October 18, 2016

The New York Times:

Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode lead the latest crop of nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, raising the possibility of a sweep of 1980s and ’90s nostalgia for an institution that has been criticized for its devotion to the baby boomer generation.

Of the 19 nominees announced by the Rock Hall on Tuesday, nine were getting their first nods, including Pearl Jam and Mr. Shakur in their first year of eligibility.

I love these stories if only for the arguments they generate. I think Pearl Jam and Tupac should be in the Hall but would disagree that Journey, the J. Geils Band, and Joe Tex deserve entry. What about you? Who do you think, out of the 19 nominees this round, deserves to be in or not?


After setting up his tripod and pointing his camera at airport runways, Kelley spends hours photographing multiple exposures of every airplane that travels across his frame. Afterward, he spends many more hours selecting the best position for planes and combining a section of the photo set into one remarkable composite.

I’ve seen some of this artist’s work before and it is incredible the amount of time and skill this takes.

And according to one of its customer representatives, the Swedish music streaming company is not keen on going beyond its AirPlay support for Apple TV and coming out with its own Apple TV app soon.

This certainly isn’t because of anything Apple is doing to prevent Spotify from making an app—Pandora is on Apple TV, so it’s possible. I wonder if Spotify is just being childish here.


This year, Google broke convention with its flagship phone by scrapping the old “Nexus” brand and calling it something new: Pixel. And while previous Nexus phones had decent cameras, Google says this Pixel has the best camera ever made on a smartphone.

But Google isn’t the only phone maker hyper-focused on photography this year. Apple’s new iPhone 7 Plus included, for the first time, a dual-camera system with optical zoom and a game-changing portrait mode.

So let’s compare the two cameras. I set out on a day-long photoshoot in California wine country, a scenic backdrop, perfect for pitting Pixel against the iPhone 7 Plus.

This is an interesting comparison. The reviewer uses the phones and takes the shots that an “average” person would take. This is not a “Review by a Pro” and therefore, might be even more applicable to our readers. Given the shots the reviewer used, I really don’t have very much argument with their conclusions.

Up for bid will be a slew of speakers and speaker boxes, more than half a dozen recording and live sound consoles, various vintage effects, analog and digital tape machines, guitars, drums and more. The full auction, “Property from the Estate of Frank and Gail Zappa,” will be held by Julien’s Auctions on November 4; the company will hold a public exhibition of the items October 31 through November 3.

His house was sold to Lady Gaga. There’s a lot of history in these items.

Netflix Inc’s shares jumped as much as 20 percent on Tuesday, after the company added 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter.

I love Netflix and use it all the time. It’s original programming is among some of the best out there these days. The fact they are increasing the investment in content is a good sign for customers.

The New York Times:

When you hear about surprise album releases these days, you probably think of Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Kanye West.

Not Chuck Berry.

But Mr. Berry revealed a genuine surprise on Tuesday, his 90th birthday, when he announced that he would release a new record, “Chuck,” some time next year. It will be his first studio album since “Rock It” in 1979, and will come out on Dualtone Records, the label that has had one of the biggest indie hits in years with the Lumineers.

An announcement of “Chuck” had few details about the album other than that it would consist “primarily of new, original songs written, recorded and produced” by Mr. Berry, and that it was made in various studios in St. Louis, Mr. Berry’s hometown.

Berry is one of the founders of Rock and Roll with a tumultuous history and relationship with music. It will be really interesting to hear this album and what kind of music he has chosen to release as his last.


The best television characters have already been immortalized on screen, given reruns and our ability to stream our favorite episodes on demand. Now early research at University of Leeds is attempting to give these characters new life, by building digital recreations that can appear in new episodes or even take over for Siri on your smartphone.

Their first “immortal” character: Joey from Friends.

This is very smart and, I think, a real taste of the future. The key is to overcome the so-called uncanny valley. From Wikipedia:

The uncanny valley is the hypothesis that human replicas that appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion among some observers.

On the dark side, once we can place actual characters in invented situations, a door will open that we can never close. You may find yourself, on video and unasked for, doing things you’ve never done. Elections will become even wilder.

All that said, this has been coming for a while now (read about the 2001 movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which promised to change everything, and really didn’t).

So take all this with a grain of salt and look forward to Joey from Friends setting your reminders. How you doin’?

Christian Zibreg, writing for iDownloadBlog:

Apple’s Photos app for the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV includes a powerful yet underrated feature, called Memories, which scans your media library to unearth your cherished or forgotten events, trips and people such as a weekend hike, your baby’s first birthday, a year’s best photos and videos, etc.

Memories collates these items in gorgeous collections and even creates animated slideshows from them. In this tutorial, you will learn how to get started with Memories, create your own animated slideshows, customize them to your liking with photos, videos, music, titles and much more.

Good stuff. Well done.

The Verge:

Samsung is setting up Galaxy Note 7 exchange booths in airports around the world, hoping to stop customers taking the dangerous device onto flights at the last minute. The first of these new “customer service points” appear to have been introduced in South Korean airports, but Samsung has confirmed the booths are opening in airports across Australia, with reports of the desks appearing in the US as well.

The booths are located in “high-traffic terminals” before security screening, says Samsung, and allow Note 7 owners to swap their phone for an unspecified exchange device. According to a report from ABC7News in San Francisco — where a Samsung exchange desk has appeared at the city’s international airport — employees for the tech company are on hand to help customers transfer their data onto a new phone.

Crazy that this is necessary. I wonder what devices Samsung is offering in trade. If it’s an older Samsung device, there’s still the possibility the phone will be confiscated anyway, as there seems to be some confusion at airports on the name of the actual banned device.

And I somehow doubt Samsung is handing out iPhones, though that would be a great story.

Janet Morrissey, writing for The New York Times:

The comedian Dave Chappelle used to hate when fans would pull out smartphones during his act, record the performance and then post it on YouTube and social media before the show had even ended. To him, the fans seemed more interested in getting the perfect shot than in appreciating his stand-up routine.

But in late 2015, Mr. Chappelle discovered a technology called Yondr. Fans are required to place their cellphones into Yondr’s form-fitting lockable pouch when entering the show, and a disk mechanism unlocks it on the way out. Fans keep the pouch with them, but it is impossible for them to snap pictures, shoot videos or send text messages during the performance while the pouch is locked.

Read the article. A phone-free show is old school, in the best possible way.


Apple’s product launches are notoriously secretive, but the Cupertino, California tech giant is sure to do one thing ahead of a big reveal: file trademark paperwork in Jamaica.

It did this for Siri, the Apple Watch, macOS, and dozens of its major products months before the equivalent paperwork was lodged in the United States. Likewise, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft routinely file trademarks for their most important products in locales far flung from Silicon Valley and Seattle.


The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

Loopholes. Where would we be without them?


Ahrendts views the company’s newly redesigned retail outlets not just as stores, but as the company’s next big products…she and Apple view their stores as potential town squares within each of the cities they reside.

“The store is now the biggest product we produce and we have five new features [for iPhones and iPads]. Accessories are avenues, and the huge digital screen in each store is the forum,” Ahrendts said.

By the end of this year, 95 stores will be fully redesigned with this vision, the first of which were the San Francisco Union Square location and the London Regent Street outpost. The community aspect to each store is key, Ahrendts said, with these town squares serving as educational centers.

An interesting metaphor. It’ll be interesting to see how this is implemented.

Also interesting:

There are nearly 500 Apple stores worldwide, and retail sales are responsible for some 18% of the company’s $233.7 billion in sales, amounting to $42 billion in yearly revenue.

That 18% number is impressive, given the relatively small number of stores per consumer in the world.

October 17, 2016


Some people take pride in the fact that they never seem to get sick, or count their blessings for making it through virus season without so much as a runny nose. Good for them.

Most adults will probably get sick with the common cold two or three times in a year. One American Medial Association study estimated that each year the United States suffers from 500 million cases of the cold.

The only way you get ill with the cold is through viral infection — getting chilly or wet doesn’t make you more susceptible. You’re an adult, you know there’s no silver bullet cure for a cold — what can you do to at least make it suck less? Cue up the montage music, because it’s virus fighting time.

I’m just getting over a cold that had me laid out on my couch for a week, sniffling and whining like the giant baby I am.

All Things Digital:

There’s lots of video of the late Steve Jobs, primarily from his famous introductions of Apple products over the years, and his oft-quoted Stanford commencement address. But, by far, the largest trove of video of the legendary innovator candidly answering unrehearsed questions and explaining his views on technology and business comes from his six lengthy appearances at our D: All Things Digital Conference, from 2003 to 2010.

As a memorial to a great man, and, in the spirit of sharing a priceless piece of history, we are making all six of these appearances available free, in high quality. We thank Apple for its cooperation in making these videos available for all.

Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher loved having Jobs at their conference. Not only did it goose attendance but Jobs was always a good, challenging interview for them. Great to see these interviews now available more widely.

Apple has hired a Carnegie Mellon University professor to head up a team working on artificial intelligence as tech giants increasingly place big bets on machine learning as a key part of their future.

Apple seems to be all-in with AI, which is a good sign for the future.

BFD Black Album Drums is an expansion pack for BFD3 inspired by the drum sound featured on the 1991 “Black Album” by Metallica. Produced and recorded by Chocolate Audio (the team behind Imperial and Modern Retro) and featuring the exact same 1980 Gretsch kit that was played on the album along with Zildjian cymbals, a Tama Bell Brass snare and a Ludwig snare.

I love these types of expansion kits. You can get the perfect drum sound that you’re looking for without much hassle.

Earlier this morning, I posted about Apple removing security tethers from devices in the Apple Stores.

One question I had was how this would impact shoplifting, how Apple was able to keep an eye on things.

From this 9to5mac post by Ben Lovejoy:

A source tells us that the current special OS images on demo devices include a software ‘kill switch’ which disables them when they go out of range of the store Wi-Fi. This means that Apple no longer has to use Find My iPhone to disable them manually.

Read the rest. Pretty interesting.

The original iPod

Stephen Hackett, of 512 Pixels, spends some quality time with the device that started Apple’s big comeback, the original iPod.

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb, writing for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.

Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1,000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren’t public.

New leadership of the initiative, known internally as Project Titan, has re-focused on developing an autonomous driving system that gives Apple flexibility to either partner with existing carmakers, or return to designing its own vehicle in the future, the people also said. Apple has kept staff numbers in the team steady by hiring people to help with the new focus, according to another person.

The article is a fascinating behind-the-scenes on how this project slowly shifted direction to its current focus.

The Economist, on Apple opening an App Academy in a tough, but emerging, Naples neighborhood:

“We go to places nobody thought were possible”, explained Lisa Jackson, vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives at Apple, at the inaugural event. Naples lags far behind northern Italy for transport and digital infrastructure, and criminality is rife. The Camorra, a mafia gang, runs one of the biggest drug-trafficking enterprises in the world from the city. The neighbourhood in which Apple has opened the academy (it is located inside a new campus of Federico II University) used to be more dangerous. “We used to see our friends die on the ground,” recalls Davide Varlese, a cousin of Mr Ciarravolo. But things have improved over the past decade as authorities have clamped down. At least the Camorra doesn’t come asking for money in bars any more, locals say.

The draw for Apple is the engineering program at the university.

I noticed this on my last Apple Store visit. It was nice to be able to pick up an iPhone and walk around with it, even stick it in my pocket to get a sense of the size difference between the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

I never felt watched, never got a sense of extra security around the iPhone table, though I can’t imagine there’s not some security measures in place to prevent wholesale shoplifting.

No matter, this was definitely an improved customer experience.

Nikkei Asian Review:

Cook, who was visiting Japan for the first time as CEO, said Apple will open a research and development base in Yokohama, near Tokyo, later this year. The facility — the first of its kind outside the U.S. — will develop AI and other technologies. Cook described it as a center for “deep engineering” and said it will be “very different” from the R&D base Apple plans to build in China.


Some analysts say a sales slowdown in China has prompted Apple to shift back toward Japan, where the iPhone commands a large market share. Cook said Apple sees “kindred spirits” in Japan, since it has “a lot of partners, supplier partners, and the developer community here is so vibrant.”

Not particularly revealing, but interesting. One quote towards the end struck me:

On filling Jobs’ role, Cook said, “I never tried to replace him. I’ve just tried to be myself and do the best thing that I can do. … I think if he were here, I would have loved it, because I would have loved going through many of these things with him. But it unfortunately wasn’t to be.”

Imagine if Steve was still around, with Tim Cook running the company and Steve visioning new products to life. What kind of partnership would they have? What kind of person would Steve have become? Just a thought.

Before you read on, take a quick look at this Quora post, answering the question What will the iPhone 8 be made of?

That post sells the idea that the iPhone 8 will be made primarily from ZrO2 – Zirconian Ceramics, made famous by the Space Shuttle as a thermal barrier and an option on the newest Apple Watch.

The linked post, from Atomic Delights, is a strong rebuttal to that Quora post and a bit of a love letter to aluminum.

Beautifully written, a terrific read.

October 14, 2016

I suppose you could see this coming, but I still find the whole thing incredible. Will Apple reap this windfall? Will Google’s new Pixel phone?

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Friday said it expected to take a hit to its operating profit of about $3 billion over the next two quarters due to the discontinuation of its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

The outlook brings to about $5.3 billion the total losses the global smartphone leader has forecast as a result of the overheating issues, after it said on Wednesday it would suffer a $2.3 billion hit to third-quarter profit.

That’s just the hit you can see. There is no telling how much this will affect the sales of other products—if consumer confidence fades, this could get worse.

Using advanced facial recognition A.I., FabFocus detects people in the foreground and automatically blurs what it distinguishes as the background. It’s that easy to take an amazing portrait with a professional depth of field effect.

The app will be released next week. This is going to be very popular.


There’s competence porn. There’s calligraphy/typography porn. And there’s this video of a professional calligrapher Paul Antonio Attong gracing the windows of The Table Café in London with his work.

This is amazing. Most of us have handwriting that is barely legible yet this guy is doing beautiful calligraphy, handheld, on a large scale.

Thanks to Marketcircle, makers of Billings Pro for sponsoring The Loop this week.

Tired of manually creating invoices and keeping track of your time slips with spreadsheets? Billings Pro is a simple time-tracking and invoicing app for the Mac, iPad, iPhone & Apple Watch. It’s used by lawyers, consultants, photographers, graphic designers & more all over the world.

Track time from any Apple device – whether you’re at the office, working at a coffee shop, or tracking time for an on-site client meeting. Whip up invoices lightening fast from your Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Choose from over 30 professional templates on the Mac or customize your own. Keep track of overdue invoices, set recurring invoices, and add client payments no matter where you are.

New in Billings Pro is the Mini Timer on the iPhone. Now you can start, pause, or resume a timer from anywhere in the app just by tapping or swiping up.



Once upon a time, keen photographers bought a DSLR – it was the established order of things. But the mirror mechanism of a DSLR is complex and noisy and adds to the weight of the camera, and that’s where the mirrorless camera, or compact system camera comes in. They keep the big sensors and interchangeable lenses of DSLR cameras but ditch the mirror to produce a smaller, lighter and simpler camera.

No two photographers are exactly the same – we’re all looking for slightly different things, so we’ve ranked the 10 best compact system cameras you can buy right now based not just on specs, handling and performance, but size, simplicity and value for money too.

While I love my Nikon D600, I also enjoy using my mirrorless Olympus M1. Mirrorless cameras have their own pros and cons but they are getting better and better and many create images to rival their similarly priced “full sized” rigs.