robinadr

Houston Coffee and Cars

I spent a few days in Houston, and went to the local Coffee and Cars event. Highlights included a LaFerrari, 2 McLaren P1s, some Porsche 918 Spyders, and my personal favorite, a yellow Enzo. I was pretty impressed with the turnout.

Row of hypercars

Pagani Huayra

enzo

classic-carrera

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Smarter Archives 3.2.3 has been released. The only change is the addition of a German (de_DE) translation, thanks to Jay Linski (@jaylinski).

Download it now.

I’ve spent some time on the phone with Apple tech support recently, and it has become clear that a certain “knowledge barrier” exists that you need to clear in order to get effective technical help. I avoid tech support a lot of the time, opting instead to search online for solutions, but sometimes you exhaust all options and have to call in. Especially if you need something administrative like an RMA done.

In Apple’s case, the first person you encounter on the line is a “tier one” support personnel. They don’t seem to know much beyond guiding you through troubleshooting steps that can be found in their handbook, and I assume on Apple’s online knowledge base. Not that this comes as criticism; I would bet 95% of their calls can easily be handled with this. Think Grandma calling in to set Yahoo! mail up on the iPad her grandkids just got her for Christmas.

But having to get past this person becomes frustrating. I certainly think I know more than I actually do, but I know more than the average Apple user. So when I’m trying to explain how two-step verification works with iCloud, it devolves into me guiding the support person through Apple’s own products, them realizing this call is more than they can handle, and getting referred to a “senior service advisor.”

Once this happens, my calls go a lot smoother. The senior advisor has not only the authority to take more serious actions on Apple’s end, but they also have a much more expansive technical knowledge and it finally feels like someone I can communicate effectively with.

That’s the “knowledge barrier.” I wish companies offered some way to jump over this barrier; an option for technical people. But I can also see people opting for this because they think they know what they’re talking about, and they really don’t.

Thankfully, once you get past that first person, Apple tech support does a great job.

If you haven’t signed up for a VPN service yet, you need to. I’ve been a customer of Private Internet Access for more than a year now, and the annual $40 has been more than worth it.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve used it for:

  • Tunneling torrents through it
  • Connecting to IRC networks that don’t use SASL and/or mask your IP
  • Watching Netflix outside the US1
  • Connecting securely to public wifi

Especially that last one. Every time you sit down at a Starbucks, a public library, or anywhere with a publicly available wireless network, there could be someone listening in on your wireless transmissions. It doesn’t require much knowhow to pull off either.

Note this matters even more when you log in to websites that aren’t using a secure connection (http://). Your credentials transmit in plain text. That should scare you.

So get a VPN account, set it up, and start browsing securely.


  1. This goes both ways: sometimes you want access to the US catalog from outside the country, and sometimes you want access to another country’s catalog (e.g. Canada’s) from inside the country. 

I’ve created a WordPress plugin that uses Parsedown as a Markdown processor. I actually finished version 0.1 a few weeks ago, but I wanted to iron a few bugs out before I announced it publicly.

It functions as a 100% drop-in replacement for the original Markdown plugin, PHP Markdown Extra by Michel Fortin. Everything is the same, down to the same filter behaviors and priorities.

Unlike other plugins, my plugin has no settings. Just upload the plugin, activate it, and you’re off.

Download Parsedown for WordPress v0.3.

The plugin’s page in the WordPress repository has more information. Development takes place over on GitHub, where you can also report any bugs you come across.

If you’re looking for a live example, this site is currently using the latest version.