5 iPhone Apps We Could Do Without

Me, TidBITS:

Bundled apps. There’s no question that some are essential, whether we’re talking Mac OS X or iOS. Safari? Sure. Mail? No problem. But while most of the less useful apps that Apple bundles into Mac OS X are out of sight, out of mind in the Utilities folder (when was the last time you used, or even noticed, Grapher or Audio MIDI Setup?), it’s harder to avoid the iPhone’s crufty default apps. They might have been worthwhile — or at least novel — when the original iPhone shipped, but now they sit firmly unused on many iPhones, taking up valuable space. I can’t help you delete these apps (it’s impossible, so just toss them in a folder labeled “Barnacles” and squirrel it away on your last home screen page), but I can make some recommendations for how to put them to use or replace them with something that’s more useful.

This was a controversial article, but I stand by it. Also, if you ever wondered what I sound like in person, now's your chance to find out.

Thanks again to Adam Engst at TidBITS.

Letterdepressed in The Magazine

I was honored to have had an article published in last week's edition of The Magazine, the iOS-exclusive periodical by Instapaper creator Marco Arment, joining tech luminaries like Jason Snell, Gina Trapani, Guy English, Lex Friedman, and John Moltz.

I had never been compelled to write a strategy guide for a game, but after I kept beating my friends, I decided to write something to help them. I know all too well how discouraging it can be to keep losing at a game. Sooner or later, you get disgusted and quit, and if my friends were to quit playing, the game wouldn't be much fun.

Fortunately, one of my poor opponents was Glenn Fleishman, executive editor of The Magazine. Despite his Jeopardy prowess, he had a tough time with the game. I pitched the article to him on November 21, the day before Thanksgiving. On the 26th, Glenn gave it a big thumbs up, but asked if I could get it to him for the next issue, which only gave me about a week.

So of course, I began cranking away at it. At the same time, I was working on two pieces for TidBITS, so if the blog has seemed pretty sparse lately, you know why.

Fun fact, it was pitch submission #42.

At the end of the week, I was paid well to play a game I love, chat with its creator, and write about it. Thanks to Marco for providing the opportunity for me to do that, and putting me in touch with Loren Brichter. Thanks to Loren to thoroughly answering all of my questions. And special thanks to Glenn Fleishman for green-lighting the piece, and doing a fantastic job of editing. The summary of game instructions, in particular, wouldn't have been nearly as good without his input.

Most of all, thanks to my wife Hannah for encouraging me the whole time, taking care of the house while I was busy at the keyboard, and for editing my initial drafts.

Apple TV Update Failing for Some

Me, TidBITS:

Apple last week released Apple TV Software Update 5.1.1 for second- and third-generation Apple TVs, adding support for the new Up Next feature that debuted in iTunes 11, along with performance and stability improvements. However, there are a number of reports of problems updating over wired Ethernet connections. In some cases, the Apple TV may fail to boot after a failed upgrade.

I'm super happy to announce that I am now a contributor to TidBITS. TidBITS was founded in 1990 and is the oldest existing Internet publication. Thanks to Adam Engst for giving me a chance to write for it.

Note: I thought I had posted this days ago, but apparently not. Sorry folks, this has been a crazy, crazy week.

DataMan Pro Back in the App Store

For those of us suffering excessive data usage in iOS 6, there's good news. DataMan Pro, which had been previously pulled from the App Store, is back. What sets it apart from the regular version of DataMan is that it can track usage on a per-app basis.

It's currently on sale for $4.99 until Black Friday. If you're having data overages, it might well be worth it. I haven't had enough time with it yet to pass a verdict, but the interface seems a bit unfinished. For example, the "Back" buttons lack text.

Regardless, I remain optimistic. Per-app data usage statistics are desperately needed in iOS, and right now this is the only way to get them.

If you're on the fence, check out Adam Engst's overview on TidBITS.

Update: The developers have informed me that the back buttons have been intentionally left blank to accomodate the date text. I hope they can find a better solution, because even if it's an intentional design decision, it gives the impression of being half baked.

Occupy Wall Street Buying Debt and Forgiving It

This is the most amazing thing I've read in a while.

David Rees:

"Now OWS is launching the ROLLING JUBILEE, a program that has been in development for months. OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT. (If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect. We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.)"

So what happens now is, if there's a bill that doesn't look likely to get paid, the business will sell it for a song to a debt buyer, often a collection agency. Then these collection agencies hound the debtors, with the idea being that if even just a few pay, it's well worth the risk.

Instead, OWS is going to buy this debt just to get rid of it. It's a pretty amazing idea, and easy to get behind, because you know exactly where the money's going. I can't think of a better way to help families in these tough economic times, and it helps the economy too.

My only fear is that interested parties will move to block OWS from buying the debt. There's too much money at stake to let them disrupt the system. But I'll support it while it's here.

The Rolling Jubliee opens to public donations November 15.

Glenn Fleishman Now Editor of The Magazine

Marco Arment:

"Two weeks ago, I hired Glenn Fleishman as Executive Editor to help considerably with the editing duties. He knows the business much better than I do, and will help sort through submissions, edit, and work with authors to develop articles."

It's been a huge year for Glenn. He is one of the smartest folks in the business, and I'm sure he'll do great things at The Magazine.

What other publication has a Jeopardy champ at the helm?

To All Those in Darkness

My prayers go out to the millions without power on this cold October night, and for the souls of the 46 confirmed dead from Hurricane Sandy.

Unfortunately, Squarespace is hosted in New York, and their power is slowly but surely running out. That means that this site's availability is going to be iffy for a day or two. Hang tight. But there are greater things going on than my drivel.

Speaking of Squarespace, their efforts to stay online have been nothing less than heroic. As I write this, they are hauling water bottles of fuel up stairs to keep the lights on. Thanks to Anthony and the Squarespace team for going above and beyond.