Almost the Perfect Murder

Almost the Perfect Murder is a true crime book about the murder of Elaine O’Hara in 2012 and the trial or Graham Dwyer which was well documented in the media in Ireland back in 2015.

Written by Paul Williams, the book details the life of Elaine O’Hara, up to the point that she went missing and then onto the crazy coincidences and investigation that brought about the conviction of Graham Dwyer for her murder.

Despite the sometimes graphic content, the book is an easy read and does a good job of laying the facts out to the reader without swaying in favor of anyone. This was, as described by Williams, like a ‘Hollywood’ case that you could easily see a film being made about.

There’s not much I can write here without spoiling the book, but any fans of true crime, particularly those in Ireland, should read this.

Highlight: The investigation and build up of evidence against Dwyer leading to his arrest.


Apple Is Planning 3-D Cameras for New iPhones in AR Push

An interesting report from Bloomberg on Apple’s plans for the rest of 2019 and onto 2020. We are at the point where it’s getting harder and harder to make meaningful updates to smartphones year after year, or at least meaningful enough to convince people to upgrade.

Focussing on camera improvements is not exactly a new tactic from Apple, but it is something that is always appreciated when upgrading.

I’m particularly interested in what the 2019 iPhones will bring to the table:

For 2019, Apple plans successors to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max – code-named D42 and D43 – and an update to the iPhone XR, said the people. The larger of the new high-end iPhones will have three cameras on the back, and other handsets could eventually come with the upgraded system, too, the people said.

A third camera on the back of the 2019 iPhone will help the device capture a larger field of view and enable a wider range of zoom. It will also capture more pixels so Apple software could, for example, automatically repair a video or photo to fit in a subject that may have been accidentally cut off from the initial shot, according to the people familiar with the plans. The company is also planning an enhanced version of its Live Photos feature, which pins video from before and after each shot to the photo. The new version will double the length of the video from three seconds to six seconds.

This year’s iPhone models will include an upgraded Apple processor and use an updated Face ID sensor for unlocking the device and approving payments, the people said.

Bloomberg are also reporting that iOS 13 will include dark mode, something which I have wanted for a long time:

Apple’s next operating system update, iOS 13, will include a dark mode option for easier nighttime viewing and improvements to CarPlay, the company’s in-vehicle software. There will also be iPad-specific upgrades like a new home screen, the ability to tab through multiple versions of a single app like pages in a web browser, and improvements to file management.


Fighting Them on the Beaches: The D-Day Landings - June 6, 1944

My father landed this book on a shelf in my room years ago after he had read it. As part of an effort to read more books I decided that “Fighting Them on the Beaches” would be a good start.

Written by Nigel Cawthorne, this book takes the reader through the build up to the D-Day landings along the beaches of Northern France. This is a topic that I remember finding interesting back in school, probably aided by the many hours spent playing Medal of Honor games back in the PS2 days.

The book begins by describing the foothold that the Axis powers had over much of Europe at the time, notably the Atlantic Wall which provided a line of defence stretching from Scandinavia to southern France.

The following chapters then describe the weapons and vehicles used, the deception involved and the immense planning by the Allies for D-Day, where they would storm several beaches in northern France and begin their counter attack to take back Europe. The landing themselves are broken down into separate chapters for each beach, codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.

While sometimes heavy with names of people, places and equipment, the book is a relatively easy read and gives a good account of the scale and importance of the landings. I have a feeling it won’t be the last WW2 book I’ll be reading.

Highlight: The chapter outlining Operation Fortitude, the successful operation by the Allies to convince Hitler that attacks would come in various other parts of Europe and France in order to ensure that Axis forces were not at full strength when they attacked.


Alan Partridge: Nomad

Following on from 2011’s brilliant “I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan”, “Alan Partridge: Nomad” follows Alan on a journey in the footsteps of his late father, from Norwich to Dungeness ‘A’ nuclear reactor by foot 1.

The book is written in typical Partridge style, focusing in on the most mundane things you could think of, such as a visit to the London Container Terminal in Essex, the M20 motorway and Gatwick Airport.

Along the journey, Alan takes several detours which he attempts to defend as necessary, but which are clearly being used as a way of enhancing his career. He also frequently manages to cover only a fraction of the distance that he aims to each day, and spends most nights in a local B&B, usually leaving a poor review on TripAdvisor the following day.

Fans of Partridge will no doubt enjoy this book - I know I certainly did. For someone familiar with the character but not sure about reading a book about him, I’d point them towards “I, Partridge” first.

Highlight: A chapter dedicated to explaining the various reasons for Alan’s feud with Noel Edmonds.

  1. That plot would sound strange if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a book about Alan Partridge. 


Must-have iOS apps, 2018 edition

Federico Viticci’s annual list of must-have iOS apps has been released - an annual tradition on MacStories 1. As per usual, I will talk about the apps on the list that I also have installed on my devices.

Dropbox

It’s hard for me to say that the Dropbox app is very impressive or essential unless you use the service itself. I split my cloud storage between Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud Drive. I should probable just dump everything into one of these services to simplify things. The Dropbox app itself does exactly what you’d expect, and does it well. It allows you to view, edit and organize files with ease and I’ve yet to see any bugs that prevent me to do so. With the release of Files.app by Apple, I do find myself using it a lot less, but at the same time I wouldn’t be without it.

1Password

If you have ever forgotten a password at any time, just download 1Password for your own sanity. I can’t count the amount of times it’s made my life easy. The app is actively refreshed and well supported on many platforms.

Instagram

I’m not an active poster, but I find the Instagram app particularly good at recommending photos to me. I could spend hours trawling through the various categories. One notable issue is the lack of support for iPad. iPad is surely an ideal device for view Instagram photos. It seems very odd that this hasn’t been added after all this time, particularly with the might of Facebook behind it.

Whatsapp

This is still one of my most used apps. Very little has changed since I last wrote about it, so I won’t repeat myself.

Overcast

The best iOS podcast player in my book. Overcast has been completely redesigned in the last year and is going from strength to strength. It’s the app that I point anyone I know towards who is looking to start listening to podcasts.

YouTube

Another app that I use on a daily basis. Google have added a dark mode which I love, and keep it on a steady update schedule. One complaint I have is that I that Chromecast integration has got less reliable in recent months. I’m not sure if it’s to do with the app or with Chromecast itself, but it’s a pain.

Google Maps

An app that speaks for itself. Apple maps is still nowhere closer to Google Maps in my book. I use Google Maps often, be it on mobile or desktop. It’s an excellent service that’s only getting better.

  1. ..and as it turns out - this website. 


Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam’ Review – I Wish This Game Was Better

Eli Hodapp reviews the latest entry in the Tony Hawk game series, “Skate Jam”:

At the end of the day, Tony Hawk’s Skate Jam just looks and feels like a incredibly low-effort reskin of the developer’s other game, Skate Party (Free) (which actually had Mike V. branding until recently) which was another super mediocre skateboarding game on the App Store. It would be easy to say, “Hey, well, whatever, this is the closest we’ll get to a real Tony Hawk game on the iPhone,” but we’ve already had a real Tony Hawk game. Eight years ago. With all the technological advances we’ve seen over the years, it’s baffling that they managed to release a worse game than a hacked together port of a Dreamcast title with, admittedly, very less than ideal virtual controls. I’d suggest just downloading Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 instead, but, well, you can’t.

Another day, another below par freemium iOS game released.

It’s such a pity that these kind of games are the only ones worth releasing on the App Store for game developers these days. Like Eli, I downloaded Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 on my iPhone all those years ago and loved every minute of it. As has been the trend for a long time on the App Store, it was pulled due to the overhead of keeping it updated in line with iOS.

I’d love to see some sort of mechanism built into iOS to allow older, no longer supported games to be ran on the latest iOS versions in some form of emulator. That would at least guarantee that older games would not dissapear without a trace just a few short years after release.


On Switching from an iPad Pro and a Macbook to a Pixelbook

Following on from his previous post on switching from iOS to Android, Fraser Speirs details why he moved from a iPad/MacBook setup to a Google Pixelbook. The majority of his work centering around using G Suite makes it an easy decision for him.

Traditionally, Google has had a bad track record for implementing features in it’s iOS apps. This, coupled with the cost of having to juggle a MacBook and an iPad, have pushed Fraser to move over to an all Google setup.

Google is a long way ahead in services in my opinion. Google Maps, Docs, Drive and News are applications that I use on a daily basis, and Apple have yet to come close to challenging them with their equivalent services. That’s a gap that’s only going to get harder and harder to fill for Apple.


On Switching from iOS to Android

An interesting post from Fraser Speirs about his reasoning from switching from iOS to Android recently. The main reason for this is cost, unsuprisingly. Like most of us, Frasers main use of his phone was to check social media, YouTube and Google Maps. That does beg the question of why people (myself included) buy brand new, expensive phones every year or two.

For me it’s a mix of ecosystem and preference. I could switch to a cheaper Android model any time with no loss of functionality, but I enjoy using iOS. That may change at some point in the future if Apple continue to price up the iPhone, but for now I feel like I’m making a worthy investment in sticking with Apple.

I’m interested to see how Fraser finds the switch after a longer period of time has passed.


The iPad as a laptop replacement

The latest iPad Pro release has got me thinking. For a long time, I have been of the belief that an iPad is an entertainment device, something that you can pick up and use to browse the web, watch videos, read books and view photos. The Pro line has been challenging that perception though, and the latest release takes it further towards the territory of a “real” computer.

The iPad Pro line comfortably matches, and even beats traditional laptops in terms of processing power. It has a screen that holds its own next to 4K displays, and has the option of connecting a keyboard, an external display, and an Apple Pencil. At this point the only real argument against the iPad is iOS itself. There are ways to perform most tasks that a casual user would want to do, but for the like of software developers and audio/video professionals, the iPad is still not going to cut it just yet.

That’s something that I expect to change in the near future. The fact that the iPad now has the power to run “pro” apps means that it’s a matter of when not if professional apps make there way to iOS. Shortcuts, which debuted in iOS 12, are beginning to unlock the power of automation on iOS. I can only see this get more and more embedded into iOS over its next few iterations.

Thinking about this brings me back to this blog post by Matt Gemmell from earlier this year. In it, he talks about how the iPad is already well on its way to becoming a standalone computer to replace a laptop for most people:

I used to be an iOS and macOS developer, though it’s more and more difficult to believe it was really me. Xcode is the integrated dev environment on macOS, to build software for all the Apple platforms, and everyone’s always saying that it’s the reason the Mac is still around (and the reason that all these programmers who invariably love iPads can’t switch to using one full-time).

But you don’t need a Mac. You need Xcode on the iPad. That’s all. We’ve gone through dozens of iterations of this same subtly-misdirected argument.

Typing on glass is imprecise, or weird, or slow, or something! You’re right. But you don’t need a Mac; you need a physical keyboard. We’ve got that.

Finger-painting is nowhere near precise enough for serious artwork! That’s true. You don’t need a Mac; you need a more accurate input device. That’s the Apple Pencil.

You can’t do your job on one little screen! Fine. You don’t need a Mac; you need iOS to support external displays. There’s AirPlay right now, and I think more support will come.

The list goes on.

My MacBook is six years old now and beginning to show its age. Up until recently, I was thinking of upgrading to a new one. When I thought about it though, I realized that I only use it about once a month - and that’s only to do tasks that I can’t do on my iPad (updating my website, coding, manipulating photo metadata etc). The rest of the time, I’m on my iPad. I don’t have to worry about booting up or shutting down, fans spinning, third party software, slow updates, being in a sitting position the list goes on.

For the first time since its release, I’m starting to see the side of the argument for the iPad being a viable primary computing device. There’s still a lot to figure out, but I’m excited to see where the iPad and iOS goes over the next few years.


More than 9 million broken links on Wikipedia are now rescued

Internet Archive Blogs:

For more than 5 years, the Internet Archive has been archiving nearly every URL referenced in close to 300 wikipedia sites as soon as those links are added or changed at the rate of about 20 million URLs/week.

And for the past 3 years, we have been running a software robot called IABot on 22 Wikipedia language editions looking for broken links (URLs that return a ‘404’, or ‘Page Not Found’). When broken links are discovered, IABot searches for archives in the Wayback Machine and other web archives to replace them with. Restoring links ensures Wikipedia remains accurate and verifiable and thus meets one of Wikipedia’s three core content policies: ‘Verifiability’.

It’s an interesting problem when you think about it. So often when you visit old web pages, there are tons of broken links to websites that have either taken them down or no longer exist at all. Wikipedia have an enormous amount of work to do to keep dead links at a minimum in their pages, so it’s cool to see how they are going about fixing them.