"The NSA and You" at Macworld/iWorld

This year will be my first at Macworld/iWorld, a show I've wanted to attend since I was a kid. Being my first trip to Macworld/iWorld, and actually my first trip to California, I resisted colleagues who encouraged me to host a session there.

But when I was invited to speak about NSA mass surveillance, which I've covered to some degree on TidBITS, I couldn't resist.

But ultimately, I'm not an expert on these matters, so that's why I assembled a panel of the foremost experts on security, privacy, Apple, and mass surveillance:

  • Rich Mogull, who is our security editor at TidBITS and CEO of Securosis. Rich is the leading authority on Apple security.

  • Joe Kissell, another fellow TidBITS editor, who has authored dozens of Take Control books, such as "Take Control of Your Online Privacy." Joe knows more about the Mac and iOS than just about anyone.

  • Kim Zetter, who writes for Wired's "Threat Level," where she has covered mass surveillance, online security, and civil liberties.

  • Quinn Norton, an independent journalist who has been embedded in Occupy Wall Street, Anonymous, and was even invited to advise the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Quinn is one of the most daring journalists working today, and is something of a hero of mine. I'm beyond excited that she agreed to be on the panel.

  • Parker Higgins, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which for decades has been working to defend our digital rights.

I'm honored that such great people have agreed to participate in the panel. It should be a lively discussion.

If you'll be in the Bay Area on Friday, March 28, be sure to swing by Moscone at 1 PM.

Here's my interview with Chuck Joiner of MacVoices about the panel. It may be the darkest episode of Chuck's show ever, as we get into some pretty deep stuff.

Source: http://www.macworldiworld.com/macworldiwor...

Take Control of Apple TV

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. First, I’ve had my hands full with the baby. Second, while having my hands full with the baby, I wrote a book, Take Control of Apple TV, that’s available now.

I’ve been a big fan of the Apple TV for years, toying with it, tinkering with it, and slowly replacing every other set-top box in our home entertainment system with it. Its small footprint, ease of use, integration with the Apple ecosystem, and endless expandability (via AirPlay), made it our family’s ideal living room device. We use it for Netflix, iTunes content, to view baby pictures, as a home audio device — just about everything.

Now, for only $10, my years of Apple TV experience can be yours, in an easy-to-browse format. I start from the absolute basics and work you up to more complex hacks that unlock the hidden power of the Apple TV. I’m particularly proud of the “Apple TV at the Movies” chapter, which walks you through controlling video on your Apple TV, how to customized subtitles, and even how to rip DVDs and Blu-rays for viewing on your Apple TV. TidBITS members who got access to the early draft of the book said that chapter alone justified their membership fee.

So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Bradley Chambers, co-host of the Out of School podcast said, “It’s written in such a way that you don’t have to be an Apple nerd to understand what he is talking about. In other words, it’s highly approachable and very well written.”

Thanks to Bradley for that kind review, as well as my editors: Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Kelly Turner, and Jeff Carlson for making my text shine.

If you own an Apple TV, or are thinking about buying one, be sure to check it out.

Guy Incognito

Tuesday, August 13, 2013, at 7:58 PM, after only 24 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, my wife Hannah gave birth to our first child.

IMG_0647 - Version 2.jpg

His name is James Harrison Centers. (His friends call him Harris.)

He weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 21 inches long.

He's the best thing that ever happened to me.

This is an homage to John Gruber's announcement of the birth of his son, Jonas.

My New Job

Adam Engst, TidBITS:

It gives me great pleasure to share the news that Josh Centers has agreed to join TidBITS Publishing Inc. full time as the managing editor of TidBITS, effective immediately.

Today, I became managing editor of TidBITS -- a lifelong dream come true. I devoured tech mags as a kid, and after deciding that I wasn't meant to be a coder, majored in journalism with the intention of eventually working for one. That dream eventually died, until my 29th birthday when I realized, with much panic, that my life was going nowhere fast.

I started this blog last August with the intention of writing about how to follow one's dreams. But I got sidetracked along the way. I started writing about tech stuff, and pretty soon, high profile people in the tech journalism community started to notice. So in spite of this detour, I ended up fullfilling the blog's mission after all.

Adam and Tonya Engst, the husband and wife duo behind TidBITS, are two of the sweetest, kindest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and it's a thrill to be working for them. I'm their first full-time employ, so thanks to them for taking a chance on me.

And of course special thanks to Glenn Fleishman, my champion and mentor, without whom this wouldn't have happened.

Last, but not least, thanks to my mom. We've had our ups and downs, but she birthed me, raised me, and put me through school after my father, the blue collar Tony Stark, passed away. I've had a lot of great friends, supporters, and mentors over the years, but without her, I would literally be nothing.

Buy Me a Beer

Over the past few months, I've had a few readers tell me that they would love to buy me a beer, whether it's for helping to fix their data overage issues or otherwise.

If you want to support my work, you now have your chance. Just hop on over to the Donate page and choose between a $2 subscription, a one-time donation, or simply using my affiliate link to shop at Amazon.

If you don't care for any of those options, consider supporting my friends by purchasing a TidBITS subscription or a Take Control book, especially my buddy Glenn Fleishman's excellent Take Control of BBEdit.

The Candle that Burns Twice as Bright...

Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing:

My friend Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday, Jan 11. He was 26. I got woken up with the news about an hour ago. I'm still digesting it -- I suspect I'll be digesting it for a long time -- but I thought it was important to put something public up so that we could talk about it. Aaron was a public guy.

I'm heartbroken by this news. Aaron was a brilliant guy who changed the world. At 14, he cocreated RSS cowrote the RSS 1.0 specification, and went on to help create Reddit. I use both every day. Despite his problems with depression, I can't help but wonder if his harassment by the authorities wasn't a contributing factor to his suicide.

As someone who has struggled with depression and who was nearly driven to suicide by the combination of that and authoritarian harassment, this news strikes a chord.

I've been wonderfully blessed lately. Just yesterday, I officially became a staff writer for TidBITS. I'm married to a wonderful woman. I've been thinking a lot lately about how none of this would have happened if I had killed myself.

In my adult life, I've had some awful times and awful failures. But I am so glad I kept going. Because if you're dead, you have no more options, no new opportunities, no chance to redeem or reinvent yourself.

Life is a journey. Don't sell yourself short. The final destination may be wonderful, or it may be awful, but you owe it to yourself to find out.

If you pray, please think of Aaron as you do so.

2012: A Year to Remember

I've had a fantastic year. For starters, December 21st has come and gone, and most of us are still here. The world keeps spinning, like it or not.

My year was fairly uneventful until late August, when I started this site. If you're new to the site, you'll probably be surprised to learn that I began it as a personal success blog. Soon, my passion for technology got the better of me, and the focus of this site changed drastically. But in the process, I found a bit of success myself, so in a sense, I've accomplished exactly what I set out to do.

Less than a month into this site's history, my speculative post on the future of the Mac was linked to by Jim Dalrymple on The Loop. That was my first big break, and thousands of his readers came to my site. I was blown away. I've had dozens of sites over the years, but I've been lucky to be read by a dozen people, much less thousands. I even got a few mentions on Techmeme, which for me was a mark of legitimacy.

Bolstered by my newfound confidence, I tackled what I perceived to be false advertising by my hosting provider, Squarespace. Squarespace CEO and founder Anthony Casalena reached out to me, promising improvements, and I wrote a followup regarding our conversation. While some of those came to pass, others have not, and Squarespace 6 has gotten even buggier over time. Another followup is due soon.

Soon after my Squarespace posts, I received my iPhone 5, and quickly found that it used an excessive amount of data. Little did I know at the time, my initial post The iPhone 5 is a Data Pig would be huge. After narrowing down the cause to iCloud, I made a video demonstrating the problem. To this day, it's still the most popular post on the site.

During the course of my iPhone investigation, I crossed paths with veteran tech reporter (and Jeopardy champion) Glenn Fleishman. Glenn was also investigating iOS 6 data usage, and in the process mentioned me on TidBITS and on the Macworld podcast.

Three days after that podcast, I married the love of my life, Hannah. After spending most of my adult life swearing not to marry, I finally caved in. I guess it's true what they say: When you know, you know.

Things were fairly quiet from then until November, which was a huge month. Adam Engst of TidBITS invited me to write for him, I had an article published in The Magazine, and was put in charge of an ambitious project at my job.

The past month, minus this holiday break, has been the hardest I've worked in my life. I drive 50 miles to work, work anywhere from 8-10 hours, drive 50 miles home, then work until I go to bed. It's a stretch sometimes, but I'm not letting up anytime soon. I'm getting the chance to live my dream, and I'm swinging for the fences.

Of course, I didn't do any of this neat stuff on my own. I had a lot of help, so I have a lot of people to thank.


Michael Ellsberg and Seth Godin

I read two books this year that had a dramatic effect on my life: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg and Linchpin by Seth Godin. Education gave me a plan to pursue my dreams, while Linchpin gave me the confidence.

Jim Dalrymple

Like I mentioned above, Jim gave me my first big break in the tech scene. Who knows if I would have kept writing if not for that link on The Loop? Thanks for linking to me Jim, you gave me the confidence I needed to stay on course.

Glenn Fleishman

In addition to doing a fantastic job editing my piece for The Magazine, Glenn has become my greatest promoter and a trusted advisor. For a guy as busy as Glenn to take time to help a schlub like me really speaks to how great and generous of a guy he is. Thanks Glenn, you're the best.

Adam Engst

Adam gave me my first professional writing opportunity I have had in years when he invited me to write for TidBITS. TidBITS is one of the most respected Apple publications in existence, and having been around since 1990, one of the oldest. It's a lot of pressure writing for such an esteemed publication, but it's also been an incredible learning experience. Adam and his wife Tonya are two of the nicest people I've ever spoken with. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write for your site, Adam.

Marco Arment

Marco started The Magazine in October, and it has quickly became one of the most venerated publications in the Apple world. Glenn and Marco often try to downplay The Magazine's importance, but any new publication that pays is pretty revolutionary for aspiring writers these days. Thanks Marco for showing that publishing can still be a profitable business.

Hannah Centers

My wife Hannah has been a constant inspiration for me. She is the smartest, hardest-working woman I know. She teaches in a poor, rural town, where she has become something of a local celebrity for all she's done for the kids. She's the inspiration behind all that I do here. I couldn't ask for a better wife or friend.

Shellie Michael

Shellie was my first journalism professor, and was a great mentor to me. She encouraged me early on, and even helped me land my first writing job (which I totally blew). Thanks Shellie, you're a wonderful teacher, and I doubt I'd be doing this now if not for you.

Leo Laporte and Dan Benjamin

I wouldn't know half the stuff I do if I hadn't spent years listening to TWiT and 5by5. Thanks to Leo and Dan for creating their respective podcast networks.


Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank God for all my good fortune over the past year and a half. I know that sounds strange and trite, but I was an ardent atheist until a series of events lead me to Hannah. Since then, prayer has led to me to great things. I try to avoid religion and politics on this site, but if you need help, prayer is free and can't hurt.


In my brief time as a semi-professional tech writer, I've found out how harsh tech audiences can be, and that's made me come to terms with the fact that I've been a pretty lousy audience at times myself. While usually for well-intentioned reasons, I've often stepped out of line under the guise of holding people accountable. I've changed a lot since meeting Hannah, and I'd like to think I'm more level-headed and mature these days. I'd like to take the opportunity to make amends and start 2013 with a clean slate.

John Gruber and Paul Thurrott

I group these guys together because I've given them both a hard time for being "fanboys" over the years. Which is unfair, because they've never denied their affinity for their respective platforms. More to the point, they've made good livings from their passions, which is something to be admired.

I was especially harsh to Gruber when he suddenly left 5by5 earlier this year, as were many of his other fans. I guess I was hoping that if pressured enough, he'd "see the light," and recant. But the truth is, the new The Talk Show is much better than the old one. I don't know what was going on between John and Dan, and it's not really my business, but Gruber often came off as moody and reluctant on the old show. On the new show, he's lively and engaged, and the show gets better with each episode. I hope John and Dan can patch things up one day.

Much to his credit, Thurrott has never shied away from an argument, no matter how trollish I'm being. And he always does it with sort of a smile and a wink, which I find admirable. Truth be told, I think Microsoft would be in far better hands if they put him in charge.

Ed Bott

In May of 2011, I accused Bott of being in Microsoft's pocket after a series of articles on Mac malware that made heavy use of anonymous sources. While I'm not a fan of proclaiming anonymous sources as the gospel, that ad hominem attack was uncalled for.

I'll never shy away from pointing out inaccurate facts, inconsistencies, and poor journalism, but I will be more careful in what I say about people. One of the things I'm getting used to as a semi-professional writer is that my voice carries weight. When I was just a random commenter, I could shoot off about anything and it wasn't a big deal, but now reputations and livelihoods are potentially at stake. That's a responsibility I want to handle with the utmost care.

What's Next in 2013

I plan to keep writing and keep learning, simple as that. I don't know if I'll ever get to do this full-time, but it's definitely something to work for. I'd like to eventually get deeper into podcasting, either as a host or a guest, but I have a lot to learn about audio, and I'm in need of a serious equipment upgrade.

Regardless of what unfolds, I think 2013 will be a big year.

I hope he's right!

I hope he's right!