Confessions of an Apple nut

I’ve been immersed in the Windows world for 30 years: top 1% of Windows experts at the Experts Exchange last time I checked, a SeniorNet PC tutor, a web programmer, and in a reversal of the usual scenario, my grandchildren treat me as the family IT guru. Despite that investment, a limited retirement income, and the Apple “hardware tax” barrier, I’ve migrated to the Apple universe, and I won’t be going back any time soon.

Why? Apple get away with overcharging for their hardware because they can, users like me keep coming back. The alternative might be cheaper, but for millions of us, it isn’t worth the sacrifice. 

It all started in 2010 when I succumbed to the hype and bought an iPhone 4. I was smitten in milliseconds. Before I knew it, I’d ponied up for an iPad and a MacBook Air.

iOS: Apple’s phone and tablet operating system.

The phones

Notwithstanding the outrageously overpriced iPhone X with its irksome notch and which I wouldn’t have a bar of, I can still buy a new iPhone 6S, 7, or 8 for a reasonable price. They leave the competition for dead. It’s not the hardware, it’s the operating system, its interface, its applications, and its seamless integration with other Apple devices.

The tablets

My iPad Pro 12.9” is beautiful. With the improvements to already good usability made with iOS 11, including split screen multitasking, and with a Magic Keyboard or Smart Keyboard Cover, at a pinch it can replace my mobile computer. iOS is more intuitive than the competition, it looks better, and there’s a better range of apps available. It just works.

MacOS

The same usability standard applies to Mac computers: everything just works. iMacs and MacBooks aren’t cheap, and the Mac Pro cost is eye-watering, but if you look at Windows machines with comparable specs and build quality, they’re not cheap either.

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Writing software comparison

Note taking apps

It’s all about me

I’ve made these notes to clarify for myself which apps I most need. It’s not an unbiased opinion. Your mileage may vary. Some people love OneNote for instance; I don’t get it at all.

I’ve evolved into an Apple ecosystem fanatic, so this is biased. Having said that, the choice of note-taking apps for Windows isn’t great and is one of the  reasons I’m an Apple nut. Typora for Windows is the only one I’ve found that comes close to Ulysses or Bear Notes.

Definitions

In case you don’t know:

Markdown

A lot of writing apps use Markdown. Many writers love it. It’s a shorthand way of formatting text styles. Its advantages:

  • When a Markdown document is exported to—for instance—Word format, or HTML, or PDF, or all of the above, the formatting is automagically converted to suit the new document.
  • Proponents point out that you can apply formatting without your fingers leaving the keyboard.
    • OK, true; but if you know your formatting keyboard shortcuts you can do that in almost any text editor or word processor.

This screenshot shows the markdown formatting symbols on a heading and an italicised word in Bear Notes:




Dark mode

Some writing apps, like most web browsers, allow you to switch to “dark mode”; i.e. light coloured text on a dark background. Many writers find it easy on the eyes and that it reduces eye strain.

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It’s not just Facebook

Deactivating or deleting Facebook accounts is all the rage.

If you’re considering abandoning Mr Zuckerberg’s money machine for security reasons, perhaps you should broaden your target. After killing Facebook, you’d better review the other organisations that are tracking you, selling their data about you, and controlling what information you receive and what you don’t..

Here are a few

  • facebook-banYour credit card company. Most of us pay our balance in full and incur no interest. How do you think the banks make it worth their while?
  • Charge cards. Same deal.
  • Your hire-purchase financers and other creditors.
  • Your supermarket or department store loyalty card.  Do you think they really want to give you a discount for nothing in return.
  • Google Search, Google Mail, and most other “free” search and mail facilities.
  • Apps on your phone and tablet, especially the free ones.
  • Computer programs.
  • Your online, newspaper, and magazine subscriptions.
  • Your web browser. You really need to know about “cookies”, and how to counter them. I’ve explained about them here.
  • Your frequent flyer program.

Delete Facebook if you feel so inclined, but remember that despite Mr Zuckerberg’s assurances, all your previous ravings on and embarrassing photos are still there and anybody with the right skills or contacts can find them until the end of time. Or nearly.

There’s a nuisance value in dumping Facebook; info on your favourite café, for instance, may be only available on Facebook. I have a very useful local residents’ group with thousands of members which is excellent for finding local services.

You can remain on Facebook until something better comes along without bringing on Armageddon. Just be careful about what you post. Bear in mind that it’s there forever, that your granny and your potential employers can see it, and that smart algorithms on powerful computers are figuring out everything about you: your food preferences, your wealth (or lack of it), your racial, religious, and cultural biases, and your political leanings.

The bottom line

  • If it’s a free service, ask yourself how they make money. Usually, lots of money.
  • If you wouldn’t put your writing or image on an open postcard, don’t post it online. Don’t even type it into a keyboard for that matter.
  • Nothing stored digitally is guaranteed to be private forever.
  • Be careful what you click on.
  • I repeat, follow the money.

If I delete my Facebook account, it won’t be because of security worries, but because nobody give’s a rat’s arse about what I have to say.



Online Privacy

Postcards from the edge

When you enter any data onto any device which will be connected to the Internet, that information becomes public knowledge. If you wouldn’t put it on a postcard, don’t put it on a computer, phone, or tablet.

Big brother is watching

And if he’s not reading your stuff right now, he’s keeping it for later. The 2018 Facebook fiasco revealed to the world what was actually no secret; Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, and many other organisations are monitoring you, and they’re selling what they know.

Over to techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci

 


You are the product

You are not a customer of Google or Facebook, you are their product. they sell access to your data to businesses, political organisations, governments, Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

That is how Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page became billionaires. They make money from adverts, and the more information about you that they can supply to their advertisers, the better they can target the ads, and the more money they make.

But it’s not just about people trying to sell you stuff. It’s also about people choosing who rules the world, who leaves the EEC, whether Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, and what you believe about climate change.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

Here, an Al Jazeera report explains how personal data harvested from people like you an me was used to influence the US presidential election, Brexit, and who knows what else.

These were close political polls, so it’s probable that Cambridge Analytica, and the people who hired them, decided the final result.

And here’s the brains behind the data harvesting explaining the deal.

This Land is Our Land

Will we ever learn?

Probably not

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

Bertrand Russell

At the time of the 1967 Six Day War, I was one of many with little real understanding of the complex Middle East history who were cheering for the Israelis; the perennial underdog fighting overwhelming odds.

Nina Paley
The amazing Nina Paley

The complex situation in Israel has been confounding us all ever since. Then I watched Nina Paley‘s brief video (see below) and realised that it’s really quite simple.

I’ve also been around long enough to realise that many things I thought I knew were wrong. The corporate-controlled news media bear a lot of the blame for my ignorance.

In the midst of the 6 Day War reportage, for instance, there was scant reference to the culpability of the West, particularly the British, who’d made promises to the Palestinians earlier in the 20th Century, and then stabbed them in the back.

No wonder the Palestinians were, and still are, mightily pissed off.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

If any question why we died, tell them that our fathers lied

Rudyard Kipling

Along came Viet Nam

In my naïvety and ignorance, I swallowed the Domino Theory peddled by the politicians and the media. If we let the evil commies get away with taking over Vietnam, they’ll take over the world. I was in the Navy then, and fully prepared if called upon to charge off to South East Asia and deal to those evildoers in North Vietnam.

Years later I learned that there was another version of the truth.

We caused the mess in the first place.

We’ve got your back Uncle Ho

During World War II we swore to Ho Chi Minh that if he helped us boot the Japanese out of South East Asia, we’d protect his people from French domination when the war was over.

The Vietnamese communists did their bit, and when it was over their reward was to be dropped right back into the hands of Charles de Gaulle and the Foreign Legion.

Not surprisingly, they too were a little annoyed.

And on it goes…

We’ve been at it ever since: Iraq, Iran, Latin American countries by the iron fistful, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria… and on, and on, and on…

Click here to see the impressive list of US invasions…

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[vimeo 50531435 w=500 h=281]

This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

Homeopathy, con or cure?

homeopathy
  • On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of qualified medical folk and scientists tell us that homeopathy treatments are diluted to the equivalent of a molecule of medicine in a volume the size of the planet Jupiter, and it’s the biggest con job since the Ponzi scheme.
  • On the other hand, homeopathy’s supporters regale us with stories of major success and minor miracles.

pills

Who wins?

The good guys at Kurzgesagt have done their homework.

Their conclusion? Sorry to weasel out on you, but it depends:

Are both sides right?

An interesting video, with a well-reasoned conclusion:

The tail’s preparing to wag the dog

Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMP) is a vast improvement over our old First Past the Post voting system. Sections of the community who were marginalised under First Past the Post now have a voice. That’s certainly true of Maori, the Greens, and Winston First’s indefatigable blue rinse brigade.
To a degree it’s a good thing.

How long before it becomes an anchor around the legislative neck and makes government impossible?

Where will it all end?

Somebody tell me what to do

I’d like a Gray Power Party to boost my New Zealand Superannuation. What about a Kate Sheppard Ladies’ Party with a persondate to banish manholes to Personchuria. Can we do without a Jockstrap Party to declare the Rugby World Cup ours as of right? There’s definitely a need for a Petrolheads’ Party for the promotion of phallic exhaust pipes for the under-endowed, and a Wouldn’t Work in an Iron Lung Party for the equitable redistribution of filthy capitalistic gains.

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Check your prejudices

ballot box

People don’t vote for policies

In the UK a couple of elections back, the website Vote For Polices showed that when asked to chose their preferred policies without knowing which party’s policies they were, voters preferred the Green Party. The Conservatives fared badly.

vote for policies choices

For whom did they vote in the real world? Yep; the Conservatives, who should have been fourth choice.

Now it’s your turn

Here are two websites where you can check your actual preferences for the imminent New Zealand election. I think “I Side With” is the most realistic:

Please check them out. You will be surprised. For me, I Side With produced a more credible result than Vote Compass; they allow users more sensible fine-tuning of the alternatives. Even so, I was surprised to find that New Zealand First came high on my list.

That led me to check New Zealand First’s policies, and another surprise – despite Winston Peters’ devious, opportunistic, and waka-jumping ways – his party’s policies are, mostly, surprisingly sensible.

Not enough to encourage me to vote for him though.

Sorry Winnie.

Here is my result from “I Side With”

Some of my old friends will be horrified, but my swing to the left has been on-going since waking up to the total failure of neo-liberal policies.

Here are my results from “Vote Compass”

Mana’s position was a surprise too, but despite Hone Harawera’s radical activist past, his policies too are generally sensible. I’d like to see him make his peace with the Maori Party and avoid splitting their vote.

 

 

 

 

SuperBike

Volto e-bike review

After researching the available electric bikes in New Zealand, I concluded that the best bang for the buck is the range of 3 e-bikes from Volto in Tauranga. A 10 minute test drive on one of Pete Wilcox’s bikes at Rockgas Wanganui‘s e-bike agency left me smitten.

The Volto bikes are manufactured in China, but designed by New Zealanders for our conditions.

TDE_blue_web1200
The Volto Falcon e-bike

Safety first

Contrary to my expectation, I feel safer on the e-bike in city traffic than I do on my conventional bike. The extra acceleration available, especially from a standstill, makes it easier to keep up with the flow in busy city traffic; you’re not being shunted to the side of the road and made vulnerable to negligent car drivers who’re dying to open their doors in your face, or to suddenly back out of an angled parking space because they didn’t see you coming. Or maybe because they did.   :o)

At stop signs and traffic lights, the same applies; I’m less vulnerable because I can accelerate as easily as a car, again, avoiding being shunted to the side of the road.

The bike

The Volto (mine’s a Falcon) has 3 power levels; I haven’t found it necessary to go beyond level 1, even on steepish hills. Higher levels give you more boost on the flat, but when you’re putting in extra effort on a steep hill you get maximum assistance even on level 1. My perception: hills are flattened by a factor of about five; head winds are forever vanquished.

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Evernote

Top choice for note taking software

Evernote logo

If you have random data scattered around your computer, a digital scrapbook of clippings, recipes, scanned receipts, reference data, web clippings… stuff that you squirrel away because maybe you’ll need it one day then Evernote is your friend.

I’ve been testing a number of other similar programs but, bang for buck, Evernote is still my #1 choice.

It’s come into a bit of flack recently because the company have changed the rules for the free version, and changed the pricing structure. We’ll cover that later in this post.

Evernote makes filing and quickly retrieving your data easy. Your notes, files and images are saved to your computers’ hard drives and simultaneously to Evernote’s own servers. Its main raison d’etre is quick and easy location of those data. You have the advantages of online storage, instant powerful search capability, and automatic synchronization between your computers, tablets, and smartphones and between them and the cloud.
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