News

DeRay Mckesson has Twitter account hacked

A prominent Black Lives Matter activist, DeRay Mckesson, had his Twitter account hacked yesterday, after getting in via his Verizon account. 

There are two things that I find rather scary about this hack. Firstly, I'm amazed that even with two-factor authentication enabled it's still easy to get in. On top of that, Im really concerned that someone out there is so racist or so pro-Trump that they felt the need to make an attack like this. 

In other sad Twitter news (((Jon Weisman))) from the New York Times left Twitter this week because of anti-Semitic abuse.

All this abuse is so pointless. Maybe it makes some loser feel good for about 30 seconds. But at what cost?

 

Apple Music Festival in London

The annual iTunes Festival (now renamed as the Apple Music Festival) has been announced for ten nights in September. This is now the 9th year that the festival has run, and the 7th time it has been at the Roundhouse in Camden, London. For some reason it seems to have been reduced from a whole month of concerts down to 10 days. But to make up for it, they have got One Direction performing this year.

I spent a few years living in London and managed to get some of the free tickets. It's well worth applying for tickets if you're a UK resident. There is a pretty good chance you'll get something and you'll receive two free tickets to a great concert in a fantastic venue. Good luck!

If you can't get any tickets, everything is broadcast live via iTunes.

 

Creating GIFs from YouTube videos

The other day, whilst watching a YouTube video, I was given the option to create a GIF from the video. This can be found  by clicking on the "Share" button below a video in a web browser. It is seems to only be available for certain users so far so isn't available for many videos.

I had never seen this before but an internet search showed that this feature has been around since late 2014. 

According to the article that I found, it was possible to create GIFs only from PBS videos but it seems this feature is a little more widely available now. I created the GIF below from one of Casey Neistat's daily vlogs

The feature allows you to augment the GIF with meme-tastic text just to make it more amazingly (or annoyingly) GIFfy. It's funn, if you like that kind of thing.

I expect it will slowly be rolled out to more users so keep an eye out for it.

App Analytics from Apple

Despite the name of this site appearing to sound like a certain brand of computer from a fruit company, this isn't primarily an Apple site and the Macaroni/Macintosh similarity is purely co-incidental. 

However, if you read the articles here regularly, you might be aware that I'm also an iOS developer with one slightly mediocre app in the iOS app store. I use Xcode and iTunes Connect which are Apple's tools for creating applications and releasing them to the app store.

At WWDC last year, Apple announced that they would be releasing app analytics to developers in the near future. It seems that sometimes "soon" means 11 months later. Just last week, Apple opened a beta program for their App Analytics feature which I obviously applied to join.

I got an email this morning saying that I had been accepted into the program. I'm not sure how wide acceptance into the program is yet so I thought I would write a little bit about it. 

Once I logged into iTunes Connect, there was a new icon waiting for me. I clicked on it and saw a dashboard of useful numbers. There are two different sections of metrics available.

Firstly there are App Store details. This show how many people have looked at the app in the iTunes store. This is useful information that isn't currently available from any other source. Sales were known to developers but the number of page views weren't. Interestingly, according to the FAQ, the App Store views seems to be "the number of times your app’s App Store page has been viewed on a device using iOS 8 or later". So this appears not to include web page views and views from within the iTunes app on Mac OS or Windows.

The other type of data is app usage. You may have noticed when setting up a new iOS device or when installing an OS update that you are asked whether you wish to share diagnostic data with  app developers. Obviously you say 'no' to that, because who wants their data to be shared. Well, it turns out that as an app developer, I'd like it to be shared. The amount of data shared is minimal and quite useful to developers.

The App Store data is for shown all users but the analytic data is only for those users who have opted-in. Helpfully, Apple tells you how many users have opted-in by clicking on "About App Analytics Data". It tells me that "In the last 30 days, 11% of users that installed "Simple GPS logger" agreed to share their data." 11% is a little too low to really be useful, especially when my app only has about half a dozen downloads per day: meaning I only get full analytic information from about 5 new users per week.

I understand why Apple has set up the analytics to only share information from users who have opted-in. This is the way that Apple operates because customer privacy is important to them. 

The App Usage data is pretty basic compared to what you get from someone like Flurry (now part of Yahoo), but as a user you're also not sending all your data to a possibly untrustworthy third party.

The only information that developers receive from Apple about app usage is number of installations, number of sessions and number of active devices. This can be broken down by app version, iOS version, platform, region and territory. This is only for users who have opted-in to share data with developers. There is also information about user retention but because my numbers are so low, I have never found it to be that useful. 

Unfortunately because of the small number of downloads and the opt-in data, breaking down the number of installations isn't much use to me. The most useful metric for me appears to be "Active last 30 days" because it isn't just a squiggly line that occasionally jumps above 0 but is instead a total number of active devices over the month.

As a slight aside, have you ever tried tracing the data packets being sent from your phone? Try it one day and you'll be surprised how much traffic is sent to sites like Flurry and Google Analytics.

Currently in my app I use Flurry for analytics information. This provides information about all users of the application. However, none of them have opted-in to having this information shared. Knowing what I know about the information that Apple shares I'm quite happy to have it enabled. But whenever the question has been asked by the phone I have thought carefully about it and worried about what exactly might be shared. Considering that I am a little reticent to share the fact that I use Flurry, maybe I should promote it more widely within the app to let users know.

That's all that I've got about Apple's analytics offering now. It's not as useful as it would be if it weren't opt-in but Apple was never going to offer anything else. Useful for developers in the absence of anything else. If I was writing a new app then this might be enough, but I'm not going to be removing Flurry from my app just yet.

This is probably the most focussed article that I've written that isn't related to a news event. I'll probably be writing a few more stories about Apple over the next couple of months. As part of my development work, I'm heading to San Francisco in early June for Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. I'm really looking forward to this.

 

Amazon Local Register: ahead and behind the rest of the world

Amazon announced their competitor to Square yesterday. In a way I amazed the the United States is so far ahead of the rest of the world that there sorts of devices are just available over the counter. The future really is here. I expect that in most other countries I wouldn't be able to charge credit cards without most complexity and more higher fees.

On the other hand, the rest of the world has already moved towards EMV credit cards. According to Wikipedia, most of the world has already shifted liability to the merchant if their point of sale terminal does not support EMV chip cards. This should be happening in the United States in October 2015.

So, it looks like the United States has one foot in the future and one in the past. If Amazon Local Register had included EMV support, I would've been impressed. As it stands they are just following the rest of the industry rather than leading the way.

FAA bans Amazon drone delivery, for now

It looks like the FAA has brought down the ban-hammer on commercial use of drones. At least for now. 

The reasoning behind this appears to be that they are treating them as "model aircraft", which are only allowed to be used for "recreational and hobby purposes".

I've got no idea how the FAA processes work but this seems like the sort of response you might get from a jobsworth rather than anything forward looking. I don't think it precludes rule changes at a later date but it simply seems to clarify the rules as they are. 

Chromebook Pixel skimping on 2 year Verizon data contract

This is sounding like a bit of a strange story and I would love to know what is actually going on. 

Yesterday the news broke that the two years of free Verizon service on the Chromebook Pixel had quietly been cut back to a year. After being widely publicised at the time, it was cut short without any notice. 

Now, Google has announced that they are giving a $150 gift card to customers who purchased the original device, which is probably the right thing to do.

This fiasco seems a little weird to me. Surely some of the largest companies in world don't get involved in any sort of agreement without a contract and a battalion of lawyers getting involved. It seems like quite an oversight that one of the companies wouldn't be aware of the fine print.

Hertz and Uber? Not any time soon

The internet has changed the way services are bought and sold. Hiring a car by the hour with Zipcar or Hertz 24/7 has become possible, or using your phone to hire a taxi with Uber.

Internet commerce frequently leads to better allocation of resources and easier use of small transactions.

According to this article:

When asked whether Hertz cars could be hired via the app, Taride said the door was open to such a move but said the firm had not taken any decisions.

I don't see much of a deal happening here anytime soon but think the internet car companies are the ones to watch instead of the Detroit and Japan companies.