July 16, 2019

Snippet: The “Almost” Device ☍

Niko Kitsakis:

The other users of iPads I see are the occasional old man on the train and, of course, toddlers. The former thinks he’s being young and hip and the latter can’t hold a real game controller in his hands yet. I have never ever seen anybody use an iPad – or any other tablet – to do what I consider real work: writing, design, calculation, science, engineering… you name it. And no, people on stage at tech conferences with proofs of concept don’t count. Nor does using it for a couple of hours a month.

While there are some good points brought up in this article, I think the vast number of pro-iPad articles out there are mainly to show the neat things that people are doing on these devices. It’s no different than every obscure computing platform in the 1980s having its own group of fans. iOS is my main operating system for work without another computer anywhere near my desk. It’s nice that things are scalable from my phone to a larger device (12.9″ iPad Pro) and jumping on a random Mac or PC feels out of place and inconsistent. I also think there’s room for all sorts of devices and workflows, but for me, I prefer iOS and how it lets me focus on the task at hand.

…Like I said: I certainly see the iPad in the future of computing but it is not the be-all and end-all of computing. It’s a nice device for certain limited tasks that works best in conjuncture with a “big” computer. The sheer fact that access to the file system is something of an afterthought (the crippled “Files” app, released seven years after the iPad) tells you everything you need to know about the real scope of the device. And don’t even get me started on the topic of not being able to freely install applications from any source you like.

Even at home, a “big” computer is something that I could probably ditch at this point, but lower resale value and never knowing what the future holds are the reasons I’m keeping it around at this point. While I’m looking forward to USB drive support and SMB server support in iOS iPadOS 13, the lack of full file system access hasn’t been a detriment. I suspect if I was the kind of person who was regularly dealing with large quantities of files, I’d probably still want a Mac or PC, even after iPadOS 13. Finding the best tool for the job is important and mine happens to have a touchscreen.

July 9, 2019

Snippet: MacBook Air Price Cut, Entry-Level MacBook Pro Updated, MacBook Dead ☍

Apple:

Apple today updated MacBook Air, adding True Tone to its Retina display for a more natural viewing experience, and lowering the price to $1,099, with an even lower price of $999 for college students. In addition, the entry-level $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro has been updated with the latest 8th-generation quad-core processors, making it two times more powerful than before. It also now features Touch Bar and Touch ID, a True Tone Retina display and the Apple T2 Security Chip, and is available for $1,199 for college students.

Missing from the press release and now Apple’s web site are the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Air, which appear to be discontinued. It appears that Apple is taking some positive steps to simplify the portable Mac lineup.

Snippet: Vulnerability in the Mac Zoom Client Allows Access to Camera ☍

Jonathan Leitschuh:

This vulnerability allows any website to forcibly join a user to a Zoom call, with their video camera activated, without the user’s permission.

On top of this, this vulnerability would have allowed any webpage to DOS (Denial of Service) a Mac by repeatedly joining a user to an invalid call.

Additionally, if you’ve ever installed the Zoom client and then uninstalled it, you still have a localhost web server on your machine that will happily re-install the Zoom client for you, without requiring any user interaction on your behalf besides visiting a webpage. This re-install ‘feature’ continues to work to this day.

Yikes. There’s plenty of criticism about how Apple has made the Mac more iOS-like, but things like this demonstrate why locking down certain aspects of the platform and denying permission to some system resources may not be a bad idea. Fortunately, at the end of the post, there are instructions to mitigate some of the issues.

July 2, 2019

Snippet: So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend ☍

This has been a summer of mostly dull, often depressing technology news, and the Women’s World Cup has been a delight. Since I can put whatever I want on this site, I thought this essay was worth a read if you’ve been paying any attention to the USWNT, Megan Rapinoe, or just want a fun read.

Sue Bird for The Players’ Tribune:

I’m back!! I was done, I swear!! No, really, I SWEAR. Last year I broke my nose, and then I wrote about it, and then I seriously did think that was going to be it for me in the writing game. I remember telling my editor here something like, “It would take the President of the United States going on a hate-filled Twitter spree trolling my girlfriend while she was putting American soccer, women’s sports, equal pay, gay pride and TRUE LOVE on her back, all at once, scoring two majestic goals to lead Team USA to a thrilling victory over France and a place in the World Cup SEMIFINALS, for me to ever even think about writing again.” But I’m a woman of my word. So here I am.

Snippet: Say No to Convenience Store Facial Recognition ☍

Tristan Greene for The Next Web:

A convenience store in Tacoma has installed a facial recognition security system to deny customers entry unless they’re approved by an AI. This news has likely been well-received by the city’s discrimination attorneys. […]

The store in question, Jackson’s Food Store in Tacoma, appears to be aware of the privacy concerns surrounding the use of such products. It issued a statement assuring the community it won’t sell or share the data, but didn’t address the technology’s problems recognizing non-white faces.

I have problems with this for two reasons: AI is inherently racist right now (even as mentioned in the main article), and I’m not sure I really trust a convenience store chain with my privacy. Both feel like a losing battle already, but if consumers wholesale reject the technology, maybe we can defeat it. Fortunately, we have choices right now, but this seems like one of those half-baked “technology will fix everything by just existing” moves.