December 19, 2014

National Geographic:

More than 9,200 entries were submitted from over 150 countries, with professional photographers and amateur photo enthusiasts across the globe participating.The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., to participate in the annual National Geographic Photography Seminar in January 2015.

Check out the winner and let us know what you think. It’s not the usual photo that comes to mind when you think of National Geographic.

Samsung’s clever, original use of impressionist paintings. Oh, wait.

First, follow this link to get a sense of Samsung’s new ad campaign, which reimagines famous self portraits as selfies.

Now follow this link, for a series of ads from last summer.

They sure look similar. Not identical, certainly, but interesting that both use Van Gogh as the source of their inspiration. Also interesting that neither seems based on an actual painting, as far as I can tell.

Jason Snell and Dan Moren of Six Colors put together a list of their favorite iOS games. The usual suspects are there, but there are plenty of games that were new to me. A nice little list.

The Telegraph:

The BBC’s Panorama programme sent undercover reporters to Pegatron factories on the outskirts of Shanghai, where it claims to have uncovered poor treatment of workers and a breach of standards on workers’ hours.

In an email to around 5,000 staff across the UK, Apple senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams said both himself and the chief executive were “deeply offended by the suggestion that Apple would break a promise to the workers in our supply chain or mislead our customers in any way”.

“Panorama’s report implied that Apple isn’t improving working conditions,” he continued. “Let me tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.”

A core part of the allegations center on Apple’s use of tin from Indonesia. Apple cannot control the sourcing of this tin at a fine enough level to guarantee that that part of the supply chain is completely clean.

“Apple has publicly stated that tin from Indonesia ends up in our products, and some of that tin likely comes from illegal mines,” Williams countered.

“Tens of thousands of artisanal miners are selling tin through many middlemen to the smelters who supply to component suppliers who sell to the world. The government is not addressing the issue, and there is widespread corruption in the undeveloped supply chain. Our team visited the same parts of Indonesia visited by the BBC, and of course we are appalled by what’s going on there.

“Apple has two choices: We could make sure all of our suppliers buy tin from smelters outside of Indonesia, which would probably be the easiest thing for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But it would be the lazy and cowardly path, because it would do nothing to improve the situation for Indonesian workers or the environment since Apple consumes a tiny fraction of the tin mined there. We chose the second path, which is to stay engaged and try to drive a collective solution.”

Seems to me that the Panorama program was very selective in their reporting, that they were determined to paint Apple as a villain, rather than tell both sides of the story. Follow the headline link to read the full text of Jeff Williams’ letter.

Nothing earth-shattering in this interview, but interesting to get to know the decision maker behind Mario, Zelda, and Amiibo, the NFC-based technology that is emerging as a core part of Nintendo’s future.

Amiibo is a concept similar to Skylanders or Disney’s Infinity series, marrying proximity detection, wireless communication, and data storage with 3D figures.

Two teenagers built this. Heck of an idea.

The Apple TV interface is designed to move one object at a time. Press the right arrow key on your remote, move to the next movie in your list.

Radu Dutzan had an idea for a more direct interface (think mouse instead of arrow keys) and built this conceptual prototype using an iPhone and AirPlay. Some interesting ideas in here, definitely worth watching. As Radu mentions, the direct manipulation concept is not new, but he’s making the case that this approach is doable on Apple TV.

When I asked Radu about Apple’s Remote app, which allows much of this functionality, he said:

Remote tries to imitate this effect, but instead of allowing the user to directly manipulate controls on the screen, it’s translating swipes into discrete button clicks, since that’s the only thing the Apple TV understands today. You cannot precisely control the cursor using Remote, in fact, the behavior is quite unpredictable at times.

This is most evident on a complex button layout, such as the keyboard. I had actually never tried to use the TV keyboard by swiping on Remote, since I would just use the on-screen keyboard on the phone, but having used the prototype, there’s really a world of difference. You just can’t move the cursor freely, there’s no spatial correlation between the gesture and the movement of the cursor, and if you swipe diagonally, it actually starts to get cute: Remote will do its best, but you’ll probably just end up with the cursor two or three buttons away, on the same row or column.

Interesting experiment.

December 18, 2014

From Kottke.org:

Following in the footsteps of Too Many Cooks is Unedited Footage of a Bear. It aired for the first time on Adult Swim this week in their 4am infomercial slot. It starts off as a nature thing with a bear which is interrupted by a fake infomercial and then. Gets. WEIRD.

First things first, weird does not even begin to describe this experience. I found it riveting and, more importantly, disturbing. So don’t watch this if you are not in a safe place, personally, and I wouldn’t share this with kids. But if you feel up to it, dig in.

Know this, though. When I showed this to Jim, he said, “I will never be the same after watching that.”

I suspect you will agree. Proceed with caution.

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories, put together his annual list of must have apps, starting with those for iPad. This is a surprisingly comprehensive list and well worth the read.

Business Insider posted this infographic showing the relative contributions to the bottom line from these sectors, in descending order: iPhone, iPad, Mac, iTunes & Software, Accessories, and iPod.

Total revenue in Fiscal Year 2014 was $220,211,000,000. They could have just said $220 billion, but written out that way, the number is just more impressive.

The Verge:

A California judge has denied a request from a trio of media outlets to make video deposition of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs available to the public. The request was filed by the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and CNN during this month’s trial over security measures Apple added to iTunes and iPods nearly a decade ago, where 27-minutes of the deposition was shown in court. The request prompted a heated three-way debate over whether making the video available outside the courtroom would run afoul with federal laws prohibiting the recording of courtroom proceedings.

As it should be. Glad that’s over.

The video could ultimately end up being brought out again as part of an appeal, which the plaintiffs in the case said they plan to file sometime within the next month.

Feh.

BBC News:

Blackberry has launched what it calls a “no-nonsense” smartphone, the Blackberry Classic.

The device has a full “Qwerty” keyboard, resembling the design which made Blackberry a market leader before it was overtaken by competitors.

Analysts said the firm was going “back to its roots” in order to appeal to business customers.

If I was a Blackberry fan, I would no doubt like this phone. It does a nice job of packaging the stuff I like (touch screen, QWERTY keyboard) in a phone that looks somewhat like an iPhone 4 or 5. This is full on retro.

The key part of the review:

“This is more about avoiding more people leaving than necessarily winning many over,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Kantar Worldpanel.

“I have a hard time thinking that people who grew up on touch[screens] will see this as an exciting ‘retro’ trend and embrace it.”

Ouch.

A sad day in the nation. Tonight is the very last episode of The Colbert Report. The Grim Reaper is the guest.

Mr. Colbert appeared in character not simply on his show, but in appearances elsewhere, including a memorable knockout performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2006. (He stirred Bush administration outrage with comments like: “I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least, and by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.”) He even remained at his blowhard best when he testified before Congress in 2010. (Before a Congressional subcommittee on immigration issues and farm labor, Mr. Colbert’s character said things like, “Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves.”)

It will be interesting to see what Stephen Colbert is like when he is not inhabiting his character. We’ll know next September, when he officially takes David Letterman’s place.

December 17, 2014

Vice:

It is mind boggling to me, particularly when you compare it to real things that have actually happened. Someone killed 12 people and shot another 70 people at the opening night of Batman: The Dark Knight. They kept that movie in the theaters. You issue an anonymous cyber threat that you did not have the capability to carry out? We pulled a movie from 18,000 theaters.

There’s probably no worse way for Sony to have handled this. Incredible how messed up this has become.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook:

“I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million,” Cook wrote. “The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support.”

Much respect Apple people and everyone that purchased a product.

Some of these are really whacky.

There is just nothing like hearing from the guy that sits in the control room and is responsible for the recording. Some great tips in here too.

On this episode of Amplified, Jim and Shawn talk about lawsuits, packaging, Apple Watch and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

Sponsored by lynda.com — Start learning something new by visiting lynda.com/thebeard and get a FREE 10-day trial where you can access all of their 2,400+ courses.

I’ve had some people ask what microphone I use on Amplified and other podcasts. I use the Samson C01U Pro USB Studio Condenser and it’s on sale at Amazon.

Apple has posted a behind the scenes video of the making of their latest holiday ad, “The Song”.

Johnnie Walker commercial

A Johnnie Walker commercial, embedded in a video showing how the spot was filmed. Fantastic to see this all unfold. Notice the starting and ending parties are the same, bookends on a theme. Also, note that the actor wore wires all the way through, even walking through the seemingly solid doorway.

I’m not sure how widespread this practice is, but today I learned that you can buy a USB stick with the output taken directly from a live show. For example, follow this link to pre-order a guitar-shaped USB stick with the live feed of an upcoming Mark Knopfler show. I love this idea, especially for an artist with a subtle touch like Knopfler.

[Hat tip to Matt Gemmell]

Stephen Hackett, writing for 512 Pixels, takes a look at each of Apple’s individual Mac applications.

A few things I found interesting were the star ratings for each of the apps, the comments on each app like this one for iPhoto (“iPhoto, once perhaps the crown jewel of iLife, is dying very soon, to be replaced with Apple’s upcoming iCloud-backed Photos application.”), and seeing just how many applications Apple has in the App Store, all side-by-side.

Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget is a long time Amazon investor. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider. Blodget invited Bezos on stage at this year’s Ignition conference for an interview. Bezos does not do a lot of interviews, let alone one of this length and scope.

There’s a lot to absorb here. Blodget digs into Amazon’s recent quarterly losses, the Fire phone debacle, the fight with Hachette, and a lot more. Though the questions were asked in a friendly way, Bezos did not shy away from what he perceived as the truth in his business model.

I found the whole thing fascinating. Bezos is smart, and he’s a long pole investor, meaning, he takes some positions that might take ten years to bear fruit. Given the incredible pressure shareholders place on CEOs for quarterly performance, that takes both confidence and courage.

The video of the complete interview is below. Follow the headline link for the text excerpts, with video excerpts and some interesting sidebars.

December 16, 2014

A fascinating piece by Mat Honan on a business that had big plans for journalism, but we’ll never see it.

Thoughts On iPad Sales

I’ve been asked by analysts, industry insiders, and Apple users over the last several financial quarters if I’m worried about Apple’s iPad sales. The simple answer to that question is: no, I’m not.

Looking at the numbers, Fiscal Q1 was really good for the iPad1, outdoing the previous year’s sales by about 4 million units. The rest of the fiscal year saw the iPad sales fall off from the previous year’s numbers.

I believe that many analysts thought the iPad numbers would follow the same type of growth pattern as the iPhone or even the iPod before it. For the most part, that hasn’t happened.

iPadAir2-iPadMini3

I’ve maintained in all of my conversations about iPad sales that consumers treat the iPad more like a computer and less like the commodity device that sees iPhone sales continue to rise.

I’ve seen many people that were not eligible for an iPhone upgrade spend the full price of an upgrade, just to get the newest version. iPhone has a level of excitement surrounding it that very few other products have. It’s a combination of hardware and a new iOS that piques the interest of millions of users.

So far, with the exception of its initial release, the iPad hasn’t had the same excitement surrounding new versions.

In some situations, the iPad is enough of a computer for many users. Younger kids and seniors are two groups that come to mind right away. These groups would probably not have purchased a traditional computer, but have taken to the iPad for some computer-related tasks, such as Web surfing and email2. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part, that seems to hold true.

ipadair

The other group of people that purchased the iPad are those that use them to complement their computers and phones, especially when it’s more convenient than using a computer. You can see people in coffee shops, parks, airports, and thousands of other places, using an iPad, everyday.

The great thing for consumers is that the iPad is built so well, people don’t feel the need to upgrade them as often. Apple also ensures the new iOS is compatible with a couple of generations of iPads and developers often do the same with their apps.

When you consider the iPad is either a first device for one segment of the market that isn’t doing high-end computing, or a complement to other devices for another segment, the need to upgrade quickly is low.

People treat their iPad purchases like they treat their computer purchases. They expect these devices to last longer and do more than an iPhone. In a lot of ways, it’s a bizarre thought because of the similarities of the devices, but I believe this is what’s happening.

Simply put, the buying cycle for an iPad is a lot longer than it is for an iPhone.

Of course, with the release of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple faces another potential problem with the iPad, and that’s cannibalization. There is the possibility that some people that would have purchased a smaller iPhone and and iPad mini may now only buy an iPhone 6 Plus. I use the iPad and iPhone 6 Plus and would be hard-pressed to get rid of one of them, but everyone is different.

iPhone6

However, cannibalization is a problem Apple can deal with—they are still getting the money and the customer, just with a different product. That’s not much of a concern to me.

What would concern me is if consumers were buying a competitor’s product instead of the iPad. That doesn’t appear to be happening. Samsung hasn’t been doing great lately and Amazon doesn’t release any numbers, so we don’t know for sure how they’re doing (although all indications are not as well as Apple).

In fact, when you look at surveys about consumer’s intent to purchase, the iPad leads over the competitors. There seems to be no direct reason, i.e. a trouble with the product, that would tell me there is a problem with the iPad.

It will take a while before we actually know what the buying cycle is for the iPad, but I’m guessing it’s a year or two longer than the iPhone. That is clearly going to affect sales of the tablet, but I still don’t think it’s anything to worry about.


  1. Fiscal Q1 is Apple’s holiday quarter and is usually a good sales time for the company. 

  2. Education and Apple’s new push into Enterprise are exceptions, and growing markets for the company. 

This course is for Hendrix fans who want to learn his unique style of blues playing. Taking cues from Red House and Voodoo Chile Blues, this course will not disappoint.

Anthony Stauffer just released new guitar lessons teaching you all about Jimi Hendrix, one of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument.

Bryan Chaffin does a very good job on this piece. I especially like page 2, but it’s all worth a read.

Everything affects your tone when playing the guitar.

Macworld:

The first true automator for iOS, Workflow takes full advantage of Apple’s looser restrictions on sharing to bring new levels of interactivity and multitasking to our handheld devices. More versatile than the situational IFTTT and more powerful than even Launch Center Pro’s slick system of shortcuts, Workflow’s endlessly customizable actions integrate seamlessly into the apps you already use to help you work smarter, faster, and just plain better.

I have yet to try this app (not really the target customer), but if my Twitter feed is any indication, many people find it incredibly useful.