Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

Could We See a US Digital Dollar Soon?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Image of a digital dollar

So right away, the answer to my headline is “probably not.” The article I’m linking to says language of digital dollars was removed from the final version of the stimulus package. But I think it’s worthwhile to think about.

The bill establishes a digital dollar, which it defines as ‘a balance expressed as a dollar value consisting of digital ledger entries that are recorded as liabilities in the accounts of any Federal Reserve Bank or … an electronic unit of value, redeemable by an eligible financial institution (as determined by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System).’

Now may not be the time to introduce entirely new technologies, especially if they slow the release of the package. But I personally like the idea, although I don’t advocate for a completely cashless society as I’ve mentioned before.

Neato Robot Vacuums Can Be Controlled With Siri Shortcuts

· Andrew Orr · Link

Neato Robotics announced today that it added support for Siri Shortcuts within its app. This means you can start controlling your robot vacuum with your voice.

By connecting your Neato to Siri Shortcuts, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, you can simply start cleaning just by using your voice.

I’d love to get a robot vacuum some day. In the meantime, if you have one of these products, try controlling it with a shortcut on your HomePod, Apple Watch, or iOS device.

Plugable Launches 2.5Gbps Ethernet Adapter

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Plugable announced today a new 2.5Gbps Ethernet adapter as a way to increase your Mac’s wired internet speed (when used with a Cat 5e cable). It includes a USB-C to USB-3.2 adapter to give you flexibility based on your computer ports. Specifications: Realtek RTL8156 Chipset; USB Connection: USB-C or USB 3.0 with attached adapter. SuperSpeed USB 3.0 / USB 3.1 Gen 1; Transfer Rates: 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T, and 2.5GBBASE-T (IEEE 802.3bz) with Auto-Negotiation; Compatibility: Windows 10, 8.x, and 7, macOS 10.7 and above, Linux Kernel 3.2 and above. The adapter is US$39.99, but the company is offering it for US$29.99 if you buy it through Amazon and use the promo code 25ETHERNET starting March 25 (U.S. customers only).

Plugable Launches 2.5Gbps Ethernet Adapter

Apple Releases 13.4 Update for iOS and iPadOS

· Andrew Orr · Product News

Apple just released the latest update for its operating systems: 13.4. It includes a redesigned system to support mice and trackpads, changes in Files, and more.

Backblaze Now Stores One Exabyte of Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Cloud storage company Backblaze recently announced a milestone: It now stores one exabyte of data in its servers. Exabyte isn’t a word most of us come across often, so here’s a comparison: Gigabyte = 1,000 megabytes, Terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes, Petabyte = 1,000 terabytes, Exabyte = 1,000 petabytes or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.

But, while it’s great to keep our eyes on the future, it’s also important to celebrate what milestones mean. Yes, crossing an exabyte of data is another validation of our technology and our sustainably independent business model. But I think it really means that we’re providing value and earning the trust of our customers.

An astounding figure. Even more astounding is the fact that they’re already prepared for zettabyte-level storage, which is the next step up from exabyte. One zettabyte = 1,000 exabytes.

Cellebrite Releases Report of Digital Intelligence Trends 2020

· Andrew Orr · Link

Forensics company Cellebrite, mainly known for its iPhone hacking capabilities, released a report of top digital intelligence trends for 2020. One thing that stuck out at me:

…over 70 percent of officers are still asking witnesses and victims to surrender their devices…However, most people do not want to have their primary communication device taken away for an indefinite period. To combat this issue, 67 percent of agency management believe that mobility technology is important or very important to the agency’s long-term digital evidence strategy and 72 percent of investigators believe it is important to conduct in-the-field extractions of this data.

In other words, it sounds to me like LE wants the capability to extract data from devices on site, instead of sending it to a lab. Fast action is important for LE, but it may also be too fast for people to think about those pesky rights they have before handing their phone over.

Lawyers: Turn off Alexa and Google Home Before Confidential Meetings

· Andrew Orr · Link

Lawyers who are working from home are encouraged to turn off devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home because these products may eavesdrop.

“Perhaps we’re being slightly paranoid, but we need to have a lot of trust in these organizations and these devices,” Hancock said. “We’d rather not take those risks.”

The firm worries about the devices being compromised, less so with name-brand products like Alexa, but more so for cheap knock-off devices, he added.

It’s definitely not just cheap knock-offs.

Check Out ‘Big Library Read’, an Online Book Club

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Big Library Read is an online book club from OverDrive. It connects readers from around the world with one eBook at a time and offers a place to share your thoughts, comments, and questions of the book with other readers.

This round’s title is Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic, a memoir written by stand-up comedian Michael McCreary who shares his experiences of living on the spectrum and dealing with trying situations as someone who doesn’t “look” autistic.

I think it’s a great idea, and be sure to download the Libby app so you can borrow books from your local library.

Check Out ‘Big Library Read’, an Online Book Club

Government Excludes Apple Watch From Tariffs

· Andrew Orr · News

The U.S. Trade Representative approved Apple’s request to exclude the Apple Watch from U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese goods.

Are Camera Apps Worth the Expense?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Alex Coleman writes about camera apps and why they’re probably not worth the purchase.

After shooting extensively with the latest versions of some of these apps, including an in-depth comparison against the stock camera app, I don’t believe there’s much value in keeping them installed. Put simply, the phone manufacturers have added enough “secret sauce” to their imaging pipeline that an app just won’t create a better quality image, in most cases.

You know, I have to agree with this. Just based on my own experience, I’ve used a ton of different camera apps over the years, and eventually stopped using every single one, until now I stick with Apple’s built-in camera app.

Apple Books Gives Out Free Books and Audiobooks

· Andrew Orr · Product News

On Sunday Apple customers may have noticed a notification from Apple Books. It offers free books and audiobooks for the whole family.

Should We Ban Targeted Advertising?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Gilad Edelman asks an important question at Wired: Why don’t we just ban targeted advertising?

The solution to our privacy problems, suggested Hansson, was actually quite simple. If companies couldn’t use our data to target ads, they would have no reason to gobble it up in the first place, and no opportunity to do mischief with it later. From that fact flowed a straightforward fix: “Ban the right of companies to use personal data for advertising targeting.”

Instead of, or in addition to, banning or restricting targeted advertising, I think we should go a step further and restrict data collection, which is what these companies use for these ads in the first place. When any startup without a track record can enter the business of collecting and selling our personal information, that’s a problem.

Manfredi Gioacchini Used an iPhone to Document Climate Change in Antarctica

· Andrew Orr · Link

Photo of an iceberg

Documentary photographer Manfredi Gioacchini is documenting climate change in Antarctica. His tool? An iPhone.

“Most of the usage was related with video recording, in fact the audio of the new phone is incredible,” says the photographer. “That’s important in matters of the climate change… capturing the sounds of icebergs breaking down…”

He also managed to take advantage of the phone’s Night Mode, though it wasn’t necessary for most of the trip, since the sun never dipped below twilight. Scroll down to see Manfredi’s photos for yourself.

Important work, and also beautiful.