From the Couch of Ben Johnson

Father, Principal Engineer at Prodigy Education, serial hyperbolist.

My kiddo is convinced that because his school buys Dell computers, “they are the best computers”. It’s the first time I feel I’ve seriously failed as a parent.

I can’t believe that weekly IAP is still a thing. Are there any non-scam apps where this is a real requirement?

What FastMail really needs is a button that finds the unsubscribe link in an email and clicks it for you.

✴ Scale to Zero with Machines

I’ve written a bunch of hobby apps over time that I use to keep my life moving forward. I’ve got some small side projects, like and Lemur that need web hosting. I also have utility apps that filter podcasts from podcast feeds, truncate my RSS news, or show me the swimming schedule for my local pool (their website was terrible).

I’ve been managing a Kubernetes cluster on DigitalOcean for this, but it feels like massive overkill in cost and resources. As an alternative, I’ve been looking at, a Heroku-like PasS. Fly has been great for an easy single-command deployment.

In the past…

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I’ve been looking for a replacement for Dash for documentation for a long time and just discovered Where has this been?! It seems great!

I don’t want to jinx Twitter downtime, and I hope everything turns out ok, but… should somebody go buy some lettuce? Can it beat the lettuce? Edit: Someone did it.

It’s sad watching talented Twitter engineers and designers with years of tenure be squeezed out the door. I did not always agree with Twitter’s product design but there was some exceptional engineering. I hope they find a good home that respects their contributions.

Paw, my favourite mac API tool was bought by RapidAPI. They defoxified the dock icon, which just makes me sad. Luckily, they knew I was going to complain about this, so there’s a setting in Preferences to change it back! Phew!

Old Paw Icon of a Fox New Boring RapidAPI Icon

Of course, my kiddo’s school is going remote again (CUPE strike). I’m so ready for a year where we don’t have to do this to him. He doesn’t learn as well through a screen (except when watching Minecraft videos on YouTube).

I need a bell that I can ring for every time AWS signs me into the wrong region and I freak out because all of production is gone.

✴ The Places of Mastodon

I’ve spent a few days diving into Mastodon and the ActivityPub Fediverse. It’s new to me, but so far there’s a lot I like about it.

I’m one of those old people who are still mourning the loss of blogs. The internet moved onto Twitter, but I’ve always valued having my own place online to write, think, discuss, and archive my thoughts (this website has existed in some form since 2001). In the past few years, I’ve been using to bridge my blog with the world of Twitter by cross-posting (I like and recommend it).

Domain names are really powerful. They communicate something more than just…

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Any politician who believes that daylight saving time is a good idea is welcome to come live with my 7-year-old this week. He woke up at 4am.

I should have known that someone actually DID make a box that bleeps language… back in the 90s…

Someone needs to make a box that can bleep selected language so that I can show my kiddo all these movies he’s not old enough to see yet. is expensive but is so worth it. There’s so many cases where a nice diff tool comes in handy. It’s one of those developer tools that pays dividends.

✴ Introducing RenamerThing

I’ve been a devoted “Paperless” person since 2012. I first got started with the ideas in David Sparks’ Paperless book, and I’ve grown my systems and practice from there.

The goal is that all the documents I might need are digital, organized, and findable. And all the paper is shredded and out of my life (and house).

For every document that needs safekeeping, my process roughly looks like this:

  • I use a ScanSnap scanner to scan to an OCR’d PDF in a folder called “Action”.
  • I shred the paper. This fills me with glee.
  • Hazel detects the new file, renames it, and moves it to the proper folder based…
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I’m feeling the call of the Pumpkin Spice even earlier this year. I think this might be why. 🎃

It’s shocking to me how much better Hacking With Swift is than Apple’s own documentation.

The Rogers outage is DNS right? It’s always DNS.

The US is building a research agency for health modelled after DARPA. They named it ARPA-H instead of the clearly superior HARPA. Great idea, bad acronym.

The Lego Building Instructions app is incredible. It’s more than just PDF instructions, but even having the PDFs is great.

I asked my kiddo what he wants to do this weekend and he says he wants to make a movie and get a Netflix deal. Do I know anyone at Netflix that can hook a 6-year-old up?

Campbell Scott playing Tim Cook was the best thing about Jurassic World: Dominion.

✴ Arduino

I’m years late to this party, but the Arduino is so cool.

I’m a software person. I have almost no hardware experience outside of a high school class decades ago where we built hardware logic gates.

But, my kiddo has been falling down the Ghostbusters rabbit hole and he really wanted to make a ghost trap with blinking lights, sounds, and doors that open. It sounded like a perfect excuse to learn some basic electronics.

I bought the Arduino Starter Kit for like $100 CDN and it came with:

  • A microcontroller
  • LEDs to blink
  • Piezoelectric buzzer for beeping
  • A servo to open the ghost trap (naturally)…
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