Aside

2019.7.15

It’s great that Apple is asserting the importance of privacy. But if they’re really, really serious they’ll stop enabling the Chinese government direct access to Chinese users’ iCloud data. And they’ll secure data on iCloud so that government agencies can’t just request Apple to hand over our WhatsApp, iCloud, Notes, and other data that Apple holds the keys to unlocking and turning over to whomever comes with a warrant. I’m not holding my breath on the former, nor the latter.

Aside

2019.7.10

For the past few weeks, my iPhone has been randomly slowing down at different times. Specifically, applications have just stopped responding for 20-45 seconds, and continue to stutter along after recovering somewhat. My suspicion is that the behaviour is linked to either Instagram or the native Podcasts app based on what I’ve read online, but that’s pure supposition. Regardless, I did a total factory refresh of my decide and so far all the stutters are gone. Here’s hoping they stay away in perpetuity…

The Roundup for May 21-June 22, 2019 Edition

(Tap! by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


So Apple has announced all the big changes forthcoming in iOS 13. While lots are great and exciting, the update still won’t bring baseline feature parity between MacOS and iOS core applications. The result is that serious users of consumer MacOS applications can’t fully transition to iOS or iPadOS. What’re just two baseline things that are missing, from my self-interested perspective?

1. Smart lists in Apple Music & Apple Photos

I get that smart lists may not be everyone’s deal, but self updating lists are pretty important in how I manage and organize data. To give an example, I use smart lists in Photos to determine what camera I used to take which photo. Does this matter for lots of people? Probably not, now that smartphones have colonized the photography business. But for someone like me who wants to know such metadata, the absence of it is noticeable.

2. Detailed information about photographs in Apple Photos

I don’t know why, it you can’t check aperture, shutter speeds ISO, or other basic camera features in Apple Photos, in iOS 12 or 13. Nor can you create a title for a photograph. Again, as someone who takes tens of thousands of photos a year, and reviews them all to select a rarified thousand or two ‘keepers’ each year and titles many of those kept, I really want to record titles.1 And it drives me nuts that I can’t.

I get that there are a lot of pretty amazing things coming in iOS 13. But can’t these pretty table-stakes things come along? These aren’t ‘Pro’ features: there’re the baseline features that have been available on consumer apps in MacOS for years. You shouldn’t need to own and use a Mac to enjoy these capabilities.


Inspiring Quotation

“Society is not some grand abstraction, my friends. It’s just us. It’s the words we use, which are the thoughts we have, which determine the actions we take.”

– Umair Haque

Great Photography Shots

I really appreciate some of the great shadows that come out in these shots over at Mobiography.

(‘lines and shadows‘ by @arpixa)
(‘Shadow casting‘ by @poetry fish)
(‘Untitled‘ by @lasina)
(‘On the dark side‘ by @jawdoc2)
(‘ RED ‘ by @dviviano)
(‘high light reverie‘ by @chasread)

Music I’m Digging

Having figured out the problem of songs not being added to my ‘Songs I Love’ lists, my monthly lists are going to be a lot more expansive than those in the past. My May 2019 list clocks in at around 5 ½ hours, with a mix of hip-hop, rap, pop, and a bit of alternative and rock.

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • Lawfare – Avril Haines, Eric Rosenbach, and David Sanger on U.S. Offensive Cyber Operations // This is an insightful, and nuanced, consideration of the equities which are taken into account when the United States engages in different classes of cyber operations. While the title of the podcast is focused on offensive cyber activities, the same logics can clearly be applied to defensive activities such as those linked with vulnerabilities equities processes or development of activities intended to mitigate harms emitted from foreign adversaries.
  • Lawfare – Jim Scuitto on ‘The Shadow War’ // While Scuitto doesn’t necessarily talk about anything excitingly novel in the summary of his book, he does an absolutely terrific job in summarizing the high-level threats to American (and, by extension, Canadian and Western) national security. From submarine threats, to space threats, to cyber, the threat landscape is remarkably different today as compared to twenty years ago. In terms of responses or solutions, key to the American approach is reconsidering and re-engineering the responses to aggressive actions. Clearly American responses have failed to dissuade actors such as Russia and China in certain spheres, such as aggressive military engagement and cyber espionage and propaganda, and so more directed cyber-based activities meant to expose the corruption of foreign leaders might represent the next logical step for the U.S. military establishment.

Good Reads

  • When the Hard Rains Fall // Welsh has done a terrific job in both outlining the policy and financial and scientific causes that lead to serious, and dangerous, flooding in Toronto while marrying it with superb storytelling. Not only does the article provide a huge amount of information in an impeccably understandable format, but the graphics that accompany the piece in certain sections are almost certain to elicit an emotional reaction. Stories like this demonstrate why it’s important to pay for investigative reporting, while also showcasing how contemporary technologies can improve narratives for clarity and impact.
  • ‘Botanical Sexism’ Could Be Behind Your Seasonal Allergies // In an ironic turn, when trees were routinely planted in urban environments in the 1960s, males of the various species were chosen on the basis that they wouldn’t promote litter by dropping seeds. However, these trees expel significant amounts of pollen which has had the effect of creating ‘pollenpocalypse’ events that both severely aggravate seasonal allergies and leave vast swathes of pollen coating the city.
  • Female Spies and Their Secrets // As in so many fields, women’s contributions to the intelligence and security services were largely erased from history as men replaced them. However, newly recovered and disclosed histories are showcasing the role(s) that women played throughout the second world war to lead underground resistances and otherwise facilitate Allied intelligence efforts.
  • Your threat model is wrong // Robert Graham’s abrasive and direct writing is refreshing, especially when he writes about phishing: “Yes, it’s amazing how easily stupid employees are tricked by the most obvious of phishing messages, and you want to point and laugh at them. But frankly, you want the idiot employees doing this. The more obvious phishing attempts are the least harmful and a good test of the rest of your security — which should be based on the assumption that users will frequently fall for phishing.”
  • After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown // In the United States, some big box stores are attempting to (and succeeding in) reduce their property tax bills by arguing their stores should be valued at millions of dollars less than their current valuation. The result is that small towns, many of which invested in significant infrastructure projects to lure these stores, are at risk of having to reduce their services or defer additional investments that are less-focused on the company in question. Activities like this, combined with the general massive reduction in corporate taxes following the US government’s taxation changes under President Trump, threaten the very ability of small and large towns and cities to invest in infrastructure for the betterment of their residents.
  • The Secret to This Brazilian Coffee? Ants Harvest the Beans // In another instance of how weird and amazing the ecosystems of the earth are, ants that have inhabited an organic coffee farm in Brasil are affecting the taste of the beans in the process of removing the fruit around the beans to feed to their young. Apparently, this has effects on the acidity and taste of certain stronefruits, while also showcasing the interdependence of organic beings in the same ecosystem.
  • How To Make A Relationship Last // The guidance in this piece spoke to me, and reflect how I personally view long- term relationships and choice. Cage nicely summarizes that challenges of continuously choosing to stay in love, and in doing so provides a good set of instructions for others to follow and innovate upon.
  • How To Be A Leader — For Someone Who Hasn’t Been A Leader Before// This is really, really good and quick advice for someone who holds a leadership role, or is about to assume one. They key bits that stuck out include: put others before yourself, act as a role model instead of a boss, and be transparent about where you have weaknesses and work with your team to make sure they’re covered off. In effect, leadership under this model involves being humble, supportive, and aware of the need to improve the life and lots of your team.

Cool Things

  1. Ok, what I really want is to be able to add a title to a photo in Apple Photos on iOS, and then when I export the photo to, say, Instagram for the title to be automatically updated. But I realize I shouldn’t dream of such ‘exceptional’ capabilities and so will settle for adding titles manually in iOS and Instagram. Like an animal.

The Roundup for April 18-May 20, 2019 Edition

(Contemporary by Christopher Parsons)

Welcome to this edition of The Roundup! Enjoy the collection of interesting, informative, and entertaining links. Brew a fresh cup of coffee or grab yourself a drink, find a comfortable place, and relax.


For the past several months I’ve been trying go determine just what has been going on with my Apple Music smart playlists. Specifically, I have a playlist that is supposed to update with all the songs that I’ve liked over the past 3 months. However, the playlist hasn’t properly been updating…and now I know why. If you ‘love’ a track in iTunes (i.e., on MacOS) then the track is automatically added to your iCloud Music library and then added to my smart playlist. If, however, you ‘love’ a track in the iOS Music application then the same does not happen: you signal to Apple’s machine learning algorithms that you like the song for purposes of Apple creating playlists for you, but the song won’t be added to any smart playlists that you have created for yourself. What’s worse, there’s no way to go back in time and determine all the songs that you’ve liked in the past in the Music application, so that you can’t retroactively add them to your own ‘loved tracks’ playlist.

This is simply absurd: it means that people who exclusively and heavily use Apple Music and expect a baseline feature parity between the music players have to use a non-mobile ‘solution’ in liking music, if we want to have an ongoing record of what we like. I’d think this was a random bug but, apparently, based on the forums I read this has been an ongoing problem for over a year. I’m incredibly disappointed that Apple has chosen to behave this way and struggle to understand why they’ve let this decision stand.

At present, the only ‘solution’ that I can find is to reflexively go and add albums after I’ve listened to them, if I’ve liked any tracks in them; otherwise I need to manually go through the process of adding tracks to a library (which strikes me as too involved a process). To say this is disappointing is a gross understatement.


Inspiring Quotation

Our relationship with food, wholly transformed since the ’60s in ways both heartening and horrifying, has lost touch with a truth none of us can afford to leave behind: Cooking isn’t a luxury; it’s a survival skill.

Great Photography Shots

I’ve been enjoying Om Malik’s photography for a bunch of time now; I think what I’m really appreciating is the grittiness of the images, combined with the (perception of) low resolution/throwback images from the 1960s and 70s. I don’t know that all of the elements he includes are ones that I want to imitate, but I appreciate the distinctive style that he’s developed over the pat few years. Some of the photos, below, are from his May 6, 2019 outing titled “A morning at the Huntington Beach

(Red-y for the games by Om Malik)
(A moment of reflection by Om Malik)
(Untitled by Om Malik)
(I hope I didn’t miss the waves! by Om Malik)

Music I’m Digging

  • Beyoncé – Lemonade // I hadn’t heard this album until it was recently released across all streaming services. While I knew it had received high praise upon release I’d (effectively) dismissed the praise as just what comes with any release from Beyoncé. Having listened to the album several times I’m still stunned with the beauty and rawness of this album. My only regret is that I didn’t listen to it when it was first released.
  • Lizzo – Cuz I Love You // Lizzo’s previous EP was exceptional in that it showcased her incredible vocal range and ability to create a tight series of works. Her new full-length album is no different: it’s the best kind of pop that is possible and is very, very easy to endlessly consume.
  • Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky – Droneflower // This is a very particular kind of album. It is most definitely not something to listen to when in poor spirits; the lyrics and musical accompaniment is almost designed to depress the spirit and lay one low. This is an album that combines the lightness of an ethereal voice with that of harsh and brutal music. It’s definitely one of the most intellectually intriguing albums I’ve listened to this year.
  • The National – I Am Easy to Find // This album is unlike any other that The National has released: it’s far less moody that earlier albums, and the inclusion of significant female vocals means that the album sounds like The National but not actually of the National. I’m still trying to determine if I like the album or not but, either way, it definitely shows that older bands can develop new sounds!

Neat Podcast Episodes

  • HuffPo Followup – One-on-One with Gerald Butts // This is a wide ranging and deep diving interview with the former principal secretary of Justin Trudeau. Butts is, at points, deeply convincing — specifically around whether pressure was placed on the former Attorney General — but otherwise is insightful for how he regards public service, what matters in advancing liberal socio-political (as opposed to political party) values, and the baseline importance of contributing to the public and our shared democracy.
  • Wag the Doug – “Unfortunately, That Tree Can’t Employ Anybody” // This ongoing popup podcast on the Ford government outlines all of the anti-environment and anti-climate elements in the government’s recent budget. It’s bad. But who expects anything less from a Ford?

Good Reads

  • New type of plastic is a recycling dream // It’s pretty amazing that novel chemical formulas may enable use to continue to use plastics, while mitigating their longevity (and enabling us to subsequently re-repurpose the chemicals that form the plastic in the first place). The question or issue, of course, is whether this technology will be adopted or if the costs of shifting to it mean that few companies will retool their entire production line, thus leaving us with the current wasteful technologies despite technical advances in plastics making.
  • Why Don’t You Just // This very short transcript of a talk at a technical conference nicely summarizes some of the annoyances I have when persons with technical/coding backgrounds interject with solutions to social problems. The ways in which the injections take place often (implicitly) devalue the work that has often been put into the problem at hand and, in the process, elevates the technical/coding skills above those associated with the social sciences and humanities.
  • How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback // The Intercept has published yet another terrific close on Erik Prince’s exploits and activities, this time with a focus on how he sought to take advantage of his association with Trump associates to advance his own interests. The article is rife with explanations of how Prince is involved in self-dealing and, also, with people who continue to authorize and facilitate his activities despite knowing his past history. It’s not just shocking that Prince is seeking to illegally be involved in private war activities but, also, that wealthy and influential people keep succumbing to his silver tongue.
  • Phishing and Security Keys // Risher, a security engineer at Google, has a terrific and accessible and blunt piece about the importance of security keys and the relative value they offer in contrast to other kinds of password systems. Left unstated is the issue of when people lack their hardware tokens: technologists and engineers have so-focused on making computing convenient that adding in friction is a hard thing to sell to most users, to say nothing of the issues in ensuring that keys work across all platforms and devices. Still, two factor authentication is a good thing and if you’re particularly paranoid then this piece should explain why you should try and opt for a hardware token to sign into your accounts.
  • Conquering The Carolina Reaper Requires Self-Deceit, Milk, And A Lot Of Barf // I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. The author’s description of his own experiences with epically hot peppers, as well as those in the professional food and pepper eating competitions, is an epic (and painful!) but of food journalism.
  • Status meetings are the scourge – Signal v. Noise // While I largely agree that many status meetings are monsterous wastes of time, I remain moderately unconvinced about the efficacy of posting what you’re doing to your colleagues to update them: face time is valuable because you can compel the attention of your team. Should you do so very often? Probably not. But never? I have a hard time envisioning that.
  • There really is something unique about Tennessee whiskey, study finds. // It is amazing just how much research goes into understanding the nature of alcohols, and how this science could revolutionize the qualities of whiskey and other spirits. I remain excited about just what we can learn about aging processes and how this will affect the quality and quantity of products brought to market!
  • Listening to My Neighbors Fight // I found this to be insightful, mostly as a personal essay that clearly unpacks the situation that almost all urban city dwellers experience at some point. This bit of writing, in particular, seemed to perfectly capture the situation that we’re all in at some point: “You can call the police. But you run the risk of wasting their time and mortifying your neighbors. Even worse, you might possibly put your neighbors in danger if the police were to overreact and hurt them. You can also simply ignore the noise and hope it stops. But then there you are, just you in your home, not knowing when a fight is just a fight—another messy part of the social contract that neighbors learn to ignore as a part of life—and when it’s worse. Google neighbors fighting and you’ll find Reddit threads and advice columns full of people trying to decipher the line between ordinary disputes and domestic violence. When does it become my business?, we want to know.”

Cool Things

  • 33 Deserted Places Around the World // This series of abandoned locations are spectacular, and remind us that the Earth will continue on even as our waste and artifacts are long-abandoned by us.
Aside

Apple, Handoff, and the Apple Ecosystem

I listen to a lot of podcasts and music throughout the day. It drives me nuts that there isn’t a consistent and reliable way to start listening to something on my Apple TV when having breakfast, shift to my iPhone while heading out to walk to a coffee shop, shift to listening on my iPad while reading/dealing with email, back to my iPhone for a walk to my office, and then finish listening to a playlist of my Mac without having to open the music app on each device, each time, and navigate to my place in a given playlist and start listening. Yes this is very much a first world problem but it’s the precise kind of problem that Apple’s famed integration is supposed to solve for me!

Aside

2018.9.13

Not going to lie: I was tempted to upgrade my iPhone 7 this year to the new X-line, but given it would cost just under $1,800 (CAD) after taxes to get an Xs with sufficient storage, and before getting Apple Care, I’m just going to hold onto my iPhone 7 for yet another year.