April 24, 2015

Vox:

In April 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope — which was launched into orbit exactly 25 years ago — took its most iconic image: the Pillars of Creation. These gigantic towers of dust and gas, 7,000 light years away, are named because the immense force of gravity causes them to condense into clumps of matter that will become new star systems.

In fact, billions of years ago our own solar system may have been born through the same process — so when you look at this upgraded 2014 version of the image, you’re also looking back at the very distant history of Earth.

We’ve all seen this image a hundred times but the details in this story are really fascinating.

My thanks to Bushel for sponsoring The Loop this week. For some people, IT is a task and not a career. Bushel is a simple-to-use cloud-based tool that anyone can leverage to manage the Apple devices in their workplace. Bushel allows you to easily set-up and protect all of the Apple devices that you distribute to your team, or those that your team already has. Provide access to company email accounts, automatically install work apps to every device all at once, and separate and protect your team’s personal data from company data. And if a device is ever lost or stolen, you can even remotely lock it or wipe company data completely. Do all of this and much more, without any help from IT. All wrapped into one seamless interface so you can manage those Apple devices when you want, wherever you are. Bushel makes the complex simple, so you can focus on what matters most, all while taking back your nights and weekends. Your first three devices are free forever, and each additional device is just $2 per month with no contracts or commitments. Learn more at Bushel.com.

There are a ton of apps coming out for Apple Watch, but if you’re a business user, you might want to take a look at Billings Pro.

Deconstructing an Apple Watch emoticon

So last night, I was at a hockey game. I got an odd text from Jim. It was an animated image of a 3D smiley face, with hearts for eyes, wagging its tongue at me.

Like this:

face-yellow

But animated.

Turns out, Jim had just picked up his personal Apple Watch and was putting it through it’s paces. The animation appeared on my iPhone in Messages, animating in gorgeous color, larger than the image on Jim’s watch. When I got home, I switched over to my Mac and, sure enough, the animation appeared there as well.

On my Mac, I selected the animation in my Messages window, then hit the space bar to bring up the quick look window. In quick look, I was given the option to open the animation in Preview, which I did. In Preview, you get the animation, broken down into individual frames. In this case, the yellow smiley was made up of 48 individual images.

If you know someone with an Apple Watch (many are arriving for delivery today), give this a try. Note that in the Messages app, you can tap once to select the image, then double-tap to make it larger. The Apple Watch animated emoticons are gorgeous.

An Android fan’s take on Google vs Apple

First, take a look at this location on Google maps. You’ll be zoomed in in the northeast part of Pakistan. At the middle of that part of the map, you’ll see something like this image:

AndroidPiss

Was this done by someone on the Google Maps team? Is it possible it was done by someone outside of Google?

As it turns out, this is indeed a prank, done with Google Mapmaker. The result is an image hosted on google.com (check the URL in the above link). Thanks to Doney den Ouden for the insight.

Interested in making your own version? Here’s the edit page for this one. [HT @varunorcv]

Three new Apple Watch ads

Three new Apple Watch ads were posted this morning, Us, Up, and Rise. These ads are full of detail, little vignettes that give a sense of life with Apple Watch. Not the interface as much as how well it integrates into your busy lifestyle.

Most noticeable to me, instead of the vivid colors, electronic drums, and throbbing bass of the original Apple Watch ad, these three were painted with a very soft brushstroke and a delicate palette.

Here’s Us, with a very loose theme tying together romance and friendship:

For all the ways you connect, the Watch is here.

Next up is Up, as in up and at ‘em. This focus is on fitness:

For all the ways you move, the Watch is here.

And finally, there’s Rise, as in rise and shine:

For all the ways you spend your time, the Watch is here.

Read this post by John Gruber, then consider following this link to give Shawn a helping hand.

April 23, 2015

App Store for Apple Watch is live

You can now see what apps are available for the Apple Watch, even if you don’t have one of the devices. Just open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, which comes with the latest iOS update, and you can browse the available apps. Currently there are over 3,000 apps for Apple Watch. I expect that to increase very quickly.

CBC News:

Canadians are a relatively happy bunch — the fifth happiest in the world, according to new data from the 2015 World Happiness Report released Thursday.

The report issues a score on a scale of zero to 10 based on Gallup World Poll data collected from people in more than 150 countries between 2012 and 2014.

Researchers then analyze the “life evaluation” data to rank countries, ostensibly providing a comparative overview of people’s “subjective well-being” in each.

For all of our myriad problems and issues, Canada is still a great country. Read the story for the list of the top five and where the US placed in the report – both very interesting.

Greg Koenig, writing for iMore, digs into the durability of the various Apple Watch finishes.

One bit in particular I found fascinating was this discussion of the space black finish, something very difficult to pull off well in traditional watch case finishes:

Enter two technologies: The Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) plating process and Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) materials.

In the basic PVD process, a part is cleaned thoroughly and placed in a vacuum chamber, along with a consumable sample of plating material. Once the air is evacuated from the chamber, the material sample is vaporized by a heater and eventually condenses on the target part. PVD is a highly competitive, advancing technology with applications across many fields — anti-reflective, UV blocking, scratch resistant sunglass coatings? PVD — and the process is often heavily modified. The gist remains the same.

The PVD process is used to create a vast array of coatings, but the current gold standard for hardness and wear resistance is DLC. Essentially, a DLC coating is a 1-3 micron layer of carbon that self arranges into a structure similar to that found in a diamond, thus imparting some of a diamond’s surface hardness properties. In fact, many of the attempts to create synthetic diamonds revolve around modifying the basic PVD DLC process in order to “grow” a stone. The term “DLC” itself isn’t just one kind of coating, there are 7-8 different basic chemistries, and each manufacturer of equipment and service provider often creates their own proprietary recipe and processes. (Tungsten DLC, for example, deposits a layer of tungsten on the part before the DLC layer is applied, promoting better adhesion).

So just how tough is DLC? The best way to put it is that the watch industry is a second or third tier user of DLC coatings. The vast majority of research and application of DLCs goes into highly engineered components that depend on DLC’s hardness, friction reduction, corrosion resistance, and tribology advantages. (That’s the study of how one material interacts with another during contact and sliding.) You’ll find DLC coatings on shock absorbers and engine pistons in F1 cars, across the leading edges of fan blades in jet engines, coating critical medical implants, and the cutting tools inside the CNC mills and lathes that made the Apple Watch itself. (DLC extends cutter tool life, improves cut quality and allows for dramatic feed/speed increases.)

I find this fascinating. Apple has gotten really good at creating durable finishes for their products. I’ve noticed that every generation of iPhone I’ve owned has shown less and less wear on the case and screen. I suspect the Apple Watch is a beneficiary of all that durability R&D.

The whole auction page is a fascinating read. As of this writing, the current bid is $79,100. A bargain!

The auction ends at 7:09 pm ET today, so if you want in, you’ll need to register as a bidder.

Another Apple Watch app tracker. This one is from WatchAware.

I like the fact that they keep track of the number of shipping apps. Not sure where that number comes from or how accurate it is, but as of this post, there are 2,145 approved Apple Watch apps.

As I said in this post, I think that number will rise to over 100,000 by the end of the year. Might have to revise that number upwards if there are already 2,145. After all, the big wave of Apple Watches hasn’t even hit yet. Think we might hit a million Apple Watch apps by the end of the year?

There are a boatload of Twitter clients for OS X. Apple Watch? So far, according to the linked article, there are three: The official Twitter client, Twitterrific 5, and Tweetings 2.

One notable absentee from this list is Tweetbot. As of the writing of this post, there is no information available on whether or not Tapbot’s flagship will be coming to Apple Watch. When and if it (or any other app) does, we’ll update this list to reflect the new Twitter app order. But even then, the Twitter client you use on your Apple Watch will most likely be the same one you use on your iPhone, just in a much more personal fashion.

I asked Paul Haddad (lead developer for Tapbots) about his plans for Tweetbot for Apple Watch. His reply was twofold. First, he’s waiting to get his hands on an Apple Watch (looks to me like his order will arrive tomorrow).

But Paul also made this point. The most critical element of a Twitter app are the notifications you receive. As it turns out, Tweetbot has long been part of the Apple Watch demo experience, as evidenced by the video in this post. That’s a Tweetbot notification, about 30 seconds in.

Certainly a custom Twitter client will give you more control over your tweets, but it is worth knowing that as long as your existing Twitter client makes use of the Notification Manager, you’ll get those notifications on your wrist, too.

You can read the whole Twitter exchange here.

Allyson Kazmucha, writing for iMore, has put together a solid list of shipping Apple Watch apps. Click the View All link towards the top of the page to see all of the apps in a single list.

I suspect that this list will grow exponentially over the coming weeks. My money’s on a hundred thousand Apple Watch apps by the end of the year. Think that’s too ambitious?

This is getting exciting.

Security researchers at SkyCure stumbled onto an iOS vulnerability that, at its extreme, may cause all phones (and, presumably iPads) on an attacking network to go into an infinite restart mode. The solution is to either disable WiFi or leave the range of the offending network. As far as I can tell, the harm of this vulnerability is that it disables your phone. There does not appear to be any permanent damage or loss of data.

This is not quite “the sky is falling”, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed. I can only imagine that Apple is busy working on a fix as we speak.

If you are interested in details, the SkyCure researcher who discovered this issue wrote up a pretty interesting blog post that tells the story of his discovery and lays out some (but not all) of the details.

April 22, 2015

Apple senior director Natalie Kerris retires

Natalie Kerris, who spent the last 14 years at Apple in corporate communications, announced her retirement from the company on Wednesday in a Twitter post.

“After 14 amazing years at Apple, it’s time to move on and see what adventures life holds for me next!” Kerris said.

She accompanied the announcement with this photo of a Steve Jobs quote:

CDOJRm0VIAAv-Ld

Kerris was responsible for launching the iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, the Mac, Apple Pay, and Apple Watch.

I contacted Kerris this afternoon to see what her plans were and if she had any other comment on her departure.

“I’m retiring to enjoy life,” Kerris confirmed. “Two weeks in Italy with my family gave me a new perspective on life.”

Congrats on your retirement Nat, you will be missed!

IMG_7898

“I just had it,” Lucas Hinch, 38, told The Smoking Gun (via Ars Technica). Apparently the PC had thrown up one too many blue screens of death in recent months, so Hinch took it into an alley, loaded up a 9mm Hi-Point pistol that he’d purchased on Craiglist, and let the bullets fly.

Priceless.

From checking flight status to being in the cockpit, Apple is changing the air travel industry. It’s amazing when you think about how many industries Apple has transformed over the years—music, movies, phone, tablet, etc. The list goes on and on.

April 21, 2015

John Gruber:

I just can’t see Apple ever allowing these sort of watch faces for Apple Watch — that’ll be left for the jailbreak crowd. A few weeks ago I thought third-party watch faces would be like third-party apps were for the iPhone — something that wasn’t there at the launch, but which came sooner rather than later.

That’s what I thought too. John has some interesting thoughts on custom watch faces and why we won’t see them.

If you haven’t used the Health app on iPhone, it’s something you just consider doing. Here’s a good article on how to easily show the information you’re looking for without overwhelming you.

Learn how Apple Watch measures your heart rate, and get tips for a more accurate reading.

Great information from Apple.

Petapixel:

Adobe today announced its latest version of Lightroom, called Lightroom CC. The update brings faster performance, some revamped tools, and a set of powerful new creation features.

Here’s a look at the major new things found in Lightroom CC, which will also be sold as a standalone program called Lightroom 6.

Now that Aperture has all but disappeared, Lightroom will be the only choice for most professional photographers. Luckily, it’s a very good app on its own and these new features add a lot to its abilities.

April 20, 2015

For some people, IT is a task and not a career. Bushel is a simple-to-use cloud-based tool that anyone can leverage to manage the Apple devices in their workplace. Bushel allows you to easily set-up and protect all of the Apple devices that you distribute to your team, or those that your team already has. Provide access to company email accounts, automatically install work apps to every device all at once, and separate and protect your team’s personal data from company data. And if a device is ever lost or stolen, you can even remotely lock it or wipe company data completely. Do all of this and much more, without any help from IT. All wrapped into one seamless interface so you can manage those Apple devices when you want, wherever you are. Bushel makes the complex simple, so you can focus on what matters most, all while taking back your nights and weekends. Your first three devices are free forever, and each additional device is just $2 per month with no contracts or commitments. Learn more at Bushel.com.

Re/code:

One of the proposed benefits of wearable technology is the notion of having a health-and-fitness tracker attached to your body 24/7 — or at least for a good portion of the day. This is the case with activity-tracking wristbands, like Fitbit and Jawbone Up, and also the appeal of some smartwatches, such as Apple Watch.

As I wrote in my earlier review, I’ve found Apple Watch to be a capable health-and-fitness tracker — especially for a smartwatch.

As I suspected and as was confirmed by several reviewers, the Apple Watch, while not a perfect fitness tracking device for the hard core exercise buff, will certainly provide benefit to those who use it to track their activities. And the really good news is, once it gets in the hands of developers and users, it will only get better.

CNET:

Twitter is upgrading its popular direct message feature to allow users to receive messages from other users regardless if they follow each other. The move is part of its ongoing effort to try to boost user growth as pressure from Wall Street investors continues.

I’m not sure how or why CNET describes this as a “upgrade”. It’s like the people who run Twitter don’t actually use Twitter. This will open up a whole new way for spammers to abuse the service and, while it might draw in advertisers who want to send “personalized” direct messages to people, it will drive away more users than it could ever to benefit.

UPDATE: The Next Web points out this is “an optional feature” and “The new setting is turned off by default.”

Jason Snell, writing for iMore:

While most members of the media are content to go to the keynote, write their stories about Apple’s big announcements, and then head home, when I was at Macworld I always bought a developer badge and attended sessions. Yes, they were confidential — I couldn’t write anything about what I learned there — but they also provided background material about how OS X (and later iOS) worked that proved invaluable when new versions of those products shipped.

Still, at many sessions, I would realize that after 20 minutes of solid introductory material, the slides were suddenly starting to fill with code. I am not a developer. Code makes my head hurt. Instead, I would retreat outside and hope that someone had re-filled the candy bowl.

But while the sessions at WWDC are absolutely not for everyone, in the past few years it’s become clear that WWDC has still become an event for everyone who works in the Apple-related universe. Quite simply, there’s no single event on the calendar that draws enough of us together in one location: WWDC has critical mass.

WWDC is a massively good time and the center of the Apple universe, at least for a week. Great writeup.

This article is an excerpt from an upcoming Elon Musk bio.

Earlier in 2013 the company was struggling to turn preorders of its vehicles into actual sales. As Musk put his staff on crisis footing to save Tesla, he also began negotiating a deal to sell the company to Google through his friend Larry Page, the search giant’s co-founder and chief executive officer, according to two people with direct knowledge of the deal.

Fascinating read. Especially if you keep in mind all the Apple Car talk of the last 6 months or so and the fact that Musk is said to have met with Apple around the same time.

Ryan Smith, writing for AnandTech, digs in to the new MacBook as only AnandTech can. Among the fascinating tidbits is this discussion of the Intel Core M processor:

Overall Apple is offering 3 different versions of the Core M within the MacBook lineup. The $1299 base configuration utilizes a 1.1GHz Core M-5Y31, while the $1599 utilizes what we believe to be a 1.2GHz 5Y51. Finally, both configurations offer an optional upgrade to a faster processor, a 1.3GHz version of what’s likely the 5Y71, which is the fastest of Intel’s current Core M lineup. However to put a twist on things Apple has gone and clocked these processors slightly differently than Intel’s original specifications; all 3 MacBooks have a base clock higher than Intel’s specs, and in the case of the faster two these don’t even match Intel’s faster “cTDP Up” configurations. As a result the Core M processors in the new MacBook are somewhat unorthodox compared to the regular processors – and perhaps slightly more power hungry – though there’s nothing here that other OEMs couldn’t do as well.

Ideally Core M will spend very little time at its base clockspeeds, and will instead be turboing up to 2.4GHz, 2.6GHz, or 2.9GHz respectively. This vast divide between the base and turbo clocks reflects the performance-bursty nature of the Core M design, but it is also why the base clockspeeds that Apple advertises can be deceptively low. In light workloads where Core M can quickly reach its top speeds to complete a task, a 2.4GHz+ Core architecture processor is nothing short of zippy. However in sustained workloads these base clockspeeds become much more relevant, as Core M has to pull back to lower clockspeeds to keep heat and power consumption under control.

As is typical with AnandTech’s in depth reviews (similar to what John Siracusa does…er…used to do for software), this is a sprawling epic, divided into 11 pages. Look for the jump link at the bottom of each page.

From the conclusion:

While I doubt Apple was looking quite this far into the future when they created the initial MacBook Air, I get the distinct impression that this is the kind of device they have been building towards. Apple has always been held back by technology to some degree – be it processor size, storage size, or display power requirements – and it’s only now in 2015 that the pieces have come together to allow them to make a laptop this small. I don’t believe this is a stopping point for Apple simply because one way or another they’re going to keep iterating, but compared to the MacBook Air there isn’t the same need nor ability to make a MacBook even smaller.

Which brings me to my final point, which is the future direction of the Apple’s Mac laptop families. The fact that the MacBook is the MacBook, and not the MacBook Nano or some other named MacBook is something I believe is telling. Although there’s clearly a risk in reading too much into Apple’s future plans based on a name alone, I have to seriously wonder where the MacBook and the MacBook Air go from here. Apple still needs an entry-level Mac laptop, but do they need the MacBook Air in particular? Just as the newer MacBook Air rendered the previous generation MacBook redundant in due time, I suspect Apple may intentionally following the same course with the new MacBook. But as to whether that comes to pass, only time will tell.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, one of the first things he did was crush the Mac product line down from many overlapping products to a very efficient few. With the iMac, MacBook Air, the 2015 MacBook, and MacBook Pro with two different sizes and all with multiple configurations, the product line is drifting towards those muddy waters again.

Norway will officially kill off FM radio in 2017. Will the dominos fall? Is Norway the first of many?