Make it so: Chinese building looks just like Star Trek’s USS Enterprise

Mashable:

There’s a building in China that looks almost exactly like the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Drone footage shows how a relatively conventional-looking building from the ground dramatically transforms into a regal starship when viewed from the air.

Lest you think this is visual trickery done via Holodeck or CGI, the starship/building is clearly visible on Google Maps.

Don’t lie – a bunch of you saw that video and thought to yourself how much you’d like to work there, didn’t you? It looks like Nerd Valhalla.

How accurate is the Apple Watch’s step counter and distance tracking?

CNET:

There’s no doubt that the Apple Watch can do a lot of things. It can be used to communicate with others, view notifications from an iPhone and even pay for items with Apple Pay. It’s also a dedicated activity tracker that can measure active calories burned, active minutes, the number of times you stand throughout the day, your daily step count and distance traveled.

We’ve been testing the Apple Watch over the past few weeks, and focused on those final two metrics — steps taken and distance traveled — to see how it stacks up against the competition.

This is an important question for those who want or need to have accurate tracking. Good to see the Apple Watch scored so highly and that Apple has done a good job in making sure the Watch works as advertised.

Your phone isn’t the only camera you need

The Wall Street Journal:

Phone cameras have made photography everyone’s hobby. But even owners of the fanciest smartphones would recognize the many genres of disappointing phone-ography: The blurry runaway toddler. The lifeless landscape. The grainy candlelit dinner. The ghoulish flash portrait.

We need to save personal tech’s most endangered species, the stand-alone camera.

There’s no doubt that camera phones in general and the iPhone in particular are really good cameras – for phones. And while we’ve all seen or taken great shots with our iPhones, it’s definitely a “jack of all trades, master of none”.

A good camera provides a wider range of possibilities – from zoom to control over depth of field to capturing low light and a higher dynamic range. If you’re not satisfied with the shots coming out of your iPhone, I’d encourage you to learn more about photography in general by taking a class or reading books and web sites on it but don’t neglect the thing that actually takes the shot – the camera itself.

As an example, over the weekend, I went to a local track to take pics of one of my favourite subjects – motorcycles. Of the 15 shots, only two would have been possible with the iPhone.

The untold story of ILM, a titan that forever changed film

Wired:

As it turns 40 this year, ILM can claim to have played a defining role making effects for 317 movies. But that’s only part of the story: Pixar began, essentially, as an ILM internal investigation. Photoshop was invented, in part, by an ILM employee tinkering with programming in his time away from work. Billions of lines of code have been formulated there. Along the way ILM has put tentacles into pirate beards, turned a man into mercury, and dominated box office charts with computer-generated dinosaurs and superheroes.

What defines ILM, however, isn’t a signature look, feel, or tone—those change project by project. Rather, it’s the indefatigable spirit of innovation that each of the 43 subjects interviewed for this oral history mentioned time and again. It is the Force that sustains the place.

I can’t think of another person, organization, studio or company that has had a hand in as many of the movies I love as ILM. They have been an integral part of my movie enjoying experience.

British Pathé – the largest archive of history on YouTube

British Pathé:

Follow us through the 20th Century and dive into the good and the bad times of the past. Feel free to explore more than 80,000 videos of filmed history and maybe you’ll find stuff no one else has ever seen.

Do not go to this site if you want to get any work done today. Thanks to my friend Antonio Rosario for the huge time suck.

Hanging up my virtual pen

TedLandau

I had the good fortune to be around for the dawn of some of the most significant technological developments in human history: the arrival of personal computers, the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the current dominance of social media and mobile devices. These and other technological advances continue to alter our world at an ever accelerating pace. One day Apple is on the verge of bankruptcy. The next day (or so it sometimes seems), it is the largest most profitable company on earth. Who’d have guessed?

There are a lot of people I wish would retire from writing about Apple – Ted Landau is not one of those people. Many of us owe a great debt of thanks to Ted for all of his many years of service to the Mac Community. For me personally, I was a fan of his writing at MacFixIt and he was always extraordinary helpful whenever I emailed him. As a podcaster, I interviewed him several times and, as a speaker at Macworld Expos, I was lucky enough to sit and chat with him on many occasions. Quiet, soft-spoken, gracious, kind, knowledgeable, Ted is all that and more. We wish him all the best in his retirement!

Behind Apple’s move to shelve TV plans

The Wall Street Journal:

Investor Carl Icahn said he expects Apple Inc. to introduce an ultra-high-definition television in 2016. But after nearly a decade of research, Apple quietly shelved plans to make such a set more than a year ago, according to people familiar with the matter.

Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said.

Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn’t consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co.

It’s been an open secret for years that Apple has tested many variations of television sets but just couldn’t find a way to include features compelling enough to bring it to market. Regardless of what Icahn wants or believes, Apple will do what’s right for Apple. And, as many of us have argued for many years, an Apple-branded television set isn’t going to happen.

Steve Jobs movie first look

Universal pictures has unveiled the “first look” clip from the upcoming movie about Steve Jobs. It’s just a teaser but it looks interesting. Fassbinder was an odd choice to portray jobs but he is a very good actor and the rest of the cast is equally accomplished.

One of the odd things about getting older is movies are being made about the times I’ve lived in and, in the case of parts of this movie, events and presentations I was at and tangentially involved in. It’s kind of a weird feeling and I don’t know how unbiased I’m going to be watching this film. But I am looking forward to seeing it.

Apple acquires Coherent Navigation, a GPS start-up

The New York Times:

For many of the largest Silicon Valley technology companies, mapping software undergirds numerous software applications and features in their products. For Apple, it is little different. To that end, Apple confirmed in an email on Sunday that it had bought Coherent Navigation, a Bay Area navigation company, further bolstering Apple’s mapping technology and services.

This is obviously a move by Apple to continue to improve its Maps app. The Sunday confirmation from Apple is interesting too. Another sign of its softening of its former hard line position with regards to PR.

Jetman in Dubai

If given the chance, I couldn’t strap one of these things on my back fast enough. I’d give up body parts to be able to fly one of those things.

The Apple Watch waterproofing extravaganza: swim, high diving, test chamber

DC Rainmaker:

This past week I’ve been slowly plotting a series of tests to batter the Apple Watch and see exactly how well it’d hold up to a variety of aquatic adventures. No doubt I’ve been showering with it twice-daily since it arrived…but that’s kinda lame in the grand scheme of waterproof tests. So while a few people have casually doggy-paddled around their backyard pool with the watch, I wanted to kick it up a notch…or, rather, a lot of notches.

Interesting that Apple seems to have seriously under promised on the waterproofing of the Apple Watch.

Surely you can’t be serious: An oral history of Airplane!

AV Club:

In 1980, a trio of gentlemen from Wisconsin – Jim Abrahams and brothers David and Jerry Zucker – took a cast of predominantly non-comedic actors, put a parodic spin on the disaster-film genre, and created a film which not only made moviegoers howl with laughter but also earned critical acclaim.

While it may not be the greatest movie ever made, it probably ranks in the top five of the silliest movies ever made. I loved it as a kid and love it even more as adult. Every time you watch it, you see and hear more gags and funny bits. To this day, if I ever hear someone say, “Surely, you can’t be…” I immediately flashback to the line in the movie.

You can now bulk download from Flickr: your photos really do belong to you

Petapixel:

Today Flickr launched a number of new improvements to their service. In my mind, the most significant change is that Flickr is introducing the ability for you to bulk download your photos from their site.

Now you can fill up that free 1 terabyte (or unlimited terabytes if you’ve got a grandfathered Pro account) with confidence knowing that if you ever want/need those photos back from Flickr you’ll be able to get them back much more easily.

One of my knocks on Flickr (a site I’ve used for years) is now moot with this new feature. Really good news for those of us who want additional backups of our photos.

No, the Apple Watch does not cost $84 to make

Mobile Forward:

The Apple Watch is out, and we’re seeing the first analyst estimates of some of its key costs. The variation in these early estimate is huge. It’s so big that, even if some estimates aren’t perfect, others are, to use a Tim Cook phrase, “in another universe”.

From my experience working with product and cost experts at a well-known mobile device company, I can tell you: Apple Watch does not cost $84 in hardware and manufacturing. It costs meaningfully more. Probably more than 2X that. And I’ll tell you why. Maybe I’ll even give you my estimate.

Every time one of these “this is what Product X actually costs to make!” articles comes out, I get pissed at the tech media for being so stupid as to believe and parrot the numbers without having any grounds to do so. This article, spelling/grammar issues aside, does a good job of explaining why these estimates aren’t worth the time it takes to type them out.

The price of nice nails

The New York Times:

Once an indulgence reserved for special occasions, manicures have become a grooming staple for women across the economic spectrum. There are now more than 17,000 nail salons in the United States, according to census data. The number of salons in New York City alone has more than tripled over a decade and a half to nearly 2,000 in 2012.

But largely overlooked is the rampant exploitation of those who toil in the industry. The New York Times interviewed more than 150 nail salon workers and owners, in four languages, and found that a vast majority of workers are paid below minimum wage; sometimes they are not even paid. Workers endure all manner of humiliation, including having their tips docked as punishment for minor transgressions, constant video monitoring by owners, even physical abuse. Employers are rarely punished for labor and other violations.

Awful story of the treatment of these women. Pass this along to anyone you know who is “going to get my nails done”.

MacKeeper celebrates a difficult birthday under the cloud of a class action lawsuit

Macworld:

Released in 2010, MacKeeper has been dogged by accusations that it exaggerates security threats in order to convince customers to buy. Its aggressive marketing has splashed MacKeeper pop-up ads all over the web.

These days, MacKeeper has gone to a subscription-based pricing model rather than a $39.95 one-off payment. It costs $7.95 a month in the U.S. for the premium, year-long plan. Its latest feature is offering phone support from Apple-certified technicians, which it calls Human Inside.

But many of the tools in the software bundle, which includes an antivirus (AV) scanner and 15 other utilities, are already in OS X or available for free.

Macworld takes a light touch on the tsunami of criticism about the software and the various companies that have and do own it but it’s fairly common knowledge that, at the very least, you really don’t need to waste money on MacKeeper. MacKeeper has been known to be, at minimum, almost useless and, at its worse, to cause actual problems with your Mac.

The making of Citizen Kane

Longreads:

“I must admit that it was intended consciously as a social document. … [but] the storyteller’s first duty is to the story.”

Not a “long read” but a 90 minute documentary on the making of what many, myself included, consider the greatest film of all time. If you get a chance to grab a DVD of it, make sure you get the one with the commentary tracks – one by Roger Ebert and the other with Peter Bogdanovich. It will give you a new and greater appreciation of this magnificent film.

How Corona made Cinco de Mayo an American holiday

Vinepair:

In America Cinco de Mayo has evolved to become one of the country’s largest drinking holidays. In 2013, over $600 million dollars worth of beer was sold, according to Nielsen data, which is more beer than is sold for St. Patrick’s Day or the Super Bowl, two holidays where beer consumption is the primary focal point. And most of that beer is Mexican in origin, which has also meant that the Mexican beer sector, thanks to Cinco de Mayo, has continued to grow and thrive north of the border, experiencing the best sector growth in the American market according to EuroMonitor data, second only to the rapid growth of American craft beer.

Suffice it to say, Cinco de Mayo is a behemoth when it comes to selling booze, but how did a holiday that isn’t really even celebrated in Mexico – Mother’s Day, which occurs around the same time, is a much bigger deal – become not only the most powerful U.S. holiday when it comes to selling alcohol, but also the only connection most Americans have to our largest immigrant group? You can thank Texas distributors of Corona in the 1980s.

Yet another completely made up “holiday” created in the service of marketing.

1st iceberg of the season seen in Torbay

CBC News:

It was a busy weekend in Torbay, as the first iceberg of the season arrived in eastern Newfoundland just off the coastline near Tapper’s Cove.People flocked to the area over the weekend to take advantage of the site.

The Canadian Coast Guard says there’s currently more than 100 icebergs off the province’s coastlines, so it’s just the beginning of iceberg season in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is how cool Canada is – we have icebergs, baby! By the way, if you ever want a fun vacation, visit Newfoundland. Starkly beautiful province and wonderful people.

Star Wars music played on Parliament Hill carillon bells

CBC News:

To mark Star Wars Day, as May the 4th has come to be known, the carillon bells inside the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill rang out the Imperial March music for Star Wars, among other space-related tunes.

It was part of a 15-minute carillon concert with a space theme that began at noon.

The concert included the Star Wars theme by John Williams, arranged by Janet Dundore; Princess Leia’s Theme, arranged by Janet Dundore and Andrea McCrady; and The Imperial March, arranged by Andrea McCrady.

There’s nerdy and there’s cool. Rarely do the two intersect but this is definitely Nerd Cool.

DUFL, a service that packs and ships your suitcase, is a traveler’s dream

Techcrunch:

The idea behind Dufl is that frequent travelers waste a lot of time trying to clean and prep their clothes for each trip, especially when those trips are pretty much back-to-back. With Dufl, the user never has to pack a bag or clean their travel clothes ever again.

I’d hate to be such a frequent business traveller I’d need this kind of service but it does sound like a pretty cool idea and an example of a business that wouldn’t have been possible ten, maybe even five years ago.

Linking the most interesting places in the world

Mapbox:

The Geotaggers’ World Atlas is my long-term project to discover the world’s most interesting places and the routes that people follow between them. Five years ago I first started retrieving photo locations from the Flickr search API and drawing lines between them to make the first version of the Atlas.

Today I’m able to launch the full Geotaggers’ World Atlas covering every city in the world. Thanks to Flickr’s API, it exposes over 10 years of photo locations, and as a web map it lets you explore not just the largest centers of activity but also their context, anywhere on earth.

As an exercise in coding, this is interesting. As a visualization of data, it’s utterly fascinating. The only downside is the interactive map doesn’t have details like street names so it may be hard to find out what is so fascinating about that particular location but look up your own city on the map and see if you can spot “the most interesting places”.

Maple syrup rebellion

The National Post:

Backed by the Quebec justice system and the provincial police, sheriffs have raided sugar shacks down country roads and seized barrels of maple syrup, using trucks and front-end loaders. The federation’s goal: enforcing a supply management system that controls the sale and proceeds of maple syrup in Quebec.

“They have more power than police,” says Daniel Gaudreau, a syrup producer in Scotstown, Que. “They can come into my house anytime they want.”

Quebec is the Saudi Arabia of maple syrup.

We have written about this issue in the past but this story really brings home the enormous power of the The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers – power that looks, on the surface, out of control.

No, Apple didn’t ship a bunch of defective Apple Watches

The Daily Dot:

Before you go cancelling your order for Apple’s first smartwatch, it’s important to grasp the facts.

But “Apple Watch Defective!” is such a sexier headline. By the way, it’s a good rule of thumb that, when the headline includes something bad about an Apple product, wait 24 hours before commenting. Invariably, the facts come out and it’s not nearly as bad as the Chicken Littles would have you think.

App Camp for Girls releases Quiz Compendium app

App Camp for Girls:

The Quiz Compendium includes 15 personality quizzes created by camper project teams. You’ll learn so many things about yourself, such as what your superpower is, where you should go on vacation, and even what your breakfast choices say about your personality.

I utterly despise these kinds of “personality quizzes” but App Camp for Girls is a great cause started by a wonderful person, Jean MacDonald. The app is only 99 cents and goes to a very worthy organization. So I’ll swallow my disdain and buy the app and you should too.

Apple details how it rebuilt Siri on Mesos

Mesosphere:

Apple announced during a Wednesday night meetup at its Cupertino, California, headquarters that the company’s popular Siri application is powered by Apache Mesos.

We at Mesosphere are obviously thrilled about Apple’s public validation of the technology on which our Datacenter Operating System is based. If Apple trusts Mesos to underpin Siri — a complex application that handles Apple-only-knows-how-many voice queries per day from hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users — that says a lot about how mature Mesos is and how ready it is to make a big impact in companies of all stripes.

This might be a little too “inside baseball” for most people but it’s interesting if only for fact Apple “opened the Kimono” to a segment of the developer community. I think it’s yet another sign of Apple being a little less closed off and secretive and acknowledging that others need and want to know their future plans.

Consumer Reports’ first Apple Watch test results

These torture tests are interesting but painful to watch. Consumer Reports also has an article “The science behind smartwatch scratch resistance” about how they did the scratch test and what it means.

Bottom line? “The face of the Apple Watch is definitely harder than that of the Apple Watch Sport. But the performance of the hardened glass of the Sport model is pretty impressive as well.” It sounds like, as long as you take the usual amount of care with your expensive electronics, the Apple Watch screens are pretty durable.