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Posts from the Technology Category


When my wife made the jump from an iPhone to the Google Pixel  2 we thought everything would be easy. For the most part, everything was. All of her photos, contacts, and other random phone data ported over without issue. But even after following the steps to disable iMessage and move to regular SMS on Google Fi we still have a number of issues. And this is months after the initial move. With Google now pushing forward with Chat, I think this problem is about to get worse before it ever gets better.

The texting landscape before smartphones was pretty straightforward, 140 characters, sent via the SMS protocol to another phone number. Then MMS came along and we could send grainy photos to one another. Then iMessage showed up and things started to fall apart. If you have an iPhone and send a text to another iPhone user (both with iMessage turned on, which it is, by default), that text is sent as an iMessage via Apple’s servers. If one of the users doesn’t have iMessage, then theoretically, there is a check done and the message will be sent as a regular text message (via SMS or MMS, depending on if any media is in the message). If a person used to have iMessage enabled then the waters become even more murky as the iMessage system may swallow the message and never deliver it to the recipient. It sometimes takes sending 2-3 messages to that person before their regular texting kicks in, even if you follow all of the steps to disable iMessage.

Then you enter the Android device texting fiasco and things get even more confusing. Now with Google coming out with Chat and saying that it will fix all of the issues I think the landscape becomes even more rocky. Google’s product will not be end-to-end encrypted, which is surprising and a huge disappointment. One of the things that iMessage has going for it is the fact that Apple never sees the text of your messages, it is always encrypted. Most people don’t care about the government necessarily having access to their texts, but what about people who don’t want their phone used as a weapon against them (an abused child/wife/etc texting for help). The encryption of this data is important and Google dropping the ball is a shortsighted mistake.

This brings up the question of the chat apps that are out there (Signal/WhatsApp/Telegram/etc). I have all three installed on my primary phone but really only have experience with WhatsApp and Telegram. Signal is limited to a single device at a time and that’s a flaw to me. I like to be able to send message from my iPad, computer, or phone and not having that capability immediately makes me less likely to use the app.

I prefer Telegram’s interface over WhatsApp but Telegram uses a homegrown encryption method that I don’t think is completely proven and that makes me a little uncomfortable. WhatsApp’s Facebook ties aren’t my favorite, but they do use an encryption standard that is widely recognized.

The key with all of these independent apps is uptake and having friends who use the same application to communicate. If a few of your friends go with Telegram while others use Facebook Messenger and others are on Signal, then everyone just reverts to SMS/MMS and messages get missed and we are back to square one. Ideally, the SMS/MMS protocols would be updated with some “smart” functionality (if a device is an old school flip phone, revert to 140 character maximums). Or, Google would implement end-to-end encryption and large numbers of people would move over to that. I have strong doubts either of those things will happen though and the landscape will just stay fragmented and hard to navigate.

With all of the recent security issues with Facebook, I think this advice from Krebs on Security is probably some of the most relevant information on the internet today.

From “Don’t Give Away Historic Details About Yourself“:

I’m willing to bet that a good percentage of regular readers here would never respond — honestly or otherwise — to such questionnaires (except perhaps to chide others for responding). But I thought it was worth mentioning because certain social networks — particularly Facebook — seem positively overrun with these data-harvesting schemes. What’s more, I’m constantly asking friends and family members to stop participating in these quizzes and to stop urging their contacts to do the same.

On the surface, these simple questions may be little more than an attempt at online engagement by otherwise well-meaning companies and individuals. Nevertheless, your answers to these questions may live in perpetuity online, giving identity thieves and scammers ample ammunition to start gaining backdoor access to your various online accounts.

These quizzes seem innocuous, but the data that can be harvested from them is enough identifiers to get into your phone account, your banking, your credit cards, and more. It seems harmless to fill in a answer but you are putting yourself at risk by exposing that history to data mining.

From FlightGlobal

Using the ATARI system, or aircraft terminal approach remote inceptor, landing signal officers demonstrated remote piloting of the F/A-18E Super Hornet while conducting carrier qualifications and flight testing aboard the Abraham Lincoln in March. The officers also demonstrated touch-and-go manoeuvres with the system.

It is kind of fitting that the system’s acronym is “ATARI”. What’s even more interesting, and somewhat terrifying, is that there was a pilot in the cockpit during the tests. Landing on a carrier deck is a mental test for a pilot when they are in control, it has to be even more of a mental test when someone else is control of the plane remotely.

My wife recently switched from an iPhone to a Google Pixel 2, which in and of itself is worthy of a post, but the most noticeable immediate difference when making the switch is the cable headache we now face. We used to have a single USB-A to Lightning cable in the living room for when we needed an immediate charge, two of the same type of cables in the bedroom for charging overnight, a single short cable in the car for road trips, and a couple of cables in different bags for travel. Basically, we have a cable for each of the places we frequently charge our phones. This prevents us from constantly packing or looking for a charging cable. When I travel, I have one of the small Tumi amenity kits from Delta with an Anker two port 24W USB-A travel wall charger, two USB-S to Lightning cables, my in ear headphones, and my Apple watch USB-A to magnetic charger. I can pretty much get by for a week with that setup.

On Twitter I posted about Anker cables and my love of them. They are sturdy and affordable, so I have decided to get a number of USB-A to USB-C cables for my wife’s Pixel 2. What I am running into now is a growing conundrum where the cables are just getting out of hand. I know soon, USB-C to USB-C will be the standard, but until then, I need USB-A to USB-C/Lightning. All of the power bricks we use are USB-A out, except for my wife’s Pixel 2 brick.

I know these changes in technology take time but it feels like USB-C has been out in the wild for a while but everyone is having a hard time moving to it as a standard. On top of this, you have micro USB still being heavily used (Kindle, cameras, other accessories). It is more stuff to carry if you want to keep your different electronics charged as you travel.

So how do you travel with all of the cables? How do you manage them all at home?

* This post contains affiliate links to Amazon that benefit me financially if clicked on.

In Sunday’s NYTimes.

And so, I resist. I downgrade, I discard, I decline to upgrade. More than a decade ago, I got rid of cable TV, then network TV. I cut out personal phone calls (unless the person is a continent away), then anything other than businesslike emails. If I want to catch up with a good friend or a family member, I wait until we actually see each other.

When the pop-up window on my computer asks if I’d like to install the latest version of this or that, unless it’s for security reasons, my response is, “No, thank you.” Nor do I want that “amazing” new app. My mother — yes, my mother — knew about Lyft before I did. I’ve never tried whatever Spotify is, preferring the radio and ye olde compact discs. I’m sure I’d still be using a CD Walkman if I’d ever gotten one to begin with.

Never got a Nook, a Kindle, an iPad, don’t want them. Until quite recently, I thought Alexa was a joke, a wild, hypothetical Orwellian item that might one day be foisted upon the world, not something that anyone might actually desire, pay for and willingly allow into her home.

Overall, there is some great advice in the column. Spend less time worrying about Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and more time thinking about… Anything else. But I do think the above takes it to an extreme. Sure, getting rid of cable TV is great, but what is she using to play compact discs? What about when it breaks? The answer is really something in the middle. Don’t spend too much of your life worrying about the conveniences of life, but instead on the important stuff. There have been plenty of books and blog posts about this subject.

Delta Airlines is currently recovering from an outage that delayed and cancelled hundreds of flights around the world.

From their statement on the outage, two points:

Noon ET UPDATE: Delta has canceled approximately 365 flights due to a power outage impacting Delta operations systemwide. As of 10:30 a.m. ET, Delta operated 1,260 of its nearly 6,000 scheduled flights. While systems are improving and flights are resuming, delays and cancellations continue.

5:05 a.m. ET UPDATE: Delta has experienced a computer outage that has affected flights scheduled for this morning. Flights awaiting departure are currently delayed. Flights en route are operating normally. Delta is advising travelers to check the status of their flights this morning while the issue is being addressed.

At first the outage was reported to be a computer outage, whatever that means, and then it was updated to “power outage”. My guess is that a data center lost power, a generator or other backup power system did not kick on, resulting in an outage that continues to linger. What is interesting is that Delta had no problem throwing their power provider under the bus without first figuring out what happened.

There is a travel waiver up and it is in effect until August 12, 2016. My recommendation if you are flying Delta today or tomorrow? Use their app to rebook for another day, go home and wait this out. Even if they start running more and more of today’s flights, this outage will ripple through the system for at least a few days.

We bought a new MacBook Pro late last year and I had not run into any issues until yesterday, when I tried to install the LAME MP3 Encoder for use with Audacity. I was in a pinch, needing to convert a *.wav file to *.mp3 for the Dots, Lines, and Destinations podcast. When trying to install the encoder it appeared to work, but on closer inspection, the files were never written to the correct folder. After doing a little research, I noticed that the /usr/lib/local directory was not writable and threw an error when accessed. So, to Google I went. Turns out this is a “feature” and part of Apple’s System Integrity Protection. Basically, it keeps certain directories inaccessible to even root level access to try and prevent malicious applications from modifying things they shouldn’t be touching. The side effect is that when you legitimately need to modify those directories you can’t. I did not have the luxury of time when going through all this and opted to just use an older Mac that did not have El Capitan installed to convert the audio files I needed.

Glenn Fleishman provides a better description of System Integrity Protection, including how to disable it, in his article on Macworld.

Early reports of problems with rootless mode seemed to indicate that a wider set of software might be unable to work with the restriction enabled, such as SuperDuper! from Shirt Pocket Software. However, Apple made changes during beta testing that resolved concerns with that app and others. (Shirt Pocket had to update SuperDuper! to deal with the omission of an open-source program, which breaks scheduled updates; those have to be re-created in the El Capitan-compatible release.)

Iran’s blogfather: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are killing the web (The Guardian)

Even before I went to jail, though, the power of hyperlinks was being curbed. Its biggest enemy was a philosophy that combined two of the most dominant, and most overrated, values of our times: newness and popularity. (Isn’t this embodied these days by the real-world dominance of young celebrities?) That philosophy is the stream. The stream now dominates the way people receive information on the web. Fewer users are directly checking dedicated webpages, instead getting fed by a never-ending flow of information that’s picked for them by complex and secretive algorithms.

I miss when people took time to be exposed to opinions other than their own, and bothered to read more than a paragraph or 140 characters. I miss the days when I could write something on my own blog, publish on my own domain, without taking an equal time to promote it on numerous social networks; when nobody cared about likes and reshares, and best time to post.

The whole article is worth reading but that last paragraph is a truth I can’t agree with enough. It seems like it is harder and harder to just write something and have someone read it or take a picture and have people enjoy it. Instead everything has to be “curated” and cared for to catch as many views and likes as possible.

I am even guilty of it here. On Twitter I linked to my link post here rather than the article itself. I want people to read my thoughts on the article rather than the article alone…

Recently, during an import of some photographs off of my camera’s SD card, I ran into an issue where Lightroom 4 seems to hang during the import. What seems to have led to this is the fact that the computer went to sleep during the initial import. About a third of the photographs made it into the catalog but the rest did not. Now, when trying to import, I get the following.

Lightroom 4 Hung Up on Import

As you can see, the import bar is halfway completed but no photos are actually being imported.

One of the things I noticed is that Lightroom creates the temporary folder for the photos on the target disk, but only one photo is copied there. The rest of the import then does nothing. After quitting the import and then attempting to close Lightroom, I have to “Force Quit” in OS X, which then throws an exception.

My suspicion is that the issue is with Lightroom and I am missing a simple fix in all of my searches. I have tried repairing the target disk, repairing permissions on my computer’s hard drive, removing the Lightroom preferences file, and importing from a different disk. All lead to the same above result.

If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

From Gerald Lynch’s piece at Gizmodo:

Offline downloads are perhaps the most often requested, “holy grail” feature of TV and movie streaming services, and while Netflix may be the leading provider, it’s Amazon and its Prime Instant Video service that’s become the first to offer it. Netflix however remains firm in its stance that it’s not going to offer offline downloads through its mobile applications, even in the face of competition from its rival. But why?

According to Neil Hunt, Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, Netflix users won’t be able to handle the complexity the added choice will bring.

“I still don’t think it’s a very compelling proposition,” said Hunt, speaking to Gizmodo UK at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin.

As I write this at 34,000 feet over Montana, all I can say is, I don’t buy it.

The biggest use case for downloaded content is air travel. Airlines have been extremely quick at installing WiFi and some of these systems even offer streaming content, but basic WiFi service is still the norm and just about every service out there that I have seen blocks streaming content from Netflix, Amazon, etc. On top of that more airlines are moving to a model where streaming movies and TV hosted on an onboard server are paid content only. The recourse for customers is to download that content before a flight.

About six months ago I made a comment on Twitter about how I wished Amazon would allow downloads of video content on non-Fire devices. There was, and still is, a large amount of video content that I would like to enjoy and now I can, even when flying. Add people who don’t want to eat up their data plan or don’t have access to an LTE network from time to time and the number of those who could benefit from downloads starts to increase dramatically.

The argument that downloads would be too complex seems to me to be a cop-out. An easy way to avoid the discussion. People will take notice and eventually Netflix will have to offer downloads or some variant of them.