Thursday, April 26, 2018

Amazon will soon increase Prime fee to $119 →

Jason Del Rey for Recode:

Amazon is increasing the price of its Prime membership in the U.S. for the first time in four years, the company’s chief financial officer announced on a call with analysts on Thursday.

Effective May 11, new subscribers will pay $119 a year for the shipping and entertainment membership program, up from $99 today. The new annual fee will apply to current Prime members starting with renewals on June 16. Amazon last raised Prime’s fee in 2014, when it cost customers $79 a year.

To me, the most shocking thing about this was the year Amazon last increased Prime fees (2014). I can’t believe it has been that long. Feels like only two years ago. Anyway, $119 is still a hell of a deal. Unlike the ire drawn whenever Netflix prices increase, I think the sheer breadth of Prime benefits outshines these inevitable announcements. It is the Subscription Age, after all.

Apple officially discontinues AirPort line of products →

Rene Ritchie asked Apple what’s up with their AirPort line of products (AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule Wi-Fi routers). Here’s the official word from Apple:

“We’re discontinuing the Apple AirPort base station products. They will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last.”

The writing has been on the wall, as the AirPort line has become increasingly stagnant. The timing of this news is apropos, as I have been working on an article detailing the case for Apple to reinvent home networking.

Apple could seize the moment and create a modern Wi-Fi system at a time that would be advantageous for them and their customers. I look forward to publishing my thoughts soon, as I’m not so sure Apple is bowing forever out of this business.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

How to get Workflows for your iPhone and iPad →

It’s time for some more Workflow-goodness, similar to my post from the other day.

Matthew Cassinelli for iMore:

Workflow for iPhone and iPad is Apple’s powerful automation app, letting you create or get other people’s workflows that you can use to speed up tasks on your devices.

But you don’t have to be able to create workflows to benefit from them – you can add them from the Gallery or import them from other people, just run those, and still get a lot of benefit from using Workflow.

Workflow is a really powerful app that was purchased by Apple. I have come to rely on it heavily.

Fun fact: Matthew was on the Workflow team before Apple bought the app (and a little after), so he’s the perfect person to write this. As a matter of fact, if you’re itching for more advanced iOS automation techniques, check out his personal blog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Speed up Apple Watch software updates by disabling Bluetooth →

Christian Zibreg for iDownloadBlog discovered a faster way to update his Apple Watch:

Disabling Bluetooth on your paired iPhone at the right time will force your Apple Watch to connect to your iPhone via the faster Wi-Fi protocol.

Read through to find out exactly when you need to disable Bluetooth during the update process for this to work.

This is great, because when I update mine, I swear I have been transported back to 1998 with a 56k modem. I have always wondered why Apple doesn’t broker this process over Wi-Fi by default. It sure would make for a better experience. I’ll have to give this process a try with the next update.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Michael Rockwell’s Workflow Toolkit →

I discovered Michael Rockwell’s blog last week, Initial Charge (he’s also the creator of #OpenWeb). Upon perusing his site, I discovered ‘The Toolkit’, which is his list of publishing workflows for the … well … Workflow app.

I’m particularly fond of the ‘Push To Ulysses’ flow, which I even used to write this post. So meta. Here’s Michael’s description of it:

Push To Ulysses: When viewing a webpage in Safari, initiate Push to Ulysses from Workflow’s action extension. A new sheet will be opened in Ulysses with my template for publishing Linked List items. If activated with text selected on the webpage, that text will be placed in a blockquote within the body of the template.

There are quite a few more, so if you’re a web publisher, head on over and check them out.

Net Neutrality did not die today →

Katharine Trendacosta for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

[…] Net neutrality protections didn’t end today, and you can help make sure they never do. Congress can still stop the repeal from going into effect by using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the FCC’s action. All it takes is a simple majority vote held within 60 legislative working days of the rule being published. The Senate is only one vote short of the 51 votes necessary to stop the rule change, but there is a lot more work to be done in the House of Representatives. See where your members of Congress stand and voice your support for the CRA here.

Keep fighting the good fight, people. As I have said before: we may be losing the battle, but we will win the war.

The Subscription Age

If history has taught us anything, it’s that quite a number of folks don’t like to pay outright for digital content and services. Ever since the dawn of widespread Internet adoption in the 90s, people have always figured out ways to get content for free. From early peer-to-peer file sharing services such as Napster and Kazaa, to the more modern BitTorrent, and questionable streaming services such as Kodi. But now there’s a new age upon us. It’s an age so convenient that we’re willing to forego alternative means and pony up! Yes indeed, it’s The Subscription Age.

Read on

Friday, April 20, 2018

ZTE Exports Ban May Mean No Google Apps, a Death Sentence for Its Smartphones →

Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica:

ZTE was caught violating US sanctions by illegally shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea. The company then made things worse by “making false statements and obstructing justice, including through preventing disclosure to and affirmatively misleading the US Government,” according to the Department of Commerce. The company reached a settlement with the government, agreeing to pay up to $1.2 billion in penalties and discipline the employees involved in the sale.

Recently, the Commerce Department found ZTE was not complying with this settlement, which triggered the next part of the agreement: a seven-year ban on US exports to ZTE. The company is no longer allowed to use US components and, possibly, software in its devices.

On the ZTE Temp Go, the first Android Go smartphone:

The $80 Tempo Go went on sale on March 30 and quickly sold out in about a day. Since then, the device has been listed as “Out of stock” on ZTE’s website. Since the devices use a Qualcomm SoC and Google software, is the Tempo Go dead after a single day on sale?

Damn. Cold blooded, but fair. Hopefully returns will be in order for Temp Go owners.

Google’s support of RCS without end-to-end encryption is irresponsible

Dieter Bohn from The Verge has an exclusive look at Google’s upcoming ‘Chat’ app and its use of Rich Communication Services (RCS). Together, they are the company’s latest attempt to solve the dumpster fire that is text messaging on Android.

RCS is a protocol backed by wireless carriers, and Google is the latest enabler. Here’s why I think it’s irresponsible.

Chat app and Rich Communication Services

Dieter:

Now, the company is doing something different. Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it’s trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.” SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google’s goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

Maybe the app will have more feature parity with iMessage, and that would be great for Android users. But what good is it when you factor in the following?

  1. The traffic path is no different than SMS. It goes phone > carrier > phone. We all know how much carriers love our data, and how easily it can be accessed or even subpoenaed.
  2. Also like SMS, RCS traffic is not encrypted end-to-end.

The above points are the largest problems with all of this. In a day and age where data breaches and the selling or mishandling of personal data are sadly commonplace, unencrypted traffic is simply irresponsible. Public awareness of security and privacy are more at the forefront and can only increase.

Why not replicate iMessage?

As Dieter talks about, Google also has self-imposed limitations because of Android’s openness. You see, they won’t go all in on a purely in-house messaging service (like iMessage), because every text would have to route through them. In essence, Google isn’t empowered to replicate iMessage because they share the Android ecosystem. Whereas Apple is the Apple ecosystem.

One of the major complaints about Apple is how closed off they are. Apparent here, the benefit is tighter integration within their ecosystem of apps, services, and hardware.

Dieter also thinks Apple will adopt RCS, but I don’t see them backing it for a couple reasons:

  1. Aside from lackluster encryption, it competes too directly with iMessage on a feature level.
  2. iMessage is a huge reason people don’t switch to Android.
  3. The entire protocol would have to be encrypted end-to-end and supported by all other manufacturers and their messaging apps. Sure, Apple supports (unencrypted) SMS right now, but only out of necessity and precedence.

I don’t see Apple replacing SMS or introducing RCS simply for the sake of iMessage-like features without the security.

If anything, this further cements iMessage as the texting king.

Update for clarity: my case is essentially for end-to-end encryption, so I made a couple small edits to make it clearer.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

#OpenWeb site aggregates independent Apple publishers

Last week, Michael Rockwell from Initial Charge introduced a fantastic idea called #OpenWeb. It’s an aggregate of independent technology publishers who primarily focus on Apple (including yours truly).

Michael’s words from his introductory post:

[…] But discovery is still a major problem. Why would you put the effort into buying a domain, setting up a site, and writing if no one is going to read it? And if you do manage to jump through all the hoops to start publishing, how do you find others in the community that have done so as well?

#OpenWeb let’s you find out what everyone’s talking about without having to wade through dozens of knee-jerk political reactions on Twitter or inspirational memes on Facebook. Those things have their place, but I think we need somewhere to go for more thoughtful commentary […].

I think this is a great idea. I started blogging about a year ago, and as Michael says, discovery is a hard problem for an independent writer. Head over to #OpenWeb and discover other great writers and opinions, as I have already.

Thanks, Michael!