Mark Smith’s Newsletter - Saturday 16th January, 2021

VanillaJS, JS for visual arts, cool internet history, IoT, IoM, AV1 codec, APIs, cool CES gadgets, smartglasses, Lucasfilm, Trumpban, Web design trends, ESM, web components, Docker, OSS, M1 Linux...

Hello and welcome to my newsletter!

Another season 1 instalment…

It’s been quite a week in internetland with Trump being banned from, I think everywhere. The internet is a totally different place than it was when I initially got online back in the early 90s. I have a theory that it’s the constant and repeated consent form popups that are bringing out the worst in people. It’s just a theory!

Thankfully there was lots of great javascript, tech and web development links this week, including lots of cool futuristic tech from CES, so this issue is jam packed with awesome stuff.

You might remember last week I was trying to figure out what was going on with my Reddit account. Everyone that I asked online was totally sure that the account had been banned. Well it turns out it hasn’t been banned! It just looks like it’s been banned. How do I know? Because when I browse to the appeal suspension page while logged in, there is a big banner across the top of the page saying:

“You cannot submit an appeal - Your account is currently neither suspended nor restricted”

So that’s great, but I still have no idea how to get the account fixed because they only seem to send out auto replies to the emails I send to support. I am posting updates to the linkblog with the prefix: ☹️ Reddit Profile Saga, in case your interested. What a weird situation, it’s really made me think differently when I see news about a social media sites removing 1000s of accounts, what happens to people that just got caught in the cross fire? Maybe people are getting deleted that did nothing wrong, it’s scary.

I’ve started experimenting with a new way of including my linkblog links inside blog posts. It’s a bit like when people add a tweet, just not as fancy, it looks like a quote. I wrote an in depth article about Cloud Native that uses the technique to add relevant links throughout the text. I’d love to know what you think, do the linkquotes add value to the article?

Some great Tweet threads this week, one that describes the context and events around the iPhone release back in 2007 and the other about how Amazon migrated to using Linux around the same time.

Quick heads up: It’s looking like it’s going to be quite a hectic week for me, so there might not be as many links as usual in the next edition. Have a nice week :)

That’s all from me this week :)

I hope you enjoy the links!

Special mentions

Stuff from me

🚀 Housekeeping Note: I’ve added a link to the BBC News Science & Environment website to the list of example sites in my blog post - Web design that focusses on text content is the best.

🚀 New Post: Cloud Native web application development: what's it all about? - Quite a long blog post, but if you are interested in cloud computing there’s lots of useful information, including how to think about building in a safe way, how to structure your code using Domain Driven Design techniques, and in this post I’m experimenting with a new way to include links from my linkblog, I’d love to hear what you think about it!

Stuff from around the web


Yes, vanilla JS does scale - Looks at some of the misconceptions floating around on tech Twitter, interesting for the purposes of developing some perspective

ECMAScript 2020 - the final feature set - A list of all the new features added in 2020 with relevant links to the TC39 process which describe the various maturity stages used for developing new features

Snowpack 2.0 - A build system for the modern web - This was one of the most popular new tools in the javascript ecosystem for 2020, it modernises the developer workflow by only requiring file bundling (webpack/parcel) for production builds, during development you use snowpack which relies on native ES modules, this makes development much much faster, and you only bundle right at the end, before shipping to production

Processing is a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts

When Amazon switched from Sun to Linux - Twitter thread from Dan Rose, who was Director of Business Development at Amazon around 2000, describing the impact of the migration, worth noting there is some dispute of how much of a big deal it was in a related HN thread, they were fighting several other fires including a migration away from Oracle as their database provider, but it’s interesting nonetheless

Painters Tape and Fault Tolerance - I read a lot of blog posts and a lot of those are about programming, this post from Chris Coyier is just so well balanced and encapsulates an idea so well, one of his best

The 2 Essential Ingredients of a Brilliant Title - Worth a read if you ever write technical blog posts

Autonomous and Beautiful Home Devices - Matt Mullenweg describes the IoT devices that he would like to have; devices that look good, don’t have an app, can be easily replaced, that easily connect to the network and that you can be confident won’t stop working because of software incompatibility issues later down the line

An Invisible Tax on the Web - Video Codecs - Looks at the AV1 codec which is being developed by a consortium of companies including Mozilla, Google, Cisco, Amazon, Netflix, AMD, ARM, Intel, NVIDIA, as an alternative to the ubiquitous H264 and it’s successor H265, it’s royalty free and has better compression

Substack is adding new features in February - Theming to change the look of newsletters, sublists so writers can segment their members into groups, and a multipub tool so writers can have several publications under one account - I like new features but I personally desperately need some automation tools and markdown support; these additions although cool, are mostly just things that would make my life more difficult not easier

Should I introduce an API Gateway in my workplace? - I liked this article because, though it started out pretty much as I had expected, it ended up going down a path that I totally didn’t expect, but that was very insightful

Super insightful Twitter thread from Steven Sinovsky about the launch of the iPhone in 2007 - Steve was President of the Windows Division at Microsoft back then, so he was really plugged into the state of the industry especially mobile, he describes the broad context of what was happening, all the disparate events that were to culminate in what was to be the iPhone, I remember a lot of it exactly as he describes, but I was only seeing it from an end-user perspective, so it’s wonderful to hear the full tech angle on that huge period of change, real life sure is interesting sometimes, I’m glad to have lived through that moment

Lenovo unveils ThinkReality A3 smartglasses with Snapdragon XR1 - This makes me wonder is VFX artists are going to be really into AR tech, especially all the 3D folks

Angela Merkel attacks Twitter over Trump ban - Several EU officials have raised concerns about free speech in the US, article also covers the ban of the Parler social media platform by every big tech company, interesting to note that in french ‘parler’ means ‘to speak’

Lucasfilm and Disney revive Lucasfilm Games - I’m not hugely into gaming, my gaming years are long past now, I played video games in my teens, sometimes in arcades, and also consoles, they were fun times, I started tuning out when every game was a first person shooter, which I just find mind numbingly boring, for some reason this announcement seems really interesting to me, perhaps it’s a nice distraction from all the horrible social media the past few days, anything in a galaxy far far away would be miles better

The Slope Gets More Slippery As You Expect Content Moderation To Happen At The Infrastructure Layer - The last few days have been completely swamped with completely horrible content from pretty much every news outlet, so this piece is very refreshing as it’s a level headed calm analysis that focusses on the technology aspects (rather than the politics) and what all last few days events could mean for the internet

Rocking 25+Web Design Trends In 2021😎 - Lots of trends, some very interesting, some feel a bit tired, but overall quite inspiring, my favourites were comfortable colors, 3d colors, gradient colour schemes, interactive 3d content, dark mode, hand drawn elements, chat bots, voice user interfaces, VR, micro interactions and animations, text only hero images, white space, full height homepage heros, using videos, blending photos with graphical elements, bold fonts and colors, and asymmetric layouts

Source Code At CES - All Tech Is Politics - Politics aside, if you’re into tech at all, there’s a lot of cool stuff in this CES roundup post

Intel unveils new 12th-generation Alder Lake chips as it plays catch up to Apple’s M1

If it will matter after today, stop talking about it in a chat room - A short comparison between live chat and discussion based software tools

Tech & the American Crisis - I’m struggling to find content about the Trump ban to post, not through lack of content, there is so much of it, but it’s all so horrible, I can’t even read more than a few paragraphs before I just don’t want to read anymore, I like a lot of what Om Malik writes, and this piece is quite thoughtful and I made it to the end of the article so it’s not too horrible, so I’m posting it

An Overview of the Most Exciting Proposals for the Web Platform Related to Web Components (2019) - Has a good description of the web platform and how the platform standards evolve via specifications written by the W3C and WHATWG, then covers some of the latest web components features - template instantiation, CSS shadow parts, constructable stylesheet objects, HTML & CSS modules, and scoped custom element definitions

macOS Big Sur 11.2 beta 2 is out with full custom kernel support - The latest version of the OS includes the firmware needed to replace the kernel, which means we are a step closer to having Linux running on the M1

Poland plans to make censoring social media accounts illegal

Is Culture Stuck? - Some interesting thoughts about culture in our current period, explores films, music, and fashion, comparing today with decades gone by, as someone who has lived through the pre-internet to internet era, a lot of the authors observations feel relevant to me

Asus announces Chromebook CX5 for play (q1 release), CX9 for work (q2 release)

Cloud software firm Veeva joins Ben & Jerry’s, Lemonade in becoming Public Benefit Corporation - I didn’t know about PBCs, according to this article they have a legal duty to balance interest of customers, employees, partners and shareholders, unlike of a C Corp which only has to maximise shareholder profit, it would be interesting to have more details about what that actually looks like in practice

The Gold Standard Checklist for Web Components - Working draft of a checklist to define a "gold standard" for web components that aspire to be as predictable, flexible, reliable, and useful as the standard HTML elements

The web components community group have been discussing the possibility of creating a new web components logo, sort of similar to how the HTML5 logo helped to promote that, it’s an interesting conversation, lots of things to consider

Get Ready For ESM - Prolific NodeJS package writer Sindre Sorhus describes his planned approach to migrating from CommonJS the new ESM module system

An intro to server sent events (SSE) - Similar to web sockets, but less complicated, but unidirectional, good for real-time updates to a UI for instance like counts, article includes some clear example code

An introduction to the internet of materials (IoM) - Some interesting research happening at Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Lab, new materials that harvest energy via sound vibrations, and can perform simple computations, they list a load of futuristic use cases, including Post-it notes that you can talk to, very agileish

Use Node.js with Docker and Docker Compose to improve DX - Relatively short and very readable tutorial showing how to run production and development NodeJS with Docker, and how to use Docker Compose to create several containers at once, so you can have other services, such as databases, configured and running next to your app

Monetizing open source - How Tailwind CSS has grown into a $2M+ business

Use Node.js with Docker and Docker Compose to improve DX - Relatively short and very readable tutorial showing how to run production and development NodeJS with Docker, and how to use Docker Compose to create several containers at once, so you can have other services, such as databases, configured and running next to your app


Thanks for reading!


Mark Smith‘s Newsletter is a weekly roundup of some of the best javascript, tech and web development links published to my daily linkblog.

If you liked this newsletter you might like my blogdaily linkblog or experimental podcast :)

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Have a great weekend and a fantastic next week!