Create custom logos with free online tool

This is a nice tool for playing with logo ideas, homing in on a design you might then pass along to a professional designer to refine.

To get started, click the Make a Logo link in the top bar. Fun and useful.

Apple, Spielberg, and Bond

Steven Mallas, Seeking Alpha (free regwall) on Apple and Steve Spielberg inking a deal to bring the series of Amazing Stories to Apple TV:

The plan is for there to be 10 episodes at a cost of $5 million each. That’s nothing to Apple, a drop in the bucket.

And:

Spielberg could shift some of his slate over to streaming services that are aching to differentiate themselves from the pack, primarily the alpha Netflix. Again, here’s where Apple and its cash hoard and its enormous market cap and its platforms that need to be programmed come in – they could help Spielberg distribute concepts that might not find a place elsewhere. Netflix arguably already does this. Think the recent Stephen King adaptation Gerald’s Game. On Netflix, it stands out. In theaters, maybe it wouldn’t have. There’s no way that Cook and Spielberg don’t understand that.

The whole article is interesting, especially when Mallas chews on the possibility of Apple buying the rights to James Bond, both existing movies and the rights to new content:

Comparison was made to Disney and its purchases of Marvel/Lucasfilm; Lucasfilm was all about Star Wars, and that cost billions of dollars to consummate. If either Amazon or Apple won the rights to Bond, then those companies could release new films and episodic series on their respective platforms, as well as release movies to theaters on a worldwide basis.

And:

Bond, though, doesn’t necessarily, in my mind, lend itself to capital investment in the same way that Star Wars or Marvel do. I’m not sure about how valuable a merchandising program for Bond would be, as an example.

Interesting comparison. Not sure Netflix thinks about merchandising at all.

Apple allowing iPhone Upgrade Program customers to get a ‘Head Start’ on iPhone X upgrade

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Starting on Monday, October 23, iPhone Upgrade Program customers will be able to get a “head start” on the iPhone X pre-order process by getting pre-approved for an iPhone Upgrade Program loan.

If you are part of the iPhone Upgrade Program, this is worth a look, will get you through checkout that much quicker this Friday.

Paper is not dead

[VIDEO] When Apple launched the Mac, back in 1984, Steve Jobs said, “The paperless office is about as likely as the paperless bathroom.”

You have to wonder if the creators of this commercial, embedded in the main Loop post, had that quote in mind.

Enjoy.

Apple’s gorgeous Chicago riverfront store opens today

Follow the link, take a look at those images, especially that last one. This is an incredibly beautiful storefront, perfectly incorporated into the surroundings.

Props to whoever did the site planning. Just wow.

iOS developer sues Apple over Animoji trademark

Mikey Campbell, Apple Insider:

In a complaint lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, plaintiffs emonster k.k. and Enrique Bonansea, a U.S. citizen living in Japan, registered for the “Animoji” mark in 2014, reports The Recorder. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office subsequently granted rights to the property in 2015.

And:

According to the complaint, Apple not only had knowledge of the Animoji app prior to September’s iPhone X launch, but attempted to purchase rights for the mark from emonster. Bonansea claims he was approached by Apple “fronts,” like The Emoji Law Group LLC., to sell the property this past summer. These entities allegedly threatened to file a cancellation proceeding if the developer failed to acquiesce to their requests.

This reads like a John Grisham novel.

Facebook and Apple can’t agree on terms, so Facebook’s subscription tool will only launch on Android phones

Peter Kafka, Recode:

Facebook’s effort to help media companies sell subscriptions has hit a snag: Apple.

The two companies are butting heads over Facebook’s plan for a new subscription tool in its mobile app. The tool will put paywalls around some articles in Facebook’s news feed, and then send users to publishers’ sites to buy subscriptions.

The issue: Apple wants to take as much as 30 percent of any subscription revenue Facebook helps generate. Facebook wants all of the money to go to publishers.

This is nothing new. The 30 percent model has been in place since inception. But:

People familiar with Facebook’s plans say Google won’t take a cut of subscriptions users sign up for using its Android operating system.

And there’s the rub. I don’t think there are many people who will switch platforms because of this issue. This is about the publishers.

Note that not every publisher likes Facebook’s subscription plan. Notable holdouts from the test plan the company is announcing today include the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

And you can see why. Both the NYT and WSJ have existing paywalls that work for them. This is a complex problem, one I hope gets resolved quickly.

An iPad with a smooth finish to the finger, rough finish to the Apple Pencil

Patently Apple:

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to displays having a substrate with a visually imperceptible texture that provides tactile sensations varying with an object contacting the surface. Apple is considering applying a new finish on displays for Macs and iDevices that acts as an added protection layer with a different texture to the glass. The glass may feel smooth to the touch but slightly rougher with a little drag when using it with an Apple Pencil.

Not clear if this difference in feel is what they were going for in the first place, or a side product of the finish. What would really be cool is if there was a way to control that texture electronically, adjust it based on context.

Fascinating.

“Maybe it’s a piece of dust”

Over the past few days, there was a wave of discussion, back and forth across the net, about the MacBook Pro keyboard. Head to the main Loop post for all the gory detail. […]

Apple Watch cellular feature cut off in China

Wall Street Journal:

For the first time, the Apple Watch can have an independent cellular connection, allowing people to use it to make voice calls, send and receive text and data even if the watch isn’t wirelessly connected to an iPhone.

But in China, the feature was abruptly cut off for new subscribers, without explanation, after a brief availability with one telecom company.

Industry analysts say the suspension likely stemmed from Chinese government security concerns to do with tracking users of the device, which uses different technology than standard mobile phones.

This is a stunning development. After all the approvals were in place, prototypes no doubt submitted for inspection, deals signed with all players, manufacturing process completed, product packaged and distributed, and cash laid on the table as promised product was delivered and paid for, the rug was pulled out from under.

Here’s hoping this is a temporary setback.

Netflix hides their viewing numbers, but Nielsen uses audio recognition software for a clue

John Koblin, New York Times:

In the five years since Netflix started streaming original series like the Emmy-winning “House of Cards” and “Master of None,” the shows have had a question hanging over them: How many people are watching?

Outside of Netflix, nobody knows the answer.

But Nielsen (the people who, for decades, have been crunching data to tell us who is watching what) has worked out a scheme to tell us:

Nielsen announced the initiative on Wednesday morning, but it has been collecting Netflix viewership data over the last two months in a kind of test run.

The company said it was able to determine how many viewers were streaming Netflix content through audio recognition software in the 44,000 Nielsen-rated homes across the United States.

Yes. Audio recognition software. They are eavesdropping on Nielsen households, obviously with permission, and parsing exactly who is watching Netflix, and exactly when and for how long.

This is fascinating to me, but it also made me wonder about Amazon and Google. With the Amazon Echo and Google Home in more and more homes, this kind of data would be easy enough to gather. With permission, of course.

The Pixel 2 XL would be the best phone in the world if its screen wasn’t so weird

There’s been a ton of controversy over the past few days as Pixel 2 XL reviews come in. Though some reviews are glowing, a number of reviews (here’s one launch point we posted yesterday) are taking the Pixel 2 XL to the woodshed.

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Look at that New York Times icon in the image above. Stop flinching and really look at it, soak in the kaleidoscope of colors washing over it. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, I’m seeing a haze of green in the middle of the gothic “T”, which then blooms into a red that eventually transitions into the white that the icon is supposed to be. But the fun isn’t over; when you get up real close, you’ll see the edges of the icon are all fringed by a sort of purply-red and, again, green. The neighboring heart icon, which is also supposed to be white, presents us with a crosshatch of red and green and white micropixels.

Click to Vlad’s review and really get up close and personal with that image. Hard to argue with his logic.

Nintendo Switch adds ability to move (not copy) save files

If you own a Switch, you’ve no doubt wondered about the lack of save file portability. For example, if my Switch breaks, how do I recover my game progress? If my Switch is stolen, is there a recovery option? Or if I’m visiting a friend with a Switch, is there a way I can play my games on their Switch?

With other systems, I can back up my data and bring it with me. Not so with the Switch.

Until now. Sort of. Read the article. Baby steps.

Selling your MacBook Pro with Touch Bar? Apple recommends this step

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac:

If you’re selling (or generously handing down) your MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Apple recommends an extra step when erasing your data before parting ways with your machine. This step requires an obscure Terminal command that you wouldn’t assume and isn’t required on Macs without the Touch Bar.

Here’s the Apple Support document titled What to do before you sell or give away your Mac.

Check out step 6, “If you have a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, clear its data”.

Begs the question, what is specifically stored in the Touch Bar that requires cleaning? Good to know that this step is necessary, but a bit of a mystery. Anyone know the specifics? Please do ping me.

Nice find, Zac.

UPDATE: And the answer is, this script removes your Touch ID data from your Mac, as proved by Stephen Hackett, written up on this 512 Pixels post.

Goodbye Uncanny Valley

[VIDEO] This is an amazing look at the state of the art in computer graphics, movie CGI. The video is embedded on the main Loop page.

From the Vimeo page:

It’s 2017 and computer graphics have conquered the Uncanny Valley, that strange place where things are almost real… but not quite. After decades of innovation, we’re at the point where we can conjure just about anything with software. The battle for photoreal CGI has been won, so the question is… what happens now?

I found the whole thing riveting. We are so very close to a world filled with conjured realities that are indistinguishable from real life. When that becomes our reality, what then? [H/T Kottke]

Here are Twitter’s latest rules for fighting hate and abuse

Erin Griffith, Wired:

On Friday CEO Jack Dorsey announced plans to act more aggressively. Twitter will introduce new rules around unwanted sexual advances, non-consensual nudity, hate symbols, violent groups, and tweets that glorifies violence, he tweeted. To add a sense of urgency, the company is holding daily meetings on the issue.

And:

The new plans stop short of sweeping measures such as banning pornography or specific groups like Nazis. Rather, they offer expanded features such as allowing observers of unwanted sexual advances—as well as victims—to report them, and expanded definitions, such as including “creep shots” and hidden camera content under the definition of “non-consensual nudity.” The company also plans to hide hate symbols behind a “sensitive image” warning, though it has not yet defined what qualifies as a hate symbol. Twitter also says it will take unspecified enforcement actions against “organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause.”

Follow the link, read the email in full. I would love to see progress made here, but I’ve reluctantly filed this under “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

The mathematical genius of Auto-Tune

Zachary Crockett, Priceonomics:

Auto-Tune — one of modern history’s most reviled inventions — was an act of mathematical genius.

The pitch correction software, which automatically calibrates out-of-tune singing to perfection, has been used on nearly every chart-topping album for the past 20 years. Along the way, it has been pilloried as the poster child of modern music’s mechanization.

And:

For inventor Andy Hildebrand, Auto-Tune was an incredibly complex product — the result of years of rigorous study, statistical computation, and the creation of algorithms previously deemed to be impossible.

And:

“The sampling synthesizers sounded like shit: if you sustained a note, it would just repeat forever,” he harps. “And the problem was that the machines didn’t hold much data.”

Hildebrand, who’d “retired” just a few months earlier, decided to take matters into his own hands. First, he created a processing algorithm that greatly condensed the audio data, allowing for a smoother, more natural-sounding sustain and timbre. Then, he packaged this algorithm into a piece of software (called Infinity), and handed it out to composers.

And:

Infinity improved digitized orchestral sounds so dramatically that it uprooted Hollywood’s music production landscape: using the software, lone composers were able to accurately recreate film scores, and directors no longer had a need to hire entire orchestras.

“I bankrupted the Los Angeles Philharmonic,” Hildebrand chuckles. “They were out of the [sample recording] business for eight years.”

Great, great read. [H/T The Overspill]

Pixel 2 reviews — disappointing screens, bad color tuning

Rene Ritchie, iMore:

I’ve owned almost every Nexus and the original Pixel, but problems with the Pixel 2 display may force me to look elsewhere for my yearly Android fix.

I bought most of Google’s Nexus phones, starting with the Nexus One. I bought the original Pixel. I pre-ordered the Pixel 2 XL right after the event. Now I’m thinking of canceling that order. The reason? It seems like Google chose to ship bad displays on their flagship phones.

Rene follows up with a host of quotes from other reviewers, almost all from traditional Android bloggers. This was really surprising to me. I expected a best-in-class display at this price point.

Read the post, and dig into the other quoted reviews. I’m not sensing Google-bashing here, more disappointment at the screen performance from people who want to love their new Google phone.

Snap, NBCUniversal form joint Hollywood Studio dedicated to app-centric content

Todd Spangler, Variety:

Snap, Snapchat’s parent company, is teaming with NBCUniversal to bring scripted programming — like short-form comedies and dramas — to mobile screens. The companies have established a studio joint venture to produce programming exclusively for the social-messaging and media platform.

And:

The companies have recruited Lauren Anderson, who has served as NBC Entertainment’s senior VP of current programming, to be the JV’s chief content officer. “Lauren was a great get for us,” said Mills, who has worked with Anderson on the NBC shows created for Snapchat. “She has tremendous experience, and instantly got what we were going for.”

Yet another twist in the unfolding story of what we’ll be watching in the future and who will hold the puppet strings. This is an industry in the midst of disruption. At some point, the models will settle down and we’ll see who is making money, long term, determine who survives, prospers.

The more companies that jump into the soup, the more chaotic the model. Might be an advantage for Apple to wait before jumping in whole hog just to let the new model form more fully, to let the money find its path. I find this whole thing fascinating.

The Amazon Treasure Truck

Apparently, the Amazon Treasure Truck has been a thing Since February 2016. Amazon just announced that they were bringing this sort of ice cream truck for the Amazon crowd to a bunch of new cities.

This is a cool idea and some terrific marketing. This came to my attention when I was asking about SuperNES Classic Edition availability and someone pointed me to this tweet:

https://twitter.com/treasuretruck/status/913810705471508480

Check the official Amazon Treasure Truck page, see if your city has one. If so, sign up for text notifications, grab yourself some treasure.

Reuters: U.S. buyers favor iPhone 7 over 8

Reuters:

Apple Inc’s older iPhone 7 models are outselling the recently launched iPhone 8 ahead of the early November debut of the premium iPhone X, broker KeyBanc Capital Markets said, citing carrier store surveys.

Traditionally, new editions of the iPhone have sold quickly as fans queue for the latest upgrade, but early surveys have added to chatter that the iPhone 8 is not proving as popular as its predecessors.

  1. Not clear if this is true. These are not Apple’s numbers.
  2. If true, not clear if the motivation is demand for the iPhone X dimming demand for the iPhone 8, or a statement about the relative perceived values of the iPhone 7 vs iPhone 8.

No matter, this is the first time Apple has created this type of choice for the iPhone consumer, pitching a next generation product at the same time (give or take a month) as a new product that extends an existing line.

Apple still offering free delayed battery repairs for some 2012 and early 2013 MacBook Pros

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

If you own a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display released in Mid 2012 or Early 2013, and your notebook qualifies for battery service, the repair should be free if you are willing to wait for around one month.

To check if your MacBook Pro battery needs service:

Click on the Apple logo in the menu bar. Then, click on About This Mac > System Report > Power. In the Health Information section, the condition should say “Service Battery.”

Good stuff. Pass this along.

I think I broke my Facebook

Cliff Kuang, FastCoDesign:

I systematically unfollowed every single person and organization in my network except the actual news outlets. That promptly turned my sprawling social network of friends, frenemies, and strangers into a mere news reader plugged into just a half-dozen publications. Problem solved! No more updates about people’s lives.

And:

There’s a follow-on effect that I didn’t realize either: If you unfollow people on Facebook, you drop out of their Facebook feed as well. So now, whenever I have something I really want to share–a new job, or the final draft of the book I’ve been writing for years–I’m met with crickets. I’m stranded on the digital equivalent of a deserted island.

And:

There’s no obvious way to get off this island. I could manually re-follow everyone I unfollowed. But even if I do that, I have no idea if Facebook automatically makes them follow me. For all intents and purposes, my Facebook is ruined.

My understanding is that Facebook is a two way street. Not a follow and follow-back model but a binary friend or not-a-friend model. In other words, if someone accepts your friend request, they are your friend and you are “following” each other.

That aside, there’s this:

This is a problem that Facebook hasn’t acknowledged directly, and it’s even worse on Twitter, where following people eventually makes your feed into an unruly mess. This dilemma will only grow as other services increasingly lean on passive choices to shape the user experience. I call it dead-end UX.

I think there’s a fair point here. Services like Facebook and Twitter are designed to grow in complexity as your graph of relationships grows. The more connections you have, the more your feed grows, and that growth is exponential. This means, the more people you follow, the easier it is to miss any particular post.

Also:

Let’s roll the clock back to the very first “Like” you record on the platform. Using that little bit of data, along with whatever else is available, Facebook tries to extrapolate what else you might like. Its entire view of you is filtered through that single data point. But if you go on to Like dozens and then hundreds of other things that it throws in front of you, it starts generating a stronger and stronger hypothesis of what you’ll react to.

Cliff makes some solid and interesting points here. Worth reading the rest. But one thing that springs to mind for me. This is both lessons learned for social network builders, and an opportunity for the next generation, a chance to build a better social network, one that is more easily tunable and one that does a better job of filtering fake news.

iPhone, Apple Pencil, and the need to double the refresh rate

UPDATE: Feedback is, this is just point-by-point wrong. We try never to delete posts, or I would delete this one, but at the very least, file this one under, here’s a source I’ll not post from again.

Motley Fool:

One of the sources said that Apple will need to significantly improve the performance of its mobile processor technology to support a digital pen. The source also added that Apple “had to compromise on some touch performance of the latest iPhone X largely due to the less advanced chipset.”

And:

With the latest iPad Pro tablets, according to the company, when a user writes on the screen using the Apple Pencil, the screen begins to scan for input at a rate of 240Hz, or cycles per second. This is twice the peak refresh rate of the display (which is 120Hz).

And:

Apple reportedly tested a high-refresh rate display on the iPhone X (Apple calls such displays ProMotion displays) but ultimately chose not to ship the device with such a display. Instead, the iPhone X shipped with a display that could only refresh its contents at 60Hz — half that of the current iPad Pros.

In effect, the article makes the case that the current lineup of iPhones has too slow a refresh rate to support the Apple Pencil.