Apple buys Star Wars motion-capture firm Faceshift


With the teetering stack of virtual reality headsets coming to market over the next year, eyes in the tech sector are being consistently turned towards facial recognition software. While Facebook has made moves to develop facial mapping technology for the Oculus Rift, news has now emerged of an intriguing buy up by Apple.

The company has announced that it has acquired Faceshift, a Zurich-based startup responsible for developing technology capable of real-time facial-capture and avatar creation. The tech boasts plenty of high-profile use, having even been used in the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens to give alien characters an extra semblance of reality.

Could Apple really be interested in any aspect of Virtual Reality? I think this buy is fascinating but I don’t think it’s use inside the company will be as obvious as many are assuming.

The Blockbuster Kit


We — as indie developers of these 4 apps, have gathered together to deliver the most essential event for movie lovers in 2015. Each one of our apps is a blockbuster itself. Each of us has its own story, but we all share the same goal — enhance your movie viewing experience as much as possible, on any device.This Black Friday, for the first time ever — we unite together to bring you the best of experiences in a single Blockbuster Kit.

I use Waltr and Beamer all the time and love the apps. I don’t usually recommend this kind of deal because you often end up with filler apps but all four of these apps are really useful and, at a pre-order price of $25, it’s a really great deal in my opinion.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity at 100: 5 great things it brought


Wormholes, warp speed, space-time anomalies — science fiction wouldn’t be the same without Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And in the real world, we would probably also notice a few things missing from our lives.

The German-born physicist finished presenting his groundbreaking theory to the scientific world at the Prussian Academy of Sciences exactly 100 years ago today.

It was a simple, elegant set of equations that described space-time as a stretchy, flexible fabric, and gravity as deformations in space-time rather than a “force.”

I remember first learning about the general theory of relativity in school and being completely blown away by it. I have never fully understood it but the ideas, concepts and things it made possible opened my young mind to the power of the universe and the utter brilliance of Einstein.

The Samoan pipeline

California Sunday Magazine:

Over the years football coaches have found on the island a ready inventory of large, big-boned, and nimble Samoans, with the kind of solid base that football coaches love: massive from the waist down but still able to move their feet. Samoans’ facility with footwork is often attributed to tribal dances and the common practice of going barefoot. Their love of combat is derived from a fierce warrior culture that goes back hundreds of years.

With an upbringing that stresses hard work, discipline, and devotion to authority, both heavenly and earthbound, Polynesians have come to be considered the ultimate clay from which to mold a football player. It is as if a childhood of gentle obedience translates into a passion for ferocious violent contact, the kind of collisions that resonate through a stadium and electrify the crowd.

If you are a football fan, the men of Samoa are familiar to you. Even if you’re not a fan, it’s an interesting story and one common among Blacks in America regarding basketball and Dominicans regarding baseball. There’s often nothing else to do and it’s seen as the only way to a better life.

13 movies you can watch for free on YouTube right now

Daily Dot:

When a movie’s license expires or the work ceases to be owned by a corporation or a private individual, it’s essentially a public good and is freely distributable. Thus, while you can always briefly find studio classics like All About Eve, The Palm Beach Story, or Rebecca on the site, posters are often breaking copyright laws to do so, and the films are likely to be removed as quickly as they went up.

Luckily though, you don’t have to commit a crime to watch good movies for free—and maybe get a bit of a film history lesson in the process. All you need to know is what to watch and where to watch it.

There are some great movies on this list and they run the gamut from screwball comedy to film noir to scifi to horror.

The Godfather Trilogy – $10 on iTunes


The Godfather stands alongside classics like Citizen Kane in the ranks of the greatest American movies of all time. Director Francis Ford Coppola and author Mario Puzo adapted Puzo’s 1969 novel with an incredible degree of skill, patience, and emotional depth. It’s an old-fashioned gangster film that offers a probing look at the American dream. Marlon Brando invests the centerpiece role with the essence of his knowledge of what’s right. The movie contains so many great scenes and so much memorable dialogue–from its opening line, the heavily accented, “I believe in America,” to the final shot of a shutting door–that it’s impossible to name its finest moment. it was the high-grossing film of all time until Jaws, and it won three Oscars, including Best Picture.

You lucky US-based readers can grab the trilogy for only $10 on the iTunes Store. Don’t wait – no telling how long this deal will be available. If you’ve never seen these movies, I can’t recommend them highly enough, although the third is the weakest link in the chain.

Hollywood’s biggest turkeys of 2015


Once upon a time in a land called Hollywood, casting a big star was an investment that paid for itself in box office returns. That financial fairy tale is now pure fiction: The biggest box office flops of 2015 include vehicles fronted by Bradley Cooper, George Clooney and Johnny Depp, among others.

Topping the turkey pile is Bill Murray’s Rock The Kasbah, an offbeat and off-color comedy in which a washed-up tour manager (Murray) finds himself in Kabul trying to turn a young Afghani woman into a TV singing competition winner. The fish out of water story was universally panned by critics and flailed like an asphyxiating goldfish, grossing just $2.9 million on an estimated $15 million production budget. With a dismal 19% return on production costs–and just an 8% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes–Rock The Kasbah leads our list of 2015′s biggest flops.

How many of these flops did you contribute to by not going to see them?

How I’m handling my depression (using an app)

Pete Smith:

I’m very lucky to have a fantastic family and a some seriously good friends despite the fact that I have neglected our relationships at times. They are, without exception, highly emotionally intelligent and can empathise with my current situation.

The key thing that I am doing differently right now is talking to those around me. I am trying to maintain a constant dialogue about my progress so that I cannot simply slip off the radar and assume the bad habits I desperately want to avoid. But like I say, I’m not great at asking for help so even though I know how approachable my circle is, that’s no guarantee that I’ll vocalise it when I begin to slip.

With all of this in mind, the following seemed a great solution to me.

Smith has created an app that will help him and his friends and family be aware of his depression and reach out to them in times of trouble. It’s an interesting idea and he is looking for input. If you or someone you know struggles with depression, check out the story and tell Smith whether or not you’d be interested in a full blown app as he describes it.

How to fly free forever: Buy a $170 million painting with your AmEx card

Christian Science Monitor:

Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian, who doesn’t exactly struggle to afford a plane ticket, can now likely fly free, in first class, with his whole family, anywhere in the world, for the rest of his life.

All because he bought a painting.

Liu was the winning bidder for Amedeo Modigliani’s “Reclining Nude” at a Christie’s auction earlier this month— offering $170.4 million— and when the sale closes he’ll be putting it on his American Express card.

I saw an Amex Black Card once many years ago. Guy bought a package of cigarettes at a gas station. I wanted to punch him.

Latest Bond adventure Spectre sets record for largest film stunt explosion ever

Guinness World Records:

Taking place in Erfoud, Morocco, the blast had a total yield of 68.47 tonnes of TNT equivalent and was the result of detonating 8,418 litres of kerosene with 33 kg of powder explosives – and it lasted for over 7.5 seconds.

I saw and enjoyed this movie and, while watching this scene, I thought, “That seems like a very big, long explosion!” I didn’t realize it was a world record-setting stunt.

Inside the massive warehouse in Brooklyn that holds all your discarded electronics


Nestled in west Brooklyn beside the charmingly putrid Gowanus Canal and the hip Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club is a massive, ramshackle warehouse. Stretching nearly halfway down the block, it announces its presence with a homemade sandwich board and a brightly painted exterior.

Officially, it’s called the Lower East Side Ecology Center Electronic Waste Recycling Warehouse. Casually, it’s known as the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse, and it’s the place that thousands of pieces of discarded electronics — old and new, junky and shiny, big and small — call home.

Don’t lie – some of you are planning a trip to there right now, aren’t you?

Is this the most generous holiday gift ever?

CBS News:

The holidays bring out Americans’ philanthropic impulses. That may be an understatement for Carol Suchman.

Suchman told CBS MoneyWatch that she often buys birthday gifts for children in the foster system, and so always is on the lookout for toy stores. When she recently walked by a toy store in her West Village neighborhood in Manhattan that had closed down, she said she was inspired to take action.

“The toys in there looked so sad, and they were gathering dust,” she said. “It occurred to me we should bring those toys to where they should be going — to all the homeless kids in the city.”

As a kid, my mom had to use these social services on several occasions to make sure we had one or two toys under our Christmas tree. You might be surprised how important these kinds of gifts are to children in need at this time of year. Reading stories like this brings a tear to my eye and almost reaffirms my faith in humanity. Almost.

The cult of the Toto toilet

The New York Times:

For those who own Japanese toilets, there is a cultish devotion. They boast heated seats, a bidet function for a rear cleanse and an air-purifying system that deodorizes during use. The need for toilet paper is virtually eliminated (there is an air dryer) and “you left the lid up” squabbles need never take place (the seat lifts and closes automatically in many models).

When I was in Tokyo and had to use one of these, I was completely embarrassed by my inability to figure out how to use it. I literally had to ask my host how to operate the toilet.

Amazon’s two-step verification


Amazon’s Two-Step Verification adds an additional layer of security to your account. Instead of simply entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code in addition to your password during sign in.

You’ll enter your sign in information like you normally would, but then you’ll be prompted to enter a security code. You can receive this security code in a variety of ways depending on the option you select during sign up, including text message, voice call, or authenticator app.

Some folks will think this kind of security is inconvenient. But any time I give a company my credit card info and I want that info stored on their site, I feel more comfortable if the site offers this additional level of security.

Apple, Google urged to crack encrypted phones in terror probes


Apple Inc. and Google Inc. face renewed calls to create a workaround for smartphone encryption in the wake of the Paris attacks as Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. proposed a compromise that seeks to mollify privacy advocates.

Vance and FBI Director James Comey echoed recent comments by CIA and Justice Department officials who cite the need for access to stay a step ahead of terrorists who may use encryption to hide planned attacks. Underlining their point, French authorities said predawn raids in a Paris suburb were triggered by information gleaned from a discarded mobile phone.

“The line to protect the public should not be drawn by two companies who make smartphones,” Vance said Wednesday at a cybersecurity conference in New York where he unveiled a 42-page white paper on the issue. His plan would require companies to download data for investigators with a warrant, rather than providing the government with a “backdoor.”

Let’s hope these companies continue to push back against the government’s desire to use our devices against us.

What it’s like to fly into a thunderstorm


The job of pilots like Royal is to fly directly at monstrous thunderstorms—something most pilots diligently avoid, given that the turbulent airflow in these storms occasionally brings down commercial jetliners—and discharge chemicals into a particular part of the cloud, a technique called “cloud seeding” intended to suppress the storm’s ability to produce hail.

But on this late June day, the storm racing across the prairie is outmaneuvering the 22-year-old Texan pilot. “I started approaching from the east, which is the front of the storm and should have been kind of calm,” says Royal, “but it was so turbulent that my seatbelt wouldn’t even stay fastened.”

I’m not a good flyer at the best of times. There’s not enough money in the world to get me to get into one of those little planes on a good day, let alone to fly deliberately into a thunderstorm.

Smartphones and children: unstoppable trend leaves parents with questions, fears


A recent report by the non-profit group MediaSmarts says nearly a quarter of Canadian children in Grade 4 — some as young as eight years old — own their own cellphone.

That number jumps to more than 50 per cent for students in Grade 7.

Interestingly (or frighteningly for some parents), of those Grade 4s with phones, the report says about one-fifth are on social networks, even though Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat (and others) all have policies that require users to be at least 13 years old.

Not having kids of my own, I’m always interested in how parents with young ones deal with this. At what age did/will you give your kid a cell phone? Do iOS and Android have “enough” parental controls to make you comfortable that your child can use the phone the way you want them to?

The best set-top box you can buy

The Verge:

On the surface (and even under the hood), these top living room contenders share a lot of the same features, with the exception of 4K video support. Which means the best experience really comes down to the interface, the app ecosystem, and available content.

It was a tough call this year, but one new streaming-video device nudged its way past the others.

The answer will likely not surprise you but, what was interesting to me was how close the three runner-ups came in the scoring.

How to survive a 1,600-foot tumble


Ian McIntosh was maybe five turns into a first descent of a jagged Alaskan peak when things went wrong. The 34-year-old Canadian pro skier was filming a segment for Teton Gravity Research and carving down a face the film crew dubbed “Daybreak Spines.” The light was playing tricks on him, and early-morning shadows made a long spine look easy to cross over. It wasn’t. McIntosh hit it hard and dropped five feet into a trough he didn’t know existed. Then he started rolling.

McIntosh says he was immediately certain of one thing: “I knew I was going to the bottom,” he says. “I knew I was going for a ride.” Then all he could think was, Am I going to get traumatically injured by tomahawking down this mountain? and Please be over.

The video of this is almost painful to watch. The audio makes it even more so.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones, explained


Jessica Jones is a terrible superhero by superhero industry standards. Her name is forgettable; she sounds like a girl from your third-grade class. She’s just another brick — a term assigned to the plethora of superhumans with super strength as their primary power. It’s easy to see why she isn’t popular or why many people, even some comic book fans, were puzzled by Marvel and Netflix’s decision to give the character her own TV show.

But even though Jessica Jones is a terrible superhero — something she would be the first to admit — that doesn’t mean she’s unworthy of her own show or that her story stinks.

Jones’s origin story is actually one of the more daring arcs Marvel has published in the past decade.

I know nothing about this Marvel character so I don’t know if Vox’s description is accurate but I assume it is. Regardless, the trailers I’ve seen make me really interesting in this series. All episodes are set to premiere November 20, 2015, on Netflix

This image can trick your brain and make you see it in color


Perception is a fickle thing. As good as our senses are at keeping us alive, they can often mislead and deceive us. Here’s a great example of that which you can try at home, featured in the new BBC Four series, Colour: The Spectrum of Science.

Check out the video below, follow the instructions and see a black and white image turn into a full-color image of a landscape.

This is really cool. It illustrates an idea I teach in my photography classes about perception and being able to “force” the viewer into seeing what you want them to see.

Tears of Joy emoji wins “Word of the Year”


The Oxford Dictionary’s 2015 word of the year was awarded to something that isn’t necessarily a word, though it definitely paints a picture worth, perhaps, a thousand or so of them. The “tears of joy” emoji face — featured, among other places, in a keyboard on Apple’s iOS platform — is just one of the many cartoon facial reactions used since the late 1990′s being honored with this year’s distinction.

The emoji beat out several words and phrases, including “refugee,” “lumbersexual,” “on fleek,” “Dark Web” and “sharing economy.”

But it’s not a word.

iPhone 6s camera review Switzerland: behind the scenes

Austin Mann:

We’ve gotten a ton of questions about gear and the trip behind this project so we cut together this BTS piece for you — it’s 17 minutes so grab a coffee/snack and enjoy!

In early October, Mann posted his review of the iPhone 6s. Now he’s giving us a behind the scenes look. These BTS videos always fascinate me.

Pandora acquires ‘key assets’ from Rdio, will launch on-demand streaming in 2016


The streaming music industry is about to lose a player and gain a platform. On Monday, Pandora announced plans to acquire “key assets” from on-demand streaming service Rdio, which is seeking bankruptcy protection and will wind down its current business.

The deal, for $75 million in cash, covers Rdio’s technology and intellecutal property, and Pandora says it will be offering jobs to many members of Rdio’s team. Pandora isn’t buying Rdio’s entire business for a couple of reasons.

First, to launch an on-demand streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music, Pandora will have to make its own licensing deals with the record labels, because Rdio’s deals aren’t transferable. Second, Pandora executives explained in a Monday conference call that Rdio is financially “challenged,” and would have been a drain on Pandora.

I wouldn’t take bets on Rdio relaunching. It’s also likely the first of a few more consolidations in the next 12 months.

The prettiest place you’ve never heard of

Dangerous Business:

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “I have travelled around the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland, but for simple beauty, Cape Breton outrivals them all.”

I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical of this quote upon first reading it. I mean, the Rockies, the Alps, the Scottish Highlands… those are all pretty impressive and beautiful things. Could a sparsely-populated island in the Canadian Maritimes really compare?

Well, the truth is that it kind of can.

If you’re looking for a vacation full of utterly lovely scenery, wonderful people and great seafood, you can’t go wrong visiting my home province of Nova Scotia. I promise it will surprise and delight you.

Why I don’t love Twitter likes


Perhaps I’m now just an old social media git yelling at a heart-shaped cloud. Maybe Twitter isn’t misunderstanding the user experience at all, and it’s just a few long-term users who are grumbling. For all I know, Twitter newcomers worldwide are now sighing with relief because that difficult favorites button (three whole syllables!) has gone, replaced by clickable hearts. But a quick glance at replies to Twitter’s own tweets about the change suggests otherwise, and it really does feel like a mis-step that reduces the flexibility of a previously versatile feature.

As a maniacal Twitter user, I completely agree. While “Faves” may not have been great, “Hearts” seems infinitely worse. What if I wanted to bookmark someone’s outrageous or offensive tweet to refer to it later? Twitter seems to think it’s OK for me to use the universal symbol of love to do that. Worse, Twitter’s reasoning, as laid out in this piece, is either mindless marketing speak or quite literally idiotic.

The iPad Pro and the death of a metaphor


Never has the cry of ‘it’s just a bigger Apple thing’ been more applicable than it has with iPad Pro – this is literally a bigger iPad. But that approach to thinking about it is also reductive. The Microsoft Surface has blazed a sort of hybrid path – for people that don’t want to compromise having a laptop experience. The iPad pro, on the other hand, is unapologetically tablety. The keyboard feels solid but it’s no substitute for a MacBook. The muti-app experience, on the other hand, is far and away better than on any competing system — and the way that it enables creatives to alternate between the various ‘modes’ is unique to this platform.

There are a lot of ways to slice iPad Pro. But one of the biggest and hardest to quantify is the way that it will end the debate about whether the tablet is a tool for creation once and for all.

Sprinkled throughout this review, Panzarino asks some interesting questions and makes some very good points. Bottom line is, who cares if the iPad Pro is an “enterprise play” or “just for designers” or “a laptop replacement”? It’s not going to be all things to all people but the tech media often seems to want to make it that.

At Apple, we always keep raising the bar


For American companies, doing business in Europe is getting to be a tricky thing these days. American tech companies, in particular, are finding themselves in regulatory crosshairs more and more.

But there are some things that Europe doest best, according to Cook. One of them is privacy.

He says that he feels more comfortable in Europe when it comes to privacy issues than in other parts of the world, including the US.

I love these long interviews with the press outside of the typical North American outlets. The (sometimes) different viewpoint is interesting.

What goes up

Daring Fireball:

Arguing that Apple is in trouble because the iPhone is so popular is like arguing that the ’90s-era Chicago Bulls were in trouble because Michael Jordan was so good. It’s true Jordan couldn’t play forever — and the iPhone won’t be the most profitable product in the world forever. But in the meantime, the Bulls were well-nigh unbeatable, and Apple, for now at least, is unfathomably profitable.

Just like how it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, it’s better to have tremendous success for some period of time than never to have had tremendous success in the first place. Right?

This is a typically well written and thought out piece by Gruber, taking down the ridiculousness of the Apple doomsayers. They have zero basis for their prognostications and yet, rather than being spiked by their editors as posts that have no basis in fact or shouted down by the media in general, they are lauded for their “prescience”.

The best photo inkjet printer

The Wirecutter:

After 76 hours of research and side-by-side testing with four different models, we found the $800 Epson SureColor P600 is the best photo inkjet printer for most people.

It delivers professional-quality color prints, as well as black-and-white photographs that are as close to traditional darkroom prints as you’ll see from any digital printer around. Its prints also last longer than anything you’d get from a typical online photo service. The P600 can print on a wider variety of media than the competition, and its LCD touchscreen control panel makes setup and maintenance easy.

I’m a big proponent of printing some of your photos. There’s nothing like holding a physical representation of a memory. I have an Epson R2000 and I love taking some of my better photos and printing them out and putting them on my own walls or giving them to friends.