January 13, 2021

Snippet: Apple Launches Major New Racial Equity and Justice Initiative Projects to Challenge Systemic Racism, Advance Racial Equity Nationwide ☍

Apple:

Apple today announced a set of major new projects as part of its $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) to help dismantle systemic barriers to opportunity and combat injustices faced by communities of color. These forward-looking and comprehensive efforts include the Propel Center, a first-of-its-kind global innovation and learning hub for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); an Apple Developer Academy to support coding and tech education for students in Detroit; and venture capital funding for Black and Brown entrepreneurs. Together, Apple’s REJI commitments aim to expand opportunities for communities of color across the country and to help build the next generation of diverse leaders.

“We are all accountable to the urgent work of building a more just, more equitable world — and these new projects send a clear signal of Apple’s enduring commitment,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re launching REJI’s latest initiatives with partners across a broad range of industries and backgrounds — from students to teachers, developers to entrepreneurs, and community organizers to justice advocates — working together to empower communities that have borne the brunt of racism and discrimination for far too long. We are honored to help bring this vision to bear, and to match our words and actions to the values of equity and inclusion we have always prized at Apple.”

There’s a lot of different plans in this press release (I highly recommend reading the whole thing), and it seems many were probably in motion for months. Over the last year, it’s been really hard to stay focused on one thing because there’s been so many major news events and we all seem to mentally move on. The money set aside is practically pocket change for Apple, but the programs being funding have the potential to be long-lasting and beneficial for society.

January 12, 2021

Snippet: AT&T Shuts Down AT&T TV Now to New Customers ☍

Jason Gurwin for The Streamable:

One of the earliest Live TV Streaming Services is no longer available to new customers. AT&T TV NOW, which was originally known as DIRECTV NOW has been sunset. Current AT&T TV NOW customers will be able to continue to access the service.

Instead, AT&T is now directing those customers to sign-up for AT&T TV, their streaming service which, until now required two-year contracts and additional fees. With the change, they will be also offering new pricing for their AT&T TV service, which includes a no contract and no RSN fee option.

The no contract plans start at $69.99 with their Entertainment Plan with 65+ channels. If you want regional sports including Fox Sports RSNs, their Choice Plan begins at $84.99 (including RSN Fee), which also include HBO Max for one-year. They also have an Ultimate ($94.99 for 130 channels) and Premier ($139.99 for 140 channels).

I had a two year run with the original iteration of DirecTV Now starting at launch. It was fine enough, but AT&T squandered their lead and instead didn’t improve the product and drove customers away with repeated price hikes. At the range AT&T TV is priced, along with Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, it’s starting to feel like the “skinny” streaming services are just becoming what they were trying not to be—traditional cable/satellite.

Snippet: Ubiquiti Says Customer Data May Have Been Accessed in Data Breach ☍

Zack Whittaker for TechCrunch:

Ubiquiti, one of the biggest sellers of networking gear, including routers, webcams and mesh networks, has alerted its customers to a data breach.

In a short email to customers on Monday, the tech company said it became aware of unauthorized access to its systems hosted by a third-party cloud provider. Ubiquiti didn’t name the cloud company, when the breach happened or what caused the security incident. A company spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

But the company confirmed that it “cannot be certain” that customer data had not been exposed.

These sort of things come quickly and details are scarce until companies understand the full extent of a breach. However, a number of things made it feel more like amateur hour, which can be a bit concerning. First, the notice with a few typos was sent via a Mailchimp (nothing wrong with them, just not the best venue) email that was flagged as spam and phishing by some filters and even the in-message links had trackers, typical for marketing emails. Next, there wasn’t an official notice on the web site or in the community forums. Finally, one wonders if the data could be used to remotely access anything.

Ubiquiti’s core products are networking, typically falling in the middle of the market—a bit more robust than what you’d get for your home, but less expensive than some of the enterprise gear. Because of this, there’s Ubiquiti stuff in a lot of geekier homes, as well as small businesses. It seems that the hardware itself and local accounts are fine, but one complaint that was news to me is that it seems their cloud accounts are becoming more and more mandatory. Users have reported that to set up new devices, you must set up a cloud account and link the device first—I can confirm that’s the case with the UniFi Protect security products and the Dream Machine. I think at this point, the best thing to do is change your passwords, add 2FA (although it doesn’t work in the store), and maybe de-link from the remote-access cloud account until we know more.

January 11, 2021

Snippet: Too Little, Too Late ☍

Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair (via Ben Brooks):

The problem is, it’s too little, too late. There are movements that have been created in this country as a result of these platforms choosing to do nothing to stop the spread of hatred and conspiracies by none other than Donald Trump and his attention-seeking duplicitous and deceptive family. Four years ago, there were no Proud Boys. Millions of Americans didn’t believe in a bizarre outlandish and totally ridiculous conspiracy theory called “Q.” And most people trusted that voting—especially in the presidential election—was safe and secure and would result in the rightful winner becoming the next president. As Andrew Yang noted, “Twitter bans for inciting violence should last for months or years not hours.” Yang was actually being nice by suggesting that Trump should be kicked off the platform for a period of time. Celebrities, politicians, and others in Silicon Valley called for Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg to ban Trump permanently from their platform. Countless people I’ve spoken with fear that if these companies don’t do just that, we could see a repeat of Trump’s assault on democracy in 2024, and by then, after he’s had four years to plan, it could be much worse than it was today.

Taking a step back and not focusing on Trump, conspiracy theories, and election questions, I think we start to see that social networks allow hate to brew, profit off of conflict, and sometimes haven’t done the minimum that they could to curb bad behavior. They’re not strictly to blame for last week, but have made a lot of things more frictionless (especially for fringe groups) over the last few years. I’ll admit that while already angry about the events of last week, plenty of things on Twitter made me angrier. That can’t be healthy.

January 7, 2021

Snippet: Deplatform ☍

Casey Newton for The Verge:

Yesterday, I wrote about the sense that the fracture in our shared sense of reality seems to be accelerating. I asked whether platforms ought to take it as a moral responsibility to reverse that divide — and, if so, how. Today, I advocate for one smaller but still difficult and essential step in that direction.

It’s time for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to remove Trump.

Calls for platforms to remove Trump have been coming for years. The president’s use and abuse of Twitter to threaten nuclear war, attack average citizens, and undermine elections have been a defining feature of the media landscape since his 2016 campaign. Twitter has aided and abetted the president for years, putting him on its suggested user list even as he promoted the birtherism conspiracy and spread other racist lies.

While I try to keep the political posts to a minimum here, yesterday’s events infuriated me and I still haven’t fully processed everything. Regardless of political party or viewpoint, condensing the events of yesterday down to one sentence would probably be something along the lines of “the Commander in Chief used social media platforms to incite rioters and insurrectionists to invade our government and interrupt the democratic process.”

I’ve never felt comfortable with Trump’s use of Twitter, due to the lack of any guardrails. This is why we have a White House Communications Director and Press Secretary to ensure things are correct and not misinterpreted. Instead, as a country, we’ve been fine with unfiltered access to a world leader and then seem surprised when off-the-cuff or inappropriate comments lead to bad things happening. We’re lucky it hasn’t led to worse.

Update: Facebook just did it “indefinitely”—your move, Twitter.

Update (1/9): Twitter permanently banned his account.