The Most-Important-Computer Edition Saturday, October 27, 2018

iPhone XR Review Roundup, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Phones are the most important computer in most people’s lives. They’re the only computer in many people’s lives. Nobody says it’s crazy to spend up to $1,500 on a laptop — but most people use and care about their phone more than they do their laptop. That’s why phone displays are getting bigger. We’ve been corrupted by thinking of them as “phones” in the pre-2007 sense of the word.

A cell phone used to be just a wireless telephone. No longer. They are our ever-present personal computers. They are also our most important cameras (and often our only cameras). A decade ago, point-and-shoot cameras ran $200-400, easily. It’s your watch, it’s your alarm clock, it’s your Walkman, it’s your map and GPS. It’s your wallet full of photos of your family and friends. It’s also, increasing, your actual wallet.

Apple Isn’t Selling Its Own Cases For The iPhone XR, And That’s Very Strange, by Chris Welch, The Verge

For the first time in years, a new iPhone has hit the market without any first-party Apple cases for the company to sell alongside it. The lack of such an obvious accessory is odd. Apple has made no public comment on why it hasn’t prepped its usual silicone and leather case options for the XR’s launch. A clear case that was mentioned in the company’s press materials in some regions has also been a no-show. If you walk into an Apple Store today, you’ll find a few options from Otterbox and other brands, but none from Apple itself. At least not yet.

Nobody’s Cellphone Is Really That Secure, by Bruce Schneier, The Atlantic

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can to improve the security of your cellphone. Unlike computer networks, where you can buy antivirus software, network firewalls, and the like, your phone is largely controlled by others. You’re at the mercy of the company that makes your phone, the company that provides you cellular service, and the communications protocols developed when none of this was a problem. If it doesn’t want to bother with security, you’re vulnerable.

This is why the current debate about phone privacy, with the FBI on one side wanting the ability to eavesdrop on communications and unlock devices, and users on the other side wanting secure devices, is so important. Yes, there are security benefits to the FBI being able to use this information to help solve crimes, but there are far greater benefits to the phones and networks being so secure that all the potential eavesdroppers—including the FBI—can’t access them. We can give law enforcement other forensics tools, but we must keep foreign governments, criminal groups, terrorists, and everyone else out of everyone’s phones. The president may be taking heat for his love of his insecure phone, but each of us is using just as insecure a phone. And for a surprising number of us, making those phones more private is a matter of national security.

Keybaord Shortcut

Never Google Punctuation Marks Or Accents Again, by Rachel Withers, Slate

A recent conversation on Slate’s Slack revealed just how creative writers can be in avoiding the Insert path. Many admit they Google, copy, and paste characters that are AWOL on the QWERTY when they need them: the dashes, the accents, the umlauts. In high school, I regularly Googled the name of my own school—after all, when you attend Sacré Cœur and take an obnoxious pride in spelling it correctly, the search engine becomes your meilleur ami. Others admit to typing the letters c-a-f-e in Word and stealing the autocorrected é when they need it (déjà vu works too), but if you want to be a jerk about how you spell doppelgänger and Sūdoku, there’s no obvious autocorrect for umlauts or macrons—if you’re trying to write about Björk, it’s back to Google or the cumbersome Word process.

The debate surrounding the use of the em dash rages on in editorial circles—perhaps, as the Ringer writer Kate Knibbs tweeted, the difficulty of applying it discourages its overuse (and perhaps that em dash could have been a semicolon). But it’s not working—we writers are a resourceful bunch, at least when it comes to em dashes. There’s Google, of course (Slate editor Dan Kois admits to keeping a bookmark of the search results for “em dash”), but the true em dash abusers among us have actually learned the keyboard shortcut: [Option] + [Shift] + [-] on Mac, or [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [-] on PC.


Snapchat Brings Its Camera To The Desktop To Add Filters To Your Streaming Videos, by Casey Newton, The Verge

Snap, which likes to call itself a camera company, is bringing that camera to the desktop. Snap Camera, which is available today for Mac and Windows, will integrate with apps including Twitch, YouTube, Skype, and Zoom. With Snap Camera running, you’ll be able to use Snapchat’s filters — lenses, in Snap speak — while streaming a game of Fortnite or updating your co-workers on fourth quarter sales. For Snap, a move to the desktop represents a way to extend its reach into users’ lives, while harnessing the advantages the company has built up in augmented reality filters.

PSA: The iOS App Store Is No Longer Listing All In-App Purchases, by Jim Tanous, Tekrevue

The problem with this new policy is that the nature and prices of in-app purchases vary wildly depending on the developer and type of app or game. Users could previously check out the description and prices of the in-app purchases to determine if they were reasonable before downloading or buying an app. Now, it seems, users must download and launch the app to see the same information.


Tapped Out, by Dr Drang, And Now It's All This

Have I ever mentioned how frustrating I find programming in Shortcuts? I have? Well, I’m going to do it again. This time, I’m going to vent about Magic Variables, which everyone says are great but which I despise. Sort of.


Macs@IBM: An Interview With IBM CIO Fletcher Previn, by Jonny Evans, Computerworld

By focusing on user experience, accessibility, and solving the complex challenges around heterogenous enterprise setups: “I think we’ve embedded design into our definition of agile and how we build software and how we build solutions,” Previn explained.

“The philosophy is that if we spend enough time on engineering up-front so we have fewer problems coming into the environment, we can then afford to staff more qualified people as we don’t need so many of them. Then, when you call the help desk, they are totally driven and focused on delivering a great user experience to you.”

Amazon Has Pulled Its Ads From Bloomberg Over China Hack Story, by Joseph Bernstein, BuzzFeed

Amazon isn’t alone in apparently retaliating against Bloomberg over a report it says is untrue and riddled with inaccuracies. According to multiple sources, Bloomberg was not invited to Apple’s fall product event next week in Brooklyn.

Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police For Kids, by Nellie Bowles, New York Times

Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

Bottom of the Page

Probably for the first time in my life, I've replaced Apple products with non-Apple products. I've been using AirPorts since 2001, but starting three hours ago as I am typing this, the wireless network in my apartment is now powered by NetGear's Orbi.

This may also mark the start of another tradition: just buying whatever Wirecutter recommends.


Thanks for reading.