26 October 2016

Seth’s Blog: “Hardware is sexy, but it's software that matters”

Apple started as a hardware company with the Apple II. Soon in, they realized that while hardware is required, it’s software that changes the world.

Over the last five years, Apple has lost the thread and chosen to become a hardware company again. Despite their huge profits and large staff, we're confronted with (a partial list):

  • Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it’s free, no competitors.
  • Keynote, a presentation program that hasn’t been improved in years.
  • iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty.
  • iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon.
  • No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they’ve stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new.
Seth Godin

A common theme for Apple critics lately. I find it amusing that the two examples John Gruber offers to counteract the points above are iMessage and FaceTime; while they may be good products, they’re restricted to Apple hardware and as such limited in their ability to ‘change the world’. They fit with Apple’s integrated strategy, but offer very little benefit for people who choose competing products. And I wouldn’t call them innovative by any measure: there were other video conferencing software available (most notably Skype) before Apple introduced FaceTime, and the market for mobile messaging is full of alternatives today, apps that can work on Android devices and even Windows. There is little reason to use Apple’s software when other products offer more features and better compatibility.

Medium: “Apple Strategy 2017. Very important change to iPhone coming”

The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen (I have several sources confirming this). You pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it. Thanks to foveated rendering.

The clear iPhone will put holograms on top of the real world like Microsoft HoloLens does.

Also, updates from new sources: expect battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone.

I’m quite convinced that most of us will be wearing mixed reality glasses three to four years from now, whether from Microsoft, Magic Leap, Apple, Amazon, Meta, or something from China (expect to see new brands evolve, just like DJI is now the biggest drone manufacturer).

Robert Scoble

I’m quite convinced Scoble is suffering from aggravated post-traumatic syndrome after Google discontinued Glass. Let’s give him a couple more years in peace to fully recover – preferably until he retires.

25 October 2016

Michael Tsai Blog: “Apple and Kapeli respond about Dash”

The fact that the Dash account was terminated seems to support Popescu’s contention that that account was never warned. Otherwise, surely this conversation would have happened sooner, and it would have remained a private matter. Why would Apple go to the trouble of closing the account, apparently not telling him it was because of the linked bad account, then helping him to restore it, after telling him that the decision couldn’t be appealed?

My guess is that Apple found the bad account, and warned it, but did not initially realize that the linked account was “good.” When they shut down the bad account they just shut down all the linked ones, too. In many cases, that’s probably the right thing to do. But this time they didn’t check, and that turned out to be a mistake. When Apple learned that Popescu planned to tell the full story, without admitting wrongdoing, they decided to get their version, sliming him, out first.

Michael Tsai

I wasn’t planning on commenting on this tricky situation until I realized it involved a Romanian developer. Having leaned that, there’s probably more to the story than he admits, since we Romanians do like to cut corners – especially around arbitrary and convoluted rules. On the other hand, Apple has handled the situation particularly poorly. The common sense solution would have been to simply ban the fraudulent account and warn the other owner of violations detected on a linked account. The best part about this: even devoted Apple supporters have come to the same conclusion.

24 October 2016

ProPublica: “Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

Julia Angwin

Good thing I have already opted out of most of Google’s web tracking tools by disabling my search history in its various forms.

08 October 2016

The Atlantic: “The Obama Doctrine”

Obama has come to a number of dovetailing conclusions about the world, and about America’s role in it. The first is that the Middle East is no longer terribly important to American interests. The second is that even if the Middle East were surpassingly important, there would still be little an American president could do to make it a better place. The third is that the innate American desire to fix the sorts of problems that manifest themselves most drastically in the Middle East inevitably leads to warfare, to the deaths of U.S. soldiers, and to the eventual hemorrhaging of U.S. credibility and power. The fourth is that the world cannot afford to see the diminishment of U.S. power. Just as the leaders of several American allies have found Obama’s leadership inadequate to the tasks before him, he himself has found world leadership wanting: global partners who often lack the vision and the will to spend political capital in pursuit of broad, progressive goals, and adversaries who are not, in his mind, as rational as he is. Obama believes that history has sides, and that America’s adversaries—and some of its putative allies—have situated themselves on the wrong one, a place where tribalism, fundamentalism, sectarianism, and militarism still flourish. What they don’t understand is that history is bending in his direction.

If you are a supporter of the president, his strategy makes eminent sense: Double down in those parts of the world where success is plausible, and limit America’s exposure to the rest. His critics believe, however, that problems like those presented by the Middle East don’t solve themselves—that, without American intervention, they metastasize.

At the moment, Syria, where history appears to be bending toward greater chaos, poses the most direct challenge to the president’s worldview.

George W. Bush was also a gambler, not a bluffer. He will be remembered harshly for the things he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn’t do.

Jeffrey Goldberg

Interesting perspective on the foreign policy decisions of the Obama administration for the past seven years. There’s no doubt president Obama managed impressive breakthroughs, the latest being the ratification of the Paris climate treaty, announced together with the Chinese president no less.

25 September 2016

Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You

in Bucharest, Romania
Chuck Palahniuk - Beautiful You

Proaspăt transplantată dintr‑un orășel din Nebraska în birourile unei mari firmă de avocatură din New York, tânăra Penny Harrigan nu e prea sigură ce‑și dorește de la viață. Dar orice ar fi vrea să fie ceva original, propriu al ei, dincolo de opțiunea de casnică, veche de când lumea, sau cea recent impusă de feminism de carieră cot-la-cot cu bărbații. Când întâmplarea o aruncă – la propriu – la picioarele celui mai bogat celibatar din lume și acesta o invită la cină, viața ei ia o turnură surprinzătoare și din ce în ce mai stranie. Prin patul lui C. Linus Maxwell au trecut celebrități feminine de talie mondială, de la actuala președintă a Statelor Unite și moștenitoarea tronului Marii Britanii la fabuloasa actriță Alouette D’Ambrosia, așa că ce ar putea găsi el la o tinerică neexperimentată și cu nimic ieșită din comun? Ba mai mult, grație revistelor de scandal care întorc pe toate părțile cele mai mici aspecte ale vieții celebrităților, Penny cunoaște un detaliu crucial din viața lui: toate relațiile lui Max s‑au încheiat după exact 136 de zile…

Faimos pentru stilul lui sarcastic și nonconformist, Chuck Palahniuk nu se dezminte nici în acest roman în care ridiculizează la fiecare pas consumerismul lumii moderne (al cărui apogeu se regăsește aici în imaginea unui magazin Apple roz), foamea de satisfacție imediată, dar și numeroasele discriminări împotriva femeilor care încă persistă în societatea americană – de‑abia acum e posibil să vedem prima președintă în țara care ar trebui să fie un exemplu pentru toate democrațiile. Cea mai bună reprezentare a temelor romanului se cristalizează în personajul lui C. Linus Maxwell. Mai mult decât o caricatură a multimilionarului de Silicon Valley care crede că lumea îi aparține pentru că a creat un produs de succes și că tehnologia poate rezolva orice problemă umană, inclusiv dragostea, intimitatea și moartea, Climax‑Well reprezintă lumea veche patriarhală în care bărbatul poruncește și femeia i se supune necondiționat. Căci ce este gama lui Beautiful You de produse de autosatisfacere feminină decât o încercare de a le subjuga prin plăcere, de a le reduce prezența din sfera publică, de a le aduce sub control? În lupta împotriva acestei pervertiri a dragostei și a idealurilor feministe își găsește Penny scopul în viață pe care‑l căuta lipsită de direcție la început.

24 September 2016

The New York Times: “Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014”

Yahoo phone number prompt

Yahoo announced on Thursday that the account information of at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network.

In a statement, Yahoo said user information — including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions — was compromised in 2014 by what it believed was a “state-sponsored actor”.

While Yahoo did not name the country involved, how the company discovered the hack nearly two years after the fact offered a glimpse at the complicated and mysterious world of the underground web.

Nicole Perlroth

Ironic how companies regularly prompt users to add more data to secure their online accounts – especially phone numbers – thereby giving hackers more personal information to steal. Good thing I never gave Yahoo! my phone number despite their insistence.