Say Hi to Deckset 2!

I’ve never enjoyed preparing slides for presentation. Even allowing for the improvements of Keynote over PowerPoint isn’t enough to make me enthusiastic. Deckset, however, is an all together different proposition. If you write in Markdown, and want to simplify your presentation workflow, trust me this is for you.

With the new release, Deckset has also gone sans App Store, which means it now has an education discount. 1

The main reason for us to leave the App Store is greater flexibility in pricing. For example, we are now able to offer a 50% discount to students, teachers and other members of educational institutions. That is something we simply couldn’t do before, and we feel it’s essential to reflect the realities of how and why people use Deckset.

Time willing, a full review is in the works.

  1. Incidentally, as if the 30% tax isn’t obscene enough, it is absurd that Apple doesn’t facilitate this.

The Case Against Retweets | The Atlantic

The Atlantic For all those people abandoning Twitter, I am preparing to share some thoughts on micro.blog. In the meantime, here is a modest proposal for those of you holding on to the bow.

Somewhere along the line, the whole system started to go haywire. Twitter began to feel frenetic, unhinged, and—all too often—angry. Some people quit. Others, like Schulz, cut way back. I felt the same urge, but I wanted to do something less extreme, something that would allow me to keep the baby, even as I drained the bathwater. So I began to take note each time I experienced a little hit of outrage or condescension or envy during a Twitter session. What I found was that nearly every time I felt one of these negative emotions, it was triggered by a retweet.

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The Laptop Locator You Probably Didn’t Know About Could Save You | Backblaze

The Laptop Locator You Probably Didn't Know About Could Save You – Something I haven’t spent enough time on here is the other kind of security, backups. If you’ve never needed anything from a backup you might not fully grok their value, let alone the peace of mind. It only takes one failure. Given the realtime backup capabilities of Backblaze, anything else is a bonus. But as far as bonus features go, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than the Backblaze Locate my Computer feature. This post from their blog highlights a few of the success stories. Where Find my Mac failed, Backblaze was still able to help. 1

While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.

Backblaze offers a 15-day free trial, then unlimited backup storage for US$5 per month.

  1. The location map is also encrypted with your private key, so there are no privacy issues either.

Show and Tell – Tuesday, 06 Mar 2018

Luke Chesser 50 Unsplash.jpg

At some point I’ll make up a regular schedule for theses links, drop the Monty Python titles, and make something of this. We’re not there yet. Enjoy.

The Odd Job

The LinkedIn Garbage Fire That Funded Podcasting | Macdrifter  I might have momentarily flirted with linked in, if I did I was most likely high at the time. This link, however, is more for the sentiment about podcasting ad reads. Again, I’m on the same page

Ad-Blockers: The Good, the Bad, the Ethics | the Mac Security Blog  By now, it should be clear where I stand on this. I’m also I scratching around trying to work out how to make this site work, so I have more insight into how tricky this is than I ever did before. And yet, I still think most advertising companies are run by assholes who have no qualms using malware to get their jobs done.

It's a tough call; you want your favorite websites to survive, yet they hit you with an advertising sledgehammer. As someone who earns a living from writing content for publications, it hurts me to use an ad blocker, but it's necessary. What really irks me is that websites I subscribe to — newspapers and magazines — often still show me ads. When websites decide to tone down the ads, I'll whitelist them; but, they should be rewarding me for paying for their content.

Jack and the Mean Talk | Pixel Envy Pixel envy is one of the more thoughtful patches of the tech world. This is some commentary on a Twitter Thread, the

point of which is distilled in the premise that banning Nazis from Twitter shouldn’t be difficult,

I think that a better start would be to ban Nazis. I mean that literally. Flag any account where its name, handle, location, bio, or recent tweets contain allusions to Hitler normally used by white supremacist groups: “1488”, “HH”, “14 words”, and other hate symbols in context. That gives human operators the ability to sift through heaps of these accounts and ban the ones that are clearly and obviously Nazis, of which there are frighteningly many. This isn’t a perfect solution; it’s barely scratching the surface. But it would be a material change in how Twitter operates and a clear line as to what they do not tolerate. “No Nazis” should not be a controversial point of view.

What Else Float’s on Water?

The Feds Can Now (Probably) Unlock Every iPhone Model in Existence | Pixel Envy You can be certain there isn’t a fix for this exploit yet, Apple tends to broadcast the good stuff.

WatchKit Is a Sweet Solution That Will Only Ever Give Us Baby Apps  Marco Arment on why Watch apps suck.

Apple confirms it now uses Google Cloud for iCloud services | The Verge I have pointed out the folly of buying whole heartedly into Apples largely marketing based emphasis on privacy, but I was still surprised by this. If you are concerned about data security in the cloud, you have other options.

If It's Broke, Don't Fix It | Welcome to Macintosh – This was a wonderfully refreshing listen. So many of the ‘tech’ podcasts I have tried listening to are borderline infomercials for Apple. Or if not, their idea of being critical has nothing to do with the world at large, and everything to do with superficial details. The blind defence of Apple from some quarters can be mind blowing. Apple Fans in general could learn a lot from this, being able to confess your concerns about profound global issues, while confessing an uncritical history of fandom is exactly the kind of wake up that is needed for users to demand more of this mega-giant. Image is everything to them, so let them know you can see through it.

Three Apple Workers Hurt Walking Into Glass Walls in First Month at $5bn HQ | Technology | the Guardian Who could see this coming?

Anonymous Bitcoin Donor Rains $56 Million on Stunned Nonprofits – the Chronicle of Philanthropy In the last Show and Tell, I linked to some of the more unpleasant aspects of the crypto currency boom. Here’s something to restore your faith in others.

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

Show and Tell — Friday 23rd February, 2018

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Some of these links have collected a little dust over the past few weeks. Things have been quiet around here whole I dealt with the little matter of moving from one island to another. If you enjoy the quips, read on. If you only came for the potentially useful links, I’m sure you can find them. Enjoy.

How Not to be Seen

Salon to Ad Blockers: Can We Use Your Browser to Mine Cryptocurrency? | Ars Technica — Salon might think this is clever, but I doubt they think it’s honest. Nor do I think they care. What stands out to me, other than litany of other implications, is yet more massaging of meaning. Salon claims it will take advantage of ‘unused computing power’, then clocks the CPU to ridiculous levels. But the real kicker is clause of ‘one browser session’. People simply don’t close their browsers anymore, so this could go on for a lot longer than what unsuspecting users think it will. In short, not a fan.

Hey Alexa, Is It True a TV Advert Made Amazon Echo Order Cat Food? | Technology | the Guardian — If nothing else, this illustrates what should already be clear. These devices have one function, buy stuff.

Key iPhone Source Code Gets Posted Online in ‘Biggest Leak in History' – Motherboard — I was listening to a popular ‘tech’ podcast 1 a few days ago and heard another proclamation that Apple is more focused on security than anybody ever. Sure, all the evidence supports that. Oh wait, no it doesn’t.

Facial Recognition Software Is Coming to Industries Like Fast Food and Luxury Shopping. | Slate — Sadly, this is now inevitable. It’s still creepy, bordering on terrifying.

Objective-See | Mac Malware 2017 — If you’re still under the illusion there is no such thing on macOS

Chinese Police Are Using Facial Recognition Sunglasses to Track Citizens | the Verge — Say what you like, this is happening

Idle at Work

Numbers | Becky Hansmeyer – If you haven’t yet seen the app, check out Snapthread. This is an interesting insight into the difficulties facing independent developers. It is not unlike running an independent blog.

The Light Entertainment War

Can an App That Rewards You for Avoiding Facebook Help Beat Smartphone Addiction? | Technology | the Guardian  Or, just stay off Facebook

Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court | Technology | The Guardian

Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the VZBV, said: “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register. This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”

The court also ruled eight clauses in Facebook’s terms of service to be invalid, including terms that allow Facebook to transmit data to the US and use personal data for commercial purposes. The company’s “authentic name” policy – a revision of a rule that once required users to use their “real names” on the site, but which now allows them to use any names they are widely known by – was also ruled unlawful.

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built | The New York Times  — Doing anything evenly vaguely related to tech can be disheartening at times. If you can see through all the bullshit, let alone have a desire to present a balance against some of the more disturbing trends, you might find some hope in this project.

The effect of technology, especially on younger minds, has become hotly debated in recent months. In January, two big Wall Street investors asked Apple to study the health effects of its products and to make it easier to limit children’s use of iPhones and iPads. Pediatric and mental health experts called on Facebook last week to abandon a messaging service the company had introduced for children as young as 6. Parenting groups have also sounded the alarm about YouTube Kids, a product aimed at children that sometimes features disturbing content.

The new group also plans to begin lobbying for laws to curtail the power of big tech companies. It will initially focus on two pieces of legislation: a bill being introduced by Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would commission research on technology’s impact on children’s health, and a bill in California by State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat, which would prohibit the use of digital bots without identification.

The Idiot in Society

You Don't Understand Bitcoin, but You Understand Free Money  —  I’m not posting his for what it shares, but for the utterly moronic sentiment in its title. This so-called free money has an economic underpinning, whether people like this idiot want to believe it or not. We could go all the way back to the labour if you like, but let’s talk about energy consumption instead. Bitcoin alone is currently using more than 1m transatlantic flights worth of carbon per year. If we really want to make something of the revolutionary technology that makes bitcoin possible, we'll have to deal with all the snake oil salesmen, and sociopaths first.

Bitcoin’s energy sage is huge – we can't afford to ignore it | The Guardian — Thought I was making up that figure? If you know anything about economics, you know value has to come from somewhere. The next time you hear some idiot banging on about Bitcoin being decoupled from politics, remind them… actually, forget it, who knows what those people are high on.

Could be, Might be useful

Markdown Converter | OU Libraries Tools — A tool like this can help enable an iOS only workflow if you work with Markdown.

10 Hidden Tricks That'll Make Life With Your iPhone X so Much Easier | BGR — If you have one, this is actually useful.

Left by Rekka — If you’re looking for a simple, plain text writing app.

Setting Up GitHub Pages HTTPS Custom Domains Using CloudFront and Lamda@Edge — A while ago I posted a reminder of what education users can get through Github. If you’re already on that train, here is a tutorial for adding ssl to GitHub pages (check)

Tweak Spotify's Recommendation Tech to Create Custom Playlists | Engadget — Yet more fun with the Spotify API

And now, for Something Completely Different

Solo, a Star Wars Story | Kottke — I’m with Kottke, my ongoing love and obsession with Star Wars is embarrassing and irrational. I’m an outlier, in that I feel like the Last Jedi all but redeemed the crimes of Abrams. Not that I really cared in the end, when it comes to a galaxy far far away, I inevitably give in to childish joy. Whatever this ends up being, I intend to enjoy it

Gorgeous 50-Megapixel Panoramas Shot on an iPhone at 20,000 Feet — It’s these capabilities that trap us in the double bind. What you can do with an iPhone now is amazing, especially in photography. Consider these pictures were taken with a phone, and therefore camera, that is already 2 generations old.

Kids Use Data From Space to Make Cool Basslines With a Modular Synthesizer | Synthtopia — Ah space music.

  1. You know, an Apple Cast

Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash

Do Not, I Repeat, Do Not Download Onavo, Facebook’s Vampiric VPN Service

Old news, yes I know. However if anything bears repeating, this is over qualified. If clarification is needed, the Onavo VPN does not enable any kind of new practice from Facebook. No, it simply makes it dramatically more efficient for Facebook to do what they always do, track everything. What’s particularly nauseating in this instance, is how they’re taking advantage of general misunderstanding around security and privacy. To my mind, this meets the modern definition of a lie. Onavo is spyware.

If you’re someone who can’t live without Facebook or simply can’t find the courage to delete it, the Onavo appears under the “Explore” list just above the “Settings” menu. I’d recommend you never click it. Facebook is already vacuuming up enough your data without you giving them permission to monitor every website you visit.

Gizmodo Australia | I Can’t Believe How Stupid Facebook’s News Feed Update Is

That I’m linking to this, instead of the actual post has everything to do with Facebook’s relentless assault on web standards. The idea that Facebook doesn’t know what it’s doing here is far fetched at best. The bubble effect is not some esoteric theory, it’s common knowledge that Facebook is a confirmation bias machine. This addresses the problem by doubling down on the affect. Nobody should be surprised.

From the horse’s mouth,

We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you – the community – and have your feedback determine the ranking. We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.

You could read this as a cop out, but that would be too kind. Copping out in this instance is conveniently intentional. Gizmodo asks the obvious misanthropic question this move invites,

If people cannot tell truth from garbage, why are those same people being used to rank publications on a scale of trustworthiness?

Other supposedly sober outlets seem to be missing the point here, from Slate

At first blush, it looks like Facebook is doing exactly what I and other critics have long been calling for it to do: acknowledge that its algorithm plays a crucial role in determining what news people read, and take some responsibility for its profound effects on the media and the spread of information. It’s about time, right?

Except that, based on its announcement, Facebook’s approach to a notoriously difficult problem—figuring out which media to trust—appears to be painfully simplistic and naïve.

I think it’s naive to think they are being naive. This approach gives the appearance of doing something, and achieves exactly what they want. Welcome to hyper-reality.

Recode | YouTube is kicking “tens of thousands” of video-makers out its advertising program

It only takes a few days for something like this to be old news, but I couldn't let it pass without comment.   It remains to be seen howe effective it will be, and I can't help but think it underestimates how deep this problem runs, and exactly what is happening.

From Recode

The changes won’t prevent people from uploading offensive content to YouTube, which hoovers up hundreds of hours of new video per minute. But they are meant to make it hard for the people who upload that stuff to make money from it. And they are an important symbolic change for YouTube, which was founded on the idea that anyone can use the platform, and has spent years trying to entice video makers to find audiences and create careers on the site.

What Youtube, and tech companies in general can't seem to grasp is the social aspect of technology.  One of the more thoughtful pieces I have read on certain fringe workings of YouTube was written by James Bridle at the end of last year. That article address concerns I could identify with personally. The ability to combine automation with disturbing attention grabbing techniques aimed at children has, over time, made the some of the most bizarre and unsettling elements of that platform some of the most lucrative. It might be enabled by technology, but this is a social issue. As Bridle writes,

I’m trying to understand why, as plainly and simply troubling as it is, this is not a simple matter of “won’t somebody think of the children” hand-wringing. Obviously this content is inappropriate, obviously there are bad actors out there, obviously some of these videos should be removed. Obviously too this raises questions of fair use, appropriation, free speech and so on. But reports which simply understand the problem through this lens fail to fully grasp the mechanisms being deployed, and thus are incapable of thinking its implications in totality, and responding accordingly.

The first is the level of horror and violence on display. Some of the times it’s troll-y gross-out stuff; most of the time it seems deeper, and more unconscious than that. The internet has a way of amplifying and enabling many of our latent desires; in fact, it’s what it seems to do best. I spend a lot of time arguing for this tendency, with regards to human sexual freedom, individual identity, and other issues. Here, and overwhelmingly it sometimes feels, that tendency is itself a violent and destructive one.

The second is the levels of exploitation, not of children because they are children but of children because they are powerless. Automated reward systems like YouTube algorithms necessitate exploitation in the same way that capitalism necessitates exploitation, and if you’re someone who bristles at the second half of that equation then maybe this should be what convinces you of its truth. Exploitation is encoded into the systems we are building, making it harder to see, harder to think and explain, harder to counter and defend against. Not in a future of AI overlords and robots in the factories, but right here, now, on your screen, in your living room and in your pocket.

Addressing the monetisation is a start, but as Bridle was apt to point out, these are big problems built right into the infrastructure. And, not just the technical infrastructure. Whether you won’t to believe it or not, technology is developed by people who make decisions, and thereby coded with intentionality. Kids like Logan Paul — and he really is still a kid — have been socialised by this media. There is no exceptionalism here. Bridle goes on,

And right now, right here, YouTube and Google are complicit in that system. The architecture they have built to extract the maximum revenue from online video is being hacked by persons unknown to abuse children, perhaps not even deliberately, but at a massive scale. I believe they have an absolute responsibility to deal with this, just as they have a responsibility to deal with the radicalisation of (mostly) young (mostly) men via extremist videos — of any political persuasion. They have so far showed absolutely no inclination to do this, which is in itself despicable. However, a huge part of my troubled response to this issue is that I have no idea how they can respond without shutting down the service itself, and most systems which resemble it. We have built a world which operates at scale, where human oversight is simply impossible, and no manner of inhuman oversight will counter most of the examples I’ve used in this essay. The asides I’ve kept in parentheses throughout, if expanded upon, would allow one with minimal effort to rewrite everything I’ve said, with very little effort, to be not about child abuse, but about white nationalism, about violent religious ideologies, about fake news, about climate denialism, about 9/11 conspiracies.

Before the yelling of ’keep you politics out of technology’ starts, I’ll nix it up front by pointing out that notion is, in itself, political. I recommend reading Bridle’s essay, whether or not you have children of your own. You can find it here

MacStories: iPad Diaries, Transmit Replacements and FTP Clients

iPad Diaries: Transmit Replacements and FTP Clients | MacStories —  I tend not to post many links to Macstories. Not least, because most people reading this have probably already seen anything I might link to. But, I do often find these iPad Diaries posts quite useful.

There is a lot of conjecture around Panic’s move to step away from developing Transmit for iOS. It seems obvious by now that Apple has left a lot to be desired in their support of pro developers. Something is clearly askew when the App Store is a bandit enterprise, making more cash than a small Island nation. And yet, nobody is really surprised by this decision.

To state the bleeding obvious, developing for iOS is clearly a different game. Without crossing further into the politics, it’s a shame where developers were clearly ahead of the curve with pro features while the platform was still at odds with their apps. The irony being that only now are we starting to see genuine commitment to professional use on iOS from Apple, and once again we have developers moving in the opposite direction.

If you need the kind of file transfer features in Transmit. Viticci has some good alternative suggestions here. As ever, there are compromises, but then the same was true of the app in question.

From Macstories,

None of the apps I covered above are “perfect”: each prioritizes different aspects of FTP connections and file transfers, whether it's design, support for dozens of services, or superior integration with iOS 11. Ideally, Transmit for iOS could have been all of this: a file transfer app based on Coda's beautiful design, with support for a plethora of services and iOS 11's latest APIs.

For now, I'm keeping Coda, iFiles, and FileBrowser on my iPad Pro because they all serve different purposes. If you absolutely need to pick just one, however, I suggest you ask yourself what aspect is most important for your iPad workflow – there is a lot of overlap between these three apps, but also clear differences in terms of design and functionality. If you know what you're looking for, choosing a Transmit replacement shouldn't be impossible these days.

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