May 23, 2019

South China Morning Post:

“There is a calling from my heart that I need to show support for Chinese brands, especially in the trade war climate,” said the manager at one of China’s largest solar module manufacturers. When the time finally came to retire his three-year-old iPhone 7 earlier this month, Wang went with a Huawei P30.

This is a terrible situation for Apple. Their efforts at building good will and a positive brand message in China are being undone by the Huawei ban.

My worry is, even if the ban ends tomorrow, it will take Apple years to undo the brand damage.

Dan Moren, Macworld:

Apple popularized the onscreen keyboard with the launch of the first iPhone, deciding to eschew the hardware keyboards that were de rigueur on smartphones at the time.

And:

That was great in 2007. But 12 years later, we’ve all largely adapted to touchscreen keyboards, and some of those smart technologies are starting to look and feel, well, not so smart. It’s time for an A-to-Z overhaul of text entry on iOS.

Dan digs into several virtual keyboard areas where there’s room for improvement. Take the time to read his article, not a long read.

I do think there’s plenty of room for improvements here. In my mind, one core problem is the blind dependence on machine learning to drive predictive text suggestions.

Here’s an example:

I brought up Twitter, and started composing a new tweet. I typed the letters “proc”, which led the keyboard to make the center prediction of the word “process”. Perfect, exactly what I was going for.

But then I typed “e”, the next letter in process. And that center suggestion was changed to another word. This happens a lot.

But the point is, when I am typing, and I see the word I want in a specific box, if I type one more letter in that word and then reach to tap the word, it should not move. I frequently find myself typing, reaching to tap the word I’m typing, and by the time my finger gets to the box, the word has changed to another word.

If my eye is on the target, and I continue to type the target word as already identified, the target word should stay the same. Until I type a letter that does not match the currently identified target word.

My sense of this is, machine learning has priority over straight logic.

I’d love to speak with someone on the keyboard team about this, and other related issues. I wonder if the team is not seeing these sorts of issues themselves.

Delight.

There’s just not enough delight in the world. Take a minute and wheel over to the Playdate web site and check out Panic’s new shiny. It’s delightful.

From the site:

We love video games.

We love the places they take us and the feelings they give us. We’ve grown up with them. It sounds silly, but they really mean a lot to us.

And:

We reached out to some top game designers, like Keita Takahashi and Zach Gage and Bennett Foddy and Shaun Inman.

We showed them Playdate and asked, “Want to make a game for it?”. Then we lost our minds when they said “Yeah!”

This is something special. Like watching the birth of Nintendo. It’s a grand, delightful experiment.

For $149, you get the Playdate hardware, crank and all (scroll down to the crank picture and click to turn on the sound to get a sense of what that’s all about), and a game a week for 12 weeks. Presumably, there will be follow-on subscription pricing for the game-a-week after that. And who knows, if this works, follow-on hardware.

If you’ve never experienced Panic’s game prowess, check out Firewatch. It’s on my shortlist of favorite indie games. Full of delight. And, if I’m not mistaken, there’s a Playdate in the game itself. A time-traveling Easter egg?

And if you don’t know Teenage Engineering (the hardware side of this collaboration), check out their synthesizers. Full of delight.

And if you are on still on the fence about Playdate, check out John Gruber’s take. He gets it.

Can’t wait.

Pitchfork:

There’s a rapper on Spotify named Lil Kambo who’s racked up 2 million streams and counting on his song “Kid Carti.” This would be a significant feat for any unsigned, self-releasing artist in the modern day.

The only problem is that “Lil Kambo” doesn’t exist and “Kid Carti” is a pitch-shifted leak of Playboi Carti’s yet-unreleased track “Kid Cudi” (previously referred to as “Pissy Pamper”), a song the rapper’s been teasing for some time and even playing out live. Lil Kambo isn’t a viral hit—he’s a fraudster.

And:

Fraudulent releases are nothing new on sites like YouTube and SoundCloud. But these recent unauthorized uploads, as demonstrated by the unauthorized Beyoncé and SZA releases back in December and a “Fenty Fantasia” leak of Rihanna songs in March are indicative of a growing trend that’s only grown more apparent in the past several months: leaks or unreleased snippets that make their way to “legitimate” streaming platforms, racking monetized streams by fans eager to consume that content regardless of who owns it or who benefits from the plays.

Bottom line, these fakes hurt both the original artists they’re lifted from, but also pollute the marketplace.

One final point:

As of May 22, fraudulent music on the profiles of Lil Kambo, Unocarti, and Unocompac have been removed from Spotify. The artist profile for Unocompac on Apple Music still features leaks, available to listen on the platform.

It’s a whack-a-mole problem. Seems like there should be a unified process for reporting and removing content like this. A takedown notice of piracy on one platform, once verified, could automatically trigger the takedown of that content on all the music services. Impossible? Overreaching?

Amazon has robots pulling stock from shelves and packing boxes to ship to customers. They are also experimenting with Prime robots (essentially, automated coolers on wheels) to get goods near your front door. Fedex and other delivery companies are doing similar experiments.

The problem is getting those goods those last few feet, from the road to your front door, overcoming obstacles like bikes and scooters, potted plants and, of course, navigating those pesky steps.

Enter Ford.

Instead of using wheeled carts, Ford’s Digit robot walks on two legs, mimicking a human approach to getting from the sidewalk to the front door. Digit also uses the Lidar and computing power of its partner self-driving car to map the path it should take to get to the door while avoiding obstacles.

Watch the video below and imagine a robot delivering your packages and mail. It’s coming.

May 22, 2019

Panic:

Hello. We made a brand new handheld gaming system.

It’s yellow. It fits in your pocket. It’s got a beautiful black and white screen. It’s not super cheap, but not super expensive. It includes brand new games from some amazing creators. Plus it has a crank.

What are these games? Here’s the thing: we’d like to keep them a secret until they appear on your Playdate. We want to surprise you.

Some are short, some long, some are experimental, some traditional. All are fun.

This looks…odd….but I hope it’s a huge success for the folks at Panic, a great Mac software company.

Design Taxi:

You don’t have to fantasize about living a whole other life anymore. The Sims 4 is now free, and you can log into an alternate existence without having to sacrifice anything—be in the real world or financially.

Origin, a distributor by gamemaker Electronic Arts, has released the video game for free. The download is available for Windows PC and Mac users, and can be obtained without a cent through 28 May. In contrast, the game is priced at US$22.24 on Amazon.

I wasted many an hour back in the day trying to find new and interesting ways to kill my Sims.

App Camp for Girls:

After significant consideration by the App Camp for Girls Board of Directors and in consultation with the organization’s co-founders and co-Executive Directors, it is with great sadness that we are announcing that camps will not be held this summer.

Although the organization was able to secure the funding needed for camps this summer, we have not been successful in attracting the minimum number of camp registrants to successfully run the camps. As our six years of history has shown us, we are unlikely to find the numbers we need this late in the season.

This is really sad news. Silicon Valley has hundreds of rich white guys whining about how they can’t find enough stuff to spend their billions on. Hey Jeff Bezos — do the world a favour and give App Camp for Girls several million dollars out of your couch cushions.

CNET:

Apple on Wednesday sent invitations to members of the media for its annual keynote address at its Worldwide Developers Conference. The WWDC 2019 presentation will take place at 10 a.m. PT on Monday, June 3 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California.

WWDC is known as the event at which Apple details the newest software that will hit its devices later in the year.

Apple hasn’t yet announced whether the keynote will be live-streamed but it is expected it will be.

The Loop Bash at WWDC 2019

Join Jim Dalrymple and our exclusive sponsor Salesforce for an incredible night of music from The Houserockers on the first night of WWDC.

The party is being held at The Ritz, San Jose’s top nightclub, which is just one block from WWDC, on Monday, June 3, 2019, from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am.

You must bring your RSVP to the venue in order to get entry into the party. You also must be 21 and show ID at the door because we will be serving free beer and wine throughout the night. Other alcoholic beverages will be available to purchase at the venue.

Please arrive early. Having an RSVP does not guarantee entry into the event.

Many thanks to our exclusive sponsor Salesforce for making this party a reality!

Salesforce is the global leader in customer relationship management (CRM), helping companies connect with their customers in a whole new way. Founded in 1999, Salesforce enables companies of every size and industry to take advantage of powerful new technologies—cloud, mobile, social, internet of things, and artificial intelligence—to get closer to their customers. The Salesforce Customer Success Platform includes industry-leading services spanning sales, service, marketing, commerce, communities, collaboration and industries, all on a single trusted cloud platform.

Get your free ticket now!

What is the world’s number one brand?

Here’s another one of these ranking races. In this one, we start back in 2000, with CocaCola dominating the rankings.

But keep a keen eye out for a newcomer to enter the race in 2010. Who could it be?

Federico:

My iPad journey began in 2012 when I was undergoing cancer treatments. In the first half of the year, right after my diagnosis, I was constantly moving between hospitals to talk to different doctors and understand the best strategies for my initial round of treatments. Those chemo treatments, it turned out, often made me too tired to get any work done. I wanted to continue working for MacStories because it was a healthy distraction that kept my brain busy, but my MacBook Air was uncomfortable to carry around and I couldn’t use it in my car as it lacked a cellular connection. By contrast, the iPad was light, it featured built-in 3G, and it allowed me to stay in touch with the MacStories team from anywhere, at any time with the comfort of a large, beautiful Retina display.

The tipping point came when I had to be hospitalized for three consecutive weeks to undergo aggressive chemo treatments; in that period of time, I concluded that the extreme portability and freedom granted by the iPad had become essential for me.

This is a wonderful read, a real manifesto. So much of the underpinnings of iPad use are explored and explained in these page. Read the whole thing, learn about the iPad at the feet of a true master.

And consider joining Club MacStories to support more efforts like this one.

Great work, Federico.

Years ago, I went to a science museum (in Baltimore, I believe) that pulled together an exhibit showcasing many of these mechanical movements. Each movement was built and motorized, or implemented by a hand crank so you got a sense of how they worked.

This web site does the same thing. It’s fascinating.

Hard to call out one in particular, but definitely start out with the thumbnails (color means a design is animated), and be sure to check out this one.

SensorID:

When you visit a website, your web browser provides a range of information to the website, including the name and version of your browser, screen size, fonts installed, and so on. Ostensibly, this information allows the website to provide a great user experience. Unfortunately this same information can also be used to track you.

Cross domain tracking is a well known problem, and Apple is on top of it. But read on.

We have developed a new type of fingerprinting attack, the calibration fingerprinting attack. Our attack uses data gathered from the accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer sensors found in smartphones to construct a globally unique fingerprint.

Dear advertisers, no one wants this to happen. You can tell because the tunnels you dig keep getting blocked. No one ever write’s a blog post begging for newer ways to cross domain track.

Following our disclosure, Apple has patched this vulnerability in iOS 12.2.

Once again, Apple has our backs.

BBC:

UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff it must suspend business with Huawei, according to internal documents obtained by the BBC.

ARM instructed employees to halt “all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements” with Huawei and its subsidiaries to comply with a recent US trade clampdown.

The screws are tightening. Waiting for the other shoe to drop, some form of retaliation from China.

This still feels like a negotiation tactic, rather than an actual security concern.

Side note: The BBC article does a nice job explaining ARM and its relationship to ARM adoptees like Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. Huawei is one of ARM’s top customers. This ban is a big deal.

May 21, 2019

Located below the iconic Capitol Tower in Los Angeles, Capitol Studios is arguably the most recognized studio in the world — and much of its legend can be traced to its hallowed, subterranean echo chambers. From Ray Charles to Frank Sinatra, Beck to Muse, these underground spaces continue to provide gorgeous hi-fi ambience that is simply unmatched.

Now, after years of R&D and close collaboration with Capitol Studios — including unprecedented access to four legendary echo chambers 30-feet beneath the studio — Universal Audio proudly presents the Capitol Chambers plug-in, a startling end-to-end recreation of the most popular echo chambers ever created, exclusively for UAD hardware and UA Audio Interfaces.

The sound is absolutely stunning. Watch the video when you get to the UA web site.

The Verge:

Companies that want to sell Apple products through Amazon now have to meet one of two requirements. The first is to purchase at least $2.5 million worth of refurbished inventory every 90 days from Apple itself or through a retailer with more than $5 billion in annual sales, like a wireless carrier or big-box retailers like Target or Walmart.

By cutting this deal, Apple and Amazon benefit while knocking out millions of dollars worth of business for small sellers. For Apple, the move to sell on Amazon and its aftermath highlight the company’s long-standing adversarial relationship with repair providers and resellers.

Apple and Amazon will make all the right noises about how this is “for the customer” but it’s hard to see that when the competition dries up and the prices rise.

Apple releases MacBook Pro 8-core, fixes keyboard

Apple on Tuesday released new MacBook Pros, bringing an 8-core Intel processor to the laptop for the first time. Apple also told me today that its made some changes to the keyboard that it says will substantially reduce an issue that some users have been having with previous generation keyboards.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro comes in 6- and 8-core with Turbo Boost speeds up to 5.0 GHz. The 8-core model is up to 40 percent faster than the previous generation MacBook Pro 6-core and up to twice as fast as the quad-core MacBook Pro.

Starting at $1,799 and $2,399 respectively, the updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and 15-inch MacBook Pro are available today.

Creative professionals will certainly get a significant boost from using an 8-core MacBook Pro, whether they are working on high-resolution images, compiling code, working on music projects, or rendering 4k video.

Another change in the newest MacBook Pro computers is with the keyboard. While Apple says the vast majority of its customers are happy with the keyboard, they do take customer complaints seriously, and work to fix any issues.

To address the problem, Apple said they changed the material in the keyboard’s butterfly mechanism that should substantially reduce issues that some users have seen.

Apple also told me that any problems with the butterfly keyboard on any of its MacBook Pros would be covered at no cost to the customer. The company has also taken steps to improve the repair process, shortening the time it takes to make repairs to the keyboards.

This is a good day for MacBook Pro customers. We have the fastest MacBook Pro ever released, there is an updated keyboard mechanism that will hopefully put that problem to rest for good, and if you do have a keyboard problem, Apple will fix it at no cost.

Rare Game of Thrones VHS intro

This has been around for a while, and is a redo, adding sound to the original video, but is so very timely.

If you’ve ever seen old VHS footage, with its analog, noise-filled, time-stuttering inaccuracies, this will ring true. And even more so if you’ve ever seen the original intros from back in the earliest days of HBO.

iFixit:

Put simply, haptic feedback recreates the sense of touch or movement in an otherwise immovable or shallow-clicking object, like a button or trackpad. This is accomplished with a vibration motor, emitting controlled bursts of bzzzt as you tap and press. Apple has branded its own vibration motor the Taptic Engine.

And:

What makes Apple’s Taptic Engine different from other haptic applications we’ve seen over the years is the precise engineering Apple has put into it, and the precious space they devote to it inside their increasingly tight devices. Given this effort, Apple has come closer than any firm at actually replacing the tactile mechanical buttons some of us might miss.

And:

When the weighted mass inside a vibration motor moves back and forth at just the right speed, the vibration effect produced by the motor is amplified across the whole phone.

And:

Apple tunes their Taptic Engines to resonant frequencies optimized for quick, precise taps; and since they are designed in-house, they can pick specific sizes, shapes, and resonant frequencies for each product. In contrast, other smartphone manufacturers are at the mercy of whichever vibration motor manufacturer they happen to be purchasing from.

It’s those tiny details. No one is better than Apple at identifying and implementing those details in fit and finish. And I hear some of you in the back shouting “Butterfly keyboard”. Yes, but the keyboard issues are most notable because they are glaring exceptions to what we’ve come to expect from Apple.

Fascinating read.

Sean Coonce:

I lost north of $100,000 last Wednesday. It evaporated over a 24-hour time span in a “SIM port attack” that drained my Coinbase account. It has been four days since the incident and I’m gutted. I have zero appetite; my sleep is restless; I am awash in feelings of anxiety, remorse, and embarrassment.

And:

The ability to port your SIM card to another device is a service that mobile carriers provide to their customers. It allows a customer to request their phone number be transferred to a new device. In most cases, this is a perfectly legitimate request; this happens when we upgrade to a new phone, switch mobile carries, etc.

And:

A “SIM port attack”, however, is a malicious port performed by an unauthorized source — the attacker. The attacker ports your SIM card to a phone that they control. The attacker then initiates the password reset flow on your email account. A verification code is sent from your email provider to your phone number — which is intercepted by the attacker, as they now control your SIM card.

Part of the issue was the author’s investment in crypto-currency, making his loss irreversible. But this goes beyond that. The loss could just as easily have been via his bank account, or currency transfer mechanisms. Pretty riveting read.

Patently Apple:

The system relates to improving detectability of road signs and vehicles on the road in low visibility conditions like fog or snow with a plurality of retroreflectors. For instance, if traveling on the road in a snow storm and road signs are covered in snow, a retroreflector system, using radar, would be able to read the text under the snow and relate it to the driver on a CarPlay display and/or other device display.

This is an interesting invention, shows Apple is still going down the Project Titan road, has value for a human driver.

But, it seems to me, the future of road signs and low-visibility hazard warnings (a car stuck in the middle of the roadway in a snowstorm, for example), is digital, not analog. In addition to flashers and reflectors, which are great for humans, signs/on-board hazard signals designed for automated vehicles will be equipped with high speed communications targeted at all nearby traffic.

The rub here is that time in between, where both human and automated traffic share the road.

Malcolm Owen, Apple Insider:

Speaking on CNBC on Tuesday, Roth Capital Partners analyst Craig Irwin claimed Apple made a “serious bid” to purchase Tesla, around 2013, with the offer supposedly in the region of $240 per share. It is unclear how far along the alleged negotiations went, such as a “formal paperwork stage” that would signal an intent to purchase.

Interesting story. Clearly anecdotal, but seems to line up with this:

A profile of Apple’s mergers and acquisitions chief Adrian Perica in February 2014 included references to a meeting between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook in Cupertino in 2013, at around the same time as a German analyst wrote an open letter to Cook suggesting an Apple purchase of Tesla. That report cited multiple sources about the supposed meeting, but again with little proof it actually took place.

Would Apple owning Tesla, producing a car be a good match for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, et al, side of the business?

Side note: As of this writing, Tesla is trading at $201.49.

May 20, 2019

Ken Segall:

On March 25th, Tim Cook unveiled Apple Card — ”the future of credit cards.”

WTF? Fiasco! Yet another Apple blunder! Has Tim Cook lost it? Steve Jobs would never do this!!

Well … not so fast. The truth is, Steve Jobs actually did do this. At least he tried to.

The proof is likely hidden in a secret vault buried deep inside Apple Park. Fortunately, it’s also right here on my archive drive.

The year was 2004, when Apple was a very different company. It had only recently reinvented the music industry with iPod and iTunes, forever changing the way we buy and discover music.

Steve thought the time was right for Apple to offer its own credit card. He would call it … (drum roll)… Apple Card.

And, as the Mac Observer reports, Apple tried it even before then in 1993.

Bare Bones Software, makers of BBEdit, is one of my favorite software companies — in fact, I’ve been using BBEdit for more than 20 years. BBEdit has just been updated and is now,available in the Mac App Store! Same great features. Same user experience. You can subscribe in the Mac App Store or purchase perpetual licenses directly from Bare Bones Software. Also, you can still get great merch, including Classic and Rebus T-shirts, enamel pins, and more in their merch store!

Angela Moon, Reuters:

Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world.

And:

Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said.

It’s too early to truly know the impact of this suspension, but a few things click right away:

  • Huawei has confirmed that they’ve built their own operating system as a backstop. I can’t imagine it’s as good as Android or iOS, but if this situation continues, China’s leading smartphone seller will no longer run a US smartphone OS.

  • In quarter 1, 2019, Huawei shipped 29.9 million smartphones in China, compared to Apple’s 6.5 million. If Google’s suspension holds, I can only imagine those numbers moving even further apart. Certainly, I can’t see this situation helping Apple in China.

  • This could all end quickly, as such trade restrictions can do, if this is a White House negotiating tactic and not a permanent restriction.

Why did this happen?

From the South China Morning Post:

Huawei Technologies and over 70 affiliates were added to the US Commerce Department’s Entity List last week on national security grounds, restricting the company from buying parts and components from US companies without government approval.

More on this as it unfolds.

Some great water tests, including one that reinforced my instinct to never buy used earbuds.

Jordan Kahn, 9to5Mac:

Apple appears to be running low on inventory for Apple Watch Series 3 repairs as the company informed store staff today that it will substitute some Series 3 repairs with the newer Apple Watch Series 4.

And:

The change means that customers looking for a repair or replacement for their Apple Watch Series 3 Stainless Steel (GPS + Cellular) model will instead be fulfilled with Apple Watch Series 4, Stainless Steel (GPS + Cellular) inventory as a replacement due to constraints on the older model.

Good to know. Huge swing in satisfaction, going in to the Apple Store all sad with a broken Apple Watch 3 and walking out with a brand new Apple Watch 4.

CNBC:

Last week, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a New York Times op-ed that said “privacy cannot be a luxury good.” But behind the scenes, Google is still collecting a lot of personal information from the services you use, such as Gmail, and some of it can’t be easily deleted.

Here’s a link to the op-ed, which painted Google as the privacy protector for the masses and Apple as privacy for the elite.

The op-ed really rubbed me the wrong way, felt like hypocrisy of the worst kind. And this CNBC post does a nice job laying out exactly why.

Google says it doesn’t use your Gmail to show you ads and promises it “does not sell your personal information, which includes your Gmail and Google Account information,” and does “not share your personal information with advertisers, unless you have asked us to.”

But, for reasons that still aren’t clear, it’s pulling that information out of your Gmail and dumping it into a “Purchases” page most people don’t seem to know exists. Even if it’s not being used for ads, there’s no clear reason why Google would need to track years of purchases and make it hard to delete that information.

The article gets specific, showing purchases not made through Google that are tracked by Google and not easily deleted. How is this privacy for the masses?

Forbes (yes, Forbes – they broke the story):

The son and estate of Broadway composer Harold Arlen filed a lawsuit against Apple and other businesses for selling over 6,000 unauthorized recordings of his music. Described as a “massive music piracy operation,” the lawyers claim that “Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Pandora and their distributors have joined with notorious music pirates to sell and stream thousands of pirated recordings.”

And:

According to the lawsuit, the largest digital music stores and streaming services are now flooded with unauthorized copies of Arlen’s songs that are being sold under different record labels for less than the price of the authorized copies of Arlen’s songs. For example, one online retailer is selling a song from the Jamaica cast album under the record label Soundtrack Classics for $0.99 alongside an authorized copy of the song from the RCA Victor record label for $1.29. The cover art of the Soundtracks Classics version has been doctored to remove RCA Victor’s logo.

Seems like this is more of a broken system allowing pirates to slide into the digital music streaming chain and not piracy on Apple’s part.

Is there a system in place for filing copyright claims in Apple Music? If so, did Arlen’s estate file the claims and were those claims ignored?