Archive for February 8, 2019

Friday, February 8, 2019


Adam Engst:

Over at the New York Times, Brian X. Chen penned a thoroughly reasonable column explaining why advertisers use auto-play videos and some of the technical solutions for reducing their impact. Google Chrome tries to prevent them from playing based on your behavior, and Safari on the Mac, which Chen doesn’t mention, can also block them, either for a particular site or for all sites. And Firefox 66, due in March 2019, will mute all auto-playing videos.

The auto-play offense that has pushed me over the edge is Netflix’s Apple TV app, which auto-plays previews for movies and TV shows as you browse through Netflix’s library. Within 3 seconds of when you navigate to a show’s icon, it starts playing a preview for the show, complete with audio. It’s difficult even to read the show’s description in that amount of time, much less reflect on whether you might want to watch the show. As soon as the audio starts, it interrupts whatever thoughts might be going through your head (Josh Centers made this example video; it shows what he hears as his 5-year-old browses).

Update (2019-02-11): Nick Heer:

And here’s the thing: Netflix knows it drives people nuts. Last year, Dan Jackson of Thrillist cited several pieces pointing out just how awful and irritating and downright shitty this feature is. There’s a Twitter account dedicated to the terribleness of Netflix autoplay.

Update (2019-09-27): Tim Hardwick:

Now, [Apple TV] plays video trailers advertising content available on the iTunes Store.

This is similar to what you’d expect to see on Netflix, which routinely auto-plays trailers in the hope that it will help you discover content more easily. Not everyone wants to see the same behavior on their Apple TV though, and the good news is that you can turn it off with an option buried in the device’s settings.

Update (2020-02-07): Juli Clover:

Netflix today announced the launch of a new toggle that will let Netflix users turn off autoplay previews, which has been a controversial Netflix feature for years now.

The Definitive Guide to iCloud Photos in 2019

Mike Peterson:

Optimize Storage only affects images stored on your device. More than that, your iPhone will only optimize storage when you’re running low. It also starts optimization with the images and photos that you access the least.

So it can be hard to proactively free up more space that you know you will need for something else.

Unfortunately, no matter which platform you’re in, you’ll need to tap or click on each image to select it individually. If you’re on an iOS device, you can speed this process along by tapping and dragging across multiple photos very quickly. […] The one workaround that folks use on their iPhone to select Multiple photos to delete is to use a Third party app on your iPhone that facilitates selection of multiple photos.


But, of course, you may run into some issues when using the platform. Here’s how to troubleshoot some of the more common iCloud Photos problems.

Previously: Quickly Emptying the iPhone Camera Roll.

Update (2019-02-11): Tanner Bennett:

iCloud Photos on Mac does not sync over hotspot connections, and there is no indication of this, it just says “Updating” as if it were actually trying to sync.

Google Should Force Better Security on Nest Users

Patrick Howell O’Neill:

It took a growing mountain of home hacking horror stories going viral, but Google on Wednesday finally took action by telling their customers to stop messing everything up.

In the last few weeks, multiple stories have emerged about owners of Nest security cameras—at least some of which have speakers through which users can talk—seeing their devices hijacked so that hackers can not only look into their homes but also terrorize unsuspecting families by issuing fake bomb threats and threatening to kidnap children.


Why is something as important as a live video stream from inside your home secured as weakly as a video game by default?

Previously: Nest Cam Waking in the Night.

Update (2019-02-11): Simone Manganelli:

This is quite rich coming from a company that doesn’t support 2-factor auth by app, only by horribly insecure SMS. :rolleyes:

How Hackers and Scammers Break into iCloud-Locked iPhones

Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler:

The iCloud security feature has likely cut down on the number of iPhones that have been stolen, but enterprising criminals have found ways to remove iCloud in order to resell devices. To do this, they phish the phone’s original owners, or scam employees at Apple Stores, which have the ability to override iCloud locks. Thieves, coders, and hackers participate in an underground industry designed to remove a user’s iCloud account from a phone so that they can then be resold.


In practice, “iCloud unlock” as it’s often called, is a scheme that involves a complex supply chain of different scams and cybercriminals. These include using fake receipts and invoices to trick Apple into believing they’re the legitimate owner of the phone, using databases that look up information on iPhones, and social engineering at Apple Stores. There are even custom phishing kits for sale online designed to steal iCloud passwords from a phone’s original owner.


“I wish that they would just use iCloud lock for devices that are reported lost or stolen,” Justin Carroll, owner of FruitFixed, an independent smartphone repair shop in Virginia, told Motherboard. “We’ve seen it hundreds of times—people bring in perfectly working and capable phones that have nothing wrong with them and we can’t do anything for them. We’ve even had it happen to us, where we give a loaner phone to a customer, they don’t remove iCloud, they leave the store, and we have an expensive paperweight. That’s incredibly frustrating.”