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January 17, 2020

Snippet: How to Control Your Apple TV with a TiVo Remote ☍

With all the complaints about the Apple TV remote and introduction of the Salt remote, a discussion of alternatives has come up. One of the lesser-known features going back to at least the second-generation Apple TV has been the ability to have the Apple TV “learn” IR signals from any remote (as opposed to the remote learning for a particular device). This has allowed people to repurpose remotes from long-dead TVs, old cable boxes, satellite receivers, or anything else that uses IR signals. Obviously, the remote would have to be from a device not in service so you’re not firing off commands at the Apple TV and the device at the same time.

As the TiVo remote is often considered the gold-standard of remote design (comfort, layout, functionality), why not pair one with an Apple TV? After a little exchange on Twitter, Matt Haughey picked one up and did an excellent how-to:

It all started with the story of a swiss company making a better Apple TV remote, and what a bummer when I learned you couldn’t get one in the US. A few weeks later I tweeted about a new set-top box being developed by TiVo, and how much I wanted one just to use that great peanut remote again, and how much I hated the Apple TV default remote when someone said you can just pair and program a TiVo remote to an Apple TV and get the best of both worlds. So that’s what I did.

Personally, I’ve found the Apple TV remote to be adequate, but have had mine in an Elago R1 case since I purchased it. This has solved the symmetry problem (strap end is always away from the TV), protected it, and the magnets inside have allowed it to stick on the side of one of my tables.

January 15, 2020

Snippet: The Problem with Back Doors ☍

David Sparks:

Apple has landed in the soup again with the U.S. Justice Department over its inability (or refusal?) to give access to the Pensacola shooter’s phone. This is a similar issue to that faced with the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone a few years ago. Apple makes the iPhone with the intention of securing user data, even from Apple itself. There is an ongoing cat and mouse game where hackers find vulnerabilities and Apple plugs them but the goal, on Apple’s end at least, is that the only people who see what’s on your iPhone is you. […]

I don’t believe this is something where we just go along with the government’s desire for yet another privacy invasion for all of us. Such a back door in the hands of a bad actor, or an oppressive state, is something I don’t want to think about too long. Furthermore, if such a back door were installed, the terrorists and sophisticated criminals would simply move to some other platform and still have secured communications and data, while the rest of us no longer do.

I sympathize with law enforcement for wanting access to this data. I worked briefly in the criminal justice system and I know how maddening it would be to know you have a magic envelope with evidence in it and no way to open that envelope. I just think the sacrifice involved with creating a back door is too much to ask.

I haven’t wanted to link to anything about this, not because I don’t care or think it is important, but there is already a lot of coverage. I feel like the argument for back doors is a threat to privacy, security, and freedom for the sake of catching the boogeyman. From there, I start thinking of all the ways this could be abused and data breaches caused by inept developers seem trivial. Sparks has a level-headed analysis on the matter, and the whole piece is worth a read.

The whole thing is obviously not about unlocking a few select iPhones, but turning public opinion. As Sparks mentioned, if this avenue dries up, those doing illegal things would probably move to another platform or system, leaving us with crippled devices. Just as in the past, the risk/reward argument doesn’t seem to come into play for those who want a master key into our lives.

January 11, 2020

Snippet: What We’re Not Saying by Supporting Encryption ☍

Matt Birchler:

I feel like my entire teenage and adult life has had an undertone of people trying to scare me into giving up any semblance of privacy.

I was in high school on 9/11 and remember The Patriot Act was instituted with near unanimous support just a month after that tragic day, and patriotism was used as the justification for mass surveillance (see the Enhanced Surveillance Procedures part of the law, specifically). It was “patriotic” to support this sort of thing, and I remember as a then-registered-Republican thinking, “I have nothing to hide, so I’m not worried about this.” Older me has changed a lot from that kid…

Normally, I won’t quote this much of a post, but Birchler’s comments need to be included in full (and they’re only a few sentences, go through the link to check out the source article). I’ve heard the nothing-to-hide argument time and time again, and while I’m not up to anything illegal, I still don’t want anyone to have the ability to just go through my stuff on a whim—there’s too many ways this could easily be abused outside of legal warrant/search processes (even if it never left Apple). Too many times, the argument against encryption or for some sort of magical, only-the-good-guys-can-use-it backdoor comes up after a mass shooting. The people arguing for these kinds of things clearly have no idea how technology works and the Pandora’s Box that could open.

January 10, 2020

Snippet: The One Remaining Use of the Word ‘Macintosh’ ☍

Adam Engst:

Some weeks ago, I was struck by the thought that Apple had almost entirely managed to scrub its corporate communications of the word “Macintosh.” It’s not surprising, of course, but I was curious if the company had slipped up anywhere. To find out, I put together a complex Google search that focused on just Apple sites, eliminating those which host third-party content like discussions.apple.com. It also eliminates pages pointing at technical specifications for old products, a page listing obsolete products, and a spurious link to the Wikipedia page on HyperCard that somehow got an apple.com URL.

My search confirmed my initial hunch that there is only one official remaining use of the word “Macintosh” by today’s Apple: the default “Macintosh HD” name of the internal drive on a new Mac. Many Mac users personalize that name immediately, although less experienced Mac users often don’t realize they’re allowed to change it. (If you’ve never done it, just click the name once to select it and a second time to start editing it, just like a file or folder.)

I love that this still exists and many people don’t even notice or see it. As many Macs have solid state drives, the “HD” portion and icon add to the anachronism further. I used to come up with cool names for my boot drives, but my current Mac mini is just “Macintosh SSD” to be a little more accurate.

January 2, 2020

Snippet: How I Fully Quit Google (And You Can, Too) ☍

Nithin Coca for The Next Web:

Over the past six months, I have gone on a surprisingly tough, time-intensive, and enlightening quest — to quit using, entirely, the products of just one company — Google. What should be a simple task was, in reality, many hours of research and testing. But I did it. Today, I am Google-free, part of the western world’s ultimate digital minority, someone who does not use products from the world’s two most valuable technology companies (yes, I don’t use Facebook either). […]

Like many, I was a victim of Google creep. Search led to email, to documents, to analytics, photos, and dozens of other services all built on top of and connected to each other. Google turned from a company releasing useful products to one that has ensnared us, and the internet as a whole, into its money-making, data gathering apparatus. Google is pervasive in our digital lives in a way no other corporation is or ever has been. It’s relatively easy to quit using the products of other tech giants. With Apple, you’re either in the iWorld, or out. Same with Amazon, and even Facebook owns only a few platforms and quitting is more of a psychological challenge than actually difficult.

While I’m not advocating this for everyone, there are a lot of great alternatives to Google that may actually work better in some instances. I think many of us have gone all-in on various technology company silos and the start of the year is a great time to re-evaluate services in our lives.