Category: Blog Posts

Just my original blog posts, no links


  • The WWDC24 Keynote is over, and thus, a long first day of sessions has come to an end. To be completely honest, the real highlight of the event was “Apple Intelligence,” a more private, secure, and simpler way to do AI coming to iPhone 15 Pro and Macs with the M1 chip and later. (Editor’s note: I’m a little bummed Apple Intelligence isn’t coming to A14, A15, or A16, to be honest. I’ll never get a “Pro” iPhone, so there’s no way for me to use these features. At least I have them on my MacBook.)

    With this leap, and their partnership with ChatGPT that made billionaire conspiracy theorist and known idiot Elon Musk* squeamish (and eventually Community Noted by his own platform) for whatever reason, I’m certain that Apple has the lead in building AI. Why? Because they’re building it safely and privately, with the user being the most important part. That should be applauded! That’s how it should be done!

    *I’m not linking out directly to his tirade, Elon can go pound sand, but enjoy this funny interaction that I wholeheartedly agree with:

    Also, Elon uses an iPhone to send out all of his Tweets. So, might be time for him to get a new phone if he hates this Apple Intelligence thing so much! Haha.

    Any way, while the AI craze is likely to die out eventually, it’s here to stay for now. My opinion is that technology should be built with user privacy at the forefront of everything, and Apple is one of the leading companies out there when it comes to privacy. Period. Apple is a trend setter, and I’m hoping the rest of the industry follows their lead here. Privacy and security are a really big deal to consumers right now. More so than ever, frankly.

    Now probably the thing I’ve been most anticipating (for over a year now) RCS isn’t available on the iOS 18 beta (yet?), which is incredibly frustrating. It’s probably coming in Beta 2 or something, but part of me doubts they’ll add it. But that said, a large number of features announced on stage aren’t available on any of the new operating system betas released to developers today. It’s quite worrying, considering that besides Apple Intelligence, none of these updates are particularly “huge” so-to-speak. But, we must be patient!


    Overshadowed

    All of that said, this conference was overshadowed by an incredibly bigger issue with Apple right now: their compliance (or alleged lack thereof) with the Digital Markets Act. You still, in iOS 18/iPadOS 18, cannot sideload or install any app you’d like — let alone any third-party storefronts — on the device you paid for outside of the EU. Meanwhile, on Android, you can just install the app and all Google will do is a virus/malware scan to make sure it’s clean. That’s it. No (real) scare screen, no problem.

    Apple should’ve unlocked this functionality for everyone and got ahead of the regulators here. It wouldn’t have solved every issue, but it would have at least made it seem like Apple was trying to work in good faith. Alas… it wasn’t meant to be.

    I’m a firm believer that if you paid for a thing, you should be allowed to do whatever you want with it. Nobody should stop you, or limit how much you can do that thing, or anything like that. And certainly companies shouldn’t be telling you what you can or cannot run on your device, either. I’m hoping that the Courts and/or Congress will step in and fix that soon.

    The Department of Justice here in the States is currently in a lawsuit against Apple, so hopefully we seem them loosening their restrictions (à la macOS). I’m betting we probably will, considering Apple’s partial loss in Epic v. Apple a few years back.

    Regardless, as I write this post in my text editor to send out to you, I’ve updated my M2 MacBook Pro to macOS 15 Sequoia. Along with the rest of the Apple fleet I currently have around me, of course! (Can’t do the Apple TV yet since it’s at a friend’s house, whoops.) But as I mentioned, there’s not a lot new to report on right now–but the betas across the board have felt relatively snappy on iPhone 11, 12, Apple Watch Series 6, and MacBook Pro (M2, 2022). I’ll keep you posted, though!


  • It appears, via a report from 9to5Google, that the company is dropping the ability to contact experts at Google 24/7 for support as a perk for subscribing to Google One. The ‘Support’ tab has been removed from the Android app entirely.

    This news comes after Google announced they’d be killing off the Google One VPN (but keeping it around for Pixel 7 and later users, but not Pixel 6 for some reason…) It feels wrong to do this to their paying customers, but unfortunately, it is all too normal for Google.

    RELATED: I’ve written about the company’s reputation & Pixel update promise(s) before, which you can read here.

    Google needs to understand that Google One needs perks to be successful. I’m saying this as a Google One subscriber. My family pays a pretty penny for increased storage and benefits because we’re Google users. We use Pixels, Google TV, Nest Minis, etc. and we’re very deep in the Google ecosystem. And we have been for years.

    Personally, I believe Google “One” should include the best of Google services in one package, similar to Apple One. Google needs to increase One’s worth, in both senses of the term! That’s my take.


  • With all due respect to Zac — who is an excellent writer and makes some good points in his article — I really feel as though it skims over the real concerns, so I just want to critique a couple points he makes.

    “…the snapshots and strings of text that Windows Recall logs are safely encrypted on your PC using Device Encryption and Bitlocker. This means if your laptop is ever stolen, intruders can’t access the contents of your storage without an encryption key, and they won’t be able to gain access to any stored snapshots without being logged in to your account.”

    While this may be true, encryption does not equal secure. (And a point I’m going to address in a second entirely calls into question the security of the feature at all.) Even so, if you’re actively looking at Recall information and you unknowingly have malware or a targeted virus on your computer, you’re screwed! Oh, and if you hit share on a Recall thing, all someone has to do is eyeball your “C:\Users[username]\AppData\Local\Temp” folder, and boom, they have that information.

    Thankfully, Zac does agree that malware may be a problem. Which is good! That’s a main concern amongst pretty much everyone right now.

    The entire Windows Recall experience is processed on device, which is partly why it requires a Copilot+ PC to function. Microsoft is offloading the resources required to process a feature like this onto the NPU, which is a secure chip that’s powerful enough to handle the processing of snapshots using AI with little power draw.

    This means Windows Recall works 100% offline, and you don’t need an active internet connection to take advantage of it. It doesn’t even require a Microsoft Account, and as a result is missing some quality of life features such as cross-device syncing. None of that is possible here, because Windows Recall does not upload your data anywhere.

    It was recently discovered that Recall works completely fine without any real issue on devices without NPUs, including systems with Intel/AMD processors (though a few dependencies are obviously missing on x86_64 systems.) So whilst the claim that it “requires” a Copilot+ PC to function correctly, that only really means “out of the box.” You can get it working on other PCs, and that’s the real concern.

    Additionally, Recall is not discriminatory about what sort of information it’ll grab. Microsoft themselves have warned it will grab your passwords and banking info. The discrimination feature seems to be integrated fairly well into private browsing on many of the popular web browsers.

    And let me raise you this question: who’s going to use that to check their bank statements or make a purchase every time? Or even use Edge at all, for that matter? Sure, Edge has gotten better since switching to Chromium, but it’s still a bloated piece of trash that hardly anyone trusts, so I’m not entirely convinced it’s a great substitute.

    And yes, you can exclude certain apps and websites from showing up in Recall at all, but I don’t trust Microsoft to respect the damn settings. I mean, the company has shown they don’t respect your default browser (hell, they’ve probably stolen your data without you even knowing). They shove ads down your throat in an operating system you paid for.

    The UK, by the way, is currently launching an investigation into this Recall feature. While it’s unclear why, it’s probably due to all of the concerns raised by users like me, as well as literal cybersecurity professionals. In an interview with SC Media, Patrick Tiquet, VP of Security & Architecture at Keeper Security said:

    “Microsoft’s Recall feature raises a few alarms, including security risks of potentially capturing and store detailed and sensitive information, as well as concerns surrounding invasion of privacy. The potential of sensitive information being stored without proper security protocols, puts your cybersecurity and even your identity risk.”

    Even the malware protection giant themselves, Malwarebytes, chimed in on Twitter with their own thing:

    Encryption, even with the popular BitLocker tool, simply aren’t enough to quell people’s concerns. Even barring the concerns, this feature has some serious privacy and security implications. Can Microsoft, a company known for not caring about user choice (see: Edge forcing itself down your throat, Microsoft not letting you change default browsers easily or uninstall Edge at all, etc.), really be trusted to handle something like this?

    For people like me, who are well-versed enough to know when to sound the alarm and jump ship: this is that time, and we are. I already have, I’m writing this on Pop!_OS, actually. I’ve returned home to Linux for the first time since switching to Windows in 2014 and macOS in 2016. (Though I still use macOS, of course!) I simply refuse to let Microsoft tell me how to use my computer, dictate what browser, search engine, and apps I use on my computer.

    Freedom, privacy, and security matter. I will use 1Password, I will use Firefox, I will use whatever the hell default programs I feel like on my computer. Everyone should have that freedom. End of story.

    I stand behind my claim that Windows 11 is just one of many nails in Microsoft’s coffin. It’s, in fact, a data-collection beast. It’s phoning home to Microsoft, even if you tell it not to. Microsoft is simply masquerading as a hardware/software giant, when it’s actually one of the most successful advertising powerhouses on the planet.

    Why? Because we, the people, believed many of their past lies, and went along with it. Because Windows is “easier” to deal with than Linux (you have a point, but it’s getting easier with distributions like Pop!_OS.) Because games “just work” on Linux (Valve and the Steam Deck are changing this with Proton.)

    So yeah, I can confidently say that Windows is spyware pretending to be “The best Windows yet.” And Microsoft? It’s 100% spyware, let’s just call it what it is. There’s no debate here to be had, either, I think it’s fairly well known that the telemetry is awful and only gets worse as the years go on.

    That’s why I don’t trust Recall or anything that comes out of Microsoft anymore. That’s why you shouldn’t either. Be skeptical. And if you can (not everyone can), leave Windows behind. Go to a Mac, if you really don’t want to touch Linux. Just run away.


  • I have moved a machine from Windows to Pop!_OS, something that has been nearly a year in the making. The last time I used the Pop!_Shop on Pop!_OS, there were a couple tabs for Home – Updates – and a Search button. Now, they’ve replaced those with a search box.

    Where did these go, System76? It took me, an enthusiast user, five minutes to find where you’ve shoved the updates tab. Something I needed almost immediately because ISOs aren’t up-to-date copies of an operating system took me forever to find.

    It’s fine, of course, but it could be so much better if there was a clear place to go for updates again. Just one button to push and get everything.

    In my experience: Pop!_Shop isn’t great about automatically updating packages, or the kernel, when updates are available so manual updates are still necessary. System76, please make improvements to the Pop!_Shop. It’s a great piece of software and it deserves to become even better!


  • My WWDC24 Wishlist

    I usually make one of these every year, so with less than two weeks’ time left to go before Dub-Dub, how about I share what I’m wishing for? Keep in mind, this is all from the perspective of an Android user.

    • A nice design refresh for iOS/iPadOS 18 — bring it more in line with the rest of the OS family! Both have felt more or less the same, or similar, since iOS 7. Shake it up!
    • macOS Big Sur and later icons on iOS, PLEASE. iOS needs to feel less bland and flat.
    • macOS 15 should be improvements focused, don’t cram too much new stuff in. Make battery and other performance improvements. Double down and do some summer cleaning!
    • watchOS 11 could do with some improvements too. Battery improvements on older models, especially…

    If there’s anything else, I’ll update this… but I don’t really care about the other platforms so much. So this what I really, really want! I’m watching the events with a friend on event day, and I couldn’t be more excited! Love WWDC, favourite time of the year!


  • Goodbye Windows, For Real This Time

    Well, I think it’s time to migrate the remainder of my computers running Windows to Linux. I can’t throw my hat behind Microsoft anymore, and frankly, their OS has been awful and bloated for well over a decade now. With the AI features coming to Windows 11 (and even Copilot getting backported to 10), it feels as though Microsoft have decided to borderline infringe on user privacy instead of make quality software people actually feel comfortable using.

    This decision from the company has already resulted in tangible performance hits in my workflow, to the point where my M2 MacBook Pro has become the better option to get things done. I’ve leaned more on a Linux VM inside of macOS than my Windows computer directly, or even the Windows VM I have. Granted, I have a bias due to growing up on Linux (thanks Papa) but it’s still rather depressing, considering I used Windows for years after I moved out of my grandfather’s house.

    Now, I’m no stranger to having wanted this switch before. I linked that blog post there. But I decided to do this “last year” and never actually followed through due to various program compatibility issues. Now, at least according to some threads I’ve found on Reddit along with constant (and massive) improvements to Valve’s Proton compatibility layer, I think I actually have a real shot at making the leap. So I’m going to.

    Today, my only big question mark will be games. But Proton has become so good that I think I can (probably) find a way to make it work for me. I’m really bummed that it has come to this. Uprooting and returning to Linux isn’t something I thought I’d be able to do. Linux and games have never been synonymous.

    To make everything easier, I’ll be adopting Pop!_OS by System76 across the board. I grew up on Ubuntu, so its base is familiar, and the out-of-box support for hybrid graphics is something I need for a couple PCs around here. Plus, it’s made by a company whose mission I firmly believe in, with staff who truly care about the open-source community, AND their users.

    I’ll keep you posted!


  • “Contact sales for pricing”

    There’s that phrase I hate, and I’ve got this really hot take about it: it’s all over the internet these days, and I hate it. “But why, Slade? What’s so wrong with it,” you ask. Well, it’s a barrier to entry for your customers. The more hoops you add between you and your customers, the less likely they are to purchase your product. If you obfuscate your pricing, more would rather walk away than talk to you. In most cases, they have a budget in mind and are just looking for the fastest and most cost-effective solution. They don’t have time, nor want, to talk.

    I’ve run into this a few times in my short time doing freelancing since I graduated high school. Back when I was first doing email for my domain, I shopped around for more “enterprise-y” solutions for email–including hosting on my own servers–because I didn’t want to “just get Gmail.” I ended up doing just that because of all this “contact sales for pricing” bullshit scattered across the internet.

    There are times where, of course, it makes sense to put a human on the other end of the line. More recently, when I was shopping around for an organization to work with in the D.C. area to move my servers from Albany, NY, to Washington, D.C., I had a strict set of requirements that “required” me to talk to someone. I went back and forth for months. The funny thing is that I didn’t even have to negotiate pricing–that was a flat rate that I thought was fair–but I had to give them all this really detailed information over email before even having the OPPORTUNITY to utilize their services.

    They needed to know what I needed, how I needed it done, and frankly all of those things could have just been done in a sign-up flow. I wasted hours of people’s time (including my own) giving them this information that they could have gotten quicker if there was just a quick questionnaire to fill out. (Even funnier: the day I signed the contract, I was in D.C. I could’ve just stopped by their office and did everything there, it was that tedious. )

    Why was any of that grunt work and back-and-forth even necessary, anyway?

    Companies that insist on doing all this grunt work to hinder customers from buying their products will always baffle me. 37signals semi-recently launched Campfire, a service you buy one time and host yourself. They don’t require this song and dance with an “Account Manager” or “Representative” or some other god damn person to buy any products or services from them–you just fill out your information and you’re done. If a company their size can do this in the tech industry efficiently with next to no one babysitting sign-ups, anyone can.

    The fact of the matter is, your “Accounts” staff are better off spending their limited time dealing with new and existing customers, not “potential” customers that you have to screen in. Until Congress or other legislative bodies step in and end this really awful practice of hiding products behind this “Contact sales for pricing” bullshit, it will continue. I think that’s stupid. Be transparent, offer a public-facing form to fill out that generates a quote and/or put your pricing on the internet.

    Or just be content with losing customers. You do you, I guess. But my advice is to stop wasting everyone’s time.


  • Google has a problem: despite being the literal parent of Android, they can’t get Android updates (or substantial Feature Drops) to their products in a timely manner. Yeah, Google, despite your huge media marketing campaigns to the contrary, I noticed the last two Feature Drops have been very… small. Updates have either been consistently late, or never appear at all on their old (or even new) premium phones as they promise to. I think I’ve maybe gotten two new features on Pixel 6 in the last four Feature Drops? That phone isn’t that old, and it was the first Tensor Pixel!

    There’s no excuse.

    I don’t know how Google has managed to fail so spectacularly at literally anything they do. The fact that Samsung is way ahead of Google on Android updates and feature releases that lay underneath One UI is a kick in the balls for Google. Samsung are a third-party that builds on top of Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code, they have no reason to be so far ahead of Google. I cannot understate how bad this is for Google as a company.

    They have no credibility. They consistently shut down services with no recourse and little notice. If they want to fix this problem, I think they need to get aggressive and do the following two things:

    1. Google must match software and hardware support for the Pixel 6 and 7 series, as well as the Fold and Tablet, to that of the Pixel 8. 7 years total, across the board, from the original launch date. They need to prove their commitment to their Tensor hardware and software experiences, this is how they do that. I’m not saying they need to bring every feature (that’s certainly not feasible), but if some Pixel 8 features can run on Pixel 7, there’s no reason they can’t run on Pixel Tablet or even Pixel 6 depending on complexity.
      • Pixel 6 has barely received any new features besides OS updates since launching in October 2021. It is planned to be barred from feature updates in October 2024. That is unacceptable.
    2. With Android 15, non-Tensor Pixel devices will be unsupported on Google’s own flavor of Android (“stock” as it’s commonly called). This is the perfect opportunity to reimagine feature drops. Put more in there for those on older devices! Keep them alive and kicking. Not forever, but at least until the end of their limited shelf life. Less e-waste is a great thing for the environment, you know!

    Google has a bit of a reputation problem. I don’t know if they have a team in charge of killing services or something, but it seems to happen a lot, and there’s a graveyard dedicated to them at this point.

    I hold Rick Osterloh and Dave Burke, who essentially lead Pixel and Android respectively, in high regard. They’re awesome to the Android community and always have been! But, they need to get on their A-game if they want to restore their reputation. Articles like this one from Android Authority, which accuses Google of breaking their promises, shouldn’t be cropping up. It’s time to take control and do right by their consumers and community.


  • It should come as no surprise that I don’t like Microsoft. I grew up on Ubuntu Linux, but was forced to use Windows when my parents got married. We had XP on the family computer, and then I eventually got my own computer that had Windows 8.1 (later downgraded to 7 literally for Aero Glass) on it.

    In 2016, I switched to Mac and haven’t returned to using Windows as my primary OS ever since. macOS and I have become very well acquainted over the years. That said, I have always kept a Windows computer around, mainly just for games. The two Windows computers I have now still run Windows 10. There are good things about 11 (the design is actually really pretty) but I think the performance is a significant downgrade from 10 and 7. I have fast computers so that they go fast. 11 is not a “fast” version of Windows.

    I also hate how they shove Edge down your throat, disrespect your defaults, collect your data and advertise to you (despite the fact that the OS is literally paid), among other things. I worry about the implications of that fact…

    Until 2022, I used a 2014 Mac mini and 2011 MacBook Pro (the latter with patches to get it relatively up to date) in combination with each other for a while. Both had SSDs, and I kept everything synced over iCloud so it was easy to drop a project on one computer and pick it up on another. AirDrop was indispensable to me in high school, and having my Mac be able to interact (without setup!) with my iPad and other devices was super helpful.

    In 2022, I switched to Apple silicon — M2, specifically. My tiny 13-inch MacBook Pro absolutely obliterates both of my other x86_64 based computers running Windows 10. Combined. And the Windows 11 VM I have in Parallels also leaves those computers in the dust, too. ARM certainly isn’t a new thing — Linux enthusiasts like me have enjoyed the benefits of it for years now — but Apple has absolutely found their way here.

    Apple isn’t free from criticism. No one is. But they have an advantage here, and they deserve to be applauded for making decent software. (Even if the new System Settings app introduced in macOS 13 is a joke.)


  • It’s official, Apple has shuttered Epic Games’ ability to create an “alternative app marketplace” on iOS–shutting down their Swedish developer account on the 6th of March. It seems that Tweets critical of the company by Epic Games‘ CEO recently may have sparked the response. Despite Epic Games trying to operate in good faith with Apple, the multi-trillion dollar company chose a path of bad faith: shuttering the competition before they even stood a chance. It’s sad to see–I’ve spent several years now as an Apple customer, even recently switching back to using their devices primarily, but now I can’t trust them on mobile.

    The biggest reason is that developers are going to stop trusting them soon enough. Frankly, Apple is becoming the very thing they sought to destroy almost forty some-odd years ago. The fact that they’re becoming more and more litigious is enough evidence, to be honest.

    The company is simply on a power trip, fueled by a hunger for control and dominance over every industry in which they take part, even if that means costing themselves a significant amount of goodwill among their vast community of developers and enthusiasts. At least Microsoft’s former CEO Steve Ballmer understood that developers mean everything to a thriving platform. That said, Ballmer was controversial as a CEO, and most of that reputation is his own fault.

    Every move the company has made, from RCS support and beyond (especially recently), has been done in a way that is nothing short of malicious compliance. Developers from across the industry, including several third-party developer alums, have come together and spoken out against these moves. Whether it’s independently, or through the Coalition for App Fairness, or through some other alliance.

    Spotify, for example, is a member of the Coalition whose CEO was incredibly vocal against the proposed DMA rules set forth by Apple. They released another letter to the European Commission on Apple’s “lack of DMA compliance” just last week. Apple responded, with an incredibly anger-filled press release on Monday:

    “Today, Spotify has a 56 percent share of Europe’s music streaming market — more than double their closest competitor’s — and pays Apple nothing for the services that have helped make them one of the most recognizable brands in the world. A large part of their success is due to the App Store, along with all the tools and technology that Spotify uses to build, update, and share their app with Apple users around the world.”

    Keep in mind, the EU recently fined them €1.84 billion EURO ($2 billion USD) as a result of the anti-trust litigation between them, Spotify, and this is just a result of their distaste in their loss. The fact of the matter is–the Apple beast has become too powerful. We, the consumers, have given them this power–and we’re the only ones who can seize it once more.

    Google isn’t exactly a saint either, to be clear. They’ve had their own myriad of bullshit and muddy bodies of antitrust and litigation of all sorts that would take ages to wade through. However–Android has, and will continue to be, an open platform in both source and user choice for as long as the Android Open Source Project exists and smartphone manufacturers (who aren’t Apple) continue making phones.

    For Apple to succeed in interfacing with developers in the long-term–beyond their evangelists and most dedicated users who have zero understanding of how Android, Windows, or Linux works–they must stop alienating them and being so disrespectful when given constructive feedback. I’m not sure why their knee-jerk reaction is to play the victim card so much, especially when I’m sure they have a million other cards to play, but they continue to choose it.

    For sympathy? Probably.

    I believe it’s time for us iOS users to rebel in the only way Apple has given us the ability to do: take our business elsewhere. The grass is certainly greener on the other side of the wall. Even DHH, a well-known lover AND critic of Apple (being an Apple evangelist for a long ass time–perhaps 99% of my life–will do that), has switched to Android and Windows and has no reason to leave for a while.

    Wild that we’ve gotten here. I’m doing the same thing, too–plotting my course out of the “ecosystem.” Perhaps it is that time. If Apple has a sincere change of heart, sure, but I don’t think developers are going to stick around for long with their attitude lately. Without developers, a platform is nothing. Without COMPETITION, a developer is nothing. If Apple truly is seeking to destroy both, iOS may as well be deemed irrelevant now.

    Unless you want to eventually be stuck without any third-party apps in the future… I’d start looking at your options and plotting your exit plan. Samsung Galaxy S is probably the closest choice, but Google Pixel has a great line, too. That’s my take.