The Permanent-Memory Edition Saturday, April 23, 2016

In Proof We Trust, by Dominic Frisby, Aeon

New information is added to the record every few minutes, but it can be added only when all the computers signal their approval, which they do as soon as they have satisfactory proof that the information to be added is correct. Everybody knows how the system works, but nobody can change how it works. It is fully automated. Human decision-making or behaviour doesn’t enter into it.

If a company or a government department were in charge of the record, it would be vulnerable – if the company went bust or the government department shut down, for example. But with a distributed record there is no single point of vulnerability. It is decentralised. At times, some computers might go awry, but that doesn’t matter. The copies on all the other computers and their unanimous approval for new information to be added will mean the record itself is safe.

This is possibly the most significant and detailed record in all history, an open-source structure of permanent memory, which grows organically. It is known as the blockchain. It is the breakthrough tech behind the digital cash system, Bitcoin, but its impact will soon be far wider than just alternative money.

Moving Forward

If It Ain't Broke, Break It: Why Putting Off Software Upgrades Can Make Things Worse, by David Gewirtz, ZDNet

Many cybersecurity exploits take advantage of older software. Older software can suffer breakage when support is suspended. It's simply become necessary to just bite the bullet and do the upgrades.

As we move forward, here's how best practices need to change. Instead of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," we need to move to an "if there's an upgrade, do it no matter what" mentality.

When To Rewrite From Scratch - Autopsy Of A Failed Software, by Umer Mansoor, Code Ahoy

Abandoning working projects is dangerous and we wasted an enormous amount of money and time duplicating working functionality we already had, rejected new features, irritated the customer and delayed ourselves by years. If you are embarking on a rewrite journey, all the power to you, but make sure you do it for the right reasons, understand the risks and plan for it.

Hey Siri, Hey Liam

Apple Shares New 'Siri And Liam' TV Ad For Earth Day, by Joe Rossignol, MacRumors

In the 15-second spot, Siri asks Apple's recycling robot Liam what he is doing for Earth Day, before it humorously takes apart the iPhone.

Apple And The Governments

On Encryption Battle, Apple Has Advocates In Ex-National Security Officials, by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

In white papers, op-ed articles, conferences, newspaper and television interviews and elsewhere, the former officials have made their support for Apple clear. While their former jobs in the government are always featured prominently in their public appearances, their current business affiliations often go unmentioned.

The barrage of support has given Apple a public relations boost in a fight it once seemed destined to lose, but it has surprised and angered some law enforcement officials.

U.S. Drops Bid To Force Apple To Help Unlock Second iPhone, by Christie Smythe, Bloomberg

The U.S. government said it no longer needs Apple Inc.’s help to get into an iPhone used by a drug dealer in New York after obtaining a passcode, ending a second courtroom battle over whether the company can be forced to help unlock its devices.

Moving Off

Off The Grid, by Stephen Fry

I live in a world without Facebook, and now without Twitter. I manage to survive too without Kiki, Snapchat, Viber, Telegram, Signal and the rest of them. I haven’t yet learned to cope without iMessage and SMS. I haven’t yet turned my back on email and the Cloud. I haven’t yet jacked out of the matrix and gone off the grid. Maybe I will pluck up the courage.

After you …


App Aims To Bring Shakespeare To New Generation, by Jessica Berthereau, AFP

The app users see actors reading out "The Tempest", facing the camera with no costume or staging as the text scrolls, and its developers said they hope eventually to cover all of Shakespeare's 37 plays.

Why Pocket’s CEO Isn’t Afraid Of Competition From Facebook And Google, by Joran Dovet, VentureBeat

In the past year the company has done a lot in the area of content recommendation. The app now highlights the top content that users are saving to Pocket, and it’s also letting users make personalized recommendations that other users can subscribe to.

But that’s just the start.

The Brooklyn Museum's App Acts Like AI, But There Are Humans Behind It, by Ashley Carman, The Verge

A Brooklyn Museum visitor stood in front of Lorenzo Monaco’s 15th century "Madonna of Humility" painting, but it wasn’t the piece’s striking tooled gold or iconic imagery that stood out to him. Instead, it was a subtle detail: a bundle of flowers in the infant’s hands. The visitor took out his phone, snapped a photo of the art, and typed, "What species are these flowers?"

On the other side of that question wasn’t a Siri, Cortana, or Alexa. It was Andrew Hawkes, a specialist in contemporary art and one of six moderators for the museum’s Ask app. He didn’t know what those flowers were, and neither did his coworkers, all of whom specialize in different areas of the museum. He had to email a curator, which would take time and maybe more research, so he got the visitor’s email and later followed up with an answer: they’re nosegays.


All Apple Watch Apps Must Be Native Apps Starting On June 1, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

Apple today informed developers that starting on June 1, 2016, all watchOS apps submitted to the App Store must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK or later.

New Apple Music API Section, CareKit And Other Updates, by AppStoreReviewGuidelinesHistory

Most significant is perhaps the new section 10.8 that states apps using background location services must provide a reason for doing so. What Apple considers a fair reason is not really clear although the HIG is mentioned.

WWDC 2016 Lottery Ends, Apple Starts Charging Developers Who Won Tickets, by Juli Clover, MacRumors

The ticket lottery for Apple's 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference ended this morning at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, and it appears that some developers who have won tickets are seeing charges on their credit cards.


Performance Can Matter A Lot — Unless It Doesn’t, by Jeff Carlson, Seattle Times

But how often does computer performance make an actual impact on what we do? I’ve been thinking about that this week in the context of Apple’s latest products. In some cases, performance may not actually make much of a difference, while in others it surprisingly does.

Mourning Prince And David Bowie, Who Showed There’s No One Right Way To Be A Man, by Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post

But if the deaths of Prince, and Bowie, and Chyna, and Harper Lee taken together feel like a moment of catastrophic generational turnover, the loss of Prince and Bowie represent a more specific calamity. We’re in a moment in American politics consumed by gender panic, from Donald Trump’s menstrual anxieties to the rise of and backlash to a movement for transgender rights. And now we’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so.

Bottom of the Page

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Thanks for reading.