Sam Harman http://samharman.com iOS Developer & Blogger Wed, 20 Jan 2016 10:00:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://samharman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/cropped-IMG_1209-32x32.jpg Sam Harman http://samharman.com 32 32 Interruptions and the future http://samharman.com/interruptions-and-the-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Mon, 10 Aug 2015 21:48:33 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/08/10/interruptions-and-the-future/ Today I’m writing about focus, something which is becoming increasingly hard to obtain for some of us in this day and age. Specifically, I want to talk about interruptions and the effect they can have on focus and, more crucially, what we should do about it. For those who don’t know me, I am a … Continue reading Interruptions and the future

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Today I’m writing about focus, something which is becoming increasingly hard to obtain for some of us in this day and age. Specifically, I want to talk about interruptions and the effect they can have on focus and, more crucially, what we should do about it.

For those who don’t know me, I am a software developer. I make apps for iOS devices for a number of different people. For those who don’t know what that means, software development requires extreme amounts of focus. To gain a sense of what I mean; Imagine architecting a building, but being the sole person responsible for everything down to the individual size, length, and shape of the nuts and bolts holding a single joist in place, to managing the calculations regarding the stability of the building in an earthquake scenario. Now imagine keeping all of that knowledge in your head while you build the thing (normally single handedly). That’s what software developers do on a daily basis.

Software developers thus, are naturally good at focusing incredibly well on the task in hand. You can imagine then, how frustrating it can be to have a constant stream of interruptions disturbing your flow. An interruption to a software developer is like a bulldozer to an ice sculpture, sub optimal. It’s said that a 5 minute interruption can take hours of time away from a developer, that’s because the entire mental image that’s being built in that developers head comes crashing down the moment you utter the words ‘Got a sec?’ and break their focus.

Increasingly, and in general, it’s becoming harder and harder to obtain focus in the workplace. Emails, notifications, meeting invites, calls, and messages now flood our lives on a daily basis. I’m not talking exclusively about software developers anymore. I’m talking about our daily lives, every single one of us.

There are lots of buzz-word strategies out there today for the modern office worker to try and help them combat these daily interruptions. Terms like ‘inbox zero’ and ‘agile’ or ‘lean’ are thrown around like wildfire. Entirely new methodologies of working have been created simply to deal with this deluge of ‘stuff’ assaulting our inboxes. You may have heard about GTD or ‘Getting Things Done’ (A book admittedly on my ‘to read’ list) or various other ideologies to organise your life and file away these interruptions as they occur swiftly and easily. I’m sure each and every one of these systems is utterly brilliant, well thought out, and incredibly helpful.

However.

I can’t help feel that we’re missing the point somewhat. It’s quite simple, we need to interrupt each other less often. Let our friends and colleagues focus. Value their time and be judicious with your interruptions. Consider carefully the need for the interruption and if it really is crucial then use the most appropriate form of communication. Do you really need to phone when a short email will do? If something isn’t immediate, why ruin someone’s focus?

Really consider everything in great detail, down to the format of the email. (NB: As a general rule, if your email signature is longer than the content of your message, you should probably look at that.) The meaning of your email should be clear, the information concise, and the required response immediately obvious. Likewise for messages, or even phone calls. The detail should be there, but just enough, don’t muddy the waters.

I don’t pretend to be perfect at this, but I’m trying to improve. I guess if there’s one thing you could take away from this post it’s this: Focus on your interruptions, to avoid interrupting the focus of others. There will always be the need to interrupt others, but if you take a little time to consider it before you do you may be able to prevent it. If you can achieve this, I promise you, your friends and colleagues will notice and they will appreciate it.

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Online Privacy & Security Checklist http://samharman.com/online-privacy-security-checklist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Mon, 03 Aug 2015 17:28:41 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/08/03/online-privacy-security-checklist/ Recently, I posted about the important of using a password manager. The feedback I got from that post was overwhelmingly positive, and inspired me to draw together a checklist of things you can do to generally improve your security and privacy online. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and items can be … Continue reading Online Privacy & Security Checklist

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Recently, I posted about the important of using a password manager. The feedback I got from that post was overwhelmingly positive, and inspired me to draw together a checklist of things you can do to generally improve your security and privacy online. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and items can be ranked from common sense to borderline paranoia but all will help to improve your online privacy & security.

  • Use a password manager – Generating and using secure, unique passwords is crucial for your online security
  • Enable two factor authentication – Not all online services support 2FA but you should use it where possible.
  • Check for SSL Certificates – Wherever you enter personal information, especially payment details like credit card information, check the connection is encrypted. This is normally represented by a green padlock somewhere near the bar where you enter the website address. If you don’t see one, don’t enter anything!
  • Secure your home network – You should be using a secure, unique, generated password for your home WiFi network in all cases.
  • Change the SSID – Do not keep the generic SSID which came with your router, choose a unique one you will always remember.
  • Hide the SSID – It is possible to prevent an SSID from being broadcast, whilst this provides no additional security it prevents the majority of people from identifying your network.
  • Never use public WiFi – It’s so easy to intercept traffic on a public hotspot. If you must use one, always use a VPN and never login to any accounts, especially online banking.
  • Passcode protect your mobile devices – On your phone or tablet, always use at least a 5 digit pin code.
  • Set a short passcode timeout – Always set your passcode timeout to as short as possible on your mobile devices.
  • Be wary of apps – It is very possible for apps to harvest data about you, including your location (Even on iOS) so be astute with who you trust.
  • Use PayPal – Rather than entering your card details on every website, use a trusted provider like PayPal where possible.
  • Use OpenDNS – It lets you choose where your browser URL’s are resolved. Also has the added benefit of stopping your ISP interfering with a 404 error page which is just plain annoying.
  • Have multiple online identities – Use one email address / username for things that matter, and another for less important things.
  • Use a password manager for security questions & answers – A common flaw in security is using a generic answer to a security question. Instead of actually giving your mothers maiden name, give the answer as a securely generated password and store it in your password manager.
  • Know how to identify rogue emails – Never enter a username or password after clicking a link in an email. Absolutely never enter any payment information after clicking a link in an email. No company will ever genuinely require you to give up your account details (username & password) to them, whether that is by email, or by phone.
  • Use antivirus software – Even on a Mac you can be at risk. Install antivirus software, update it regularly & make scans regularly.
  • Always backup – Ideally to more than one drive, in more than one physical location. If the worst happens, you need to be able to restore. Encrypt these backups.
  • Always update – Operating systems and Apps are being updated constantly. Always make sure you are running the latest versions of everything to be sure you have the latest security fixes.
  • Delete old accounts – Any account online that holds information about you is a risk, minimise this risk by deleting any accounts you no longer use.
  • Use fake information – Online marketers are constantly trying to harvest your information. Be wary of this, and only enter your true details on websites and in apps you really trust.
  • Install AdBlock Plus – A browser plugin which will make your web browsing experience quicker and websites a lot more pleasant to look at!
  • Install Ghostery – Browser plugin designed to block websites which track you across the Internet, this one is fairly new to me but it brings significant security & privacy benefits.
  • Install HTTPS Everywhere – Another web browser plugin which forces websites to use HTTPS if supported. At time of writing not available for Safari unfortunately, but other browsers are supported.

Footnote: This is just a small list of things that people in the tech industry do as standard every day, there will always be more you can do. Security and convinience often conflict with each other, only you can decide where the best compromise is for you. My suggestion is to always err on the side of caution and prioritise security.

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You Should Use A Password Manager http://samharman.com/you-should-use-a-password-manager/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss http://samharman.com/you-should-use-a-password-manager/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:23:24 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/29/you-should-use-a-password-manager/ Let’s talk about security. I’m sure the majority of you have a bunch of keys that you carry around with you on a daily basis. Maybe one for the house, the car, possibly the office. Maybe a bunch of smaller keys for garages, sheds, gates, padlocks, etc. Now imagine instead of all of those keys, … Continue reading You Should Use A Password Manager

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Let’s talk about security. I’m sure the majority of you have a bunch of keys that you carry around with you on a daily basis. Maybe one for the house, the car, possibly the office. Maybe a bunch of smaller keys for garages, sheds, gates, padlocks, etc. Now imagine instead of all of those keys, you had only one key. Great, you might think, now I only have to worry about remembering one of them. Now imagine someone stole that key, copied it, and had access to every item that was previously secured by that key. Your house, office, garage, shed, gates, padlocks… Not sounding so great now is it?

That’s effectively what you’re doing if you have only one password for all your online accounts. Only it’s worse than that, if you lost a ‘master’ key, there’s a good chance it just gets lost with nothing to tie it back to the locations it protects. This is not the case with a password; a password is normally linked to your identity with some sort of username. Now, this username may be different for every service online you use, but it isn’t is it? Thought not. So having your password stolen is a bit like having your master key stolen, only you’ve attached it to a long list of the locations it will unlock!

Have I scared you yet? If the answer is yes, then good. It’s time for you to sort it out, time for you to change your passwords. Time for you to setup a unique password for every online account you use. Time to make these passwords as secure as they possibly can be. That means generating as many characters as the service will allow, and using letters, numbers, and symbols in the password. Something like this is a good example:

7kH8#Gog2v8qcURLU]N,igMtMxuLhK^D]mh

Now, that is a secure password, but must only be used for one of your accounts. The next account must use a totally different password, and that password cannot be a derivative of the first password. So something like this would be another good example:

%sypOt8pnP9Ifk=OR$FID2([/P#)ZvitZb0

You must continue like this for every online account you have. This is a massive step to improving your online security. It makes your passwords impossible for anyone to guess, and very difficult for anyone to hack.

Evidentially, just changing all your passwords to unique, securely generated passwords like those above isn’t a convenient solution. If they’re impossible to guess, they’re definitely going to be impossible to remember. Fortunately the tech world has come up with a solution for this. Enter, the password manager.

A password manager is an App which lives on your laptop, or your tablet or phone and stores these passwords for you. Most of them will generate the passwords for you too (the examples above were generated by my password manager.) These password managers won’t change the passwords on your account for you, you have to do that manually, but once they know the passwords (and usernames) for your accounts, they will automatically enter your login details for you whenever you visit the site. Meaning you can have your cake, and eat it!

There are lots of password managers to choose from, I use 1Password and I would recommend it to anyone but plenty of others are available. It may seem like a bit much to pay for, but honestly, the peace of mind it brings is worth 10x the cost of the software. There are lots more things you can use a secure password manager for too, like saving your payment card details, or storing things like passport numbers or driving licence details.

That being said, security ‘experts’ are split when it comes to password managers. It’s undeniable that having a unique and securely generated password for each account increases your security online immeasurably. However, password managers all require one ‘master’ password in order to secure the data within the apps, e.g. all your other passwords. This clearly represents a single point of failure, in that you must be incredibly careful with the security of that master password. However, the general consensus is that (providing the master password itself is unique and secure) you are much less likely to divulge that password to anyone, than for one of the online services you login to to be compromised, and thus using a password manager for secure password generation and storage still represents a great benefit to you.

I’ve lost count of the number of friends and family who’ve suffered password compromises in the past. Some of these have lead to identity theft, some have lead to significant financial loss. Some have just lead to embarrassing spam posted on social media, but all could have been prevented. For an example of how bad it can get, check out the story of Mat Honan, a technology journalist who suffered severely due to a lack of online security.

If, by writing this post, I inspire just one person to start using a password manager and change all their passwords today then this will have been an hour of my life well spent.

A footnote: You should know, passwords are inherently insecure, they all represent a single point of failure for at least one account and it’s becoming increasingly evident that we can’t always rely on our online services to store the passwords securely. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow my advice in this article, you should. But you should also investigate two factor authentication and enable it on every account that supports it for even better security.

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Google’s wireless service, Project Fi http://samharman.com/googles-wireless-service-project-fi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Mon, 27 Jul 2015 22:06:22 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/27/googles-wireless-service-project-fi/ Google’s wireless service, Project Fi Google, Apple… They’re all the same. I’m telling you, watch this video, then go read my post on Apple as a network.

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Google’s wireless service, Project Fi

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HP dress code for programmers http://samharman.com/hp-dress-code-for-programmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Fri, 24 Jul 2015 21:50:32 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/24/hp-dress-code-for-programmers/ HP dress code for programmers Getting it wrong.

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HP dress code for programmers

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Why the Apple Watch actually is my most personal Apple device http://samharman.com/why-the-apple-watch-actually-is-my-most-personal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Mon, 20 Jul 2015 12:48:05 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/20/why-the-apple-watch-actually-is-my-most-personal/ Why the Apple Watch actually is my most personal Apple device This is a really great read, and sums up my opinions on the Apple Watch pretty much perfectly!

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Why the Apple Watch actually is my most personal Apple device

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An Apple network could be a worrying thought http://samharman.com/an-apple-network-could-be-a-worrying-thought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Thu, 16 Jul 2015 21:12:18 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/16/an-apple-network-could-be-a-worrying-thought/ I wrote recently about my thoughts on the future of Apple and why it makes sense that they will eventually become a network. I maybe got carried away somewhat and didn’t explore the negative aspects of this progression, of which there are certainly a few. First and foremost would you put all your eggs in … Continue reading An Apple network could be a worrying thought

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I wrote recently about my thoughts on the future of Apple and why it makes sense that they will eventually become a network. I maybe got carried away somewhat and didn’t explore the negative aspects of this progression, of which there are certainly a few.

First and foremost would you put all your eggs in one basket? It’s an obvious bad move when you consider there is a single point of failure. One company who manufactured your device, created the operating system you’re running, and controls the network from which you fetch content. The thought of that should probably make you uneasy.

Right now, Apple is vocal about the privacy of their users. They are selling user privacy as a major feature in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan and they appear to have all the right intentions, but what if that’s not always the case? What if their hand is forced by a court or government somewhere? They would have the theoretical capability of monitoring a person to a level of detail which has not previously been so easily achievable, at least by a single company.

In my original post, I hypothesised the idea that this network would be omnipresent and free for all. Maybe a little short sighted, given the obvious challenges involved in running such a network. I hold faith that the network could be free but should Apple choose to charge for it then let’s be honest… Apple is not known for, and has never cared for, providing a budget service. The products are premium, and the costs are definitely premium.

As a side note… If Apple were to charge for a service like this, and it becomes the only way of getting online on your Apple device, they have a dangerous monopoly which allows them to set any price they like for the service! This certainly raises some questions from a legal standpoint.

Personally, I stand by my original post. I believe it will happen, and it will certainly be interesting to see these issues emerge. Let’s not forget, Apple is an innovator, and an innovator with an incredible number of very talented people at its disposal. If anyone can pull this off, I have faith in Apple.

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Apple as a network http://samharman.com/apple-as-a-network/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Mon, 06 Jul 2015 20:37:48 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/06/apple-as-a-network/ Imagine a world where the Internet was freely available, wherever you were with no monthly fees, no mobile carriers or horrible public wifi to deal with. A world where your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device truly just works. I believe that in 5 to 10 years time we won’t need to worry about who … Continue reading Apple as a network

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Imagine a world where the Internet was freely available, wherever you were with no monthly fees, no mobile carriers or horrible public wifi to deal with. A world where your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device truly just works. I believe that in 5 to 10 years time we won’t need to worry about who provides our ‘pipe’ to the internet. We’ll simply buy an Apple device and it’ll be ready to go out the box. No data limits, no fair usage policies, no roaming charges, just the capabilities of the device, available anywhere and everywhere. Whenever and wherever you need it.

That, will become the offering.

Apple will likely rely on the massively distributed networks already available (MVNO Style) and probably with the first real robust consumer implementation of Hotspot 2.0 and ANDSF (Access Network Discovery Select Functionality) which will enable seamless and intelligent handoff between WiFi and other larger cell networks. Apple has thus far kept support for Hotspot 2.0 very limited indeed, the only way of configuring it currently is by installing a .mobileconfig profile on your device, a process which is clunky at best, and downright confusing for users at worst. Apple likely won’t fix this, until they have complete control of the end-to-end process, which means controlling a network.

Apple is really buttoning down on security with iOS 9, something called the Application Transport Protocol ensures developers are communicating over SSL encrypted connections from within their Apps. Although this can be disabled temporarily by the developers right now, it certainly shows Apple’s desire to provide a secure experience for their users. I think we can all probably see Apple enforcing HTTPS on developers very soon. The widespread introduction of a HotSpot 2.0 powered network would allow something which is absolutely key, and that is to provide a secure encrypted network for developers to build upon. That point, I think, is key… Let’s reflect on Apple’s major successes throughout the years.

Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch.

Only one of those products (the early iPods) did not provide a platform for developers to build experiences and products on top of. All the others provide a well thought out, highly scalable, and very reliable platform on which to build services and products. Apple has fantastic SDK’s right now for iOS and OS X Apps and has recently expanded these offerings to include WatchOS which will allow hundreds of thousands of developers to build Apps which live on your wrist. I suspect it won’t be long before we have an AppleTV SDK too, all these Apps have a distinct set of requirements but most of them share the same limitations.

The vast majority of Apps have two limitations; Storage space on the device, and subsequently the speed, security, and reliability of the network connection to the device. Sometimes, in order to solve the problem of storage space, developers reach to the cloud to store large files. This is something Apple is actually encouraging developers to implement in iOS 9 with ‘on demand resources’. So really, everything points to the network as the next great tech challenge to solve.

Today, we can only see glimpses of Apple desperately trying to improve various aspects of the situation. The Apple SIM for example, takes the pain out of selecting a network when you take your shiny new device out the box, but is limited to certain networks who have opted in. Imagine if there was no network, imagine if you didn’t have to worry about whether you were on WiFi or using mobile (cellular) data, or what country you’re in, or how much roaming allowance you have left…

That, is what Apple needs to provide. There’s a long way to go, and I’m sure my theory has its flaws but one thing is for sure, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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CezaryWojcik.com – Apple Music is a Usability Nightmare http://samharman.com/cezarywojcikcom-apple-music-is-a-usability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Wed, 01 Jul 2015 11:38:17 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/07/01/cezarywojcikcom-apple-music-is-a-usability/ CezaryWojcik.com – Apple Music is a Usability Nightmare Pretty spot on unfortunately.

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CezaryWojcik.com – Apple Music is a Usability Nightmare

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Apple Watch – 5 ‘Yes’ moments after the first weekend http://samharman.com/apple-watch-5-yes-moments-after-the-first/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Sun, 07 Jun 2015 20:05:55 +0000 http://samharman.com/2015/06/07/apple-watch-5-yes-moments-after-the-first/ After what seemed like an almost eternal wait, I received my Apple Watch (Black aluminium sport) on Friday and have been using it over the weekend. I’ve been asked for my initial thoughts by a couple of people so I’ve decided to summarise here. In short, this is what a watch should be. It feels … Continue reading Apple Watch – 5 ‘Yes’ moments after the first weekend

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After what seemed like an almost eternal wait, I received my Apple Watch (Black aluminium sport) on Friday and have been using it over the weekend. I’ve been asked for my initial thoughts by a couple of people so I’ve decided to summarise here. In short, this is what a watch should be. It feels like a somewhat inevitable but welcome evolution of the traditional wrist watch. I won’t launch into a full blown review right now, but I’ll highlight a couple of key ‘yes’ moments…

1. Unboxing the Apple watch (in a meeting) and having it on my wrist within 5 minutes, already showing the meeting I was sitting in on my wrist. That was a wow moment.

2. Three minutes after putting the watch on, I walk out of the meeting and DarkSky sends a notification it’s about to rain, which goes straight to my wrist. Yes, I get it, this is awesome!

3. Receiving a call while at home with my phone in my pocket. The ability to just tap a button on my wrist and answer immediately is fantastic. Admittedly not ‘required’ but a nice touch. The real wow moment was being able to use Handoff to transfer the call seamlessly to my phone. Yes moment.

4. Streaming some music from the iPhone to the Apple TV, and someone else walks into the room. The phone was charging across the room, used the apple watch to turn the volume of the music right down. Instant yes moment!

5. A colleague is travelling this week (San Francisco for WWDC) and I need to be in regular communication. Having the ability to add an additional ‘world clock’ to my watch face… Yep, you got it, instant wow moment.

So there you have it, 5 ‘yes’ moments for the Apple watch. I’m sure that won’t be it, and there have certainly been some ‘no’ moments (Like the time I set a timer on the watch, then another on the phone and the watch timer was discarded immediately and with no notification! Not good Apple!) but I’ll elaborate on these after a couple of weeks.

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