Happy Mojave Day

With all the iPhone and iOS news of the past few weeks, you’d (almost) be forgiven if you didn’t notice that today Apple released a major update for that other little platform they support: the Mac. I found Jason Snell’s writeup at Six Colors to be insightful:

macOS Mojave is an update that straddles the line between past and future. It feels very much like the first era of Mac OS X has drawn to a close. What comes next will almost certainly be informed by the success of iOS and powered by apps that got their start on that platform. It’s entirely possible that in five years, Macs will have touchscreens and run on Apple-designed processors. Whatever the details, the Mac has begun to turn into whatever it will be for the next phase of its life.

Nearly half of all cellphone calls will be scams by 2019

These days I’m actually surprised when my phone rings and it’s a legit call. Hamza Shaban, reporting for The Washington Post:

Nearly half of all cellphone calls next year will come from scammers, according to First Orion, a company that provides phone carriers and their customers caller ID and call blocking technology.

Scammers also trick people into answering their calls with a scheme known as neighborhood spoofing, in which they manipulate caller ID information so that their actual phone number is masked. Instead, the calls appear to have been placed locally. A person looking at their caller ID will see a number that matches their own area code, as if the caller is a neighbor or a relative. Because the number appears familiar, people are more likely to answer the call.

I add those spoofed calls to my blocked list as they come in, but it’s sort of like spitting into the wind.

An iOS update that’s actually faster on older devices

Apple has pushed back against the notion of forced obsolescence with the latest version of iOS. Andrew Cunningham, reporting for Ars Technica:

…iOS 12 is a convincing counterargument to the theory that Apple intentionally hobbles its old devices to force people to buy new ones. In addition to running more like iOS 10 did, it supports devices going all the way back to 2013, which sets a new record for iOS’ software support window. Given their age, these phones and tablets feel reasonably good in everyday real-world use, including browsing, emailing, and using most apps.

I’m still rocking an iPhone 6 (I know, don’t judge- my kids get braces instead) and I can say the performance improvement is noticeable. Podcasts is my go-to app on my commute and I no longer have to wait 10-15 seconds after launch to actually play anything.

Rare Category 4 Hurricane risk for the U.S. East Coast

September 10 is the peak day for hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic basin for the last 100 years, and this year things look particularly dicey for the U.S. Eastern seaboard. It’s becoming more and more likely that Hurricane Florence will hit the Carolinas later this week, with Isaac and Helene also churning westward.

Eric Berger, reporting for Ars Technica:

This storm has, unfortunately, blown up overnight as hurricane forecasters anticipated. It has become a Category 2 hurricane with 105mph winds, and should become a major hurricane later today.

There appears to be little to slow down further intensification of the storm over the next few days as it crosses warm waters (29° Celsius), and encounters little to no wind shear. It is effectively like skating on sharp blades across recently smoothed ice. In its latest forecast, the National Hurricane Center anticipates that Florence will reach 150mph winds—nearly Category 5 intensity—before making landfall late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

This appears to be bad news for millions of people, many of whom aren’t even in the storm’s path.

As potentially damaging as Florence’s wind and surge are for coastal areas of the Carolinas, however, its inland rainfall should prove equally destructive, if not worse. That is because, somewhat like Hurricane Harvey in 2017, steering currents seem likely to weaken once Florence moves inland and runs into high pressure over West Virginia and Kentucky.

Images like this should rattle quite a few folks. Stay safe, all.

Americans (try to) back away from Facebook

Andrew Perrin from the Pew Research Center:

Just over half of Facebook users ages 18 and older (54%) say they have adjusted their privacy settings in the past 12 months, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Around four-in-ten (42%) say they have taken a break from checking the platform for a period of several weeks or more, while around a quarter (26%) say they have deleted the Facebook app from their cellphone. All told, some 74% of Facebook users say they have taken at least one of these three actions in the past year.

I have anecdotally seen this myself. People I know are posting less and checking in less than they ever have before, although no one has actually disabled or deleted their accounts. They all log back in eventually.

Hamza Shaban at The Washington Post digs a little deeper:

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at eMarketer, said that the survey rings true with the public backlash over Facebook’s data privacy scandals and with continued concerns over false news reports, election meddling, and negativity on the platform…

Williamson noted that other research has not supported the case that Facebook is shedding users and that it’s possible users who have shunned the app later returned to it.

“Surveys are a good barometer of how people are feeling, but at the end of the day, it’s really hard to let go completely,” she said. “If you take a break you feel like you missed something.”

Serial podcast returns for season 3

The first season of Serial was a cultural phenomenon in 2014 that had a lasting effect on its subject in the real world right up until today. Show producer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Sarah Koenig took a deep dive into the story of Adnan Syed, who was accused of killing his girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. Koenig’s investigation eventually contributed to Syed’s conviction being overturned (with the intention of sending back for a retrial) and the question of what happens next is currently in the hands of Maryland’s highest court.

Season 2, with its focus on Bowe Bergdahl’s charges of desertion from the Army, was solid but didn’t grab me the way Syed’s story did. The setup for the third season was just posted on the official Serial site:

Serial is heading back to court. This time, in Cleveland. A year inside a typical American courthouse. This season we tell you the extraordinary stories of ordinary cases. One courthouse, told week by week.

There’s an 8 minute audio trailer available now.