Jared White
Expressively Publishing on the Open Web Since 1996

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Jared White

Apple TV+ Review Roundup

Ryan Christoffel: Apple’s streaming video service, Apple TV+, launches this Friday, November 1st. Ahead of its launch, today the first reviews dropped for the service’s tentpole originals: The Morning Show, See, For All Mankind, and Dickinson. Overall the critical takes are extremely mixed: though I haven’t seen any reviews that are outright negative, and there are a few which are very positive, the majority of reviews seem to lie somewhere in-between those two extremes.

I am having a really difficult time getting excited about Apple TV+. I think at the end of the day I just don’t like the idea of Apple, the computing devices company, becoming a Hollywood-style entertainment studio. It smacks of the 90s when Microsoft was trying to be all things to all people. I’m more understanding of Amazon doing TV shows…Amazon has always been a company that sells media to people (starting with books).

However, there is another new Apple service I’m very, very happy with: Apple Arcade. I’ll have to write up a whole article about it soon…

Jared White

Many Americans are unsure about a number of digital topics

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ understanding of technology-related issues varies greatly depending on the topic, term or concept. While a majority of U.S. adults can correctly answer questions about phishing scams or website cookies, other items are more challenging.

Well, another equally valid headline would have been Many Americans are unsure about a number of topics. 😜

Sereiously though, of interest to me is the stat that only 29% of those interviewed correctly identified #Facebook as the owner of both Instagram and WhatsApp. This is hugely problematic not only from the perspective of consumers understanding their choices around smartphone app usage, but it’s a major issue for Facebook as well. Facebook’s brand has become tarnished in recent years, yet it continues to move towards tighter integration of WhatsApp and Instagram into the Facebook platform and ecosystem. However, this could end up backfiring as people increasingly question their usage of the more “positive” apps which have escaped some of the ire directed at Facebook.

Every time I talk with a friend or colleague about how I’m not on Facebook but still use Instagram, I immediately add “yeah I know, it’s still part of Facebook.” Most of the time the folks I talk to know this already, but most of the folks I talk to are fairly digitally savvy. Farther afield, I fear a great many people just have no idea that even when they’re using Instagram or WhatsApp, the buck still ends with Zuck.

Jared White

Apple’s 2020 iPhones will be all-OLED

Apple plans to release three new iPhones in the second half of 2020, including high-end 5.4-inch and 6.7-inch models with OLED displays and a lower-end 6.1-inch model with an OLED display, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

Assuming anything anyone knows about next year’s iPhones is even remotely accurate: I sure hope the OLED display technology Apple plans to use has been much improved in the color department. Every time I look at the iPhone XS line at the Apple store, the way text looks on light backgrounds really bothers me. It’s one of the reasons I’m quite happy with my LCD-sporting iPhone XR.

(Although…with the upcoming release of iOS 13 featuring Dark Mode, maybe the color shifting of OLED won’t be as noticable because I’ll often be reading light text on dark backgrounds.)

Jared White

“Exclusive podcasts”

Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will create exclusive podcasts for the streaming platform [Spotify]. Both Obamas will appear on some of the shows.

I find it utterly despicable that companies such as Spotify have taken it upon themselves to redefine the meaning of the word podcast. There is no such thing as an “exclusive podcast” because podcasts, by their very technical nature, are not exclusive and are part of the very fabric of the #openweb.

A podcast is simply an RSS feed which is downloadable from a website. The RSS feed contains items with various metadata and links to MP3 files. In theory an RSS feed could be behind some kind of HTTP auth paywall or be served via an obfuscated URL—but at the end of the day, that RSS feed can and should be playable by any podcast client.

A “podcast” that can only be played by a single client is not a podcast. That’s as absurd as somebody claiming they’ve published an “exclusive website” that’s only accessible via a single app. If the website can’t be viewed via any standard web browser on the internet, it’s not a website. If a podcast can’t be listened to via any standard podcast player on the internet, it’s not a podcast.

Spotify, and anybody else out there trying to pull a fast one like this, you do not get to redefine the terms or the technology of podcasting. They belong to the open web. They belong to us. And we won’t let you have it.

Jared White

The Invisible Web Master

Geoffrey Ellis: I’ve had some valuable collaborations with other flute makers and musicians throughout my career, but one of my longest, ongoing collaborations is nearly invisible. We take so much about the internet for granted. Having a website is such a normal thing that we rarely give it a second thought. But having a really great website can be an artisan’s most impactful tool, because it is the window through which the world views our work. My work with Jared has really shown me the value of having a knowledgable and talented collaborator to make my work visible.

Geoffrey Ellis is a master artisan flute maker based in northern California. I consider Geoffrey Ellis a good friend and long-time collaborator, and his impromptu write-up of our work together over the years is humbling and much appreciated. If you are at all a folk musician of any sort, you must try one of Ellis’ flutes. They’re physically gorgeous and sonically outstanding.

Jared White

13 Ways To Avoid Being An Asshole Online (according to the Apostle Paul)

If the Apostle Paul were here today, he might have a few thoughts about how to be a better netizen. And, of course, he would utilize the very latest in modern communication styles, which probably means he would grab a tablet (iPad, of course) and post…a listicle.

You’re welcome.

I haven’t blogged over at Simple Praxis in quite a while, so what better way to kick off my latest stint there than to draft a humorous take on what is quite honestly one of my favorite passages of Scripture. #comedy #spirituality

Jared White

Apple News+: I’m liking it

My initial thought was that I stopped reading magazines years ago and that I wouldn’t read digital magazines. Strangely, that part is still right for me. If Apple News+ was a collection of magazines that I could download and read, I probably wouldn’t bother with it beyond the free trial….And this is where Apple News+ surprised me a bit.

The main page of Apple News+ is set up just like the free version of Apple News is on the iPhone. There is a collection of stories in a variety of topic areas that you can choose to read.

As I began reading, I noticed that very few of the stories were from the same magazine. Instead, I was reading stories that interested me, not magazines that interested me. That’s a huge distinction.

Jim Dalrymple gets it. Leading up to the #Apple event and even afterwards, I noticed a lot of eye-rolling online about how this was just Newsstand all over again and how this would be a failure just as Apple’s past forays into the digital magazine space were.

But News+ is a totally different model compared to the previous “each-publication-is-an-app” approach. News+ is one app. No matter which magazine or newspaper you’re currently reading, you are using only one app with a consistent and unified reading experience.

And perhaps most importantly, you don’t have to manage a ton of different subscriptions to various publications…which adds the congitive overhead of trying to pick and choose which ones to subscribe to or not to maintain a sensible cash flow. With Apple News+, you have one subscription. That’s it. One charge per month and you have access to everything.

I’ve been surprised how much I’m using Apple News+…on my iPhone. Of course it’s a delightful reading experience on the iPad with its big beautiful display, but it works astonishingly well on iPhone. Apple even kicked off its News+ presentation showing the app running on an iPhone. That’s impressive.

I’m definitely paying for News+ past the trial period, and I’m excited to see how the service grows and evolves down the road.

Jared White

iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad Pro: How to choose the best iPad for your needs and budget

Apple has introduced new versions of the iPad Air and the iPad mini, plus it’s removed one of the iPad Pros. This leaves the lineup ranging from $329 to $999 for the just the base models, but it’s also made the buying decision a little more involved. AppleInsider explains how to balance getting the most features for your budget.

This is an excellent overview of the current state of Apple’s iPad lineup, now that there’s a refreshed iPad mini along with a resurrected iPad Air (!) with a larger 10.5” screen which makes it feel more akin to the previous-generation 10.5” iPad Pro.

Both of the new models feature laminated True Tone displays, which is awesome, and they also support the Apple Pencil (1st-gen). Having Pencil support now in the iPad mini is actually a great update for people who are fans of the tiny form factor for note-taking on the go. I also applaud Apple for not skimping on the base storage. 64GB is a great starting size for the iPad.

I feel like it’s weird the now-very-out-of-date entry-level iPad is still a thing. I would have expected it to get a price drop or something. At this point, I couldn’t in all good conscience recommend anyone buy it, unless it’s for bulk purposes such as in the education sector. Otherwise, either the new iPad Air or iPad mini would be a fantastic tablet to get if you don’t need the extra power, size, and utility of the iPad Pro.

Jared White

The Elusive Byzantine Empire

Though the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire are unclear, its demise is not. The history of the Eastern Roman Empire, from its foundation in 324 to its conquest in 1453, is one of war, plague, architectural triumphs and fear of God’s wrath.

Like most Americans I suspect, my general knowledge of Western European history—particularly the British Isles—is far more robust than what little I learned about the East. I knew about Constantinople and the fractured relationship the Byzantine Empire had with the West…first after the initial schism of the Roman Empire, and then at times following the fall of Rome and subsequent rise of the various “barbarian” nation-states in the West. But other than those broad strokes, nothing. This essay by Dionysios Stathakopoulos is a fantastic overview, and it whets my appetite to dive into further study of Byzantine history and culture.

Jared White

Gitea - Git with a cup of tea

Gitea is a painless self-hosted Git service. It is similar to GitHub, Bitbucket, and Gitlab. The goal of this project is to provide the easiest, fastest, and most painless way of setting up a self-hosted Git service. With Go, this can be done with an independent binary distribution across all platforms and architectures that Go supports. This support includes Linux, macOS, and Windows, on architectures like amd64, i386, ARM, PowerPC, and others.

My latest fun geek project in my ongoing quest to use self-hosted, libre #openweb apps as much as possible is installing Gitea on a DigitalOcean server. I’ve used either Bitbucket or GitHub for hosting all my code repositories (including this #website), but I’m planning to transfer them over to my own Gitea-powered server going forward. The great thing is, Netlify (which I use to publish static sites) supports custom Git servers. Simply install the SSH key they provide, add a webhook to your repository settings on Gitea, and it just works! I’m a happy camper.

Jared White

512 Pixels: Dashboard

Steve Jobs pitched widgets as mini-apps that let you look up a quick bit of information without ruining your workflow or train of thought. They allowed for quick interactions. They were present when you needed them, and disappeared when you didn’t.

This is an oldie but goodie from 2016, in which Stephen Hackett breaks down the origins of Dashboard: a feature which first came to macOS in the days of 10.4 “Tiger”—and with it a suprisingly robust set of enhancements to the web itself (because Dashboard widgets were actually miniature web pages!).

I’m sharing this because I would really like to see a 2019 take on Dashboard for the Mac, but even more than that, I would love to see an iOS-variant of this concept come to the iPad this year. I relish the thought of dedicating my iPad home screen to a variety of widgets. Maybe the widgets that are already available in the Today View could be expanded upon visually and worked into a more freeform Dashboard-like concept. At any rate, even though Dashboard itself is legacy technology barely holding on for dear life, I think the concept continues to have merit and deserves a modern overhaul for both Mac and iOS.

Jared White

Move over, Facebook and Twitter: it's time to bring back the blog

A decade ago, blogging was a big deal. Web users would bookmark the sites of the blogs they liked, and would check them frequently. Sometimes you’d even subscribe to a blogger’s mailing list to be notified of a new post.

Then came Facebook, and increased centralization of content on the internet. This included sites like Medium, which aggregate and curate writers’ content, and then sell it to readers behind a paywall.

David Heinemeier Hansson’s had enough. The web developer, bestselling author and the CTO of popular project-management software company Basecamp has decided to take his popular blog, Signal v. Noise, off Medium. He’s started publishing it on his own site, for free. And yes, you can sign up for his mailing list, too.

I was very skeptical of the move to Medium when Signal v. Noise first jumped on that platform, so I’m super excited to see this classic blog from the Basecamp folks return to full independence. I love the new design as well.

Also, as someone who really, truly dislikes long tweetstorms (honestly, if you have more tweets to convey a singular thought than you can count on one hand, start a blog!), I can’t welcome this trend wholeheartedly enough.

#writing #openweb

Jared White

DuckDuckGo will use Apple Maps for local searches on the web

DuckDuckGo has spent the last few years making the case that it’s the search engine that can protect your privacy, and now it’s trying to bolster that claim with a new partner: Apple. It is announcing that Apple Maps will now power its local search results on both desktop and mobile web browsers. Apple Maps will be the default provider for address and local searches, and it will also be the map you see when you click for more results. DuckDuckGo says that it will now have “improved address searches, additional visual features, enhanced satellite imagery, and continually updated maps.”

Initially this appears to benefit DuckDuckGo more than #Apple, due to the fact that you already have to be using DDG in order to utilize this feature. It’s not the kind of earth-shattering news that Apple switching the search default in iOS from Google to DDG would be. However, I feel like this is simply the opening statement of a much deeper collaboration. The relationship between Google and Apple is strained to say the least, and after this announcement about Apple and DuckDuckGo working together on search functionality, I feel much more confident in postulating that Google’s days as iOS’ default search provider is numbered.
#openweb #privacy

Jared White

We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.

We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.

We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.

The magnitude of this statement cannot be overstated. I’ll have a lot to say about this on my podcast later this week, but at the moment, this is the biggest story in tech. I highly recommend you read through it. It’s short and it’s powerful. Well done Googlers. #privacy #politics #openweb

Jared White

Seth Godin: the steering wheel and the guardrails

Capitalism is an extraordinary engine. It has remade every corner of the Earth, and done it in the course of two or three lifetimes. Together with its cousins, technology and industrialism, capitalism is an evolving system that changes whatever it touches.

But the purpose of our society isn’t to optimize capitalism. The purpose of capitalism is to allow our society to become better. A culture that opens doors for and nurtures the people we care about.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the basic “pitch” of capitalism and the financial system we have in America—not in a negative sense, but in more of a greenfield “how can this be improved” sort of way. In other words, if capitalism were a product (like an iPhone or a Tesla Model S), how could it be upgraded? How could it be changed? How might it adapt to the natural evolution of a society? As Seth Godin points out, capitalism is an engine for tremendous growth and ingenunity. But we also need to be honest about its “dark patterns” and negative effects, and try to resolve those shortcomings while simultaneously maximizing its potential for human flourishing.
#finance

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