WTF Weekly for August 20, 2019

Fall approaches, and so does the annual release of a new version of iOS. This year it’s iOS 13 and iPadOS 13. Although the betas have been incredibly rough this year, as of developer beta 7, released this past week, I think they’re finally stable enough for most people.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an iPad, you’ll love iPadOS. It took Apple long enough, but they’ve finally managed to arrive at a vision of their software that makes the iPad truly a productivity workhorse (not to mention just plain fun to use).

Enough of my Apple operating system summer report, let’s get on to the week or so that was.

Twitter is blocked in China, but its state news agency is buying promoted tweets to portray Hong Kong protestors as violent

I don’t know what’s going to happen between Hong Kong and China ultimately, but it’s fascinating watching.

I believe that the Chinese campaign to smear the protesters is effective. The company I work for has a plant in China, and one Chinese coworker over here in the U.S. for a few weeks griped to me angrily last week that Hong Kong and Taiwan should just get over it and allow themselves to be fully subsumed by the People’s Republic of China.

Personally, I’m no nationalist, and I think if people want their own country separate from the giant to the north (in the case of Hong Kong) or west (in the case of Taiwan), they should be allowed to. I’m sure in the minds of Chinese mainlanders, wanting independence is ridiculous and insulting, but it’s really hard to make a case for forced patriotism.

China itself is an ongoing study in industrial progress combined with a rapidly expanding authoritarianism. It’s a country that will continue to increasingly impact global political dynamics, for better or worse (and probably both).

AI Algorithms Need FDA-Style Drug Trials

We don’t just let people toss mind and body altering drugs on the market without testing, so why should we do the same with society altering software algorithms? This is the argument presented by Olaf J. Groth, Mark J. Nitzberg, and Stuart J. Russell in Wired’s Opinion column.

Despite the fact that three men with middle initials J seems like something only an AI could come up with, this article calls for regulation of Artificial Intelligence, so I guess perhaps these are real human beings postulating caution here.

To be sure, social media in particular has unleashed algorithms bent on exploiting human behavior for financial gain with quite destructive results, if the past few years have been any indication. This is bad enough in and of itself, but as AI entrenches itself in all parts of our lives going forward, careful testing and study of effects on society seems even more important.

I don’t know if I’m optimistic that the human race will recognize the severity of the danger that AI and ML in general pose to us, particularly because most people working in those fields do not encompass a diverse enough subset of the human race, but I’m glad at least some people are thinking about this issue and trying to bring it to more widespread attention.

Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say

Capitalism loves it some maximized returns, but it looks like a lot of corporation CEOs are at least seeing the need to publicly profess that ultimate profits aren’t the only thing that matters in business.

I’ve long argued that no company can live quarter to quarter and manage a decent strategy. Tech companies, for example, generally have a pipeline at least a couple years long, and an understanding of where technology is going and the will to put a plan in place and stick with it is important for their success. Bowing at the altar of Wall Street is anathema to successful strategy.

That’s not the reason for the sudden chorus of socially conscious disclaimers emanating from the mouths of chief executives, but it’s part of the reality any decent CEO should consider if this is truly a moment of business priority reconsideration.

As noted in the article, if CEOs are truly suddenly becoming more caring, self-aware human beings, they could start showing it by raising salaries for employees, particularly low wage workers, and by narrowing the gap between their own pay and that of everyone else in the company.

Capitalism has a history of maximizing profit at the expense of worker and customer well-being, and that’s probably not going to change any time soon. If by some crazy miracle a genuine reflection of what it means to be a corporation in modern society is underway, however, it’s about damn time.

And finally, from the “what could possibly go wrong” bucket:

Japan Approves Experiments Splicing Human Dna With Animal Embryos

Organ donation is a troublesome necessity that has several issues. People have to die for organ transplants to take place, for one thing, and this is not only a sad thing but also results in waiting lists for important organs. Basically, someone is guaranteed to die if enough people need a liver.

Using animals to harvest organs suitable for human transplant seems like a solution though, right? Right??

Or maybe it seems creepy and fraught with unexpected consequences, but maybe that’s just my opinion.

All I know is the tendency of humans to do something just because it’s possible cuts both ways. Sometimes it saves the patient, and sometimes it kills them and everyone else.

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

WTF Weekly for August 9, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

How ‘Microcracks’ Undermined San Francisco’s New Bus Terminal

One of the benefits of being human is that we have disciplines such as structural engineering that allow us to build cities and other trappings of modern societies. We pretty much take it for granted that the bus terminal we’re in, for example, won’t come crashing down on our heads unexpectedly.

This isn’t always a given, as Transbay discovered in San Francisco, when a maintenance worker noticed cracks in ceiling levels of the giant new SF bus terminal. What followed was a multi-agency investigation involving an engineer specializing in fracture mechanics and fatigue, the construction contractor, and Transbay.

It’s a fascinating read, and far more intriguing than you might think, even if you’re not into civil engineering or gigantic concrete structures.

Security researchers demonstrate how to bypass Face ID with glasses and tape

It’s like Revenge of the Nerds but where glasses and tape can get you into someone else’s iPhone!

All you have to do is find someone who doesn’t pass Face ID’s “liveness” detection (meaning they’re dead or unconscious) and put glasses with tape on the lenses onto their face.

It’s a weird bypass that still requires the victim to be present and (for some reason) unconscious or otherwise inattentive according to Face ID.

In summary, it’s a non-issue in the real world, but it’s still something Apple should fix.

Still, any hack involving glasses and tape gets my vote.

And not completely unrelated…

Apple expands its bug bounty, increases maximum payout to $1M

Apple has had a bug bounty program for iOS for years, but it’s avoided doing so for macOS until now. Pretty much all Apple products running an accessible OS (AirPods are excluded) is now eligible for payout upon vulnerability disclosure to Apple.

In addition, Apple is upping the maximum payout to $1 million for extremely severe exploits (which, considering the market value of exploits when sold to shady companies, is an absolute necessity if people are going to submit their findings to Apple instead of someone with less honorable intentions).

And finally, Apple is going to distribute some developer phones to trusted, vetted security researchers, which will give them greater ability to poke under the hood and find vulnerabilities that are normally not accessible to them.

Apple has a lot of enemies ranging from nation states, including the US government, to black hat hackers in general. iOS specifically is a huge target, but macOS is as well, and vulnerabilities in your Mac can also impact your mobile devices (not to mention much of the same data). It’s good to see Apple stepping up their game and cooperating more fully with the outside security industry.

Fukushima nuclear plant out of space for radioactive water

You can file this under the “we’re all f#$%ed” category, if you’re looking for more man-made failures to either gloat about or cry over.

TEPCO has been accumulating and storing radioactive water from its damaged Fukushima reactors in large tanks since the 2011 disaster. The problem is, rainwater and groundwater mix with the existing contaminated water, so there’s an ever-increasing and seemingly endless supply of the tainted liquid. TEPCO estimates they’ll run out of storage space by summer 2022.

To make matters worse, there’s still no real plan on what to do with the radioactive water, which will reach 1.37 million tons when TEPCO runs out of storage.

That’s a lot of death water.

5g Is Here—and Still Vulnerable to Stingray Surveillance

It’s obvious no one cares, but all our cellular communications can be very easily compromised, and that won’t change with 5G, in case you were counting on it to solve all our problems.

Stingrays, those little fakers previously used mostly by government agencies, but now pretty well accessible to anyone, can still trick cellphones into connecting to them and spilling their secrets, regardless of which brand of cellular connectivity is used. Even though 5G does implement some security fixes to prevent fake base station attacks, it doesn’t go far enough.

One attack 5G devices are vulnerable to is being tricked into being downgraded to an older connection technology, which then opens it up to the greater level of vulnerabilities that older connection is susceptible to.

That’s it for this issue of WTF Weekly! I wrote this the same day news broke about Epstein’s apparent suicide, but that whole mess plus the immediate QAnon conspiracy theories springing forth from brain donors everywhere made me wish for a giant global flood of Biblical proportions, so you’ll have to read about that somewhere else.

See you next time, whenever my random “time to publish” instinct generator kicks in.

WTF Weekly for July 27, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk about anything I’ve included here.

If you’ve never spent a few days strolling the beach in Newport, Oregon, I officially advise right now that you do so as soon as possible. My family goes at least one a year, and we dwell in nice little condos and walk on the beach and wade into the water.

Sigh.

But now I’m home, and WTF Weekly demands my attention.1

Why Apple Buying Intel’s Modem Business Is a Big Deal For The iPhone

Apple is now in the modem business, as we all suspected would be the case back when Intel announced it was selling off its smartphone modem business. Naturally there has been a lot of handwringing and verb slinging on the topic, but it really seems pretty straightforward a move to me.

Qualcomm doesn’t appear to be a beloved company in the semiconductor industry, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Apple wants to find a way out from under their reliance on the wireless chip monster. Apple likes to control their own destiny, and quite often when they have to rely too heavily on an outside party to supply them with a key component to their own products, they wind up disappointed at frustrated.

Overall, there are no surprises here. My only real question prior to this being finalized was whether or not Apple could make it happen (they’ve missed out on a couple other opportunities recently), but they put that to rest and now life goes on. I expect at some point in the next 2-10 years, Apple will no longer rely on Qualcomm for cellular modems.

Siri records fights, doctor’s appointments, and sex (and contractors hear it)

I guess we should have seen this coming after Amazon and Google were caught listening to audio clips of people speaking to their digital assistants, but Apple bangs its privacy drum often enough that I guess it lulled us into complacency.

More to the point, Siri is bad enough at understanding and performing the simplest requests that one could be forgiven for thinking that no one has ever bothered to analyze Siri performance with an eye towards improving it, let alone that they’re actively monitoring our speech.

Jason Snell says it best:

Bottom line: It doesn’t matter to me if this is Amazon or Apple. I don’t want human beings listening to the audio these devices record. In fact, I don’t want recordings made of my audio, period—I want the audio processed and immediately discarded.

I don’t know how speech detection and digital voice assistants can ever get any better without real humans listening to interactions and determining where they went wrong. But I also know that not a single one of us ever wants other people listening to things we say to our phones or speakers, regardless of how innocent it may seem.

Tesla Execs Claim Service Problems Are Over As Owner Frustration Boils Over

Tesla, not unlike Elon Musk, is a fascinating entity. Tesla makes great cars that people love, and inspires people to believe in and long for a fully-electric automotive future. On the other hand, it’s also one of the worst run companies on the planet in terms of customer service.2

Tesla, mostly via Elon Musk, has long exhibited signs of reality denial. The bit about difficulty in contacting real humans to resolve problems is something I’ve heard from multiple Tesla owners. As bad as “normal” American car companies are, at least there is always a dealership you can go to and demand action from someone when your car is broken.

I want Tesla to succeed for many reasons. I think it’s an important car company with an important mission. I also think Elon Musk is the wrong guy to be in charge when it comes to figuring out customer service and car repair logistics.

Cat refuses to move from Japanese convenience store on anniversary of store manager’s death

I have some thoughts about this. First of all, I don’t believe cats communicate with the dead. I think cats are from another planet instead.

Still, who doesn’t love a cat story?

Secondly, I like Japanese convenience stores too. It’s possible that when I get old, I’ll move back to Japan and lie down in front of a Japanese convenience store and refuse to move. I can think of worse ways to see out my final days.

Finally, I’m very excited that I could read several of the kanji in the letter outside the store, including
本日早朝 (I’ll leave the translation as an exercise for the reader).

The Hard-Luck Texas Town That Bet on Bitcoin—and Lost

This last one isn’t really something that happened this week, but I did read it this past week, so that must count for something. It’s the weirdest bit of high-tech-collides-with-Americana thing I’ve seen in a while, and it’s what happens when a place where you’d think no one had possibly ever heard of Bitcoin bets their future on it.

I think we all know how the cryptocurrency gold rush dream is going at the moment.


  1. As does my professional occupation, but let’s not go there.

  2. And probably employee satisfaction.

WTF Weekly for July 16, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or to talk with me about anything I’ve included here.

Before I get to the links for this installment of WTF Weekly, let me just say that the news in general is about as depressing as I can ever remember.

We have clear and powerful signs of climate change, but it seems like we’ve given up. We have Republicans doing their best to strip women of their rights, and not enough people are fighting back on that one. We have a president of the US telling American Congress members to go back where they came from and it’s largely being ignored, on top of all the things he’s done that are criminal and impeachable offenses.

It’s enough to make you want to bludgeon a Nazi and a male chauvinist or two.

As a result, I’m not going to focus on any of that on WTF Weekly for the foreseeable future. I’m of two minds about this – it’s certainly better for my mental health, and yours, but ignoring the problem is also how we’ve gotten into this mess. Still, I am not likely to solve any societal problems here, so I may as well try to keep it positive for as long as possible.

Here’s hoping sanity prevails at some point in our nation’s and world’s future.

In the meantime, let’s talk about space and a rather historically significant event!

In case you somehow missed it, it’s the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that put man on the moon back in July of 1969.

Photographer Dan Winters on His Apollo Obsession

NASA decided to commemorate Apollo 11 by restoring the Apollo mission control room in Houston back to the condition of its glory days. This article isn’t about that, per se. it’s really about the photographer who shot the restored control room for Wired, and his obsession with and love of all things Apollo related.

I’m not monstrously old (although I am old), but when I was a kid it was still close enough to the glory days of the space program that NASA and rockets and space captured our imaginations and inspired many an original imaginative space tale. We’ve lost a lot of that magic. Now the US is talking about the moon again, but when Mike Pence is involved… well, it’s just not the same, is it?

Why the Apollo missions made Florida synonymous with space

The Apollo command center may be in Houston, but as you’re probably aware, rockets usually launch from Florida. It’s not just that it’s renown for its weather and Disneyland, it’s that proximity to both water and the Equator work out well for things being shot into space.1

This is a great telling by National Geographic of just what the space industry has meant for the Florida Space Coast region.

Speaking of space, there’s one between your ears that’s filled with gray matter, unless you’re POTUS number 45. Elon Musk wants to communicate with that gray matter:

Elon Musk’s Neuralink wants you to type on your iPhone using your brain

On the one hand, things wired to your brain reading your thoughts are creepy and undoubtedly ripe for misuse by someone. On the other, typing on an iPhone sucks, even with iOS 13’s swipe keyboard (yeah, it’s nice, but it’s still typing on an iPhone).

I have all kinds of questions about this story.

I didn’t know, but am not surprised, that Elon Musk has a brain-computer interface company.

I did know, but have serious conflicted feelings about the fact, that people obviously want to bypass the inferior interfaces we use with computing devices everyday currently, and go straight from brain to machine.

It’s risky enough to decide to trust any computer engineers enough to let them wire one directly to the brain – it’s another when said computer then communicates wirelessly with the iPhone, increasing even further attack vectors and risks. Even if the people wiring things to your brains turn out to be good guys, bad guys love them some wireless communications to man-in-the-middle with.

And finally, speaking of dubious tech ideas:

Apple Plans to Bankroll Original Podcasts to Fend Off Rivals

Look, no one is enamored of all these companies trying to silo podcasts and make podcasting proprietary and dependent on terrible service-specific apps. But (assuming this rumor is true) I don’t know how Apple making its own exclusive podcasts really changes that.

Apple has been a good, although somewhat distracted, steward of podcasting in the sense that it has built up a huge directory while at the same time not ingesting the shows that make up its lists. It doesn’t host any podcasts, and all podcasts in the Apple Podcasts directory do (and must) have RSS feeds that enable them to be listened to by anyone, anywhere, using anything that can handle RSS, which includes a number of outstanding general purpose podcast apps.

So it is good that Apple is now looking at how to keep podcasting from becoming a Spotify thing, or a Luminary thing, or whatever. I don’t know how they go from public podcasts with open, freely available RSS feeds to exclusive content though without changing their model (and therefore that of podcasting in general).

I know a lot of the super wise pundits who believe themselves to be the only people capable of standing impartially outside the tech bubble will go on and on about how podcasting is already changing and we (the tech types) just don’t understand how the world works, but the fact that Apple institutes its podcast directory in the manner it does is what has kept podcasting open and non-proprietary to this point.

Whatever Apple does to modify its podcasting formula going forward, even if it’s just making closed feeds or services seem more acceptable or normal, could have big ramifications for the industry in general. Right now Stitcher and Luminary are fighting against the tide. Apple’s approach to exclusive podcasts could actually change that.


  1. Water receives huge metal objects falling from the sky more gracefully than do houses, for example.

WTF Weekly for July 8, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter to yell at me about typos or just to comment on anything I’ve included here.

WTF Weekly is something I do for fun and to keep me writing when I’m failing to otherwise. It’s actually provided me with minimal writing opportunity, however, since I link to several articles each time and usually provide very little commentary.

So starting today, I am going to link to fewer items in WTF Weekly and write more about each of them. This may sound great to you if you already have more than enough links and “read later” items in your life, or it may sound like utter hell if my opinions aren’t what you’re here for.

I guess we’ll find out. 😄

Two sides of the same coin:

Apple: Misunderstanding Design And Jony Ive’s Role

and

Jony Ive’s Fragmented Legacy: Unreliable, Unrepairable, Beautiful Gadgets

I know, I know. I’m tired of hearing about Jony Ive too. But that’s mostly because most people are talking about it in very black and white terms depending on whether they want to believe Apple is doomed without him, or whether they want to believe everything wrong with Apple is Jony Ive’s fault and it’s a relief that he’s leaving.

What I’m more interested in than the event itself is dispelling the simple-mindedness that pervades so much of Apple-related commentary these days.1

Like anything interesting in life, Jony Ive’s legacy is more complicated than a simple black and white narrative. There is no doubt that he has been key to several major Apple success stories that either saved the company (iMac) or allowed it to grow into the behemoth it is today (iPhone). Also true is the fact that his design sensibilities have at times led to less well-rounded or useful products, and certainly that applies to his takeover of the iOS UI with iOS 7.

Personally I think that Jony Ive without Steve Jobs is a less compelling situation for Apple than Jony with Steve. I don’t know (and probably no one knows) the exact nature of their interactions and who acted as whose reality check most often, but I think post-Steve Apple has proven that sometimes Ive’s design sensibilities need pushback in terms of final products for actual customers.

The reality of the situation is we won’t know for awhile what the long term effect of Jony Ive leaving Apple is. My belief is it’ll be less detrimental to modern Apple than some people think, while at the same time I acknowledge how important Jony Ive has been to Apple’s success (unlike some other people).

How NASA gave birth to modern computing – and gets no credit for it

As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing nears, a lot of great stories about the mission, the people, and the technology involved are being written. It’s common now for people to joke about how each one of us has more computing power in our pockets than we sent men to the moon with in 1969, but in fact the Apollo command and lunar module computers were advanced for their day and led directly to integrated circuits becoming ubiquitous today.

Without knowing it, the world was witnessing the birth of “Moore’s Law,” the driving idea of the computer world that the capability of computer chips would double every two years, even as the cost came down.

In fact, Fairchild Semiconductor’s Gordon Moore wrote the paper outlining Moore’s Law in 1965, when NASA had been the No. 1 buyer of computer chips in the world for four years, and the only user of integrated circuits that Moore cites by name in that paper is “Apollo, for manned Moon flight.” Moore would go on to cofound and lead Intel, and help drive the digital revolution into all elements of society.

It’s true that the computing revolution would have happened anyway, but as Fishman notes:

Sure, we’d have iPhones if we hadn’t flown to the Moon, and word processors, and Jeff Bezos probably would have founded Amazon.com.

But just because something would have happened anyway doesn’t mean you take credit from those who drove it. Apollo dramatically accelerated the pace of the digital revolution by transforming the technology at the heart of it: the integrated circuit.

The Terrifying Science Behind California’s Massive Camp Fire

This is not a new article, but it is one that I came across just today.

Most of us living on the west coast undoubtedly remember last winter’s horrific wildfire that destroyed Paradise, CA. 88 dead, hundreds missing, a little Northern California town lost. Matt Simon brings us the science behind why this fire was so devastating, and it’s not good news for the future:

This is what a climate change reckoning looks like. “All of it is embedded in the background trend of things getting warmer,” Lareau says. “The atmosphere as it gets warmer is thirstier.” Like a giant atmospheric mosquito, climate change is sucking California dry.

I worry about a lot of things I can’t control, and climate change is high up on that list. Fire, famine, uncontrollable disease, and mass-extinction events are all on the list of things happening or that will happen in our near future. I don’t think even now people are taking this seriously enough.

Frankly, if it was just me, I wouldn’t care that much. I’ve had my time and I don’t really care about traditional sunset years like so many other Americans. But I, like millions or billions of others, do have a child whose future is still ahead of them, and the belief that we’ve selfishly stolen her future and the future of all of our children is really saddening.

Finally, here’s one I truly do not understand:

Apple Updates Its Texas Hold’em iOS Game

A game that was originally for a non-iOS device, brought to the iOS App Store to celebrate that store’s 10 year anniversary… which was one year ago. Say what?

I don’t make ‘em up, people. I’m just a lowly commenter on the bizarre reality others have wrought.


  1. Let’s face it, it’s really the simple-minded, click-bait approach to writing almost all writers on every subject employ on the internet in recent years.

WTF Weekly for July 2, 2019

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I’m happy to be writing this installment on my iPad. I had the iPadOS version of the iOS 13 public beta installed, and it broke iCloud folders for iA Writer (but only inside iA Writer, for some odd reason). Today the iOS developer beta 3 came out, which is a newer version than the first public beta (and which will almost certainly become the next public beta). I installed the iPadOS update from the developer site, and iA Writer is back in business.

It’s a little flaky – files and folders appear and disappear from iA Writer’s iCloud list, but I can work around it and make it function.

Shortcuts in iOS 13 are a complete nightmare for me, but iA Writer is back in business.

📱

The real reason Jony Ive left Apple

If you’re remotely interested in Apple, you already know that Jony Ive is leaving Apple to open his own design firm. Everyone in the universe has an opinion on why, what it means, whether or not Apple is doomed, etc, etc, but John Arlidge’s take on it isn’t bad.

John does fall into the “but Apple hasn’t had a hit in years” trap, which is a sure sign that the writer hasn’t counted how many years typically go between Apple blockbuster hits. And no, the Apple Watch isn’t the sales wonder the iPad has been, but few products are.

Publishers reportedly underwhelmed with Apple News+ so far, Apple promising improvements

I have zero knowledge of the financial math behind Apple News+, but I can’t say the assertion that publishers aren’t ecstatic about its impact so far surprises me at all. I wonder how many people who signed up for the trial stuck with it when it came time to pay up – I certainly didn’t.

It’s not that Apple News+ is a bad product. It’s nice, and I think if you subscribe to even 2 or 3 monthly magazines, this is worth switching to from a cost perspective. But news and magazines fall very low on the priority list when it comes to budget allocation for me, and I suspect for many.

Considering how many publishers the monthly fee has to be split between, it seems hard to believe that Apple News+ works in favor of those publishers.

Apple bolsters its chip team by hiring architect who worked at ARM, Intel, AMD

One man departs, another guy rolls into town. Really, in and of itself, this doesn’t mean anything other than that Apple still takes their CPU design team seriously, but of course as the article subtitle states, this will probably stoke expectations of sooner-rather-than-later Mac ARM processors.

📰🗞

Japanese Government Passes Law to Support Foreign Residents Studying Japanese

I don’t know what the practical outcome of this law will be, but even the fact that Japan recognizes that foreigners well educated in Japanese is something that would benefit them is kind of impressive.

‘Help’: Photos show hundreds of migrants squashed into cells, appealing for assistance

There’s really no solid argument that the US isn’t running concentration camps, at this point. This seems like major human rights violations are taking place on a daily basis at our borders.

I still remember paranoid white people saying Obama was coming for them and that all “gun loving Christians” (whatever that is) would wind up in internment camps.

Looks like it’s their party persecuting other humans instead. Non-white humans. It makes me sick.

Toy Story 2 casting couch ‘blooper’ deleted by Disney after Me Too movement

Pretty bad look for Pixar that they ever included this scene at all. As noted here, Toy Story 2 director John Lasseter wasn’t exactly at the top of the sensitivity and appropriate behavior ladder either.

🔐💣

Chinese border guards put secret surveillance app on tourists’ phones

Anyone who goes into China with their real phone instead of a burner dummy phone logged out of all important accounts is insane.

To be honest, I’d recommend it for anyone entering or re-entering the US also.

Airports in Japan to introduce facial recognition for foreign visitors

Speaking of creepy government behavior at the borders…

I really am not a fan of facial recognition used in this manner at all. I assume this will go into some giant database, which is both creepy and inevitably susceptible to hacking.

OpenID Foundation says ‘Sign in with Apple’ has critical gaps, urges changes

I’m not qualified to comment on OpenID Foundation’s issues with Sign in with Apple, but any input that results in better security is fine with me.

I don’t know how optimistic I am that Apple will join the OpenID Foundation as requested, but you never know. It might help Apple’s case with their requirement that developers include Login with Apple whenever they accept another third party login service such as Google or Facebook.

🌎🚀

Spoiled Shores: Japan’s Tsushima on the Front Line of Marine Plastics

Continuing my recent theme of really depressing stories about nature, here’s one from Tsushima about the problem of plastics in our oceans.

It’s really hard to feel positive about what we’re doing to our planet these days.

Gene editing could help eliminate HIV

It’s incredible how long we’ve been combatting HIV. It’s not really in the consciousness of most people now, which probably says as much about us as a species as it does about the (admittedly vastly improved) state of HIV treatment.

And finally,

NASA’s restored Apollo Mission Control is a slice of ’60s life, frozen in amber

Ars Technica has some happier science related news, and it only cost $5 million to bring! Still, few things are cooler than the restoration of the Apollo Mission Operations Control Room 2.

WTF Weekly for June 22, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter if you notice any typos, or just want to talk about some of the stuff posted within!

📱

If you’re still using an AirPort (or Time Capsule), you should upgrade your firmware ASAP.

I wonder if this is related to any of several recent vulnerabilities that have affected other routers and Apple is just late to the patching game, or if it’s something else entirely.

I quit using my Time Capsule not long after Apple announced they’re out of the router business anyway. Firstly, I don’t trust Apple to be interested enough now to worry about all security vulnerabilities, and secondly, my Time Capsule couldn’t cover my house adequately anymore for some reason. I now am basking in the glow of fast, ever-present radio waves from a Netgear Orbi mesh system.

Inside Apple’s team that greenlights iPhone apps for the App Store.

That’s a somewhat awkward headline to a somewhat interesting story by CNBC on the Apple App Store app approval team (talk about awkward phrasing). I think most of us probably already knew a lot of this from listening to podcasts like The Talk Show and ATP, but a couple interesting things caught my eye.

I find it intriguing that some App Store principals are named while others are kept anonymous (hi, “Bill”) for safety and security reasons. I’m sure there are angry developers, but are Apple execs really afraid of a handful of irritated app developers?

I would have liked to have seen a little better explanation of the kinds of things Apple is trying to prevent on iOS with the App Store, such as location tracking misuse, personal data leakage, etc.

3 products that would be hits for Apple if the company made them.

Speaking of Apple routers…

Dan Moren makes a good case on Macworld for Apple to address some unmet customer needs with a nice standalone display that doesn’t cost $6,000 and isn’t a reference monitor; secure and private networking in the form of a HomeKit router; and iCloud backup for Macs.

I’ll admit when Apple announced the HomeKit router spec at WWDC this year, my first thought was “Yeah, and you bastards killed the Airport, didn’t you?”. My second thought was “I wonder if HomeKit is coming to Netgear Orbi?” (Answer so far: No). As for the monitor, it seems like a no-brainer. The market for that $6,000 reference monitor pales in comparison to a stand-alone 5k display like that in the current iMac.

📰🗞

Trump approved cyber strikes against Iran’s missile systems.

According to the Washington Post, we just launched offensive cyber attacks on Iran to disable their middle launch control systems. This comes right after Trump first decided to militarily attack Iran and then decided otherwise.

Really, speaking of fake news, it’s hard to know what Trump is doing and what he isn’t, because he and his administration lie about everything. I think it’s safe to assume though, based on reports, that Trump really was about to go to war with Iran and then decided not to.

Militia threat shuts down Oregon Statehouse amid walkout.

Leave it to Oregon republicans to run away rather than vote on a climate bill. I try not to swear in print because it generally is a sign of a weak vocabulary, but I’ll just say it – these Republicans are cowardly assholes.

On top of it, a bunch of right-wing gun nuts threatened to provide armed guard for these GOP senators in the event that state police came to haul them back to the Capitol. Among them were the Oregon Three Percenters, a lovely group of individuals whose name apparently comes from the three percent of their brains they’re currently utilizing.

God bless Oregon and its merry band of nutty armed conservatives.

Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos.

Sure, blame the dead guy.

🔐💣

Florida city pays hackers $600,000 in ransom to save computer records.

This has to be a record ransomware payout. And it seems insane. Honestly, I’m not sure if the best advice is the FBI’s (don’t pay) or that of the unnamed security consultants (do pay). I guess we’ll know if we ever see an update on the outcome.

The Highly Dangerous ‘Triton’ Hackers Have Probed the Us Grid.

This story seems like some seriously bad news, and it’s even more unsettling when immediately followed by:

The US Has Allegedly Placed Malware Deep in Russia’s Power Grid.

One has to wonder if this is in response to the above story or vice versa, or if it’s all just wacky coincidence and everyone is all up in everyone else’s grids.

Either way it seems really hard for us to complain about the unsettling ticking time bombs in our own electric grid when we’re bragging about doing the same to other countries.

It’s a nutty time to be alive.

🌎🚀

New Report Suggests ‘High Likelihood of Human Civilization Coming to an End’ Starting in 2050.

I thought my science report was going to be fun and cheerful this week to take your mind off all the electric grid hacking going on, but nope. It’s not. Instead we get to learn about the imminent demise of civilization.

This will make those gun nuts in the story about Oregon happy though.

Selling tickets to the space station is actually decades overdue.

If you think a lot of unqualified and incautious people have died on Mt. Everest in recent years, wait until you see what happens when rich people with more money than brains start touristing their way up into space!

I’ll watch from here, thanks.

New report finds NASA awarded Boeing large fees despite SLS launch slips.

I want a job where I can get nine-figure bonuses despite not meeting expectations and generally falling years behind schedule. Anyone want to hire me?

WTF Weekly for June 12, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter if you notice any typos, or just want to talk about some of the stuff posted within!

If you’re a long time Apple fan like me, you already know my excuse for my tardiness this week: WWDC, Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, which took place last week starting June 3rd and running through the 7th. No, I didn’t attend, but I did spend a lot of time watching Monday’s keynote and Platform State of the Union, as well as many subsequent hours of developer session videos.

I also spent a lot of time this past week playing with my new piece of Apple tech: a 2019 iPad Air.

The iPad has come a long way since the days of the iPad 2. Certainly the hardware is better, but more importantly, the operating system no longer makes the device feel like just a blown up iPhone. With iOS 13 on the horizon, things are about to get serious with iPad.

In celebration of WWDC and the many amazing things that Apple unveiled there, I’m going to deviate from my normal format a bit and devote the whole WTF Weekly to Apple related topics this week.

Enjoy!

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Apple’s New Mac Pro Is Powerful, Pretty, and Pricey

Apple has a long, rich history of serving professionals and enthusiastic doers with capable hardware and tuned, focused software. Over time, as Apple mutated into a more consumer device oriented company, primarily enriched by iPhone sales, they appeared to forget how to serve pro and power users. This mild but increasing case of corporate amnesia culminated in the 2013 “trash can” Mac Pro, which unhesitatingly showcased form over function, and appeared to be a poster child for genuine Apple hubris.

Many years passed, full of unhappy Apple power users and unhappy Apple designers, painted into a thermal corner with their literal trash can of a Mac Pro design. Then, after a few various hardware wake up calls, Apple appeared to snap out of their coma and remember that they were once quite good at making products people could perform demanding work on.

A couple years later, Apple’s post-coma rehabilitation is complete, and the proof is a beast of a computer that no one save production companies and unusually rich developers can afford, and it’s glorious. And it’s actually not uncompetitively priced, given its capabilities and custom components such as the Afterburner FPGA.

A lot of people who aren’t familiar with high-end workstations are grousing on Twitter about the price, but the fact is this appears to be a future-proof machine that is competitive with truly similarly equipped PCs.

iPadOS: The MacStories Overview

I’m tempted over and over again to write the words “possibly the biggest news from the WWDC keynote was” followed by various completely different Apple revelations, but the fact is that iPadOS is up there with the most important announcements Apple gave. I mean this both in terms of upgrades to the iPad’s software as well as the fact that they now refer to iOS on the iPad as iPadOS.

A lot of words have been tweeted and otherwise tossed around about how the term iPadOS is nothing more than a marketing gimmick, but I disagree. I believe Apple has decided to make it very clear they take the iPad seriously, and that iPad will continue to get the power user features demanding users require going forward. Combined with the fact that the iPad can still be used as it always has, as a much simpler consumption device, and iPad could easily become one of the most versatile computing platforms available.

Already iOS has been developed in a divergent manner between iPhone and iPad. There are no split-screen apps on iPhone and no pencil support, for example, both of which are features that iOS 11 brought specifically to iPad only. The goal here isn’t device and OS fragmentation, although that will happen in ways that are natural and sensible, it’s to make better use of the increasingly powerful iPad hardware and larger screen combination. Having an iPadOS to ensure Apple is focused on iPad specific features and updates every year is, in my mind, a necessity if the iPad is going to remain a viable platform.

I’m extremely happy about iPadOS.

A few things I’m really looking forward to with the iPadOS variant of iOS 13:

  • The ability to rotate between slide-over apps rather than have to remove one and replace it with another.
  • A more powerful Files app, including iCloud folder sharing, the ability to rename documents while saving them, local storage, and a column view.
  • Native file zipping and unzipping (handy for sharing podcast and video projects with others).
  • Safari as a full-desktop browser (this is my favorite one by far).

A first look at SwiftUI: Apple’s declarative new UI framework

As exciting as all the user-facing stuff in iOS 13 and iPadOS is, even more mind-blowing to me is the surprise rollout of SwiftUI, a declarative UI framework for Swift developers to more easily create iOS interfaces with.

As John Sundell explains in his article, declarative UI programming is popular, but to date has been implemented in iOS development using third-party frameworks. Now Apple has this functionality natively built in to Swift and Xcode.

As I watched the SwiftUI Essentials session video, I couldn’t help but think that my now long-past Asp.NET web development experience actually will go a long way towards preparing me to understand declarative UI programming. The concept all looks comfortingly familiar, although the details are quite different, of course.


There’s no way I can fit everything from WWDC that I’m excited about into this one hijacked WTF Weekly. This WWDC really was a huge WTF for anyone who has followed Apple for very long. This is the biggest WWDC I can remember for sheer number of important updates and initiatives from Apple. Apple really seems to be firing on all cylinders at the moment, they seem to have a solid direction and real plans for platform development, and it feels like they’re really back in the zone in a way they haven’t been for awhile.

I haven’t felt this excited (and, to be quite honest, relieved) about Apple’s direction in a long, long time.

WTF Weekly for May 27, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter if you notice any typos, or just want to talk about some of the stuff posted within!

This weekly collection of links and thoughts is rapidly becoming a biweekly event. I’ll claim Memorial Day as my excuse this time, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with my tardiness.

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Functioning Apple-1 with unique accessory lot sells for $471K at auction. I can’t believe I didn’t pick this up for myself.

What we won’t see at WWDC 2019. The “Pie in the sky” section is one that should be rolled out before every WWDC. Every year people moan about being underwhelmed by the WWDC keynote based solely on their own ridiculous and unrealistic expectations.

iOS 13 concept visualizes many of the features Apple is expected to unveil at WWDC. Normally I really dislike Apple product concept videos and drawings, but this one is really nice. The sad thing is that I don’t trust Apple’s design sensibilities enough anymore to believe iOS 13 will look this good. Apple has a reputation as being the best at software UI design, but quite frequently they disprove that theory with their own apps and OSes.

📰🗞

New York Times: Trump requests paperwork to pardon accused US war criminals. We already have a severe lack of accountability with respect to our military and war crimes, and now Trump just wants to take it to 11. Our nation’s love affair with war and its insistence on placing the military on the national altar has to end at some point.

A vigilante militia defends an imaginary border. All these groups calling themselves Patriots are nothing more than brainwashed nationalists. I wonder what’s it like to go through life always fearing and hating people who aren’t like you?

Farmers get impatient with Trump’s trade war: ‘This can’t go on’. Every single person who voted for Trump performed a major self-own. How these people didn’t see that the light at the end of the tunnel was an oncoming train is beyond me.

🔐💣

Hackers reportedly used a tool developed by the NSA to attack Baltimore’s computer systems. This is part of the problem with the government’s desire to have their security cake and eat it too – any vulnerabilities they don’t report to vendors so they can exploit them can be used by others too. Worse, this shows that the NSA can’t even keep their tools and data out of the hands of others.

macOS Gatekeeper ‘easily’ fooled into running malicious apps, says researcher. Apple has a mixed security record. On the one hand, for example, they’ve hardened iOS much more than other mobile OSes and keep improving and fixing security holes in it, on the other hand there are things like this macOS Gatekeeper vulnerability that show that sometimes they just fail to manage the basics.

Google says some G Suite user passwords were stored in plaintext since 2005. It’s hard to overstate how badly internet companies manage user data. There’s seemingly no sense of responsibility or care with some of these services.

🌎🚀

The Earth’s magnetic north pole is shifting rapidly – so what will happen to the northern lights? I have other questions about the effects of magnetic north pole wandering besides what happens to the northern lights, but this is fascinating nonetheless.

NASA’s full Artemis plan revealed: 37 launches and a lunar outpost. On the one hand, these NASA lunar plans are kind of exciting. On the other, I don’t know what we really want Mike Pence of all people determining our space strategy.

Space Mining Could Ruin Our Solar System If We Don’t Establish Protected Places Now, Researchers Warn. Look, humans don’t have to settle for just trashing planet earth. We can destroy the solar system too!

📺🎧

App developer Panic reveals ‘Playdate’ handheld gaming system. Want. Big time Want. I haven’t been this intrigued by a piece of gaming hardware since the Nintendo Game & Watch series.

Keanu Reeves: ‘Grief and loss, those things don’t ever go away’. I don’t know how it suddenly came about that Keanu Reeves is our universally loved national good guy, but he seems to deserve it. There are a lot of non-decent humans in show biz, and then there’s him.

Star Wars Goes All in on Game of Thrones Creators. All I have to say is, do we really want to entrust these guys with any part of the Star Wars universe?

WTF Weekly for May 16, 2019

Hit me up on Twitter if you notice any typos, or just want to talk about some of the stuff posted within!

As you may have noticed, I skipped publishing a week of WTF Weekly. And then I almost missed another. You know what they say about habits, right? Well… tell me! I need to know!

Sorry for the lapse. I’ll try harder.

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Apple TV app – stuttering its way to success. I’ve given the Apple TV app a lot of grief in the past (just ask Vic Hudson), but I like the direction it’s headed. Getting the content to play in-app versus the previous way of popping out to the specific content provider’s own app is really a big improvement that I noticed many people downplaying and underestimating. They’re wrong – it’s a great change.

You have to wonder about Apple and games sometimes, but they’ve finally allowed Steam Link on iOS and tvOS. This could be an interesting way for gamers to get desktop class games on the Apple TV (in a way), finally. It sure isn’t going to happen the App Store way.

Designing a dark theme for OLED iPhones. One of the many things I truly love about my iPhone XS Max is the giant OLED screen. True black dark modes look amazing on it. So my natural inclination is to assume anything less than 100% black is undesirable, but Vidit Bhargava writes a compelling argument that this is indeed not the case.

📰🗞

The Reiwa era is off to a terrible start. This is going to make that time Bush barfed on prime minister Miyazawa seem like a smashing success of a visit.

Alabama wants to be the birthplace of a real life Handmaid’s Tale. I wish the GOP loved people as much after they’re born as before. We could end war, get rid of guns, and fund universal healthcare and education.

Tesla issues the fire patch! Ok, technically it’s not a fire patch, but it is a software patch ostensibly designed to help prevent fires.

🔐💣

It’s almost impossible to tell if your iPhone has been hacked. This might make some real Apple apologists mad, but I’ve long thought this myself… part of what makes the iPhone secure is its sandboxed nature, but that also makes it really hard to know exactly what’s going on all the time on your iPhone.

Errr… yikes? Apparently nothing is safe anymore.

Aaaand Cisco poops the bed again, security-wise. It’s generally considered bad when you can’t trust the internet infrastructure. This, of course, is just one instance.

🌎🚀

NASA plans to crash into an asteroid. I wonder where Bruce Willis is going to be that day… hmmm.

Dying of depression… and science. Climate change is incredibly depressing. This won’t help that. Still, I think people need to get their minds wrapped around this so we can start combatting the idiots of the world who want to pretend nothing’s happening or just harp on humanity not being responsible (hint: humanity is at least partially responsible).

If it sounds too good to be true… is it? I don’t fully understand this yet, both in terms of implications and solidity of the findings, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.

📺🎧

The internet is angry about GoT – and some of the cast may not exactly disagree. I don’t watch GoT, but I do listen to my friends talk about it on Bubblesort TV Game of Thrones episodes. My therefore half-informed conclusion is that the writers are a bit lazy, and they’re entirely to blame for the episode no one could watch. I do not sympathize with fans asking for a rewrite though. Get over it, entitled people. It’s a sucky ending, but it IS a sucky ending.