Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Written by Timothy B. Smith

The New CSS Layout

The New CSS Layout by Rachel Andrew. Photo taken in Cozumel, Mexico.

If you’ve been working on the web for the past few years, you’ve noticed how quickly our layout tools have improved. I gave four talks last year on CSS Grid. In just 2017, the feature went from being behind flags to having support in most modern browsers.

The New CSS Layout by Rachel Andrew provides a comprehensive summary of the history of layout, what tools we have at our disposal right now, and where we’re heading. Her explanation of why and how to get involved in the making of CSS is the rallying cry I think our industry needs.

While some complain incessantly about their frustrations with CSS and how it’s somehow a “better idea” to write CSS in JS, Rachel provides us with a constructive way to better how CSS works. Turns out, that to be part of creating the future of CSS, you can create an issue on GitHub and describe your particular use case of a new feature. In other words, you have to truly care. Writing a whiny article on Medium with a click-bait headline doesn’t count.

Rachel dedicates a good portion of this book teaching us how to use the tools we currently have the right way. As part of my own talk on CSS Grid addresses, we’ve been using features like floats and even flexbox as hacks for what CSS Grid came to fix. A crucial part in us improving the layouts we create will be rewriting the parts of our brain that had learned the wrong way.

I came away from this book with a new found feeling of joy. I’m so happy and grateful I get to build websites for a living. Learning these new tools is what makes the job so exciting to me. I love that if I truly want to make a difference in how these tools work, that ability is easily within my reach.

Most of all, this book is dogma and judgement free. We’ve been doing things wrong, but we were doing our best with the tools we had. Rachel explains the better way without making me feel stupid, which I appreciate.

If you haven’t already, I recommend you add this book to your reading list. It’s well worth it.

Written by Timothy B. Smith

Caribbean Cruise: Winter 2018

Seven days of family time, great food, sunshine, and gorgeous ocean water

I’m back from our family cruise, and holy moly did that week go by quick! Eighteen members of my family and Kelly’s went on this amazing cruise. I took my camera on the trip, so I’ll share some of my favorite shots with you in the next few days.

I want to give a huge thank you to TJ Draper for blog-sitting in my absence. He did an excellent job.

Now, back to work.

Saturday, January 13, 2018
Written by TJ Draper

My 2017 Films

What movies I liked for the 2017 calendar year

I should note up front that, of course, this is only of the films I saw and feel like mentioning. I saw significantly less films last year than I have in years past when I was doing a weekly podcast where I talked about a film every week. Still, I enjoyed several films. Most of those films are completely mainstream films and I’m okay with that. I like an occasional indie film, but for the most part, when it comes to films, I’m just a main stream guy. I’ve learned to live with myself.

Here are the films I watched and enjoyed in 2017.

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  1. The Lego Batman Movie
  2. Logan
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  4. Alien: Covenant
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  8. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
  9. Thor: Ragnarok
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Lego Batman Movie

Having been completely enthralled with The Lego Movie when it came out in 2014, I looked forward to The Lego Batman Movie with at least a little trepidation—though I was thrilled with the possibilities. Trepidation because I wondered if the The Lego Movie was a fluke and whether they would be able to recapture some or most of the elements that made it great. Thrilled because the great places available to go with Lego Batman are endless. It turns out I needn’t have been trepidatious at all. While maybe not quite as good as The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie did not disappoint as it mixed laugh after laugh with a lot of heart and a really great story—which is precisely what I love about The Lego Movie. In short, I give this film a solid two thumbs up and say it was a great way to start off my film-going year.

Logan

From the moment I saw the first trailer, I was all in. And even still I was not prepared for the sheer amount of soul, grit, and grimness this film poured into me from that big silver screen. This is Wolverine as you’ve never seen him before. For that matter, you’ve never known Professor X like this either—well, I haven’t anyway, I can’t speak to the comics, just the movies. This film is very dark. But it’s also a very satisfying story for Logan—and surprisingly perhaps, for Charles Xavier. I can also say that it’s easily the best installment in the three-film Wolverine series. The first one was middling (I know many hate it. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t great). The second film was an improvement in every way and I liked it a lot. This film… this film… there’s just no comparison to make. It’s a completely different genre, completely different style, and it’s a lot darker. It’s not a film I could watch very often. But it’s told with heart and great technique. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you do.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Do not let the haters get to you. This film was fun, entertaining, told a great story, and really dug in deep on characters we learned to love in the first GotG film. It even dug deep into a character we barely knew from the first film. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that Michael Rooker’s character Yondu stole this film in the best possible way. I don’t know what was wrong with my eyes at that one point (you’ll know if you’ve seen it), but I’m sure someone must have been chopping onions in the theater. And as ever, Kurt Russell brings great playfulness and skill to his role of Ego the Living Planet. I’ve already watched this film twice since it came to home video and I’ll be watching it again… and again… and again…

Alien: Covenant

A good friend of mine convinced me to go see this film with him, but I was reluctant. You see, I’m a fan of the Alien franchise—but in particular, Alien (the director’s cut). To be honest, none of the follow-up films have quite lived up to what Alien was. I was interested upon Ridley Scott’s return to the franchise with Prometheus, but heard so many mixed reviews about it that I skipped that film. So with reluctance I went with my friend…

And I loved it! This film is much more in keeping with Alien than any of the others in the series—which makes sense given that Ridley Scott is again at the helm. And yet this film does many of the same techniques that Alien does with a more modern film-making approach. That, in my estimation makes this one heckuva film. It was suspenseful, but also informative and intriguing. It left me wanting to see more of the Alien franchise and I have slowly worked my way through the films again and am now ready to try out Prometheus which I will do hopefully in the next few weeks.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I love Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Just love it. Dead Man’s Chest is also pretty good, and At World’s End is kind of an enjoyable mess. The fourth installment however (On Stranger Tides), is pure hot garbage. Once again, I was hesitant about this film. But the story they chose to tell was fantastic. I was a little put off by the initial over-the-top action sequence and the follow-up guillotine sequence, but they’re manageable and worth waiting through to get to the meat of the story.

Wonder Woman

If I were making a “top X films” list, this would be very near the top—which is quite surprising to me given DC’s film track record here of late. Except for this film, the DCEU films are a dumpster fire and I did not have high expectations for this film. In fact, I wasn’t going to go see it until I saw the rave review the film was receiving, and I went to check out the hype. I came away with the distinct impression that I really wanted this film’s director, Patty Jenkins, to take over all the film-making in the DCEU. Instead of going for the flim-flam flash and eye catching nothingness that Zack Snyder goes for, she showed restraint in her visual sensibilities as appropriate, told a great story, and kept me engaged the entire film. And I must admit she completely pulled the wool over my eyes as to who the real villain was. I read a few reviews and talked to people who saw it coming—I feel like they must be lying, but whatever. Perhaps most importantly, I cared about the characters in this film—which is more than I can say for any of the characters in the other DCEU films. When Steve Trevor makes his sacrifice, I again sensed onions being chopped in the theater. But when Wonder Woman finally finds who she truly is, that was perhaps the most powerful moment of the film and great messaging. I want to watch this film a whole lot more often than I’ve had a chance to!

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Having been a big fan of the Tobey Maguire era of Spider-Man, I felt it was way too soon and very disrespectful to reboot the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. Beyond that even, the film was trash. And the second was way worse, if that were even possible.

However, when Marvel reached a deal with Sony to start including Spider-Man in the MCU and guide Sony in the making of films, I was excited. This feels like the right time, and Marvel is having a hard time doing any wrong lately. I was not disappointed. Despite my love for those early 2000s films, This version of Spider-Man gets the character of Peter Parker more right than any previous film incarnation. What’s more, this film has a great villain who’s not trying to destroy the universe, the world, or even a continent, he’s just doing bad stuff because he’s been dealt an ugly hand by the government. And it’s totally believable. Once again, perhaps proving my gullible-ness, I didn’t see the twist of parentage for Peter’s girlfriend coming. It was a complete shock.

I highly recommend this film.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This is just a really solid film that does some very interesting things, has a lot of fun, and lets you as a watcher of the film have a lot of fun too. The journey is familiar, but that doesn’t keep it from being good and entertaining. And of course, visually stunning. This film proves we’re finally coming to a point with CGI where it’s starting to get both good and believable.

Thor: Ragnarok

What great fun! What a great cast! What a great villain! What a great script! So much laughing. Seriously, this is probably the most I’ve ever laughed in a Marvel film—and it’s not like they didn’t crack jokes before. But where the Captain America films have been going in a very serious (and good) direction, Marvel clearly felt like it was time to lighten the mood a little before things get really serious with the next Avengers film. It was definitely the right call. And yet they also told a good story—one in which my heart goes out to the people of Asgard. One where Thor must come into his own and accept his calling despite his misgivings. One that finally (seemingly) sees some measure of redemption for Loki. It also cuts a lot of fluff out of the franchise and gets rid of characters we’re supposed to like, but in fact, I kind of hate. If I were making an actual “Top X Films” list, this would be a serious contender for the top spot.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And of course, the year wouldn’t be complete without a new Star Wars film—as is now tradition. It’s certainly a tradition I can get behind. I loved this film, top to bottom. Where with The Force Awakens I had to see it a second time before I was able to form an opinion of it, this film required no such thing. I loved every second of it. Rian Johnson took risks, and I believe they payed off. This film does away with certain questions and paradigms that J.J. Abrams set in motion in the previous film, and I think we’re better off for it. This film also gives us a great send off for Luke—who I loved in this film. I mean, the way he ended this film was bad-ass!

This is my other contender for favorite of the year to be honest. There’s just no way to fit into a short blurb like this how much I loved this film.


And that’s it. Those were the films I saw in theaters last year. You see, last year, I really only went to a film in the theater if there was a good chance I would love the film, and to be honest, I liked doing it that way. I plan on doing the same thing in 2018.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

iMac Pro iFixit Teardown 

Linked by TJ Draper

Here’s my second iMac Pro link for today.

  • The first component out is the enormous dual-fan cooler.
  • Looks like Apple sacrificed the 5K’s full-size desktop hard drive (not that you’d want that in a pro machine) to make some room here.
  • Also sacrificed to the cooling gods: the external RAM access hatch. Sad face.
  • In exchange, we get a big rear vent and an 80% increase in cooling capacity.

Sad face indeed on the lack of RAM access hatch. A professional computer will need to have the RAM upgraded during its lifecycle. The kicker is, as you read further, you will see that they are using standard RAM. Prising the computer apart and ripping the guts out to upgrade the RAM is not great.

As a nerd, I of course read all the way through this tear down. I’m extremely impressed with what Apple has been able to accomplish in the space given—though, again, this is not a computer for me. I don’t want a laptop on an upright stand no matter how powerful. There’s no need for that kind of thermal constraint. That said, this is a really good computer with high quality, professional grade parts and Apple’s attention to detail shines through clearly—even if I disagree with some of Apple decisions.

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The iMac Pro T2 Chip 

Linked by TJ Draper

This is the first of two links regarding the iMac Pro that I’ll be posting today.

Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:

I’ve spent the last week with Apple’s new iMac Pro, and in most ways it’s just a faster Mac. It’s the first pro Mac desktop in over three years and the fastest Mac yet made, granted, but still entirely familiar. And yet in many ways—some noticeable, some entirely invisible—this new Mac is completely different from all past Mac models.

[…]

As for the disk controller? There isn’t one—or more accurately, the disk controller is built into the T2 itself. This gives the T2 complete control over internal storage on the iMac Pro. This has some major benefits in terms of speed and security. Every bit of data stored on an iMac Pro’s SSD is encrypted on the fly by the T2, so that if a nefarious person tried to pull out the storage chips and read them later, they’d be out of luck.

[…]

By default, security is set to Full, which means that only the current operating system or another OS version signed and trusted by Apple—meaning it hasn’t been tampered with in any way—can be booted by the computer. This version requires a network connection when you attempt to install any OS software updates, because it needs to verify with Apple that the updates are legitimate.

I, of course, recommend all of Jason Snell’s article. As an Apple nerd, I have been following the release of the iMac Pro with great interest. If this were going to be Apple’s only modern pro desktop offering (which I believe it was going to be at one point in Apple’s planning), I would be fairly distressed. As it is, I can look at what they are doing with interest. There’s some things about the iMac Pro I wish were optional, like all the encryption of the flash storage via the T2 chip. But it’s not that big of a deal and I like what Apple is doing here because some people need that extra super-duper security.

And as long as I can tone down the security of the boot process I’m fine with all that too. If they can bring all this fun stuff to a more upgradeable and user-serviceable package with the forthcoming Mac Pro, I’ll be a lot happier with Apple.

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