This year, I am thankful for everyone who reads my blog. I do appreciate it.
I am also thankful for the many things that I have, including my family and our healthy, and my job.
I am also thankful that, finally, COVID-19 is starting to shift into the background of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 is still a global pandemic and we should still continue to get vaccinated and wear high quality masks where appropriate.
Mastodon is a distributed open-source social network that is not driven by algorithms or junked up by ads. This means that you have a nice chronological feed of posts, called toots, by the people you want to see.
The noc.social server that I joined is a Mastodon community for sysadmins, engineers, and tech people in general. Noc’s Code of Conduct is pretty simple. It all boils down to don’t be a jerk and everything will be fine.
The cool thing about Mastodon is that it doesn’t matter which server you are on, you can still see and talk with people on other servers. This is due to the ActivityPub and other open web protocols.
So far it has been a wonderful experience. Mastodon is full of other retro computing and technology enthusiasts just like me. The Mastodon web UI and iOS/iPadOS apps are nice too.
If you are looking for a replacement for the dumpster fire that Twitter is becoming, Mastodon might be the place for you.
New in iOS 16.0, which many of us are just experiencing for the first time, is the Keyboard Haptics feature.
The Keyboard Haptics feature gives the user and extra form of feedback while typing on a glass screen by buzzing the Haptic motor. In my opinion, turning on key clicks along with the Keyboard Haptics tricks my mind into thinking that I am typing on a traditional keyboard. Nothing replaces the feed of typing on a good keyboard, but the additional feedback just feels good, in my opinion.
To turn on Keyboard Haptics on a current model iPhone running iOS 16.0:
Tap on Settings
Tap on Sounds & Haptics
Tap on Keyboard Feedback
Tap on Haptic
Yes, I am one of those people who leaves the software keyboard click sounds enabled and the Haptic software feedback, I feel, asks a nice touch (no pun intended) to typing on an iPhone.
iOS 16.0 was released back on Monday, September 12, for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone SE (2nd generation), and later. The full list of iOS 16.0 features can be found on the Apple website.
The new Always on Display on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max is a nice quality of life feature that our Android friends have had for some time now.
Except, when you A) are trying to go to sleep and B) need to charge your iPhone 14 Pro on a Qi charger.
Fortunately, you can configure an iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max to turn off the Always on Display with a Sleep Focus so that you and your iPhone can get a good night’s sleep and be recharged when you wake up.
Go to Settings
Tap on Focus
Tap on Sleep
Scroll to the bottom of the Sleep Focus page
Under Focus Filters, tap + Add Filter
Under System Filters, tap Low Power Mode
When you are ready for bed, turn on the Sleep Focus mode, press the Side button (Power button), and then place your iPhone 14 Pro on its Qi charger. The iPhone 14 Pro Always on Display feature will be disabled until you turn off the Sleep Focus mode in the morning.
You can further customize the Sleep Focus mode to fit your needs. I kept mine simple.
If you are so inclined, you can also configure a Shortcut to turn on Sleep mode and specify a time to automatically turn off using the Set Focus script step.
Stephanie Condon, writing for ZDNet has an interesting piece about smartphone data dumping by the US Customs and Border Protection service. According to Condon, the downloading, storing, and potential searches of American’s smartphones came to light by way of a letter sent to the agency by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) about the practice.
According to Wyden, CBP agents get American travelers to unlock their devices and then proceed to download the data into a government-controlled database. He calls such searches “warrantless” and I completely agree. On his official Senate.gov website, Wyden is quoted as saying:
“Innocent Americans should not be tricked into unlocking their phones and laptops,” Wyden wrote. “CBP should not dump data obtained through thousands of warrantless phone searches into a central database, retain the data for fifteen years, and allow thousands of DHS employees to search through Americans’ personal data whenever they want.”
Senator Wyden’s full letter to Chris Magnus, Commission of the US Customs and Border Protection service is available online.
While I agree, all US citizens should comply with legally obtained and executed search warrants, I do not agree with the in discriminant downloading of American’s smartphones just because they are crossing the US border.
One way to protect yourself if to ensure that you have a strong passcode on your iPhone. A couple of words long passcode is a strong defense to unauthorized access to the contents of your iPhone. A 6-digit or longer PIN code in place of a passcode is a good option too.
Strong security and data privacy is a constant trade off with usability. Who want to keep entering a 18-characher passcode/PIN just to unlock their iPhone? Not me. Biometric security, such as Face ID or Touch ID are good tradeoffs for most people. They offer good security and ease of use.
When learning about reports such as the one Wyden is claiming of the CBP, I have to think twice about my personal information data privacy. As we learned with John Eastman, courts are willing to uphold requests to unlock smartphones using biometric systems. What courts aren’t willing to uphold, is the forced compliance with requests for passcodes and PINs.
A good strategy that iPhone owners can use is to hard lock their device by pressing and holding the Side Button (Power button) and either one of the Volume buttons for 3-seconds. This can easily be done while an iPhone is still in your pocket, purse, or bag. Once activated, Face ID, Touch ID, and Unlock with Apple Watch will no longer unlock your iPhone until the owner enters their passcode/PIN code.
Starting with iOS 16, the new Lockdown Mode security feature will help protect customer’s and their data from common security vulnerabilities by trading convenience for security. Most people will never need this feature, but for those who do, it will help protect their privacy. Sometimes, security is hard, but necessary.
Earlier this week, Back Market – a refurbished electronics reseller – had an interesting ad campaign that really caught my attention. As part of their “Hack Market” advertising effort, Back Market, in essence, AirDrop spammed customer and demo devices inside Apple retail locations with a link to their website that promotes the purchase of used devices.
Back Market’s purpose is to purchase used electronics, “renew” them, and then resell the used equipment at a substantial savings to customers. By promoting the purchase of used devices is that it keeps perfectly good devices from becoming e-waste and going into a landfill. In my opinion, this is a win-win for gadget fans. It allows you to get a recent device at a great price and helps the planet. But more on that a little bit later.
According to Romain Dillet and Ingrid Lunden, writing for TechCrunch.com Back Market, based in France, is a marketplace for customers to sell their used electronics and offer them to customers who are looking to save money by purchasing used equipment at varying price points. The company has been established in Europe for several years. Buying used electronics extends the useful life of the device. This use, sell, reuse process has become known as the “circular economy.”
In 2018, Back Market opened an online store front and began operations here in the US. They offer a wide range of electronics including laptops, gaming consoles, cameras, home appliances, and yes, Apple hardware. They even offer a student discount. That’s a pretty cool company if you ask me.
I hadn’t heard of Back Market before this week. Previously, I had purchased used and refurbished devices either directly from Apple, Gazelle, or eBay. So, I watched the YouTube video that is part of the “Hack Market” campaign.
Naturally, I had to check out their website and ended up buying something. Mission accomplished.
I started by looking at refurbished iPads and MacBooks, but I really didn’t have a need for one. I thought that I might buy one and leave it at the office so I had a personal device that I could tether to my iPhone to check email, surf the web, and those sorts of things. But, after some thought, I could just do that on the iPhone 13 Pro Max that was already in my pocket. Then I took a look at renewed Apple Watch Series 6 stock. I immediately gravitated to the Series 6 44mm Stainless Steel Watch. I had been considering trading in my Series 6 44mm Aluminum Nike+ edition towards the purchase of a Series 7 45mm Stainless Steel model. But, wow, the new price even with the trade in was a bit steep given that I have a new Mac Studio and Studio Display on the way.
Back Mark, on the other hand, was selling an Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Stainless Steel watch in excellent condition for $299 plus tax. The refurbished Stainless Watch was on sale for less than a new Series 7 Stainless with an Apple trade in for my current Aluminum 44mm. I thought about it for a couple of days, and I purchased the new-to-me Stainless on Thursday. I picked 3-day shipping. It arrived the next day from New York.
The Watch that I received was, indeed, in excellent condition. Looking closely at the used Watch, I was not able to detect any scrapes, scuffs, dents, scratches, or knicks. Clearly this Watch’s previous owner took as much care of their gadget as I do.
Back Market ships their devices is a standard bubble back mailer. Inside the mailer is cardboard box that has some bubble wrap that contained my Apple Watch, a knockoff Sport Band, charger, and power brick all in inexpensive plastic packing. My first impression was that there was a lot more plastic than I was expecting, but I didn’t think it was excessive. Conversely, Apple’s use of paper packaging is remarkable, however, their refurbished devices are more expensive. I’m chalking up Back Market’s packing methods up to overall operating cost reductions.
I have purchased a lot of Apple bands over the years since the introduction of the original Watch. I also have at least two Apple Watch chargers and power adaptors. So, I set the Back Market accessories aside. I probably will bring the charger to the office incase either I or one of my coworkers forgets to charge their watch overnight.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my purchase and I would definitely buy more renewed electronics from them again in the future. The Back Market website was easy to use. I felt that the prices were reasonable, and as I get older, the idea of refurbishing and extending the service life of our electronics makes a lot of sense.
As it just so happened to turn out, my career in the information technology field started today too. At 8:30am on April 1, 1996, I showed up to work, clutching an Apple PowerBook 100, not sure what to expect. Just like someone traveling down that country road Jobs spoke about on the back cover of the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog.
In some small way, I’m glad that Apple and I can share this date. The Apple //e sparked my interest in computers and that interest grew into a satisfying career for my family and I.
From January 1983 to November 1993, Apple sold the Apple //e personal computer. It was wildly popular with consumers, educators, and even business professionals. Over the Apple //e’s service life, it saw no less than three major revisions – the original //e, the //e Enhanced, and the //e Platinum – and four motherboard upgrades.
For me, it was my first introduction the world of computing and set me on a course to be a life-long Apple fan and IT professional. My parents bought me a second-hand Apple //e in the late 1980s as an upgrade to my first computer, the V-Tech Laser 128, an Apple // clone.
After letting mine go, I still had a soft spot in my heart for the //e. And, while I no longer had my Apple //e, I remained a fan of that early computer and continued to count myself as a member of Team Apple // Forever.
Now, years later, though the magic of the worldwide garage sale website that is eBay, I officially belong to the Apple //e owner’s club again. I am so excited to have one of these popular computers once more that I posted an unboxing and walkthrough video on YouTube.
This year, I am thankful for everyone who reads my blog. I do appreciate it.
I am also thankful for the many things that I have, including my family and our health. And, for the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you still haven’t gotten you vaccine, please consider getting it. If you have already been vaccinated, consider getting your booster shot. It’s safe and it’s free. Help protect yourself, your family and friends, and coworkers.