donkey kong ’94

Since it recently became available to order without fighting through pre-orders and scalpers, I bought an Analogue Pocket for playing my retro library of handheld Nintendo games. I bought Donkey Kong for Game Boy at release, but never got further than world three. My 12-year-old self didn’t exhibit a lot of patience, and this was neither the first or last game I bailed on. It seemed like great timing for a retry with Mario vs. Donkey Kong for Switch fast approaching. Also, 30 years on, peoples’ admiration for this classic hasn’t seemed to soften.

The definitive way to play is probably considered to be with a Super Game Boy, which practically coincided with the DK ’94 release. It has an arcade cabinet screen border, and a cleaner palette of colors than you’d see on the eventual Game Boy Color. My playthrough toggled between the Pocket’s green filter simulating the original Game Boy, and the Game Boy Color with one of the excellent LCD filters.

This game has new and unique mechanics, clever puzzles, and challenging platforming. Keeping some of Mario’s new moves in mind, like his backflip and headstand jump, can help breeze through challenges from some stages. Largely though, this game executes on balancing fun, challenge, and the quirkiness you’d expect from a Nintendo game featuring an ape named Donkey.

You start out navigating four levels that are a familiar recreation of the original arcade game. Culminating in “defeating” DK, before he rouses himself for another escape. This four level cycle repeats throughout the game topping out over 100 levels in all, letting you save after each time you catch back up to Pauline and her captor.

There were a handful of stages that were truly challenging, some having very tight timing, navigating moving platforms while dodging projectiles or enemies. This was compounded by playing handheld, with a d-pad and buttons that are a bit small, and that’s even as someone without very large hands. This is another point for playing on a Super Game Boy, or at least with a more roomy controller, if you can.

A few levels are quite puzzling too, and having no way to view the level without the time limit ticking away felt unfair a handful of times. Pay extra attention to where Pauline’s cry for help appears on screen as a level begins, because some of the exits are hidden from the screen entirely otherwise. The game does offer a lot of opportunities for extra lives though. There are time bonuses after every four levels, and mini games if you collect the purse, umbrella, and hat from each stage. So it was easy enough to keep a healthy buffer, and a few times near the end I even maxed out the remaining lives to 99.

Donkey Kong is definitely a stand out from the original Game Boy library that easily holds up as a classic worth playing today.

security angle on mac web apps

From the Use Safari web apps on Mac support page:

A web app functions independently of Safari. It shares no browsing history, cookies, website data, or settings with Safari.

Need to use Facebook to stay in touch with that one contact or group? Seems like web apps are the new best way to do this without exposing your activity to Facebook for every page you come across with one of those “Like” button widgets.

On that note, look for websites who generate revenue with your data to start finding ways to diminish the experience when you’re using them from within a web app.

iphone camera ruminations

Had a chance to digest some reviews of the iPhone 15 Pro cameras, and a lot of positive changes have hit this year. The non-Max Pro seemed largely static at first, but software advances outpaced hardware this time around. That means a host of improvements across the line. Colors are more natural, more megapixels outside of RAW modes, smudgy noise-reduction giving way to more natural photographic grain, automatic portrait mode, new configurable focal length breakpoints, and largely just all kinds of work that shows photography is to Apple today what music was in the heyday of the iPod.

While considering these many software changes, a potential basis for the diminished veil of secrecy around Apple’s future phones occurred to me. While it’s always been true that hardware is locked-in many months before an iPhone announcement and launch, owing to things like supply chains and manufacturing pipelines, the deep focus on photography would seemingly require stretching these timelines further.

It’s been ages since we first heard “machine learning” pop in as a talking point in an Apple Event, but it’s clear from recent emphasis that ML hardware and algorithms play a key role in their products. Nowhere is that more plainly seen than the camera pipeline. The success of an ML model relies on training data that is highly representative of what the algorithm might encounter in performing its task. For iPhones to rely on these models in the core systems governing that shutter button and its trillions of descendent operations, they need to train on data from exacting specimens of the hardware they will operate on. That means bringing future-spec hardware to places you might expect people would take pictures, and taking thousands (likely thousands upon thousands) of images so you can train models to a level of confidence customers would expect from a function of our phone tasked with capturing our memories.

For a QA process to back a product shipping tens of millions of units on day one, you can’t truly validate ML algorithms or pipeline stages downstream until you have a strong candidate dataset to train on. That means a massive block of work that can’t earnestly begin until data is in the hands of engineers. The procedural pipeline that makes this happen will likely improve over time, but I don’t expect true surprise from camera hardware revelations in iPhone Events any time soon.

This all calls back to the many software changes for iPhone 15 Pro. Carrying over the “Wide” (24mm equivalent) lens/sensor package from last year definitely provided more full opportunity to push greater value in software from the existing hardware, having no scarcity of data for modeling. Will Apple fall into a tick-tock between hardware and software on iPhone cameras?

rss feeds, i use them

It’s 2023, and RSS is still a great way to get content that hasn’t been machine tailored to leverage a click and an ad placement out of you. While we’ve watched algorithms destroy any semblance of media trustworthiness, many reputable sites offer RSS feeds so you can directly choose what sources hit your desk for yourself. Throw them some time to weigh against seeing headlines that will goad interaction by entrenching your point of view, or pushing you into a rage spiral.

Here is a small selection of feeds that I follow, consistently delivering good content for a decade or more:

512 Pixels (feed) – Stephen Hackett delivers links, headlines, and fun takes on Apple and adjacent spaces. His Knowledge Base Article of the Week, is always a fun look in the rearview.

MacRumors (feed) – If you never want to miss a story about the multi trillion dollar fruit company, this is the best single feed to follow. Fast on breaking news, very good coverage, and despite its name, heavily favoring factual content to rumors.

xkcd (feed) – You’ve undoubtedly seen one of these scrawled comic strips before. Don’t just wait for a friend to pull one up contextually, and instead find the latest in your unread feed items.

Tools & Toys (feed) – Far from a daily read, this feed scratches the gadget itch for those of us who like to engage in light, tech-related retail therapy from time to time. Curated by Shawn Blanc “and friends,” you’ll see items ranging from quirky to indispensable.

Daring Fireball (feed) – John Gruber writes words on Apple and technology. For better or worse, he’s a fixture in the Apple community, and usually the central node I branch from to repopulate my social graph when I join a new network. On one occasion, he even linked to this very blog.

If you’re new or returning to RSS, there are a lot of options for subscribing/reading feeds. The closest thing to the imitable Google Reader (rest in peace), is probably Feedly, if you’d like a place to get started. But there are many options to dig through once you’ve gotten your feet wet, and would like to branch out.

It’s true, while writing up this list I came across a troubling number of defunct feeds that have fallen stale. No point in denying technochocolate has had brighter days too. The collapse of Twitter on the heels of some brutal years of misinformation has really shaken up a lot of the status quo again. Perhaps we can revitalize some of the rivers of communication that have been stopped up, and see some new tributaries bring something fresh to our collective conversation again.

user generated sorta quizzes

It’s probably the longest standing requested feature for Sorta to be able to build your own quizzes, and it just launched into a public (to everyone) beta today! This app is a pet project, and could be described as whatever the opposite of lucrative is.

I’ve had to be creative about how to bring out features. While it might not be perfect, it is a way to get users to follow the same quiz algorithm to power their own quizzes easily. It’s piggybacking off of Mastodon posts, which was fun to interact with while it’s on the rise.

Also, if you haven’t visited in a while, there have been a lot of quality of life improvements for taking quizzes recently. You should check them out.

Anyways, I look forward to seeing what kinds of quizzes people will make. Hope you have fun with it!

cookie settings

Strictly Necessary Cookies, Performance Cookies, Functional Cookies, Targeting Cookies, Store and/or access information on a device, Personalized ads and content, ad and content measurement, audience insights and product development, Use precise geolocation data, Actively scan device characteristics for identification, Ensure security, prevent fraud, and debug, Technically deliver ads or content, Match and combine offline data sources, Link different devices, Receive and use automatically-sent device characteristics for identification…

This is all awful, the experience makes me cringe (and not in the cool Gen Z kind of way). It kind of sucks what the Internet has become.

I just wanted to read an article.

chatgpt prompt of the week – tom bomberford

Rewrite the story of Frodo meeting Tom Bombadil, only Tom Bombadil acts like Tom Haverford from Parks and Rec.

Frodo, on his journey to destroy the One Ring, came across a strange character in the Old Forest. This character, named Tom Bombadil, was quite the eccentric.

As Frodo approached, Tom greeted him with a loud “What’s up my man, welcome to the Old Forest!” Frodo, taken aback by Tom’s boisterous personality, introduced himself and explained his quest.

Tom, with a wide grin on his face, exclaimed “Dude, that sounds like an epic journey, I’m totally down to help you out. But first, let’s grab some breakfast at J.J’s Diner, my treat.”

As they walked to the diner, Tom regaled Frodo with tales of his past adventures, interspersed with references to his favorite bands, and his love for entertainment and fashion.

At the diner, Tom ordered a stack of pancakes and a large coffee, while Frodo stuck to a more modest meal. As they ate, Tom offered Frodo advice on how to navigate the Old Forest, and offered to be his guide, saying “I know all the best spots, and I’ll even teach you some of my dance moves.”

Frodo, grateful for the help, accepted Tom’s offer, and together they set off on their journey, with Tom’s upbeat personality and unorthodox approach to life lightening the otherwise heavy task of destroying the One Ring.

not the sith you’re looking for…

Not the Sith you’re looking for…

ahsoka digital drawing

Been spending some time drawing lately. Procreate with an Apple Pencil is just so much fun to work with. Mostly working on Disney characters, but just jumped into Star Wars. Here is an abbreviated process (if you can even call what I did a process) of my latest. It took 26 hours and 20 minutes and 11,202 pencil strokes.

covid-19 idioms

Apple’s latest event announcement carried a “Time Flies” moniker. My brain auto-completed the phrase “when you’re having fun” to a moderate amount of cognitive dissonance. It seems that quite a few of our idioms fly in the face of the current global situation.

I’ve tried to update just a few:

  • We’ll cross that bridge when their transmission rate is under control.
  • A toilet paper square saved is a toilet paper square earned.
  • Time flies when you’re having a soul-crushing pandemic.
  • The early bird gets the hand sanitizer.
  • There’s no place like anywhere else.
  • A mask in time saves nine.


This week I launched Sorta! It’s kind of still prototype-y, but a lot more flexible and expandable than my first test. I’ve got four quizzes so far, the original MCU one, Star Wars, Harry Potter books, and Pixar films.

I’m still working on a plan to make quizzes discoverable from the homepage, and make some sort of process for either recommending or making your own quiz. I’m also hoping to at least find a way to have it pay for itself, which at the current rate of traffic is about $10/month.

But it is fun to finally be taking this idea to some sort of execution, even if it’s a little different than the original vision. The term “quiz” doesn’t feel quite right for these, but I haven’t figured out a noun that fits better.

I’d love to hear if anybody has more ideas to pass along, and thanks for the feedback from the MCU quiz. It really encouraged me to keep building.

crowdsourced best marvel movie list

After launching a little side project earlier this week to help people determine their list of favorite MCU movies, I realized that the Google Analytics data gave me plenty to analyze, and I started looking it over.

To my surprise (though in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been) almost every response was different, like, practically no overlap among the results. This comes down to the fact that there are over 121 quadrillion ways to rank 19 movies. That’s certainly more than I would have guessed off the top of my head, and it definitely went against my expectation that I’d see a strong set of popular rankings.

How I formatted the list after each quiz made it easy to isolate when a visitor had actually taken the quiz versus being linked to a shared result. I was able to get a set of every solution after both four thousand and five thousand completed responses. After four thousand results there were still a few movies that were somewhat close after averaging the rankings. By five thousand, the order had stayed the same, but the gaps were only widening between all the movies. It looks like a pretty solid statistical point to call this a crowdsourced result.

  1. Infinity War
  2. Thor: Ragnarok
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. The Avengers
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  8. Black Panther
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  10. Doctor Strange
  11. Iron Man
  12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  13. Captain America: The First Avenger
  14. Ant-Man
  15. Iron Man 3
  16. Thor
  17. Iron Man 2
  18. Thor: The Dark World
  19. The Incredible Hulk

I’ve seen a few other ranked lists, but none of them quite jibe with the impressions I’ve been seeing from people online as well as this list. I’m going to go ahead and count this as a successful test, and the idea of turning this into a more generic product for ranking lists of all types is that much more interesting of a prospect.

With quizzes taken now 15,000 strong, we have seen a bit of a shift in the results. Notably, Black Panther moved up a few places, which seems to make sense based on the response to that movie. Here’s the latest ranking of the people:

  1. Infinity War
  2. Thor: Ragnarok
  3. Captain America: Civil War
  4. The Avengers
  5. Black Panther
  6. Guardians of the Galaxy
  7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  8. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  9. Doctor Strange
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  12. Iron Man
  13. Captain America: The First Avenger
  14. Ant-Man
  15. Iron Man 3
  16. Thor
  17. Iron Man 2
  18. Thor: The Dark World
  19. The Incredible Hulk

marvel movie ranking

A number of years ago, while scanning photos for our wedding slideshow, I found myself frustrated with the tedious process of manually sorting the photos chronologically. It seemed like it would be simpler to view one photo pair at a time, and apply one of those fancy sorting algorithms I learned in college. I never got around to building that photo sorting utility, but the concept kept rattling around in my head.

In the lead up to Infinity War, my coworkers and I were having a lot of discussions about our favorite Marvel movies. However, seeing the whole list and trying to organize my favorites was overwhelming. This seemed like an easy project to build using my binary sorting concept. The result is a quiz (if you can call it that) taking you through all the films, two at a time, organizing your favorites using the merge sort algorithm. It’s a proof of concept for a larger product that could let you sort lists of any type of objects this way.

You can try the quiz yourself, and even share your result. Here’s mine. Hope you find it fun, let me know if you have any feedback.


We believe in a wireless future. A future where all your devices intuitively connect. – Jony Ive, opening line of the AirPods introduction

I was listening to the Accidental Tech Podcast recently, and there was a discussion and some lamenting over the loss of MagSafe. The hosts were bereaving a technology that had been so well received in its time. The reality is, that the move to leave MagSafe behind is part and parcel with how Apple has been doing things for decades.

People seem bewildered every time. No USB on iPads, no more firewire, no more headphone jack, no more MagSafe. These things aren’t being left behind because they don’t accomplish their job. It’s because they all have wires, and Apple sees that the future doesn’t have a place for wires on the devices we bring with us, which increasingly includes more of our computers and related accessories.

Apple didn’t get rid of MagSafe because it’s a bad power connector. They got rid of it because they no longer envision you using your laptop while it’s plugged in. Charging is what you can do with your computer when you’re not actively using it. That wasn’t feasible with a two or three hour battery life, but it’s definitely a reasonable expectation for normal use cases with today’s laptops.

This same reasoning is to blame for the hilarity that is charging a Mighty Mouse 2 with a cable sticking straight out of the bottom. They certainly could have put the connector at the top, such that the charging cable would make the mouse look and act like a normal wired mouse, but they don’t want you to use your wireless mouse that way. I imagine they’re future vision has a lower friction solution for charging as well, but in the meantime, this was how they went about accomplishing their wireless ambitions.

We’re just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we’ve been working towards for many years. – Jony Ive, closing line of the AirPods introduction

a thought on our nation

Our national crisis isn’t just about people who are overtly involved in hatred and violence. We can be passively involved in other peoples’ suffering. The number of people who feel hated is dwarfed by the number of people who feel forgotten or marginalized.

But we can be a part of the solution by reaching out to people who might feel cast aside. Say hello to that friend you haven’t seen in a while. Take a coworker you don’t speak with very often out for lunch.

This is what love looks like. It isn’t about chocolate hearts and roses. It’s engaging with other people, and making them know they’re important. I’ll part with a quote from one of my personal heroes, you know him as Mr. Rogers:

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.

it’s not about the headphone jack

So far, I feel as though everyone having the discussion about the iPhone ditching the headphone jack for “lightning headphones” is missing the point. It’s not about jacks and ports, it’s about the wires.

Wires are a bad user experience. Having wires hanging out of your computer/tablet/phone/etc. is a mess. You trip over them, they’re in the way, they’re ugly. Down with wires. Whether the iPhone ships with lightning headphones or not, the long term future of headphones doesn’t have wires in the equation, and Apple knows this.

This idea led me to an interesting thought regarding renewed reports that Apple is developing a new display with GPU. Maybe it’s not just an attempt to power a 5k display sending minimal data across a cable, maybe it’s an attempt to skip the cable altogether.

Killing off an entrenched port like the headphone jack seems a little like something Apple would do, but I’d bank on them trying to serve the more noble goal of removing cables altogether.

Update: Some further thought on the topic yielded the following tweet.

And John Gruber, taking it a step further:

Plug them in to the device you want to pair them with, click “Pair”, and you’re done. Easy to charge, too.

bb-8 build video

Made this LEGO BB-8 model a few months ago, and I’m just finally getting around to putting out a guide for it. I got all the parts from “Pick-a-Brick” on the LEGO online store. (Be warned, they’re very slow about shipping, because all orders are hand picked). It’s a pretty quick and fun build if you can’t afford the new Sphero BB-8 droid.

Here’s a little stop motion I made with an earlier version of the model:

project ara delayed because its phones keep falling apart

Project Ara, the modular mobile phone from Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) group, has hit some delays, and now we’re getting a hint as to what went wrong.

Supposedly the phones were coming apart when dropped, big surprise, but something that could be solved easily with a case.

This headline reads like rhetoric coming from the project to save face though. It’s likely that a more accurate statement would be, “Google cancels modular phone project, because it’s not a good idea.” now lets you recover deleted files

Seems to work similar to the “Recently Deleted” folder in Photos on iPhone, which has been great. Anything that helps us avoid data loss is a win in my book.

crew members sample leafy greens grown on space station

Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA’s one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce Monday, Aug. 10, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.

apple dot com updated got an update yesterday. The separate store site is no more, may the “we’ll be back soon” sticky note rest in peace. Removing the store must have been a very big undertaking, but to the unaware, the changes are subtle.

It’s been said before, but I think is one of the best examples on the Internet of design iteration. The overall layout of the site has gotten to where it is today very slowly in moderate steps. You can check it out on and see that the DNA of the current design has been around for more than a decade.

goodbye, android

As you might have heard, a security researcher revealed on Monday that a series of bugs deep inside Android’s source code allow hackers to hack and spy on users with a simple multimedia message.

If you’re worried your Android device might be vulnerable to these bugs, collectively known as Stagefright, well, I’ve got bad news for you. It probably is. In fact, as many as 950 million phones likely are.

This sounds awesome. Nothing is truly bulletproof, but the vast ecosystem of Android phones can’t seem to get their hands on any kevlar.

youtube and full-screen playback of vertical videos

YouTube has added support for full-screen playback of vertical videos in their latest iOS app update.

Listen to Viticci. If 90% of people are going to view this video on a mobile device, and the intent of the video is not to display some grand artful vision, I’m better off if you don’t make me:

  1. Switch off orientation lock
  2. Rotate my phone
  3. Rotate my phone again, because it didn’t work the first time
  4. Start the video back from the beginning, because I missed it already
  5. Switch orientation lock back on, because most apps have terrible landscape experiences


apple ceases selling nest products

The writing was on the wall as soon as a HomeKit compatible thermostat surfaced.

recurrent neural network handwriting generation demo

Type a message into the text box, and the network will try to write it out longhand…either let the network choose a writing style at random or prime it with a real sequence to make it mimic that writer’s style.


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