Star Wars’ adorable, impossible droid is real: our impressions

Polygon:

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

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

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

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

Videos of ships going through storms will turn you into a landlubber for life

Atlas Obscura:

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

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

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

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

The most timeless songs of all time

Polygraph:

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

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

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

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

What it takes to be a Madame Tussauds wax figure

CNET:

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

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

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

The Icon Factory: Apple Music, Beats 1, and how to make a superstar you can own

Grantland:

As conceived, Beats 1 is the most prefab, retro pitch in Apple’s streaming service portfolio — a radio station, with DJs and songs. Beats 1, of course, has been much more than that, and sometimes a little less. A tastemaker with no genre-bound point of view, a 24-hour channel that is “always on,” and a hub for famous voices to share their loves, the station has become the surprising hallmark of Apple’s streaming bid.

Turns out people still like listening to the radio.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Beats 1 can “make a star” – if, with promotion and air play, Beats 1 can take an unknown artist to global popularity.

BMW: all models electric within decade

NASDAQ:

German luxury car giant Bayerische Motoren Werke AG or BMW Group is looking to go all-electric over the next 10 years due to the upcoming stricter carbon emission laws. Virtually every BMW model would be converted to electric drivetrains, including range-extending engines and plug-in hybrids.

The transition will see even the company’s top-selling 3 Series sport sedans turned into plug-in hybrids.

The company is weary of the stringent European Union regulations that greatly reduce the average carbon emissions permitted from road vehicles. They are said to be tougher than either North American or Chinese emission levels.

Some are calling this the “death of the internal combustion engine”. That is unlikely to happen any time soon but electric is the future. BMW is just getting out ahead of it.

“Hey Siri, give us a hint” live webcast

Apple:

Join us here on September 9 at 10 a.m. PDT to watch the keynote live.

Many of us will be watching and, in a break from past webcasts, Apple will allow Windows 10 users to tune in too.

Apple takes Washington

Politico:

A private conference in Washington with the attorney general (in itself a rarity for many tech magnates) would have been unthinkable for Cook’s irascible predecessor, Steve Jobs, who actively disdained D.C. Cook, much as he sought to shirk Jobs’ shadow as CEO, had also endeavored quietly to rethink his company’s relationship with the nation’s capital, becoming a leader not only ready to engage its power brokers but challenge them openly when it mattered most.

Watching Cook in his dealings with Washington has been fascinating precisely because it’s something Steve Jobs hated and wouldn’t do. Cook seems more open and able to navigate the issues.

Working retail taught me everything i need to know about people

Lifehacker:

People say that “everyone should work retail or service at least once in their lives.” I couldn’t agree more. Like many people, some of my first jobs were retail service gigs. One in a department store, another in a bookstore. I’ve long since moved on, but I learned a lot about the nature of people—and how that battle between selfishness and empathy is something we all struggle with, every day.

I never worked long in retail but I was there long enough to know the jobs generally sucked. 99% of retail employees are good, hardworking people. Please treat them with the same respect you want for yourself.

Apple’s first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez

Tech Republic:

Apple was not even officially a company yet, and Fernandez had to delay working for Jobs and Woz until he gave his notice at HP. But, when he came on board in early 1977 it was just as Mike Markkula became an investor and Apple Computer, Inc. was officially formed. Fernandez became the first official full-time employee.

I love these stories of the original Apple employees and the loose organization and work duties involved.

In death, Justin Wilson helped six people live by being an organ donor

Washington Post:

Justin Wilson’s younger brother has been sharing his grief on social media. Stefan Wilson is also an IndyCar driver, and he is in deep mourning for the loss of his “best friend … role model and mentor,” who died Monday after being injured during a race on Sunday.

On Tuesday, Stefan Wilson, 25, followed that up with the news that, indeed, a half-dozen needy recipients had benefited from his brother’s organs.

This tragic story is made a little less painful in the knowledge that Wilson had signed his Organ Donar Card. Unless you have specific moral or religious objections, I believe everyone should. There are too many needy people out there not to do it.

Apple’s Tim Cook says student have right to “great public education”

ABC News:

Apple CEO Tim Cook is focusing on an academic revolution that aims to prepare these students for the 21st century.

The tech giant is part of the White House initiative known as ConnectED. The goal of the program is to connect 99 percent of U.S. schools to good technology.

“I think technology has to be a key part [of education] and that’s why we’re here,” Cook said. “Too many times today kids aren’t given the right for a great public education and this isn’t right. It’s not fair.

It’s great when Apple’s goals – selling products – mesh with the common good of better education. But I get a strong sense that Cook would be involved in these kinds of issues whether or not Apple was selling iPads to schools. He’s absolutely right that a good education is the key to many childrens’ future.

10 things iTunes does right

Macworld:

iTunes gets a lot of criticism, including a lot that I dish out, and much of this criticism is justified. iTunes has lots of problems syncing iOS devices, iTunes Match and iCloud Music Library are confusing, and the interface, particularly in iTunes 12, is confusing.

To be fair, though, iTunes does get a lot right. You can condemn it for many problems, but it’s good to sometimes take a step back and give it credit for the features that work so well that you hardly pay attention to them. I’ve picked ten things that iTunes does right.

McElhearn has a good point. After all the complaining many, myself included, do about it, there are many things it does very well.

Bruce Springsteen on making “Born to Run”: ‘We went to extremes’

Rolling Stone:

He had one last chance to make it real. Or at least that’s how the story goes. With 1975′s Born to Run, a 25-year-old Bruce Springsteen felt like his very life was on the line, which is probably why he drove himself — and the E Street Band — to the brink of breakdown over the tortured months of its creation.

In November 2005, a couple of hours before going onstage for a show on his solo Devils and Dust tour, Springsteen called Rolling Stone to talk about making Born to Run. On the 40th anniversary of the album’s release, here is the full transcript of that conversation, published for the first time.

I’ve never been the Springsteen fanatic my friend Sly is but I certainly appreciate just how amazing this album was, and still is, 40 years later.

“An Honest Liar”: the Amazing Randi story

Documentary Heaven:

“Some people can not believe that a magician can fool them in such a way that they can’t figure it out, but magicians can and magicians do. Swindlers do, conmen do, all the time, they’re not magicians but rather are fakes. They are lying to us, they are deceiving us. It’s okay to fool people as long as you’re doing that to teach them a lesson which will better their knowledge of how the real world works. No matter how smart or how well educated you are, you can be deceived.”

These are the words of James “The Amazing” Randi, a world-renowned enemy of deception and in this feature film we get a first hand glimpse into his legacy of exposing psychics, faith healers, and con-artists with quasi-religious fervor.

I saw this documentary when it first came out and it is a fascinating story about how James Randi (a fellow Canadian!) became “amazing”. His life story is incredible.

Apple CEO Tim Cook may have violated SEC rules with Jim Cramer email

Marketwatch:

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook’s decision to give a rare midquarter update on the company’s performance in a private email to CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Monday may have violated federal disclosure rules, lawyers said Monday.

“Obviously I can’t predict the future, but our performance so far this quarter is reassuring,” Cook wrote.

However, the private disclosure, which was tweeted by CNBC reporter Carl Quintanilla and read on air at CNBC, may have violated the Securities and Exchange Commission’s fair-disclosure regulation, white-collar lawyers told MarketWatch. The rule, deemed murky and often contested by companies, addresses how publicly traded companies disclose material nonpublic information to certain individuals or entities.

When I first heard of this email, I thought this might happen. I’m sure Cook’s intentions were pure but this is something the SEC will at least have a little chat with him about but will likely result in little more than a “Bad CEO! No cookie for you!” warning.

The encyclopedia of pasta

Chasing Delicious:

Have you ever stood in the pasta aisle at the grocery store and thought to yourself, “why are there so many damn pasta shapes?” If so, you’re not alone. But before I answer that question (hint: the answer is sauce – spoiler alert), let’s look at where pasta came from, and what makes up pasta.

It wasn’t until I started dating a native Italian that I found out not all pasta is created equally. Pastas have good reasons to be the shape they are.

Why salad is so overrated

The Washington Post:

There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it. It occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate.

Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition. The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources.

I’ve always hated most salads. I knew it was a waste of chewing. While I love a good Greek Salad, any salad that consists mainly of variations on lettuce is unpalatable to me. This article helps justify my non-eating of that useless rabbit food.

100 cameras were given to the homeless in London. Here’s what they captured.

Petapixel:

Back in July, Cafe Art handed out 100 Fujifilm disposable cameras to homeless people in London, connected them to photography training with the Royal Photographic Society, and asked them to shoot photos with the theme “My London.”

80 of the cameras were returned, and over 2,500 photos were developed. 20 photos were then chosen by a selection panel consisting of representatives from Fujifilm, Amateur Photographer, The London Photo Festival, Christie’s and Homeless Link. Those photos were then presented to the public, which submitted over 2,400 votes earlier this month to select the images for an upcoming calendar.

Here are the 12 photos that made the cut.

There are some lovely photos included. My only quibble is the Cafe Art site doesn’t explain how the photos were edited and by whom.

Ihnatko: A dozen true things about smartwatches

Andy Ihnatko:

Before I begin what’s going to be a multi-part, in-depth Apple Watch review, I thought it’d be valuable to write down all of the fundamental observations that I believe to be true of all wearables, as of August 2015.

In his usual long-winded but wonderfully entertaining style, Andy Ihnatko makes some great points of what smartwatches need in order for them to be successful.

iSight Camera Replacement Program for iPhone 6 Plus

Apple:

Apple has determined that, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices, the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing your photos to look blurry. The affected units fall into a limited serial number range and were sold primarily between September 2014 and January 2015.

If your iPhone 6 Plus is producing blurry photos and falls into the eligible serial number range, Apple will replace your device’s iSight camera, free of charge.

If you have an iPhone 6 Plus, it doesn’t hurt to enter you serial number to check to make sure your iPhone isn’t on the list of affected phones. If it isn’t and you’re still taking blurry photos, you might want to take a photography class.

Why is Canadian English unique?

BBC:

Some words refer to things Americans don’t seem to have: toque for a kind of fitted knitted hat; poutine, Nanaimo bars, and butter tarts for three of Canada’s great culinary gifts to the world if the world would but accept them; Caesar for a bloody Mary made with clamato juice (tomato plus clam).

These Canadianisms stand as evidence of the difference between Canadian and American culture. It is very important for Canadians to maintain that difference, even if people from Vancouver sound more like people from San Francisco than people from San Francisco sound like people from San Antonio.

Until I moved to the US, I had no idea that Butter Tarts were Canadian. If you get a chance, try them. They are delicious.

iOS 9 content blocking will transform the mobile Web: I’ve tried it

The Next Web:

The next version of iOS comes with a major new feature called ‘content blockers’ which will allow users to install apps that block trackers, advertisements and other unwanted content for the first time.

Much has been written about the impending threat of ad blocking on iOS — it’s the first time blocking mobile advertisements en masse will be possible and publishers may face an existential threat to their revenue streams.

I spent the weekend with my new found family in Ontario and surfing my usual web sites on iOS was a torturous process. Most of the time, I was on 3G or – gasp! – Edge and some popular web pages would take several minutes to load enough to be readable. It’s going to be interesting how this whole ad blocking things shakes out but, if the examples included in the story are any indication, it’s going to be great for users in some ways.

How to see your iPhone’s precise signal strength

TidBITS:

The folks over at Tech Insider have produced a video that will help you see what your signal strength is numerically, for troubleshooting purposes. But for some reason, they didn’t also write up the instructions for those who prefer reading. So if you fall in that camp, here’s how to see your iPhone’s precise signal strength.

Great little tip to help troubleshoot signal strength issues.

Can Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre save the music Industry?

Wired:

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is move the needle on popular culture.” It sounds almost modest, the way he says it. Don’t be fooled. Some music executives want to help talented artists reach their natural audience, no matter how small. Iovine is not among them. He’s after the kind of massive flash points that unite populations around the world and change not just what they listen to but how they dress and move and behave and think and live. “He finds one great idea, gets rid of everything else, and chases it to the end of the earth until it’s everywhere,” says Luke Wood, president of Beats Electronics.

By his count, Iovine has pulled this off four times over the past couple of decades by introducing the world to Snoop Dogg, Tupac, and Chronic-era Dr. Dre, shepherding the careers of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, giving Eminem his start, and creating Beats, the hardware company that turned headphones into a fashion accessory and today accounts for 34 percent of US stereo headphone sales.

Fascinating piece on the two men. Regardless of what you think of Iovine’s performance at the Apple Music launch or of Dr. Dre’s music, these two are extremely powerful behind the scenes players in the music business. Whether it can be saved by them alone is another matter.

Apple Music Festival in London beginning Sept. 19

Apple:

Apple Music Festival is a full-volume celebration of music. It’s live from London and broadcast to every corner of the globe. This year, we return to London’s Roundhouse for 10 incredible nights.

This is always an incredible show and this year, Apple will tie in various aspects of the Apple Music service to make it an even bigger and better event with a list of headliners that includes Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Florence + The Machine and Disclosure.

On depression

Duncan Davidson:

It sneaks in like an invited guest to the party, not even noticed it at first. And then, slowly but surely, it grows inside of you and sows its seeds of destruction. Even when it’s something that you’ve dealt with a dozen times, it still manages to work its way in and shift the baseline of your entire reality without you noticing until the very lenses that you look at the world has been corrupted into a dim grey place.

By the time you can honestly sort out that you might be in deep, the very perception of that observation is distorted. And that affects your reaction to it, often tempering that reaction with an almost uncontrollable apathy. You know you want help, but the simple act of asking seems too much to bear.

Rob Richman and I talked about our depression and ways we coped with it. Sadly, it got the better of him. RIP, Rob.

5 ways the world will look dramatically different in 2100

Washington Post:

The world is expected to add another billion people within the next 15 years, bringing the total global population from 7.3 billion in mid-2015 to 8.5 billion in 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to new estimates from the UN.

Currently, 60 percent of the global population lives in Asia, 16 percent in Africa, 10 percent in Europe, 9 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, and only 5 percent in North America and Oceania. China and India are the largest countries in the world, together making up almost 40 percent of the world population.

But those numbers won’t stay that way for long.

None of us will be around to see it but the trends are obviously happening now and will still impact the world in 25-50 years. Whether the impact will be positive or not remains to be seen.

New Apple Music ads puts the focus on discovery

iMore:

The company has just posted three new TV commercials for Apple Music, each one focusing on using the service to discover new artists.

This was one of the promises Apple made when they first announced Apple Music. But I don’t know that these ads are compelling enough to make someone who is not a subscriber become one.

Diver has close encounter with killer whales, catches it on film

CNET:

Sam Galloway, the University of Auckland student who shot the film, said in the description of his YouTube video that he was on a spear-fishing trip in waters off the coast of Little Barrier Island when he and a friend came across the killer whales.

Some of the younger ones were actually quite friendly.

“The larger ones weren’t very interested in us,” Galloway wrote, “but the calves came in for a close look.”

I’m lucky enough to live on the West coast of Canada where Orca spotting is very common this time of year. They are magnificent animals regardless of whether you see them from a boat or the water like these lucky guys did.