Category: Tech

Oh, Gee

Yesterday I became aware of the awkwardly named “The OG App” (🙄), which promises “the OG Instagram experience”: “With the OG app, you can easily filter what you see in your Instagram feed, create custom feeds, remove reels, ads, suggested content, and more!” It seemed impossible, and that’s because it is.

I nearly gave the app access to my Instagram account, believing for a moment that maybe, given its presence in the App Store at all, it had been properly vetted; but because of their suspiciously slow homepage, as well as the company’s bizarre name (“Un1feed”) and the dearth of info about it, I decided to wait. I’m glad I did.

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Preserving the discontinued, offline, E Ink WikiReader

From Input: “A ragtag community is keeping this aughts Wikipedia gadget alive”:

The aesthetically unremarkable aughts gizmo measures 4 inches by 4 inches, with a resolution of 240 by 208 pixels. It has an e-ink display with a rather janky touchscreen that’s better fit for a stylus than a finger.

Jack sells SD cards with updated content for $34, or $29 for a digital download. [He] believes he is the only person in the world who “makes the update and makes one that works and has all the articles (at least the articles that can be viewed on the WikiReader).”

Something about this device, and the person working to keep it relevant, makes me happy. As much as I love/hate the internet, I’m always interested in ways we can do things without needing an internet connection.

Over the last couple decades we’ve begun putting everything on the web. Taking something off the web — something that couldn’t have existed without the web — and putting it on a handheld device feels warmly reassuring.

It’s a nice reminder, too, that Wikipedia is “freely licensed, allowing anyone to copy, modify, and re-use it for any purpose, including commercial uses.” It’s incredible that such a thing exists.

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iPadOS 16 Will Not Include Arbitrary Windowing

A discovery in some public WebKit code referencing MULTITASKING_MODE has some people breathlessly anticipating what they consider the obvious and long-overdue solution to multitasking on the iPad: arbitrary windowing:

And as it stands, the Magic Keyboard is more of a convenient desktop accessory than a productivity tool, but giving it a new interface would make it far more useful. A desktop or pro mode would instantly change that.

Google does something similar with its Chrome tablets, but Apple could do it better with a hybrid macOS-iPadOS environment that seamlessly switches between tablet and desktop mode while unlocking the benefits of a touchpad with an intuitive, powerful interface.

Macworld

We’ve all been burned many times by hoping a new iPadOS update will bring significant improvements for power users, but this does seem to be pretty solid evidence suggesting iPadOS 16 could be the year this finally changes.

9to5Mac

More recently, Mark Gurman wrote for Bloomberg:

The iPad’s next major software update, iPadOS 16, will have a redesigned multitasking interface that makes it easier to see what apps are open and switch between tasks, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the changes aren’t yet public. It also will let users resize app windows and offer new ways for users to handle multiple apps at once.

Admittedly, multitasking on the iPad has always been far from perfect. iOS 15 went a long way, I think, to solving some of its issues, but it’s still clunky and confusing.

But the solution is not and will not be “arbitrary windowing”: the ability to resize apps to any size and layer them on top of each other indefinitely.

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What Rumors?

A headline from MacRumors: “AirPods Pro 2 Likely to Feature Almost Exact Same Design, Contrary to ‘Stemless’ Rumors”.

Whenever I see a reference to Apple “rumors” like this, I always ask: What rumors?

This MacRumors article, of course, doesn’t actually link to any sources for this claim, trustworthy or otherwise, since (a) writers don’t do the due diligence of adding links to their stories anymore, and (b) most tech blogs are just SEO link farms and Amazon affiliate spam.

So I tried to find out myself: Where did this rumor start? I searched my feeds for “airpods stemless” and found a few references in Macworld, here:

According to LeaksApplePro (writing for iDropNews), the upcoming AirPods Pro will bring…a new stemless design that fits flush in the ear…

Ah, yes, the venerable “LeaksApplePro” and “iDropNews,” of course.

But also, here:

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, for example, believes that the new AirPods Pro will have no stems, in a radical step. He said in a May 2021 report that the new AirPods Pro may not feature shafts, following a similar design to the Beats Studio Buds or the Beats Fit Pro.

Ah, ok, Mark Gurman. People seem to take what he says seriously enough that a brief mention by him becomes canon. But, of course, this Macworld story doesn’t link to that “May 2021 report”; if Gurman said it, then it is just a Fact In The World that needs no citation.

So what did he actually say? I found another source that brought me a little closer, from GSMArena.com in May 2021:

The AirPods Pro 2 will have no stems at all. The design is supposed to debut with new a Beats headset expected next month…

So we’re somewhere between “may not feature shafts” and “will have no stems at all.” Does journalistic stalwart GSMArena.com link directly to this report? Sadly but predictably not.

So it seems as though we’re possibly looking at a single Mark Gurman quote from May 2021 as the reason anybody is expecting stemless AirProds Pro. Helping this, of course, is the fact that people will believe and continue to spread just about any Apple rumors they hear, especially when it comes to a change in form factor, and especially when that change in form factor aligns with something they think Apple “ought” to do — never considering, in this case, that (a) truly stemless AirPods would be more difficult to handle (you think they’re easy to lose now?), and that (b) the AirPods stems are one of the most iconic and recognizable pieces of Apple design in the last decade.

GSMArena.com did, however, link to bloomberg dot com slash technology, so taking a look at that in the Wayback Machine, I was finally able to locate the infallible words of the Great Oracle. Here’s the quote in question, from Bloomberg:

For the new AirPods Pro, Apple has also tested a smaller design that eliminates the stems. That look will debut on new Beats-branded wireless earbuds planned to be announced next month.

HAS ALSO TESTED.” This is the reason that it necessitates a headline, over a year later, dispelling the now virtually established fact that of course the next AirPods Pro will be stemless, everybody knows that, and if not, Apple is really just continuing to spin their wheels, aren’t they? Where’s the innovation coming out of Cupertino?

Am I right?

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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?

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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:

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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.

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