October 16, 2017

Consumerist:

Though many of the big box stores now open for Black Friday at some point on Thanksgiving, some retailers and mall owners have fought back against this trend. For the second year in a row, one of the nation’s largest mall operators has declared that its properties’ doors will remain shut this Thanksgiving.

CBL Properties is a real investment trust that operates more than 60 malls around the country. The company made this same decision last year and believes it was the right thing to do.

I think this is a great idea. We’ll all be madly shopping soon enough. Let Thanksgiving not be one of those days.

Irvue:

Don’t worry about where to find a new wallpaper for your Mac. There are tons of gorgeous high-resolution photos on Unsplash. Irvue brings them to your desktop.

I’m a big fan of Unsplash and this desktop app lets you tap into their collection of gorgeous images.

Watch a 200 foot truck make an impossibly tight turn to carry a huge turbine blade over a tiny bridge

File this under truck/turbine/bridge porn. Be sure to keep an eye on those rear wheels.

Amazing. Riveting.

Dan Moren, Macworld:

Smart speakers are here, and they’re not going away anytime soon. In the last month or so alone, Amazon has rolled out an entirely new lineup of its Echo devices while Google has supplemented its standard Google Home with both a smaller and larger version. Even Microsoft has gotten into the game, with a Cortana-based smart speaker from Harman Kardon, and multiroom audio purveyor Sonos has announced an Alexa-based model of one of its speakers shipping later this month.

And in all that time, Apple has sat quietly, saying nothing more about its upcoming HomePod than was announced at this summer’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The company didn’t so much as mention its smart speaker during its event last month, though to be fair it had little time with the occasion packed full of iPhones as it was.

That means that with only a couple months left before the HomePod is out on the market, there are still more than a few questions about Apple’s smart speaker play.

A bit eerie how little has said about the HomePod. All is quiet. Holiday buying season is easing into view and there’s zero buildup so far.

Dan raises some interesting questions. It’ll be interesting to see if anything changes now that the Amazon Echo and Google Home product lines have matured/evolved.

If you love to cook, check out this kickstarter. Smart design let’s you measure ingredients more accurately. Not sure I’d lay out $24 for a measuring cup, but I know cooks/mixologists who would jump on this.

The math and the story behind the design are both interesting.

Marco Arment:

I love the idea of USB-C: one port and one cable that can replace all other ports and cables. It sounds so simple, straightforward, and unified.

In practice, it’s not even close.

And:

USB-C normally transfers data by the USB protocol, but it also supports Thunderbolt… sometimes. The 12-inch MacBook has a USB-C port, but it doesn’t support Thunderbolt at all.

And:

If you bought a USB-C cable, it might support Thunderbolt, or it might not. There’s no way to tell by looking at it. There’s usually no way to tell whether a given USB-C device requires Thunderbolt, either — you just need to plug it in and see if it works.

This goes on and on. The most frustrating part of all this is the opacity of it all. All the details hidden. True for both ports and cables.

Be sure to scroll down to the end for conclusion. Marco nails this.

Over the weekend, Elon Musk had a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). If you are into cars or rockets, this is an exceptional read, full of nerdy detail.

But this one back and forth moment jumped out at me:

  • Q: The concept of an internet connection on Mars is kinda awesome. You could theoretically make an internet protocol that would mirror a subset of the internet near Mars. A user would need to queue up the parts of the internet they wanted available and the servers would sync the relevant data. There could be a standard format for pages to be Mars renderable since server-side communication is impractical.

  • ELON MUSK: Nerd.

Musk does go on to answer the question, but I loved the response. Musk is human.

Dan Goodin, Ars Technica:

An air of unease set into the security circles on Sunday as they prepared for the disclosure of high-severity vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi Protected Access II protocol that make it possible for attackers to eavesdrop Wi-Fi traffic passing between computers and access points.

The proof-of-concept exploit is called KRACK, short for Key Reinstallation Attacks. The research has been a closely guarded secret for weeks ahead of a coordinated disclosure that’s scheduled for 8 a.m. Monday, east coast time.

That reveal is scheduled for a few minutes from now. This is real “sky is falling” news, basically impacting the majority of WiFi using folk who use WPA2 to protect their WiFi connections.

More from the article:

The vast majority of existing access points aren’t likely to be patched quickly, and some may not be patched at all. If initial reports are accurate that encryption bypass exploits are easy and reliable in the WPA2 protocol, it’s likely attackers will be able to eavesdrop on nearby Wi-Fi traffic as it passes between computers and access points. It might also mean it’s possible to forge Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol settings, opening the door to hacks involving users’ domain name service.

Take a few minutes to read this announcement page, which lays out all the detail on the attack. At the very least, scroll down to the Q&A section a bit more than halfway down the page.

The bad news is, this impacts pretty much everyone using WPA1 and WPA2 and you can’t fix this by, say, changing your password.

The good news:

Implementations can be patched in a backwards-compatible manner. This means a patched client can still communicate with an unpatched access point, and vice versa. In other words, a patched client or access points sends exactly the same handshake messages as before, and at exactly the same moments in time. However, the security updates will assure a key is only installed once, preventing our attacks. So again, update all your devices once security updates are available.

A nightmare, but not a total unfixable nightmare. But things are going to be sketchy for some time. Check for HTTPS on your URLs. If you are using HTTP, assume someone can read every part of your communication.

October 15, 2017

Why photos of the Eiffel Tower at night are Illegal

A weird, annoying quirk of EU and copyright law.

UPS Dogs:

This page is operated by UPS drivers all around. Pictures of dogs and the UPS drivers they meet day to day.

I love dogs but, having been a delivery driver, I know the stress dogs can create. This is a fun Facebook page showing some of the wonderful dogs UPS drivers encounter during their day.

October 14, 2017

Huck Magazine:

In South Sulawesi, Indonesia, the Torajan people “live to die.” Mummified corpses, preserved with Formalin, are kept in the family home for years or even decades after death. Until a funeral – a multi-day event that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with dozens of buffalo and hundreds of pigs being slaughtered – can be arranged, the lifeless are not dead. They are simply “To makula” – sick people.

For Torajans, the line between this life and the next is infinite and porous. After a funeral, when the dead have been helped along the way to “puya” (the afterlife), their corpses are interred in a cave. But every year, in August, there is Ma’Nene ritual, in which the bodies are brought out and re-clothed, their bones polished. Sometimes, the newly-freshened cadavers are even taken for a walk around the village.

When viewed through my “Western” eyes, The death rituals of this group of Indonesians seems grotesque. But after reading the story, maybe the way we treat the dead in the West is what is grotesque. Be sure to check out the photographer’s own page for more info and photos.

October 13, 2017

The San Diego-based company aims to inflict pain on Apple in the world’s largest market for smartphones and cut off production in a country where most iPhones are made. The product provides almost two-thirds of Apple’s revenue. Qualcomm filed the suits in a Beijing intellectual property court claiming patent infringement and seeking injunctive relief, according to Christine Trimble, a company spokeswoman.

Damn!

Apple has posted a support document noting that they are “aware of the issue” and are “investigating solutions” for an issue where some users are unable to open GarageBand after updating to iOS 11.

Mental Floss:

Spilling pepper, complimenting a baby, and cutting your fingernails after dark are just a few of the things that will earn you bad luck around the world.

I’ve always been fascinated by superstitions and their origins. Many of these are common to us here in North America and some seem “silly”. My mom was very superstitious – for example, she thought it was bad luck to let a rocking chair rock with no one in it. What are your “odd” superstitions?

TidBITS:

I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day. (The United Nations is welcome to make this official.) In 2017, we’ll be celebrating in January and October. If you’re reading this article on some other day, I’d encourage you to verify your backups right away and then continue with the Friday the 13th schedule.

Take a few minutes to identify some critical files and see if you can restore them successfully from your backups. If a bootable backup is part of your backup strategy, make sure you can actually boot from it.

That’s it. No costumes are necessary, there’s no obligatory greeting, and you aren’t expected to make a special meal.

This is just as fake as any of the made up “International Day of…” you see on Twitter but this one actually has a great message – your backups are useless if they can’t be used to restore your data.

With Movies Anywhere, you can watch most of those digital movies across all of your connected accounts. Well, at least all of the ones connected to supported services, which currently are Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu. Here’s everything you need to know about Movies Anywhere.

I don’t have this problem because I only purchase content from iTunes, but I know a lot of people that do have multiple accounts. Lory Gil did a nice article explaining how Movies Anywhere works.

Thanks to Hullo for sponsoring the Loop this week. A hot, sweaty, flat pillow will wake even the deepest sleeper. Soft traditional pillows collapse under the weight of your head which can cause strains in your neck, shoulders and back. They also retain body heat, which can make sleep uncomfortably warm. It’s time to abandon tradition and try something new!

Have You Ever Slept on a Buckwheat Pillow?

They’re totally different than the soft spongey pillows you’re used to. A buckwheat pillow is sort of like a beanbag for your head. Their unique and firm support simply can’t be matched by traditional pillows. The buckwheat hull filling will perfectly conform to the shape of your head and neck, providing comfortable support all night long. Buckwheat pillows also allow air to move freely though your pillow, preventing uncomfortable heat build up. Sleep on the cool side of the pillow all night long!

Try our buckwheat pillow, Hullo, for 60 nights. If it’s not for you, ship it back to us it for a full refund.

“It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time. It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off,” Vice Chairman Kwon said “As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis…

I’m willing to bet you could search for a long time and not see the words “unprecedented crisis” in a company’s own press release.

Rick LePage:

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day, one that I felt was worth recounting here. I was at a bookstore, perusing photography books for possible review here on the website.

It was clearly a very slow day at the bookstore, and while I was at the register, the checkout dude murmured something like, “these look interesting. I’d really like to take better pictures. I really need a better camera. Which one should I buy?”

To which I replied, “Which phone do you have?”

“An iPhone 7,” he said.

“Then you don’t need a new camera; you’ve got a pretty awesome one right there with you,” I replied.

He shook his head and said that his photos “just sucked.”

Like Rick, I have this conversation on a regular basis and his advice mirrors mine. As I teach in my classes for beginners, the camera you have really doesn’t matter. What you know about it specifically and photography in general are much more important.

“Stranger Things” season 2 final trailer

I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward more to a “kid’s show”.

Nikkei Asian Review:

A tech executive familiar with iPhone X production told Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday that manufacturers are still struggling to perfect 3-D sensors and in particular dot projectors in Apple premium handset’s TrueDepth camera system, though the person could not pinpoint exactly the problem.

And:

The executive’s comments were confirmed by Jeff Pu, an analyst with Taipei-based Yuanta Investment Consulting, who also identified the dot projector as the troublesome component holding back mass production of iPhone X.

Nonetheless, Pu stuck to his view voiced late September that iPhone X will enter mass production in mid-October and begin to be shipped from China in the third week of this month. He is, however, cutting his forecast of the volume of iPhone X that will be produced this year, from 40 million units to 36 million.

Is this much ado about nothing? If this is an actual problem and the issue is not resolved, will Apple push back the current preorder schedule (set for October 27th, just after midnight PDT)? That’s two weeks from today.

Keep your eye on this one.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is out tonight with a new investor note. Kuo explains that, despite initially believing Apple might readopt fingerprint technology, it’s now likely that all 2018 iPhone models will move to Face ID and leave Touch ID in the past.

I get it. The iPhone X is the future, charting the path of the next generations of iOS devices. But there is some value in being able to unlock my iPhone without looking at it.

With Touch ID, I can extend my arm to tap my iPhone on an awkwardly placed Apple Pay terminal, use my finger to verify my identity. The angle of my phone doesn’t matter.

That said, I’ll wait for the iPhone X and Face ID experience. After all, Apple product folks have been living with Face ID. I can’t imagine they’d abandon Touch ID if it still had value.

As always, take these sorts of rumors with a grain of salt.

The winning third party charger is about half the price of the Apple fast charger and just a bit slower.

Tim Cook famously said, “If you’ve ever seen what can be created on an iPhone or an iPad with that pencil, it’s really unbelievable.”

As soon as I heard those words, I thought it inevitable that we’d see Apple Pencil support for iPhone.

Bloomberg:

Late in the evening of Sept. 21, X-rays of the innards of the iPhone 8 appeared on Twitter. The images didn’t come from Apple. They were posted by a team from iFixit Inc., a repair-parts, tool and software company in San Luis Obispo, California, that had flown to Australia to take advantage of the 18-hour time difference to buy the new model before it became available in the U.S. When U.S.-based Apple fans woke on iPhone 8 release day, iFixit had a step-by-step guide posted for taking apart the new phone.

Wow! That is commitment.

Over the last decade, the repair culture that spawned generations of driveway mechanics, vacuum-cleaner shops and itinerant TV-fixers has been eroded by manufacturers keen to claim service contracts and revenues. They’ve used intellectual-property laws to restrict access to repair manuals and repair software for products ranging from iPhones to John Deere tractors.

This makes me crazy. I want to be able to fix something that breaks, rather than be forced to buy a new one. To me, the ability to repair my own gear should be a right.

From the interview with iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens:

If you take an iPhone, it’s around $5 in labor that Apple pays Foxconn to assemble an iPhone. It’s far more labor when you take your phone into a repair shop – it might be $50 in labor. And if your phone needs two or three battery swaps over its lifetime, that’s $150 in labor in the U.S. over its lifetime compared to $5 on the manufacturing side.

Making products repairable is better for the environment (less waste, more reusability) and better for consumers (cost and time savings on repairs). This might sound like “get off my lawn” griping, but read the interview, judge for yourself.

BBEdit 12 is now live. It’s a powerful update, with tons of new features.

I had a chance to see a pre-release of this new version and I have to say, it’s incredible how much work Rich and the team did here. My two favorite features? Canonize and Columns.

Canonize is a search and replace supercharger, letting you build a master transformation file filled with all sorts of search and replace commands. You can even Canonize a proper case spelling of a word. So you could ask Canonize to replace all instances of noerr, NOERR, NoErr with noErr by just including noErr in your list.

Columns lets you select, copy, and rearrange columns of text or data. If you ever spend your time mucking around with datasets or delimited text, you’ll love this feature.

These are but two of many new features, the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s a summary of the high points, and a deep dive set of release notes.

On pricing:

BBEdit 12 has a suggested retail price of US$49.99. Owners of BBEdit 11 can upgrade for US$29.99. Owners of BBEdit 10 or earlier (including customers who purchased BBEdit in the Mac App Store) can upgrade for US$39.99.

Anyone who purchased BBEdit on or after March 1, 2017 is eligible to receive a free upgrade.

BBEdit is one of two of my must-have Mac utilities (Keyboard Maestro being the other). A no-brainer upgrade.

October 12, 2017

Alphabet Inc’s Waymo sought at least $1 billion in damages and a public apology from Uber Technologies Inc as conditions for settling its high-profile trade secret lawsuit against the ride-services company, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters.

They also want a public apology for stealing their trade secrets.

Ars Technica:

The 3.9-meter wide spacecraft is going on tour again. It won’t be visiting all 50 states but instead a select few cities—Houston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and, lastly, for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing in 2019, Seattle.

Other intriguing objects in the “Destination Moon” exhibit include the visor and gloves Aldrin wore on the Moon’s surface, a shiny lunar sample return container, Michael Collins’ Omega Speedmaster watch, and more. A 3D tour of the spacecraft also highlights graffiti left inside the “Columbia” module by the astronauts. There is also a Moon rock, of course.

One of my biggest thrills in visiting the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum was seeing the Apollo 11 command module. If it comes to a city near you, you owe it to yourself to go to the exhibit.

TidBITS:

I pulled my iPhone 8 Plus out of my pocket and took one exposure, handheld, with the Live Photos feature turned on. And then I applied Apple’s new Long Exposure effect in the Photos app. That’s it. The Long Exposure effect is dirt-simple to use.

Anyone who has used a DSLR to take long exposure shots will look at this technique with a little bit of envy. The iPhone shots aren’t perfect but they are damn good all things considered.

Bloomberg:

The story of the device’s evolution is readily available to anyone willing to crack an old phone open and look at what’s inside.

This is unabashed gadget porn. It won’t be of much value to the average user but, if you’re the kind of person who likes to take electronics apart, this is the page for you.