Archive for July, 2023

Reading List 307

Here’s what I’ve been reading that you might find interesting.

Jane Austen, Tailwind and modern full-stack development

Some of us are so old that we grew up before npm existed. In fact, I’m so old that I went to university and studied English Literature because we had things called “books”. As part of this, we had to read some 19th century novels so I chose Jane Austen, because she’s funny and because her books are 10% of the weight and boringness of peak noveltwats like Dickens, Thackeray or Walter Scott.

Anyway, not many people in modern full-stack development have read much English literature so may not know that Tailwind, the extra-wonderful replacement for CSS, is actually named after a 19th century euphemism for “fart”. From Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Chapter 7):

Miss Bennett, shall we take a turn around the garden ? The air in this ballroom has become somewhat rancid, methinks”.

Elizabeth blushed. “My apologies, Captain Cadbastard”, said she ; “I do confess that when you whirl’d me round in the last cotillion, a small tailwind eked out from beneath my seventeenth petticoat”.

Pride and Prejudice is all about the mindset of anachronistic developers who think that the only language they know is the only one that counts (the ‘pride’) and also that “CSS isn’t really a language” (prejudice). See the famous opening:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a developer not in possession of a basic knowledge of the foundational languages of the Web, must be in want of a framework and cumbersome build process.

The indisputably correct list of the ten best albums ever

Here is the indisputably correct list of the best ten (non-compilation/ Greatest Hits) albums ever, in no particular order.

  • "Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols"

    The lurid, ransom note logo and album cover by Jamie Ried (cf my own at the top of this page). The sheer fucking excitement of the opening of "God Save The Queen" or "Pretty Vacant" makes this a fantastic album. The opening of "Bodies" still sends a shiver up my spine.

  • Blue – Joni Mitchell

    Mitchell’s guitar, dulcimer, piano playing is perfect. But it’s the songs that make it: the heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics, the melodies with their key changes. Sublime. Maaaan.

  • dubnobasswithmyheadman – Underworld

    Electronica with real vocals. Dada-esque cut-up lyrics. Dance songs and chill-out songs. I have vivid memories of getting stoned and travelling through the skyscrapers of Bangkok in the back of a taxi listening to this.

  • Loveless – My Bloody Valentine

    What on earth is wrong with this pressing? I asked myself on my 25th birthday as I played my brand new CD. Then every time I listened, I heard new sounds amongst the feedback and gently melodic crooning.

  • Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said. Wonderful, even if it is hippie/ rock shit.

  • "London Calling" – The Clash

    I’ll never forget buying this double album in 1979 for £3.50 (the same price as a single album) and the first time I played it. It was the first time I’d heard political music. It was my first exposure to reggae; I know it was from white boys, but until then I’d only heard sanitised pop reggae. The Clash just melted down loads of influences into something amazing. The cover is great – and the Elvis reference is genius.

  • The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said.

  • Revolver – The Beatles

    It’s got ballads, kids’ songs, psychedelia, string sections. It’s got it all. The latest reissue, remixed into real stereo by Giles Martin, has crystal-clear bass that wasn’t really possible in the 60s (too much bass would cause record player styluses to jump out of the groove) so you can hear McCartney’s genius, and also the non-album single from the same sessions: Paperback Writer and its even more marvellous B-side, Rain, with its backwards vocals, stunning harmonies and bass.

  • Dummy – Portishead

    No-one had ever heard music like this before. Shares in theramins went through the roof.

  • Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

    It’s got loads of great tracks. And “Visions of Johanna”, which is His Bobness’ towering achievement.

  • Bonus runner-up: Wrong Way Up – Brian Eno And John Cale

    Two geniuses, legendary pioneers of experimental music get together, combining loads of different and unusual instruments and cut-up loops. Instead of some unlistenable avant-garde weirdness, they produce an album of slightly off-kilter pop songs full of melodies and harmony. It initially sounds catchy but slight, and as you listen more, new depths are revealed. The album’s title comes from its song “Empty Frame,” a sea shanty about a cursed ship going around in circles, never returning to port. A lost classic.

(Last Updated on 25 August 2023)

Japan’s report on mobile ecosystems is published

The Japanese government’s competition regulator (Secretariat of the Headquarters for Digital Market Competition) has been investigating the competitiveness of the mobile ecosystem (so, in reality, the entrenched duopoly of iOS and Android). As part of Open Web Advocacy, I was invited to two briefings with a panel of regulators. It seems they listened to us, as the report talks extensively of browser engines, thereby preventing Apple muddying the water by their usual tactic of clutching their pearls, swooning onto the nearest diamond-encrusted chaise longue while sobbing “other browsers are available in the App Store”, avoiding mentioning that all those “other browsers” are compelled to be branded skins of WebKit.

The report was published on 16 June 2023, and is now available in English: Competition Assessment of the Mobile Ecosystem. Final Report : Summary (PDF).

Some key conclusions:

Mandatory use of WebKit impedes fair and equitable competition between Safari and third-party browsers … Hindering the development of web apps …adversely affecting the competitive environment in entire mobile ecosystem.

Safari or WebKit has many unavailable features and poor performance … On iOS, some features are available only for Safari, and are/were not available for 3rd party browsers … Safari lags behind web app support.

Hence, the Japanese regulator proposes an end to the #appleBrowserBan:

Platform operators that provide OS of a certain size or larger shall be prohibited from requiring app developers to use OS providers’ own browser engines.

The next steps:

based on this final report, to consider the legal framework necessary to ensure a fair and equitable competition environment in the mobile ecosystem, while assessing the situation in other countries such as Europe and the United States.

Open Web Advocacy were invited to meet the regulators on 11 July to give our response, the gist of which is that we’re delighted with the spirit of the report, but suggested some wording changes to reduce the risk of malicious compliance by those entities which would be affected.

So now we have a law in the EU –the Digital Markets Act– prohibiting the Apple Browser Ban, a UK government Bill to legislate to give statutory powers to the Competition and Markets Agency which has already ruled against Apple, and positive reports from the Japanese and Australian regulators. What about the USA? Lol. Political bullshit and corruption has paralysed any action, of course.

(Last Updated on 12 July 2023)