July 10, 2018

Link: Smart TVs Still Suck ☍

Sapna Maheshwari for The New York Times (via Nick Heer):

Still, David Kitchen, a software engineer in London, said he was startled to learn how Samba TV worked after encountering its opt-in screen during a software update on his Sony Bravia set.

The opt-in read: “Interact with your favorite shows. Get recommendations based on the content you love. Connect your devices for exclusive content and special offers. By cleverly recognizing onscreen content, Samba Interactive TV lets you engage with your TV in a whole new way.” […]

“The thing that really struck me was this seems like quite an enormous ask for what seems like a silly, trivial feature,” Mr. Kitchen said. “You appear to opt into a discovery-recommendation service, but what you’re really opting into is pervasive monitoring on your TV.” […]

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said few people review the fine print in their zeal to set up new televisions. He said the notice should also describe Samba TV’s “device map,” which matches TV content to mobile gadgets, according to a document on its website, and can help the company track users “in their office, in line at the food truck and on the road as they travel.”

With their horrible interfaces, software support that fades after a few years, and just general user hostility, I hate smart TVs. Give me nice picture quality and a few HDMI inputs and I’ll add my own device to stream content (lately, it’s been an Apple TV). If the day comes that I have to replace a TV and it has some sort of smart capabilities, I don’t think I’d be welcoming it onto my home network. The lack of accountability going on behind these sloppy interfaces is maddening.

In case you were wondering about the title, it’s a sequel.

June 9, 2018

Link: WWDC 2018 Idle Thoughts ☍

Gabe Weatherhead:

In all truth, I feel much better about my status as an Apple fan after the 2018 keynote. In many ways, it felt like an acknowledgement of two major categories of buyers: The young and the old. It’s fine to joke about MeMoji and the silliness of 32 person FaceTime parties but that’s the stuff that will pull in younger users. There are very few 11 year olds that want sudo access to their shell. But then we get things like dark mode and audio APIs for the watch. That’s clearly targeting us old crusty folks that like to shake sticks at things.

Any time that Apple introduces some new, “fun” features to iOS, a lot of tech writers complain that it doesn’t appeal to them, so it’s a sign the company is unfocused and missing a step. Instead, Apple is finding ways to engage everyone, which has always been a goal for the company.

Link: On Paying for Software ☍

Seth Godin:

I like paying for my software when I’m buying it from a company that’s responsive, fast and focused. I like being the customer (as opposed to a social network, where I’m the product). I spend most of my day working with tools that weren’t even in science fiction novels twenty-five years ago, and the money I spend on software is a bargain–doing this work without it is impossible.

If I had a dollar for the times someone I knew proudly proclaimed that they only use free apps, I’d probably have enough money to quit my day job. Somehow, even for a few dollars, the majority of people don’t value quality software and would rather have annoying ads and privacy issues. For me, I’ll gladly spend a few dollars to try a promising app that was made with great care, and there are some companies that get a purchase from me no matter. In those cases, I’m a fan of their other works and want to support their business (not to mention, I’ll usually find a use for said product).

June 6, 2018

Link: Why a DNA Data Breach is Much Worse Than a Credit Card Leak ☍

Angela Chen for The Verge:

This week, DNA testing service MyHeritage revealed that hackers had breached 92 million of its accounts. Though the hackers only accessed encrypted emails and passwords — so they never reached the actual genetic data — there’s no question that this type of hack will happen more frequently as consumer genetic testing becomes more and more popular. So why would hackers want DNA information specifically? And what are the implications of a big DNA breach? […]

As the Equifax hack last year showed, there’s a lack of legislation governing what happens to data from a breach. And ultimately, a breach of genetic data is much more serious than most credit breaches. Genetic information is immutable: Vigna points out that it’s possible to change credit card numbers or even addresses, but genetic information cannot be changed. And genetic information is often shared involuntarily. “Even if I don’t use 23andMe, I have cousins who did, so effectively I may be genetically searchable,” says Ram. In one case, an identical twin having her genetic data sequenced created a tricky situation for her sister.

When all these “send us your DNA and we’ll tell you about yourself” services popped up, I was skeptical for a number of reasons, one being the overall lack of concern as a culture for any kind of data breaches. While leaked credit card information is frustrating, my issuers have been good about getting me replacements and not holding me liable. Social security numbers and now DNA are much more permanent and the Equifax hack has proven that nobody seems to care if your social security number is out there. Why would DNA be any different?

May 12, 2018

Article: Replacing AirPort with UniFi

Apple’s AirPort routers practically brought the idea of Wi-Fi to the masses, along with the original iBook. There were other manufacturers working on the idea and standard (early AirPort routers actually used a Lucent PC Card for their hardware), but back in 1999, it felt futuristic and the UFO design of the early models was downright cool. After years of neglect, Apple discontinued the AirPort line of products, leaving some wondering what to do now…