31 July 2017

Kirkville: “Batch Processing in Apple Photos”

Apple’s Photos app does not allow you to perform batch processing. However, there is a way that you can quickly apply the same changes to multiple photos.

Start with any photo in edit mode; to edit a photo, select it and press Return. Photos switches to its editing interface with controls at the right side of the window. Make whatever changes you want to the photo: adjust the color, contrast, brightness, or apply a filter.

You can then switch to another photo in edit mode and paste these adjustments. To do this, choose Image > Paste Adjustments, press Command-Shift-V, or right-click on the photo and choose Paste Adjustments. Photos applies all the adjustments you made to the first photo, with the exception of cropping or rotation.

Kirk McElhearn

If I understand this correctly, you can’t actually select multiple photos and paste adjustments at once, you have to: select each individual photo, apply, repeat. To call this ‘batch processing’ is a massive overstatement. On top of that, you have to manually rotate and crop photos later.

To be fair, Microsoft’s modern Photos app doesn’t seem to be any better at this, but the older Photo Gallery (now discontinued) allowed users to select multiple photos and perform adjustments on all at once.

ZDNet: “New details emerge on Fruitfly, a near-undetectable Mac backdoor”

Apple released security patches for Fruitfly earlier this year, but variants of the malware have since emerged. The core of the malware is an obfuscated perl script using antiquated code, with indicators in the code that suggest the malware may go back almost half a decade or more, the security firm said. Nevertheless, the malware still works well on modern versions of macOS, including Yosemite. Fruitfly connects and communicates with a command and control server, where an attacker can remotely spy on and control an infected Mac.

He found that he could take complete control of an infected Mac, including its keyboard and mouse, take screenshots of the display, remotely switch on the webcam, and modify files. The malware can also run commands in the background, and even kill the malware’s process altogether – likely in an effort to avoid detection.

Zack Whittaker

If five-year-old malware can successfully infect macOS, what does that say about Apple’s security – or about the level of resources dedicated to macOS development?

30 July 2017

Yoon Ha Lee – Ninefox Gambit

in Bucharest, Romania
Yoon Ha Lee - Ninefox Gambit

În ciuda ierarhiei stricte, Hexarhatul se confruntă constant cu rebeliuni și erezii care trebuie înăbușite repede și eficient pentru a nu afecta sanctitatea Calendarului care stă la baza întregului imperiu interstelar. Proaspăt întoarsă dintr‑o campanie, comandantul Kel Cheris este selectată pentru o nouă misiune, a cărei miză este critică pentru supraviețuirea Hexarhiei: capturarea Fortăreței Acelor Risipite. Situată într‑o zonă de importanță strategică, Fortăreața s‑a răzvrătit împotriva Hexarhiei și a respins deja câteva atacuri ale flotei Kel, grație scuturilor impenetrabile de gheață invariantă. Pentru a‑i înfrânge rezistența, Cheris decide să apeleze la una dintre cele mai formidabile, dar și periculoase, arme din arsenalul Kel: generalul Shuos Jedao. Neînfrânt în luptă de mai bine de patru secole, Jedao este însă considerat nebun, după ce într‑o înfruntare decisivă și‑a pierdut controlul, măcelărindu‑și propriile trupe odată cu inamicul. Păstrat prin tehnologii exotice ca o minte separată de corp, Jedao este trezit pentru misiune și atașat de Cheris, o echipă pe care doar moartea unuia sau victoria o poate desface. Dar va fi asta suficient pentru a copleși una din cele mai bine apărate fortărețe din Hexarhat?

The Kel unsheathed their swords, each tinted differently, blank bars of light. Cheris’s ran from blue near the hilt to red at the tip. As they closed with the enemy, numbers blazed to life along the lengths of the blades: the day and the hour of your death, as the Kel liked to say.

Romanul Ninefox Gambit îmbină în mod reușit elemente care de obicei nu se înțeleg prea bine: știința și credința, gândirea logică și cea simbolică. Ba mai mult, în universul Hexarhatului, acestea două sunt practic inseparabile: ritualurile religioase și ierarhia rigidă alimentează construcția matematică a Calendarului. Acesta impune un set diferit de legi ale fizicii pe care se bazează tehnologia avansată a imperiului, de la sistemele de propulsie interstelară la arme exotice, la capacitatea de a stoca minți și a le readuce la viață. Orice schimbare a credinței cetățenilor, orice scăpare a ritualurilor se traduce într‑un Calendar mai slab, sau ușor schimbat, și în cazuri extreme la dezactivarea tehnologiilor exotice – de unde necesitatea fanatică de a‑l apăra de erezii. Nu e de mirare deci că Hexarhia e o teocrație neînduplecată, care‑și impune regimul prin torturi regulate și genocid împotriva rebelilor.

28 July 2017

TechCrunch: “Twitter adds updates about interesting links, trends and accounts to its Notifications tab”

Your Notifications tab on Twitter might be getting a little more busy. The company recently added a new feature to this section on both mobile and web, which aims to clue you into what people you follow are up to – including whether they’re tweeting about a particular Twitter trend, sharing a link to a buzzing news article, or even following another user’s account.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because Twitter’s ability to track and alert you to this information has existed for years. But before it was only delivered via push notifications. It’s now appearing in the same tab where you track the activity surrounding your own account and tweets – like who’s retweeting you, favoriting your tweets, or following you.

Sarah Perez

I understand how some people might find the extra notifications overwhelming, but personally I like it. I noticed this change about a week ago and it’s nice to see confirmation that it’s an official feature, not a short-term experiment.

Twitter’s personalized notifications about activity in your network have usually been pretty relevant for me. The only downside was that they were delivered only via push notifications in the mobile apps (I’m pretty sure the web version didn’t show them). On iOS, if you had several personalized notifications available, when you tapped one to view in the Twitter app the others would be also cleared from the Notification Center, so they were suddenly gone for good. Now, they are all present in the Twitter app – problem solved!

25 July 2017

Andreas Gal: “Firefox marketshare revisited”

A lot of commenters asked why Firefox marketshare is falling off a cliff. I think that question can be best answered with a few screenshots Mozilla engineer Chris Lord posted:

Google is aggressively using its monopoly position in Internet services such as Google Mail, Google Calendar and YouTube to advertise Chrome. Browsers are a mature product and its hard to compete in a mature market if your main competitor has access to billions of dollars worth of free marketing.

Andreas Gal

Google’s banners promoting Chrome throughout their apps are certainly annoying, but they are the least of Firefox’ problems (as a side-note, I find it very amusing that the screenshots from the above tweet were taken in Edge). The truth is, ever since Chrome launched (nine years ago!), Firefox was behind in almost every aspect that matters: Chrome had a faster rendering engine, regularly beating Firefox in tests; a clean, consistent interface; a better, more secure extension model, that most browsers have adopted in the mean time; better overall security thanks to sandboxing – which Firefox is still working on today; it switched to 64-bit fast and painless, while Firefox is still dragging its feet; and, of course, better integration with Google services and being the default browser on Android have helped.

24 July 2017

The Ed Bott Report: “Microsoft cuts off Windows 10 support early for some PCs”

No one knows exactly how many Clover Trail-based devices were sold, but collectively the total from all manufacturers was probably in the millions. Analyst Ben Bajarin, who tracks PC and tablet sales closely, estimates that the total number of Clover Trail devices sold was over 10 million. Today, owners of those devices who took advantage of Microsoft's free upgrade offer for Windows 10 are facing a rude shock.

The irony in this case is that Microsoft aggressively pushed the free Windows 10 upgrade offer to the owners of these devices, turning up the pressure dramatically as the July 2016 cutoff date approached. Now, less than a year later, those devices are being cut off without notice.

The bottom line: If your PC was originally designed for Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 and the manufacturer doesn't officially support it for Windows 10, you're at risk.

Ed Bott

I’ve been patiently waiting for my Windows tablet to receive the recent Windows 10 feature update from April, but it still hasn’t happened. I was already half suspecting it won’t be eligible because of hardware limitations, and this article reinforces this possibility. While the CPU of the Lenovo Miix 2 doesn’t technically fall into the unsupported category, it might still be excluded because of other incompatibilities, or the Spring Update might be its last Feature Update.

Daring Fireball: “Public Service Announcement: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS”

The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The idea is that apps in the background are locking up unnecessary RAM and consuming unnecessary CPU cycles, thus hurting performance and wasting battery life.

In fact, apps frozen in the background on iOS unfreeze so quickly that I think it actually helps perpetuate the myth that you should force quit them: if you’re worried that background apps are draining your battery and you see how quickly they load from the background, it’s a reasonable assumption to believe that they never stopped running. But they did. They really do get frozen, the RAM they were using really does get reclaimed by the system, and they really do unfreeze and come back to life that quickly1.

John Gruber

Except… When an app freezes, the only thing you can do to restart it is a force quit. Or when apps suddenly stop ‘seeing’ your network and get stuck showing a ‘Connecting…’ message. Or when you want to stop apps from tracking your location or from running in the background, draining the battery.

21 July 2017

Android Intelligence: “4 hidden shortcuts for typing faster on Android devices”

Ever find yourself in the midst of typing something and then realize you need to add or change something several characters back? We’ve all been there—and trying to get that tiny on-screen cursor exactly where you want it can quickly turn into an exercise in frustration.

Gboard has a better way: Just touch your finger to the space bar, and—without lifting it up—slide it to the left or right. That’ll move your cursor accordingly and let you place it wherever it’s needed.

JR Raphael

This particular tip for Gboard works in on the iPhone too! The iOS built-in keyboard has a similar feature, but it’s restricted to 3D Touch devices (iPhone 6S and up, no iPads) – another reason to switch to Gboard, if the much better autocomplete wasn’t enough to convince people.

19 July 2017

On iOS, Overcast is probably the best podcast client

As I mentioned in the article about the podcast app I’m using on Windows 10, Grover, I switched apps on the iPhone too, right after the most recent update to Overcast. Migrating your podcasts is not a particularly fun experience, as none of the apps I tried can replicate the list of unplayed episodes from other apps. First you need to manually subscribe to podcasts and then either download the episodes still to be played, or continue to listen to older episodes in the first app and start downloading new ones in the second app. I’m already on my third migration, I think: at first, I used the default Podcasts app, then switched to Instacast when Podcasts has some bugs and refused to play some files, then returned to it after Instacast was discontinued. I gave Castro a quick try as well, but that app has next to no features beyond a play button and simply doesn’t justify its price.

I had mixed feelings about Overcast as well: I hated the bright, orange-on-white design with all-caps buttons. I still think it’s barely readable, but fortunately the Dark Mode is now free and I immediately turned it on. It’s not very pretty, but at least it doesn’t hurt my eyes to look at the screen. Curiously, I think it uses another font than the white theme, a very odd design choice. Another thing that annoyed me immediately after installing the app is how it automatically adds to iFive podcast in your library; I don’t want to hear any more people mindlessly praising everything Apple does.

17 July 2017

Updates for Kindle Notes & Highlights

If you’re like me an avid reader of e-books – or at least a moderately enthusiast reader, as my pace gets slower and slower each year – you must have, at some point, used the Kindle to highlight text or keep short notes. It’s especially useful when writing reviews, as I regularly do, both to keep track of key plot points in the book and of passages to quote later in the review. Each highlight and note is stored locally on the device in a text file named ‘My Clippings’; you can copy the file to a PC by simply connecting the Kindle via an USB cable.

Amazon offers another way to access your personal Kindle notes that I discovered sometime later: a private web page in your Amazon account. It has recently received a well-deserved redesign, which partially prompted me to write about it here. This method only works for e-books from the Kindle store and if you regularly connect the Kindle to the internet and sync contents – which you probably do every once in a while just to download new books to the device. It’s slightly more convenient than physically connecting the Kindle to a PC, and the notes are nicely formatted and grouped by book. You can also jump directly into the Kindle online reader to see the context of the note, it you don’t quite remember where it was, and remove notes and highlights you no longer need. The disadvantage being that notes made in books outside the Kindle Store and in documents sent from the web are not stored here – and I read a fair number of both on my Kindle. For those, the only way to access notes remains the local text file I mentioned above.

15 July 2017

Lefsetz Letter: “House of Cards Season Five”

House of Cards Season Five

It’s terrible.

Robin Wright is superb, Kevin Spacey is believable in every role he plays, he’s America’s greatest actor, not Meryl Streep, but they can only do so much with the material, which is underwritten and confusing and concerns a plot point that we’re not interested in.

How did this HAPPEN?

The loss of showrunner Beau Willimon.

It’s like when your favorite act stops working with their hit producer, but even worse, because Willimon wrote, HOC was his baby, and now I don’t even know if I can finish the season.

The point being one individual makes a difference.

Bob Lefsetz

Sadly, I have to agree. I have watched the previous four seasons last year without interruption, which is quite an achievement for me. And a token of how good the series was, with tight plotting and a fast pace, barely a moment or boredom or confusion. I saw some twists coming from a mile away (like Underwood’s relationship with Zoe and her subsequent murder), but I still enjoyed the show very much.

This season though? The plot is confusing and doesn’t seem to go anywhere for most of the season, with the White House and the country paralyzed by a tied election and later by revelations about the President’s rise to power. The characters themselves seem increasingly tangled in their own web of lies and deceit, unable to move forward, unable to draw a vision for the future, neither dark nor hopeful.

10 July 2017

Daring Fireball: “Speculation Regarding the Pricing of and Strategy Behind This Year’s New iPhones”

It sounds to me like the OLED iPhone is a phone which Apple can’t make 40 million of per quarter, at least not today. And if that’s true, that means it should be more expensive. Not should in any moral sense, but simply because that’s how the principle of supply and demand works. When supply is constrained and demand is high, prices go higher. The higher prices alleviate demand.

John Gruber

That’s some pretty twisted logic, but I wouldn’t expect anything less in defense of Apple. By the same logic, prices should go down to iPhone 7 levels as Apple ramps up production capacity. Does anyone honestly think this will happen? iPhone price are regularly reduced each year along with the introduction of upgraded models, but the new models are priced mostly the same as last year; if an OLED iPhone is introduced at $1,200, it will stay at $1,200 for the foreseeable future.

Medium: “Snapchat: Who the F**k Cares??”

Think about this: What happens when your decisions become dictated solely by their potential to earn you social credit with your peers? Instead of asking, “which would be more fun?” we ask “which would look cooler to my friends?” Herein lies the true evil of snapchat stories. When we change our decision-making processes in this way, we allow other to control us. Uh oh…

Who was at that concert because they were a true fan of the band, and who was there because they were a fan of what their friends might think? It’s not just in these big events either, this problem exists in the everyday life of someone who shares their experiences online. For those people, “What should I do today” becomes synonymous with “What does my audience want me to do today?”

Tim Connors

Very good point! In this age where creating and sharing ‘life moments’ is basically free, the pressure to ‘perform’ in the social sphere is higher and higher. The issue is further complicated by news feed algorithms promoting average content and ‘influencers’ presenting an idealized version of their supposedly authentic life. It’s getting harder to simply be yourself online, and the temptation to act as a ‘celebrity’ even greater.

06 July 2017

Politico Magazine: “The Trade Deal we just Threw Overboard”

Similarly, in the original NAFTA talks, Canada had refused to even consider opening up its heavily protected dairy, poultry and egg markets to U.S. competition. But when Canada inquired about TPP, Obama and his aides insisted that everything had to be on the table. That included Mexico’s limits on foreign participation in its energy services sector, Canada’s cultural laws limiting American TV programming, and the weak protections for drug patents, copyrights, software and other intellectual property in both countries. The consistent U.S. message was: No more sacred cows.

The politics of trade haunted Democrats in 2016. Trump figured out a way to tie their traditional themes about families getting left behind to his campaign of cultural resentment, nationalism and suspicion of foreigners. It’s hard to know how much Obama’s push for TPP eroded confidence that the Democratic Party cares about working people, but it certainly didn’t boost that confidence in key Rust Belt states. And U.S. labor leaders resented the way the Obama team seemed to treat them like insolent brats who didn’t appreciate how hard Daddy was working to put food on their plates.

We kept telling them: You’re supposed to be Democrats! Why won’t you listen to us? says Thea Lee, the deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO. But they thought they knew best. And here we are.

Michael Grunwald

Brilliant insight into the massive effort required to negotiate international trade deals between multiple parties, such as the now defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership. I haven’t really followed the details of TPP, but from this text alone it seems to me that withdrawing from this agreement is one of the few good things attributable to the Trump presidency – not necessarily good for America, but for the participants in the deal.

My main concern (shared by many opinions, from Nobel-prize winner Paul Krugman to former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders) is the paragraph mentioning protections for drug patents and intellectual property: drug prices in the United States are much higher than elsewhere in the world precisely because their strict patent protections. Do we really want to make health care more expensive in several countries through these trade deals? This makes the agreement less about free trade and more about protecting key industries in the United States, that would enjoy less competition from the signatory countries under the new rules.

04 July 2017

The Atlantic: “Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria”

By 2002, it seemed to Page like the time might be ripe to come back to books. With that 40-minute number in mind, he approached the University of Michigan, his alma mater and a world leader in book scanning, to find out what the state of the art in mass digitization looked like. Michigan told Page that at the current pace, digitizing their entire collection—7 million volumes—was going to take about a thousand years. Page, who’d by now given the problem some thought, replied that he thought Google could do it in six.

He offered the library a deal: You let us borrow all your books, he said, and we’ll scan them for you. You’ll end up with a digital copy of every volume in your collection, and Google will end up with access to one of the great untapped troves of data left in the world. Brin put Google’s lust for library books this way: You have thousands of years of human knowledge, and probably the highest-quality knowledge is captured in books. What if you could feed all the knowledge that’s locked up on paper to a search engine?

James Somers

A sad end to one of Google’s most interesting and, dare I say, altruistic projects: digitizing physical books. It could have made a huge library available to the entire world, while at the same time supplying some revenues for authors; instead it got tangled up in complicated legal battles about copyright. Even though it eventually won the case, Google is only allowed to display snippets in search results, while the full text of the books remains locked away on their servers – at least until some other legislative or judicial decision can overrule the current compromise that doesn’t satisfy any of the parties, nor the public.

02 July 2017

Anchee Min – Sămânța încolțită

in Bucharest, Romania
Anchee Min - Samanta incoltita

După șocul Revoluției Culturale, China se confruntă cu un alt moment tumultuos, cel al morții Conducătorului Mao, al cărui statut ajunsese aproape la nivelul unei divinități, urmat de rapide schimbări politice la nivel înalt. Viața tinerei Anchee atârnă acum de un fir de ață: ca „protejată” a Doamnei Mao, căzută în dizgrație, perspectivele ei de viitor sunt practic nule. Când află că prietena ei Joan Chen a emigrat în Stele Unite, o idee nebunească se înfiripă în mintea ei: singura ei șansă e să părăsească China pentru Statele Unite. Nici pe departe o soluție simplă, de vreme ce nu vorbește o boabă de engleză și nu are nici un talent remarcabil care i‑ar putea garanta o bursă de studii; dar care e alternativa?

Continuând autobiografia începută în Azaleea Roșie, scriitoarea Anchee Min schițează în romanul de față restul vieții ei, de la evadarea disperată dintre granițele Chinei la momentul de față, când a devenit o autoare de succes cu o familie fericită. Un traseu complicat și extrem de greu, care impresionează la fiecare pas prin tenacitatea ei, prin hotărârea cu care își urmărește scopurile, de la emigrare, la studii, în special chinul constant de a stăpâni o limbă atât de străină ca engleza, la goana nesfârșită după slujbe și bani, și mai târziu dorința de afecțiune și de a deveni mamă.

Takisha voia să știe ce mă adusese în America și cum fusese viața mea în China. Cu ajutorul dicționarului, am compus și am scris un răspuns: Era ca și cum ești spânzurat, osul de la gât se rupe, dar moartea nu vine.