TECHNOLOGY NOTES

Find Me

Search
Latest articles from Technology Notes

Horns of a Dilemma

UPDATE

Thanks to @tjluoma for alerting me to this update on the linked piece regarding Amazon’s removal of iOS Kindle access for certain titles. Turns out it was a glitch. Thanks, TJ.

Vertical has just been informed by Amazon that the issue with Knights of Sidonia and the company’s other manga titles on the Kindle App for iOS is due to technical issues. Amazon is working to fix these bugs and have stated the comics should be available again in the near future

Amazon understands how this may inconvenience not only Vertical but our collective costumers, so they took the time to call and explain the situation.

If the problem persists or other issues arise regarding Vertical content on the Kindle please send us an ASK with details and we will look into things.

I’m glad this story has a happy ending and that’s a good response from Amazon customer service. I am still a bit squeamish about Amazon’s handling of the Hatchette contract issues and this whole Amazon Fire Phone thing, but at least I can still (for now) read my purchased ebooks across all of my devices. Whew!


It is becoming painfully apparent that what we saw coming in bits and pieces in the last few years is coming to pass. The services that were low-cost or free are starting to exact their tolls and leaving us with some interesting choices.

The services are wide reaching and nearly ubiquitous. Google, the “don’t be evil” benefactor who provided the internet at our fingertips, is killing off widely used but hard-to-monetize products like Reader and pushing ad-driven social media experiments like Google+. Facebook was never shy about dismissing privacy concerns and made it clear that having a lot of users willingly to give them the intimate facts of their lives for free was their business model. Dropbox has hired Condoleeza Rice, clearly no advocate for protecting my privacy. It is discouraging to say the least.

I have written about my loss of trust where Google is concerned and I’ve taken steps to extricate myself from their influence wherever possible. I have dropped Gmail, use DuckDuckGo for searching the internet, moved my calenders into iCloud and have created anonymous and de-identified accounts to access links from friends (like Youtube).

Facebook was always in my doghouse. I saw it as a worthless timesink at best and a massive privacy violation at worst. I created an “anchor” account there to reserve my name but other than that, I haven’t seen a need to log into Facebook in months, if not years.

Up until now, Amazon has gotten a free pass. They sold us cheap stuff and delivered it quickly to our doorsteps. They did such a great job, we didn’t mind the Amazon Prime price hikes and we quietly seethed at the ridiculous lawsuits they goaded the DoJ into bring against Apple when Apple attempted to break Amazon’s monopolistic strongarming of publishers.

Amazon was still seen as useful despite my misgivings. Free two-day shipping has been such a normal part of the buying process for me that paying extra for shipping and waiting 4-5 days seems like an affront. When iBooks DRM made it difficult for me to move the books I purchased to Marvin which, at the time, was providing a much superior reading experience, I decided to stop buying books from Apple and moved back to Amazon. That changed when I bought a Kindle Paperwhite and was relatively happy with the experience. Bookmark sync was a powerful motivator. I could read for a few minutes on my phone or iPad, confident in the fact that when I returned to my Kindle Paperwhite, the last page I read would be remembered.

Cross-platform was the main driver for my reason to buy my books from Amazon. Being able to swap back and forth between my iPad and my Kindle was a killer feature.

But today, Twitter was buzzing with a story that certain publisher books will no longer be available on the Kindle app – just Amazon’s own Kindle devices. We can’t say for sure what Amazon is likely to do in the future but it has certainly given me pause about buying books on Amazon. Their behavior over the last few months has been thuggish at best and their quest for control has put legitimate, paying customer convenience in the back seat.

I lost trust in Google. I never trusted Facebook. I am losing trust in Dropbox. Now, I can’t trust Amazon. I guess “trust” isn’t the right word here – I never really trusted any of these companies to do anything other than act in their best interests. My mistake was thinking that their best interest was doing what was right for their customers. That’s clearly not the case. Good to know.

Losing Apple - Interesting Take

I think Sid O’Neill sums up some insightful points in this piece entitled “Losing Apple”. Admittedly I’ve been thinking a lot of the same things recently. The technology echosphere regurgitates the same facts over and over and, while I admit I read quite a bit of it, I often feel like I am reading to find support for things I’m already thinking.

Unlike O’Neill, I am truly excited and maybe too optimistic about the latest Apple news. The WWDC announcements seem pretty major to me. Some of it is marketing and it is easy to get caught in the afterglow in the afterlight of such events, but the long term effects of the announcements will be felt for years to come. I suspect, given the amount of copying that goes on in the mobile OS space, the changes will ripple through the entire mobile ecosystem in a major way.

O’Neill states:

I really am not trying to condemn anyone for having a lot of interest in the above stuff. I am speaking from a place of sympathy and empathy. My main feeling here is just one of confusion. How did I end up so interested in this? And why would anyone be interested in this?

It’s a fair point. After plowing through dozens of very similar articles I ask myself the same question. Despite the over-exposure, my interest stems from a few specific areas.

  1. I work with teams of developers who make and distribute apps on iOS. Because of this, impacts on the app functionality, distribution systems, and feature extensions have material effects on my coming year. It is a huge deal.
  2. Technology is changing the world and making certain things better. There is a lot of sappy marketing bullshit about technology (the early episodes of Silicon Valley did such a great job of skewering that whole premise) but saying it is all “marketing” is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is some truly life-changing things that have appeared since 2007 in large part due to what happened after iPhone 1 keynote.
  3. With Android copying Apple’s ideas, I like seeing the interesting new ways that Apple pushes the platforms into unknown waters, further differentiating their offering and making it more popular with paying, savvy consumers. That helps me as a developer. While it is clear that Android has made some advances with its latest OS releases, I think Android sucks, Android phones suck and the entire Android ecosystem sucks. I would rather have a more worthy #2 to Apple but Samsung has done such a good job catching the lowest-common-denominator market, I can’t see another #2 emerging.1

While it is true that the last couple of weeks have been a deluge of dubious information for most people, for those whose livelihood depends on the things announced in the 2014 WWDC keynote, it has been a pretty extraordinary series of revelations that we will be feeling the effects of for years to come.

One thing Sid and I can agree on – “Rumor is pointless”

Apple will release what Apple releases, when they release it. The speculation is just vapid mouth-flapping.

Now if you’re excuse me, I need to go tweak my news filters to exclude any mention of “iWatch” and “bigger iPhone”.


  1. The Android crowd has been crowing about the addition of custom keyboards and things that are more widget-like than previous iOS versions. These features represent, to me, Apple’s checking things off of a list to shut up Android devotees who continue to hold these minor features over their heads. To have them embedded as a bullet-point on a slide surrounded by more substantive and sweeping changes seems to back up that idea. “You four people who want custom keyboards? OK you got them… moving on…” What is ironic is that the extension of the keyboard may lead to even more innovation within apps which can now use them to extend their specific functionality. Also, thanks to Apple’s newest inter-app communication protocols, this is all happenening with far more security that Android’s implementation as well, which shouldn’t go unnoticed given the fact that 97% of malware exists on the Android platform (according to a Forbes 2014 report). 

Editorial 1.1 is Out

The new version of Ole Zorn’s Editorial is out. It is a Universal build so if you bought the excellent iPad version, you get the new iPhone version for free.

It is magical. Zorn is a wizard. There is no other possibility.

Viticci has written another comprehensive and quintessential review of the apps and their features and it is well worth checking out if you are on the fence. Pour a big cup of coffee before starting it. It is epic-length and has videos.

Go buy Editorial now. It has finally unseated Nebulous Notes as my go-to text editor on all devices running iOS and it is worth far more than the paltry $6.99USD price tag. Finding the app may be a challenge however since searching for “Editorial” on the App Store yields tons of useless garbage not related to editorials or text editing. I found the app by searching for “Pythonista”, Zorn’s other tour-de-force, and then looking under the heading “Other apps by this developer”. Nice job, App Store. Real nice.

Internet With A Human Face: Ceglowski's Beyond Tellerand Conference Talk

Here’s another great talk by Maciej Ceglowski. This time he talks about some topics near and dear to my heart:

  • Computer memory never forgets
  • We are willingly giving faceless and untrustworthy corporations our data
  • When confronting these facts, we throw up our hands and say “Well, what can you do?!”

He writes with humor and candor and I really love his take on some of the topics which he’s in a great position to give an opinion on. I hate throwing up my hands at the powerlessness of it all, so here are some steps that I’ve taken and maybe you should think about taking too.

  • Stop using Gmail. (use Fastmail instead) I cut the cord almost a year ago and it has been working far better than I had expected it would have. I used Gmail for so long, my mind would spin with “what-if” scenarios whenever I considered leaving the service. Now that it is in my rear view mirror, it feels like a yoke has been lifted.
  • Remove yourself from all social networks1. I still hold on to my accounts on Facebook, Google+ etc, that’s mainly to prevent someone nefarious from impersonating me on them.
  • Store all of your important stuff locally, then encrypt it and back it up (and store a copy offsite).
  • If you decide to use a social network or service, make sure they’re upfront about what they plan on doing with your data. As Maciej mentions, paranoia shouldn’t keep us from benefiting from all of this magical technology – we just need to consider the implications of exposing that data a bit more than we all have in the past. Not all data sharing is bad and not all analysis is pernicious. You just need to pick your spots and go in with your eyes wide open.

From Maciej’s talk:

I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.

What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?

What happens to all that data?

Comforting thought, no? I wish I had given that idea more weight before I uploaded all of my pictures to Everpix. I’m sure they deleted all of the photos I uploaded to their site…right?


  1. Admittedly, I cheat on this one. I still read Twitter although I read it much less than I used to. I also have a secret and anonymous (ha!) Instagram account where I follow things I like. (disturbing fun fact: it is all tattoos, tattoo artists and knives. Take that, Facebook NSA.)