October 21, 2018

The New Yorker:

In early September, fifty-six nervous sommeliers in pressed suits and shined shoes assembled at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. They were there to attempt the most difficult and prestigious test in their industry: the Master Sommelier Exam, a three-part, application-only ordeal that just two hundred and forty-nine individuals worldwide have passed—fewer than have travelled to space. The test includes a fifty-minute oral theory section, administered in advance, which ninety per cent of people fail; an elaborate assessment of service skills; and a famously challenging blind tasting. Some of this year’s sommeliers had been preparing for the Master exam for fifteen years; others were taking it for the sixth or eighth time. When the results were decided, the chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, the nonprofit organization that administers the Master exam, announced, over raised glasses of champagne, that a record twenty-four candidates had passed.

Then, five weeks later, on October 9th, the court made a scandalous revelation: it had been discovered that one of the test’s proctors, a Master Sommelier, had leaked “detailed information” about the blind tasting to an unknown number of examinees.

These kinds of insanely difficult tests, like this and “The Knowledge” for London taxi drivers, always fascinate me.

October 19, 2018

Aircraft parallel landing at San Francisco’s airport

I’d noticed the parallel runways before but didn’t realize they sometimes did parallel landings. The runways are about 750 feet apart and the long camera lens compresses the distance.

The Dalrymple Report: iPhone XR and Apple’s event with Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie joins me this week to talk about the iPhone XR, which is available for pre-order today, and Apple’s upcoming special event on October 30.

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BuzzFeed News:

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, went on the record for the first time to deny allegations that his company was the victim of a hardware-based attack carried out by the Chinese government. And, in an unprecedented move for the company, he called for a retraction of the story that made this claim.

Bloomberg’s response will likely only be “we stand behind our story” but it’s good to see Cook continuing to pressure them to put up or shut up.

The Guardian:

People on the internet are saying I am the queen of Sweden, because in the legend of King Arthur, he was given a sword by a lady in a lake, and that meant he would become king. I am not a lady – I’m only eight – but it’s true I found a sword in the lake. I wouldn’t mind being queen for a day, but when I grow up I want to be a vet. Or an actor in Paris.

Now, whenever I go swimming in the lake, I will be looking to see what I can find. It feels like that lake might be a little bit magic. On that day I felt a little bit magic, too.

I saw the story last week when it first was reported but hearing it from the little girl herself is wonderful. Thanks to my friend Mike Rose for the link.

AppleInsider:

When rumors of Aperture first surfaced, the common reaction was to assume that this was Apple attempting to make their own version of Photoshop. Aperture was for editing photos, it did feature some tools that photographers know from Adobe’s software.

Apple’s software wasn’t Photoshop, it was a new class of app entirely. It was for photographers to handle large numbers of photographs, to do the kind of processing and editing they need daily, and then to send these images on to clients.

Then Adobe released Lightroom, a very similar idea to Aperture, and that seemed to validate the concept. There were key differences between the two but they both aimed to serve pro photographers.

Adobe Lightroom succeeded and is still in use today. Apple’s Aperture is no longer in development or on sale.

It’s a surprising story because Aperture had much going for it. The Mac is the preferred computer of photographers across the world and Aperture addressed a genuine need. It’s too simplistic to blame its failure on a handful of specific issues but as a whole those problems do mean that Aperture is a major Apple app that died.

The article makes a lot of claims about Lightroom that are inaccurate but it’s still an interesting look at Aperture. And no, it’s not a “surprising story”. It’s a common one at Apple – they will develop cool, interesting tech but then lose interest in it. Sadly, the full story of the development and subsequent abandonment of Aperture will likely never be known.

Apple introduces the iPhone XR with two new videos

Gorgeous videos. I don’t know if they will convince anyone to buy but they certainly make me want to go to a store and check them out. I guess that’s half the battle.

October 18, 2018

Apple:

Live from Brooklyn.

Along with the invites sent out to the media this morning, Apple has put up a page where you can watch the livestream of the announcements on October 30 at 10 a.m. EDT. You can add a reminder to your Calendar from that page as well.

As a special treat, refresh the Special Event page to go through all the different invites Apple sent out this morning.

Interestingly, Apple isn’t doing the event at the Steve Jobs Theater at the new Apple Park campus but instead doing it in the 2,100 seat Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn, New York.

Apple special event on October 30

Apple on Thursday sent out an invite for a special event event being held on Tuesday, October 30, 2018. Unlike recent events that were held on the company’s new campus in Cupertino, Calif., this event is being held at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Howard Gilman Opera House, in New York.

As usual, there is no hint as to what will be announced at the event, however the invite says, “There’s more in the making.”

“Shredding the Girl and Balloon – The Director’s Cut”

Video from Banksy. This story continues to be more and more bonkers.

How to survive the longest flight in the world

Wall Street Journal:

The WSJ’s Scott McCartney went nonstop from Newark, N.J., to Singapore, testing his tips on how to survive more than 18 hours on a plane to help you with your next long-haul flight.

The only way to get me on this flight would be at gunpoint. No way would I ever take this trip in coach. Longest I can stand on a flight is about 8-9 hours before I start getting seriously owly. My trip last year from Vancouver, BC to Sydney, Australia with a stop in Hong Kong was pretty much my limit. Two 12 hour legs and I was not a happy camper at the end of it.

“Harry Potter” homecoming assembly

This is just insane. Not sure what school this is, but they have really set an impossibly high bar for any other school to match.

Love Harry Potter or not, just watch these skills unfold. Respect.

Jonny Evans, Computerworld:

Apple has described the Apple Watch as its “most personal device ever.” That’s not just because it sits against your skin and you can purchase snazzy new watchbands for it; it’s also because its sensors assess all sorts of personal data about you.

And:

This is an intimate device. It’s as much about who you are and what you need as what others need. Think about Apple Pay, Apple Watch as ID, or even boarding a plane thanks to the air ticket in your Apple Watch Wallet and a shake of the wrist.

And:

Does your iPhone cease to function as identity when it is no longer close to your skin? Is your iPhone eventually going to be able to tell the difference between one person and another by the unique beat of their heart? Apple Watch should be able to do just that.

Very interesting post. The Apple Watch has massive potential, especially as sensor technology evolves and the bond between you and your Apple Watch becomes much more intimate.

Matthew Cassinelli, The Sweet Setup:

Ever since the Apple Watch, Reminders has become such an engrained part of my daily life that, surprisingly, despite its design, it’s one of my most-used apps.

On a regular day, I’ll probably get a handful of reminders alerting me to do something, I’ll add a few thoughts I don’t have time to write down, and I’ll add groceries or chores that I want to get done later — actually accomplishing much more than I can say about many other apps on my phone.

But that’s because, despite getting so much from Reminders, I don’t actually use the app itself all that much.

That all started thanks to the Apple Watch and has come full circle with Shortcuts.

This is a wonderful piece, written by a member of the WorkFlow/Shortcuts team. I use Reminders all the time, and this post was eye-opening to me, expanding my Reminders’ horizons, and giving me a nice little push into a world of useful Shortcuts.

Don’t miss the list of links at the end of the article.

Nick Corasaniti, New York Times:

IT’S MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, 1976, and nearly 1,000 people pack a tiny club in Asbury Park, N.J., to watch a local band and a local legend named Bruce Springsteen, share their mix of rock and soul with a wider world that had all but written off this struggling seaside city for good.

And:

Since it opened in 1974, the club, the Stone Pony, has been the beating heart of Asbury Park, a beacon for musicians and fans alike. But its survival, much like that of its host city, has been a constant battle, a story of resilience and revival, of sold-out shows and shuttered windows.

Here is the renowned club’s history, as told by the owners, musicians, staff and fans who have called its dark black interior and low-slung stage home.

Growing up in New Jersey, Springsteen was almost a religion. And the Stone Pony was the center of his universe. This is a brilliantly told tale of a major branch of the rock family tree.

9to5Toys:

Apple has refreshed its refurbished storefront this morning to now include 2018 MacBook Pros for the first time. Inventory is primarily centered around the latest 13-inch models with prices starting at $1,529. A high-end maxed-out 13-inch model is on sale for $3,139, which is good for $560 off the regular price, marking today’s biggest savings. Most of these deals work out to be around 15% off the new condition price. In recent months we’ve seen as much as $200 off 13-inch models and up to $300 off 15-inch configurations.

Here’s the link to Apple’s refurbished storefront. Have a look around.

A couple of links associated with Apple’s updated privacy portal:

A snippet:

Apple, as a matter of company policy, believes privacy is a fundamental human right. From Tim Cook at the very top to engineers on the front line, this belief permeates Apple and drives the company’s product development process every bit as much as the technology itself. As much as Apple is designing for experience and for accessibility, the company is also designing for security and privacy.

The more I read, the more I learn about the big tech companies, I do believe this about Apple, and I do believe Apple is the only company of the majors that has this commitment.

October 17, 2018

Gizmodo:

The UK’s advertising watchdog chastised Spotify today for releasing an “unduly distressing” ad that, it argues, improperly targeted children. The ad shows young people listening to Camila Cabello’s song “Havana,” which in turn wakes up some scary looking dolls that go on to terrorize them.

“The fact the ad was set inside the home, including a bedtime setting, and featured a doll, meant it was particularly likely to cause distress to children who saw it,” the ASA wrote in its ruling. “We did not consider that the context of the ad justified the distress.”

Definitely an odd way to promote Spotify.

Apple:

At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right.

And so much of your personal information — information you have a right to keep private — lives on your Apple devices.

Every Apple product is designed from the ground up to protect that information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.

We’ve proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the expense of your privacy and security. Instead, they can support them.

This updated site from Apple has even more detail on how they feel about the subject and the efforts they are making to ensure that your private data stays private. This stance by Apple isn’t just marketing fluff, although it does serve as a differentiator from other companies. I’ve spoken to lots of Apple employees and it’s something that is a deeply held belief of many of them.

New York Times:

The friendly, bearded face of Caroll Spinney may not be one you recognize immediately. But if you have watched TV at any point in the past 50 years or so, you are almost certainly familiar with his work. Since 1969, he has played the parts of the gentle, inquisitive Big Bird and the lovably disgruntled Oscar the Grouch on “Sesame Street,” the long-running children’s program.

This Thursday, as he so often has, Spinney, 84, plans to travel to the studios in Astoria, Queens, where “Sesame Street” is produced, and record some voices for his colorful alter egos.

Then he will retire from the program: His roles will be passed on to new performers and his remarkable half-century run, in which he has embodied two of the most beloved characters on television, will come to an end.

Few people can lay claim to providing more joy to children than Mr Spinney. Even as an adult, the image of Big Bird makes me smile and brings back wonderful memories of watching Sesame Street with my siblings.

CNET:

The Pixel 3 camera holds its own against Apple’s iPhone XS despite having one camera tied behind its back. It all but dispenses with the camera’s flash, using new low-light shooting abilities instead. And it offers enthusiasts a radically new variety of raw image that opens up photographic flexibility and artistic freedom.

It’s all possible because of a field called computational photography, a term invented in 2004 by Google distinguished engineer Marc Levoy while he was at Stanford, before he moved full-time to Google Research. Long gone are the days when photography was all about glass lenses and film chemistry. Fast receding are first-generation digital cameras that closely mirror the analog approach.

Now our cameras rely as much on computers as optics. And what we’ve seen so far is only the beginning.

I post this less to say one camera is better than the other but to point out as advancements happen in computational photography, everyone who shoots photos with their smartphone benefit as manufacturers leapfrog each other with each release.

I think there will always be a place for DSLRs but for more and more people, not only is their smartphone “good enough”, it’s become a damn good camera in its own right.

Going to this festival is definitely a bucket list item for me. I always tell my photography students, if you want guaranteed good shots, shoot hot air balloons. They are often brightly coloured, huge, and only fly during The Golden Hour. You’ll definitely get some good shots.

This is some lovely appreciation. Worth the read. And that first picture!

Robot dog dancing to Uptown Funk

Remember, if a robot dog ever comes after you, just play some Uptown Funk. Apparently, they just can’t resist that beat.

Apple should contact this poster, use the story for a commercial, or in a marketing video. Great stuff.

If you are interested in space exploration, rocketry, this is a worthy follow.

Right now, they are live tweeting the communications with Apollo 7. Terrific idea.

[H/T Marcus Mendes]

Though there are plenty of uses for individual voice identification, I can’t think of a better use case than the HomePod. For example, it’d be great if HomePod Siri could play different music, depending on who said “Play some music.”

Apple:

The new iPhone XR, integrating breakthrough technologies from iPhone XS in an all-screen glass and aluminum design featuring a stunning 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display — the most advanced LCD in a smartphone — and six beautiful finishes will be available for customers to pre-order beginning Friday, October 19 at 12:01 a.m. PST on apple.com and the Apple Store app.

And:

iPhone XR will be available in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB models in black, white, blue, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED starting at $749 (US)

And:

Customers will be able to pre-order iPhone XR beginning Friday, October 19 at 12:01 a.m. PST with availability beginning Friday, October 26, in more than 50 countries and territories.

Follow the headline link for all the technical details. But if you want an iPhone XR anytime soon, I’d jump on that pre-order.

October 16, 2018

iPhone XS (Max)

I usually write my review of the new iPhones about a week after I get one of the new devices, but this time around, I just kept using and trying out the different features of the iPhone. Now, I want to give you my thoughts on the iPhone XS and XS Max.

When it comes right down to it, the XS and Max are exactly the same iPhone, except for the size. All of the internals, cameras, and design provide you with the same experience. The only real difference is the display size, but that’s a big difference.

For me, there is a clear winner in the size comparisons to these iPhones—it’s the XS Max. The Max is the perfect iPhone for me—the bigger screen allows me to see everything I need, and I a lot of the time I don’t even need to put on my reading glasses to see everything.

My favorite iPhone before this was the “Plus” versions because of the bigger size, but the Max takes that to a whole new level. The case size of the Plus and Max are basically the same, but the Max is all screen, whereas the Plus had that prominent chin and forehead.

Some people don’t like the “compromise” of not having one-handed control using the iPhone Max and prefer the XS model. That’s fair, I guess, but when I look at how I use the iPhone, I don’t tend to use one hand for anything but scrolling. Ultimately, the amount of time I use one hand doesn’t make up for the extra screen size I get with the Max.

When I type on the iPhone, I use two hands regardless of the model I’m using. I scroll using my thumb on the same hand I’m holding the iPhone with, and other tasks like pinch and zoom require both hands. Size wins out for me.

The camera on both XS models is magnificent. If you’ve listened to my podcasts, you know I’m not a great photographer, so I need all the help I can get.

Part of the reason I didn’t post this sooner is that I was waiting for a live concert to take some pictures. I was scheduled to see Ozzy Osbourne last weekend, but he canceled, so I don’t have any low light shots to show, but I do have some experience in a different lighting situation.

I went to a San Jose Sharks game on the opening night with some friends. If you’ve been to a hockey game, you know it’s terrible for lighting—actually, there is too much light on a white ice surface, which just destroys your pictures.

We all took turns with the XS Max camera and the iPhone X camera—the difference was stunning. Using the iPhone X, the picture of my friends turned out okay, but the background was really bright white, and you couldn’t make out the people in the crowd on the other side of the rink. They were just blotted out by the white lights, and I assume reflections from the ice.

The Max was able to minimize the effects of the white ice and lighting, so you could easily make out people on the other side of the rink, and even signs they were holding. Even in this unnatural environment, the picture seemed more natural. (I don’t have these pics to show either—another long story.)

The bottom line with the camera is that the Smart HDR Apple developed for the iPhone cameras really works. Even the most average of photographers will benefit from this camera.

Of course, there are a lot of other advanced features with the new cameras like bokeh (background blur), depth control, and Quad-LED True Tone flash. All of these features are designed to bring you the best pictures possible, and they do.

As someone who listens to music on my iPhone a lot, I was impressed with the new stereo speakers. The speakers are loud, clear, and they provide you with a broader stereo sound than any previous generation. I even found myself turning the volume down a bit on the Max.

As an aside, a friend asked why I listen to music on my iPhone so much. The only reason I can think of is so that when I’m listening to a great playlist or station, and I go for a walk or a drive, I can just continue listening. I don’t actually know why I listen to music so much on my iPhone, but I do.

I would like to touch on one thing—iPhone XR. I’ve heard people say that the iPhone XR will hurt sales of the XS and Max. I don’t believe that to be true. I think the majority of people that were going to buy the XS models are still going to buy those models. There are a few that will want to be a little different and get an XR for the color option, and that’s fine.

The iPhone XR is going to bring in a whole new group of people that want a large screen iPhone but don’t want to pay the additional cost of the XS. The XR is a fantastic iPhone in its own right, but I don’t think sales of one model is going to hurt the others.

There’s a lot to like about this year’s three iPhone models. There are a ton of upgraded features, from the processor to the camera, and the display. There is nothing I’ve seen in my time of using these devices that would make me hold back on recommending either of the two new iPhones.

iPhoneography Central:

My selections this week from our Flickr group return to one of my favorite themes (so much so that I have to keep trying to come up with original names for them) – black on white, otherwise known as the B&W photo.

A lot of beginners shy away from black and white shots, thinking they are intimidating and hard to do. But with a little practice and some of the cool apps as described in this article, you should give B&W shots a try!