Keyboards! Apple being shit! Ducks! Or, as you might call it, links for today

Oh good. An attack on machine learning algorithms that secretly gives language models a point of view. No idea how that might be abused.

Chrome’s “Incognito Mode” isn’t. Even Google’s engineer’s know it, and privately suggest it gets renamed to something else. I don’t use Chrome, and I don’t recommend anyone else uses it.

DuckDuckGo has the first beta of their browser for Mac out. Seem interesting, especially the “Duck Player”, which blocks YouTube ads which track you — which, it turns out, is most YouTube ads. It preserves the ones which don’t track you.

Firefox Relay, which lets you create one-off email addresses for signing up to services, now also lets you mask your phone number. US and Canada only for now, but this looks really useful.

An ultra-slim Keychron K3 you say? Why sir, you are spoiling us!

I stopped using email because of two reasons: I really didn’t need another non-standard service; and DHH came across as a complete asshole, and I really don’t like giving money to assholes. He is, though, bang on the mark when he talks about how 32Signals are going to move away from the cloud and start hosting their own stuff. Cloud is great for some things — but the 30% take that the likes of Amazon will happily fleece you for is basically just you paying a large margin to someone else, and you probably don’t have to.

John Gruber gets this absolutely on the mark: the current iPad line up is a mess. There’s too many models in the line, you have weird anomalies like the new iPad having USB-C but using the old-style Pencil, the Pros still having the front-facing camera in the wrong place, and more. I am sure Apple has plans to make the line up more simple next year, but in the meantime, it’s just a mess.

I mean, we have a cost of living crisis, hospital waiting times at an all-time high, and schools literally collapsing. So obviously the Daily Fail thinks that the worst thing in the world is trans people and so runs six pieces in one issue about them. Did a trans person veto Dacre’s lordship or something?

Whoo-how, Apple is adding more ads to the App Store. Not content with taken 30% revenue from every single developer, it now wants devs to pay for placement – because let’s be honest, this is what it is.

This is an interesting account from Bono on the whole pushback against Apple for giving away their album. I never quite got it — it was a free album, you don’t have to listen to it.

Downgrading screens, misogynists losing money, and some Apple stuff

I recently downgraded my screen – my ThinkPad is a 1920×1200 display – so I think John Gruber has got this a little wrong. There is much more to a screen than resolution, and even relatively low-resolution screens now look much better than they used to. It’s not just about the number of pixels.

Dreadful misogynist and racist Vox Day, AKA Theodore Beale, has apparently lost $1m to a crypto scam while trying to crowdsource money for a right-wing superhero film. Just think, only a few years ago, that sentence would have drawn a blank look from everyone. What times we live in.

In case you’re not familiar with Vox Day’s oeuvre, he attempted to manipulate the ballot for the 2015 Hugo Awards to ensure only right-wingers got on the list and was a prominent supporter of Gamergate. He’s an all-around piece of shit, and losing money to a scam couldn’t happen to a nicer person. If you want to check out the deep cuts of his awfulness, We Hunted The Mammoth has you covered.

Chris Hynes (via Michael Tsai) tells the story of Apple Mail’s first importers. I love stories like this.

Michael, by the way, is the creator of SpamSieve, which is still the best way to filter out spam on any Mac. I bought my copy when it first came out in (I think) 2006, and I am still getting updates now, which goes well above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect from commercial software.

The cost of YouTube Premium’s family plan is getting massively hiked up. Well, when you have a monopoly on video, that’s what you can do. Of course, it’s still “free with ads” if you want to put up with incredibly intrusive privacy-violating tracking.

Completely unrelated, an extension to gPodder allows you to subscribe to YouTube channels and automatically download new content, where you can watch it locally. If you do this, though, support creators by subscribing directly to them — most creators have Patreons or other methods of giving them money while bypassing the egregious middleman that is YouTube.

One of Microsoft’s cleverer things on Windows is creating both Windows Subsystem for Linux — which lets you run Linux apps — and Windows Subsystem for Android. You can guess what that does. There’s now a public development roadmap for Android app support on Windows. What’s nice about it is how it fills in gaps in the Windows app ecosystem, such as having a good Kindle book reader on Windows tablets. It’s much more useful than the equivalent in the Apple world, where iPad apps can run on Apple Silicon Macs, mostly because the Mac app ecosystem is now so much strong than Windows.

Of course, it’s out of date now — things move pretty fast on Brexit Island — but John Lanchester’s article on “Thatcher Larping” is still an excellent read. You subscribe to the LRB, don’t you? You should.

It’s interesting looking through this piece by Cory from 2010 about why he wasn’t going to get an iPad. I think some of it’s proved wrong, but some are pretty prescient. In particular, I think the idea that the iPad’s user interaction model was all about consumption was correct (although I didn’t agree with this at the time). Enterprising users and developers have pushed the platform to be focused on creation too: Matt Gemmell writes and publishes novels on his. But it’s pushing and hacking and so on. Apple has finally acknowledged that the hardware is capable of much more than that, but it is now struggling to retrofit a more powerful and creator-focused user interface on it — and I think iPadOS 16 is the point when the bough breaks. Apple’s best option would be to make the iPad more open, of course (at least as open as the Mac) but I get the feeling there is still something of a religious war internally about doing that.

Paul Thurrott has reviewed the ThinkPad X13s, the first ThinkPad running on an ARM processor. It neatly illustrates the biggest issue with ARM outside Apple: battery life declines as soon as you push performance up to levels comparable to Intel. Paul was getting only six hours from this machine, which is terrible.

Terence Eden writes some good advice about how to write a literature review. Having had to do one, I wish I had read this before I did it. It would have saved me a lot of pain.

As I mentioned yesterday, Ubuntu 22.10 is out; of course, I’ve upgraded. I had to reinstall Wine (the Wine version in Ubuntu’s repo’s is ludicrously old) as 22.10 removed my hand-installed Wine 7. Thanks guys. And Ubuntu is really pushing Snap still. I am not religious about this, but I want Snaps to be at least up to date, which is probably one reason they have posted on the Steam snap.

Some stuff that’s interesting (not featuring Liz Truss)

Cory’s written a great post on how the FTC uses dormant powers and obscure provisions in existing bills to enact key policies like the right to repair. Still, there is a great lesson here for progressive politicians more broadly: being good at your job matters. Being competent is really important because it allows you to get stuff done.

Ubuntu 22.10 is out, and for those who like living away from the steady comfort of LTS releases, you can upgrade by following these instructions.

Google is still pushing hard for Apple to adopt RCS. On paper, this would be great: RCS gives much better support for features like rich messages and a bunch of other stuff. But despite what you may have read, there is no RCS standard for end-to-end encryption. Google’s implementation is proprietary to it, and not supported by any third-party apps. It does not (yet) support group messages or encryption on multiple devices. And, importantly, the metadata surrounding your message is not encrypted, so Google knows who you’re sending messages to, where and when. If you want encrypted messages, use Signal, which does not collect that data.

Idaho Republicans want to ban all public drag shows. Sigh. Meanwhile, over here The Daily Hate is making up shit about trans people to stir up hatred. Because hating minorities is what gets these nasty little people off.

Does my alien have a penis and other interesting things for today

Only a so-called “gender critical” could turn the sex of a cartoon intended to get kids reading into a debate about whether an alien has a penis. This is a canonical example of why some people shouldn’t use social media.

Meanwhile, Putin’s conscription efforts are going exactly as you would expect from a country mired in corruption.

I have pre-ordered a Kindle Scribe because it sounds like the kind of technology I love. I have a similar Remarkable 2, and while it’s a great note-taking device in many ways, it’s a poor e-reader. The Scribe looks like it’s probably the other way round, and that’s fine with me. It’s due to arrive at some point in December — I’m hoping before I head off to a week-long residential writing course I’m doing.

Tangentially related: you can now easily send ePubs to Kindle, which means that the DRM-free books I’ve bought elsewhere can work on my favourite e-reading hardware.

Dan Moren has a good piece on the conundrum, which is the iPad. I must admit that the iPadOS 16 betas have made me fall in love with my iPad Pro a little bit. However, after the initial rush of excitement that I might be able to replace my Mac with the iPad Pro and a big monitor, external monitor support in Stage Manager has proved to be so rough that Apple has pulled it, and who knows when it will return. Something is wrong internally at Apple to get to this point and still be this much of a mess, which goes beyond just QA or the difficulties of grafting this kind of function onto a device that comes from a completely different paradigm.

Via Om comes this Christian Heilmann piece on the sorry state of the web. Christian is absolutely right: the social web is a mess, and there’s no coherent archiving apart from the incredible work of I would add that the web has become the equivalent of television for my generation: something that just soaks up your attention rather than being a place to go to learn something or be entertained intentionally.

I immensely enjoyed Russell’s latest email in which he ruminates on blogging for writing vs banging out link posts. I, too, wonder about this, but that’s partly because I look at my ideas bucket for longer posts and find about 20 things, all of which I don’t think I’ll ever want to write about. So, for example, that post about how shareholder value isn’t the best thing for directors of companies to focus on is great, but it just doesn’t feel like something I want to write now…

There’s a new Linux kernel out! I’m not sure when I will become a Linux user (is there a badge?), but I’ve been mainly working on my ThinkPad running Zorin OS for several weeks, and it’s starting to feel like home. I’ll probably write some more about this at some point — it took me a while to settle on the right distro and get the right tools in the right places — and although I still use my other laptops (both Mac and Windows), this is where I prefer to work.

One of the reasons that I started investigating Linux was an increasing wariness about Apple’s future direction. Om has a good piece in The Spectator about why the company is pushing more into services and advertising. In short: there’s no growth in hardware, and app store revenue is flatlining and is likely to decline.

Our wonderful government has decided to do away with GDPR and have some kind of “British Data Protection System”. This is almost the perfect Tory policy: it will have little impact on businesses (which will have to continue to follow GDPR if they so much as sniff at an EU customer) while adding most cost because there’s yet another system to support and deliver little if any real-world benefit. Bravo!

Just why did a company owned by a former UKIP leader pay Andrew Bridgen £500?

Here’s an interesting one. According to the register of members’ interests, on 17th November 2020, prominent Tory MP Andrew Bridgen received £500 for writing four articles from a company called “Open Dialogus Ltd”. “Open Dialogus” now has almost no presence on the Web.

It’s website appears to have been taken offline earlier this year, and its Twitter account has vanished. Fortunately, the Web Archive exists, so you can get a flavour of the kinds of content it published: criticisms of lockdowns, support for various flavours of Trumpist nonsense…

And Andrew Bridgen, writing about “The Legacy of Greville Janner“…

“Open Dialogus” had no employees; its one and only filing showed it still managed to lose £30,000, yet still paid an MP £500 to write, or at least put his name to, four rather dull blog posts.

The sole director of Open Dialogus is Daniel William Emmerson, and it took a while to track him down. But it looks like he is, in fact, the former chair of UKIP North West Hampshire, who was suspended from the party after some kind of disagreement.

Since then – like most right winders, Emmerson has taken to YouTube. Here he is talking about Open Dialogus, and it certainly doesn’t sound like he’s changed his political views since his UKIP days (he openly called for Johnson to go because he’s not right-wing enough):

Of course, Emmerson has plenty more videos on YouTube – and here he is saying that he knows Brigden and Mark Francois, and they are “the only true conservatives”:

In other words, it appears Andrew Bridgen MP was paid £500 by a company run by a former UKIP local leader who promotes policies at odds with those of his party and doesn’t actually consider any of his Conservative colleagues to be real conservatives (other than Mr Toad).

And – perhaps most importantly – there’s another question: how did Bridgen come to know – and get paid by – a former UKIP local leader? Where did they, and presumably Francois, meet? Perhaps he can tell us.

On the prospect of Keir Starmer resigning

The pressure from Conservatives on Durham Police to investigate Keir Starmer – and their jubilation when Durham agreed – perfectly illustrate why the Tories have lost their way on strategy. There is no outcome of this where their position is improved.

This isn’t hard to plot because there are only two things that could happen. So let’s take what they probably think is the best first: Starmer is given a fine.

What happens then is that Starmer resigns, and one of a whole swathe of capable leaders takes his place: Cooper, Rayner, and probably half a dozen others. Labour is the party which acts with honour and cleans its own house, while the Tories refuse to follow the laws they set and don’t accept the consequences.

The Tories, though, obviously think Starmer won’t resign. He will – because it’s the right thing for the party and the country. The Tories are so used to having a leader who cares only for himself they don’t believe any other leadership is possible. Think about that for a minute.

Starmer resigning loses some Labour voters. But they don’t go to the Tories: they drift to the Lib Dems, and as we saw at the local elections, that’s a real threat to the Tories in their heartland. The Lib Dems are the more significant threat in many Tory seats, and Starmer being fined would aid them, not the Tories.

The other option is Starmer is cleared. In this case, the investigation has strengthened Labour even more. No need to dwell on how bad this would be for the Tories.

What all this shows is that Tory strategists are just not thinking ahead. They are only thinking of the next few covers of the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Sun – all of which will move on to the cost of living reasonably quickly either way, either hammering the government (Mail, Sun) or simply lying about it (Telegraph AKA Pravda).

The best Tory strategy would be to dump Johnson. Still, the party has become so infiltrated by extremists because of Brexit that it, unlike Labour, has few talents to turn to. So they are, in political terms, fucked.