My Favorite App For Tracking Packages

The Sweet Setup:

Buying items online has completely overtaken the amount of items I buy in-store. With 2 kids and a full-time job, the less time I can spend driving to and from stores, the better. Amazon Prime and other services like it makes purchasing easier, but tracking packages can become tedious the more you order.

Over at The Sweet Setup, I pick my favorite app to track packages.

Cutting the Cord

Me over at Tools and Toys:

With the growth of social media, video games, and streaming services, many people are finding they don’t use their cable subscription enough to justify the continued expense. We get our news, entertainment, movies, and TV shows through other channels now. This guide is about getting the right gear to make a smooth transition away from cable or satellite into cheaper alternatives.

“Cord cutting” is the term people use when they refer to cutting off their cable or satellite subscription. Most do it to save money—TV subscription pricing alone has continued to tick higher year after year.

4,000 words on saving nearly $1,000 per year.

Learning to Love Google Drive is Now Available!

My latest iBook/screencast training guide is now available. It's called Learning to Love Google Drive.

If you are like me, then you've had a Google Drive account for years. Between Google Docs and Spreadsheets, we've all probably used them for collaboration, but not much else. With its recent price cuts, Google Drive is a great alternative to Dropbox. With this screencast series, you'll learn more about how I use Google Drive (along with why I think it's better than Dropbox). Get all 10 videos for $2.99

Purchase stand alone videos (DRM-free MP4 in a .zip file).

Purchase iBooks edition (iPad or Mac only)

Credit to Jared Callais for the cover design.

Amazon Announces Unlimited Prime Photos

Sarah Perez:

Amazon says Prime Photos will not have any file or upload limits. Customers can upload photos from any device, in their original file size. But Amazon’s problem is that unlike companies like Apple and Google, it has very few smartphone customers of its own, so is at the mercy of app store dynamics in terms of getting its mobile app in the hands of new users. And unlike Flickr and Facebook, it’s not considered a “social” company where photo-sharing is the norm.

It looks like a Mac app is in the works. This is an interesting turn of events for Apple. They are facing competition from Yahoo, Google, Dropbox, PictureLife, and Amazon.

Learning to Love Google Drive is Available for Pre-Order

I'm thrilled to announce that Learning to Love Google Drive is now available for pre-order. I'm selling it as DRM free videos or on iBooks (iPad or Mac only).

If you are like me, then you've had a Google Drive account for years. Between Google Docs and Spreadsheets, we've all probably used them for collaboration, but not much else. With its recent price cuts, Google Drive is a great alternative to Dropbox. With this screencast series, you'll learn more about how I use Google Drive (along with why I think it's better than Dropbox).

Get the entire set of videos for only $2.99. It will be out on 11/11/14.

iPad at a Crossroads

Khoi Vinh:

What will it take to get there? The short answer is a new commitment from Apple to this product line, and a willingness to reexamine the company’s entire approach to date. For instance, I’m not entirely sure it’s in the best interest of the iPad to be tied so closely to the iPhone. Ultimately, a more aggressive branching of the iPad’s operating system away from the iPhone’s operating system may be necessary. Doing so may be the only way that Apple starts to answer the critical questions at the heart of the line: “What, exactly, is unique about the iPad? What can it do better than any other device? And why can’t customers live without it?”

The question that Fraser Speirs and I keep having over iMessage is why is the iPad Air 2 so powerful? There has to be something else coming from a software perspective.

Here's Why Public Wi-Fi is a Public Health Hazard

Maurits Martijn:

Wouter removes his laptop from his backpack, puts the black device on the table, and hides it under a menu. A waitress passes by and we ask for two coffees and the password for the WiFi network. Meanwhile, Wouter switches on his laptop and device, launches some programs, and soon the screen starts to fill with green text lines. It gradually becomes clear that Wouter’s device is connecting to the laptops, smartphones, and tablets of cafe visitors.

This is why I recommend Cloak. Link via @fraserspeirs.

The Department of Ungrateful Users

Fraser Speirs:

As iOS evolves, I keep using the same question to gauge its progress: what is it that keeps me going back to the Mac? The list is shorter now than it's ever been. Clipping to Evernote is now easy in iOS 8 with their Safari extension. Using 1Password is now as slick and integrated on iOS as it is on OS X. There remain a few stumbling blocks, but not many.

I ask myself what it would take for me to completely eschew owning a Mac. I'm not there yet and I'm not even all that close to it in practical terms. Like your pal that doesn't have a car but who can only do so because you give him a lift, I could possibly do without my own personal Mac only because I have access to Macs at school.

Well said.

LA-USD's Student Information System Becomes a Technological Disaster

Abby Sewell:

Instead, the Los Angeles Unified School District's student information system, which has cost more than $130 million, has become a technological disaster. The system made its debut this semester and promptly overloaded the district's database servers, requiring an emergency re-engineering. In the days and weeks that followed, many teachers were unable to enter grades or attendance or even figure out which students were enrolled in class.

Because of scheduling blunders partly stemming from the new system, students at Jefferson High School sat in the auditorium for weeks waiting to be assigned classes. A judge became so alarmed he ordered state education officials to intervene.

What a mess. Can this district do anything right?

The App That Holds iOS Back

When the iPhone was released in 2007 with a "desktop class" web browser, it was widely praised. You could view entire websites on a mobile device. Coming from the days of WAP optimized sites on my Motorola Q, this was incredible. If we fast forward to 2014, Mobile Safari has become the app that is holding the iPad back from becoming a fully featured laptop replacement for a lot of people. While Mobile Safari is fast and loads website reasonably well, it cannot upload and download files. It can upload pictures, but that is it. Mobile Safari needs a way to upload and download any type of file into iCloud Drive (a mirrored from the Mac downloads folder).

Last week, I had to upload 2 PDF files to a WordPress powered website. This is something that iOS should be able to handle. I should be able to save the PDFs from my email to iCloud Drive. Mobile Safari should then let me upload those files into a browser upload window. iCab Mobile can upload files reasonably well, why can't Mobile Safari? For iOS to mature as a platform, these are the type tasks that it must be able to do.

Until then, I'll use this app.

Making Instapaper Free

Brian Donohue:

What’s interesting to me from the above chart is the orange line, which represents Instapaper app updates. While the blue line shows a steep and steady decline of growth in app downloads, the orange line shows the size of Instapaper’s install base, which is significant. Unfortunately, there’s no great path to a paid upgrade if an app developer launches an update with a bunch of great features.

The only options for monetizing an existing install base are advertising (i.e. Facebook), creating a “new” app and converting your existing install base to purchase the “new” app (i.e. Tweetbot), or offering some type of subscription or consumable via in-app purchase (i.e. Evernote).

In-app purchases can be great for customers and developers. I still despise the way a lot of games do it, though.

Family Sharing and Apple IDs for Kids

Apple Support:

To participate in Family Sharing, all family members must have their own Apple ID. Children under 13* can't create an Apple ID on their own. However, as a parent or legal guardian, the family organizer can provide verified parental consent for a child to have their own Apple ID, then create it on the child’s behalf.

When you create an Apple ID for a child, it will be added to your family group automatically.

One of the nice things that Apple has done is made it possible for kids to transfer their account to another group once they are 13.

Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance

Jessy Irwin:

Ironically, the same technologists and investors who protest against the NSA’s metadata collection programs are the ones profiting the most from the widespread surveillance of students across the country, by building educational tools with the same function.

You'd be wise to read the entire article. I'm a big fan of technology in schools, but I'm an even bigger fan of letting teachers teach.

When we develop and use educational technologies that monitor a student’s every moment in school and online, we groom that student for a lifetime of surveillance from the NSA, from data brokers, from advertisers, marketers, and even CCTV cameras. By watching every move that students make while learning, we model to students that we do not trust them– that ultimately, their every move will be under scrutiny from others. When students recognize that they are being watched, they begin to act differently– and from that very moment they begin to cede one small bit of freedom at a time.

By watching every move that students make while learning, we model to students that we do not trust them– that ultimately, their every move will be under scrutiny from others. is the statement that stands out to me the most. We are saying to students that you are guilty of something before you have even done it.

I'll leave you with this quote from Fraser Speirs:

Analytics and Big Data is what you do when you can’t remember why you do what you do any more.

The New Tools & Toys

Shawn Blanc:

The site has thrived for these past 3 years. We have always subscribed to the principle that quality and honesty breed trust and attention. What I want more than anything when it comes to this site’s readership is to have people who trust that we’re not here to rob them of their time.

And today, we are taking things up a few clicks.

In addition to our daily posts of the newest and coolest gear, we’ll also begin publishing new types of content. Look above in the site’s navigation and you’ll see: photo essays, long-form reviews, gear guides, interviews, and a new regular editorial column centered on the topics of mindful and simple living. All this new content has its home in the brand new, beautiful website design you’re looking at right now. (A million thanks to Pat Dryburgh for doing the design and development of the new site.)

The new design is some of the best design work I've seen. We've also got a lot of awesome things in store for the future. If you aren't subscribed to the RSS feed or following on Twitter, you will want to fix that.

Serial Podcast

Their relationship began like a storybook high-school romance: a prom date, love notes, sneaking off to be alone. But unlike other kids at school, they had to keep their dating secret, because their parents disapproved. Both of them, but especially Adnan, were under special pressure at home, and the stress of that spilled over into their relationship. Eventually Hae broke up with Adnan. And then, depending on who you ask, Adnan was either understandably sad and moping around, or full of rage and plotting to kill her.

Serial is a new podcast from the folks at This American Life. I've listened to the first 2 episodes, and I am hooked. They've also made a pretty good video about how to listen to a podcast as well.

We Need to Talk About iOS 8

Fraser Speirs:

iOS does not provide a way for administrators to block users from updating their operating system. It's never needed it until now. Today, though, I regard it as a critically missing piece of a large-scale iOS deployment.

When iOS was a simpler beast, I tried to see beyond what we had "lost" in terms of, say, multitasking in order to appreciate what we had gained in these other areas I mentioned in the first paragraph. Today, we have regained much of the power but are in danger of losing one of the main pillars of what made iOS great in the first place.

In terms of features and capabilities, iOS 8 brings me a lot of optimism. In terms of robustness, stability and reliability, it's giving me new reasons to worry.

I'd be completely fine if iOS and Mac OS X went to an 18 month development cycle. iOS needs a "Snow Leopard" release.

iOS 8 MAC Randomization

Bhupinder Misra:

I found MAC randomization in iPhone 5s (details below), but not in iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. I suspect that this has to do with the OS architectural difference between old and new generations of iPhones.

In iPhone 5s, MAC randomization happens only under the following conditions:

  • Phone is in sleep mode (display off, not being used)
  • Wi-Fi should be ON but not associated
  • Location services should be OFF in privacy settings

I'm looking forward to the findings on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It looks like Apple has implemented this appropriately. I have no issues with my MAC address being shared when I actually connect, but not before.