The Newsprint’s New RSS Feed

Monday, July 06, 2020

It appears I ran into Father Time when it comes to my RSS hosting service of choice. The Newsprint’s RSS feed has been hosted by Feedpress since day one, all the way back in 2014 or sometime around there. Since then, Feedpress has gone one way and the blogging industry has gone another.

As a result, my grandfathered RSS account expired with Feedpress in the last few weeks. And nobody has been receiving any RSS updates since.

Today, The Newsprint is debuting a new RSS feed hosted by Feedio. Feedio has loads of neat features, and the free tier may be one of the most generous free tiers around.

One of those neat features is the ability to subscribe to this site via email instead of RSS. With my newfound love of email (specifically, HEY email), I thought this was a feature worth having. And it indeed has me pondering what a Newsprint Newsletter would look like.

You can find the new RSS feed right here and you can subscribe any way you’d like.

I anticipate I’m going to lose a plethora of subscribers by having to do this. But there’s nothing quite like a fresh start!

Supported By

My First Impressions Review of the New HEY Email Service

Thursday, July 02, 2020

HEY Email on The Sweet Setup

HEY Email has become the most revolutionary app I’ve ever tried.

I don’t always link to my work on The Sweet Setup, but HEY is too important. In two short weeks, HEY has proven itself to be the most revolutionary app or service I’ve ever used.

Seriously. I tried to steer clear here of hyperbole. But I mean it.

I had to write an exam this past Monday. It was one of those exams I was supposed to write back in December (but we had a baby) and then in April (but COVID), so the result was the first exam I’ve written in my own basement. It was quite the experience.

Do Not Disturb worked wonders to keep any devices at bay during the exam. But after I was done writing, it was clear I had missed the-day-before-the-tax-deadline-day-of-work in terms of messages and phone calls. I’m very glad Do Not Disturb works as well as it does.

But email?

Normally, there’d be at least 30 spammy marketing emails pestering my inbox that I’d have to comb through to find the important work or personal emails.

HEY flipped this experience on its head.

So while I expected to have 4 or 5 missed phone calls, 10 or 11 missed messages, and 35 missed emails, I instead had 4 or 5 missed phone calls, 10 or 11 missed messages, and only 2 missed emails.

This has been revolutionary for me. I can only imagine how revolutionary it would be for someone with double, triple, or 10 times my amount of daily email.

To drive the monumental change home for me: I’ve switched more correspondence to email in the last two weeks, I’ve subscribed to more newsletters in the last two weeks, and I’ve checked email less often in the last two weeks than ever before.

Email is finally great.

HEY costs a cool $99/year, which is more than $0.00 if you’re used to doing email for free, but which isn’t all that far off from Gmail or Exchange if you normally pay $10 or so per month.1 I think anyone used to paying for email will look at $99 like it’s a steal, while those who are used to free email may balk, but will feel instantly happy if they purchase the annual subscription.

I have many, many more thoughts about HEY over at The Sweet Setup. I do warn you though: I’m going to have to seek someone out to write a follow up piece that is substantially more negative just so the coverage is more balanced.

  1. Though, of course, in the case of both of these services you receive far more than just email. I will still be paying for Exchange through a Microsoft account when HEY debuts its business-specific email service. 

Apple Announces Mac Transition to Apple Silicon

Monday, June 22, 2020

A few of my close friends have noted, year after year, how dramatically far ahead the iPad’s hardware is in relation to its software. Year in, year out, the iPad’s pure processing power jumps through what seems like an impossible ceiling.

This is what hit me today when watching Apple’s secret underground computing lair show off the seamless transition to Apple’s own ARM chips. In short, we saw an iPad Pro chip inside a Mac running Adobe Lightroom on a Pro Display XDR, all without skipping a beat.

I’ve chosen to edit photos on an iPad for the better part of 18 months now. Which is especially due to how smoothly Lightroom runs on an iPad (at least in comparison to how it runs on a Mac). If you want to compare the two, take any Mac and make a selective edit in Lightroom with a mask overlaid on top of where you want to edit the photo. Now make that same edit on the iPad with the Apple Pencil.

Yes, now you know how bad things have become in Adobe land on the Mac.

Now that the iPad’s ultra-smooth editing performance is coming to the Mac, you can bet I’ll be buying that ARM iMac as soon as it’s available.

Being Mortgage-Free is Over-Rated

Friday, June 05, 2020

Another point-of-view of mine that will either result in my wrist being slapped or will result in some more logical decisions: The quest to be mortgage-free is completely over-rated and, often, a detriment to improving your personal net worth.

This is for two reasons:

  1. Mortgage payments generally don’t take up too much of an individual’s after-tax net income, and so the idea of there being a cash windfall upon payout of the mortgage is mostly a myth.
  2. Mortgage payments, late in their amortization schedule, are made mostly of principal payments and act as a forced savings greater than an individual’s own sheer will.

Let me explain.

The Mythical Cash Windfall

Banks are specifically regulated to ensure they do not give out too much of a mortgage for a borrower to handle. The calculations lenders go through are fairly extensive (or, rather, the computer goes through extensive calculations while the lender punches in the numbers — take your pick), pretty onerous, and pretty eye-watering. The onerous calculations and ratios are there to ensure you do not have more to pay back than you can reasonably handle.

As such, a mortgage payment, more likely than not, will only take up $XXX of your overall disposable income on a monthly basis. At the end of the year, if you add up your mortgage payments, I personally doubt they’ll amount to a sum you’d consider a cash windfall.

If you make $1,000 monthly mortgage payments, mortgage-free life would leave you with $12,000 of extra cash in a year. It’s easy math.

I’m not saying $12,000 is nothing. There are many folks who would love to have an extra $12,000 each year.

But I also know that $12,000 doesn’t change anyone’s life. You can spend $12,000 on a 10-day trip to Hawaii. You can spend $12,000 on a camera and a couple lenses.1 You can spend $12,000 on a down payment for a relatively nice vehicle.

As a whole, the required cash outflows for a mortgage will likely not change your life when you finish paying off that mortgage.

Forced Savings

I love forced savings. If, at the end of my financial writing here on The Newsprint, you don’t understand that forced savings is the kingly method of saving, then I’ve failed.

Forced savings are the best savings.

It’s pretty logical to understand that the last few years of any mortgage carry less of an interest burden and more of a payback on principal. If you have that same $1,000 mortgage payment, more than $900 of that amount will go as direct pay down of the principal of the mortgage in the mortgage’s later years.

Ultimately then, once the mortgage is paid off, will you save that same $900+ each month? Or will you divert it to consumption and other less-productive spending?

Debt payments, in the early years of a loan or mortgage, are an expensive way to introduce forced savings into your life (essentially, you’re paying an interest premium for the sake of forcing yourself to save). But in the latter part of any loan or mortgage, they are fairly cheap ways to force yourself to save.

My thought: As soon as that mortgage is paid off, get another mortgage and buy more property — but this time, rent that property out. You may not see any extra cash in your bank account, but rest assured, someone else will effectively pay your mortgage for you.

Or you could borrow against your newly paid-off house to invest in dividend-paying shares — if you can find monthly or quarterly dividend payments that are enough to make interest and principal payments on the borrowed money, you’re able to take part in growth of the share price for free. Plus, the interest is deductible for tax purposes (which, in Canada, the mortgage interest on your principal residence is not deductible for tax purposes), ensuring the tax man pays for at least 25% of your borrowing cost.

Wrap Up

So my thoughts, in short, are: Being mortgage-free is over-rated because banking regulations require your mortgage payment to be a small amount in relation to your overall income and because mortgage payments are a great way to force yourself to increase your personal net worth on a scheduled basis.

Obviously, being mortgage-free and debt-free at some point in your life before retirement is a healthy goal — I certainly don’t want to be going into retirement with a mortgage. But, debt payments can be a great tool for forcing yourself to improve your personal net worth, especially when those debt payments are for assets that grow on their own.

  1. You could buy a Leica M10 plus half a Leica M lens for that money. 

Defaulting to the Share Sheet for Read-Later is Lazy

Monday, May 25, 2020

Before iOS debuted app extensions inside the system-wide share sheet, many social apps opted to use custom sharing extensions that allowed you to save content in Pocket or Instapaper to read later. These custom actions were often quite unique, ultra-fast, and generally quite reliable.

The debut of app extensions effectively eliminated those custom sharing actions to Pocket and Instapaper. Within a few software release cycles, apps like Tweetbot and Reeder opted to shelve development of their own sharing extensions for Pocket or Instapaper and left the sharing mechanism to the system-wide system.

The system-wide workflow looks like this:

  1. Tap the share sheet button.
  2. Tap on Pocket or Instapaper, or, if you haven’t edited the order of your list, scroll to find Pocket or Instapaper, or, if you haven’t put Pocket or Instapaper in your top 12 apps, tap “More” and scroll to Pocket or Instapaper.
  3. Wait for your content to save before tapping “Tap to Dismiss” (specifically in Pocket).
  4. Add tags (if you wish).

In hindsight, this feels like a lazy decision and has hampered the speed and efficiency of saving content to any read-it-later queue.1 Nevermind the fact both the Pocket and Instapaper sharing extensions feel atrociously buggy, the default system-wide method requires more taps and more time, most of the time — for the times when these extensions misfire, you have to work through the tap-dance all over again.

Unread 2 continues to use custom sharing extensions for both Pocket and Instapaper as part of the app’s “Article Actions” feature. Simply choose which read-it-later service you want on hand at all times, swipe to the right when reading, tap the appropriate button, and your content is saved for later.2

Swipe. Tap. Saved.

Unread’s development team will be responsible for keeping these Article Actions features up to date (whereas Pocket and Instapaper’s development teams would be responsible for keeping their share sheet extensions up to date were Unread to opt to use the share sheet instead), so I recognize there’s some extra overhead for development teams here.

But as a whole, Unread’s decision to stick with custom sharing to Pocket or Instapaper is a major improvement over the system-wide share sheet.

I’d like to see some other app developers go back to creating their own custom sharing extensions.

More overhead. More work. But a vastly superior experience for the user.

Update: It has been noted that you can set a default read-later swipe in Reeder. Once enabled, if you swipe right or left on an article in the article list, the article will be instantly saved to your read-later app of choice. This is such an obvious feature and I apologize for missing it.

  1. I recognize there are a plethora of read-it-later services out there, each of which would potentially require its own sharing development. That being said, I’m willing to bet the majority of users use either Pocket or Instapaper. That’s 51%-plus of users, if my math is correct. 

  2. And even if you haven’t opted to save one of the Article Actions to your main swipe menu for quick use, it’s still only one extra tap to find Pocket or Instapaper. No scrolling. Just one extra tap. 

Two Pieces of Financial Advice I Don’t Really Agree With

Thursday, May 21, 2020

There are two pieces of advice I constantly struggle to outrightly accept. The first is to eliminate as much of your debt as possible before moving onto other purchases or investments. The second is to save an emergency fund before making other purchases or investments.

On Eliminating Debt and Payments

Not everyone is good with debt. Some hate the idea of debt hanging over their heads. Others can’t stop using debt to make fast, instant gratification purchases. In both cases, the psychological impact of debt is likely better served by eliminating debt as much as possible.

But if you’re generally fine with the psychological state of debt and you can control your spending regardless of your cash capabilities, then debt is a tool to be utilized, not a weapon or a threat to be afraid of.

The key is to understand a net present value calculation. From Investopedia:

Net present value (NPV) is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a period of time. NPV is used in capital budgeting and investment planning to analyze the profitability of a projected investment or project.

So, if the money made as a result of a purchase or investment made on debt are greater than the payments made on that debt, it’s wiser, in the long run, to make the purchase on debt.

Add in potentially tax deductible interest, wherein a purchase is made on debt and that purchase/investment is used to earn business, rental, or investment income, and the taxman now pays for 25% to 45% of the interest for you.

Again, if you can’t control yourself, there’s no positive NPV calculation that justifies a bad purchase.

But before assuming that debt is terrible, make sure the math behind the investment is completely understood.

On Saving an Emergency Fund Before Investing

We’re in a current emergency, and there are bound to be many people using the emergency funds they saved to get through these stressful times. I’m not anti-emergency-fund type of person.

What I am “anti” of is the idea of focusing on saving an emergency fund first and then investing later. The problem I have with this is quite simple: compound interest.

The longer a dollar is allowed to grow, the more powerful the exponential growth will be in the life of that dollar.

If you invest $1 today and let it grow at a presumed 8% rate for 40 years,1 it’ll be worth $21.72. If you take that same dollar and let it grow at 8% for 30 years, it’ll be worth $10.06.

It takes 30 years to make 10 times your initial investment, and only an additional 10 years to make 20 times your initial investment. And after 45 years? That investment will be worth $31.92 — 30 times your initial investment.

I’m not saying don’t save an emergency fund. By all means, having at least three months of living expenses in cash on hand is a healthy practice for everyone.

But I struggle with the idea of prioritizing the emergency fund over long-term saving. People need to begin long-term saving as fast as they possibly can — the exponential power is too great to ignore.

My general thought, at least at this point in time: If you’re able to save $100 every 2 weeks, split it 50/50 and dedicate one half to your emergency fund and one half to your long-term retirement savings. Or skew it in whichever direction makes you most comfortable.

But please, do not forget about the power of compounding.

  1. Which is actually pretty reasonable, given the last hundred years of stock market history and average dividend rates.