Links for Listeners – 12/28/18

First off, dear WGBH listeners: know that I see my mission as a technology journalist/broadcaster/pundit/lackaduffer as a holy thing. Sir Galahad, when faced with the reality of needing to take an earlier train to make it to the Holy Grail on time, waking up at six thirty, for heaven’s sake, would have slept straight through the alarm. Or maybe he’d have shut it off and then gone back to sleep, figuring “I’m sure Gawain’s on top of this.”

But not Andy Ihnatko. On previous occasions when I exhibited this kind of commitment, people said that Edwin Abbey should have immortalized my struggles in a magnificent mural sequence at the Boston Public Library, and not Sir Galahad’s. They’re right, of course, but I suppose Abbey’s hands were tied; he died several decades before my father was born.

Second-off! A shout-out to Edward, the Lyft driver who got me to the train station. His radio was tuned to WGBH when I got in and when he asked me where I was headed from the commuter rail station, he was happy to tell me how much he and his wife enjoyed Boston Public Radio and Margery in particular.

Onward! Here are some links related to my tech segment on today’s show:

Comicraft‘s New Year’s Day Font Sale

Honest to God, buying new fonts on New Year’s Day is as big a holiday tradition for me as Patrick Stewart’s audiobook of “A Christmas Carol” and making big plans about making and sending custom Christmas cards but not following through.

I’ve got dozens of their fonts on my computers. Here are the three I called out on the show. These, and all other Comicraft fonts, will be marked down to $20.19 for New Year’s Day:

“Comicrazy,” because not getting a professional, hand-lettered-style comic book font seems like a shame. Comicraft offers plenty of ’em, each with their own unique charm. “Comicrazy” is by far the most expensive of them, at $395.

“Sign Language,” because it’s the only answer you need when it’s time to make a sign or a label or a placard or something. The package includes several thicknesses.

“Extra Extra,” to fill the role of “just a really cool and awesome font.”

But by all means, hit the site and browse, browse, browse. I’ve already filled my shopping cart with a few of Comicraft’s 2018 releases. One of them is earmarked as the masthead font of a new site I’m building. When January 1 hits,  the prices will be automatically updated and I’ll just click one button.

Public Domain Day

What’s better than getting a $395 font for $20.19? Getting all of the books, movies, music, poetry, paintings, etc. published in 1923 for free!

January 1, 2019 — the first release of new material into the public domain in over two decades — has been as eagerly anticipated as The Rapture. Well, surely that’s an awkward analogy but let’s just roll with it.

The usual libraries of free public domain content are prepared for this day and will have mountains of new material ready to go the moment it passes into the hands of The People. These are my usual first stops when looking for public-domain content:

Open Culture isn’t so much a library as it is a blog about public domain and other free media.

And, honestly, any Google search for [“public domain day” 1923] turns up lots of blog posts of people’s individual favorites entering the public domain on January 1.

Apple’s $29 iPhone Battery Replacement Program Ends December 31

Phone batteries naturally lose capacity as they get older. If your iPhone is a couple of years old, getting a brand-new Apple-branded battery installed by Apple for $29 is a steal.

Here’s the info, on Apple’s support page:

Set up an appointment at your local Apple Store’s genius bar sooner rather than later.

The Latest iPads Are Bent, And Apple’s Fine With That

Disgraceful. The iPad Pro is a premium product and purchasers shouldn’t just take Apple’s word for it that a visible bend won’t eventually lead to hardware failures.

If you’ve bought an iPad Pro in the previous two weeks and there’s a visible bend, return it for a full refund within Apple’s standard 14 day return window. If you bought it before that…well. Just hope for the best. And reflect on the many, many times Apple fans have quoted Steve Jobs’ line about craftsmanship and pride and making sure that even the paint on the side of the fence nobody will see is perfect.

But! Good news if you bought it between November 14th and December 24, you can return your iPad (or anything else you bought from Apple during that period) as late as January 8. My friend Paul has kindly reminded me of Apple’s annual Holiday return window.


Amazon’s Alexa Had A Meltdown In Europe On Christmas Day Didn’t get to it!

…Which was embarrassing but not entirely unexpected on a day when hundreds of thousands of people were trying to activate new Echo devices at the same time.

The bigger problem was an iOS app pretending to be Amazon’s official Alexa setup app. It made it into the App Store’s list of top ten most-downloaded utilities before Apple took it down:

The app asked for the Alexa device’s IP address and serial number. What the app’s creators are doing with the data they collected is anybody’s guess but it can’t be good.

Folks who downloaded “Setup for Amazon Alexa” can be forgiven for not noticing that the developer’s name was “One World Software” instead of something Amazon-ey. This is just a reminder that there are stinky people out there and many of them are trying to trick you into downloading their app instead of the one you were looking for. Check for the developer’s name, the app’s history, and number of downloads.

Why Do People Give Up Their Privacy Online? Because They’ve Become Resigned To It

Nice piece by Sapna Maheshwari for The New York Times:

I agree with the central point. People aren’t giving up their personal data because they don’t care or they’re unaware it’s happening. They’re doing it for the same reason why we all pay “convenience charges” when we buy tickets to shows: we feel like the whole system is stacked against us and it’s part of this vale of tears known as Life In 2018.

When the Internet and digital services were first rolling out to the launch pad in the Nineties, Congress’ broad attitude was “For God’s sake, let’s not interfere with this; we’ve no idea what we’re doing as lawmakers and we’ll probably wind up killing off a huge and important new industry before it even gets started.”

And that was absolutely the right call. In the Nineties. Now, we’ve seen what happens when an industry is allowed to operate unregulated, practically. Just as their came a time when the coal industry had to be explicitly told not to hire eight year old children, the time is coming when Facebook, Google, and every digital marketing platform is going to be told that there are going to be some Rules, going forward.

Switching from a Smartphone To a Dumbphone Didn’t get to it!

…A device which the phone industry prefers to refer to as a “featurephone.”

Here’s an article about that from The Boston Globe:

Featurephones — phones that rely on built-in apps instead of an App Store with a huge library — have suddenly become very interesting again. They’ve always had advantages like extra-long battery life, durability, and a variety of shapes and sizes to fit into even small pockets. Today, we can add “your kids can get into much less trouble” and “no apps mean fewer ways that companies can track you and collect your personal data.”

Though of course there’s always going to be a way. Most modern featurephones regard a Facebook app as being about as negotiable a feature as the “7” key on the dialing pad.

That’s all. My music while writing this little bagatelle was this recording of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” featuring Diana Damrau and Joseph Calleja.