The Value of Space

Why I Love Saying No

It’s an amazing thing when the way we spend our time genuinely shows what we want out of life. It requires the space to think clearly, to part with the excess, (physical or otherwise) and be present with the things that remain. It is by no means easy, but it is worth every second.

People often feel that “no” is a bad word. I find it to be quite the opposite — it’s liberating.

Inspiration

Nike’s Quest to Beat the Two-Hour Marathon Comes Up Oh So Short

But, despite the hype, despite the shoes, despite the millions of dollars of investment, despite the rigorous application of the latest scientific thinking and bio-mechanical analysis, and despite the mammoth effort of Eliud Kipchoge, the world’s best marathon runner, Nike’s much-publicized attempt to break the two-hour marathon mark came up short this morning at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza outside Milan, Italy. It was a close-run thing, but the two-hour marathon remains unbroken, for now, with Kipchoge finishing his marathon in 2 hours and 25 seconds.

I don’t care if it’s 25 seconds or 5 minutes too short — this was amazing and inspiring to watch. Certainly was worth it simply for the motivation.

Another Death on Everest

Ueli Steck Dies in Fall Near Everest

Ueli Steck, the Swiss climber known for his speed attempts and several notable first ascents, died on Sunday, April 30 while climbing in Nepal. He was 41 and died in a fall near Everest, according to Reuters. Steck was in the area preparing a new route: he would ascend to the summit of Everest via the West Ridge, then proceed across the South Col to 27,940-foot Lhotse.

Every year it saddens me when accidents (either by natural disasters or by people) occur on Chomolungma. An incredibly tragic death, that always reminds me of my time there and that every moment is precious.

Little Things

Personalization, at it’s best

I love when I get an email that starts with “Dear [FirstName]”. Makes me feel like a valued customer.

Choose What Is Killing You

Find What You Love and Let it Kill You

So the better question isn’t when you’re going to die. It’s what are you choosing as your vehicle to get there? If everything you do each day brings you closer to death in its own unique and subtle way, then what are you choosing to let kill you?

There’s only so many minutes in each hour, and hours in each day, and every day there’s a finite amount of things that you can let weigh you down. It’s incredibly freeing to choose what is killing you.

Instagram

Raising The Snapchat And Instagram Generation

The dynamic of social currency on Instagram, and how it translates into real-world social standing in junior high and high school, is unavoidable for kids. They either ignore the service entirely (to their social peril), or play the game and chase the likes. I thought I had it tough when I was a teenager in the ’90s.

I’ve always wondered why my son adds, then delete’s photos on Instagram. It turns out, that it is super un-cool to have photos with only a few likes.

The iPad Nano

Some great things come in small packages

Sometimes the simplest solution is just right in front of you..

It’s been a while since I have written about using the iPad Pro as my primary machine so I thought it would be as good time as any to give an update on where my head is at.

To be honest, the cracks in this whole plan have been forming for a while now. While I’m certianly not the first person to post about it, the interesting bit is that the iPad itself really isn’t the problem — it’s 100% the software at this point.

Watching my computing habits during this transformation has also been particularly interesting. Similar to my laptop usage, the iPad Pro was sitting in my bag throughout the day — only to get pulled out at night at a hotel, or around the house for reading. I started to wonder if it’s time to go all-in and experiment a bit with what I call the “iPad Nano”… yes, the iPhone 7plus.

Would this work?

Let’s take a look what the normal computing needs are:

  • Would I attempt to create a Keynote on it? Nope.
  • Try and write a huge manuscript? Not a chance.
  • Take notes during day, respond to emails, check off items in Todoist? Sure thing!

Sure — I still have my “desk-bound” laptop with a huge-ass monitor when I need to do the heavy lifting; but really, most of my day (and I realize this is really a “what do you do all day” defining problem) could easily be tackled by the phone — and that “the best computer is the one you have with you”.

I still fundamentally agree with what Ben Brooks said:

But the truth of the matter is that it’s a laptop, and as much as you disagree, a laptop is not the future of computing, it’s the ancient hold over.

I continue to gravitate to a future where problems and tasks are best solved with the device that is in your pocket.

Sure — just for kicks — I may experiment with a small portable keyboard thrown into the bag for typing long form at night (Ulysses is simply the best), but I may go ultralight for a bit.

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads..

All of this time spent noodling on how I compute, makes me think a bit about what Apple is going to announce at WWDC this year — it would be interesting if I could just plug my phone into a large monitor use a keyboard and mouse (it has enough processing) and then just take it with me when I need to.

But the real question is where this leaves the iPad?

I do like reading on it. I like using it for the day to day. And, frankly if there was an iPad Mini 5 I would probably just go with that. It’s really sad because I sincerely believe that the iPad could have (and, who knows, still might) transform the computing market — it kneecaped itself by limiting it’s usefulness as being treated as a large iPhone. We already have one of those.

Go Dark: Mac Edition

Blackout.

Your privacy is (not) an illusion

As someone who has not only been interested in “the security aspect of cyber” and the implications for personal privacy for quite a long time, it’s facinating to watch the world become slightly more aware of what really happens to your data when you’re using your computer, mobile phone, tablet device, internet-connected-fridge, etc.

The security (or the lack there-of) with regards to the “connected age” is just starting to light on fire with the public, and unfortunately there will most likely be some real ramifications that will hit people in the next few years.

While I am not advocating that you need rush to the store and buy a tinfoil hat, as a user of technology, I think it’s important to understand what information you are giving up — either willingly or unwillingly — to those that want to monetize off of your habits and social networks, or even worse; those who have ill intent towards any and everyone.

The tech industry has always slapped labels on this type of data collection as “big data” or “personalization” or “data science” — and sure, I agree — there is value in some basic level of understanding what a user is doing to augment and enhance the experience of whatever you’re doing. But i’d argue there are ways to do same type of enhanced experiences without collecting every little personal detail about you.

Anyways — I thought I would put a few words down on some tools you can use to see under the hood on what those apps are collecting. I’ll handle mobile in an upcoming post, but for now, let’s see what’s going on with your home computer.

Internet Traffic

Little Snitch — Have you ever wanted to see the traffic that every application (even system processes) is sending from your computer? Little Snitch is the answer.

little snitch will scare the crap out of you

Little Snitch also allows you to control that data collection: you have the ability to block (or allow) every little network call that is made from your apps. You’d be shocked how many applications send data over to Google Analytics. The warning on Little Snitch is that it can get incredibly noisy. It will be somewhat shocking to you when you first install it how much data is flying off your machine to the cloud. But with some tuning, you can really get things under control with a little work.

Ghostery— Best ad-blocker out there with extensions for almost every major browser. I have this on, blocking every social network beacon and data tracker I can find; but it sometimes causes odd side effects. For example, I can’t even log into xbox.com with this on. (note: Ghostery supports per-site whitelisting)

Communications

After the election, the question people asked me the most about was how to lock down their communication and instant messages.

iMessage — For the casual user, iMessage does already offer a reasonable amount of security on each message. Apple doesn’t have the encryption keys for messages, encrypts each message in transit, etc., but the security field usually dings Apple as there’s no way to confirm independently that there’s no one eavesdropping on the encrypted session. In addition, Apple doesn’t open up it’s encryption code to outside reiew.

So what’s the other options?

Wire — Wire is a relative newcomer to the encrypted messaging space. It has end-to-end encryption for its text, voice and video communications, runs everywhere from a browser to your iPhone to your iPad. No ads. No profiling. It uses a fingerprint comparison to verify the digital identity of other users. Wire also open sources its code. See 1.15.17 and 1.16.17 updates.

Signal — Signal is probably the most well known of the encrypted messenger applications. Built on Open Whisper Systems, all messages sent over Signal are end-to-end encrypted, and they don’t store the keys to decrypt them. Signal’s source code is also open-sourced, and they store little-to-no data on you or your communications. Even in your backups, messages aren’t included.

Several folks also recommend using WhatsApp, which is built upon the same Open Whisper system that Signal uses. The “issue” with WhatsApp is although they do not have access to the messages you send, they can read metadata which includes time stamp of each sent and received message, mobile phone numbers and the time stamp of delivered messages.

As for other system such as Facebook Messenger, just don’t bother if you’re looking for privacy.


Update 1.15.17: After reading through this post on how private messengers handle key changes, I would not recommend Wire until they fix/alert when a remote key is changed. Signal still seems to be the best. Bummer, I was really starting to enjoy Wire.

Update 1.16.17: Wire responds, and now I’m more intrigued. Going to keep an eye on this to see how it shakes out, as I really like Wire.


File System

Little Flocker— You can think of Little Flocker as “protection against ransomware, spyware, and misbehaving applications”. It does real-time protection (similar to Little Snitch) against unauthorized access to your files, alerts you against ransomware, spyware, or other programs that might attempt to steal, encrypt, or destroy your personal files. It also protects USB sticks from being accessed by applications without your permission.

Like Little Snitch, I find Little Flocker to be an essential tool — but it’s VERY noisy. It requires some serious tuning/personalizing to be effective.

BlockBlock — BlockBlock continually monitors certain persistence locations and displays an alert whenever a persistent component is added to the OS. More simply — it looks for software that’s installing itself in such a way that it will always be running and will restart after a system reboot — similar to most malware.

Cameras and Microphones

MicroSnitch— I use MicroSnitch instead of putting tape over my webcam.

Sure, tape can help with your camera — but what about your microphones?

This simple app sits in the background, and notifies you whenever your camera or microphone gets turned on. Nice and easy.

Everything else

If you want to go really hardcore, check out “The Practical Guide to Securing macOS”. Most of the suggestions in there are going to go beyond what a normal user will do, but it’s a great read.

Next time, I’ll dive into an even worse source of data collection: your phone.

Smacking My Head Against The Desk

3 weeks of sync problems with Apple Notes

.. or “how to fix Apple Notes and Mail sync problems”

Special thanks to dsobeski for sending this my way.

Hopefully, this quick trick will help save someone else the endless hours of pain and suffering I endured.

As you may have remember from my year end post, I have ditched Evernote and have moved back to Apple Notes. While not as robust as Evernote, it gets the job done and is quickly getting there in terms of features.

However, about a month ago the new MacBook Pro decided that it would no longer update any of my notes. After struggling with it for a few weeks (and even toying going back to Evernote to solve it), this simple solution cured all my ills.

If you are experiencing weird issues sync’ing your Mail or Notes, there turns out to be an incredibly simple way to “reset” it:

  1. Close Note and Mail
  2. Erase ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes
  3. Erase ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Mail
  4. Restart your computer
  5. Go to iCloud in your System Preferences, Disconnect and reconnect yourself.
  6. Run Disk Utility and Repair Permissions.

Enjoy !