These Are the Technology Firms Lining Up to Build Trump’s “Extreme Vetting” Program

Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman, for The Intercept:

ICE’s hope is that this privately developed software will help go far beyond matters of legality to matters of the heart. The system must “determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests” and predict “whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.” Using software to this end is certainly in line with Trump’s campaign rhetoric — during a rally in Phoenix, he described how “extreme vetting” would make sure the U.S. only accepts “the right people,” using “ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values and love our people.”

Consumer Reports: Microsoft Surface is Dead Last for Reliability

Paul Thurrott:

According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 90,000 tablet and laptop owners, an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices will experience “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” This failure rate is the worst in the industry by far among mainstream PC makers, the publication says, and as a result, it is pulling its “recommended” designation for all Surface products.
“If you are very concerned about how long your products are going to last, it might be better for you to go with a brand that has a higher predicted reliability,” Consumer Reports electronics editor Jerry Beilinson told Reuters. “Laptops and tablets … made by Microsoft were significantly less reliable than most other brands.”

I've had a lot of clients ask about getting a Surface instead of a traditional Dell/Lenovo/HP business laptop. Hardware is hard to do well, and Microsoft just got in the game. Building a supply chain to consistently produce reliable hardware at scale takes numerous iterations and years of trial and error.

If you're an early-adopter and want bleeding-edge, it'll come at a cost. If you need reliability, stick with the guys who've been doing this forever.

Monday Morning Reads

Why the Scariest Nuclear Threat May Be Coming from Inside the White House

Michael Lewis, writing for Vanity Fair on the Department of Energy and the massive risks it confronts and manages every day, has this jaw-dropping anecdote about a hydrogen bomb that fell off a B-52 bomber over North Carolina:

Right away we have a problem. At the very top of his list is an accident with nuclear weapons, and it is difficult to discuss that topic with someone who doesn’t have security clearance. But the Trump people didn’t have it, either, I point out, so he’ll just need to work around it. “I have to be careful here,” he says. He wants to make a big point: the D.O.E. has the job of ensuring that nuclear weapons are not lost or stolen, or at the slightest risk of exploding when they should not. “It’s a thing Rick Perry should worry about every day,” he says.
“Are you telling me that there have been scares?”
He thinks a moment. “They’ve never had a weapon that has been lost,” he says carefully. “Weapons have fallen off planes.” He pauses again. “I would encourage you to spend an hour reading about Broken Arrows.”
“Broken Arrow” is a military term of art for a nuclear accident that doesn’t lead to a nuclear war. MacWilliams has had to learn all about these. Now he tells me about an incident that occurred back in 1961, and was largely declassified in 2013, just as he began his stint at D.O.E. A pair of four-mega-ton hydrogen bombs, each more than 250 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, broke off a damaged B-52 over North Carolina. One of the bombs disintegrated upon impact, but the other floated down beneath its parachute and armed itself. It was later found in a field outside Goldsboro, North Carolina, with three of its four safety mechanisms tripped or rendered ineffective by the plane’s breakup. Had the fourth switch flipped, a vast section of eastern North Carolina would have been destroyed, and nuclear fallout might have descended on Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Friday Afternoon Reads

Petya/NotPetya Roundup

Amazon’s New Customer

Ben Thompson explains Amazon/Whole Foods:

This is the key to understanding the purchase of Whole Foods: to the outside it may seem that Amazon is buying a retailer. The truth, though, is that Amazon is buying a customer — the first-and-best customer that will instantly bring its grocery efforts to scale.
Today, all of the logistics that go into a Whole Foods store are for the purpose of stocking physical shelves: the entire operation is integrated. What I expect Amazon to do over the next few years is transform the Whole Foods supply chain into a service architecture based on primitives: meat, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, non-perishables (Whole Foods’ outsized reliance on store brands is something that I’m sure was very attractive to Amazon). What will make this massive investment worth it, though, is that there will be a guaranteed customer: Whole Foods Markets.
In the long run, physical grocery stores will be only one of the Amazon Grocery Services’ customers: obviously a home delivery service will be another, and it will be far more efficient than a company like Instacart trying to layer on top of Whole Foods’ current integrated model.
I suspect Amazon’s ambitions stretch further, though: Amazon Grocery Services will be well-placed to start supplying restaurants too, gaining Amazon access to another big cut of economic activity. It is the AWS model, which is to say it is the Amazon model, but like AWS, the key to profitability is having a first-and-best customer able to utilize the massive investment necessary to build the service out in the first place.

Thursday Afternoon Reads

Why smartphone security is a luxury for those who can afford it

Selena Larson for CNN:

More malware is written for Androids than iPhones. On top of that, almost half of the top 50 Android devices didn't have the most recent security updates by the end of 2016, according to Google. Even if your phone is only a year or two out of date, it's vulnerable to some very simple hacks, says Nathan Freitas, a fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "It doesn't take much for your adversary to get into your [Android] device, and that's a big problem."
When Google releases an update to Android, it takes a while to get to consumers, unless you have a Google-branded phone like the Pixel. Carriers and device makers customize Android with different apps and services, and there are at least 11 different versions of Android. Each customized version has to be updated separately by the carrier or device maker before rolling out to consumers.

The whole article is worth reading, but this perfectly explains why I always recommend iPhone over Android for our clients. Android as a platform is still a complete cluster and can't be trusted for basic security.

The Second Coming Of iPad

John Paczkowski interviewed Apple's Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi on the new iPads:

Similarly, since the iPad is a touch device first, touch interactions — be they via finger or Apple’s Pencil stylus — should be instantaneous, alive. And on the new iPad Pros they get pretty damn close, thanks to one of those world-of-pure-imagination innovations Apple is willing to spend years concocting. This one’s called ProMotion, and it doubles the number of times per second an image can be refreshed on the the iPad Pro’s display. Like most all mobile devices, the first-generation iPad Pro had a refresh rate of 60Hz. The new iPad Pro can ramp up to a refresh rate of 120Hz that’s more typical of 4K TVs.
Courtesy of Apple What that means in practice is that anything that moves on the device’s screen — whether it be video or a line drawing or a photo zoom — appears smoother and more detailed. Some touch interactions are dramatically more responsive; you get the sense that Apple is speeding iPad toward finger-into-puddle-of-water levels of responsiveness.


Apple News Roundup

13 Friday Afternoon Reads

1Password launches 'Travel Mode' for protecting data at the border

Absolutely fantastic new feature from the creators of the most indispensable app in my life, 1Password:

Let’s say I had an upcoming trip for a technology conference in San Jose. I hear the apples are especially delicious over there this time of year. :) Before Travel Mode, I would have had to sign out of all my 1Password accounts on all my devices. If I needed certain passwords with me, I had to create a temporary travel account. It was a lot of work and not worth it for most people.
Now all I have to do is make sure any of the items I need for travel are in a single vault. I then sign in to my account on, mark that vault as “safe for travel,” and turn on Travel Mode in my profile. I unlock 1Password on my devices so the vaults are removed, and I’m now ready for my trip. Off I go from sunny Winnipeg to hopefully-sunnier San Jose, ready to cross the border knowing that my iPhone and my Mac no longer contain the vast majority of my sensitive information.
After I arrive at my destination, I can sign in again and turn off Travel Mode. The vaults immediately show up on my devices, and I’m back in business.

14 Tuesday Afternoon Reads

How Facebook Is Making Membership a Prerequisite to Everyday Existence

Jason Ditzian:

You have a credit score if you want to get a mortgage—soon you’ll have a social-credit score that people can check to see if you fit the bill for their service/community/etc.
Potential landlords, employers, car-share companies and dates will scan your social-credit score to see if you fit the bill. We’re facing a world in which you’ll be a social outcast if you don’t regularly grant access to your Facebook profile. Facebook is becoming our de facto social-credit system.

I deleted my Facebook account 7 or 8 years ago, and many times since then I've downloaded an app that seems useful and interesting, only to immediately delete it when it demands that I sign in with Facebook and nothing else. At what point will I be locked out of things I actually need because I'm not on Facebook?