Aerial Screensaver for OS X



John Coates created a screensaver for OS X based on the new Apple TV screensaver. It is beautiful. You should check it out. The only problem I have with it right now is that it doesn’t support energy saver, so if you have it as your screensaver, don’t expect your monitors to turn off.

Office 365

I’ve recently been looking for a replacement for Google apps. I wanted something that had reliable email and calendar. While Google does provide both of those things, I find myself wanting to be controlled by Google’s services less and less. I also wanted something that was reasonably priced (comparable to the monthly price of Google apps). That’s when I decided to give Office 365 a shot.

Now, I’m no stranger to Office 365. We use it at work and I interact at a daily basis. The web mail and calendar are good (or good enough to replace Google), but the real power is with my devices. Because Office 365 is hosted Exchange, mail, contacts, notes, and calendar events sync instantaneously. With Google I would often have to wait several minutes for the data to show up, especially with events. This always left me feeling a bit uneasy wondering if my data was actually there. This is not the case with Office 365.

The setup of Office 365 with my domain was incredibly simple. They walk you through every step of the way, even verifying that your DNS is set up properly. With Office 365, you also get more mail and OneDrive space than you get with Google (50 GB mailbox and 1 TB file storage for the Business Essentials plan). So far, a week into my trial, everything is running smooth. I never thought I’d say this, but I may actually not only use, but choose to use willingly, a Microsoft product.

2015 MacBook Pro

My work recently adopted a flexible work policy in which employees could work from home at certain times. I get to work from home on Wednesdays. When the policy was announced, I knew I’d want to work from a laptop so I wouldn’t be chained to the Mac Mini on my desk at home. I wanted the ability to work from bed, the couch, or wherever I had a consistent internet connection. The problem was, my white plastic MacBook from 2007 was really slow and old. It only had 2 gigs of RAM and the battery wouldn’t last more than 2 hours. That’s when I decided to start looking for a replacement.

When I started looking for a new laptop I was unsure of what to get. The company I work for is a Microsoft shop, so our software and tools were developed for the Microsoft ecosystem. That made me consider buying a Windows laptop for the first time in over 10 years. So, I started looking at the higher end laptops that ran Windows and couldn’t believe how awful they were. On top of that, when I would build them with custom specs, the price wound up not being far off from Apple’s line of notebooks. Read more

Companies can track what diseases you look up online

Well, this is terrifying. From Vice:

Tim Libert, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, has discovered that the vast majority of health sites, from the for-profit to the government-run, are loaded with tracking elements that are sending records of your health inquiries to the likes of web giants like Google, Facebook, and Pinterest, and data brokers like Experian and Acxiom.

From there, it becomes relatively easy for the companies receiving the requests, many of which are collecting other kinds of data (in cookies, say) about your browsing as well, to identify you and your illness. That URL, or URI, which very clearly contains the disease being searched for, is broadcast to Google, Twitter, and Facebook, along with your computer’s IP address and other identifying information.

It seems like every day I see a new article showcasing what little privacy we really have.

Ripping DVDs and Blu-rays

Jason Snell at Six Colors wrote up a great article on how he rips DVDs and Blu-rays.

This article came at the perfect time as I’ve been contemplating getting an external Blu-ray drive for my Mac Mini. Currently, I’ve been ripping some DVDs (using Handbrake) as I’ve been converting my gigantic collection to files that I can play back on my TV via Plex and my Roku. It takes about 20-30 minutes to rip a DVD on my Mini and the fans blow like crazy almost the entire time. That has been one of my biggest concerns with getting a Blu-ray drive. My concerns seem to be valid after reading this from Snell’s article:

Video files take a long time to encode. Even on my 5K iMac, this three-hour HD baseball game will take more than two hours to encode. Be patient, or let your encodes run overnight.

Now, I’m not ripping three-hour baseball games, but I do have some movies that go on three hours, or even longer. If my fans blow like crazy for 10-15 of the 30 minutes of a DVD rip, I can’t imagine what will happen if I try to rip a Blu-ray and encode the video for a couple of hours 1. Should I even bother or should I just re-purchase (or otherwise acquire) those movies in a stream-able format? I’ll have to browse around and see if there are Mini owners that are ripping Blu-rays without long term negative consequences to their Minis.

  1. Or longer as Snell was doing it on his new, suped up Retina iMac and I have a 2012 Mac Mini

The ’90s Tech Industry is Back

The Verge has an interesting article, Facebook is the new AOL, that discusses how the tech industry of the 1990s is back.

The 90s were a decade of excess and mistakes and excessive mistakes. The rollicking good times of the 90s ended with the dot-com collapse of the early 2000s, the memories of which continue to shape the industry today.

So it’s worth noting that the broad outlines of tech in 2015 look surprisingly like the late 90s. The major players are set up the same, the fights are the same, and the mistakes will almost certainly be the same…

2015 will be defined by the Revenge of 90s Internet: media and tech giants flirting with each other, dominant players throwing their weight around, and portals, portals everywhere.

The article does a good job of comparing the major tech giants today with the ones of yesteryear. Facebook as AOL. Apple as Sony, Qualcomm as Intel and Google as Microsoft. The two that really hit the nail on the head for me are Apple as Sony and Google as Microsoft. That being said, some of these comparisons may just be skin deep. I think companies like Apple and Facebook are in much better positions than there predecessors. Perhaps that’s the point of the article. The companies of the ’90s could do no wrong and no one saw the downfall that would be not far off.

Stopping Data at the Border

Another article in the never-ending war against net neutrality and the fight against privacy.

The ITC recently gave itself the power to rule on data as it crosses US borders, as a result of a complex 3D printing case. If the ruling holds, it could have huge implications for the way data moves across the global web, and give the MPAA the site-blocking powers it’s been grasping at for years…

If you shipped in a boatload of Expendables DVDs, the ITC would have no problem stopping it at the border — so why not an ISO file? The technical mechanisms for blocking that file in transit would end up looking a lot like site-blocking, and the memo goes on to explain why targeting consumer-facing ISPs would be their best strategy in the wake of a favorable ruling by the Federal Circuit. It’s still unclear whether copyright would fall under the same rules (the current ruling may only apply to patents), but if it does, it would be Hollywood’s best legal channel for blocking sites in transit, supporting the same ISP-based blocking regime that was proposed by SOPA.

Giving the MPAA power to block sites because of the content on the sites is a slippery slope, one that should make everyone uncomfortable.