Apple's bi-annual report on government data requests is available to read

A couple of times a year, Apple plops out a report detailing all of the user data requests made by government and law enforcement agencies from around the world. In the latest bi-annual report, it looks like information requests have increased since the last reporting period.

From Engadget:

According to the report, which covers the first half of this year, Apple received 32,342 demands for user data from governments -- up 9 percent from the previous period -- spanning access to 163,823 devices. Germany made the most requests (42 percent), the majority of which were due to "stolen devices investigations," issuing 13,704 requests for data on 26,160 devices.

The US was in second place with 4,570 requests for 14,911 devices. More than half of these requests (2,397) were for users' basic account information or content, revealed Apple. The US also asked for 918 financial identifiers -- which cover suspected fraudulent credit, debit, or gift card transactions -- attributing them to iTunes gift card fraud.

It used to be that the report was only offered as a dense, boring PDF. But Apple, in an attempt to boost their corporate transparency, has made their report numbers available to peruse via an interactive website that can be searched by country and the month that the user data was requested.

According to Engadget, Apple's report doesn't include the number of FISA requests made, as there is a legally binding six-month delay required on reportage of such requests.

If you're an Apple hardware or services user, it's worth taking a quick jaunt over to the company's transparency website to see what kind of user information your government has been trying to get their hands on. Read the rest

Affinity Photo is an awesome low cost Photoshop alternative

I pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe's suite of photo editing apps. They streamline my workflow on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. What's more, they allow me to make my mediocre photos almost look like they were taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, however, that subscription-based software is bullshit. Yes, you'll always have access to the latest updates that the application developers have to offer, but for all of the money you're paying over the course of months, or even years, you never end up with a product that you can say you own. Stop paying that monthly fee and you're left with bupkis. I don't much care for how that feels. I'm also not crazy about how much horsepower Adobe's software needs to perform well. Photoshop and Lightroom work great on my 2015 MacBook Pro. The same goes for Adobe's mobile apps on my iOS devices and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the pixels flow like mud if I attempt to do any image editing in Lightroom on my Microsoft Surface Go. It's just not powerful enough. Happily, I discovered Affinty Photo a few years ago. It's a low cost Photoshop alternative for iOS, Mac OS and Windows that, for many image editing tasks, is just powerful enough to get shit done.

On my low-powered Surface Go, Affinty loads in half the time that Photoshop does, allowing me to get in and out of working on a photo quickly before uploading it to go along with a story. Read the rest

Apple may release an updated MacBook Air this year

There is no such thing as an inexpensive Apple laptop. The least painful entry into MacOS, save buying a refurb or hunting down a used MacBook online, is the MacBook Air. They're great! Well, they're great so long as you need to crunch numbers, do some VERY light gaming or type for a living. I've owned two of them. If the first hadn't been destroyed falling off the back of a motorcycle and the second hadn't been futzed up by Costa Rica's crazy temperatures, I'd still be using them.

That said, the line is getting a bit long in the tooth.

The MacBook Air's design is woefully dated – its wide display bezels make it feel like you're typing on a computer minted in 2010, which, I guess you are. Its design really hasn't changed since back then. Then there's the display. It's a low-resolution nightmare that guarantees eyestrain if you stare at it for more than a couple of hours at a time. Fortunately, all of this could soon change.

From Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop later this year, ending a drought of Mac computers that has limited sales of the company’s longest-running line of devices, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13-inches, will be a higher-resolution "Retina" version that Apple uses on other products, the people said.

Read the rest

Review: High Sierra

Sadly, this reboot cycle was one infinite loop. Mercifully, restoring to a Time Machine backup:

I'll guess I'll give it another try a couple of point releases in.

Update:

Let it not be said I'm playing favorites! Read the rest