27/3/2024

Mastoot is my new Mastodon favorite app

I don’t expect much from a Mastodon app: just on that’s lean and stable; a no-frills approach.

For some reason I can’t explain, until recently I hadn’t tried Mastoot. (I suspect I confused it with Mast, which I tried and was horrible; people need to think of more original names for these apps.)

Mastoot, developed by Bei Li, is… simple, as it states on its App Store description. It has no advanced features nor is it very customizable — you can change the icon and accent color, and customize the sideways sliding actions. And that’s it.

For a while, Mastoot was slightly neglected by its creator. Not anymore. Coincidence or not, Bei Li said that Mastoot development began again, and he’d “like to start with minimal and prioritize features driven by user feedback this time”. Also, he will “implement features at a relatively slower pace to ensure quality”.

As it’s right now, Mastoot is a delight to use. Oh, and it’s free.

22/3/2024

Plain text email

In the mid-1990s, a war was waged in the email inboxes of those who were already online. It was at this time that HTML email arrived, creating heated discussions in BBSs, mailing lists, and IRC channels.

It’s very likely that most — maybe, you — don’t know what I’m talking about. Let’s go back, so we can all be on the same page.

Email messages can be sent in plain text (text/plain), just like files saved in Notepad, or in HTML (text/html). In this second format (or “MIME type”), the messages are created as if they were pages of a website, which opens a Pandora’s box, I mean… many possibilities, such as rich formatting and images mixed with the text.

HTML email has some obvious disadvantages, such as less security due to hiding links and loading remote media. An incidental problem is that, unlike web browsers, email clients/apps do not follow web standards — each one renders HTML differently, which makes the design of newsletter layouts, for example, a hellish endeavor.

Another problem with HTML is that messages in this format are heavier, because they have invisible parts (headers and the HTML code itself) and visible (images, in particular) that the pure text counterpart doesn’t have.

Nowadays, this may not be a problem, thanks to the ubiquitous fast internet connections. In the 1990s, with the very slow links of dial-up, it mattered.

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20/3/2024

Brave, Firefox, and Opera got more users in Europe. So what?

The enforcing of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) on March 7th greeted EU citizens with a browser choice screen when opening Safari on iOS 17.4 or setting up a new Android device. (I don’t know the reason for this distinction.)

The results seem encouraging at first glance. At least, the companies benefited from the measure are excited:

No wonder only Brave released absolute numbers. And low numbers. When Opera boasts a 164% increase in new users, one should ask: 164% on top of what?

On Twitter, Brave’s profile posted that “when consumers get a clear choice of iOS browsers, they’re choosing alternatives to Safari”.

Ok, they’re really choosing, maybe in a more beautiful icon contest. (Brave’s is slick, indeed.) I think there are more important questions after the browser choice screen that need to be answered, especially if people are using the alternative browser chosen in it.

Perhaps it’s important to remember that it is not as if it were impossible to install alternative browsers before, nor something complex. (Changing the default browser, possible since iOS 14 released in 2021, maybe yes, but even that isn’t that complex.)

The other big issue of browsers on iOS, the mandatory use of the Safari rendering engine (WebKit) by all other browsers, homogenizes the competitive market. This is truly an artificial advantage that Apple imposes on rivals.

DMA, among other things, forces Apple to accept browsers with engines other than WebKit. None is available yet. It may not be worth the effort to maintain two apps, one with WebKit and the other with its own engine only for the European Union. To be seen if any browser will follow this route.

Safari is a very good browser on iOS. I dare to say it’s the best — largely due to the deep integration with the OS and exclusive features, such as support for extensions. It’s these disloyal exclusivities that should be in the crosshairs of legislation aimed at fostering competition.

Most of the DMA’s obligations seem to hit the target. (Some consequences are surprising, they are difficult to anticipate; that’s why I say it “seems”.) The browser choice screen — and that of web search engines on Android, by extension — is not one of them.

In fact, we have seen this story in the past, Microsoft and Windows in the 2010s, in the same European Union.

In March 2010, when the screen of choice popped on European Windows PCs, there was a jump in the use of alternative browsers to IE, but at the end of the program, in 2014, Firefox and Opera had smaller market shares than four years earlier. Only Chrome went up, like a rocket, demolishing IE’s former leadership. I guess that it was not because of the mandatory browser choice screen on Windows.

19/3/2024

Disappointed but not surprised to know…

Disappointed but not surprised to know that LinkedIn is using everything I write there to train artificial intelligence. It’s upsetting that now there is someone (or something) snooping through everything, all the time, and everywhere.

15/3/2024

A noisy place

In A quiet place, horrible and hypersensitive monsters kill human beings who make any noise. May my peers forgive me, but I think the monsters in the movie have some reason.

I can’t be the only person who is bothered by the artificial noise that has become part of the landscape, a (not so) small discomfort we endure for the progress.

Cities are noisy by nature. Music is only “felt” when it hurts the eardrums, which is creating a generation of deaf people. We have to speak louder and louder to be heard in increasingly noisy environments, a sonic escalation that does not result in winners or losers, only in repeated phrases in increasing volume.

Even occasional loud noises are harmful. In 2023, the New York Times used a professional sound meter to analyze everyday noises and what they cause to our organism. Planes, traffic, alarms, horns. It’s horrible.

I lost count of how many times I went to a noisy place and had to appeal to the “smile and nod” technique (and hope for no questions) for not being able to hear what people on my side were saying.

The ideal would be to redo the civilizing pact to agree with a voluntary ban on boom boxes on the beaches, limiting the maximum volume in headphones and other measures that would reduce the noise of life to the recommended ~70 decibels, the average volume that does not hurt the ears.

In other words, it won’t happen.

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14/3/2024

I've made a few changes/improvements here…

I’ve made a few changes/improvements here: added a “continue reading” breaking point in long posts, created an “aside” post format (this one you’re reading!) without visible titles, and added a kudos/like button (❤️) for each post (courtesy of Tinylytics).

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