June 19, 2018

Two things I pulled from the linked Reddit post:

  • Here’s a link to a nice image of an Apple Maps van, with its can shaped Velodyne HDL-32E Lidar (on the four corners of the roof rack) and the 360 degree cameras.

  • Here’s a link to Apple’s Apple Maps Vehicles page, which shows what parts of the country the vans are currently roaming.

Interesting stuff.

Have an iPad? This is a terrific walk through what’s coming in iOS 12, a chance to wrap your head around the new gestures before you are plunked square in the middle of them with time pressures and work to do.

Glenn Fleishman weighs in with some excellent advice on what to do if you inherit or buy a Mac, to make sure you don’t end up with an unusable doorstop down the line. Worth a scan, just to get the gist of the issue, and a more detailed read if you are in that situation.

That’s a damn good deal. Especially if you are considering a second HomePod.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

A report from supply chain sources, via Korean language publication The Bell, suggests that the largest of Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup will be the most popular. Apple is set to announce an ‘iPhone X Plus’, or whatever Apple ends up branding it, with a 6.46-inch OLED screen, packing a ~6.5-inch screen into roughly the same size as the existing 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus.

And:

The Bell report says Apple has ordered more screen panels for the X Plus than any other model. It forecasts 45 million 6.46-inch panels, about 25 million panels for the 5.8-inch iPhone X successor, and 30 million 6.04-inch LCD screens for the new lower-priced flagship.

Not hard to believe the rumors of an iPhone X Plus, also not hard to believe that Apple will go with that name, if they do ship that phone. And not hard to believe it will become the most popular phone.

A 6.5 inch iPhone X Plus would be be a huge upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus, the form-factor it would be replacing. Better screen, more pixels, what’s not to like? To me, the real question is one of price.

The iPhone X sold very well at its $999 price point last year, but the ‘super cycle’ of upgraders did not materialise in the way some investors expected.

The iPhone 8 starts at $699 and the iPhone 8 Plus at $799. Which leads to an iPhone X Plus entry price of $1099. Is that too high, too soon? We shall see.

Drew McCormack:

Apple currently allows free trials in two forms: if you sell subscriptions, you can give customers a free month to try the app; and, you can give your app away free, and offer a free In-App Purchase (IAP) to unlock all features for a fixed period of time.

So why does Apple allow these forms, but not offer a more formal version of free trials?

And:

Think for a moment about how a ‘formal’ free trial system would work. What would you see in the App Store? Probably something along the lines of a button with the text “$50 with Free Trial”. Now take your average iOS customer, who has never heard of free trials as they exist outside the App Stores. I suspect many will already be confused by this.

Drew goes on to explain that confusion, with specific questions like:

  • If I click the button, will I be charged $50 now?
  • What happens when my trial is up: will I be charged automatically then?

Not sure that confusion can’t be addressed by better wording. And if Apple did go down that road, I think they would try to make sure all those questions were answered before the user was put in that decision position.

I also think, and this is a nitpick on the post’s title, it’s impossible for anyone outside Apple to truly know Apple’s logic on this without either a clear statement from Apple or being inside the room.

To be clear, I do like this post. The two points above are my instant reaction, don’t want them to be left unsaid. Don’t let those points derail you, though. Drew’s post is worth reading.

Moving on:

So why are the existing options any better? Let’s take the free IAP system. Firstly, there is no fear about downloading an app — it is free to download. There is a nice big “Get” button to indicate that. Second, once you have the app, you are told there is a free trial, and you are given a clear choice to opt-in. Because it is an IAP, and not a subscription, you know there can be no charge at the end of the trial. There is a second IAP to purchase the app; it is equally clear that you don’t pay until you activate that IAP, and that you can do that any time. Everything is driven by the customer, and all opt-in. No uncertainty.

To me, that’s the core. Apple’s chose a clear, straightforward solution. Not one that will satisfy everyone, but one that won’t confuse users.

This is an interesting take on the free trial issue, and a good balance to Daniel Jalkut’s excellent Ersatz Free Trials post from a few weeks ago.

[H/T Dman228]

June 18, 2018

In the suit, originally filed in late 2011, a group of consumers accused Apple of monopolizing the market for iPhone apps by not allowing any other way of purchasing such apps, and therefore engaging in anti-competitive practices. The suit alleges that since the App Store’s launch, Apple “illegally monopolized the distribution of iPhone apps, and that the commissions charged to app developers inflate the prices consumers ultimately pay for apps.”

I just don’t agree with this at all. Apple is providing a safe place for developers to sell apps, and for consumers to buy apps without wondering about malware and all of the other scams that go on out there.

Apple:

Kids ages 8 to 12 can expand their digital creativity through hands-on projects at Apple. Campers choose one of three tracks, then spend 90 minutes a day for three days at a local Apple Store immersed in their chosen subject.

I really wished we lived near an Apple Store. I’ve heard nothing but good things about these camps and I’m sure my 12-year-old would love them.

If you do nothing else, just check out that first photo. Wow!

Bucket list.

This came out last week, but I just ran across it over the weekend, thought it worth a share.

I’m a huge Beatles nerd, McCartney fan. This is a definite yes for me, a solid thumbs up. Gimmicky perhaps, but I’ll be watching nonetheless.

Last week, we shared this example of image tracking using ARKit 2. Here’s another one:

Wonderful. I get that, perhaps, our AR future will be seen through glasses. But examples like these are useful even seen through the lens of your iPhone. To me, a relatively short AR transaction works just fine on an iPhone. And I do agree that a more immersive experience will require glasses or (way in the future) connected contact lenses.

Gene Munster, Loup Ventures:

At the helm of the company’s content efforts are Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who Apple hired away from Sony in 2017. Erlicht and Van Amburg ran Sony’s primetime series division since 2005. They will report directly to Eddie Cue, who runs Apple’s Services business. Apple has also hired an array of industry veterans from a range of backgrounds including streaming platforms like Hulu and Amazon Studios, and mainstay media companies like WGN America and Legendary Entertainment.

Nice rollup of Apple’s content efforts to date. Amazing to see it all together like this.

And this comparison with Netflix:

At first glance, it appears Netflix’s lead in original content is insurmountable. Netflix will end 2018 with close to 1,000 original titles and spend an estimated $3.5 billion on new titles this year. Keep in mind that almost half of that content is outside of the U.S. That compares to Apple, which has 2 titles out today and another 16 in the works (to be released in 2019 at the earliest), expecting to spend about $900 million this year.

But:

However, history is on Apple’s side, given that just five years ago Netflix had 13 original titles including the debut season of House of Cards. In other words, with the right resources, which Apple has, Apple’s original content titles can ramp from just under two dozen to potentially over one hundred. We note that Apple has stated they are focused on quality vs. quantity.

To me, that last is the key. Can Apple figure out how to deliver the quality? If I was looking at a model for how to do this, I would start with Netflix, but then move on to HBO. Netflix has plenty of swings and misses, HBO less so. If I was on the Apple team, I’d be asking the question, “What is HBO’s secret sauce?”

Eliz Kılıç:

3D Touch is missing the most obvious thing to be mainstream. Visual cues.

This. So much this. There is nothing in the interface that signals to a user that a particular element will respond to force/3D touch. The only way to tell is by trial and error. And then, once you’ve figured it out, you have to remember what works, or trail and error all over again.

And what’s great about this writeup is that Eliz not only identified the problem, but came up with an elegant solution. Check the last three images in the article, see if you can tell which controls are force touchable?

Eliz tied this up with a bow, handed it to Apple. Here’s hoping someone is listening.

Apple:

iPhone users in the United States who call 911 will be able to automatically and securely share their location data with first responders beginning later this year with iOS 12, providing faster and more accurate information to help reduce emergency response times.

The way it works, prior to iOS 12:

To address this challenge, Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) in 2015, which estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.

And the new process:

Apple today announced it will also use emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centers, improving response time when lives and property are at risk. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centers’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.

And:

The FCC requires carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time by 2021. iOS location services are capable of exceeding this requirement today, even in challenging, dense, urban environments. This new feature allows Apple to make these benefits available to local 911 centers now rather than years from now.

Not sure of the details, but sounds like a more direct, efficient process, yielding more accurate locations well ahead of the FCC required date.

June 17, 2018

World of Indie:

Fifty years ago, 5 unmanned lunar orbiters circled the moon, taking extremely high resolution photos of the surface. They were trying to find the perfect landing site for the Apollo missions. They would be good enough to blow up to 40 x 54ft images that the astronauts would walk across looking for the great spot. After their use, the images were locked away from the public, as at the time they would have revealed the superior technology of the USA’s spy satellite cameras, which the orbiters cameras were designed from. Instead the images from that time were grainy and low resolution, made to be so by NASA.

What a great story.

Hodinkee:

Parmigiani Fleurier has had a long-standing relationship with Bugatti, going all the way back to 2006, when the Type 370 watch – inspired by the Bugatti Veyron – was first introduced.

The Type 370 and Type 390 both employ very unconventional movement architecture in order to show the time in a very unconventional fashion.

I may just be an uncouth peasant but good God that is one butt ugly watch.

TechCo:

It’s every backer’s nightmare. The ultra-cool bit of tech kit you crowdfunded, which is totally going to change your life in every conceivable way, has been hit by delays, silence, spec-alterations and missed backer rewards. Until, finally the company resurfaces in the comments to say that the money’s gone, the project has folded, and there is no product to launch.

So, how can you make sure that the product you back actually comes out, and that you’re not supporting the 1 project in 10 that doesn’t deliver?

I’ve been burned by a couple of failed Kickstarters and have had several more fail to meet their goals. This article has some good ideas on how to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

June 16, 2018

New York Times:

The World Cup started on Thursday. You may not be the world’s biggest soccer fan, but you want to at least pretend, right? Excellent. We’ve got you covered. Here is our six-step plan to sounding smart wherever you might be watching the 2018 World Cup.

For most of the world, The World Cup is “The Greatest Spectacle in Sport”. I’m not a huge soccer/football fan but when I lived in Vancouver, BC, I loved going to Commercial Drive (a wonderfully diverse ethnic area) and watch games with fans of a particular country. I was in a New York City Brazilian bar for the 1998 World Cup Final between Brazil and France and, even though the Brazilians lost, I’ve never had more fun watching a sports game.

MLB umpire Tom Hallion mic’d up

This deals with major league baseball and ejections so, needless to say, it’s very NSFW.

How this woman makes mind-blowing bubbles

Everyone loves bubbles.

Digital Photography Review:

Photographer Drew Gardner has been a photographer for more than 30 years, and since 1999 he’s worked mostly in the commercial world. Following a recent move into 360-degree imaging, he accepted a commission from British newspaper The Telegraph to shoot a gigapixel image of the queen’s birthday parade. Earlier this week we spoke to Drew to learn more about how the project came together.

This is a fun shot to zoom in on and scroll around. Don’t bother to check – I already looked to see if there were any staff in the windows of the palace.

June 15, 2018

Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN.

Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.

Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.

Apple is making its moves in the entertainment business and they seem very different than what competitors like Netflix are focused on.

My thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring The Loop this week. Do you sling code or compose with words? Whether you’re an app developer, web developer, systems admin or just want a powerful writing tool that stays out of your way, BBEdit is worth checking out.

BBEdit is crafted in response to the needs of writers, web authors, and software developers, providing an abundance of high-performance features for editing, searching, and the manipulation of text.

Back in the 90s, we built our Web sites from scratch, so we used BBEdit to hand-code everything we needed to get the site up-and-running. We didn’t just use BBEdit for building and maintaining the Website, we also used it as our default word processing tool. Every word written for the stories we posted was done in BBEdit.

Now, as BBEdit celebrates its 25th anniversary, I can still say I am a proud user. Congrats to the crew at Bare Bones Software and thanks for making such a great product.

To celebrate BBEdit’s 25th Anniversary, Bare Bones Software is creating commemorative apparel. Learn more!

BBEdit 12 is 64-bit ready. Download and try it today!

NPR:

In the past 30 years, Gaskins and a handful of other psychologists have been documenting a remarkable phenomenon in indigenous families in Mexico and Guatemala: Young children in these homes are extremely helpful around the house.

They help do the laundry, help cook meals, help wash dishes. And they often do chores without being told. No gold stars or tie-ins to allowances needed.

So what on earth is these parents’ secret?

It’s a really interesting dynamic in my new family. I want our 12-year-old to do “his fair share” of the household chores (just like I did when I was his age) but it’s a struggle to get him to help with things he’s not used to helping with. It’s undoubtedly too late for many of you parents out there to implement this strategy but it might be something you can pass on to new parents.

Deadspin:

Here we have a highlight reel brimming with the exploits of Olivier Rioux, a 12-year-old basketball player who is said to stand at 6 feet and 9 inches. Since most 12-year-olds are not 6-foot-9, you can probably guess how this is going to go for Rioux’s poor opponents.

I was 6’1″ as a 12-year-old and played on those rims. I had a blast destroying the other kids in my school. Deadspin did their math wrong. The kid isn’t 6’9″ – he’s 6’11”. Not that it makes much of a difference here.

New Republic:

When she dies, she told me, she wants her body to be dunked in a high-pressure chamber filled with water and lye. That water will be heated to anywhere from 200 to 300 degrees, and in six to twelve hours her flesh, blood, and muscle will dissolve. When the water is drained, all that will remain in the tank are her bones and dental fillings. If her family desires, they can have her remains crushed into ash, to be displayed or buried or scattered.

This process is known colloquially as water cremation and scientifically as alkaline hydrolysis, or aquamation. It’s the most environmentally friendly method of death care, says Sieber, the vice president of research at Bio-Response Solutions. Founded by her father in 2006, the company manufactures aquamation equipment for funeral homes and crematories throughout North America. “This has no emissions, it’s greener, it’s a clean technology to work with,” Sieber said.

But Sieber may not get her wish of being aquamated when she dies.

I may be an outlier here but I really don’t much care what happens to my body after I’ve died. If it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly to be “aquamated”, then that’s fine by me.

The history of the Mac startup sound

Giant wave of nostalgia. This was on the front page of Hacker News this morning.

From Reddit:

When I was using an Amazon Echo, my biggest complaint was that each third party “skill” has a specific voice command associated with it, and any deviation from that syntax would cause Alexa to not recognize what I was asking for (Haven’t used one in about a year, so this may have changed). I always found this frustrating in comparison to Siri, which can make sense of natural language. i.e. Siri can hear “get me directions to…” or “take me to…” or “how do I get to…” and either way it knows you want help with navigation. Apple made a big deal of this capability when Siri first launched.

But with Shortcuts, Siri behaves more like Alexa in that even though the trigger phrases are customized by the user (which is a one-up on the echo), Siri still requires the exact phrase every time.

And:

Remembering one or two custom phrases isn’t a big deal. But if this is the way Apple is going to open Siri up to third party apps, requiring users to remember dozens of specific trigger phrases (custom or not) is, I think, a step backwards for Siri.

First things first, there is a muddying of the waters at work here. The term Siri Shortcuts is associated with the coming Shortcuts app, which lets you build your own custom workflows which you can fire off as you like. You can assign a trigger phrase to a shortcut which, as the Reddit user points out, must be an exact match for Siri to fire it.

If you build a lot of these, you might run into a problem, but this is a problem with an easy solution. Apple maintains a list of all your trigger phrases, in Setting > Siri > My Shortcuts. [H/T Marcus Mendes]

Interesting point, though. I wonder if Siri will eventually be able to “machine learning” its way to an educated guess as to the shortcut you wanted if you are pretty close.

Apple, Grayshift whac-a-mole

From this New York Times article:

Apple said it was planning an iPhone software update that would effectively disable the phone’s charging and data port — the opening where users plug in headphones, power cables and adapters — an hour after the phone is locked. While a phone can still be charged, a person would first need to enter the phone’s password to transfer data to or from the device using the port.

And from the Elcomsoft blog:

In the second beta of 11.4.1 released just days ago, activating the SOS mode enables USB restrictions, too. This feature was not present in the first 11.4.1 beta (and it is not part of any other version of iOS including iOS 12 beta). In all other versions of iOS, the SOS mode just disables Touch/Face ID. The SOS feature in iOS 11.4.1 beta 2 makes your iPhone behave exactly like if you did not unlock it for more than an hour, effectively blocking all USB communications until you unlock the device (with a passcode, as Touch ID/Face ID would be also disabled).

And this from Motherboard, with the title Cops Are Confident iPhone Hackers Have Found a Workaround to Apple’s New Security Feature:

“Grayshift has gone to great lengths to future proof their technology and stated that they have already defeated this security feature in the beta build. Additionally, the GrayKey has built in future capabilities that will begin to be leveraged as time goes on,” a June email from a forensic expert who planned to meet with Grayshift, and seen by Motherboard, reads, although it is unclear from the email itself how much of this may be marketing bluff.

And:

A second person, responding to the first email, said that Grayshift addressed USB Restricted Mode in a webinar several weeks ago.

My instinct is that this is, indeed, a marketing bluff. But one without teeth if it doesn’t work.

Whac-a-mole (note the spelling, a trademark thing, I think).

Apple launches new wave of Mac ads

All of these ads (embedded below) are posted under the campaign slogan Behind the Mac. I’ll post the short YouTube writeup for each ad, followed by the ad itself. Each ad ends with the phrase Make something wonderful, followed by Behind the Mac.

As a photographer who is legally blind, Bruce Hall edits and retouches photos behind his Mac. With the help of accessibility features, Bruce can see the world around him.

Behind the Mac people are making wonderful things and so could you.

Entrepreneur and app developer Peter Karikui coded SafeMotos on his Mac. The app connects passengers with safe motorcycle taxi drivers across Rwanda.

Using a Mac as a portable recording studio allows Grimes to make music on her own terms.