September 4, 2015

Benedict Evans:

For as long as the idea of the ‘mobile internet’ has been around, we’ve thought of it a cut-down subset of the ‘real’ Internet. I’d suggest it’s time to invert that – to think about mobile as the real internet and the desktop as the limited, cut-down version.

He’s right. Even looking at The Loop’s stats, many more people access the site on mobile browsers than ever before—more than 50 percent. For many people, the mobile Internet is the real Internet.

This is the Apple Watch Charging Dock Apple should have released, check xylum out here.

Jim and Dan talk about the upcoming Apple event next week in San Francisco, the Apple Watch, the Apple TV, Apple Maps, DVDs vs. buying movies online vs. renting movies, bylines on The Loop, and more.

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A Fresno State student is lucky to be uninjured after an armed robbery near the campus in which a gunshot fired by the thief was blocked by the victim’s iPhone, police said.

Damn.

Back in the day, this was everyone’s RSS reader. Good to see it back and updated.

A group of artists recorded this song to benefit climate change. It’s available exclusively on iTunes and Apple Music with all proceeds go to Friends of the Earth U.S. and the UN Foundation.

Artists involved in the song are Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Fergie, Colbie Caillat, Natasha Bedingfield, Leona Lewis, Sean Paul, Johnny Rzeznik, Krewella, Angelique Kidjo, Kelsea Ballerini, Nicole Scherzinger, Christina Grimmie, Victoria Justice, and Q’Orianka Kilcher.

September 3, 2015

Dom Esposito looks at Samsung Gear S2 and Apple Watch

Good video if you were wondering about the differences between the two devices.

Polygon:

This $150 toy is what you’re going to want for Christmas.

The $150 BB-8 is a toy. A very advanced toy that does many things, but it’s a toy. The only utility it has is the joy that it’s going to bring you when you play with it.

That’s not to say we’re trying to talk you out of buying one. A review unit arrived this morning, and we’ve been playing with the little droid non-stop ever since. This is a premium product, and even the packaging lets you know that you’re about to experience something special.

The folks at Sphero just made Christmas shopping for your favorite Star Wars fan a hell of a lot easier.

The new version is available to download.

Amazing a capella Hotel California

This is really good. If nothing else, jump to about 4:15 and catch the guitar work by the guy with the red bandana. Sunglasses! [Via Chris Wagner via Scott Atkinson]

I am an unabashed fan of Julie Adenuga. She’s one of my favorite voices on Beats 1.

From Swam Wolfson’s Guardian interview:

Her career kicked off around five years ago when she was offered a Sunday-evening slot on Rinse FM, at that point still a pirate station that took risks on lots of new hosts. While she was DJ’ing there, she also got a job at the Apple Store on Regent Street, working in sales and in the stock room – the irony of which has not been lost on Beats 1 press releases. She was considering giving up radio to focus on the Apple Store job, but then Rinse, which had by then acquired a broadcasting licence, gave her the drive-time show. A few years later, she got a call from her former employer, asking her if she wanted to go to California. “I didn’t even know I had a job for ages, I was just going to meet everyone.” A few weeks later, Tim Cook announced Adenuga as a host at the annual Apple conference, watched across the world. “Still today, no one said to me, ‘You’ve got the job,’ though,” says Adenuga, as if they could take it away at any moment.

Amazing. Excellent choice on Apple’s part.

It’s a survey. And it’s being pulled together by XKCD. Go do it!

Offline viewing is a real boon, especially to travelers.

This is a real differentiator. Will Netflix move in this direction? If Apple does roll out their own content, will they allow it to live off-line?

Emojipedia is a valuable resource. It makes it easy to find just the right emoji for your current state of mind. The site has long relied on display ads to pay their way. This is about to change.

From the Emojipedia blog:

Hello, and welcome to 2015: The year that we might view in hindsight as the start of peak display-ad on the web.

We’re not immune to this at Emojipedia. As much as we love what we do — documenting emoji changelogs; creating mockups for new emoji candidates; as well as our ever-growing database of emoji images and search terms — all of this is paid for by display ads.

Emojipedia has started a campaign to replace ads with sponsorships for each emoji.

  • Every emoji page on Emojipedia now has a section for a sponsor
  • When that emoji is adopted, its sponsor gets a space for their name, message, and URL on that page
  • As soon as an emoji is adopted, all the ads disappear from that page: No header ads. No footer ads. No ads in the middle of all those cute-yet-puzzling-emoji-images.

Clever, no? Go sponsor an emoji!

Been thinking a lot about advertising and ad blocking. Last night, I had my “Aha!” moment.

I’ve long used Ghostery as a browser extension to control and, mostly, block trackers that invade my browsing experience, dig for my private data. Ghostery is one of those things that does a lot, but does it mostly under the hood. What I notice is the number of trackers it encounters. Just a number. Even a large number didn’t really register as anything more than, good thing Ghostery is doing its job.

But then I read this article by Rob Leathern.

Rob’s words:

I had heard about heavy mobile web pages, and wondering what was loading that took up SO MUCH BANDWIDTH, I turned on Charles Proxy on my desktop and ran my iPhone’s IP traffic through it, and I only visited one mobile website to test it out: NYPost.com — my guess is there are plenty of other similar sites that will exhibit similar behavior.

In a nutshell, Rob saw exactly two ads, both small and both near the bottom of his iPhone screen, one behind the other. He was on the site for exactly 5 minutes (he timed it) and Charles Proxy recorded all the activity that occurred on that page.

You really must go to Rob’s article to read all the details, but in a nutshell, the loading of the New York Post front page (here’s a link to it, if you dare) produced over 900 HTTP/HTTPS calls, about 10.3 megs of data consumption, and 291 different transactions using his IP address.

To truly get your head around this horrifying madness, take a look at Ghostery’s complete map of the New York Post front page loading activities. If the link doesn’t work, go here, and enter the Post URL in the text field at the top of the window.

The way Rob explains it, there are multiple large .jpg images and invisible/silent autoplay video ads playing underneath the innocuous text ads that appear as the only ads on the page.

Remember, I didn’t see any video content nor any video ads at all. If there is not willful fraud here, loading ads in the background that are impossible to see, then at the very least it is ‘user-hating’ irresponsible behavior to have a 10+mb payload with hundreds of http calls in a mobile browser.

Many publishers simply must have a sense that something nasty is going on — when their users complain about slow page loads on mobile web — but they either don’t have the tech savvy and/or more likely, they won’t ask questions about how their site could possibly be monetizing as well as it is when simple math indicates that their users aren’t watching that many video streams. Many simply turn a blind eye.

Ad industry insiders talk about “improving viewability” — but make no mistake, these are likely not mistakes made by inexperienced workers — just as mobile ads that pop up iTunes Store pages for mobile app installs are not casual errors — this is an industry that persists by helping already-fraught businesses like newspapers and online publishers survive at the expense of the advertisers who supposedly help us users have free content.

Is it any wonder desktop ad blocking has been on the rise, and many iOS users are excited at the prospect of using content blocking in iOS9 to get rid of mobile ads? The industry has only itself to blame.

First things first, please do follow the headline link and read the article. Good for Rob to get the links, good to get the whole story. And pass this along, if you would.

I see ad blocking with new eyes now.

September 2, 2015

Atlas Obscura:

it’s September, and hurricane season is once again upon us. Since it is an El Niño year with cooler than normal temperatures across the tropical Atlantic, everyone is hoping for a low-drama season.

However, as AccuWeather reports, we may not end up being so lucky. Indeed, it is likely that a few tropical storms will track northerly, and make life a living hell for pleasure boaters and working crews alike.

While you may never set sail on the seven seas, why not watch some terrifying, yet mesmerizing videos of ships stuck in storms from the safety of your computer screen?

As a Nova Scotianer, I love the sea but these videos make even the sailor in me queasy.

This is a really cool experiment that shows how we associate colors with some of our favorite brands. While the logo remains the same, switching colors with a competitor makes a huge difference.

Fantastic footage of blue whale, largest critter on the planet

From the BBC One, Big Blue Live web site:

It’s the final show from Monterey Bay and the team are aiming for the ultimate wildlife encounter with the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale. Catch up with the sea otters, sea lions, sharks and whales as Matt Baker, Liz Bonnin, Steve Backshall and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall conclude this extraordinary conservation success story.

Enjoy the spectacular footage.

Jordan Pearson, writing for Motherboard:

Wikipedia has 381 fewer editors today, after hundreds of accounts were banned for taking undisclosed pay to create and edit “promotional articles.”

According to a post on Wikipedia’s administrator board, Wikipedia’s CheckUser team investigated for months to uncover the accounts clogging the site with bogus articles for cash. The 381 banned accounts were active between April and August, but the “nature and quality” of the edits suggests that the scam had been carrying on for some time, the post states.

The “sock puppet” accounts, as they’re called, were essentially extorting their customers. First, they would create a draft article and populate it with promotional links. Next, they contacted their victim, often posing as more established Wikipedians, and requested a fee to publish the article. To keep the page from being edited or taken down, the accounts charged their victims $30 per month, in some cases.

Hate to see this.

Christina Warren, writing for Mashable:

Apple Maps. Just typing the words can drive fear into the heart of any iOS lover.

OK, that might be a little extreme, but for the many users who were burned by Apple Maps with its introduction alongside iOS 6 back in 2012, the app doesn’t exactly bring up fond memories.

Apple Maps has improved a lot over the years. At WWDC in June, Apple made a point to note that its mapping app (which is installed by default) is used 3.5 times more than its closest competitor. That competitor, of course, would be Google Maps.

Christina then proceeds to dig back in, taking a fresh look at Apple Maps running on iOS 9.

Her conclusion:

Here’s the bottom line: If you were burned by Apple Maps three years ago, it’s time to give it another shot. It’s not so much Apple Maps is inherently any better at mapping than Google Maps, because I’m just not sure that’s true. What is true, however, is that Apple Maps is much more tightly integrated into the core iOS experience.

I absolutely agree with this. Apple Maps has improved in many ways. I want Apple Maps to be so good that I never have to turn to another mapping app to check some aspect of mapping: traffic, newly constructed roads or route changes, planned closures, newly opened retail, etc. No mapping app is perfect, and with iOS 9, I am feeling more comfortable relying exclusively on Apple Maps.

Here’s Apple’s iOS 9 preview page. For the list of supported devices, scroll all the way to the bottom.

Charles Arthur, from his blog:

High-end Android OEMs had a terrible second quarter. The smartphone business generally grew less quickly than for a couple of years as China stagnated overall. But not for Apple; by contrast, it grew strongly. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 did not impress the punters. LG’s G4 sold less well than apparently the company hoped. Sony had a torrid time. HTC then redefined torrid. Premium Android has a real, immediate problem.

This is all followed up by detailed analysis/numbers. Bottom line, the Android OEM business is in the toilet. [H/T John Kordyback]

Austin Mann is not just any iPhone camera user. He’s got world class chops as a photographer and his work has been part of several different Apple marketing campaigns. He just posted his thoughts on camera-related features rumored to be part of the iPhone 6s.

Definitely worth a read.

September 1, 2015

Polygraph:

This is a story about proving, with data, that No Diggity by Blackstreet is timeless.

Until recently, it was impossible to measure the popularity of older music. Billboard charts and album sales only tell us about a song’s popularity at the time of its release.

But now we have Spotify, a buffet of all of music, new and old. Tracks with fewer plays are fading into obscurity. And those with more plays are remaining in the cultural ether.

As with all lists like this, we’ll never agree completely on its makeup but it’s still interesting to see which songs are being played and their frequency. Jason Kottke has created a Rdio and Spotify playlist of songs from the article.

CNET:

Ever wonder how the famous museum’s artists manage to create such eerily accurate, life-size celebrity models? We’re here to spill the wax. In fact, it’s pretty friggin’ complicated…and technical.

From initial sitting to press launch, a typical Madame Tussauds figure takes about four months to make, requires a team of around 20 skilled artists, and costs £150,000, or roughly $212,500.

I’ve never understood the attraction some people have for Madame Tussauds but the process of making one of these figures is quite interesting.

Google has a new logo. Fascinating how much love and hate this change is bringing out. I think it makes sense to ditch the serif font for a sans serif font. The new font (Is that Roboto?) scales better and the tilted “e” gives them something beyond a mere rendering of their name in a typical font.

Best to let them draw it for you themselves. Click here.

xylum has to be the most beautiful Apple Watch dock to date. The minimalistic design and matte body finish that features polished chamfered edges complements any setting perfectly. Whether on a nightstand, a desk or in the living room, it fits any style. xylum’s timeless accents transcend timekeeping into a new era.

This is a beautiful looking dock/stand. I can imagine this sitting on my desk, or anywhere in the house. They are clearly going for an elegant look and they achieved that.

Jonny Evans, writing for ComputerWorld:

The big news here is that Cisco networks and iOS devices will be optimized to work together “more efficiently and reliably”. That’s so important when you consider how essential Cisco is to networks across the planet with a huge presence in unified communications, SDN, the data center and wireless infrastructure.

This means enterprise users can look forward to better compatibility, performance and kit. More than this it also means enterprise-focused Cisco-based developers offering digital business processes, network intelligence based solutions, and all manner of arcane-sounding deep technology solutions to their clients are even more likely to bring Apple into the fold.

Put it all together and it seems likely that over the next 18-24-months Apple won’t just be in the enterprise, it will be inside the enterprise network. That opens interesting opportunities in network intelligence in combination with artificial intelligence, with implications across the future connected planet.

And:

The Cisco deal means Apple’s technologies will swiftly become peer players even at the deep end within enterprise IT. In future deep implementation of Apple support within Cisco and IBM solutions will mean improvements for iOS systems at every level of the new enterprise IT, including (crucially) new business development.

Such a smart partnership.

This is a useful post, no doubt, but I just loved this first line:

The number of email addresses I maintain only slightly exceeds the number of versions of Star Wars that I own.

That’s Dan Moren, writing so whimsically (and well) for Six Colors.

Andrew Wallenstein, writing for Variety:

The scale of Apple’s ambitions vary depending on whom is asked, but one high-level executive who talked with the company said the goal is to create development and production divisions that would churn out long-form content to stream in a bid to compete with Netflix. Apple is hoping to put a headhunting firm on those hires in the coming months, according to source, with the goal of being in operation next year. Unknown is whether the focus is on TV series, movies — or both.

Other sources described the company’s exploration as more of a flirtation, though one pointed to a recent sign that an escalation of interest is clear: Apple is said to have made an unprecedented bid to secure the stars of “Top Gear” when they exited their BBC series earlier this year. But Amazon ended up winning the bidding war for Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond in July.

The traditional content production model, where short form content is created by the networks and long form comes from the movie studios, is being deconstructed. What started with Netflix and HBO is now spreading like wildfire. Other cable channels are creating short form, with shows like Louie, Mad Men, Humans, and the like.

Replaying movies, long a staple of the cable bundle, is starting to lose its luster. There is just too much shiny new content to compete with the mediocre B-movies that flood the cable channels. Netflix just dropped its deal with Epix, showing its preference for new content over old movies (though that deal was quickly picked up by Hulu).

Apple wants to get into the biz, so they’ll need their own original shiny content. It just makes sense. Exploration or flirtation, this seems a smart, and necessary, business move.