Samsung is Shipping a Phone with COTS Out-of-the-Box

The new Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro is not the phone for me, but it does make a compelling case as a good phone for merchants who want a mobile POS. COTS (“commercial off-the-shelf”) is a thing we’ve been looking at in the payments industry for a while now, and the concept is pretty damn cool.

The short of it is that instead of using a hardware device to accept credit cards from your customers, you can use the NFC chip on your phone to act as the “tap-to-pay” point in your POS. This removes the need to plug anything into your phone or pair anything over Bluetooth, and for merchants who just want to get paid with as few complications as possible, this is super compelling.

The great thing about this phone is that it ships with support for COTS. The bad news is that, as far as I know, there are no major payment gateways that support this in their apps yet, so it’s not going to be super useful for many people today. But the good news is that because this is out there, it hopefully indicates that more phones will follow suit. As always, we’re mostly waiting on Apple to enable this on the iPhone to make it go truly mainstream. We shall see…

Deep Fusion and Indoor Dog Photos

Deep Fusion and Indoor Dog Photos

Psst, the above photo has nothing to do with the comparison, but I had to share a picture of Sherman shortly before the comparison photos were taken.

My dog Sherman was chilling on the couch last night and I wanted to take a picture of him just lying there, loving life. The type of shot made the telephoto lens make more sense, which is all well and good, but results in worse shots in low light.

But that presented an opportunity for me: a test! Let’s see how much of a difference Deep Fusion makes when using the telephoto lens. Here’s the iPhone 11 Pro:

And here is the Pixel 4:

Pardon the yawn, but for the sake of this test it’s worth noting that he was paused in that pose for about a second, so it’s not the action shot it may look like. You can probably already tell which one looks better, but here’s a crop in on each one:

It’s really night and day, with the iPhone producing a much cleaner image. Both cameras still have that watercolor-esque look on the body fur, but the iPhone has crisper lines on his longer ear hairs and the green blanket has more texture.

I previously did a similar comparison using the main wide lens, but the difference using the telelphoto lenses is even more pronounced.

Turn Your Apple Card Statements Into CSVs

Turn Your Apple Card Statements Into CSVs

Update: Apple now supports exporting as a CSV natively, so I now 100% do not recommend using the tool listed below. I'm leaving it here for postarity, but please just use the native export option in the Wallet app on your phone.

It’s still crazy to me that this doesn’t just work out of the box, but CSV.WTF finally gives you a way to convert the PDF from Apple Card to a CSV so you can do things with the data.

I should be up front that this does require you to give access to your statement to a random website on the internet, and despite the developer saying it all happens in browser, as well as a quick peek at the source code by me, there’s inherent risk in using a site like this with your private data. It seems okay, but Apple should really let you do this up front and not rely on this existing.

Low Hanging Fruit for iPadOS “Desktop Mode”

Low Hanging Fruit for iPadOS “Desktop Mode”

Andy Nicolaides has a good post about how he uses his iPad in “desktop mode.”

Whilst it’s relatively rare for me to do so, I do occasionally use my iPad Pro whilst connected to an external monitor.

The post has a good shortcut for making this experience a little better, but it really drives home how far the iPad needs to go in improving its desktop experience. Current opportunities I see are:

  1. If your iPad is plugged into a monitor and is inside a closed Smart Keyboard Case, the iPad’s screen should not be on. Come on!
  2. iPadOS should scale to your screen’s aspect ration when docked like this. Mirroring is one thing, but you should be able to choose this new behavior. iPadOS looks ridiculous when used like this. Theoretically apps would need to update to support arbitrary sizes, but auto-layout should handle most of this already.
  3. Better mouse support. The current accessibility option is okay, but is definitely a secondary form of interaction, not something they intend everyone to use.

That’s just off the top of my head, so I’m sure there is more, but if that’s all there is in iPadOS 14 I’d be a very happy camper.

Tech Blogs Have a Way With Words

Google testing Stadia gaming on non-Pixel Android phones - 9to5Google

Playing AAA titles on a phone is a rather futuristic experience that helps sell the promise of Stadia. So far, that’s been limited to Pixel devices, though the goal is to have the streaming service work on every screen. Fortunately, Google is already testing Stadia on non-Pixel Android phones.

“Already.”

Already?

Stadia was announced 10 months ago with the explicit pitch that you could play on the device you want, including your phone. The service launched in November, two months ago, and only worked on Pixel devices. It was such a limitation that the reviewer package came with a Pixel 3 in the box!

So when I see a story about Google testing their service with other phones a few months after launch, the word “already” doesn’t really come to mind. Maybe this will roll out to everyone in a couple days, but even then it seems a weird “already” moment.

J-Archive: An Unbelievable Resource for Jeopardy Fans

J-Archive: An Unbelievable Resource for Jeopardy Fans

So apparently a group of fans have worked together to compile every game of Jeopardy every played. It's called J-Archive and the UI is a little rough, but it basically lets you play along with any game ever played. My wife and I spent more time than I'd like to admit playing through some retro games already.

Dark, Textured Wallpapers

Dark, Textured Wallpapers

I made some dark wallpapers which just a little texture, and I think they’ll go nicely with any minimalist look you’re going for on your phone, tablet, or desktop. These were all shot on the iPhone 11 Pro and are shared at their native resolution.

Cacheing may downgrade the quality you get from saving the images straight from this page, so I’ve included download links to the full res versions below each one.

Enjoy!

Direct Download 1

Direct Download 2

Direct Download 3

Direct Download 4

You can also download desktop version of these here:

Desktop 1

Desktop 2

Desktop 3

Desktop 4

UPDATE! I took some more photos with the Pixel 4 and got some of those in the mix too.

Pixel Download 1

Pixel Download 2

Pixel Download 3

Pixel Download 4

What We’re Not Saying by Supporting Encryption

Scaring People into Supporting Backdoors - Schneier on Security

Let me be clear. None of us who favor strong encryption is saying that child exploitation isn't a serious crime, or a worldwide problem. We're not saying that about kidnapping, international drug cartels, money laundering, or terrorism. We are saying three things. One, that strong encryption is necessary for personal and national security. Two, that weakening encryption does more harm than good. And three, law enforcement has other avenues for criminal investigation than eavesdropping on communications and stored devices.

I feel like my entire teenage and adult life has had an undertone of people trying to scare me into giving up any semblance of privacy.

I was in high school on 9/11 and remember The Patriot Act was instituted with near unanimous support just a month after that tragic day, and patriotism was used as the justification for mass surveillance (see the Enhanced Surveillance Procedures part of the law, specifically). It was “patriotic” to support this sort of thing, and I remember as a then-registered-Republican thinking, “I have nothing to hide, so I’m not worried about this.” Older me has changed a lot from that kid…

Don’t Worry About the Only Things That Actually Make a Difference, Apparently

Don’t Worry About the Only Things That Actually Make a Difference, Apparently

Trump announces rule changes to exempt big projects from environmental review - Axios

The proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will make the process to review big-ticket fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline easier and faster, while also excluding consideration of climate change.

This makes me think about something CGP Gray likes to talk about all the time: a lot of time is spent on making individual people feel bad about how they live their lives in terms of changing the world (reusable vs plastic bags, for example) but the real changes we need to make are at a much higher level. Having to worry about climate change in all projects except the ones that have the most impact seems like something out of a parody right wing blog, not the actual policy of the United States, but here we are.

The tragedy of the Trump presidency (as if there was only one) is that there is so much flashy stuff going on (you know the list) that things like this get swept under the rug and don’t make the splash they deserve.

Oh, and if you were like “well this is clearing out the red tape,” think again.

Richard Revesz, a professor of environmental and regulatory law at NYU School of Law, said the rule change could ultimately — and ironically — prolong reviews even more because critics will sue, tying up the projects in court.

A Decade of iPad Evolution

A decade of iPads in my life – from 'movie Kindle' onwards - 9to5Mac

I could go on, but the bottom line is that while the iPad Pro can’t replace my MacBook Pro, it has replaced a fair chunk of my usage of it. I’d guess that something like 25% of the things I used to do on a MacBook are now done on my iPad.

This is a great history by Ben Lovejoy on how the iPad started as a pure consumption device and slowly started to chip away at most things that his traditional computers did for him.