App Store Reviews

Maybe it’s just because I’m a software developer, but it just about makes me cry when I see great apps with terrible reviews simply because the owners that own the app are trying to make a living. If you don’t like how much someone is charging for something at a restaurant, the proper response is to get something cheap and get out or don’t eat there. Those are your options. You don’t give it a one star review in Yelp for its pricing alone, do you?

If you download a freemium app, do yourself a favor and “read the menu”. It’s that little section down at the bottom of the app page that tells you what In-App purchases there are. If you don’t like those prices, find a different app.

App Store reviews should be for telling the developers and the rest of the world that the app works really or doesn’t. An app that performs really well that costs a lot shouldn’t be penalized for the owner’s decision to charge whatever they feel is fair. Find another medium to express your dissatisfaction with the pricing model. If the owner wants to put himself out of business by charging too much, that’s his prerogative. He or she will adjust based on simple supply and demand. Remember economics 101?

Why I Love WealthFront

In the past I’ve been a TastyTrader. While I whole-heartedly agree with and would continue to trade this way given different circumstances, my account is simply not large enough to get ahead of the ridiculously cheap fees. When most online brokers charge at least $5 per trade, TD Ameritrade has graciously provide fees at $1.50 per contract. For a typical vertical spread this means a total of $6. $3 to open the position, and $3 to exit the position. Not too bad as it’s about half if not more than what everyone else is charging. The trouble is that with a “tasty bite” sized account, you just can’t get ahead. If a position go against you, then you lose money. If a position goes for you, you’re basically making peanuts on the dollar as each $15 win actually amounts to about $8.5. Additionally with a tasty bite account, you’re limited in capital. So not only do you make very little, that very little can only be made every so often because you’re limited to how many positions you can open. You can’t open 30 positions that tie up $400 of your capital unless you have enough capital to cover yourself. Even if you can open enough positions, you don’t get $8.5 all up front. You might have to wait many days or weeks if it’s a winning trade.

That said, with a bigger account1, it’s an unbelievably methodical and profitable way to trade options. If you can remove the emotion from it and not treat it like gambling (which can be very easy to do when you get into the statistics of all it), then it’s a winning strategy to stay small and make calculated decisions that will grow your money.

Which brings me to why I love WealthFront. Use that link and you’ll get an additional $5k managed for free. With a smaller account, in my mind, this is the only way to win. Automatically rebalanced, tax-loss harvested, and low fees chargef for ETFs all speak volumes about how WealthFront is committed to the individual investor as well. Rule #1 in investing is “Don’t Lose Money”. Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffet, and their contemporaries all follow this main principal. If you lose money, then the effort your money has to exert to gain it back is far greater than simply getting a decent return. Let’s say you have $100 to invest. A 5% return on your $100 equals $105, right? Now let’s say you lose $10 out of your $100, and now you have $90. What’s the rate of return you’d have to get back to that same $105? 16.67% ! Which sucks. That’s more than triple the rate of return if you hadn’t lost any money.

So, what is an investor to do? Let some great software do all the thinking for you. I’m not saying you’ll never lose money at WealthFront or similar companies, and I’m just some guy on the internet making a case for what I use. I’m not an expert, but for my peace of mind, at this particular juncture in my life, taking a very mentally taxing set of ongoing financial decisions out of my brain is totally worth it.

Referral link if you want to give both of us an extra $5k managed for free:

Non-referral link if you don’t care:

  1. Currently, there is a Federal restriction that only allows certain types of margin and leverage for accounts that have a balance greater than $25k. 

A New Project

Based on my last post, I was building out a sub-domain for some more professional posts that are full of computer nerdery. I’ve always been one to tinker, deconstruct, reconstruct, and sometimes blow up things in order to figure out how they work. My very patient wife has taught me that people are not the same as computers and other complex physical objects…

That being said, anything technical is now posting elsewhere. I have a handful of items posted already, but consider it a working portfolio of sorts. There were some programming languages and frameworks that I wanted to use and learn more about, so this is demonstration of that skill set. The top level domain here will be mostly for family related stuff going forward.

Janki Method

Jack Kinsella on learning a programming language with a spaced repetition system:

Knowing thousands of commands saves time otherwise spent looking up reference materials. You instantly recall previous solutions when faced with a problem, and dozen of possibilities spring to mind when architecting a system. You will read other people’s code rapidly, confident in your understanding. The closest analogy is fluency in a natural language. You will speak code.

I’ve started applying this with all of my current work. Some of those finicky GIT commands and SQL syntax have already been committed to long term memory. I’ve used Anki before with language learning, but sort of fell of the band wagon. This is by far the best method for learning anything for the long haul. The commitment to daily review is the tricky part, though.


Let’s Encrypt!

If you haven’t see this already and you own a domain, then it’s time. Encryption is important and it needs to be everywhere. This only took me a mere thirty minutes to setup on two domains.


Netflix to revamp video streaming tech

Jeff Morganteen on Netflix:

Netflix uses about a third of all internet data in North America at certain times, according to the trade publication.

This is pretty insane. At certain times 1/3 of all internet traffic is hitting a Netflix server. Evidently, if you want to influence North America just have a bunch of stuff on Netflix…


A Little Experiment Results

The iPhone/Blackberry experiment is over. I went from Monday morning until about Friday afternoon with no iPhone. I turned it on maybe twice to get some information that wasn’t available anywhere else and promptly turned it back off. As promised here are some thoughts on the week.

It was definitely a challenge and a mindset change to not have so much information readily available in my pocket. Most of my day is spent either downloading or uploading code, documents, emails, etc. via the internet, but I’ve realized there is so much distraction in such a small form factor. It’s just so darn convenient that it was a bit difficult to adjust. The ease with which I can get almost any type or amount of information on a smart phone is unfathomable. The Blackberry effectively has no browser which means it has no ability to get that information. It couldn’t even load up Google… This was probably for the best. Forced information diet at least from that medium.

I did miss the music that I have on my iPhone. When I got in the car or sat down to work, I missed the ability to put my headphones in and get in the zone. I suppose I could have downloaded some of my iTunes library to a computer while at work, but that thought didn’t cross my mind until just now. It was somewhat nice to drive for an hour one day with nothing but road noise.

I missed the way I’ve been able to interact with the content on the screen. I made the mistake of poking the Blackberry screen in order to get it to do something more than a few times. I also missed being able to fire up a quick game while sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment. I did start up Brickbreaker a few times, though. The distraction factor of “get me away from ‘8216;boring’ right now” simply wasn’t as easily available and this made all the difference

The most interesting observation that I made during my down week was that, although I felt less connected, I didn’t really feel like I was missing out. The thought crossed my mind a couple of times, but most of the interaction that I participate in during a regular day could also be handled through another device. I did drift toward that at times during the week, but I was conscious of it which made all the difference. When I was forced to move to my iPad or computer to do the same thing that I used to do on my iPhone, it was more of a conscious choice instead of just a automatic response to move toward my iPhone. I’ll take this as a good thing. Being mindful of my device and information consumption was a good outcome for my little experiment. Now, it’s time to carry those lessons forward.

Drowning in Information Overload

Bradley Chambers on dialing back our connectedness:

I’ve not completely disconnected, but I’m reducing the amount of time I am connected.

Oddly enough, I read this after my own decision to dial down the amount of input that I have. I’m not on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram much, but just gazing into the iPhone screen for hours each day was enough to make me dial back to a Blackberry for a week. I’ll be curious to hear his thoughts on how it turns out.


A Little Experiment

I’m trying an experiment this week. I have taken the SIM card out of my iPhone and put it into the Blackberry that I’ve had for years. I keep the Blackberry around for international travel as it is unlocked and can accept just about any GSM SIM. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but yesterday as I was fiddling with extra cables in my desk and reducing the amount of clutter there, I decided to pull it out, charge it up, and make it my primary cellular device. Yesterday and for many years before I’ve tried to reduce the clutter in my life, and I’m wondering if the iPhone is a part of that clutter. Tim Ferriss advocates an information diet in his very popular The 4-Hour Workweek, and I’ve binged and purged since reading his thoughts on this topic. Because the iPhone is a portal to a ridiculously large amount of information, it might be nice to reduce the load for awhile.

The Blackberry on the other hand, has a total of 5-7 “apps” that will be able to replace the existing ones on my iPhone:

  • Phone
  • Text
  • Contacts
  • Clock/Alarm
  • Brickbreaker

It’s nice that the Blackberry is unlocked, and after 6 years of usage, it’s actually still a decent phone. So sad that they went out of business. The iPhone screamed onto the scene and completely decimated the smart phone market. I’m sure I will be considerably slower in typing text messages, but I don’t get that many anyway, so I think I’ll be alright. Phone calls may be coming back into my life, who knows?!

Part of me really doesn’t want this to work as I’ll have an excuse to discontinue the experiment. It is the Christmas season after all, so maybe this will be a great time to really turn off and enjoy the season for what it is. I’ve been telling all of our family that we should unplug from the consumerism (at least for the adults), and remember what this season is about. Keeping the Christ in Christmas is a silly phrase, but I don’t want to focused on all of the gift giving. Let’s be honest: there are very, very few people that are thinking about Jesus while they are spending gobs of money that they don’t have. One step further? How many of us actually remember what we got last year? I remember one large item as it was picked out by me. My parents gave me and my brothers cash last year as it was a difficult holiday season for them. I remember having so much fun picking out my Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack and all of it’s matching accessories. I still have fun picking stuff out from that website.

Another part of me does want a reduction in iOS consumption mostly because it will be a severe reduction in my mobile plan cost. It will also hopefully reduce the amount of information that goes into my brain. I’m on my phone quite a bit. Being off of it for awhile will be a good thing.

I’ll report back in a week or so and let everyone know how this little experiment is going and whether I think it’s a good idea or not. I had the phone ready to rock right before bedtime last night, and I’ve already had two incidents this morning (yep, before 6am) that my brain will have to work around.

  1. I grabbed my standard white Apple earpods for my walk this morning. No music could be listened to on the Blackberry. :/
  2. As I opened up Editorial to write this morning, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d sent yesterday’s daily muse to Day One. I normally check my iPhone for this. :/

There are a number of things that I think that I will miss. We’ll see if that pans or not. It will be interesting to compare the “think I’ll miss” list to the “actually miss” list.

iOS 9 Review

Federico Viticci on the evolution of the iPad as a primary computing device:

The problem that Apple needs to solve with iOS 9 for iPad is complex. How can Apple make good of the post-PC promise with features that are drastically different from what came before – without the overhead and inherent complexity of forty years of desktop computers – but also capable of addressing modern user needs and workflows?

I have a Windows 8.1 PC that I use for work. As a software engineer on the Microsoft platform, I don’t have any other choice, but it does the job. When I get done with my work day, it’s refreshing to go to “work” on my iPad with a platform that doesn’t require registry manipulation in order to make some aspect of the application work the way it should be design.