Linked List Entries

The Linked List is a frequently updated list of notable links and commentary. You can subscribe to the Linked List with its dedicated RSS feed or you can follow along on the main feed, which includes both Linked List entries and feature articles from the site.

‘Smart’ Homes Are Dumb ➝

Matt Hauger:

I don’t really understand why anyone would install a semi-permanent smart device in their house.

On the one hand, there’s the “faux-convenience” factor. With many smart home gadgets, you’re trading a device that’s simplistic but predictable for one that’s “advanced” but finicky. Consider: if a dumb light switch stops working, there’s a very limited number of things that could have gone wrong—basically, either the wiring came loose or the circuit breaker blew.

But with a smart light switch, you have those potential problems, plus many others. Maybe the device’s firmware is buggy. Maybe the manufacturer hasn’t updated their app for your new phone hardware. Maybe the smart home platform itself is half-baked. Maybe the trigger service (e.g. IFTTT) is offline. Perhaps the automation you programmed failed to anticipate the fall time change. The list of potential troubleshooting steps goes on and on.

This is exactly why I’ve been very cautious to add these devices to my home. The nerd in me wants to replace every light switch and power outlet in my house with HomeKit-compatible replacements, but that just isn’t practical and could cause countless headaches at some point down the road.

So far, I’ve purchased two iDevices Switches and an Ecobee3 lite. If anything goes wrong, the switches are easy to remove, but the thermostat purchase was a bit more risky. If there’s a security flaw that Ecobee decides not to fix or it’s not able to connect to some future router I buy with a yet-to-be-conceived version of 802.11, I’ll have to replace it with something new.

It’s a bit frustrating that we have little control over how long these devices will function compared to the near-bullet-proof traditional models with no smarts, but a large helping of reliability. If you do decide to dip your toes in the smart home waters, I highly suggest sticking with reputable brands that work well with platforms like HomeKit. It’s no guarantee, but doing so will give you the best chance at a long life span for your devices.

We’re Just Doing Data Entry for Google ➝

Matt Birchler, commenting on André Staltz’s piece regarding the slow death of the open web:

And now we have Google Assistant, which is a great tool for getting information, but is another step in obscuring the line of what content belongs to who. You can ask the Assistant a question and it will give you an answer in the Assistant app (or just in the air if you’re using a Google Home). A recipe, for example, will be scraped from someone’s cooking blog and then presented in the Assistant app as if Google had created this recipe. You can poke around the interface to find out where it came from, and you can sometimes tap a link to see the source of an answer, but it’s not the default behavior. Hell, a “failed state” in Assistant is when it has to show you a list of websites in your search results.

The open web might not be as exciting as it used to be, but I hope the masses eventually break through these walled gardens that have been constructed around them.

Apple Watch Activity Challenge for Veterans Day ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

Apple will hold a special Apple Watch Activity Challenge to commemorate Veterans Day on 11 November in the United States. Apple Watch owners can earn a special badge and iMessage sticker for the event.

To earn the award, simply complete an 11 minute workout on Veterans Day. Accumulate time with the Workout app or a third-party app that adds workouts to the HealthKit database.

Apple should have challenges like this more often.

Thoughts on the Sport Loop Band ➝

Steven Aquino:

From an accessibility perspective, what makes the Sport Loop shine is the “hook-and-loop” fastening mechanism. Getting the Apple Watch on and off is effortless, at least for me. There are no pins to deal with, like on the Sport or nylon bands—all you do is pull the band so it’s as tight as you want and simply press it against the other side to close. Although I’ve grown adept at getting my Sport and nylon bands on my wrist successfully, there’s a fluidity to using the Sport Loop that my other bands can’t match. And it’s all due to the Velcro, which is a highly accessible material. Its appeal is further boosted by the fact this Velcro is the nicest I’ve ever seen. Velcro is decidedly more utilitarian than elegant, but Apple made it both.

Apple’s woven nylon bands have been my favorite since they launched last year. The material is far more breathable, comfortable, and lightweight than any of the other bands that I’ve tried. The Sport Loop features all of those same attributes with the easy to use hook-and-loop fastening mechanism. I expect I’ll be adding the Sport Loop to my Christmas list this year — as long as I don’t buy myself one in the meantime.

Instapaper and Therapeutic Self-Delusion ➝

Matt Hauger:

Apps like Instapaper were supposed to help us read more great online content. Too busy to scroll through that thousand-word thinkpiece? Click a button, and it’s queued up for perusal later on.

But, for me, “later on” never comes. Instapaper is a landfill, where I bury articles—permanently. I currently have 3,366 unread items in my queue. Yes, that’s thirty-three hundred and sixty-six pieces I never came back to read. Some of these date back years and cover topics long since made irrelevant by the passage of time

At some point in the past few months, my Instapaper queue got a little out of control. My unread count has historically floated around 200 or so, but it currently sits at 499. And although my queue is no where near Matt’s, I’m going to start reining it in now to prevent it from growing any further.

Deleting iOS Apps Stored by iTunes ➝

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld:

When Apple updated iTunes to version 12.7, it overhauled the iOS/iTunes interaction. We ran a guide, “iTunes 12.7: How to cope with the abrupt changes,” which answered most of your questions. But one thing I noted in passing continues to come up: several readers have asked if they can really, really dump the iOS application files that iTunes retained after the upgrade.

You don’t need these. Really. You don’t. iTunes will never rely on them to sync back to your iOS device, and your Mac can’t do anything with them. Delete them. Go ahead.

This tip freed up 36GB of storage on my Mac Mini. And if you’ve been downloading iOS apps through iTunes, you might be able to reclaim a similar amount of storage on your machine. Glenn goes on to explain how to turn on content caching on your Mac, allowing you to more quickly download operating system and app updates on all the devices in your home.

Apple Will Not Have an October Event This Year ➝

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

This shouldn’t come as any surprise given that it’s already the 20th of October, but Apple has no plans to hold an event to introduce new products this month. Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi confirmed there will be no October event in an email to MacRumors reader Luke.

Prior to Apple’s most recent event, I had hoped for a second keynote before the end of the year. I felt like there was plenty of product announcements and software recaps to do that would fill the time. And a second event would give each of the presenters an opportunity to dive deeper on product features.

But all of the important announcements that I noted in the aforementioned link were already discussed at last month’s event. They don’t have enough left to justify another keynote. That means we should expect the availability of the Amazon Video app for Apple TV to be announced in a press release. And the HomePod and iMac Pro will be released after private press briefings and published reviews by some of the more influential publications.

The only remaining wildcard was my expectation of some sort of third-party software integration in the HomePod. But as we creep closer to the device’s release, it’s becoming painfully clear that Apple isn’t ready for it this year or it isn’t going to happen at all.

The Third-Generation iPod Shuffle ➝

Riccardo Mori recently acquired a third-generation iPod Shuffle and shared his thoughts on the minuscule music player. The device was a drastic change from previous iPods. Lacking controls on the unit itself, it relied on VoiceOver and the included headphones’ in-line controls.

This iteration of the iPod Shuffle was not well-received and Apple brought the on-device controls back in the following model. But reflecting on the third-generation iPod Shuffle today, I’m left wondering how long it will take for the AirPods to gain a little more independence. What if they featured a small amount of flash storage that could be automatically filled with music or the latest episode of your favorite podcast?