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The Mac Observer

Apple iPhone, Mac, Watch and iPad News, Opinions, Tips and Podcasts


PSA: Apple Announces 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) Battery Replacement Program

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 22:47, modified at 23:01

Apple announced a 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) Battery Replacement Program Friday. The company said a component failure may lead to battery expansion, and that affected devices can get their battery replaced.

13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar)

13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) Battery Replacement Program

From the program’s description:

Apple has determined that, in a limited number of 13-inch MacBook Pro (non Touch Bar) units, a component may fail causing the built-in battery to expand. This is not a safety issue and Apple will replace eligible batteries, free of charge. Affected units were manufactured between October 2016 and October 2017 and eligibility is determined by the product serial number.


This program does not affect 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar or older 13-inch MacBook Pro models.


This worldwide Apple program doesn’t extend the standard warranty coverage of the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The program’s webpage has a built-in serial number checker for immediate confirmation on whether your device is covered.

Tim Cook Reminds Us Apple Is Making Earth Day Donations for Recycled Devices

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 22:00

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted a reminder that his company is making Earth Day donations for every device handed in to the company’s recycle program. Apple announced earlier this week that it would donate to conservation efforts for devices turned in for recycling through April 30th. Earth Day 2018 is Sunday, April 22nd (i.e. this weekend).

When Artificial Intelligence Becomes Human Intelligence, Look Out

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 21:57, modified at 22:07

I discovered two extraordinary articles this week. They discuss artificial intelligence (AI) in-depth and in ways you’ve never thought about. They’re simply fantastic, and they’re must reading for the modern, AI tech-savvy reader.

AI concept.

Dr. Jordan is a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and the Department of Statistics at UC Berkeley. His opening paragraph sets the stage.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the mantra of the current era. The phrase is intoned by technologists, academicians, journalists and venture capitalists alike. As with many phrases that cross over from technical academic fields into general circulation, there is significant misunderstanding accompanying the use of the phrase. But this is not the classical case of the public not understanding the scientists — here the scientists are often as befuddled as the public.

Immediately, he tells an interesting story about his wife’s pregnancy, statistics, and a life or death decision with machines. But this personal preamble is simply a gateway into a discussion of the various levels of machine intelligence. Is it software that can learn a human’s needs and habits? Is it like IBM’s Watson that can digest vast volumes of literature and draw new inferences? Is it software that merely augments our own intelligence? Is it a HAL-9000 device that can merely pass the Turning test? And kill? Or is it a full-fledged human-like intelligence that has every capability of the human mind and then goes beyond that?

This article is a very complete and well-thought-out discussion and worth your time.

The Consequences of Artificial Intelligence

The second essay, from the Smithsonian Magazine, explores the social consequences of very advanced AI entities. In a virtual SciFi epic panorama, the article imagines what it will be like when each of us has a superior, human-like, all-knowing AI at our disposal.

Your AI helps with every aspect of your life. It remembers every conversation you ever had, every invention you ever sketched on a napkin, every business meeting you ever attended. It’s also familiar with millions of other people’s inventions—it has scanned patent filings going back hundreds of years—and it has read every business book written since Ben Franklin’s time. When you bring up a new idea for your business, your AI instantly cross-references it with ideas that were introduced at a conference in Singapore or Dubai just minutes ago. It’s like having a team of geniuses—Einstein for physics, Steve Jobs for business—at your beck and call.

There are many more of these possible scenarios, ranging from modern partner-finding, health and longevity, and AI-assisted governments making decisions that are good for the citizens, not the law-makers. Or maybe not.

Privacy died around 2060.
It’s impossible to tell what is true and what isn’t. When the government owns the AI, it can hack into every part of your existence. The calls you receive could be your Aunt Jackie phoning to chat about the weather or a state bot wanting to plumb your true thoughts about the Great Leader.

Together, these two articles create a detailed understanding of AI principles, terminology, future capabilities and the social consequences. Imagine….

Dating couple with smartphones. Consulting Artificial Intelligence

No, she’s not right for you. I’ve connected with her AI, and you each have vastly different values. If you mate with her, her AI and I will punish you. Move on.

Where we go with AI, once it matures, will quite likely be out of our control. This is called The Singularity. There is, right now, no known social mechanism to control it. Humans may not be smart enough.

Next Page: The News Debris for the week of April 16th. A personal Facebook AI?

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week of April 16th
A Personal Facebook AI?

Little girl and robot companion.

• Alan Kay once said:

People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

And it looks like that’s what Facebook is about to do. “Facebook Is Forming a Team to Design Its Own Chips.

[Facebook ‘Forming Team’ to Design Its Own Processors]

Like Han Solo, I have a bad feeling about this. It’s one thing to have an app on your Apple-made iPhone that can be deleted. It’s quite another when the very, very essence of a company is instantiated in the hardware we use. Mark Gurman, however, points out:

The postings didn’t make it clear what kind of use Facebook wants to put the chips to other than the broad umbrella of artificial intelligence. A job listing references “expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML,” indicating that the chip work could focus on a processor for artificial intelligence tasks.

But I recall once upon a time Mark Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to make its own smartphone. I have a feeling that new hardware, new devices, new AI initiatives are leading to that Singularity referenced in the preamble on page one. Just think what it’ll be like when you have a Facebook AI in your pocket. Or on your head, wired into your brain. (Required by law, of course.) Oh wait. Erase that thought.

More Debris

• Are you looking for a job with one of the tech giants? This article explores the language they use in their job listings. “The Most Commonly Used Words In Tech Giants’ Job Listings Will Make You Never Want To Work At A Tech Giant.” After looking at the commonly used phrases by giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, the author asks:

‘Maniacal’? ‘Whatever it takes’? ‘Ruthlessly’? Are these job listings or character descriptions for Disney movie villains? Textio points out that these aggressive descriptors belie whatever claims companies may make about wanting to improve diversity.


• This next article is just one more data point in an emerging theme that I see. Customers in the market for a notebook computer used to be so enamored by the superiority of macOS/BSD UNIX over earlier versions of Windows that they’d give up a little on the ultimate performance and gain the beauty and craftsmanship of a MacBook/Air/Pro.

A woman using Touch Bar on MacBook Pro

Windows 10, however, has reached the point where the equation has flipped. Today, many technical anf creative professionals are willing to accept Windows 10, with very good security, in order to get top-notch hardware performance at decent prices. (Apple hardly ever talks about the capabilities of UNIX anymore.) This, in turn, has led to a new awakening by Apple regarding the technical needs of its customers. One example is the new, no-compromise iMac Pro.

However, the recent approach by Apple seems to be lagging on the MacBook Pro side, as evidenced by this survey cited by Tom’s Guide. “Apple’s Laptops Have Hit Rock Bottom.” I’m betting Apple will also turn this around. Soon, “Pro” will have real “Pro” punch for the MacBook Pro.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

FRETX Smart Guitar Learning Device: $69.99

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 21:25

Check out FRETX, one of those devices I’d write up as Cool Stuff Found if I didn’t get to offer you a deal on it. This device slips onto the neck of your guitar and then lights up to show you where to put your fingers. It’s controlled by a smartphone app, and it’s $69.99 through us. The video below gives a good overview of how it works.

What’s the Difference Between a Data Backup and an Archive?

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 18:11

Two methods of safekeeping your files is a data backup and an archive. These are two different methods and we’ll explain the differences, as well as which method is best for your needs.

Data Backup

Backups are meant to give you a fast way to recover data. Time Machine is an example of a data backup that macOS has. A backup has two purposes: recovering data after its loss, and recovering data from an earlier time.

Backups are part of a disaster recovery plan, and most experts recommend having more than one backup. A good plan is having an external drive at your home, and another external drive somewhere else, like a friend’s house.


[What Folders to Choose When Manually Backing Up Your Mac]

That way, if disaster strikes at your house—like a fire or flood—you’ll still have one drive safe. Or, you could back up your data to cloud storage, and keep and external drive handy nearby. Either way, redundancy is key.

Screenshot of Time Machine, an example of data backup.

Data Archive

Data archiving is meant for long-term storage of data. We’re talking decades. Whereas quick recovery is important for a backup, speed isn’t as important for an archive. What is important is searchability, and the storage medium you choose.

Backups generally store data in a proprietary format, like Time Machine. That’s not good for archiving. What if Apple deprecates Time Machine in 10 years and moves on to a new method? Your data archive is f**ked, unless you have an old Mac you can use.

You’ll also want to maintain your files in specific, universal file formats. For example, text files can be read and written to on most computers. PDFs are also generally considered to be a format that most systems and handle.

Which Method?

So which method should you choose? The answer is pretty easy. For most users, a backup is good enough for our purposes. If you want future archaeologists to access your data, then you’ll want to start researching data archiving.

However, we can actually do a bit of both. It’s possible to archive a Time Machine capsule. The Mac Observer has a Quick Tip for this. Again though, archiving a capsule in this way is different than a regular Time Machine backup.

[macOS: Archiving a Time Capsule]

The 2018 Earth Day Activity Challenge for Apple Watch Users is Here

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 17:31

Tomorrow Apple Watch users will get a notification about the 2018 Earth Day Activity Challenge. Get outside and enjoy the planet, and get a badge and iMessage stickers.

[watchOS: How to Change Your Apple Watch Activity Goals]

2018 Earth Day Activity Challenge

Although you’ll get a notification tomorrow, the actual Activity Challenge isn’t until Sunday. You’ll need to complete a 30-minute workout in order to get the achievement.

The 2018 Earth Day activity challenge badge.

Since it’s Earth Day, maybe you can use the workout as a challenge to do something good for the environment, like picking up trash on the side of a road. Or, take a walk in the woods and hug some trees.

No Unified Apple OS for You, Daisy iPhone Recycling Robot – TMO Daily Observations 2018-04-20

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 17:14, modified at 17:16

Play Holochess with ARKit on Your iPhone with Star Wars: Jedi Challenges

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 15:59

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges for the iPhone and iPad just got a cool update that lets you play holochess without Lenovo’s Mirage AR headset. The new update takes advantage of ARKit and your iPhone or iPad’s camera so you can play in your livingroom, or anywhere else you have enough room to walk around the virtual holochess board. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is free, and the new holochess mode requires an ARKit-compatible iPhone or iPad.

Greenpeace Slams Apple’s iPhone Recycling Robot Daisy

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 14:58

Apple used Earth Day to unveil Daisy, its replacement for robot for Liam, designed to disassemble iPhones for recycling. The environmental activist group Greenpeace criticized Apple’s efforts saying the company should instead design iPhones that can stay in use longer—a request that seems odd considering the company supports iOS 11 on the five year old iPhone 5s.

Apple Daisy iPhone recycling robot

Daisy’s job is to efficiently disassemble old iPhones and sort the parts for recycling. According to Apple, Daisy is more efficient at the task than its predecessor, Liam. Thanks to Liam, and now Daisy, Apple is keeping more old iPhones out of landfills.

[Starting Today, Apple is Making Earth Day Donations and Built a New Robot]

Greenpeace, however, doesn’t seem to like the new addition to the Apple family. The organization’s USA Senior IT Sector Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement,

Rather than another recycling robot, what is most needed from Apple is an indication that the company is embracing one of its greatest opportunities to reduce its environmental impact: repairable and upgradeable product design. This would keep its devices in use far longer, delaying the day when they’d need to be disassembled by Daisy. Customers want to keep their devices longer, as evidenced by a 3 to 4 week wait for a battery replacement at Apple retail stores earlier this year, when Apple was compelled to dramatically reduce the replacement cost.

It’s true that iPhones aren’t easily repairable, and they aren’t upgradable. That said, they have a surprisingly long life span, especially compared to other smart phones.

The iPhone 5, for example, was released in 2012 and it’s common to see people using the six year old model today. The iPhone 5s is five years old and can run Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 11.

[Here are the iPhones and iPads that Won’t Run iOS 11]

[Apple Apologizes for Throttling Controversy, Offers $29 Battery Upgrades]

[Apple’s $29 iPhone Battery Replacement Doesn’t Require a Device Check]

In fact, the only iPhone model that’s truly unusable today is the original model, released in 2007. That model stopped working because of network changes on the part of cell service providers. If that weren’t the case, you could conceivably use an 11 year old iPhone today, although it wouldn’t run current operating system versions.

If feels like Greenpeace wants to dictate Apple’s product design, or maybe exploit Apple’s environmental efforts for its own visibility.

Greenpeace did have some praise for Apple’s environmental efforts and 100% reliance on renewable energy. Gary Cook commented on that saying, “Apple’s leadership on climate change contrasts sharply with its main competitor, Samsung Electronics, who currently operates on only 1% renewable energy.”

Not all old iPhones find their way back to Apple for recycling. Some go to other recycling programs, and some end up in landfills. Still, with robots like Daisy, Apple is making an effort to efficiently recycle as much as it can from every old iPhone it gets—and some of those had a very long life.

BBC Just Released 16,016 Sound Effects for Free

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 13:45

If you’re on the hunt for some quality sound effects for you projects, the BBC has your back. The organization has a website where you can download 16,016 of its sound effects ranging from birds chirping to machines and cars, nature sounds, people walking on specific surfaces, and more. You can search for sounds and listen to samples before downloading. They’re all free, but come with a catch: you can use them only for personal, educational, or research purposes. Check them out at the BBC Sound Effects website.

Cybersecurity Tech Accord: 34 Tech Companies Just Promised a Bunch of Nothing

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-20 12:00, modified at 15:27

34 tech companies came together on Thursday to announce a whole bunch of nothing called the Cybersecurity Tech Accord. It’s a pledge with two essential parts: the first is that these companies will protect their customers, and the second is that they won’t help governments launch cyberattacks on “innocent customers and enterprises.”

Heavyweight signatories include: Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle, SAP, Cisco, HP, Cloudflare, and Github. You can see the whole list on the Accord’s website. Notable companies who aren’t signatories include Apple, Google, and Amazon.

The Accord has gotten some positive headlines, but I don’t think the announcement stands up to logical scrutiny. For one thing, both claims include mealy-mouthed wiggle room in their wording. For another, even if these pledges had some bite, most of the signatories aren’t being asked to hack anyone anyway. They might be asked to give up customer data to a warrant from time to time, but they aren’t pledging to protect against that.

What’s worst to me is that if the second pledge was taken at face value, it’s not hard to come up with scenarios where the promise becomes absurd.

I Promise…

Let’s look at the first major pledge, the one that makes the most sense, but is still essentially saying nothing:

Stronger defense

The companies will mount a stronger defense against cyberattacks. As part of this, recognizing that everyone deserves protection, the companies pledged to protect all customers globally regardless of the motivation for attacks online.

I like the principle behind this one. The companies are saying they’ll protect their customers. That’s great! But…no, it’s not really saying that, is it? The companies are pledging to “mount a stronger defense.”

[Cybersecurity Tech Accord, Cyberwar Is Now, Social Network Inertia – ACM 458]

What does that even mean? Stronger than what? Stronger than my Great Aunt Sue? Stronger than a pack of ravenous guard dogs? Are they saying they haven’t been giving it their all already? That they’ve been holding back, but from here on out they’re finally going to do their best? That’s probably not the intended meaning, but without an objective measure, promising “a stronger defense” has no meaning at all.

Regardless of Motivation?

Hold on a second, what’s this about “regardless of motivation of attacks online” there at the end? Are they saying that they’ll be working “stronger” to protect murderous dictators, hostile foreign powers, and terrorists organizations from cyberattacks by the companies’ own governments?


‘Cause I gotta tell you that’s not going to end well, and it doesn’t make you the good guys.


Sir, the stolen nuclear missile just armed.
[it’s a B-movie, so just roll with it]

Oh my god. We’ve got to stop them!

Don’t worry, sir. Our side has the hacking capability to shut that missile down. We’ll stop them.


OK, team. We’re detecting a cyber intrusion on a Windows system in Foreignistan. We’ve got a job to do, so let’s protect our customer!

Don’t get me wrong, I understand what they’re going for. They’re trying to say that they’ll put their customers first, regardless of nation-state interests. But above and beyond the legalities such a pledge might encounter, I can think of all kinds of scenarios where protecting customers regardless of motivation is just stupid.

And note the sharp difference from Apple’s approach of providing end-to-end encryption in services like iMessage and device-level encryption on iPhones. Apple can’t provide the keys because it doesn’t have the keys.

Apple’s approach protects the privacy of everyone—including possibly the bad guys—because it’s the only way to have proper protection for anyone. Where Apple does have keys—to data stored in iCloud, for instance—Apple complies with legal warrants, as it should.

Innocent Customers

Moving on, let’s look at the second pledge:

No offense

The companies will not help governments launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises, and will protect against tampering or exploitation of their products and services through every stage of technology development, design and distribution.

My jaded pundit kicks in with this one starting with the reality that few—if any—of these companies are being asked to launch cyberattacks against anyone. Ever. That makes this an empty promise, or worse, a cynical one. Nation-state cyberattacks are handled by nation-states, not vendors like these. There are plenty of companies offering hacking and related services for nation-states, but they aren’t signatories to this Accord.

But then we get to more of that mealy-mouthed nonsense: “launch cyberattacks against innocent citizens and enterprises.” So guilty citizens and enterprises are fair game? If so, who’s deciding innocence and guilt here? If it’s a court of law, and these companies are going to follow the law, there’s little to this promise because at any time laws can be written requiring their help in launching cyberattacks. If it’s the companies deciding innocence, Holy Cyberpunk Dystopia, Batman!

I know I’m prone to thinking way too hard about what words mean, but even at its very best, the Accord would only have meaning if these companies were above and separate from governments. But they aren’t above nation-states. Come the day their services are required, they will obey their home governments if compelled. And so once we again we’re back to this Accord being meaningless.

In reality, this pledge doesn’t mean a gosh darned thing, and I think it’s a shame so many mainstream outlets let it pass with so little examination.

Tim Cook Insists That iOS and macOS Shall Remain Separate. He’s Right

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 21:38, modified on 2018-04-20 13:21

Tim Cook recently made some comments about the merger os iOS and macOS.  He may have been misunderstood. Let’s see where it all leads.


Back in December, Mark Gurman at Bloomberg Technology wrote: “Apple Plans Combined iPhone, iPad & Mac Apps to Create One User Experience.” He discussed an internal Apple project called “Marzipan.”

Apple UNIX

This involves unifying the code base and APIs of iOS and macOS so that Xcode developers can, with relative ease:

…design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware, according to people familiar with the matter.

The reason this is a big deal is that, while iOS is a fork of macOS, it’s own frameworks and APIs have evolved over time to meet the unique needs of iPads and iPhones, including the ARM CPUs. By bringing those back into sync, developers can write once and deploy across the platforms, targeting either Intel or ARM. (Maybe, some day, only ARM.) This is, incidentally, why Apple is pushing to make all macOS apps 64-bit. iOS apps already are.

The impact will be huge. Author Gurman notes:

Developers currently must design two different apps — one for iOS, the operating system of Apple’s mobile devices, and one for macOS, the system that runs Macs. That’s a lot more work. What’s more, Apple customers have long complained that some Mac apps get short shrift. For example, while the iPhone and iPad Twitter app is regularly updated with the social network’s latest features, the Mac version hasn’t been refreshed recently and is widely considered substandard. With a single app for all machines, Mac, iPad and iPhone users will get new features and updates at the same time.

2016 MacBook Pro, 13 and 15.

Common App Basis Doesn’t Mean a Formal OS Merger

Under the hood, however, iOS and macOS have different components. macOS is designed to run various UNIX-y daemons that aren’t needed in iOS. Remember when iOS first shipped on the iPad? It didn’t even run an NTP server, so the internal clock would drift badly.

[What Time is it? Your iPad May Not be Sure ]

macOS doesn’t have the same kinds of sandboxing restrictions that iOS started with, and that’s why it’s possible to draw from various resources to, for example, build an app in Xcode. By and by, Apple had to losen some of these iOS restrictions, and that has allowed more user creativity, but also came at a cost. That cost is explained by iMazing developer Gregorio Zanon: “No, end-to-end encryption does not prevent Facebook from accessing WhatsApp chats.

In any case, in a merger sense, reducing macOS to the iOS levels of protection and simplicity would cripple it. Expanding iOS to the full capabilities of macOS would entirely defeat its awesome security. Rich Mogull, in my podcast, told me that iOS is the most secure mobile OS on the planet. It should stay that way.

Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac "hello again" event.

Perspective on Tim Cook’s Comments

All this gets us ready to digest Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent comments. “Users don’t want iOS to merge with MacOS, Apple chief says.” Author Wells quotes Cook:

“We don’t believe in sort of watering down one for the other. Both [The Mac and iPad] are incredible. One of the reasons that both of them are incredible is because we pushed them to do what they do well. And if you begin to merge the two … you begin to make trade offs and compromises.

I believe that’s Cook-speak for the idea that users expect to do the traditional macOS and UNIX-y things (“well”) they do on Macs in concert with great apps targeted for that environment. Meanwhile, iOS users will continue to appreciate the convenience and security of their iOS-related devices (iOS, tvOS, watchOS.)

Mr. Cook isn’t going to discuss any secret projects that would, say, allow iOS designed apps to be compiled for a Mac, run in a macOS window, and be operated with a trackpad/mouse. Obliquely, however, he’s saying the underlying nature of macOS must remain fundamentally unchanged.

That’s how I’m looking at the situation right now. App compatibility at the source code level doesn’t imply a merger of the two OSes into one, half-baked hybrid OS that has neither the security of iOS nor the flexibility and power of macOS and its glorious terminal access to the UNIX shell.

Cybersecurity Tech Accord, Cyberwar Is Now, Social Network Inertia – ACM 458

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 21:26, modified on 2018-04-20 15:25

Starting Today, Apple is Making Earth Day Donations and Built a New Robot

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 19:58, modified at 21:04

Apple announced today that it will be adding Earth Day donations to its trade-in and recycle program. Starting today through April 30, the company will make a donation to Conservation International for every device received at Apple retail stores and the online Apple Store through the Apple GiveBack program.

Earth Day Donations

Additionally, the company has a new recycling robot called Daisy. Cobbled together from some of Liam’s (the previous robot) parts like a modern-day Frankenstein, it can take apart nine versions of the iPhone and sort components for recycling. Daisy can disassemble up to 200 iPhones an hour.

[New Apple Cartoon Looks at the Liam Recycling Robot]

Image of Daisy, a new recycling robot for Apple. Apple is also making Earth day donations.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social initiatives, said:

At Apple, we’re constantly working toward smart solutions to address climate change and conserve our planet’s precious resources. In recognition of Earth Day, we are making it as simple as possible for our customers to recycle devices and do something good for the planet through Apple GiveBack. We’re also thrilled to introduce Daisy to the world, as she represents what’s possible when innovation and conservation meet.

[You Can Get a Gift Card When You Recycle Apple Watches]

As usual, when you trade in or recycle an Apple device through the company, eligible devices will earn you credit you can put towards in-store purchases or put on an Apple Store gift card.

Review: MeWe is a Private Social Network Taking on Facebook

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 19:35

Launched in 2016, MeWe is a private social network that wants to take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. There are no ads—targeted or otherwise—and no tracking users of any kind, such as data mining.

[The Father of the Web is Backing a Private Social Network]

MeWe: The Private Social Network

When I first joined MeWe, I started looking for groups to join. I found an Apple one and a metal music group. Each group has a group chat, and depending on how many members there are, can quickly swamp you with notifications. There is no way to leave each chat, although you can mute the notifications and hide the group.

When I looked in the metal group chat, the first thing I saw was some dude asking for boob pics. I mean, I know the internet is the Wild West, but c’mon bro. If your kids join MeWe, just know that the group chat is an unmoderated chat room with strangers.

You can join group chats in MeWe, a private social network.

Other than that, most the of the features of MeWe are standard for a social network. You can share posts, GIFs, pictures, etc. to your Home Feed. However, by default only people in your contacts and see what you post.

Anyone can create a group, and you can choose three options: Private (invite-only), Selective (owner or admin approval required to join), and Open (anyone can join). You can opt to include the group in the MeWe group directory or not. If you change your mind later you can switch the group settings.

Screenshots of MeWe groups, a private social network.

When it comes to chat, again it’s pretty much the same as other chat apps. You can video call, voice call, send regular chats and secret chats. Secret chats are end-to-end encrypted, and although it’s an in-app subscription, you can try it free for 30 days.

That’s how MeWe plans to stay in business. Since it doesn’t sell access to its users to advertisers, there is a MeWe Store with emojis and the secret chat feature. Presumably more content will be added over time. Getting secret chat is a subscription costing US$0.99 per month, or US$5.99 per year. Other than that the app is free.

Screenshots of MeWe chats, a private social network.


Overall my impression is: meh. There’s nothing wrong with MeWe, but I have social network fatigue. This isn’t going to replace any of my current social networks. However, if you can convince enough friends and family members to join, then maybe you’ll get more out of it than I did.

[Social Media Firms Should Try Evolving Like Apple, not Lemmings]

PSA: Live Photos Include Sound, as This Person Discovered

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 18:23

An Apple customer shared a story on Reddit about accidentally discovering that Live Photos include sound, and finding one that included his late grandmother’s laughter. After emailing Tim Cook to thank him, he got a response.

Live Photos

Taking Live Photos with an iPhone.

A Live Photo is an iPhone feature that takes an animated picture. The camera records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after you take the picture, resulting in a file that is half photo, half video.

[iPhone 6s: How to Enable Live Photos]

 In the Photos app Live Photos are automatically sorted into their own album, so they are easy to find. They also have a Live label on them. If your iPhone has 3D Touch, just 3D Touch the photo to animate it.

To take a Live Photo, open the iPhone’s camera and look for the circular icon in the top center of the screen. Then, just tap the shutter button as you normally would.

The Story

u/vini_1914 shared how he found this feature:

Last week my sister went home and we started sharing photos we had of [my grandma] and I got a few I didn´t had. I never have my phone volume on, but this day it was and as they all have iPhones, I 3D-Touched the photo to see the LivePhoto and that´s when it hit me that the LivePhoto’s have sounds.

He shared the story with Tim Cook, who responded that peoples’ stories like that are deeply inspiring.

[iOS 11: How to Create a Loop Live Photo Effect on iPhone]

The Broken iMac Pro Controversy, Amazon’s Fire TV Edition – TMO Daily Observations 2018-04-19

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 17:34

Nix Pro Color Sensor: $249

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 17:03

We have a deal on the Nix Pro Color Sensor, a device that senses color and sends the data to your iPhone, iPad, or android device. The Nix Pro blocks out ambient light, can match to more than 38,000 paint colors, give you  CMYK, HEX, sRGB, CIELAB, LCH, and LRV codes, and more. It’s $249 through us, 28% off retail.

Amazon’s 100M Prime Subscribers are Big for Streaming Content

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 15:51, modified at 15:52

Amazon just did a very un-Amazon-like thing: It revealed how many Amazon Prime subscribers there are. The number is over 100 million, and before now the online retail giant offered up only vague descriptions like “growing,” and “best year ever.” Now we know how big a competitor Amazon really is in the streaming video and music market.

Amazon box full of money

Here’s what that number means:

  • Amazon has over 100 million shoppers with a built-in loyalty thanks to Prime’s US$99 annual subscription
  • Amazon has substantially more than 100 million shoppers after adding in non-Prime customers
  • Amazon’s potential viewer base for its original shows and movies, as well as streaming music listeners is over 100 million

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed the subscriber number in the company’s annual shareholder letter. He said,

13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year—both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items.

That’s a lot of people with built-in shopping loyalty, and it’s a huge potential base for Amazon’s streaming content.

In comparison, Apple Music has over 40 million subscribers, Netflix has 125 million, Hulu Plus has 17 million, and Spotify has over 71 million paying subscribers. Granted, not all Amazon Prime members take advantage of the company’s streaming content, but it does make it clear the company is a real competitor in this space.

[Apple Music Tops 40 Million Subscribers, Gets a Vice President]

“Prime Video continues to drive Prime member adoption and retention,” Bezos said. Translation: Amazon’s streaming video content is a huge draw for new and ongoing Prime memberships.

[Will Amazon’s Fire TV Edition Do What Apple Could Not?]

That puts Amazon in the unique position of being a streaming content powerhouse along with a giant force in online sales.

Bezos writes a letter to shareholders every year, and it’s always draws the interest of investors as well as other companies. The letter gives some insight into Amazon’s company philosophies, along with performance-related details and possibly some clues about where it’s headed.

This year it also has a warning for competitors: Amazon is diving even deeper into product sales, and it’s a real contender in the streaming content space. Looks like it’s time to start paying closer attention to how all of the streaming content services stack up against Amazon.

RememBear: TunnelBear Intros New Password Manager

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-19 14:01

TunnelBear is expanding beyond VPN services and into password management with its new RememBear app. The app securely stores passwords, credit cards, and more in an AES256 encrypted database, plus it can generate strong passwords for you. The app is available for macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android with autofill extensions for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. It’s free for use on one device, or US$36 a year for sycning with multiple devices, cloud backup, and priority support.

Facebook ‘Forming Team’ to Design Its Own Processors

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 23:10, modified at 23:12

This is interesting. Sort of. Facebook is “forming a team” to design its own in-house processors, according to Bloomberg. A Facebook job listing for a management position describes an “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization.” And yeah, sure, you’re thinking so what, and you’re right.

Facebook Jumping on the Cool Kids' Bandwagon

To be fair, Facebook could use its own processors in its massive data centers. And the company is in the virtual headset business with Oculus, but so what, right?


Oh, and it’s rumored to be working on Facebook home speakers destined not to sell.

So…yeah, I’m scratching my head.

The job posting also mentions artificial intelligence and machine learnings, but I have a hard time thinking Facebook can out-design Intel, ARM, Qualcomm, or even Samsung. Then again, that’s what people said about Apple, and look how that turned out.

Apples and Oranges and Facebook

Oh right, Apple. That company has enjoyed amazing success designing its own CPUs and other chips for its iPhones and now Macs. Apple may even move Macs to Apple CPUs as early as 2020. The thing about Apple, though, is that controlling the software and the hardware gives Apple unique opportunities when it comes to chips.

It’s difficult to imagine Facebook being able to leverage the same kinds of opportunities, and it’s equally difficult to think that Facebook is doing something in the AI/ML space where commercially available products won’t meet its needs. From the outside, this feels a whole lot like an awkward attempt to jump on a bandwagon that has nothing to do with Facebook.

Spoiler: I have it on good authority that John Martellaro has a different angle on this story he’ll be writing about later this week. I can’t wait!

Watch Intelligence Squared Net Neutrality Debate: Tom Wheeler, Mitchell Baker vs. Michael Katz, Nick Gillespie

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 22:11

Check out this Intelligence Squared debate on Net Neutrality. I love the Intelligence Squared show, which I listen to on KQED in the Bay Area. This episode hasn’t aired yet, but the video format is up on YouTube now. It features former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker arguing for the motion “Preserve Net Neutrality.” Arguing against the motion is Michael Katz, former Chief Economist of the FCC and Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason magazine.  Here’s the interesting thing, but warning, because it contains spoilers. Those arguing against the motion—i.e. arguing to end Net Neutrality—won the debate. What that means is they shifted more opinions in the audience, who voted before and after the debate. But, those arguing to preserve Net Neutrality carried majority support before and after the debate. If you’ve been wanting to hear reasoned arguments on this topic, this is something you’ll want to watch or listen to. Mind you, those arguing against the motion are just plain wrong, but it’s a great discussion.

Safari Technology Preview 54 Has Changes to Clipboard API, Beacon API, More

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 20:29, modified at 20:30

Apple released Safari Technology Preview 54 Monday. This look-ahead version of Safari includes eight big fixes, improvements, and new features. All told, there are five categories of changes: Clipboard API, Beacon API, Web API, WebRTC, and Web Inspector.

Safari Technology Preview

You can download Safari Technology Preview 54 for macOS Sierra and macOS High Sierra from the WebKit.org website.

Patch Notes for Safari Technology Preview 54

Clipboard API

  • Fixed copying a list from Microsoft Word to TinyMCE when mso-list is the first property (r230120)
  • Prioritized file promises over filenames during drag and drop (r230221)

Beacon API

  • Fixed Beacon redirect responses to be CORS validated (r230495)


  • Implemented createImageBitmap(Blob) (r230350)


  • Added a special software encoder mode when a compression session is not using a hardware encoder and VCP is not active (r230451)
  • Added experimental support for MDNS ICE candidates in WebRTC data channel peer-to-peer connections (r230290, r230307)

Web Inspector

  • Fixed the errors glyph to fully change to blue when active (r230372)
  • Tinted all pixels drawn by a shader program when hovering over a tree element in the Canvas Tab (r230127)

Will Amazon’s Fire TV Edition Do What Apple Could Not?

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 20:26, modified at 20:31

The news is all over the place today. In partnership with Insignia and Toshiba, Amazon has developed a smart TV called the Fire TV Edition. It includes the Fire TV system. This 4K/UHD TV will be sold by Amazon online, but also exclusively at Best Buy, notably including the Best Buy brick-and-mortar stores.

You have to give Amazon credit for being spunky.

Amazon Fire TV Edition.

The LCD/LED backlit TV itself comes in four sizes (43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inches) and is fairly unexceptional. Here are the specs.

  • Fire TV Edition is a smart TV experience that seamlessly integrates your favorite streaming and live over-the-air content on a unified home screen (HD antenna required).
  • Experience true-to-life 4K UHD picture quality with over 8 million pixels for stunning clarity, deep contrast, and brilliant colors on a direct-lit LED screen with minimal motion blur. Refresh Rate: 60 Hz (Native), 120 Hz (Effective).
  • The Fire TV experience is built in so you can enjoy tens of thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills. Get universal search results across over 190 channels and apps including Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, SHOWTIME, STARZ, and Prime Video.
  • The included Voice Remote with Alexa allows you to control live TV playback, launch apps, search for TV shows, play music, switch inputs, control smart home devices, and much more.
  • Prime members get unlimited access to Prime Video including Thursday Night Football, thousands of movies, and TV episodes at no additional cost.
  • Multiple device input/output options: 4 HDMI 2.0 including 1 with ARC, 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card, Ethernet, composite/component, headphone, optical audio out.

No mention is made of HDR capability, and the vanilla “HDMI 2.0” input spec seems to confirm that. But we’ll have to wait for official reviews when it ships this summer.

What’s Notable About Fire TV Edition

This announcement is notable for several reasons. First of all, Amazon is a company that’s supremely talented at selling goods, whether it’s laundry detergent or 4K/UHD TVs. So when a business opportunity opens up, like the 4K/UHD TV revolution, Amazon prepares properly to jump all over it.

Secondly, 4K/UHD TV systems are complicated to set up properly and fully exploit. The market is always hungry for simple, elegant, cost-effective solutions.

[My Crazy Apple TV 4K & Dolby Vision Adventure ]

Just as Amazon recognized the need for a simple, inexpensive voice-activated home speaker system, Amazon has tried to solve the 4K/UHD TV complexity issue with a 4K/UHD TV with Alexa and the Fire TV built in. This not only eliminates cables and envelopes the customer into the Fire TV ecosystem, but serves as an integrated platform for Amazon’s future efforts in product sales, home automation and entertainment (Amazon Prime).

Amazon's vision of control.

Solving an annoying customer problem and seducing the customer into an integrated ecosystem is something we customarily associate with Apple.

That’s why, years ago, Gene Munster formerly with Piper Jaffray, now at LoupVentures.com, suggested Apple integrate the Apple TV and the TV experience with its own branded set. Those who thought that was a bad idea were probably right in that there’s nothing to be gained for Apple to design and ship premium TVs in a cut-throat TV market. Apple doesn’t approach the market that way,. But Amazon can.

Finally, Amazon is smartly leveraging from the brick-and-mortar aspects of TV buying. Customers still like to visit a Best Buy and look at prospective, exciting new TVs. Apple has always understood that shopping experience when it comes to its own retail stores, and Amazon isn’t shy about exploiting that customer psychology as well.

One has to give Amazon credit for being courageous. It’s the company’s frame of mind. However, in the end, the Fire TV Edition could well fail like the Fire Phone did.

[Amazon Hangs Up on Fire Phone ]

If it does fail, it wouldn’t be a crisis as it would be with Apple, and that affords Amazon some liberties.

Business Model Differentiation

The point is, Amazon is a different kind of company and has a different business model than Apple. Apple builds only the best of anything it choses to pursue, and that locks the company out of grand entrepreneurial experiments that could well fail, but might pay off handsomely in the long run.

That’s why Amazon is probably working, right now, on Alexa-powered family service robot companions that will cater to customer needs. Will Amazon catch Apple flat-footed?

In this day and age, Amazon’s kind of spunk is intriguing to watch.

European Filing Shows the iPhone SE 2 Might be Coming After All

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 19:51

French website Consomac uncovered a regulatory filing with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC). A bunch of iPhones running iOS 11 are listed, but them model numbers don’t match current iPhones. A total of 11 model numbers are listed (via MacRumors).

iPhone SE 2?

Regulatory filings like this are reliable. This is a Russian requirement that companies have to follow when launching a product containing encryption and/or cryptography.

[The iPhone SE is for Power Users, Too]

The model numbers are A1920, A1921, A1984, A2097, A2098, A2099, A2101, A2103, A2104, A2105 and A2106. They could mean cellular devices, Wi-Fi-capable devices, or multiple colors.

An iPhone SE 2 could appear this summer. This is an image of the first iPhone SE.

So far, Apple rumors suggest that three flagship models will launch later this year. Two models with OLED screens measuring at 5.8″ and 6.5″, as well as a 6.1″ LCD model. All three of them are expected to be in the iPhone X form factor, with Face ID and edge-to-edge displays.

[Apple Reportedly Planning iPhone SE 2 for July 2018]

Other rumors say that an iPhone SE 2 could also be coming, and may launch at WWDC. The iPhone SE hasn’t seen a complete refresh since it launched in March 2016. In 2017 the storage capacities of the low-end model were doubled to 64/128 GB.

Stolen iPhone Guide: What You Can Do if Your iPhone is Stolen

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 18:54, modified on 2018-04-20 14:55

If you’re the victim of an iPhone theft, there are steps you can take after to try to get it back. But there are also preventative steps to take before it happens. Here’s what you can do.


Turn on Erase Data, which can help secure your stolen iPhone.

These preventative measures are more about keeping your data secure. First, make sure you have two-factor authentication enabled on your Apple ID. Second, having a good password makes it harder for criminals to break into your device.

Third, you can enable Data Protection on your iPhone. This is a setting to erase all data on your iPhone after 10 failed password attempts. As long as your data is backed up to iCloud, it won’t be lost even if your iPhone is erased. Next, make sure Find My iPhone is turned on. Go to Settings > Your Apple ID > iCloud > Find My iPhone.

When you report your device to the local authorities, they might ask you for the phone’s serial number. You can find this in Settings > General > About. Write this down and keep it in a safe place, or store it in a password manager that you can access on another device.


Turning on Find My iPhone can help you locate your stolen iPhone.

As long as you turned Find My iPhone on, there are other things you can do. Sign into icloud.com/find on a Mac or PC, or use the Find My iPhone app on someone else’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. If your family uses Family Sharing, any family member can help locate your stolen iPhone.

You can put your iPhone into Lost Mode. When this happens, you can set a custom message to appear on the lock screen, such as a number to call. It also locks the screen with a passcode.

But when you turn Find My iPhone on, a feature called Activation Lock is automatically activated. It’s designed to prevent someone else from using your iPhone. When it’s turned on, your Apple ID is stored on Apple’s activation servers and linked to your device.

After that, your Apple ID email and password is required before the thief can turn off Find My iPhone, erase the device, or reactivate it to try to use it. Finally, you should also report your stolen iPhone to the local authorities. They might ask for your iPhone’s serial number, but you stored it in a safe place during our prevention steps.

What’s the Best Method to Manage PDFs on Apple Devices?

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 17:51

I’ve asked myself that question recently, because I like to keep my files neatly organized. Right now, there are several ways to manage PDFs: iBooks, iCloud Drive, and Apple Notes. But which one is the best method?

iCloud Drive

I’m going to start off by saying that right now I think iCloud Drive is probably the best method. It’s easy to create a folder for each category of PDF, like I do with my set up. I have PDFs organized into six folders: Guides, Personal, White Papers, Scans, and Other.

[iOS 11: How to Save a Webpage as PDF & Store in Files App]

Since they are in the Finder, I can use Automator to perform actions on the PDFs like renaming them in bulk. And with Files, they are easily accessible on iOS.

You can manage PDFs in iBooks, a screenshot of which can be seen here.


Now, I’d like to manage PDFs with iBooks, and you can do that currently. But I don’t like the way iBooks handles PDFs on iOS. For example, if you want to move a PDF out of iBooks, you only have two options when you tap the share button: print and email. Why Apple doesn’t let you access the full share sheet is beyond me, and it annoys me to no end.

At the same time, keeping track of PDFs in iBooks can be a bit difficult. In order to find the PDF you need, you’ll have to search for it. Most PDFs don’t have a cover like eBooks do; it’s just a page of text. So scrolling through and finding a PDF at a glance is not a good option. Titles are also hidden.

Apple Notes

With iOS 11 Apple added the ability to scan documents with Notes and save them as a PDF. But the file size of each PDF can start to accumulate, and if you’re downloading your notes on a new Apple device, it might take a while to download all of the PDFs.

[iOS 11: How to Scan Documents in Apple Notes]

Screenshot of Apple Notes, which you can use to manage PDFs.

In contrast, with iBooks you can download a PDF only when you need it, one-by-one. You can kind of do this with iCloud Drive, now that macOS has the ability to optimize your storage. But that doesn’t work the way I like, and my Mac downloads optimized folders on its own, and it needlessly uses up bandwidth.

This AR App Gives You a Virtual Photo Studio

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 17:05

Heads up iPhoneographers: this virtual photo studio lets you work with models, studio lights, and more. Each model is based on a real person, and you can place them into any scene you want, like a beach, studio, or desert. You can pose the model how you want, then use virtual lights and light modifiers to create your shot. Color corrections can be applied in real time, and you can change the direction of the sun and add weather like snow. The brains behind the app is Superba AR CEO Raffael Dickreuter, who has worked in the visual effects industry in Hollywood with movies like Iron Man and Avengers 2. The app is pricey though, costing US$10. App Store: Photo Studio – AR

HyperGear Wireless Gift Set with Headphones, Earbuds, and Bluetooth Speaker: $44.99

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 16:24

We hava deal the HyperGear Wireless Gift Set, a collection that includes a pair of over-the-ear headphones, a pair of earbuds, and a Bluetooth speaker. The headphones and earbuds are wireless, too. It’s $44.99 through us.

About Optimized Storage on your Mac Startup Disk

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 15:05, modified at 15:08

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #274

Your Mac will slow down more and more as your startup disk becomes fuller and fuller. And, if you fill it up completely, your Mac might not even boot. It’s essential you maintain adequate free space on your Mac’s startup disk. And that is why Optimized Storage is so important

How much free space is adequate? If you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or 10.13 High Sierra, you’ll receive a “Your disk is almost full” notification when your drive is nearly full. I’ve never seen that notification, however, because I believe it often appears long after my Mac has begun slowing down due to insufficient free disk space.

I like to keep a minimum of 25% of my startup disk free at all times. Although the slowing down doesn’t begin until the disk is closer to 100% full, keeping 25% free makes it unlikely a large file or download will fill my startup disk and make my life miserable.

The easiest way to see how much free space remains on a disk is to choose Show Status Bar in the Finder’s View menu, which causes your available free space to appear in the Status Bar at the bottom of every Finder window.

The status bar says I've got 632.2GB (roughly 60%) of space available on my 1TB SSD.

If the Status Bar says I’ve got 250GB or less available (roughly 25% of my 1-terabyte SSD), I start looking for large files I can delete or move to a different disk.

Optimized Storage (Apple’s Way)

If you’re running Sierra or High Sierra, Apple offers another, easier way to free up disk space. It’s called Optimized Storage, and it automatically moves some of your files off your disk and into the cloud, where they’re available on demand.

Here’s how it works: First, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu, click the Storage tab, and then click the Manage button. You’ll see an overview of your free space and the space used by different types of files.

When disk space runs low, Optimized Storage can move files you rarely use—including photos, movies, email attachments, and other stuff—to the cloud automatically. The file still appears where you last saved it, and downloads automatically when you open it. Only files you’ve modified recently remain on your Mac, along with optimized (compressed) versions of photos.

These are your optimized storage options.

It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s automatic. And, if you’re certain your Mac will never be without a fast Internet connection, you may find it useful.

Optimized Storage (My Way)

I do not. I never know when I’ll be somewhere that lacks decent Internet access—a plane, train, or boat, or a lousy coffee shop. So, I don’t care much for the thought that some of my files may be unavailable due to poor or nonexistent Internet access.

Which is why I optimize my storage manually. That way I’m certain that all of the files I might need will always be available with or without an Internet connection.

There’s more information about Optimized Storage (Apple’s way) in this Apple support article.

Dave and Jeff Nerd Out on Wi-Fi Routers – TMO Daily Observations 2018-04-18

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 13:47, modified at 13:48

Synology RT2600ac and RT1900ac: Your Apple AirPort Extreme Replacement

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 13:35, modified at 13:39

[Updated April 18, 2018 with lowered prices on Amazon. The RT2600ac is now available for less than an AirPort Extreme, with a lot more features and range.]

These days, many Apple users are looking to improve and update their home Wi-Fi connections. With Apple seemingly having abandoned any true hardware updates to their AirPort router line, Apple users are looking to third-parties to fill the gap for an AirPort Extreme replacement. To that end, Synology is among the cream of the crop in the standalone router market and provides many features never found in Apple’s offerings.

Mesh Wi-Fi is all the rage – and for many good reasons that our How-To-Buy Mesh Wi-Fi piece explains – but for folks with modest-sized homes and centrally-placed Internet entry points, having a single, standalone router still works quite well. With that, I’m often asked, “Which is the best standalone router?” and I almost universally answer: the Synology RT2600ac. With its coverage range, Apple-focused feature set, price point, and easy setup, it’s a no-brainer.

Time Machine

Being able to have a single Time Machine destination on your network is one of the reasons people buy Apple routers. Both Apple’s Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme support this, the latter by way of attaching a USB disk. The good news is that Synology’s Router Management web interface (SRM) supports this, as well. Just attach a USB disk, enable Time Machine support in SRM, and you’re good to go. All the users on your network can backup to this just like it was an Apple router.

Screenshot of Synology Router SRM control panel Time Machine configuration screen


One thing that Apple’s routers have curiously never supported is Apple’s own AirPrint technology, which affords users the ability to print to an attached printer from your iPhone. Many newer network printers support AirPrint out-of-the-box now, but even if you shared your USB printer from your Apple router, it still wouldn’t appear as an option from your iPhone or iPad. Synology’s SRM solves this, too, by allowing you to enable AirPrint (and Google Cloud Print) on any USB or network printer you have. Again, it’s as simple as enabling the option in the SRM web interface and assigning the appropriate driver.

Screenshot of Synology Router SRM AirPrint and Google Cloud Print configuration screen

VPN – Inbound and Out

The past few years have seen VPNs gain popularity, and for many good reasons. It’s convenient to be able to tunnel back into your network at home, and it’s also great to have a secure way to browse when you’re out on a public Wi-Fi network. Additionally, with the possibility of your home ISP sniffing your packets and selling your data to marketers, some folks want the option of connecting their entire home networks to a third-party VPN. Synology’s SRM software supports both of these use-cases.

Inbound VPN is managed by Synology’s excellent VPN Plus Server, a freely-installable “package” that Synology has built for SRM. From there you can set up one or more VPN options, including L2TP (natively supported on your Mac and iPhone), OpenVPN, and Synology’s own SSL VPN with which I’ve had great luck traversing even the most locked-down networks.

Screenshot of Synology's SRM VPN Server Plus configuration screen

Cloud Station Server – Your Own Personal Dropbox

Many of us use Dropbox or iCloud Drive to store and sync our files, but generally that means both storing our data on someone else’s server (aka “the cloud”) and paying for that storage. Synology’s Cloud Station allows you to create your own, private cloud. You manage the storage, it’s accessible from anywhere (as long as your Internet connection is alive), and their Mac syncing app is elegant and simple.

Screenshot of Synology Router SRM Cloud Station Server screen

Mobile App

Synology is a very Apple-user-friendly company, with countless mobile apps for all the different services you can run. DS Cloud and DS File can be used to connect to your Cloud Station files, and DS Router can be used to manage your router from anywhere.

For DS Router, Synology employed the same philosophy they used for their web interface: simple-and-elegant to start, but it goes as deep as you like. Their DS Router app lets you both tweak your router’s configuration and see reports no matter where you are.

Screenshots of Synology's DS Router iPhone app


With an MSRP of US$239.99 the Synology RT2600ac can currently be found on Amazon for $194.99 (as of April 18, 2018). Its little brother, the RT1900ac, can be found for just $119.99. The RT2600ac is a dual-band, 4×4 router, whereas the RT1900ac is a dual-band, 3×3 router making either a perfect AirPort Extreme replacement. That extra antenna on each of the bands makes the range of the RT2600ac nearly double that of both its predecessor and the AirPort Extreme in our tests. For a single-floor apartment the RT1900ac can likely handle the job quite well for you, and both Synology routers use the same SRM software so you get all the same options regardless of which you choose.

AirPort Extreme Replacement, the Synology RT2600ac router front view with four antennas

Synology Router’s Other Features – Your AirPort Extreme Replacement

It would be unreasonable to dig into each and every feature available in SRM. Like the DiskStation Manager (DSM) upon which SRM is based, there are many, many layers, far too many to cover at once. Some of the additional features include: Smart Connect/Band Steering, Single SSID for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz radios, support for multiple simultaneous Internet Connections, IPv6, Port Forwarding/Triggering, Guest Network, DHCP Reservations (for both IPv4 and IPv6), customized IPTV support, Parental Controls, full-on Intrusion Prevention, Advanced Traffic Monitor with Reporting, service-and-device-specific customizable firewall, and a DLNA server to act as a hub for your movies and music. You can learn all about these direct from Synology, where they provide videos to explain some of the more esoteric features.

How to Unsubscribe from Shared Photo Albums

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-18 12:46, modified at 12:49

iCloud Photo Sharing is pretty neat; with this feature, you can share pictures that subscribers can view and comment on. But what happens when you want to unsubscribe from a shared album? Hey, maybe getting billions of new puppy pictures from your college roommate isn’t as compelling as you once found it. Or perhaps you’ve decided that you’re jealous enough that your friend is in Norway that you don’t want to see pictures of it. I don’t know! Maybe you’re not as petty as I am.

In any case, you can unsubscribe to one of these shared photo albums either on your Mac or on your iOS devices; on the Mac, start by opening Photos, and then either click the shared album in question from the sidebar or choose View > Shared > Shared Albums > [Album Name].

View Menu in Photos on macOS showing Shared Albums options

Once you’re there, look for the little silhouette icon in the toolbar. Click that, and there’ll be your “Unsubscribe” button.

"Unsubscribe" Button in Photos on the Mac for Shared Albums

On your iPhone or iPad, the steps are similar. Open the Photos app, tap on the “Shared” tab, and then touch the album you’d like to remove yourself from.

Shared Albums in Photos on iPhone

Within that, tap the “People” option, and you’ll find “Unsubscribe.”

"Unsubscribe" Button for Shared Albums in Photos on the iPhone

When you do this, the shared album will be removed from all of your iCloud devices. The owner won’t be notified right away, but if she ever decides to look at the subscriber list, she’ll see an “x” next to your name in Photos on the Mac…

Unsubscribed "x" in Shared Album in Photos on the Mac

…or “Unsubscribed” next to you in Photos on iOS.

"Unsubscribed" notice for Shared Albums in Photos on the iPhone

So your college roommate won’t necessarily know that you got bored…uh, that you accidentally unsubscribed. But if you wanted to, you could send him or her an insulting message afterward, I suppose. Really drive home the point!

I don’t actually recommend doing that.

Ajit Pai Advisor Arrested on Fraud Charges

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 22:40, modified at 22:41

So get this: one of the industry suits FCC Chairman Ajit Pai brought on as an advisor has been arrested for fraud. The story comes to us in two parts, the first being a Wall Street Journal story about Elizabeth Pierce, former CEO of Alaska fiber optics firm Quintillion, being arrested for fraud. StopTheGap (via TheVerge) then noted Ms. Pierce had been selected by Mr. Pai to head his Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC).

Is it Mr. Pai’s fault she’s an alleged crook? No, but it surely reinforces my extremely negative perceptions of Ajit Pai that someone brought on to help his radical deregulatory agenda is being accused of fraud.

Ajit Pai, Destroyer of Net Neutrality

Elizabeth Pierce’s Alleged Misdeed

The specifics aren’t all that important to my point above, but here’s what she’s accused of doing. Ms. Pierce allegedly forged contracts from potential customers to get some New York-based investors to pony up a quarter of a billion dollars to invest in Quintillion.

“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counterparty signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.”

Ajit Pai’s Attraction

StopTheGap theorized Ajit Pai may have been interested in Ms. Pierce because she complained about burdensome regulations. From that publication:

Pierce may have attracted FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s attention after publicly complaining the permitting process in Alaska took longer than building fiber cables from scratch and shipping them from Europe. Out of more than 380 applicants, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai picked Pierce in 2017 to head his new broadband advisory committee, tasked with eliminating or streamlining regulations and making life easier for broadband providers to persuade them to expand broadband rollouts.

That seems like a good read on the situation, as Ajit Pai is hell-bent on deregulating Internet-related telecommunications markets, regardless of the facts. Ms. Pierce is allegedly a bird of a similar feather, as she was arguing her company was worth investing in, regardless of the facts.

[FCC Votes with Ajit Pai to End Net Neutrality in Party Line Vote]

To Quintillion’s credit, the company discovered the alleged misdeed and self-reported to the U.S. Justice Department. Ms. Pierce then stepped down from her company in August of 2017, and a month later, she stepped down from her BDAC position.


Confirmation bias is a thing. I think Ajit Pai’s business philosophies are corrupt and backed up by lies, so it doesn’t surprise me one of his industry advisors who cried about regulations was arrested for corruption. I readily acknowledge it could be an unconnected development, but I’m enjoying a moment of “Ha!”

How to Securely Erase Your Mac’s SSD

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 22:07, modified on 2018-04-18 18:50

If you’re planning to sell a Mac that boots from an SSD, or you have an old Flash drive or SSD you want securely erase, this article has the details.

SSD in a notebook computer.

It’s been awhile since I sold an old Mac. Back when I did that last, the Mac had a hard disk. Securely erasing a hard disk isn’t hard to do, and it’s been discussed in many places.

Prepping Your Mac For Sale

These days, because SSDs have been an option for Macs for almost a decade, it’s very likely that you have, or will soon have, a Mac for sale that boots from an SSD. You’ll want to securely erase that SSD, but it’s a bit tricker than a plain hard disk.

The first thing to do is read Apple support article. “What to do before you sell or give away your Mac.” Item #6 in that document launches the discussion and links to a pretty good article: “How to reinstall macOS.” That article, by the way, has a nifty table that summarizes which versions of macOS you can install from the recovery partition.

Recovery options (CMD-R)

However, that Apple article skips over the nuance of completely erasing an SSD. You’ll also want to read “OS X: About Disk Utility‘s erase free space feature.” A note at the end starts to get to the heart of the matter.

With an SSD drive, Secure Erase and Erasing Free Space are not available in Disk Utility. These options are not needed for an SSD drive because a standard erase makes it difficult to recover data from an SSD. For more security, consider turning on FileVault encryption when you start using your SSD drive.

That last throw-away comment, “for more security,” suggests that there’s a little more to cover, so that’s the next topic.

The SSD Erasure Issue

The very best description of the difficulty conventional tools have in completely erasing an SSD comes from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.) The article is: “How to: Delete Your Data Securely on Mac OS X.” Skip to the very last major section labeled: “Secure Deletion on Solid-state Disks (SSDs), USB Flash Drives, and SD Cards.” It’s a long paragraph, but the language is simple as it describes how SSD “wear leveling” undermines the best efforts of erasure tools to completely overwrite SSD data.

As a result of how SSDs write data, the best practice today involves going one step beyond the simple process of using Apple’s Disk Utility “standard erase” for an SSD. And that’s called a “cryptographic erase.”

2017 imacs

Cryptographic Erase

Basically, a cryptographic erase means encrypting the drive, then throwing a way the encryption key. This renders the information stored on the drive unreadable. (This what happens when you do a master reset  on your iOS device.) Then the SSD is erased and formatted as usual.

If someone were to examine the unused space on the newly erased drive with a digital forensic tool, all that would be seen is encrypted nonsense.

For an Mac’s boot drive, Peter Cohen explains the process nicely. “How to Securely Erase a Mac SSD.” In brief:

  1. Back up any data you want to keep on your boot drive. It’s going to be nuked.
  2. If you haven’t already, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault and enable it. Write down the password on paper until you establish a safe place for this password. Be patient. This process can take a long time, hours, and there is no progress bar.
  3. When done, restart you Mac in Recovery mode (CMD-R) as described at the beginning of this article.
  4. Launch Disk Utility. Select the disk (boot SSD). Select Unlock “volume name” from the File menu. Enter that saved password. Now erase the disk normally, using the standard erase option.
  5. This deletes the FileVault key. The SSD now contains only unreadable, encrypted garbage.
  6. You may wish to install some version of macOS now to place the machine in the out-of-the-box mode. Do CMD-Q when the Mac reboots and the set up process first starts.

And now, phew!, you’re ready to sell your Mac.

Erasing an External SSD

You may want to securely erase an external Flash drive before selling or discarding. The process is slightly different. See Apple’s support document, “Encrypt and protect a disk with a password.

  1. Back up any data you want to preserve that’s on on the external Flash drive or SSD.
  2. Select it in the Finder, right-click, and select Encrypt…
  3. Write down the password.
  4. Launch Disk Utility, select the drive, then select the Erase option.

The drive is now empty, newly formatted and all the previous data is leftover, encrypted garbage.

Final Thoughts

This is a summary of what I’ve learned. I’ve found that it’s always helpful to read more for a broder perspective and sanity check. This article from Intego has some good background and additional information. “How to Securely Erase Data from Your Mac and External Drives.

PSA: The Russians Are Hacking Everything, Laying the Groundwork for Future Attacks

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 21:40, modified at 21:41

Hey look, another day, another warning that the Russians are hacking everyone. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, the FBI, and the White House jointly announced that Russian hackers are laying the groundwork for future cyber attacks and spying on Western governments.

The attackers are described as “Russian, state-sponsored cyber actors” who are going after routers, switches, firewalls, and Network-based Intrusion Detection System (NIDS) devices.

TMO's Dramatic Reenactment of a Typical Russian Hacker

DHS Technical Alert

According to the DHS’s Technical Alert (TA), “Targets are primarily government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the Internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors.”

The TA also said that the, “FBI has high confidence that Russian state-sponsored cyber actors are using compromised routers to conduct man-in-the-middle attacks to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks, and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations.”

The Times of London said that the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said that the attacks have given President Vadimir Putin a “tremendous weapon.”

So if you’re responsible for telecommunications infrastructure equipment, do your jobs, please, and harden these devices! The Russians are coming.

Apple Reportedly Plans to Roll Magazine Subscription Service Based on Texture

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 20:38, modified at 20:44

Apple will reportedly launch a magazine subscription service based on its Texture acquisition, according to Bloomberg. The move was frankly expected in that Texture was a magazine subscription service when Apple acquired it, but Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shed light on Apple’s specifics.

Bloomberg’s unnamed sources said Apple is rolling Texture’s platform into Apple News, where it will offer a one-fee-subscription for magazines. At this point, it’s unknown if Apple plans to include other periodicals like newspapers in its new service.

Texture on iPhone and iPad

The Texture of Texture

When Apple acquired Texture, a US$9.99 subscription gave users access to some 200 magazines. That’s the same price as Apple Music, though Wall Street analyst Gene Munster said Apple would have a harder time at that price point when it comes to magazine.

“People pay for music, they pay for video, and most news services are ad-supported,” he told Bloomberg. “If Apple launches this as a similar business to Texture, they likely won’t have many subscribers.”

[How to Get 1-Year of Apple Music for $85]

Other tidbits from the report include the news that Apple laid off some 20 Texture employees after the acquisition. The rest of the roughly 100-person team was rolled into the Apple News team.

The company wants to boost services revenue—which includes iTunes, App Store, iBooks, Apple Music, and other services—to $50 billion by 2021, up from roughly $30 billion today.

iOS: How to set a Siri Reminder to Remind you of Content in Apps

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 19:39, modified at 20:03

In iOS 9 beefed Siri up by making her more Proactive. One of the things you can do is ask Siri to remind you of content within Apple apps, like a Safari website, an email in Mail, or a location in Maps. Here’s how to set a Siri reminder for content.

[Apple’s iOS 9 gets Improved Siri, New Apps]

Siri Reminders in Apple Apps

To set a Siri reminder for content, just say “Hey Siri, remind me about this.” Like a regular reminder you can set it for a specific day and time. So far it seems to only work in most of Apple’s apps; I haven’t found a third-party app that Siri works with. I think in order to do this the developer would need to have support for deep-linking/universal links.

Screenshots of setting a Siri Reminder.

It can be a bit more efficient because tapping on the icon in the reminder takes you back to that exact piece of content within the app. And using Siri to do this is faster than manually tapping the share button and setting up a reminder with a date and time.

[macOS: Automatically Format Reminders With Date And Time]

Note that Siri reminders show up in the default Reminders list (Settings > General > Reminders > Default List). I created a “Siri Reminder” list just for the purpose of this article.

5 Private Chat Apps and How They Compare With Each Other

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 18:58

There are plenty of private chat apps on the market, but are they all the same? We’ll take a look at five of them and see how they compare: Signal, Wire, Confide, Wickr Me, and iMessage.


Screenshots of Signal in our list of private chat apps.

Signal was one of the first private chat apps to enter the scene. Endorsed by Edward Snowden, Signal is free and open source. It has features like group chat, voice and video calls, file sharing, and disappearing messages. Signal also uses something called forward secrecy. This means that if someone steals your encryption key, they can’t go back and decrypt past messages. App StoreSignal – Free

[What Is A VPN, And How Can It Help You?]


Screenshots of Wire in our list of private chat apps.

Wire is based in Europe and follows Swiss data protection laws, and its servers are located in Germany and Ireland. Wire is also open source, and offers chat, voice and video calls, and file sharing. A unique feature is Wire’s support for multiple accounts. That means you can have a separate account for personal life and work life. App StoreWire – Free


Screenshots of Confide in our list of private chat apps.

Confide was the chat app famously used by people in President Trump’s administration. It’s closed source, which is a big downside when it comes to privacy and security apps. Its features include disappearing messages, screenshot-proof messages, and the ability to “un-send” a message as part of the Confide Plus subscription. However, as revealed last year, Confide was full of security holes. App StoreConfide – Free

Wickr Me

Screenshots of Wickr Me in our list of private chat apps.

Wickr Me offers 1:1 chats as well as group chats, which is in line with the other apps here. Unlike Signal, which uses your phone number, Wickr doesn’t require a phone number or email address to register. It’s open source as well. Wickr is good for enterprise use, as it lets your business to create its own private network, with centrally-managed security policies for users. App StoreWickr Me – Free


Screenshots of iMessage in our list of private chat apps.

iMessage’s big advantage is that it’s built into every iPhone, so people don’t have to install a separate app to have secure communications. A downside is that only messages between iPhone users are end-to-end encryption. Messages sent via SMS to Android and other platform users aren’t secure. iMessage is also not open source, which is a black mark in the privacy community.

[Apple Blows Security]

GrayKey Underscores Why We Need Strong iPhone Passcodes

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 18:43

GrayKey is all the rage in the law enforcement community because it makes cracking your iPhone’s passcode simple and fast. If police can get the pocket-size device, then eventually hackers will, too. That means if you aren’t using a strong passcode to protect your iPhone it’s time to rethink that strategy.

iPhone X with GrayKey password hacker

What is GrayKey

GrayKey is a little box from Grayshift that cracks the passcode on iPhones. You plug an iPhone into the device, and after a few minutes or hours depending on the length of your passcode, it spits out your code. With that in hand, anyone can log in to your iPhone and access all of its contents.

GrayKey is available only to law enforcement agencies, and it isn’t cheap. For US$15,000 you can get a version of the device that’s permanently locked to your network, or for $30,000 you can get one that works anywhere.

Security research company Malwarebytes described how the device works saying,

Two iPhones can be connected at one time, and are connected for about two minutes. After that, they are disconnected from the device, but are not yet cracked. Some time later, the phones will display a black screen with the passcode, among other information. The exact length of time varies, taking about two hours in the observations of our source. It can take up to three days or longer for six-digit passcodes, according to Grayshift documents, and the time needed for longer passphrases is not mentioned. Even disabled phones can be unlocked, according to Grayshift.

Grayshift doesn’t say how the device works, so it’s unclear if your iPhone is compromised in any other way after the passcode is retrieved.

iPhone Passcodes Explained

Four-digit passcodes seemed strong enough back in the iPhone’s early days. In recent years Apple has been pushing users into six-digit codes because they’re harder to hack. Six-digit codes are the default in iOS now, and you have to specifically choose to use a four-digit code. Hint: Don’t do that.

iOS also lets you set longer passcodes, and passcodes that include letters and punctuation symbols. The idea being it gets substantially harder to hack a passcode as it gets longer and more complicated.

Locking your iPhone with a passcode is smart because it helps protect personal information, plus without a passcode you can’t enable Apple Pay.

GrayKey and the Case for Strong Passcodes

GrayKey devices are sold only to law enforcement agencies, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually fall into the wrong hands. And if Grayshift figured out how to do this, it’s a safe bet other companies have, or are at least in the process.

Cellebrite, for example, has also been providing law enforcement with iPhone unlocking services. The company was in the spotlight in 2016 when the FBI used their services to gain access to an iPhone recovered from the San Bernardino mass shooting. The phone was used by Syed Farook, and the passcode was lost when he died in a shootout with police.

[FBI Turns to Cellebrite to Unlock Syed Farook’s iPhone]

[Cellebrite Hacked, Reaffirming Apple’s iOS No-backdoor Stance]

Cellebrite’s servers were hacked in 2017, showing that even when companies take measures to keep their iPhone hacking technology safe it isn’t always secure.

Matthew Green, a cryptography instructor at Johns Hopkins, says passcode cracking doesn’t take much time at all. He says in can take only 13 minutes to find a four-digit code, and less than a day for a six-digit code.

Since we know companies are selling tools to crack our iPhone passcodes, and those tools may not always be under the control of law enforcement, anything we can do to make hacking into our devices harder sounds like a great idea. We can’t change the built-in security measures, but we can set longer and more complex passcodes.

[How to Set an Alphanumeric Passcode on Your iPhone or iPad]

Apple is no doubt working to eliminate possible passcode hacking vulnerabilities. Some may be fixable with software updates, but others may require hardware changes. We can use our passcodes to make the hacking process more difficult for now, and maybe it’ll be even harder when Apple finds new ways to beef up iPhone security.

iPhones, Strong Passcodes, and GrayKey – TMO Daily Observations 2018-04-17

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 17:30

The Mac Observer Daily Observations Podcast

SplashID Pro 1-Year Subscription: $9.99

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 16:53

We have a deal on a one year subscription to SplashID Pro, a password management service. You can choose to sync your passwords, or not to sync you r passwords, and it’s accessible macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, and even Windows Phone. One year is $9.99 through us.

PSA: Opera VPN Shutting Down

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 15:23

A couple years ago Opera launched its own VPN service called Opera VPN that the company promised would be free for life. Turns out “life” meant about two years because Opera VPN is shutting down at the end of April.

Sad Olaf from Opera VPN

Opera announced the demise of its VPN service on their website saying, “Opera VPN app to be permanently discontinued as of April 30th, 2018.”

[What Is A VPN, And How Can It Help You?]

[Set Up Your Own VPN Server in the Cloud for Free or Cheap]

Opera VPN was available for macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. Opera Gold subscribers are getting a one-year free VPN subscription from SurfEasy as a consolation.

VPN, or Virtual Private Network, services create a sort of private internet tunnel where your Web activity is encrypted. A VPN is great for protecting your online activity on public networks, or whenever you’re concerned about who may be keeping track of your network activity.

[TMO Staff Share their Favorite VPN Services]

[5 Things to Consider when Evaluating a VPN for Privacy]

If you have been using Opera VPN, there are plenty of other options to choose from. If you haven’t been using a VPN on public networks, now is a good time to get started.

How to Set an Alphanumeric Passcode on Your iPhone or iPad

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 14:35

No passcode on your iPhone or iPad is bad. A four-digit code is good and a six-digit code is even better, but if you want to make is extremely difficult for anyone to hack into your device you need an alphanumeric passcode. Here’s how to set one up.

The technology to unlock a passcode protected iPhone or iPad is pretty sophisticated. Finding a four-digit code can take only a few minutes, and depending on the cracking system used a six-digit code can be found in hours or a few days. Both use just digits, limiting the total number of combinations hacking systems need to try.

Alphanumeric passcodes dramatically increase the total possible passcode combinations because they use upper and lower case letters, punctuation, and numbers. Barring dramatic changes in passcode cracking technology, that pushes the time to find a passcode up to years. In some cases, thousands of years.

Here’s how to set an alphanumeric passcode, also known as a passphrase, on your iPhone or iPad in iOS 10 and iOS 11:

  • Launch Settings on your iPhone or iPad
  • Tap Face ID & Passcode on the iPhone X, Touch ID & Passcode on other iOS devices
  • Enter your current passcode
  • Tap Change Passcode
iOS 11 Passcode settings on iPhone
  • Enter your current passcode again
  • Tap Passcode Options
  • Choose Custom Alphanumeric Code
  • Enter a new passcode
Alphanumeric passcode option on iPhone X

Why Use an Alphanumeric Passcode?

Easy to guess passcodes, like 1111, don’t offer your personal data much protection if your iPhone is lost or stolen. Your iPhone is loaded with personal information like passwords for websites, credit card numbers, photos, addresses, and more. That’s all information that can be used to steal your identity and potentially wipe out your bank account balance.

[This One Thing Will Make Your iPhone and Mac Passwords More Secure]

The longer and more complex your passcode or passphrase is, the harder it will be for hackers and government agencies to crack. If you’re concerned about privacy, or at least identity theft, a long passphrase is the way to go.

If you’re using Touch ID or Face ID to unlock your iPhone or iPad, that long passphrase shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience. For the most part, you’ll need to enter it only when you reboot your device.

macOS: How to Print Only Selected Pages from Preview

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 13:24, modified at 13:25

The Mac’s PDF viewer and editor, Preview, has a unique and simple way to print a single page (or a few random pages throughout, if you’d prefer) from a multi-page file. To play along at home, then, first open your PDF into Preview; usually, this is as simple as double-clicking on the file, but if that doesn’t work for you, you can refer to this previous tip I wrote about how to open files with different programs.

Anyway, once Preview launches, toggle the sidebar thumbnails on if they’re not already showing by using either the toolbar’s “View” button…

Toolbar Icon in Preview app on Mac

…or the associated menu command (View > Thumbnails).

View Menu in Preview on Mac showing Thumbnails option

Afterward, click on any thumbnail in the sidebar to select it for printing. (You can also hold down Command and click to select multiple pages.)

Selecting page thumbnails in Sidebar in Preview on Mac

When you then press Command-P or choose File > Print, you’ll want to be sure you’re looking at the full print dialog, so if you see a button labeled “Show Details,” click it.

"Show Details" Button on Print Window in Preview on Mac

The print window will then expand to reveal the “Selected Page(s) in Sidebar” option.

"Selected Pages in Sidebar" Option in Preview Print dialog on Mac

Toggle that radio button on, click “Print,” and you’re done! Whatever page thumbnails you’d selected will be the only ones that print. I personally find using this feature easier than the typical “single page” option, available from either the simple or the detailed version of the print dialog box…

Print Single Page in Mac print dialog

…especially since that won’t let you print, say, pages four, twelve, and ninety-two in one go. So you can use this to print tax forms if necessary! And now that I’ve reminded myself of taxes, I’m going to go cry in a corner somewhere for a few hours.

People Said ‘Hey Siri’ before ‘Hey Siri’ Was a Thing

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-17 00:37

I was reading through Apple’s newest Machine Learning Journal* entry and found this to be very interesting: users said “Hey Siri” to interact with Siri long before “Hey Siri” voice activation was even a thing. According to Apple, users would start off their Siri interactions with “Hey Siri” even when the only way to access the service was by using the iPhone’s Home button.

Hey Siri

From the Machine Learning Journal entry:

The phrase ‘Hey Siri’ was originally chosen to be as natural as possible; in fact, it was so natural that even before this feature was introduced, users would invoke Siri using the home button and inadvertently prepend their requests with the words, ‘Hey Siri.’

That wasn’t the point of this Apple post, but it speaks to our innate desire to interact with voice assistants as if they are real people. “Hey Siri” as a voice invocation hadn’t even been introduced, and yet that’s how many of us chose to start our conversations with her.

Speaker Recognition

The real point of the AI team’s blog post (i.e. journal entry) is to talk about Speaker Recognition, the field of AI dealing with recognizing who is speaking. As Apple put it:

The overall goal of speaker recognition (SR) is to ascertain the identity of a person using his or her voice. We are interested in ‘who is speaking,’ as opposed to the problem of speech recognition, which aims to ascertain ‘what was spoken.’

This is an area where Apple’s voice assistant competitors (Amazon, Google to name two) have an edge on Apple, and this post offers insight on how Apple is working on the problem.

The blog post explains how Apple identified False Accepts (Siri responding when no one asked for her), False Rejects (Siri not responding when invoked), and Imposter Accepts (Siri responding when someone other than the device owner said “Hey Siri”). All of these instances have different challenges, and addressing any one of them affects performance in the other two areas.

Techity Gobbledy Blah

There’s a whole bunch of describing how Apple is working on Speaker Recognition, most of which is aimed at academics in the field. The company also said, however, that it’s working on improving Hey Siri performance in noisy environments such as large rooms, in the wind, and in moving vehicles.

*As you do.

Tweaking Your iPhone, Keeping Your Mac Awake, Automation Radios, and More – Mac Geek Gab 705

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-16 23:23, modified on 2018-04-19 13:40

Note: Shownotes are complete!

Chapters/Timestamps/Stuff mentioned:

Russia’s Telegram Ban Could Be First Salvo against Apple’s iMessage and Other Encrypted Platforms

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-16 22:30, modified at 22:41

Russia banned Telegram this weekend because that company refused to turn over encrypted communications demanded by the Russian government. On Monday, state regulators began blocking access to Telegram, and I’m wondering what that might mean for Apple and its iMessage platform, and to other encrypted communications platforms.

Russian hacker in front of Russian flag

But What about the Terrorists?

Telegram is the world’s 9th biggest communications platform, built by Russain Pavel Durov. Like iMessage, Telegram was built on the premise of privacy from the ground up. Mr. Durov left Russia in 2014 after being pressured into selling VK, a Russian social networking platform, to a crony of Vladimir Putin.

Today, Telegram has some 200 million users, including opposition politicians in Russia, journalists, and members of the Russian government, too. Oh, and ISIS and other terrorists. Mr. Durov acknowledged that at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco in 2015.

Which is the pretext Russia was using to get Telegram’s encryption keys. The Russian government said it needed those keys to read terrorist messages, and a court agreed. When Telegram refused, the service was banned on Friday, and started being blocked by  telecommunication companies on Monday.

This need to read bad guy communications is the same rationale used by some law enforcement officials in the U.S. and in other countries, and it’s one Mr. Durov has argued against, saying:

The terrorist threat in Russia will stay at the same level, because extremists will continue to use encrypted communication channels – in other messengers, or through a VPN.

I think that privacy, ultimately, and the right for privacy is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism. Yes, there’s a war going on in the Middle East. It’s a series of tragic events. But ultimately, the ISIS will always find a way to communicate within themselves.

And if any means of communication turns out to be not secure for them, they’ll just switch to another one. So I don’t think we are actually taking part in these activities. I don’t think we should be guilty or feel guilty about it. I still think we’re doing the right thing, protecting our users’ privacy.

Veneer of Democracy

Mr. Durov’s reasoning is sound, and a reasonable observer might conclude Russia’s pretext is just that. The real goal is to access everyone’s communications, the better to squelch dissent.

As a Telgram lawyer put it, “They have demonstrated again and again that the court system is devoted to serving the interests of the authorities. They no longer even care about basic external appearances.”

It could also be an effort to harm Mr. Durov’s business, as he has been a vocal critic of Mr. Putin. After all, who in their right mind would use Telegram if the Russian government had the encryption keys?

So what does this mean for iMessage and other encrypted services? Russia and China both want access to everyone’s communications, as does every other two-bit dictator around the globe. The same is true for some of our own law enforcement officials in the U.S.

In Russia, though, the courts will comply with what the government wants. Today’s it’s Telegram, and with the precedent set, I can’t help but think iMessage could come under Kremlin crosshairs, too. There’ve been no public signs of that yet, but then I’ve long thought it was only a matter of time.

TMO Background Mode Interview with Gravitational Wave Astrophysicist Dr. Chiara Mingarelli

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-16 21:37, modified at 21:54

12,000mAh LED Power Bank with Built-in LED Flashlight: $19.99

Permalink - Posted on 2018-04-16 21:10

We have a deal on a 12,000mAh LED Power Bank that also features a built-in LED flashlight. It has two USB ports for charging, including one 2.1A port. It’s $19.99 through us.