TagApple

Apple going with their own custom ARM processor is a big change and something that I’m sure Intel and AMD are closely watching. I imagine that businesses have been looking at locked down SoC solutions for employees for a while. The iPad being a sort of template or goal, due to security of the platform.

Microsoft hasn’t made much headway here, but that’s unsurprising. It looks like they want to transition as much as they can to Linux and be a cloud-services provider instead.

2020 is an interesting year.

Chrome Privacy

New changes to the way Google’s flagship application, Chrome, make it easier to stay on top of what Google is getting, and what you may be revealing to third-party sites. Another feature to be ignored by the masses, and questioned by people who still don’t trust them.

While, on their face, these changes make Google Chrome a little closer to other browsers in the privacy aspect. It still doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt at helping the user. It just so happens that keeping others away from their users, while still giving them privileged access to their data is something that dove-tails with their goals, for the moment. Still, they’re trying something Firefox and Safari take very seriously. Who knows where this will end up.

The Ecosystem of Google

Within Google’s sphere of influence, there is a lot to like for your average user:

  • Single sign on to lots of different first and third-party applications, like Docs, Drive, Gmail, GSuite and more
  • High quality web-based applications
  • User account data sync when you use Chrome or a Chromebook including passwords, extensions, preferences, wallets, subscriptions, etc.
  • Integration with your Android Smartphone
  • And much more

I won’t say that I haven’t been tempted to jump ship and join up with Google. I have an older Chromebook, and when I was signing into Google services, it was amazing. I could blow the thing away, and be back up in short order, everything back in place. If I weren’t so enamored with Linux and the Libre software movement, I can easily imagine me being either a hardcore Apple user or a hardcore Google user.

By and large, Google has ‘won’ this generation of smartphone, browser, search and advertising systems. The literal billions of users tied into those systems is no small feat. Even organizations like Mozilla and Microsoft often have to bend slightly to accommodate Google’s whims. This is a really weird time.

While no man lives forever, the same can be said about Google. They’re constantly killing services that don’t provide enough user telemetry or subscribers. Often, it feels like a gamble to use any one of their services because it’s just as likely to be killed a few months down the road. Other than their bread and butter, it’s a hard sell to build a business off of anything Google does.

Shiny Chromium

It’s hard to say that Chrome is a bad browser. The architecture, based on Apple’s WebKit (which, itself, was begot by KDE’s KHTML engine), and is screaming fast, well integrated on most platforms and can be used without the same UI. A feat that Mozilla has only weakly attempted in the past. The support for web standards (driven by a cabal of browser makers, such as it is) is pretty top notch.

The biggest problem with being such an 800lbs gorilla is that everyone starts to ape you. Sites target Chrome-features only, or support only Chrome are becoming more commonplace. A chilling throwback to the days of IE vs Netscape Navigator. The old beast has been felled, long live the new beast?

As I mentioned before, even titans like Microsoft bend to Google on occasion. In an attempt to hang on to browser users and tie them into their own ecosystem, Microsoft released Edge with the launch of Windows 10. A new browser, better, different and faster than their absolutely decrepit Internet Explorer (which still sees regular use in enterprise…). Try as they might, they could not edge out this competitor like they did to Netscape before. In this new Microsoft, they’ve adopted Chrome’s “Blink” engine and rebranded it as the new Edge. Same as Chrome, but different packaging.

History makes ready to repeat itself. What are we willing to do to make it fair, open and available to all? Firefox used to be all the rage, can we make it that way, again?

Encryption Bad, Police Good; Upvotes to the Left

I am exhausted. This whole anti-encryption rant is such a crappy straw man that I am actually surprised it works on people. Barr should drop the shtick and tell people what is really going on: The Government want unfettered access to anyone’s device on a moment’s notice. Granted, this is prohibited by the constitution, but why not try anyway?

Honestly, we live in times when encryption is the rule, instead of the exception. It’s in all of our tools, on all of our machines, wrapping all of our traffic and it comes in a tremendous number of flavors. Saying encryption on iPhones is bad is like saying curtains in houses are bad because they stop you from seeing in. It’s a stupid argument because the premise is stupid. We have a right to private communications, we don’t have to let government in.

Exploitative FBI

This comes at a time when some iPhone hacking groups and exploit — ahem, I mean, security groups are not buying new iPhone exploits because they claim they have a surplus of them. So how is it that the FBI, a national agency that has connections to the NSA, CIA and more cannot get into an iPhone they have physical access to when there is a glut of iOS exploits in the market? Does this make sense?

Of course not.

Hmmm…

They want the access because they don’t want to have to pay for exploits, or the talent to find them. Maybe they’re behind? Maybe it’s just a power play to grab more rights back from the people. I don’t know. It’s odd they haven’t mentioned any Android devices or the BitLocker encryption on millions more devices that should, in theory, be as hard to access, and yet no word from AG Barr on those devices.

I’m honestly glad that they’re being so blunt about it. It’s easier to see the real intention behind it. Though people will still fall for it. I see no end to the “Punisher Skull”/”Thin Blue Line” stickers on people’s vehicles. People want to be told what’s best for them, rather than looking for themselves. Including those ninnies who show up to various state capitals, protesting stay-at-home orders, heavily armed (“open carry”) because they can’t get their hair cut.

GNUThink

I sometimes get to a point where I question a lot of what I do and what matters to me. Sometimes it’s because of simple things, like a broken tool, or a frustrating problem. Sometimes it’s more of a philosophy problem, where I question how I feel about something and if I should change my ideas or mannerisms behind some action.

Lately, it’s been a little of both. I use an iPhone, Apple Music, iCloud (storage, etc), Office 365, and probably other tools and services that would be considered “non-free” in the “libre” sense. This has lead to me thinking about what I actually want out of computing. It’s such a thorny question, because there are so many comfortable choices that I’m in, that upending them would probably throw my life (and my family’s) into temporary turmoil.

For instance: Office 365. I pay for just the Exchange Online component, because I don’t need the actual Office suite as we (my family) get it free from my school and other organizations that we’re associated with. Exchange Online has been fine from a end-user perspective. Very rarely do I have any real issues to speak of, other than paying for it. My real problem here is that it’s a very proprietary platform, and because of that, it’s moderately difficult to get out of and to connect to with free-software tools. The IMAP support is… functional, but the contacts and calendars are tied down.

Similarly, I have lots of Apple devices and services. Like Office 365, I don’t have any complaints, per se, it’s just that they’re extremely proprietary and that means getting out of the ecosystem is difficult, and like above, connecting using free-software tools is straight up impossible.

The reason I have these things in the first place is that my family, who don’t hold my free-software ideals, want/need access to reliable tools they can use from multiple places. This is not an unreasonable request, and is one that can be solved with enough time, free-software, capital and expertise. Unfortunately, I’m not willing or able to host all of that, or even administer it. I don’t have the time, and I certainly don’t have the specific expertise to do all of it. Hence the current implementation.

Balance between freedom, convenience and cost is a tricky one. While I’d personally like to model myself more in line with the FSF’s computing ideals. The problem is that I have family members that I have to support as well. I’d also like to move them toward more free-software systems. While I recognize their choice in platforms is their own, I also get to say what I will and will not support (kind of, family is so complicated).

I don’t have any kind of resolution for this, I’m still trying to figure out what kind of path I want to take. Is pragmatism the smarter choice? Idealism feels right, but is massively more difficult to implement. There is probably a good middle of the road, but I don’t know if I’m on it. Maybe it doesn’t matter?

What should I do?

Featured Image

“Ugh, a Mac”, by Joe Wilcox – License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

UnFantastical

So, Fantastical, a heretofore “fantastic” calendar dropped a big new update for version 3.0. To celebrate, they decided to make it have a subscription component for stuff that was already in the app, and stuff that doesn’t need any external tooling or servers.

It’s really telling when a company that is awarded by consumers and the platform owners, has a product so good/popular that they only thing they can do is ruin it.

I was once a proud user of the app. I enjoyed it so much that I bought their contact management app, CardHop. Now, I’m back to the stock iOS apps for contacts, calendars and reminders because they got greedy (or didn’t have a strategy). Either way, good riddance. I have no place in my heart for yet another subscription.

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