Folks, I made a thing – NYT Redirect

So, The New York Times provides a nice service where they put the day’s newspaper’s front page as a PDF up on an obscure URL for anyone to see

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2022/08/26/nytfrontpage/scan.pdf

If you’re a logged in user who wants to use their webapp instead, you can go to –

https://www.nytimes.com/section/todayspaper

If you’re like me, you can never remember how to get to these links.

So, using the power of Cloudflare Workers, I made a little URL redirector that takes you to these pages.

You can access it by going to these URLs –

https://nyt.nitinkhanna.com or https://nyt.nitinkhanna.com/front for the PDF version

https://nyt.nitinkhanna.com/today or https://nyt.nitinkhanna.com/todayspaper for the webapp version

https://nyt.nitinkhanna.com/about for my omg.lol profile which has all this information, including a link to the GitHub repo for this little thing 🙂

Cheers!

Some quality of life improvements on my iPhone

When iOS 15 dropped, I noticed that it added a feature that Shortcuts could run on their own, without user approval every time. This is a pretty major change to the way they were working before, and allows for some truly good automation.

A few months ago, I created a folder in my Photos app called Wallpapers and added subfolders called Morning and Evening. I created automation that runs at Sunrise and Sunset and sets a random wallpaper from the folders as the lockscreen wallpaper. It’s a nice way to update my lockscreen frequently.

Over time though, I got bored of the same few wallpapers, so I’ve created two more automations – these go out to source.unsplash.com and pull wallpapers using simple search terms.

Unsplash has run their free Source endpoint for a long time and even though it’s technically deprecated, they don’t prevent it’s use if you know what you’re doing. The search terms I use are –

https://source.unsplash.com/1080×1920/?Morning and

https://source.unsplash.com/1080×1920/?Sunset

Note that if you put the search term as “Evening”, it leads to some particularly Non-Family Friendly results.

So now, I’ve got 4 automations – on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I set Morning and Evening wallpapers from my local folder. On the rest of the days, I let Unsplash send me some nice wallpapers for my phone twice a day.

The best part of this is that the wallpapers from Unsplash don’t get downloaded to my phone and clutter my photos. They directly get used as wallpapers.


The other quality of life improvement I’ve made is webapps!

At some point, I found this shortcut which lets you create a fullpage standalone browser app icon on your iOS homescreen for any URL or website you pass to it.

I had just installed Amazon Luna and rocketcrab as webapps using Safari’s Add to Homescreen feature some time before that, and really like how they come off almost as proper apps (as good an app as Amazon can make, and they make some spectacularly terrible apps).

When you try to turn a website into a webapp but it doesn’t support this feature, it opens in a new tab in Safari, which takes away from the feeling of a standalone app. But the shortcut above solves that problem!

It creates a webapp using a configuration profile, which you then have to go into the settings app to accept. It’s an unsigned profile, so the risk is all yours. But you can look at what the Shortcut is doing and let me know if there are any security concerns.

One caveat – the shortcut asks for an icon image. You better have one ready when you’re using the shortcut and it has to be more than 128×128 pixel. I tried an image that was 64×64 and the icon just turned out blank.

Since I discovered this, I’ve gone on somewhat of a binge. I made webapps (or Web Clips, as iOS calls them) of three webbooks I’m reading on and off (these aren’t available as ebooks in any way). I also often have to check up on my GitHub Actions runs of a particular secret project, so I made a webapp of that direct URL. I made one of my blog, so I can easily go into the admin section and make edits to my posts in the Gutenberg editor (which still doesn’t have proper support in WordPress iOS apps). The only one I haven’t made (and thus opens in Safari) is solitaired.com and that’s basically because I got lazy. I’ll make it one of these days.


From the time I started writing this post, I made another improvement.

I don’t really like Wallpapers cluttering my photos app. Over time, they make a mess, the good ones used to get lost when I moved phones, and overall, it’s a lot of pain to manage them in the Photos app, which needs a long overdue overhaul, Apple.

I figured out that I can make a shortcut that actually picks a random file from a folder in the Files app. So I moved both the Morning and Evening folders to the iCloud Drive and now I can add any good wallpapers I find on my desktop to my phone too! 🙂

I like when things fall into place nicely like this 😀

Cover art is from emoji.supply, which is a ridiculously awesome source of emoji based wallpapers!

Ev gives up. Yay!

black text on gray background

Ev Williams Gives up

No schadenfreude, but I’ve always thought that Ev Williams and the other twitter ilk were never too good at execution. Someone, somewhere along the story of twitter helped make it what it is, but neither Jack, nor Ev have been amazing at the business side of things.

But a former employee of Medium says it much better than I ever could –

I don’t know what’s in store for Medium, but it could have been a lot more than what it is today. Yes, the blogosphere is overcrowded. Yes, the true spiritual successor of WordPress is Ghost (or it’s Gutenberg, if you ask automattic). Yes, blogging is such an essential activity to the web that if every free and open source and well made CMS were to disappear tomorrow, someone would start making another one from scratch almost instantly. (heck, I made two for my personal use!) So where does that leave Medium? I don’t know.

I like the insight this write up by Casey Newton gives into what Ev thought he was doing with Medium.

To think that he can “fix the internet” and “increase depth of understanding” are grandiose plans if what you’re going to do is start a blogging platform that’s half-baked on day one of launch. Medium is often like LinkedIn now – it’ll throw up a soft paywall and you can just wander away and get your information fix elsewhere.

I do hope better things are in store.

Unsmarted

A few years ago, frustrated at Alexa’s inability to understand our spoken English, my wife unplugged all of the Amazon Alexa devices in our house.

We shifted, in that moment, to being a Google Home house. It worked well for a long time, with one device in each room. It worked especially well since over time, our use cases for smart home devices matured into three fields – asking for the time, asking for the weather, and switching our smart lights. We tried to use them to set timers related to cooking but they would assume we’re trying to set an alarm and ask us to do a voice verification so Google’s system can set cross-device alarms and also take our voice data. Couldn’t ever be bothered.

I’m not one to buy into expensive systems. So Apple’s HomeKit connected devices and Philip’s Hue with it’s expensive Base Station were always off the table.

Instead, I invested in inexpensive Kasa smart plugs to sit between the power and our traditional lamps. These work with Alexa and Google, so the switch to Google Home was seamless.

Every once in a while, while watching a movie or talking really fast and loud (as both I and my wife do), one of the Google devices would chime in. If we were watching a horror movie, it would be exceptionally hilarious that a device sitting in another room would get activated and reply “I’m well, and you?”

But this got tiring over the years and things came to a head recently. With the birth of our little one, we are acutely aware of noises in and around our space. Particularly irritating are cops and firebrigades blasting their sirens in the middle of the night on completely empty streets. Well done Seattle.

Also irritating was the Google Home mini sitting in our bedroom, which continued its random hello’s and offering newly minted capabilities. One day my wife unplugged it. That left two devices to help us out. But we resorted to using the Kasa app on our phones to control the lights.

Last night, the Google Home in our living room decided to get active soon after the little one slept and inform us that it doesn’t have a nickname but we can set one.

I ran to the device and ripped out the power cord.

Now the last device is on its last warning. One peep out of it and we’ll unplug that too. We don’t use it actively as much as the other two devices. But it’s close to where the little one sleeps and so it’s a pretty big threat.

Google Homes have improved over time. But we only have the first gen devices in our home and no interest in buying new ones with improve directional mics. They have also improved in voice recognition after billions of hours of audio inputs. But the random noise is a function of the system, which I don’t expect to improve.

So we are very close to having an unsmart home and being happy with it.

Thoughts on Netflix

About a week ago, I opened the Netflix app on my iPhone to watch something… and was greeted with a prompt to download some games. Netflix Gaming is nothing new. But I’d never had the chance to participate. So I scrolled through the options.

Much like Apple Arcade, Netflix Gaming is all about no IAPs, no ads, and exclusive titles (grain of salt there for both subscriptions). Unlike Apple Arcade, I found some titles that I actually want to play in the list.

When I was exploring Apple Arcade, I was mostly into Call Of Duty Mobile. So the obvious choice for me was their shooter game – Butter Royale. It’s obviously aimed towards kids and is appropriately silly. I was immediately turned off. I did enjoy a few other titles like Outlanders (a settler survival game which I failed at), Mini Motorways (a road design game which got too complex too soon) and Game of Thrones: Tale of Crows (which was confusing as heck to play). I let the free trial of Apple Arcade expire.

If I were to get the subscription today, I would try a few more games from their now 200+ games collection. Partly to play “plus” versions of games I love, like Prune+ and Solitaire+ and Hidden Folks+ and partly to check out truly exclusive titles like The Oregon Trail.

With Netflix Gaming, they’ve tried to cover their bases, to offer something for everyone, mostly using companies which also publish to Apple Arcade as well as having IAP supported games. The titles that caught my eye are Asphalt Xtreme and Wonderputt Forever. While the former is a rehash of multiple variants of the same car racing game (one for IAPs, one for Apple Arcade), the latter is a slow-paced but beautiful mini golf game. I haven’t spent much time on the latter but the former is been a mainstay for me this past week.

And what a week it has been for Netflix. The stock crash was horrible and the ensuing caving in to Wall Street’s demands was worse. The crash wiped out all the gains my own Netflix stock purchase had made and then some. I can only hope to break even one day.

Then came the news that Netflix is trying to figure out a way to appease Wall Street and is promising to add adverts to their platform within a year or two. The ensuing backlash was inevitable.

As a Netflix shareholder, I’m glad that Netflix has always had this option in its back pocket. They can create a tasteful but cheaper subscription offering with ads and this works both in markets where they have faltered, like India, and in western markets where subscribers will be thankful not to pay the burgeoning price of the default Netflix subscription.

But as a Netflix shareholder, I’m also wary of this promise of ads making Wall Street happy. From here on out, at every earnings call, when the CEO admits that ads are not yet integrated, analysts and institutional investors will punish Netflix. When they finally announce that ads are active, the focus will be on ad revenue, not on subscriber growth, the original issue that brought this saga on.

Aside – and what a stupid saga it has been. Netflix lost subscribers for the first time in a decade! That’s ten years of solid growth. And instead of acknowledging those ten years of growth, Wall Street chose to punish Netflix so heavily because some numbers in one quarter didn’t go up and up and up. How stupid! Now, one could claim that it’s just a correction and Netflix’s stock is now at its real value, instead of an inflated value based on perceived profits. But it’s all perceived only. It’s all the inflated egos of a few men that drives Wall Street. So there’s absolutely no merit to that argument.

As a Netflix subscriber and admirer, this whole thing has been terrible. The idea that Netflix may one day have ads is horrible and a loss for the idea behind subscription models. Not only will Netflix’s success in implementing ads embolden other streaming platforms, it’ll also send out a message that online targeted ads work, which for the most part is not true. It’ll also take away from the idea of simply providing good content and being rewarded for it, something Netflix has been working on for years and is now under threat of being upended completely.

It’s also possible that instead of expanding their line of no-IAP games to rival Apple Arcade, Netflix starts to allow IAPs in their games, or shuts down the entire endeavor as a cost sink. Overall, this whole thing is a loss for both Netflix and it’s customers. All to appease some analysts.

In Netflix’s case, it’s better to be the storyteller, not the story. Sad to see their day in the crosshairs. (Sorry for the weak ending to this post. I kinda ran out my train of thought.)

Thoughts on the upcoming Apple iPhone event


Apple is priced for an iPhone hit. What could go wrong?

“About 40% of Apple’s install base, based on our estimates, have not upgraded for three and a half years. If you combine that into a 5G, four phone release, we believe that really creates a perfect storm of demand,” Ives said, predicting that Apple could sell more iPhones this fiscal year than the 231 million it did in 2015.

It’s yet to be seen if consumers really care about 5G, too: A study from April found that “65.7% of consumers said they weren’t very excited,” while recent analysis has shown that 5G is in many cases slower than 4G. “5G coverage is still limited, and it’s unlikely consumers will pay extra for features they can’t use,” analyst Gene Munster recently said, adding that he expects 5G iPhone sales to quicken toward the end of next year once coverage has improved.

Watch Apple’s stock after the iPhone event on Tuesday. Facebook’s new Oculus ships on the same day.


I’m becoming a frequent reader of Protocol, if for no other reader than that they publish every day and the pressure of it flooding my RSS makes me scan it for interesting reading every day or so.

I’m one of those 40% install base that hasn’t upgraded in a few years. My family sometimes laugh at how old my phone is, since I’m on an iPhone 7 Plus, but when I buy a new phone this winter (because I’m not expecting to get it in the first run of phone sales, and because Apple screws up the first set of hardware anyways because of the sheer volume of hardware they put out), I’ll have a phone that’s newer than anyone in my family by at least a year and change, so that’s that.

But regarding 5G, I’m going to steer clear from those phones. First, I know that Apple will price them differently. But would you buy a phone with a network technology that’s not supported by a majority of the geographical area yet? Sure, in some places you’ll get faster-than-WiFi speeds, but those will be far and few between for at least two more years. Knowing USA’s shit record at rolling out new network technology (network vendors love spending on backend networking hardware that saves them money, but they’ve always been slow on customer-facing rollouts because those take a lot more money), I’d say 5G is still a good 5 years out.

This is the same as when we were buying a TV three years ago. The choice was between a Ultra-HD 65 inch behemoth that was moderately priced (this model’s price has fallen to CRT-TV rates now), or a 45 inch 4K TV that was grossly overpriced. I stayed away from the 4K even though my brother was trying hard to convince me otherwise. His ideas on 4K content being the norm are still not true, three years past. It’s just too much to expect from media and backbone tech companies to move too fast on expensive technology. Not their thing. Maybe with the coming 5G, 4K content will get a boost. But again, that’ll be 5 years from now, when South Korea will be swimming in a sea of 7G and 8K content.

Now, the fear is that Apple will introduce something radical in the 5G phones that will not be present in the 4G LTE phones. They’ve done this before with the larger phones getting an extra camera module, or OLED screens instead of LCD. They could very easily toss in a much better camera, making their 4G models less appealing, or add back the fingerprint scanner, which is infinitely more convenient than face scanning at night, or when you’re wearing a mask, or when you’re on the move, and so on.

But will they? They might have some ridiculous hardware thing up their sleeve – like a heart rate monitor (from Android phones of a few years ago), or a dedicated Siri button that you could customize to run shortcuts (again from Android phones a few years ago). Or maybe they’ll do something stupidly expensive, like throwing in a pair of airpods with the 5G phones (though this would fail if the airpods are not in the iPhone box, because them being a separate product will feel very un-Apple like, as in a small physical discount to get you to buy their product).

But most likely, they’ll toss in a year (or two) of their Apple One software subscription with the costlier phones. That would be perfect, because I couldn’t give two shits about their software subscription model. I’m not into Apple Arcade, or Apple TV+, or Apple Music, or News+, or extra iCloud storage, and certainly not their Fitness+ product.

I exclusively play one or two games on the iPhone – mostly sudoku and Call of Duty: Mobile. I have subs for Netflix and HBO and a good Plex Media Server. I prefer Spotify for their content and their high availability on Google Home devices. I find News+ to be a stupid, overpriced offering that everyone should run away from. I am impatiently waiting for Dropbox’s Family plan to drop, because that will forever solve all of my storage problems. And, well, have you seen the freely available catalogue of fitness videos on YouTube? Blows everything else out the water. Get lost Peloton, YouTube is the king of fitness videos!

So, yeah, if Apple sticks to only offering Apple One for free with their 5G phones, it’ll be very easy for me, and millions of others to stay away from those phones this cycle. Will this hurt Apple’s stock? Maybe.

I found it interesting that Protocol mentioned that Facebook’s Oculus ships the same day. Does it matter? No. Facebook took and effectively killed the Oculus. The latter was probably burning money like crazy and needed a sugar daddy, but Zuck isn’t the kind you want. Maybe, maybe, the next iteration of AR/VR will be propped up by 5G, ML-GPU chips, and Nvidia-ARM superchips. But as of right now, the more interesting thing Protocol could have pointed out is that Amazon’s Prime Day is on the same day as well! Amazon has granted me a $10 credit, which I’ll feel obligated to spend on something a lot more than ten dollars that day, as I ponder upon how much I’m going to enjoy my new iPhone, when I finally get it a few months later.

Adventures in NOT buying things

pexels-photo-2942361.jpeg

I’ve been thinking about external storage for the last few days, for our iOS devices. When we bought my wife’s iPhone XS Max, we made the mistake of going for the 64 GB option. Pretty soon, tired of a filled-to-the-brim phone, she opted for Apple’s 50GB iCloud solution, priced at $1/mo, to both backup her photos and to shut up Apple’s continuous prompts about a full iCloud.

This solution has been serving her well. Somehow, her photo storage needs have landed at about a 100 GB, which sits well between her phone and the cloud.

But more and more, I’ve been thinking that I want to get rid of the dollar a month charge. For that, the obvious way would be to have daily backups and cleanup, but the question becomes, “to what?”

Dropbox seems like an obvious choice. So does OneDrive. But there’s something irksome about cloud storage. It feels like a gambit – these cloud providers want more of your money, and getting us hooked on Dropbox’s initial awesomeness and then baiting-and-switching to the shitty version of the company they’ve become leaves just an odd taste in my mouth.

So I started thinking of some sort of hardware solution. Many companies have come and gone (see pogoplug), but there’s a product from a few years ago that instantly popped into my mind – the SanDisk iXpand flash drive. This is a little widget that connects to your iPhone through a lighting connector and sucks out all your photos. Compared to when I first saw it, the pricing seems affordable now – 256 GB sets you back $60. The device is actually pretty neat because the other end is a USB-A port, so you can plug it into your computer when it’s time to backup your backups.

But then I started thinking – maybe 256 GB is enough, but the lightning port certainly is not. What if I move to Android one day? Or Apple dumps this port for a USB-C in the future? That’s what freezes me – the what-ifs. Instead of living (and spending) in the now, I worry that my choices might be proven wrong in the future.

So I started looking for wireless storage devices, the kind that can connect through wifi and an app, and work with a majority of devices. First hit – LaCie FUEL 1TB – for $136 on Amazon. Holy crabapples! Twice the price and 4x the storage? Ridiculous! The second result? WD 4TB My Passport Wireless Pro for $190. Oof. I need to do more research! What if I opt for the 4 TB and just around the corner (on the second page of the search results) is a 12 TB one for just a bit more? Storage is a strange world.

These external storage options aren’t without their issues though – sometimes their apps haven’t been updated in a few years, meaning they don’t support new features or even new iOS versions. Most of the apps I looked at (WD My Cloud Home being one) don’t seem to support background uploading. Google Photos and Dropbox can upload your photos to the cloud when charging, but WD has trouble uploading to the HDD sitting next to your phone. Cool.

So, once again, I’m frozen. I know the iXpand is not the best solution. The market has moved on, there is more storage available for a better price, and the future-proofing aspect of using wireless just makes sense.

But there’s one more weird thing at the back of my mind – why fix something that isn’t broken? If my wife’s current storage needs are met at $12/year, then why spend upwards of a hundred dollars to solve it in a worse way (if background uploads don’t work). If I just tell myself that I’m paying $1/month for “external storage”, I’m a much happier person. Aren’t I?

Do you, dear reader, use any external wireless mobile storage? Which one? Are you happy with it? What quirks does it have?

Refreshing my RSS feeds list

Welp, I’ve done it this time. I was fiddling with some settings in my current feed reader of choice – Fiery Feeds – and I hit a sync button that’s meant to download everything from iCloud and rebuild the database. Turns out, iCloud is, as usual, not good at actually saving important data. Part of this is my fault. I have had some 14,000 unread items in there, and about 900 feeds. Sync would often time out and almost never complete.

So I lost all my feeds. As I stared at it dumbly, waiting for the feeds to come back, a calm came over me. This is what inbox zero feels like. When, after multiple forced syncs later, nothing happened, I was relieved.

I thought about it. The last OPML export I have is from December of 2019. I’ve added maybe 20 feeds since then, which are now lost. If I import the OPML, I’ll get back my starred items and general state, but I’ll not get back the calm.

So, I’ve decided to do an overhaul of my feeds. I know a lot of sites I’ve subscribed to either don’t exist any more, or haven’t updated in a while. So it’s time to shed the load.

Working through this large an OPML file is a chore. First, I tried to do it manually. Too much work. Then I tried to find tools to help. I found a six year old github repo to find dead feeds. It found a few, but mostly got it wrong. Instead, I’ve imported the OPML to my Firefox LiveMarks extension. It’s not the perfect solution, but at least I’m able to go through the list faster and cull it satisfactorily.

Other than the feeds that are dead, I’m also striving to shed some weight. At some point, I subbed to some GTD and Productivity feeds. Deleted those. It’s no longer my area of interest. Older still are feeds related to Network Engineering. It’s what my MS is in, but it’s no longer my main area of concern. So I’ve removed those. I’m also removing webcomics that haven’t been updated since mid-2019. There are quite a few of those. Frankly, it’s fine if the authors want to take a break. I, too, don’t update my blog often. But there are other ways for me to discover their content. Tapas and Instagram are doing a good job, so I’m going to lean on those for my comic needs. This doesn’t mean all webcomics are going away from my feeds. On the contrary, I’m keeping most of them, specially long-running stories that I follow keenly, like Gaia comic, and Slack Wyrm. But others are out.

At some point I also subscribed to a lot of programming related blogs. Those are nice navel-gazing, but ultimately worthless to me. I’m not a programmer, I’m a scripter. I’m not into deep programming concepts even on the languages that are my bread, butter, and jam – python and JavaScript. So for me to sub to serious computer scientists and programmers was a mistake then, and is a mistake now. It’s not that I won’t glean something off them, just that I don’t need to, right now.

This is tough work, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Recently, I found out that a friend has a very strict gate on who she follows on Instagram. She has a roster of 99 people and whenever she has to follow someone new, she forces herself to remove one person from the list. I’ve never, ever removed a feed from my list. This is the same list I’ve been carrying around since my first RSS feed reader – Fever – and some items are even carried forward from Google Reader. I’ve always thought that at best, the feeds that die are not much extra weight than some processing cycles, and at worst, the items I don’t read get deleted at the end of my 15 days, one month, two months, 90 days limit. That moving limit is part of the cause of all this trouble I’m in.

But the largest forcing function is my feed reader. Fiery Feeds is an awesome piece of software and Lukas Burgstaller is an exceptional dev, and a highly responsive support person. But I made a conscious choice at one point to move away from all server-side RSS feed services and use Fiery Feeds’ native, on-device accounts. I’m paying for the app because I love and want to support it, so I might as well use the biggest feature Lukas has introduced. But this on-device, synced-via-iCloud system has its drawbacks, and this means that I can’t be an ignorant buffoon about my feeds any more. I have to shed, cull, strip, whatever you want to call it.

One very interesting thing I’ve done over time is to use kill-the-newsletter.com to the best of its abilities. I do not like newsletters, but there’s a LOT of content that’s going to email newsletters exclusively nowadays, and that sucks. Kill The Newsletter converts these emails to RSS feed items. It’s not a perfect solution, specially since it’s a bit of a blackbox, but it works just fine for now and it’s FOSS, so I’m happy. So, these are a guilty pleasure I’m not getting rid of. We’ll see how this decision pans out. Maybe I’ll have to figure out a way to merge all newsletters into one RSS feed. Or use a dedicated app to read newsletters on my iPhone. There are a few of those out there now.

All in all, this is an exercise in refreshing and rethinking what I consume online. Hopefully, it’ll lead to a better feed reading experience for me.

How to use nmap to ping scan which IPs are up in a subnet

TL/DR –

nmap -sP 192.168.10.0/24

Source – How to Scan an IP Network Range with NMAP

Story –

I love Angry IP Scanner for all my ping check needs. It’s nice, simple, and fast. But I like it mainly because I’ve used it since a very long time, and because it’s maintained by a guy named angryziber (get it? An Angry Zebra?)

But today, when I tried to install it on my Mac, it threw an error that I need to install JDK. Java. No.

So, I need a new way to pingscan. Turns out, angry IP is primarily a simplification of nmap. Since I’m more CLI than GUI nowadays, that fits perfectly. Also, shot in the dark – I didn’t have nmap installed on my mac, so I just did –

brew install nmap

and that worked! I’m a little surprised that it did, but that’s the power of homebrew, I guess.

Further, I’m surprised at how versatile nmap is when it comes to IP range input. You can do any of the following, they all work!

nmap -sP 192.168.10.0/24
nmap -sP 192.168.10.0-10
nmap -sP 192.168.10.1 192.168.10.2 192.168.10.3
nmap -sP 192.168.10.*

Cool discovery of the day. If only the IPs I scanned had any free IPs, I’d be on my way! Alright, back to work.

Things the YouTube Apple TV app needs to improve

black remote control

Just a short list of things that’s wrong with the Apple TV YouTube app –

1. Every time you pause and play a video the entire video interface comes up and doesn’t go away for a good ten seconds. Users have to hit the back button to get rid of that shitty interface. Learning this behavior is bad, because NO OTHER app does this and then the reinforced behavior causes a lot of headache when using other, better apps.

2. There’s no fast switching between user profiles. This is true for other apps as well, but particularly needed for YouTube, where since a very long time we’ll all had separate profiles and thus the algorithm has learnt to show us different things. Going from one profile to another is just irritatingly long a process.

3. There’s no way to quickly refresh the recommendations the algorithm throws at us. There are some recommendations that we get shown for days at end, and we have to just watch the video to get rid of it. There needs to be a clear refresh button that just washes the slate clean.

4. There’s no “Live” section. In today’s day and age, there are a LOT of livestreams going on and we’d like to see them. Right now, the only way you can see them is if you search for them with the keyword “live” and hope to see it in the results, or if the algorithm shows them to you. There’s a section for “gaming”, which we NEVER see, but clearly they’ve not made the sections “learnable”.

5. When you’re watching a video and you want to interact with the “interface”, you can’t pause the video and interact with it. As soon as you move your cursor, the video starts playing. This is highly unwieldy.

6. Their end-of-video interface is shit. SOOOO many videos have content all the way till the end, but they wash over the last ten or fifteen seconds with the “in-video links”, thereby destroying my ability to see the content all the way to the end. This also creates a learning for channel owners to add a goodbye template at the end, which major news channels do, but this is not a good learning for when you’re watching a video on mobile or desktop. So for YouTube to do this, just focusing on Apple TV, is terrible!

There are some good things too –

1. The keyword search is epic. Much better than other apps and well integrated into the Apple TV search by voice model (here’s looking at your shitty search HBO). Though I’d like for the search to be deeper, with more sections to separate the searched content as “Live”, “popular”, “recent”, etc.

2. They’ve finally added a quick button to access the Channel from the video interface, but they’ve hidden the like/dislike buttons behind the “additional options” section in the video interface. This is, I guess, a move to trust the algorithm more, but it’s terrible, because I’d LOVE to downvote some videos after watching them.

3. The algorithm is actually doing well in recommending similar content over time. Not in the immediate instance, but over time.

That’s all for now. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that the police in the US has been attacking and arresting peaceful protestors all over the country, so please consider donating to the National Bail Fund Network here.