20th July 2018
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You may or may not have heard about Venmo before, but in the simplest terms – they’re a payment provider that also lets you have an internal balance (quick fact – all payment processing is actually performed by PayPal). They’re one of many FinTech companies trying to do roughly the same thing.

They also have an API. From which you can check out individual transactions, the people that sent/received money, and even identifiable bits of information such as Facebook IDs.

But hang on, what was this I saw on the Venmo website:

Your personal and financial data is encrypted and protected on our secure servers to guard against unauthorized transactions.

You’d probably assume this meant your transactions as well. Turns out these are public by default.

That’s what allowed Hang Do Thi Duc to create PUBLIC BY DEFAULT. Her reasoning behind why she made it:

Many products that we use on a daily basis make it more difficult than it should be to protect our privacy, our most personal information. Many of these products share data (publicly) by default. Venmo is an example of one of these products.

And what an interesting example! One would think that when it comes to money, privacy by design is of greater importance and higher demand. One would be disappointed in this particular case.

I think it’s problematic that there is a public feed which includes real names, their profile links (to access past transactions), possibly their Facebook IDs and essentially their network of friends they spend time with. And all of this is so easy to access! I believe this could be designed better. Why include all this information, when essentially the only interesting part is the message? If you – as a company – actually care about your users and their privacy you would ask this kind of questions.

So, if companies don’t care, I think WE have to take action

The website is rather packed full with examples of the type of data you can extract from the API, and also how you can combine it to recreate stories of peoples lives.

I won’t list of everything, because honestly, I wouldn’t be able to, but there’s a cannabis retailer that had 920 incoming transactions, a few couples that have been having conversations via their transactions, and one young female that had 965 transactions for soft and alcoholic drinks, fast food, and sweets, in just 8 months.

All of this seemingly fun data, also comes packed with personally identifiable information. I’m wondering whether this is breaking GDPR rules.

I’d definitely recommend having a play around on the website, as it really brings to life what information can be realised, just by transactions.

Just to end on a scary note, based on the 207,984,218 public Venmo transactions from 2017, there were 18,429,464 people that had their transactions set to public visibility, 1,731,783 shared Facebook IDs, and 1,189,210 unique last names (from which a pretty cool graph was made).

20th July 2018

Theo Strauss, writing about Lyft’s new implementation of the search bar, and why its best placed at the bottom:

Although we don’t think about it too often, a search bar all the way at the top of the screen is hard to reach. Especially for users who have smaller hands or users who have less flexible hands, reaching up is annoying, mostly because the top of the screen is far away from where their fingers sit.

If you visualize most apps, the main content is in the middle or lower-mid area. Tab bars for navigation, posts on social media, and keyboards on messaging platforms are all examples of important pieces of experiences sitting in a more reachable position.

I feel exactly the same. The ability to search within an app, or just accessing the main navigational controls of an app, should be the most accessible parts.

In a world where we use tools such as a mouse, or laptop trackpad to direct a cursor around a screen, a classic vertical layout where all navigation is at the top, and the content filling the rest of the space, is probably fine.

However nowadays we interact with content on our displays directly, so it needs to be designed with a human hand in mind, not a cursor.

You can already see Apple pushing developers/designers towards this bottom-up approach, as they’ve added the “pull up” drawer-like component that contains a search bar and results, into the Maps app. This is the approach I feel needs to be standardised going forward, but this isn’t the only approach. As the Music app also follows this idea of having controls at the bottom, with the now playing indicator being there.

I do see this becoming a trend very soon, and I suspect that in a few months quite a lot of apps will be using a sheet similar to the one in Apple Maps. The only drawback is that Apple don’t provide a standard implementation of this bottom sheet, and instead developers either have to implement this manually, or adopt a library from other third-party developers.

I’ve been experimenting with it at work, and I’ve found one library to be very useful, and that is PullUpController by Mario Iannotta. It provides you with a simple one liner to add any view to act as the bottom sheet, and also manages the sticky points, management of inner scrolling views and content, and you can also extend it to your wishes.

Hopefully Apple can share their implementation and more developers can make use of this new interface style.

18th July 2018

Matthew Gault, writing for Motherboard:

Back in 2012, developer Roberts Space Industries (RSI) launched a Kickstarter asking for money to fund Star Citizen—an ambitious space game in the mold of Wing Commander. It’s 2018, and while parts of the game are playable in various forms, it’s far from achieving what it set out to accomplish. So far, it’s collected more than $200 million in funding from fans eager to play it.

Ken Lord was one of those fans, and an early backer of Star Citizen. He’s got a Golden Ticket, a mark on his account that singles him out as an early member of the community. In April of 2013, Lord pledged $4,496 to the project. Five years later, the game still isn’t out, and Lord wants his money back. RSI wouldn’t refund it, so Lord took the developer to small-claims court in California.

This is a major reason why I don’t partake in many Kickstarters, and I personally think games are the worst examples. Clearly I’m the minority though, as the original Kickstarter campaign received $2,134,374 from 34,397 backers.

That’s a lot of money for a game that began development in 2011, and still hasn’t been released yet. Sure, there’s an alpha available, but it’s been 7 years, and they originally planned to release in November 2014.

Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the entire story of Ken Lord’s legal case, because there are quite a few interesting twists and turns.

Read the full article on Motherboard.

18th July 2018

I’ve just upgraded my Mac to the latest Mojave beta, and I’ve discovered a new wallpaper!

In a previous update the Desktop Pictures folder was split into two sections – Dynamic Desktop and Desktop Pictures. The first section containing the photo of the Mojave desert, which contained a dynamic, and two still (night and day) versions.

This new one is called “Solar gradients” and comes in just a dynamic format. Of course it’s a rather simple wallpaper, and the majority of the time it’s a two-colour gradient, but it will show you the sun rising, the sky getting brighter, followed by the sun fading away, and a darker blue and black combination for the night sky.

A quick tip – If you want to preview a dynamic desktop, when you navigate to the Desktop & Screen Saver pane in System Preferences, just select the wallpaper, and the preview image will cycle through the different segments.

12th July 2018
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With all the nostalgia of the early App Store and iOS SDK days, Frederik Riedel tweeted about his experience developing iRedstone:

After he tweeted that, other developers started quoting it, and sharing their experiences. Frederik has compiled a great collection of them over on his blog.

12th July 2018

Well this is unexpected, Apple have updated some of their Macs:

Cupertino, California — Apple today updated MacBook Pro with faster performance and new pro features, making it the most advanced Mac notebook ever. The new MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar feature 8th-generation Intel Core processors, with 6-core on the 15-inch model for up to 70 percent faster performance and quad-core on the 13-inch model for up to two times faster performance — ideal for manipulating large data sets, performing complex simulations, creating multi-track audio projects or doing advanced image processing or film editing. – Apple Newsroom

The improvements are to the 13” and 15” models of the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and there are also a few extra bits of news. I thought I’d try and extract the key improvements:

MacBook Pros

 Hardware

  • Faster CPUs – Now using 8th generation chips:
    • Quad-core Intel i5 and i7 processors up to 2.7GHz (Turbo Boost to 4.5GHz) for the 13”
    • Hexa-core Intel i7 and i9 processors up to 2.9GHz (Turbo Boost to 4.8GHz) for the 15”
  • Up to 32GB of DDR4 memory in the 15”
  • New HDD options – 2TB for the 13” ad 4TB for the 15”
  • New Apple T2 Chip
  • True Tone
  • Upgraded graphics chips:
    • Intel Iris Plus 655 for the 13”
    • Radeon Pro chips with 4GB of video memory for the 15”
  • The 13” model now ships with 4 USB C ports
  • The keyboard has been replaced with a new 3rd generation butterfly keyboard, which is quieter, and maybe more reliable.
  • Battery capacities have been slightly increased to cope with the newer specs. However, Brian Heater at TechCrunch says that no mechanical changes have been made.

Software

  • “Hey Siri” comes to the MacBook Pro because of the new T2 chip.
  • Also, enhanced security with secure booting, and on-the-fly storage encryption because of the T2.

 Extras

  • There are new colour options for the MacBook Leather Sleeve (13” and 15”) – Saddle Brown, Midnight Blue, and Black.
  • These MacBook Pro’s are also part of the Back to Schoo program, where students can receive a free pair of Beats headphones with eligible Macs.

10th July 2018

It hasn’t been long since the release of Text Case, but I’ve already had some great suggestions, so I decided to add them in!

So here it goes.

Five extra formats: – URL Decoded – Capitalise All Words – Camel Case – Snake Case – Hashtags

One format has been “fixed”, and that is Capitalise. It now does the obvious and also capitalises the first letter after a period.

You can now choose which formats you want to enable, by navigating to the Settings page, and flipping the switches. This will obviously allow for a more customised interface, as I imagine some people won’t want all 12 formats to show if there aren’t needed.

I still have two things I want to work on. One is the ability for the action extension to be able to replace the original selected text with the new converted value. The other is a pretty great idea that I can’t share until I figure out how exactly I’m going to implement it. But it will be an advanced feature.

I’d also like to say thank you to everyone that has already downloaded Text Case, and I plan to keep adding useful updates!

If you haven’t already, you can download Text Case on the App Store.

07th July 2018

I’m very glad to announce that Text Case is now released, and is live on the App Store!

Text Case is a simple utility that allows you to convert any text into various different formats.

It comes packed with an action extension that lets you select text anywhere in iOS, tap the Share button, and then you’ll find the “Convert Text” action. This will show you a preview of all available formats, and a simple tap on one of those will copy it to your clipboard, and you’ll be returned to the original app.

The available formats are currently:

  • Title Case
  • URL Encoded
  • Uppercase
  • Lowercase
  • Capitalise
  • Reversed
  • Mocking Spongebob (This one is for fun)

More formats will be added in the future!

Download Text Case on the App Store!

04th July 2018

I’ve been working on a small project called Text Case for a while now. It’s had my attention in small bursts, and I think it’s finally ready to be classified as a 1.0.

I won’t write a whole essay about it just yet, but it’s a utility app that converts raw text into various different formats. The main one being title case, which is very handy for me personally.

Along with the base app, it comes with an Action Extension, which you can access by selecting a portion of text, and then accessing the Share sheet. You then get to preview the possible formatted versions, and just one tap will copy it to the clipboard, and it’s dismissed.

I can already think about different ways the app can be expanded, but I don’t want this to become a habit of mine, where I never ship something because I always want to add one extra thing. There’s definitely going to be edge cases where formatting won’t be perfect, I’m thinking the title case will be 100% of these, but I can fix these quite fast.

But for once, I’m just going to ship an app, and see how it’s goes.

Here’s a preview:

04th July 2018

Nancy Pearl, writing for The Globe and Mail:

It wasn’t until I became an adult, and a librarian, that I began to question my commitment to finishing each and every book that I began. Now that I really was living a major portion of my life in the library, I literally found myself surrounded by books, tempting me, calling to me from the shelves. How could I – in one lifetime – ever get through everything I wanted to read if I had to finish those books that I discovered to be (at least to me) boring, badly written or just plain bad?

It dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to finish every book I started. Gradually my attitude changed, but not without a struggle. I felt bad for the authors whose books I gave up on. Didn’t they deserve a full chance to entice me into the world they’d created? I could hear their voices in my head, like the voice of my conscience, saying, “Wait, wait, it gets better! You haven’t gotten to the good part yet.” Oh the guilt, the guilt!

This is a very good tip if you want to read more books. I noticed myself that I would become stuck on a boring book, and I wouldn’t allow myself to read anything else. And that really messes things up.



So now, I just put a book down whenever I’m bored of it, and then pick it back up when I am. It certainly makes my “Reading” section in GoodReads look rather packed, but it’s a good problem to have.

Read the full post.