Dustin Curtis

Designer, hacker, investor, nomad.

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Contribution and abundance

Ben Horowitz gave this remarkable response to a question about joy and happiness on Time Well Spent:

In my experience there are really two things that lead to happiness and everything else is mostly noise. The two things are contribution and abundance.

Contribution is basically exactly as it sounds. If you can align your life with where you have the talent to make a large, meaningful, and real contribution to the world, your circle, or your family, then you can be very happy. As an aside, doing so often leads to making money because when you create great value like Elon Musk, you get a lot in return. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be a business person to be happy, because happiness comes from the knowledge and impact of the contribution rather than the reward. However, this doesn’t quite work by itself, which brings me to the second point: abundance.

An easy way to think of...

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Apple Card disabled my iCloud, App Store, and Apple ID accounts

About ten days ago, when I went to update a few apps in the App Store on my Mac, I was met with a curious error.


The internet is filled with stories from people whose Google accounts were locked for unexplained reasons, causing them to lose all of their data, including years of email, so I was somewhat concerned. But I’d never heard of similar cases involving Apple’s services, and I wouldn’t expect such behavior from a customer-focused company like Apple, so I figured it was a glitch and made a mental note to try again later.

The next day, Music.app stopped working.


Now I was genuinely worried. I checked my phone and neither the App Store nor Apple Music would work there, either. A few minutes later, Calendar popped up an error – it had stopped syncing. I immediately tried to call Apple Support from my Mac, but Apple’s Handoff feature had been disabled as well.

The first person...

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Bill Gates is Angry

Steven Levy interviewed Bill Gates for Wired, and it is quite an illuminating conversation. In past public appearances, Gates – like most experts – has attempted to walk the line between antagonizing the Trump administration and promulgating real science. But now he appears to be finished with that nonsense. He almost sounds angry.

On the CDC, which has been conspicuously absent during this pandemic:

You would expect the CDC to be the most visible, not the White House or even Anthony Fauci. But they haven’t been the face of the epidemic. They are trained to communicate and not try to panic people but get people to take things seriously. They have basically been muzzled since the beginning. We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House a bunch of times. Now they say, “Look, we’re doing a great job on testing, we don’t want to talk to you.” Even the simplest...

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iPad in 2020

A couple of months ago, I switched entirely to an iPad Pro for about two weeks. I did not use my MacBook Pro at all, and forced myself to do everything on the iPad. After that experience, I planned to write some kind of review, but it turned out that my conclusions were pretty simple:

iPad Pro running iOS 13 can technically do almost everything a MacBook Pro can, but it is incredibly frustrating to use. Accomplishing anything other than trivial tasks takes 2-5x longer with 10x more cognitive overhead than on a Mac. iPadOS is simply an annoying operating system to use.

The iPad is amazing for content consumption and certain types of gaming, but no matter how much Apple pundits might try to say the iPad is a device well-suited for “creation,” it just isn’t – unless you are an artist using Apple Pencil.

And so, as the iPad turns ten years old this week, I agree with John Gruber’s...

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The 16-inch MacBook Pro: A Faster Horse

From Apple’s announcement of the 16-Inch MacBook Pro a couple of weeks ago:

“Our pro customers tell us they want their next MacBook Pro to have a larger display, blazing-fast performance, the biggest battery possible, the best notebook keyboard ever, awesome speakers and massive amounts of storage, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro delivers all of that and more,” said Tom Boger, Apple’s senior director of Mac and iPad Product Marketing.

It’s almost unthinkable, but it appears that Apple compiled a laundry list of customer complaints about the 15-Inch MacBook Pro and then simply addressed them, matter-of-factly. Bigger screen? Sure. Unreliable keyboard? Reverted. Not enough RAM? Fixed. There is no story behind the 16-Inch MacBook Pro. It has no soul. It is just a larger, heavier 15-Inch MacBook Pro that lazily fixes some serious flaws that have been left extremely conspicuously unaddressed...

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Apple TV, Apple TV, Apple TV, and Apple TV+

‪Apple TV is a hardware device.

‪Apple TV is an app on Apple TV that curates content you can buy from Apple and also content you can stream through other installed apps (but not all apps, and there is no way to tell which ones).

Apple TV is an app on iOS/iPadOS devices that operates similarly to Apple TV on Apple TV. Apple TV on iOS/iPadOS syncs playback and watch history with Apple TV on Apple TV, but only if the iOS/iPadOS device has the same apps installed as the Apple TV – and not all apps are available on all platforms. Apple TV is also an app on macOS, but it does not show content that can only be streamed from external apps on an Apple TV or iOS/iPadOS device.

Apple TV is an app or built-in feature of other devices, like smart TVs and streaming set-top boxes, but when Apple TV is running on a third party device, it does not show content from other installed apps on that...

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Building new worlds

Earlier this summer, the New York Times published an opinion piece titled The World Is a Mess. We Need Fully Automated Luxury Communism, by Aaron Bastani:

To say the present era is one of crisis borders on cliché. We inhabit a world of low growth, low productivity and low wages, of climate breakdown and the collapse of democratic politics. A world where billions, mostly in the global south, live in poverty. A world defined by inequality.

But the most pressing crisis of all, arguably, is an absence of collective imagination. It is as if humanity has been afflicted by a psychological complex, in which we believe the present world is stronger than our capacity to remake it – as if it were not our ancestors who created what stands before us now. As if the very essence of humanity, if there is such a thing, is not to constantly build new worlds.

If we can move beyond such a failure, we...

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Bourdain on The Journey

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

Anthony Bourdain

Published from Medellín, Colombia.

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How to host a static website with HTTPS on AWS, using S3 and CloudFront

Amazon’s AWS is an inexpensive and limitlessly scalable platform that can be ideal for hosting fast, secure, and reliable static websites. I host several sites using the method described below, and it costs me pennies per month. The only problem is that getting things set up–especially with HTTPS support–isn’t exactly straightforward.


  • We’ll create and configure two S3 buckets. One will serve static content via S3. The other will be used simply to redirect www.yourdomain.com to yourdomain.com.
  • We’ll create an SSL certificate using AWS Certificate Manager.
  • We’ll set up two CloudFront distributions which will use the S3 buckets as origins. (The website itself will be served through CloudFront’s edge locations, but the files will be stored on S3.)
  • We’ll set up DNS alias records which point to CloudFront, using Route 53.

Configure S3

  1. Create two buckets in S3. It doesn’t...

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One of the dumbest things I’ve ever published

While I was reading through some of my older essays the other day, I came across a piece called Privacy vs. User Experience, published in 2014. In the article, I argued that Apple’s then-nascent philosophical stance on the supremacy of user privacy was going to slow down its product development while competitors fully embraced deep data mining techniques to build better user experiences.

It is, I believe, one of the dumbest, most wrong things I have ever published.

The essay’s structure isn’t actually that bad. It has a strong thesis. The whole thing seems relatively innocuous, whether or not you agree with the premise. What makes Privacy vs. User Experience so dangerous as an essay is that the thesis is undeniably correct in the abstract and yet completely wrong in practice. There is no valid counterargument to the abstract idea. It is a fact that if a company has better data and...

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