An illustrated history of iOS

A fun stroll through history from the Git Tower blog. I LOVE the illustrations. Anyone know who did them?

More treasure from the HomePod firmware

More digging through the leaked HomePod firmware unearthed two concept videos. Click through to the main Loop post for the embedded tweets.

How to securely dispose of your old Mac

Kirk McElhearn, Intego blog:

Your Mac contains a lot of personal information, and is connected to a number of Apple accounts. When you plan to dispose of your Mac — whether you sell it, give it away, or send it for recycling — there are a number of things you should do to make sure your data and your accounts remain secure. There are also a few steps you need to take to remove that Mac from Apple’s accounts.

In this article, I go over the 8 steps you should take before getting rid of a Mac.

Some basic, common sense advice here. Bookmark, pass along, especially to folks you know who are relatively new to the Mac.

Why your face will soon be the key to all your devices

Wall Street Journal:

Forget fiddling with passwords or even fingerprints; forget multiple layers of sign-in; forget credit cards and, eventually, even physical keys to our homes and cars. A handful of laptops and mobile devices can now read facial features, and the technique is about to get a boost from specialized hardware small enough to fit into our phones.

Using our faces to unlock things could soon become routine, rather than the purview of spies and superheroes.

And:

Depth-sensing technology, generally called “structured light,” sprays thousands of tiny infrared dots across a person’s face or any other target.

By reading distortions in this field of dots, the camera gathers superaccurate depth information. Since the phone’s camera can see infrared but humans can’t, such a system could allow the phone to unlock in complete darkness.

And:

Teaching our phones what our faces look like will be just like teaching them our fingerprints, says Sy Choudhury, a senior director at Qualcomm responsible for security and machine-intelligence products. An image of your face is captured, relevant features are extracted and the phone stores them for comparison with your face when you unlock the phone.

As with fingerprint recognition, the facial images are securely stored only on the device itself, not in the cloud. History — from Apple’s battles with domestic law enforcement over unlocking iPhones to Amazon’s insistence that the Alexa doesn’t upload anything until it hears its wake word — suggests companies will use this privacy as a selling point.

My fingerprints don’t change, but moisture, sweat, and dirt can make my fingerprints unreadable to Touch ID. I wonder if a haircut, beard trim, shift in makeup patterns will have a similar impact on facial recognition.

Fascinating read.

Big Ben to go silent today, MPs gather to hear final bongs

The Guardian:

MPs are expected to gather outside parliament to witness Big Ben’s final bongs at midday on Monday before the chimes are silenced to allow repair work to begin, amid a political furore about the four-year renovation project.

From the Big Ben Wikipedia page:

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower as well. The tower is officially known as Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; previously, it was known simply as the Clock Tower.

When completed in 1859, it was, says clockmaker Ian Westworth, “the prince of timekeepers: the biggest, most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world.” The tower had its 150th anniversary on 31 May 2009, during which celebratory events took place.

A British cultural icon, the tower is one of the most prominent symbols of the United Kingdom and is often in the establishing shot of films set in London.

Hope we hear that famous bong again as soon as possible.

Latest iOS beta offers quick way to force passcode reentry

When you restart your iPhone, you are forced to reenter your passcode to unlock your phone. If your phone is off, this prevents anyone with access to your phone from breaking in.

But with the latest beta (iOS 11 beta 6), Apple added this shortcut:

https://twitter.com/alt_kia/status/898067522234097664

In a nutshell, if you press the power button 5 times quickly, you are sent to the emergency call screen (as you were in previous incarnations). But in the latest beta, Touch ID will no longer unlock your phone, forcing you to reenter the passcode to regain access.

This is a smart add. You can make this move silently, even with the phone in your pocket.

Hollywood, Apple said to mull rental plan, defying theaters

Bloomberg:

Movie studios are considering whether to ignore the objections of cinema chains and forge ahead with a plan to offer digital rentals of films mere weeks after they appear in theaters, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some of the biggest proponents, including Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures, are pressing on in talks with Apple Inc. and Comcast Corp. on ways to push ahead with the project even without theater chains, the people said.

And:

Deals with potential distributors such as Apple and Comcast could be reached as soon as early next year to sell digital downloads of major films as soon as two weeks after they debut in theaters, the people said.

This seems inevitable, part of the evolution of the content consumption model. Apple is easing into this business on several sides, tweaking their iTunes movie and TV streaming business, as they also build their own content creation business.

I see Apple as the irresistible force here, fueled by the deepest pockets in the biz.

Chipotle’s iPhone app to accept Apple Pay

PR Newswire:

Deloitte today announced that Chipotle Mexican Grill has selected Deloitte Digital to help transform its mobile customer experience. Deloitte Digital, the creative digital consultancy within Deloitte Consulting LLP, will redesign Chipotle’s iOS and Android ordering apps as part of Chipotle’s focus on digital ordering and enhancing the customer experience. Chipotle plans to launch the new apps in the fall of 2017, with additional channels by the end of the year.

And:

The redesigned mobile experience will also include enhanced payment options including Apple and Android pay.

Whether or not you are a fan of Chipotle, this is a sign of the continued expansion of Apple Pay. Slow and steady.

Face ID anti-FUD: Easing anxiety over the unannounced

Rene Ritchie, iMore:

Apple hasn’t even announced Face ID, the rumored facial identity scanner that would join or replace Touch ID, the fingerprint identity scanner, on the next generation of iPhones 8, but already we’re seeing a great deal of concern and even fear over how it will and won’t work.

And:

One of the biggest areas of fear, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding a potential Face ID facial identity scanner is that it will make it easier to law enforcement and government agencies to gain access to our devices.

Rene digs into the concern itself (someone could grab my phone and point it at my face to unlock it) and explores the validity of that worry.

A solid read, all the way through. Rene is a smart cookie.

Personally, I see Face ID and Touch ID as roughly equivalent in terms of someone using me to break into my phone. Add to that, Apple has not yet announced such a product. I’d prefer to save my worry for something a bit more tangible.

Accidentally Famous: The story behind the original voice of Siri

[VIDEO] This is from a Ted Talk Susan Bennett gave last year. Watch the video embedded in the main Loop post. One particular nugget (about 1:17 in):

One of the original engineers was from Norway. His name was Dag Kittlaus. He was responsible for naming Siri. In Norwegian, the name Siri means “beautiful woman who guides you to victory”.

Fascinating to see Susan Bennett tell these origin stories. My sense, from the iOS 11 beta, it that Siri is moving toward a more generic, machine generated voice. Yet, in the latest commercials (with The Rock), Susan appears to do all the Siri voice work.

It’ll be interesting to see how all this will play out. Will Susan be “classic Siri”?

A time when all the links on the internet could fit in a book

Motherboard:

During its initial printing run, International Data Group printed just 7,500 copies of DOS for Dummies.

And:

By 1993, the series had sold 1.3 million copies on its own. Now there are 1,950 individual books in the series, covering a whole lot of things that have nothing to do with computing, and the books have sold upwards of 300 million titles.

And:

Recently, I bought a book—quaint, I know—and I’m probably the only person to have purchased this book or anything like it in more than 20 years.

It’s a reference book, the kind that you can still pick up at Barnes and Noble today. But it’s best described as what you’d get if you combined a phone book, a Matthew Lesko free money guide, and the internet.

That book is really the crux of the article. A fascinating look back at a time before Google, when the Internet was but a toddler.

Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner on Carpool Karaoke

[VIDEO] Fan of Game of Thrones? Then this edition of Carpool Karaoke is for you. Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) join the carpool and surprise some fans.

I am looking forward to this one. Karaoke is coming (trailer embedded in the main Loop post).

Apple readies $1 billion war chest for Hollywood programming

Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. (AAPL) has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter–a sign of how serious the iPhone maker is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company’s marketing clout and global reach, that immediately makes Apple a considerable competitor in a crowded market where new media players and traditional media companies are vying to acquire original shows. The figure is about half what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Amazon.com spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

And:

Programming costs can range from more than $2 million an episode for a comedy to more than $5 million for a drama. An episode of some high-end shows such as “Game of Thrones” can cost more than $10 million to produce.

The back-to-back success of the original shows “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” is credited with building Netflix’s business. At the time they were released the company’s annual budget for original and acquired programming was about $2 billion; this year it is expected to spend more than $6 billion.

Personally, I would not judge Apple’s chances here based on shows like Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. That would be like judging a developer on the apps they write as they learn how to program.

Key to Apple’s success will be setting aside enough cash (which they appear more than willing to do) and ability to bring on board the right mix of people, people with experience and craft. With the hire of Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, and the addition of Matt Cherniss to oversee development, Apple has the start of a significant original programming effort.

Matt Cherniss joins Apple as head of development for new original programming unit

Deadline:

In one of their first major moves since joining Apple as heads of worldwide video programming, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht have brought in Matt Cherniss to oversee development.

As a reminder, Van Amburg and Erlicht were hired away from Sony, where they shepherded hits like The Crown, Breaking Bad, and The Black List through production.

Cherniss, a respected veteran network development executive, had been in demand since he recently stepped down as president and general manager of WGN America and Tribune Studios.

Cherniss will be a lieutenant to Amburg and Erlicht. Apple is building a formidable team here. Now all they need is money.

People are awesome

[VIDEO] Thought you all would enjoy watching Jim go through his daily workout routines (video embedded in mail Loop post).

Winamp’s woes: How the greatest MP3 player undid itself

This is a fascinating story about how Winamp squandered its opportunity to be the dominant force in the music universe.

Great read, all the way through, but this bit amazed me:

Amazingly, given all the time elapsed, AOL still makes a decent amount of money on the site and on the program—while the company has declined to release official figures, former employees who worked on Winamp estimate its current revenue at around $6 million annually.

Wait, what? I find that astonishing.

This piece originally ran on June 24, 2012 (and Winamp finally called it quits in November 2013).

Ah, that explains it. Still, a great read.

Apple and Aetna hold secret meetings to bring the Apple Watch to millions of Aetna customers

CNBC:

Apple and Aetna held a series of secret discussions last week to bring Apple’s health and fitness-tracking smartwatch to millions more people connected to Aetna, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The insurer, which covers 23 million, offers an Apple Watch to its 50,000 employees as part of its corporate wellness program. Now, Aetna is negotiating with Apple on a plan to offer a free or discounted Apple Watch, Apple’s wearable device, as a perk to its members.

Seems to me a brilliant move. For Apple, a discounted Apple Watch brings potential new customers to the ecosystem. For Aetna, it’s possible they’re doing this just to make money on Apple Watch sales, but more likely, they’ve run the numbers, see a cost saving with insured folks having an Apple Watch.

“Every time I get in my car and plug in my iPhone, the same exact song plays.”

Wired:

EVERY TIME I get in my car and plug in my iPhone, the same exact song plays: “All of Me” by John Legend. But not the John Legend version, which would be much less embarrassing. No, the very first alphabetically sorted song in my Apple Music library is a cover of “All of Me” by the Dartmouth a cappella group The Dartmouth Aires. It’s not that I hate the song, or this version. It’s that I’ve heard the first 15 seconds of the song approximately 438 million times, blaring through my speakers as I open Spotify or Pocket Casts and play something I actually want.

Every iPhone user has a song like this.

And:

I could go on a whole bender here, ranting about how my phone should know what I want to listen to when I get into the car (probably whatever I was listening to five seconds before I got into the car!) and how annoying it is that the phone instead just plays the song in my library in the alphabetical pole position.

And:

Instead, I’ll just tell you about Samir Mezrahi, the former BuzzFeed and the Dodo social media guru, and his new song, “A a a a a Very Good Song.” The song consists only of nine minutes and 58 seconds of glorious silence.

Silence is not the solution here. Silence is a bandaid, masks the problem. Interesting read though.

Taking your data plan to a new iPad

New York Times:

In the case of the iPad, you might be able to transfer your plan from the old tablet to the new one right in the settings, without having to fuss around with the hardware.

After you have gone through Apple’s sequence of steps for setting up a new iPad out of the box, tap open the Settings app on the home screen. On the Settings screen, choose Cellular Data on the left side and Set Up Cellular Data on the right. If your previous iPad uses a compatible SIM (subscriber identity module), you should see an option to transfer your existing plan over to the new iPad through your wireless carrier’s network. You need to know the user name and password for your account with the carrier to complete the move and activation process.

Tuck this one away for the next time you upgrade your iPad.

Beijing urges subway riders to pay with smartphones — but not iPhones yet

Caixin:

Beijing’s 274 subways stations let you pay with nothing more than your smartphone — as long as it’s not an iPhone, which currently doesn’t support the technology.

On Monday, authorities began rolling out citywide promotions for the wireless function, which allows direct payment from 160 smartphone models, including those from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Xiaomi Inc. and Samsung.

And:

But the service is unavailable for iPhone users because Apple doesn’t currently allow the required near-field communication (NFC) technology on its handsets to connect to third-party payment terminals in China, BMAC said.

And:

An upgrade to Apple’s iOS operating system due this fall will enable the latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models to read more third-party NFC devices, according to company information released at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

A BMAC employee told Caixin that the state-run company doesn’t know for now whether the iOS upgrade will be compatible with the city’s payment terminals.

Sounds like a marketing opportunity for Apple. Address the problem, then sell iPhones in Beijing with the tagline, “works in all 274 subway stations” or some such.

Homeless iPhone

Fabrice Dubois:

So, apparently the next iPhone won’t have a physical Home button. There’s been much speculation already about what that means for the user. The bottom area of the device, for some, will be used to host the navigation bar items, as well as a virtual Home button.

This article describes another possibility.

This post does two thing:

  1. It does a nice job of talking through the iOS 11 home button experience on the iPad, making the case that the new “swipe up from the bottom edge” reduces the need for the Home button.

  2. Offers a nice conceptual take for the iPhone, which does not offer that bottom edge gesture, at least not as of the current iOS 11 beta.

Interesting take. I doubt we’ll see such a chance in a future beta, but perhaps some food for thought for iOS 12.

Amazon recalls eclipse glasses; U.S. sellers stunned by sudden move

I got this notice from Amazon over the weekend:

We’re writing to provide you with important safety information about the eclipse products you purchased on Amazon (order #113-5832038-7027461 for Daylight Sky G021 Plastic Solar Eclipse Glasses with Carry Case, Adult Size, Cool Style and Look, CE and ISO Tested, Safe Solar Viewing, (3 Glasses and 3 Cases), 3 Piece).

To protect your eyes when viewing the sun or an eclipse, NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) advise you to use solar eclipse glasses or other solar filters from recommended manufacturers. Viewing the sun or an eclipse using any other glasses or filters could result in loss of vision or permanent blindness.

Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer. We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse.

I suspect that this is about liability and on advice from Amazon’s legal team. While I am disappointed in the move, I’d rather not risk my eyesight.

That said, I can only imagine how disappointing this must be for the folks who sell these solar eclipse glasses. It’s not like they are ever going to get the chance to resell these in some other market. This is a definitive “speculative bubble”.

More on Consumer Reports flipping Microsoft Surface to “Not recommended”

On Friday, we posted news about Consumer Reports very publicly changing their Microsoft Surface opinion to “Not recommended”. From our post:

Take this change with a grain of salt, give the experts a chance to dig through the methodology. But no matter the ultimate resolution, this certainly gives a black eye to Microsoft’s Surface brand.

Over the weekend, I ran across this take from Ben Bajarin (it’s from a subscription-only newsletter, but Ben graciously gave me permission to repost it here):

I want to briefly comment on a consumer reports article that came out yesterday. CR officially does not recommend Microsoft Surface hardware based from their interviews and survey of 91,741 laptop and tablet owners. They claim 25% of Surface owners reported a form of breakage after a few years.

What bothers me most about this is the flawed methodology. Surface sales are not huge, and the installed base is relatively small. So even though CR covered over 91,000 people, there is no way they had what any respectable statistician would consider a representative sample. The fact CR is not further detailing their methodology or telling us how many Surface owners they had is a red flag. Based on some other source data I’ve come across, I’d bet CR had less than 50 people respond who owned a Surface and it was probably more like 30. So 25% of my estimate means five people had an issue with Surface after two years.

The flawed methodology is disingenuous, and sadly Consumer Reports has become a bit of a click-bait outlet. They do this with Apple and now with Microsoft. Media outlets endorsing the CR report and flawed methodology only further affirm that CR can do this in the future. Which means, for all the Apple fans in my Twitter timeline mocking Microsoft and Surface based on this flawed process by CR, this may come back and bite you when CR needs another click-bait headline and targets Apple with their disingenuous agenda and methodology.

Personally, I’m not a fan of Windows, but I am a fan of fairness. When I saw the Consumer Reports flip, something just felt off. Consumer Reports has an outsized reputation, which gives them clout. And, as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility.

If Ben’s take is correct, I’d love to see Consumer Reports either completely reveal their methodology or take the change back and redo their testing in a way that would stand up to public scrutiny.

How to make your iPhone speaker louder

This setting has been around for a while, but it’s subtle enough to have slipped through the cracks for many.

Take a look at this tweet.

To see this setting at work, fire up some relatively loud music on your iPhone.

Now go to Settings, scroll down to Music, make sure EQ is set to off. Get a sense of the volume.

Now scroll down and select the Late Night EQ setting. Notice a difference? To me, the difference is significant, the quiet elements boosted, the overall impression louder.

If you don’t hear a difference, tap to turn EQ off, then go back to Late Night. It’s subtle, but a good tip, worth sharing.

John Gruber on Safari and favicons

John Gruber, on the reaction to a piece he wrote comparing Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac:

But really, taken as a whole, the response to my piece was about one thing and one thing only: the fact that Safari does not show favicons on tabs and Chrome does. There are a huge number of Daring Fireball readers who use Chrome because it shows favicons on tabs and would switch to Safari if it did.

The reaction was so overwhelming I almost couldn’t believe it.

And:

The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don’t have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs.

I use Safari for the most part, but I heartily agree. See for yourself. Here are two pictures, showing a bunch of tabs open, one in Safari, the other in Chrome. Which makes it easier to identify individual tabs?

Solid point, John.