Instapaper is joining Pinterest >

Instapaper Blog:

Today, we’re excited to announce that Instapaper is joiningPinterest. In the three years since betaworks acquired Instapaper from Marco Arment, we’ve completely rewritten our backend, overhauled our mobile and web clients, improved parsing and search, and introduced tons of great features like highlights, text-to-speech, and speed reading to the product.

Crap.

Crap Crap Crap.

Talk about a mood killer.

sigh, guess it’s time to check out Pocket again.

I knew it : Vesper App Finally Shutting Down >

So the inevitable has finally1 happened:

Sync will be turned off Aug. 30 at 8pm Pacific. We’ll destroy all the data, and neither we nor anyone else will be able to recover it.

The app will be removed from the App Store on Sep. 15. Until then, starting now, it’s free — since you can’t create new sync accounts, and it wouldn’t be fair to charge new users if they can’t sync.

About time if you ask me.

Seems timely to revisit my short critique of the App that I posted 23 Nov 2015.

I now use a mixture of Apple’s Notes App and Simplenote for the storing of information and Ulysses has now become the official writing app on my phone. I really wanted to love Vesper but I suppose it was just not meant to be.

Let this be a lesson to anyone who wants to purchase a new and exciting app. Don’t just listen to the review. Judge critically whether the app is something you will use long and well. Also check the stream of updates to see if the app is being actively developed. Any app where the timeline stops in 2015 has already lost my support. Even if the developers hint of ‘big things coming in the future’ it ain’t real until it’s released.


  1. I resisted adding the ‘finally’ to the title and this line because it’s not entirely true. But then I thought it would be kind of funny and ironic given Gruber’s dislike for the misuse of this word. 

A Message to My Family

Writer's Note: This post is a entire text that I posted to my extended family WhatsApp group chat. It's been edited slightly for grammar and clarity.

The whole thing got started thanks to the perceived hypocrisy that now that Joseph Schooling had won a medal at the Olympics, everyone in Singapore is all for promoting sports when before this Sports was never really taken seriously as a possible 'career'.

I decided to weigh in on the conversation which some how sparked off this 800+ word mini essay.

I've always had a lot of thoughts in my head about Singapore but have never found a way to link them all together. Somehow the debate on WhatsApp proved to be the perfect impetus for a piece of writing that I'm now quite proud of.

Enjoy.

Actually Schooling is 1 out of 3.5 million Singaporeans. There are roughly 2 million foreigners in our tiny island. That a country of 3.5mil can raise a champ to beat one from a country of 300 million is extraordinary.

But it's sad that he has to go overseas to complete his training. For all of Singapores ambitions, I agree wth J, sports is not an overly prioritised area of development. The new sports hub is bleeding because there just isn't enough interest to sustain the initial projections.

Singapore is just too small, both literally and demographically. Money has to be spent on securing our natural resources, security and economy because without these we will not have any of the 1st world comforts we enjoy today. It's the kiasu attitude of the government that has kept us afloat even in the area of water security where our neighbours are now suffering from water shortages.

But it's this same kiasu attitude which restricts the dreams of the future generations. I felt that it's a little ironic that the theme for this years National Day Parade was on dreaming because there isn't a lot of flexibility within the Singapore system to support everyone's dreams. There may never be, for instance, a Singaporean astronaut because that doesn't align with the prospects of our nation. The Singapore government's funding has always moved in directions to secure our future. Even now you can see how kids are being steered towards robotics and programming at a young age because this is to deal with a future of many elderly folk and less workers. Innovation is the key to our increasingly labour short future.

And it's a future that relies heavily on engineering expertise. But where are all the engineers? Many get burnt out by a leadership that is also unwilling to accept new ideas. Look at SMRT where the engineers were already aware of the issues on the ground and yet management turned a deaf ear, blinded by profit driven activities. Many of these engineers then head to the only sector in Singapore that pays them well for taking abuse: banking and finance. No wonder the entire country is now low on engineering talent and innovators.

Which is not to say there's a lack of entrepreneurial spirit! Look at all the micro businesses which have sprung up over the years! The Internet has truly revolutionised how SMEs that don't need an office space can be set up. Younger people are increasingly turned off by corporate jobs that offer stable wages and hours in pursuit of a thing they can call their own. The number of young hawkers featured in the news understand that this is not the dream their parents had for them but willingly claim it as their own. So the fiercely independent spirit of our fore fathers lives on in another dimension.

Could Singapore's leaders, in their pursuit of stability and economic development also likewise be blind siding the next generation of thinkers and 'dreamers'? Once a country has attained a certain level of stability is it not then wise to look for growth in the softer areas of sports, culture and also morality?

Parents of today may lament the uncertainty of the future, but when has Singapore's future ever been secure? Surely we are made by our circumstances and if so, Singaporeans are survivors by nature. If things do not go well for them in one circumstance, they will then look for other opportunities.

My fear is that of a future where everything in Singapore has been torn down and replaced in the unquenchable thirst for development. Where then are the physical roots that hold the people here? Giving younger people a true stake in the country naturally emboldens them and teaches responsibility and ownership. The older generation needs to learn to let go and allow the young dreamers to pursue their interests not because this is necessarily the best path for them but because this is the best path for learning and for forging a secure future.

I don't know what my children are going to be when they grow up. I don't even know if they can afford a house when the time comes! But I know that if I imbue within them a love for learning and an unbeatable spirit they can overcome any obstacle. My philosophy is this, if any of them came to me and said he wants to be a garbage collector, then my advice to them is this: he/she better be the best damn garbage collector ever and not only collect rubbish but revolutionise the entire process and industry. Because to do otherwise is to not live up to the standards of our forefathers.

Similarly for Schooling's parents, they should be applauded because they chose to believe in him and allow him to pursue his passion. His actions will no doubt pave the way for others who never thought such dreams possible. And then hopefully Singapore will become the country with the highest number of medals per capita ever!

What’s next for Flickr after Yahoo’s sale? The Guardian ⇥

When Marissa Mayer took control of Yahoo in 2012, Flickr’s core users were hopeful that it might get the attention it deserved. Bonner bought the website dearmarissamayer.com and used it to host the simple message: “Please make Flickr awesome again.”

Yahoo seemed to listen, at least fleetingly. The company finally released some functional mobile apps and started offering a terabyte of storage space to users for free, but it was too little too late.

Popular consensus appears to be that Verizon, having no way to monetise Flickr, will eventually close the site. This is a huge pity as Flickr definitely serves as an important service to professional photographers.

I also like the fact that Flickr’s interface is just right for getting your photos on and off the service without imposing restrictions on your uploads, unlike Google Photos which resizes your images.

Ah well, what to do, when you get something for free there’s always a hidden cost somewhere. In this case there’s the never there certainty of Flickr’s future.

I just wish there was some generous billionaire out there who would buy the site and restore it to it’s old glory.

When Humans Run Out of Potable Water, This Is What We’ll Do ⇥

“Imagine turning on your tap and seeing no water come out. Or looking down into your village’s only well and finding it dust-dry. Much of the developing world could soon face such a scenario. According to the United Nations, 1.2 billion people already suffer from severe water shortages, and that number is expected to increase to 1.8 billion over the next decade, in part because of climate change.”

This is a problem that Singapore is also facing right now. Thankfully the government is committed to funding mulitple sources of water from recycling to desalination. 

Still, sometimes I do wonder whether it’ll ever be enough. 

Humpback whales around the globe are mysteriously rescuing animals from orcas ⇥

In 89 percent of the recorded incidents, the humpbacks seemed to intervene only as the killer whales began their hunt, or when they were already engaged in a hunt. It seems clear from the data that the humpback whales are choosing to interact with the orcas specifically to interrupt their hunts. Among the animals that have been observed being rescued by humpback whales were California sea lions, ocean sunfish, harbor seals, and gray whales.

So the question is: Why are humpback whales doing this?

Gotta love nature. 

Superhighway to cycling heaven – or just a hell of a mess? The Guardian ⇥

Implementing Cycling infrastructure is tough. Singapore is only just beginning our foray into Cycling paths and already things do get heated between the public and gov officials. 

Reading about how Cycling is unfolding in London provides some insight into how things are going for our Neighbours overseas. 

Lots of choice quotes below:

Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who became Johnson’s cycling commissioner in 2013, says that “a lot of councils are really cowardly” and that while majorities usually support cycling schemes, local politicians are easily impressed by vocal minorities. In Kensington and Chelsea, he says, it only needed 15 objections from residents for one proposal to be stopped. It therefore required Johnson’s “leadership” and investment of “significant political capital” to make anything happen. Gilligan himself is not an especially diplomatic figure. “He pissed off large numbers of people,” says one involved in London’s bike politics, “but he made it happen.”

[…]

Cycling infrastructure, as commonsensical and humdrum as it might seem, is not just about engineering. It is political, cultural and social. It has to reconcile territorial disputes between people on bikes, people in vehicles and people on foot and between different kinds of cyclist. It can take on aspects of class conflict, in which drivers sometimes cast themselves, counterintuitively, as underdog victims of a two-wheeled elite. It obliges choices as to what kind of city its citizens and politicians want, with what balance of public benefits and private freedoms and for whom.

[…]

A superhighway, in theory, is a route that separates cyclists from other road users, although early examples achieved this sketchily, with strips of blue paint that acted more as ignorable suggestions than actual barriers to trucks and cars. It is linked to other measures given catchy names by the journalists Johnson and Gilligan. There are “mini-Hollands”, whereby three outer boroughs get to share £100m on making local improvements. There are also Quietways, which join up the slack and underused byways of the city to make safe and unthreatening routes. The first of these runs six miles from Waterloo station to Greenwich through council estate car parks, little-known parks and along disused railway embankments. Created with the help of the charity Sustrans, it opened in June.

The logic, says Gilligan, is that London is facing ever more demand for transport and that encouraging bicycle use is the best way to meet this demand. Building more roads on the congested and high-priced land is physically and politically unfeasible. Expanding the underground network is slow and expensive. A cycling commuter takes up much less space than one in a car, which rather obviously means that they use the existing roads more efficiently. Cycling has the added benefit of reducing pollution and benefiting the health of participants, at least of those who don’t get injured.

[…]

His basic argument is indeed overwhelming: it can only be good if more people use a city’s roads more efficiently, at less cost to themselves and in public expenditure, while causing less pollution and less danger to themselves and others than is created by driving. More than that, a city that is more pleasant for cycling should, at least in theory, be more pleasant for everyone else. Sustrans says its new Quietway has helped civilise an area around Millwall Football Club, whose character was previously dominated by brutal fences for segregating fans. At their best, mini-Hollands create quieter, calmer zones for pedestrians. The Victoria Embankment is now a better place for walking thanks to the buffer that the cycle lane creates between pedestrians and cars.

The idea behind Cycling paths seems simple enough. But people hate change and can’t foresee how things will play out other than the initial inconvenience. 
Hope that the London Cycling project gets better in the long run though. 

Pokemon Go eludes cloning attempts by big game studios ⇥

Lots of interesting comments, from competing companies, in the above linked article, about the gaming phenomenon that is Pokemon Go: 

However, some gaming executives do not believe Pokemon Go is the future of gaming. Mobile scavenger hunts require physical activity and could be a hard sell to most video game players.

“It’s not easy to get people off of their couches,” said Wilhelm Taht, executive vice president of games at Angry Birds-creator Rovio Entertainment Ltd. “There have been a lot of tries in this area before.”

This comment flies in the face of clear evidence all over the world that players are more than happy to move around physically to play. I have personally never seen the park behind my house more utilised than it has been since the game officially released in Singapore. 

Some executives said they would not copy the game because it was a fad driven by the Pokemon brand and that it lacked social features, such as letting players talk and collaborate on a hunt.

The success in getting players onto their feet was seen as brilliant but difficult to replicate, and the deft use of mapping technology also sets a high bar.

Pokemon Go represents the next phases  in mobile gaming. What started with Paper Toss and Angry Birds has now matured into something unique to the platform, leveraging on all the technology (camera, physics engine and GPS) that a smart phone offers. 

Of course it definitely helps that the brand is so strong with twenty something year olds who grew up watching and playing Pokemon as kids. 

There is one area that offers a clear opportunity for rivals or for improvement in a new version of the game, industry executives said. Some of the most popular games have united players in virtual teams, building camaraderie.
“The game needs to be more social… where you can have group goals and possibly chat when you hunt for a Pokemon,” said MySpace creator and now CEO of mobile games studio SGN Games Inc, Chris DeWolfe.

There’s a comparison in the above linked article to the Nintendo Wii which I feel is very apt. 

When the Wii first came out it was the first console that shifted from traditional game pads to controls that focused on movement and motion tracking. The games at the time were rudimentary at best but that didn’t matter as it quickly developed a following among serious and casual gamers alike. 

Years later and the Nintendo Wii no longer dominates. Xbox and playstation both have motion tracking controllers and developers are now embracing VR for games to create even more immersive experiences. 

Nintendo may have led the way with their initial product but they were not able to hold on to their lead. Indeed the Wii was so successful that there wasn’t any pressure to further innovate and thus the game console has languished behind it’s rivals. 

Similarly with Pokemon Go — in this case developed by third party Niantic not Nintendo — the game has jumped levels above the competition in delivering a novel and unique experience for collecting the different game elements. How long this lead will last is anyone’s guess but you can bet that the next generation of augmented reality games will be simply incredible, having built upon what Niantic has established now. 

It also leaves me intrigued, what will the next generation gaming experience on the phone be like? The future as usual is full of endless possibilities but once we are there it always seems so ‘obvious’ how we got there at all. 

Will the skyscrapers outlast the pyramids? ⇥

Thought provoking article about the durability of the pyramids vs. our modern day skyscrapers:

Of these, the Great Pyramid of Giza – completed in 2540 BC – is unrivalled, with superior materials, engineering and design to any built before or since. Ancient Greek tourists would travel thousands of miles to gawk at its towering limestone steps, which were so highly polished they were said to glow; their names can be found carved into its walls to this day.

Remarkably, Cleopatra lived closer in history to today’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – than she did to this monumental tomb. When the last mammoths died out, it was already 1,000 years old.

​5000 years is a long time for something to exist. Turns out though the Egyptians had a lot of practice in getting the construction right. 

In contrast our modern day skyscrapers have been getting more and more efficient in their construction:

Just like early pyramids, the earliest generation of skyscrapers may be the most robust. When a B-25 plane crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945, the building was reopened in a matter of days. “Back in the early 20th Century they were still calculating everything by hand, so they always added extra steel just in case,” Agrawal. Though the Empire State Building is less than half the height of the Burj, it weighs two-thirds as much.

I can’t imaging any of the tall buildings in Singapore lasting more than 100 years, the pace of development is just too quick. Still it’s worth wondering what Singapore might be like in another 5000 years. 

Fan of the Grim Fandango

Cover Art

I just finished playing through the iOS version of my much loved game, Grim Fandango.
Despite coming from way back in 1998 (almost 20 years ago now!) the game is still a gem. The graphics are cartoony enough to still hold up well without looking aged and the storyline is still just as intriguing and delightful as it was when I first played the game. 

The dialogue though is on an entirely different level! So witty, so funny and so well written. Despite knowing how to play the game all the way through I could not resist going talking to all the characters till I ran out of options to choose. 

And that soundtrack! Wow…

This game really represents the best of what point and click adventures could be about. An immersive experience with characters you really felt attached to. Even though the game technically spans 4 years, I just can’t get enough of it. 

I’m delighted that the developer, Tim Schafer, has started his own company at Double Fine Games in order to keep making incredible games. I’ve heard good things about both Broken Age and The Cave. 

In fact, I’ve actually purchase a copy of The Cave but never got round to playing it through. Now may be just the time to pick it up.