Book Review: The View from the Cheap Seats

Neil Gaiman is one of those authors that can make any other writer can blanch when comparing their own work with his. From novels and comic books, to even writing screenplay adaptations, he is a highly accomplished author and it would be no surprise if even more of his work was adapted into TV and film in the coming year – I’m already counting the days until American Gods premieres.

I’m breaking into a sweat even thinking about writing a review of of anything Gaiman has written – let alone a book collecting amongst other things his own reviews of other people’s work.

The View from the Cheap Seats is a typical Gaiman creation in that there’s a lot more to it than is evident on a quick peruse. This is one of those collections that you won’t necessarily want to read from from to back in one sitting, and nor do you need to given the varied content broken up into discreet sections. There are reviews of movies, discussions on relationships with other authors and artists, thoughts on science fiction and comics. For mine, the first section is one of the best: thoughts on the importance of libraries, bookshops and Halloween to name three topics. That said, Gaiman’s ability to engage works equally as well in the non-fiction realm and I haven’t been tempted to skip chapters on topics of little interest.

If you’re after a book of essays that are written with skill and passion, then definitely give The View From The Cheap Seats a go. If you’re looking for wild fantasy you won’t find it, but in its place you’ll fine something equally as satisfying.

 

Why We Hate Internet Providers: Example #74737282

Maybe Optus NBN is designed for laptops like this?

Just had to share this:

1. Buy new phone from Optus Store

2. Get phone home and connect it to computer.

3. Message says OS on the new phone is too old to allow transfer of apps / data from old phone backup.

Read: we sold you stock that’s been sitting here a while and Apple have released two updates since then, one of which killed a lot of people’s phone batteries if they dared to use a phone older than the one you purchased today.

4. Start to download update – using Optus NBN Fibre to the Premises 100/40 connection i.e. an NBN connection as fast (and expensive) as you can get in Australia at present.

5. Notice that download is going slow. Stop download and do speed test. Surprise surprise, 4MBps download speeds as has occurred anytime between 8am and 2am the next morning over the past three weeks. Upload speed at 35 MBps.

6. Call Optus. They get me to do a factory reset and allegedly do something their end as well. Now get 10MBps downloads at best. Optus person makes out it’s a great improvement at 10% of what I optimally should be getting (and have gotten close to previously). Am told that there is indeed congestion issues at the exchange , and that they will contact me when resolved (yeah right).

So now I wait for 4 hours to download a software update for an Optus-purchased product on a massively sub-standard Optus NBN connection. Royal Commission anyone?

New iDongle Universal Adapter

With the mission Apple is on with removing as many ports from their products as possible, it’s time for a universal adapter to make everyone’s life easier:

idongle-apple

 

Sometimes CEOs earn their money

Customer_Letter_-_AppleYes it definitely does occur: even some of our highest paid CEOs earn their money sometimes. Apple CEO Tim Cook probably has certainly earned some of his stash the past few months if the open letter he’s just published is any indication.

The full text is below (or the original can be found here). The summary: according to Apple the FBI have asked them to create a version of iOS that has some back doors that the FBI could use to access a suspect’s data. Apple have said no. My guess is that Apple have had to say no multiple times and are still feeling pressured so have published the open letter.

For what it’s worth I think Cook’s stance is correct. For sure they should be helping authorities on a case by case basis, but having an alternate version of iOS with holes in it is a recipe for disaster. What do you think?

A Message to Our Customers
The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption
Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.

Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk. That is why encryption has become so important to all of us.

For many years, we have used encryption to protect our customers’ personal data because we believe it’s the only way to keep their information safe. We have even put that data out of our own reach, because we believe the contents of your iPhone are none of our business.

The San Bernardino Case
We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

The Threat to Data Security
Some would argue that building a backdoor for just one iPhone is a simple, clean-cut solution. But it ignores both the basics of digital security and the significance of what the government is demanding in this case.

In today’s digital world, the “key” to an encrypted system is a piece of information that unlocks the data, and it is only as secure as the protections around it. Once the information is known, or a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

We can find no precedent for an American company being forced to expose its customers to a greater risk of attack. For years, cryptologists and national security experts have been warning against weakening encryption. Doing so would hurt only the well-meaning and law-abiding citizens who rely on companies like Apple to protect their data. Criminals and bad actors will still encrypt, using tools that are readily available to them.

A Dangerous Precedent
Rather than asking for legislative action through Congress, the FBI is proposing an unprecedented use of the All Writs Act of 1789 to justify an expansion of its authority.

The government would have us remove security features and add new capabilities to the operating system, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock an iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of combinations with the speed of a modern computer.

The implications of the government’s demands are chilling. If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data. The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Opposing this order is not something we take lightly. We feel we must speak up in the face of what we see as an overreach by the U.S. government.

We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Tim Cook

Recall of Apple AC Wall Plug Adapters

apple-acIf you live in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand or South Korea, and own an AC wall adepter that came with your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac device, you may want to read below:

CUPERTINO, California — 29 January 2016— Apple® today announced a voluntary recall of AC wall plug adapters designed for use in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Continental Europe, New Zealand and South Korea. In very rare cases, affected Apple two-prong wall plug adapters may break and create a risk of electrical shock if touched. These wall plug adapters shipped with Mac® and certain iOS devices between 2003 and 2015 and were also included in the Apple World Travel Adapter Kit. Apple is aware of 12 incidents worldwide.


The recall does not affect any other Apple AC wall plug adapters designed for Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, United States or any Apple USB power adapters.
 
Because customer safety is the company’s top priority, Apple is asking customers to stop using affected plug adapters. Customers should visit www.apple.com/support/ac-wallplug-adapter for details about how to exchange the affected adapters for new, redesigned ones.
 
An affected two-prong plug adapter has either four or five characters or no characters on the inside slot where it attaches to the main Apple power adapter. Visit the program website for more details on how to identify an affected adapter.

Is Skype Dead? Why Yes It Is

Update: Skype came back online for a few minutes at 11.30am AEST but is down again now.

In case you hadn’t heard, for the past half a dozen hours and counting, Skype has been dead:

Cursor_and_Skype_Support___SkypeSupport____Twitter

The said the fix is hopefully close, but in the meantime queue the Microsoft gags….

How To Find More Movies on Netflix

NetflixIf like me you find Netflix’s movie browser a little frustrating, here’s a nice tip that can help you dig a little deeper. Below are links to a bunch of movie sub-genres you otherwise may not stumble across.

To see the movies display in your web browser, just paste in this: http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/

and then after that last forward slash type in the number correlating to the section you want to browse.

Example: Comic Book Movies are at http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/10118

There’s lots of sub-genres you may not have realised exist, so have a slow trawl though.

Here’s the full list – enjoy:

 

1365 = Action & Adventure5977 = Gay & Lesbian Movies
77232 = Asian Action Movies7120 = Gay & Lesbian Comedies
46576 = Classic Action & Adventure500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas
43040 = Action Comedies3329 = Romantic Gay & Lesbian Movies
43048 = Action Thrillers8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
7442 = Adventures4720 = Gay & Lesbian Documentaries
10118 = Comic Book and Superhero Movies65263 = Gay & Lesbian TV Shows
7700 = Westerns
10702 = Spy Action & Adventure8711 = Horror Movies
9584 = Crime Action & Adventure8195 = B-Horror Movies
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure6895 = Creature Features
8985 = Martial Arts Movies10944 = Cult Horror Movies
2125 = Military Action & Adventure45028 = Deep Sea Horror Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
7424 = Anime89585 = Horror Comedy
11881 = Adult Animation947 = Monster Movies
2653 = Anime Action8646 = Slasher and Serial Killer Movies
9302 = Anime Comedies42023 = Supernatural Horror Movies
452 = Anime Dramas52147 = Teen Screams
3063 = Anime Features75804 = Vampire Horror Movies
2729 = Anime Sci-Fi75930 = Werewolf Horror Movies
10695 = Anime Horror75405 = Zombie Horror Movies
11146 = Anime Fantasy6998 = Satanic Stories
6721 = Anime Series
7077 = Independent Movies
783 = Children & Family Movies11079 = Experimental Movies
6796 = Movies for ages 0 to 211804 = Independent Action & Adventure
6218 = Movies for ages 2 to 43269 = Independent Thrillers
5455 = Movies for ages 5 to 79916 = Romantic Independent Movies
561 = Movies for ages 8 to 104195 = Independent Comedies
6962 = Movies for ages 11 to 12384 = Independent Dramas
10659 = Education for Kids
67673 = Disney1701 = Music
10056 = Movies based on children's books52843 = Kids Music
51056 = Family Features1105 = Country & Western/Folk
11177 = TV Cartoons10271 = Jazz & Easy Listening
27346 = Kids' TV10741 = Latin Music
52843 = Kids Music9472 = Urban & Dance Concerts
5507 = Animal Tales2856 = World Music Concerts
3278 = Rock & Pop Concerts
31574 = Classic Movies
31694 = Classic Comedies13335 = Musicals
29809 = Classic Dramas32392 = Classic Musicals
47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy59433 = Disney Musicals
46588 = Classic Thrillers13573 = Showbiz Musicals
7687 = Film Noir55774 = Stage Musicals
48744 = Classic War Movies
52858 = Epics8883 = Romantic Movies
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies502675 = Romantic Favorites
53310 = Silent Movies36103 = Quirky Romance
47465 = Classic Westerns9916 = Romantic Independent Movies
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
6548 = Comedies1255 = Romantic Dramas
869 = Dark Comedies35800 = Steamy Romantic Movies
4426 = Foreign Comedies31273 = Classic Romantic Movies
1402 = Late Night Comedies5475 = Romantic Comedies
26 = Mockumentaries
2700 = Political Comedies1492 = Sci-Fi & Fantasy
9702 = Screwball Comedies1568 = Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy
5286 = Sports Comedies3327 = Alien Sci-Fi
11559 = Stand-up Comedy47147 = Classic Sci-Fi & Fantasy
3519 = Teen Comedies4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy
4922 = Satires9744 = Fantasy Movies
5475 = Romantic Comedies6926 = Sci-Fi Adventure
10256 = Slapstick Comedies3916 = Sci-Fi Dramas
1694 = Sci-Fi Horror Movies
7627 = Cult Movies11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
8195 = B-Horror Movies6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
1252 = Campy Movies
10944 = Cult Horror Movies4370 = Sports Movies
4734 = Cult Sci-Fi & Fantasy5286 = Sports Comedies
9434 = Cult Comedies180 = Sports Documentaries
7243 = Sports Dramas
6839 = Documentaries12339 = Baseball Movies
3652 = Biographical Documentaries12803 = Football Movies
9875 = Crime Documentaries12443 = Boxing M10499ovies
5161 = Foreign Documentaries12549 = Soccer Movies
5349 = Historical Documentaries6695 = Martial Arts, Boxing & Wrestling
4006 = Military Documentaries12762 = Basketball Movies
180 = Sports Documentaries9327 = Sports & Fitness
90361 = Music & Concert Documentaries
1159 = Travel & Adventure Documentaries8933 = Thrillers
7018 = Political Documentaries43048 = Action Thrillers
10005 = Religious Documentaries46588 = Classic Thrillers
2595 = Science & Nature Documentaries10499 = Crime Thrillers
3675 = Social & Cultural Documentaries10306 = Foreign Thrillers
3269 = Independent Thrillers
5763 = Dramas31851 = Gangster Movies
3179 = Biographical Dramas5505 = Psychological Thrillers
29809 = Classic Dramas10504 = Political Thrillers
528582748 = Courtroom Dramas9994 = Mysteries
6889 = Crime Dramas11014 = Sci-Fi Thrillers
4961 = Dramas based on Books9147 = Spy Thrillers
3653 = Dramas based on real life972 = Steamy Thrillers
6384 = Tearjerkers11140 = Supernatural Thrillers
2150 = Foreign Dramas
7243 = Sports Dramas83 = TV Shows
500 = Gay & Lesbian Dramas52117 = British TV Shows
384 = Independent Dramas46553 = Classic TV Shows
9299 = Teen Dramas26146 = Crime TV Shows
11 = Military Dramas74652 = Cult TV Shows
12123 = Period Pieces72436 = Food & Travel TV
6616 = Political Dramas27346 = Kids' TV
1255 = Romantic Dramas67879 = Korean TV Shows
5012 = Showbiz Dramas4814 = Miniseries
3947 = Social Issue Dramas25804 = Military TV Shows
52780 = Science & Nature TV
26835 = Faith & Spirituality10673 = TV Action & Adventure
52804 = Faith & Spirituality Movies10375 = TV Comedies
2760 = Spiritual Documentaries10105 = TV Documentaries
751423 = Kids Faith & Spirituality11714 = TV Dramas
7462 = Foreign Movies83059 = TV Horror
29764 = Art House Movies4366 = TV Mysteries
11828 = Foreign Action & Adventure1372 = TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy
32473 = Classic Foreign Movies9833 = Reality TV
4426 = Foreign Comedies60951 = Teen TV Shows
5161 = Foreign Documentaries
2150 = Foreign Dramas
8243 = Foreign Gay & Lesbian Movies
8654 = Foreign Horror Movies
6485 = Foreign Sci-Fi & Fantasy
10306 = Foreign Thrillers
7153 = Romantic Foreign Movies
3761 = African Movies
5230 = Australian Movies
262 = Belgian Movies
5685 = Korean Movies
1613 = Latin American Movies
5875 = Middle Eastern Movies
63782 = New Zealand Movies
11567 = Russian
9292 = Scandinavian Movies
9196 = Southeast Asian Movies
58741 = Spanish Movies
61115 = Greek Movies
58886 = German Movies
58807 = French Movies
5254 = Eastern European Movies
10606 = Dutch Movies
58750 = Irish Movies
10398 = Japanese Movies
8221 = Italian Movies
10463 = Indian Movies
3960 = Chinese Movies
10757 = British Movies

[URL IDs via DocDroid]

How To Block YouTube on iPad and iPhone

Here’s a little tip for those parents who have enabled restrictions on their kids’ devices, but still find that YouTube is accessible.  I’m assuming you’ve already set up restrictions (under Settings > General > Restrictions).

The next step is to tap on ‘Add a Website’ under ‘Never Allow’. The trick here is to enter both the normal YouTube URL (http://www.youtube.com) and the mobile site URL (http://m.youtube.com), as most times your iPad or iPhone will access the mobile site.
Here’s a pic of the setting correctly entered:

IMG_1570

The same of course applied to other sites that have a mobile version. To determine the URL for a mobile version, just tap once in the URL bar of Safari once the site has loaded, and you’ll be able to see the full URL.

Hope that helps you a little.

 

 

Apple Buys Beats Music and Beats Electronics..

beats-headphones.. for $3 billion. The software side makes a lot of sense to me, the headphone / earphone side less so as I’d be very doubtful they objectively produce any better quality stuff than anyone else. The brand is strong though, so there’s that.

The press release from Apple:

CUPERTINO, California—May 28, 2014—Apple® today announced it has agreed to acquire the critically acclaimed subscription streaming music service Beats Music, and Beats Electronics, which makes the popular Beats headphones, speakers and audio software. As part of the acquisition, Beats co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre will join Apple. Apple is acquiring the two companies for a total of USD$3 billion, consisting of a purchase price of approximately USD$2.6 billion and approximately USD$400 million that will vest over time.

“Music is such an important part of all of our lives and holds a special place within our hearts at Apple,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “That’s why we have kept investing in music and are bringing together these extraordinary teams so we can continue to create the most innovative music products and services in the world.”

“I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belonged with Apple,” said Jimmy Iovine. “The idea when we started the company was inspired by Apple’s unmatched ability to marry culture and technology. Apple’s deep commitment to music fans, artists, songwriters and the music industry is something special.”

Iovine has been at the forefront of innovation in the music industry for decades, and he has been an instrumental partner for Apple and iTunes® for more than a decade. He has produced or collaborated with some of the most successful artists in the history of the iTunes Store®, helping make it the world’s number one music retailer. Iovine and Dr. Dre are sound pioneers, artists and entrepreneurs.

Beats Electronics has brought the energy, emotion and excitement of playback in the recording studio back to the listening experience and has introduced an entirely new generation to premium sound entertainment. Beats Music was developed by a team of people who have each spent their entire career in music and provides music fans with an incredible curated listening experience.

“Music is such an important part of Apple’s DNA and always will be,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The addition of Beats will make our music lineup even better, from free streaming with iTunes Radio to a world-class subscription service in Beats, and of course buying music from the iTunes Store as customers have loved to do for years.”

In just five years since launch, the Beats “b” has become the brand of choice in the music and sports worlds, and is the market leader in the premium headphone market. Music superstars including Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj have designed their own customised Beats headphones and speakers. Fashion designers and street artists such as Alexander Wang, Futura and Snarkitecture have collaborated on special limited products, while renowned athletes including LeBron James, Serena Williams and Neymar use Beats as a critical part of their training and game day process. Beats has quickly become part of pop culture in the US and with the acquisition the Beats product lineup will be offered in many more countries through the Apple Online Store, Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorised Resellers.

Subject to regulatory approvals, Apple expects the transaction to close in fiscal Q4.

Formally established in 2008 as the brainchild of legendary artist and producer Dr. Dre and Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records Jimmy Iovine, Beats Electronics (Beats) comprises the Beats by Dr. Dre family of premium consumer headphones, earphones, and speakers as well as patented Beats Audio software technology and streaming music subscription service Beats Music. Through these offerings, Beats has effectively brought the energy, emotion and excitement of playback in the recording studio to the listening experience and has introduced an entirely new generation to the possibilities of premium sound entertainment.

Beats Music is a subscription streaming music service that focuses on providing a personalised music experience for each user through a unique blend of digital innovation and musical passion. Programmed by a trusted team of well-respected music experts with over 300 years of experience across all genres, Beats Music delivers the right music for any situation, any time, and any preference, personalised to your tastes. The result is an artist-friendly digital music service that does more than simply offer access to music, but one that establishes an emotional connection to it as well.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Nokia Facet: One Watch I Won’t Be Buying

Sure, it’s easy to bag Nokia as a company that’s on the downward slide due to a lack of innovation. That said, I’m not sure I want innovation if this is what it looks like:

This COULD be a joke – the iMovie template used for the video gives a hint to that, or it’s further proof of how low a budget the company now works on. If it isn’t a joke, then maybe it deserves to be. To be fair, all prototypes can look clunky, but for the life of me I can’t see how you could make this clunker look stylish.

Do you agree?

[Via Endgadget]

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