November 19, 2017

Scary Mommy:

Dogs. We already know that they are very good boys and girls. Who’s a good dog? They are. But a new study out of Sweden shows that not only do dogs add joy to our lives, they also add years to it.

A study published in today’s Scientific Reports shows that owning a dog reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Researchers found, after looking at data from over 3 million people, that the increased social support and physical activity that comes from having a dog lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by 11% and death from any cause by 15%.

If you are so inclined, You can read the full study here but, seriously, who doesn’t believe or already know owning a dog is better for you? But I wonder if owning a cat shortens your life?

November 18, 2017

San Jose Mercury News:

The Visitor Center, which sits across North Tantau Avenue on the east end of the campus, is Apple’s designated portal to Apple Park for the public. It allows tourists to see the campus from a rooftop deck and enjoy special Apple swag at the store downstairs.

It looks great but it’s a shame the great unwashed masses are restricted from getting anywhere near the new building.

And seems there isn’t as much swag for sale as there was in the old Apple Employee Store which is a real shame. I’ve always thought Apple is leaving a lot of money on the table by not broadening its clothing and gear offerings.

max sledroom:

The Cheesecake Factory essentially grew out of a Los Angeles bakery business. Then, in 1992, they brought on hospitality designer Rick McCormack and shit went off the rails. We’re talking Victorian-Egyptian-Rococo off the rails.

I mean check out the exterior – Greco-Roman cornices, seashells above the pseudo-arched doors, topped with a dome airlifted from St. Basil’s.

This is a hilarious Tweetstorm about the utterly bizarre decor of The Cheesecake Factory. I still remember my first visit and thinking, “What the hell is going on here!?” If you want to read even further on why The Cheesecake Factory is as weirdly designed as it is, check out this article as well.

The lava lamps that help keep the internet secure

At the headquarters of Cloudflare, in San Francisco, there’s a wall of lava lamps: the Entropy Wall. They’re used to generate random numbers and keep a good bit of the internet secure: here’s how.

I love Tom Scott’s videos and this method Cloudflare uses is pretty cool.

Vulture:

Twenty-five years ago, on November 18, 1992, the quintessential episode of the quintessential New York sitcom, Seinfeld, aired on NBC for the first time.

That episode was called “The Contest,” and pitted its four principal characters, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld), George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Kramer (Michael Richards), against each other in a battle of wills to see who could abstain from masturbating for the longest period of time. Famously, the bet and its ramifications were discussed extensively throughout the half hour, without the word masturbation ever being uttered.

I was never a huge Seinfeld fan but this has got to be the single funniest episode I ever saw.

Wall Street Journal:

Max Deutsch went through a month of training before he traveled across the ocean, sat down in a regal hotel suite at the appointed hour and waited for the arrival of the world’s greatest chess player.

Max was not very good at chess himself. He’s a 24-year-old entrepreneur who lives in San Francisco and plays the sport occasionally to amuse himself. He was a prototypical amateur. Now he was preparing himself for a match against chess royalty. And he believed he could win.

There’s no way an admitted chess novice could beat a world champion – is there?

November 17, 2017

BBC:

A rail company in Japan has apologised after one of its trains departed 20 seconds early.

Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they “sincerely apologise for the inconvenience” caused.

I’m not only impressed by the apology (even if it seems a little unnecessary) but also by the train scheduling.

In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20.

They time their schedules not just to the minute but to the second. That’s incredible.

The Verge:

After unveiling a teaser of its SpotMini robot just a few days ago, the company is now back with a new video of Atlas just casually performing gymnastics moves like it’s Tokyo 2020. Most of the video highlights the Atlas’ ability to hop up straight and stabilize itself on a platform, and jump while turning 180 degrees. Its movements are more fluid than ever, and Atlas appears to maintain great form.

I love how the robot sticks the landing at the end.

An Apple spokesperson:

“We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”

I’m disappointed that HomePod won’t be released, but if it’s not ready, Apple is making the right decision. I would rather wait for a couple of months than have a product that’s not working properly.

Khan!!!

Interesting that the notch made it so far into the future. Stay to the end, it’s worth it. Amazing work.

Vogue:

Documentaries can be a hard sell, but it’s one that’s getting easier all the time. Once viewed as something stiff and obligatory, documentary film has, in recent years, risen to the top of the heap—thanks in no small part to some of the earth-shaking, needle-pushing, and ultimately world-changing films that are listed here, which find their focus in war, love, sex, death, and everything in between. And as for this list—its only qualifier is that these are the critically acclaimed, historically important, and pivotal films that a person who cares about film (and in doing so, often cares about humanity, in general) should really get to know.

It’s a list, with all that is good and bad about such things, but a pretty good list.

Note that it’s in alphabetical order.

Thomas Ricker, The Verge:

Since the AirPods are notoriously leaky due to their open-air design, that got me to thinking: what if I could close the air gap to simultaneously block ambient noises while increasing the bass response? That’s when I found this video on the PoltergeistWorks YouTube channel.

I’ve embedded the video below, will dig through my gear to see if I can get my hands on a pair of foam covers that will fit over the AirPods, give this a try.

I do get the premise. The foam covers will make for a better fit and a tighter seal. The big work is poking the holes in the covers to allow the sensors to work properly. Will that improve the sound? Maybe for some.

Regardless, I found it interesting, thought it worth a share.

Charlie Osborne, ZDNet lays out one particular attack chain designed to clear your iPhone so they can resell it.

Fascinating, and worth reading, just so you know what might be coming if someone ever gets their hands on your iOS device.

[VIDEO] Jeff Benjamin walks through 15+ iPhone X tips

I’m a fan of Jeff Benjamin’s 9to5Mac videos. This one walks through a series of iPhone X tips, all worth knowing.

If nothing else, just knowing how to set up reachability and the ways you can customize the virtual home button make this worth watching.

Brian X. Chen, New York Times:

It happens every year: Apple releases new iPhones, and then hordes of people groan about their older iPhones slowing to a crawl.

And:

The phenomenon of perceived slowdowns is so widespread that many believe tech companies intentionally cripple smartphones and computers to ensure that people buy new ones every few years. Conspiracy theorists call it planned obsolescence.

That’s a myth. While slowdowns happen, they take place for a far less nefarious reason. That reason is a software upgrade.

And:

Tech companies make it simple to upgrade to a new operating system by pressing an “update” button, which seamlessly migrates all your apps and data over. While that’s convenient, it isn’t the best way to ensure that things will continue running smoothly.

A better practice is backing up all your data and purging everything from the device before installing the new operating system. This “clean install” works more reliably because the engineers developing operating systems were able to test this condition more easily, Mr. Raiz said.

The premise is that a clean install will clear cruft from your iPhone, make your phone run faster with a newer version of iOS.

Read the article, see if you agree. Is there any truth to this recommendation? Is a clean install going to yield enough of a speedier phone to be worth the effort?

Anecdotal, but I’ve run lots of betas, all via the update mechanism, have never (ok, maybe once or twice in ten years) felt the need to do a clean install.

Interesting article, looking forward to reading the comments.

From the Calcalist interview:

“Silicon is unforgiving,” Mr. Srouji said. “My team is already working on the chips you’re going to see in 2020. You make bets. We have the system and the software. We have better knowledge versus external chipmakers about where things are going to end up. Since we own the silicon, we own the software, the operating system and everything else, we deliver, always. We deliver for the exact specification of iOS and nothing else. We don’t have to worry about other operating systems.”

And:

In 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense, an Israeli company developing hardware for 3D sensing, and many industry observers speculated about the Apple reasoning for the investment. Mr. Srouji said the team from PrimeSense was involved in the development of Face ID as well as other new features for Apple devices.

“The team in Israel is a key part of the overall engineering team in the U.S. and other areas of the world – wherever we have our R&D,” he said. “The things they do are key to any device we ship, to all devices.”

I found every bit of this interview fascinating, especially the insight into incorporating the work being done in Israel with the main body of R&D being done in Cupertino.

Adam Engst, TidBITS:

If you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or earlier, and do not want to upgrade to 10.13 High Sierra right now, be careful because Apple has started pushing High Sierra to older Macs and making it all too easy to upgrade inadvertently. In short, if you get a macOS notification asking you to install High Sierra, click the Details button to launch the App Store app, and then quit it.

I am not a fan of the TidBITS headline here, but I do get the point. Though the update notification does call out an upgrade to macOS High Sierra, it does look like most other updates. And as many users do when they are confronted with a license agreement or privacy policy, it is very easy to click Install without reading the details.

This is good to know, worth passing along to folks in your community running older Macs.

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac, makes a solid case for the AirPods being the best truly wireless earbuds you can buy.

I love mine, love the sound, love the design, love the convenience. One of my all-time favorite Apple products.

November 16, 2017

Time:

How does Apple decide when it’s time to move on? It’s not a decision to get rid of an existing technology as much as it’s a willingness to accept that what’s familiar isn’t always what’s best.

“I actually think the path of holding onto features that have been effective, the path of holding onto those whatever the cost, is a path that leads to failure,” says Ive. “And in the short term, it’s the path the feels less risky and it’s the path that feels more secure.”

I haven’t always agreed with Apple’s (and therefore, Ive’s) design decision but I always enjoy hearing from Ive and parsing out how his sometimes veiled explanations of his design philosophy informs Apple’s products.

“What’s a Computer?” iPad Pro ad

As Apple says, “With iPad Pro + iOS 11, a post-PC world may be closer than you think.” Brilliant.

Time put together a list of 25 products that it feels are the best inventions of 2017.

I use Apple Maps the most, but I like the new look and features of Google Maps.

We have all, at some point, recorded the perfect vocal, acoustic guitar or drum track only to discover an audible click has split into the microphone from the performer’s headphones.

This is one of the most annoying things ever when recording. There are a few decent tips here to help solve the problem.

Airbnb said on Thursday it acquired London startup Accomable to expand home-renting opportunities for people with disabilities, the latest expansion as Airbnb grows its global travel business.

With Airbnb’s money, they should be able to build out the Accomable business.

Apple started using deep learning for face detection in iOS 10. With the release of the Vision framework, developers can now use this technology and many other computer vision algorithms in their apps. We faced significant challenges in developing the framework so that we could preserve user privacy and run efficiently on-device. This article discusses these challenges and describes the face detection algorithm.

The newest post from Apple’s Machine Learning Journal.

What happens to Animoji when you cover the TrueDepth camera?

This all started with this tweet:

Frederick Riedel used stickers to cover the:

  • Infrared camera
  • Flood Illuminator
  • Dot Projector

on his iPhone X. But Animoji still worked without them. Portrait mode stopped working. Face ID stopped working too. So the stickers were doing their job.

Why do Animoji still work?

The answer is in this post from Rene Ritchie:

Some confusion has cropped up about whether or not Animoji really requires iPhone X-specific hardware. It does, but it’s easy to see how some people have come to think otherwise. After all, you can cover the IR system and it keeps working but, if you cover the RGB camera, it stops.

The reason for the misconception comes from the implementation: The IR system only (currently) fires periodically to create and update the depth mask. The RGB camera has to capture persistently to track movements and match expressions. In other words, cover the IR system and the depth mask will simply stop updating and likely, over time, degrade. Cover the RGB, and the tracking and matching stops dead.

Interesting.

Matt Birchler compared the time it took to charge an iOS device using:

  • Stock wired charger
  • Apple 29W charger
  • Wireless charging (available on iPhone 8, 8 Plus, iPhone X)
  • Accelerated wireless charging (New with iOS 11.2)

Follow the link, check out the graph. To really get a sense of the difference, look how many minutes it takes each to get to a 40% charge (the second horizontal gray line).

The 29W charger took just under 30 minutes. Accelerated charging took about an hour and 40 minutes.

I don’t know how rigorous this analysis was, but wow, what a difference. We could be seeing the limitations of inductive charging, or we could see these numbers improve with each new release.

Important to note that Matt used a Samsung wireless charging pad. So it is certainly possible we’d see better numbers when Apple releases their branded pad.

But as is, what price convenience?

UPDATE: Had a lot of conversations about this post, about the value of the convenience brought by wireless charging. Add to that the fact that the latest iPhones have plenty of battery life, and the use case comes into focus. Instead of placing my phone on my desk while I type away, if I simply place it on the charging pad, I’ll get a nice little power top-off without the hassle of plugging in.

Conclusion? Wired is clearly a faster charge than wireless, but that’s just fine. Wireless does the job it was designed to do and brings great convenience to the process.

Using your AirPods case as an iPhone stand

Here’s a demo of the AirPods case as iPhone stand:

UPDATE: Interesting idea. Tried it myself. Unstable, don’t recommend it unless you can find some way to stabilize it.

Consider this stand instead, it’s even more compact. Looks very stable. [H/T @bmike]

Rene Ritchie is a smart cookie. Vector is a daily podcast (I don’t know how he keeps this up), full of interesting detail on some (usually) Apple-related topic.

Start with the latest one, Face ID FUD. Here’s the link.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

The idea is that the watch and the paired gym machine have better knowledge about different aspects of the workout. GymKit allows that data to be shared back and forth, as appropriate.

At the end of the session, the watch saves all the relevant data to its local database (no iPhone required) and the gym equipment is wiped of any personal data.

Walk up to a GymKit compatible machine, tap your Apple Watch (pairs via NFC, similar to Apple Pay), and the machine automatically loads the appropriate workout data from your watch. When your workout is finished, your results are saved back to your Apple Watch.

This is brilliant.