Luminary Blur

Ben Hinc

‘No Better Than a Chromebook’ — February 21, 2018

‘No Better Than a Chromebook’

Brian Fagioli, writing at BetaNews:

When I first began using the Mac, I downloaded a bunch of software I thought I would enjoy. As a big Twitter user, I obviously installed the official app for that social network. You know what? It sucked. I tried to make it work, but ultimately, using a web browser was just a much better experience. On any desktop operating system, users are wise to use a browser. Let’s be honest — Twitter apps are best saved for smartphones and tablets. Twitter the company apparently agrees, as today, it officially kills the Mac app.

Later, he makes this profound observation:

Look, macOS is great for many things, but for accessing the web — including social media — it is no better than a Chromebook. Heck, from a security perspective, Google’s desktop operating system is arguably superior to macOS when surfing the web. And yeah, a computer running it can be had for $200. So?

Despite many routes I could take to assail Fagioli’s argument, I’ll begin with viewing social media as merely a web-based phenomenon. Is the Instagram experience better on the web? How about Snapchat? It’s true — both services started as apps. Twitter began as a bare-bones web service designed around the limitations of SMS messaging. In fact, I’m quite certain my first Twitter post was sent via SMS.

Should Twitter shutter its “much better experience” on the web to revert back to an SMS-focused model? Surely not, because how things begin isn’t necessarily how they should remain.

Considering Twitter apps on Apple platforms specifically, they have long been a playground for creative design and innovative implementation of the Twitter API.

Tweetie, which was used as the original basis of the official Twitter apps for both iOS and macOS, was the first app to ever use a pull-to-refresh gesture on iPhone. Think about it: A Twitter app is the genesis of a user interface convention that has been adopted by other app developers and Apple itself.

I’ve never been a fan of building one’s business model on top of another business and Twitter apps of any variety fall into this category. Yet, bringing more people into Twitter’s web implementation benefits Twitter rather than its users: Twitter gains control while users lose one more access point into what remains a very important social media experience.

Don’t give in. There are two great native Twitter apps for macOS that combine sensible functionality with great access to Twitter. Purchase Twitterrific or Tweetbot today — what you’ll pay is even less than a $200 Chromebook.

Exactly How It’s Supposed to Work — February 2, 2018

Exactly How It’s Supposed to Work

From an Exclusive Autosport press release:

The impressive pairing of Exclusive Autosport and Parker Thompson has delivered much success over the past three years, locking race wins in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the F1600 Super Series, the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship in Ontario and the Formula Tour 1600 series in Quebec. Thompson drove to major home country wins for Exclusive Autosport in both F1600 at the F1 Grand Prix in Montreal and USF2000 in Toronto in 2017. This year, he will aim to extend this streak into the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. Exclusive Autosport has signed the 19-year-old Canadian to lead their rookie charge into the series, which is the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Exclusive Autosport debuted in the USF2000 series in 2017 and promptly won three races en route to third in the Drivers’ Championship. With teams in F1600 and USF2000, Pro Mazda is the logical progression in their expansion and development and Thompson represents the first of two driver announcements for this level of their program.

This, as the title states, is exactly how it’s supposed to work.

I don’t cover the Mazda Road to Indy at The Apex any longer but that doesn’t mean I don’t still maintain an intense interest in all three series and the young drivers that are given a chance to shine because of it.

While it’s drivers that are most often in the spotlight, teams deserve recognition too. Exclusive Autosport embraced its first season in USF2000 with gusto and Thompson’s sweep of both Toronto races vindicated those efforts.

Credit also goes to Andersen Promotions for bringing new cars to both USF2000 and Pro Mazda and ensuring that moving between the series is as easy as possible by using the same base chassis for both the Tatuus USF-17 and PM-18.

I feel like this is one of many great stories to come out of the Mazda Road to Indy this year and St. Petersburg is still over a month away.

Messages in a Web Browser —

Messages in a Web Browser

Juli Clover, writing for Mac Rumors:

As of iOS 11.3, Messages in iCloud is back and is available for “testing and evaluation purposes,” marking the official return of the feature. According to Apple’s release notes, once iOS 11.3 beta 1 is installed, Messages will prompt users to turn on Messages in the Cloud when it is first launched.

Messages in the Cloud is automatically enabled for users who have two-factor authentication and iCloud Backup enabled, says Apple.

The new Messages in iCloud feature will be a welcome change for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users who prefer not to delete their messages. Over the course of several years, Messages can take up a lot of space. That space can now be freed up with the bulk of older messages stored directly in iCloud rather than on-device.

As a paid developer, I’ve been testing iOS 11.3 since its beta release. Quick, reliable and trouble-free message syncing between devices is a feature I’ve longed for and — at least between the iPhone X and current-generation iPad that have the beta installed — it’s finally here.

The utility of having Messages data backed up to iCloud is apparent: It saves space.

While the user interface of Messages syncing is opaque and therefore quintessentially Apple, a day or two after flicking the switch in iCloud settings, the space taken up by Messages in my iCloud storage ballooned from zero to 37.8 gigabytes. Despite a disconcerting lack of any activity indicator or progress meter, the end state proves that something did, in fact, happen.

Now that my Messages data is backed up to iCloud, Apple should take the next logical step and allow me to access this data through a web browser.

There’s a lot of information already stored in iCloud and available through the web interface. Photos and files come to mind as the most personal of these. However, if privacy is the argument against keeping Messages off the web, then the same people making this argument probably aren’t using iCloud anyway.

For intensely privacy-conscious individuals, there’s two-factor authentication that requires access to both a password and another device already authorized to access iCloud.

In my dream implementation, Messages on iCloud would offer more than read-only access. If I can send and receive email using iCloud on the web, I should similarly be able to send and receive messages.

SMS messages remain the one sticking point here since even iPads must pair with an iPhone in order to deal with those dreaded green bubbles. With efficient iCloud syncing, the plague of SMS becomes less of an issue because texts received by an iPhone are synced with the cloud no matter their source. Sending old-school texts could be handled similarly:

  1. Initiate an SMS message using the iCloud web interface.
  2. Upon hitting send, the message is synced to iCloud and shows up on the iPhone associated with the account.
  3. The SMS is sent by the iPhone and the status change — from pending to sent — is synced back to iCloud.

Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, iCloud Drive, Notes, Reminders, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Find Friends and Find iPhone are all available through iCloud.com.

It’s time to add Messages to that list.

Luminary Blur — for Real This Time — January 31, 2018

Luminary Blur — for Real This Time

Once upon a time, I kept a personal online diary. I called it Luminary Blur. I’ve since archived that and finally launched my own personal website with my name as the URL and Luminary Blur as the moniker.

If you’re interested in technology, racing, the mainstream media and particularly my thoughts on these topics, you may find it worthwhile to keep up to date with my writing here. Some of it will be super short, some of it will be mighty long, but all of it will be me.

With the launch of this neat little website, I intend to illuminate the blur that has been my thoughts on so many topics for so much time. Thank you sincerely for checking it out.