This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2013-12-09 at 2:59 p.m.
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ExtraBITS for 9 December 2013

by TidBITS Staff

We’re back from Thanksgiving break (sorry for forgetting to warn you of our week off!) with a heaping helping of ExtraBITS. Google has made it easier to move away from Gmail and Google Calendar, President Obama revealed that he’s not allowed to have an iPhone, the value of enterprise hard drives has been questioned, and developer Matt Gemmell explains why one device doesn’t fit all. Apple’s restrictions are putting a chokehold on Smile’s TextExpander touch, there’s a new guide to writing on the go, an Esquire reporter broke the rules of Google Glass to see what would happen, and we have more behind-the-scenes stories from Apple Geniuses.

Google Simplifies Exporting Gmail and Google Calendar Data [1] -- Worried about being able to extract your data from the Googleplex? Google has now added Google Calendar export to Google Takeout, which enables you to download a copy of all your data from 16 Google services. Even more important will be Gmail export (rolling out over the next month), particularly for those who are still having trouble with Apple Mail in Mavericks not playing nice with Gmail. We’d like to see all companies with cloud-based services offer similar data export options.

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iPhone Not Secure Enough for the President [3] -- President Obama has admitted that he isn’t allowed to have an iPhone, due to security concerns. Instead, the president uses a BlackBerry outfitted with secret encryption devices. President Obama was famously a BlackBerry fanatic when elected in 2008, and had to fight with the Secret Service to keep it.

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Are Enterprise Drives Worth It? [5] -- Cloud backup service Backblaze has conducted another study of hard drive reliability, this time pitting consumer-grade hard drives against the more expensive enterprise-level disks. Over the span of three years, 4.2 percent of the consumer drives failed, while the enterprise drives suffered a 4.6 percent failure rate. The caveats are that Backblaze tested 14,719 consumer-grade drives against 368 enterprise drives, and the two sets were used for different purposes. While more data is needed to compare longer-term reliability, Backblaze noted that longer warranties are the one clear advantage of enterprise drives.

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Acknowledging Compromise: No One Device Fits All Situations [7] -- In this article, which originally appeared in Jim Dalrymple’s The Loop Magazine, Matt Gemmell makes the compelling point that we have six categories of consumer computing device (primary work machine, portable machine, tablet, smartphone, gaming device, and reading device), and we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that any one is — or could be — best in all situations. While financial or physical limitations might artificially restrict your options, the piece offers a modern reminder of the age-old adage about choosing the right tool for the job.

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Smile Struggles to Make TextExpander touch Acceptable to Apple [9] -- First, Apple changed how persistent pasteboards worked in iOS 7, breaking the integration between Smile’s TextExpander touch and the numerous apps that supported Smile’s text expansion utility. Then Apple rejected a version of the app that stored shared snippet data in long-past completed reminders (not surprising — it was a serious hack). Smile has now worked around the problem by using x-callback-url in TextExpander touch 2.3, but the downside is that you’ll need to do something to acquire and update snippet data in each supported app. This situation captures perfectly the tension between Apple’s push for complete security and users’ desire for apps to work together.

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Find Holiday Gift Ideas in “The Mobile Writer” [11] -- Our tech-journalist colleague Julio Ojeda-Zapata has turned his attention to answering the question of whether one can write effectively on mobile devices in his latest book, “The Mobile Writer.” Although it’s available only for the Kindle at the moment (EPUB and print to follow), the $2.99 title is otherwise ecumenical, covering Android tablets, Chromebooks, and Windows mobile devices in addition to the iPad and iPhone gear you’d expect. The key utility of the book at this time of year lies in its recommendations for accessories and writing apps for the textually active folks on your holiday list.

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Google Glass: Doing It Wrong [13] -- In Esquire, Google Glass Explorer A. J. Jacobs describes his mission to do everything with Google Glass that his Google handlers told him not to do. He used the controversial wearable to read Moby Dick, cheat at poker (he gave the money back), and help a friend talk to the opposite sex.

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More Gonzo Tales from the Apple Store [15] -- The pseudonymous Apple Genius “J. K. Appleseed” returns to McSweeney’s with stories submitted by fellow Apple Geniuses. This brief anthology includes a hotshot “pickup artist,” a visit from a homeless man on New Year’s Eve, a song trapped in a USB cable, and how sensationalist Apple stories can be harmful.

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