August 21, 2019

Mashable:

Everyone uses Bluetooth. Perhaps they shouldn’t.

The technology that we’ve come to rely on to connect our phones, smart speakers, cars, vibrators, and toasters is problematic for reasons more serious than pairing issues. Bluetooth has been shown time and time again to be a security and privacy nightmare — albeit one that can be mostly solved with a simple toggling of an off switch.

I got pointed to this Mashable (I know, I know) post by someone and it’s a good object lesson in checking before you post. On its face, it sounds silly but it may be possible. So I checked with my favourite security guy, Rich Mogull of DisruptOps.

I asked Rich, “Is this sensationalism by Mashable (that wouldn’t be a surprise) or a “real” issue?” Rich responded with these tweets:

Saying you should stop using Bluetooth is the kind of disconnected, unrealistic security advice that results in security people not being invited to anyone else’s parties.

The flaw is real and very serious. It’s also manageable by vendors enforcing min key length.

I followed up with, “Which begs the question, “Do vendors enforce min key length?” Does “min key length” mean passwords or something else? Is that something on the user end or vendor-side?”

Rich said:

It is the length of the encryption key used in pairing… nothing a user can control. All on the vendor side. I think most or all Apple devices (and Microsoft, according to press releases) are protected.

So, Bluetooth could be a security and privacy nightmare but it’s not. Thanks Rich.

The Verge:

THX’s long-running “bwonnnnnnnnnnnnnng” Deep Tone sound that plays before movies just got a lavish new update.

It’s still recognizable to cinephiles, but the version heard in the trailer above is much crisper than the original tone that played before Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. There have been more than 20 remixed versions of the tone since then, including special versions made for The Simpsons and Shrek. Everyone knows it! It’s a meme! People remix the tone into their songs because it’s universally understood.

In my younger days, this sound before the beginning of a movie sent tingles down my spine. It meant I was about to see a “good movie.” As I got older, I realized it means I’m going to see a movie with (probably) good sound but no promises as to how good the actual movie will be.

The Verge:

Famous actors and musicians, the head of the US Department of Energy, and regular Instagram users have been spreading a hoax memo that claims the company will soon have permission to make deleted photos and messages public and use those posts against them in court.

The claims are fake and the assertions don’t make a lot of sense, but that hasn’t stopped it from being spread by some major names concerned about the implications. Celebrities including Usher, Judd Apatow, and Julia Roberts posted the note to their feeds, as did Rick Perry, the current United States secretary of energy and former Texas governor.

Be smarter and more aware than these people.

Washington Post:

Apple plans to change the rules it has for kids apps, raising concerns among some app developers about the way the tech giant wields power unilaterally over an App Store that has become an industry unto itself.

Under the new rules, which Apple had planned to implement next month, kids apps on Apple’s App Store will be banned from using external analytics software — invisible lines of code that collect extremely detailed information about who is using an app and how. Apple is also severely curtailing their ability to sell ads, which underpins the business model that results in many apps being free. The changes were prompted in part by some children viewing inappropriate ads, Apple says.

The new rules pit Apple’s privacy prerogative against an overreach of its power.

This isn’t an intractable problem but Apple needs to live up to its privacy declarations particularly when it comes to apps targeted at children.

PC Mag:

PCMag surveyed 1,000 parents with children in grades ranging from preschool to college to gauge when they think is the right time to buy their kids a smartphone, tablet, laptop, and smart speaker. For smartphones, the majority (53 percent) of parents said age 12 to 15 is appropriate for kids to get their own phone. Another 23 percent said ages 9 to 11, and 17 percent said not until ages 16 to 18.

Parents were far more divided on tablets.

We are going through this little exercise in our house with the 13-year-old. He’s already got an iPhone and an iPad mini. He wants a laptop and smart speaker next.

Nomad:

At Nomad, we are passionate about wild places, adventures, and unspoiled nature. We’ve grown a lot since our first Kickstarter in 2012, expanding our product range, our internal team, and our company goals. Along with all this company growth, our carbon footprint and impact on the places we love has grown too.

So we’ve decided that a big part of our mission going forward will be to reduce our impact while leading the way towards a more sustainable future. Nomad is going carbon neutral.

I’m a big fan of Nomad the company and their cables specifically. I’ve used one of their Universal cables every day for the past year and it looks brand new. The offer here is to buy their 1.5m Lightning cable. Donate $5, $10, or $20 and get the cable for free. Nomad will ensure 100% of your donations are delivered to Carbonfund. The biggest downside of this promotion is it’s only really available to those inside the US. International shipping is brutal at $30.

BoingBoing:

Founded in 1623 in Turkey and now based in Norwell, Massachusetts, Zildjian has manufactured cymbals continuously for almost 400 years. This is how they do it now.

Regular readers know I’m a sucker for “making of” assembly line videos. I love this one.

This is a great walkthrough from 9to5Mac’s Jeff Benjamin. The games I’m seeing so far really click for me, look like my kind of games.

From the video, Jeff seems to agree. If the price is, as rumored, $4.99 a month for 100+ games, seems a no-brainer to me.

Watch the video, judge for yourself.

Apple Card and rejecting arbitration

Getting an Apple Card? If so, be aware that you can opt out of the arbitration clause.

To do so:

  • Launch the Wallet app
  • Tap your Apple Card
  • On the Apple Card page, tap the (…) menu (upper right)
  • Tap the Message button
  • Type “I want to reject arbitration”

Here’s a look at the entire process, in a single tweet. Simple.

As to why you’d want to reject arbitration, consider this explainer from the Economic Policy Institute (via Nick Heer). One way it was explained to me: Arbitration is an end run around class action suits. Good for corporations, bad for consumers.

Anyone know of an upside to keeping the arbitration clause, a reason not to reject it?

John Gruber, commenting on this BuzzFeed article, which makes the claim that Apple Card was created to lock you in to the Apple ecosystem:

I don’t think the reason for this is to keep you locked to your iPhone, although that’s certainly a side effect. I think this simply reflects Apple’s internal culture. Apple’s culture is to make native apps for everything as a first priority, with web interfaces as a much lower priority.

I agree. The Apple Card has the same impact on lock-in as Apple Watch. Neither is a requirement, and both have plenty of non-Apple counterparts you can move to if you want to leave Apple behind.

It’s the ecosystem itself that keeps you around, not any one piece of it.

Steve Moser, MacRumors:

According to code strings found in macOS Catalina, Apple will apparently allow videos to be downloaded for offline viewing, but with limitations on the total number of downloads, downloads per show or movie, or the total number of times a show or movie can be downloaded. For example, if a user tries to download the same video on multiple devices, the Apple TV app will inform them that “To download this episode of ‘The Morning Show’, delete it from another device and try again,” for example.

Glad to see that Apple TV+ will (apparently) allow downloads, just like Amazon Video and Netflix. When I travel, I always download videos for later consumption, since there are times when internet access is either spotty or limited in some way.

August 20, 2019

Variety:

Apple Music today launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists.

While the company wouldn’t say much specifically about how the chart is tabulated, it uses “Shazam’s proprietary algorithms [to offer] a unique predictive view on rising artists and reacting tracks to Apple Music subscribers.” With 20 million Shazams each day and over 1 billion downloads of its app, that’s a fairly significant test audience.

It’s hard for the average person to “discover” new artists and music but this might help. The downside is it seems to be fairly limited, genre-wise.

Piebald moose sighting is accompanied with the most Canadian commentary

Two women can’t believe their eyes of the rare white moose cooling down by going for a dip in Newfoundland.

“Look at da size of ‘im, Nancy!” I’m from Nova Scotia but I absolutely love the Newfoundland accent.

Digital DJ Tips:

This past week, the first ever live DJ set from space took place. Using an iPad with djay Pro, European astronaut Luca Parmitano’s performance was beamed from the International Space Station straight to a cruise ship packed with ravers. Floating inside one of the ISS’s rooms, DJ Luca dropped a mix of EDM, hardstyle and uplifting (ahem) trance to an enthusiastic audience watching him from massive LED walls back on Earth.

This is amazing. Tiny detail I love is the velcro on the back of the iPad that Luca uses to keep his iPad from floating away.

Apple:

Apple Card, a new kind of credit card created by Apple and designed to help customers lead a healthier financial life, is available in the US starting today. Customers can apply for Apple Card through the Wallet app on iPhone in minutes and start using it right away with Apple Pay in stores, in apps and on websites. Built on simplicity, transparency and privacy, Apple Card has no fees, encourages customers to pay less interest, offers an easy-to-understand view of spending and provides a new level of privacy and security. This launch follows the Apple Card preview earlier this month, during which a limited number of customers were invited to apply early.

For qualifying customers, subject to credit approval.

In the footnotes:

Apple Pay is coming soon to Uber services like Uber Cash, Scheduled Rides and JUMP.

If you are in the US and have been spamming your Wallet app to no avail, try again now.

  • Launch the Wallet app
  • Tap the + in the upper right corner
  • Tap the Continue button on the bottom of the Apple Pay page
  • You should see an Apple Card item. Tap it. Off to the races.

I think Goldman Sachs Bank is going to be incredibly busy today.

This is both cool and significant. Start by watching the video in the embedded tweet:

These were created on a Mac using an app called EyeJack Creator. Imagine the possibilities.

On the art side, there are paths for animation and storytelling. And there is also the possibility of embedding hidden copyright information tied to a specific design.

There is also the possibility of tying hidden messages to a temporary tattoo, something akin to steganography. Very interesting.

Use Home Sharing on your Mac to share your media with your home, dorm, or office? Never heard of Home Sharing?

Either way, take a read of the linked article. Kirk McElhearn walks through the new Home Sharing interface coming with macOS Catalina.

Apple moves gambling app rating to 17+ globally, works with Republic of Korea to expand App Store

From an Apple developer email:

To ensure that our global age rating system continues to help make the App Store safe for kids, apps that feature Frequent/Intense Simulated Gambling will be rated 17+ in all countries and regions starting August 20, 2019.

And:

In an effort to open up additional opportunities for developers, we’ve worked with the government of the Republic of Korea on making more apps available on the App Store in the Republic of Korea.

Note that the Republic of Korea is the official name of what is commonly referred to as South Korea.

If your app meets at least one of the criteria below, you’ll be able to offer it on the App Store in the Republic of Korea to users 19 years of age or older.

And here are those criteria:

  • Apps in the Casino subcategory with age rating 17+
  • Apps in the Games or Entertainment categories with Frequent/Intense selected for at least one of the following content descriptions:
    • Simulated Gambling
    • Sexual Content or Nudity
    • Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or Reference
    • Realistic Violence
August 19, 2019

“The Morning Show” official trailer for Apple TV+

Following last week’s teaser trailer, Apple has posted this full length one.

Bare Bones Software, makers of BBEdit, is one of my favorite software companies — in fact, I’ve been using BBEdit for more than 20 years. BBEdit has just been updated to 12.6.6, and is available in the Mac App Store as a subscription! Same great features. Same user experience. You can subscribe in the Mac App Store or purchase perpetual licenses directly from Bare Bones Software. Also, you can still get great merch, including Classic and Rebus T-shirts, enamel pins, and more in their merch store!

This is impressive work. If you scroll down below all the genres, you’ll find:

Every Noise at Once is an ongoing attempt at an algorithmically-generated, readability-adjusted scatter-plot of the musical genre-space, based on data tracked and analyzed for 3,311 genre-shaped distinctions by Spotify as of 2019-08-16. The calibration is fuzzy, but in general down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.

If you are on a Mac browser, type command-F and enter a search term, like “rock”. That’ll make the page a bit easier to navigate.

Click a genre and you’ll hear a short example snippet. Once selected, click the chevron that appears on the right and you’ll dive in. Click Playlist (at the top) and you’ll get a Spotify playlist.

I’d love to see something like this for Apple Music. This’d be fantastic for music discovery.

First, follow the headline link to see the image. It’s interesting and, at first, I found it hard to believe.

But then I read this. Now I believe.

From the Manage your Apple Card account Apple Support document:

Apple Card is currently available only to customers participating in the Apple Card Preview.

A reminder, this is still Apple Card Preview times. Somewhat like a beta, but with more legal obligations. So if you are not getting the card invite, have patience. Some people are really getting riled up over this. Speaks to the compelling nature of both Apple Card and the ecosystem.

Credit limit increases are not currently supported.

If you tap the “…” button, then scroll to “Credit Details”, you’ll see your credit limit. Given that the vast majority of credit cards offer some mechanism to bump your credit limit, I’d expect this to change. Again, this is a beta period.

Only the account owner can currently use Apple Card. If a family member or friends wants to use Apple Card they will need to apply for Apple Card.

This last one is interesting. There’s an implication that you’ll be able to allow future Apple Cards for family members and friends, tied to your Apple ID. Lots of credit cards allow this as well. A great way to introduce your kids to the responsibilities and mechanics of credit cards.

I wonder if we’ll eventually see a business version of Apple Card.

Guilherme Rambo, 9to5Mac:

Apple is currently running an internal early access program for its employees, charging a small subscription of $0.49/mo, with one month free trial. It says the testing program ends with the launch of iOS 13.

Today, 9to5Mac was able to gain access to this Apple Arcade early testing program on the Mac App Store.

The $0.49 a month thing is interesting. I’m guessing they needed to test the billing mechanism as well as the games themselves, and the price worked for some reason. I don’t recall anything Apple ever shipped for less than $0.99. No matter, I can’t imagine that price won’t increase at least 10-fold.

Amber Neely, AppleInsider:

The whole ordeal takes just a couple of minutes provided you’ve got a computer handy. Be aware that to do this, know that you have to be migrating from a Spotify Premium account —it isn’t possible to copy over from the free tier.

If you are making the move from Spotify Premium to Apple Music and have playlists you’d like to take with you, this seems worth reading. Another path to consider is the iOS app SongShift (free, with in-app-purchase).

I’d love to be able to tap on a Spotify playlist link and have it just play in Apple Music. Never gonna happen, I realize, but that’s the dream.

UPDATE: Another service to try – Tune My Music. Converts pretty much anything. Nice. [H/T @pinkoos]

August 18, 2019

BoingBoing:

Sumana Harihareswara writes, “The Abstractions tech conference (Aug 21-23, in Pittsburgh) doesn’t tell attendees this before they buy a ticket, but attendance requires you wear their wristband with an embedded tracking chip — and that you don’t take it off at night or in the shower till the conference ends.

Organizers haven’t addressed privacy, health, physical safety, and inclusivity concerns that registered attendees raised privately earlier this month, so Jason Owen is blogging about the issue in hopes of getting them to modify their policy.”

If Macworld Expo had tried this BS back in the day, there would have been a lot fewer people at Macworld Expo.

Engadget:

Formula 1 is no longer about brute horsepower and the smell of gasoline. Since its ’80s and ’90s heydays, F1 has transformed into a greener, safer and more technologically advanced sport. Cars are now powered by the most efficient and complex hybrid gasoline/electric motors in the world.

The rules and complexity of F1 are putting off fans, but it’s the costs that are especially challenging for a mid-tier team like Renault.

I may be looking at the Formula 1 of my childhood through rose-coloured glasses but I don’t find the sport nearly as interesting or exciting to watch as when I was a kid. It must be hard for the vast majority of drivers to know for a certainty they have zero chance of making the podium on a race weekend.

August 17, 2019

MacStories:

We touched on most of this year’s changes to iOS in our iOS 13 overview earlier this summer, but one feature that has mostly flown under the radar is the debut of Activity Trends.

True to its name, Activity Trends is a new way to monitor the progression of your daily activity over time. The feature is exposed via a new tab in Apple’s Activity app in iOS 13, and it breaks down your activity over the last 90 days compared to the previous 365.

I’m really looking forward to playing around with this data.

August 16, 2019

Apple is being sued by two customers who argue that when they signed up for iCloud services, it did not properly disclose that their information could be stored on third-party cloud services. Thereby, it commited breach of contract, false advertising and violated California’s Unfair Competition Law.

I feel like this is just another reason to go after Apple and hopefully score. What I expect from Apple is complete privacy and security with its cloud services. As far as I can tell, they are still providing me with that. I’m happy.

Amazon.com Inc on Friday defeated an appeal by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in what the online retailer has called a $1.5 billion dispute over its tax treatment of transactions with a Luxembourg subsidiary.

Tax laws are so bloody confusing.