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Stuff I’ve found interesting this week – 31 August


Seeing Through the Illusion: Understanding Apple’s Mastery of the Media. The prodigy writes a long and very interesting look at Apple PR and the way it works. My own experience of Apple PR is more or less a decade out of date, but a lot of what Gurman says here chimes.

Apple wearable won’t ship till early 2015. As plenty of others have noted, this makes sense for two reasons: it’s a new product category, and hence preannouncing won’t mean the Osborne effect. Second, developers will need time to build support. Oh, and of course it will really hurt any other company selling wearables over Christmas.

L.A. Unified halts contract for iPads. Lots of people are going to read into this that iPad is struggling in education. However, really this is all about the tendering process the district went through, which – it’s alleged – was skewed towards the iPad rather than other options.

Lenovo N20p Chromebook review: This $329 model stands out for its 300-degree hinge. When the only original thing about a product is a hinge, you know it’s not that interesting. This is another run-of-the-mill Chromebook, but with the difference that you can fold it into a shape which makes it unusable for anything except watching video.

Two weeks later: My switch from Outlook to Gmail. David Gerwitz is surprised to find that Gmail is a better email experience than Outlook. I’m not: Gmail has been built to deal with email as it exists in 2014, not as it was in 1998. Things have moved on, and Gmail, with its tabs which hide promotional mail and updates, makes dealing with email easier.

Google release 64-bit Chrome for Mac. If this means Chrome no longer sucks quite so much battery life out of my Mac, I might even go back to using it.

Broadwell chips heading to Chromebooks. My Haswell-based Dell 11 already gets me around 11 hours of battery life, so I’m really interested to find out what a Broadwell-based device could do.

Q&A: An Apple critic with plenty to say. Lengthy and interesting interview with John Siracusa, one of the most genuinely-knowledgeable journalists writing about Apple. John doesn’t write a lot, but what he does write is vital reading.

Your iPhone & iPad are ready to get to work with new apps for Docs, Sheets, & Slides. You can now use Google’s apps on iOS to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Not as well as Office for iPad will, of course, but for lightweight use it’s pretty good.

Dropbox increases its pro storage to 1tb for $10 a month. Not a huge surprise, given that both Google and Microsoft charge the same. I wonder if it means Apple will follow suit with iCloud?

How to email notes and ideas into Scrivener. Scrivener is an amazing application for any long-form writing, and this technique really helps to link it up to other apps.


Pinterest Adds New Analytics Dashboard to Entice Future Advertisers. Pinterest is a massive referred of traffic to a lot of websites – Buzzfeed claims it refers more than Twitter – but up till now its analytics capabilities have been pretty lacklustre.

The Times of India just instituted a bizarre Twitter and Facebook policy. Reporters have a choice: hand over control of their personal social media accounts to the publication, or never post links to their own reporting. Huh?

Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now. Quick answer: because it’s social media that puts the user firmly in control. Also because some very smart people are writing them.


Wait a second, what am I paying journalists for?

The Indie gets all overexcited about some pictures of the “iPhone 6”. Only one problem…

Update: Eagle-eyed readers have pointed out that the image posted by China Telecom is concept art rather than leaked promotional material. The picture fits with everything we know about the iPhone 6 so far – but lets wait for the official launch before we get too excited.

I though the idea was that we paid reporters to be eagle-eyed, rather than printing any old shit and then expecting readers to do the checking for us? 


Because journalism

So, so true:

These stories are the best kind of rumors, because they are absolutely unverifiable. Whether the next-gen iPhone is “delayed” or not is immaterial to the substance of this report. If the iPhone is delayed, rumor blogs have something to point to and say, “See? We told you so.” If the iPhone isn’t delayed or in short supply, this story will gather digital dust on Google’s cached servers, but no human will ever care about it again. It almost doesn’t even matter if this article is true or not, and we’ll never know for sure one way or another. Fun!

Because journalism. Or rather, because pageviews.


Stuff I’ve found interesting this week

In homage to Stefan Constantinescu’s brilliant TabDump, every Sunday I’m going to try and write a summary of all the content I’ve come across over the week and link to it. If you’re not a TabDump supporter you should be – Stef does a brilliant job of finding the best content on a daily basis, and I recommend you subscribe.

Google Says HTTPS Is A Ranking Signal, But It’s Not Really. A big thing for the SEO world, but as this article lays out it’s not worth the hassle of moving to HTTPS just to keep in Google’s good books. Of course, there’s other good reasons for doing so.

With A Twitter Card Tweak, Now You Can Design Your New Acura In A Tweet. Twitter is gradually increasing the functionality available in Twitter Cards, which have come a long way since they were just a picture pulled from URL metadata.

LG G Watch v Samsung Gear Live: what are the differences?. The answer: Virtually nothing. I think the Samsung’s design is much smarter though. And no, I’m not that interested in the Moto 360.

Inside Google’s Project Tango tablet. A tablet which only someone who doesn’t like tablets could love. Actually, Tango looks interesting, but it’s a classic example of the kind of project which emerges from Google every now and then: engineering fantasies, rather than real consumer products.

Inside the sneaky, surprisingly large world of rogue Chrome extensions. 130 outright malicious extensions is 130 too many, particularly given Chrome is supposed to be a secure platform. But the more than Chrome becomes an operating system rather than a browser, the more issues like this are going to arise.

Inside Apple’s Internal Training Program. From a couple of weeks ago, but if you haven’t read it it’s well worth it. Great work from Brian X Chen.

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Twitter and free speech

There’s been a big debate today on Twitter about whether the company is right to remove images of the death of James Foley, the journalist beheaded by ISIS. On one side of the debate has been Mathew Ingram, who posted his points on GigaOm. I think, though, I agree with Derek Powazek on this:


Nuclear Regulator hacked “by foreign power”

Nice exclusive for Nextgov. Not your common or garden ID theft, but definitely a common or garden spearphishing attack:

Nuclear Regulatory Commission computers within the past three years were successfully hacked by foreigners twice and also by an unidentifiable individual, according to an internal investigation.

One incident involved emails sent to about 215 NRC employees in “a logon-credential harvesting attempt,” according to an inspector general report Nextgov obtained through an open-records request.

There’s plenty of information held by the likes of the NRC which would be very useful to foreign governments, but also to the kinds of hackers who sell data like this on the black market. And the malware they deployed doesn’t sound particularly complicated.


Security update for Safari out

Apple’s released an update for Safari which fixes some security stuff:

Apple has released security fixes for vulnerabilities in its Safari web browser which left users open to attacks from cyber criminals.
The fixes relate to Safari 6.1.6 and Safari 7.0.6 and are available from the Apple support page now for OS X Lion v10.7.5, OS X Lion Server v10.7.5, OS X Mountain Lion v10.8.5 and OS X Mavericks v10.9.4.
The bugs exist in Safari’s WebKit and, according to Apple, mean that “visiting a maliciously crafted website may lead to an unexpected application termination or arbitrary code execution”.

Unfortunately, they’re not telling us what’s been fixed:

It is currently unclear whether the vulnerability is actively being exploited by hackers, as Apple has a steadfast policy of not commenting on security issues.
“For the protection of our customers, Apple does not disclose, discuss or confirm security issues until a full investigation has occurred and any necessary patches or releases are available,” reads Apple’s security policy.
F-Secure security researcher Sean Sullivan told V3 the firm is yet to see any evidence the vulnerabilities are being actively exploited, but voiced his frustration with Apple’s lack of detailed information on the issues being fixed.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if Apple did something useful like provide a severity rating for its updates? I’m not seeing any chatter about the reliability of these vulnerabilities. It’s true that ‘arbitrary code execution’ is never a good thing – but it might not work enough of the time to be worth an attacker’s effort – or then, perhaps it is,” he said.



The Mac bundle it’s OK to love

I’m not a huge fan of those vast bundles of software you occasionally get at a discount, but I’ll make an exception for The StackSocial bundle. Moom, Keyboard Maestro and dj alone are worth the money.

Like Gruber, I’m not using the affliate fee, so all your cash will go to the makers of the apps, which is as it should be.


Android Wear finally gets its fitness SDK

One of the things that I’ve been surprised about with my Android Wear watch is that there’s no way I’ve found to get the steps and heart rate data off it. Now I know why:

At Google I/O we announced Google Fit: an open platform for developers to more easily build fitness apps. Today we’re making a preview SDK available to developers so that you can start to build.

Just stop for a second and imagine Apple releasing new hardware without software support for one of its key features. This is the big difference between Apple and Google: Google is OK for products to be unfinished in a way that would drive Apple crazy.

Personally, I generally prefer products to actually work when I buy them.