November 20, 2018

There’s no indication from Apple what will be on sale, but you can mark your calendar and check on Friday.

November 19, 2018

Axios:

Apple CEO Tim Cook says his company views privacy as a “core value” that goes back before the iPhone. In an interview with “Axios on HBO,” Cook defended taking billions from Google to make its search engine the default setting on the iPhone.

I wonder how much of this is Cook simply being pragmatic?

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November 18, 2018

iPad Pro bends. So does every tablet.

JerryRigEverything’s iPad Pro bend test has taken the world by storm. This isn’t an iPhone 6S scenario. Nobody is trying to bend their iPad Pro in half and your backpack won’t do it either. Plus, y’all act like these devices aren’t designed to flex a little. Do you know what’s worse than a tablet/smartphone that bend a little bit? One that’s slightly stronger but shatters upon the slightest bit of force. Ya goofs.

I love this response to the latest “bendgate” fake controversy. Thanks very much to Khaled for the link to the video.

November 16, 2018

The Atlantic:

With so many devices in so many hands now, the visual landscape has changed greatly, making it a rare event to find oneself in a group of people anywhere in the world and not see at least one of them using a phone. Collected here: a look at that smartphone landscape, and some of the stories of the phones’ owners.

There are some fascinating photos, in both good and bad ways, in this collection.

At Folsom Prison: Johnny Cash’s career-changing show

This is a really interesting dissection of a show and album many of us may have heard as kids. I met Mr Cash briefly when I lived in Nashville, TN and, even though it was in a very mundane setting, I couldn’t have been more excited and he couldn’t have been more generous and kind.

The Dalrymple Report: iPad Pro, Amazon’s social responsibility with Dave Mark

Dave and I discuss the iPad Pro magnets, Stan Lee, and Amazon’s, or any companies social responsibility, when moving into a new town.

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Luna Display is a small hardware dongle you plug into any modern Mac, including the new Mac mini, that wirelessly turns your iPad into a touch display for your Mac.

You can see Luna Display in action in the video below. I love this idea, and it seems a perfect solution for the Mac mini.

Beyond that, it feels like a missing link, that hybrid of macOS and iOS. My sense is that it supports Apple Pencil, but without pressure sensitivity. But that aside, this seems like a wonderful solution if you already have an iPad Pro and have a need for a Mac mini.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

In my time with the new iPad Pro so far, I’ve found Face ID to be a bit more forgiving here than it is on the iPhone. It seems more likely to try to authenticate you multiple times on its, as well as better at different angles. For instance, I can have my iPad Pro laying flat on my desk, and Face ID is still able to recognize me. This is something that isn’t possible on the iPhone XS, at least reliably.

And:

For everything it excels at, however, Face ID on the iPad Pro is not perfect, and the different use cases and overall size of the iPad present a couple of unique issues.

For instance, at my desk I like to use my iPad Pro with this Viozon stand. Face ID, however, is somewhat unreliable in this use case as it common displays a warning saying “Face is too far away.” I think I’ve been able to find the sweet spot in terms of how far is too far, but distance is definitely something I’d like to see Apple focus on with future iterations of Face ID.

Most people hold their iPhone in a reasonably predictable fashion, at a predictable angle, and a predictable distance from their eyes. The iPad itself, not so much.

As Chance points out in that last paragraph, people frequently place their iPad on a stand, sometimes flat on a desk, sometimes as a driver for an external display. True, the iPhone often lives in those spaces but, I’d argue, is far more likely to be held in typical phone fashion. Face ID on iPad just has more edge cases.

Ultimately, the best thing about Face ID on the iPad Pro, much like on the iPhone, is how passive it is. Unlocking is made even better by the double-click keyboard option, while things like accessing passwords, logging into apps, and more all work with no interaction at all.

I love that you can unlock your iPad by double-tapping any key on the keyboard. So smart, so easy.

John Gruber unpacks a lot of detail on USB-C to Lightning cables, the MFi program, and his take on the likelihood of USB-C making the move to iPhone.

This is a terrific, put your feet up, grab a hot beverage, chock-full-of details read.

TechCrunch:

The exposed server belongs to Voxox (formerly Telcentris), a San Diego, Calif.-based communications company. The server wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to peek in and snoop on a near-real-time stream of text messages.

And:

Worse, the database — running on Amazon’s Elasticsearch — was configured with a Kibana front-end, making the data within easily readable, browsable and searchable for names, cell numbers and the contents of the text messages themselves.

And:

Often, app developers — like HQ Trivia and Viber — will employ technologies provided by firms like Telesign and Nexmo, either to verify a user’s phone number or to send a two-factor authentication code, for example. But it’s firms like Voxox that act as a gateway and converting those codes into text messages, to be passed on to the cell networks for delivery to the user’s phone.

Interesting to see how those two-factor requests are outsourced and where those text messages come from. Check out those sample searches in the article. A database like this is searchable in real time, making it easy for someone to monitor changes, steal accounts. A serious point of vulnerability.

Some terrific shots from around the world.

My favorite? The crisply focused leaf, shot in Beijing.

November 15, 2018

Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet at approximately noon PST (3 p.m. EST) on Nov. 26, and viewers everywhere can watch coverage of the event live on NASA Television, the agency’s website and social media platforms.

Launched on May 5, InSight marks NASA’s first Mars landing since the Curiosity rover in 2012. The landing will kick off a two-year mission in which InSight will become the first spacecraft to study Mars’ deep interior. Its data also will help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own.

I’ve already got my calendar set to remind me.

John Lewis & Partners’ 2018 Christmas Ad

Watch the new John Lewis & Partners Christmas TV advert, The Boy and The Piano.

This year’s story is about the power of a gift. And how that gift inspired, changed and influenced the course of a little boy’s life.

It has finally dropped – this year’s John Lewis & Partners Christmas ad. Typically sappy but a lovely tribute and message.

This is a great release from Universal Audio with plug-ins being released for all aspects of your workflow. The five new plug-ins are Lexicon 480L Digital Reverb and Effects, Softube Vocoder, AMS Neve DFC Channel Strip, Brainworx bx_masterdesk Classic, and the Suhr SE100 Amplifier.

There are videos of the plug-ins on the company’s web site.

AppleInsider:

It might sound bad for investors long on Apple that the company’s stock price has dipped so dramatically once again on new reports that claim supply chain rumors are somehow, suddenly a good way to forecast iPhone sales after being completely wrong year after year. But that’s wrong, and here’s why.

In reality, shareholders who don’t panic actually benefit from the wild swings of transparent stock price manipulation because Apple is buying back incredible billions worth of its own shares, regardless of the price. The lower those shares reach, obviously, the better the return for the finite cash Apple has left to spend on buybacks this year.

Typically long-winded (and annoyingly repetitive) piece from AppleInsider but it is a good antidote to the “APPLE DOOMED!” stories coming out because of the recent stock slump.

Remembering Stan Lee

The New York Times:

Stan Lee, one of the most influential writers and publishers in the comic book industry, sat down with The New York Times in 2015 to talk about his life and career.

He has passed but the things he helped create will outlast us all and give joy to millions for generations.

This morning, I encountered this post on Reddit, titled PSA: Do not sit your new iPad Pro on top of your MacBook.

From the post:

I unhooked my 2018 15” MacBook Pro from my Thunderbolt Display earlier and sat my new 12.9” iPad Pro on top of it so I could carry them into another room and I heard the fan inside the MacBook making a scraping noise.

The magnets inside the iPad were pulling on it causing the blades to hit the fan housing. I moved the iPad away and it stopped making the noise immediately.

Take this with a grain of salt, but seems to me it could be possible.

As to magnets on the iPad Pro, take a look at this video:

I love how clearly this shows off the magnet placements. And there are a lot of them. Enough to impact a MacBook Pro fan?

Side note, from Federico Viticci’s continuing iPad Diaries:

Thanks to its 102 built-in magnets, the Smart Keyboard Folio easily aligns with the flush back of the iPad Pro with little guidance required on your end. With the Smart Keyboard Folio completely open on a desk, I haven’t had any trouble placing the iPad on top of it and folding it in typing mode. In fact, I’ve noticed that Apple intelligently placed magnets both inside the iPad and the folio case so that if you try to place the device upside down on top of the case, it won’t attach.

And:

If I had to point out a minor issue with the magnetic connection between the folio and the iPad Pro, I’d say that detaching the keyboard from the iPad now requires paying more attention and a stronger pull. To detach the iPad from the folio case, you have to hold the keyboard down with one hand then pull the iPad somewhat strongly out of one of the two grooves above the numeric keyboard row. Then you have to detach it from the folio case as well.

That’s a lot of magnetic power. I’m interested in finding out more about the iPad Pro magnets impacting the MacBook Pro. This a real thing? Seems to me, the only way this happens is if you place your MacBook on top of your iPad Pro and use it, or place your iPad Pro on the keyboard of an open and running MacBook.

If this does turn out to be a real issue, solution is, don’t do that.

Brian Li:

Prior to moving to Tokyo, I worked as an electronic music designer in New York and Las Vegas, where my job involved building keyboard racks and designing sounds for keyboard players on Broadway shows. More often than not, the racks I built were powered by Mac minis running MainStage

And:

Despite all the razzle-dazzle you see onstage, Broadway shows actually have very tight budgets, especially when it comes to keyboard racks for the electronic music designer. Unfortunately, professional music equipment is really expensive, so this reality often presented a “trilemma” between low price, high reliability, and high flexibility.

What follows is a budget breakdown, leaving about “$3,350 for two computers, making a mid to high-end Mac mini the only viable option.”

A fascinating peek into a Broadway tech setup, and a real world use case for the new Mac mini.

Apple returns/refund help page:

Items purchased at the Apple Online Store that are received between November 14, 2018 and December 25, 2018, may be returned through January 8, 2019. Please note that all other terms and conditions provided in the Apple Online Store Sales and Refunds Policy are still applicable with respect to such items purchased. All purchases made after December 25, 2018 are subject to the Standard Return Policy.

Good to know.

Interesting piece in the New York Times about Facebook’s discovery of, and dealing with, 2016 Russian election meddling. A few highlights:

Mr. Stamos’s team discovered that Russian hackers appeared to be probing Facebook accounts for people connected to the presidential campaigns, said two employees. Months later, as Mr. Trump battled Hillary Clinton in the general election, the team also found Facebook accounts linked to Russian hackers who were messaging journalists to share information from the stolen emails.

And:

Ms. Sandberg was angry. Looking into the Russian activity without approval, she said, had left the company exposed legally. Other executives asked Mr. Stamos why they had not been told sooner.

Still, Ms. Sandberg and Mr. Zuckerberg decided to expand on Mr. Stamos’s work, creating a group called Project P, for “propaganda,” to study false news on the site, according to people involved in the discussions. By January 2017, the group knew that Mr. Stamos’s original team had only scratched the surface of Russian activity on Facebook, and pressed to issue a public paper about their findings.

And:

It wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

“You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.

But what does this have to do with Apple? This bit, towards the end:

“We’re not going to traffic in your personal life,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in an MSNBC interview. “Privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty.” (Mr. Cook’s criticisms infuriated Mr. Zuckerberg, who later ordered his management team to use only Android phones — arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s.)

No iPhones for you! Fascinating article, lots more detail, terrific journalism.

Side note, a tiny op-ed: Pick a news source you trust and support them. Whatever your political stripe, support truth and those who seek to tell it.

November 14, 2018

Popular Mechanics:

In 2017, according to an annual report from music-industry research company Buzzangle, cassette sales in the U.S. rose 136 percent, even more than vinyl, which was the only other format in the beleaguered music industry that was still growing (digital was down 23 percent). But while vinyl has been hailed as a high-fidelity format for serious audiophiles, cassette tapes are, well, hissy-brown spaghetti packed in a plastic card. They’re the 1980s. Shoulder pads. They’re goofy.

I have no romantic attachment to tape or vinyl so these kinds of stories always amuse me.

Digital Photography School:

One of the most important lessons that astrophotography has taught me is the importance of planning. I’m a huge advocate of planning your photos in advance, no matter what your subject may be. With most genres of photography, you can wing it and still come home with some great photos. With astrophotography, you’re a lot less likely to get lucky if you don’t plan ahead.

There are many factors that come into play when photographing the night sky. You can’t just pick a location and hope for the best. A successful image will depend on sunrise/set, moonrise/set, the phase of the moon, milky way position, galactic center visibility, time of year, and light levels.

If all that feels a bit overwhelming, don’t stress. There are many tools available to help you research and plan your night sky photos.

This is a great point. I’ve gotten lucky with many shots but I’ve never gotten lucky with night shots. They require planning well ahead of time.

Photopills is my favourite app to use for knowing where the sun is going to be and for night shooting. Along with The Photographer’s Ephemeris, they are the best tools to help you plan outdoor photography in natural light, especially landscape and urban scenes.

Casey Newton:

There was always something distasteful about Amazon’s quest to find a home for its HQ2. Even when it seemed like it might be a fair fight, it was depressing to watch so many cities and towns prostrating themselves before a tech giant in hopes they would score a windfall of jobs and infrastructure investments.

Perhaps the furor over Amazon’s regional offices will blow over. But it’s hard not to feel today as if the company misread the room — overestimating the public’s appetite for a billion-dollar giveaway to one of the world’s biggest companies, and underestimating the public’s ability to raise hell on- and offline. Amazon may yet feel that pain, in the long run.

I have no dog in this hunt but I find it really interesting. Amazon is just playing the game the politicians have set up for them. And, if past is prologue, there will be no long-term damage to them over this.

Marvel puts out their own Stan Lee appreciation video

This is just great. If nothing else, watch that fantastic vintage intro.

Ampeg bass amps are so universally revered, it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t synonymous with electric bass amplifiers. But what started from a modest idea — literally, an “amplified peg” that would install into an upright bass — in Everett Hull’s modest shop in Midtown Manhattan in the 1930s, has become a towering name in the world of bass amplification.

This is a great article from Universal Audio. You can even hear how each amp sounds using the Brainworx developed plug-ins.

John Gruber:

Here’s a thread on Reddit asking why there aren’t any USB-C to Lightning cables from reliable, certified companies like Anker, Monoprice, and Amazon. It’s a year-old thread and the situation is unchanged. This stinks now that all MacBooks and the new iPad Pros have gone to USB-C, along with chargers that output by USB-C.

Here’s a link to the Reddit thread.

This goes to the heart of my complaints about the USB-C standard. There are plenty of cables out there with Lightning at one end and USB-C at the other. But they are far from all the same. The Apple cable seems to be the only one that does all the things you’d want, including reliable, consistent support for fast charging and data transfer.

I’d love the ability to plug in a cable and get a report on exactly what the cable supports. As I understand it, the USB-C standard requires supported ports and connectors to self-report. At the very least, I wish the USB-C standard had some sort of code (like the ROYGBIV standard for labeling resistors) that told you what a cable was capable of.

It’s called Squoosh, and it runs just fine on Safari for macOS or iOS.

Two keys to keep in mind as you play:

  • There’s a draggable dividing line that shows the original image on one side and the converted image on the other.
  • There’s a popup menu that lets you select the destination format for the converted image.

Play. Enjoy.

Motherboard:

At issue is a feature in Premiere Pro called clean cache. Editing video takes up a lot of hard drive space as video editing software creates various redundancies and backups during the editing process. Programs such as Premiere Pro store those redundancies in a cache and, once a project is finished, users can clear that cache to free up disk space.

The knee-jerk reaction here? Why didn’t you backup your work? Why depend on Adobe’s backup process?

And those are probably fair questions. But the complaint seems more nuanced than that:

“The ‘Clean Cache’ command permanently deleted substantial and numerous Files and Data that were not within the ‘Media Cache’ folder or any of its subdirectories, including but not limited to Files and Data that had never been associated with [Premiere Pro]”

And:

The mass deletion isn’t a one off and Cooper likely isn’t the only user effected. Adobe itself acknowledged the bug. “With 11.1.1, only files that are within the Media Cache folder’s subdirectories will be deleted,” a blog post from Adobe said when they fixed the bug. “Files that sit next to it will no longer be affected. However, we still strongly recommend keeping the Media Cache folder separate from your original media.”

From Adobe post on unintended deletion:

Premiere Pro CC 2017 (11.1) introduced a new feature to manage and automatically remove aging and unnecessary media cache files. This feature was designed to assist users in managing existing project media cache files more easily. In the default location for media cache preferences, there is no issue. However, incorrect usage of this feature has the potential for unintentional file deletion.

Whose fault is this loss? Ultimately, I suspect a backup would have saved the day, and will be at the heart of Adobe’s response to this lawsuit.

Woz on Apple

To me, Woz and Steve Jobs were the yin and yang at the root of the Apple tree. They were very different people, each with his own flaws and particular brand of genius.

Steve being gone makes me appreciate Woz all the more.