1. Home Renovation: Progress So Far

    September 29, 2015

    Well, for the last few hold outs reading this blog, I suppose it comes as absolutely no shock that I’ve spectacularly failed to provide updates on my new home renovation project. So here’s a quick run down on the last four months.

    Since the house I bought had been a rental there was quite a bit of cosmetic work required before I moved in. Basically every room had some sort of drywall damage. Additionally, ceiling fans had been added to every room — and I hate ceiling fans. So the last four months has been taken up with patching drywall and painting. I also took the opportunity to properly paint the kitchen cabinets. Some living room furniture later and I’m now moved in. There is still plenty to do; including an eventual complete renovation of the kitchen and bathrooms and new flooring. Updates will be posted when I feel like it. A gallery of in-progress pictures is linked below.

    a fireplace in the process of being painted

  2. Home Renovation: The Before Pictures

    May 23, 2015

    Now for a series of completely self-indulgent posts.

    As some who follow me on Twitter or Facebook know, I recently purchased a house. Said house is a three bedroom two bath midcentury ranch house in Tempe Arizona. Since the house was built in 1960—and has been used as a rental for at least the last nine years—saying that it needs some work is a massive understatement. This series of posts will document the work I’m doing on it. The picture below links to a Flickr album of the “before” pictures. I’ll post updates as work is done.

    a house with trees in front of it

  3. We’re Failing the Users

    October 10, 2014

    I’ve expressed this opinion before, but some recent experiences and discussions have only served to reinforce my opinion: The technology industry, as a whole, has utterly failed the average user when it comes to security. It doesn’t matter how many improved security features Apple, Google, Microsoft, and company add to their products. It doesn’t matter how many earnest blog posts are written extolling the virtues of strong passphrases, password non-reuse, and two factor authentication. It doesn’t matter how many wonderful password manager applications are written. The bottom line is, for the average user, “security” is a complete mystery and an utter pain in the ass.

    Take, for example, a situation I encountered a few weeks ago. A teenage family member received her first iPhone and it fell to me, as the “tech guy” to set it up for her. The first hurdle we met was setting up the iPhone’s passcode1. I initially did the responsible thing and suggested turning off “Simple Passcode” and, at a minimum entering a numeric passcode greater than four numbers. Of course that was met with a blank expression slowly transforming to one of utter horror. I took a deep breath, surrendered to the inevitable, and told her to go ahead and use the four digit code she used on her last phone.

    Next we proceeded to setting up a new AppleID/iCloud account. As you can guess the password ended up being the bare minimum that met Apple’s (lax) standards and was—no surprise—almost identical to her existing Google password. By the time we reached the point of deciding between two factor authentication or secret questions I was so demoralized that the best I could do was to try to ensure the questions and answers weren’t trivially obtainable from her Facebook page.

    So, what’s to be done? That’s the billion dollar question, and it’s one for which I certainly don’t have an answer. As far as I can see, no one else does either. That’s why I say that we in the technology industry have collectively failed on this issue. The danger is real, it’s only getting worse, and I don’t think anyone is close to a solution yet.

    1. This was an iPhone 5, so no TouchID. 

  4. A New Low In Tech “Journalism”

    September 26, 2014

    I take my self-imposed semi-retirement from the world of technology blogging pretty seriously. So it takes a fairly egregious example of ass-hatery to drive me back to the keyboard. sadly just such an example was delivered yesterday afternoon when Bloomberg.com posted a masterpiece of faecal effluvia titled “Apple’s IPhone[sic] Software Snafu Has Links to Flawed Maps” authored by Adam Satariano and Tim Higgins (link omitted for obvious reasons).

    To recap, this week Apple released a software update for iOS 8 intended to resolve a few bugs. Most pressing of those bugs was one that caused Apple to pull all HealthKit enabled apps from that App Store after the initial launch of iOS 8. As anyone with an internet connection knows, this 8.0.1 update itself contained a serious bug that disabled cellular communications and TouchID on some iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus handsets. Understand that I am in no way attempting to mitigate the effects of this mistake, or to act as an apologist for Apple. This was a serious fuck up and it shouldn’t have happened. Although it should be noted that Apple’s response was to immediately pull the offending update, post a recovery procedure online, and post a new iOS update that resolved both the original set of bugs as well as restored cellular and TouchID functionality within a day. As responses go, I don’t think you could ask for better.

    Which brings us to the Bloomberg story and the focus of my ire. To summarize the story briefly; the authors, on the word of the ever-popular “people familiar with the matter”, took it upon themselves to reveal the name of a “mid-level manager overseeing quality assurance for Apple’s iOS mobile-software group” and assign him the blame for the bug. Additionally the authors attempt to tie this individual to an earlier Apple software “fiasco”, the less-than-stellar roll out of Apple’s native iOS mapping solution. The rest of the article is irrelevant to my comments here.

    Of course this being the Internet, several supposedly “respectable” tech sites have parroted the report, with varying degrees of obfuscation of the individual’s identity. For the sake of shaming the guilty, a list of some of the more prominent offenders as of the time of publishing is listed here:

    • 9to5 Mac, written by Mike Beasley
    • AppleInsider, written by that paragon of journalistic integrity AppleInsider Staff
    • MacDailyNews, written by apparently a ghost since there’s no byline.
    • BGR, written by Chris Smith

    In addition to this sorry lot there are the usual collection of shitty “content aggregation” blogs looking to make a quick page-view buck.

    Let me state this as clearly as I possibly can. Outing a mid-level manager and exposing him or her to public scorn over this issue is one of the most vile, petty, and unethical acts that I have seen perpetrated by a member of the technology press—and remember that I spent almost 4 years specifically exposing myself to the shittiest the tech web has to offer for you fuckers’ amusement. Satariano, Higgins, their editor at Bloomberg and anyone else who repeats this story are the lowest of the low. Look at the list of offending sites and note who (currently) isn’t there. When you somehow manage to find yourself on the wrong side of an ethical issue that Gizmodo is (currently) getting right you have really fucked up.

    I want to be clear. This isn’t an issue of, “we don’t know all the facts”. I don’t give a singular fuck if the cause of the iOS 8.0.1 cock-up was a single individual deciding that he or she was done with this world and just slamming his or her head against their keyboard until a random iOS build was crapped out into the world. There is simply no justification for publicly shaming a non-public Apple employee for this. Exactly two people at Apple bear public responsibility for this issue: Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi and CEO Tim Cook. As far as I’m concerned, they have done exactly what they needed to do publicly: fix it, apologize, and move on. Of course Apple should, and no doubt will, investigate this issue to determine the breakdown in process that allowed such a major bug to make it into a public release. However, that is Apple’s business and exactly none of ours. As someone who is an actual Quality Assurance Engineer (albeit not in software exactly), I’ve watched this exact scenario happen on more than one occasion. Software is produced by people and people are, at best, imperfect. What matters is correcting the process.

    Unfortunately the sort of thinking that leads to vile character-assassination attempts such as Satariano and Higgins’ piece is become all to common online. It’s a destructive confluence of call-out culture, Internet Outrage™, entitlement, and page-view whoring. Sadly I expect to see this sort of thing repeated in the future. The sick need to feed the page-view monster with the faeces generated by the Internet Outrage Machine™ combined with our new-found sense of entitlement to know the intimate details of anything that we set our sights on (cf. the whole celebrity nude thing) all but guarantees that this will happen again. My only consolation is that relatively few tech sites have run with this non-story.

    Lastly, I’ll leave you with a properly compassionate take on this issue from iMore and Nick Arnott. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write about this issue.

  5. Old Timey Radio Podcasts

    February 11, 2014

    Some time ago I decided to stop listening to tech podcasts for reasons which are both irrelevant and well-known to most people. Instead I’ve spent my commutes with old radio dramas from a variety of sources. They have the advantage of generally being under thirty minutes in length and being utterly devoid of technology product rumors. Additionally, they often have some damn fine stories to boot. It occurred to me that some of my readers might be interested in this so I’ve decided to share some of my sources.

    One of the most comprehensive sources for radio dramas is Relic Radio. They have mysteries, science fiction, comedies, horror stories, westerns, and war stories. You can find all their podcasts on iTunes.

    A show that is a particular favorite of mine is Suspense!. There are a few different podcasts collecting this show, but here is the iTunes link for the one I subscribe to.

    Last but not least. Welcome to Nightvale is a newer—and highly popular—podcast drama that takes the form of a community radio show set in a community unlike any other. You can find them here on iTunes.

    There you go. Just a few things to listen to that don’t involve self-absorbed bloggers talking about what products Apple should make. You can thank me later.