October 14, 2018

Nikon Small World:

The Nikon International Small World Competition first began in 1975 as a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Since then, Small World has become a leading showcase for photomicrographers from the widest array of scientific disciplines.

Incredible photography. I had a blast playing, “Guess What It Is?” with my son this morning. Thanks to Dave Mark for the link.

October 12, 2018

The Dalrymple Report: Apple TV content, a rocket, and Ozzy with Dave Mark

Dave Mark and I explore the latest rumors surrounding Apple’s foray into video content, and talk about a failed rocket launch and Ozzy cancelling his concert.

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Rick Stein:

Rick Stein, 71, of Wilmington was reported missing and presumed dead on September 27, 2018 when investigators say the single-engine plane he was piloting, The Northrop, suddenly lost communication with air traffic control and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Rehoboth Beach.

“The sea was angry that day,” said NTSB lead investigator Greg Fields in a press conference. “We have no idea where Mr. Stein may be, but any hope for a rescue is unlikely.”

Stein’s location isn’t the only mystery. It seems no one in his life knew his exact occupation.

May we all live a life that deserves an obituary like this.

Reddit:

This is probably the most bizarre issue I’ve had in my career in IT. One of our multi-practice facilities is having a new MRI installed and apparently something went wrong when testing the new machine. We received a call near the end of the day from the campus stating that none of their cell phones worked after testing the new MRI. My immediate thought was that the MRI must have emitted some sort of EMP, in which case we could be in a lot of trouble.

After going out there we discovered that this issue only impacted iOS devices. iPads, iPhones, and Apple Watches were all completely disabled (or destroyed?).

GE claims that the helium is what impacts the iOS devices which makes absolutely no sense to me. I know liquid helium is used as a coolant for the super-conducting magnets, but why would it only effect Apple devices?

What a crazy story. Be sure to check out one of the follow up posts.

Pocket:

We want to help our users be able to read more—and more comfortably—on Pocket, even when on the go. How? Today we’re excited to announce Pocket’s updated listen feature and an enhanced reading experience.

We redesigned Pocket to make reading more comfortable. The new typography and user interface are designed to make long reads easier on your eyes. For night owls, the dark theme is designed for better night reading.

The folks at my favourite “read it later” service have redesigned their iOS app. Like most old farts, I generally hate redesigns – at least until I get used to them. I use Pocket a lot (I’ve been in their “Top 1% of Readers” for the past 4 years) so when I heard about the redesign, I knew I was going to hate it.

But, in fact, I actually like it. It does make reading easier and the UI is better, in my opinion.

New York Times:

Most of the time, The New York Times asks you to read something. Today we are inviting you, simply, to look. On this page you will find maps showing almost every building in the United States.

Why did we make such a thing? We did it as an opportunity for you to connect with the country’s cities and explore them in detail. To find the familiar, and to discover the unfamiliar.

This is a remarkable visualization of this data.

Closeup of gulper eel is like a cartoon, and something out of a nightmare

Just watch.

This piece is on the 1Password blog, so it’s got a bit of marketing woven in, but it does a nice job of highlighting some of the fine work done by the Mac App Store team, and the work on the iOS App Store before it.

I absolutely love the Mac App Store’s evolving look and layout, especially when you’ve got Dark Mode in place.

Take a read through the piece, get a sense of the things that make the new App Store so much better.

Bruce Fretts, New York Times:

John Carpenter had only shot and scored two semi-obscure features when the executive producer Irwin Yablans came to him with a proposal: make a low-budget movie about babysitters being murdered. “It was a horrible idea,” Mr. Carpenter said in a recent telephone interview. “But I wanted to make more movies, so I said, ‘Great!’”

And:

Mr. Carpenter, Ms. Curtis, four of her co-stars and others spoke about their memories of making the original film. “It’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had professionally,” Ms. Curtis said. “It gave me everything in my creative life.”

A new version of Halloween, also starring Jamie Lee Curtis, is hitting theaters next week, just in time for, well, Halloween.

If you’ve got any love for horror films, and for this movie in particular, take a read of this New York Times interview. It’s scary good (sorry, not sorry).

Malcolm Owen, Apple Insider:

Published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s patent application for “Detection of spoofed call information” proposes a system where an iPhone or other mobile device could perform checks on a call to ascertain if it is genuine, then either warn the user of the problematic call or prevent it from disturbing the phone user at all.

This is a pretty interesting read. Seems like Apple is on to something here. God bless ’em if they can reduce the scourge of spam calling.

Bloomberg:

Ant Financial’s Alipay and Tencent Holdings Ltd. warned that cyber-attackers employed stolen Apple IDs to break into customers’ accounts and made off with an unknown amount of cash, in a rare security breach for China’s top digital payments providers.

Alipay, whose parent also operates the world’s largest money market fund, said on its Weibo blog that it contacted Apple and is working to get to the bottom of the breach. It warned users that’ve linked their Apple identities to any payment services, including Tencent’s WePay, to lower transaction limits to prevent further losses. Tencent said in a separate statement it too had noticed the cyber-heist and reached out to the iPhone maker.

And:

It’s unclear how the attackers may have gotten their hands on the Apple IDs, which are required for iPhone users that buy content such as music from iTunes or the app store. Apple representatives haven’t responded to requests and phone calls seeking comment.

As always, I take stories like this with a grain of salt. But this does not strike me as simple alarmist reporting. Clearly, there’s an underlying problem. But is the core of the issue about stolen Apple IDs? Lack of security on the part of those customers? A problem with the Alipay/WePay/Apple ID mechanism? Is this issue restricted to China?

Looking forward to hearing an official take from Apple.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

Mixpanel reported that Apple had crossed the magic 50% milestone for iOS 12 at the weekend, and now Apple has released its first usage numbers which are based off visits to the App Store.

Apple says 50% of all devices are running iOS 12, and 53% of devices introduced within the last four years. This four year timespan metric is new, and it means that it only counts devices launched since September 2014 (iPhone 6 and later).

I would bet that these numbers would be even higher if there weren’t so many 8GB and 16GB phones out there. When your phone is full, it is no trivial matter to update to a new version of iOS.

Given that the absolute smallest capacity of Apple’s new line of phones is 64GB, I’d expect transition to new versions of iOS to come a lot faster over time, and for adoption rates to soar as older, smaller phones drop out of usage.

Side note: Here’s an Apple Support document talking you through updating your phone if space is an issue.

October 11, 2018

NME:

An art lover who owned their own Banksy print worth £40,000 has reportedly shredded it to emulate the iconic artist, only to find that it is now worthless. Leading art experts claim they were contacted by one owner who wished to sell their own print of the ‘Girl With a Balloon’, days after Banksy attracted worldwide attention for shredding it at an auction where it had sold for more than £1 million.

The owner had attempted to copy Banksy by slicing strips into the painting using a Stanley knife, and wanted to sell it for £80,000 – twice the price he initially paid.

But the stunt has now massively backfired – with experts describing it as “opportunistic vandalism”. The print, which was one of just 600 in the world, is now believed to be less than £1.

There are some people in this world who are just stupid beyond belief.

Some heart pounding moments last night for space aficionados around the world, as the two-person crewed Soyuz rocket took off from the Kazakh launch base and then had to abort high above the Earth.

Follow the headline link and scroll all the way to the bottom to follow the launch from the start, scrolling up to reveal the sequence.

And watch the video embedded below to see the moment when everything went bad.

Both astronauts are back and safe on the ground.

Adam Engst, TidBITS:

Every time I’ve written about Apple News recently, I’ve received comments from readers outside of the US, UK, and Australia expressing annoyance that Apple restricts Apple News to just those three English-speaking countries. Even Canada is left out!

And:

The point is now moot for anyone running macOS 10.14 Mojave because there’s an easy workaround for people in unsupported countries.

Read on if this is you.

Apple Watch Series 4 Fall Detection tested by a Hollywood stunt double

This is a fun video from the Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern. Came out last week, but got lost in my every growing review queue.

Here ya go.

Oleg Afonin, ElcomSoft:

Activation Lock, or iCloud Lock, is a feature of Find My iPhone, Apple’s proprietary implementation of a much wider protection system generally referred as Factory Reset Protection (FRP). Factory Reset Protection, or “kill switch”, is regulated in the US via the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act of 2015. The Act requires device manufacturers to feature a so-called “kill switch” allowing legitimate users to remotely wipe and lock devices. The purpose of the kill switch was to discourage smartphone theft by dramatically reducing resale value of stolen devices.

According to Apple, “Activation Lock is a feature that’s designed to prevent anyone else from using your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch if it’s ever lost or stolen. Activation Lock is enabled automatically when you turn on Find My iPhone. … Even if you erase your device remotely, Activation Lock can continue to deter anyone from reactivating your device without your permission. All you need to do is keep Find My iPhone turned on, and remember your Apple ID and password.”

Follow the headline link, nice explainer.

Alex Sherman, CNBC:

Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter. Owners of Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV will find the still-in-the-works service in the pre-installed “TV” application, said the people, who asked not to be named because the details of the project are private.

The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription “channels,” which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz.

Paralleling Amazon Prime Video, if you buy into the Apple ecosystem, you get Apple’s original content for free. This seems a reasonable strategy, as it reduces the pressure for Apple to have to produce content worth paying for, à la Netflix.

Seems to me, this is Apple easing their way into a market they have no experience with, reducing their chance of failure to almost zero. Over time, if they find the path to creating truly compelling content, they can ease into another business model.

Benjamin Mayo:

When a normal person sees a Portal, I don’t think they are going to turn a blind eye to it because of the existential fears of personal data exploitation. There are a handful of reasons why this product is going to fail in the market, but I don’t see privacy worries as a legitimate death-on-arrival poison.

I have to say, I don’t worry so much about the exploitation of my data, as much as I worry about Big Brother looking over my shoulder; The surveillance aspect more than the profiling aspect.

The key marketing point that Facebook is pushing here is video calls, through Messenger. I don’t get it. It just seems so much easier to talk on something that you can hold in your hand — be it a phone, tablet, or laptop in your lap — that you can freely move around with.

I totally agree with this take. I see little appeal to a non-portable video conferencing device. I do think Benjamin is right on this: The Facebook Portal will face an uphill battle in both perceived usability and security fears.

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times:

More than 40 years ago, Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft with a vision for putting a personal computer on every desk.

No one really believed them, so few tried to stop them. Then before anyone realized it, the deed was done: Just about everyone had a Windows machine, and governments were left scrambling to figure out how to put Microsoft’s monopoly back in the bottle.

This sort of thing happens again and again in the tech industry.

And:

The industry’s new goal? Not a computer on every desk nor a connection between every person, but something grander: a computer inside everything, connecting everyone.

And:

At a press event last month, an Amazon engineer showed how easily a maker of household fans could create a “smart” fan using Amazon’s chip, known as the Alexa Connect Kit. The kit, which Amazon is testing with some manufacturers, would simply be plugged into the fan’s control unit during assembly. The manufacturer also has to write a few lines of code — in the example of the fan, the Amazon engineer needed just a half-page of code.

And that’s it. The fan’s digital bits (including security and cloud storage) are all handled by Amazon. If you buy it from Amazon, the fan will automatically connect with your home network and start obeying commands issued to your Alexa. Just plug it in.

All of this is happening without any sort of oversight. Over time, we’ll have built a dystopiaNet that rides along the regular internet, unregulated, free of any sort of protections, while we whistle happily away.

Good read.

Shira Ovide, Bloomberg:

In 2017 and the first half of this year, Google shipped about 5 million Pixel smartphones worldwide, according to the research firm IDC. Apple Inc. sells as many iPhones in about eight days as Google did in 18 months — and even Apple has a relatively small minority market share in smartphones.

And:

Small numbers aren’t confined to Google, either. Journalists like me can’t stop talking about the “runaway success” of the Echo devices, Amazon.com Inc.’s rapidly expanding lineup of voice-activated home doodads. Amazon sold about 3.6 million of the two most popular Echo models from April to June, Strategy Analytics estimated. Fitbit, a company that journalists like me stopped talking about long ago, sold 2.7 million motion-tracking gadgets in the same period.

And:

For most software or internet tech empires, hardware is a niche hobby, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

It take a lot of R&D dollars, fragmentation of company focus, to design, test, build, and ship a hardware product. Why does Google do it? Interesting question.

October 10, 2018

Spotify:

It’s been 10 years since Spotify officially launched for fans—and new music and artist discovery has never been the same. We built our Swedish company to create a legal, better alternative to piracy—one that helps to fairly compensate artists for their work and shape music listening and sharing via streaming.

In honor of this important milestone, we’re unveiling our lists of the most-streamed artists and songs, milestones and achievements, and most influential genres over the past 10 years. Take a closer look.

The preference people have for Spotify over Apple Music or vice versa is always interesting to me. For example, my wife likes Spotify better because it has a wider selection of Yoga music for her to work out to. If you’re a Spotify fan, check out their Decade of Discovery playlist.

AppleInsider:

Analyst Horace Dediu tweeted out a chart of data compiled by Merrill Lynch Global Research on 32,523 smartphone users ranging from Apple, Blackberry, and Google to a series of global Android licensees: HTC, Huawei, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Oppo, Samsung, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE.

For each maker, the most popular choice among users for their next phone was another model from the same maker. Among iPhone buyers, that figure was 70 percent. For Samsung and Huawei users, 53 and 54 percent respectively planned to stick with their brand. Just 42 percent of Google owners planned to buy another one, while other brand owners expressed even less loyalty.

I know someone will point out the Apple stat of “90% customer satisfaction” but that is different from this “Intent to Buy”. Still, I would have guessed Apple was higher than the 70% shown here. Regardless, this is where Apple has a huge advantage and where they still have plenty of room to grow by taking share away from various Android manufacturers.

The Hustle:

At 300 Funston Street in San Francisco’s Richmond District, there’s an old Christian Science church. Walk up it’s palatial steps, past Corinthian columns and urns, into the bowels of a vaulted sanctuary — and you’ll find a copy of the internet.

In a backroom where pastors once congregated stand rows of computer servers, flickering en masse with blue light, humming the hymnal of technological grace.

This is the home of the Internet Archive, a non-profit that has, for 22 years, been preserving our online history: Billions of web pages, tweets, news articles, videos, and memes.

I can’t count how many times I’ve used the Wayback Machine. It’s an invaluable resource for research and curiosity.

Artsy:

Before photographer Philippe Halsman and Surrealist Salvador Dalí settled on the idea of tossing three cats into the air for the photograph Dalí Atomicus (1948), the Spanish artist suggested they blow up a duck using dynamite. Considering it took 26 attempts to pull off the picture of a levitating Dalí in a chaotic airborne scene, Halsman’s insistence against the first idea was decidedly the best course of action.

Halsman, a mid-century portrait photographer, sought to lift the veil on his subjects, however briefly, to reveal their innermost being. “A true photographer wants to try to capture the real essence of a human being,” he once famously said. But capturing the essence of Dalí was a complex task. Over nearly four decades, Halsman photographed the artist on many occasions, spurring the most iconic black-and-white portraits of the Surrealist.

I still remember the first time I ever saw this image as a kid and thinking, “This is stupid.” It took me many years and a level of maturity before I began to understand both the art of Dali and the photographic achievements of Halsman.

Follow the link, jump to the article and check out the Apple Watch Infograph face at the top of the post.

Quick, what time is it?

This is absolutely spot on. Terrific exploration of why that face is so hard to parse for the current time.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith used SpriteKit to create his own Apple Watch face:

This is an end-around, bypassing Apple’s lack of support for 3rd party watch faces. Scroll through the Twitter thread, check out all the faces. I hope Apple allows this bit of a market to evolve, eventually adding official support.

One concern about all this is the fear that Apple would be liable for watch face copyright infringement. Some say that that’s the reason Apple does not allow 3rd party watch faces. Does this eliminate that liability? Will Apple allow this to continue?

Stay tuned.

There’s been a lot of questions on Twitter about what the various symbols mean that pop up on various Apple Watch screens.

Bookmark this official Apple support page, pass it along. If you’ve got an Apple Watch, this is good to look through, just as a refresher.

Buzzfeed:

To help you avoid calls from scammers, Google is adding Call Screen to the Pixel, a new option that appears when you receive a phone call. Whenever someone calls you, you can tap a “Screen call” button, and a robot voice will pick up.

And:

“The person you’re calling is using a screening service and will get a copy of this conversation. Go ahead and say your name and why you’re calling,” the Google bot will say. As the caller responds, the digital assistant will transcribe the caller’s message for you. If you need more information, you can use one of the feature’s canned responses, which include “Tell me more” and “Who is this?” There are also buttons to either pick up or hang up the call, so you can accept or reject it at any time.

I wonder if it’d be possible for Apple to implement a feature like this that let you actually screen the call screening audio as it happens. In other words, the phone rings, ScreenBot answers, and you hear the back and forth with ScreenBot, then you jump into the call if it’s someone you know.

As is, sounds like Google’s Call Screen is all done via text transcription, rather than via listen-in audio. Could be wrong about this. We’ll know for sure once it ships.

Trailer for season two of Apple’s Carpool Karaoke

I wonder what Apple’s business model is here. They made a second season, so the show has got to have some value to Apple. Is this purely filling the content pipeline, in preparation for the eventual launch of Apple’s media service?