What I’ve read recently – December 18, 2020

Each week I post links to a few articles that I’ve read and found deserving of sharing.

Links

My Hunt for the Original McDonald’s French-Fry Recipe | Atlas Obscura

This is a fun read especially if you’re old enough to have eaten the original McDonald’s French-Fry as I did.

From Julia Child to Paul Bocuse to James Beard, some of the biggest names in food history are also people who have professed their love for the same french fry—a french fry that, in no exaggerated manner, birthed an empire. A french fry that no one has eaten in more than 30 years.

McDonald’s original french fries were cooked in beef tallow. For that fact, they were bullied out of production by a well-funded, well-intentioned businessman and self-proclaimed health advocate named Phil Sokolof, who unknowingly dethroned what many fans claim was the greatest french fry to ever meet mass production. “The french fries were very good,” Child said in a 1995 interview, “and then the nutritionists got at them … and they’ve been limp ever since … I’m always very strong about criticizing them, hoping maybe they’ll change.”

Why use a HIPAA-compliant password manager

Bitwarden is officially HIPAA-compliant, after receiving a HIPAA Security Rule Assessment Report from AuditOne in December 2020. This acknowledgement adds to our other notable regulatory compliance including GDPR, CCPA, SOC 2, SOC 3, and Privacy Shield.

iOS 14 users report missing notifications from Messages app – 9to5Mac

A bug resulting in missing text message notifications is continuing to affect iPhone users with iOS 14. While the issue appeared to at first to be exclusive to the iPhone 12 series, it appears to be affecting nearly any iPhone model running iOS 14 — and the early signs are that iOS 14.3 doesn’t fix the problem either.

Anti-tracking rules will be enforced, Federighi warns developers – 9to5Mac

Apple’s software engineering SVP Craig Federighi has warned that developers must follow the company’s anti-tracking rules, or else their apps will be removed from the App Store…

The new App Tracking Transparency rules were initially meant to be part of iOS 14, but were delayed after protests by Facebook and advertisers. They are now expected to come into force during the summer, at which point apps will have to display a privacy pop-up asking permission to enable ad-tracking.

Federighi issued the warning in uncompromising terms during an interview with the British newspaper the Telegraph.

Apple launches recall program for iPhone 11 display with touch issues – 9to5Mac

Apple today announced another Replacement Program, this time for iPhone 11. According to the company, some iPhone 11 users are experiencing problems in which the display stops responding to touch.

Ecosia now a default search engine option on iOS, iPadOS, macOS | AppleInsider

Ecosia is a search engine that promotes privacy first and plants trees around the world, and with Mondays updates, it is now available as a default search engine setting on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.

Cloudflare and Apple design a new privacy-friendly internet protocol – TechCrunch

Engineers at Cloudflare and Apple say they’ve developed a new internet protocol that will shore up one of the biggest holes in internet privacy that many don’t know even exists. Dubbed Oblivious DNS-over-HTTPS, or ODoH for short, the new protocol makes it far more difficult for internet providers to know which websites you visit.

Getting to know John Gruber the writer

John Gruber is one of the leading experts blogging and podcasting about Apple. Recode referred to him this way “Apple obsessive John Gruber built Daring Fireball, the world’s most powerful one-man media company” If you’re into Apple you know who he is. John blogs at Daring Fireball and has a podcast The Talk Show. He’s also the creator of Markdown the popular plain text writing markup language that many of us use today.

I’m an enthusiastic follower of John’s blog and listener of his podcast. I find him to be knowledgeable about all things Apple thanks to his contacts at the highest levels of the company. What he writes is well written, always informative, and accurate.

I find it interesting to know what makes people like John tick and how they got to where they are. I’ve heard John talk about himself on his podcast but only bits and pieces never the full story from beginning to where he is now.

The other day John posted about being on Antony Johnston’s Writing and Breathing Podcast. If you would like to hear John’s full store in his words listen to this podcast. It’s excellent!

MONDAY, 10 AUGUST 2020

YOURS TRULY ON ANTONY JOHNSTON’S ‘WRITING AND BREATHING’ PODCAST

Antony Johnston — best known as the creator of the excellent and right-up-my-alley Atomic Blonde  — hosts a podcast devoted to writing, and he was kind enough to invite me on. I could talk about writing — what I do, how I do it — forever, even though, as I hope I made clear to Johnston, I don’t really fully understand how exactly I do what I do. The only thing I really understand about writing is that I need to do it.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about this. If that sounds interesting to you, I bet you’ll dig listening.

Isaias aftermath

Isaias blew through our area mid-afternoon on Tuesday and took down trees, branches, and power lines on its way. It’s pretty f**king scary watching the powerful wind and rain then hearing trees cracking. As you might guess we lost power and internet Tuesday afternoon and didn’t get it back until Friday evening.

If you’re not familiar with central New Jersey we have a lot of trees. I mean a lot of trees! We also have above-ground utilities. We get thunderstorms with strong winds fairly regularly and the occasional hurricane/tropical storm. Of course, this is a perfect formula for power outages.

When we moved here 3 years ago we had the house wired for whole house generator manual switch over. That has proved to be a wise investment. We’ve needed it several times including 4 days last week. If you live in an area with lots of trees and above ground utilities I highly recommend doing this.

Thank goodness we had no damage to our house. The other 20 acres is a different story. There are several fallen trees and branches around the property. So as you might guess I’ve been busy with the cleanup.

I have a few things I want to write about but that’s going to have to wait for a few more days.

FoodNoms food tracking app

As you will recall I had gained a couple of pounds over the winter and wanted to lose them. Once I had done that I wanted to maintain a specific weight. For me, the easiest way to do this has always been tracking calories. Calories in and calories out.

What I’ve found after doing this for a couple of months is that counting calories makes me make better food choices so that I stay within my Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). Based on my age, weight, height, and activity level my RDI is approximately 2000 calories per day to maintain my current weight. Prior to counting, I was eating between 1000 and 1500 calories more than my recommended daily requirement.

With all that said, I’m trying a new food tracking app FoodNoms that Casey Liss mentioned in Episode 385 of Accidental Tech Podcast. It’s taking a few days to get used to it because it works differently than the app that I’m used to using. But, the more I use it the more I’m liking it and I think I’ll be sticking with it. By the way, the app walks you through the calculation to determine your RDI.

If you’re interested in getting a handle on your weight you should give the app a try. There’s a free version of the app which is what I using. There’s also FoodNoms Plus which is a subscription. I think most people could probably get along with just the free version.

John Voorhees did a nice review of the app over on MacStories. Go check it out FoodNoms: A Privacy-Focused Food Tracker with Innovative New Ways to Log Meals – MacStories.

Sling TV holding prices while YouTube TV raises prices

Yesterday I was reading M.G. Siegler’s article about YouTube TV’s June 30th, 2020 30% price increase. He also speaks to how streaming tv is becoming bundled just like cable tv.

Coincidentally, that same day I got an email from Sling TV telling its users that our price is not going up and that our current price is guaranteed for the next 12 months. After reading Siegler’s article that was good news because I figured Sling might follow in the footsteps of YouTube TV.

If you’re not happy with YouTube TV’s price increase you might want to take a look at Sling. They’re offering:

Year Price Guarantee for all new and existing customers. For customers who sign up for SLING TV or who have an existing account by August, 1, 2020 SLING TV will automatically guarantee their current price on any SLING TV service through August 1, 2021 (that’s just $30 per month for SLING Orange or SLING Blue).

Hey controversy from a user perspective

As you have probably seen this past week, there has been a lot of controversy over the Hey.com email app being rejected from the Apple App Store.

Here’s some background on what the brew haha is about.

The Verge

Apple is threatening to remove Hey.com from the App Store if the ambitious new email service doesn’t begin offering an in-app subscription and sharing a cut of its revenue, according to an executive at Basecamp, which makes Hey.

David Heinemeier Hansson, the CTO of Basecamp, said that Apple is acting like “gangsters,” rejecting a bug fix update and asking the company in a phone call to commit to adding an in-app subscription to prevent it from being removed. “I was taken aback by how brazen that threat was,” Heinemeier Hansson told The Verge. “I thought you were supposed to wrap the threats in euphemisms or something. But it was pretty clear.”

In an email to The Verge, Apple said that it requires all developers to follow strict guidelines around business models. The company declined to comment specifically on Hey, but said that App Store review guidelines require an in-app purchase option if an app wants to offer access to content purchased on another platform. Apple suggested the call to Hey’s team was not out of the ordinary, saying it always works with developers to bring them into compliance. Apple also told Protocol that the app shouldn’t have been approved in the first place.

The developer community has been very vocal in siding with the app’s developer. But there’s another side to this story. I view this situation from a user perspective rather than a developer. So the question is how does Apple’s operation of the App Store affect me?

Ben Brooks wrote a piece about the controversy which I was intrigued by. It sums up how I as a user feel about the situation.

Hey, Controversy – The Brooks Review

FOCUS ON USERS

Apple employs an extremely simple, but effective business strategy: focus on making the best experience for users, and you will make loads of money. Amazon, Google, Uber, and many others copy this. But Apple is king of this strategy.

If Hey.com, or any other developer, wants an exception to the rule, then you need to prove that the best thing for the user is to grant that exception. Allow me to explain in two cases.

NETFLIX

You cannot sign up for Netflix in the Netflix app, and Apple allows this and they say the do because it is a content consumption app. Which is likely a good cover-your-ass statement. The real reason: not having Netflix on the App Store would be objectively worse for users than Apple bending the IAP subscription rule.

Or put another way: if Android has a Netflix app, and iOS does not, then iOS is likely to lose more iOS users and thus profit than they would if they just waived rule and allowed the app. So even though the Netflix app is not an ideal user experience, it is the best Apple can do and Apple clearly feels not having Netflix on the iPhone is worse for the user than bending the IAP rules.

HEY.COM

Now what Hey.com is saying: users have to subscribe on our website. What Apple is saying: that’s a worse user experience.

Stop there, because I know a ton of you agree with Hey.com, but I need you to be realistic as an iOS user. Is your argument that, as a user, the best experience is to use Safari to sign up and pay for Hey.com, and then further to always have to go to their website to manage that auto-recurring subscription? Is that really the argument? I think not.

Because that’s the worst user experience. The best is to have the App Store manage it, it makes signing up easier, safer, and faster. It makes management way easier.

So Apple, in looking at this says: it is objectively worse for users to bend the IAP rule, and by blocking Hey.com we are not likely to lose any meaningful amount of users. There are plenty of other options, so no, we will not make the experience worse for users.

Hey did not prove their case, and Apple sided with the users. You are also a user. Do you really want all these subscription based apps to start punting you to a website to sign up? Or do you actually find IAPs the best way to pay for subscriptions?

Yeah… Apple clearly agrees with you, that IAP subscriptions are way better than web subscriptions. And that’s why Hey.com got rejected, and frankly was always rolling the dice.

Ben’s article is well written and worth reading in full. You can find it here.

Weight management

Over the last few months, I’ve put on a few extra pounds. I’m not happy about that so last Wednesday I decided to do something about it.

Back in the day when I was racing bicycles competitively I always paid very close attention to my weight so that I would be at my optimum race weight. So to get my weight under control now I’m going to use the same strategy that I used when I was racing.

Weight management is calories in and calories out. Eat more calories than you burn and you gain weight. Burn more calories than you eat and you lose weight.

I only want to lose 5 pounds. You might say that’s hardly worth worrying about. For most people that might be true. But for me that 5 pounds makes a difference in how my clothes fit and hence how I feel.

To get started I calculated my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) so that I have my baseline calorie requirements. To manage my calorie intake I’m using the iOS app Fat Secret and for calorie burn, I’m using the Apple Watch and the Activity app.

I’ve lost 2 pounds so far so I know my strategy is working.

The realities of COVID-19 in my own backyard

The COVID-19 death numbers for New York City are beyond comprehension. When you hear them it feels more like a nightmare than reality. But unfortunately, they are real. As of this morning (April 03, 2020), there are 57,159 cases including 1,562 deaths. In my state of New Jersey there are 25,590 cases with 539 deaths. The sad part of all this is it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Let’s all do our part: Stay the hell home!

Apple is concerned over the COVID-19 situation and the possibility of lower consumer demand to upgrade their iPhones

This Business Insider story from a couple of days ago got my interest. It suggests that Apple is reportedly worried about the financial impact of COVID-19 and that people won’t have the money to buy new iPhones this year. That would seem to be a legitimate concern given the current state of the economy and the number of people out of work.

But, beyond people’s financial ability to buy Apple products I think there are other reasons as well. I’ll give you an example. As I mentioned in a previous story I’m interested in a new iPad. As much as I would like to order one I’m pressing the pause button for now.

Here’s why. No one knows how their body will respond to COVD-19? If I were to get it I might be one of the unfortunate ones to not survive. Since that is a possibility I don’t want to have just spent a bunch of money on a new iPad and accessories. I’m sure I’m not the only one holding off on a new Apple device purchase for the very same reason.

How Rob lost control of his bank accounts to a phone scammer

I’ve been following Rob’s blog for several years. I enjoy reading what he writes about. He is also the developer of a couple of Mac apps that I use.

I felt bad for Rob after reading his blog post about how he had recently lost control of his bank accounts to a phone scammer. His story is well worth reading. It may save you from falling for the same or similar phone scams.

How I lost control of our bank accounts to a phone scammer | The Robservatory