January 25, 2020

Snippet: (A Few) Ops Lessons We All Learn the Hard Way ☍

Jan Schaumann:

Nope, not another Falsehoods post, but not entirely unlike one. Only here we have a few lessons in operations that we all (eventually) (have to) learn; often the hard way. Why things are the way they are, or what the lessons mean is left to the reader to interpret, agree, or disagree with. It’s more fun that way. Enjoy!

My day job involves keeping some network things working and too many of these I can relate to.

Snippet: Some Tech I Loved is Getting Worse and I’m Mad ☍

Alex Wilhelm for TechCrunch:

Time is supposed to make technology better. The idea is simple: With more time, humans make newer, better technology and our lives improve. Except for when the opposite happens.

While the post is borderline ranting, I agree with most of the sentiment because for every bit of neat, new things there are, there’s a lot of things that are just messier, slimier, or dumber. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for the last few years, so the Google Search redesign hasn’t affected me as much, but just about every kind of social media has gotten worse for the sake of ads and the algorithm and I’m also feeling a bit of app fatigue (especially with a phone that can theoretically hold all the apps I could ever think of).

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.