How to beat fake news: Trust, but verify

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All of us of a certain age remember Ronald Reagan’s utterance “Trust, but verify” – a translation of the Russian proverb “Doveryai, no proveryai.” Reagan used it during nuclear disarmament talks between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980s.  “Trust, but verify” is an important maxim to observe on social media as well, as we try to figure out what to do about “fake news.” More thoughts on this after the break.

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MacVoices: Talking About Social Media

Chuck Joiner and I recently spoke on his MacVoices podcast. Our subject was social media and its impact. Some of the topics we discussed included protecting ourselves at a time when many of us are dangerously overexposed. I went deep on my specific experience with Twitter, which has a lot of value. But Twitter’s also become really toxic; I stepped away because of that and some other reasons which I go into. I even got a bit ranty. Chuck’s a very gracious host, so he let me spin my top.

The Committed: On Apple Design, and more

Ian Schray, Kirk McElhearn, and Rob Griffiths were kind enough to invite me to talk with them on their podcast The Committed this week. We talked about the controversy over Apple’s design of the iPhone X (the infamous “notch”), the Apple TV 4K, and the new LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3. I had a great time with these three gents, I hope you have a great time listening in.

The Committed

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MacCast: Backup strategy, SSD upgrades and more!

Is iOS 11 Apple’s first real attempt to turn the iPad and iPad Pro into a general-purpose computer? I think so. I also have strong opinions on proper backup methodologies and offer some tips for anyone looking for ways to improve the performance of their older Macs (hints: It has to do with memory and storage). If you’re interested in this and other issues including Apple TV 4K, iPhone 8s and the Apple Watch with LTE, and some High Sierra tips and tricks, please listen to this recent episode of The MacCast podcast. Adam Christianson and I had a great time talking! Thanks for having me on, Adam!

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Apple Context Machine: APFS, iOS 11, backups and more

On this episode 429 of the Apple Context Machine podcast, Jeff Gamet and I talked at length about iOS 11, the new APFS file system change that’s already come to iOS and is coming to (some) Macs with High Sierra’s release, T-Mobile and LTE Band 71, backups and more. If you’re looking for an hour to fill with Apple nerdery, please tune in, or whatever the kids are doing with podcasts these days.

Apple Context Machine

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Apple World News: “Get Off My Lawn”

Apple World News podcast

Very pleased to appear on Nerd Radio FM’s “Apple World News” podcast episode 6 with Brian Sutich. We talked about:

  • old Macs
  • new Macs
  • Cool iPhone photography techniques we recently learned
  • Apple news and rumors
  • My personal philosophy on best backup practices, and lots more.

Lots of ground to cover!

All about Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Solid State Drives (SSDs) offer much better performance and reliability than the traditional spinning hard disk drive, which makes them an attractive option for computer users looking to get a bit more bang for the buck from their existing hardware. Got questions about SSDs? I’ve got answers.

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SSDs work differently than hard drives – inside are memory chips instead of moving parts, which is why they work so much faster than conventional drives. Memory prices have dropped dramatically in the past few years, which has lowered the price of high-capacity SSDs, making them a more budget-friendly upgrade solution than ever.

Lots of us have questions about SSDs, however. To help answer them, I’ve written a series of posts over at Backblaze. If you’re thinking about upgrading your current hardware, having trouble with an SSD, or need to get rid of one, I’ve got you covered.

Apple axes AirPort. Now what?

Writing for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman reported last week that Apple has disbanded the engineering group responsible for its AirPort network devices. Some pundits are using this as an example of Apple turning its back on historic customers, but I don’t think it’s quite true. The fact is that the wireless router market has moved much more in Apple’s direction over the years, and these devices just aren’t as important for most of us.

Airport devices

At the time Apple introduced AirPort networking gear, Wi-Fi was still a nascent technology. Apple gradually iterated its AirPort line to the current lineup we see today – the inexpensive AirPort Express, an 802.11n-equipped mini-router with AirPlay streaming audio capability, the faster (802.11ac-equipped) and more capable AirPort Extreme, and its hard drive-equipped counterpart, the Time Capsule. That’s where the product line still is, though it’s worth noting that Apple hasn’t touched any of these products since 2013, with the AirPort Express even further behind.

AirPort products are easy to configure and manage thanks to built-in software on the Mac (AirPort Utility is in every Mac’s Utilities folder). Apple also makes a free configuration tool available for download from the iOS App Store, to help iPhone and iPad users set up and maintain their AirPort products. And in fairness, AirPort products do make life a bit easier if you’re doing things like remotely access your Mac from outside your home network – a feature called “Back To My Mac” – or back up your Mac over the network using Time Machine, the built-in backup software Apple includes in macOS. The AirPort Express is also great if you want to stream music to a stereo system using AirPlay, Apple’s network media streaming tech.

Here’s the problem: Two of those three features I just mentioned are Mac-specific. And while it’s still responsible for generating billions of annual revenue dollars for Apple, the Mac is more and more of a sideline business compared to the iPhone. What’s more, AirPort devices are really expensive compared to the competition.

As I said at the outset, another problem is that non-Apple network gear doesn’t suck nearly as much as it used to. I’ve heard the phrase “Apple-like” applied to the setup and management of a number of different network routers over the past couple of years. It took a while, but even mainstream home networking companies have caught on to the fact that most consumers buying these things are looking for easy setup and as minimal management as necessary – basically plug in and forget.

Finally, the entire home networking market is changing with devices which support “mesh” networking. I won’t get into the difference between mesh networking and how AirPort devices work here, but if you’re interested, there’s a good feature on The Mac Observer which goes into more depth. The bottom line is that mesh networking provides better bang for the buck and more reliable service for many users than what Apple’s gear does.

Ironically, all this comes at a time when J.D. Power & Associates ranked Apple highest among wireless router manufacturers. I wonder if that news gave anyone at Apple pause?

This isn’t the first time that Apple’s walked away from peripheral business that some customers couldn’t imagine the company doing without. Years ago Apple stopped making its own branded printers. In the wake of that decision, Apple also improved support for third-party printers in the Mac operating system. Though it decided to revisit the proprietary route for iOS with “AirPrint” technology, which remains a requirement for printing from iPhones and iPads. More recently Apple stopped manufacturing its own external 27-inch Thunderbolt Display and announced there would be no replacement. Instead Apple’s sending business to LG, which manufactures a larger 5K display with Thunderbolt 3 ports – though it’s in extremely limited release right now.

All this points to Apple consolidating its focus to where it thinks its business is now and will be headed for the future. That’s creating discomfort for those of us who are accustomed to the status quo, but change is inevitable.

I just hope this change is for the better.