Dump Facebook, Read More Journalism

On the afternoon of October 7, 2018, I made the decision to delete my Facebook account.

I made the decision after realizing that I was tired of the user tracking, the targeted advertising, the prioritization of acquiring political campaign dollars, and the spreading of outright lies that helped to disrupt the 2016 United States presidential election and beyond.

If you are like me and can not fathom the outright lies that are already being peddled as truth on Facebook this coming election year, I urge you to do two things.

First delete your Facebook account. A support article titled, “How do I permanently delete my Facebook account?” on the Facebook website walks you through the process.

I promise you it will not the end of the world. I deleted my account and I have not looked back. Not once have I regretted my decision. I still keep in touch with family and friends by iMessage and – gasp! – calling them on the phone. I also share photos using the shared photos album feature found in the Photos app on my iPhone. Seriously, you don’t need Facebook.

Secondly, I encourage you to read multiple news sources. I’m not talking about the “content” that is shoveled into social media feeds. I am referring to “journalism.” In today’s toxic environment, it is more important than ever, in my opinion, to get local and national journalism from reputable news outlets. Read articles written by people you do not agree with to gain perspective and insight into stories. And then, after taking in good information, be an informed citizen.

I choose to subscribe and read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Time magazine. There are plenty of other places to get great journalism, including CNN, National Public Radio, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune among others. My preferences may not align with yours, and that is ok. Pick the newspapers and news outlets that you prefer, subscribe, and start reading.

Fairphone 3 – The Earth Friendly Smartphone

I recently learned of Fairphone, a smartphone company based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Company

Fairphone, as the company name implies, has at its core the idea that smartphones should be manufactured from a process that is environmentally friendly to the planet and to the people who use them. The materials used to manufacture Fairphone 3, the current flagship phone, relies heavily on recycled materials, fairtrade gold, and business decisions that promote a “more sustainable electronics industry”, according to the company’s website. In short, Fairphone puts people, the planet, and product longevity first.

Fairphone 3 Specifications

But, what about the phone specs? Fairphone 3 is a balanced, modern smartphone that is customer repairable in a way that iPhones just aren’t. Fairphone 3 runs Android 9 and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor. The 3 has a single stock configuration that has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is expandable by adding in your own microSD card, another thing that is not possible with an iPhone. Another differentiator between Fairphones and other major smartphone manufacturers? Fairphone 3 offers a replaceable 3,000mAH Li-ion battery.

The display is a 5.65-inch Full HD+ 18:9 panel. All of the expected radios are built into Fairphone 3. For example, the device supports MIMO 4×2 LTE radios on many of the bands used by carriers around the world, offering 300Mbps and 150Mbps download and upload streams, based on location conditions. Rounding out wireless package are 2.4 and 5GHz Wi-Fi radios, Bluetooth 5 + LE, and an NFC system for contactless payment systems.

Fairphone 3 has a 12MP f/1.8 rear facing shooter that supports HRD and a 8MP f/2.0 forward facing camera. Both cameras have digital image stabilization. The rear facing camera can shoot 4K video at 30fps. In terms of the iPhone, Fairphone 3 is on par with the camera system that is on the 2017 iPhone 8.

Fairphone 3 Repairability

To improve the durability of Fairphone 3, the exterior case is made out of recycled plastic. This is a marked departure from high-end smartphones that use glass housings. If you drop Fairphone 3 on concrete, for example, you pick it up, dust it off, and put it back in your pocket. Dropping a naked iPhone on concrete can be a very expensive mistake if you do not have AppleCare+. A broken Fairphone 3 screen will set you back about €90 ($110) where as an out of warrantee iPhone 8 Plus screen repair will cost about €152 ($169).

Fairephone promotes repairability by including a screwdriver in the box with the phone. The spare parts catalog offers many replacement parts for current and previous models. To demonstrate how serious Fairphone is about self-repair, one of the two accessories included in the box is a screwdriver.

Considerations Before Buying

There are a few considerations that potential customers should make before buying.

The first is where you live. While the Fairphone 3 is widely available in Europe, it is not currently available in North America.

Second, Fairphone 3 runs Fairphone OS. The current version o Fairphone OS is a derivative of 2018’s Android 9 Pie. Given that Android 10 was just released this past September (2019), one can overlook the fact that Fairphone 3 hasn’t received an upgrade to Fairphone OS that is based on Android 10 yet. Still, it is unknown how often Fairphone releases Android upgrades and security patches to customers at the time of this post. On their website, Fairphone promises software updates for five years after a phone is released.

Third is the lack of third-party accessory ecosystem support. For example, I was not able to find any major smartphone accessories manufacture that sold a case for Fairphone. After searching several websites, I finally found Happer Studio, an independent  Lithuanian company, that makes slip covers for Fairphone 2 and as “Universal” size on eBay.

Finally, Fairphone 3 only ships with a bumper case and a screwdriver. Fairphone, the company, believes so much in their dedication to sustainability that they won’t ship accessories that you probably already have such as power delivery capable USB-C cables, charging bricks, or ear buds. (If you want first-party accessories, Fairphone does sell them on their website.)

Conclusion

I like the guiding principles behind the creation of Fairphone 3. I think it goes to show that you don’t have to be one of the top five technology companies in the world to create a product that values sustainability and end-user repair. If you live in a region that Fairphone are available, at €450, you can get a good Android-style phone that allows you to easily replace parts that break over time.

Apple TV – The Device, the App, and the Service

The name “Apple TV” used to mean a single hardware product line from Apple. Today, the name is used for apps found on iOS devices, Macs running macOS 10.15 Catalina, apps on other manufacturer’s smart TVs and streaming boxes, and for Apple’s new subscription-based TV service, Apple TV+. And yes, Apple still uses the name for their expensive streaming devices.

The Devices

Apple TV HD, Source: Apple.com

Apple TV, the Apple branded hardware device, has been around for a long time. It was first introduced by then Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, at the 2007 MacWorld San Franciso event. Back then, Jobs described the device as a “hobby”. The first Apple TV looked very much like a modern day Mac mini – a small, flat grey box. The first Apple TV ran a stripped down version of Mac OS X 10.4. In the 12 years since, Apple has released five versions of Apple TV. Apple currently sells two editions of Apple TV: the 2017 Apple TV 4K ($179) and the non-4K Apple TV HD ($149). Theses devices connect to your TV using an HDMI cable. They can stream your purchases from the iTunes store. If you have a subscription to streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+, or Hulu, you can install their apps. The Apple TV 4K is available in 32 and 64GB capacities. I use a 2015 32GB Apple TV HD almost every day and have not found a reason for wanting to purchase a 64GB model.

The Apps

Apple TV app with The Morning Show, Source: Apple.com

Apple TV, the application, while not as old as the Apple TV hardware line, has been on iOS devices since iOS 10.2, released in December 2016. The Apple TV app was the primary way that iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users played back their iTunes purchased video content. Today, the Apple TV app, has appeared on other devices. Earlier this year, the Apple TV app came to macOS 10.15 Catalina, taking over the role as the iTunes purchased content player from iTunes. Apple TV, the app, also appears on Apple TV, the devices too. In preparation of the launch of Apple TV+, the service, which I will get to in a minute, Apple TV is now appearing on select Samsung smart TVs and third-party streaming devices from Amazon and Roku. Primarily intended to be the delivery vehicle for Apple TV+ streaming content, the Apple TV app on smart TVs and streaming boxes allow you to login to your Apple ID/iTunes Store/Apple TV+ account (they are all the same account) and stream your video purchases too. I recently tried using the Apple TV app on a second generation Amazon Fire TV Stick and it works well for streaming the movies and TV shows that I have purchased on my Mac.

The Streaming Service

Apple TV+ streaming service, Source: Apple.com

Apple TV+ is Apple’s paid video content streaming service. After being rumored for many years, this past November, Apple entered the original content creation and distribution arena. Subscribers to Apple TV+ can watch new original content such as Ron Moore’s For All Man Kind, on any device that can run the Apple TV app. The service costs $4.99 a month. If you recently purchased an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or iPod touch recently, you likely have an option to receive the first year of Apple TV+ for free. Like other streaming TV services, Apple TV+ also has a website: tv.apple.com. The Apple TV+ website works like other streaming service websites. As a test, I logged into the Apple TV+ website using a current version of Mozilla Firefox running on Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux Desktop 19.10 using one of my Apple IDs.

That is a lot of Apple TV hardware, software, and service. Hopefully, this blog post has helped clarify what all of these TV related products from Apple are.