August 14, 2014

Apple bans benzene and n-hexane from supply chain, goes public with regulated substances spec

From a letter released today by Lisa Jackson, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and now Apple’s environmental director:

Recently, we received some questions about whether the chemicals benzene and n-hexane are used in the manufacturing of our products. Apple treats any allegations of unsafe working conditions extremely seriously. We took immediate investigative action, sending specialized teams into each of our 22 final assembly facilities, and found no evidence of workers’ health being put at risk. We’ve updated our tight restrictions on benzene and n-hexane to explicitly prohibit their use in final assembly processes.

At the same time, Apple also released their Regulated Substances Specification to the public. The spec is complex and the list of regulated substances is both detailed and quite long. Benzene and n-hexane are both prohibited “from use in all final assembly manufacturing processes” and other uses are subject to specified breathing zone restrictions.

Hard to fault Apple’s methods here. They’ve laid it out for all the world to see. Now its all up to the supply chain auditing process to make sure these prohibitions are taking hold.

August 13, 2014

The Daily Beast:

For years, one man has approved virtually every beer label design in the United States. Among brewers, he’s a tyrant. A legend.

A pedantic pain in the ass.

Brewers and legal experts speak of him in hushed tones, with equal parts irritation and reverence.

And he goes by the name “Battle.”

I’d never thought of the fact that someone would have to approve beer labels.

The Globe and Mail:

Sugars are themselves toxins, some researchers suggest, that cause obesity, diabetes, hyper- tension and Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar has joined salt and fat on the list of dietary evils. Governments and health experts are urging people to cut back their daily intake.

How did we get ourselves into this unhappy state?

It’s a shame something so many of us love and crave is potentially so deadly.

Connectedly:

One of the easiest ways for to jump into the connected home space is with some awesome connected lighting. Smart lights are simply bulbs (and usually a bridge or hub) that replaces your standard light bulbs and offer more functionality — namely being able to control them from your smartphone or tablet. These Wi-Fi bulbs are typically more expensive than standard bulbs, but last just as long (if not longer), plus they go above and beyond just keeping you out of the dark.

If I was a home owner, I’d probably investigate these (and other) kinds of lighting systems. Do any of you use/recommend any particular system you use in your own home?

Wired:

For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with (Edward Snowden) – traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting. Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs?

Interesting story about a fascinating and polarizing person.

An interactive children’s story platform, that lets you create a 3D character of your child and make him/her the hero of every story.

Go watch the video—it’s brilliant!

All the world’s a stage

Iain Anderson had his daughter recite the famous All the world’s a stage monologue from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, one line at a time.

This is fascinating to watch, certainly, but it also raises an interesting point. I found the meaning in this monologue much clearer, much easier to digest, because it was broken up into fragments, each of which was filmed as an individual scene. There’s a lesson there for teachers, I think. Regardless, enjoy.

Intel’s current chip architecture, branded as Haswell, uses a 22 nanometer process. They are about to roll out a significantly smaller and faster architecture, known as Broadwell, which uses a 14 nanometer process.

Because Intel’s new chip is so small—25% smaller than its predecessor—and requires substantially less power, it may allow for the creation of tablets and other devices without the whirr and thickness of the cooling fans currently used to keep chips from overheating. That’s not a guarantee, but it’s the first time it’s been a serious design possibility.

Running with less energy may seem like a minor thing, but it’s everything for mobile devices—which are basically giant batteries inside pretty cases, with a few other components. It’s also a broadside against a major Intel competitor, ARM Holdings. ARM chips are cheap to make and don’t require much power—enabling thinner, lighter devices with smaller batteries. They’re used in iPhones, iPads, Androids, Windows phones, and some Windows tablets.

This is an important pivot for Intel. Broadwell is their first chipset designed with mobile devices in mind. Unfortunately for Intel, this solution came late enough to the game to give ARM a real leg up on the market. Is this chip small enough and cheap enough to turn Apple’s head? Remains to be seen.

One thing worth a look. If you look at the slide deck at the bottom of the linked article, check out pages 22-24 for some pretty cool pictures of actual Haswell and Broadwell transistors. For an even better look, here’s a link to the original Intel deck.

There was trouble on the internet yesterday.

Tuesday Morning, various networks experienced outages from 4-6am EDT (8-10am UTC). [It] appears the outage was the result of a somewhat anticipated problem with older routers and their inability to deal with the ever increasing size of the Internet’s routing table.

Older routers were designed to handle an impossibly huge, not possible to pass, 512K router table entries. So big. No chance this could ever be an issue. Except now we’re hovering right around that threshold and some older routers with that limit are being tested and found wanting.

From this Cisco document:

In March, 2014, the Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) Report, which provides statistics on the global Internet routing table, reported that the global Internet routing table had passed 500,000 routes for the first time in Internet history.

Most platforms have more than enough space to support larger routing tables, but the default configurations might require adjustment. As the Internet routing table approaches 512,000 routes, it can cause the Catalyst 6500 and 7600 3BXL-based modules to exceed the default routing TCAM allocations.

Bottom line, this is fixable, even without switching out your old routers. Presumably, yesterday’s outage has spurred IT folks to action.

It’s a growth spurt.

PC World:

Amazon.com has introduced a card reader coupled with smartphone and tablet apps that aim to provide small businesses with a way to accept payments on these devices.

The company is positioning its Amazon Local Register as a secure card reader and mobile app that will provide local businesses a broad set of tools to accept credit and debit cards through a smartphone or tablet and keep track of their operations, it said Wednesday.

The service can only be used to accept payments in the U.S., and a U.S. bank account is required for transferring funds from the Amazon Payments account to the user’s bank account.

At least in the short term, this is excellent news for both consumers and small businesses, as Amazon will push down the per transaction fee, down to 1.75 percent per swipe til the end of the year, then rising to 2.5 percent per swipe.

Square collects a fee of 2.75 percent per swipe, while PayPal Here charges 2.7 percent per swipe transaction in the U.S. and Intuit’s GoPayment starts at 1.75 percent per transaction.

August 12, 2014

Cult of Mac:

The tragic news of Robin Williams’ sudden death has sent most of us on a YouTube binge, watching TV shows, movies, and stand-up comedy bits from the funniest man who ever lived, and now Apple is paying its respects to late-comedian with a new iTunes section.

CoM says, “if you scroll through you can find 40 of his other gems like “Death to Smoochie”…” I’m sorry. I loved Robin Williams but “Death to Smoochy” was an awful movie.

This article demonstrates how to use CSS transforms, perspective and some scaling trickery to create a pure CSS parallax scrolling website.

Check out the demo.

TUAW:

There’s a copy of the U.S. Constitution on each and every Mac in the Dictionary app.

You’ll not only find such exciting information as who was on the editorial staff and advisory board for the Dictionary, but also a bunch of useful references.

In addition to the aforementioned Constitution of the United States of America, there’s also a complete Language Guide, a history of the English language, a list of the fifty states and each state capital, a list of every President of the U.S. from George Washington to George W. Bush (not sure what happened to the current incumbent…), the Declaration of Independence, a list of countries of the world, a list of chemical elements from hydrogen to meitnerium, a cross-reference of standard to metric measure conversions, and the Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and Russian alphabets.

Kind of interesting, especially for us trivia nerds, but a little odd to have this info buried in the Dictionary app.

Today marks five years since the passing of one of the world’s most unique innovators of all time, Les Paul.

Much respect Les.

Wow, these are just great.

Certainly worth looking at the numbers and reading Tim Cook’s message.

Sébastien Page:

Even though they might not be able to activate the lost or stolen device, they might still try to put it up for sale, and if you don’t know what to look for, you might very well be buying an iPhone that has been locked and cannot be activated.

Good advice.

Nice post from Guy English. I agree with this bit: “That said, being opinionated isn’t the goal. Being useful is.”

Rob Richman reminds us that sometimes you should be thankful to be alive.

From the linked email:

Achieve big things.

iPad is the perfect way to be more productive than ever. Its powerful apps are designed to take full advantage of the things only iPad can do. So you’ll have everything you need to do what matters most.

The ad features links to buy an iPad Air and a retina iPad mini, as well as sections that highlight Apple’s productivity suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote), Microsoft’s Office iPad apps, and the Your Verse campaign.

From the NEC press release:

A consortium of six global companies announced that they have signed commercial agreements to build and operate a new Trans-Pacific cable system to be called “FASTER” with NEC Corporation as the system supplier. The FASTER cable network will connect the United States to two landing locations in Japan. The total amount of investment for the FASTER system is estimated to be approximately USD $300 million.

In order to address the intense traffic demands for broadband, mobile, applications, content and enterprise data exchange on the Trans-Pacific route, FASTER will feature the latest high-quality 6-fiber-pair cable and optical transmission technologies, with an initial design capacity of 60Tb/s (100Gb/s x 100 wavelengths x 6 fiber-pairs).

This new cable system will be landed at Chikura and Shima in Japan and will feature seamless connectivity to many neighboring cable systems to extend the capacity beyond Japan to other Asian locations. Connections in the United States will extend the system to major hubs on the US West Coast covering the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle areas.

Google is joined by China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, KDDI and SingTel.

WSJ:

Price isn’t the only issue keeping “Maleficent” and “Captain America” off of Amazon.com Inc. AMZN +0.48% ‘s virtual shelves.

Walt Disney Co.’s dispute with the giant online retailer also encompasses promotion and product placement on the Amazon website, as well as questions over who makes up the difference when Amazon loses money to match the prices of competitors, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Here’s what’s at the core of the disagreement:

A particular concern of Amazon, those people noted, is that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co. and other brick-and-mortar retailers sometimes charge less than the wholesale price for a new disc to lure people into stores so that they will purchase other, more profitable items. Amazon often tries to match those prices, but doesn’t reap the benefits of drawing customers into a physical showroom.

As a result, the online retailer has asked studios to help make up for losses in those situations, the people said.

Apple’s two new “Your Verse” ads

Apple has added two new verses to its “Your Verse” ad campaign. The first one takes you on the road with Chinese musicians Yaoband. Here’s a link to Apple’s Yaoband campaign page.

The second new “Your Verse” ad follows Jason Hall as he rallies thousand of his fellow Detroit bicyclists to inspire his city. Here’s a link to Apple’s “Organizing a movement” campaign page.

If you’ve never listened to WTF with Marc Maron, this interview with Robin Williams is an excellent place to start. Maron is an incredibly empathic and insightful interviewer and always brings out the hidden. This interview is normally part of the subscription package, but Marc brought it out to share.

In it, Robin talks about depression and his battles with drugs and alcohol. Marc re-cut the open to talk about his feelings about Williams’ death.

August 11, 2014

Mashable:

Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died on Monday at the age of 63. As a performer, Williams had the rare ability to make audiences laugh and cry. In remembrance of Williams and his long legacy, we’ve compiled some of his finest moments from television, stand-up and film.

I was reminded by my friend Sly that I heckled Robin Williams during the taping of his HBO Special, “Live on Broadway”. He goes off on that Canada rant because some idiot in the audience (me) yelled out, “Yay Canada!” I met Williams years later on the show floor of Macworld Expo and we chatted for almost 30 minutes. I asked him about the heckling and he (jokingly) called me “an a-hole”. “You don’t heckle on Broadway!” he said.

David Barnard responds to Jean-Louis Gassée’s post about the need for human curation in the App Store.

Some interesting discussion in the comments (you’ll need to view the original Loop post on your Mac or iPad to see the comments). The running discussion is whether making the App Store easy to search is Apple’s job, or if it is the responsibility of the developer to create content that is compelling enough to make it easy to find, perhaps by word of mouth.

Personally, I don’t think of it in terms of whose job it is. I think of the App Store as a product, an Apple product. And Apple products are built to be easy to use and with great attention to detail. When Apple designed the App Store, it was relatively easy to self-curate, easy to navigate. This approach no longer works.

From David Barnard:

I absolutely agree with @gassee that the App Store is a jungle, but Apple is curating it, & took big steps in iOS 8

I don’t know how big the human curation effort is, but it sounds like Apple is working the problem. I know that if they do come up with a solution that makes it much easier for me to find apps that solve a specific problem, I’ll be handing Apple (and Apple developers) more of my cash.

And that’s a win-win.

Wow. Crushing loss.

This is how you can help. 100% of your donations go directly to the Make-A-Wish foundation. The Cancer Journal Project is completely self funded. We don’t keep a dime of your donation.

Help if you can.

Riding at night? This kickstarter gives you everything you need to make your helmet light up so you can be seen, raise your profile to make it just a little less likely someone will blindly pull into your lane. [Hat tip to Bill Fuglaar]

In this week’s Monday Note, Jean-Louis Gassée once again pressed his case for Apple to craft a humanly curated App Store experience, rather than one based purely on algorithms. This is not a new argument (Gassée has written about curation here and here), but the need for curation has become more and more obvious.

The App Store may be a gold mine, but it’s buried in an impenetrable jungle.

As always, the Monday Note is a terrific read and Gassée is the voice of a lifetime of experience. But this third quest for human curation might turn out to be the charm. The timing couldn’t be better. A big motivation behind Apple’s recent acquisition of Beats was to bring human curation to Apple’s music ecosystem. As the universe of available content becomes more complex, more splintered, the value of human curation increases at the same pace.

My favorite part of Gassée’s spiel:

Why do I care? Good question, I’m now 70 and could just sit in zazen and enjoy the show. And there’s a lot of show to enjoy: The tech industry is more exciting now than when I was a rookie at HP France in 1968. But in today’s app stores, the excitement fades — and I’m not just talking about Apple, Android’s Google Play is every bit as frustrating. I see poorly exploited gold mines where quantity obscures quality and the lack of human curation ruins the Joy of Apps. There are caves full of riches but, most of of the time, I can’t find a path to the mother lode.

The man can write.