April 17, 2018

9to5Mac:

While subtle variations in material, texture, lighting, and even the shape of a product can play tricks on the eyes, every device Apple currently offers or has produced in space gray can be grouped into one of several loosely defined categories. Below, we’ve cataloged and categorized the vast universe of Apple’s recent dark material finishes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of space gray.

At first blush, this seemed really silly. But on further examination, it’s fascinating how many variations Apple has had for “Space Gray”. You’d think a company renowned for its attention to detail would be more consistent in its colour schemes.

Apple Inc. plans to integrate recently acquired magazine app Texture into Apple News and debut its own premium subscription offering, according to people familiar with the matter. The move is part of a broader push by the iPhone maker to generate more revenue from online content and services.

Texture was all about magazines, but I wonder if Apple will include other forms of media, like paid newspaper subscriptions, as part of this new service.

Apple:

The phrase “Hey Siri” was originally chosen to be as natural as possible; in fact, it was so natural that even before this feature was introduced, users would invoke Siri using the home button and inadvertently prepend their requests with the words, “Hey Siri.” Its brevity and ease of articulation, however, bring to bear additional challenges. In particular, our early offline experiments showed, for a reasonable rate of correctly accepted invocations, an unacceptable number of unintended activations.

Another fascinating article in Apple’s Machine Learning series. It got a bit dense for me at times (or, rather, I’m a bit dense for the article) but there are lots of interesting tidbits of info included.

April 16, 2018

Winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes were announced at Columbia University in New York City on Monday. The Pulitzers are highly revered and mark the best in journalism in 14 categories.

Congrats to the winners.

Netflix Inc’s blitz of new programming attracted a surprisingly high 7.4 million new customers from January to March, reassuring investors who are betting the video streaming pioneer’s massive spending will fuel growth around the world.

Netflix’s shows are great, as are many of the others put out by similar services. These numbers show how much consumers want these types of shows. This is exactly what Apple is looking to happen when it releases its video content—we’ll see how that works out.

Eater:

America’s fast-food desserts straddle two very different categories: our country’s most horrific edible disasters and our most cherished culinary treasures. For every gem like the Orange Julius, a pulse-quickening emulsion of citrus and dairy, there is the Burger King Lucky Charms Shake (RIP), a Breaking Bad-like chemistry experiment gone wrong. There are the old nostalgic treats, like that McDonald’s soft serve, that don’t stand the test of time — and others, like the Taco Bell cinnamon twists, that do.

This is a ranking of those treats.

A surprisingly fun (and possibly horrifying) read. And now I’m hungry.

This detailed tutorial really puts Workflow through its paces. If you’ve not yet spent quality time with the iOS Workflow app, this is a wonderful way to get started. Nice job by iMore’s Matthew Cassinelli.

Visual remix of Paul McCartney. Donk.

There are no words to adequately describe this. Just watch. [Via That Eric Alper]

First things first, I do love these deep dives by people like Guilherme Rambo. This is not a leak, but more of a grind-it-out, pay attention to the details analysis.

In this case, Guilherme came upon some code with a log message that said:

“This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen”

From Guilherme:

It’s clear from the wording of the message that this feature is not implemented at the moment, but it’s definitely something Apple has planned. This new capability could come as soon as watchOS 5, or be dropped altogether. I personally hope they go forward with it since it’d be pretty cool to be able to install new watch faces on my Apple Watch.

Coincidentally, this past Friday we posted this thread of 3rd party FitBit watch faces. It ain’t pretty.

This is a fascinating piece, a step-by-step on how something promising went south. This is a group interview, with notables like former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, Facebook ad-tech entrepreneur Antonio García Martínez, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, free software activist Richard Stallman, and many more.

The flow of this article is, how things went wrong in 15 steps. Terrific read.

April 15, 2018

James Gunn:

Here’s a cool list of the different jobs on a movie set and how they fit into the system.

Gunn posted this on Twitter and not only is it an interesting breakdown of the jobs on a film set but many of them are further linked to descriptions of the job. So, if you’ve ever wondered what the Best Boy Grip does and whether you’re qualified for the position, this is the chart for you.

April 14, 2018

Wired:

All of us, adults and children, have had our lives transformed in the decade since the iPhone was unveiled. Now we have always-connected email, messaging, shopping, banking and so on, in addition to social, gaming and entertainment apps. Many of these seem benign, but we use them more than we know.

What does a healthy, moderate digital life look like?

I believe that for Apple to maintain and even grow its customer base it can solve this problem at the platform level, by empowering users to understand more about how they use their devices. To do this, it should let people track their digital activity in detail and across all devices.

Considering the market share, I always bristle whenever a pundit says, “Apple needs to solve this problem…” instead of at least including Google and Android in the discussion. But there’s no doubt that Apple, with its stated concerns about user privacy and demonstrated control over all aspects of the iPhone, is uniquely situated to at least begin the discussion on these issues.

Motherboard:

The specifics of Huseby’s legal case apply only in Norway, of course, but his case speaks to a problem faced by independent iPhone repair shops around the world. Apple’s use of the legal system and trademark law turns average repair professionals into criminals and helps the company corner the repair market for Apple products.

This is just one of many cases that will need to be adjudicated before the issue is settled but I think, in the long run, Apple will lose this fight.

Six Colors:

Among the casualties of the impending transition to 64-bit apps is one long-lasting oddity: QuickTime 7 Pro.

What makes this app so unusual are a few factors. For one thing, it’s one of Apple’s own apps. For another, it was first released in 2005, making it almost 13 years old, though it hasn’t seen an update in about 8 years.

But despite its age and the fact that the writing was on the wall for QuickTime 7, news that it wouldn’t see an update when macOS makes the jump to all-64-bit-all-the-time sparked some cries of frustration from users, including both myself and Jason, who have carved out a place in their workflows—and their hearts—for this little anachronism.

Probably the single thing that pisses me off most about the (completely understandable) move to all 64-bit is that Apple has crippled QT over the years and is now forcing us to use less suitable and functional apps. QuickTime Player X is utterly useless as a production app.

April 13, 2018

My 9.7 iPad (2018) review: Drawn, written, edited, and produced with an iPad

Pretty impressive review from Serenity Caldwell at iMore.

From Apple’s internal memo:

Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

I have a hard time understanding the motivation for employees to leak information about upcoming products. I think this is a smart move by Apple, telling its employees that there are consequences for their actions. The fact that 12 people were arrested should scare the hell out of anyone considering leaking information.

Apple is not fucking around anymore. You’ve been warned.

Fast Company:

ESPN+ is launching at a price of $4.99 a month, or $49.99 a year. Available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV, and Chromecast, it’s not a standalone experience, but rather part of an updated version of the same ESPN app that provides some free features and (if you authenticate as a paying customer) full programming from ESPN in its traditional linear-TV form.

Even if ESPN+ isn’t meant to immediately usher in a radically new era for ESPN, it’s the first taste of a big change for Disney.

Meaning, this is a test bed for where Disney wants to go with its own content.

The cake server

Crazy. Just crazy. So many intricate little details, all for a slice of cake.

If nothing else, jump to about a minute in, just to see the toddler and the phone. The whole thing is pretty incredible.

Motherboard:

Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials.

And:

Regional police forces, such as the Maryland State Police and Indiana State Police, are procuring a technology called ‘GrayKey’ which can break into iPhones, including the iPhone X running the latest operating system iOS 11.

Is this whack-a-mole? Will Apple be able to change iOS to break GrayKey? And, if so, how long will it take for GrayKey, or another technology, to ship a replacement?

A thread of third party watch faces

A longstanding request from Apple Watch fans is support for third party custom watch faces.

The thread below is a review of third party FitBit faces:

Click or tap on the first one, then start scrolling. My favorite comment, from Benjamin Mayo:

When you look at the examples in this thread, you start to think Apple might have a point in not allowing third party faces on Apple Watch.

Scroll through the thread, read the comments. Interesting.

[H/T Benjamin Mayo]

BBC News:

Chinese police have used facial recognition technology to locate and arrest a man who was among a crowd of 60,000 concert goers.

The suspect, who has been identified only as Mr Ao, was attending a concert by pop star Jacky Cheung in Nanchang city last weekend when he was caught.

Police said the 31-year-old, who was wanted for “economic crimes”, was “shocked” when he was caught. China has a huge surveillance network of over 170 million CCTV cameras.

The future.

Don’t ask. Just click through to the (gorgeous) images and you’ll get the reference.

[H/T iHeartApple2]

Google Research Blog:

People are remarkably good at focusing their attention on a particular person in a noisy environment, mentally “muting” all other voices and sounds. Known as the cocktail party effect, this capability comes natural to us humans. However, automatic speech separation — separating an audio signal into its individual speech sources — while a well-studied problem, remains a significant challenge for computers.

This is a major hurdle for smart speakers like HomePod and Google Home. While this post focuses on the cocktail party problem (separating individual voices when multiple people are speaking), it is part of a longer problem thread, that of identifying an individual speaker’s voice.

Consider HomePod. If HomePod Siri knew who was speaking, she could be more specific in her response. If I ask Siri to send a text, Siri could look up contacts in my database, but if my wife asked, Siri could use her contact database.

Google Home already solves this problem. And they are well on their way to solving the cocktail party problem as well.

Imagine a day when hearing aids feature the technology to distinguish speakers, offer signal boost on a voice-by-voice basis, let you know who said what, perhaps with the aid of your iOS device.

If this interests you, there’s a series of videos embedded in the Google blog post that shows the current cocktail party tech in action.

First things first, take a look at this Bloomberg article, which started a wave of discussion about alleged stumbling HomePod sales:

At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. “Even when people had the ability to hear these things,” he says, “it still didn’t give Apple another spike.”

Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac, responds in this linked op-ed:

HomePod is a much more expensive speaker than its rivals, and is only useful for a particular slice of the market: those who own an iPhone and either have an Apple Music subscription or have all their music in iTunes and subscribe to iTunes Match. It’s not reasonable to expect sales of a $350 speaker with a limited market to rival those of a $50 device aimed at the mass-market.

Ben’s piece goes into much more detail, addressing the gloom and doom of the Bloomberg piece. Well reasoned, worth reading both.

I do think it is way too early to judge this market. Apple is in the premium space, Google Home and Amazon Echo are based in the commodity space. To me, the key to HomePod growth is Apple’s R&D investment in improving Siri intelligence. If Apple improves the Siri experience, they’ll automatically make HomePod more appealing.

I can’t imagine a more important Apple technology to invest in than Siri. Siri impacts every aspect of the Apple ecosystem and is immensely leverage-able. Siri is the rising tide that lifts all boats.

April 12, 2018

Alan Kay was there at the very beginning. He spent 10 years at Xerox PARC, culminating in that famous visit Steve Jobs made that ultimately spawned the Mac.

This is a bit of a walk down memory lane and a nice little read.

Christian Zibreg, iDownloadBlog, does a really nice job walking through the process of using the iOS Markup tools to sign PDF documents. Terrifically useful.

Facebook, your shadow profile, and those Apple talking points

Facebook. What a mess. Mark Zuckerberg’s two day appearance before Congress has everyone riveted. He’s clearly been incredibly well prepped, expertly responding without answering.

Tons has been written about this, but here are three posts that stood out to me:

  • Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies walks you through this reaction poll, asking questions about Facebook and trust.

One takeaway:

Only 15% of our panelists said there is nothing Facebook can do to regain trust as they are just ready to move on to something else.

I would have thought that number would be much higher.

First things first, this is absolutely worth reading. Gruber digs deep, deconstructs those talking points. Brilliant.

I have to say, I am surprised that no one in that room thought to bring up a comparison between Apple and Facebook when it comes to privacy. Would have been good to give some expert witnesses, who really understand the subtleties at play here, the chance to ask Zuckerberg some specific questions, to help guide the conversation.

  • Finally, here’s a video (embedded below) from The Verge’s Russell Brandom, talking about Facebook, Zuckerberg’s testimony, and shadow profiles. It’s only 3:28 and well worth your time.

Bloomberg:

Finding billionaires in Silicon Valley isn’t hard. Dropbox Inc.’s Arash Ferdowsi and Veeva Systems Inc.’s Peter Gassner have both crossed the threshold this year, and tech fortunes make up a fifth — or about $1 trillion — of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

But tracking down members of the three-comma club at Apple Inc. is a less fruitful endeavor, even though the iPhone-maker is the world’s most valuable company, with a market capitalization of $879 billion.

Chairman Art Levinson is the only insider to make the cut, and Apple stock accounts for just 20 percent of his $1 billion fortune, according to regulatory filings. The rest comes from his long tenure at Genentech Inc., where he was chairman and chief executive officer, and an early stake in Google Inc.

No other Apple insider comes close.

I think one core attribute of any huge company with few or no billionaires is a long legacy. A tech company born in current times that then grows huge is much more likely to make a billionaire or two. Or three.

Apple’s big growth curve happened long before billion dollar valuations were common. They went public in 1980, fragmenting their ownership stake, making it that much harder for a single person to emerge as a billionaire.

Thoughtful article.

April 11, 2018

Apple to begin alerting macOS customers about 32-bit apps

As it continues the 64-bit app transition, Apple will begin alerting customers running macOS High Sierra 10.13.4 when they are using an outdated, 32-bit app. The alert will only happen when you open a 32-bit app, and it will happen once, Apple told me earlier today.

The alert is a way of communicating to customers that some action needs to be taken, albeit not immediately. Apple said they don’t have a firm timeline of when 32-bit apps will stop working, but they informed developers at last year’s WWDC that macOS High Sierra would be the final version to run 32-bit apps without compromise.

The alert that is shown when you open the app tells people that the developer needs to update the app to make it compatible going forward. You can still use the app in its current form, but at some point in the future, it won’t work.

Apple is taking this step to ensure that the Mac apps we use are as advanced as the Mac itself.

Apple has posted a support article explaining more on the transition to 64-bit, as well as offering a few answers for affected users.

There is no need to panic if you see this alert, but please do take note of it. You should contact the developer of the app to see if they plan to update it and when.

Uber Technologies Inc said on Wednesday it is planning to offer more modes of transportation for riders through its app, giving people more ways to get around in cities.

In cities like San Francisco, having a variety of transportation options is especially important.