August 2018 Archives


I am always on the hunt for new tools to aid in learning. As someone that didn’t excel very well in a traditional educational environment–I repeated my last year of high school and it took me a bit over eight years to manage to get my college degree–alternative environments are especially intriguing because fulfilling the consumption of knowledge requirement I keep for myself in a way that both makes the material interesting and easy to digest has been hard.

I discovered Brilliant a couple weeks ago and yesterday, and jumping to the end for just a moment, I committed to a year of their premium service. I wanted to briefly discuss why I found Brilliant so appealing and why I think it can be the next great learning platform.

Brilliant’s missing is simple:

Finding and developing the next generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

They believe that accessibility is paramount. Those who are well off or have more access to resources generally find themselves excelling. For those who may not have access to the same resources, while they’re entirely driven and have great potential, excelling in a field can be hard.

Brilliant recommended

The list of recommended courses by type.

When you first sign up for Brilliant, you can pick any number of topics. The easiest place to start is my skimming the Recommended section and see what catches your eye. You’ll find a whole host of different categories to choose from in math, science, and computer science. If your goal is to bolster your knowledge that could most likely help in your career (and that career is at least partially technology or math-based), the Recommended > Professionals section is the place to start.

After skimming the list I came to realize that I ultimately want to learn all of it and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that idea. But you have to start somewhere. Personally, I started with the Logic topic. It contains a few critical thinking questions that were actually exciting to solve and know the correct answer to, as well!

Brilliant course detail

Each course breaks down the material is easy to digest sections.

With your course selected, it makes the most sense to start at the beginning. Every course opens the intro topic to you for free so you can get a sense if the platform is going to work out for you and even if there are enough topics of interest to make the price worth it. You can skim through the list to see if it’s something you’d like to give into and if so, start with the first entry always! Each topic is broken down very logically and contain easy to digest questions and solutions that do a great job of explaining.

Brilliant question

The questions are simple and clutter-free.

Each question is presented on its own. Most questions are multiple choice with some requiring you to fill in the answer (though they often give you several chances in case you have a typo). If you’re not sure, guess!

If you find yourself stumped, you can view the solution and it’ll go into great detail about the question, the underlying topic, and provide examples. After reading the solution, if you understand it, make sure to hit the thumbs up button at the bottom. If not, hit the thumbs down button and explain why. Once you’re ready you can proceed to the next question.

As someone that has always been a visual learner, there were a few that I found difficult and definitely got wrong because I’m trying to convert words into something I can visualize which can be hard. It took a couple re-reads of the solution to fully get it, but there wasn’t a time when I didn’t understand the material. (In other words, the solutions often have visual aids to help explain the material).

Beyond all the knowledge you can learn, Brilliant takes things one step further and acts as a platform for students to be discovered. They cite a couple particularly interesting examples. Mursalin Habib is 16 years old and explained induction in great detail and in a way that make sense. Anastasiya Romanova started a calculus contest for fun.

Don’t think for a moment, though, that Brilliant is just for high school and college-aged people. There’s no age limit and whether you’re 16 or 60, you’ll find something to learn.

I strongly recommend this service to everyone. Brilliant does a great job of taking complex categories if knowledge and breaking them down into super bite sized chunks that build on each other and make learning them an actually satisfying experience. At $24.99/month, it’s a bit steep, but if you find yourself thinking that you’d see yourself using it for at least a few months, definitely go for the annual plan instead. At $119.88/year ($9.99/month), paying monthly would end up costing more at month 5 and beyond, though you definitely lose a bit of the flexibility. Given the amount of content, spend a couple hours a week and you’ll have enough to keep you busy for quite a while.

You can check out Brilliant here and get started with an absolutely free trial. If you stick around, you’ll also likely be presented with a 20% off discount on the annual plan that’s only good for 2 days. This makes the break even point occur during month 3, instead. For me that was a no-brainer. I can see myself sticking around for at least 4 months and I’m sure you will, too, with all sorts of awesome new knowledge gained in the process.

Affinity Publisher Beta

I have been a fan of the Affinity product line from Serif since they first released Affinity Photo. As someone who has spent a decent amount of time working with desktop publishing tools some years ago, I got excited when I received the announcement that Affinity Publisher was now in beta and ready to be poked at by the general public.

Right away it’s clear that Affinity Publisher carries the same design language and ease of use that Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer present to users immediately upon opening the app for the first time. I would expect this app to go head-to-head with Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress and handily beat them out in the most common use cases.

If you’re not a fan of Adobe’s monthly, never-own-your-license methodology, that alone might be enough to switch. Adobe InDesign requires at least $30/month to access and QXP is $849 (or $399 if coming from InDesign). I’d imagine Affinity Publisher debuts at $49.99 given that both Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer are $49.99 each.

With the third product on the way, I can also see the three titles being released as a bundle for something like $129. At either price point, it’s a killer deal.

Ashley Hewson is the Managing Director at Serif and when asked about the overall goal Serif had for their product line, she said:

From the earliest days of visualising the Affinity range, we planned an unrivalled trio of sleek, super-modern apps created to work with the latest technology – ultra-fast, with stunning power and completely stripped of bloat.

The final step towards realising that initial ambition will come with the launch of Affinity Publisher.

It’s an all-new app which we believe will revolutionise desktop publishing in the same way Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer have shaken up professional photo editing and vector graphic design.

I absolutely believe her. Affinity Publisher brings with it tier 1 publishing features like master pages, page spreads, linked resources, full CMYK support, and advanced typography management.

While in beta, there’s bound to be some rough edges. Serif set up a specific forum to discuss beta issues, so if you run into any, head there first.

The free beta is open to everyone and is available to download here for Windows and macOS. an iPad version is coming later.

Apple Event and Leaked Product Shots

A couple bits of Apple-related news dropped this morning. First, Apple announced their yearly “here’s all the things we want you to buy” event is happening on September 12th. Nothing particularly surprising about that. They have a track record of holding these on the second week of September, usually mid-week.

The second bit of news is a bit more interesting and comes in two parts (by way of MacRumors):

Apple is suffering from a major leak that has allowed 9to5Mac to discover images of the upcoming “iPhone XS” models and the Apple Watch Series 4, giving us an idea of what to expect when the new devices are announced on September 12.


The leaked images come 9to5Mac that claims to have the exclusive on this. The new Apple Watch Series 4 looks to have a larger screen while still keeping the same size and holy cow look at that watch face. If that’s legit, I look forward to rocking that face on the daily.

The iPhone Xs–the presumed successor to the home-button-less iPhone X looks to be largely the same save for the new color. It’s impossible to tell in this image if the notch is still a thing (I suspect it is). The gold color is pretty damn nice. This makes me ponder if there’ll be other colors as well (in addition to the space gray, white, and now gold).

We’ll find out on September 12th.



Password Rules

It’s not a new post but Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror wrote a great piece back in 2017 about the insanity that are password rules. If that’s not a familiar term, think about the times when you’ve created an account at Random Company and they tell you the password has to have at least 8 characters, at least 1 number, 1 symbol (but not $*@%^), nothing that repeats, no dictionary words, etc… but don’t go over 16 characters, either.


La Vie on the Wharf

from The Washington Post:

Arrivals can take their pick of a white main dining room, someone’s idea of a classy-with-a-k interior made possible with red banquettes, purple rugs and truckloads of concrete; an oh-so-green Conservatory set apart by overhead beams draped with faux vines and a bar backed with “portholes” offering an underwater view of the rooftop swimming pool; a Chandelier Room set off with the obvious illumination, just waiting for “The Real Housewives of Potomac” to alight; and the Ledge, a comparatively modest terrace with a bar and views that look onto boat slips and beyond.

I rarely read restaurant reviews in news publications. I couldn’t help but consume this one.


Pro Gamer Might Never Play Games Again

I haven’t been feeling my best the last couple days so the level of snark is above average. Trying to keep it in line for this one from Buzzfeed:

Timothy Anselimo, a well-known video game player, was shot three times at a Madden NFL 19 tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, and his mother has said it is not clear if the 25-year-old will ever be able to play professional esports again.

On its face, it’s tragic. Timothy was the victim of a truly terrible event that should have never happened. I have sympathy for his injuries but not so much that his opportunity to make a living is in jeopardy:

“He’s a righty and he has to hold the controls with his right hand,” Lopez said. “This is his life. He made it and he’s alive but if he can’t play and he can’t work and he can’t do this, his life will be changed forever.”

I suppose getting a regular job would change someones life.


President Trump says Google Search Results Rigged Against Him

The Washington Post:

Early on Tuesday morning, President Trump accused Google of rigging search results for “Trump News” against “Republican/Conservative & Fair Media,” and wondered, “illegal?”

Then, he promised that the situation would be “addressed.”

I mean… they’re probably rigged against me, too. Someone should send him an SEO book.


Waymo Cars Have a Hard Time Making Left Turns

The Information reports (paywall) by way of Jalopnik (no paywall) that Waymo cars are having a hard time with even the basic tasks:

The Waymo vans have trouble with many unprotected left turns and with merging into heavy traffic in the Phoenix area, especially on highways. Sometimes, the vans don’t understand basic road features, such as metered red and green lights that regulate the pace of cars merging onto freeways.

So that’s comforting. Granted, unprotected lefts come with higher risk compared to most maneuvers.

(note: for those that don’t know, in the United States, we refer to an “unprotected left” as a left turn across an intersection where there is no arrow granting right-of-way. For those that drive on the left, consider this an “unprotected right” without a green right arrow.)

In all seriousness, when looking at this post and the last one, I have a hard time imagining a world where autonomous cars ever become a thing. I can see an array of self-driving aids being the norm and even encouraged, but if there’s going to be a driverless car roaming the streets, it won’t be in my lifetime.



The cars have eyes

Coming our way from Jalopnik, Jaguar’s new self-driving car thing literally has eyes on it:

Jaguar Land Rover has fitted ‘virtual eyes’ to intelligent pods to understand how humans will trust self-driving vehicles, as research studies suggest that as many as 63% of pedestrians worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in the future.

The friendly-faced ‘eye pods’ have a vital job: helping work out how much information future self-driving cars should share with users or pedestrians to ensure that people trust the technology.

As part of the engineering project, Jaguar Land Rover has enlisted the help of a team of cognitive psychologists to better understand how vehicle behaviour affects human confidence in new technology. The trust trials form part of Jaguar Land Rover’s government-supported UK Autodrive project.

Because you know, the one thing that people need to feel comfortable around autonomous cars are giant versions of those beady eyes people stick on their half-based craft project ideas. The article even has pictures. Stop what you’re doing and go look at them.


Plain Text Lists

I never thought I’d find a site that contained nothing but lists so appealing and satisfying. Plain Text Lists is making an exception right now and I can’t help but share it. Next time you need to know all the Dewey decimal classifications, you’ll be set!

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography