April 19, 2017

15 Minutes in the Morning:

The upsides are many. Lots of wondrous shots from places I’ve never heard of. Lots of “how’d they even get that shot?!” photos of animals. Despite that I don’t use the site like I used to (and none of my friends do either), Flickr is a worldwide phenomena and still a place where very good photographers share their best works. And the Explore page changes every single day, replaced by another several dozen amazing new photos.

I tell all my students to check out the photographs on Flickr’s Explore page, either to see how others shot the same thing or to use it as a way to train their eye for composition and other elements.

The Telegraph:

The juxtaposition of peerless landscapes and compelling cities, of modern distractions and timeless comforts, is found across Canada. And, of course, they’re part of the reason you might want to take a holiday here, and this year more than most. For 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation – the moment Canada effectively became a country – with celebrations planned to mark the occasion.

Of course, I’m biased but, if you’re looking for a vacation this year, you’ll find a lot to like about my home country, especially on the occasion of our 150th anniversary.

All Blacks AIG commercial

Pretty great commercial. [H/T Daniel Mark]

1981 Nightline interview with Steve Jobs

The whole thing is fascinating, but the Apple/Steve part kicks in around 4:20. Love how they refer to him as Steven Jobs. It was before he was Steve to all of us.

Note: Someone sent this to me, but can’t for the life of me remember who. Was doing some heavy traveling when it came in. Apologies for the lack of a hat tip.

Tim Carmody, writing for Kottke.org:

This week, I am proposing an experiment. I am asking you — all of you: readers of Kottke.org, my friends, my colleagues, my strangers, my citizens of the World Wide Web, people who have known the grandeur of the best webcomics, the best YouTube videos, the best memes, the best stories and articles and entire blogs and games and nonsense with which we entertain and edify ourselves every day — I am asking you:

WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT

This is a chance to help select your favorite internet thing. Here’s a link to the questionnaire. Can’t wait to see the results. Me, I’m going with the classic, David After Dentist (Is this real life?)

Wired, talking about Steve Lacy:

Last year, he was nominated for a Grammy for executive-producing and performing on the 2015 funk-R&B-soul album Ego Death, the third release from The Internet and Lacy’s first with the band. He’s a sought-after producer, featured on albums like J. Cole’s “4 Your Eyez Only” and Kendrick Lamar’s new “Damn.” Earlier in 2017, he released his first solo material, which he’s playing as part of the setlist for The Internet’s worldwide tour. (Somewhere in there he also graduated high school.) The only connection between his many projects? All that music is stored on his iPhone.

And on his process:

He paged through the drum presets in GarageBand for a while before picking a messy-sounding kit. With two thumbs, he tapped out a simple beat, maybe 30 seconds long. Then he went back to the Rickenbacker. He played a riff he’d stumbled on while tuning, recording it on a separate GarageBand track over top of the drums. Without even playing it back, Lacy then reached down and deleted it. It took three taps: stop, delete, back to the beginning. He played the riff again, subtly differently. Deleted it again. For the next half hour, that’s all Lacy did: play, tap-tap-tap, play again. He experimented wildly for a while, then settled on a loose structure and began subtly tweaking it. Eventually satisfied with that bit, he plugged in his Fender bass and started improvising a bassline. A few hours later, he began laying vocals, a breathy, wordless melody he sang directly into the iPhone’s microphone. He didn’t know quite what he was making, but he was feeling it.

All night, Lacy goofed around. He found a sword in the studio, and made up a shockingly catchy song called “Sword in the Studio” that’s still rattling around in my brain.

This really resonated with me, a terrific read. Steve Lacy sounds like a bunch of people I know, kicking around in GarageBand, laying down a base track, then layering in guitar, vocals, what have you. But while most of this work ends up in a far corner of some hard drive or SoundCloud, Lacy’s efforts got him nominated for a Grammy and a bunch of high profile gigs.

And much of it done on an iPhone. Amazing.

Daniel Pasco, renegade polymath:

I use a 5k iMac for work and am interested in VR production and gaming. Some friends told me to build a dedicated Windows box and others suggested building a Hackintosh, but I was sure there was a better way to get what I wanted.

So I turned a 2009 Mac Pro I picked up off of Ebay for $1300 into a superb professional workstation, gaming, and VR platform, simply by adding an SSD drive and a new video card.

This is a pretty cool idea. Read Dan’s post to see how the machine stacks up as a VR platform (spoiler: very, very well).

But read on, as Dan shifts gears, focusing on the Apple’s coming Mac Pro:

I realized that the corner that Apple has painted us into is just another “sweet solution” (similar to Jobs proposal that we develop web apps for iPhone instead of native apps).

I can do the work that Apple feels is appropriate with a 5k iMac, but the massive pile of external disks and their power supplies stacked up behind it speaks to the adaptions I’ve quietly had to make in order to get it to meet my basic needs.

Apple’s agenda has been to stay focused on its cash cow: the iPhone. As a result it has quietly mothballed some amazing products and technologies along the way, seriously impaired the economics of commercial software sales, and neglected macOS in their efforts to homogenize it with iOS.

Who is this guy? Daniel Pasco is the CEO of Black Pixel, a top development shop. So in my book, he’s earned his opinions.

Brian X. Chen:

When a splashy new smartphone hits the market, consumers often weigh whether to place an order right away or to wait and see how others react to the device.

But with the Galaxy S8, Samsung’s first major smartphone release since the spontaneously combusting Galaxy Note 7 was discontinued last year, there isn’t much of a debate. Your best bet is to wait to buy the roughly $750 device — not just for safety reasons, but also because other uncertainties surround it.

I just can’t help but wonder if this next bit had anything to do with the Times’ take:

Samsung declined to provide an early review unit of the Galaxy S8 to The New York Times

No matter the logic, this does feel a bit like spite. And Samsung, what were you thinking here? You gave a review unit to the Wall Street Journal, but not the Times?

April 18, 2017

Apple’s lead in mobile performance–powered by the efficiency of iOS 10 and the computational speed of its custom A10 Fusion Application Processor–beats the newest, leading premium Androids in a wide range of tests from processor and 3D benchmarks to real-world device startup and app launching and multitasking. Not even 6GB of RAM and the extra cores of Qualcomm’s fastest Snapdragon 835 can prop up the laggard, inefficient Android OS.

I played with a Google Pixel at a phone store recently and it was truly awful. Slow and laggy.

The brilliance of Apple’s new iPad

I’ve been using Apple’s newest iPad for a couple of weeks now and love it. The more I used it, the more I realized that it wasn’t the features that make this iPad so good, it was Apple’s strategy in releasing it that I was impressed with.

Make no mistake, this is a powerful iPad. It can do pretty much anything you want it to do with power to spare. More importantly, it can do anything Apple’s target market for this device wants it to do. That’s the key.

I did hear some complaints that the screen wasn’t as capable as the iPad Pro or the new iPad wasn’t quite as powerful as the iPad Pro. That’s absolutely true, but if those are the features that matter to you, Apple makes two versions of the iPad Pro that will suit your needs perfectly.

The new iPad is for a different type of consumer.

There are two segments of the market that will benefit greatly from having a powerful iPad at a lower price point: those under 20 years old and those over 55 years old. ( You can substitute your own age groups, but before you yell at me, listen to my reasoning).

Pro users are going to upgrade their iPad for different reasons than a normal consumer will. Feature consideration is big for a pro, while price is a huge consideration for a consumer.

Typically consumers are going to want to surf the Internet, send email, FaceTime with family, perhaps play the odd game, and do other general tasks. They want a more portable computer than what any computer offers, and they want it at a really reasonable price.

Let me introduce you to iPad. That’s exactly what this is. It’s powerful, light, and at $329 it is the most affordable iPad Apple produces.

There are many people in between those age groups that I mentioned that will also buy this iPad. It may be a companion device for a computer or something to use while on vacation.

It’s also going to be the perfect upgrade iPad for all those people that have not upgraded in years because the iPad they have is perfectly fine. I know a lot of people that are in that situation.

I know quite a few people that have already purchased or upgraded to the new iPad. Price by far the most common reason for buying it.

Not one of them cared about the pro features that weren’t available on the iPad because they weren’t going to use it as a pro device. The entire family was going to use it in some capacity, including their kids.

Like any device, iPad is not going to be for everyone—if you need pro features, buy a pro device. However, if you want to upgrade your existing iPad or one of those other tablets, this is the iPad for you.

iPad was a brilliant move by Apple. They understood the market and tailored a device to fit its users perfectly.

Macrumors:

Apple today updated several of its Mac and iOS apps, making them available for all Mac and iOS users for free. iMovie, Numbers, Keynote, Pages, and GarageBand for both Mac and iOS devices have been updated and are now listed in the App Store for free.

Previously, all of these apps were provided for free to customers who purchased a new Mac or iOS device, but now that purchase is not required to get the software. Many Apple customers were already likely eligible to download the software at no cost if they had made a device purchase in the last few years.

This is great news for those who didn’t get the apps before now.

Wired:

A new study indicates that damn near everybody uses their phone while behind the wheel, damn near all the time. Using sensor data from more than 3 million drivers and 5.6 billion miles of trips, driving analytics company Zendrive found drivers are using their phones on 88 percent of their journeys. The average driver spends 3.5 minutes on the phone per one hour trip, a stat that sounds worse when you realize just a two-second distraction increases your risk of crashing by 20 percent.

As a motorcyclist, I experience this on a regular basis and it really is terrifying. Please, don’t text and drive.

Snake targets motorcyclist

Adding Lampang, Thailand to the list of places I never want to go riding.

Gizmodo:

The depths of the ocean are festooned with the most nightmarish creatures imaginable. You might think you’re safe, because these critters live thousands of feet down in a cold dark abyss, but the vampire squid, which looks like a nightmare umbrella, and the frilled shark—a literal living fossil—will live on in the recesses of your mind long after you’ve clicked away. Enjoy these deep sea horrors and try to have a relaxing day afterward.

The ocean is even more terrifying than you imagined.

Mark Gurman and Min Jeong Lee, Bloomberg:

Apple is preparing three iPhones for launch as soon as this fall, including upgraded versions of the current two iPhone models and a new top-of-the-line handset with an overhauled look, according to people familiar with the matter. For the redesigned phone, Apple is testing a new type of screen, curved glass and stainless steel materials, and more advanced cameras, the people said. Those anxiously awaiting the redesigned iPhone, however, may have to wait because supply constraints could mean the device isn’t readily available until one or two months after the typical fall introduction.

Lots of fascinating details here, all provided by people familiar with the matter.

I’ve become a fan of Brian Sutich’s new guitar blog, Chasing Sound. In this post, Brian takes a look at some of the top guitar-related iOS apps.

Google Earth requires the Chrome browser on the Mac side. I think it’s well worth it. There’s something magical about spinning the globe and slowly homing in on a favorite unexplored spot. The creep in from up in space to the closest zoomed in view is much more continuous, less jarring as you move to different map levels.

Worth a few minutes to explore. Don’t miss the tool bar on the left side of the window. You’ll want to take advantage of that search icon.

Glenn Fleishman pulled together this reasonably comprehensive look at options for capturing over the air TV signals and recording them on your Mac. If you’ve thought about cutting the cable cord, this is for you.

Don’t do this. But it is an interesting read. But don’t do it. And go back up your Mac.

Jean-Louis Gassée, Monday Note:

When I was selected to run Apple France more than three decades ago, I had a disdainfully Parisien attitude to customer service. You inserted an interface card backwards and your Apple ][ no longer boots? Well of course it doesn’t…you did it wrong.

After a few combative customer service encounters, I experienced an epiphany: No matter how “wrong” they may be, we’re a prosperous business, we can afford to take care of these situations, but we can’t afford to let unhappy, affronted customers damage our reputation.

The flip side of this Parisien approach?

Whenever a call was escalated to my office, I would immediately offer to buy back the customer’s machine. The offer was always emphatically declined, so we moved on to arrangements for shipment or perhaps a personal appointment at our service shop. Our business concluded, I would ask if the happy caller had children: “Yes…but why?” “For the t-shirts, of course, a small thank-you for bringing your problem to our attention…what sizes would you like?”

Carrots instead of sticks, then bigger carrots. Great read from Jean-Louis. He knows of what he speaks.

April 17, 2017

Consequence of Sound:

Every year, Coachella brings tens of thousands of beautiful people to the Empire Polo Club of Indio, California. While most are there to catch some tunes and soak up some sun, statistically speaking, there has to be a few bad eggs in the bunch. At this year’s event, that included 36-year-old New York resident Reinaldo De Jesus Henao, who was caught stealing over 100 cell phones during the festival.

A number of attendees noticed their devices missing on Friday, probably as they went to snap a pic of a celebrity sighting or capture footage of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s wild show. Thinking quickly, they utilized the “Find My Phone” app and, in a miracle of cell service and location sharing, actually found Henao wandering the grounds. According to Indio police Sargent Dan Marshall (via KMIR), the victims followed the thief and he was “quickly detained by security until law enforcement officers could arrive.”

Is it just me or is anyone else really curious as to how he managed to steal this many phones?

The birth of a dugout canoe

Northmen:

This is a documentary movie uncovering the difficult and time consuming process of making traditional expanded dugout canoe using mostly traditional hand tools and techniques.

Another amazing video using skills and techniques fast disappearing from our technology-focused world. I’d love to have one of these canoes.

On April 18, the Newseum will award Apple CEO Tim Cook the Free Expression Award in the free speech category. Cook has used his spotlight to take a public stand on major societal issues, including racial equality, privacy, protecting the environment, access to education and LGBT rights.

The second annual Free Expression Awards recognize those who exhibit passion for and dedication to free expression. Honorees have taken personal or professional risks in sharing critical information with the public, have been censored or punished by authorities or other groups for their work, or have pushed boundaries in artistic and media expression.

Congrats, Tim.

Apple:

Former U.S. Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore and Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson will discuss climate optimism. They’ll share their insight on Earth Day initiatives, Apple’s ongoing commitment to the environment, and ways you can make an impact through positive actions.

Many will forget that one of the reasons why the original version of the Apple Stores had theater space was for events like these. Turns out, Apple didn’t need anything other than products to bring people into the stores. Sadly, it means these kinds of (possibly) interesting events are very few and far between.

Greg Fallis:

Recently most of the Fearless Girl discussions have focused on the complaints by Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull. He wants Fearless Girl removed, and that boy is taking a metric ton of shit for saying that. Here’s what I said that got me spanked:

The guy has a point.

Fascinating article. Before I read it, I thought the sculptor was being a dick, from the way he was being portrayed in media reports. After reading this piece, I think “Fearless Girl” should be removed.

Thoughtful post from Marco Arment on the current Mac Pro design, with collected thoughts on where Apple should go with the model currently in the works.

This particular paragraph captured my feelings about the 2013 Mac Pro design:

While minimalism is one aspect of one view of good design, it’s often overused, underconsidered, and misunderstood, resulting in products with surface-level appeal that don’t actually work very well because they were optimized for visual design and minimalism rather than overall real-world usefulness.

And from the wrapup:

There is no single design, no single set of trade-offs, that addresses a large set of pro users: they all want different things, and the only way to serve that with one product line is to have it be extremely versatile and offer a wide variety of configuration options. You can’t do that with a minimalist industrial-design indulgence like the 2013 Mac Pro.

Good read.

Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac:

There are several reasons it may be helpful to track your cellular data usage. You might not have an unlimited cellular data plan right now and may be wondering if you should switch to one, you may be trying to cut down on overage fees, or you might want to discover if you could reduce your current plan and save some money.

You also might be having issues with applications that are using more cellular data in the background than expected. Let’s take a look at a few different ways to track and manage your cellular usage.

Take a few minutes to scan through the post, get a sense of what’s covered. Then pass this along to the folks you support to show them how to keep track of their data usage.

Why Nintendo killed the NES Classic Edition

Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition is a fascinating case study in marketing. Since Nintendo announced the console in November, they’ve sold almost a million of them in North America, all while maintaining a constant shortage, creating a demand frenzy. Given the simplicity of the product itself (it’s a retro product, no cutting edge parts), I’ve always seen that shortage as artificial.

As we reported Friday, Nintendo has now pulled the plug on the NES Classic, announcing that the last run will ship in April. Nintendo has a successful product, was basically printing money, and they walked away from that particular business.

The question is, why?

From ZDNet:

Whether scarce by a lack of foresight as Nintendo explains or intentional scarcity as history suggests, the Classic served as a distraction from the company’s near-term bet, the Switch, and its long-term bet, smartphone games. Those two endeavors have something the Classic lacked, the potential for monetization far beyond the initial transaction. Simply put, the Classic provided too much value to consumers, even at inflated prices offered by profiteers.

Simply put, there was no way for Nintendo to leverage the Classic to build a self sustaining business beyond the simple (and dollar wise, small) business it represented. And The Classic was funneling some amount of attention and mindshare away from the Switch and Mario Run.

Another wrinkle from this Bloomberg article, quoting a CitiGroup analyst:

“Although the Nintendo Switch can be used as a handheld device, we think smaller children could struggle to use it comfortably in that format due to its size and weight,” the analysts wrote in a April 13 report. “Accordingly, we think Nintendo will launch a lighter, dedicated handheld version of the Switch, possibly to be called the Switch Mini.”

The NES Classic does not fit into this picture, but the intellectual property it represents certainly does. I suspect we’ll see those classic games (especially that key Zelda title) emerge as purchasable, downloadable content on both the Switch and the Switch Mini, bringing in far more money than the existing Classic could even dream of.

Historic retail job losses and Amazon’s obsession with being the “site of first resort”

Two interesting, intersecting reads. First, there’s this from Eugene Wei, about his time at Amazon:

When I was at Amazon, we obsessed over being the “site of first resort.” When it comes to search, Google is the site of first resort. When it comes to ordering a ride share, Uber is the service of first resort.

For us at Amazon, being the site of first resort for an online shopping trip was an obsession. This is why it was so critical to expand out from books to other product lines quickly. We didn’t want to cement ourselves in shoppers’ minds as the site of first resort for buying books but nothing else.

And:

A few years back I was in a wedding party, and I had to purchase a specific shirt to match the other groomsmen. I could only find it at Barney’s, and the local outlet didn’t offer it in my size so I ordered it from their website. The package was stolen from our apartment lobby, so I wrote Barney’s customer service asking for a replacement shipment. They refused and asked me to take it up with UPS or FedEx, or whoever the shipper was. If it were Amazon, they’d have a replacement package out to me overnight on the spot, no questions asked. Needless to say, I’ll never order from Barneys again, but it’s amazing to think that Amazon’s customer service is superior to that of even luxury retailers.

As much as anything, this is why the retail sector is at a historic tipping point. From this New York Times article:

Along the cobblestone streets of SoHo, Chanel handbags and Arc’teryx jackets are displayed in shops like museum pieces, harking back to the height of the neighborhood’s trendiness. But rents there are softening, and the number of vacant storefronts is rising.

Today, some of the most sought-after real estate by retailers is not in SoHo, but five miles away in Red Hook, a gritty Brooklyn enclave with a shipbuilding past. E-commerce merchants are vying to lease part of a huge warehouse space, spanning 11 acres, that would allow them to deliver goods the same day they’re ordered online.

The profound reordering of New York’s shopping scene reflects a broad restructuring in the American retail industry.

Retail is shedding jobs at a historic rate:

E-commerce players, led by the industry giant Amazon, have made it so easy and fast for people to shop online that traditional retailers, shackled by fading real estate and a culture of selling in stores, are struggling to compete. This shift has been building gradually for years. But economists, retail workers and real estate investors say it appears that it has sped up in recent months.

We’ve all known this was coming, more and more choosing to shop from the couch. These days, if I’m going to a brick and mortar store to shop, there has to be a compelling reason. Custom fit is one reason (trying on clothes, for example). Products I can’t easily get online is another (a book I want to hold in my hand and want to read today, or fresh produce I want to pick out myself).

Great customer service is more and more a minimum requirement. Amazon is obsessed with reducing the friction in the shopping process, and that means great customer service and easing the pain of returning a purchase. For me, Amazon is the “site of first resort.”

April 16, 2017

Internet Archive:

After offering in-browser emulation of console games, arcade machines, and a range of other home computers, the Internet Archive can now emulate the early models of the Apple Macintosh, the black-and-white, mouse driven computer that radically shifted the future of home computing in 1984.

If you’ve not experienced the original operating system for the Macintosh family of computers, it’s an interesting combination of well-worn conventions in the modern world, along with choices that might seem strange or off-the-mark. At the time the machine was released, however, they landed new ideas in the hands of a worldwide audience and gained significant fans and followers almost immediately.

Hey kids! Come see how we did things in the good old days.