About week 1648: about fake news, John Green and the podcast wars

Folks, I’ve decided to mess with the format this week. Hopefully it makes for better reading than the bulleted list I used before. I guess bullets are mostly useful when you’re a person of fewer words (so not me).

Also, the iPad Pro is back and fixed! Yay. Which makes me happy, and is maybe probably also the reason that these week notes are published on Sunday night, like before. So, here we go.

Hidden Brain

Every once in a while, there’s a special podcast episode that I feel like writing about. In this case, an episode of Hidden Brain about the spreading of theories and ideas – and misinformation. Starting with the fact that it’s impossible for us to check every fact ourselves, we rely on the social spreading of information. The double-edges sword of relying on social interaction to spread information is fascinating. It helps spread both credible information and lies. In The Vegetable Lamb, philosopher Cailin O’Connor talks about how people used to believe stories from travelers about a vegetable with a lamb growing inside it, but also about statistical models on the spreading of information in scientific communities. Really worth a listen.


This week I finished reading John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down. I sort of expected a quirky teenage detective story from the short description I read, but of course I should have known better. The Fault In Our Stars wasn’t just a love story, it was also a story about living with a disease. And with John Green’s opening up about his battle with anxiety in publications such as The New York Times in recent years, it’s actually not that big of a surprise that this novel deals with mental illness rather than just be that quirky detective story. It kind of starts like that, but then all that stuff fades to the background as inner turmoil of the main character becomes more and more prominent. I’ve got to say I’ve never really read a book like this before. When I was younger we had young adult novels dealing with drugs and alcohol, or bullying. But none of them were like this. If you want to truly dive into the mind of someone with compulsive thoughts, this is your chance. I am very impressed with this book.

Spotify starts the podcast wars

So the rumours turned out to be true, this week Spotify bought podcasting company Gimlet Media. And to top it all off, they also bought Anchor, an app that lets you podcast to the world right from your phone (I tried the app once, but never actually got round to publishing an episode). And so, the Podcast Wars have begun. Apple is now a big player in the podcasting world, allowing anyone and their grandma to publish a podcast. And while companies like Audible, Stitcher and others have dabbled into premium exclusive podcasts, the podcasting world has been largely an open one. Which I like, because it gives you freedom over the way you consume your podcast. For one, I don’t use Spotify for anything other than music streaming. So no podcast streaming in Spotify for me, since the experience is simply not as good as having a dedicated podcast app.

But soon we’ll have no choice, while Gimlet has assured fans that their current roster of shows won’t go Spotify Exclusive (for now… I’d like to add), you can bet your grandma’s podcast on it that there’ll be more exclusive shows coming in the future (like the second season of Crimetown already is). I’m sure Gimlet will profit from the Spotify acquisition too, for one they can probably focus on actually creating the shows and it will probably be even easier to partner up with big brands to create branded podcasts. Good for them, I say.

For listeners, this probably won’t be a good thing. Now Spotify aggressively moves in the world of podcasting, there’ll be more and more companies wanting a piece of the pie. Soon, Apple will do exclusive podcasts and maybe Netflix will start doing tie-in exclusives too. And what about all the other streaming services… I was already slightly annoyed by the many video streaming services popping up but if I now need multiple subscriptions for audio content too, well, that’s just gonna suck, isn’t it?

At least the alternative / anarchist / activist podcasts will grow louder and prouder. And become the better for it. But that’ll probably the only good thing coming from this.

So to end on a happy note

One day, singer/songwriter Moddi was skiing outside Oslo, as one does, and saw big logging machines destroying some of his favourite trees. Not wanting to be Danny Downer, he realised that instead putting all of this in a depressing song, he could also just simply write something about the invisible forces trying to improve the world little by little everyday. It turned out to be pretty hard to write something positive about the times we live in, he writes on his website. But the result is pretty good, thankfully. And it can be listened to here.

Changing my password manager: how to make it “just work”

Earlier this year I’ve decided to change my password manager. I’ve been using 1Password for my Apple products for many years now, but I have a job with a Windows pc now, and no way to install 1Password myself.

I dabbled with LastPass and looked into Dashlane, but ideally I’d wanted a free solution that didn’t sync via yet another cloud service I had to sign up for. One of these days I’ll get rid of my Dropbox (and I finally get rid of those annoying upgrade notices) too. For now I’m stuck in Apple’s iCloud (the only one for which I pay a monthly fee) and Google, mostly for Google Docs purposes and Gmail.

But as much as these big companies make excellent products for free (in exchange for your data), I figured I’d try to go independent. My 1Password (6) manager automatically synced my password vault via my Dropbox and/or iCloud. It still does, since I haven’t completely said goodbye to it yet. Ideally, my new password manager does the same. “It just works”, like the company that made my phone used to say.

In the end I decided to settle on KeePass, an open source solution to password management. I found a client for the Mac in no-time, and found different solutions for Windows as well (though admittedly I haven’t actually tried those yet). On my iPhone I use MiniKeePass, but unlike 1Password, I have to manually import the database (which is okay), and export it again if I added or changed items (which is more of a hassle). I can’t say “it just works” just yet, but it works.

Ideally I’d find an app that actually syncs to the database file on my NAS, or via a cloud service / local sync over WiFi without manually exporting and importing it every single time I change something.

For now, I’m kind of stuck using two password managers. I can’t deny the slick performance and sync of 1Password just yet, yet I also know I’m able to get this working if I find the right open source tools and eventually my credentials will be much safer for it. So I’m trying to use KeePass, but I find myself going back to 1Password on some occasions if I know it’s a password that’s still in that version of the database. Plus, I can’t get KeePass to work yet in Safari. The extension that’s available now, doesn’t work for me. So still some stuff to work out. But the nerd in me will be celebrating when I have made it all work. 🙂

Or I’ll just throw money at the problem and cave for a paid service…

Apple being Apple

  • Wireless EarPods: never ever have my earbuds / headphones stopped working due to anything other than the cable breaking. Wires will have to go at some point. Magic also means an effortless experience of using them and trying them for a few days will tell whether the whole charging thing is manageable. And whether the stereo speakers are good enough to use instead of your headphones in some situations.
    For its price, however, they’d better be pretty decent sound quality too. But at least Apple is trying something new. And you can still buy a 6s if you really want a headphone jack. I don’t really see a problem. You can always buy Android if you truly want to boycot Apple. It will be interesting to see if sales slow down for this model.
  • Mario to iOS. Nintendo realizes how to quickly make cash. If this becomes only 50% of the Go-hype, it means a whole lot of money for them. Shame it’s an endless scroller, but hopefully it captures some of the magic of old-school Mario.
  • iPhone: new camera looks fun to try. Not fun enough to upgrade from a 6s though. Let’s see whether there’ll be any nice new Macs later this year.
  • Still not gonna buy an Apple Watch, even though I really like the fact that I could swim with it. I really want a cheaper fitness tracker though. Currently waiting for the TomTom Touch.


Apple tax

Letter from Tim Cook / Apple:

The Commission’s move is unprecedented and it has serious, wide-reaching implications. It is effectively proposing to replace Irish tax laws with a view of what the Commission thinks the law should have been. This would strike a devastating blow to the sovereignty of EU member states over their own tax matters, and to the principle of certainty of law in Europe.

As much as I would like tax laws to properly tax companies (something The Dutch can do better too!), right now tax laws aren’t doing that. And if you make Apple pay for that, you have to make thousands of other companies do the same really. More importantly, this goes to show yet again that the EU isn’t perfect. Either we go all in and let the EU dictate all economic decisions for Europe as a whole (which, mind you, would be very difficult considering all the different countries with different levels of wealth…), or we don’t (which is probably what many people would prefer).

I think it’s weird to retroactively change the tax rules, if that’s what’s happening now. We could make different rules for the future. But is the EU the right body to do that? Do we agree with that?

The thing is, even if we in Europe change the rules, the companies would just move to countries where the rules are better. Companies will always try to find ways to maximize earnings and avoid giving too much of them away. You can’t take that out of companies. What we could try is rebuild our tax system so companies can’t avoid them or pay them in other countries where you can pay less.

Tax reform doesn’t seem to be a particular hot topic yet. Lower taxes, yes. So to be honest, I see world peace happening sooner.

Mailbox versus Inbox by Gmail

When Google launched Inbox by Gmail last week, they released a video for it. In it, “your friends at Gmail” claim they “love” e-mail. They show happy people using their phones and laptops, presumably e-mailing. But let’s face it, hardly anyone smiles when checking their inbox. I have some friends I e-mail with, but most of my personal inbox is filled with newsletters that I can’t really cancel because once in a blue moon they DO seem relevant (but often they’re not). And then there are the order and sign-up confirmations, social notifications and Google Alerts I’ve signed up for. And the personal messages I do get, I usually answer pretty quickly. They’re usually not the ones that get stuck in my inbox.

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