The Adobe-created PDF file format isn’t particularly sexy these days, but Ernie Smith of Tedium suggests that it has become one of the world’s most important file formats thanks to its role in providing digital versions of paper documents. Smith documents how most people didn’t understand the point of PDF until the U.S. Internal Revenue Service adopted it in the early 1990s in an effort to cut down on mailing about 110 million tax forms every year. By 2001, the IRS had gone all-in on PDF for tax forms, saving millions of dollars in printing and distribution costs.
Rich Mogull shares the lessons he’s learned over a decade of home automation and how the new “Take Control of Apple Home Automation” book compresses many of them into a neat package.
Navigating the Settings app in iOS has become ever more difficult over the years — did you know there are over 1200 options in it? — but in this installment of Bad Apple, we have a radical suggestion that could make most trips to the top level of the Settings less frustrating: alphabetization!
For the third year in a row, Jason Snell of Six Colors has issued his report card on Apple’s performance, once again polling 50 “writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.” This year, the group includes TidBITS staffers and contributors Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Josh Centers, Michael Cohen, Jeff Carlson, Glenn Fleishman, Joe Kissell, Kirk McElhearn, and Rich Mogull. Overall, the group expressed more positive opinions about how Apple did in 2017 than in 2016, but there were dips in software quality, hardware quality, and handling of social issues.
Jeff Porten kicks off another CES show with the Consumer Technology Association’s trends and predictions for 2018.
It should come as no surprise that Ajit Pai’s FCC has voted to eliminate Obama-era net neutrality rules that prevented Internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing Internet traffic, among much else. At Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin outlines what happened, how we got here, and what comes next. Given the overwhelming and bipartisan support for net neutrality from most Americans, the FCC’s move will likely draw challenges both in the courts and in Congress.
In iOS 11, Apple has changed things so encrypted iTunes backups can now be restored with either the separate backup password or the device passcode. This move reduces security, but it also reduces the likelihood that users will forget the password and lose access to their backups.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web as an “open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries,” but he’s less optimistic about its future than he used to be. “We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the Web will lead us to wonderful things,” he said. In particular, Berners-Lee criticizes Web advertising for its role in creating clickbait and spreading propaganda. “The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy.”
As Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker was instrumental in the company’s eventual success. But now the billionaire tech pioneer has had a change of heart, confessing at an Axios event that “The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” He added, “I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or two billion people… God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Quick — tweet this link! Or not.
Facebook is bigger than ever, but some former employees are despairing about its impact on the world. “Most of the early employees I know are totally overwhelmed by what this thing has become,” an early ex-Facebook employee told Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton. Speaking of Facebook’s potential impact on the 2016 election, one employee told Bilton, “I lay awake at night thinking about all the things we built in the early days and what we could have done to avoid the product being used this way.” Those close to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are afraid he’s losing touch with reality, becoming a “modern-day Howard Hughes.”
The Guardian has published a compelling article about how some technologists who helped usher in the age of smartphones and social media are concerned that technology addiction is making us distracted, dumber, and easier to manipulate. Justin Rosenstein created Facebook’s Like button and helped build Google’s Gchat, but he now takes extreme measures to limit his online activity, even having an assistant manage his phone. “If we only care about profit maximisation, we will go rapidly into dystopia,” Rosenstein said. The article profiles other tech pioneers who share similar sentiments, including Loren Brichter, the Apple alum who came up with “pull to refresh” for Tweetie in 2009. But if wealthy tech workers struggle to pull away from the lure of technology, even with their awareness of the corporate motivations behind addictive technologies, what hope does the average user have?
Apple has updated iTunes, as it often does around this time of year. The new iTunes 12.7 has a few minor tweaks and one huge change: the removal of the iOS App Store. iTunes expert Kirk McElhearn looks at the most significant changes and digs into problems and solutions for those who manage iOS apps from their Macs.
Credit-reporting agency Equifax has exposed the private information of 143 million Americans. Rich Mogull outlines some steps you can take, but they won’t amount to much until the system changes.
In an email to all Apple employees, CEO Tim Cook decried the “tragic and repulsive” events in Charlottesville, saying “We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.” He also announced that Apple would be making $1 million donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. As someone who grew up in the South and once confronted the Ku Klux Klan during a cross burning, Cook finds events like these deeply troubling, but he closed with, “These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.”
Apple’s impressive ARKit developer framework has sparked speculation about the company developing a pair of smart glasses along the lines of Google Glass. In a post on Medium, augmented reality expert Matt Miesnieks explains why Apple-branded smart glasses are likely still several years away. There are numerous technical challenges to overcome, but the biggest obstacle is miniaturizing all the necessary technology into a pair of glasses people would want to wear all day. Miesnieks thinks Apple could introduce the first limited pair of smart glasses with a heads-up display (think of them as an Apple Watch on your face) as soon as late 2018, though he doesn’t see full ARKit-capable glasses appearing before 2021.