December 14, 2017

The Band: “The Weight”

I absolutely love this song. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

At WWDC this year, Apple announced it would soon offer its own podcast analytics service for show creators who publish on Apple Podcasts. Today, that service has launched into beta, offering podcasters the ability to track unique devices and playback metrics for their podcasts, including when listeners drop off in the middle of a show.

This is great news. It only tracks iOS 11 on mobile devices, but people move to the latest iOS pretty quick on Apple devices, so that shouldn’t be much of a drawback.

Apple today announced a major update to its professional video editing app, Final Cut Pro X, with new features including 360-degree VR video editing, advanced color grading tools and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. Optimized to take full advantage of the incredible performance capabilities of the all-new iMac Pro, Final Cut Pro users can now edit full-resolution 8K video for the first time on a Mac. Apple is also extending 360-degree VR video support to Final Cut Pro companion apps, Motion and Compressor.

Wow!

What you say is not nearly as important as what we hear.

We would all do well to remember this.

Apple’s new video for using Apple Pay on iPhone X

Not much to it.

Apple updates Logic Pro X for iMac Pro

Apple released an update for its professional music software Logic Pro on Thursday, which adds support for the iMac Pro including support for up to 36 cores. You can download the update by going to the App Store on your Mac and checking for updates.

Amazon.com Inc will start selling Google Chromecast and Apple TV, which compete against its Fire TV, on its online store, an Amazon spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday.

This is great news for Apple. Amazon is a huge reseller of products and it has a very strong brand—I would think a lot of people will go to Amazon to purchase Apple TV. Amazon Prime Video is also now available on Apple TV, so the two companies are mending the fences.

This will break your brain.

From Apple’s press release:

Apple today released iMac Pro, an entirely new product line designed for pro users who love the all-in-one design of iMac and require workstation-class performance. With Xeon processors up to 18 cores, up to 22 Teraflops of graphics performance, and a brilliant 27-inch Retina 5K display, iMac Pro is the fastest, most powerful Mac ever made. iMac Pro delivers incredible compute power for real-time 3D rendering, immersive VR, intensive developer workflows, high megapixel photography, complex simulations, massive audio projects and real-time 4K and 8K video editing.

There’s a lot more detail in the release. This is one beautifully designed, incredibly powerful machine.

But it’ll cost you.

I went on-line and worked through the various configurations.

The standard configuration priced out, as announced, at $4,999. I suspect that will be plenty of power for most users. Here’s what you get for that $5K:

  • 3.2GHz 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
  • 32GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
  • 1TB SSD
  • Radeon Pro Vega 56 with 8GB of HBM2 memory
  • Magic Mouse 2 – Space Gray
  • Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – US English – Space Gray

If you select all the hardware configuration extras, that bumps the price up to $13,199. Here’s what that looks like:

  • 2.3GHz 18-core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.3GHz
  • 128GB 2666MHz DDR4 ECC memory
  • 4TB SSD
  • Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory
  • Magic Mouse 2 – Space Gray
  • Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad – US English – Space Gray

It’d be interesting to see some benchmarks comparing these two configurations.

The $4,999 standard configuration promises delivery by December 28th.

The $13,199 souped up, hot rod configuration shows delivery at 6-8 weeks (Jan 25- Feb 8, if ordered today).

From Disney’s official announcement, here are the major deal points.

First, here’s what Disney won’t get:

  • 21st Century Fox to spin off Fox Broadcasting network and stations, Fox News, Fox Business, FS1, FS2 and Big Ten Network to its shareholders.

So no Fox News and Sports, that’ll spin off into a new entity.

And what Disney will get:

  • Acquisition complements and enhances The Walt Disney Company’s ability to provide consumers around the world with more appealing content and entertainment options
  • Transaction to include 21st Century Fox’s film and television studios, cable entertainment networks and international TV businesses
  • Popular entertainment properties including X-Men, Avatar, The Simpsons, FX Networks and National Geographic to join Disney’s portfolio
  • Expands Disney’s direct-to-consumer offerings with addition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment content, capabilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia; Hulu stake becomes a controlling interest
  • Addition of extensive international properties, including Star in India and Fox’s 39% ownership of Sky across Europe, enhances Disney’s position as a truly global entertainment company with world-class offerings in key regions
  • Robert A. Iger to remain Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company through 2021

Lots of value there. Notably, Disney gets The Simpsons, which is currently a big part of the Universal Studios Florida theme park, an obvious competitor. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Does the Fox / Universal deal have an expiration date? A buyout clause? Will the Simpsons make their way to Disney theme parks?

Another big deal: Disney will have a controlling interest in Hulu. That is no small thing.

Interesting times.

If you are considering buying an iMac Pro, spend the time to read through this Ars Technica review. There’s a lot of practical detail in the review, and a section on some of the major software that folks will run, with the goal of major speed increases/time savings.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Starting in iOS 11, Apple introduced support for indoor maps for select malls and airports around the world. Indoor maps have been slow to roll out, but Apple has been steadily adding additional mall and airport maps since September.

Apple today began listing indoor maps for malls and airports on its iOS 11 feature availability page, giving us a clear picture of exactly where the indoor mapping feature is available for the first time.

Here’s a link to Apple’s official iOS feature availability page. Definitely worth a minute to scroll down the page, see what categories are being tracked. Indoor maps for airports and malls are about halfway down the page.

Great resource.

MadGeniusClub:

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings

And:

Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy.

This certainly will help combat mass fake reviews, since they will no longer be free. As to paid reviews, don’t see how this will change that practice. Here’s a link to Amazon’s official policy page.

December 13, 2017

As a family company here at Pad & Quill, we draw on very personal experiences to make our products and this Traveler Leather Bumper Case is a great example of that. It all started when I came across my Dad’s old leather coin pouch…

That sounds like a great reason to make a product. We all draw on our personally experiences for inspiration.

Kottke:

For his work Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, William Forsythe sets in motion hundreds of pendulums in a room and invites people to walk among them, attempting to avoid collisions.

No way to get a sense of this without watching the video, embedded below. Looks like fun to me.

Inc:

MailChimp, which grew out of a discarded web business, is profitable, still entirely owned by its co-founders, and growing by more than $120 million every year; Chestnut estimates that in 2017 it will post $525 million in revenue.

This is a remarkable, inspirational success story. More so because the co-founders bootstrapped this business, all without VC funding.

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

On Sunday I ran my very first half marathon race equipped with just my Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple Watch Series 3 includes a built-in GPS and optional cellular so you can map your run and wirelessly stream music without strapping an iPhone to your arm. And AirPods, which can play music from the watch, are totally wireless so there’s no cable to manage during the race. Here’s how my experience went:

No iPhone. Just an Apple Watch and AirPods. And his AirPods stayed in his ears the whole time.

After the race, my Apple Watch still had 14% battery left, and my AirPods had enough battery left to keep playing music. I used Scribble to jot out my official run time in a message to my wife and respond to Apple Watch friends who saw my results with Activity Sharing.

This is a fantastic, real world example of Apple technology at its best. Congrats, Zac!

Terrific piece from CNBC breaking down Shazam’s real value. In a nutshell, it’s loyal users, recurring revenue, a staggering amount of data (and data helps your AI learn), and intellectual property.

Great, short read.

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple today increased its trade-in values for select Mac models released in 2009 and later. In partnership with buyback company Phobio, Apple now offers customers up to $2,500, compared to up to $1,500 previously.

Want to get a sense of the trade-in value for your old Mac? Head over to the Phobio site (that’s Apple’s trade-in partner).

Twitter’s official blog:

We’ve made it easy to create a thread by adding a plus button in the composer, so you can connect your thoughts and publish your threaded Tweets all at the same time. You can continue adding more Tweets to your published thread at any time with the new “Add another Tweet” button. Additionally, it’s now simpler to spot a thread – we’ve added an obvious “Show this thread” label.

Twitter is rolling out their new interface over the next few weeks. To get a sense how to use them, take a look at this animated GIF.

In a nutshell, Twitter is adding a plus sign (+) on the right side of the tool bar. Compose a tweet, then press the plus to start a second tweet. Keep building your thread and, when you are done, tap the Tweet All button to tweet the thread.

Apple, from this feature story:

Over the last five years, Bruce Armstrong has walked thousands of miles through the corridors of an empty manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, keeping the lights on. Since the plant closed in 2012, he’s been its caretaker, always holding out hope it would come alive again. Thanks to new business from Apple, that hope is about to become a reality.

Great story about a town that is becoming the VCSEL capital of the US.

VCSEL? That stands for vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers:

VCSELs power some of Apple’s most popular new features, including Face ID, Animoji and Portrait mode selfies made possible with the iPhone X TrueDepth camera, as well as the proximity-sensing capabilities of AirPods.

Apple invested $390 million in a VCSEL manufacturer in Finisar, allowing it to build out a VCSEL facility in Sherman, Texas.

From the Apple investment announcement:

As a result of Apple’s commitment, Finisar will transform a long-shuttered, 700,000-sqare-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, into the high-tech VCSEL capital of the US. Apple’s award will create more than 500 high-skill jobs at the Sherman facility, including engineers, technicians and maintenance teams. When combined with the company’s nearby plant in Allen, Texas, Finisar’s payroll in Northern Texas is expected to be $65 million.

And:

One hundred percent of the VCSELs Apple buys from Finisar will be made in Texas. Consistent with Apple’s commitment to the environment, the company intends to procure enough renewable energy to cover all of its Apple manufacturing in the US.

Love this story.

December 12, 2017

Apple today announced that it is working with the city of Chicago to bring coding opportunities to Chicago’s nearly 500,000 students through a citywide expansion of Apple’s Everyone Can Code program.

The initiative in Chicago was designed in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, local businesses and non-profit organizations.

I absolutely love these types of initiatives from Apple.

Apple has hired two business affairs execs — Philip Matthys from Hulu and Jennifer Wang Grazier from Legendary Entertainment — for key roles on its expanding original entertainment team, Variety has learned.

All of these video-related hires are great news for Apple and its customers. My only question is will Apple allow all of these talented people to make great shows or will they interfere to the point where the shows just suck. We’ll see.

Net neutrality advocates said they are gearing up for a legal fight after abandoning attempts to convince the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to keep 2015 rules aimed at maintaining an open internet.

I haven’t heard from anyone that thinks net neutrality rules should be abandoned. I hope they win this fight and keep the rules in place.

VIDEO: The new iMac Pro, hands on impressions

Marques Brownlee has had the new iMac Pro for about a week. In the video embedded below, he shows it off, shares his first impressions.

If you are in the market, this is absolutely worth your time.

Couple of notes here:

  • Important to note that the new iMac Pro is not user upgradable. So if you are ordering, future proof best you can.

  • Marques priced out a home built PC using the iMac Pro parts (or similarly specced parts where the actual parts are not yet available) and came up with a price of $5100. Comparing that to the iMac Pro base price of $4999, my take is that the iMac Pro is fairly priced.

  • The fact that I cannot upgrade over time is an issue for me, though I suspect iFixit will eventually sell a kit to get me inside and 3rd parties will sell parts to upgrade. Eventually.

  • The iMac Pro is very quiet, runs cool. That’s impressive, given the high end workstation grade parts jammed in to that svelte enclosure.

Very exciting news. I suspect Apple will sell a bunch of these, especially to folks tapping their feet waiting for an update to the Mac Pro.

Though there’s no pricing on the Apple site quite yet, it was originally announced with a base price of $4,999.

Patrick Lucas Austin, LifeHacker:

There’s a pretty straightforward reason you should attach a clip to your Apple Pencil: it lets you treat it like a traditional writing implement. The Apple Pencil’s completely rounded design means it is more prone to roll around your desk, or right off your table and onto the ground. In addition, adding a clip lets you, of course, clip it anywhere you’d stick a regular pen.

Have an Apple Pencil? Check out this clip for the Fisher Space Pen. $2, plus shipping (maybe buy a few at this price), and stick one on your Apple Pencil.

Apple intros three new iPhone X ads, one particularly striking

The first one, Adapts to Your Face, shows what happens if you emulate Jim and grow out your inner beard. iPhone X still knows it’s you.

The second, Opens with a Glance, is a bit generic, a collage of faces.

The third, Introducing Portrait Lighting, is easily the most powerful of the new spots, showing off the powerful Portrait Lighting effects, with the tagline: “Studio-quality portraits without the studio.” Well done.

Brian Fung, Washington Post:

The news was announced Monday by Verizon as it sealed a deal with the NFL for an estimated $2 billion over the next five years. The move highlights the telecom giant’s pivot toward digital media and online advertising amid massive changes in the TV and Internet industries.

Monday’s deal makes it possible for Verizon to hook customers of even rival Internet providers with must-see content hosted on websites that Verizon owns — such as AOL, Yahoo, Yahoo Sports and go90, the telecom giant’s proprietary online video app.

The agreement between Verizon and the NFL will let football fans stream their local teams’ games, as well as nationally televised games and league highlights. Games that air on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays are covered under the deal. Even the Super Bowl will be widely streamed to anyone with an Internet connection, Verizon said.

Even if you have no interest in the NFL, this is an important move. Verizon has managed to throw enough money at the NFL to make the games you normally watch in your cable package available in your browser, and that’s no small thing.

First things first, this is a big enabler for wannabe cable cutters. It legitimizes the concept, makes it practical for a reasonably sizable audience to break free of a cable package, as long as they have access to either WiFi or an unlimited data plan.

Second, it provides a big test case for net neutrality. Will other cable companies throttle Verizon NFL packets to throw a monkey wrench into Verizon’s plans?

At the very least, I see this as a rip in the fabric tying us to cable packages. In my view, the cable disruption just got closer.

From the T3 interview with Phil Schiller, starting with the creation of iPhone X:

“At the time, at the beginning, it seemed almost impossible. Not just almost. It seemed impossible. And to pull off what feels impossible and make it possible – and not only that, but just something we love using – is just a great achievement.

“Clearly there was a point in the process where we had to commit to the fact that it would be a full top-to-bottom screen on the front with no home button, which means you’re counting on Face ID working as we’d hope, and being as good.

“That’s an exciting moment, when you have to sort of… the old saying: ‘Burn the boats. Leave the past behind, and commit.’ Knowing that the team was willing to make that gamble was a key point early enough in the process..

And:

“Most people are comfortable with it within minutes – 30 minutes, whatever. It’s not the kind of thing you have to live with for a week or two to get used to.

And:

We say to Schiller that we’ve been surprised at how good Face ID is for Apple Pay. “Yes. That was on a long list of things we knew we had to deliver. The home button, at the beginning, really did one thing. Maybe two. It woke up your screen, and then it let you go to the home screen from any app. And then over the years, we’ve layered on many, many uses – the multitasking capabilities, evoking Siri, you being able to use it for Apple Pay, creating Touch ID for your fingerprint. So Face ID had a much harder job for its first version than the home button had for its first version.”

And:

“Products [like] AirPods and Pencil could not work were it not for hardware and software and chip teams and radio teams, all working together to make something happen. And I think the latest feature that’s the result of this collaboration is Face ID.”

“Other companies certainly have had the vision of ‘can you unlock something with someone’s face?’ but no one [has] actually delivered technology as advanced and capable and ubiquitous and consumer friendly as Face ID. And that is the direct result of this collaboration, and how these teams work for years together on a simple powerful idea with all that technology.

And:

Is the iPad Pro really the PC replacement it was touted as? Or is it really a supplementary device to the Mac?

“What we’ve learned, truthfully, is that it’s both, and that depends on the user,” says Schiller. “For some people, iPad Pro is a replacement for their computer. Not that you throw away your computer. People don’t often do that.

“But that it becomes your primary computing device. The way you mostly hear about this is people say, ‘I use a computer at my desk’ or ‘I use a notebook at my desk, but when I travel, I travel just with my iPad Pro’. It is so great in that situation.”

This is a terrific interview. There is just so much more to it. Great insight into Apple’s corporate product thinking.