One Messaging App To Rule Them All

Facebook Messenger. Google Hangouts. iMessages. Pushbullet. What’sApp. Snapchat. Slack. SMS. AIM (lol).

I am fucking sick and tired of Messaging apps. Not because I hate messaging folks; NAY! I much prefer it to having to actually (ick) talk to people like, in person or, worse, over the phone.

No, I’m sick of how fucking MANY of the goddamned things I have to keep installed to stay in touch with everyone, everywhere. And I’m further sick of the ones I use most not existing on all platforms I need to use them on.

At the most, I would think two of these fucking things would suffice; the one you use to talk to family and friends, and whatever work inflicts on you. But no; some co-workers fear change so they’re using AOL still because that’s what IT approved in 1997 and that’s that. Other co-workers will use Slack with you but IT doesn’t trust it so you can’t do a general roll-out because some guys don’t have admin rights to install anything on their machines because why would you trust the guys who build the stuff that makes all of the company’s money with any level of control over their personal work machines?

Over on the personal side of things, iMessages is great and you can use it on your iPhone, your iPad and your Mac but WHOOOPS! Apple likes to pretend PC’s somehow still don’t exist so you get nothing on Windows (well, iTunes exists there because they can directly make money from it but let’s not pretend iTunes is anything but a brutally painful experience on any platform and that’s a post for another day…) so have fun typing on your phone while you’re at work and your wife needs to know how to get Netflix to work on your mother-in-law’s TV. Meanwhile, Pushbullet is every bit as good if not better than iMessages if you’re rocking the Android lifestyle ‘cuz it’s got great apps for phones, PC’s and a fine browser plugin for Safari on the Mac but BZZZZT what if you’re in that common boat of having an Android phone but an iPad tablet? Go fuck yourself, that’s what, because Apple will dig up the corpse of Steve Jobs and let Bill Gates have sex with it live during their next keynote before they’ll allow a non-Apple app touch the messaging stack on their iOS devices.

Facebook Messenger could allllllmost fill this niche as it exists for every possible platform up to and including your toaster, but then you have the problem of, if you’re a middle-aged white guy like me, of having a lot of folks you actually want to talk to who don’t have Facebook accounts because they think Mark Zuckerberg is an Illuminati or Freemason or they somehow think that not using FB prevents a single goddamned thing when it comes to corporations and/or the government building up a profile on them (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn’t; you’re fucked, coming and going, always, without exception) and so nope, that can’t do.

Google Hangouts is such a shitty app that even Google doesn’t use it anymore.

I don’t even understand what the fuck Snapchat is but the only way I can get my dealer to respond to me is to send him a picture of my dick with my order written on it in glitter via that app so I have to keep it around and come to think of it that’s kinda fuckin’ weird of the guy, no?

I just want one messaging app that does all of the following:

  • Works on EVERYTHING. Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, WinPhone… I guess Blackberry can fuck off at this point, but that’s about all I’m willing to forsake. And I prefer dedicated apps on the desktop, but would settle for a robust webapp that properly integrates with Chrome or Safari’s desktop push notifications.
  • Can talk to all of these other stupid formats. Remember Adium? Pidgin? You had ONE app and could Instant Message people on MSN, AOL, Yahoo, IRC, one app that spoke to all the other popular platforms… I realize this is probably a dead letter at this point, because Adium and those others cared primarily about helping people communicate, whereas today every commo platform cares most about being able to harvest as much of your information as possible, locking you into their platform, and selling your profile to advertisers. So, I’d settle for just “if I have a valid phone # or email, this app should be able to communicate with you from me over text messaging”.
  • Syncs properly. If I read a text from my wife on my phone, I don’t want the desktop app to still think that message is unread. This should be simple. For some reason, it is not. IMessages does decent with this, but sometimes it gets confused about what device I’m actually on and never shows me a new text when I’m actively using, say, my iPad, but the app on my phone, which is on a desk somewhere far away from me, is showing the red notification pip just fine. Dumb. And infuriating.
  • I’d prefer if these apps never showed me emoji. Like, EVER.
  • But they should easily show me attachments or pop out links to the browser on whatever device I’m looking at.

It feels like this will be possible one day soon; Pushbullet is basically there, but only for folks who are all-in on Android for their phone and tablets. I am not, and switch around, so it’s just close enough to be infuriating when I bump up against the edge cases where it’s not.

Then again, maybe not. I have adult friends these days who literally don’t bother with any sort of actual computer in their life. They have a smartphone and that’s it, so native SMS covers them entirely. So maybe this will never happen and I should just go fuck myself.

Books of 2016, #3: By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire, by Ian Worthington

by_the_spearNot the best history book I’ve ever read, but good enough to probably be my new default for anyone asking for a recommendation on something that covers Alexander the Great. The key hook feature Mr. Worthington adds to differentiate his take here is looking at both Alexander’s AND his father, Philip II’s, reigns, as flip sides of the same coin. I buy his argument that you can’t really consider Alexander at all without having a solid grounding in what his father did first to set the table.

Proceeding from that, we get a decently-written, reasonably quick history of both reigns, with a focus on comparing the two to each other. The author’s bias seems to lie with Philip II, favoring that ruler’s propensity to enhance his kingdom vs. Alexander’s propensity to enhance himself. Worthington makes a reasonably effective argument that Philip II was a better ruler due to the amount of time and effort he put in to making sure that his conquests were well-governed and integrated into his kingdom in a way that was designed to be lasting.

The book is most enjoyable in the Philip sections, for me, mostly because that’s just a much-less-covered period of history. Alexander is basically history’s first celebrity, and we have more primary source material on him than on anyone else until the Romans start getting weird. So, to anyone who’s even dabbled in ancient history, his story is well-known, right down to the various disputes over what actually occurred at certain points in his life, but even those disputes and their various possible answers are well-known at this point.

Philip? Not so much; there’s much less hard source data to work with, but Worthington does an admirable job of pulling together to story of his life and reign in fairly thorough details, noting properly when big gaps exist in the sourcing.

All in all, the book is an effective overview of the reigns of these two deeply-intertwined rulers, with an added bit of comparison that is more weighted towards the author’s point of view than the straight history, but serves as a solid analysis of the differences between the two, whether or not you agree with the conclusion drawn. Follow this book with Dividing the Spoils and you’ll have about as good of a layman’s understanding of the entire Hellenistic Era as one would probably need.

 

Everybody On The Road But Me Has A Deathwish

Surprisingly, this was only the SECOND stupidest thing I saw on my drive home today:

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I can only hope that a revenue agent, whoops, I mean cop pulled this dude over at some point and just handed him a hefty ticket for “being an unsafe asshole on the public way”.

The DUMBEST thing I saw, I unfortunately couldn’t snap a pic of in time, but involved somebody driving through like 10 of those construction saw horses the City and IDOT put up when they need to shift lanes of traffic over from their usual path. Y’know, these fuckin’ things:

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Some dude in a shitty pickup (shitty pickups being today’s theme, apparently), decided that he wanted nothing to do with the ten or so of these lined up to move traffic over on Lawrence Ave.

So he plowed right the fuck through ’em.

Seriously, it’s just a mess of shattered wood pieces all over Lawrence near Rockwell, or at least it was around 6:40pm Monday night. Fuck your construction site, fuck your worker’s safety, fuck the tires and suspensions of other cars that are certainly going to drive through the ripped up lane and/or debris field this caused, because Johnny Silverado has to get to the Taco Bell and he ain’t got time for no steerin’.

Jesus fuck but do I ever hate everybody.

The Books of 2016, #2: Ancillary Sword, by Anne Leckie

ancillary_mercy

What was Book #1, you might be asking? Purity, by Jonathan Franzen. Enough ink has been spilled on that book already to where I see no need to add to it. If you like Franzen, you’ll probably like Purity, tho’ I didn’t find it quite as good as either The Corrections or Freedom. I hated every character, but loved reading about them getting their various comeuppances. It’s a book generally about well-off, hateful white assholes designed to be appreciated and enjoyed by well-off, hateful white assholes. It succeeds miserably and completely on that front. The End.

So, Book # 2 on the year is, uncomfortably, the middle volume of a three-book sci-fi romp that has garnered all the praise and awards (seriously, the first book took home the Hugo, Nebula, Clarke AND Locus. And it was Leckie’s debut novel. That’s some achievement right there), and the first book, Ancillary Justice, sure deserved them. I enjoyed that volume tremendously and was looking forward to this sequel.

Unfortunately, a lot of what I liked about the first entry is missing in the second. Breq, again our protagonist, was rather fascinating as a ship. Not so much as a human. Anaander Mianaai, a wonderful villain and concept (Near-Immortal Emperor of the big human empire who also happens to be at war with herself), is relegated to a brief appearance at the very start and some background mentions in passing otherwise. The completely alien and beyond-powerful Presger? Also almost entirely absent, except for a short stint as a Plot Device spent by the wonderful character of Dlique, their human-born but otherwise completely alien translator. Frankly, even the use of “she” for all genders (the Radch do not recognize gender in their speech, so the characters generally refer to everyone using female pronouns), which was a neat trick in the first novel, is more of a nuisance here, and actually set aside entirely in one scene where it would’ve muddled things up too much.

What we do get is a thinly-(very)-veiled morality play about Why Imperialism And Colonialism Are Bad. Most of the action takes place on Athoek Station and its namesake planet, both of which feature a colonial overlord class that lords it over the other races and keeps them oppressed. On the station, they live in the “Undergarden”, which is heavily and brutally policed, and completely unserved by the social and health services that exist for everyone else on the station. On the planet, the non-Radch are either plantation masters or the actual not-slaves-but-totally-slaves that harvest the tea that is the source of the planet’s wealth. Yes, really. A sci-fi book that centers on tea plantations.

I’m seriously hoping we just had a bad case of Middle Book Syndrome here, because I’ll be getting to the closing volume of the trilogy after a quick palette cleanse, but for now I am as disappointed in this book as I was impressed with the first.