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Benjamin Oakes

Photo of Ben Oakes

Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Continuity Control. Previously, I was a Software Developer at Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize ICRuby and OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Blog

100+ Hypermiling / ecodriving tips & tactics for better mpg

by Ben

100+ Hypermiling / ecodriving tips & tactics for better mpg – EcoModder.com.

A great list of hypermiling tips. It’s amazing that some very dedicated hypermilers could get 70 mpg in an early 2000s Honda Accord, or 150 mpg in a Toyota Prius. I’m nowhere close to that, but even taking a couple of reasonable ideas from this list could help anyone’s fuel economy.

Microsoft open sources .NET, takes it to Linux and OS X

by Ben

Microsoft open sources .NET, takes it to Linux and OS X | Ars Technica.

I don’t think I would start using .NET because of this, but wow, what a step in the right direction for Microsoft!

iMessage deactivation problems earn Apple a federal lawsuit

by Ben

iMessage deactivation problems earn Apple a federal lawsuit | Ars Technica.

I got a new phone over the summer, and it took me a while to realize that it couldn’t receive some text messages.  It seemed to randomly fail; sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t.  Eventually I found out that iPhone users couldn’t text me if they had texted me before. The problem was that I no longer had an iPhone; I had switched to Android.  Apple’s iMessage was intercepting my texts because I didn’t know to turn off iMessage on my old phone before wiping and selling it. That was an unexpected pain when switching from an iPhone to a competitor’s phone.

I found an Apple knowledgebase article about the issue, which instructed me to call Apple support.  To my surprise, the only option for support was to pay a pretty hefty service fee — which was thankfully waived after I explained the iMessage bug.  Apple explained that it was a known issue, and they then instructed me to contact everyone I knew who had texted me from their iPhone to tell them to delete all the threads that I had been a part of.  (I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that.)  They also said that my contacts could also turn off iMessage entirely to avoid the problem for me and any other contacts that might switch from an iPhone (e.g. my wife) — which I recommended to everyone I talked to.

Those were incredibly awkward conversations to have, particularly because several iPhone users seemed to think that I was contacting them because of a text messaging bug in Android.  (Keep in mind that most non-technical users don’t know the difference between an iMessage text message and an SMS text message.)  I’m sure that a few still think that Android is buggy and are now afraid to switch away from Apple products in fear that they won’t receive any text messages.  It’s not hard to think of a few reasons that Apple would take years to fix this problem.

To be clear, iMessage was a problem for me even when I used an iPhone daily.  The service has had a surprising number of issues that have prevented users from receiving messages, though most of those were fixed in a relatively-timely manner.  For example, I had serveral problems with multi-person threads.  Ironically, I wouldn’t receive any messages from the other iPhone users on the thread, but the Android users would get messages just fine.  The iMessages went into oblivion, and I would just get a confusing half of a conversation from the Android user who was obviously responding to something that had been said.  That happened multiple times over a period of months; it wasn’t just a couple of forgivable, short service disruptions.

It’s still my recommendation to turn iMessage off, especially if you have free text messages as a part of your phone service.  All it takes is a trip to “Settings.”

Thursday, 11/6: ICRuby Meetup

by Ben

From my posts on the Meetup event:

Hello Rubyists,

It’s almost the first Thursday of the month again. We’re always interested in having members present Ruby-related topics to the group, so if you’ve been playing with anything cool, please consider presenting! We’re pretty informal, so anything you present doesn’t have to be a “polished” keynote-style presentation; it can be as simple as plugging in your laptop and showing some code you’ve been working on.

If anyone would like to present something, please leave a comment [on the Meetup event].

Best wishes,

Ben

And also, my customary monthly Ruby news roundup:

Some Ruby news from the last month:

  • Ruby 2.1.4 released, along with patchlevel-releases for 2.0.0 and 1.9.3 containing security fixes
  • OSX 10.10 has shipped, with Ruby 2.0.0 as the default (Ruby 1.8.7 was completely removed)
  • Rails 3.2.20, 4.0.11, 4.1.7 released (security fixes) on Oct 30th
  • Last Rails 4.2.0 beta released, release candidates coming soon.
  • Ruboto 1.2.0 released, with support for ART on Android Lollipop (5.0)
  • Raptor — new Ruby web server — coming out this month. Supposed to be high performance.

Unsaved documents in Apple apps that use Documents in the Cloud are automatically saved to iCloud

by Ben

iCloud: Unsaved documents in Apple apps that use Documents in the Cloud are automatically saved to iCloud.

How one man’s private files ended up on Apple’s iCloud without his consent – The Washington Post.

Not the behavior I expected; makes me wonder what documents I have stored in iCloud without my knowledge. Either way, I’m happy Apple is moving to a more Dropbox-like strategy.

On Asm.js

by Ben

On Asm.js — Acko.net.

A great perspective on the role of JavaScript in the future of the web. I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s certainly true that asm.js still feels like a clever hack, perhaps taken too far.

The ASCII/UTF-8 comparison to JavaScript/asm.js is something I hadn’t considered. That’s even more telling when you realize that ASCII has its roots in telegrams… Where will JavaScript be 100 years from now?

Tim Cook Speaks Up

by Ben

Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to be Gay” – Businessweek.

Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple.  From his article:

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. [...] While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now.

[...]

I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

It’s great to have a well written piece from a well-known executive (and role model).  That’s a pretty brave thing to do, especially when you consider he’s the only openly-gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  The only unfortunate thing is that he almost seems to think his work is done… I have a feeling this isn’t the last time he speaks about this topic.

Native Skype for Chromebooks Just Got a Step Closer

by Ben

Native Skype for Chromebooks Just Got a Step Closer – OMG! Chrome!.

With the Chrome runtime for Android and a possible ORTC implementation of Skype, it seems that Skype on Chrome OS is inevitable.

iFixit’s 2014 Mac Mini teardown shows a sealed, less-upgradeable redesign

by Ben

iFixit’s 2014 Mac Mini teardown shows a sealed, less-upgradeable redesign | Ars Technica.

It’s funny, I was just thinking about how it was nice that Apple was still offering a lower-priced computer with components designed to be upgraded, in contrast with their other offerings.

While considering a replacement for an older Mac mini, the non-upgradable RAM and storage in the 2014 model are a letdown. Also the small performance improvement to the 2012 model (and actually a performance decrease if comparing the high-end models) is also less than I was expecting. The only real benefit is the low-end model runs $100 cheaper than in 2012 — though it isn’t a better deal.

In the end, I expect the 2012 model to retain its value for some time.

Self-hosted URL shortener: YOURLS

by Ben

YOURLS: Your Own URL Shortener.

As Piwik is to Google Analytics, YOURLS is to Bitly.

I haven’t tried this out yet, but it seems nice from the screenshots.  Written in PHP.