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The MacNN Podcast, episode 54: I'm Afraid of Cyber Pathogens
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Mar 7, 2016, 05:19 PM
We really wanted to talk about something other than the Apple-FBI dust-up this week, and so we tried our best -- but when the story takes a turn for the bizarre and dismaying, you have to face up to it at some point. First, however, Editor Charles and Managing Editor Mike calm themselves by chatting about the latest twists and turns in the world of Apple rumors, Mike's new Apple Watch and his initial impressions, the expansion of the Amazon Echo line with new accessories, and then penultimately all the new developments in the Apple-FBI dispute, before finishing off with William and his App of the Week.

One important program note: in the segment on Amazon's Alexa-capable devices, we also mentioned that the company had opted to remove whole-disk encryption on the Echo, calling it an "enterprise feature" that users weren't using (which itself reveals a perhaps-surprising factoid reminder of how much information about users Amazon collects with the device). After our recording, Amazon got -- let's say -- "some feedback" from its users, and announced a reversal of that policy. In a week dominated by a discussion on privacy and encryption, that was some pretty impressively tone-deaf timing by Amazon. More show notes after the big player.

01:20 -- Managing Editor Mike was only just barely keeping a lid on his Hulk-like rage over some of the tech ignorance on display by various leaders during the first round of arguing between Apple, the FBI, and society generally on the proper role of encryption in the age of Big Brother. This week, however, the bus from Crazytown pulled in with a fresh batch of "what the --??" type comments, filings, and declarations that one can only laugh at (while crying on the inside). So instead, we jump into the latest batch of evolutions, walk-backs, and what-were-we-thinkings that make up the latest rumor roundup -- and explain why the long-mooted March 15 "event" date is no more (and it's not looking that good for the 21st, either).

11:26 -- Here's an interesting segment that goes against expectations -- Mike got an Apple Watch (thanks to the friendly ice-cream-and-Woot-crap truck that rolls around his neighborhood), but as our resident cynic, he has always been kind of skeptical about how the Watch would fit into his life. Now he actually has one, how does he feel about it? How is he using it? What works for him, and what doesn't? Some surprising answers to those questions, and then some speculation about when an actual second-gen Apple Watch will turn up (spoiler alert: not anytime soon). We also chat a bit about the "iPhone SE" and the problems we have with elements of that rumor.

25:13 -- We move along to something that is not a rumor: new stuff from Amazon, including the Echo Dot and the Tap, the latter of which is essentially a Bluetooth speaker with Alexa voice control, and the Echo Dot is -- well, sort of like the Airport Express in repeater mode, which can be attached to an audio source. Weirdly, you must already have an Alexa-based product in order to order either one of these, since only voice-based ordering will work at present. We also talk about the removal of whole-disk encryption on the Alexa products, which has since been reversed, was a super bad move. It served as a reminder, however, that the Android platform is just as affected by the ongoing encryption debate as anyone -- but Google has been strangely less active on defending this intrusion into its products.

28:36 -- So, finally, we are drawn back to the inevitable discussion about the latest developments in the controversy between Apple, the FBI -- and now Congress, because adding them to things can only make things better. Though in fact, a hearing held by the Judiciary Committee that we live-tracked, did actually articulate the current debate very well, and saw a much more humble FBI Director explaining both the good and bad of encryption (though Comey himself has long been an opponent of any level of encryption on mobile devices). New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance got a valuable lesson in relying on talking points and scare tactics instead of actually answering questions we hope he takes to heart, too.

While many of us have taken one side or another, it's actually quite a complex issue with at least some merit on both sides. We go over the developments covered in our "Where Are We Now" summary column, and also pick up on the looney-tunes statements from the country of France, a Florida Republican congressman, and the deputy DA of San Bernardino County, the latter two of which go so far as to make us wonder how either of them got their jobs, and what other imaginary conspiracies they apply to other aspects of their daily duties.

51:26 -- Thankfully, William comes along with a completely encryption-free App of the Week review, which this week covers his note-taking app of choice, Drafts 4. He'll tell you why, amazingly, this program can make even tapping out notes on an iPhone a pleasure to do.

The MacNN Podcast can be found every Monday (barring holidays) here at MacNN, on its RSS feed, or you can subscribe via iTunes. We're also on YouTube.

The MacNN Podcast is copyright 2016 by MNM Media, with all rights reserved. Opinions expressed by the hosts or guests of the podcast may not reflect the opinions or views of MNM Media, its sites, or advertisers. Original music by Bradley McBurney. Comments and feedback are welcome at our Tips email address.
( Last edited by NewsPoster; Mar 7, 2016 at 05:23 PM. )
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