July 27, 2017

Can Apple grow a forest

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s lead on Environment work, and a group of colleagues went out to dinner one night. They ate, drank, and came up with a plan to ensure almost 1 million acres of forests are responsibly managed by 2020.

This is what I love about Apple—they aren’t just about getting products out to consumers, they think about everything along the way, including the impact they have on the environment.

Cheers, Lisa Jackson!

Apple has finalized terms with Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, to lease a portion of the Carnegie Library at at Mount Vernon Square, described as a newly transformed convention and entertainment district in downtown Washington D.C.

That is going to be a beautiful store.

Wired:

The iPod died slowly, then all at once. After nearly 16 years on the market, more than 400 million units sold, and one Cupertino company launched into the stratosphere on its back, Apple quietly pulled the iPod Nano and Shuffle out of its virtual stores today. The iPod Touch still lives on: In fact, Apple now offers the Touch with 32 gigs of storage starting at $199. But that’s not a real iPod; it’s an iPhone-lite. Today officially marks the end of Apple’s era of standalone music players.

Pour one out for the iPod. I get why they are no longer “needed” in Apple’s lineup but they will always have a soft spot in my gadget-loving heart.

Bored Panda:

American artist Tom Bob is running loose in the streets of New York, and let’s hope nobody catches him.

Using street “furniture” like poles or electrical terminals, Tom creates colorful and whimsical pieces that interact with their surroundings. From turning a sewer into a frying pan, to transforming gas meters into quirky lobsters, Tom Bob is making the city a much happier place for everybody.

This street art is absolutely brilliant.

After removing the iPod nano and Shuffle, Apple has now adjusted the price of the iPod Touch.

While the company is still selling the iOS-powered iPod touch, the smaller, less expensive media players are nowhere to be found.

I suppose it had to happen at some point.

When markets opened on Thursday, Bezos had a net worth of $90.6 billion, putting him $500 million ahead of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Amazon stock opened up 1.6% on Thursday, adding $1.4 billion to Bezos’ net worth.

That’s just an incredible amount of money.

BuzzFeed:

The Tasty One Top makes it easy to cook all your favorite recipes, all on one compact appliance. The One Top was engineered to be the most versatile appliance in your kitchen. Say goodbye to guessing and hello to perfect meals.

The One Top tracks time & temperature in real-time, and lets you know when to flip your pancake, add your veggies, or eat your meal.

I had no idea BuzzFeed was developing and selling hardware and this may be a complete bust but the idea – cooking made easier through technology – is one I can get behind as a beginning cook myself.

Macpaw:

MacPaw just bought the Unarchiver, one of the Top Free apps on the Mac App Store. The Unarchiver is an overwhelmingly popular piece of software for dealing with a common problem — different archive formats on Mac.

MacPaw developers hope to not only maintain but improve The Unarchiver. We plan a major facelift and a couple of new features. The app is going to get prettier and we’ll keep it updated for the upcoming macOS. Naturally, it will always stay free for all users.

Not sexy news but for us old timers who remember the days of Stuffit Expander and the like, this is kind of interesting. The Unarchiver is my app of choice for the job and I’m glad to hear it will continue to exist.

100+ features new to iOS 11 Beta 4

Not to be outdone by this 50+ post, the video embedded below walks through the new stuff that arrived with the latest beta. Kudos to the iOS team. Some prolific work.

You know that thing where you open a canister of peanuts and a spring loaded snake pops out, scaring the heck out of you?

Take a look at the second picture in the linked story. I will never ever open a Pringles can again without first shaking it.

Creepy.

Jonny Evans, writing for Computerworld, digs through iOS 11 for all the new shiny. A good list.

Though there is a lot of great stuff to choose from, my two favorites are ARKit (which I write about a lot) and Siri Translate.

If you have the iOS 11 beta installed, give Siri Translate a try. For example, tell Siri:

Translate where is the nearest train station into Italian

Siri will present the translated text, and then speak the translated text in Italian. There’s a play button, so you can play the translation over and over again. Gives you a chance to work on your pronunciation or to play with audio for a native speaker. I do a lot of traveling, and this is like magic to me.

There are still a few glitches, but this is incredibly strong work for a new feature, let alone a beta.

Apple Insider takes you on a tour of the new document scanner, a new Notes feature that ships in iOS 11.

One thing that struck me is the connection to ARKit, the ability to recognize objects. ARKit is such a huge innovation. It’s impact will be felt far and wide.

This Vulture interview is just filled with anecdotes and personal observations. Very interesting. A few examples that struck me:

I remember the Prodigy bulletin board and being fascinated to see there was a Nine Inch Nails room. The promise of that kind of interaction with fans was exciting. The consequences of how that interaction has evolved have not been.

And:

David Bowie was a fucking alien, you know? As it happens, he was a fucking alien. I was lucky enough to be friends with him and he was even cooler than I’d thought. But demystification is a real problem. There’ve been people whose music I can’t like anymore because I’ve seen them bitching on Twitter about a waiter like a fucking asshole.

And:

The economics of music aren’t what they should be, and the culture isn’t giving the arts its fair due, but humans are always going to respond to emotion and storytelling. I believe that as much as I ever did. More, even.

And:

Just this morning, me and my two older boys were sitting in the hotel restaurant. Their mom has played the new EP for them a couple times. They’re like, “My favorite song is ‘Less Than’.” That’s sweet, but then I’m thinking, Don’t I say ‘fuck’ in that one? Same thing when they were at sound check: What song don’t I say ‘fuck’ in? I’ll tell you another thing I think about: I’m now thrust into adult events — school things with other parents, and just … You’re not really thinking about how lyrics that seemed cool at the time are going to register with parents at your kid’s school 20 years later.

I love the depth of the interview. Nice and long, gives Reznor a chance to ramble, to really express himself.

Wired:

Using a combination of a GPS tracking system and visual recognition, the pair designed the camera drone to follow users wherever they went—like magic, without the need for a remote control.

And:

It seemed like his company was going stratospheric. The previous year, Lily Drone had enchanted Silicon Valley and beyond. In 2016, the Wall Street Journal put it on its list of products “that will change your life.” Balaresque and Bradlow were named in Fortune’s 30 Under 30. Facebook buzzed with excitement, and people eagerly placed $499 preorders, imagining the drone on family trips and skiing adventures.

But:

Just a few months after this presentation, by January 2017, the headlines had changed. “Drone Startup Abruptly Shuts Down.” “Is Lily Robotics the Theranos of the Drone World?” Lily Drones was now “hyped,” “collapsing,” and “failed.” Preorder customers bemoaned their losses on the internet. Those who hadn’t ordered gloated. In early 2017, the company declared bankruptcy and was sued by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office for false advertising.

Fantastic read, a real cautionary tale.

July 26, 2017

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, Cochlear’s Nucleus 7 Sound Processor can now stream sound directly from a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to the sound processor.

The device also allows those with a surgically embedded implant to control and customize the sound from their iPhone.

This sounds incredible.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Foxconn Technology Group announced at the White House Wednesday its plans to invest $10 billion to build a massive display panel plant in Wisconsin that could employ up to 13,000 workers but would require up to $3 billion in subsidies from state taxpayers.

And:

At 20 million square feet, the factory would be three times the size of the Pentagon, making it one of the largest manufacturing campuses in the nation. It would initially employ 3,000 workers making an average of $53,900 a year.

Interesting. Not a single mention of Apple.

Billboard:

Brantley Gilbert made the most of an opportunity on July 23, debuting a new, 60-second black-and-white Apple Music commercial during a NASCAR race that bore his name this year, the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400.

The spot will likely appeal to fans of both country and rock, two genres that trail pop and hip-hop in the penetration of streaming services. Shot over two days near Leiper’s Fork, Tenn., the video incorporates images of a wide-open field, motorcycles on a country road, rural neighbors in a small-town diner and an American flag, backed by snippets of Gilbert’s current single, “The Ones That Like Me,” plus Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” and Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” Other acts whose names are visible in Gilbert’s playlist include Johnny Cash, Metallica and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Apple Music touts a three-month free trial in the spot, after Gilbert delivers a simple hook: “My country. My people. My music. Apple Music.”

The feel of the commercial is spot on. Watch for yourself.

Christina Passariello, WSJ. Magazine:

Apple Park is unlike any other product Ive has worked on. There will be only one campus—in contrast to the ubiquity of Apple’s phones and computers—and it doesn’t fit in a pocket or a hand. Yet Ive applied the same design process he brings to technological devices: prototyping to minimize any issues with the end result and to narrow what he calls the delta between the vision and the reality of a project. Apple Park is also the last major project Ive worked on with Steve Jobs, making it more personal for the man Jobs once called his “spiritual partner.”

So far, so good. But:

With Apple Park, Ive is ensconced as master of the house, which means he has also inherited the burden of proving that Apple’s best days aren’t behind it. Apple hasn’t had a breakthrough product since Jobs died. The iPhone’s sales growth has stalled, and expectations are high that a 10th-anniversary phone will arrive later this year and will be markedly more advanced than previous versions. In other technologies, from digital assistants to driverless vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, Apple seems to lag other tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Tesla. Its new voice-activated speaker, HomePod, unveiled in June, will arrive on the market in December, three years after Amazon’s Echo.

This “what have you done for me lately” journalism does a disservice, is incredibly shortsighted. Products like Apple Watch and AirPods aside, spend some time with ARKit to see a true breakthrough at work, a technology that will enable a generation of developers to stand on the shoulder of giants, to build things that would have been impractical, if not impossible before.

But I digress:

Like other Ive designs, Apple Park seems poised to become an icon. In an acknowledgement that the campus will attract interest beyond its employees, there will be a visitor center and a store selling items unique to Apple Park.

And:

Ive joined Apple half a lifetime ago, in his mid-20s, when the company was at the brink of death. One of his early designs, the candy-colored iMac, was rejected by executives. Ive stashed it away until Jobs returned to the company in 1997, after a 12-year hiatus; it became an instant point of connection between the two men and was put into production soon thereafter.

And:

When J.J. Abrams was working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ive mentioned that he “would love to see a lightsaber that is rougher, spitting sparks,” Abrams says. The director, who says he and Ive were already fans of each other’s work when they met at a dinner four years ago, applied Ive’s suggestion to character Kylo Ren’s weapon. “His lightsaber was as imperfect and unpredictable as the character,” says Abrams. (The inspiration is mutual: Ive told Abrams that he had the look of the original Stormtroopers in mind when he designed Apple’s earbuds.)

These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg. The article goes on to highlight many features of Apple Park intercut with quotes from Laurene Powell Jobs, Sir Jony, and Tim Cook. This is worth reading, worth the price of a Wall Street Journal subscription, or a trip to your newsstand to pick up a paper copy of the WSJ. Magazine (this is this week’s cover story).

Foxconn decision to invest in Wisconsin said to be announced Wednesday evening

Dave here. I’ve been reading the Wisconsin papers as of late. The state is going gaga over the likelihood that Foxconn will build and operate a factory somewhere in the state.

From this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:

Foxconn Technology Group will make a midweek announcement in Milwaukee that Wisconsin is the company’s choice, or at least its leading choice, for a huge new electronics factory, a source told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday.

And:

A second source separately told the Journal Sentinel that Foxconn would announce its plans for Wisconsin this week, but didn’t know where the announcement would be made.

And:

WISN radio talk show host Mark Belling said an announcement that Wisconsin has been chosen by Foxconn will be made Thursday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

[See the second update below. Sounds like an announcement is coming tonight]

And from this article:

Foxconn Technology Group’s interest in southeastern Wisconsin, where the Asian electronics manufacturer is considering building a multibillion-dollar industrial campus, underscores an often-overlooked economic advantage for a region burdened with a Rust Belt image:

It has abundant access to water, an increasingly scarce commodity that analysts say is used in prodigious amounts in making the flat-panel displays that the new plant would likely produce.

Racine County and Kenosha County are nestled up against the Lake Michigan shoreline and boast a nearly inexhaustible supply of fresh water, at a time when parts of California, Arizona and Nevada as well as China, India, Singapore and Brazil have been forced to resort to water-use restrictions.

And from this USA Today article:

Monday evening, a private jet linked to Foxconn CEO Terry Gou flew from Santa Ana, Calif., to Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., according to the FlightAware.com tracking website. The Gulfstream 650 is the same aircraft that landed in Milwaukee and Madison this month.

All signs do seem to point to a new Foxconn plant in Wisconsin. Could future iPhones, or at least their displays, be built in the US?

UPDATE: Fantastic Bloomberg Decrypted podcast episode dedicated to discussing the details of bringing jobs (like iPhone related manufacturing) to the US, and the types of jobs that go along with that sort of move. Hint: it’s mostly robots. [H/T Robert Davey]

UPDATE 2: According to CNBC:

Apple-supplier Foxconn will announce a plant in Wisconsin on Wednesday evening, accompanied by President Donald Trump, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a source with knowledge of the announcement told CNBC.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will also be present at the announcement in Washington, a source said. No exact location for plant has been chosen — but southeast Wisconsin is under consideration, according to a source.

Vitaliy Katsenelson, Market Watch:

I had this “Aha!” moment recently when I visited a Tesla store and saw its cars’ power train. It looks just like a skateboard — basically a flat slab of metal (which houses the battery), four wheels, and an electric engine the size of a large watermelon. That’s it — the Tesla has only 18 moving parts.

Many Tesla showrooms have that full size power train on display. It really is something to behold, a marvel of efficiency.

If both Tesla and Apple bypass the dealership model, the GMs of the world will be at an even larger competitive disadvantage. They will have to abandon the dealership model too. Yes, I know, selling cars directly to consumers is not legal in many states, but if the U.S. Constitution could be amended 27 times, the law on car sales (which is an artifact of the Great Depression) can be amended as well. The traditional dealership model is unlikely to survive anyway, as its economics dramatically degrade in the electric-car world. A car with few moving parts and minimal electronics has few things to break. Consequently, electric cars will need less servicing, throttling the dealerships’ most important profit center.

And:

Think back to the day when Apple introduced the iPhone. No one suspected that it (and the smartphones that followed) would enable a service like Uber, which is putting cabdrivers worldwide out of business.

The baby boomer generation romanticizes cars. Most boomers can recite the horsepower and other engine specs of every car they have ever owned. For the tail end of Gen-X (my generation) and Millennials, a car is an interruption between Facebook and Twitter.

Obviously, this is conjecture. We do not know if Apple is building a car. But the idea of an Apple Car is fascinating, and this article homes in on some interesting truths if Apple does go down that path. Read the whole thing.

July 25, 2017

A U.S. judge on Monday ordered Apple Inc to pay $506 million for infringing on a patent owned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s patent licensing arm, more than doubling the damages initially imposed on Apple by a jury.

There is a second lawsuit pending that alleges later Apple devices also infringe on the patent. Apple is appealing.

“I spoke to [Mr. Cook], he’s promised me three big plants—big, big, big,” Mr. Trump said as part of a discussion about business-tax reform and business investment. “I said you know, Tim, unless you start building your plants in this country, I won’t consider my administration an economic success. He called me, and he said they are going forward.”

Apple declined to comment.

I guess Tim won’t be giving Trump any secret information on the next iPhone.

Assembling the Porsche 911 Turbo S

I want to visit the Porsche factory one day.

Stone Sour’s Christian Martucci talks guitars

Great guitarist and we like a lot of the same players.

Adobe announces Flash is dead

Adobe on Tuesday announced that Flash is dead, but not until the end of 2020. This will presumably give any developers still using the technology to move to another platform.

As a user of Apple devices, the big question is, what does this mean for me? The simple answer is nothing. iOS has never supported the use of Flash, so iPhones and iPads will continue to work as they always have. You will be able to view the same content on your devices that you always have.

It really won’t affect Mac users either. Much of the Web content has moved away from Flash in past decade, and Flash hasn’t been pre-installed on the Mac since 2010. Even if you did install Flash, Safari required you to explicitly authorize it before it would run.

Of course, it was in 2010 that Steve Jobs wrote his Thoughts on Flash that caused a major stir in the industry. The fact is, Jobs was right in everything he said.

Adobe said it is working with Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla. Each of those companies have posted their thoughts on the news.

Killing Flash is a good thing. The Web will move to more open standards, allowing everyone to see content without using proprietary technologies. Flash had its day, but it’s time to move on.

Want to get started with Logic Pro? Here’s one path.

Interested in digging into Logic Pro, but find the interface a bit intimidating? Here are two resources that might ease the learning curve.

First, spend some time with this excellent, free 4 part series from Justin Kahn, writing for 9to5Mac. To me, there’s enough depth to really understand the basics, while maintaining a slow enough pace that it’s still easy to follow.

Second, take a look at this series of slides, part of a music production course from the esteemed Berklee College of Music. The slides focus on the details of the mixer and the channel strip. To me, these are the most complex pieces of the Logic Pro interface.

Have some other suggestions for learning Logic Pro? Ping me on Twitter or post a comment.

UPDATE: Mark Dalrymple posted an excellent list of Logic learning resources in the comments.

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

Just back from three weeks in the Country of Good Sin’s heartland, I see Microsoft’s fresh and well-received Fourth Quarter Fiscal Year 2017 Results. The numbers acknowledge what was already notorious: Windows Phone is dead.

Country of Good Sin? That’s France, though I’d love to know the origin of that particular nickname. Hopefully, some kind reader will enlighten me.

UPDATE: From Jean-Louis:

Moving on:

The gross failure of what once was the most powerful and richest tech company on the planet led to a search for a platform killer. Detectives didn’t think they had to go far to nab a suspect: Android. Microsoft’s Windows Phone was murdered by Google’s smartphone OS. How could Redmond’s money-making software licensing business model survive against a free and open source platform? Case closed.

No so fast.

And:

Microsoft’s smartphone troubles started well before the birth of Android. In a reversal of the famous dictum Victory Has Many Fathers But Defeat Is An Orphan, Windows Phone’s collapse seems to have had many progenitors deeply embedded in the company’s decades-old culture.

This is a great read. Jean-Louis engages in some interesting fiction, speculating on what would happen if Microsoft were to give away Windows Phone, à la Android. Still possible!

ARKit used to create an amazing, table-top, virtual tower defense game

Watch the video. I can’t say enough great things about ARKit. Such a terrific move by Apple.

Snopes locked in legal battle for control of its website

Poynter, a few weeks ago, in a post that lays out the legal details:

The owner of Snopes is locked in a legal battle with a small digital services company for control of the popular debunking site.

Proper Media — a company that owns, operates and represents web properties — has issued a legal complaint and demand for a jury trial with Snopes owner Bardav, Inc. for what it calls “a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits,” according to documents filed in the Superior Court of California in San Diego County.

And from this New York Times article:

The site, which gets all of its revenue from advertising, created a crowdfunding page on Monday, seeking $500,000 from readers to remain operational indefinitely. It says that Proper Media, the vendor that runs its advertising services, has withheld the site’s revenue and has refused to relinquish control of the site. That leaves Bardav — the company that owns and operates Snopes — with no way of moving the site to a new host or installing its own ads, said David Mikkelson, a founder of the site.

What a mess. It’s all so twisted. If only there was a site one could go to to get the real story. Oh. Wait.

UPDATE: We received an email from Procopio, the law firm representing Snopes, with details on their current legal strategy. Here’s a link to the press release that lays it all out.