Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

Google Engineers Brainstorm About Political Search Tweaks

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An email thread obtained by the Wall Street Journal shows Google engineers talking about political search tweaks related to President Trump’s 2017 travel ban. They specifically discussed using Google search to highlight pro-immigration organizations.

“To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict,” one email said, according to WSJ.

Google said they were just brainstorming. This seems likely to me. Google might favor its own products in search results, but going so far as to interfere with political issues? I’m not so sure. But it made me wonder how easily a roque engineer could secretly alter the search algorithms.

How It's Made: Apple Watch Series 4 Faces

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While not part of the official How It’s Made franchise, there is a short, one minute video that shows how the Apple Watch 4 faces were made. These are the Earth Water, Wind, and Fire faces and they are absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen videos before showing the process behind Apple’s wallpapers. There’s also one for the iPhone XS as well, with the bubble wallpaper. Alan Dye, VP of User Interface Design, said:

We probably could have done this digitally, but we actually shot all of this practically in a studio. What I love about the fact that we did this is that it’s just so indicative of how the design team works. It was really about bringing together some of our various talents to create these faces. There are of course art directors, and color experts, and graphic designers, but also model makers who helped build these structures that we would eventually, you know, set on fire.

Inside the iPhone XS Camera Technology

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Lance Ulanoff has a great piece on Medium where he writes about the iPhone XS camera technology. He talked with photographer Pete Souza about the new iPhones, as well as Phil Schiller, Graham TownsendApple’s senior director of camera hardware, and Sebastien Marineau-Mes, Apple’s vice president of software.

One of the really big things we aim for is the first phone, the 1 millionth phone, and the 10 millionth phone we want that experience to be as close as we can humanly manage, and we put a lot of effort, and it’s not something we talk a lot about… but it’s really important to us that there’s no big variation in performance between any phone anywhere the world,” Townsend said.

Big Cable Asks For More Money, Refuses to Discuss Internet Speeds

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Big Cable companies are asking for more government handouts, and say “now’s not the time” to talk about internet speeds in the United States.

If the speed goes up, the percentage and competition levels go down – and spark uncomfortable questions like: why is the most technologically advanced nation on the planet providing slower speeds to fewer people at higher cost than any other comparable Western economy?

The answer is that U.S. telecoms want it this way. They want as much money from American taxpayers as possible while refusing to do anything. The real question should be: Why do we let corporations get away with so much corruption?

Inside Look at NSO Group iPhone Malware

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Motherboard got an inside look at the NSO Group iPhone malware. It works fast and can infect fully-up-to-date Android phones and iPhones.

The company has a group of engineers dedicated to making sure the company’s tools keep working because cell phone companies are in a constant “war” against government hacking providers “to block all those open windows that allow companies like NSO to go in,” according to the entrepreneur who attended the meeting, who was told that as part of the company’s sales pitch.

Scary stuff. NSO Group sells its products to customers (governments) that target political dissidents, journalists, and even an Amnesty International researcher. It claims the product can’t work in the United States.

Activity Trackers Now Mandatory for John Hancock Insurance

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John Hancock insurance will make it mandatory to have an activity tracker, whether it be an iPhone, Apple Watch, or some other device.

The move by the 156-year-old insurer, owned by Canada’s Manulife, marks a major shift for the company, which unveiled its first interactive life insurance policy in 2015. It is now applying the model across all of its life coverage.

In the past it relied on a reward system for people who had an activity tracker, like gift cards.

Newegg Breach Resulted in loss of Credit Card Data

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A recent Newegg breach lasted a whole month, and hackers stole customer credit card information.

Hackers injected 15 lines of card skimming code on the online retailer’s payments page which remained for more than a month between August 14 and September 18, Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, told TechCrunch. The code siphoned off credit card data from unsuspecting customers to a server controlled by the hackers with a similar domain name — likely to avoid detection. The server even used an HTTPS certificate to blend in.

For the past couple of years I’ve used a service called It connects to my bank account and I can create near-unlimited virtual cards to use with various places. And no this isn’t an ad, I just think it’s a great service. It’s basically a password manager for your money.

Turn Off Notifications Young Lady. Don't Make Me Count to Three

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Turn off notifications. Just do it. They create unnecessary stress and some apps use notifications to whine that you’re not using it 24/7. Especially Facebook.

As our attention is increasingly fragmented and split among dozens of apps, the apps have compensated by getting more demanding of your time. Notifications are no longer used to notify you of anything—they’re used by apps to scream over each other in hopes that you’ll click them.

Our phones don’t control us. In fact it’s the other way around.

Apple Uses Your Phone Calls and Emails for a Device Trust Score

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Apple updated its iTunes Store terms and privacy disclosures. Included is how the company computes a device trust score to prevent fraud.

To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or emails you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase. The submissions are designed so Apple cannot learn the real values on your device. The scores are stored for a fixed time on our servers.

They aren’t full records, rather “abstracted.” It’s not like Apple is going to abuse this information, but at first glance it does seem a bit unusual. Especially for devices like Apple TVs that don’t have email or phone capabilities.

How Edward Snowden Protects Activists Against Surveillance

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Wired has another good article today, written by Edward Snowden. He writes how government surveillance isn’t new.

Born to a mother who was a member of the Black Panther Party and raised in Brooklyn in an environment of political ferment and police scrutiny, Malkia was fighting against the surveillance of activists and people of color before anyone knew my name.

Us white people might not be so used to surveillance, but Mr. Snowden reminds us how African Americans and Muslim Americans have long been targeted by the government.

Good Morning America has a new Tim Cook Interview

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Apple CEO Tim Cook during Mac

Good Morning America has a new Tim Cook Interview. Robin Roberts interviews him and talks about the trade war with China, the price of the new iPhones, the iPhone’s camera, and Memojis.

The iPhone is assembled in China, but the parts come from everywhere. Including the United States, you know, the glass comes from Kentucky, there are chips that come from the U.S., and of course the research and development is all done in the United States.

So, I don’t want to speak for them, but I think they looked at this and said that it’s not really great for the United States to put a tariff on those type of products.