Apple brings iTunes Pass to the United States

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Apple:

Now you can add money directly to your iTunes or App Store account with iTunes Pass. To get iTunes Pass, go to the iTunes Store on your iOS device, scroll down, and tap the Redeem button. Then go in to any Apple Retail Store and let a Specialist know you want to add credit to your account. Open iTunes Pass in Passbook, and have the Specialist scan it and accept your payment. Your balance will be updated and can be used immediately.

This might be slightly more convenient than buying physical gift cards for yourself but is it a service you’ll actually use?

We need this: A maps app that algorithmically finds you the scenic route

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Wired:

We have the phrase “scenic route” for a reason, and as Google’s driving directions increasingly become the only directions any of us ever think about checking, we risk losing sight of these alternate paths. That’s a shame.

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been dreaming and talking about this kind of functionality for years. As a motorcycle rider, we often don’t want to take the direct route. Show us the fun, twisty, windy, pretty roads instead.

Weird Al releasing a new video every day for eight days

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The Verge:

Weird Al has a new album of parodies coming out, but you’ll probably want to look for them on the web rather than over the radio: eight songs off of the album are getting music videos, and they’ll be premiering over eight days. The first video came out and has Al singing “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s unbearably catchy hit “Happy.”

Nirvana for all you Weird Al fans.

Why soccer will never come home to the USA

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Salon:

Among the countless points discussed about this year’s World Cup…perhaps the most important looming question is whether this particular quadrennial tournament finally converted America into a nation of soccer fans.

Every four years, the World Cup masterfully demonstrates the fundamental differences between how America and the world respectively treat their athletes.

I don’t like to say “never” but there’s a fundamental difference between the way the American fan sees sports in general and “football” in particular and the way the rest of the world does. We go through this discussion every four years and nothing really changes.

Kara Swisher is Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist. How does that work?

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New York Magazine:

Swisher’s power derives from her reporting — driven, in turn, by her deep sourcing — and from the sense, unnerving to executives, that she has a red phone with a direct connection to the perma-class of venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road who fund their companies and fill their boards and decide their fates.

People like talking to Swisher.

Interesting profile. I’ve talked to Swisher on several occasions and she is, in the simplest terms, “intense”. In a good way.

Pathogens on a plane: How to stay healthy in flight

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NPR:

If you’re going to pick up a pathogen on an intercontinental flight, it will probably be one hanging out on your seat or another surface, says Dr. Mark Gendreau, who specializes in aviation medicine at Lahey Medical Center in Peabody, Mass.

“When you look at most infectious diseases, the overwhelming majority are transmitted when you touch a contaminated surface,” he says. “You grab the door knob of the airplane bathroom, and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.”

“But we’re not all doomed to get sick after a plane flight,” Gendreau says. “You can change behaviors when you’re traveling and substantially reduce the risk of catching anything.”

Ugh. One more thing to make air travel suck.

The machine that could fix airport security

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Wired:

Instead of having a human poke around in your bag, the machine scans it for a variety of threats in just a few seconds.

You hold your ticket up to the machine, and it assigns you a pod. Close the door and walk around to the other side. In the time it takes you to get over there, the machine scans the bag for a range of threats.

There are some obvious issues with the embedded company video but those are easily remedied. It would be great to see these kinds of systems in place rather than the awful TSA procedures many of us have to go through now.

Airbus wants to patent the most uncomfortable plane seats ever

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Washington Post:

Airbus has filed a seat patent that appears to pack people in without all the clunky cushions and awkward folding tables…Its cushions are shaped liked bicycle saddles, and when the seats aren’t being used, they fold vertically to save space.

“Reduced comfort remains tolerable for the passengers in as much as the flight lasts only one or a few hours,” Airbus sagely calculates.

How cheap would the flight have to be for you to pay to sit in those torture devices for two hours?

RE2PECT

No matter who you cheer for, The Captain deserves a hat tip in this, his last season as a New York Yankee.

Does anyone outside Silicon Valley even want a smartwatch?

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New York Magazine:

I’m part of the latest tech trend, a bona fide phenomenon in Silicon Valley that is inspiring the kind of pants-wetting excitement usually reserved for new iPhones and Grand Theft Auto games. I’m talking about smartwatches—the tech world’s quixotic attempt to mount minicomputers on your wrist.

I’ve been wearing two smartwatches for several days apiece, and so far, it’s been an enlightening experience. Though not necessarily a hopeful one.

Obviously it depends on what the particular smartwatch does but in my talks with “average” people, the headline answer so far has been “No.” That being said, it brings to mind the classic (and probably apocryphal) Henry Ford line of, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Cheap at sea, pricey on the plate: The voodoo of lobster economics

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The Globe and Mail:

What used to be poor man’s fare, the fallback meal of people too impoverished to afford anything else, is now a billion dollar business and a universal mark of luxury – with the result that a lobster that sells for $3.50 on the wharf can cost $60 and more on a restaurant plate in New York or Toronto or Shanghai, regardless of how many lobsters are pulled from the sea. How this happens is the life story of Larry the Lobster.

As a native Nova Scotianer, lobster, both as a delicious beachside meal and an economy sustaining industry, is near and dear to me. The story of how lobster gets from the ocean floor to the dinner plate is one not many people know and the economics of it is fascinating.

Life in Brazil during the World Cup, in pictures

Vox:

In Brazil, “Tudo bom” roughly translates to “all good.” It’s used both as a question and an answer. Tudo bom? Sim, tudo bom. Just like the World Cup. The World Cup in Brazil has been both a blessing and a curse. The joy of sport but at what cost?

As the World Cup wraps up in Brazil today, there will be much soul searching in the country — not just with regards to the awful loss to Germany but whether or not the whole enterprise was worth it. Knowing many Brazilians, I think most of them will say yes it was.

Regardless, I think the relative success of the the 2014 World Cup bodes well for Brazil’s hosting of the Summer Olympics.

Sponsored content is the holy grail of digital publishing. But does it work?

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Fortune:

In recent years, a debate has raged on among publishing and advertising industry insiders over “sponsored content”—more recently called “native advertising” and once known as “advertorial”—the sort of advertising that looks very much like editorial content but is, in fact, directly paid for by an advertiser.

Industry peers watched and discussed: Is it deceptive? Is it ethical? Does it even work?

It can be deceptive – Macworld had a nasty habit of putting the “sponsored content” info at the bottom of the post instead of front and centre – as to “does it work”? Certainly not on me. If I see an article marked as “sponsored”, I don’t even bother reading it regardless of my interest in the subject matter.

Smelling death: On the job with New York’s crime scene cleaners

The Atlantic:

People often forget that someone else comes in to clean up after all the forensic work is done.

Crime-scene cleaning is not a glamorous profession, but it is a lucrative one. Last year there were 333 murders in New York City alone. Considering that companies like Island Trauma clean up crime scenes, natural deaths, and hoarder homes in the entire Tri-State area, they tend to keep busy throughout the year.

You think your job sucks? Try this one.

The men who dare to be demented

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Buzzfeed:

There is (a) group of people who aren’t just nostalgic for Weird Al; they live his gospel. These are people who never set aside the wackiness, the zaniness, the never-ending slide-whistle call of funny music. And I want to find out what makes them tick. That’s why I’ve decided to go to the first ever FuMPFest (Funny Music Project): to meet the acts and the fans who are still out there making and loving funny music.

I’m not sure what to expect, except that I will be laughing very hard.

White people are funny.

Mesmerizing slow motion shuttle launch compilation set to “Armageddon” theme

America’s Space Shuttle:

As a part of every launch,over 125 cameras are positioned all over the launch pad structure and around the perimeter of the complex to view how the vehicle performs and to catch views of any potential debris as the vehicle clear the pad.

I thought it would be neat to combine different angles of the launches of STS-124 and STS-117 with additional music from the summer blockbuster “Armageddon” to set the scene for one of the greatest technological feats ever displayed.

This is such a good compilation, it almost makes me want to watch “Armageddon” again.

Target Field introduces self-serve beer machines for MLB All-Star Game

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The Consumerist:

Customers will have to prove that they’re over 21 in order to buy a prepaid card to use in the beer-o-mat. The machines also limit the quantity of beer that customers can purchase, limiting them to 48 ounces every 15 minutes. You know, in case a group has dispatched one person to get beer for everyone.

Those 48 ounces of beer will cost $18.24 if you buy the cheapest selection, Bud or Bud Light at 38 cents per ounce.

I heard The Publisher of The Loop is starting a Kickstarter campaign to set up one of these full of Heineken in his house.

Why classic rock isn’t what it used to be

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FiveThirtyEight:

Led Zeppelin is classic rock. So are Mötley Crüe and Ozzy Osbourne. But what about U2 or Nirvana? As a child of the 1990s, I never doubted that any of these bands were classic rock, even though it may be shocking for many to hear. And then I heard Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a classic rock station a few weeks ago, and I was shocked.

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock?

I remember the first time I heard my favourite band, The Clash, on a “Classic Rock” station and being depressed to think I was now officially old enough to have my favourite band relegated to a classic rock station.

Apple’s “Pride” video

Apple:

On June 29, thousands of Apple employees and their families marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade. They came from around the world — from cities as far as Munich, Paris, and Hong Kong — to celebrate Apple’s unwavering commitment to equality and diversity. Because we believe that inclusion inspires innovation.

I’d love one of those t-shirts.

Flow motion hyperlapse of Barcelona

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Petapixel:

(This) time-lapse took 363 total hours of work between the 75 hours of logistics and travel, 31 hours of scouting locations, 78 hours of shooting and a whopping 179 hours of post-production spent dealing with 26,014 Camera Raw files that totaled up to some 817GB of data.

Gear used included four Nikon DSLRs (a D800, D7100, D7100 and D3200), six separate Nikon lenses (10.5mm f/2.8G ED AF DX Fisheye, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX, 16-35mm f/4G AF-S VR, 28mm AF f/2.8D, 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, 70-200mm f/2.8G) and a Promote Control.

Gorgeous video made amazing knowing the tech details behind it.

Get the all-new Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules now for free!

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io9:

Wizards of the Coast has released the Basic Rules for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons as a free PDF right here. The 100-page document details how to make a character, play the game, and covers magic, too.

Specifically, the Basic Rules “covers the core of the game. It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options; in addition, the rules contain 120 spells, 5 backgrounds, and character sheets.”

How many of you will download these rules with no intention of playing but just for old time’s sake? I did.

Apple signs deal with Saudi bookshop in regional first

. Al Arabiya News:

In the first deal of its kind in the Middle East, Apple has inked an agreement with Saudi bookshop Jarir to supply all Apple products through the outlet, as well as providing an after-sales service.

In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel, Jarir’s chairman, Mohammad al-Aqeel, said that this agreement will allow the prices of Apple products sold at Jarir branches to be slightly reduced.

The question many ask is, “Why doesn’t Apple open their own retail outlet?” Remember, this kind of “store within a store” idea is what Apple initially did to test the retail concept before the first US Apple Retail Stores opened. They are likely doing the same in the Middle East.

I just installed a tool which shows how popular websites are spying on me. The results are horrifying

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Pando Daily:

Pretty much every page you visit contains at least one piece of tracking code — watching where you click, how long you stay, and how often you come back.

What I didn’t know is how absolutely out of control the number of trackers on popular sites has become. It’s actually horrifying.

I don’t know if it’s “horrifying” but it certainly is instructive what sites do what kind of tracking on your visits.

The app gold rush is well over

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Luc Vandal:

It is now much harder to make it into the market and it requires more planning, financial investment and time. The App Store market is now mature and near 7 years old.

I have spoken with other successful developers and many told me the same: sales are generally down. They are still doing great but there are more and more competitors are also taking a slice of the same pie.

Media attention is also harder to get as they get overwhelmed with review requests and press releases.

Interesting look at the challenges faced by independent developers.

How GM and Philips almost killed “Toy Story” and all of your favorite Pixar movies

SlashFilm:

Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull recently published a book called Creativity Inc., bout how creativity and business can work hand in hand. The book is filled with stories from Catmull’s journey at Pixar, some details of which have never been told publicly before. One of the stories is about how a business deal came within seven days from changing history as we know it. Not only would Toy Story never have been made, it is very likely the computer animation revolution would have happened entirely differently or maybe not even at all.

The world would be a less joyous place if this had happened.

In Canada

Chris Hadfield:

For fun this Canada Day, my brother and I set out to make the most Canadian music video ever. How’d we do?

I’d say you did right some good my son.

Keep thieves from stealing your 2013 Mac Pro with a $49 lock adapter

Ars Technica:

You know the 2013 Mac Pro, that computer you can spend as much as $9,599 on if you really try? Apple has just released a $49 new lock accessory for the computer that will keep people from unplugging everything, picking it up, and walking out the door with it.

This is one of those things you’d think Apple would have had available day of launch.