October 22, 2014

O Canada

Thanks to my friend Sly for sending me this video and thanks to the American hockey fans who honoured all Canadians by singing our National Anthem and showing their respect on this awful day. Tears and chills.

This is just delicious. If you want to jump right to the image, click here. Boy has Apple come a long way.

Last month, Austin Mann took the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus on a test drive on location in Iceland. Since then, he’s incorporated Yosemite into his workflow. This post is his tips and tricks and lessons learned.

A must read for photographers, but well worth your time, even if the most you do is take the occasional snapshot.

Ben Bradlee was a towering figure on journalism, guiding the Washington Post as it challenged the US federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers and was a driving force in uncovering the Watergate scandal that ultimately unseated US President Richard M Nixon.

From Seeking Alpha (free reg-wall):

Tim Cook was pleased to announce that in FY2014, Apple sold 250 million iOS devices. That means that since 2007, Apple has sold over 950 million iOS devices in total and is on track to sell it’s billionth iOS device sometime in Q12015. The only other platforms to ever reach the billion milestone are Windows, Facebook, and Android. This is a significant milestone and unlike with Facebook, the billion dollar figure does not suggest the same penetration as Android or iOS, since the latter two act more as an annuity, where consumers purchase upgrades in rather regular cycles.

I remember thinking, when the iPhone was first announced, what an accomplishment it would be if Apple could sell 10 million of them. A billion iOS devices is simply astonishing.

Interesting point about the relative achievements of a billion Facebook accounts versus a billion iOS devices. Certainly fair to say that a billion Facebook accounts is the harder of the two, requiring deeper market penetration. On the other hand, it does say something that Apple has a lot of repeat customers and requires them to survive. With Facebook, if you’ve ever had an account (as long as you don’t delete it), that number counts, even if you no longer use the service.

It was bound to happen eventually. A perfect storm of consumer anticipation, a new album ready for release, and the complexity of the digital music construction process.

Taylor Swift had a new album in the hopper, ready to go, and somehow 8 seconds of white noise slipped into the mix known simply as “Track 3″. Fans being the fanatics they are, the hive mind crowd-tapped that track to number one on the Canadian iTunes charts. For obvious reasons, the track has since been removed. Collector’s item?

This tweet said it best. Heh. (hat tip to Stu Mark)

October 21, 2014

Review: iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3

I picked up my new iPads after the event in Cupertino ended last Thursday where Apple introduced the new products. I’ve been using the new iPads just as I have used the previous generation devices, so I could get a good idea how they function under my normal working conditions.

The best feature to ever come to an iPad is Touch ID. I’ve spent the last year holding my finger on the iPad’s Home button, waiting for it to unlock, and cursing when I realized what I was doing. It’s been a long year.

ipadair

Touch ID is more than a convenience feature—it actually helps the user with security too. Without Touch ID, passcodes to unlock the iPad are typically very simple, allowing people easy, quick access to the iPad. After all, if it becomes too much of a pain to just get the device open, we’ll either not use it or disable security altogether. Neither one of those options really work.

Touch ID solves this problem by allowing you to add a secure password, while giving easy access to the iPad using your fingerprint. Apple is also giving developers access to Touch ID so you can unlock apps, like 1Password, with your fingerprint.

So, yes there is a measure of convenience that you can enjoy after setting up Touch ID, but you should also take the opportunity to secure your device.

One of the things I use my iPad Air 2 for is music. I plug in my guitar to the iPad and use one of the many great music apps out there for amp modeling. For me, this is a solid test of the iPad because you are processing audio in real-time—if there’s any problem with the processor it should show up when trying to work with live audio.

There were no problems at all with the iPad Air 2 or the iPad mini 3.

ipadmini

I plugged my Les Paul into a Line 6 SonicPort, which goes into the iPad via the lightning connector, and then to BIAS, the amp modeling software. So when I strum a chord on the guitar, I should hear sound immediately—any delay is called latency and really messes with your ability to play or record. I experienced no latency with either iPad in my tests.

To be honest, I’m not really surprised I didn’t have any problems. When I saw the Pixelmator guys demoing Pixelmator for iPad during the event last week, I knew this was a powerful device—that was a really impressive demo that had everyone in the crowd clapping.

The iPad Air 2 is thinner than its predecessor and while it’s only by a little bit, it does make a difference. The hardware design is slightly different and when combined with the thinness, the iPad Air 2 feels very comfortable to hold and use.

There is one really odd thing that I found when using the new iPads. Since I started using the iPhone 6, I got used to pressing the sleep button on the side of the device. Now, I’m doing that on the iPad, except the iPad’s sleep button is still on the top—it hasn’t changed. Instead of putting the iPad to sleep, I turn up the volume.

It’s a small thing, I know, but it’s an annoying lack of consistency across the product lines. I almost feel like the Sleep button will become my new nemesis now that the iPad has Touch ID.

Of course there is more to the new iPads than hardware—iOS 8.1 was also released bring deeper integration between OS X Yosemite and iOS. My two favorite features are Instant Hotspot and Handoff.

I had a few problems setting up Instant Hotspot, which is odd because it’s not supposed to need any configuration, but yet it didn’t work reliably for me. I mean that it didn’t show up consistently in the “Personal Hotspot” space under the Mac’s Wi-Fi menu. What’s even stranger is that it acted differently uses two different Macs—on one the hotspots showed up like they used to, as a regular Wi-Fi network.

Whatever was causing the problem fixed itself because as of tonight, it’s working perfectly. I could easily chalk this one up to user error, but it does bother me that I don’t know why it didn’t show up properly.

Handoff is a brilliant idea. It allows you to start your work on one device, and then pick it up on another just by choosing the app. All of the work magically appears on your new device and you just keep working.

Like Instant Hotspot, Handoff is a feature that I’ll be using a lot.

I said on Amplified last week that if all Apple did to the iPad was add Touch ID, I’d be happy—that’s what they did with the iPad mini, and to be honest, I’m happy. They did much more than that to the iPad Air 2 and it’s working perfectly for me.

I will continue using both iPads because they both have a place in my lifestyle and workflow. At the end of the day, I still use the iPad Air for the larger screen, while I use the iPad mini when I go out for a coffee and need to be a bit more portable. That’s not going to change any time soon.

The iPad created and made popular a market for powerful, portable tablets. The latest updates, along with iOS 8.1 and the App Store ecosystem, only solidifies Apple’s position as the No. 1 tablet-maker in the world.

Digg:

A nicely crafted beer is a thing of beauty, but if you’re pouring it into just any old grimy pint glass, you’re not letting that brew reach its true potential. The right glass is key to getting every last boozy drop of pleasure.​

A lot of people don’t realize that the shape of the glass you drink your beer out of can affect the way it tastes. In general, beer glasses are designed to enhance the kinds of beers inside. Always drives me nuts when I go to a bar and ask for a specialized beer and it comes in the “wrong” glass.

Insane CGI

Just no words to describe this video. It’s incredibly creepy, yet compelling. Amazing CGI work.

Yup, it’s China Unicom, the second largest mobile carrier in China. Because marketing.

Apple’s fourth quarter results press release

From Apple’s official press release:

Strong iPhone, Mac & App Store Sales Drive Record September Quarter Revenue & Earnings

CUPERTINO, California—October 20, 2014—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple’s board of directors has declared a cash dividend of $.47 per share of the Company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on November 13, 2014, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on November 10, 2014.

“Our fiscal 2014 was one for the record books, including the biggest iPhone launch ever with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With amazing innovations in our new iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we are heading into the holidays with Apple’s strongest product lineup ever. We are also incredibly excited about Apple Watch and other great products and services in the pipeline for 2015.”

“Our strong business performance drove EPS growth of 20 percent and a record $13.3 billion in cash flow from operations in the September quarter,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “We continued to execute aggressively against our capital return program, spending over $20 billion in the quarter and bringing cumulative returns to $94 billion.”

Apple is providing the following guidance for its fiscal 2015 first quarter:
• revenue between $63.5 billion and $66.5 billion
• gross margin between 37.5 percent and 38.5 percent
• operating expenses between $5.4 billion and $5.5 billion
• other income/(expense) of $325 million
• tax rate of 26.5 percent

You can listen to the call here.

You can read a transcript of the call here (Seeking Alpha, free reg-wall).

John Brandon on NFC spoofing:

Spoofing an NFC transaction involves creating a dummy reader—say, another smart card or a smartphone—that sniffs out a close-by signal and steals the data during a transaction.

This would be an issue if the device being sniffed held your credit card number. This is a big lesson learned by Apple and a reason why Apple Pay is much more secure than other wallet mechanisms.

Still, even if a hacker could snag your transaction data as it passes from your iPhone to the terminal, they’d get a single-use token with nothing to identify you by name. Connecting that to the credit cards stored securely by Apple might not be impossible, but the experts we spoke to agree that it’s a lot harder than just stealing some credit card numbers.

Interesting read.

Major League Baseball has announced that both Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and AT&T Park in San Francisco will be accepting Apple Pay, starting with tonight’s game one in Kansas City.

While Apple Pay is a convenience for folks who have the right setup, in a venue with long lines, Apple Pay is a convenience for everyone. Simply put, Apple Pay makes lines move faster.

To get a sense of why, think about the time cost for a single transaction. If you pay with a credit card, you have to reach in your pocket or purse, pull out your wallet, find your card, hand it to the vendor. The vendor then scans the card, waits for approval, waits for a receipt to print, hands you back your card, food and receipt. You put your card back in your wallet, put your wallet away, grab your food. And that excludes the case where you have to sign your receipt, hand it back to the vendor, who then compares your signature with that on the back of your card.

With Apple Pay, you reach in your pocket or purse, pull out your phone, touch Touch ID and tap the terminal. The vendor waits for approval, waits for the receipt to print, hands you your receipt. While waiting for approval, you’ve put your phone away. When the transaction is approved, you take your food and receipt and go.

By my analysis, the biggest time saving is the difference between pulling out your phone versus pulling out your wallet and then your credit card. For some people, pulling out a credit card means unpacking a purse or backpack and then balancing the contents of an overstuffed wallet to keep the contents in place. I’ve got my wallet and my phone in one pocket and a fairly minimal wallet. But even in that case, pulling out my phone and touch-tapping with Apple ID is always going to be faster than opening my wallet, finding my card, handing over my card, waiting for the vendor to slide the card, getting my card back, putting it back in my wallet, putting my wallet away.

In a situation with a small line, this is not a big deal. The time difference is measured in seconds, not minutes. But in a baseball stadium, there are time multipliers at work. Some concession stands have long lines that last through most of the event. A small time savings is multiplied, turning into a big time savings by the end of the evening, translating into more customers served and less waiting time per customer.

Bottom line, if I pay with Apple Pay, that’s less time waiting in line for everyone behind me.

October 20, 2014

BIAS Desktop is the world’s most accurate, thorough and versatile guitar-amp modeler and designer. Its advanced amp-modeling engine captures the warmth and feel of real tube amps in every aspect, component by component. To start, the plug-in includes 36 authentic models of the most sought-after vintage and modern amps in rock ‘n’ roll history.

This alone is worth it—BIAS is my favorite amp modeling software for iOS, but then they added this to the Mac version:

Amp Matching utilizes a collection of underlying technologies to analyze and compare your currently selected BIAS amp model and the sound of a target tube amplifier, the corresponding cabinet and the microphone in front of it. It then executes the tonal compensation and enhancement needed to make your amp model accurately match the target tube amplifier.

Holy shit!

“I’m sorry.”

The Washington Post’s privacy story on Apple and how they got it wrong

The Washington Post ran a sensationalistic story this morning that claimed Apple would have user’s location, unique identifying codes and search terms when using Spotlight in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

The function is part of Spotlight search, which was updated with last week’s launch of new Mac computers and Apple’s latest operating system, Yosemite OS X, which also is available for download to owners of older machines. Once Yosemite is installed, users searching for files – even on their own hard drives — have their locations, unique identifying codes and search terms automatically sent to the company, keystroke by keystroke. The same is true for devices using Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.

There’s only one problem with the story—it’s not true.

On iOS 8, here’s what Apple actually gets (PDF document):

To make suggestions more relevant to users, Spotlight Suggestions includes user context and search feedback with search query requests sent to Apple.

Context sent with search requests provides Apple with: i) the device’s approximate location; ii) the device type (e.g., Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod); iii) the client app, which is either Spotlight or Safari; iv) the device’s default language and region settings; v) the three most recently used apps on the device; and vi) an anonymous session ID. All communication with the server is encrypted via HTTPS.

To help protect user privacy, Spotlight Suggestions never sends exact location, instead blurring the location on the client before sending. The level of blurring is based on estimated population density at the device’s location; for instance, more blurring is used in a rural location versus less blurring in a city center where users will typically be closer together. Further, users can disable the sending of all location information to Apple in Settings, by turning off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions. If Location Services is disabled, then Apple may use the client’s IP address to infer an approximate location.

The anonymous session ID allows Apple to analyze patterns between queries conducted in a 15-minute period. For instance, if users frequently search for “Café phone number” shortly after searching for “Café,” Apple may learn to make the phone number more available in results. Unlike most search engines, however, Apple’s search service does not use a persistent personal identifier across a user’s search history to tie queries to a user or device; instead, Apple devices use a temporary anonymous session ID for at most a 15-minute period before discarding that ID.

Apple has posted its privacy policies on its Web site, so you can see exactly how they feel about it any time you want.

The fact is, Apple doesn’t collect data about its customers like other companies do, like say, Google. Apple sells products, not advertisements or customer data. By anonymizing the data it receives, Apple is able to make the operating system work better for you, while maintaining your privacy.


David Smith:

Since getting my iPhone 6 a few weeks ago I’ve been continuously trying to optimize the configuration of my home screen. The larger screen means that I now have an extra row of icons to fit onto the screen, but the physical size of device means that I can’t actually comfortably reach them.

Since you can’t arbitrarily place icons on your home screen this means the situation is actually worse. I now have to fill in the top row of icons with ‘stuff’ just so that I can easily reach my main icons without stretching.

I poked around at finding a better way and this was my solution. No weird hacks or jailbreak required.

An easy to do “hack” for those who have an issue with getting to the top row of icons on your iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple:

OS X Yosemite introduces a beautiful new design, useful new connections between your Mac and iOS devices, and amazing new features for the apps you use most.

Lots of things to dig in to and discover if you have a Mac compatible with the required features.

Macworld:

Before you go blowing your entire paycheck on everything from big handbags to Big Macs, there are a few things to keep in mind about the platform. Read on to learn more about how Apple Pay works, how to get your iPhone ready for it, and most importantly, where you can go test it out yourself.

If you are lucky enough to have an new iPhone and live in the US, you can now buy stuff as if you lived in the future.

The text of this video has been available for a while but it’s still interesting to watch the video.

Yahoo:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

More profit, more revenue, more sales. So – DOOMED!

iOS 8.1 available for download

You can go to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device to download it now.

Trunk Monkey

I laughed my balls off watching this.

Good link to save, just in case you need to do a clean install, rather than simply upgrading through the App Store.

Charles Arthur, writing for The Guardian, makes the case that Apple’s new iPad release is much more than a speed bump release. Rather, the addition of Touch ID to the iPad line is a huge milestone marker and a critical element in Apple’s Apple Pay rollout and pursuit of acceptance/adoption in the business sector.

The TouchID addition is important for people who use iPads in businesses, especially the giant “enterprises” where thousands of devices might be deployed. When I mentioned on Twitter that TouchID looked useful on the new iPads, the responses came thick and fast from people who don’t want to have to type their long IT department-mandated passwords into a screen, but would rather unlock them with the touch of a finger.

“TouchID [is] very important in enterprise for mobile workforces, particularly in customer-service scenarios,” responded Tim Edwards of Dootrix, an enterprise software development consultancy. Long passphrases are the enemy of quick interaction with a customer, he explained: “Fumbling around with a strong passcode doesn’t cut it for a quick customer interaction, especially in travel.”

As to Apple Pay:

Having already signed up a number of banks and merchants for its announcement on 9 September, Tim Cook said on Thursday that another 500 banks have come forward to get involved in Apple Pay, as well as a number of merchants (including Starbucks, which has had its own payment system going for some time).

“We believe ApplePay is going to change things profoundly,” Tim Cook said. The advantage that Apple has is that ApplePay will have a really big merchant ready to use it straight away: all of Apple’s stores, which number more than 250 in the US. Given that Apple has surely already sold at least 2m new iPhones in the US (and perhaps more like 5m), it’s highly likely that the value and volume of NFC transactions through Apple’s Stores in the US in the next two months will exceed that across the US in the previous ten months of this year.

And:

One can argue that there aren’t many NFC-capable tills in the US, which is largely still stuck in the card-swiping dark ages; chip-and-pin, as used in the UK and the rest of Europe, isn’t yet mandatory.

But a series of terrible hacks which have given millions of credit card details to hackers because companies stored them following transactions means that the US banks have finally had enough. They are making chip-and-pin (also known as EMV) mandatory: by October 2015 any business that doesn’t have EMV implemented will have to bear the brunt of fraud, rather than being able to pass it to the banks, as they can now.

That means tills are being updated, and NFC payment capability is an inexpensive “nice to have”. Apple executives have indicated to me that they think that their timing on this is just right – and in business, it’s often timing that matter more than just technology.

Great read.

As detailed earlier today, Apple Pay is the biggest feature in today’s release of iOS 8.1. Along with Apple Pay and a variety of bug fixes, here are three more things you’ll see in iOS 8.1:

Instant Hotspot:

Instant Hotspot is another facet of Continuity that will be enabled with iOS 8.1. This feature lets a Mac remotely activate the Personal Hotspot capabilities of an iPhone when the two devices are near each other. The Mac can automatically detect an iPhone with Hotspot and users can connect to a Hotspot via the Mac’s Wi-Fi menu without needing to remove the iPhone from their pocket.

iCloud Photo Library:

iCloud Photo Library is designed to store all of a user’s photos and videos, making them accessible on all of their iOS devices. iCloud Photo Library is tied to a user’s iCloud account, using the storage space of their iCloud plans. With iCloud Photo Library, photos are kept in the cloud with a smaller version available on iOS devices, taking up less storage space. iCloud Photo Library will also tie in to the upcoming Photos app for the Mac, but until that is available, iCloud Photo Library will only be available on iOS devices.

And my absolute favorite, SMS Relay:

With SMS relay, both Macs (running Yosemite) and iOS devices like iPads are able to receive SMS messages that have been routed through a user’s iPhone. Currently, while iPads and Macs can receive iMessages, SMS messages are limited to iPhones. When SMS relay is functional, an SMS message that has been received will be forwarded to iPads and Macs, and users will be able to answer all of their messages on any device. It’s also possible to start SMS-based conversations directly on a Mac or iPad.

I do the vast majority of my writing on my Mac and I love the fact that I can respond to iMessages on my Mac. I can type faster on my Mac and, if my current workflow is on my Mac, I can copy and paste links and other content into a message. When I get an SMS message, I have to pull out my phone, my typing is slower, and I don’t have access to the data in my workflow. With SMS Relay, I’ll have seamless access to SMS. Fantastic.

IBM was once (not so long ago) one of the largest computer chip manufacturers in the world. Before Apple made the move to Intel chips, IBM was part of the alliance (along with Apple and Motorola) that produced the biggest competitor to Intel’s x86 architecture, the PowerPC.

Amazing to me that IBM’s chip business has fallen so far. They can’t just shut it down, though, as they are still very dependent on their self-produced Power chips. The deal gives IBM access to the chips for 10 more years, but the buyers get the engineering talent.

On today’s release of Apple Pay

At last week’s event, Apple announced that iOS 8.1 would be released today. The iOS 8.1 feature with the biggest potential impact is, no doubt, Apple Pay. From Apple’s official Apple Pay page:

Now paying in stores happens in one natural motion — there’s no need to open an app or even wake your display thanks to the innovative Near Field Communication antenna in iPhone 6. To pay, just hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID. You don’t even have to look at the screen to know your payment information was successfully sent. A subtle vibration and beep let you know.

If you own an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you are good to go. If you own an iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, or iPad mini 3, you can use Apple Pay (via Touch ID) to pay within apps.


UPDATE: A number of people have said that the iPhone 5s should be a good to go device for app purchases. If you scroll to the bottom of the Apple Pay page, you’ll see a chart that shows iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s as being compatible with Apple Watch, but not compatible with in-app pay. The issue is the lack of the NFC chip and secure element.


And, of course, once the Apple Watch is released, you’ll be able to use your watch (combined with your Touch ID enabled phone) to pay:

You can pay with Apple Watch — just double‑click the button next to the Digital Crown and hold the face of your Apple Watch near the contactless reader. A gentle pulse and beep confirm that your payment information was sent.

If you haven’t read this already, this article talks you through the mechanics and safety of Apple Pay.

Apple Pay will be limited out of the gate, limited by hardware (as detailed above), and limited by merchant adoption. Best to think of this as the start of a new era. Apple has hit the ground running, with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express signed up, along with a good number of bank card providers. If your card participates in Apple Pay (you likely got an email from them if they do), your first step will be to add that card to your Passbook app.

According to Apple, there are more than 220,000 stores that have the contactless NFC readers in place and are set up to take Apple Pay today. I wonder if today’s iOS Apple Pay release will spur a new round of iPhone 6 purchases. I also wonder if McDonalds is going to see an unusual run of business today from people testing their new Apple Pay-enabled phones.

October 19, 2014

Yesterday, I was digging through an old pile of papers, when I came across some old Apple Newton marketing material. One of the items was a large format, two sided poster pre-announcing the Newton. Really brought back some memories. Back in 1993 (I think), I spent a week at Apple in what was called a “tech kitchen”, learning the ins and outs of NewtonScript. Part of the swag I got was the poster.

There’s no really easy way to bring the poster to life on-line, and I have not yet found this particular poster on any web site. But in my wanderings, I did come across this page, an incredibly detailed collection of Apple ads.

Oh, and if I do figure out a nice way of bringing that Newton poster on line, I’ll be sure to link to it. The best suggestion at the moment is to take a picture of it. Worst case, I’ll do that, though I’d really like to find a big scanner to really do it justice.

Follow the link for a fantastic look at some of the technology behind Big Hero Six. For example, from about two minutes in:

One of the things that our boss, John Lassiter, encourages us to do is to try to find something that people have never seen before. So if you’re making a move with a robot, he’ll say, “Look at all the famous pop culture robots. Look at WALL-E, look at C-3PO, R2-D2, the Terminator, the whole list, and then come up with something that occupies its own air space.”

Brilliant.