Web Excursions 2021-09-22

Teaching by Filling in Knowledge Gaps by jvns.ca

  • learning about HTTP headers after you already have a website is way more fun and a lot easier

    • than learning about them before you have a website.

  • It’s much more obvious why you might want to use them, and you’re a lot more likely to remember the information later.

  • I asked on twitter what people feel was easier to learn 15 years ago.

    • One example a lot of people mentioned was the command line.

    • I was initially a bit surprised by this, but when I thought about it makes sense

    • if you were a web developer 15 years ago, it’s more likely that you’d be asked to set up a Linux server.

      • That means installing packages, editing config files, and all kinds of things that would get you fluent at the command line.

      • But today a lot of that is abstracted away and not as big a part of people’s jobs.

  • Abstractions are great, but they’re also leaky, and to do great work you sometimes need to learn about what lives underneath the abstraction.

  • Instead of starting “at the beginning” when explaining a topic, what I usually do when writing a blog post or comic is:

    • notice a useful idea that I think is on the edge of a lot of people’s knowledge

    • make a bunch of assumptions about what I think that group of people generally know

      • (usually based on what I know and what I think my friends/coworkers know)

    • explain the idea using those assumptions

  • I have no idea who’s reading my writing or what they already know, and they’re probably going to only spend 10 minutes or so reading it.

    • So I can only intervene in a really limited way.

The iPhones 13

  • [There was a] controversy that Apple’s promotional photography for the iPhone 6 seemed to go out of its way to hide that camera bump

    • Fast forward to today, and Apple is using photographs for the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max that emphasize the camera system’s size and prominence.

  • The gold once again is a very C-3PO gold.

    • Sierra blue is very nice,

      • and quite distinctive from any previous iPhone

      • It plays as silver-y at times, but very clearly blue at others.

    • Midnight plays as black or very dark gray,

      • until you put it next to something truly black —

      • it’s then apparent that midnight has a small touch of blue.

      • It makes last year’s black iPhone 12 models look a little drab side-by-side.

    • The non-pro iPhone 13 in just plain blue is nice.

      • It’s a rich, vibrant blue.

    • But once again, the screws on the bottom edge are not color matched. I don’t know why that bugs me.

  • I find it a bit curious that Cinematic mode only shoots in one format: 1080p at 30 FPS.

    • only the system’s Camera app can shoot in Cinematic mode, a mode whose very name suggests “film style”,

    • which is exactly the term Apple itself uses in the Settings app to describe 4K 24 FPS.

As A Solo Developer, I Decided To Offer Phone Support, And This Is What Happened | Plumshell

  • [My] application doesn’t have a high number of downloads,

    • so it’s a question of whether I’ll receive even 1 phone call per day.

    • Once in a while, I get 2 phone calls in one day

  • This may be a virtue of the Japanese, but, basically, everyone who calls is civil and polite.

    • It often goes something like: “I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but there’s something I would like to ask…”

    • and I respond with something like “No, of course, of course…”.

  • when it comes to large problems, offering phone support enables you to understand that

    • inconveniences that occur when the app’s behaviors and messages are hard to understand

    • are more frequent than bugs in the programming

  • it’s easier to understand the problem or debug

    • when you’re doing telephone support as opposed to messaging,

    • since you can hear the circumstances from the client in more detail,

    • but it’s also largely through emotions that the acuteness of the problem is expressed.

  • when you add telephone support, the qualitative criteria system rises up.

  • When you explain something at your own pace to a person not really acquainted with IT, you get questions like: “What is iOS?” or, “What is iTunes?” T

    • he user thinks you’re a computer fanatic wielding unintelligible terminology,

    • so it’s not unlikely they, stressed out, might say, “Ah, I see… I understand…” (even though I didn’t understand that much…)

    • and end the phone call.

  • you first have to grasp

    • how familiar the user is with IT and applications, and

    • how much of it they want to have explained to them.

    • However, since it’s impolite to ask [so], the only option is to make an assumption.

  • you have to be careful not to talk too much right at the beginning of the conversation,

    • or it can become pretty difficult.

  • If there’s a case where, even once I’ve asked, I still don’t understand what is troubling the user or what question they really want to ask,

    • I try to check it one more time: “You want to do this like this and this, but you don’t understand that part well. Is my understanding correct?”

    • [So I] can change your viewpoint

    • and explain it more carefully and in more detail in case the user can’t convey their issue well

  • I think the biggest benefit is of an emotional kind.

    • App development is something that you inevitably do while clattering away on your keyboard in front of the computer screen every day, and something which you can’t see the results of in any other way but numbers.

  • So, when you get in touch with a user directly, it can make you feel something like: “Ah, I may be doing something for the world. It’s good to live.”

How long does Apple support macOS?

  • Each year, around the autumn/fall, Apple releases a major new version of macOS.

    • For the next year or so, until the following major version is released, Apple provides a series of 5-7 minor updates

      • which contain a mixture of regular bug and security fixes.

    • When the next major version is released, that previous version is normally supported for around two more years,

      • during which it generally doesn’t get any regular bug fixes,

      • but gets security updates which address many of the more significant vulnerabilities which are found in it.

    • After that period of two years of security update support, Apple then normally provides no further updates to that version of macOS.

    • From then on, the only support it receives are periodic updates to its security tools

      • such as XProtect and MRT,

      • which continue for as long as they remain compatible with that version of macOS.

  • Of the eight major versions of macOS, only six received a whole years’ full maintenance, with the median and average being around 45-46 weeks.

  • The duration of security updates generally exceeds two years (104 weeks)

    • The median period is two years and ten weeks.

  • As a result, the total support period, between first release and last security update, also exceeded three years in four of the six cycles

  • Over a period of eight years, Apple has followed what most believe to be its policy on macOS support:

    • major versions enjoy full support for the year that they are the current release,

    • then receive approximately two years of security updates.

  • What is strangest of all – or would be for any other company – is that Apple never tells its customers

    • when a minor update is the last before entering the security update period, nor

    • when a major version of macOS is receiving its last security update.

Students who grew up with search engines might change STEM education forever

  • the same realization that many of her fellow educators have reached in the past four years: the concept of file folders and directories, essential to previous generations’ understanding of computers, is gibberish to many modern students.

  • directory structure: the hierarchical system of folders that modern computer operating systems use to arrange files.

    • More broadly, directory structure connotes physical placement — the idea that a file stored on a computer is located somewhere on that computer, in a specific and discrete location.

    • That’s a concept that’s always felt obvious to Garland but seems completely alien to her students.

  • “I try to be organized, but there’s a certain point where there are so many files that it kind of just became a hot mess,” Drossman says.

    • Many of his items ended up in one massive folder.

  • But as she’s grown up, she’s moved away from that system —

    • she now keeps one massive directory for schoolwork and one for her job.

    • Documents she’s not sure about go in a third folder called “Sort.”

  • It’s possible that the analogy multiple professors pointed to — filing cabinets — is no longer useful

    • since many students Drossman’s age spent their high school years storing documents in the likes of OneDrive and Dropbox rather than in physical spaces.

    • It could also have to do with the other software they’re accustomed to —

      • dominant smartphone apps like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube all involve pulling content from a vast online sea

      • rather than locating it within a nested hierarchy.

    • “When I want to scroll over to Snapchat, Twitter, they’re not in any particular order, but I know exactly where they are,”

      • says Vogel, who is a devoted iPhone user. Some of it boils down to muscle memory.

  • But it may also be that in an age where every conceivable user interface includes a search function,

    • young people have never needed folders or directories for the tasks they do.

  • Today’s virtual world is largely a searchable one;

    • people in many modern professions have little need to interact with nested hierarchies.

  • The primary issue is that the code researchers write, run at the command line, needs to be told exactly how to access the files it’s working with —

    • it can’t search for those files on its own.

    • Some programming languages have search functions, but they’re difficult to implement and not commonly used.

    • It’s in the programming lessons where STEM professors, across fields, are encountering problems.

  • But the issue is likely

    • not that modern students are learning fewer digital skills,

    • but rather that they’re learning different ones.

  • STEM educators are increasingly taking on dual roles:

    • those of instructors not only in their field of expertise

    • but in computer fundamentals as well.