eBay, like a model that I work on at work and know that I can open up if I need to. The druthers would be another MacBook Air, just like my old one. I know what I’m getting into there, and I like the keyboard. The fun project would be an old iBook — yes, the clamshell. It’s a divisive product but I love it. Bonus points if there’s no Airport card inside, and I can work offline. 

But.

What I don’t need right now is another screen. I don’t need another device that will distract me from doing things I actually want to do. The thing is, what I have right now works. I’m writing this right now on the iPad, posting from Firefox. It does what I need it to. And while things aren’t entirely cohesive, I can get it to do enough, get the content I need into the right streams. That’s something.

Still, it’s fun to window shop while I’m at my desk.

-donut

It’s been a month. I have thoughts I’ve been working on banging out, about tea and urban planning, and little computers, and creative projects. Right now, there’s so much I can’t quite focus on one thing. I’m just coming off of a Blaseball fandom project, and I need to focus on my witches for a bit before I move on to other things, namely a story based on a regional variant of baseball. I’d love to do a comic, but I lack the skills for that.

Of course, I could just do it because it would be rad to make a comic.

I rambled about that over on my Small Web alter-ego, coincidentally also called Official Donut. What if I just did things for fun? What if there wasn’t a profit motive, or a need to make something perfect? I need to think about that more.

There’s no point to this, just posting to be posting. Which, I guess, is kind of the point.

-donut

When designing the internet for the future world I'm building, I imagine things have by necessity gotten simpler. What happens when you cannot manufacture computers anymore, but you have a lot of old salvageable screens and processors, and a lot of 3D printers?

The tablet in this world is their every day computer. It's fairly light weight, durable, low power, and easily repairable.

Your tablet has been designed around easily salvageable parts, those commonly found in the ruins of old cities. It is upgradeable, repairable, waterproof, built to last. If you cannot find a new part, chances are a scrapper can 3D print one for you. Rumor has it some of the original batch of tablets are still being used 20 years out.

Your tablet is designed to be energy efficient. With its epaper screen, smart use of the wireless can result in a batter that last for weeks. On a sunny day, a solar charger can replenish a battery in as little as one hour. Of course, it'll take a little longer in our Pacific Northwest winters.

So with the tablet in mind, the internet needs to reflect that.

I found out about Gemini on Metafilter last year. Alternate technologies push a lot of buttons for me, so I've been keeping an eye on Gemini since. Finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and really dig deep. I will say that the Lagrange browser and Elaho on iOS has made a huge difference. They're both easy to use and feel like modern browsers.

Gemini is nicely lightweight. The text-mostlyness of it fits really well with epaper screens and delay-tolerant networking. It feels... nice. Clean, even. And it's nice not having popups asking me to sign up for a mailing list, or warning me that I've already read their publication too many times. It feels like a throwback to the 90s web. People keep blogs, or gemlogs, there's news and weather, and articles and archives, the kind of thing you'd expect to find on the web, just in nice clean plain text. This fits the needs of these future people really well. They still can get pictures and videos and sound, just in separate applications (and transferable via data cards, which is just an aesthetic I like).

And this is a lot of the reason I started playing in the Geminispace. I wanted to see how it works, and I have to say, it feels right.

-donut

Notes:

Previously

Metafilter article “Bringing cyberspace down to Earth”

Project Gemini

(This blog is mostly mirrored on a Gemini site. It can be reached in a Gemini Browser at gemini://officialdonut.smol.pub. Take off the gemini:// and the site works in https)

I’ve been poking at a story for a while, of a nation rising out of the post-post-apocalyptic world. This project started entirely with one idea: Delivering the internet on the back of a motorcycle.

Before the world fell apart, we had the Internet. The whole world was connected, and it was one of the first comforts of life to go when the war started. Most of that infrastructure was lost.

The towns you will be traveling to still have the Internet, it’s just a little slower. You will carry the Internet to them on your modified EV-Cub. Your range on one charge is about 80 kilometers, so plan your load accordingly and make sure you carry a spare battery.

Rain, sleet, or snow, you will deliver the Internet on schedule.

In a world where a lot of infrastructure was damaged, and in a world that relied on the internet for everything, there would be a need. Net Techs like Addison up there would be traveling to remote communities to nodes, dumping the internet, and picking up what’s new, and heading home.

How to deliver your payload:

1. Insert your credentials into the ID port

2. Connect the transfer cable to the node

3. Lock connection and engage transfer

4. Get comfortable, this will take some time

It's a fun idea to play with. With a Net Tech going on and out every day, the network is slow, but if you're sending an email and can wait a few days, or requesting a movie or book, or getting news updates, it works perfectly well.

The job of Net Tech is a fleeting position. It's one that will eventually be phased out as the infrastructure improves, and the internet is finally fully connected to these communities.

-donut

Notes:

Delay-Tolerant Networking is a thing with actual protocols and research behind them.

I've been on a kick lately. Well, off and on for a few years at this point. I've said this before, but I'm tired of the threat of the sudden catastrophic failure of DRM. Since many of us have largely gone digital, so has our media. And in many ways, that media no longer belongs to us. We're simply paying a price to borrow the media we consume, and in many cases, we're outright renting. And I'm tired of it.

So in the last few years, I’ve been building — often rebuilding — the media collection I’ve thrown out in favor of digital. The biggest example of this is records. Yes, hipstery Funko Pops records — I don’t care, I love them. I have rules for records, though. In all but a few cases, I only buy records that I know I can listen to front to back. I buy records I know I’ll want to listen to over and over again.

I’ve also started this practice with CDs, though with different criteria. I’m less strict on my rules if I know a CD has only one or two songs that I like on it if I find it at Goodwill or Value Village for like $2. (My best CD score ever was the first three Gorillaz albums for under $10 total at the Capitol Hill Value Village in Seattle (RIP).) This is all about buying the CDs, ripping them, and replacing the fleeting Apple Music downloads I have with a copy I actually own. I’m building a library of CD quality music.

I’ve found this makes listening to music a deliberate act. Listening to music has become so easy to listen to what you want, when you want to, that it almost doesn’t mean anything anymore. And like, I don’t necessarily think that’s a terrible thing. But it’s kind of thoughtless now. Playing music off of physical media means a choice was made. It means more effort and attention was made to the act of listening. And in itself, that’s rewarding.

There’s other things too — websites, books, photos — but that’s for another time.

-donut

The technology landscape, as it stands right now, sucks.

There was a time that I loved technology. I had been lucky enough growing up in the 1990s to be surrounded by it. I was on the internet in 1996, looking at truly awful sites. I had a GeoCities page (don't ask, I don't remember where), which I think was about Duke Nukem, or Sega Genesis games. I had some sweet stolen animated gifs and a scrolling marquee. Just absolute decadence. It all felt like magic.

There was a time that Silicon Valley felt like the New World, where radical dreamers were building the future in their garages. They were building tools that would make the world better, bicycles of the mind.

I got my first computer in 1998. It had a Zip drive. Decadence. I got my first Gmail account in 2004, when one gigabyte of storage felt like a revolution. I was listening to podcasts in 2005, alone in a work-study job that I hated and that hated me, but I had podcasts! The panelists argued whether or not we'd be able to use our phones as our only computers. In countries in Africa, they were doing things over GPRS and WAP that we wouldn't do for another decade.

In 2006, I got my first Mac, a desperate act that changed my life. I needed a computer, found a refurbished one on the Apple site, and had it shipped to me within the week. And though I dabbled with other things, I was happy with how things were. I had gone from a computer nerd that hated computers to a computer nerd that loved my computer.

If you had told me in 2006 that I would have device in my pocket that let me talk to my friends anywhere I went, that combined an iPod and a really good camera and computer more powerful than my computer from 1998, that let me check maps and email and read books, and that I would hate it, that I would hate technology companies, that the technology that had once wowed me would be making life worse, I'd never have believed you.

So here's where I am: A tech nerd that kind of hates technology. This blog is about that, but also about how things could be better, and the people doing exactly that. It's about fighting dark patterns in UI design, about opening the world up beyond corporate control, about making technology work in a way that benefits people, not the bottom line of share holders. It'll probably be about things I find neat in general, but we'll get there when we get there.

I do not believe technology will save us. Tech companies will never have a solution to a problem they cannot or will not profit from. I do, however, believe we can save technology.

-donut

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