Archive for March 2, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014 [Tweets] [Favorites]


StrongSync is an app that lets you sync a folder (Dropbox-style) using an SFTP server, Amazon S3, or DreamHost DreamObjects. It sounds kind of like OmniPresence with different back ends.

iSights Spying on Their Users Without Warning

Ashkan Soltani and Timothy B. Lee:

The built-in cameras on Apple computers were designed to prevent this, says Stephen Checkoway, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the study. “Apple went to some amount of effort to make sure that the LED would turn on whenever the camera was taking images,” Checkoway says. The 2008-era Apple products they studied had a “hardware interlock” between the camera and the light to ensure that the camera couldn’t turn on without alerting its owner.


MacBooks are designed to prevent software running on the MacBook’s central processing unit (CPU) from activating its iSight camera without turning on the light. But researchers figured out how to reprogram the chip inside the camera, known as a micro-controller, to defeat this security feature. In a paper called “iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED,” Brocker and Checkoway describe how to reprogram the iSight camera’s micro-controller to allow the camera and light to be activated independently. That allows the camera to be turned on while the light stays off.

See also Checkoway’s iSightDefender on GitHub.

Using Python to Code by Voice

Tavis Rudd (via Daniel Jalkut):

Two years ago I developed a case of Emacs Pinkie (RSI) so severe my hands went numb and I could no longer type or work. Desperate, I tried voice recognition. At first programming with it was painfully slow but, as I couldn’t type, I persevered. After several months of vocab tweaking and duct-tape coding in Python and Emacs Lisp, I had a system that enabled me to code faster and more efficiently by voice than I ever had by hand.

In a fast-paced live demo, I will create a small system using Python, plus a few other languages for good measure, and deploy it without touching the keyboard. The demo gods will make a scheduled appearance. I hope to convince you that voice recognition is no longer a crutch for the disabled or limited to plain prose. It’s now a highly effective tool that could benefit all programmers.

Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface

Lukas Mathis:

I used the Newton as a productivity device. I used the P800 as a productivity device. But at least for me, the iPad never turned out to be a good productivity device. It turned out to be great for browsing the web, watching movies, and playing games. Great for reading books and comics. Great for consumption. But not great for production.


The iPad will have arrived as a productivity device when news sites stop reporting about people who use iPads for productivity. So in the end, all of these links to articles about people who use their iPads to create things only seem to support the notion that this is not how most people use their iPads.


Metro’s split-screen mode isn’t perfect. It doesn’t cover every use case. But at least for me, it covered surprisingly many of them, and it made the Surface a much better option for creative work than an iPad.


The Surface’s pen is almost as good as my Cintiq’s. Tracking is fast, it’s pressure-sensitive, it works everywhere, and it feels like a real pen. It’s great, unlike every iPad pen I’ve ever tried.