Some Thoughts on Privacy, “Privacy”, and Mastodon

As people have started experimenting with Mastodon in the wake of the news that Elon Musk would be buying Twitter, some on the Fediverse have begun discussing how and whether Mastodon instance admins can “read your DMs.”

Without getting into all the reasons that “direct messages” on Mastodon differ from direct messages on Twitter (or indeed most other social platforms), suffice it to say that the content of any one-to-one messages you send on either Twitter or Mastodon is not end-to-end encrypted. This means that at any point during their storage and transmission, they could theoretically be read by anybody with access to the database on which they’re stored.

(I’m no security/cryptography expert, so forgive me if these details are broad and perhaps not entirely accurate; I think the point I’m about to make is not dependent on all the nuances here.)

Setting aside for a moment why one might think a Mastodon admin would be interested in one’s personal messages, given that it is technically possible, is this something one should worry or care about?

Continue reading Some Thoughts on Privacy, “Privacy”, and Mastodon

Leave a Comment

Ryan Broderick on War (And Everything) As Content

Hard to choose what to quote from this piece, but (all emphasis mine):

The hashtag #nuclearwar is trending on Twitter right now. If you click in on it, it shows you the top content tagged #nuclearwar. If you click on one of the posts, in giant letters, Twitter asks you to “tweet your reply.” What’s your take on nuclear annihilation, the bird site wonders thoughtlessly.

and:

What is QAnon if not just a way to always have something new to create or consume during breaking news events.

and:

There are a lot of internet users who, after a decade of exposure to viral media, have had their minds so thoroughly warped by trending content that they believe that reacting to popular internet culture is […] some kind of moral duty.

and:

The internet is at a place technologically now where connectivity is not just the default, but demanded of us all.

and:

Leave a Comment

There is a surreal aspect to viewing the outbreak of war through the conveniences offered by social media, and I doubt we are ready to comprehend its consequences.

Nick Heer, “Social Media in New Wartime

Now seems like a really good time not to be on Twitter. When things are crazy I try to limit myself to reading the paper in the morning and watching the evening news.

Leave a Comment

Uber Apple Watch app discontinued

From MacRumors last month:

Uber appears to have silently ended support for its Apple Watch app last month, and multiple Uber users have noticed that they are no longer able to hail a ride from their wrists.

The Uber Apple Watch app has been available since the Apple Watch app launched in 2015, but it always had more limited functionality than the iPhone app. It did not support uberPOOL, fare splitting, ETA sharing, or contacting an Uber driver, which could be why it’s now been discontinued.

Part of the promise of having an LTE-enabled Apple Watch is being able to leave home without your phone. There’s something that feels “lighter” about not having a social media machine in your pocket. With AirPods and an LTE Apple Watch, you can get text messages and phone calls, pay for things anywhere Apple Pay is accepted, and even scan the boarding pass for a flight or the ticket for a movie.

For many city dwellers, the Uber Apple Watch app would be an integral part of this phone-less experience.

The one and only time I did try to use it, I was puzzled that it didn’t ask me for a destination when hailing a car. My driver was even more puzzled not to see a destination in my ride details; I imagine that’s probably impossible when using the phone app. I had brought my phone with me in case something like this happened, so I had to boot it up and enter my destination in the Uber iOS app.

A year or more ago I noticed that the Uber watchface complication stopped working; later, that the app would only show one or two types of cars (Uber XL and Uber Pet, I wanna say?); until finally I saw the message shown at the article linked above: “Please switch to the Uber mobile app We [sic] no longer supporting [sic] the Apple Watch app. Sorry for the inconvenience 😢”

It’s a shame that this sometimes critical app can’t be used independently from your phone, nearly 8 years since the Apple Watch was introduced. (Lyft dropped support for their Apple Watch app in 2018.)


Incidentally, another thing I noticed about going out without a phone when dining at a restaurant during the pre-Delta COVID lull in the summer of 2021: You can’t scan a QR Code menu with just a watch.

Leave a Comment

RTFM

Being told to “read the fucking manual” is like being told to read Gray’s Anatomy and then perform a kidney transplant.

Leave a Comment

WSJ perpetuating “green bubble” myths

A few points regarding the Wall Street Journal’s recent piece about the social stigma that comes from texting on non-Apple devices:

From the beginning, Apple got creative in its protection of iMessage’s exclusivity. It didn’t ban the exchange of traditional text messages with Android users but instead branded those messages with a different color; when an Android user is part of a group chat, the iPhone users see green bubbles rather than blue.

It’s commonly misremembered that green bubbles were invented for Android and other non-iMessage users, green being chosen explicitly to evoke the color of the Android logo. (It’s also misremembered that it’s the incoming message bubbles that are green, thus branding the sender as an Android user.) But SMS messaging on iPhone used green bubbles for outgoing messages from day one.

Here is the very first moment anybody outside of Apple saw what SMS messaging looked like on the iPhone in 2007:

Green bubbles!

Apple didn’t brand SMS messages with a different color; it branded iMessages with a different color when iMessage was launched four years later, in 2011.

It also withheld certain features. There is no dot-dot-dot icon to demonstrate that a non-iPhone user is typing, for example, and an iMessage heart or thumbs-up annotation has long conveyed to Android users as text instead of images.

The typing indicator and “tapbacks” aren’t withheld from standard SMS conversations; they’re not possible with standard SMS conversations.

I’m not saying Apple isn’t motivated to keep iMessage exclusive to their OSes; this passage in particular is pretty damning:

“In the absence of a strategy to become the primary messaging service for [the] bulk of cell phone users, I am concerned the iMessage on Android would simply serve to remove [an] obstacle to iPhone families giving their kids Android phones,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software executive, said in a 2013 email. Three years later, then-marketing chief Phil Schiller made a similar case to Chief Executive Tim Cook in another email: “Moving iMessage to Android will hurt us more than help us,” he said. Another warning that year came from a former Apple executive who told his old colleagues in an email that “iMessage amounts to serious lock-in.”

One Response

Finally, two new, modern Pinboard apps

Pinboard has been, as far as I know, the de facto online bookmarking tool for nearly a whole decade, which is why I’ve been baffled at how the Pinboard app marketplace has languished for so long. The two frontrunners — Pinner and Pushpin — were last updated 4 years ago and 1 year ago, respectively, and Pushpin has always been slow and unstable for me. Both seemed to have stalled on maintenance and the addition of any new features. I started to assume Pinboard was just too niche of a tool to warrant any serious app development, and that people had maybe just just moved on to a combination of Pocket and Chrome bookmarks.

Every few months, though, my frustration with Pushpin would lead me to search the App Store for alternatives, and finally this weekend I got some! They are both already huge improvements over their predecessors, have both iOS and macOS versions, and for all the tech blogs I read, I hadn’t heard anything about them.

Pinstachio (App Store) by Francisco Cantu is fast and capable, and feels very at-home on both iOS and macOS. Its feature set is relatively limited, and it charges a subscription fee (though an extremely modest one at $7 per year) rather than a one-time purchase, but it’s definitely one to try out and keep an eye on.

Pins for Pinboard (App Store, Twitter) (not to be confused with Pins for Pinboard.in) is by Quang Anh Do, maker of the (now-defunct?) Writing Kit. With clever, unique features — like browsing by domain, “On This Day,” “Random 20” — tag and metadata suggestions, preview images, a development blog and Twitter, and a one-time purchase price, Pins looks like the clear winner to me.

Here’s a quick comparison table:

PinstachioPins for Pinboard
Mac appYesYes
Suggested tags / metadataNoYes
Preview imagesOnly on detail viewYes
Token loginYesYes
Price$7/yr$14 one-time
Data collectionData not linked:
– purchases
– diagnostics
Data not linked:
– purchases
– diagnostics
– usage data
Rating4.3 with 21 reviews4.9 with 192 reviews
First releaseNov 24, 2020Jan 22, 2021
Latest releaseOct 28, 2021Dec 3, 2021
All data as of Jan 3, 2022

Let me know in the comments if I’m missing any feature comparisons or if there are any other Pinboard apps or tools you’d like to recommend.

Leave a Comment

Even Mark Gurman doesn’t actually think the Apple TV is “pointless”

The click-baitiness of Mark Gurman’s much-linked piece today — titled alternately “Apple’s TV Box Is Now Mostly Pointless” and “Why Should I Buy an Apple TV Instead of Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast?” — is quickly given away when he writes: “In recent years, the Apple TV has become a less obvious purchase for many Apple fans and content junkies.”

Is it “a less obvious purchase” or “pointless”? Or is it indeed “useful,” as per this later line:

“Integration with HomeKit, Fitness+, AirPods and the iOS remote app is useful.”


But for the sake of argument, I’ll assume he really does believe the Apple TV is “pointless,” and I’ll boil down his argument into what I see as his three main points, paraphrased by me.

Continue reading Even Mark Gurman doesn’t actually think the Apple TV is “pointless”

Leave a Comment