December 2, 2016

The New Yorker:

The Voynich Manuscript is a special kind of original. We know, thanks to carbon dating, that it was put together in the early fifteenth century. But no living person has ever, as far as we know, understood it. Nobody can decode the language the book is written in. It has no title and no author. A new facsimile, edited by Raymond Clemens and published by Yale University Press, draws attention to the way that we think about truth now: the book invites guesses, conspiracy theory, spiritualism, cryptography. The Voynich Manuscript has charisma, and charisma has lately held a monopoly on our attentions.

I have been interested in the Voynich Manuscript since I first heard of it in high school. I am nowhere near smart enough to get involved in its deciphering community but the idea of what it is and what it represents fascinates me.

The Verge:

Coleman’s Twitter history — it’s pretty much nonexistent. Despite being the chief of tech startup, Coleman has tweeted just 143 times. That would be reasonable if he hadn’t joined Twitter in June of 2007. In fact, there’s about a seven-year gap in his timeline, starting in November of 2007 and lasting until a retweet of The Verge’s own Walt Mossberg in 2014. It’s followed by a second retweet and then another two tweets in the entirety of 2015.

This feels like yet another example of how such an arguably great service like Twitter seems to not have any idea of itself. Twitter seems to succeed in spite of the executives running it, not because of them.

Appleinsider:

“We believe Apple lacks the courage to lead the next generation of innovation (AI, cloud-based services, messaging); instead will become more reliant than ever on the iPhone,” senior analyst Andrew Uerkwitz wrote in the memo, seen by Business Insider. “We believe Apple is about to embark on a decade-long malaise. The risks to the company have never been greater.”

I would strongly disagree with the characterization but time will tell.

Macworld:

In a moment of somewhat unexpected nostalgia at its most recent media event, Apple pointed out that it was the 25th anniversary of the PowerBook. (It’s good to know that, 27 years later, Apple still would rather nobody remember the Mac Portable.) I’ve been a Mac laptop user since the original PowerBook era. That ancient history is my history. Since 1991, Apple has gone through seven distinct eras when it comes to its laptop strategy and design.

How many of these did you have? I’ve used at least one model of each (except for the iBook) since the Powerbook 180.

My thanks to Secrets for sponsoring The Loop this week.

Secrets is now Free on the App Store! Secrets is a simple, secure password manager for Mac and iOS. It leverages industry standard encryption algorithms to provide secure storage and macOS and iOS native features to facilitate automatic filling of logins in the browser.

Version 2.0 is the culmination of months of testing in the real world. Bugs have been squashed, important features have been added and polish has been applied throughout. With this new version you can use Secrets and all of its features for Free with up to 10 items.

Download it now on the App Store or the Mac App Store.

What happens when you let Amazon Echo talk to Google Home

This is hilarious. I really want to add Siri to this conversation.

Your iPhone, the special property of the left side bezel, and an autocorrect suggestion

Do you have an iPhone 6s or newer? Try this:

  • Unlock your phone.
  • Press your thumb on the left bezel (the black framing on the left side of the front of the phone) and press.

As you press, the force touch will reveal just a bit of the stack of apps you are running. Press with a bit more force, and that view will go full screen, as if you had double pressed the home button.

Not sure when this feature first came out, but it seems little enough known that I thought this was worth a post.

I wish Apple would let me switch over to the right side. I also wish I could assign this specific force touch to other aspects of the iOS interface.

For example, imagine if I could use that gesture to undo the last autocorrect, no matter the app. You’d be typing along and notice that iOS changed a word to, say, ducking. Not what you wanted. So you give a quick force touch and your original word is automatically put back in place, without your typing cursor being moved (so you can just keep typing).

Just an idea.

Bucket list. A fantastic piece of architecture and engineering.

Matthew Roberts Apple Campus 2 drone footage update

A few days ago, we posted an embed of an Apple Campus 2 flyover, one that felt a bit different than the monthly updates we’re used to seeing.

Turns out there’s good reason for that feeling. Embedded below is Matthew Roberts’ latest drone footage. Watching them both, it’s easy to tell them apart. Enjoy.

BBC News:

Investigators have warned consumers they face potentially fatal risks after 99% of fake Apple chargers failed a basic safety test.

Trading Standards, which commissioned the checks, said counterfeit electrical goods bought online were an “unknown entity”. Of 400 counterfeit chargers, only three were found to have enough insulation to protect against electric shocks.

It comes as Apple has complained of a “flood” of fakes being sold on Amazon.

The article offers more details but, more importantly, gives some tips on how to detect a counterfeit charger. I also worry about the possibility of a bogus charger being used as a malware injection device.

Dan Moren has been doing some traveling. Currently in India, he writes about his experiences living on the road with Apple tech.

For example:

I’ve found Apple Maps to be virtually useless in India. Yes, I can get a map overview or satellite imagery, but directions and transit information are nonexistent. Building databases of all that information is challenging, to be sure, and it often means working with a lot of partners. But not being able to get simple walking directions to a nearby restaurant is kind of a nonstarter, so I’ve been using Google Maps, which works much better.

Not the first time I’ve heard this complaint. Interesting post.

December 1, 2016

Nokia smartphones are poised for a comeback after former managers at the Finnish company licensed the handset brand from Microsoft and struck up partnerships with Google and phone manufacturer Foxconn.

I agree that Nokia had a strong brand at one time, but this will be a tough sell.

First, lower your volume. Then click the link and immerse yourself in the zen of the blue ball machine. Mesmerizing.

Marco della Cava, USA Today [WARNING: AutoPlay, Grrr]

Apple CEO Tim Cook rocks in his chair as he meets the question with an unyielding gaze.

“Of course corporations should have values, because people should have values,” says the soft-spoken tech leader, who has been vocal on a range of civic issues, from gay rights to privacy rules. “And corporations are just a bunch of people.”

Cook met with USA TODAY to discuss the company’s expanded corporate partnership with (RED), the 20-person organization founded by U2 singer Bono that has had an outsized impact on those suffering from HIV/AIDS by providing life-saving medicines.

This is a pretty interesting article, digging into both RED’s impact on HIV/AIDS sufferers and Apple’s position in the emerging political reality.

Mark Gurman and Alan Levin, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. plans to use drones and new indoor navigation features to improve its Maps service and catch longtime leader Google, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Cupertino, California-based company is assembling a team of robotics and data-collection experts that will use drones to capture and update map information faster than its existing fleet of camera-and-sensor ladened minivans, one of the people said.

Apple wants to fly drones around to do things like examine street signs, track changes to roads and monitor if areas are under construction, the person said. The data collected would be sent to Apple teams that rapidly update the Maps app to provide fresh information to users, the person added.

Apple is also developing new features for Maps, including views inside buildings and improvements to car navigation, another person familiar with the efforts said. The people asked not to be identified talking about private projects. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Fascinating. I’m imagining a sci-fi future where the air is filled with rival drones, constantly scanning for updates, tracking faces for marketing and intel value, hacking rival drones for their info, even disabling them, forcing them to land.

Jordan Kahn, 9to5mac:

Earlier today Apple updated its website where customers can send in an old device for recycling to include the Apple Watch. That means that customers can now send their old Apple Watch to be responsibly recycled through the company’s Apple Renew program free of charge, but it’s not offering customers a gift card or any credit in exchange like it does with iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

Not sure what the secondary market is like for earlier Apple Watches, but seems to me it’d be much better to give your old Apple Watch to a friend who’s never experienced one. Reuse is a solid alternative to recycling, and living with an Apple Watch offers a better alternative to simply reading about one.

Have a USB-C based Mac? Considering a possible purchase? If so, you’ll likely want a USB-C hub, a cheaper solution than the dongles a hub will replace.

Cody Lee, writing for iDownloadBlog takes a look at a number of USB-C hubs he recommends. Take a look.

New book from Stephen Hackett. It’s an 80 page look at a critical time for Apple, a time that saw Bondi Blue, Tangerine, and Flower Power iMacs and the birth of a brand new operating system.

Aqua and Bondi is an 80-page examination of these products. In it, I look at what went so wrong inside Apple in the 90s, talk about the software strategies that came and went over the years and, of course, the iMac.

I’ve been working on this project since the fall, and am excited to say today that the book is for sale today on the iBooks Store or as a PDF. Both versions are just $3.99.

Here’s a link to the iBook store version of the book.

Here’s a link to Stephen’s site for the PDF version of the book.

Best of luck with the book, Stephen.

Over the past week or so, a wave of spam calendar invites has been hitting many iCloud calendar users.

Rene Ritchie, iMore, posted this official Apple message:

We are sorry that some of our users are receiving spam calendar invitations. We are actively working to address this issue by identifying and blocking suspicious senders and spam in the invites being sent.

The same article also offers a workaround to the problem.

November 30, 2016

Wearable action-camera maker GoPro Inc said on Wednesday it would cut about 15 percent of its workforce and shutter its entertainment business, as the one-time Wall Street favorite cuts costs to help it return to profitability.

I hate seeing people lose their jobs.

Stat News:

The National Center for Education Statistics says science scores for eighth-graders have inched up continuously since 2007, but on the whole, are still below what it considers proficient. Think you can remember what you learned back then? Take our test, with questions compiled from standardized tests in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Find out: Can you out-science an eighth-grader?

Whew. 9/10.

Mobi Health News:

Since its well-publicized meeting with the FDA in 2013, Apple has continued to meet with the agency regularly as well as to correspond by phone and email, according to emails obtained by MobiHealthNews via a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA.

These emails show that Apple and the FDA have discussed the App Store review process, the 510(k) process, ResearchKit apps, diagnostic apps, working with the FDA in an “unregulated” way and more. The FDA even invited Apple to participate in regular briefings designed to help guide an international effort to harmonize medical software regulation. Though much of the sensitive information is redacted, the emails also point to three regulated medical devices that Apple is seriously pursuing: an app for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease and two separate but related cardiac devices.

It’s common knowledge that Apple has been very interested in developing hardware and software (likely associated with the Apple Watch) for various aspects of the healthcare industry. The problem is, as Cook said a year ago, Apple isn’t crazy about having to put the Apple Watch through the FDA process.

The Verge:

The Internet Archive, a digital library nonprofit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald Trump. Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States.

To be clear, Canada isn’t a paragon of free speech virtue but, like your own backups, it’s always better to have more than one.

J.D. Power:

The report finds that overall satisfaction with wireless routers has increased by a full 24 points from 2015, and is now 847 (on a 1,000-point scale). While satisfaction has improved in all 10 factors, the largest increase is 30 points in ease of use (which includes the installation process). Another area related to ease of use with the product is restoration of service with minimal effort, in which overall satisfaction has increased 27 points from last year (to 854 from 827).

Apple ranks highest with a score of 876, followed by ASUS (860), D-Link (856) and TP-Link (854).

Yes – there are “better” (cheaper, faster) wireless routers available but, when it comes to ease of use, set up and what I recommend to non-techies, it has always been Apple wireless routers. Which makes the reports of them being discontinued even more disheartening.

Ken Segall:

Is it my imagination, or has Apple been unusually active in the ad department lately?

Taken together, the company’s latest spots offer some hope for its advertising future — and then a warning as well.

Here are the ads, with a few observations to go with them.

I always like Segall’s take on Apple’s ads. I don’t always agree with him (I think “Frankie’s Holiday” is too saccharine and “Bulbs” doesn’t pay off the way it should) but with his depth of experience with advertising in general and Apple in particular, he’s definitely someone who’s opinion I respect.

And we both agree the Drake ad is lame.

You see, traditional virtual instruments are sample-based, meaning that sound is produced by triggering recorded samples of instruments. MODO BASS isn’t a sample-based instrument, but rather a completely new technology where sound is generated by recreating the physical properties of a real instrument — everything that makes an instrument create sound is physically modeled and sound is synthesized in real time.

I’m looking forward to seeing this at NAMM in January.

MFile.io:

MFile.io was created to be a fast, efficient way to share a collection of images and gifs in a polished presentation. It was designed with this one job to do, and it is completely free.

I’ve used MFile.io several times in my photography classes. While it has some minor annoyances, it’s a quick and easy way to get a bunch of images up on a web site for others to see.

“When we catch you, and we will catch you,” the department added, “on top of a hefty fine, a criminal charge and a years driving suspension we will also provide you with a bonus gift of playing the offices copy of Nickelback in the cruiser on the way to jail.”

Macrumors:

Apple will issue refunds to customers who previously paid for an iMac display hinge replacement or repair, according to a recently updated service document internally distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers and obtained by MacRumors.

Apple’s service document acknowledges some 27-inch iMacs shipped between December 2012 and July 2014 may be affected by an issue with the display hinge, resulting in the screen no longer adjusting and continuously tilting forward. The issue appears to be limited to late 2012 and late 2013 models in particular.

Unlike the iPhone battery replacement program, Apple isn’t publicizing this one. So, if you’ve had and paid for this issue, make sure you contact Apple to get your refund.

TechHive:

Netflix wants to make your trip back home this holiday season a little merrier. The company announced on Wednesday that select TV shows and movies were available for download on Android and iOS. In other words, Netflix now enables offline viewing.

It’s not for everything, though. Most of Netflix’s original programming will be covered by the new feature, but some titles may not be due to licensing restrictions.

This is great news and hopefully, we’ll see it expanded to include even more content.