December 9, 2017

Link: Mark Crump’s iPad Pro Usage Post-MacBook Pro Purchase ☍

Mark Crump:

Fraser Speirs — a long-time iPad-only advocate — is leaning towards getting another MacBook Pro. Fraser is famous for a piece he wrote about going iPad-only entitled: Can the MacBook Pro Replace Your iPad? It was an interesting reverse take on the whole “Can your iPad replace your laptop” argument that is bandied about.

I am both glad and disheartened to hear this. I was glad because it’s easy to get into a situation where taking a stance on something like going iPad-only is tough to back off from. Your identity can be wrapped up in “that guy who went iPad-only”. Inevitably, you hear from all the people who gave you grief about it two years ago with an extra helping of “told you so.” So, being able to publicly and critically assess whether a tool works for you, and change course if it isn’t, is a good trait. It’s disheartening that Fraser feels that iOS 11 doesn’t meet his needs anymore and he needs to use a Mac again.

Regular readers know I mostly use iOS for both personal and work tasks, but I’m not afraid to admit when I have to reach for a Mac or PC. I considered going back to a Mac at work for improved speed on some tasks, but after digging my old Mac out of the loaner pile, I found that things felt a bit awkward and cumbersome. Apparently I had retrained myself to be faster in iOS. Still, Crump’s argument that being able to reasses your tools is important, and the rest of his article is a good read.

Link: DirecTV’s Price Hikes ☍

Chris Mills for BGR:

2017 has been a standout year for cord-cutting. In July, August, and September, cord-cutters set a new record for ditching traditional pay-TV, with an estimated 1.2 million people ditching their cable or satellite subscription in those three months alone.

So how is AT&T, one of the biggest providers of cable and owner of satellite service DirecTV, going to deal with this existential threat? By raising prices, of course.

[…]Depending on what package DirecTV subscribers have, the price increase on the plan will be anywhere from $2 to $8. Some areas are also getting a hike of up to $1 on the “Regional Sports Fee,” a neat way of charging customers twice for the content they’re paying for.

The article also mentions possible DirecTV Now price increases, despite some quirks and bugs and no DVR even a year after launch. While I generally like the service, something tells me that AT&T will find a way to ruin it or morph it into something that looks even more like regular pay TV. As for traditional DirecTV, the way to keep people on a service that is losing customers is to raise prices, obviously.

Link: Go90’s Future Questionable ☍

Sahil Patel for Digiday:

The Go90 team has hit pause on original-content spending as Verizon works out kinks in the aftermath of its Oath merger and the Go90 team tries to establish a budget for the coming year, according to multiple sources. Go90 executives are still taking pitches — and were buying new shows as recently as September — but it’s unclear how Go90 will fit into Verizon’s growing digital media portfolio going forward, sources said. When asked whether Go90 would exist under Oath, the digital media entity that houses AOL and Yahoo, or some other Verizon business unit, one source said it’s “literally being worked out as we speak. But these things take time.”

Launched a little over two years ago, Go90 started out as an ad-supported streaming video platform offering a mix of short- and mid-form original series from top digital media companies and talent, libraries of existing digital and TV programming, and live sports, thanks to Verizon’s deals with various sports leagues. Between buying content and marketing the service, Verizon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in total — with little audience to show for it so far.

Let me preface this commentary with my own bias explained—as a company, I’m not a fan of many things Verizon has done:locking features and custom firmware on dumbphones back in the 2000s, doing a lousy job of rolling out fiber to some neighborhoods, their response to not having an iPhone with dumb ads for their Droid-branded devices, brainwashing customers that any other provider is going to be Swiss cheese coverage everywhere, and this new shift to try to be a media company by buying up Yahoo and AOL and creating a new advertising-centric company called Oath. Oh, I almost forgot that they also employed the guy trying to kill net neutrality.

While Go90 is serviceable as a platform, there’s not a whole lot of compelling content (I only use it for NWSL games…Go Reign!), nor is there an Apple TV app, so the games I watched went from being on YouTube to a service that required me to fuss with AirPlay. That’s not necessarily Go90’s fault, but if you want to be a major player for streaming, you need both mobile and streaming box apps (Amazon could get away without it, but few realistically can). At this point, Go90 needs both content and the care to make it feel like it should be competing with the big kids of video streaming.

December 1, 2017

Link: The Real Net Neutrality Battle ☍

Michael Tsai provided quite a bit of coverage of others writing about the net neutrality battle, but there is one point that really struck me in his commentary:

I don’t find this very convincing, either. I don’t see how the repeal would incentivize Comcast to upgrade my local infrastructure or make it possible for another ISP to compete with them. Frankly, I don’t think the fight is about helping those of us in rural areas with little competition. It’s primarily a struggle between two different groups of large companies, the ISPs and carriers vs. the tech giants who fill their bandwidth.

And that’s the bigger issue at hand—there’s plenty of rural places where the only option is some sort of terrible DSL connection and companies like CenturyLink or AT&T aren’t going to go out of their way to improve that. Furthermore, even if you have multiple choices, it’s often between some sort of large telephone company operating some flavor of DSL product and a cable company operating their service. To a company like Comcast, AT&T maxing out at 12-18Mbps in some places doesn’t even register as competition.

I’m fortunate (?) to have 25Mbps AT&T or however fast I want to pay from Comcast, but there are days when it’s really who’s less terrible. I think that’s the sadder aspect of our ISP situation, there may not be a particularly great choice and there are only rare instances where people will talk about how much they love their ISP. That needs to change.

November 29, 2017

Link: Major macOS High Sierra Bug Allows Full Admin Access Without Password ☍

Juli Clover for MacRumors:

There appears to be a serious bug in macOS High Sierra that enables the root superuser on a Mac with a blank password and no security check.

The bug, discovered by developer Lemi Ergin, lets anyone log into an admin account using the username “root” with no password. This works when attempting to access an administrator’s account on an unlocked Mac, and it also provides access at the login screen of a locked Mac.

This bug is particularly concerning and I’m really curious how this happened. I’m baffled that this made it in the wild and it not only needs to be fixed immediately. In the meantime, Apple has posted a fix, which is to enable the root account and set a password.

Update: It’s been patched, so you can go grab the update and install without even restarting. Furthermore, John Gruber shares word from an Apple spokesperson and summarizes the situation nicely:

Security is a top priority for every Apple product, and regrettably we stumbled with this release of macOS.

When our security engineers became aware of the issue Tuesday afternoon, we immediately began working on an update that closes the security hole. This morning, as of 8:00 a.m., the update is available for download, and starting later today it will be automatically installed on all systems running the latest version (10.13.1) of macOS High Sierra.

We greatly regret this error and we apologize to all Mac users, both for releasing with this vulnerability and for the concern it has caused. Our customers deserve better. We are auditing our development processes to help prevent this from happening again.

Quick turnaround, and a strong apology. The bug never should have happened, but given that it did, you couldn’t ask for a better, faster response. To my memory, this is only the second time Apple has used MacOS’s automatic — that is to say, non-optional — update mechanism. The other was the NTP Security Update in 2014, that affected Mac OS X 10.8 through 10.10.