All We Are Is Dust in the Window Shades

The toaster refused my toast. The dishwasher began to leak. A down pillow exploded in the dryer. The washing machine became clogged. Our car was stolen. I lost my keys.

I gave the toaster a talking to. I ordered a new seal for the dishwasher. Three washes and eight dries later, the clothes with the pillow were clean. I unclogged the washer—mostly. Our car was recovered and being repaired.

My keys? Unimportant, extras, not lost near home, clearly. The clog? I am short on being able to reattach one hose, but have ordered "Hose Clamp Pliers Set" arriving tomorrow.

Material possessions own us, it's true. And they conspire.

Love, Sex, and Relationships in Age without Definitions

We can have any sort of relationship we want in America: we're not prohibited by law and increasingly less so by custom. Sarah Mirk wrote the book Sex from Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules to help people figure out how to unfold the map of contemporary life if they don't subscribe to a dogma (religious or otherwise) about precisely how they should form romantic and sexual relationships for a night or for the rest of one's life.

I wrote up a review of her book at Boing Boing, and we also had a wide-ranging podcast talk about polyamory, asexuality, feminism, sex, and much more! Give a listen below (or you can go to SoundCloud and download for later).

Sarah's writing and research phase was a great help to me as I was charting my own map, and I could read what she was finding for herself and in the many interviews she conducted for the book. She and I talk about the choices we each made about intentional non-monogamy in the podcast.

Read All The Magazine Archives Free (for a little while)

We're relaunching.

We're relaunching.

I've just pushed out a new version of The Magazine app, switching to the platform developed by the folks at TypeEngine to publish the current and future issues. As part of the update, I've opened our archives for the next four weeks to anyone using the new app for free reading!

The app itself is free, and we fund the publication entirely through subscription fees. The new app version allows us to sell single issues, whether from our archives or new issues, which we hope appeals to more casual readers who don't want a recurring monthly subscription.

We have published about 200 articles since October 2012 on a huge range of interesting subjects: reintroducing wood bison back to Alaska, the background to serious cosplay from people who make elaborate and fantastic outfits, the last performance of Trek in the Park in Portland, a woman named Amelia Earhart who retraced her namesake's worldwide trip (successfully), DIY medical equipment, and, wow, a lot more.

The app works in iOS 7 and I hope you'll take a look and spread the word about our archives. (You can also subscribe and read on our Web site, which has a selection of free articles.) We'd love for people to read what we publish even if they never subscribe; we've tried to find stories worth telling.

XOXO to XOXO 2014

The XOXO conference and festival is back for its third outing this September 11–14 in Portland, Oregon, the center of all that is creative and right with the world at this moment. Portland is a special place and XOXO is a special event that could only occur there, I think. The organizers, Andy Baio and Andy McMillan are amazing people in their own right, and they bring together so much good will and positivity about life in one place.

Here's what I wrote about it years past and a podcast with Andy and Andy:

The first XOXO in 2012 changed my life. I was in a slump and slightly at sea, and nearly everything I did after XOXO was different than before: I changed my job (from programming and writing to mostly editing and podcasting with some  writing) and oriented what I do much more about facilitating the creativity of other people, through which I get my own joy and participation.

The 2013 event felt like a consolidation: less change but more fervor. I met so many people who I only knew online, made new friendships and connections, and went out with new energy right into a Kickstarter that launched a few weeks later—and (figuratively) nearly killed me.

I made some friends that I hope I will keep for the rest of my life. Oddly, I've met people in the months since who attended XOXO 2013 who I didn't meet there, and we've since become friends! There's an affinity for attending that extends outside of the event. ("There's a little bit of XOXO in all of us," I might say, and then hate myself.)

This year, I'm sitting out the conference part. That's for a few reasons. I've gotten so much benefit from the event, I feel like I should make room for other people. They've switched to a different kind of selection process that I fully support, in which they will pick nearly randomly (and filter only those who are clearly trying to market to participants). However, they're going to also moderate the randomness by attempting to gain more participation from people who are traditionally underrepresented at most conferences:

More than 80% of the people who’ve wanted to attend XOXO in the past are white, straight, cisgender, able-bodied dudes, and we want everyone who’s not in that category to know XOXO is for you too.

I fit that 80% definition. I don't feel required to exclude myself, but I also think having gotten the benefit twice, I should step back.

I've gone through so much this year already, I don't think I'm prepared for another "tear your head off" iteration. The Kickstarter kicked my ass. It was great and powerful and I couldn't be happier with the book we made. But I spent November to March working nearly full-time on it in addition to my regular full-time-plus amount of work and then April finishing up, while also writing a three-page Economist story about nanosatellites that's among one of the favorite things I've even written. During May, I believe I was in a fetal position. (June has proven much better.)

I'm applying for a festival pass (access to events, not the conference track), so that if I get picked, I can come and hang and podcast and do fun stuff, but won't challenge myself as much as I did. I don't have it in me this year to re-invent myself again! Maybe in 2015.

XOXO has been described as so many things. It's like an encounter group for entrepreneurialism. It's a place in which speakers, both relatively to quite famous and those known in niche super-interesting circles, talk about their failures and how to overcome them.  It is a place that may encourage earnestness at the expense of criticism. It's a place to make new friends and colleagues.

They've added an option for people who travel together in response to some complaints last year. If two people who identify as spouses or significant others list each other's name in the conference application, if one doesn't get picked for a conference pass, that person will be given priority to sign up for a festival pass.

I encourage anyone who wants a jolt and an incredibly enjoyable few days in Portland to apply!


My Revised Ebook on Setting up Apple's Wi-Fi Routers

For a decade (!!), I've been writing and revising a book on using Apple's Wi-Fi routers. Long ago it was Take Control of Your 802.11b AirPort Network, and the current, fifth edition has the moniker Take Control of Your Apple Wi-Fi Network. This latest update (a bit late and all my fault for that) brings the title up to date for 802.11ac, the newest and fastest flavor of Wi-Fi, as well as OS X Mavericks, iOS 7, and Windows 8.1.

The book's designed for any home or small-business user who finds that the basic information Apple provides isn't enough. While I fully agree configuration has never been better for Apple's AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule base stations, if you want to configure network layouts or network details outside of quite standard arrangements, you might feel at sea. This book is designed to help.

I go through how to set up basic networks and more advanced ones, including creates pods of Ethernet-connected or Wi-Fi–linked base stations (and mixed groups), as well as walking through all the networking settings and how to use them for specific tasks. I fully explain the ins and outs of AirPort Utility both for OS X and the similar, but more limited iOS version. And I tell you how you can make the Eye of Sauron appear on your Mac.

For instance, you can choose a static, unchanging local address for any computer or device on your network through DHCP Reservations. It's several steps with a few choices, and I take you through that. The book also explains frequency channels and the various Wi-Fi/802.11 standards, and how to site your equipment ideally and troubleshoot it when it doesn't work.

For more details on the book—which is available in DRM-free PDF, EPUB, and MOBI that you can use anywhere without restriction—and a downloadable excerpt, visit the Take Control page. At $20, it could save you an amount of frustration you can't stick a price tag on.


Apple's Next Products

I have no special knowledge beyond following Apple as a company for 15 years and using its products since the early 1980s. I have a feeling now for what direction Apple might take, even though I've never been able to predict a specific outcome.

What Apple won't do

There is no iWatch. A watch has never made any sense, but it's the only thing that analysts and Apple's competitors have, apparently, been able to think of as a next logical device to make. The history of technology is littered with failed computer watches; Microsoft has gone through two bad iterations itself. If Apple's partners or spies have seen an iWatch, it's more likely a feint to throw competitors off. Apple does put out false scents!

Apple is not going to buy a cellular operator. This comes up again and again. T-Mobile would have been the only firm that would have made any sense in terms of scale and availability to purchase, and besides Sprint attempting to acquire it, owning a carrier puts Apple in direct conflict with other carriers. It doesn't need the hassle and competitive trouble.

No one should expect an integrated Apple television set. For years, the only companies not losing money on TVs are the companies that are vertically integrated to make the screens and the TVs, like Samsung. Many companies lose money making TVs, but they can't exit the industry because they need to sell integrated entertainment systems, and the loss of revenue would reduce their scale of operations, too. People don't spend enough on TVs nor turn them over fast enough to represent a market worth entering at the scale Apple would need to. Sorry, Gene Munster.

What Apple could do

A wearable hub that doesn't present itself as a thing you wear on your wrist. Apple's Health initiative shows the direction. An iOS device is the heart of Health, and expect a wearable thing that integrates with smart clothing (particularly sportswear that could track heartrate and other factors). Instead of delivering another visual display with limited capabilities, like a watch, Apple more likely would deliver information through haptic, vibratory, and aural feedback. An Apple wearable will more likely be an iPod nano style device that plugs into clothing, and uses Bluetooth for comms, than a watch.

A Retina MacBook Air. This has certainly been on their road map all along, but the time is coming where some tradeoff or transition point will occur: they will either be able to produce an Air with an efficient enough display and battery to keep the weight the same, or they will eat a few ounces and make it heavier to get the better display on board. Instead of a "12-hour" battery, buyers might be fine with an "8-hour" Air with Retina, too. It seems like this could be a fall 2014 item, but I wonder if they'd wait till February 2015 for cost issues and alignment with when they introduce Mac hardware.

A revised Apple TV that incorporates a base station. The Apple TV is essentially already a base station, and with a little more processing power or a co-processor, it could easily handle an AirPort Express's function alongside its TV features. As a base station, an Apple TV could better manage throughput and other factors.


Vital Reads

There's a book I bring up all the time in talking to people about innovation, creativity, and spaces. It's Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn. I have probably mentioned in it 10 episodes of The New Disruptors because it's so relevant to people getting themselves off the ground, often using odd or temporary spaces.

While Brand looks across a whole swath of issues relating to architecture and the changes that occur to buildings over time (even ones that are claimed to be historically fixed, and are not), the part I like to point to is the importance of space that nobody cares about.

That is, space in which you can experiment, drill holes in the floor, knock out walls, install plumbing, paint walls and repaint them, build and restructure offices. This is usually in old buildings or facilities that people have decided not to update — or are even destined for demolition.

The more you have to care about the space you're in and the less flexible it is, the more it constrains what you do and how you collaborate. (This applies to content-management systems or CMSes, about which I've talked quite a bit, too.)

I have to add to this book one I've just read by Ed Catmull, one of the heads of Pixar, and its driving force from the beginning. He, Steve Jobs, and John Lasseter developed it into the powerhouse combination of research lab and movie studio that has churned out a series of successes. Catmull and Lasseter took what they learned to Disney's animation arm after Pixar was acquired by Disney and turned it around as well.

Creativity, Inc., isn't about success. It's about failure and managing failure. Catmull unsparingly describes the many hundreds of times he and his colleagues made errors in judgment often based on continuing something that had proven successful, even when they thought they were already taking into account the bias of success. It's revealing from a man running a company that, to outward appearances, has done nearly everything right.

It's a good read about the history of computer animation and the studio, but it's packed with lessons that are applicable to an army of one (like yours truly) or a large corporation.

We had a very nice, long conversation on The Incomparable podcast as a book-club episode about what this book has to teach.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Walking on Sunshine, Air, the Moon


Benefits of walking on sunshine:

  • Knowledge that you love me.
  • Anticipation of your arrival.
  • Pleasure at visiting mailbox expecting letters.
  • It feels good.

Drawbacks of walking on sunshine:

  • Lacerations and occasionally bleeding from walking barefoot to establish necessary skin to sunshine contact.
  • First-degree burns from contact with asphalt, desert sand, etc.
  • Callouses.
  • Eclipses.


Benefits of walking on air:

  • Sweet, sweet ecstasy.
  • Feeling exotic.
  • Visiting utopia.
  • Ability to go higher, deeper, and harder, sometimes all at once.

Drawbacks of walking on air:

  • Crying angels flood earth with their tears.
  • Incur wrath of heaven.
  • Requires jetpack.

The Moon

Benefits of walking on the moon:

  • Taking giant steps.
  • Apparent immortality at the price of eternal peregrination.
  • Living with you.
  • Soundless footfalls.

Drawbacks of walking on the moon:

  • Concerns about breaking legs.
  • Oxygen deprivation.
  • Low pressure causes blood to boil.
  • High potential of asphyxiation in crater full of moon dust.

Nanosatellites in the Economist

I found myself curious about tiny satellites two years ago, when Sandy Antunes released the second in a series of four books on DIY (do-it-yourself) satellites. This seemed bizarre to me, when I received the press release, so I asked for a copy of the book, interviewed Antunes for an article, and pitched the Economist on a long feature about the topic.

Antunes was documenting (and learning himself and teaching in classes) the rise of CubeSat and similar small-format satellites that have a volume of about a liter and a mass of around one kilogram. CubeSat is a specific format, in which a frame can be created in units of 10 cm cubes and about 1.33 kg per unit. A three-unit (3U) CubeSat is 10 cm by 10 cm by 30 cm, and can have a mass of up to 5 kg, for instance. Antunes was building a TubeSat, a cylindrical format that was slightly smaller and needed to have somewhat less mass.

But my editor at the time and then a subsequent one and I agreed to wait. While the topic was rich, it seemed on the verge of something happening, but it wasn't quite there yet. I kept reading press releases, NASA announcements, and blogs, and waiting. Then, suddenly, things changed. After a decade in which about 75 or so nanosatellites (a category that encompass 1 to 10 kg satellites) were launched, in November 2013 and January 2014, nearly 100 went into orbit directly or through a mission at the ISS, which released them. The time was ripe.

I made piles of phone calls, read thousands of pages of reports, exchanged hundreds of emails, and took a visit to several firms in the San Francisco Bay Area from about February to April. The result is "Nanosats Are Go!", the cover story of the Technology Quarterly section (in print and online) of the June 7th cover date issue of the Economist. My editor also wrote a leader, which is a sort of fact-based opinion piece, often advocating a position, about the potential of nanosats and the worries that regulation could strangle them.