The idea of something so beautifully made being crushed by a celebrity reality show is like a flamethrower melting a snowflake. Ratings may be everything nowadays, even to the BBC, but the price of that silly battle to get more people watching during peak hours will be the annihilation of one quality drama after another, trampled by the clodhoppers of reality TV. It’s such a shame.
Since we know that computers connected to the Internet are vulnerable to outside hacking, an air gap should protect against those attacks. There are a lot of systems that use — or should use — air gaps: classified military networks, nuclear power plant controls, medical equipment, avionics, and so on.
Air gaps might be conceptually simple, but they’re hard to maintain in practice. The truth is that nobody wants a computer that never receives files from the Internet and never sends files out into the Internet. What they want is a computer that’s not directly connected to the Internet, albeit with some secure way of moving files on and off.
Since working with Snowden’s NSA files, I have tried to maintain a single air-gapped computer. It turned out to be harder than I expected, and I have ten rules for anyone trying to do the same…
Fascinating reading, and crucial suggestions by the ever excellent Bruce Schneier. Also, I didn’t know about the Tails operating system. Very curious to give it a try on one of my machines.
One of the consequences of Google Reader shutting down is that owners of older iPhones are left without clients to remain up-to-date with their feeds. (I admit I’m making a big assumption here: if you know of an iOS client that doesn’t depend on a Google Reader account and still works under iOS 3.x and 4.x, please let me know.)
Earlier today I made a little discovery that inspired me to write this brief suggestion. I was browsing my Safari bookmarks on my (dying) iPhone 3G with iOS 4.2.1, and discovered that Safari still parses feed URLs correctly because apparently Apple’s reader.mac.com service still works.
So, if you still have and use older iOS devices like an iPhone 3G or the first generations of iPod touch models, and you want to be able to take a look at least at the RSS feeds that are most important to you, you could access each website’s feed URL in Safari, create a bookmark of that URL, and collect all the bookmarked feeds in a folder.
It’s not the most straightforward process, I know. If a website doesn’t have an explicit link to its feed, you may need to explore a bit to find that link. (I’ve used NetNewsWire on my Macs to discover certain feed URLs, for example.) But the result is better than nothing — once you’ve assembled your bookmarked feed URLs in a folder in Safari, you access that folder and read your feeds inside the browser. And it works even on a device as old as the first-generation iPod touch with iOS 3.1.3.
Fig. 1: My folder of bookmarked feeds.
Fig. 2: How a list of articles looks inside Safari.
It’s the time of year when many people ask me if I can help them install the new beta version of iOS on their phone. I am usually reluctant to help, and with iOS being more popular than ever, I would like to make clear exactly why you (as a non-developer) should never upgrade your phone to a beta…
The best article/interview I read today. I agree with Lanier on so many things. Here are a few of my favourite passages from the interview:
I think what’s been happening is a shift from the formal to the informal economy for most people. […] So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.
[The idea of a job] …was all a social construct to begin with, so what changed […] is that at the turn of the [21st] century it was really Sergey Brin at Google who just had the thought of, well, if we give away all the information services, but we make money from advertising, we can make information free and still have capitalism. But the problem with that is it reneges on the social contract where people still participate in the formal economy. And it’s a kind of capitalism that’s totally self-defeating because it’s so narrow. It’s a winner-take-all capitalism that’s not sustaining.
We don’t realize that our society and our democracy ultimately rest on the stability of middle-class jobs. When I talk to libertarians and socialists, they have this weird belief that everybody’s this abstract robot that won’t ever get sick or have kids or get old. It’s like everybody’s this eternal freelancer who can afford downtime and can self-fund until they find their magic moment or something.
As a struggling freelancer myself, this last quote did really strike a chord. The interview is a bit long, but really worth your time.
I’m going to get right down to it: you should buy Linger for iOS (here’s an App Store link). The app lets you explore the Prelinger Archives, a collection of short movies, ads, PSAs and propaganda from the 20th century all on your iPad (it works great for iPhone too).
Even if you’ve never heard of the Prelinger Archives before, you’re probably still familiar with the style of videos you’ll find there, the old black and white movies, showing assorted clips with a wholesome-sounding narrator.
Some time ago, I purchased a Iomega Prestige, a very portable external hard drive. I’ve got the 500 GB model with a USB 2.0 interface. One cool feature of drives like this is that they don’t require an AC adapter. They come with a short cable with a dual USB connector, to draw enough power for the drive to work.
The dual USB connector looks explicitly designed to be plugged into the two adjacent USB ports most laptops sport today. Most, but not all. The 15” and 17” aluminium PowerBook G4s, some of the pre-unibody MacBook Pros, and the current MacBook Airs do not have adjacent USB ports, but one on each side of the computer. If you have one of these models, connecting the Prestige (and similar compact portable drives) can pose a problem.
Earlier today, I needed to pass a few folders full of photos from the external drive to my 17” PowerBook G4. How to do things quickly without having to use another Mac as intermediary? The solution was easy, and hiding in plain sight. When I bought the wired Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, included in the box was a USB extension cord:
The cord had been lying over some books on one of my desks for months. It was time to put it to good use. Thankfully, it turned out to be long enough. (Sometimes you find USB extension cords like this bundled with other external desktop drives, or with accessories like USB hubs, but they usually aren’t very long).
And voilà, connection established.
I know, it’s not an exceptional revelation, but I wanted to talk about this because sometimes even expert users might miss a simple solution. The thought of using an extension cord came indeed rather quickly, but at first I hadn’t realised I was already in possession of such cord, and was about to go out looking for one. In the rush of installing and using some new peripheral, it’s easy to overlook or forget about certain little adapters and accessories that came in the box with it.
Also, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if portable drives such as the Iomega Prestige actually included a USB extension cord, just in case.
I use Ulysses III for almost everything I write now. Long-form writing, aimless yammering, quick things I don’t want to forget; it’s all going into Ulysses or Daedalus. It’s solid, beautiful and simple. And it’s only going to get better.
His in-depth review of The Soulmen’s brand-new Ulysses III is an excellent read. I’ve been a happy writer using simpler tools, but now I’m seriously thinking about switching to this application.
I usually prefer abstract wallpapers for my Macs and devices. Most of the time, my main MacBook Pro is kept in desktop configuration, and in System Preferences I’ve set the wallpaper for both monitors to change every 30 minutes. (I have two folders where I keep a growing collection of images to use as desktop backgrounds). Recently I discovered the beautiful work of Merek Davis and Jean-Marc Denis, and I wanted to share it with you, if you too like to have polished, abstract wallpapers on your devices.
Merek Davis is a photographer from Phoenix, Arizona. Check his portfolios here — they’re all gorgeous, but my favourite is probably Low Fidelity. He has created great wallpapers for desktop/laptop computers, iPads and iPhones. Check out the Wallpapers page in his online store to browse the six collections. (They’re free.)
You’ve probably already seen some of Jean-Marc Denis's work: the Sparrow app interface, for instance. In his website there's a nice Goodies section where you'll find free Icons and Wallpapers. My favourite wallpaper is Mur Enduit, currently the desktop background of my PowerBook G3 Lombard.
I could give lots more examples, but it’s clear that a great many people are completely overwhelmed by email. That’s a problem, for sure, and it needs to be solved. What bothers me is when people blame the medium. […] Your email problems aren’t the fault of email as a communications system, and they’re probably not even the fault of the tools you’re using. It’s easy to pick on email because it won’t fight back. But the real problem for most people who feel email is out of control is that they haven’t taken responsibility for figuring out why the problem exists for them and how to change their habits to address it.
Excellent article at TidBITS by Joe Kissell, with whom I agree completely. I’m taking notes on this very same matter myself, to write a piece of much the same tone.
“…For we shall say that while it would not surprise us if these men thus living prove to be the most happy, yet the object on which we fixed our eyes in the establishment of our state was not the exceptional happiness of any one class but the greatest possible happiness of the city as a whole. For we thought that in a state so constituted we should be most likely to discover justice as we should injustice in the worst governed state, and that when we had made these out we could pass judgement on the issue of our long inquiry. Our first task then, we take it, is to mold the model of a happy state — we are not isolating a small class in it and postulating their happiness, but that of the city as a whole.”—Plato, The Republic, Book IV, sect. 420b-c
Sure, Mailbox makes getting to inbox zero easier. But after spending a few days with it, I’m not sure that it actually makes me faster or more productive at reading and responding to e-mail. It imposes a rigid system on me that doesn’t do everything I need it to, so I end up opening other e-mail apps anyway. That means I’m ultimately spending even more time than I already was on e-mail. I hate e-mail.
Mailbox will be great for some people. But it doesn’t reinvent email; it just automates a process that may not work for you. Mailbox is simply a tool. A very nice one, a well-designed one. I like it. But it’s just a tool and a blunt one at that. No app will save you from e-mail. You can’t swipe and sort your way to a better you, no matter how long the line is.
I haven’t tried Mailbox myself. Apart from the idea of having a ‘reservation list’ — something that put me off from the start — I don’t like Mailbox acting like an intermediary between my mail and me.
But the point of quoting this part of Honan’s article is that I very much agree with him on the fact that you have to deal with the email you get, there’s no way around it. There are shortcuts, sure, but many of them (like mass-ignoring emails or mass-deleting them without even skimming through them) will ultimately make you look like a rude moron.
It was still half an hour before midnight, but the road was already deserted - which was perfectly normal for a Sunday night on the outskirts of a small, coastal fishing town in the north east of Scotland. The year was probably 1989, but I can no longer be entirely sure. I had more pressing concerns than the date. I was ten years old, I was alone, I was on a BMX bike, and I was cycling for my life. […]
You. Have. To. Read. This.
Seriously, take your time and savour this beautiful essay by Matt Gemmell. So great.
“If you have never experienced burnout, it’s hard to explain. Burnout is not just “I don’t feel like working right now”; it is about your mind refusing to permit you to work, because it has seen what happens when it lets you work.”—Jonathan Blow (from What I Did on My Christmas Vacation)
Earlier today I was looking for the battery charger for an older Nikon camera, and instead I found the charger for the Sony CMD-Z7 mobile phone I purchased in 2002. I’ve changed a few phones over the years, but I’ve always been fond of this little buddy. I remember how blown away I was when its predecessor (the CMD-Z5) was announced two years before, how much I loved the design of this particular Sony product line, and how much I wanted to get one. I ended up buying a discounted CMD-Z7, which I liked because the antenna was now internal, but it also felt somewhat less robust than the Z5 in my hand.
Well, I was wrong. Despite feeling lightly built and plasticky, the CMD-Z7 has proven more than once to be a tough one. In the first four years of daily use it suffered at least three bad falls, but every time I just picked up the pieces (usually the flip, the battery cover, the battery itself), put everything back into place, and the phone got back to business as usual.
From circa 2006 on, it became my second phone, so I used it less and less frequently. What has always amazed me about it has to be its ‘will to live’, so to speak. Despite having a tiny, 680 mAh lithium polymer battery, it has always given a great perfomance, and the last time I had it with me a few days (around 2009), it still lasted more than one day and a half on a single charge.
When I decided to recharge the CMD-Z7 today, I wasn’t even hoping it would wake up. The phone had been lying in a drawer since 2011, untouched, with the battery obviously drained. Imagine my surprise when, after 45 minutes of apparent death, the phone lit up. After about two hours the battery was fully charged, and apart from a test call and some tinkering with the settings, it’s been on standby for nine hours or so — the battery icon is still on ‘full charge’.
Sure, one thing that helps battery life is that this phone isn’t exactly feature-rich by today’s standards (check its tech specs here for a laugh), but I remember having actually connected to a few web sites in the past (WAP-friendly, of course) and having checked emails on this phone.
Just to have an idea of the size — from left to right: Sony CMD-Z7, Palm Pre 2, iPhone 3G
I think I’ll keep it charged every now and then, just for fun. If I ever decide to make some kind of experiment on iPhone withdrawal, you’ll definitely see me around with this little guy. I still like its design compared to many other ugly mobile phones of its era…
Brief, clear article by Jenna Wortham and Nick Bilton for The New York Times. Interestingly, they write (emphasis mine):
The changes, which will go into effect Jan. 16, will not apply to pictures shared before that date.
I guess this definitely helps me to decide what to do with my Instagram account. I’ll just stop uploading photos before the Terms of Service changes take effect, and I’ll limit my use and presence on Instagram to a sort of ‘read only’ mode, by keeping on following my current contacts, and liking and/or commenting their photos.
I don’t usually give Kudos easily when I read some post over at the Svbtle network, but Electric Toothbrush, by Steve Corona, hit home for me. This is the relevant bit:
Why should ANYONE besides ME have complete control over my self-esteem, my happiness? It’s stupid. And it’s a mistake of convenience. It’s so much easier to give away your power, tie your worth to some external thing, instead of creating it within. Laziness. I was too lazy to take control of my own happiness, to make it myself.
Stop giving your power away. It’s for you. Not for your job. Not for your girlfriend. Not for anyone, besides you.
And I bet it hit home for you too. Well said, Steve.
I didn’t know about the whited00r project. Typically, I’m against hacks that involve jailbreaking or otherwise altering the original firmware, but judging from what Simon Royal reports and the information on the whited00r website, I’m very tempted to try this on my old iPhone 3G.
If you want to rejuvenate your original iPhone, iPhone 3G, first-generation or second-generation iPod touch, you should consider giving WD 6 a go.
For me, the most interesting feature is this:
One of the most welcomed new feature is an enhanced custom app store. Previous versions of whited00r had a handful of apps in its own App Store. The release of whited00r 6 comes with AppTimeMachine, which has access to a large amount of apps that still run in OS 3.
Using the official App Store, you can only download the latest version of an app. If that app requires a higher iOS version than you have, you can’t install any version.
AppTimeMachine resolves this. It has OS 3 compatible versions. For instance, the latest Facebook app requires iOS 5, therefore you can’t install it on your original iPhone. AppTimeMachine has an installable Facebook app that still runs in OS 3.
I think Apple — where by “Apple”, I mean the company’s collective executive leadership — is seething regarding the way this has played out. Everything from Apple Maps being the butt of jokes to the accolades and joy that have accompanied the release of the new Google Maps iOS app. Seething.
Google has lost something valuable, too: its place as the default mapping data provider for iOS. What’s interesting is that this is a case where it’s us, the users, who’ve won. We’ve got two apps with turn-by-turn-navigation and vector map tiles where before we had none. Ideally, yes, Apple Maps would have best-of-breed data and search, but the situation was even further from ideal prior to iOS 6.
“So very, very busy – so busy, I haven’t had the time to sit back and write the kind of quality, long-term facing entries I prefer to use this weblog to write. While I understand people using these in the manner of tumblr, with disposable one-offs choffed from the snatched seconds of a busy life, I prefer to write things that people can link to, can get ideas from, can shove into my face like an Italian Ice six months or a year down the line. So I end up deciding that no entry at all beats a half-assed entry that doesn’t add much to The Conversation, even as I watch many aspects of The Conversation be navel-gazing horseshit.”—Jason Scott
In a 2006 interview David Foster Wallace said, “it seems significant that we don’t want things to be quiet, ever, anymore.” Stores and restaurants have their ubiquitous Muzak or satellite radio; bars have anywhere between 1 and 17 TVs blaring Fox and soccer; ads and 30-second news cycles play on screens in cabs, elevators and restrooms. Even some libraries, whose professional shushers were once celebrated in cartoon and sitcom, now have music and special segregated areas designated for “quiet study,” which is what a library used to be.
People are louder, too. They complain at length and in detail about their divorces or gallbladders a foot away from you in restaurants. A dreaded Amtrak type is the passenger who commences prattling on her cellphone the instant she sits down and doesn’t hang up until she gets to her stop, unable to bear an undistracted instant in her own company. People practice rap lyrics on the bus or the subway, barking doggerel along with their iPods as though they were alone in the shower. Respecting shared public space is becoming as quaintly archaic as tipping your hat to a lady, now that the concept of public space is as nearly extinct as hats, and ladies.
When iTunes Music Store first came out I studied it and decided to buy music off it. Not because I trusted Apple, but because I had a space Mac that I could use as a DRM lifeboat.
I copied my purchases as I made them to the old Mac. The Mac was also disconnected from the Internet after its initial authorization. Finally, I had software in place to extract the audio I purchased even if Apple pulled the DRM football from me just as I tried to kick it.
Fortunately Apple’s iTMS DRM dog never barked. But after today’s Amazon Ebook controversy I decided it’s time to share my similar Amazon Ebook Insurance Policy…
The argument that people still want the iPhone 5 despite the flaws of Apple Maps is a bit disingenious, in my opinion. We’re talking of an amazing hardware product versus a not-so-great app that’s just a part of the operating system. A piece of software that’s destined to get better over time. Not exactly a fair match. You know, it’s not really a complex tradeoff you have to carefully consider before accepting. Of course the good of the iPhone 5 hardware outweighs the bad of Apple Maps. Of course people want the iPhone 5.
— Have you seen the latest BMW roadster model?
— Oh yeah, I’m so going to get it.
— But I’ve heard the built-in GPS nav isn’t perfect…
If I’d have to sum it up as one problem, it’s that many groups, but women especially, are still discriminated against heavily, while those with privilege don’t want to be seen as culpable and even like to argue that these problems don’t exist altogether. Women, in particular, suffer from tremendous social and professional challenges and pressures, as well as threats to their physical well-being, as a result of these problems.
Sometimes Apple makes subtle changes I don’t quite understand, and that seem a bit capricious. I upgraded to OS X Mountain Lion a few days ago, and everything looks fine for now. I knew that Mail would lose the RSS functionality (which was handy for the way I use Mail), but I didn’t know that the new Mail app would also lose the little activity spinning wheels near each email account.
This is the first small peeve. I don’t like this change because it seems just an arbitrary removal. Were the little wheels so ugly for the elegant, minimal interface of the application? I think they were really useful activity indicators, especially when a mail server failed to connect or took more time than it should: you could see at a glance that something was up with a particular account because the spinning wheel wouldn’t go away. Now it all feels ‘silent’, so to speak.
The second peeve: in the new Mail application under Mountain Lion there is a new folder for Flagged items, and the items count looks exactly like the unread items count in other mail folders:
This visual sameness generates unnecessary ambiguity, because the messages contained in the Flagged folder are all already read, but here it looks like there are 5 unread messages inside that folder. And that counter doesn’t disappear. I believe there should be at least a toggle, like “Show/Hide Flagged items count”, or that such items count were only visible when I expand the Flagged folder. As it is, it makes no sense to me to display Flagged items in the same way as unread items, for the very reason that a flagged message is usually a message that’s already been read. (And it doesn’t matter how many of those Flagged messages you mark as unread, you’re always shown the total number, persistently.)
Yesterday I was in a bit of a dilemma: I love Google Maps, and what I had been reading on the Web about the new Apple Maps app in iOS 6 was not comforting. That’s why I decided, for the moment, to only update my third-generation iPad to iOS 6, and leave the iPhone 4 on iOS 5.1.1 until an official standalone Google Maps app is released.
Let me tell you: aesthetically, I very much prefer the new iOS 6 Maps: the rendering is beautiful, the typography more elegant and readable. But looking for directions is a sore hit-or-miss affair.
I assigned a very simple task to iOS Maps: find the only official Apple Store here in Valencia, and give me directions to there from my current location.
The Apple Store’s position is correctly displayed on the map (and the Apple icon is a nice touch), but the address — although very similar — isn’t correct.
I can tell it’s wrong because ‘Paiporta’ is a small town just outside Valencia, and 46200 is its ZIP code.
The correct address for the Apple Store is this:
The problem is that to get this address correctly… you have to know it already. If you just look for “Apple Store” or “Apple Store Valencia”, Maps will return the previous (wrong) address and, what’s worse, it’ll give you directions for the wrong address.
As you can see, my Current Location is the green pin, the right address for the Apple Store is the red pin, but the 3 alternative routes all send me at the end of that blue line in the bottom left quadrant, 10 kilometres away, outside Valencia. Suppose you’re in your car and ask Siri to take you to the nearest Apple Store: you’ll get these directions, and you’ll get lost.
Needless to say, searching “Apple Store Valencia” in Google Maps brings up the correct address right away.
I know, these things take time, but in the meanwhile it can get quite frustrating.