Secure Email Client Canary Mail Joins Setapp

Canary Mail Setapp.png

Subscription App Store, Setapp, is one of the first things I recommend new Mac new users these days. From inception, the apps included in a membership were always impressive. Setapp can meet the software needs of a large majority of Mac users, and the collection is constantly improving. The latest improvement is the addition of excellent, security focused email client Canary Mail.

Setapp’s other email clients don’t work for me. Boxy looks pretty, but it’s designed for Gmail, and I gave that vice up some time ago. Unibox is a contact focused client, which might be useful if your workflow is focused on particular people. but doesn’t work for a curmudgeon like myself.

Canary’s thing is security. It makes encryption more user friendly by integrating with the MIT and Keybase servers. End-to-end encryption is automated when both sender and recipient are Canary users, or can be initiated manually when sending to other clients. It is probably worth reiterating the point in my post yesterday, about the recently discovered PGP and S/MIME exploit. Using encryption is simply a good habit, and something an app like Canary can help with. However, nobody should be relying on email for genuinely sensitive information. If you need serous encryption for messaging, use Signal. But, securing the content of your mail is not the only security concern with email clients.

Protect yourself from Email tracking with Canary

A feature I really appreciate in Canary is the ability to block email trackers. With all the talk of web tracking, I’m surprised I don’t see more about the tracking that goes on in email clients. While an extension of what happens on the web at large, email tracking is potentially worse for violating privacy. A 2017 paper from Princeton University researchers revealed the extent of the problem.

About 29% of emails leak the user’s email address to at least one third party when the email is opened, and about 19% of senders sent at least one email that had such a leak. The majority of these leaks (62%) are intentional. If the leaked email address is associated with a tracking cookie, as it would be in many webmail clients, the privacy risk to users is greatly amplified. Since a tracking cookie can be shared with traditional web trackers, email address can allow those trackers to link tracking profiles from before and after a user clears their cookies. If a user reads their email on multiple devices, trackers can use that address as an identifier to link tracking data cross-device

It goes on, if you want to read the whole paper you can find it here.

Beyond Image Tracking

The most common form of tracking is via invisible pixels. This is why I advocate for switching off the ‘load remote images’ setting in whatever email client you use. The problem is, blocking images is a blunt tool, it can render some email unreadable. Canary is smart about blocking only the tracker pixel, so it doesn’t ruin the design of html email. Using Canary in conjunction with something like 1Blocker can mitigate many of the concerns raised about leaking your personal data via the seemingly innocent act of opening a newsletter.

I am pleased to see Canary turn up on Setapp. I struggle to see how the proliferation of single-app subscriptions is sustainable in the long run. The outrage might have died down, but the fatigue is starting set in. Macpaw’s setup is smart, it shows in the quality of the software they are offering. I cannot recommend it enough. Especially when a 50% discount for students means over a hundred apps are available for US$5 a month.

If you have no need for the full suite, Canary Mail is also available direct from the Appstore on both macOS, and iOS.

Details on a New PGP Vulnerability | Schneier on Security

You might have seem some of the hullabaloo around the web about the discovery of a security flaw in PGP or S/MIME. From Bruce Schneier, the vulnerability is not in the encryption itself, rather the exploit is carried out in transit.

The vulnerability isn't with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs. You can see this in the two suggested short-term mitigations: “No decryption in the e-mail client,” and “disable HTML rendering.”

The suggested workaround is solid advice. Email has never been a sensible means for secure communication.

Why is anyone using encrypted e-mail anymore, anyway? Reliably and easily encrypting e-mail is an insurmountably hard problem for reasons having nothing to do with today's announcement. If you need to communicate securely, use Signal. If having Signal on your phone will arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.

Comedy and Virtue

Twitter’s Parag Agrawal

We are sharing this information to help people make an informed decision about their account security. We didn’t have to, but believe it’s the right thing to do.

Silicon Valley’s Jared Dunn

‘In doing what we ought, we deserve no praise because it is our duty.'

— St Augustine

I pity whomever makes Agrawal’s sandwiches.

Show and Tell – Tuesday 8 May, 2018

The Appademic Show And Tell Links.jpg

An intermitant collection of concisely annotated, tech related links

We Know Where You Live

Palantir Knows Everything About You

The most emblematic paradox; it goes like this. Facebook knows everything about you, but Palantir knows more.

Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show | Motherboard

I know most people don’t expect the FBI will want to access their phone. To understand the situation, put the argument to yourself in reverse and you will soon realise the implications. Thankfully, these holes are usually filled in before long. Either way, use the strongest security you can by principle.

Google's File on You Is 10 Times Bigger Than Facebook's – Here's How to View It | Zero Hedge

Compared with most people I know, I'm pretty careful about the privacy of my data. I'm still scared to look at what Google has on me. By now, nobody should be surprised, and yet I wager you will be surprised. Look if you dare.

Stop Using 6-Digit iPhone Passcodes | Motherboard

Typically we won’t hear about cracking technology going underground for sometime, so forget the argument that you — being a law abiding citizen — needn’t worry about the police.

Idle At Work

The New Lesson Plan for Elementary School: Surviving the Internet – the Washington Post

This is more than I can say for a majority of the fully grown adults I spend my days avoiding

Susan, a 10-year-old in pink sneakers who likes YouTube and the mobile game “Piano Tiles 2,” quietly raised her hand. “I will make sure that I don’t tell nobody my personal stuff,” she said, “and be offline for at least two hours every night.”

Silicon Valley's Sixty-Year Love Affair With the Word “Tool”

Permit me a juvenile aside if you will, it seems we could update the old adage about what you eat.

“Is Curing Patients a Sustainable Business Model?” Goldman Sachs Analysts Ask | Ars Technica

For whatever reason, I know a lot of people struggle coming to terms with this very simple, but obvious contradiction in our economic system. This is about as clear an example as one could imagine.

Your Pretty Face Is Going to Sell | Open Space 

A brief investigation of commodified affect via YouTube, amusing.

What Else Floats on Water

Apple Sued an Independent iPhone Repair Shop Owner and Lost | Motherboard

I come across some gobsmacking equivocation when it comes to Apple. The idea that this behemoth is anything other than a halo bearing wonder of the modem world would undermine everything advocates want to believe about themselves. The truth is a little more uncomfortable.

“Apple is proving themselves to be the worldwide poster child of the Right to Repair movement,” Gay Gordon-Byrne, executive director of Repair.org, which is pushing for this legislation, told me. “They continue to make our case for us—suing legal repair providers, such as Henrik, lying to consumers about CPU performance throttling instead of battery replacements, and the coup de grace of hypocrisy—building products that are hard to repair and then proclaiming they care about the environment.”

Anyone wondering what right to repair would mean for the rest of the world might start here.

The specifics of Huseby’s case won’t matter for American repair shops, but that Apple continues to aggressively pursue a repair shop owner over 63 iPhone screens signals that Apple is not interested in changing its stance on independent repair, and that right to repair activists and independent repair companies should expect a long fight ahead of them: “I feel that this case was extremely important for them to win,” Huseby said.

Now Look Here

How Microsoft Helped Imprison a Man for ‘counterfeiting' Software It Gives Away for Free | TechCrunch

I’m out of words for this one. This is brutal from Microsoft, even if it should come as no surprise.

Stop Calling These Dark Design Patterns or Dark UX | These Are Simply asshole Designs

Whether you want to believe it or not, our economic system is built on obfuscation. These practices are deceitful, no question. At the same time, they paradoxically reveal a certain overlooked truth. I’ll leave it to you to work out what that is — in case you overlooked the first sentence.

Brutalist Design Is the Bad Influence We All Need

If you have any interest in design, you may like to read this. Aesthetics aside, there is a sociological argument hiding in here about pseudo-originality. I’ll leave you to find it.

The Disturbing High Modernism of Silicon Valley | Cal Newport

First time I’ve ever been remotely interested in something from this blog

No, Students Probably Aren't Blowing Their Student Loans on Bitcoin | the Chronicle of Higher Education How not to do research

Group Madness

Ex-Google Engineer Scraping YouTube to Pop Our Filter Bubbles | MIT

Chaslot, who worked at YouTube in 2011 and then at Google until 2013 (he claims he was fired for trying to give users more control over the algorithms that recommend content; neither Google nor YouTube addressed that contention in a response to a request for comment about this and other issues he has raised), figured this out by tracking YouTube’s suggestion algorithm. He tested his theory by building software that simulates the act of starting out watching one video on YouTube and then clicking on the recommended “Up next” video (which will also play automatically if you have YouTube’s autoplay feature turned on), over and over and over.

The New Lesson Plan for Elementary School: Surviving the Internet | Washington Post This is more than I can say for a majority of the fully grown adults I spend my days avoiding

Susan, a 10-year-old in pink sneakers who likes YouTube and the mobile game “Piano Tiles 2,” quietly raised her hand. “I will make sure that I don’t tell nobody my personal stuff,” she said, “and be offline for at least two hours every night.”

San Francisco's Bizarre Scooter War Shows How Tech Companies Ignore the Law | VICE

Literal disruption — and I mean, literally literal.

A Flaw-by-Flaw Guide to Facebook's New GDPR Privacy Changes | TechCrunch

No, it’s not about to end anytime soon

Facebook Removes 1.5 Billion Users From Protection of EU Privacy Law | Ars Technica

Either data is worth more than the tax breaks (which is likely) or to keep hold of both, a new level of tax dodging chicanery is required. Either way, Facebook is a grotesquely scaled version of a street huckster who gives you a dime while pinching your wallet from your pocket

Login With Facebook Data Hijacked by JavaScript Trackers – TechCrunch

In case you missed this. I recently heard a well known podcaster offering some thought on how it is relatively safe to use these single sign-on solutions. You know, Oauth is completely locked down; don’t be paranoid, and so on. So, anyway.

The abusive scripts were found on 434 of the top 1 million websites including cloud database provider MongoDB. That’s according to Steven Englehardt and his colleagues at Freedom To Tinker, which is hosted by Princeton’s Center For Information Technology Policy. I

The Many Deceptions of Mark Zuckerberg | Creative Good

Lies, damned lies, and Facebook.

Broaden Your Mind

Introduction · Front-End Developer Handbook 2018

Open source generosity of a kind. Nerds are largely a very generous cultural subset

And Now, For Something Completely Different

In Search of Photographic Treasure: Alfred G. Buckham | International Center of Photography

These photos are incredible.

A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown

Closest thing to genuine artificial intelligence yet

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

One Year of Micro.blog and The Micro Appademic

Micro Blog Appademic Feed

Micro.blog has reached its first anniversary. I have been planning to cover the budding platform in detail for sometime. Eventually, I may even get there. In the meantime, in addition to setting up my own micro blog, I have added a feed to this site for the network. Although I haven’t quite figured how I will delimit the content, at the very least link posts will be pointed that way.

This is a fascinating project. Whether you’re looking to ditch the ever more toxic proprietary social networks, or simply gain control over the content you post online. That goes for anybody. It dovetails perfectly with the Domain of One’s Own initiative that Profhacker and others advocate.

What Manton has achieved with the platform in such a short period is remarkable. Here are the highlights from his One year of Micro.blog post.

If you haven’t checked out Micro.blog lately, here are some things that happened just in the last few months:

  • We launched a microcast called Micro Monday to feature members of the community. Each week, a different Micro.blog user joins Jean MacDonald for a quick interview about how they blog and what they like about Micro.blog.
  • To make it easier for anyone to create a short podcast, Wavelength lets you record, edit, and publish a microcast from your iPhone. You can also upload MP3s from the web and serve a podcast at your own domain name.
  • Sunlit is our iOS app for posting photos and discovering photos and new Micro.blog users to follow. It’s a free app with more control over publishing stories with photos, text, and different filters.
  • There’s a new theme for hosted microblogs called Marfa. We use this theme on Micro Monday.
  • Medium was added as a cross-posting option. Post to your own blog and Micro.blog will automatically send a copy to Medium.
  • Expanded the Discover section on the web and in the native apps to highlight photos, podcasts, and more. It’s a great place to see what
  • people are posting about or find new people to follow.

That is some list. For my own two cents,  there are a lot of ways the platform can improve, and no doubt will.  If Micro.blog suffers from anything, it is the relative lack of documentation for how genuinely open it is. There is a middle ground for all the tinkerers,  that I suspect will eventually be filled in. The kind of people who aren't web developers, but neither are they unable to cobble somnething together on their own that isn't a WordPress site.  At the same time, what has been acheived so far is impressive.

The easiest way to get started is to roll with Micro.blog’s own hosting, but as alluded to above the open nature of the platform means there are a plethora of ways to get started. I have setup a site using the wonderfully minimal Chalk Template for Jekyll. But bear mind, if you do something like that you will likely not have use of the Micro.blog apps for the social features. Which is why I find myself grappling with obscure ways to implement Micropub protocol for a self hosted Jekyll site. If I manage to crack that problem, you’ll know.

If you’ve always wanted to start a blog, but didn’t know how. Micro.blog might be what you never knew you always wanted.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Overcast 4.2: The privacy update | Marco.org

This privacy focused update to the Overcast podcast player could hardly come at a better time. I have found Overcast a little frustrating at times. I might wonder about its popularity if I didn’t get how big a deal Marco is in Apple tech circles. However, the spirit of this update has prompted me to renew my subscription for another year. It might not have all the features I want, but it supports the features I need.

Castro has nailed podcast triage. The inbox feature of that app is almost enough to make me forget the things it is missing. If organising your podcasts is more important than the silence trimming trickery performed by Overcast or Pocket Casts, then definitely try Castro. Where it fails for me, it doesn’t appear to support chapters. That’s a deal breaker.

However, if Overcast implemented an inbox now, I would probably consider it game over. 1 I evaluate the privacy element of every app and every service I use to the point that it is fundamental.

Big data ruined the web, and I’m not going to help bring it to podcasts. Publishers already get enough from Apple to inform ad rates and make content decisions — they don’t need more data from my customers. Podcasting has thrived, grown, and made tons of money for tons of people under the current model for over a decade. We already have all the data we need.

With this update, Overcast has been elevated in my mind.

  1. And no, smart playlists do not adequately substitute. Trust me, I have tried.

Say Hello to 1Blocker X – 1Blocker

The makers of the popular Safari content blocker, 1Blocker recently released an new version of their iOS app.  You can obviously read the details via the link. In addition to refreshing the codebase, with 1Blocker X they have managed to implement a workaround for the hard limit of 50,000 blockers imposed by iOS.

Soon after releasing 1Blocker in 2015 and adding more features (Whitelist, Hide Elements, Make HTTPS, iCloud sync, etc.) and extending our rule sets, we found out that we are about to hit the limit of total number of rules allowed for a Safari content blocker extension. Apple set the limit at 50K rules, and we were already at 49K. We wanted to block more unwanted content and keep adding more features, but were frustrated by the limit of 50K rules. The only solution to that problem is to create multiple extensions within 1Blocker that independently manage blocking in Safari. However, that requires rewriting the app to handle all these new extensions.

It says a lot that 50k isn’t nearly enough to control the dumpster fire created by the contemporary internet. Tracking users online has become so sophisticated that a content blocker isn’t about to stop it happening altogether. But, the least you can do is make it hard for would be trackers. Throw in protection from crypto miners, and other nefarious actors, or even improve the internet by blocking comments!  The introductory price of US$4.99 looks a bargain.

Thank you for making 10 years of GitHub possible | Github

Github has put together a nice timeline of achievements to celebrate their first decade in existence.

For 10 years, you’ve shared, tinkered, and built on GitHub from all around the world. Before we head into the next decade, we’ve collected some of our favorite moments and milestones—just a few of the ways you’ve pushed software forward.

I have written about the usefulness of GitHub for academic users in the past. The platform’s commitment to education is not only admirable, but I suspect a part of their success in general. If you’re a student, and you’re looking for a way to get into coding in any capacity — even if it is only a passing interest — the Github student package is more than worth claiming.

Show and Tell – 3rd April, 2018

Best Facebook Privacy Links.jpg

We Know Where You Live

The subheadings for this link gathering exercise might seem like nonsense. They are, it’s true, but not random nonsense. 1 If you recognise their origin, maybe you've also picked up how this particular Python title has taken on more meaning recently.

MoviePass CEO: ‘We Watch How You Drive From Home to the Movies'   Surely we're waking up to all this, right? Beware the ills of convenience

According to Media Play News, CEO Mitch Lowe told those at a business forum that the movie subscription service's app not only tracks your location, but follows you to and from the theater. “We watch how you drive from home to the movies,” he said, adding that “we watch where you go afterwards.” Not surprisingly, the company is hoping to understand customer habits and “build a night at the movies.”

How Widely Do Companies Share User Data? Here’s A Chilling Glimpse | Fastcodesign The tangible cause and effect of the Facebook revelations have the tech media in a spin. Meanwhile, Paypal quietly released details of their data sharing practices in January to comply within European law. That the response was just as quiet shows how routine a practice this is. This one is particularly galling given the paucity of genuine alternatives.

Group Madness

I’m still coming to terms with the level of surprise writ large in this debacle. The contemporary social contract has been a digital exchange for some time. Self surveillance is the norm, not an exception.

Facebook Has Had Countless Privacy Scandals. But This One Is Different The optimist has it this will incite a revolt. As much as I’d like to believe it, I see little around me to support the claim. I haven’t logged into Facebook for months, my reticence long established. However, I would wager that rolling through my ‘news’ feed will be a strangely self contained outrage directed at Facebook, within Facebook itself.

This is a data collection scandal. This is a scandal triggered by a specific incident, but that is broadly about the ways massive companies track us, harvest information from us, and then sell us as coercion targets in sophisticated information campaigns that could be for anything from diapers to mattresses to anti-vax literature.

The story will endure not because of animosity toward political data use but because it perfectly touches upon a deeper anxiety about our online privacy that’s been building for years. Indeed, the Cambridge Analytica scandal could well be the catalyst for a much bigger targeting revolt — a full-scale personal and public reckoning that looks at the way we’ve used the internet for the last decade. It’s a moment that forces us, collectively, to step back and think about what we sacrificed for a more convenient and connected world. And on an internet that feels increasingly toxic it’s hard to look at the tradeoffs we’ve made and feel like we’re getting a fair deal.

Then again, I’m just as likely to find all the awkward emotional oversharing, inner monologues, and general nonsense as usual.

Why Nothing Is Going To Happen To Facebook Or Mark Zuckerberg  On the flip-side. Where some see revolt, others see business as usual.

With Wall Street leading the way, the four entities with the strongest ability to cause long-term damage to Facebook in response to revelations that Cambridge Analytica illicitly used 50 million of its users’ data for political purposes didn’t seem ready to do so: Analysts told investors to buy the dip. Advertisers kept spending. Legislators continued to sit on their hands while a basic ad transparency bill rotted in Congress. And though users posted #DeleteFacebook en masse, Facebook actually rose to 8th place from 12th in the iOS mobile App Store since the day before the Cambridge Analytica news broke. It’s holding steady on Android, too.

No one can pretend Facebook is just harmless fun any more | The Guardian

We have now reached the point where an unaccountable private corporation is holding detailed data on over a quarter of the world’s population. Zuckerberg and his company have been avoiding responsibility for some time. Governments everywhere need to get serious in how they deal with Facebook.

How to Use Facebook While Giving It the Minimum Amount of Personal Data | the Verge  Some advice for minimising the data you share with Facebook. I’m all likelihood it’s too late, but developing good, conscious habits is always a good thing

Towards a world without Facebook | TechCrunch  A modest proposal if ever I saw one. I have sniped and snarked at crypto currencies on these pages, often with vague hat tipping toward the untapped potential of blockchain technology for other purposes. But I’ll admit, I hardly ever come across hard coded examples, let alone share them. Interestingly, the Facebook debacle has given us a barn to aim at, so we should see some interesting attempts at turning the page

We’re approaching — or maybe already at — the point at which these tools could be put together to construct, say, a small-scale decentralized social network. It would still face the critical-mass problem: but that could be addressed by focusing on specific cohorts and communities; art collectives, churches, fandoms, etcetera. It would still face the ordinary-people-don’t-want-tokens problem: but that could be addressed by having a designated token-handling admin for each node, in the same way that online communities used to have designated email admins or local Usenet sysadmins, so ordinary users would just need a URL, a userid/password, and perhaps a decision whether to pay for access or be advertised to.

Are you ready? This is all the data Facebook and Google have on you | The Guardian — If you still need a readout, this provides a decent run down of that data hoarding at Facebook and Google. But wait, there’s more — much more.

Mark Zuckerberg Thinks We’re Idiots | Monday Note Not a novel point, the irony in this claim has reached catch phrase proportions by now. Then again, if ever there were a time to put a finer point on it.

As Facebook’s leader, Zuckerberg resolves to get things straightened out in the future (“it’s my job, right?”) while he delivers a callcenter-style broken record reassurance: “Your privacy is important to us”. Yes, of course, our privacy is important to you; you made billions by surveilling and mining our private lives. One wonders how aware Zuckerberg is of the double entendre.

What Else Floats on Water

Apple, everyone needs more free iCloud storage | The Verge  Honestly, Apple may as well give us the bird for all you can store in 5Gb. For all the talk of user hostile action on the design front, examples of inaction offer enough insight inot priorities. At least for anyone not prone to religious feelings.

Apple: Former Engineer Will Unlock iPhone X for $15,000 | Fortune   Despite the sense this has always been a lucrative business waiting to happen, surely setting up this enterprise involved navigating a labrynthe of  mind-bending legal chicanery.

Stanford Students Challenge Apple on iPhone Addiction | Inside Higher Ed  Yeah, I can’t see Apple helping people use their devices less. Unless, of course, there is a way to spin it.

iOS 11 Bugs Are so Common They Now Appear in Apple Ads | the Verge  This has since been cleaned up. Amusing, yes. At the same time, it points to a normalisation of novelty over stability. All but unique to software as a product,  we essentially purchase it broken, and pay to have it fixed. Even if we pay for it via the hardware. Rumour has it this year's update to iOS will be a stability release.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Facebook should have regulated itself, but it’s too late for that now | Recode – Call me a cynic 2, but this is a little convenient for — and from — Apple. If I prefer Apple's approach, I'm not so comfortable with subtle opportunism. Privacy wouldn’t be a selling point if they didn’t have anything to differentiate themselves from.

Cook has made a point of criticizing Facebook for both the Cambridge Analytica affair and its overall approach to consumer privacy in recent days. But it’s not a new stance for him or the company: He made similar comments about Facebook and Google in 2015, and his predecessor Steve Jobs went out of his way to contrast Apple’s privacy stance with rivals like Google in 2010.

I don't doubt the existence of influential voices arguing for it's inherant value, but if it didn't have that other kind of value we wouldn't find so many contradictions Look a little closer and you fill find a fair degree of enabling. Take the Uber debacle, Apple has been found greasing the wheels before. Or more recently, the situation in China with carte Blanche to encryption keys. Intentional or not, this looks a cynical intervention. Apple’s own iCloud even runs on Google infrastructure, so pull that apart.

Bob Burrough | Twitter — Further to the above, this from a former Apple luminary pointing to the absurdly broad language from Apple claiming to keep all data safe from prying eyes. The line is crossed where the claim is made that your web traffic is kept private, to which Burroughs counters:

Since This Is Obviously Not True, the Only Possible Options Here Are: – Apple Believes This Is True, and They're Too Foolish to See How It Isn't. – Apple Doesn't Believe This, and They're Misleading Customers for Marketing Reasons.”

Apple’s approach might be more desireble, but to think of them as some benevolent entity immune from the profit motive is naive at best.

Now, Look Here

A Startup Is Pitching a Mind-Uploading Service That Is “100 Percent Fatal” | MIT Technology Review  A materialist’s guide to the afterlife

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia).

‘Blockchain' Is Meaningless | the Verge  The Appropriation of language is a uniquely troubling proposition in a capitalist society. There’s too much incentive for opportunism. Scratch that, the appropriation of everything.

Bose Sunglasses Hands-on: Audio AR Makes More Sense Than You Think | Engadget  Or does it? Nobody seems to learn this lesson. Allow me to phrase it in the turned about syntax of a little green mad with a laser sword: A model for success nerds and fashion are not. 3

Exclusive: This Is the Most Dexterous Robot Ever Created | MIT Technology Review  If you’re not keeping up with robots, you might have missed this.

AI Has a Hallucination Problem That's Proving Tough to Fix | WIRED — Computer says no.

Spotify Needs Your Help Tagging and Sorting Tunes | Engadget  Economists of a particular persuasion worked this out a very long time ago. It’s called surplus value, and this is a clever, if insidious way to capture it. The more work consumers do, the less resources Spotify need to spend, and voila more profit from that surplus. I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m merely bringing the aporia to your attention. This is the real gift economy

Broaden Your Mind

If we have come to the same intersection again, only to recognise it as such, I would at least like to think we might turn left this time. While the world is run by creeps, there are still good people out there, doing good work.

12 Things Everyone Should Understand About Tech | Humane Tech – You don’t need to agree with all of this to recognise its potential importance. A lot of these points seem obvious to anyone who can think even the smallest bit sociologically, but sadly are lost on most people working in, writing about, or commenting on technology. Usually to quote the first paragraph of an article is a good indication that linker hasn’t read it, in this instance it means this is the point.

…tech goes a lot deeper than the phones in our hands, and we must understand some fundamental shifts in society if we’re going to make good decisions about the way tech companies shape our lives—and especially if we want to influence the people who actually make technology.

It would appear the timing is right for a new approach to technology in general. What we have now is parristic, and disturbing.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

How Two Photographers Unknowingly Shot the Same Millisecond in Time | Petapixel  I have a thing for coincidence. So often the impression of synchronicity is a psychological phenomenon, but this one has irrefutable physical evidence. This is, in a word, neat.

Why the PDF Is Secretly the World's Most Important File Format | Motherboard  Something that most academic users are intimately acquainted with.

Photo by Caroline Methot on Unsplash

  1. Don’t get me started on how people use the word ‘random’
  2. Many people do
  3. Sorry, Apple doesn’t count — they’re a fashion brand making consumer electronics these days, not the other way around.

Create Smarter Presentations with Deckset for macOS

Deckset Macos Presentation Software

Presenting complex ideas in a clear, and simple way is as undervalued as it is difficult to master. It doesn’t help that established presentation software is mostly dated, awkward, and time-consuming. Just as we have with writing apps, we have painted ourselves into a corner with presentation tools. Keynote can standalone as an alternative to Powerpoint. And yet, if you pressed me for a list of cool presentation tools, you woudn't find either of those. It would be a short list, but you would definitely find Deckset 2.0 there.

Deckset is a presentation making app with an entirely different user experience. Especially if you’ve only ever used Powerpoint or Keynote. It seems Focus has become common currency in creative software of late, but Deckset delivers it in an unexpected way. Taking all the fuss, and fiddle out of presentation design by creating slick presentations from text files. With Deckset you can get back to what you should be doing, focusing on ideas.

Presentation Software or Powerpoint by default

In 2013, Microsoft estimated there were 30 million Powerpoint presentations given per day. That figure is likely to have moved on considerably. Everywhere there are presentations, there is Powerpoint. Just as Word has become synonymous with writing, and other text-based productivity, Powerpoint is the de facto byword for slide deck presentations. At the same time, Powerpoint is time-consuming, confusing and frustrating. Despite efforts to trim the product, it carries the compound baggage of an ageing codebase, run through with compromise. Like most users of Word, I strongly suspect Powerpoint users are in the application by default.

Deckset has the pedigree to follow the recent success of writing apps like Ulysses, which continue to popularise a previously niche medium. A similar user base will find in Deckset an ideal alternative to Powerpoint, or Keynote. Even if you’re a wizard with one of those apps, I’d wager you could save yourself time, and get to the point quicker if honing the words, and not tweaking transition animations.

I expect Deckset users will be largely self-selecting. Then again, I’m confident that many potential users don’t yet realise they should be part of that group. If the point is communicating ideas, then eliminating friction in the design of a presentation is paramount.Deckset’s neat trick, is to build polished slide decks from the raw material of your content, the text itself. You create the presentations from Markdown files, in a text editor. The slide deck itself literally gets out of your way while you concentrate on the message.

Plain Text is Simply Plain, Text

Cool Presentation Tools
With Deckset, you create presentations in Markdown. It comes with pre-loaded with example based tutorials like this to get your started

Despite the growing popularity alluded to above, there still exists a curious irony around the uptake of plain text utilities. Many prospective users seem concerned that plain text software will be difficult to use. In reality, the program left behind is often more complicated. Applications built around Markdown are some of the most simple and effective apps you will find for any purpose.

I was latecomer to the joys of plain text. If only I could reclaim all the years flushed by grappling with rich text, word processors, and bloated slide-deck programs. A small amount of time learning to write in Markdown can save you hours upon hours. The obvious gains are from time spent dealing with constantly shifting design elements, configuring and adjusting styles over and again. But then, there are the more intangible gains from working with words in their raw form.

Everything written about the focus of writing in plain text applies to slide deck presentations with Deckset. This is what makes it such an ingenious app. Just the same, if you’re still unsure about creating in Markdown, nothing can make this point better than a quick demonstration. The beauty of learning Markdown is you only have to see it to know how it works. It’s not code, it’s a clever markup language that translates into code. With an app like Deckset, you can simply open up the template files, and you’re away. If you want a primer this is everything you need to know to get started using plain text productivity apps like iA Writer, Ulysses, or Deckset.

Markdown in a Minute

Create headings with the hash symbol (#): 1

# Big Heading
## Slightly Smaller Heading
### And so on...

Use two asterisks on either side of words, or either side of a sentence to emphasise words in bold, like so:

**bold type**

Likewise, place an underscore on either side of a word, or sentence to emphasise in italics, like so: 2

_italics_ 

Unordered, and ordered lists are intuitive. Each line starts with a hyphen, or numeral + period, like this:


- Something
- And, something else
- Make up an unordered list


1. First item
2. Second item
3. Item number three

If you want to turn a word into a clickable link, place it in square brackets, followed by the link itself in parentheses:

[Anchor Word](www.yourlink.com)

Explaining how to format a footnote is more complicated than making one, so it looks like this:

[^1]: This is a footnote

Or, you can do the same with a name

[^Bentley-Payne, 2018]: Something Completely Different

With this, you have everything you need to get started with Markdown. There is more you can do with it, of course. There also exists a few variations on the original syntax, with flavours that support additional elements. The differences are always minimal, but the foundations always remain the same.

User Experience, and Careful Decisions

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Deckset has everything you need for ecuational presentations

Enthusiasts and geeks like to talk about responsive developers. By all accounts the builders of Deckset, Unsigned Integer, have taken a user-centric approach to developing their app. There is nothing more responsive than improving an app with user feedback. Much requested customisation features in the new release allow users to create and share themes, or tweak existing one to suit their needs. And, it’s not just about the nerds.

For a seemingly geeky app, Deckset is welcome respite, either as a Powerpoint and Keynote alternative, or as a first slide deck app. The user experience scales from simple automated layout based workflows to more bespoke, and sophisticated presentations — and all without sacrificing itself to complexity. One gets the impression that behind every feature lies a careful decision.

The considered approach is evident beyond the interface itself, with clarity a feature of the product on the whole. For instance, clearly Unsigned Interger recognise the relevance of Deckset to education. Among the documentation there is a deck outlining features inherently important for teaching presentations. Tabular information, equation formatting, captioned images and videos, it’s all there. As is rehearsal mode, speaker notes, and a PDF export function for class handouts. Taking the decision to leave the Mac App Store, means more flexibility in pricing. Deckset 2.0 is now available to education users for a discount.

Goldilocks and the Slide Presentation Tool

Deckset Macos Presentation App.png

Having run Deckset 2.0 through its paces, I almost wish I had more presentations to give. The revelation that slideshow software had become a sinkhole into which ideas themselves could easily fall persuaded me to all but give up on slide decks. Powerpoint is especially guilty. Although I find Keynote still has its uses, they’re mostly off-label, and fewer all the time. For the past couple conferences, I’ve gone analogue, delivering from a piece of paper to the room. Deckset has turned my head back the other way, by finally providing a happy medium.

If you want to take a look, Deckset offers a free trial. A single license is available for a one-time cost of USD $29. Or, if you’re an education user, you can request a generous 50% discount.

  1. Octothorp
  2. Sometimes a single asterisk on each side