September 25, 2016

Mashable:

Vin Scully is finally retiring after 67 years.

He called his first Dodgers game back in 1950 — when the team was still in Brooklyn. On Sunday, his warm, toasty voice will greet fans one last time from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Scully has a remarkable voice and presence. I’m not even a Dodgers fan but I listen to the games just to hear his voice, his style and his sometimes wonderfully odd story asides.

EW:

“Okay, throw the baby in the pool now.”

With those words, uttered by photographer Kirk Weddle, 4-month-old Spencer Elden was on his way to fame (though not fortune) as the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s chart-topping album, Nevermind.

Great album from an incredible band. There’s also a story about the baby, Spencer Elden, now also 25 years old.

Daily Dot:

When you think of Snapchat you probably don’t think of wearables, but that’s all about to change. The company—which just rebranded itself as Snap Inc., by the way—is launching a new line of high-tech eyewear called Spectacles.

The glasses, which come in several different colors but just one size, feature a pair of lenses that capture 10-second video clips. Recording is prompted by a small button on the top of the frame. A small circular ring of LEDs around one of the lenses lights up when you’re shooting a clip, letting everyone around you know that they’re being captured.

I’ll stick with my non-recording Oakelys.

Forbes:

Professional iPhone hackers say that Apple has dropped the ball on password security with its latest iPhone operating system, making the task of cracking the logins for backups stored on a Mac or PC considerably easier.

The claim comes from Elcomsoft, a well-known Russian forensics company, whose kit was thought to have been used by hackers who exposed celebrities’ nude pictures in 2014. Like market leader Cellebrite, it makes its money selling kit that can break into iPhones for the purpose of rooting around a target’s device. As soon as iOS 10 was out, the company started probing its security, and found Apple was using a weaker password protection mechanism for manual backups via iTunes than it had done previously.

Apple says they are “aware of an issue that affects the encryption strength for backups of devices on iOS 10 when backing up to iTunes on the Mac or PC. We are addressing this issue in an upcoming security update.” It’s not going to happen but I’d like to hear an explanation from Apple about how and why this backward step was implemented.

September 23, 2016

This is the most bizarre situation I’ve come across in a long time. A reporter at The Verge working for Apple at the same time and neither seemed to know. I agree with Gruber–something doesn’t add up here.

BBC:

There’s mounting evidence that bare heads aren’t a spectacular evolutionary accident after all. Bald men are seen as more intelligent, dominant and high status; their shiny scalps may help them to seduce women or even save lives. Before we can get to grips with what makes balding so great, first we need to set the record straight.

I’m BBC – “Bald By Choice” – and while I’d be the first to admit I’d love to have a Fabio-like mane, being bald is certainly less hassle.

Low flying jets looping Welsh mountains

I just put this on my Bucket List.

Passengers on board an IndiGo flight smelled smoke coming from the baggage bin and alerted cabin crew who saw sparks and smoke coming from a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 phone, the airline, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, said in an emailed statement.

This one is supposedly a Note 2, but the exact model wasn’t confirmed. The airlines should make all Samsung users fly on the same, unmanned plane for the safety of the rest of us.

Customer complaints that replacement batteries for Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy Note 7 have been overheating and quickly losing battery power threaten to complicate the South Korean technology giant’s unprecedented recall of its premium smartphone.

From the frying pan to the fire. Or maybe that’s the other way around in this case.

Jack Marshall, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. and Google made tweaks to their popular mobile web browsers recently to enable video content to play automatically in web pages, provided audio is muted.

The changes could result in a boost in mobile video consumption for online publishers if they allow their videos to play automatically, and it could unlock new revenue opportunities as a result.

For marketers, the tweaks will enable them to automatically play video content when potential customers visit their websites.

Autoplay means you consume your data plan simply by visiting a site. Some sites hide the video, making it invisible, and others place the video at the bottom of an article, ensuring you’ll need to scroll through the entire article to get to that elusive pause button.

It’s unclear how consumers will react to having videos play automatically on mobile webpages. Some industry observers suggest Facebook’s introduction of autoplay video in its News Feeds has, perhaps, helped people acclimatize to the idea.

But, in addition to potentially being distracting to some web users, autoplay videos could also increase the amount of data people consume through their wireless plans, potentially resulting in extra data charges.

“If you’re visiting a lot of sites with autoplay video then the bandwidth bill will be coming after that,” Mr. Wijering said.

Terrible.

Apple Watch ejecting water from the speaker in slo-mo video

Interesting to see, though it looks and sounds very lo-tech in slo-mo.

[Via 9to5mac]

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is pressing ahead with the development of an Echo-like smart-home device based on the Siri voice assistant, according to people familiar with the matter.

Started more than two years ago, the project has exited the research and development lab and is now in prototype testing, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced Apple projects. Like Amazon Inc.’s Echo, the device is designed to control appliances, locks, lights and curtains via voice activation, the people said. Apple hasn’t finalized plans for the device and could still scrap the project.

There were breaths of a rumor that this device would see the light of day this year, but they faded away. I’d like to see a device like this as a living room or kitchen information anchor, well integrated with iOS and macOS. The key is to make sure only one device responds when you trigger it with “Hey, Siri”.

Speaking of the top 100 TV shows of all time, The Larry Sanders Show (ranked #18 on that list) is one of my all-time favorites.

After a long, long absence, the full run of this legendary series is coming back to HBO, both as weekly episodes and, on HBO Go and HBO Now, as a complete series for binge watching.

Highly, highly recommended.

iPhone speakers, battery life, and the marketing of wireless

Ryan Jones noticed an interesting change with Apple’s reported battery life specs.

First, take a look at the image in this tweet.

Note the focus on wireless with the iPhone 7, a word not found in the same iPhone 6s and 6s Plus specs.

From Ryan’s tweet:

Stereo speakers crush battery.

1 hr playback > 10%. Possibly why Apple changed the battery life specs to “wireless”.

Interesting. Clearly, onboard speakers will always chew up more iPhone battery than wireless headphones.

Why? The iPhone speakers are consuming the onboard battery, while the wireless headphones draw from their own batteries, not counting against the battery life measurement for the iPhone itself. There is a nominal drain for Bluetooth communication, but that’s not nearly as big a drain as driving the speakers.

Most lists are hit or miss. This one is definitely heavily stacked with hits. Two shows I would have added to the list? Star Trek: The Next Generation and Get Smart.

That said, I really enjoyed this format, laced with videos to give a taste of each show.

Still a walled garden, but with more doors

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

iOS 10 moves some of your stuff around a little and makes other stuff look a little different, but fundamentally it acts very much like what you’re used to underneath those new notification bubbles and 3D Touch gimmicks.

But layered underneath those cosmetic changes are some features that push your apps even further, beyond just their icons, into various corners of the operating system. It’s easy to look down your nose at Widgets and iMessage stickers, but when they’re combined with extensions, you begin to see a system where you have access to information from ESPN, Weather, Uber, and much more, all without opening those apps at all. It’s like Android’s widgets, but with a developer ecosystem that might actually be incentivized to support them.

Interesting point. Apple is slowly opening doors into that famously walled garden, enriching the information at its core, making for a better experience for users.

With all the complaints about the iPhone and iOS, I think it’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about how far we’ve come, how much richer our current experience is, warts and all, when compared with the slow and relatively plain experience of years past.

My 2 cents? Apple is right to step very slowly, even if it means Siri can’t immediately tell us what time the Emmys are on. Think bigger picture. Take small, precise steps, release into the wild, measure, learn from your mistakes, rinse and repeat. We’re getting there.

Yoshiyasu Shida , writing for Reuters:

Japanese regulators are considering taking action against Apple Inc over possible antitrust violations that may have helped it dominate the nation’s smartphone sales, government sources said, a move that could hit the company’s profit margins in one of its most profitable markets.

In a report published last month, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said that NTT Docomo, KDDI Corp and Softbank Group were refusing to sell older surplus iPhone models to third party retailers, thereby hobbling smaller competitors.

This seems more about resellers than Apple. But:

Apple was not named in that report, but two senior government sources told Reuters that regulators were also focusing on Apple’s supply agreements with all three carriers.

Under those deals, surplus stock of older iPhones is kept out of the market and sent to overseas markets, such as Hong Kong, according to industry sources.

It’s all so tawdry.

September 22, 2016

iPhone 7 Plus Depth Effect

One of the cool visual effects of the iPhone 7 Plus’ new camera is called Depth Effect—it was released as part of the new iOS 10.1 beta yesterday, so I downloaded it and gave it a try.

Depth Effect is a process that blurs the background of a photo while focusing in on an object in the foreground. It’s a really dramatic effect and one that professional photographers have been using for many years.

The effect is part of a new Portrait mode, but it works on regular objects as well as people. In fact, the iPhone will help you place the object to get the perfect shot.

For instance, if you are too close, the iPhone screen will read “Move farther away.” If you are too far away, the iPhone screen will read “Place subject within 8 feet.” When you are in the right parameters, the “Depth Effect” indicator will light up and show you a live preview of what your picture will look like.

iphonedepth

When you take the picture with Depth Effect, the camera actually saves two shots—one with depth effect enabled and one with no effect at all.

nodepth

depth

I am not a great photographer, but I enjoy taking pictures. The Depth Effect adds a level of, well… depth that I couldn’t otherwise achieve. Other people may be able to do that with higher end cameras, but my camera is my iPhone. Whatever I can’t do on that camera isn’t getting done.

As I said in my iPhone 7 Plus review—whatever Apple can do to help me take better pictures is a welcome feature. That’s exactly what the iPhone 7 has done.

Thanks Apple.

This is a very interesting, and frustrating problem. It’s only going to get to worse as more games like this come to market.

Yahoo (YHOO, Tech30) confirmed on Thursday data “associated with at least 500 million user accounts” have been stolen in what may be one of the largest cybersecurity breaches ever.

The company said it believes a “state-sponsored actor” was behind the data breach, meaning an individual acting on behalf of a government. The breach is said to have occurred in late 2014.

Ugh.

Lifehacker:

Yahoo has confirmed that information from at least 500 million user accounts was stolen in 2014. While the information was leaked earlier today, it’s worse than we initially thought. If you have a Yahoo account, it’s time to change your password.

1Password to the rescue!

If you are new to music theory and have a technical bent, this is an interesting introduction, one that lays some important foundations, especially if you have any interest in songwriting. It’s written as a non-musical engineer digging in to the science behind music and discovering the mathematics that ties everything together.

Don’t let the science bog you down. Intervals, scales, and modes are the key concepts here.

Dr. Raymond M. Soneira, DisplayMate:

At first glance the iPhone 7 looks almost indistinguishable from the 2014 iPhone 6 and 2015 iPhone 6s. Actually, the displays are the same size and have the same pixel resolution. But that is as far as it goes… The iPhone 7 display is a Truly Impressive major enhancement and advancement on the iPhone 6 display… and even every other mobile LCD display that we have ever tested… note that I hand out compliments on displays very carefully. And for those of you thinking of Emailing that we got hand-picked units, the iPhones were purchased retail from Verizon Wireless.

The iPhone 7 got extraordinarily high scores, and this from someone who really knows display tech. Read the post for the details, but this is one area in which the iPhone 7 is hands down the best in class.

Jonathan Cheng, writing for the Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. has made inquiries about opening its first retail store in South Korea, in a signal that the technology giant may be looking to step up competition in smartphone rival Samsung Group’s backyard.

Apple looked at sites across the street from the Samsung’s longtime headquarters in Seoul, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cupertino, Calif. company, which is Samsung Electronics Co.’s biggest rival in the mobile-phone market as well as a major customer of its smartphone components, is looking at locations near the South Korean company’s own three-story global flagship store in Seoul’s upscale Gangnam neighborhood, the people said. The company has sent retail executives to South Korea in recent months to check out potential sites for the store, they said.

The people warned that Apple’s plan hasn’t been finalized and a store opening could take about a year.

If this is an intentional leak, really well timed.

Amanda Hess, writing for the New York Times:

Apple built an empire on hermetically sealed systems with sleek, minimalist designs. Nowhere was its strategy more evident than in iMessage, the company’s instant messaging system that offered a free, elegant chatting solution exclusive to Apple devices. Until last week, that is, when Apple updated its software, cracked open iMessage and allowed the ephemera of the outside internet to seep in.

And:

These features mimic the aesthetics of the open internet, which is obsessed with nostalgia and is not exactly subtle. But they can’t replicate the feeling of collecting digital miscellany in our travels across the internet, remixing the material and sending it along to friends who might appreciate the find. The programmatic iMessage sucks the spontaneity from the experience. It standardizes the strange.

And:

Mostly, this thing feels like Facebook. A new class of iMessage apps — yes, apps within an app — lets chatters play Words With Friends, send money through Square or make dinner reservations on OpenTable, all right within the chat window. It feels like iMessage is trying to swallow the rest of your phone.

And:

Each tap into the iMessage world sends you further away from your chat bubbles and deeper into Apple’s labyrinth of special features. Follow the path to its inevitable conclusion, and all of a sudden, you’re no longer talking with your friends. You’re shopping.

I struggle to understand the relationship between the New York Times and Apple. I have long been a Times reader, but its Apple coverage often veers far from objectivity. Articles like this feel like the result of an agenda-laden editorial meeting.

Where’s the balance?

Jordan Golson, writing for The Verge:

An acquisition would give Apple a small but significant carmaker that has enormous amounts of technological expertise in building drivetrains, vehicle control systems, and navigating complicated supplier-OEM relationships. McLaren also has significant experience working with advanced materials like carbon composites, aluminum, and carbon fiber.

It’s a small but important firm, best known for its sports cars — it sold 1,654 road cars in 2015 — and its Formula One team. But the company is much more than just a car manufacturer. The 5,000 employees of the McLaren Technology Group work across six different divisions including automotive, racing, marketing, and as an automotive supplier for race teams and high-end performance cars.

McLaren has quietly been growing its consulting division as well. McLaren Applied Technologies works with firms across a number of industries — both automotive and otherwise — to provide R&D and technology expertise behind the scenes. McLaren is privately owned and one of the smallest independent carmakers, making an acquisition logistically simpler.

I am a big fan of McLaren and of Formula One. McLaren represents automotive state of the art, one of the few firms with the technological prowess to compete at the Formula One level, no easy task. Formula One lays out strict regulations for the design of every competing car, and changes those rules every season, requiring competitors to redesign a race car, sometimes from scratch, every year.

On the flip side, McLaren makes and sells vehicles you can buy (if you’ve got the wherewithal) and drive on the street. They’ve got invaluable experience with the automotive supply chain, and they have the kind of industry relationships that an Apple auto effort would benefit from.

I’ve long said supported the notion of Apple buying Formula One, en toto, purely as a brand play and investment. But buying McLaren makes even more sense. They’d have cherry picked just the right player, a rising star in the Formula One world with an old school brand.

The tone of this walkthrough is very beginner, but bear with. Spend 5 minutes with Pogue and you’ll quickly get your arms around all the major new features that come with the new iOS 10 Messages rewrite.

Paresh Dave, writing for the LA Times:

The California Supreme Court agreed to review Yelp’s objection to a decision ordering it to strip the Internet of comments posted about a San Francisco law firm.

The law firm owner, Dawn Hassell, sued Ava Bird, the disgruntled former client who allegedly posted the reviews — and lower courts agreed that Yelp should be forced to remove them.

And:

To the frustration of many plaintiffs’ attorneys, the Communications Decency Act has long freed online publishers from liability for user postings on their websites and apps. But many technology experts say the Hassell case may be the biggest threat yet to the immunity.

The appellate court found that no liability was being placed on Yelp, and thus the ruling didn’t go against federal law. Instead, as the “administrator of the forum” where defamatory speech existed, Yelp bears the responsibility of removal, the court said.

Experts in technology law say they’re optimistic that the California Supreme Court will spike the order against Yelp.

If this decision goes against Yelp, it will certainly impact crowd sourced rating and comment sites. Bigger pockets will be able to sue unflattering comments into submission. Chilling.

September 21, 2016

Petapixel:

One of the biggest companies in the world just got into the photo print business. Seattle-based ecommerce giant Amazon just launched Amazon Prints—an online service that lets users order photo prints, build photo books, and soon much more.

The key here is “affordable.” Photo prints cost just 9 cents per print for 4×6, 58 cents per print for 5×7, and $1.79 per print for 8×10—almost half the cost of Shutterfly. Photo books start at $20 and go up from there depending on size, paper, and cover options. Stationary and calendar options are coming soon.

There is a catch to all of this affordability, of course: you have to be an Amazon Cloud Drive or Amazon Photos account holder to use the service.

I’m a big fan of having photos printed and always encourage my students to print off their best. This new service from Amazon is just another option.

Techcrunch:

One of the most talked about features of the iPhone 7 at launch was the new Portrait mode.

It’s a software feature that used the two lenses of the iPhone 7 Plus to create the look and feel of an image shot with portrait settings on a camera with a telephoto lens.

Simply put: a pleasing blur that separates the foreground (person) from the background (other junk). I’m going to get a bit wonky in this piece because I feel the context will be sorely lacking once this feature hits widely — and there are some that are interested.

Everyone is raving about this article and, while it’s interesting, this “feature” is not “crazy”. Photographers have been creating this effect in camera for a hundred years. I’ll critique it and Panzarino’s photographs (gently – after all, I can’t make fun of a guy with a new baby named Enzo!) on tonight’s Your Mac Life “Starting Point Photography” segment. Bottom line is, you don’t have to wait for Apple’s iOS 10 “Portrait Mode” to create these kinds of images.