What metadata can tell you...

Politics, Geekdom Send feedback »

So, back when people were saying stupid things like “It’s just metadata, not your actual phone conversations” about the NSA monitoring, I really wanted to see someone release this sort of info just to demonstrate what “just metadata” really provides. It turns out, someone in Germany already had. I meant to post this when I first ran across it back in July, but didn’t.

From Zeit Online:
Most people’s understanding of what can actually be done with the data provided by our mobile phones is theoretical; there were few real-world examples. That is why Malte Spitz from the German Green party decided to publish his own data collected from August 2009 to February 2010. However, to even access the information, he had to file a suit against telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom.

Basically, the metadata matched up with other publicly available info is pretty revealing. And the NSA has access to it without the effort Spitz had to go through to get his own data. This profile that they built by tying together info told where he was and for how long. You can also tell how he got there by looking at routes & time it took. You can even extrapolate who he may have been with (or at least who was nearby) if you have access to everyone’s records as the NSA does.

This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.

And, in another article they put up a pretty cool visualization that is really what got my attention. Pretty cool. But also a bit scary.

iOS7 first Impressions

Geekdom, Design Send feedback »

This is just a quick look based on my first day or two with the new OS.


Much has been made of the "flatness" of the new iOS since it's introduction at WWDC. While the design guidelines for graphics and icons are indeed much flatter, the OS as a whole has become much more dimensional. As usual, it's all in the details that you experience with use, but don't see in screenshots.

First, there is the much mentioned "parallax" effect that is added to the Home & Lock screen backgrounds. Basically, it's like there is a thick layer between the icons and the background so that as you tilt the device you see "under" the frame of the screen. It's a pretty cool, subtle effect.

Then there is the way transitions between the home screens and applications are handled now. the apps zoom from where you run them, then when you go back to the home page they zoom back in if they are on the screen you are returning to. But if they are on a different home screen, the icons fly down onto the home screen, like they are coming from behind you. Everything is very zoomy, but if this annoys you it can be turned down in settings.

In Safari they changed the way "tabs" are displayed when you switch between them on the iPhone & iPod Touch sized devices. It's a pretty cool effect that reminds me a little of what Windows 7 does when you use Windows Key + Tab to switch apps instead of Alt + Tab. But of course it's a slightly slicker implementation. It looks like they also removed the 8 "tab" limit. :)

They have also gone beyond the visual with things like the change to the lock screen sound. When you press the power button, they added a slight echo to the click noise the phone makes. It's a cool, almost subconscious effect.

A more general, subtle visual change is that when you wake the phone up or put it to sleep, the screen fades in & out rather than just popping on.

Technical Improvements...

So, apparently iOS7 is the first mobile OS with MultiPath TCP — Basically, the phone can use parallel internet connections. So, if your wifi is flaky it can use your cell data. This might help a bit, mainly when you try to use an overloaded public wifi hotspot like Starbucks or a restaurant. But for me, it's usually my cell (data & voice) that is flaky when I have a good wifi connection.

Another interesting first is the 64-bitness of the OS. Though honestly, I'm not sure I see what advantage this offers on a mobile platform. Generally, the biggest advantage of a 64-bit processor & OS is the ability to address more than 4GB of memory and more easily handle files larger than 4GB. Are there really applications that need to address that much RAM in a mobile device? Does the iPhone or iPad even have that much memory? I suppose there could soon be files that large on an iOS device, but it would definitely be an edge case. It seems even the developers are mixed on the value of a 64-bit iOS.

Another biggie is the way multitasking is handled. Really, in a mobile system like iOS this really just means things can be updated and downloaded in the background. We already had music playing in the background, so this just broadens the scope a bit. What it does mean is lower battery life and more data usage if you don't keep on top of what has permission to run in the background. I think I've already seen a bit of the battery impact. The battery life wasn't great anymore on my year old iPhone 5, but it is quite a bit worse with iOS7, at least it is initially. Perhaps once the novelty wears off it won't be so bad. :)

Concerns & Annoyances...

As usual, with a new release, battery life seems to have degraded. I'm sure I'll need to tweak some of the applications that are downloading data in the background to improve this.

In Mail I keep accidentally marking things as Junk instead of marking them as unread. They are both on the "Flag" menu, but Junk is where Unread used to be. Another side effect of the new Mail version is that it is driving me to clean out my inboxes a bit better. Having 300+ unread messages on my phone was a bit annoying. I had a lot of old just that needed cleaning out. I'm down to under 90 80 60 now, but have a lot more to go. :)


Yeah, there are some. The first I've come across is pretty minor though. While the Notification Center Today panel is rearrangeable in the System Settings, that setting seems to never stick.

There was actually another I found during my initial setup, but of course now I cannot find it. All in all, this seems to be a pretty stable release so far.

Obviously not something for Apple to fix, but waze has become rather crashy since I updated. It also pings the bluetooth interface in the car a LOT more often. This is probably only annoying because I don't use it via bluetooth audio, but do have the phone paired so that I can use it for calls. But the VW stereo really wants me to stream audio.

Up & away...

Travel Send feedback »

This has been interesting combination of inconveniences and serendipities. I managed to get all my packing for my trip done this morning and was even ready to leave a bit earlier than I needed to. Of course, I did forget something, but that's expected. I'll just have to find a hat when I arrive.

I get to DFW Airport, going in the south exit as I usually do (it's more convenient, and right now the north entrance is a complete nightmare with construction). Problem number 1: Remote South parking is full. Grrr. So, I go on through the airport toward Remote North. Because of the construction, I have to go all the way out onto 114 to get to North Airfield, more delays. Then, of course Remote North is full. She directs me to Express South, but at least she gave me a coupon so it will cost the same as Remote. 

Thinking that I would be able to get to it from the access road, I didn't bother getting back on International Pkwy. Dumb move. Apparently you can't get there from the service roads, so I had to go all the way to the south end of the airport to get on & head back north to Express South parking. 

This is where I made mistake number 2. For some reason I thought I was in terminal A, so the woman at the gate directed me to that parking area. I look up my gate & it's C-something. Crap. The shuttle arrives, he says he'll send a shuttle to get me.  Keep in mind it's like 100 degrees & I'm in the middle of acres of concrete. The second shuttle finally arrives, and takes me to my gate.

I get to self check & get a free bag check cos of my Citi AAdvantage card (if I fly a couple times a year, that might actually pay for itself). I drop off my bag, head to TSA & there are like 5 people in line. Score! Strip. Scan. Repack. & off to the gate. I got a dry sandwich at a Bon Au Pain & sat down to wait to board with 10 minutes to spare. 

An odd sidenote, walking through First Class to get to steerage, there was this distinct, barnyard aroma. I guess I'm glad i didn't get upgraded.

Once on the plane (the only real advantage to Group 1 seems to be that you actually get someplace to put your bag) and settled into my aisle seat, a family comes up ... 2 parents, one kid in a seat, 2 lap kids. They want to trade. Given the choice of my aisle seat surrounded by kids and a center seat a few rows up, I gladly traded. Turns out they broke the rules though. Since there are only 5 masks per row, they had to swap across the aisle with someone else. Oops. 

And mistake #3 ... I left my wallet in the bag I put in the overhead bin. :-/ No booze for me! So, I'm drinking a Dr Pepper as I write this. At least I got the full can. :-)

The rest of the flight was uneventful. Dave met me upstairs from the luggage claim & we headed to dinner at Jaleo. After various imbibements and tapas we went over to Leet & Zach's & hung out on me roof to chat & watch the lightning. 

Unexpected sources...

.Various, QoTD, Health+Fitness, Mentality Send feedback »

I was talking to Hunter on Facebook this afternoon about various things that are going on, and have gone on in the past. In my brief response, I popped out this little pearl:

It's always interesting how often something relatively trivial leads to the discovery of something more important ... & not just in diagnoses.

Here it comes

Automotivity, Enviromentality Send feedback »

I might have to make time to come check these things out. Elio is on a tour with their little trikes. It's an 84mpg, 3 wheeled, enclosed, motorcycle with a safety cage & airbags. Or rather will be if it doesn't vanish before making it to market like so many similar concepts have.

Here it comes

Unlike some, this one is front wheel drive and the trailing wheel just sits there. I think I kind of prefer the rear engine, rear drive concept, but they seem to think this is better.

Anyway, they are going to be in Dallas Monday - Wednesday at the Shops at Park Lane.

We have a great location picked out at The Shops at Park Lane in Dallas. The Mall is located at the intersection of 75 and Park Lane just north of downtown Dallas. We will be in the northwest corner of the mall in the parking lot at Park Lane and the frontage road.

The schedule is:

  • Monday July 22, 3-7pm
  • Tuesday July 23, 11am -7pm
  • Wednesday, 11am -7 pm

Same great spot each day!

Support LibriVox

.Various, Geekdom, Diversions, Podcast Send feedback »

LibriVox: acoustical liberation of books in the public domain

LibriVox is a pretty cool project that's been around since 2005. Basically, people volunteer and record chapters of books that are in the public domain. Like Project Gutenberg for audio books. I've recorded a couple of short things for them, they use poems & the like as sort of a tryout. I was originally planning to work my way up to a chapter, but like everything else, my interest waned.

My stuff:

Anyway, the reason for this post is to pass along their request for donations. Last year they got a Mellon grant to rebuild their infrastructure. Now they are trying to raise a bit more to complete some of the things the grant wouldn't quite cover. So, check out their work, and if you find it worthwhile & useful, by all means, donate! :D

Even when it's not in your pocket?

Health+Fitness, Mentality Send feedback »

We've all done it ... well, 80% of us at least. You feel your phone vibrate, whether it's in your pocket or not. Sometimes you even hear it 'ring'. Well, there is a reason (other than that too many people use the same text message sound as you).

We can assume that people like to notice when their phone is ringing, and that most people hate missing a call. This means their perceptual systems have adjusted their bias to a level that makes misses unlikely. The unavoidable cost is a raised likelihood of false alarms – of phantom phone vibrations.

I'm guessing there's a wishful thinking component too, but that's just a purely non-scientific hunch.

Now if only I could feel my phone when it does ring. :-/

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