Screen Time and less usage of social media

I have been trying an experiment — the use of less social media, thanks to Screen Time on iOS 12. The last item I uploaded on Instagram was on September 17 2018. My usual form has been to make a photo at every place I land up at, but since seeing that I spent 30-45 minutes of “dead time” daily on the app, I figured I needed to stop using it so regularly.

My thought there is quite simple: do I make money from Instagram? No. I should generally only be doing productive things with my iPhone, correct?

Consequently I haven’t uploaded photos from my trips to Tokyo, Singapore, London, Edinburgh, and apparently London again, where I’m penning this. OK, it will be November 1 2018 tomorrow, so I should maybe start posting again.

I find that I don’t use Facebook much but have the application for the 2-factor authentication (I will have to find a way to move this to Google Authenticator or 1Password so I could zap it). This leave Twitter, which I do spend a bit of time on (I have to work on reducing this).

WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. may be considered social media but the reality is I need to communicate with folk so I can’t stop using those apps.

Screen Time also helps tell me how much time I actually spend on the iPhone. I feel like it is too much. Here’s to more iPad and more MacBook Pro. And in general, more time around Productivity/Reading & Reference/Creativity/Other/Health & Fitness, going forward. And of course… Entertainment (Netflix has some good shows from time to time).

Anyway, measuring where I spend time clearly matters. I’m surprised we don’t see this on macOS yet (but for that I have RescueTime). I understand that Timings is another popular app to use. From a time management standpoint, I reckon reading: The Average User Checks Email 5.6 Hours Per Day and also The Mona Lisa Doesn’t Tweet. These are timely reminders that we should gain from social media, but not give in much more to it.

GPGTools Support Subscription – in-situ license change

Not brave enough to upgrade to macOS Mojave on my main workhorse yet, I did however click update on GPGTools which only required me restarting Apple Mail. I was very shocked when I saw the following pop-up:

GPGMail Popup

This was an in-situ upgrade from what was free/open source software, to a sudden pop-up nag telling me that I would need to get a license to continue to encrypt/decrypt my mail with ease. I checked out the support plan, which is USD$23.90, and might be something I have to pay for yearly, since a major version coincides with a macOS release according to the FAQ.

Being in the open source industry for 22 years (longer than the term has been around; so let’s call it free software), I’ve seen many license kerfuffles, and I think one of the worst ways to surprise someone is a license change in-situ. In a world where we do git pull’s and just move on, the license is sacrosanct. I’m glad that these developers didn’t focus on mucking with the license and if you choose not to pay USD$23.90 yearly, you can still compile the software yourself.

Am I still allowed to compile my own version of GPG Mail / GPG Suite removing any code regarding the trial or activation?

You absolutely are, the GPL enforces that. You will find the source code on this website and on Github.
We would kindly like to ask you not to use our names or icons if you plan to publish a binary for others to use.

Am I going to compile from source? If this was infrastructure software, definitely, yes. Am I going to pay these developers? I do not know, I still have 30 days to decide.

They clearly learned their lesson, do read the open letter to their users (yes, they’ve had this as a plan for a while, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough). These people aren’t a big evil corp neither did that raise venture capital from what I can tell. They’re independent developers, and if there is something a Mac user tends to do, is that they tend to support indie developers.

If I already pay an Apple tax, the question then becomes: do I pay for yet another app, that seems to basically be a subscription, or do I compile the software? Comes back to the old adage of, spend money to save time, or spend time to save money.

Thumb drive data recovery

I haven’t done any data recovery or data rescue work in sometime (the last time was on Linux, with a combination of dd, ddrescue, and some throwaway code to parse JPGs – it was a Compact Flash card that needed saving). This time, all I had was macOS, a 16GB thumb drive, and the files were someone’s life’s work, which were more than just JPGs but also AI (adobe illustrator), DOC, XLS, PDF, TTF, etc. files.

So via Homebrew, I installed ddrescue again. A command like ddrescue -v -n -c 4096 /dev/disk2 helena.dmg helena.log seemed to work. On macOS, fdisk totally couldn’t get me anything useful and if I ran diskutil list the output would be as follows:

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:                                                   *15.5 GB    disk2

For good measure I wanted to also make an image via dd, dd if=/dev/disk2 conv=sync,noerror bs=4096 of=helena.img. It was clearly throwing many errors, an example of which:

13399375872 bytes transferred in 1263.864380 secs (10601910 bytes/sec)
dd: /dev/disk2: Input/output error
dd: /dev/disk2: Input/output error

The real problem was mounting either the DMG or the IMG. On Linux you have this option to loopback mount a file; on macOS this isn’t quite there. There is hdiutil but frankly, this doesn’t work if there is no partition record. I tried to mount it using hdiutil attach -noverify -nomount helena.img but that didn’t work to then do a diskutil mountDisk.

Then… I found a tool: PhotoRec. I wouldn’t have to write something to parse the magic numbers and extract files. PhotoRec just works. It parsed the IMG file, and spat out plenty of files to look at. Recovery was generally full.

For reference, on Linux, there are some good resources: Mounting a raw partition file made with dd or dd_rescue in Linux, and Guide to Using DDRescue to Recover Data. From a forensic standpoint, Disk-Arbitrator looks like a good tool as well.

Twitter Promote Mode – save your $99

I like Twitter. It is the social media that I use the most. Maybe followed by Instagram, since I’ve always liked photography. I don’t spend time on Facebook/LinkedIn like one would expect. So my energy seems to be Twitter-centric if I’m going to use social media. On my iPhone, Twitter is on the main screen, which tells you I consider it useful :)

Before the social media apocalypse on the stock market recently, I thought I’d try to pay $99 for Promote Mode. I had been invited for many months but summer seemed like an ideal time to try it. Long story short? Save your $99/month.

I started with 4,660 followers. Today I have 4,547 followers. Less, how? Why? There was a recent purge of bots and fake followers, and I lost 2.64% of followers.

In the end, Twitter said I gained 19 new followers, with 185 promoted tweets, and I had 35% more reach (+107,274). 19 new followers for $99 seems like daylight robbery. I was targeting USA based folk.

When I asked their support if I could switch to the UK, they said it was not possible. The only other option was Japan, and I didn’t realise I had to choose so wisely at the start. And now you can only reactivate the subscription when promote mode gets out of beta (but with such poor performance I am unlikely to do that).

I wasn’t the only one how has had such a poor experience. Ahsan Anis writes, Is Twitter’s promote mode worth the $99 monthly subscription? (disappointed), Buffer writes How Effective is Twitter Promote Mode? We Tested It for 30 Days. (did not renew due to performance, limitations and ease).

Guess they’ll have to find a better way to make me pay to use the service so that the stock price can go up! (I am not an investor in Twitter stock, but really do like the product and want to see them survive in the long term).

Television & Movie consumption July 2018

I have no idea how I missed Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, but they are both on Netflix, and you can take them offline, so in between all the flying I did this past month, I caught up on the entire two shows! They are both excellent shows, and I can’t wait for the next season of Better Call Saul! The TV shows are definitely binge worthy.

500 Days of Summer is surprisingly a good movie, starring both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It is a break up movie, maybe a bit of a dark comedy, but it is also a movie about self-realisation. It is not your typical love story or romantic comedy. It has a lot of dialogue, reminding me of the Richard Linklater series, Before Sunrise/ Before Sunset/Before Midnight. Like those shows, this was relatively cheap to produce but grossed wonders ($7.5 million budget, $60.7 million at the box office – 709% return!).

One memorable quote, since a lot of people talk about their dream partners. (paraphrased) Why look for the girl of your dreams, when it is better to have X, as she’s real? Gives one a lot to ponder about.

Midnight In Paris was also a good watch – one where the main character, Gil, finds himself throughout the show. Sometimes you miss things right in front of our eyes, don’t we? Memorable quote? Nostalgia is living in denial; denial of the painful present. (full quote on Wikipedia). Another movie with $17m budget, bringing in outsized returns at $151.1m – 789%!

These movies so far have been recommended by the Netflix algorithm, which so far is giving me way over 90% match rates, which suggest that the algorithm for July 2018, at least, is working! I suspect these movies do speak to me to some extent, and that’s what makes them successful in my eye.

The Sam Zell book review – Am I Being Too Subtle?

I had no idea about Sam Zell before reading his book (which I only found out via Brad Feld), Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel. He runs Equity Group Investments, and their tagline is: “We identify opportunities others don’t — and invest like others can’t.” Do visit their website, it really is quite interesting. I tremendously enjoyed the book, I highly recommend reading or listening to it.

Here are some notes I made from his book.

  • always have a sense of urgency
  • trade conformity for authenticity
  • be blunt
  • culture is king
  • read risk – always understand the downside
  • listen. There is great value in this because you then know the motivations of folk.
  • look for clarity. Drown out the noise. Conventional wisdom tends to be a lot of noise.
  • “If you are really good at what you do, you have the freedom to be who you really are”
  • His daily routine: workout at 4.45am, then in the office by 6.30am, and stays there till 7pm. And he still does this at age 75!
  • Where there is scarcity, price is no object
  • There is value in tenacity
  • Use simplicity as a strategy
  • Strive to be asset rich, cash poor
  • Weak economies breed troubled companies
  • “Competition is great for you, but I’d rather have a natural monopoly; if I can’t have that I will take an oligopoly”
  • Board of Directors tend to have “good resumes whom are often past their prime”
  • Board members should be viewed as cheap consultants to the business. Management team should use them regularly.
  • Do not depend on people unless you understand their motivations. Listen to know their motivations!
  • When people ask Sam Zell what he does? “I am a professional opportunist.” (what a great job title)
  • He is always at his best when the scenario around him is at its worst
  • We should never get into a phase of “irrational denial” (like if people get cancer, you don’t get treatment, you will die)
  • Always make lists. Check them off.
  • “Liquidity equals value”
  • Find good companies with bad balance sheets
  • It is important to have owners, not just managers, in leadership positions
  • See micro-opportunities in macro events
  • Real estate tends to lag the general economy. So it falls slower than the rest of the economy when there is pain.
  • Sam is not pessimistic, but realistic. Go in with eyes wide open.
  • In real estate, he tends to assign walk scores. Takes number of steps to public transport. To the nearest Starbucks. Etc. This will tell you value of property.
  • “Please God, give us one more oil boom and we promise we won’t screw it up.”
  • “Everyday you choose to hold an asset is a day you choose to buy it.” Therefore if you get an offer greater than what you would pay for the asset today, you should sell!
  • Calculate risk, know what the downside is. Ask: if all goes wrong, what do I get from this deal?
  • “I don’t like auctions unless I am running them.” Bidding wars are something he doesn’t like to participate in.
  • Experience – you understand risk only this way. Experience teaches you how to minimise the downside.
  • Be an optimist. Focus on what is next. Do not lament on what could have been.
  • Emerging markets have built-in demand.
  • Global business requires:
    1. good partners
    2. aligned objectives
    3. vision, direction, strategy
  • Sam describes himself as the Chairman of everything but the CEO of nothing
  • Radius theory of business is the number of people between you and the decision. This will affect your ability to succeed.
  • Businesses that delegate too much fail as well.
  • Culture can either inspire or stifle innovation/creativity.
  • Fast decision making and autonomy is what usually wins out.
  • Be ready to pivot
  • Spot opportunity early for long term gains.
  • He is a voracious consumer of information. Reads 1 book per week. Knows how to get relevant information. Reads 5 newspapers per day and 5 magazines per week.
  • “If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas”
  • In everything you do, always be thinking of the next deal. Play it straight. You can be successful AND ethical in business. Do you consider their circumstances over your own? Loyalty definitely matters.
  • Always be tenacious, optimistic, have drive and conviction.

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