January 18, 2018

These are beautiful. Not necessarily practical, but absolutely worth a look.

Apple Insider pulls together the details on what’s new with Safari 11 on both iOS and macOS. Don’t miss the video embedded at the top of the Apple Insider post.

Marco Arment:

Having attended (and sometimes spoken at) many of these conferences over the years, I can’t deny the feeling I’ve had in the last couple of years that the era of the small Apple-ish developer-ish conference is mostly or entirely behind us.

And:

It’s getting increasingly difficult for organizers to sell tickets, in part because it’s hard to get big-name speakers without the budget to pay them much (which would significantly drive up ticket costs, which exacerbates other problems), but also because conferences now have much bigger competition in connecting people to their colleagues or audiences.

Marco digs into the why’s of this change. Good read.

If you are in the market for a smart thermostat, this is a solid read. The Ecobee4 and 3rd generation Nest are editor’s choices.

Taipei Times:

Inventec Corp, one of the two assemblers for Apple Inc’s HomePod, has started shipping the US company’s long-awaited “smart” speaker with an initial shipment of about 1 million units, industry sources said.

I’m really interested in learning what features will ship with this first version of HomePod.

Obviously, the music capabilities will be first and foremost. But how much of Siri will be available? Will HomePod’s Siri be limited in any way? Will HomePod’s Siri domain be more detailed when it comes to music?

How will updates be handled? Will HomePod be linked to my iPhone, with a HomePod app for handling settings/updates like my Apple Watch?

How will HomePod distinguish itself from existing products like the Amazon Echo and Google Home? What is the value proposition here? How would a consumer justify the extra cost?

I’m very much looking forward to getting one, seeing all this for myself.

Tedium:

So, as it turns out, before the virtual bowling alley borrowed something from the trackball, the inventors of the trackball borrowed something from the actual bowling alley—specifically, the Canadian variation of it, called 5-pin bowling.

And:

The [trackball] is Canadian through and through, a project formulated at the behest of the Royal Canadian Navy by Ferranti Canada, as part of a much larger project—a military information system called Digital Automated Tracking and Resolving, or DATAR.

And:

“Think about the state of play in the computer world in 1952. There were only a handful of operating computers in the world. Almost all were unreliable. There was no common software language… pulse rates were only 50-100kHz. The idea of using a ball to control a cursor which could intervene and change program execution was a million miles ahead.”

This is a terrific look back at a device that changed the path of computing. [Via The Overspill]

Tim Cook talks new Apple site, tax repatriation, battery kerfuffle, and more

Watch the videos embedded below, two different takes on the same interview. If you only watch one, watch the second. It’s a bit more detailed, longer stretches of Tim talking.

One takeaway from all this: Tim is earnest. When he talks about Apple’s intentions regarding the battery snafu, I believe he means what he says, and I believe what he says is true.

January 17, 2018

Apple Inc (AAPL.O) will open a new campus as part of a 5-year, $30 billion U.S. investment plan and will make about $38 billion in one-time tax payments on its overseas cash, one of the largest corporate spending plans announced since the passage of a tax cut signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

This is in addition to Apple giving employees $2500 bonuses today.

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. told employees Wednesday that it’s issuing a bonus of $2,500 worth of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law, according to people familiar with the matter.

The iPhone maker will begin issuing stock grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The move comes on the same day Apple said it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, funding an additional technical support campus, data centers and 20,000 new employees.

Good to see these bonuses are also being given out to retail and part-time employees.

Mashable has reached out to both Apple and the local police to confirm whether the shuttles were being shot at, and we will update this when we hear back. At the time of publication, Apple and the local police were not able to confirm what object was shattering the windows. It could, of course, be rocks — but even rocks thrown at a moving vehicle on the highway could result in tragedy.

Be safe people.

The Verge:

Unlike many automakers that offer Apple CarPlay in their new cars, BMW makes you pay for it on all of their models. That’s unlikely to change, but it may soon cut a break to those who don’t use iOS or don’t like Apple’s smartphone integration system for the car.

The automaker next year will turn CarPlay into a subscription-based service rather than treating it as a one-time option, Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, told The Verge at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show on Tuesday.

This is an interesting decision by BMW. Their logic seems solid but many people are unhappy about the subscription. I’ll never buy a BMW so I don’t have a dog in this hunt but if successful, you can bet this will move downmarket to other manufacturers.

UPDATE: I just saw this tweet:

On BMW subscription fee for CarPlay: @bmwcanada says it’s in response to Apple changing fees. Apple charged automakers lump fee to offer CarPlay, per car, for life of car. Apple cancelled that, now charging automakers per car/per year to offer CarPlay.

Farhad Manjoo, New York Times:

Tech “addiction” is a topic of rising national concern. I put the A-word in quotes because the precise pull that our phones exert over us isn’t the same as that of drugs or alcohol. The issue isn’t really new, either; researchers who study how we use digital technology have for years been warning of its potential negative effects on our cognition, psyche and well-being.

What is new is who has joined the ranks of the worried. Recently, a parade of tech luminaries, including several former Facebook employees, have argued that we’re no match for the sophisticated machinery of engagement and persuasion being built into smartphone apps. Their fears are manifold: They’re worried about distraction, productivity, how social networks alter our emotional lives and relationships, and what they’re doing to children.

And:

I got to thinking about Apple’s responsibility last week when two large investors wrote an open letter asking the company to do more about its products’ effects on children. I was initially inclined to dismiss the letter as a publicity stunt; if you’re worried about children and tech, why not go after Facebook?

But when I called several experts, I found they agreed with the investors. Sure, they said, Apple isn’t responsible for the excesses of the digital ad business, but it does have a moral responsibility to — and a business interest in — the well-being of its customers.

I am not sure I agree with Farhad’s allegation of Apple’s moral responsibility, but I think this article is worth reading. More and more, the world is stumbling around, staring at their phones and losing their connections with each other, losing touch with their humanity.

Is this Apple’s fault? I don’t think so. I think blame, in general, is not helpful, and I also think we were heading down this road as technology evolved, whether Apple was there to steer us or not.

One more quote from the article:

There’s another, more important reason for Apple to take on tech addiction: because it would probably do an elegant job of addressing the problem.

“I do think this is their time to step up,” said Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google who now runs Time Well Spent, an organization working to improve technology’s impact on society.

“In fact,” Mr. Harris added, “they may be our only hope.”

Just me, or did this immediately spring to mind for you, too?

Megan Rose Dickey, TechCrunch:

TWiT, officially known as This Week in Tech, is suing Twitter. The audio and video media platform alleges breach of written contract, breach of oral agreement, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage and trademark infringement.

As the story goes, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams had previously told Leo Laporte Twitter was simply a text-based microblogging service, the lawsuit states.

And:

As the lawsuit alleges, what happened on Twitter — short, 140-character bursts of text — was very different from the audio and video TWiT produced on its platform. In 2009, however, Laporte felt concerned that Twitter was going to move in on TWiT’s audio and video, the lawsuit states. That’s when Laporte allegedly reached out to Williams, who told Laporte “we’re not expanding to audio or video under the Twitter brand,” the lawsuit states.

This Week in Tech started as a roundtable discussion at MacWorld Expo, back in 2005. Twitter started in March of 2006. So it’s clear which came first.

That said, in all the time I’ve been aware of both, I’ve never once confused TWiT with Twitter.

And that said, it sounds like the core issue here is an alleged oral agreement. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Yesterday, we posted an article titled, Apple Music and the loss of the album.

As a result of that discussion, I became aware of this post from a few month’s ago, a piece by Dave B on pain points in the iOS 11 Music app.

Dave does a nice job digging through Apple’s music experience, and I hope that folks on the Apple Music team take a few minutes to read through this post, if they haven’t already. Some terrific food for thought.

Rebecca Kahn:

The process began when my computer class teacher at Porter-Gaud challenged us to interview a person of interest in technology and present what we learned.

And:

It was my senior year, and I wanted to interview not just a real leader in technology, but one whose philosophy and ideas about life were motivating as well. As soon as the assignment was announced, one name immediately came to mind: Apple CEO Tim Cook. He is not just in charge of the world’s largest tech company, but he personally advocates and stands up for things he believes are right. He travels the world and meets with political and innovative leaders. What was the likelihood of him even responding to me?

I love this story.

Apple and the The Office: Office actors surface in new FileMaker ad

One of the rumors linked to Apple’s burgeoning video efforts was a possible reboot of The Office.

Not clear if this is the extent of Apple’s plans for The Office, but check out the ad below for FileMaker. I’ll leave it to you to judge the ad’s charms.

I was surprised to see an ad for FileMaker after all these years. I’d love to know the backstory here. Was this done solely by FileMaker staff? Or was this the brainchild of Apple marketing, either as an experiment, or as an attempt to bump FileMaker visibility/sales?

Seems expensive for an experiment, or a FileMaker coffers funded ad campaign. And the ad specifically brands FileMaker as “An Apple Subsidiary”.

Perhaps this is serving more as a trailer for Apple’s future video efforts.

Matt Birchler:

It strikes me this year that we’re hitting the 5th major version of watchOS. This is not a brand new platform anymore, even though the Apple Watch feels relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Add to that the fact that Apple’s direct competitor here, Android Wear, has all but exited the market as Wear 2.0 barely got released and basically no one is making Wear watches anymore, and you get the feeling that watchOS updates don’t need to be that substantial anymore.

And:

watchOS is far from perfect and there are tons of things that could be done to make it not only a better experience for those who already own one, but to draw in more people to the platform. The Apple Watch is one of the largest reasons I’m loyal to iOS for my smartphone, and since Apple is pretty darn invested in people buying more iPhones, they probably want to get people to love their Apple Watches even more so these customers never change sides.

Without further ado, here are some of my suggestions to Apple that I think would make the Apple Watch a better, more appealing product.

This is a fantastic read, from beginning to end. Lots of great ideas, and great images as well.

Two particular suggestions I want to highlight:

The battery is fantastic on the new hardware.

Now Apple, please spend that battery surplus on always on watch faces! I don’t always need this, and the Apple Watch turns on 95% of the time when I want it to, but it’s not 100% and it is always a pain when it doesn’t turn itself on. With always on faces, I may not be able to see everything on the face, but at least seeing the time would be hugely useful.

Amen. There are times when having the display always on would be immensely helpful. When I am cooking, for example, my hands covered in flour, and I want to check the status of a timer. It’s not that I can’t get the display to pop on. It’s that sometimes it takes some extra wrist wriggling.

I would like them to add automatic workout detection. Some activity trackers do this already, and while it’s not perfect on any of them, it’s always good to have as a back up in case you forget to start or stop a workout. For example, if I start a run and forget to start a running workout on my Apple Watch, the watch should send me a notification after a minute that asks me if I am running and if I want to start tracking this as a workout. When I tap “yes” it should start a workout and know what type of workout I’m doing.

Completely agree.

This is some beautiful work, Matt.

January 16, 2018

Details of the project are being kept under tight wraps, but it would reportedly deal with a world’s battle against a monstrous, oppressive force. Should the project move forward, it would be Abrams’ first TV writing gig since “Fringe” in 2008.

J.J. Abrams is just the type of hitmaker that Apple needs if it’s going to make a big splash in the original series TV market.

A group of 21 U.S. state attorneys general filed suit to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to do away with net neutrality on Tuesday while Democrats said they needed just one more vote in the Senate to repeal the FCC ruling.

Good.

This compact 2×4 interface starts with esteemed UA conversion derived from UA’s flagship Apollo interface range, to sonically outperform anything in its class. With its Unison technology and built-in UAD-2 SOLO Core processor, you can record through classic audio tools including the 610 Tube Preamp, LA-2A and 1176 compressors, and a genuine Marshall Plexi amp plug-in — at near-zero latency, regardless of your audio software buffer setting.

This is an incredible looking interface and included plug-ins bundle.

This is a fascinating article at Forbes on how the FBI views Apple and its pro-privacy stance. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

Apple increased its share of smartphone activations in the fourth quarter of 2017, following the release of the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, according to data shared with MacRumors by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

This is really interesting to me, especially considering all the rumors that the iPhone 8 sales were lower than expected because people were waiting for the iPhone X, and then iPhone X sales weren’t meeting expectations. It sounds like sales are doing fine, but we’ll find out during the next quarterly earnings.

The firm’s Alpha bike runs for about 100 km (62 miles) on a two-litre tank of hydrogen, a range similar to an electric bike, but a refill takes only minutes while e-bikes take hours to charge. One kilo of hydrogen holds about 600 times more energy than a one-kilo lithium battery.

The bikes are really expensive, and the charging stations even more expensive, but they do plan to bring these to the consumer market in the coming years.

TCM is the best way to manage your Macs, instantly. Take a screenshot, open an app, open a web page, reboot a computer, send a UNIX command, reboot to Windows — all without leaving your desk. TCM does all of this right from a web browser. No software to install on the administrator computer and accessible from anywhere.

Sounds intriguing.

We have some sponsorships available for the remainder of January and the month of February. If you would like to get your product or service in front of the wonderful readers of The Loop, get in touch with me and let’s make a deal. You can get more information on the sponsorships here.

The Sweet Setup:

To be practical, an iPad photography workflow has to encompass everything from shooting, importing, culling, editing, and the final export. The ideal scenario is to be able to trust the iPad to replace a laptop as my daily photography companion. It needn’t do so entirely — I’m happy to continue using my desktop-based collection of apps when I’m at home and need their specific capabilities — but I should feel confident taking nothing but an iPad with me when I head out on a shoot or take my next trip.

Things aren’t perfect yet, but depending on your tolerance for doing things differently, we’re finally at a place where the iPad is a viable companion for the working photographer.

During my recent trip to Australia, my workflow was blown up by a busted MacBook Air screen so I had to jury-rig a solution that, in some ways, mirrored not only the solutions found in this piece but the frustrations as well.

Apple Music and the loss of the album

Over the weekend, someone started a thread asking why an artist’s album view in Apple Music has gotten so cluttered.

To see this for yourself, pick a relatively modern artist and check out their list of albums in the Music app. For example, fire up Siri and say:

Show me all the Bruno Mars albums

When the Bruno Mars page appears, scroll down to the Albums section and tap See All. Amongst the actual Bruno Mars albums, you’ll find a lot of singles and EPs. Way more singles and EPs than actual albums, in fact.

Now it certainly is great to have a complete list of all of Bruno Mars’ music at your fingertips. But sometimes you want to find an album. And there is a lot of clutter.

Personally, I think it’d be nice if there was some way to declutter the list, have a view without all the duplicated remixed singles.

To get a sense of the core of this problem, take a few minutes to read Kirk McElhearn’s excellent post, How iTunes Handles Albums, EPs, and Singles. From the post:

With digital music, everything has changed. When you see a bit of text on a website or in iTunes, all you know is the name of the release and its artist. David Bowie’s Let’s Dance could be a single, an EP, or an Album. This is because the tags – the metadata that identifies music – doesn’t allow for this type of differentiation. iTunes uses a simplified version of the ID3 tagging system, which doesn’t offer a tag to identify what type of release a record is. (MusicBrainz does use a tag called Release Group, which can be used to distinguish between singles, albums, and EPs, but also broadcasts and “other.”)

So how can you distinguish between these different formats in digital? The only way is if the record label has tagged the name of a release with the word “Single” or “EP.”

Bottom line, this is not a trivial problem to solve. Not, at least, without the cooperation of the labels. But seems to me, this is a problem worth solving. And if I, as a human, can step through an artists list of albums/EPs/singles and quickly suss out which items on the list are albums, surely this is the kind of problem that would yield to a well applied bit of machine learning.

And once Apple Music knows the difference between albums, singles, EPs, etc., it’d be easy enough to add a filter to let me search through only albums, or only singles for that matter.

Josh Tidsbury, Apple:

I have the great honor of working as part of the Technology Evangelism group at Apple. Involvement in the annual WWDC conference is one of the key efforts by the team each year, and I was really taken by the conference this year. The developers I met were simply amazing, the team behind the conference immensely talented, and the conference branding and theme also spoke to me very deeply.

As someone who came into technology from the arts, and endeavors to bring the best of both disciplines into everything I do, it struck a chord in my heart.

And:

I wanted to create something of a keepsake for each of the other members of our team as a personal gift to each of them. I’ve always loved the aesthetic of the Apple Design Award, and wanted to create something of an homage to that design, but using my favourite material: wood.

Read the post, take a look at the pictures. What an amazingly thoughtful gift. So cool.

Wired:

You’ve seen the video. Everyone on the internet has. A man sits in a cubicle and pounds his keyboard in frustration. A few seconds later, the Angry Man picks up the keyboard and swings it like a baseball bat at his screen—it’s an old PC from the ’90s, with a big CRT monitor—whacking it off the desk. A frightened coworker’s head pops up over the cubicle wall, just in time to watch the Angry Man get up and kick the monitor across the floor. Cut to black.

Most of us have seen and laughed at this grainy video but I had no idea it was staged.

Here’s a link to the Google Arts & Culture app.

Once you install the app, launch it, then scroll down, just a bit, to the section with the white box that asks, “Is your portrait in a museum?”

Tap to get started, give Google access to your camera, take a selfie, then let the app do its thing. My sense is that the matching algorithm keys in on your hair, including any facial hair.

Interesting idea. Wondering what Google does with all the selfies it harvests.