Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for February 26th, 2016

Prioritize WiFi Networks on Your iOS Device

I don’t usually share tips here, but I think this one is too good to pass up.

Despite my many complaints with my internet provider, one of the nice services they offer is free WiFi access points in public spaces across Canada. They all have the same SSID, so any time I’m in one of those spaces, it automatically connects.

One of those hotspots happens to be in the lobby of the building where I work. My office also has a WiFi network, of course, and when I sit down at my desk, my iPhone oftentimes attempts to stay connected to the lobby network. Because it carries a weak signal into the office, I have to manually change the network upon arrival; otherwise, web access on my phone will be spotty throughout the day.

So I asked today on Twitter whether there was a way of changing the priority of WiFi networks on iOS, and Allen Tan replied:

Not on iOS, but you can change them in OSX’s network preferences and I think they’ll sync over.

Allen appears to be right — they do sync between Macs and iOS devices with the same iCloud account.

To adjust the priority of your WiFi networks, head into System Preferences on your Mac and choose Network. Select “Wi-Fi” in the lefthand panel, and click the “Advanced…” button. In the “Preferred Networks” list, simply drag each network to prioritize them as you’d like.

This can be a bit of a pain in the ass, as the list and the window are not resizable, but it can also be a little nostalgic. Between all of the Macs, iPads, and iPhones I’ve ever owned, I have about ten countries and probably a hundred networks in my network history, many of which trigger distinct memories. Neat.

Obama Administration Set to Expand Sharing of Data That NSA Intercepts

Charlie Savage, New York Times:

The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies.

The idea is to let more experts across American intelligence gain direct access to unprocessed information, increasing the chances that they will recognize any possible nuggets of value. That also means more officials will be looking at private messages — not only foreigners’ phone calls and emails that have not yet had irrelevant personal information screened out, but also communications to, from, or about Americans that the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence programs swept in incidentally.

While this has probably been on the books for a while, I have no doubt that the Apple-FBI case accelerated these talks. The NSA soaks up everything; imagine what it’s like when that raw data is shared with other agencies. I see little reason why anyone would not want their data encrypted any more.

Diversity Is Critical in Company Culture

Greg Howard, writing for Deadspin:

Last week, Vox Media’s SB Nation published “Who Is Daniel Holtzclaw?”, a 12,000-word profile of a 29-year-old former Oklahoma City police officer who this winter was tried for raping 13 black women while on duty; convicted on 18 of 36 charges of rape, sexual battery, forcible oral sodomy, and burglary; and sentenced to 263 years in prison. The story was reported and written by journalist Jeff Arnold and edited by Glenn Stout, head of the SB Nation Longform vertical. It was published at noon on a Wednesday, and the response was immediate and swift. Those who read it were furious with the story, which was so sympathetic that it comfortably qualified as apologia and read as an attempt to humanize a monster at the expense of his black, female victims. […]

Among other things, this story serves as an example of why diversity in the newsroom is so important. It isn’t because diversity is charity, or because giving opportunities to people other than white men is a Christlike thing to do, but because everyone has blind spots, and everyone fucks up. Bergeron was there, and the best-suited to work on the story alongside Arnold and Stout—not just because she’s the only person of color and the only woman among SBNation.com’s top layer of editors, but because she’s capable and experienced. Not only did Stout never enlist her to cover his and Arnold’s blindspots, though, but when she did so anyway, he disregarded her, and was empowered to do so.

The ongoing push for greater diversity in tech is absolutely critical, as it is in every other industry. There are a variety of voices, opinions, ideas, and thoughts that are held by people from widely-differing backgrounds that are being ignored and sidelined. Diversity isn’t a checkbox or a department, but a set of values. It’s something that cannot be added to a company; it must be earned. Adding these voices to an environment or a discussion is essential, but they must be listened to — this sounds obvious, but it clearly is not.