Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 84: Oh, Google…

We’ve called out Facebook many times recently for their security issues, and now it’s time to look at a couple of problems with Google. We also discuss the Huawei situation, and how it may affect Apple, and more.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 43: Autofocus with Rishi Sanyal

Photoactive 400You rely on your camera’s autofocus feature, but how does it work? Phase-detection, contrast-detection, machine-learning algorithms, AF-C, AF-S… autofocus quickly becomes a complicated subject for any photographer to keep straight while shooting. Rishi Sanyal, Science Editor at DPReview.com, joins us for this breakdown of autofocus works and how you can use it more effectively.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 43: Autofocus with Rishi Sanyal.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Apple Trade-In Weirdness

My current MacBook Pro is about 19 months old. Seeing the new models released this week, I thought it might be time to upgrade to a faster model. I don’t use the MacBook Pro a lot – it’s my second Mac for testing, and for emergencies when there’s a problem with my iMac – but I have found myself using it more lately because it allows me to work in a location other than my desk. I’ve started moving around more in my home office, finding it a nice change of scenery to work in a different room.

Apple has been offering trade-ins on their website for some time now. I used this twice last year, trading in an iPhone 8+ and an iPad Pro. The process was smooth and seamless, and the amount that Apple paid was acceptable, compared to what I might have received by selling the devices on eBay. I used the following formula to determine this:

if Apple price ≥ eBay net price - (hassle factor selling on eBay)
then accept

Today, I went to the Apple website to see how much I could get to trade in my current MacBook Pro. I entered my serial number, and the device was not found. I then went through a process answering a few questions about the device. In the menu where I was to select the exact model, it was not available; the most recent device shown was a 2016 MacBook Pro.

So I called the Apple online store, and a helpful salesperson checked on her end. She didn’t find the same model either. She found a 2018 model, or a 2016 model, but not mine. For the 2018 model, the price would be around £700, she said, which, according to the formula above, would be acceptable. But for the 2016 model, she quoted £245, which would be ridiculously low. She said that I could send it in for trade-in, and the amount would be somewhere between the two, and I would have the choice to not accept what was offered.

But Apple’s hassle factor now exceeded the potential eBay hassle factor, and I decided to not only not trade it in, but to not buy the new MacBook Pro. I don’t need a new laptop that badly, and I certainly don’t need this kind of hassle. I’m surprised that this specific model doesn’t show up in Apple’s trade-in database, but what has been a smooth process for other devices in the past has too many hurdles for me to bother.

What every Apple user should know about software updates

You use lots of software, and much of it is updated regularly. Updates to apps—and also to the operating system—can provide new features, performance improvements, and bug fixes, and those fixes often remedy security vulnerabilities to protect you from potential threats. All of these are important, and it’s a good idea to keep your software updated. (In most cases, at least.) Here’s how.

Read the rest of the article on The Mac Security Blog.

The Next Track, Episode #150 – Ambient Music

The Next Track Blue Flat Button2 400pxThe problem with the genre of ambient music is that most of it is not ambient music. No one really agrees on what exactly ambient music is. We discuss the genre, and the music, and how we feel about this type of music.

Listen to The Next Track: Episode #150 – Ambient Music.

Find out more at The Next Track website, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

On Reading T. S. Eliot’s Letters

Eliot lettersThere’s something about reading about the lives of people — biographies, memoirs, letters, and journals — that is both boringly quotidian and immensely fascinating. Watching lives play out in slow motion, like a literary reality show, especially in journals and letters, could almost be a radical concept in this day of abbreviated attention spans. Yet the honesty in these works — aside from the self-editing that their authors have performed when composing them — is a welcome alternative to condensed appraisals of great people’s lives.

I’m currently reading the letters of the great poet T. S. Eliot. I have just started the first of eight quite heavy volumes. At nearly 1,000 pages each, the sum of text in this works outweighs Elliott‘s own writings by a huge factor. Is even one volume of these letters as great as the 56 pages of his Four Quartets? Of course not, but the letters provide insight into a life that can be both banal and interesting as the man makes his way through a career in letters.

As it stands, in my reading, it is only 1917. World war one is a major preoccupation, (“Life here simply consists in waiting for the war to stop.”) and Elliot has recently married in what we know will be a disastrous marriage. In some ways the knowledge of how things will turn out — the inherent spoilers — makes reading these letters even more interesting. I’m no expert about Elliot’s life, but I have read a biography of him, and I know the major events that occurred during his lifetime. Seeing them occur almost in real time in the letters puts them into perspective. Reading about this man and his financial difficulties makes him seem more like a normal person, and erases the patina of great writer that his name bears.

Of course, he was a great writer, and that’s why reading his letters is interesting. I am at the point where he has his first serious job at Lloyd’s Bank: “I sit in a small office with a mahogany desk and a tall filing cabinet, and feel much more important than my salary warrants, as I have charge of all the balance sheets of their foreign correspondence, filing and tabulating and reporting on them.” And, “I am absorbed during the daytime by the balance sheets of foreign banks. […] All this has made me want to find out something about the theory of banking, and especially Foreign Exchange. Incidentally, tea is served at four.” This humdrum job as a clerk at a bank provides income for the young Eliot, now 28 years old, who has recently written and had published his first major poem: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. (Though his parents seem to contribute often to cover his expenses.)

And you read about his anxieties, both personal and about the world in general. “The world seems a complete nightmare at times; nothing that could happen would be surprising. I wonder if there will ever come a time when we should look back and find that the period we are living through seems quite unreal in retrospect.”

As these volumes continue, I will follow the writer’s life through his day jobs, his publications, his job at Faber & Faber, where he would spend much of his life as an editor, and his Nobel prize. I will read about the composition of his great poems: The Waste Land, and The Four Quartets. I will read of his marital difficulties, and of the banalities of his everyday life. The great writer will appear, as great artists do when you look at them up close, to be a rather ordinary man from day to day. That will make him seem more human, more approachable, and ultimately more interesting.

Collections of letters like this are mostly compiled for scholars, and there are probably not many people read them for pleasure as I do. But there is something immensely enjoyable about the slow process of reading through someone’s life, especially through their own words.

So far, I have purchased the first four volumes, and will get the others as I progress. If you’re interested in T. S. Eliot, check out volume 1. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)