January 24, 2021

Snippet: Why iPhone is Today’s Kodak Brownie Camera ☍

A wonderful piece by Om Malik:

Photography as we know it has been around for about 150 years, though its origins can be traced to earlier civilizations. But it has never been so visceral, and so much a part of our daily lives, as it is now. In short, the arc of photography’s history is that it has always been about getting more and more people to take photographs. Our desire to know more about ourselves means we must have more of them, more often, in more places, and of many more things. Whether it was new chemicals or new film or new sensors, technological advances in this area have — by and large — been about making it simpler for us to capture the moment. All of it has brought us to today, when we have quietly passed the cultural tipping point where taking a photo is as second nature as breathing. There’s no art to it. It is just something we are always doing.

In many ways, the iPhone reminds me of another groundbreaking camera: the Brownie. Launched at the turn of the last century, the original Brownie was the catalyst of change that helped us record our own history — exactly what those servicemen were doing more than a century later as I labored at my art.

Snippet: Retiring Tucows Downloads ☍

Tucows CEO Elliot Noss:

We have made the difficult decision to retire the Tucows Downloads site. We’re pleased to say that much of the software and other assets that made up the Tucows Downloads library have been transferred to our friends at the Internet Archive for posterity.

The shareware downloads bulletin board system (BBS) that would become Tucows Downloads was founded back in 1993 on a library computer in Flint, MI. What started as a place for people in the know to download software became the place to download software on the burgeoning Internet. Far more quickly than anyone could have imagined.

If you’re of a certain age group, you probably remember downloads from Tucows fondly, but probably haven’t used it in years. So it goes.

January 13, 2021

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


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.