Apple restricts AirDrop in China

I think this has been greatly underreported.

Apple purposely disables a feature on your phone during unrest.

Anti-government protests flared in several Chinese cities and on college campuses over the weekend. But the country’s most widespread show of public dissent in decades will have to manage without a crucial communication tool, because Apple restricted its use in China earlier this month.

AirDrop, the file-sharing feature on iPhones and other Apple devices, has helped protestors in many authoritarian countries evade censorship. That’s because AirDrop relies on direct connections between phones, forming a local network of devices that don’t need the internet to communicate. People can opt into receiving AirDrops from anyone else with an iPhone nearby.

That changed on Nov. 9, when Apple released a new version of its mobile operating system, iOS 16.1.1, to customers worldwide. Rather than listing new features, as it often does, the company simply said, “This update includes bug fixes and security updates and is recommended for all users.”

Hidden in the update was a change that only applies to iPhones sold in mainland China: AirDrop can only be set to receive messages from everyone for 10 minutes, before switching off. There’s no longer a way to keep the “everyone” setting on permanently on Chinese iPhones. The change, first noticed by Chinese readers of 9to5Mac, doesn’t apply anywhere else.


But why did Apple rush out the change unannounced, in an unassuming update to iOS in early November, and apply it only to Chinese iPhones? One clue may lie in what happened the month prior, when Xi Jinping’s anointment to a third term as China’s leader was met with rare displays of public dissent.

In the most visible protest, a dissident now known as Bridge Man lit a fire on a bridge in Beijing to draw attention to his protest banners. One read, “Go on strike at school and work, remove dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping.” References to the banners were quickly censored across the Chinese internet, but photos still made their way through private channels. Vice reported that Bridge Man’s messages were spreading on the Shanghai subway via AirDrop.

Source: qz

The unannounced update has, as always, been twisted as a useful update to “protect the users”.

Besides all the power they already hold “curating” the app stores, imagine, next time, Apple (or any other Big Tech Corp) decides to disable your camera when the police put their knees on the neck of a poor guy, or they decide to disable the keyboard inside certain Telegram chat rooms, or disable Wi-Fi and data inside certain geo-zones, etc…

Software www


It’s now been roughly 6 months I’ve switched from DuckDuckGo to Kagi. I started paying right away after roughly the one month trial.

I had not been very happy with DDG; mostly the results were very low quality (having to switch back to Google one too many times; results often lagged behind by months of publishing), many search bugs, and there’s been that thing with Bing advertising, and generally not seeing many improvements over the ~2 years I tried to use it full-time.

Kagi, on the other hand, has his search engine worked out. I know they also pull data from Bing, but also various other sources (apparently that includes Google) and their own scraper (Teclis, TinyGem), etc.

You can compare the Google and Kagi results. While not entirely the same, I don’t think Google‘s are better than Kagi‘s.

So search is really good and I very very rarely ever need to head back to Google. Only for very obscure errors with very few results, and Google almost never has a better answer.

It also adds some cool other features, like rewriting URLs. URLs getting rewritten to

For example, I run my own Libreddit, so when search results include reddit, I can now redirect to my own Reddit instance (sorry, you won’t have access).

My current rewrite rules. Rewrite AMP and reddit.

There’s a bunch of other cool stuff, like Bangs (short codes that would redirect directly to a site, for example w for wiki — so w flightradar would show this result instantly; and there’s more like hackernews, reddit, google, etc).

You can also lower priority of certain sites. Seeing too much Tiktok or Pinterest? Want to boost Hackernew results? All possible!

To make it work on iOS, you need to install a browser extension, but that works relatively well (it rewrites your search from Google to Kagi).

I was a bit apprehensive as it’s a very small team, and they are also trying to reinvent the browser space with Orion, which is a cut-throat tough market to get in. Two massive enterprises that would need a lot of funding and a lot of dev time.

Orion is based on Safari, and far from good enough to replace Firefox, but I’m actually mildly enthusiastic about this project as well.

The company is very transparent and there’s clear progress. If you want to get involved, they also have a Discord and a feedback/bug forum.

They don’t log your search queries, but show your total searches and what it costs them to handle those searches (server (GCP), API costs, etc).

I’m considering a family plan and will force Shan to switch once released.

So, all things considered, quite excited about this. Looking forward to see if they can revolutionise search. And I truly hope they make it.

The only thing I don’t like is that their logo looks too much like Google’s… 🙈


What if a supernova hits earth?


Japanese produce lumber without cutting trees: Daisugi


Shoots from the base of the tree are pruned so that the trunk stays straight.


The technique results in a harvest of straight logs without having to cut down the entire tree. Although originally a forestry management technique, daisugi has also found its way into Japanese gardens.


Not the most exciting narrators, but… Quite cool!

Would this scale and can we use this elsewhere to avoid cutting down trees?


Software www

Mastodon server: R2

This is a very short post because to be honest, I didn’t figure much out myself.

My uploads/static files are now saved in R2 under its own URL (part of my enterprise zone) so that my normal caching rules and other settings are applied.

Add these to your application.env file:

3_ENABLED = "true"
S3_BUCKET = "<bucket name>"
S3_ENDPOINT = "https://<some-id>"
S3_ALIAS_HOST = "<connected domain>" 
S3_PERMISSION = "private"
AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID = "<access_key>"
AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY = "<secret_access_key>"

The token/API key is a bit hard to find, but it’s on the top right.

Then (re)deploy your site.

I did set up a new server (my RPi4 started to struggle, and I guess if I'm half serious about Mastodon, I shouldn't host it at home), so I started afresh... But there's a way to migrate existing data to R2 as well, following this guide.