229 Articles


3 weeks Ago

Apple M1 MacBook Pro

Published by marco on

So I bought an M1 MacBook Pro (teacher discount FTW!) at the beginning of October and I’m very happy with it. It’s last year’s model, not the fancy new stuff, but it’s still worlds better than any laptop I’ve ever used. Here are the things I like about it so far.

  • The battery 🔋lifetime is extraordinary
  • It’s very quiet 🤫
  • The keyboard ⌨️ is very nice
  • The touchpad is, as always, fantastic
  • The Touch-Bar is quite useful
  • The sound quality on the speakers 🔊 is very, very good... [More]

4 months Ago

Google Maps is murderously optimistic about the navigability of some roads

Published by marco on

The other day, we wanted to hike L’Argentine, a challenging day-hike in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. It starts and ends in a little “town” called Solalex. I put the “town” in quotes because it’s really just a couple of restaurants, a tiny museum, a couple of tiny shops and a few farmhouses. It’s lovely, but it wasn’t, in retrospect, surprising that the navigation system in the car didn’t know where it was.[1]

We knew a town on the way (Villars sur Ollon), but otherwise weren’t so sure of... [More]

6 months Ago

Upgrading iOS on MacOS

Published by marco on

You would think that the latest version of MacOS would work seamlessly with the latest version of iOS during an upgrade.

I had my iPhone plugged in to my Mac to charge. I noticed on the phone that it wanted to upgrade the OS, but figured I’d do the upgrade through the Mac so I could use the keyboard and mouse to navigate.

Suspiciously, MacOS did not seem to be aware that there was an upgrade pending for the phone. I refreshed the status and then it noticed that there was an upgrade and... [More]

Apple Music Can’t German

Published by marco on

I’m a former Google Play Music user. I’ve recently moved to YouTube Music.[1], which is not very friendly for people with large playlists:

  • It doesn’t pre-load the entire list; you have to scroll to see more entries
  • You can’t search within a playlist
  • You can’t multi-select items in a playlist, making management nearly impossible. You have to copy or move each song individually.

All of these things make managing a library a pretty big hassle. It’s like they’ve never heard of my use case before.
... [More]

MacOs Big Sur (11.3.1): Initial Impressions after a month

Published by marco on

 I finally upgraded to MacOS Big Sur[1] after waiting over nine months. I’d grown quite comfortable with Catalina. My only complaint was an occasionally flaky wireless connection, which seems to be better in Big Sur.

As for Big Sur, there are a lot of smaller improvements. The control panel is nice. The Bluetooth menu is better. The notification center is better, overall.

I thought I’d hate the more rounded look, but I really don’t. I like it. I find the new style more immediately legible and... [More]

7 months Ago

Don’t believe your eyes

Published by marco on

“A lie goes around the world three times before the truth has got its pants on.[1]
Mark Twain

Mirriad is a real company with a realtime tool that allows editors to place content into video streams. This tool can be used for anything (e.g. covering up a mustache that an actor has for another movie, as they did for Henry Cavill in a Superman movie), but their demonstration video shows how they’re selling this tool: as a way of injecting advertising and product placement in existing content.

The short video Mirriad... [More] (Vimeo)

Google’s Age Verification Data-Collection Strategy

Published by marco on

I recently followed a link to a video on YouTube that was supposed to demonstrate the madness of Japanese wrestler Jun Kasai. I was unable to view the video because it was age-restricted and I had not yet verified my age for my Google account.[1]

Google helpfully offered a couple of ways of rectifying this issue.

 Google's Age-verification Options

That escalated quickly.

I want to ask incredulously “do people really scan their driver’s license and send it to completely unanswerable company like Google?” or “hey scan and send... [More]

8 months Ago

Apple vs. Russia

Published by marco on

Apple bent its rules for Russia—and other countries will take note by Lily Hay Newman (Ars Technica)

“Questions remain about whether Russia’s end goal is to completely isolate and disconnect its Internet from the wider world or whether the government prefers a hybrid network. But from the Kremlin’s perspective, the opportunity to promote certain apps on iOS is a boon either way.

“Apple could have simply allowed Russia to pre-install whatever apps it wanted on iOS devices, but the company also could have taken a radical... [More]”

10 months Ago

Beating Bufferbloat

Published by marco on

The article 2021 Prediction #4: WiFi 6 is a bust (for now) as Bufferbloat returns thanks to ISP greed by Robert X. Cringely takes up a topic that he’s written about quite a bit over the last decade: bufferbloat. This symptom of a bad connection shows up as excessive buffering and excessive latency when streaming video (or a lot of data). Basically, the connection will continually fail and restart until it stops altogether as the router gets all snarled up. The following definition is from Wikipedia, which has even... [More]

11 months Ago

Deep Fakes are overkill for our tiny brains

Published by marco on

Cheyenne 9’s Coverage of the Official White House Address by Sassy Justice (YouTube)

Just in case you think you can spot a deep-fake video from a mile away, the gentlemen that brought you South Park made a new Sassy Justice video. They do us the favor of making it pretty clear that this never happened; others will not be so generous. On the surface, it’s just a joke video, but the implications are grave. If Sassy Justice can make this video, what’s stopping a much-better funded news organization from making a “Trump/Biden calls staffer the c-word, caught on tape” video?
... [More]

2 years Ago

iOS COVID-tracking and battery life

Published by marco on

Install the COVID app, they said.

It’s for the good of the nation, they said.

It won’t drain your battery, they said.


 COVID takes 60% just sitting there

The yellow color indicates that I had the phone in low-power mode.

The phone was on my desk all day long. I used it twice for 2FA. I looked at a few messages.

I’d last charged it sometime yesterday evening.

I wonder how much battery it needs when it’s actually doing something?


iOS still has a problem with “background activity”

Published by marco on

iOS has long had a setting that lets you decide whether “Background Refresh” is enabled. I have always had it disabled because I don’t need any of my apps doing things when I’m not using them. I’m more interested in my phone being there for me to look up something useful than I am in looking for a charger or carrying a power brick wherever I go.

This does not mean that apps are not doing things in the background, though. The article Background App Refresh Explained by David Johnson on Dec 6, 2019 (Techzillo) explains that the... [More]

Thermal imaging is the next “facial recognition”

Published by marco on

In the aftermath of 9-11, biometrics and, in particular, bio-imaging software companies enjoyed a huge surge in valuation. Most of these products were shoddy and didn’t deliver on even a reasonable fraction of their promise.

That didn’t stop legislators from passing laws requiring their use—and probably getting giant kickbacks from companies newly flush with cash derived from their increased valuations caused, at least in part, by these same laws. Life is quite easy for some... [More]

Contact-tracing and surveillance

Published by marco on

Contact tracing, or just “tracing”, is a way of determining who’s been infected with a contagious disease in a community. Compared to self-isolation en-masse, it’s a finer instrument: instead of everyone staying away from each other, properly trained workers trace the path of the disease, using this information to isolate the ill from the still-healthy.

How it works

When someone tests positive for a contagious disease, tracers interview them to find out where they’ve been and who they’ve... [More]

Deleting GarageBand files

Published by marco on

In the Storage Manager[1] on MacOS, there are several categories on the left-hand side, each showing the amount of space used for that category. I noticed that, for whatever reason, I still had the GarageBand base files installed. I haven’t ever used this application, so I had no qualms about deleting these files to recover 2GB of space on my SSD.

When I clicked “Remove GarageBand Sound Library”, the system asked for administrator credentials.

I entered my credentials but the credentials prompt... [More]

Multi-language web sites

Published by marco on

Why are multi-language web sites so hard to make? Even large companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple regularly send content with mixed-language content.

This is probably due to several factors:

  1. Large web sites pull data for myriad sources, including CDNs and caching services. Each source needs to respect the requested language, If a source doesn’t have support for a requested language, then just that piece of content will be delivered in the fallback format.
  2. Any proxies have to pass the... [More]

Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited

Published by marco on

The Amazon Kindle Paper White is a pretty good deal if you’re already dependent on Amazon Kindle content. Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime are largely crap content with the occasional gem. If you’re already getting content from elsewhere, you’ll continue to do so because almost none of the content worth having is included in either of these services.

Replacing an E-Reader

I recently had to replace my old Amazon Voyage because I left it on a train and was unable to get it back. I tried... [More]

3 years Ago

Spectre is here to stay: An analysis o..., Toon Verwaest (2019) (read in 2019)

Published by marco on

Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve in reminding me of what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger... [More]

Apple logins

Published by marco on

There are many places where you can authenticate on MacOS. I think the following list is comprehensive.

  • MacOS
  • App Store
  • Messages
  • FaceTime
  • iCloud
  • iTunes

Each of these logins can actually be different, believe it or not. Most of the time, they’re not, though. Apple prefers if you just use the same account for everything.

If you, for historical reasons—purely hypothetically, understand—have more than one account, you might log in with inconsistent accounts.

Normally, it doesn’t really... [More]

Has working on Linux Distros has gotten more rewarding?

Published by marco on

I saw in the news today that a new version of the Alpine Linux distro is available. It made me wonder whether those who work on distros like Alpine—that a few years ago would have been more rarely used—are excited at the uptake in usage for containers.

Working on open-source software has always had a bit of altruism bound up with it: if you don’t get compensated—most interpret this as remunerated—then why do it? There are a host of reasons to work on something, besides getting paid for... [More]

MacOS iCal and Reminders

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If your birthday-calendar appointments don’t show up on your MacOS iCal, try turning it off and on again (rebooting the machine). That’s what eventually worked for me. For the full story and more tips, read on.

A little while back, I enabled iCloud synchronization for my contacts. That didn’t go so smoothly on the first try: the MacOS desktop that had most of the information was actually erased because Apple doesn’t seem to understand what “sync” means.

Using a backup, I was able to... [More]

Skynet is the good outcome

Published by marco on

Will Artificial Intelligence take over the world? Only if we let it, I think.

And we’re almost certainly going to let it.

Our habit seems to be to capitulate to any form of power that dangles a short-term bauble of convenience before our greedy, beady eyes, even if it always seems to be just out of our grubby reach.

AI is dangerous less for what it is capable of doing now and more for how much power we concede it even when it’s stupefyingly shallow. We’ve given up before the battle has even... [More]

Poisonous Hyper-capitalism

Published by marco on

From Kai-Fu Lee’s new book says Artificial Intelligence will be Google vs China and will kill half the world’s jobs by Robert X. Cringely

“And I find it difficult to see China as being any more of a development crucible than is Sand Hill Road, where startups have even less time to succeed and therefore more pressure to evolve. Explain to me how this is incorrect, because the numbers are published and are real. In comparison to other adolescent startup cultures, yes China is and will be successful and they are... [More]”

iOS can’t get the easy stuff right

Published by marco on

This is a laundry list of issues I’ve had with iOS over the last half-year or so. Some things get fixed; others break. This operation system is in its 12th version and is 10 years old. It’s made by the richest company on the planet. It’s frustrating to watch the magical engine of capitalism and privatization be seemingly unable to get even the easy stuff right.

How is it that I’m the only one to whom this happens? iOS is supremely unreliable. I have an iPhone 6s with iOS 12.01 and a battery... [More]

SBB iOS App refreshes too much

Published by marco on

Here is the text of my bug report to the SBB for its iOS App. I wrote them in German, so I’ll let them stand that way; translations are in the footnotes.

Verbesserungsvorschlag im iOS-App


iOS 11.4.1, SBB Mobile 8.2.2 (10)

Use Case

Einen Benutzer will schon geladenen Streckeninformationen ohne Datenverbindung lesen.

Beobachtetes Verhalten

Der SBB-App aktualisiert immer wieder automatisch, auch wenn der App nur vor kurzem verlassen wurde (z.B. 10 Sekunden, wenn man auf einem... [More]

Windows 10 Search is not very good

Published by marco on

Windows Search has been unpredictable for a long time. If you’re a MacOS user, it feels terrible. It’s an utter mystery how Windows can’t seem to find anything, even in a small pile of startup icons and control-panel entries. It’s a database of a few hundred entries, at best. Let’s see how Windows 10 fares.

I finally took the time to document my struggles to run the “Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”. There are so many words in there. Which ones can I type to find the icon? Hint: I... [More]

Why use Docker?

Published by marco on

Use Case

Let’s imagine we’re working on a PHP web site together, using PostgreSql as a database.

Without Docker

Without something like Docker, I’ll write a that tells you which PostgreSql to install (maybe latest, whatever), how to configure the Apache server (or Nginx, whatever) and make sure the document root, extensions, modules, etc. are all lined up for this project.

In order to write this readme, I had to set it up on my machine and carefully write down instructions matching... [More]

Apple iCal

Published by marco on

Apple iCal is another piece of software that’s in a very established field, with a very established feature set, in which Apple has been producing software for over a decade. It’s a calendar application with reminders. The reminders can be set to a specific time, with one or more alerts. An alert can be snoozed for a certain amount of time.

This is not rocket science.

Ok, so a modern calendar has to be able to pull in remote sources, to sync with other sources, and to send notifications. It... [More]

Human vs. machine categorization

Published by marco on

Humans are currently better at detecting patterns than machines—this may change in the near future.[1]

However, machines are massively better at sorting detected patterns than humans. Humans can’t stick to a regime.

For example, a site like Reddit amounts to a vast sorting algorithm with posts, pictures, videos and articles as input and the subreddits as buckets.

Myriad users upvote and downvote these items to determine whether an item belongs in a given subreddit. If an item in one subreddit... [More]

Hacking your Voice Mail

Published by marco on

tl;dr: If you don’t use your voice mail for your phone, then you should disable it. It is ridiculously insecure and can or will be used by hackers to gain access to other services you use (e.g. Whatsapp or PayPal).

On Sunrise, you can deactivate your voice mail by “calling” #145#. To re-activate, call *145#. You’ll get a confirmation message.

The CCC annual conference (Chaos Computer Club) took place last weekend, in Leipzig, Germany. There were several interesting talks, but this one stood... [More]