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Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more. Hosted by Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin.

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439: Servant of the Red Badge

DISCUSSED: finding an actor's age and height; time analogies; Merlin needs help naming two critical phenomena; Dan is dissatisfied with how cars look; could Wolverine get a Caillou tattoo, and would it grow back, hmmmm?; Merlin is getting into plants (no, not sexually); the return of that time when Danny held the license plate; and finally, Merlin has a long stemwinder on an admittedly amorphous topic: the unimpeachable benefits of undoing most of the buttons we've clicked.
2019-08-20
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438: The Mashed Potatoes Need You

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a little visitor today. Dan has some thoughts on conference scheduling. This leads to a broader discussion of the sensitivities we may or may not have to other peoples' limitations and constraints. It's nice to meet people. For some reason, religion, churches, and clergy are discussed. "This is what Peter did say!" Finally, the guys answer a listener question about working from home. Merlin poses a challenge.
2019-08-13
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437: The Credit Section

Dan and Merlin explore the complexities of personal style. Not personal style as in fashion, but as in preferences, identity, and modes of interaction. How do we let others know how we are? How do we derive a sense of what works best for us, and why is it such a shameful struggle to effectively communicate that to others? What do AirPods, Snapchat, and Bloomberg Terminals potentially have in common? And, would it be cool if I just listen to this podcast instead of talking about my blouse and the weather?
2019-08-06
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436: Better Than a Lipstick

DISCUSSED: the admirable candor of B.B. King; the simple joys of the Ordinary Night; movies that are or are not dated and how that affects your enjoyment; how sci-fi seemed to mostly miss the internet; our embarrassment of media options; tech in media and what it means for plot stuff; technology adoption curves are definitely speeding up; doing everything you can not to use your phone as a phone; more generational stuff; how time and context changes our perception; should they take all the smoking out of movies and tv?; remember: you're not making errors?you're adding information; and, finally, Dan has an exciting announcement and a wet notebook.
2019-07-30
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435: Scanner of Horizons

DISCUSSED: kindness; eyeglasses, at length?including eyeglasses indignities, discounts, and injuries; a renewed surfeit of dingalings, fake friends, and a dumb podcast hit piece; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener question on getting stressed about personal quantization.
2019-07-23
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434: Grist for an Unnecessary Mill

Show notes are short this week because Merlin had to go buy contrast paints for his figs. Main topic is speculating about speculation.
2019-07-16
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433: The Muscle of Worry

DISCUSSED: Dan has found a terrific solution for his son's iPad case; on the benefits (and challenges) of getting away from our devices for a while; listener recommendations for YouTube keyboard commands, a book about cities, and some Disney scholarship; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener's question about "circular thoughts."
2019-07-02
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432: Fingerspace Pollution

DISCUSSED: Merlin is a little hoarse; but what's an actual pony versus an actual little horse?; there's a lot of sadness and housing problems in the Hundred Acre Wood; the challenges of recommending starter media; the further challenges of being a media super-fan; (and how this relates to not seeing The Flintstones and stealing a copy of Fight Club from Blockbuster Video); Florida is hot; may everyone live long enough to feel bad for saying something really stupid on a podcast; is Piglet a small pig or just a pig baby?; Dan needs your help to find Cash a durable iPad case and keyboard solution; Merlin needs your help understanding the logic of keyboard media keys; to Dan, Piglet was always a baby pig; then, there's some follow-up on Disney parks; Dan again threatens to permanently ruin Disney for you, but he promises to clearly bracket it; and, finally, Dan has had it with people stealing flu valor. Just stop it, people.
2019-06-25
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431: Costly Branded Waiting

First and most importantly, Dan is back! Woo! Second, now, listen: please bear with me, and do not leave. Because, when I say we talked mostly about Disney?and especially Disney properties?it's way more interesting than you'd think. Or, so we hope. Essentially, Walt Disney World in particular has the control, data, and means to be extremely good at resource management, and that's just fascinating to think about. There's also some thank-you's, as well as some podcast recommendations, plus a response to a listener's question about choosing to use Apple's native apps.
2019-06-20
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430: Shiny Red Cleric

Dan's away this week, so Merlin tries going it alone. Topics include lessons from painting D&D minifigs, listener letters, and some recommendations. Feel better soon Dan; we need you!
2019-06-14
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429: A Seer of Trees

DISCUSSED: Merlin has a catastrophic off-by-one-week error; Roderick's June is very triggering to your hosts; sometimes, it's nice to be exposed to stuff you didn't expect, but?; at a certain point in life, you mostly just see trees of inconvenience and risk; this leads to a long (and surprisingly pretty good) meditation on FOMO, acceptance, and not pretending to be a person you never actually were; Dan helps Merlin unpack a scene near his workplace; Merlin gets in the weeds about Roger Deakins, Torquay, and two different Richards Burton; then, there's a brief side trip into the reboot of Nick Fury; and, finally the boys answer listener questions about taking notes in college and feeling resistance to completing tasks.
2019-06-04
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428: Prepare for Draculas

DISCUSSED: Nobody got enough sleep last night, but they're gonna power through anyhow; your hosts fawn over the amazing Chernobyl miniseries; various hardware mute button options are discussed; Merlin can't draw but is very excited about making pictures on an iPad; Dan is looking forward to seeing more Olyphant; your hosts address a listener's question about their "everyday carry," but honestly mostly end up talking about bags; also, you really need a bag in a bag in a bag; and, finally Merlin has an admittedly privileged aspiration involving keys.
2019-05-28
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427: C. Thomas Hobbled

DISCUSSED: nasty, brutish, and short sleep; watching TV with a game controller; Dan has to deal with suite concatenation; your hosts crave the expertise of a craftsman; Merlin realizes he and his lady friend see very different forests (spoiler: hers is way better); popcorn ceiling comes in cans; your hosts contrast their views on kipple, sentimentality, and need; Dan struggles to turn off his buttons, and Merlin loves his iPad's Paste button; provisional, anecdotal praise for AT&T's Call Protect service; there's a distinction between long sleep and good sleep; Dan has to stab a prestige TV doppelgänger, and Merlin learns about Night Company; Merlin has recommendations for a Mac automation app, a new David Sparks Field Guide, and a handy new IoT dingus; speculation that smart home adoption truly won't tip until the interactions get less dorky; mobile charging options for travel are debated; everybody needs a Dad Hat; and, finally, with only three days of school left, Dan receives a very concerning email.
2019-05-21
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426: New Wave Night

DISCUSSED: Dan has a new setup, and Merlin randomly recommends a kids' book; your hosts remember too much; Dan realizes he took the wrong shop class, and Merlin realizes why Generation X was (and remains) mostly useless; Dan walks us through his new setup, and the boys talk about the joys of VNC; Merlin is excited about the new "Guard" functionality of the Amazon voice dingus; Ferris Bueller's Day Off is still very good; what is the sound of one Koan falling?; your hosts discuss an article proposing why everything should take 20 minutes; Merlin dives deep on his own longstanding use of this heuristic; this leads to some classic #productivity talk; there's some instamatic camera nostalgia; Dan has a new project, and you should maybe contact him; Once AGAIN!; the glory of Spirited Away is discussed; Dan recommends a good TV show for date night; and, finally, Dan and Merlin admit they'd probably watch basically anything about Watchmen.
2019-05-14
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425: Off the Cushion

DISCUSSED: Dan explains what the photos he sends mean; Merlin encourages Dan to air a beef, and Dan kindly assents; Oh, boy, Windows! My old nemesis?Windows!; the Mac's interoperability glory days were amazing; it really sucks to watch a computer start up and start up and start up; ports confuse Merlin, who is now officially an old; Dan and Merlin talk about a few things they enjoyed watching on YouTube; Merlin has a recommendation for downloading internet videos (purely for educational reasons); Merlin also recommends a really good podcast episode about "data-driven parenting"; then, Merlin kinda pops off a little; hey, listen: you can rarely have benefits without risks (and kinda vice-versa); Dan's watching Deadwood again, and Merlin gets kinda excitable again and does lots of quotes for some reason; and, finally, Merlin has a super-tip about improving your results in Apple Health.
2019-05-07
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424: A Roach Riding a Rat

DISCUSSED: the restorative tonic of a good night's sleep; a return to sleep as video game; it's okay to tweet your hosts about hoagies and Publix; concerns about butt cancer; Dan recommends a Netflix series; Merlin endorses Overcast clips; the difficulty of balancing user requests with reality; Merlin commends the deliberate simplicity of his daughter's spork; Merlin recommends a podcast; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener's email about the therapeutic benefits of "controlling a small area."
2019-04-30
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423: It Only Hurts for a Minute

DISCUSSED: Dan and Merlin get hungry, but they've had it with all the bread; the trough food is so costly; no one is sweating Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; Marvel-ish movies are discussed, including the new one with Lady Sansa; Merlin is very concerned about aphasias; Dan introduces us to Forbidden Snacks and endorses his new shoe appliance; shoe appliances are then discussed; Dan hasn't had to use his sword?yet; people sure love them some pencils; there was some weather, so the seder got all fakakte; the finer points of Judaism and sundry Hebraica are clarified; Dan got scrolls-on-tape from a sympathetic cantor; Buster Scruggs is recommended; the boys receive a quick surprise visit from the great Tom Waits; and, finally, your hosts talk about a terrific YouTube video about what we can all learn from our worst trainwrecks.
2019-04-23
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422: Magic Rub

DISCUSSED: Dan has just started a new pen; there's some pen, pencil, and eraser talk; Dan has an important anecdote about utilizing eraser-based people skills; Dan's iMac is working fine, but he's concerned about the poofs coming out of the balloon blower; Dan saw Venom and has some thoughts; Merlin commends a comic and a podcast and an app launcher; the evolution of computer interaction has rewired our brains; why do they have to make the print so small?; Merlin has songs in his head; and, finally, Merlin apologizes to Nick Fury.
2019-04-16
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421: Black Dress Cowboy Boots

DISCUSSED: What we talk about when we talk about optimism; the power of "Act as Though"; on edibles; a YouTube recommendation, then more YouTube recommendations; how even do we tell YouTube what we never want to see again? HOW?!; the difficulty of sensible algorithms; the fascinating concept of "pareidolia"; Professor Shoelaces's extensive metatags; your hosts answer a listener's question about when to go physical versus when to go digital.
2019-04-09
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420: Baby Thorin

DISCUSSED: Merlin is back on his old cans; Dan is pivoting to video; Cash stepped in paint, and kids are terrible storytellers; a book recommendation; a case for the Oxford comma, please and thank you; Dan starts asking for help with his new iMac; gross nickel?and-diming by Apple; praise for Southwest Airlines; Dan (finally) gets to finish asking for help with his new iMac; a cool new open source Mac video app; the Mac laptop keyboard problems ain't going away; Dan really likes Final Cut; Merlin fights with UPS, both on principle and as a game; Merlin thinks Dan's egg cooker rules.
2019-04-03
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419: The Elephant in the Sword

DISCUSSED: allergy attack!; big anniversary today; elegy for Two Cats Comics; some D&D talk; Dan got a sword!; yet more D&D talk; key commands for line-moving; Dan got his YouTube URL back; a Theranos book recommendation; Dan almost got cast in a TV show; some observations and reckons about Apple's big Services event.
2019-03-26
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418: This Man?This Monster!

DISCUSSED: Top o' the Morling!; praise for the home release of Spider-Verse; Dan and Merlin offer some more TV recommendations; Merlin endorses an excellent "turns out" podcast; a deep dive on slow-rise squishes and related stress toys; Merlin wears his childhood privilege on his sleeve. Finally, the guys answer an excellent listener question about the complex work of maintaining a household with someone you love.
2019-03-19
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417: Fish Bishop

DISCUSSED: Merlin is trying some new things and probably needs to adjust his DIP switches; audio equipment is discussed; remembering Hal Blaine; German words; fish dropsy; dining at Alamo Draft House; kids and crafts; follow-up on Power Puttering; recommending a Siracusa anecdote; recommending a philosophy podcast; recommending several cool products; some strong (if muddled) thoughts on the Michael Jackson documentary.
2019-03-12
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416: A Squishy for the Ages

DISCUSSED: Merlin is living the Domino lifestyle; R.I.P. Two Cats Comics; praise for iA Writer; Merlin needs help with his sudden Gmail spam; a meditation on comics as some awesome fun and an ugly damned business; nostalgia for hobby shops and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks; and finally Merlin reintroduces the concept of "Power Puttering."
2019-03-05
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415: Fifty and Monogamous

DISCUSSED: Dan has an awesome new video; Spider-Verse is out!; Merlin's dorky Segway is discussed; app recommendations for a clean new Gmail and an even-smarter Dark Sky; Dan spills the beans on his new sound bar setup; TV selection and purchase is a known thistle; idiot trolls hassle poor Carol Danvers; Dan has an important new egg technology; and, finally, the boys fret about Apple's new 2FA requirements a little.
2019-02-26
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414: Inheritance of Pain

Mostly one big topic: screen time.
2019-02-19
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413: Bumbleditch Cumperdam

DISCUSSED: It's the optimistic day, but Merlin really screwed up an edit; there's some Inside Baseball about how podcasts get made; it's nice to have someone notice the shaving cream on your jowl; movie ratings are explored; why all the bosoms in 80s movies?; Dan wonders if he should have approached a celebrity; Merlin introduces further thought technologies for not being a creep with a famous person; the paucity of public experiences; Dan talks about Austin's mussel water; we learn about the prevalence of weevils; meth sourcing; a nice note from a listener about when podcasts are absolutely not evil; and, finally, a desperate plea for podcast platforms to stay independent and open please please pretty please.
2019-02-12
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412: A Hobo in a Cartoon

DISCUSSED: Gong Hei Fat Choy!; follow-up on the FaceTime bug and the complexity of getting bug and security reports from normals; the weirdness of bug-finders demanding a bounty; Merlin is fascinated to learn about "combinatorial explosion" and how it helps to explain why power-cycling fixes stuff; why you should always blow the dust out of the plug; recent examples of how restarting just fixes stuff; Merlin logs out of email apps and recommends an iOS calendar app; a case for killing OAuth where you don't need it; and, finally, your hosts respond to a listener question about whether podcasts can be "evil."
2019-02-05
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411: It's Not Butt

DISCUSSED: Dan's fighting his computer and explores font corruption; Merlin hates pebbles in his shoe; Dan has an anecdote about massages; Merlin has an anecdote about the FaceTime exploit; this leads to discussion about how big companies deal with huge-scale, unexpected problems; some thoughts on The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect; the problem with journalism about stuff we actually know about; remembering Michael Crichton; Heartbeeps!; a clever way to reduce damage from careless delivery; is there a new Browser War underway?; and answering a question from Listener Stephen about life after Editorial.
2019-01-29
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410: The Childhood Cocktail

DISCUSSED: dreams and whether people like hearing them; turns out: Merlin recommends a podcast episode about mental stuff; practice vs. rehearsal; visualization as a rehearsal thing; follow-up on science fair projects; our new, post-search-engine habits; Math is hard; Merlin didn't get Anna's emails; cool screen-grabbing mojo; and Dan reviews excellent listener book recommendations.
2019-01-22
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409: He Says Hard

DISCUSSED: moisture; kids and watches; some recent media consumption; encouraging kids to have good taste; memories of watching VHS movies in school; follow-up on Dan's new keyboard experiment; Drobo concerns; thinking about modern backup and, gosh, how that's evolved; frustrating typos; Dan and Merlin have iOS concerns; Dan has further thoughts on Bandersnatch.
2019-01-15
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408: The Pwn Key

DISCUSSED: Optimistic Tuesdays; office cleanup; a grave bleach mishap; follow-up on Wirecutter; a listener suggestion on, of all things, acupressure; Dan loves his cool new keyboard, but has a big caveat; Merlin is working with magnets; on "Hardware Disease"; request for Riordan-style book recommendations; exciting follow-up on the Burger Decay Project; plus, some closing thoughts on Apple's recent results dustup and what it might suggest about near-future tech trends.
2019-01-08
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407: The Wad-Shooter Option

DISCUSSED: "Rabbit Rabbit!"; partial shutdown and the toilet problems it creates; updates on options for Bluetooth keyboards; some extremely random and anecdotal reckoning about the recent Big Apple News; your hosts' beef with Wirecutter; some odds and sods recommendations and cool life hacks.
2019-01-03
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406: Peak Burger Decay

It's the most wonderful time of the year, so the boys answer listener mail and get a little silly. Happy Holidays, jackals.
2018-12-24
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405: Can You Feed Coke to Rocks?

Discussed: the harsh mistress of holidays, Hanukah presents, Cash's cool gift, the joys of good UX, some excellent very good recommendations, an exciting Science experiment involving hamburgers, kids are terrible at writing things down, things that changed Merlin's game, and some excellent follow-up on how we recognize number patterns. Happy Holidays, you jackals.
2018-12-18
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404: Very Advanced Camping

Discussed: Merlin worries that Dan is getting ground down; web sites are getting very thirsty; Dan thinks it's like pads in football; Dan has updates and more thoughts about doing development work on an iPad; Merlin thinks we should talk more about which devices we choose for doing which things; the boys also have some recommendations.
2018-12-11
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403: It's Just a Salad

Discussed: Why Tuesday is the optimistic day; pourover coffee for Dan's wife; confirm shaming; updates on iPad keyboards and covers; approximately annual history of "Bawk Bawk!"; some thoughts on Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart; kids and learning Programming; the things that are difficult to teach anyone.
2018-12-04
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402: Watches & Barbecue

Discussed: Thanksgiving; spatchcock chicken; kids and their stupid eating; Dan's concern about how we talk to each other; Merlin encourages people to try not to be terrible. Also, some odds and sods on iPad Pro updates, and thanks to our nice listeners.
2018-11-27
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401: Carrier Fluid

Discussed this week: Dan's MOSH setup on iPad; Dan's new NEW iPad; ease of setup on iOS; some iOS photo editing app recommendations; two things Merlin learned this week; and a little rant about how everybody apparently already knows everything.
2018-11-20
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400: In The Penal Colony

Dan and Merlin talk about their first week using the new iPad Pro.
2018-11-12
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399: Blue Whale Salt

Discussed this week: coffee water, voting, inertia, new iPads on the way, difficult buying decisions, returning merchandise (as a thing), some TV suggestions, Dan's new ODROID, 80s video game nostalgia, asking for your iPad-at-work input, plus seeking suggestions for apps for new joggers.
2018-11-06
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398: So Much Unnecessary Beauty

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about Apple's Fall event in Brooklyn today. They liked the event.
2018-10-30
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397: My Manager is Water

Discussed: nailing it, the optimistic valence of Tuesdays, difficulties finding replacement parts on Amazon, headphone preferences, Alexa's service outage and new whisper mode, Austin's big water crisis and what it says about epistemology, reason, and society, plus 20 years of The Big Lebowski.
2018-10-23
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396: Bean in the Sleeve

This week, Dan and Merlin talk about the FitBit Charge 3 and where it fits into their worlds?as well its place in the larger tracker and smart watch ecosystems. Excursions also include: BroBot, weather stations, weather apps, some TV and movie talk, some space talk, plus children's failures to understand how time basically works.
2018-10-16
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395: My Sleeves are Dynamic

Discussed: the tyranny of earliness, the benefits of timeliness, an interesting horology episode about Apple Watch, more watch talk, a blog recommendation, a quick look at Merlin's new FitBit, an update on home WiFi options, Merlin raps a little, Dan gets wired for Ethernet, what we'd like so see in an updated Mac Mini, some listener followup on Bear export and (deliberately) slow interfaces, considering oneself touch-ed, skeuomorphic sounds, and various Florida wildlife encounters.
2018-10-09
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394: Dead or Angry

This week: some TV and movie stuff, Dark Mode and accessibility, OS stability and beta temptation, Merlin has an anecdote, the powers and frustrations of Siri via Apple Watch, updates to the Fitbit family, tech that does enough, Dan tried Bear, updates on the Chrome login thing, and an intriguing listener comment about Apple's ASP/inch3.
2018-10-02
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393: Legacy Meat Stuff

This week, Merlin's got a LOT going on. Full Catastrophe Living! Discussed: booger colors, some tv and movies, a dream deferred, various X-Persons, loving GoodTask 3, plus Dan and Merlin just cannot remember many, many things. Next, your hosts dive into their first day with Mojave and reminisce about the days when you could make your Finder look all steampunk. This leads to a deeper dive on what the future of Macs might be and why they feel how they do (hint: they are both kind of old). They also both want to know what the heck is going on with Chrome, and Dan pitches a movie.
2018-09-25
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392: Gentleman's Calling

A classic odds-and-sods episode, featuring important discussions about sleep tracking, the Apple Watch, Succession, sound bars, Chris Nolan's Batman, and Nintendo Online.
2018-09-18
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391: The September Issue

Discussed: upcoming Apple announcements; do people with bigger screens use more apps more often?; some follow-up on adaptive testing; and comics for kids. Your hosts answer a listener question about knowing when it's time to quit something.
2018-09-11
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390: A Festive Merry-Go-Round for the Very Lonely

Skype gets way too ambitious; sprinkling sauce on a service; a mandatory social network for doorbells; Dan acquires a new deity; some excellent listener follow-up on Computerized Adaptive Testing; Dan takes his boy to see a bona fide cinema classic; Dan has some great TV recommendations; Merlin reports in from the deep weeds of a fraught smart speaker ecosystem.
2018-09-04
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En liten tjänst av I'm With Friends. Finns även på engelska.
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