June 28, 2017

An evening with Warren Demartini

Warren is such a talented guitar player.

This is a huge release. There are a ton of new features and bug fixes.

Because the update contains many new features that patient users have been waiting to get their hands on, I want to give folks the option of trying it out early. I think the beta release is very stable, but you’ll have to forgive a few rough edges while I finish things up.

I’ve said this before: Almost every post on The Loop for the past seven years has gone through MarsEdit. I’m happy to see a new version on the way and will gladly pay whatever upgrade fee is needed for a piece of software I use so much.

10 years ago today, I was waiting in the iPhone line on Fifth Avenue in New York

Rewatching the video reminds me of the insane excitement of the launch. I doubt we’ll ever see another product that generates this level of enthusiasm in such a wide range of people.

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday that 2 billion people are regularly using its flagship service, marching past another milestone in its growth from a college curiosity in the United States to the world’s largest social media network.

And

Facebook defines a monthly active user as a registered Facebook user who logged in and visited Facebook through its website or a mobile device, or used its Messenger app, in the past 30 days.

That is just an incredible amount of people using the service. Even though I haven’t posted on Facebook in a year or so, I still do login, so I guess I’m one of those active users.

Ryan Williams scooter and BMX tricks

This guy is doing stunts on a scooter I didn’t even know were possible. Stick around for the final stunt he pulls. Incredible.

BuzzFeed:

The Echo Show is Amazon’s new $230 device with a built-in camera and touchscreen, powered by the AI assistant Alexa. In the top right-hand corner of its little 7-inch screen, I see a person-shaped icon. I tap it and the display changes; now it’s telling me which of my contacts have been recently active. I wonder if it is also telling them that I am active now too.

It has this wild new feature called Drop In. Drop In lets you give people permission to automatically connect with your device. Here’s how it works. Let’s say my father has activated Drop In for me on his Echo Show. All I have to do is say, “Alexa, drop in on Dad.” It then turns on the microphone and camera on my father’s device and starts broadcasting that to me. For the several seconds of the call, my father’s video screen would appear fogged over. But then there he’ll be. And to be clear: This happens even if he doesn’t answer. Unless he declines the call, audibly or by tapping on the screen, it goes through. It just starts. Hello, you look nice today.

Honestly, I haven’t figured out what to think about this yet. But it’s here.

Do. Not. Want.

iPhone 10 years later: The phone that almost wasn’t

CNN Tech interviewed former iPhone engineer Andy Grignon and others about their experience both working on the first iPhone and in using the prototype as it evolved.

Lots of interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout. I do love Andy’s description of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook sitting in a meeting, thinking, when they started to rock back and forth, in sync.

Andy Grignon’s official Apple business card lists his title as F**kchop. You can see a copy of it here. He talks about that name, given to him by Steve Jobs, on the video.

Jordan Kahn, 9to5Mac:

Apple is looking to hire a “Siri Event Maven” that will serve as Siri’s own personal assistant on events and pop culture happenings trending among humans.

The role will be to make sure that Siri is up to date on all the non-traditional holidays, trending cultural happenings, and events that people might ask about. Apple says the Siri Event Maven will work with the engineers and designers working on Siri “to provide strategic awareness of cultural happenings in the collective zeitgeist.”

Sounds like a fun gig.

Washington Post:

In the past decade, electric guitar sales have plummeted, from about 1.5 million sold annually to just over 1 million. The two biggest companies, Gibson and Fender, are in debt, and a third, PRS Guitars, had to cut staff and expand production of cheaper guitars. In April, Moody’s downgraded Guitar Center, the largest chain retailer, as it faces $1.6 billion in debt. And at Sweetwater.com, the online retailer, a brand-new, interest-free Fender can be had for as little as $8 a month.

And:

Guitar heroes. They arrived with the first wave of rock-and-roll. Chuck Berry duckwalking across the big screen. Scotty Moore’s reverb-soaked Gibson on Elvis’s Sun records. Link Wray, with his biker cool, blasting through “Rumble” in 1958.

And:

McCartney saw Hendrix play at the Bag O’Nails club in London in 1967. He thinks back on those days fondly and, in his sets today, picks up a left-handed Les Paul to jam through Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady.”

And:

“Now, it’s more electronic music and kids listen differently,” McCartney says. “They don’t have guitar heroes like you and I did.”

That does sound a bit like a grumpy old person complaint, but read the article. The comment reflects the reality of the current trend in popular music, more about programming beats than emulating a specific riff.

Fascinating read.

Yesterday we posted Matt Gemmell’s take on this iPad Pro-bashing Twitter thread from The Outline’s Joshua Topolsky:

Another take, this from John Gruber:

I agree with almost every single word in Topolsky’s thread — but I also think he’s completely wrong.

And:

People like me and Topolsky — and millions of others — are the reason why Apple continues to work on MacOS and make new MacBook hardware. I can say without hesitation that the iPad Pro is not the work device for me. I can also say without hesitation that the iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard is the work device for millions of other people.

Couldn’t agree more. I live in both worlds, with half my time spent in iOS and half in macOS. I would not want to lose either, but I don’t yet see a clean way to combine them into a unified product.

To me, iOS is clean and simple, sophisticated without being clumsy, heavy, or onerous, a perfect information consumption device.

The Mac is like strapping on a power suit, one designed to let me create all sorts of content and customize my experience with powerful software and hardware add-ons, and with an interface as complex and macro-laden as I want to make it.

I like them both, appreciate having them both, find it easy to move between the two worlds. And if the day comes where iOS does everything I need for both worlds, I’ll gladly go there.

Apple analyst Gene Munster, from his 5 year Apple forecast:

Over the next 10 years, we anticipate that AirPods will be bigger than the Apple Watch as the product evolves from simple wireless headphones to a wearable, augmented audio device. While both AirPods and Apple Watch should continue to grow, we see AirPods contributing about the same amount of revenue as Apple Watch by FY22.

The key is the word augmented. Currently, AirPods are simply a great pair of wireless earpods. But over time, as Siri takes on a larger, more intelligent role in the ecosystem and as Apple moves into AR, the AirPods will have a more central role, acting as a conduit to other devices via more complex gestures and audio commands, and piping augmented audio back into your ears.

Our best guess is that Apple Glasses, an AR-focused wearable, will be released mid FY20. This is based on the significant resources Apple is putting into AR, including ARKit and the recent SensoMotoric Instruments acquisition. We believe Apple see’s the AR future as a combination of the iPhone and some form of a wearable.

Apple Glasses and AirPods are a natural fit.

June 27, 2017

Some great choices Ozzy!

Apple begins rolling out “My Chill Mix” on Apple Music

Apple began rolling out a new mix on Apple Music called My Chill Mix. Apple told me today that the new mix will not be available to everyone immediately, but it will show up over time.

Designed for calming music you might want to listen to during an early Sunday morning with a coffee, My Chill Mix will choose music from the genres and songs you listen to and love in Apple Music.

Despite the fact I’m a hard rock music lover, I already have a couple of acoustic playlists that I use to chill out to late at night or early in the morning. There are so many great songs in all genres that could be in a mix playlist like this, but Apple says it will stick to music you like. For instance, If you love pop music, that’s what your chill mix will be made up of. Each person’s mix will be different and based on listening habits.

What’s interesting about My Chill Mix is that it’s made up of songs that I know and some I don’t, but even those ones are done by artists that I like.

My first mix is made up of 25 songs from bands like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Cream, Pink Floyd, Three Dog Night, and Steve Miller. I’m listening to it as I write this and I’m really pleased with the song selection.

My Chill Mix will join My Favorites Mix and My New Music Mix at the top of Apple Music’s For You section when it’s available.

These pictures are just stunning.

Matt Gemmell:

I occasionally see the phrase “laptop replacement” regarding the iPad, despite the bizarreness of both the concept and the generalisation. Intelligent people like journalists and tech pundits use it, seemingly without humorous intent, and it puzzles me.

There’s no such thing as a laptop replacement, and if there were, the iPad isn’t meant to be one.

This piece is in response to Joshua Topolsky’s ridiculous assertion on Twitter that, “If you think you can replace your laptop with an iPad, you cannot.” Matt makes a great point: “The iPad isn’t a laptop replacement, because it’s not a laptop. But the iPad has replaced my MacBook.” Read the whole post to get the details.

ZDNet:

What surprises me isn’t how popular the iPhone is now, but that it survived the first couple of years to become the influential cash-generating machine that it has become.

I’m just going to come out and say it — the original iPhone was junk. I know, that’s a scandalous thing to say, but to say otherwise is to do a disservice to the memories of the awesome handsets of the time. Call quality was terrible, it didn’t support multimedia messaging, and data speeds were slow even for 2007 because Apple chose not to support 3G.

I would usually say pieces like this are revisionism but the author, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, is someone whose writing I know and like and, upon reading it, you remember just how limited the original iPhone was. But his reasonings for why it eventually succeeded are sound.

The Outline:

You knew Apple’s reality show Planet of the Apps — in which entrepreneurs present their app ideas to celebrity advisers and then a panel of investors in the mode of Shark Tank — was bad. But did you know just how bad? Dubious ethics, terrible advice, heavy-handed branding, and the sense that no one knows what the hell they’re doing: Here is a comprehensive guide to Apple’s Planet of the Apps, available exclusively through Apple Music.

Minor quibbles aside, it’s hard to disagree with the criticism in the above video. Regardless of whether it’s Apple producing it or not, it’s simply not a good TV show. But because it’s Apple, it’s really disappointing that Planet of the Apps is such bad TV. We expect so much better from Apple and the talent they have access to, both inside the company and in Hollywood.

Product Hunt:

Have you ever wondered what products or apps you’re missing out on? It’s easy to find the most popular ones in a particular category—but what about the hidden gems? One of Product Hunt’s community members David Spinks has the same question. So, he asked other users: What’s one app you use a lot that most people don’t know about?

Actually, you probably do know about most of them but there might be one or two gems here you haven’t discovered yet.

Recode:

Apple’s first iPhone was released 10 years ago this week — on June 29, 2007. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, it leapfrogged far beyond the competition and launched the mobile revolution. Few industries or societies have been left unchanged.

Here are 10 charts that show some of the profound effects the iPhone-led — and Google Android-fueled — mobile boom have caused over the past decade.

The full history of the iPhone has yet to be written but it’s remarkable how much this one device has literally changed the world in the previous ten years.

Lots of detail. Fascinating look back.

Yes, please.

A Minecraft Augmented Reality demo

There are a lot of AR demos out there, including a few measuring tape demos that show how easy Apple has made it to put together an AR app. But the Minecraft demo shown in the video embedded below struck me as a perfect demo of ARKit. Enjoy.

J. M. Manness, writing for Seeking Alpha [Free Regwall] digs into the importance of augmented reality (AR) and how Apple’s approach is so groundbreaking. J. M. does a terrific job explaining the technical issues involved in AR, as well as why Apple’s approach has opened the floodgates for developers (and leapfrogged Apple over Google in this area).

A few tastes:

Essentially, an API does all the hard work for the programmer. This is true here probably more so than in any other API. ARKit provides services for each of the problems listed above. In each case, the incredible work of interpreting the real world scene, all the artificial intelligence programming that has been done, all is hidden under the hood, and the programmer just needs to request a description of nearby surfaces. Placing the model into the scene will subject it to the automatically detected light sources and resize it as it is moved in relation to the viewer, or the user moves the viewing device around it.

And:

In one how-to-program video, Brian Advent shows us how to make a simple game that places the sample spaceship at a random point in the viewing field. The user then touches the screen, and if you touch the ship, then it disappears and a new one comes up. Brian builds the app and runs it literally in less than 20 minutes.

A simple concept, but one that goes to the core of the issue. Apple made it easy for developers to harness the power of AR. ARKit solves all the technical issues, including lighting and placement, movement and permanence in space.

If you are interested in AR, take a minute to register a Seeking Alpha account (it’s free) and read the linked article. I’d search for the section called “WWDC” and start there.

Nicole Perlroth, New York Times:

The strike on IDT, a conglomerate with headquarters in a nondescript gray building here with views of the Manhattan skyline 15 miles away, was similar to WannaCry in one way: Hackers locked up IDT data and demanded a ransom to unlock it.

The Wanna Cry attack made huge headlines. The IDT attack did not.

But the ransom demand was just a smoke screen for a far more invasive attack that stole employee credentials. With those credentials in hand, hackers could have run free through the company’s computer network, taking confidential information or destroying machines.

This is a huge issue. The premise is, there are many of these attacks and they are almost all undiscovered, allowing the attacker to build up a treasure trove of employee credentials. The attack was allegedly carried out using cyberweapons stolen from the NSA.

Scans for the two hacking tools used against IDT indicate that the company is not alone. In fact, tens of thousands of computer systems all over the world have been “backdoored” by the same N.S.A. weapons. Mr. Ben-Oni and other security researchers worry that many of those other infected computers are connected to transportation networks, hospitals, water treatment plants and other utilities.

Lots more to this story, including one person’s quest to hunt down the perpetrator. Terrific read.

More evidence in favor of Apple’s commitment to not adding a back door to modern versions of iOS, as well as a firm argument for Apple’s approach to OS distribution. A major part of the problem is the flood of old, unpatched flavors of Windows and Android out in the wild.

June 26, 2017

Thoughts on iOS 11

With iOS 11 Public Beta being released today, I could easily sum up my thoughts on the new iOS by saying I think it’s one of the most significant releases ever. Not for any particular whiz-bang feature, but for the attention to detail and all of the small features that people can use every day.

Instead of going through each feature, I’d like to pull out a few of my favorites and talk about them.

If you are an iPad user, iOS 11 will be huge for you. There are so many significant changes that makes using an iPad more enjoyable and productive. I especially like the new Multitasking and QuickType.

When I work on my iPad I’m typically using a writing app and a web browser to reference topics I’m writing about. Being able to have them both open and have the ability to simply drag and drop information from one app to the other saves me an incredible amount of time.

There are two types of Multitasking windows in iOS 11: Slide Over and Split View. Slide Over windows sit on top of the currently open app and allows you to monitor things like Messages, while you continue to work on a project. You can change the Slide Over app by dragging another app out of the dock and dropping it on top of the first one. Both apps are active when using Slide Over.

The other type of Multitasking window is Split View. We’ve all seen this one before—each app has a certain amount of screen real estate and you can easily switch apps. This is the view I use the most because I can drag and drop information to my document as I find it.

QuickType makes it easier to add numbers, symbols and punctuation to your document. With a simple flick of your finger on the keyboard, you can add some of the most commonly used symbols. For instance, the letter Q on the keyboard is also number 1, so if you want to type that number, you just flick down on the Q key and you type 1. No need to touch the Shift key at all.

You don’t have to press down before flicking, just flick. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do, you’ll use it a lot.

There are so many other great iPad features like the Dock and Drag and Drop, I could write all day about them, but I want to move on to a few other features I like in this release.

I love a new feature in FaceTime that I’m sure a lot of people are going to use. Most of us have been on a FaceTime call when you want to capture a moment. Typically, I’ll just take a screenshot. With the new FaceTime, you can take a photo using the other person’s camera and save it to your photo library. Both people on the call are notified that a picture has been taken, and there is a setting to turn the feature off if you want.

Wi-Fi password sharing is another one of these cool features that will be used a lot. Who hasn’t had people come over to your house and want access to your Wi-Fi network. You have to either give them the password, or type it in for them. With this new feature, when one of your contacts tries to access your network, it will alert you and you can securely send the password to their device. No need to reveal the password or type it in. Brilliant.

Search in Mail has been improved too, but what impressed me more was threaded messages in Mail now works great. Trying to read a thread in previous versions was a pain, but now the messages in threads make sense. The most current message in the thread is open and readable, while the rest are collapsed and gray. You can just tap on any message to expand it, so it’s very easy to know where you’re at in the thread.

Siri gains a new interface and voice, and Apple promises it will offer a more personal experience based on your personal usage of the device. I really hope that will happen, but I still have a lot of problems with Siri.

For example, a friend was flying into Newark airport yesterday, so I asked Siri what the weather was like in Newark. It responded that she didn’t have my work address.

I asked Siri when the next Formula One race was on and this is the response I got.

So, I changed the question a little to help it understand and got this.

So, Apple doesn’t like Formula One. That doesn’t exactly help me.

As a side note, Siri understood me perfectly when I told it to screw off because she was useless. I’m assuming she gets that a lot and has the answers ready.

Things like this happen quite a bit, which makes me not want to use Siri that often. Why bother if it’s not going to understand what it is I want.

Even I’m surprised I’m saying this, but I love the new App Store. I don’t go to the App Store anymore because it’s just an endless list of games and I’m not a gamer, so it does me no good to go there.

However, the new App Store splits games out into its own section, so I actually get to see new apps I might be interested in. The new Today tab promises to be very useful, showing me a variety of apps that may be of interest. It reminds me of For You in Apple Music and I use that a lot.

App pages can now include tips and tricks, editorial stories and videos, so you get a better idea of what an app can do before you download it. The pages are really well done from what I’ve seen so far.

I really like Apple Maps, but I never used it when I’m taking a trip to new towns, or places I don’t really know well, which kind of defeats the purpose of using Maps in the first place.

Part of the reason for this is that Maps didn’t have lane guidance to tell me exactly which lane I needed to be in to make an exit from the freeway or to take my next turn. In many circumstances, this was fine, but when I go to Los Angeles, I need that lane guidance, so I’d always use Google Maps for those trips.

Now, Maps includes lane guidance and it works really well. It tells you which lane to be in and it also shows you onscreen so you can make sure you are where you need to be.

Another interesting feature in Maps is called Light Guidance. Basically, you tell Maps where you want to go and then zoom out to get an overview of your trip. This allows you to monitor your trip for accidents or faster routes as Maps finds them without having as many spoken prompts. This is handy if you are taking a familiar trip and don’t need the prompts, but still want to monitor the road activity.

There are so many great things about iOS 11 that every user is going to love. Like I said in the beginning, this isn’t about a few whiz-bang features that you’ll use for the first week and then forget about—iOS 11 brings more ease of use and efficiency to our everyday lives. For a device like the iPhone that we use so much, you couldn’t ask for anything more from Apple.

Elle:

On Valentine’s Day in 1967, when feminism was sorely needed but had not yet ripened into a movement, a trim, dignified 25-year-old African American woman named Aretha Franklin walked into a New York City recording studio. Franklin’s idea was to take “Respect,” a song Otis Redding had released two years earlier as a man’s strident plea to his lover, and transform it into a woman’s sexy exhortation for human dignity. Pounding the piano righteously, with the legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section (flown to New York for the session) behind her, Franklin sang the hell out of the song, and she spelled out its titular demand—letter by letter by letter.

I’m not usually a fan of remakes but Franklin’s incredible version of the song blows away the original.

Macworld:

The iPad Pro has finally reached a tipping point for photographers. The improved hardware in the just-released iPad Pro models, plus software improvements in iOS 10 and the upcoming iOS 11, make the iPad Pro (mostly) fullfill the potential of the iPad as a true photographer’s companion.

All of this isn’t to say that the iPad Pro can completely supplant a Mac for most photographers.

I’m looking to replace my older iPad with a Pro for the reasons Carlson lists in his piece. It really is very close to being a Mac replacement for some photographers.

How the iPhone was born: inside stories of missteps and triumphs

The Wall Street Journal pulled together a masterful insider’s take on the creation of the iPhone. Great, great, great.

Radio Garden uses a Google Earth interface that allows you to roam the planet and click on radio stations around the world.

This is fun to play with, though I wish the collection of stations was larger, more inclusive. But worth a look.