• I very much enjoyed this mathematical and easy to follow explanation of the benefits of vaccinations to the community – including those who don’t or can’t get vaccinated themselves: “How Math (and Vaccines) Keep You Safe From the Flu” by Patrick Honner

  • Nick Bilton on Vanity Fair:

    As a society, we feel like we’re at war with a computer algorithm, and the only winning move is not to play.

    This is in a nutshell why privacy matters, even if you don’t have anything to hide.

  • iPad Pro 12.9 vs. 10.5

    The iPad Pro is a great device and I’ve been happily using the 12.9 inch model for a good 1.5 years. At times it felt too large though – especially when using it on the couch. So when I got the chance to get a new iPad for work, I decided to give the 10.5 inch model a try. What follows are my observations after a few months of using the 10.5 inch model running iOS 11.

    On the screen real estate:

    1. Having two apps in 50/50 split screen mode gives both the iPhone appearance, i.e., you typically just get a single column of content, not two.
    2. However, several apps, such as Safari gets a special mode for when it is in a 50/50 split with another app or you use its own split screen mode: you get a toolbar on the bottom like on an iPad, but you still get the tabs at the top as when using fullsceen.
    3. No more 3-column views when using Apple’s apps full-screen. Say, in Mail you don’t have a view where you can see both the message, the list of messages and the list of folders. I used this a fair bit to quickly drag and drop messages to folders, and this is simply not possible – you never get to see both the list of messages and the list of folders on one screen. The same applies to Notes. However, third-party apps behave differently and, say, Ulysses and Bear still have the three column view.
    4. You only get 13 slots in the Dock, not 15. However, when you cram it full and have the recent apps visible on the right, the tap targets become so small in portrait mode that I had several cases of hitting the wrong app, which is something that never happened on the 12.9. I’m sticking to 11 apps plus the recent ones because of that.

    On the software keyboard:

    1. You don’t get the additional keyboard row with numbers, but you do get the swipe down on keys to get to numbers and special characters.
    2. You also don’t get a tab key (nor a caps lock key). Makes filling in forms slower and a disadvantage if you do coding on the iPad.
    3. 10 finger typing on the software keyboard is also possible. Took me less than a day to adjust and I feel like I am making less mistakes on the 10.5 inch screen than in the 12.9 one.
    4. No more oversized old software keyboard for apps that haven’t yet been updated for the 12.9 size - unfortunately that’s still quite a few apps. You still notice those apps as the lack of being optimised for the 10.5 inch screen means they don’t look as sharp as updated apps.

    On the pencil:

    1. My primary use case on the pencil is hand-written notes and sketches. The 10.5 works just fine for that.

    My summary: I feel less of a need to always use split screen mode as fullscreen apps don’t overwhelm you as easily as on the large iPad. I missed the 3-column views initially, but adopting my workflow for sorting my mails did not take long. I’m very happy with the “tiny” iPad. It’s good for typing, more suitable for the couch and much more portable.


  • iOS 11 tip: Enjoy a web focussed on content by making reader mode in Safari opt-out rather than opt-in. Long press the reader icon & select “use on all sites”.

  • Enjoying the challenge to easily post from my iPad to my microblog that’s backed by Jekyll.

  • A self-hosted microblog. Hooray.

  • Google Does Not Get Privacy

    Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, in an interview with Walt Mossberg at Recode’s Code Conference 2016 1:

    We want you to be able to tell Google: maybe the last four hours, just take it off and go off the record. […] you can switch on in-cognito mode. […] I want to save every conversation that I have with my daughter for eternity […]; but some other converations, […] maybe with my general council at Google, I want to be private.

    Google has a binary view on privacy. Things are either on the record or off the record—with the default being the former.

    For things that are “on the record”, Google’s terms of service they are very explicit about what they can do with it. Namely:

    • You grant them “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works […], communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content”,
    • and, of course, to “analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising […]”,
    • and lastly, “this license continues even if you stop using our Services”. 2

    But, to many people, privacy isn’t that simple and not binary. Consider the following examples:

    • You might keep a journal, which you want to have accessible even many years later.
    • Private conversations that you have with your child.

    Would you want those things to be “on the record”? While many people trust Google with that data, as Pichai points, it is questionable whether they are fully aware of who is getting what kind of license and access to their content, when they are using their phone or computer.

    For people who do not want these things on the record, while still getting the benefit of them being safely backed up and synchronised between multiple devices, Google provides no help; there is no option in between that lets you get benefits of using cloud services but without granting all these rights to Google.

    If Google wanted to truly get better at privacy, they would do the following:

    1. Revise the terms of use and don’t apply the above mentioned license to all the user’s content, but just to content that the user shares publicly or with a certain set of users.
    2. Make content private by default rather than “on the record” by default.
    3. Enable end-to-end encryption by default where possible when sharing data between users.

    As hinted at in the interview, Google wants to tackle the second point by using machine learning to infer defaults better than using their currently manual heuristics; that’s a good start. They also should do more on email encryption, and they should enable end-to-end encryption by default on their new Allo app—that would bring them on par with iMessage, Whatsapp and, soon, Facebook Messenger. The big one though is the first point; it is possible as Apple demonstrates 3, but it is a shame that Google’s business model gives them limited incentive to follow suit.

    1. Longer transcript of what Sundar Pichai said (slightly paraphrased by me for readability):

      For me: The onus is on us to give enough value that people trust us. Privacy is something that machine learning and AI at Google will help us to do better. Lots of times, it is hard to do privacy because we rely on manual heuristics and how to go to give you manual controls and settings to do these things. But we do these better. Very soon you will be able to give your name to Google and we’ll pop up your My Account settings and control all of that. About a billion people went through these settings in the last year alone. But all the time we want to get even better, we want you to be able to tell Google: maybe the last four hours, just take it off and go off the record. We can do these kind of things. When you use Chrome, you can use it any way you want, you can switch on in-cognito mode, if you want to; we are doing it the same with the messaging product. We give users choice. All the time, we get smarter to give users sophisticated privacy controls. You know, I want to save every conversation that I have with my daughter for eternity, and because I want to be able to go back, look back and et cetera; but some other conversations, I want to, maybe with my general council at Google, I want to be private. I want to be able to do those things and we want to be smart about it all those times.

    2. Expanded extract:

      When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works […], communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services […] Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.

    3. Licensing terms for Content in Apple’s iCloud terms (highlight mine):

      […] by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you.


  • Tech Note: Lessons from Converting Complex Submodules to Cocoapods
  • Find My Russian Stranger

    Facial recognition of anyone has gone mainstream in Russia 1, reports The Guardian. The FindFace app feeds all the data from a Russian social networking site through an advanced facial recognition algorithm and let’s anyone quickly and easily identify anyone else 2. A big, big loss for privacy.

    The founders see themselves just as a wheel in the ever-turning enhancement of technology:

    But Kabakov said, as a philosophy graduate, he believes we cannot stop technological progress so must work with it and make sure it stays open and transparent. […]. A person should understand that in the modern world he is under the spotlight of technology. You just have to live with that.”

    That’s a convenient view to avoid any moral questions about your work; it also ignores the fact, that, ultimately, technology does not create itself, but people are in charge of creating and adapting technoloy, and steering the economic, political and societal systems.


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