July 30, 2015

Are you a metalhead or a bot?


As security researcher Nicholas Weaver put it in a (now deleted) tweet, ”Imagine if Windows patches had to pass through Dell and your ISP before they came to you? And neither cared? That is called Android.”

The way Android users get updates is just so screwed up.

I’ve been playing with a replacement calculator for the Mac. Magic Number has been out for a while, but is new to me. There is an incredible amount of functionality built into the calculator, yet it is incredibly easy to use.

To get a basic sense of Magic Number, spend a few minutes going through the Getting Started page. Note that a number of the screen shots are short little animations (start them by clicking the classic play triangle).

The thing I like the most about Magic Number is that the math looks like math. For example:


Even after you enter a calculation, you can edit individual elements and recalculate. This is the tiniest tip of the iceberg here. Magic Number is incredibly robust, chock full of features. And a new, free update is coming in mid-August, supposedly full of new stuff. Can’t wait.

Silicon Valley Business Journal:

Apple has been criticized for the curvaceous project being closed off and suburban in its orientation (large earthen berms will block the public’s view of the campus from bordering streets). But the new public visitor’s center shows Apple is at least making a concession to the public’s great interest in the Spaceship.

The plans show a super-modern glass-walled structure topped by a carbon-fiber roof with extended eaves, punctuated by large skylights. On the ground floor: A 2,386-square-foot cafe and 10,114-square-foot store “which allows visitors to view and purchase the newest Apple products.” Stairs and elevators take visitors to the roof level, about 23 feet up. There, they’ll be able to behold the multi-billion-dollar campus.

There was never any doubt that Apple would have some sort of area for the general public, similar to the present Employee Store. Whether it will be a full blown Apple Retail location where you can buy Apple’s hardware (unlike the Employee Store where the general public can only buy accessories and Apple-branded merchandise) remains to be seen.

Wristly polled about 1,000 Apple Watch owners.

86.1% are still wearing their watch daily. I know I do. I’m actually surprised the number is that low.

78% agree or strongly agree that they are doing more standing. Same number are more aware of their health.

Lots more numbers to absorb. Read the article.

The Verge:

Former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May have signed up for a new motoring show on Amazon Prime, set to air in 2016. The news ends months of speculation about the trio’s future on TV after the BBC refused to renew Clarkson’s contract following a “fracas” during filming this year. The deal is a major coup for Amazon’s streaming service, which lags behind rival Netflix, and although there are no details of how much the firm paid for the trio, a company insider told the London Evening Standard: “We have made a significant investment.”

It’s a three year deal and set for broadcast in 2016. Clarkson is a buffoon but there is no argument that the trio, even for non-car lovers, are a fun team to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the new format and whether or not this version of the show is better or worse now that the boys will be free from the restraints of the BBC.

Something just broke in the universe.

[H/T Kirk McElhearn]

Tom Brady, responding to accusations that he destroyed his phone to hinder the Deflategate investigation:

I also disagree with yesterdays narrative surrounding my cellphone. I replaced my broken Samsung phone with a new iPhone 6 AFTER my attorneys made it clear to the NFL that my actual phone device would not be subjected to investigation under ANY circumstances.

No matter your take on Tom Brady, there’s no arguing he has great taste.

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

“I am going to show you how touchscreens help me,” he says to the camera. Moments later, we see Hills in his wheelchair, facing a desk with an iPad perched atop. We watch Christopher, a resident of Queensland, Australia, move forward slightly, struggle for a moment, and then pause, unable to reach the iPad screen.

“I keep reading things about the touchscreen overtaking the mouse and keyboard and this really scares me,” he confesses into the camera. Hills’ Athetoid cerebral palsy has left him unable to walk or use his hands, and, at that moment in 2012, his fears were understandable. “I think touchscreens are an amazing technology, but my disability means I can’t use my hands — so let’s face it,” he says. The video — shot, edited, and posted by Hills — is an arresting reminder of an alarming truth: Technologies aimed at, hyped by, and marketed toward an able-bodied majority often overlook the eager constituency of the disabled.

Apple added the first version of Switch Control in iOS 7. That, along with other assistive technology, changed everything for Christopher. Instead of touchscreen technology being a barrier to keep him out, it became a life changing boon.

“The thing that comes to mind is the day I made my first phone call. I was 15. I was able to call mum at work. As you can imagine, this was a very big thing,” Hills told BuzzFeed News of using Switch Control for the first time.

Inspiring article.

July 29, 2015

Anyone that’s every listened to me talk about guitars knows how much I love Taylor. Their workmanship, attention to detail, and tone are second to none. I just got this beauty today.

“It was just right there,” he told Ars. “It was hovering, I would never have shot it if it was flying. When he came down with a video camera right over my back deck, that’s not going to work. I know they’re neat little vehicles, but one of those uses shouldn’t be flying into people’s yards and videotaping.”

Some drone owners are morons. There was a case in California where firefighters were trying to get a blaze under control and people with drones prevented helicopters from getting into the air. Jesus people, use your common sense.

Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, is one of the best children’s authors ever.

Om Malik:

Whether it is the fear of carrier overages, or just the preconceived notion that WiFi is faster, most of us continue to log into WiFi expecting it to be blazing fast. But it isn’t really true, both from my personal, anecdotal and totally unreliable point of view and from a data-backed view. Most of the popular public WiFi platforms like Starbucks WiFi, Xfinity, hotel WiFi and a whole lot of others are quite slow compared to a good LTE connection—especially Verizon, which is pricey but reliable.

This is so true. I connect to WiFi just assuming it will be faster than LTE, but many (most) times it just sucks.

AppleInsider has a roundup of the early reviews. Good for Microsoft if they’re able to pull this off—the last couple of releases alienated many of their users.

If I used a case, this is what I would have.

My friends Dave Wiskus and Joe Cieplinski have started a new band and podcast called Airplane Mode. In the first episode they tell the story of how they moved to New York City and started a band.

Much more than the history of NeXT

If you ever get the chance to hear Pixar’s Michael B. Johnson speak, you should leap at the chance. Known to the Twitterverse as @drwave, Michael is an incredibly entertaining speaker and, it turns out, a terrific interviewer.

In addition to his role supervising the Tools Story/Editorial team at Pixar, Wave is on the Board of the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco. The video below, filmed at the Cartoon Art Museum, is a fascinating interview Michael did with three people who witnessed the early days of NeXT firsthand: Doug Menuez, Peter Graffagnino, and Don Melton.

Lots of anecdotes including Steve Jobs, a bit of early Apple, and lots of the birth of various technologies that came together at NeXT.


The New York Times pulled together a very short, clickable questionnaire that’ll give you a sense of how your personal information might be compromised, along with a series of links to articles laying out the major recent attacks, from the Adobe breech on down to UPS.

One piece of information I found most interesting:

If you were the victim of more than one breach, some security experts recommend freezing your credit. To do so, call Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and ask to have your account frozen. The credit agency will mail you a one-time PIN or password to unfreeze your account later. If you plan on applying for a new job, renting an apartment or buying insurance, you will have to thaw a freeze temporarily and pay a fee to refreeze the account.

I think this might be a pain, but if you are at risk, this is a step worth considering.

I want one of these.

This site may be hacked

I got a disturbing text a few days ago. Seems that when a business associate looked up my business name in Google, they saw a message, just below the main site URL, that said “This site may be hacked”.

You can see an example of this message here.

Grammar aside (Google is not giving permission to hack the site, they are letting me know that the site might already be hacked), this is a pretty disheartening message to see, especially on a site you worked so hard to bring to life.

In a nutshell, the message is telling you that Google scanned your site and has detected the possibility of malware. In their words:

You’ll see the message “This site may be hacked” when we believe a hacker might have changed some of the existing pages on the site or added new spam pages. If you visit the site, you could be redirected to spam or malware.

In my case, I had an old install of WordPress on the site, one that I no longer used and one that was not exposed via any publicly linked pages. Somehow, the varmints got in and added some extra PHP files to the site. The code was cryptic, using arrays of bytes that clearly held a stream of code to be executed by another chunk of code.

No matter, I wiped the server clean, changed my passwords, reinstalled the site from backup. By the time I got all this done and tested, it was late and I was done for the day. All that remained was to figure out how to connect to Google to get the site rescanned.

Woke the next morning, ready to dive into the Google bureaucracy, and what do you know, the message was gone. My theory is that Google maintains a list of hack-tagged sites, rescans on a regular basis.

I have to say, I appreciate the help Google. You really had my back there. Thanks.

July 28, 2015

Ever wonder why there’s no way to listen to a replay of Elton John’s Rocket Hour from Beats 1 in its original broadcast form, with Sir Elton’s full repartee?

Serenity Caldwell does a phenomenal job explaining the licensing rights associated with the various elements that make up Apple Music and how that impacts the ability to replay Beats 1 shows. Great writing, great research.

The New York Times:

The nation’s largest restaurant chains have made a big deal in recent years about introducing smaller portion sizes. McDonald’s eliminated the Supersize menu, while T.G.I. Fridays and others have introduced small-plate items. Yet the restaurants have also been doing something else, with less fanfare: continuing to add dishes so rich that a single meal often contains a full day’s worth of calories.

Here, we show you what roughly 2,000 calories looks like at some large chains.

I’ve been using the MyFitnessPal app to track my daily meals and trying to stay under 2,000 calories. Terrifying to realize so many of these meals I ate when I was younger have that many calories in a single meal.

Ever wonder why most restaurants sing some odd birthday, rather than the traditional version we’ve all grown up with? It’s all about a long brewing copyright battle.

Thanks to filmmaker Jennifer Nelson, that may be about to change. A fascinating story.

Fantastic post by Vicki Boykis (“Born Jewish in Russia. Raised guilty in America.”) on the deterioration of the internet:

Tumblr, which used to be a visual playground of interesting and sometimes bizarre ideas, is being reorganized and censored to make room for ads, including deleting accounts without any warning. Chrome, once the fastest browser, is now monitoring user voice input. Reddit is no longer reddit. News sites like The Verge and New York Times are so jacked up on ads that loading them is degrading the experience of surfing the web. Google is only now starting to undo the endless problems that G+ has caused, and it’s not clear whether it will be for the better. For example, I tried to decouple the photos on my phone from the Google + Photos app, with limited success, in the same fit of frustration that this author experienced (NSFW language). Sites like Buzzfeed are being built explicitly to profit off clickbait, meaning our news content is no longer written to provide information but to get us to…click.

There’s a pivot in the middle to focus on the big change coming to SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is so good that I’m willing to pay $10 a month (much more than I’m willing to pay for Spotify, which has a good popular catalog but not the same depth of original music as SoundCloud) so I don’t have to hear ads. So, I optimistically thought they might go to a subscription model and preserve the good momentum they already had going.

As is par for the course in corporate maneuvering, nothing happened for months and months and I continued listening to SoundCloud at home, in the office, and in my car, without any interruptions. And, I continued to find joy in this random, obscure stuff that people were creating because they were on a platform where they were free to experiment with formats without record labels and ad agencies listening in.

Then, the ads started. I’ve heard an anti-smoking ad about 10 times now. Given that I’m currently not paying anything for SoundCloud, I’m ok with ads. I’m the product. But after a few weeks, they became repetitive, extremely annoying, and disruptive, and again, I wondered why SoundCloud, whose audience is made up mostly of music connoisseurs who would gladly pay for service, didn’t take into account how annoying these ads would be.

Great read. Be sure to click on the sample songs in the post.

From HITS Daily Double:

Apple doesn’t make its streaming numbers public but is showing reports to those rights holders, who have been surprised by how big those figures already are. Some streaming numbers (notably on a couple of cutting-edge hip-hop titles) are actually competitive with Spotify’s. Some rights holders feel Apple should publicize these figures; the decision to do so or not falls to Eddy Cue. But releasing the numbers would likely go a long way toward turning those who don’t yet get it into believers.

10 million subscribers in a month is an impressive number but they are likely mostly unpaid subscribers. Spotify hit 20 million paid subscribers about a month ago. It took Spotify five and a half years to get their first 10 million paid subscribers.

Take all of this with a few grains of salt. First off, it’s a rumor, no matter how believable. Second, we don’t know how many of those subscribers are purely taking a taste of the 3 month free subscription. That number may hold up over time, or it may drop once the paid conversions come due. And, of course, this is a maturing market. Part of the reason Spotify took five and a half years to get their first 10 million paid subscribers is that they were eating that early growth curve, while Apple stepped into an already relatively mature market.

Nonetheless, if true, that is a good sign for Apple Music, despite the early rough going.

UPDATE: Clarified the post with paid vs unpaid subscribers.

[Via 9to5mac]

Three tiny Apple Watch ads, with an odd app focus

Apple released three new 15 second Apple Watch ads, dedicated to Music Apps, Fitness Apps, and Travel Apps. All three are shown below.

As you watch the ads, note the particular apps highlighted in each category. For example, the Music Apps ad highlights the StubHub app. The Fitness Apps ad highlights the MLB.com app.

Odd choices. Choices that seem almost shoehorned into place.

Here are the ads. Enjoy.

July 27, 2015

Much respect to Apple and the developers of these apps for helping make people’s lives better.

We are happy to announce that estimates in Billings Pro have come to the iPhone and iPad. Now you can create, edit, and send estimates from anywhere.

This is a great feature for Billings Pro mobile apps.

Tour de France 2015 – Best of Stages 1-7


[Via Coudal]

Much respect to all the companies taking part in this initiative.