Technology


Introducing the Framework Laptop →

25th February 2021

Nirav Patel, introducing the Framework Laptop:

At Framework, we believe the time has come for consumer electronics products that are designed to last. Founded in San Francisco in 2019, our mission is to empower you with great products you can easily customize, upgrade, and repair, increasing longevity and reducing e-waste in the process.

Today, we are excited to unveil our first product: the Framework Laptop, a thin, lightweight, high-performance 13.5” notebook that can be upgraded, customized, and repaired in ways that no other notebook can.

— Nirav Patel, Introducing the Framework Laptop

As much as I do like a few parts of this laptop:

  • It looks like a Mac.
  • Customisable ports.
  • Easy to replace components.
  • An actual good quality webcam.

You are still limited to running Windows or Linux (or maybe it could be a Hackintosh?). And I have no plans to ever own a Windows or Linux machine.

So it's not for me.

But I still think it's a fascinating idea, and I hope it will become a success, because I really like the idea of being able to repair and upgrade your own computer, and at a reasonable cost.

Our Devices Are Accessories to Ourselves

18th February 2021

Accessory
noun

an extra piece of equipment that is useful but not essential or that can be added to something else as a decoration
The Cambridge English Dictionary

When you think of the word “accessory” in the context of technology, you’ll probably be drawn to accessories for various devices. But I think you can apply the word to the devices themselves. Especially to the smartphone. They can be very useful devices, but at the same time are completely non-essential. Although our uses suggest the opposite.

In my opinion, we treat the smartphone too much as our lens through which we see and experience the world. To a point where we forget to see the world through our own eyes.

It might not seem like a problem to most people, using our phones a lot, since they can be fun, and they can also be pretty useful tools. But we can also fall into various traps where we end up doomscrolling for hours on end, where the smartphone has taken control and is now using you. And that’s not going to go well. Because we all know the internet and social networks especially, are simply cesspits of throwaway opinions, misinformation, fuel for confirmation bias, and an endless stream of people wearing digital disguises trying to make themselves look clever or aspirational.

I’ve got a lot of opinions about the various problems with social media, and the effect it has on people, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

I don’t think we should all rush to quit using social media because it can be used in a good way, but we should take a lot of what we find on our devices and the internet with a large grain of salt. Not everything you experience through your devices is indicative of the real world.


This post is part of the warmup week for the March Blogging Challenge, the theme today is Accessories.

Matt D'Avella on Downgrading to a Flip Phone

16th November 2020

The new iPhones are out, and therefore Matt D'Avella has decided to buy a flip phone. Not a fancy super-expensive flip phone that's still a smartphone, an actual original flip phone. To be honest, that screams "extra" to me. It sounds like a fun hipster idea that won't really last.

He points out that smartphones are designed to be with us on the go, giving us a mobile computer when we are out of the house. And with most people not leaving their houses for anything other than a walk or to go to a supermarket, there's not much use to them. Although, weirdly, I'm pretty sure people are just sat inside their houses on their phones anyway.

In his video, he went over the reasons why he's decided to downgrade from his iPhone, and the potential upsides to having a less-smart phone. As usual, it's one of his 30 day challenges, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Greg Morris on the Pixel 5

29th October 2020

Greg Morris, writing about the Pixel 5:

Something changed with the Pixel 5. Amid a pandemic Google began to focus on what they could do to bring a device together, and perhaps what their customers wanted. So instead of weird and wonderful new developments they absolutely promise to develop, they took half a step back. Creating a device that leans on tried and tested hardware, not the bleeding edge. Just reliable specs, done well and priced at a point that Google felt it can complete.

What Greg does here in this review is what I think more reviewers should do. And that is to describe the device on a way that people can understand and relate to. For example, instead of simply pointing out the size of the battery, Greg noted that “8 hours screen on time is achievable, and some of my more leisurely days this week I got almost two days of use”. That’s the type of information that is helpful to people when researching what phone to buy.

I think too many times people (including myself) look at the raw technical specs of a phone and simply compare them like a game of Top Trumps, and forget the context around them, or even the usability of them.

PaymentKit: How Apple Lets Some Air Out of this Pressure Cooker

2nd September 2020

Matt Birchler, on the improvements he wants to see regarding payments in apps:

Simply, I want Apple to allow third party payments in apps. This does not have to turn the App Store into some sort of hellscape where card details are stolen on the regular and no one wants to buy anything anymore because it’s so bad.

E-commerce has grown a ton over the last decade, and it’s grown almost as much in the past 6 months all over again. People buy things online all the time, and modern tools allow merchants to collect that data securely. I’d love to see that come to the App Store, but in ways that only Apple can do.

I like everything he proposes here, especially a “PaymentKit” API, which would allow some form of conformity to a standard, while offering a greater level of freedom to app developers. Mainly because other payment platforms would be able to offer their own options as SDKs to app developers, giving them and the end customers more choice.

Just adding this framework wouldn’t mean an immediate fix to the issue regarding payments inside apps. However, it would lay the groundwork needed for a more competitive marketplace. And with more competition, there will be an incentive to offer a better solution for developers and customers.

The Lopifit "Electric Walking Bike"

1st July 2020

I just came across this product via an Instagram post, and I just had to share it. I just can’t stop laughing about it.

Caption

It’s a bike that’s designed for exercise. Specifically high-cardio workouts. But instead of just making a normal bike that people can read, they’ve taken out the seat and pedals, and put a treadmill in the middle! So it’s not an “electric walking bike” like they claim, it’s a treadmill scooter. Which now I think about it, is no better than just walking!

Who even comes up with these ideas?

How To Remove YouTube Tracking

30th June 2020

Dries Buytaert:

After some research, I discovered that YouTube offers a privacy-enhanced way of embedding videos. Instead of linking to youtube.com, link to youtube-nocookie.com, and no data-collecting HTTP cookie will be sent. This is Google’s way of providing GDPR-compliant YouTube videos.

(via Daring Fireball)

I was completely unaware that this GDPR-compliant version of YouTube embeds were available. But, seeing as it makes no sense to use the standard embed when this one exists, I’ve made changes to my site so all YouTube embeds will automatically use the -nocookie version.


Just in case this helps anyone else add this to their blog, RavanH posted a code snippet on the WordPress.org forums to make WordPress shortcodes automatically convert YouTube embeds.

A Better Computer

5th June 2020

Matt Birchler, introducing his new YouTube channel:

Today I’m excited to introduce my new YouTube channel, A Better Computer. This channel will be devoted to helping you make the computer in front of you, whether it be an iPhone, and iPad, or PC, better than it was before; we want to make it a better computer.

It’s not just another tech YouTube channel though, the idea is that the videos will be short, but highly produced, and have a very limited scope. For example, alongside the trailer for the channel, there are already three great videos to watch:

My favourite so far has to be the most recent one, about making tasks smaller in order to get more done. Since this is something I’ve been doing myself for a while, and I’ve always found it to be a very effective way to get big chunks of work done. Because for me personally, while I want to complete big tasks, the idea of them usually puts me off. But if I split the one big task into various small tasks that can be individually actioned, then it’s so much easier to make progress, and eventually complete it.

As you can tell, A Better Computer is going to be one great YouTube channel, so I definitely recommend subscribing.

Speed Test by CloudFlare

29th May 2020

I just came across a new speed test tool (via The Newsprint), and it’s certainly the most detailed and responsive one I’ve seen.

It’s made by CloudFlare, and has the simple name of Speed Test. You can find it at speed.cloudflare.com.

Unlike Speedtest.net, it loads instantly, and there’s no delay until your internet connection is tested. Which is something that always annoyed me when visiting Speedtest.net.

The speed or instantaneous testing aren’t the only benefits. It’s also packed full of data. Have a look at my screenshot below, to see the type of stuff you can test.

(You may worry that I’ve shared my location. Rest assured that this data isn’t even close to being accurate.)

Trading Standards Squad Targets Anti-5G USB Stick

28th May 2020

Rory Cellan-Jones, writing for BBC News:

Trading Standards officers are seeking to halt sales of a device that has been claimed to offer protection against the supposed dangers of 5G via use of quantum technology.

Cyber-security experts say the £339 5GBioShield appears to no more than a basic USB drive.

This story is incredible in so many ways.

Especially when you get to this:

Each of these USB keys costs £339.60 including VAT, though there is a special offer of three for £958.80.

But, at first sight, it seems to be just that – a USB key, with just 128MB of storage.

“So what’s different between it and a virtually identical ‘crystal’ USB key available from various suppliers in Shenzhen, China, for around £5 per key?” asks Ken Munro, whose company, Pen Test Partners, specialises in taking apart consumer electronic products to spot security vulnerabilities.

And the answer appears to be a circular sticker.

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