The Roundup November 19-24, 2017 Edition

It’s another week closer to the end of the year, and another where high profile men have been identified as having engaged in absolutely horrible and inappropriate behaviours towards women. And rather than the most powerful man in the world — himself having self-confessed to engaging in these kinds of behaviour — exhibiting an ounce of shame, he’s instead supporting an accused man and failing to account for his past activities.

I keep going back and forth as to whether I want to buy a new Apple Watch; I have zero need for one with cellular functionality and, really, just want an upgrade to take advantage of some more advanced heart monitoring features. The initial reviews of the Apple Watch Series 3 were…not inspiring. But Dan Seifert’s review of the Apple Watch Series 3 (non-LTE) is more heartening: on the whole, it’s fast and if you already have a very old Apple Watch and like it, it’s an obviously good purchase. I just keep struggling, though, to spend $600 for a device that I know would be useful but isn’t self-evidently necessary. Maybe I’ll just wait until Apple Canada starts selling some of the refurbished Series 3 models…

While photographers deal with Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), which is usually fuelled by the prayer that better stuff will mean better photos, I think that writers deal with the related Software Acquisition Syndrome (SAS). SAS entails buying new authoring programs, finding new places to write, or new apps that will make writing easier, faster, and more enjoyable. But the truth is that the time spent learning the new software, getting a voice in the new writing space, or new apps tend to just take away from time that would otherwise be spent writing. But if you’re feeling a SAS-driven urge to purchase either Ulysses or iA Writer, you should check out Marius Masalar’s comprehensive review of the two writing tools. (As a small disclosure, I paid for Ulysses and use it personally to update this website.)

New Apps and Great App Updates from this Week

Great Photography Shots

If tapeworms are your thing then there’s some terrific shots of them included as part of an interview with tapeworm experts. A few gems include:

Music I’m Digging

Neat Podcast Episodes

Good Reads for the Week


iMessage apps offer more layers of encryption, but do you need one?


Adding encryption you control inside an iMessage transmission can provide more assurances that your messages remain unreadable to others, but there a whole lot of provisos you need to consider before accepting this as a higher level of security.

It’s nice to see reviewers of applications present the concerns, first, before what might be nice about new ‘security’ apps. Namely that crypto is hard to do, not all crypto is the same, and there are basic questions concerning the reliability of the companies providing the security assurance.

More broadly, that applications can route double-encrypted messages through Apple Messages will not necessarily enhance security but, instead, mean that comunications are only as secure as the application applying the second layer of security. Apple is a great big target that everyone wants to penetrate and so Apple hires terrific technical and legal staff to keep government and others at bay. Can we expect that app developers selling encryption apps for a dollar or two will possess an equivalent commitment and competency?


Bit9 has released a report that outlines a host of fairly serious concerns around Android devices and app permissions. To be upfront: Android isn’t special in this regard, as if you have a Blackberry, iPhone, or Windows Phone Device you’ll also find a pile of apps that have very, very strange permission requests (e.g. can a wallpaper application access your GPS and contact book?). The video (above) is a quick overview of some findings; the executive summary can be found here and the full report here (.pdf).


App Developers Face Fines for Lacking Privacy Policies

To be clear and up front: privacy policies suck. I’m currently analyzing the policies of major social networks and if the policies were merely horrific then they’d be massively better than they actually are today.

That said, a privacy policy at least indicates that an organization took the time to copy someone else’s policy. For the briefest of moments there was some (however marginal) contemplation about how the organization’s actions related to privacy. While most companies will just hire a lawyer to slap legalese on their websites, a few will actually think about their data collection and its implications for individuals’ privacy. That’s really all you can hope for privacy policies to generally accomplish unless the company out-and-out lies in their policy. If they do lie then you can get the FTC involved.

The potential for ‘enjoying’ a $2,500 fine per download if a company lacks a privacy policy is a massive stick and, hopefully, will get developers to at least consider how their collection of data implicates users’ privacy. The California approach is not the solution to the problem of people’s data being collected without their genuine consent but at least it’s a start.