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Audacious Fox

The Sweet Setup Staff (via Michael Rockwell), on using the password manager 1Password as a digital will:

Unlike a conventional will, this document (or database) is not as much about who gets your stuff, but more about helping your family member unwind the countless online accounts and collections of media and digital property that you have.

When my mother passed away a number of years ago, handling all of the online bills, email accounts, and digital subscriptions for my family would have been a nightmare if not for 1Password. After a death, there’s enough to worry about in the physical world let alone the digital one that person leaves behind. As the person who handles most of the online bills and subscriptions for my family, the knowledge that my wife has a one stop shop for all of those life details is relieving.

Back to the linked-to piece: 1Password is my go-to recommendation whenever someone asks for a good password manager, but there’s so much more it can do. The team at the Sweet Setup have done a great job writing up the 1Password-as-a-will angle, and they’ve also just launched an entirely new 1Password course that goes deep on the many other ways 1Password can bring security and sanity to your digital life. There’s a launch price special for $23 (cheap!), and any course purchase gets you an extended 90-day free trial of 1Password itself. It’s an excellent deal.

I try not to write in absolutes, but 1Password is one of few (the only?) service that I’ll happily pay for until the day I die. I really don’t know how else to put it.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Deborah Bach for the Microsoft company blog:

Packaging can be annoying for any consumer (see: wrap rage). But for people with disabilities, it often creates yet another challenge in a world riddled with them, an unnecessary obstacle that leads to frustration and a delay getting to the object inside.

Recognizing that reality, Microsoft’s Packaging Design team faced a unique challenge in creating a box for the new Xbox Adaptive Controller, designed to accommodate gamers with limited mobility. […] It had to enable gamers with limited dexterity, who might be using just one hand or arm, to easily open the box and remove the controller. And it had to be as high-quality and aesthetically appealing as any other Xbox packaging.

I love everything about this project. The whole thing is a wonderful example of thoughtful design and innovative problem solving — and all for a group of gamers that are often overlooked.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

MIT postdoctoral fellow Douglas O’Reagan, writing for Physics Today:

Over the course of centuries, a struggle has been playing out about who gets to own ideas. Is it the person who comes up with them? The employer who funds the research? Or should the ideas be somehow shared between them? […]

By the 1990s teams of MBAs and business-school scholars joined forces to see if advances in information technology, management techniques, law, and sociology could allow them to extract workers’ know-how so that the company could store and own it indefinitely. The resulting academic research field and management fad became known as “knowledge management.”

This article traces changes in US law, business practices, and social expectations about research and invention in order to illuminate the history of business control over scientists’ ideas.

I found this a short and fascinating look into the world of academics and scientific research. It got me thinking too, and now I’m curious how big tech companies like Google or Apple approach this sort of “knowledge management”, especially as it relates to academic- and research-driven departments like machine learning or artificial intelligence.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Brian Feldman for New York Magazine, in a piece titled, “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet”:

Analysts estimate that Fortnite is currently raking in more than $300 million a month, and has made its maker, Epic Games, more than $1.2 billion since its battle royale mode launched in late September. That’s all from a game that’s free to download and play unrestricted.

To clarify: anything you can buy in Fortnite is purely cosmetic and doesn’t give you a better chance at winning. You buy outfits or dance moves to taunt your friends with. We know microtransactions are a profitable business plan, but even Epic’s success here is somewhat staggering.

The article goes into a few reasons why Fortnite — not the first game to have a battle royale mode — is currently experiencing a moment. A combination of wide availability (it’s on almost every game console and smartphone you can think of), cartoon-style graphics, and kid-friendly goofy “violence” (there’s no blood when you eliminate an opponent) leaves you with a game that’s literally everywhere and enjoyed by seemingly everyone.

One final bit from Mr. Feldman’s piece that caught my eye was this aside about one of Fortnite’s most famous players, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins:

Ninja, whose real name is Tyler Blevins, makes an estimated half a million dollars every month streaming Fortnite rounds on Twitch, a service for livestreaming video games that is owned by Amazon.

I don’t know which scenario is more astonishing: Epic making $300 million a month from a free-to-play game, or Ninja collecting $500,000 in the same amount of time for playing said game.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

James Ball, Columbia Journalism Review, on the effects that years of a “compliant and often cheerleading media” have left on the technology press’ ability to be a watchdog in the industry:

The result is the big four tech giants have a head start of 25 or more years in building their business models and laying their groundwork ahead of receiving serious scrutiny—and today, detailed scrutiny could hardly be more important. For most of the past decade, these companies were untroubled by media incident, perhaps to their own detriment: If Facebook had faced tougher questions on moderation earlier, it would have been much easier to address and build in as it scaled up—which would have helped the global information ecosystem, too. […]

Maybe we should simply scrap the idea of a “tech desk” altogether: The sector needs scrutiny, but since technology now touches every aspect of our society, keeping it siloed from the rest of the newsroom now feels artificial. Let it be covered, extensively, across desks.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The New York Times Company:

The title of the 2017 blog post was innocuous enough: “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber.” The author, a young developer named Susan Fowler, described how she was sexually harassed by a manager within days of starting work, how her efforts to report the problem went ignored, and how she eventually learned that other women at Uber had faced similar harassment, only to be similarly ignored. The 2,900-word post became an overnight sensation in Silicon Valley, leading not only to the downfall of Uber’s chief executive but also some serious soul-searching in the industry that continues today. […]

As our tech editor, she will be responsible for commissioning — and sometimes writing — pieces on all the ways technology is shaping our culture, economy, relationships, politics and play. She will bring her unique brand of courage, clarity of mind and moral purpose to our pages starting in September.

If you’ve been following the technology beat for the past year, there’s little chance you missed Ms. Rigetti’s blog post on her time at Uber. Her well written recounting of the toxic and inappropriate culture that permeates Uber rocked the tech world so hard that it quite simply knocked Travis Kalanick out of the CEO job.

This is a great get for the Times. It also comes not long after the paper announced that Recode editor at large Kara Swisher would be getting her own technology opinion column in August. Elevating the reach of Ms. Swisher and Ms. Rigetti will help ensure we continue critiquing humanity, technology, and culture — which is something we need now more than ever.

Monday, 23 July 2018

As usual with his hardware reviews, Mr. Ginter’s written impressions are interspersed between some gorgeous product shots. On the HomePod itself, Mr. Ginter reaffirmed what most other reviewers noted (excellent speaker, okay digital assistant), but I like the way he put it here:

HomePod is a speaker. And a really, really good speaker at that. She plays music unlike any other device on Planet Earth, and her ground-breaking bass has ushered in new sounds to songs I’ve heard since I was five years old. I’ve listened to Streets probably three or four times a week for the last five straight years and there are certain parts of Adam Clayton’s bass guitar I didn’t know existed until about a month ago.

The notion of discovering new music within your old music is wonderfully romantic and certainly something a high quality speaker can help with. But not all speakers look as good as HomePod or produce the same level of audio fidelity for the price. That’s the selling point.

I have more thoughts on this HomePod-is-a-speaker-not-a-voice-assistant angle, but they ended up being long and rambly so I’ve cut them from this piece. In general though, I think that we should review products by primarily measuring them against what they set out to accomplish, not by what the competition is doing. Mr. Ginter’s review does that.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Kevin Quealy and Josh Katz, New York Times:

Nike says the shoes are about 4 percent better than some of its best racing shoes, as measured by how much energy runners spend when running in them. That is an astonishing claim, an efficiency improvement worth almost six minutes to a three-hour marathoner, or about eight minutes to a four-hour marathoner.

And it may be an accurate one, according to a new analysis by The New York Times of race data from about 500,000 marathon and half marathon running times since 2014.

If you like well designed charts and data, you’ll like this report. The Times used public (user entered) data from social running app Strava to corroborate Nike’s claim, and the results seemingly back up Nike’s statements; runners who wore Vaporflys were consistently faster than runners who didn’t.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Despite Argentina’s unceremonious departure from this year’s World Cup — following an embarrassing group stage performance — their star player Lionel Messi is still a wonder to watch on the field — particularly when he doesn’t have the ball. Bobby Gardiner for FiveThirtyEight:

Throughout his career, Messi has been criticized for walking. After an El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid in December 2017, there was widespread coverage of the fact that Messi walked 83 percent of the roughly 5 miles he covered that game. Despite this, he scored and assisted in Barca’s 3-0 trouncing. […]

The most popular explanation has been that Messi walks to conserve his energy for critical moments, like a perfectly efficient machine. But even when he’s walking, new research suggests, he’s far from idle.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Contentedness

Leaning against our headboard awake far later than I wish to be, my little guy nuzzles deeper into the crook of my arm he’s chosen to fall asleep in and I can’t help but feel it’s all so very much worth it; the fatigue, frustration, fear—they all melt away in these moments, and for a minute my heart knows nothing but the contentedness of a man who truly has everything, and for whom nothing else could replace this feeling.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Josh Constine, TechCrunch:

At just 573 kilobytes, Instagram Lite is 1/55th the size of Instagram’s 32 megabyte main app. It lets you filter and post photos to the feed or Stories, watch Stories, and browse the Explore page, but currently lacks the options to share videos or Direct message friends.

First, the photo-only version of Instagram was the best version. Second, what in the sweet heavens is in the current Instagram app that makes it 55x larger than Instagram Lite? Trick question — it’s always the ads, analytics, and A/B testing frameworks.

Again I say, your “lite” app should be your only app.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Derek Godin, writing about iOS developer/designer Zach Gage and his newest game, Pocket-Run Pool:

Gage specializes in taking well-worn casual game mainstays (word puzzles, chess, solitaire) and twisting them in small, clever ways. Often these are simple mechanical tweaks; Really Bad Chess gives players one king and 15 other random pieces to duke it out with, while Sage Solitaire elegantly splits the difference between classic Klondike and poker. His latest game Pocket-Run Pool is his version of an arcade-style billiards game, with rotating pocket multipliers and three lives (i.e. scratches) to clear the table.

A Zach Gage remix is the best kind of remix. Pocket-Run Pool is certainly enjoyable, but Really Bad Chess remains one of my favorite games on iOS.

Friday, 22 June 2018

One of the more thrilling announcements at WWDC 2018 is that iOS 12 will focus heavily on performance and longevity of older iOS devices. This means not only will iOS 12 support anything that currently runs iOS 11, but also those older devices should see noticeable performance increases. Apple PR:

Camera launches up to 70 percent faster, the keyboard appears up to 50 percent faster and typing is more responsive. Even when there is a lot going on across the system, apps can launch up to twice as fast. From iPhone 5s, introduced in 2013, to the most advanced iPhone ever, iPhone X, iOS 12 brings performance improvements to more devices than any previous version.

This isn’t just a new-features thing — it’s a security thing too.

Manufacturers are often playing a game of cat-and-mouse with exploits and hackers; every update eliminates any number of vulnerabilities, and the more nefarious folks need to start looking for alternative ways to compromise your device. However, once a device maker stops pushing out updates, it’s only a matter of time before your device becomes susceptible.

Update: It helps to remember — at least for me — that not everyone can afford to or desires to keep up with Apple’s yearly iPhone upgrade cycle. For folks that keep their devices for many years (iPad users in particular), this extended approach to compatibility, security, and performance is huge.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Nick Heer, Pixel Envy:

You know how you sometimes just need a quick place to jot something down — a single scrap of paper, the back of an envelope, or whatever you have laying around — and you know you won’t need to save it? Edit is like the digital version of that. It’s fast, it’s simple, and I use it all the time.

I hate how he explained Edit better in 58 words than I could in 200+.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Michael Rockwell, Initial Charge, in his review of Edit:

Overall, I think K.Q. Dreger made all the right decisions with Edit’s initial offering. Utilizing the share sheet and the select-all shortcut to eliminate the need for storing multiple documents is such a brilliant idea. I still think its a few small features away from becoming an absolute must-have. But despite that, Edit has become an important part of my writing workflow because it’s core set of features are rock-solid and the application is such a delight to use.

Overall, this is the sentiment I’ve been seeing. It’s humbling how much Edit is resonating with people. A few weeks ago, it was just my little app.

Mr. Rockwell has a few points of criticism that — as the sole developer and designer — I really enjoyed reading. One of his main call-outs is the lack of iCloud syncing, or the inability to start a note on your iPhone and finish writing on your iPad.

I get the draw, really. I don’t have an iPad, so this particular pain was probably lost on me as I fiddled with the Xcode simulators, but enough people have asked about it that I am actively working on figuring out a solution. Ideally, I can use your iCloud accounts to sync the current sheet back and forth, but I have speed concerns that I haven’t been able to test yet. I’ve long thought that a syncing service should be fast enough that all changes are committed and sent to the server by the time a user can close the app or shut their laptop lid/smart cover. If CloudKit isn’t able to provide that sort of performance, I might need to look at a few other options. Whatever I end up doing though, it’ll be totally seamless for the users; you’ll turn it on, and it’ll just work.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Just over a year ago, I started working on a small iOS app for writers. I was tired of not having a focused, single-purpose place for drafting and editing important messages, emails, and text. I hated doing those things in Messages or Mail, and I avoided Notes because what I was writing didn’t need to be stored anywhere. All I wanted was a tasteful place to write.

Well, I’ve finished, and next week I’m excited to ship Edit for iOS.

Edit has several neat features (dark mode, pinch-to-zoom text size, word and character count), but I think the most interesting one is that Edit doesn’t store multiple notes. You get one page, and whatever you leave there will be there when you come back. Because of this, I’ve found that Edit complements many of the other great writing and note taking apps out there instead of competing with them. You can quickly drop a thought in Edit, let it sit, come back later, punch it up, and then export what you’ve written to anywhere in iOS. Over the past year, I’ve used Edit to jot down journal entries, tweak tweets, or as a place of reference for important information I need throughout the day. I use it almost every single day, and I’m really happy with how this single page scratchpad fits into my life.

Edit is available as a pre-order on the App Store for $1.99, and it also comes with a 10-year good faith guarantee, which basically means I’ll work hard to keep Edit available for your next decade of iOS devices. Cool, no?

(Typography fun: I’m using the system standard San Francisco, but I’ve enabled a few alternative characters and numbers to give Edit a familiar but unique feel.)

Check out Edit on the App Store or enjoy the micro-marketing page I put together. I hope you like Edit as much as I enjoyed making it.

Happy writing.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Fun bit of trivia regarding those “click on all the squares with street signs in them” prompts you tend to see on a login or sign up page:

reCAPTCHA’s verification uses several factors to determine the chances that a user is a human, not just the answer provided. We allow true humans to make mistakes in solving the challenge, while punishing bad bots even if they submit a correct answer.

It is expected that, if the system determines you’re likely a human, it accepts your answer despite knowing that it’s an invalid one. In fact, this feature is necessary to be able to combat spam effectively - if we always require a correct answer, it would be easier to create an automated solution to bypass reCAPTCHA challenges. By accepting invalid answers (and sometimes rejecting valid ones!), creating such a bypass gets much more complicated for spammers.

Friday, 1 June 2018

As game designer Jennifer Scheurle was prepared to speak at the 2018 Game Develoeprs Conference, she asked her Twitter followers for examples of “brilliant mechanics in games that are hidden from the player to get across a certain feeling.” There were hundreds of replies, many from the game developers themselves, and the insight was fascinating. The original thread is a lot of fun to read through, but here are some of my favorites:

Charlie Butler:

Not sure if it was mentioned, but the tutorial in Halo 2 asked player to look up. Their input determined whether y-axis would be inverted.

Matt Cox:

In Scribblenauts, we used synonyms liberally to spawn the same object, but that object kept the name you spelled, making it seem unique!

Ms. Scheurle:

Assassin’s Creed and Doom value the last bit of health as more hit points than the rest of it to encourage a feeling of JUST surviving.

Paul Hellquist:

In Bioshock if you would have taken your last pt of dmg you instead were invuln for abt 1-2 sec so you get more “barely survived” moments.

Ken Levine:

First shots from an enemy against you in BioShock always missed…that was the design, think it got fully implemented. No “out of blue!”

Matt Ditton:

In Jak and Dexter the player would “for no reason” trip and fall to give enough time to load the next section off disc. […] In the era of open world and “no load screens” you needed to stop the player going too fast. Disc load time was a nightmare.

Tom Forsyth:

HL1 [Half-Life 1] - if facing more than two enemies, only two would actually attack. The rest would run to random locations and bark lies e.g. “flanking”

And finally, James Parker:

Most (good) platform games allow you a small window after you run off the edge of a platform to initiate a jump

If only Wile E. Coyote had such luck.

Some of these might leave you feeling like Dorothy when Oz is revealed, but I love seeing how and when a developer might deploy a cheat on the player’s behalf. And, although I enjoyed reading through the various game mechanics, some of the best replies were from players who never realized what was happening.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Jessica Conditt, Engadget:

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the first of its kind. It’s a plug-and-play option for people with disabilities – it connects to the Xbox One or Windows 10 PC via Bluetooth and powers on just like the Elite. The controller itself is a clean white rectangle, about 11 inches long and 6 inches wide, with two large black buttons on its face. The buttons aren’t touchpads, but they are light-touch enabled, clicking down with the softest of taps so players can roll their palm between the two or otherwise click them without exerting much force. Each button makes a slightly different noise as well, offering an extra layer of sensory input. […]

Some of the controller’s most impressive features are on back of the rectangle. Nineteen 3.5mm ports line the backside, one for each button on the traditional Xbox gamepad. This allows players to plug in their existing accessibility tools, such as air-powered input methods, big buttons or small clickers, and have them instantly mapped to the proper function. If a particular set-up isn’t working out for any reason, players or their caregivers can quickly change ports to manually remap their controller, all without pausing the game.

This is my new go-to example of a product with “good” design. The number of non-obvious considerations that went into the XAC’s design, in my opinion, set a new bar for accessibility and consumer hardware. Additionally, let’s be clear, no accessibility hardware looks this good. It would be laudable for Microsoft to create this controller at all, but I’m surprised at how nice the aesthetics are.

There’s an oft-quoted saying from Steve Jobs along the lines of: design isn’t just how it looks, it’s how it works. With the XAC, Microsoft has created a device that succeeds on both fronts to a stunning degree, and they did it for a community of users that are often forgotten. More of this, please.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

From the Medium Help Center:

Medium is no longer offering new custom domains as a feature. If you already have a custom domain on Medium, nothing will change for you for the foreseeable future, and your domain will continue to work as expected.

As best I can tell, this decision is a change from January (courtesy of the Internet Archive), when the help page for custom domains read that Medium was “pausing” offering the service. It would now seem they don’t offer the setting at all.

I wonder if current custom domain users find the “for the foreseeable future” bit at all reassuring. I wouldn’t. Using your own domain was one of the few meaningful ways you could separate your Medium-hosted blog from all the others. Anyone signing up today will be stuck using whatever publication names (medium.com/publication) are still available to register, making Medium more akin to a long-form Twitter than a place to keep a blog. Lame.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Oliver Roeder, FiveThirtyEight, was one of 15 people who were recently invited to the United Nations for the chance to play chess against Norwegian chess grandmaster—and currently the world’s number 1 ranked player—Magnus Carlsen. The result, while unsurprising, was nonetheless entertaining to read. Mr. Roeder (slight language warning):

The event was a “clock simul,” short for “simultaneous exhibition with clocks,” in which each of us “challengers” sat at our own boards while Carlsen, the “exhibitor,” darted around the room, rarely taking more than a few seconds to make any move before moving on to his next victim. We each had 30 minutes to make all our moves, but Carlsen’s clocks constantly ticked away at every board, putting him at a nominal disadvantage. […]

In retrospect, I blundered — unbeknownst to me at the time — on my 12th, 13th and 17th moves. Others too, I’m sure.

This was always going to happen. But as I sat shroudless, Carlsen did break my heart. By move 12, he’d pushed a pawn down his right flank, which caused me all sorts of problems, and my king was the equivalent of a sitting duck on the opening day of hunting season. But my own pawn, my little pawn that could, was on the march. My pawn made it two squares from the end of the board, where it could become a queen. And it would soon defend my extant queen, which on the next move fled down the board to put Carlsen in check — I put Magnus Carlsen in check! I confess that for precisely 1.5 seconds I thought, “I am going to fucking win.”

Carlsen then easily defended, parried … and destroyed me.

(Hat tip, CBD)

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Nellie Bowles, New York Times, reporting on the increasing popularity of esports, and the businesses springing up to capitalize on the fervor:

Across North America this year, companies are turning malls, movie theaters, storefronts and parking garages into neighborhood esports arenas. […]

“The movie theater!” said Ann Hand, the C.E.O. of Super League Gaming, which converts movie theaters into esports arenas, and has raised $32 million from investors. “It has that thunderous sound, and it’s empty a lot of the time.”

For the Super League Gamers, the events can accompany or replace traditional sports. It’s a new Little League and Minor League for today’s athletes. Each city plays together as a branded team — there’s the Chicago Force, the New York Fury, the San Francisco Ionics. So far, there are 50,000 players.

Parents accompany younger players, and the real-life experience opens their eyes. “The most common piece of feedback was that they knew their son or daughter loved this game, but they had no way to understand the game or know if they were any good at it,” Ms. Hand said. “Like, ‘I didn’t know my son or daughter was that competitive.’”

By 2019, she expects to be in 500 venues.

I like watching streamers play games like Fortnite or Overwatch in the same way I enjoy watching Liverpool play on Saturdays. At the end of the day, it’s all entertainment.

However, what’s particularly interesting about esports is that the competitive scene isn’t limited by geography in the same way that physical sports are; this allows esports players to improve more quickly because they’re able to go against a worldwide pool of talent from the start. That said, part of what makes physical sports so popular is their regionality. It’ll be curious if esports benefit from these revamped local venues (remember how popular the arcade scene was?) or if the malls and theaters are empty again in a year’s time.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Zach Schonbrun, Bloomberg, has written a fascinating profile about the pigment research of Mas Subramanian, a materials science professor at Oregon State University. Mr. Subramanian is best known for his accidental creation of YInMn—a striking blue pigment with the ability to generate many other hues. However, although YInMn is widely lauded, Mr. Subramanian has yet to find a way to coax his pigment into a resilient, radiant red; a color that could be worth hundred of millions of dollars. Mr. Schonbrun:

The world lacks a great all-around red. Always has. We’ve made do with alternatives that could be toxic or plain gross. The gladiators smeared their faces with mercury-based vermilion. Titian painted with an arsenic-based mineral called realgar. The British army’s red coats were infused with crushed cochineal beetles. For decades, red Lego bricks contained cadmium, a carcinogen.

More than 200 natural and synthetic red pigments exist today, but each has issues with safety, stability, chromaticity, and/or opacity. Red 254, aka Ferrari red, for example, is safe and popular, but it’s also carbon-based, leaving it susceptible to fading in the rain or the heat. […]

Subramanian, more scientist than chief executive, is now hunting for a similarly safe, inorganic red derivative of YInMn—something that could put Ferrari red, which is worth an estimated $300 million annually, well in its rearview mirror. Mark Ryan, marketing manager at Shepherd Color Co. in Cincinnati, says whoever finds such a red “wouldn’t have to come into work the next day.”

Color me fascinated.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Over at The Sweet Setup, I spent a few thousand words exploring some of the best text editors available for MacOS. Few topics start such heated debates as those about why one text editor might be better than another, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the apps on our list.

Also, if you’re not reading The Sweet Setup or Tools and Toys already, you really should—they’re great publications, backed by a fantastic team.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

“Whenever you click on a link, send an email, open a mobile app, often one of the first things that has to happen is your device needs to look up the address of a domain.” That’s Matthew Prince, CEO and co-founder of Cloudflare, in his company’s blog post announcing their new public DNS service, 1.1.1.1.

What is this? 1.1.1.1 is a DNS service. A DNS service lets you visit websites by entering word-based domain names like audaciousfox.net instead of an obscure (and changing) IP address. Technically, you can get to a site by typing in the domain or IP address, but the domain name is far easier to remember

Why does it matter?

  • New competition to existing, core Internet infrastructure is a really healthy thing to have; especially when the new product is more privacy conscientious than the incumbents.
  • Cloudflare’s network operates on a global scale with nearly 150 data centers around the world; which means they have the support and experience to run this type of service.
  • Cloudflare has a track record of supporting encryption and protecting their users; two things you definitely want in a DNS provider.

It might surprise you to know that you even have a choice in DNS providers. Most people probably use their ISP’s default DNS service without knowing it. For why this isn’t the best idea, we’ll go back to Mr. Prince:

What many Internet users don’t realize is that even if you’re visiting a website that is encrypted — has the little green lock in your browser — that doesn’t keep your DNS resolver from knowing the identity of all the sites you visit. That means, by default, your ISP, every wifi network you’ve connected to, and your mobile network provider have a list of every site you’ve visited while using them.

Network operators have been licking their chops for some time over the idea of taking their users’ browsing data and finding a way to monetize it. In the United States, that got easier a year ago when the Senate voted to eliminate rules that restricted ISPs from selling their users’ browsing data. With all the concern over the data that companies like Facebook and Google are collecting on you, it worries us to now add ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T to the list. And, make no mistake, this isn’t a US-only problem — ISPs around the world see the same privacy-invading opportunity.

If you’ve never switched your DNS resolver before, it’s really easy to do, and Cloudflare has quick, two minute tutorials for all of your devices — phone, computer, and router. And if the privacy benefits aren’t a compelling enough reason to switch, there are speed advantages too. 1.1.1.1 currently sits at, ahem, #1 for fastest worldwide DNS resolvers. As of today, Cloudflare’s DNS is already 28% faster than Cisco’s OpenDNS and around 60% more quick than Google’s own 8.8.8.8.

You’ve heard the adage that “when the service is free, you’re the product being sold,” and that’s been true for a long time. But it becomes dangerous when whatever free service you’re using is the only comparable option available. That’s how we end up with Facebook’s monopoly on social networking or Google’s hold on search and video. Having good, privacy focused alternatives to our standard, core digital and social infrastructure — whether DNS resolves or social networks — is phenomenally important. And when an alternative is both more private and faster than what’s already out there, then it’s simply phenomenal.

Monday, 2 April 2018

If you have a few hundred dollars, a recent MacBook, and a desire to play modern video games at a decent frame rate, you can now buy an external graphics card to give your laptop a performance boost. There are, however, some asterisks. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge:

For one, only select models are officially supported. And, surprise, Apple is only supporting some of AMD’s Radeon cards, which it already includes in select Macs. That doesn’t strictly mean a GeForce card won’t work — people have gotten some to work while the feature was in beta — but it means you’re gambling a bit around whether it’ll continue to work.

You also won’t be able to use external GPUs on Windows through Boot Camp. And just because you have an external GPU plugged into your computer when it’s running macOS doesn’t mean it’s going to be doing anything, either; developers have to enable support for it. Finally, you’ll also need to have a new enough Mac, since external GPUs rely on the super-fast speeds provided by Thunderbolt 3. That includes 2016 and 2017 MacBook Pros, 2017 iMacs, and the iMac Pro.

For now, the list of caveats with external GPUs is perhaps longer than the list of things you’re able to do with them, but this is certainly a look at the future. Imagine all the benefits of today’s portable machines, but without sacrificing the ability to do intensive video editing or high-end gaming. Additionally, this should make it easier to upgrade your graphics card — something video editors or gamers will do every couple of years —  as you won’t need to open your main machine or send it somewhere to do so.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Gennie Gebhart for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

You shouldn’t have to do this. You shouldn’t have to wade through complicated privacy settings in order to ensure that the companies with which you’ve entrusted your personal information are making reasonable, legal efforts to protect it. But Facebook has allowed third parties to violate user privacy on an unprecedented scale, and, while legislators and regulators scramble to understand the implications and put limits in place, users are left with the responsibility to make sure their profiles are properly configured.

Facebook’s Platform API is what allows third-party applications to access your Facebook data. Disabling this will also disable your ability to “log in” with Facebook, but if you’re looking for a way to tighten down your account without deleting it, this is worth considering.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

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