Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

Websites Can Access Your iPhone Sensor Data

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As if apps collecting your personal data wasn’t bad enough, apparently websites in Safari can access your iPhone sensor data.

That mobile browsers offer developers access to sensors isn’t necessarily problematic on its own. It’s what helps those services automatically adjust their layout, for example, when you switch your phone’s orientation. And the World Wide Web Consortium standards body has codified how web applications can access sensor data. But the researchers…found that the standards allow for unfettered access to certain sensors. And sites are using it.

Does Blue Light From Smartphones Cause Blindness?

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Does blue light from smartphones cause blindness? Short answer: No. Headlines claiming that the blue light from our smartphones have been making the rounds. As is usually the case with the media when it comes to science, there’s always greater context (or it’s just downright BS).

The American Academy of Ophthalmology spelled it out recently: No, Blue Light From Your Smartphone Is Not Blinding You. That was in response to a study published this summer that found blue light, plus a chemical naturally found in certain eye cells, could damage cells. The catch: researchers did not use any actual cells from our eyes, because our eyes have defenses against exactly this sort of damage. (They were studying a question unrelated to eye health; the Verge has more on the purpose and meaning of the experiment.)

Here's How to Spot Fake Apple Products

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There are plenty of fake Apple products out there, including chargers that could damage your device. provides some things to look out for.

One of the biggest selling points for counterfeits is their cheap price as an alternative to Apple’s accessories. Good news: There are plenty of legitimate options outside of Apple made by third parties…When in doubt, look out for those “Made for iPhone” or “MFi certified” labels and descriptions to make sure what you’re buying will work as expected.

How Much Does it Cost to Charge an iPhone For a Year?

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ZDNet recently did some interesting research. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wanted to know how much it would cost in electricity to charge an iPhone 6 Plus for a year. He chose this model because it has the biggest capacity battery Apple offers in an iPhone. The result will shock you (pun intended).

On average, during an overnight charge, the iPhone consumed an average of 19.2 Wh. According to figures published by the US Energy Information Administration for January 2016, the average cost per kWh in the US was $0.12. Remember that 1 kWh equals 1,000 Wh. So, take our average of 19.2 Wh per day, multiplying that by 365 days, we get 7 kWh, which works out at $0.84 a year. So if you guess under a dollar, well done.

That’s right, it costs less than a dollar for an entire year. The more you know!

Get Automatic Dark Mode With NightOwl

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NightOwl is a Mac utility that gives you automatic Dark Mode. Like Night Mode, it automatically turns on Dark Mode either based on sunrise/sunset times, or a schedule that you can pick. It lives in your menu bar so you can access it quickly. I’ve been using it for several days now and I love how handy it is. Hopefully Apple copies it some time in the future, because I’m surprised that Dark Mode isn’t already automatic like Night Mode is. In order to improve the App, NightOwl uses Google Analytics to collect Statistics. The tracked data helps to enhance NightOwl by analyzing how features are used and which bugs appear. They initialize Google Analytics with the setting “anonymizeIp”. This guarantees anonymized data collection by masking the last part of your IP address. You are able to Opt-out of the tracking by unchecking “Send Statistics” in the settings section of NightOwl. NightOwl is free to download, and I encourage people to donate to the developers.

Get Automatic Dark Mode With NightOwl

Cloudflare Works to Make the Web More Private With ESNI

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Cloudflare is implementing a feature that encrypts your Server Name Indication (SNI). The new technology will be called ESNI.

But, today, as HTTPS covers nearly 80% of all web traffic, the fact that SNI leaks every site you go to online to your ISP and anyone else listening on the line has become a glaring privacy hole. Knowing what sites you visit can build a very accurate picture of who you are, creating both privacy and security risks.

This is a big change. Basically it will stop ISPs, rogue apps, and advertising companies from collecting and selling your browsing history. ESNI will hide the identities of the websites you visit.

The Secret is Out: Apple Uses This Tool to Clean iMac Screens

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There’s a tool called Vinyl Buddy that is used to clean vinyl records. But it can also be used to clean your Mac’s screen. Mac Geek Gab listener Everett says this is what Apple uses to clean iMac screens by getting the dust off the inside of the screen when reassembling them after repair. And others have confirmed. Instead of using a microfiber cloth, try this tool. It’s a small roller that attracts dust and other small debris. Once it’s full of dust, you just rinse it under running water and use it again. I’m guessing it’s an electrostatic effect because the roller doesn’t have any sort of adhesive on it. You could also try it on your iPhone or iPad, although it might not remove fingerprints. And of course, like the name suggests, it can pick up dust from in between the grooves of vinyl records. We found the tool on Amazon for US$14.99.

How Apple Engineered the iPhone XS Battery

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The iPhone XS battery, as well as that of the iPhone XS Max, are composed of two different lithium-ion cells formed in the shape of an L (in the phone, not your forehead).

By having one big battery instead of two conjoined, you can ditch a little bit of packaging and eliminate the small gap between them, maximizing your capacity. Picture two small train cars in a row. Next to those, put another car that’s as long as both small cars combined. You can fit more into the single, because you’re eliminating two walls and some in-between space. The same principle applies.

We all tease Apple about all of its products getting thinner, but it takes incredible feats of engineering to actually do that. Featured image credit goes to iFixit.

What the Heck is an Artificial Neural Network?

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What is an artificial neural network? They power many technologies such as Apple’s A12 Bionic chip, but what are they? Forbes breaks it down.

Artificial neural networks use different layers of mathematical processing to make sense of the information it’s fed. Typically, an artificial neural network has anywhere from dozens to millions of artificial neurons—called units—arranged in a series of layers. The input layer receives various forms of information from the outside world. This is the data that the network aims to process or learn about.

What I find especially fascinating is how much of a black box an ANN is. This means that while it can figure out a mathematical function, studying its structure won’t tell you what function it’s trying to figure out.

Eric Schmidt Warns the Internet Will Split Apart in 2028

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Former Google chief Eric Scmidt predicts that by 2028 the internet will split into two separate webs: A Chinese version and an American version.

If you think of China as like ‘Oh yeah, they’re good with the Internet,’ you’re missing the point. Globalization means that they get to play too. I think you’re going to see fantastic leadership in products and services from China. There’s a real danger that along with those products and services comes a different leadership regime from government, with censorship, controls, etc.

There’s basically already a separate Chinese internet behind the Great Firewall of China. But the prediction here is that through the country’s Belt and Road Initiative, other countries might follow China’s example. And Google is helping.