Links and Notes - March 24th 2021

One plus releases the One Plus 9. I had no idea it was coming

Below thoughts are super rough

This showed up on my twitter feeds yesterday. I have no comments on the phone. I just realised how little I care about new phone releases now. Back in the day I would follow each brand's flagship release religiously. And the brand I was most interested in was one plus. In fact, my current device is a One Plus 5.

The only reason I even upgraded that far is because my previous phone broke, else I'd probably be using a one plus 1 still.

I think the reason I don't care about phones anymore is because the improvements feel so marginal. The phone I'm using now still works well for browsing, taking photos, watching YouTube, managing work stuff, creating posts, and general smart phone stuff. The thing is, I don't find myself having much more use for phones.

Back then, there was this feeling that we could push our phones and get general purpose computing out of it. The reality was sobering. We didn't get true camera replacements. We got photos that look alright on the small screens but look meh when we try and print it out. Outside of games, I don't think smartphones truly live up to the potential of being devices which allow us to get so much done that each cycle deserves much attention.

This doesn't fully apply to the iPhone admittedly. The iPhone hardware and software does actually enable making some professional work quite portable. One of the best examples being audio work. Where the latency in Android makes it difficult to use across the various devices, iPhones are universally equipped to do excellent audio work. Similarly, some of the jumps in iPhone's Augmented Reality sensors coupled with the excellent software means that there's tools that are built that can only be done on an iPhone.

And maybe that's what makes the Android device refreshes so forgettable. The Android OS itself may make jumps, but those jumps feel limited on what hardware manufacturers are going to truly take advantage of. Yes, there's the pixel lineup, but I'm not handing over more of soul to feed google's data pools. I've probably given 95% of it already and I'll be darned if I let them have the last 5%.

Pfizer is developing a pill for covid 19 treatment

While the world has been abuzz with vaccines, one element I wish I had heard more about this entire pandemic is actual treatment for covid. This showed up in the Economist espresso newsletter today:

Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, began an early-stage clinical trial in America of a pill to treat the disease at the first sign of infection.

I dug into it a little bit more via the Reuters release and found this:

Pfizer’s candidate is behind two other oral antiviral therapies, which are in mid-stage trials – the first being developed by rival Merck & Co with Ridgeback Bio, and a second from Roche Holding and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

This is the first I'm hearing of the two others. Is this a result of my own ignorance? Or is Pfizer more likely to show up in the news? I'll lean towards the former for now

Yeoman the generator

A friend of mine was having a conversation with me recently and asked if I had heard of the tool hygen. I hadn't. So I took a look at it and it looks like a code generator/scaffolding tool. The immediate comparison that popped to my mind was Yeoman

Yeoman brings back memories. I used it a lot, so much so that I even added a sticker of it to my laptop. Nowadays I don't hear much about it and it feels like that's because the tools we use such as rails or any javascript framework come with their own generators.

Even then, when I look at the following projects:

  1. Ghost
  2. Flask
  3. Phaser
  4. Browser extensions (!!!)
  5. And many other tools such as twilio

there is no mention of generators (where they would make perfect sense), or the generators that they have are outdated, or the generators that the community maintained are outdated. More often, the alternative will lie in some part of a custom CLI or more commonly, a zipped starter repo. Even the chrome extension generator maintained by the official yeoman team doesn't look like it's about to be updated any time soon to handle manifest version 3.

This feels like a shame that a tool as powerful as yeoman has become somewhat sidelined. At the same time, these events don't happen in a vacuum. Causes such as developer overhead can lead to initial excitement around scaffolding. But after attempting to create options for all the use cases, the generator becomes its own subject that needs to be studied. Once that happens, I imagine that communities will aim for simplification where the scaffolding tool will be the first on the chopping block.

Or maybe we just forgot about these tools. Or maybe it's just the bubble I live in — the yo repos are still being actively developed after all.

Either way, I have a few things that need generators. I'm going to be giving yeoman another go.

Chrome's coming privacy changes for extensions and the changes for Buffer

Today was a fun day at work. Chrome is changing its privacy policies and individuals need to make declarations around why their extensions request certain functionality. In the case of the buffer extension, we use the permissions, tabs, full host permissions, and contextMenus. The first two are from the days where in order to run an extension on any site, you'd need to have access to tabs across all hosts. Nowadays, the more common permission to use is activeTab so that the extension can only run on the tab that's currently open. From my understanding, 99% of extensions that wanted to access all tabs just want to be accessed from the active tab. This includes Buffer.

Since I'm now taking on the role of security and compliance, I have the luxury of focusing on these kinds of things. I spent the day digging through a bunch of historical notes to ensure that I wasn't going to destroy some context that I didn't understand. I ended up discovering somewhat the opposite — there's bit and pieces of context that is no longer in use. Thanks to that, I had the privilege of creating a commit that removes lines instead of adding them.

This did get me thinking though, there's a certain class of code which is written once, edited rapidly at the start, and is then left for a while. Decay kicks in. The contextual knowledge erodes. And then one day someone picks it up and has to dust if off when an external dependency forces it. How does one make this process easier? Should planned maintenance cycles be a thing? Should there be an agreed upon period where people collectively decide that the project is going to be rarely updated and therefore it needs to have strong documentation before it goes into the virtual shelves? A combination of both?

I wonder how others do it. Probably a topic worth investigating.

Decathlon is restocked

The Sri Lankan government's current policies designed to limit the outflow of foreign currency amidst covid has had far reaching effects. For people who import and sell, it's been incredibly difficult. The Decathlon sports shop was one of those businesses that were incredibly hard hit. Right after the first lockdowns were lifted, it was apparent just how bad it was. Empty shelves. Dusty last items that no one really wanted to buy. I genuinely believed that the place would be forced to shut down.

I was pleasantly surprised to find them fully restocked when I popped over today to grab some stuff. Every single section seemed to have shelves whose items were practically jostling each other to find space and still more items lay in unopened boxes. One of the employees told me that the shipment had arrived last night and they were still unpacking. I can't describe just how happy I feel about it. That shop was easily one of the best things to happen to sports retail in Sri Lanka. Long may they last.

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Previous links and notes (March 23rd 2021)

Next links and notes (March 25th 2021)

Posted on March 24 2021 by Adnan Issadeen