December 6, 2016

I love this video. Fascinating to see the original version of each of these features, watch each evolve. Nice find by Stephen Hackett.

I knew that you could use your Apple Watch to make your iPhone ping. Did not know about making it fire its flash. Good to know.

Apple has been offering a path to custom greeting cards for a long time. Memory serves, Apple’s original iCard service disappeared back in 2013, finding a new home in iPhoto and then Photos.

In the linked article, Lesa Snider, writing for Macworld, walks you through the process. Pass this along.

Jeff Porten, TidBITS:

If you’re using or considering buying one of the new MacBook Pro models with the Touch Bar (see “New MacBook Pros Add Context-sensitive Touch Bar,” 27 October 2016), be aware that some people are seeing their machines shut down repeatedly and unexpectedly. The problem might be with external hard drives connected via Thunderbolt 3’s USB-C ports, which is, of course, the only way to connect them.

I began researching this after I was unable to copy a large number of files from one external USB drive to another using my new MacBook Pro. The copy was going to take a long time regardless, but when I came back to check on its status, my laptop was powered off and I had to start it up again manually. Restarting the copy additional times resulted in similar shutdowns.

In my case, I was presented with an error message telling me about the shutdown, with the messages “CPU Machine Check Architecture Error Dump” and “CATERR detected! No MCA data found” in the highly technical error report that automatically gets sent to Apple.

Hopefully, this issue, as well as the graphics glitching issue reported yesterday, is a sign of early days with a new architecture, and will be resolved either with a software update (best possible solution) or a design fix (with some repair path for early adopters).

Give this invaluable list a read, then bookmark it and pass it along.

[Via DF]

Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch:

Netflix’s decision to introduce an in-app subscription option in its iOS app over a year ago has helped the streaming service steadily gain more subscribers, and surge up the Top Grossing charts in the Apple App Store. Back in November of last year, the app hit the Top Grossing chart for the first time, reaching the No. 9 position. Today, Netflix has reached another milestone, as the app has earned the No. 1 Top Grossing spot on the U.S. iPhone App Store.

Interesting that after all this time, and after two different pivots (from mailing discs to streaming and original content), no other company has been able to duplicate their formula for success. Netflix has the mojo.

Apple’s Romeo and Juliet iPhone 7 ad

A solid ad, with the taglines:

your movies look like movies on iPhone 7

And:

practically magic

Note that the only capital letter to be found in the ad is the “P” in “iPhone”. This a new part of Apple’s advertising style guide?

December 5, 2016

Reuters:

Sales of the Apple Watch to consumers set a record during the first week of holiday shopping, and the current quarter is on track to be the best ever for the product, Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook told Reuters.

Responding to an email from Reuters, Cook said the gadget’s sell-through – a measure of how many units are sold to consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves – reached a new high.

“Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.

While Apple may be straying into Amazon territory here (Amazon famously reports “amazing” sales of the Kindle without actually saying how many they’ve sold), it’s still good news that Apple is very happy with the sales figures of the Apple Watch,

The Fairchild 670 and 660 are the most coveted vintage compressor/limiters in the world, with good reason. These 20-tube tone titans — which now fetch upwards of $50,000 — impart an unmistakable silky warmth heard on hundreds of hit records from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to countless Motown classics.

I love the sound of the Fairchild. The UA emulation of this classic compressor is amazing.

Travel and Leisure:

Most boutique hotels are much more than a place to lie your head at night.

But the Literary Man Hotel in Obidos, Portugal—a medieval village that dates back more than 700 years—takes its book collection seriously. In fact, the entire hotel is a bookstore. At every turn, there’s a wall stacked with titles.

The hotel currently boasts more than 45,000 books, according to the owner.

This place looks really cool. I hope to lead a “Beginner Photography Tour and Workshop” in Portugal next May and, if we go, this hotel will definitely be on our list of places to check out if not actually stay at.

The Atlantic:

The past 12 months have been an eventful time for news stories, from the unpredictable and tumultuous U.S. presidential election, to continued war and terror in the Middle East and refugees fleeing to Europe, to a historic World Series win for the Chicago Cubs, ongoing protests demanding racial justice in the U.S., the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, and so much more.

As to be expected, these are powerful images but beware, some of them may be disturbing for their graphic nature.

Today I Found Out:

One measure of the desirability of a sports car is whether or not it has teenagers drooling over it before they’re even old enough to drive. Here’s the story of one of the most drool-worthy cars in auto history. (See how long it takes you to guess which car we’re talking about.)

I’ve never been a huge fan of this car (although I did like the earliest versions) but the story of its origins and development is really interesting.

Om Malik:

I applaud that Facebook has taken the first step. However, I have doubts that the $20 million it is contributing toward affordable housing in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park is the answer. It is a perfect example of short-term thinking and trying to assuage your internal guilt with a check to charity.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I do know how real the problem is in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Michael S. Fischer:

It’s come to light that Uber and other companies have begun tracking our locations in more circumstances than ever. We’ve always relied on their apps to use our location — to do helpful things like find us a fast and convenient way to get where we want to go.

But this time, they’ve gone too far. They’re now insisting that they provide us our location, when we don’t need them to, or don’t want them to, to use their services.

While I don’t use Uber, I’ve seen this kind of activity from other apps and refuse to use the ones that won’t let me limit the ways and kinds of data they collect.

Amazon:

Today only – Get a $50 Amazon.com Gift Card with a qualifying purchase of 1 year subscription to Dropbox Pro. Dropbox Pro is the one place for all your stuff. Anything you add to Dropbox will automatically show up on all your devices and even the Dropbox website — so you can access your stuff from anywhere. And with 1 TB of space you have plenty of room to keep everything safe. The Amazon.com Gift Card will be delivered approximately 8-15 days by email after qualifying purchase. While supplies last. Restrictions apply, see terms and conditions.

If you are a Dropbox user, this is a great deal but it’s for today only and likely won’t last long.

Vox:

On Monday, Amazon introduced a new self-checkout technology that — if it works as advertised — could totally transform the retail sector. Called “Amazon Go,” the technology literally allows people to walk into a store, select items they want to purchase, and walk out. There’s no checkout process at all.

Those of us familiar with Apple’s Retail Stores implementation of this will understand how this might be a huge change in the way retail works.

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

In 1984, the Mac’s software engine, which included an AppleTalk network stack and a LaserWriter driver, ran on a single Motorola 68000 CPU and needed just 32K of ROM and 128K of RAM.

And:

Today, macOS is a fully-grown computer operating system, pleasant, fast, flexible. But it’s also enormous — RAM and disk storage requirements are measured in gigabytes — and it isn’t exactly bug-free. An ex-Apple acquaintance recently told me there are something like 10,000 “open” bugs on an on-going basis. The number that are urgent is, of course, a fraction of the gamut, but like any mature operating system, macOS has become a battlefield of patch upon patch upon patch.

And:

When the Apple smartphone project started, the key decision was the choice of software engine. Should Apple try to make a ‘lite’ version of OS X (as it was then known)? Go in a completely new direction?

[Note that Jean-Louis was the founder and CEO of Be, Inc.]

And:

It appears that a new direction may have been tempting. At the time that Apple’s smartphone project began, an Apple employee and former Be engineer offered Palm Inc. $800K for a BeOS “code dump” — just the code, no support, no royalties. The engineer was highly respected for his skill in mating software to unfamiliar hardware; BeOS was a small, light operating system; draw your own conclusion… Palm, which had purchased Be a few years before that, turned him down. (I learned this when I was asked to become Chairman of PalmSource, Palm’s software spinoff)

Wow. I had not heard this bit before.

I could go on with the excerpts, but you really should read this piece for yourself. Terrific writing from someone who lived at the intersection of Apple and history.

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Since new MacBook Pro models launched last month, an increasing number of early adopters have reported serious graphics issues on Apple’s latest notebooks. The glitches and other problems appear to be most prevalent on built-to-order 15-inch models, but standard 13-inch and 15-inch configurations are also affected.

One owner, Jan Becker, reports:

Apple called me from Cupertino. They put together a group of engineers to get to the root of this. I re-created the incident while I was on the phone with them and sent them the log files of the crash. They also want to “capture” my MacBook Pro with all the files on it to investigate more.

I love this response by Apple. Though they appear silent, they really do throw everything they have at a problem to get to the heart of it. They take this very seriously.

In a possibly related note, ZDNet’s David Gewirtz wrote about switching from the high end 15″ dual-GPU model to a 13″ single-GPU MacBook Pro:

It’s pretty interesting how the dual GPU architecture is supposed to work. Part of the time, the lower power, but also lower-performing, on-chip Intel HD 530 graphics processor is used. When crunch time comes, the Radeon Pro 460 with 4 GB of video RAM kicks in and pounds pixels onto the screen.

I’ve used this dual GPU architecture before. About four years ago, I bought the most powerful Windows laptop I could find, a beast of a Sager. It had a dGPU configuration.

When it worked, it was breathtakingly fast. When it worked.

Over the 18 months or so that machine was my main machine, I had constant driver problems. The GeForce GTX 670M didn’t always run properly. The on-chip Intel video driver wouldn’t properly change settings. System hangs and freezes attributable to driver conflicts were a regular occurrence. It was maddening.

It’s not clear that the dual GPU design is behind this wave of glitches. Reportedly, some of the glitches occur on a 13-inch single-GPU model. But most of the issues seem to occur on the 15-inch dual-GPU model.

Regardless, an interesting problem. Hoping Apple shares the details on the cause, once they figure it out.

Janko Roettgers, Variety:

Netflix is cutting each and every video into one-to-three-minute-long chunks. Computers then analyze the visual complexity of each and every of these clips, and encode with settings that are optimized for its visual complexity.

The resulting potential bandwidth savings are significant: Compared to the encoding tech Netflix uses for streaming, using this chunking method in combination with the new VP9 codec saves around 36% of bandwidth on average for videos that look the same to the human eye.

This new approach sits on a curve. On one end, the videos are much smaller, saving you space on your phone. On the other end, the videos look much better. What you get on your phone depends on the complexity of the particular chunk you are viewing. Interesting stuff.

What a caper. The car was a rental, so you know they didn’t plan on leaving it behind. But ramming the car through the front of the Apple Store disabled the car. No way to come back from that.

Interestingly, Apple has already replaced the front glass. I suspect there’s a warehouse somewhere with spare parts like this.

This remarkable design brings a three level soccer pitch to an area the size of a parking lot. That’s three soccer fields, each big enough for 5-on-a-side competition, stacked one on top of the other. All of this is built into a portable solution, a temporary stack of fields that can be set up and then moved.

Follow the link, check out the picture.

Designed specifically to bring soccer to the tight confines of London, I suspect we’ll see this approach take root in other cities around the world.

December 4, 2016

BBC:

A company spokesman for Apple said that the letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was prompted by its “heavy investment in machine learning and autonomous systems” and that it wanted to help define best practices in the industry.

The five-page letter, written by Apple’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner, urges the regulator to not introduce too many rules on the testing of self-driving cars, saying that “established manufacturers and new entrants should be treated equally.”

In fact, Apple has “revealed” no such thing but this is the first comment they’ve made regarding automotive “autonomous systems”.

December 2, 2016

The New Yorker:

The Voynich Manuscript is a special kind of original. We know, thanks to carbon dating, that it was put together in the early fifteenth century. But no living person has ever, as far as we know, understood it. Nobody can decode the language the book is written in. It has no title and no author. A new facsimile, edited by Raymond Clemens and published by Yale University Press, draws attention to the way that we think about truth now: the book invites guesses, conspiracy theory, spiritualism, cryptography. The Voynich Manuscript has charisma, and charisma has lately held a monopoly on our attentions.

I have been interested in the Voynich Manuscript since I first heard of it in high school. I am nowhere near smart enough to get involved in its deciphering community but the idea of what it is and what it represents fascinates me.

The Verge:

Coleman’s Twitter history — it’s pretty much nonexistent. Despite being the chief of tech startup, Coleman has tweeted just 143 times. That would be reasonable if he hadn’t joined Twitter in June of 2007. In fact, there’s about a seven-year gap in his timeline, starting in November of 2007 and lasting until a retweet of The Verge’s own Walt Mossberg in 2014. It’s followed by a second retweet and then another two tweets in the entirety of 2015.

This feels like yet another example of how such an arguably great service like Twitter seems to not have any idea of itself. Twitter seems to succeed in spite of the executives running it, not because of them.

Appleinsider:

“We believe Apple lacks the courage to lead the next generation of innovation (AI, cloud-based services, messaging); instead will become more reliant than ever on the iPhone,” senior analyst Andrew Uerkwitz wrote in the memo, seen by Business Insider. “We believe Apple is about to embark on a decade-long malaise. The risks to the company have never been greater.”

I would strongly disagree with the characterization but time will tell.

Macworld:

In a moment of somewhat unexpected nostalgia at its most recent media event, Apple pointed out that it was the 25th anniversary of the PowerBook. (It’s good to know that, 27 years later, Apple still would rather nobody remember the Mac Portable.) I’ve been a Mac laptop user since the original PowerBook era. That ancient history is my history. Since 1991, Apple has gone through seven distinct eras when it comes to its laptop strategy and design.

How many of these did you have? I’ve used at least one model of each (except for the iBook) since the Powerbook 180.

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What happens when you let Amazon Echo talk to Google Home

This is hilarious. I really want to add Siri to this conversation.

Your iPhone, the special property of the left side bezel, and an autocorrect suggestion

Do you have an iPhone 6s or newer? Try this:

  • Unlock your phone.
  • Press your thumb on the left bezel (the black framing on the left side of the front of the phone) and press.

As you press, the force touch will reveal just a bit of the stack of apps you are running. Press with a bit more force, and that view will go full screen, as if you had double pressed the home button.

Not sure when this feature first came out, but it seems little enough known that I thought this was worth a post.

I wish Apple would let me switch over to the right side. I also wish I could assign this specific force touch to other aspects of the iOS interface.

For example, imagine if I could use that gesture to undo the last autocorrect, no matter the app. You’d be typing along and notice that iOS changed a word to, say, ducking. Not what you wanted. So you give a quick force touch and your original word is automatically put back in place, without your typing cursor being moved (so you can just keep typing).

Just an idea.