If you rush and don’t consider how it is deployed, and how it helps your engineers grow, you risk degrading your engineering talent over time

Angus Allan, senior product manager at xDesign

I don't disagree that overreliance on AI could stymie overall growth of devs, but we've had a form of this problem for years.

I met plenty of devs pre-AI who didn't understand anything other than how to do the basics in the JS framework of the week.

It's ultimately up to the individual dev to decide how deep they want their skills to go.

AI is not magic, part 1033: Accessibility

You know it's a good sign when the first thing I do after finishing an article is double-check whether the whole site is some sort of AI-generated spoof. The answer on this one was closer than you might like, but I do think it's genuine.

Jakob Nielsen, UX expert, has apparently gone and swallowed the AI hype by unhinging his jaw, if the overall subjects of his Substack are to be believed. And that's fine, people can have hobbies, but the man's opinions are now coming after one of my passions, accessibility, and that cannot stand.

Get mad with me

"I always love quoting myself." - Kait

Your frontend is not your backend: Using data transfer objects to keep your code focused

Today I want to talk about data transfer objects, a software pattern you can use to keep your code better structured and metaphorically coherent. It’s a tool that can help you stay in the logical flow of your application, making it easier to puzzle through and communicate about the code you’re writing, both to yourself and others.

The DTO is one of my go-to patterns, and I regularly implement it for both internal and external use.
I’m also aware most people already know what pure data objects are. I’m not pretending we’re inventing the wheel here - the value comes in how they’re applied, systematically.

This is a long 'un, buckle in

Implementing a share extension with SwiftUI

As part of my plan to spend more time bikeshedding building out my web presence than actually creating content, I wanted to build an iOS app that allowed me to share short snippets of text or photos to my blog. I've also always wanted to understand Swift generally and building an iOS app specifically, so it seemed like a nice little rabbit hole.

Be wary of chasing rabbits down their holes

I later expanded the app's remit to include cross-posting to BlueSky and Mastodon, which is a double-bonus because BlueSky STILL doesn't support sharing an image from another application (possibly because they couldn't find the Medium post???)

Because I use this like three times a year and always have to look it up: When you want to merge folders of the same name on a Mac (e.g., two identically named folders where you want the contents of Folder 1 and Folder 2 to be in Folder 2), hold down the option key and drag Folder 1 into the container directory of Folder 2. You should see the option to merge.

Note that this is a copy merge, not a move merge, so you'll need to delete the source files when you're done. It also appears to handle recursion properly (so if you have nested folders named the same, it'll give you the same option).

Did I almost look up a whole app to do this? Yes, I did. Is it stupid this isn't one of the default options when you click and drag? Yes, it is.

This post brought to you by Google Drive's decision to chunk download archives separately (e.g., it gives me six self-contained zips rather than 6 zip parts). Which is great for failure cases but awful on success.

Dislcaimer: I am not receiving any affiliate marketing for this post, either because the services don't offer it or they do and I'm too lazy to sign up. This is just stuff I use daily that I make sure all my new computers get set up with.

My current list of must-have Mac apps, which are free unless otherwise noted. There are other apps I use for various purposes, but these are the ones that absolutely get installed on every machine.

  • 1Password
    Password manager, OTP authenticator, Passkey holder and confidential storage. My preferred pick, though there are plenty of other options. ($36/year)

  • Bear
    Markdown editor. I write all my notes in Bear, and sync 'em across all my devices. It's a pleasant editor with tagging. I am not a zettelkasten person and never will be, but tagging gets me what I need. ($30/year)

  • Contrast
    Simple color picker that also does contrast calculations to make sure you're meeting accessibility minimums (you can pick both foreground and background). My only complaint is it doesn't automatically copy the color to the clipboard when you pick it (or at least the option to toggle same).

  • Dato
    Calendar app that lives in your menubar, using your regular system accounts. Menubar calendar is a big thing for me (RIP Fantastical after their ridiculous price increase), but the low-key star of the show is the "full-screen notification." Basically, I have it set up so that 1 minute before every virtual meeting I get a full-screen takeover that tells me the meeting is Happening. No more "notification 5 minutes before, try to do something else real quick then look up and realize 9 minutes have passed." ESSENTIAL. ($10)

  • iTerm2
    I've always been fond of Quake-style terminals, so much so that unless I'm in an IDE it's all I'll use. iTerm lets a) remove it from the Dock and App Switcher, b) force it to load only via a global hotkey, and c) animate up from whatever side of the screen you choose to show the terminal. A+. I tried WarpAI for a while, and while I liked the autosuggestions, the convenience of an always-available terminal without cluttering the Dock or App Switcher is, apparently, a deal-breaker for me.

  • Karabiner Elements
    Specifically for my laptop when I'm running without my external keyboard. I map caps lock to escape (to mimic my regular keyboards), and then esc is mapped to hyper (for all my global shortcuts for Raycast, 1Password, etc.).

  • NextDNS
    Secure private DNS resolution. I use it on all my devices to manage my homelab DNS, as well as set up DNS-based ad-blocking. The DNS can have issues sometimes, especially in conjunction with VPNs (though I suspect it's more an Apple problem, as all the options I've tried get flaky at points for no discernible reason), but overall it's rock-solid. ($20/year)

  • NoTunes
    Prevents iTunes or Apple Music from launching. Like, when your AirPods switch to the wrong computer and you just thought the music stopped so you tapped them to start and all of a sudden Apple Music pops up? No more! You can also set a preferred default music app instead.

  • OMZ (oh-my-zsh)
    It just makes the command line a little easier and more pleasing to use. Yes, you can absolutely script all this manually, but the point is I don't want to.

  • Pearcleaner
    The Mac app uninstaller you never knew you needed. I used to swear by AppCleaner, but I'm not sure it's been updated in years.

  • Raycast
    Launcher with some automation and scripting capabilities. Much better than spotlight, but not worth the pro features unless you're wayyyy into AI. Free version is perfectly cromulent. Alfred is a worthy competitor, but they haven't updated the UI in years and it just feels old/slower. Plus the extensions are harder to use.

  • Vivaldi
    I've gone back to Safari as my daily driver, but Vivaldi is my browser of choice when I'm testing in Chromium (and doing web dev in general. I love Safari, but the inspector sucks out loud). I want to like Orion (it has side tabs!). It keeps almost pulling me back in but there are so many crashes and incompatible sites I always have to give up within a week. So Safari for browsing, Vivaldi for development.

Still waiting for that SQL UI app that doesn't cost a ridiculous subscription per month. RIP Sequel Pro (and don't talk me to about Sequel Ace, I lost too much data with that app).

I miss skeumorphism

I had an old TV lying around, so I mounted it on my wall vertically. I grew up on StatusBoard, which was especially invaluable in newsrooms in the early aughts (gotta make that number go up!).

I figured as I got deeper into self-hosting and my homelab I'd want some sort of status board so I could visualize what all was running, and partially just because everybody gets a dopamine hit from blinkenlights when they buy new stuff.

Clicking this link gives the illusion of activity

Not everything has to use the same design language! Feels like there’s a space between all and nothing. “Some.” Is that a thing? Can some things be flat and some skeuomorphic and some crazy and some Windows XP?

We can maybe skip over Aero, though. Woof.

I've recently been beefing up my homelab game, and I was having issues getting a Gotify secure websocket to connect. I love the Caddy webserver for both prod and local installs because of how easy it easy to configure.

For local installs, it defaults to running its own CA and issuing a certificate. Now, if you're only running one instance of Caddy on the same machine you're accessing, getting the certs to work in browsers is easy as running caddy trust.

But in a proper homelab scenario, you're running multiple machines (and, often, virtualized machines within those boxes), and the prospect of grabbing the root cert for each just seemed like a lot of work. At first, I tried to set up a CA with Smallstep, but was having enough trouble just getting all the various pieces figured out that figured there had to be an easier way.

There was.

I registered a domain name (penginlab.com) for $10. I set it up with an A record pointing at my regular dev server, and then in the Caddyfile gave it instructions to serve up the primary domain, and a separate instance for a wildcard domain.

When LetsEncrypt issues a wildcard domain, it uses a DNS challenge, meaning it only needs a TXT record inserted into your DNS zone to prove it should issue you the server. Assuming your registrar is among those included in the Caddy DNS plugins, you can set your server to handle that automatically.

(If your registrar is not on that list, you can always use

certbot certonly --manual

and enter the TXT record yourself. You only need to do it once a quarter.)

Now we have a certificate to use to validly sign HTTPS connections for any subdomain for penginlab.com. You simply copy down the fullchain.pem and privkey.pem files to your various machines (I set up a bash script that scps the file down to one of my local machines and then scps it out to everywhere it needs to go on the local network.)

Once you have the cert, you can set up your caddy servers to use it using the tls directive:

tls /path/to/fullchain.pem /path/to/privkey.pem

You'll also need to update your local DNS (since your DNS provider won't let you point public URLs at private IP addresses), but I assume you were doing that anyway (I personally use NextDNS for a combination of cloud-based ad-blocking and lab DNS management).

Bam! Fully accepted HTTPS connections from any machine on your network. And all you have to do is run one bash script once a quarter (which you can even throw on a cron). Would that all projects have so satisfying and simple a solution.

I'm definitely not brave enough to put it on a cron until I've run it manually at least three times, TBH. But it's a nice thought!

ArVid: how Russians squeezed 4 hard drives into one VHS tape in the 90s – Jacob Filipp

ArVid: how Russians squeezed 4 hard drives into one VHS tape in the 90s – Jacob Filipp

The details of a Russian expansion card from the 90s that allowed you to use a VHS tape as a storage medium.

We randomly went on a rabbit hole last week in the car about how VHS and VCRs actually work - incredible technology.