December 6, 2019

CNET:

When you buy a new lightbulb, you know that it’s energy efficient and will last for a while because of an Energy Star label on the package. But when you buy an internet-connected lightbulb, there’s almost no way of telling if it’s secure from hackers.

Underwriters Laboratories, the electronics safety organization, is looking to fix that by introducing security ratings for internet-of-things devices. UL is known for its safety standards certifications for products, ensuring, for instance, that the charger you bought online isn’t a counterfeit that’ll set your house on fire.

Now UL wants to set the security standard for cybersecurity threats — a notorious issue for IoT devices.

I’m betting nothing actually gets done until there is a major security breach.

The Dalrymple Report: Billie Eilish, Activation Lock, and MacBook Pro

Thanksgiving is over and Dave and I are back at it. From Billie Eilish to MacBook Pros shutting down, we talk about a variety of topics and have our usual amount of fun doing it.

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The “I’m a Mac” Microsoft spoof that opened WWDC back in 2007

This is how 2007’s WWDC opened. Pretty great stuff, especially if you loved the “I’m a Mac ad campaign”. Stick around to the end when Steve brings up Intel’s CEO.

Just in case you didn’t know you can do this, here’s the how-to on creating folders on your Apple TV. It’s intuitive, once you’ve done this in iOS.

Jeff Benjamin’s video review of the 16-inch MacBook Pro

I generally enjoy Jeff Benjamin’s video reviews, have posted a number of them here. But this one really struck me, mostly because of Jeff’s reaction to the new MacBook keyboard, and his take on the old one.

If you are not into unboxing, skip to 2:50 for the machine itself. Good stuff, Jeff, makes me want one.

Amazing how an autograph can transform the value of a piece of memorabilia. Interestingly, if the memorabilia itself is valuable, a signature can actually lower the price.

Some good pics in the post.

Been playing around with the new version this morning. Nicely done, lotta fun.

Had to force the update by hand (reminder, the App Store update tab is gone, tap your account pic in the upper right corner to get to updates).

December 5, 2019

HairLove

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

AppleInsider:

Apple has said that the iPhone 11 family is using location data to regulate Ultra Wideband emissions, but is not collecting the data, and everything is being done on-device.

Apple has issued a statement to AppleInsider and other venues in response to security researcher Brian Krebs discovering that the iPhone 11 Pro appears to periodically utilize its GPS module to gather location data in the face of user wishes.

Krebs was unable to replicate the potential security issue on an iPhone 8 —which makes sense now, given Apple’s statement about UWB management.

As is so often the case, the media set its hair on fire over this issue instead of simply waiting for a reasonable response from Apple.

Introducing “The Deep Sea” – an interactive visualization of the ocean

Agarwal has done it again – created a website that compels you to keep clicking and clicking and clicking. Great stuff.

First things first, take a look at this article from iFixit, provocatively titled, Apple’s Activation Lock Will Make It Very Difficult to Refurbish Macs.

Every month, thousands of perfectly good iPhones are shredded instead of being put into the hands of people who could really use them. Why? Two words: Activation Lock. And Macs are its next victim.

“We receive four to six thousand locked iPhones per month,” laments Peter Schindler, founder and owner of The Wireless Alliance, a Colorado-based electronics recycler and refurbisher. Those iPhones, which could easily be refurbished and put back into circulation, “have to get parted out or scrapped,” all because of this anti-theft feature.

That’s an astonishing number. Four to six thousand locked iPhone a month? Wow!

My immediate reaction was, where do these phones come from? How is it possible that so many people didn’t take the time to wipe/unlock their phones before they turned them in. Just wondering what percentage of these phones are stolen.

From the article:

“People don’t realize that if you don’t properly reset your device, that phone is effectively bricked once you send it to me,” Schindler explains. “They’re just not thinking through the steps, or don’t connect the fact that [Find My iPhone] is a permanent, neverending lock on the phone. They think, ‘Oh, well, I turned the phone off, Find My iPhone must be turned off too.’ They don’t associate it with bricking the phone.”

And that leads to this comment from Walt Mossberg:

My two cents: Activation Lock is not the villain here. Lack of education is the villain.

If the recycling company made unlocking the phone part of the process of accepting a phone, this would be a non-issue. Every link in the chain of getting the phone from the user to the recycler needs to push this back up the chain, make sure every phone that leaves a user’s hands is unlocked, as a matter of course.

This is a great, detailed look at Time Machine and how it has evolved over time. Especially important is how Time Machine deals with the challenges of each new macOS X release, especially with the introduction of APFS and Catalina’s Volume Groups.

If you depend on Time Machine, take a few minutes to read this.

Caught red-handed by a pinging Apple Watch. Amazing.

Hollywood Reporter:

Billie Eilish’s big 2019 is culminating as she nears a deal with Apple TV+ for a documentary that comes with a $25 million price tag, according to multiple sources.

The film, which has already been shot, was directed by R.J. Cutler and produced in collaboration with Eilish’s label, Interscope Records, for a budget that one source pegs as being between $1 million and $2 million. It is expected to follow the 17-year-old singer-songwriter in the wake of the release of her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, in March of this year. Cutler was granted deep access to Eilish’s private moments with family and behind-the-scenes of her public appearances.

Last night, Billie Eilish did a show at Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater, broadcast live via the Music app. Eilish expressed her appreciation for Apple several times during the show. They’ve been behind her since the beginning. I suspect this documentary will draw a wide audience.

Last night’s concert was beautifully produced, the sound and visuals crisp and clear. Eilish and her brother were engaging, clearly comfortable in the setting. Apple did a terrific job bringing this together, making it easy to watch.

I hope we see many more of these shows. If you missed last night’s performance, fire up your Music app and look around for Billie Eilish Live at the Steve Jobs Theater. It’s pretty heavily promoted, should be easy to find.

Tip: If you’re watching on your phone and don’t see the video, turn your phone sideways.

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Goldman Sachs has confirmed that it is working with credit bureau TransUnion to begin reporting Apple Card information, informing cardholders that they will see full details on their credit report within the next five days. This includes the date the Apple Card account is opened, credit balance, payment status, and more.

In other words, like any other credit card, the way you use your Apple Card can now have an impact on your credit score.

Apple Card slowly adds aspects of “normal” credit cards. But this is a good thing. Consider that “normal” credit cards will never be tightly integrated with macOS/iOS.

My opinion, no reason not to get one. There’s no fee, and you can simply use it for the 3% discount on whatever monthly services you get, hardware purchases you make from Apple.

December 4, 2019

Here’s how we made our car invisible to cops

The New York to Los Angeles Cannonball Record is now an insane 27.5 hours. Now, there’s no way any of us would ever condone doing such a thing but that’s still pretty “cool” in a completely illegal kind of way.

One Zero:

Many of the smaller, more “independent” online reviewers aren’t just trying to give you their honest opinions about the latest gadget or video game. They’re also increasingly acting as frontline salespeople for the very product they’re covering. They earn commissions from direct sales referrals thanks to affiliate links.

It’s a broken system.

When a critic posts an affiliate link for a product they’re reviewing, they’re now earning money directly from the sales of the thing you’re supposed to trust them to evaluate. That’s a big, obvious ethical issue.

I’m not as hardcore as the author but I also don’t do reviews as much as he does. There’s no doubt affiliate links blur or erase the lines of propriety. Sites like Wirecutter, which I like, are built almost solely on affiliate links. Other sites purport to show you the “Top 70 iPhone 11 Pro Max Cases!” but are just a way for the writer to squeeze in 70 Amazon affiliate links. It waters down your trust in the objectivity of the site when everything they post has Amazon affiliate links instead of links to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

GQ:

For much of the year, climbing Everest is an impossible idea. But each May the roaring jet stream that torments the mountain subsides just enough to allow alpinists a shot at reaching the top. Should the weather suddenly turn, the results are often deadly.

On May 22—the day before Grubhofer reached the top—a long line near the summit had already begun to form. One of those pinned in the throng was a Nepali climber named Nirmal Purja. That morning, Purja snapped a photo of the chaos. The picture showed a near unprecedented traffic jam on the popular southern side: a column of hundreds of climbers snaking along the knifelike summit ridge toward the Hillary Step, the last obstacle before the top, packed jacket-to-jacket as if they were queued up for a ski lift in Vail. The image rocketed around the world and, as the events on the mountain were still developing, raised an urgent question: What the hell is going on atop Mount Everest?

I’m glad I’m nowhere near fit enough or interested enough or wealthy enough to try to climb Everest.

Mike Judge, creator of Silicon Valley and a bunch of other shows, in a New York Post interview:

Steve Jobs didn’t build anything. The fact that an iPhone right now is what a Cray supercomputer was in 1993, and it’s all due to some hardware innovations.

This is a tiny nugget from an interesting interview. At its core, the comment is that Steve Jobs gets the credit for what was built by many other people, many of whom got little credit/publicity.

I’ve heard this argument countless times, applied to Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc. While there is truth to the statement that the hands that formed the iPhone, that designed all the prototypes, came up with the software keyboard and proposed those countless innovations that you hold in your hand did not belong to Steve Jobs, it is thoughtless to discount Steve’s role in changing the world.

Apple posted the linked support document (the headline is its actual title) in response to reported shutdowns for some users.

In my opinion, this is how Apple should respond to all such issues. Get the response up there quickly, put out the word to funnel users to that document. Perfect.

Krebs On Security:

One of the more curious behaviors of Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is that it intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data. Apple says this is by design, but that response seems at odds with the company’s own privacy policy.

and:

“We do not see any actual security implications,” an Apple engineer wrote in a response to KrebsOnSecurity. “It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled. The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings” [emphasis added].

There’s been a lot of discussion since this piece dropped. At its core, there seem to be system services that use Location Services without a Settings switch to disable that usage.

Grain of salt time. Interesting that this seems to be specific to the iPhone 11 Pro, and not occurring in earlier models. Seems to me that Apple should address this with a technical note or some added verbiage in the Location Services documentation.

Fascinating piece on Roger McNamee, who made his fortune backing a ton of big companies at their earliest stages (just one example, invested more than $200M in Facebook two years before it went public) and has now switched sides.

Part of an email McNamee sent to Zuckerberg and Sandberg days before the 2016 election:

Recently, Facebook has done some things that are truly horrible and I can no longer excuse its behavior… Facebook is enabling people to do harm. It has the power to stop the harm. What it currently lacks is an incentive to do so.

Great read/listen.

Short, interesting read on a curtain people disappear behind when they go to work for Apple.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

Apple News is expanding its mail notifications with a new ‘Good Morning’ daily newsletter. Previously, users could opt in to receive email alerts from Apple News about select featured stories. The company appears to be formalizing that into a regular daily newsletter.

Apple says it will bring top news, analysis, and fascinating features every morning, collating the ‘best stories from the most trusted sources’.

I get the idea here, good path for Apple News to solidify its relationship with subscribers. But…

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to manage email notification settings inside the News app. If you are receiving Good Morning emails and would like to opt-out, or if you want to sign up, for now the easiest way is through Apple ID settings.

To opt out:

  • Go to appleid.apple.com.
  • Log in with the account associated with your email address.
  • Scroll down to the ‘Messages from Apple’ section.
  • Uncheck the box for ‘Apple News updates’.

My two cents, the lack of an unsubscribe link, or at least clear unsubscribe instructions is a mistake. Put the unsubscribe link inside the newsletter, at the bottom. Like everyone else does.

If you make it difficult to unsubscribe, you are building a false base of subscribers, and eroding your relationship with your users. And these users have taken a chance on Apple News. Treat them well.

UPDATE: Interestingly, some people are reporting an unsubscribe link at the bottom of their emails, others not seeing it. Hopefully, this is simply an error and the unsubscribe link was the intent all along.

December 3, 2019

With Alphabet now well-established, and Google and the Other Bets operating effectively as independent companies, it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure. We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President. Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. He will be the executive responsible and accountable for leading Google, and managing Alphabet’s investment in our portfolio of Other Bets. We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!

That’s a pretty big move by the co-founders, but probably the right one.

The #ReindeerBus is back, lighting up the streets of Metro Vancouver

Please tell me other cities have an equivalent to our Reindeer city bus.

I’m excited to share the news that Black Ink 2 has shipped and is available for immediate download both on the Black Ink home page and from the Mac App Store. As promised, customers who purchased a license to Black Ink 1 on or after January 1, 2018, are entitled to a free upgrade to Black Ink 2. Customers who purchased Black Ink 1 in 2017 or earlier are entitled to a discounted upgrade price.

Black Ink 2.0 is a huge update to the app, featuring a massive overhaul of the puzzle-solving window, support for new accessibility features, and at long last, Dark Mode support for macOS 10.14.

There are a lot of great new features in this version of the app from one of my favorite developers.

The film will explore alleged sexual misconduct in the music industry, following a former music executive who struggles with whether or not to go public with her story of assault and abuse by a notable music industry executive.

I’m glad to see Apple is tackling this story—it needs to be told.

In a statement, the film’s director, writer, and producer George Nolfi, as well as cast members such as Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult, Nia Long, and other key talent say they stand by the film and “its positive message of empowerment.” While expressing sympathy for Cynthia Garrett, they note that the film is not based on the memories of Garrett’s children, but on interviews with Garrett himself, as well as transcripts, court rulings, and articles.

I was really looking forward to this film, but I certainly understand Apple delaying the release to investigate the claims by Cynthia Garrett. It’s still unclear what will happen, or how long the investigation will take.

John Denver sings Country Roads in minor key

Just for comparison, here’s the original version of this iconic song, most definitely in a celebratory major key.

With that as context, take a listen to the reworked version below. I find it amazing how well this one works, and the fact that someone was able to make the pitch changes to the original to make this possible.