May 21, 2017

Digg:

America leads the world in many things (GDP, Olympic medals), and lags behind in many others (math, life expectancy). Here’s something we can add to the “lags behind” column: this super-efficient tow truck replacement spotted in Turkey.

You’ve got to admire the efficiency and speed if nothing else.

May 20, 2017

Petapixel:

The well-regarded Olympus TG-4 is being replaced by a more powerful model—say hello to the TG-5. Olympus’ latest ‘tough’ camera packs a better sensor, better processor, and 4K video capability into a rough and tumble shell that is waterproof, crushproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and dustproof.

As with the previous tough model, this puppy is waterproof (to 50 feet/15 meters), crushproof (to 220 pounds/100 kilograms), shockproof (from 7 feet/2.1 meters), freezeproof (to 14°F/-10°C), and dustproof.

I’ve always been a big fan of Olympus’ “Tough” line and recommend it particularly for those who are hard on their gear, want to shoot in “adverse” conditions or want a good camera to give to a child. I’ve used my old Tough point and shoot mounted to my motorcycle, in the snow, underwater – places I’d never take my DSLR or iPhone.

The Outline:

This week, Wired dropped a glossy cover story on Apple’s massive new campus, which will be known as Apple Park. The approximately 6,000-word story mentions a specially-designed pizza box that enables Apple employees to take a pizza from the company’s posh food court, Caffè Macs, back to their desk area, or pod, without the pie getting soggy.

The Cupertino company patented the box seven years ago and it’s already been in use at Apple offices. The box is just coming into the public consciousness now, however, so The Outline obtained one — sent by a source directly from one of Apple’s California campuses — in order to conduct a hands-on review. Here are our first impressions.

Levy is understandably a little miffed at the attention the box is getting but it’s weirdly interesting and another testament to Apple’s attention to details.

Clark:

For whatever reason, smartphones have caused people to let their guard down — and scammers are taking advantage of the fact that many people will open just any text or email they receive on their phone.

But as these scams continue to evolve, criminals are still finding effective ways to target consumers using many of the same old tactics that have been around for a whole lot longer than smartphones.

After a recent attack targeted Apple users via text message, scammers are now going after them in a different way.

According to a recent report, criminals are calling Apple iCloud users and claiming that their account has been hacked.

As always, never click on links you weren’t expecting. Always go to the source and don’t trust links sent to you that you didn’t specifically ask for from the company. Thanks to Ted Landau for the heads up.

May 19, 2017

CNET:

A recently published survey by Morgan Stanley shows that 92 percent of iPhone users are “somewhat likely” or “extremely likely” to upgrade their phone in the next 12 months plan on getting another iPhone. The research note was distributed on Wednesday and later picked up by CNET.

In comparison, the same Morgan Stanley survey found that Samsung had a 77 percent retention rate, while LG had 59 percent and Motorola had 56 percent.

Put me in the “extremely likely” camp.

BBC:

For 21 years, the king of the Netherlands has flown twice a month as co-pilot while his passengers were in the dark, he has told a Dutch newspaper.

He told De Telegraaf that he never used his name when addressing passengers and was rarely recognised in uniform and wearing his KLM cap. However, he admitted that some passengers had recognised his voice.

Can you imagine sitting on a plane and hearing the pilot over the intercom, “Welcome to the flight, ladies and gentlemen…” And thinking to yourself, “Huh – that sounds like….naw…couldn’t be!”

Graham Cochrane has some nice tips for Mastering a song you’ve recorded. I especially liked his comments on the loudness wars and how streaming services are making that less of an issue these days.

Great story. Much respect to Google CEO Sundar Pichai for encouraging the girl.

Petapixel:

In A Taste of New York, Thomas Pöcksteiner and Peter Jablonowski of Austrian film production company FilmSpektakel take the viewer on a whirlwind tour of the city from the air, ground, and water. Zipping between locations with creative cuts and zooms, the hustle of NYC is matched by the editing style.

This video puts the “hyper” in hyperlapse but it certainly captures the energy of New York City.

Mentalfloss:

Regularly changing your online passwords should be as routine as spring cleaning or a dentist appointment (and just as fun), but many people usually don’t get around to it until it’s too late. You won’t want to make that same mistake this time: According to internet security researchers, more than 560 million passwords have been compromised and posted to an online database. The leaks involve email passwords and login credentials for a number of different online services, all of which have been hacked in the past few years.

The leak was first discovered by Kromtech Security Center earlier in the month, and according to Gizmodo, the claim was backed up by Troy Hunt, creator of the site Have I Been Pwned, which helps people find out whether or not any of their online accounts could have been breached. This leak database is hosted on a cloud-based IP from an unknown user that has been nicknamed “Eddie.”

Using the Have I Been Pwned site, I found a number of places where my main email address has been compromised in a data breach.

AP News:

While the show goes on in other circuses around the world, Ringling is special. The size, the spectacle and the history — stretching back to P.T. Barnum and his traveling museum in the 1800s — set it apart.

One of Ringling’s two traveling circuses is scheduled to perform its final show Sunday in New York. The other closed this month in Providence, and with it, the end to a way of life few others have experienced. The Associated Press was allowed to observe it extensively.

I agree with the decision to shutter the circus, given what we know of the animals and how they are treated but I will still shed a nostalgic virtual tear for the disappearance of the circus. I fondly remember seeing a circus as a ten-year-old in the Halifax Forum. It was the first time I’d ever seen “wild” animals and it was a magical experience.

My thanks to Jamf Now for sponsoring The Loop this week. Jamf Now is an on-demand mobile device management solution for the iPads, iPhones and Macs in your workplace. We make device management simple and affordable for everyone, so businesses can support their users; no IT required. Manage your first three devices for free and add more for just $2 per device per month. Get started for free today!

Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:

The iPad needs another bold, daring step towards the future. With iOS 11, Apple has an opportunity to pick up where they left off with iOS 9, forging a new direction for the iPad platform.

Every year ahead of WWDC, I collect some of my thoughts about the current state of iOS and consider where Apple could take their software next.

Federico’s vision, his collaboration with Sam Beckett, is detailed in his MacStories post, with the video embedded below. Frankly, I find the scope astonishing. Watch it full screen at the highest possible resolution. As Federico says, this isn’t a WWDC prediction, it’s a vision of what Federico thinks the iPad could and should be.

Building a Hackintosh for $70

This is insane. Faster than the 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. For $70.

[H/T Mac Kung Fu]

Three videos to ease you through your Friday

Not quite sure how to describe these three videos, other than to say they are all old, all have a groove and they all make me smile. Thanks to the Twitterverse for sharing these.

Bloomberg:

An untitled portrait by Jean Michel-Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York, setting a record for any American artist. The buyer was Japanese online retail magnate Yusaku Maezawa.

And:

The painting, which had a presale estimate of more than $60 million, was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000 by the late collectors Jerry and Emily Spiegel.

We were chatting about this purchase yesterday and someone asked how much that 1984 $19,000 was worth in today’s dollars. An interesting question. Take a guess, purely based on inflation. Then go to this inflation calculator and see how close you came.

Google:

Over 15 million players have contributed millions of drawings playing Quick, Draw! These doodles are a unique data set that can help developers train new neural networks, help researchers see patterns in how people around the world draw, and help artists create things we haven’t begun to think of. That’s why we’re open-sourcing them, for anyone to play with.

Load the Quick, Draw! data page and click on a drawing to see a ton of sketches of that same subject. The data underlying Google’s Quick, Draw! game is fascinating and it is now open sourced.

[AUTOPLAY, grrr]

Glenn Fleishman, Macworld:

Joseph Pierpoint discovered a folder in his Trash labeled “Lost & Found.” When he opened it, he found it contained over 50,000 files. Worse, “Any attempts to send these files to the Trash are thwarted by interruptions that state that this kind of solution is infeasible for one reason or another.”

Some interesting details here about fsck and the underlying Unix folder named lost+found.

Christina Farr, CNBC:

Tim Cook has been spotted at the Apple campus test-driving a device that tracks blood sugar, which was connected to his Apple Watch.

A source said that Cook was wearing a prototype glucose-tracker on the Apple Watch, which points to future applications that would make the device a “must have” for millions of people with diabetes — or at risk for the disease.

If Apple can crack this problem, a bloodless, continuous, glucose tracking Apple Watch, they’d help a lot of people, sell a ton of Apple Watches at the same time.

Siri’s potential to devalue iOS

Bob O’Donnell, in this Recode article:

Another fascinating aspect of these digital assistants is that they have the potential to completely devalue the underlying platforms on which they run. If I can use, say, Alexa across an iPhone, a Windows PC, my smart home components and a future connected car, where does the unique value of iOS or Windows 10 go? Out the door.

An interesting premise. Clearly, more and more people are using digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now. I believe digital assistants will grow in intelligence, usefulness, and mindshare. But I struggle with the argument that they will devalue their respective platforms.

The basic idea there is that Siri will become a platform and, eventually, you won’t care about operating system anymore. I do think that digital assistants have the potential to minimize the need for a user interface. But there’s only so much you can draw from a personal conversation. There are times when you need to see and peruse more data than can be transferred via voice.

I’d say that digital assistants are great for a synopsis of existing data, such as the list of events on today’s calendar or news headlines. But a deep dive is always going to be better on a screen (at least until we figure out a way to directly ingest data into the brain).

Same with data creation. Adding an event to a calendar is perfect for Siri, but writing code, or a long email that requires editing, or a deck of slides will always require a screen.

Digital assistants will always be a facet of the underlying operating system. Siri will always be a feature of iOS, a partner in the experience. As I’ve said many times, it’s all about the ecosystem.

May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, has died at 52.

So incredibly sad.

Twitter changes privacy policy, adds new tools. Go check “Your Twitter data”

Twitter updated their privacy policy. Some highlights from the official Twitter blog post:

Today, we’re announcing a suite of industry-leading tools to give you more access to your information and greater, more granular control over how it’s used. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to reflect the improvements that we’ve made to Twitter.

And:

We’re expanding Your Twitter Data to give you the most transparent access to your Twitter information to date, including demographic and interest data, and advertisers that have included you in their tailored audiences on Twitter. Each category of data will be clearly marked, and you will be able to view or modify this data directly.

There’s lots more to read in the blog post, but the changes to Your Twitter Data are worth exploring.

Take a few minutes to look around at all the data Twitter has collected on you. There’s a lot of odd data in my set. For example, here’s the list of languages Twitter has for me:

French, German, Slovenian, Indonesian, Basque, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Estonian, Portuguese, Tagalog

That’s certainly not representative. Not sure where these come from. Languages of people who I’ve interacted with?

Also interesting is the list of Interests further down the page. This was somewhat representative of my interests, but not exact. I wonder how this list was built.

Another interesting collection is the “tailored audiences” section. From mine:

You are currently part of 6624 audiences from 1573 advertisers.

Not sure what that means, but if I cared to tailor my advertising experience, there’s a button to “Request advertiser list”. I might dig into that at some point.

Take some time to look over Your Twitter Data. Good to know what choices you have.

Incredible 3-way wooden joint

I find the design of this 3-way joint terrifically clever. The narrator does an excellent job explaining and then building out the design.

John Mannes, TechCrunch:

Siri is a critical component of Apple’s vision for the future, so integral that it was willing to spend $200 million to acquire Lattice Data over the weekend. The startup was working to transform the way businesses deal with paragraphs of text and other information that lives outside neatly structured databases.

And:

Apple paid roughly $10 million for each of Lattice’s 20 engineers. This is generally considered to be fair market value. Google paid about $500 million for DeepMind back in 2014. At that time, the startup had roughly 75 employees, of which a portion were machine learning developers.

That math is fascinating. Machine learning seems a fantastic path for developers to explore.

Apple relies on a number of partnerships, including a major one with Yahoo, to provide Siri with the facts it needs to answer questions. It competes with Google, a company that possesses what is largely considered to be the crème de la crème of knowledge graphs. Apple surely has an interest in improving the size and quality of its knowledge graph while unshackling itself from partners.

And:

When you use Siri to search iTunes, the results have to come from somewhere. A knowledge graph makes it possible to draw complex relationships between entries. Today, Siri on Apple TV allows for complex natural language search like “Find TV shows for kids” followed up by “Only comedies.” A surprising amount of information is required to return that request and some of it might be buried in the summaries of the shows or scattered on the internet.

Terrific read. I’ve done some work with neural nets, AI, and machine learning. If I was just starting out, this is definitely where I’d focus, dive deep.

John Voorhees, MacStories:

Early last year, James Rath, a young filmmaker who was born legally blind, created a video about the impact Apple products have had on his life. That video caught the attention of Apple.

In the ensuing months, Rath’s YouTube career has taken off and he’s become a strong advocate for the blind.

To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Tim Cook spoke with Rath and two other YouTubers, Rikki Poynter and Tatiana Lee about accessibility. Cook and Poynter, who is deaf, discussed closed captioning and how accessibility is a core value at Apple. Lee talked to Cook about the Apple Watch and its ability to track wheelchair use. Rath and Cook explored the history of Apple’s commitment to accessibility and the democratization of technology.

Follow the link to watch the series of videos.

Emojipedia:

Having appeared in various shapes and sizes since Android 4.4; the amorphous blob that defined Google’s emoji appearance since 2013 is being retired.

In its place: a redesign of every emoji in Android, coming as part of Android “O” which was announced today at Google I/O.

Follow the link, take a look at the new artwork. It’s certainly an improvement. Given the fragmentation of Android updates, not sure how big an impact this will have.

Also mentioned by Google is functionality which would allow users to download newer emoji fonts to support the latest emojis even on older Android versions.

So that’s something. But it requires specific action on the part of the user. If they’ve not moved to update to a newer phone or newer version of Android, not sure how effective this will be.

May 17, 2017

In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned.

Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.

Okay, that’s bad, but there is some good news:

  • There’s no indication any customer information was obtained by the attacker.
  • Furthermore, there’s no indication Panic Sync data was accessed.
  • Finally, our web server was not compromised.

[Via John Gruber]

At its I/O 2017 developer conference today, Google announced Google Assistant is coming to iOS as a standalone app, rolling out to the U.S. first. Until now, the only way iPhone users could access Google Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses.

It’s great that Google Assistant is coming, but the lack of integration with iOS will certainly hurt its chances of being used as much as Siri.

We — Manton Reece and Brent Simmons — have noticed that JSON has become the developers’ choice for APIs, and that developers will often go out of their way to avoid XML. JSON is simpler to read and write, and it’s less prone to bugs.

Two very smart guys that I respect a lot. I’m going to take a look at this.

Fidget spinner on bass

Pretty good technique all the way around.