January 27, 2015

Mic:

The league, in partnership with the anti-domestic violence organization NO MORE, recently released an ad that will air live Sunday during the Super Bowl. Based on a real 911 call, the ad pans over the wreckage of a domestic dispute while the audio of a chilling emergency call plays in the background.

Powerful and chilling. Thanks to my friend JennS for the link.

Medium:

The whole Tsukiji experience is comparable to strolling through the fish section of Whole Foods early one morning when the LSD kicks in and the store suddenly turns into JFK Airport and a monster bike rally is starting and a marathon walk is ending and all the cars have Jersey plates and valet service is provided by Hell’s Angels. You are the outsider at the fish anarchist’s ball.

One of my Bucket List items was/is to visit this market. Looks like I’ll have to hurry.

Techcrunch:

Until today, Russia’s Gazprom (the largest natural gas extractor in the world) held the record at $16.2 billion in a quarter.

Apple now holds the record: $18.04 billion in profit, fiscal Q1 of 2015.

For reference, that means Apple makes around $8.3 million dollars per hour in profit (24 hours a day).

This was a company written off as all but dead less than 20 years ago.

Ars Technica:

Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped a rare bit of product news on the company’s Q1 2015 earnings call: the Apple Watch begins shipping in April.The Apple Watch will start at $349 for the aluminum Apple Watch Sport model, though starting prices for the more expensive stainless steel and gold models haven’t yet been revealed.

About the time frame we expected. As we get closer to a sales date, I find it interesting how many people I hear are at least interested in seeing the Apple Watch with an eye towards buying it.

Apple reports record quarterly profit of $18 billion, sells 74.5 million iPhones

Apple on Tuesday recorded a record first quarter profit of $18 billion on $74.6 billion in revenue. These results compare to revenue of $57.6 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Apple said iPhone unit sales of 74.5 million also set a new record. Apple also sold 5.5 million Macs and 21.4 million iPads in the quarter.

International sales accounted for 65 percent of the quarter’s revenue, according to Apple.

“We’d like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal.”

Looking forward to the second fiscal quarter, Apple said it expects revenue between $52 billion and $55 billion.

iOS 8.1.3 available

A new iOS update is available for download. Apple lists five bugs that have been fixed, including reducing the amount of storage needed to do an update. iOS 8.1.3 is a 247MB download that you can get by going to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device.

9to5mac:

In video messages to employees in recent days and weeks, Ahrendts has been recruiting employees from United States-based Apple Retail stores to relocate to China to help build up Apple’s retail efforts in the region. In a note to employees late last week, sources say that Ahrendts reported that approximately 200 Apple retail workers from the U.S. have already offered to make the move. Ahrendts added that the offer to move to China “has no expiration date because as the business grows, our needs will only become greater, so as your personal and professional life changes, just always keep China at the top of your mind, because we’re going to need you…”

An interesting problem. Apple is rapidly expanding their retail presence in China, outstripping its ability to provide properly trained staff for the stores. Training employees to work in China is no small undertaking and no small expense. These employees need training beyond what they receive in their current position, including language and cultural training. But the cost of sending someone on a long term overseas assignment can be staggering.

There are moving expenses, travel back and forth to visit family and friends and for further training. And, I imagine, there must be a pretty penny set aside for bonuses to make an assignment like this worthwhile for the employee.

Finally, there’s the matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. For every quality employee Apple sends to China, that’s one less quality employee for the current set of Apple Stores. The trick for Angela Ahrendts is to fill the needs of this new rapid expansion in China without diluting the existing talent pool.

Jon Healey, reporting for the LA Times, takes Dish Network’s new Sling TV service for a spin.

What Sling TV does, and does well, is deliver a stripped-down sampling of the pay-TV universe — the basic package includes only a dozen cable networks, plus an on-demand movie service and some original online programming — to a TV, laptop or mobile device. I’ve been playing with the service for the last few days, and was pleasantly surprised by the picture quality (with some exceptions) and the nimble user interface.

We are at the dawn of a brave new era. An era of cord cutting and à la carte stream purchasing direct from the content producer (as opposed to via a cable provider – think HBO vs Comcast). Things are just unfolding. Sling TV is just another step along the path, but an important one.

Free on iTunes

Apple recently shelved their free “Single of the Week” on iTunes, but it has been replaced by a new Free on iTunes link on the iTunes Store home page.

Currently, there are 14 singles and 27 full length TV episodes. All free, all downloadable via the “Get” link.

January 26, 2015

TUAW:

The free iFixit app is a handy little app that gives your Do-It-Yourself repairs a big boost. This app comes from the teardown experts at iFixit, who delight in exploring the inner secrets of your favorite tech (or not-so-techie) hardware. The iFixit app helps you repair just about anything from toilets to garage door openers, cameras, cars, and of course, PCs and Macs.

As dumb as some of their whining about “repairability” is, their repair and upgrade guides are second to none.

iMore:

Password manager 1Password has been updated, for the Mac as well as the iPhone and iPad. The iOS update focuses on making 1Password more powerful with tools like a new login creator and one-time passwords, while 1Password for Mac receives a lot of important updates to syncing, as well as other additions.

My favourite password manager keeps getting better.

On the public nature of your personal iPhone contact info

This weekend, I posted a useful tip from OSXDaily. In a nutshell, the tip suggested that, if you find an iPhone, press and hold the home button, then say this to Siri:

Whose phone is this?

In response, Siri will display your “me card”, the card you’ve designated as “me” to the Contacts app.

Two tiny issues, followed by a larger one. If you try this yourself, you’ll see that Siri spells your request as:

Who’s phone is this?

There’s a lack of contextual awareness in the sentence parsing. Who’s is a contraction of “who is”, which makes no sense here. Also, if you say “Whose iPhone is this?” (subbing iPhone for phone), you get sent to Apple’s web page.

But I digress. The more important issue:

Siri responds to your query by displaying the owner’s contact info, even on a locked home screen, like so:

IMG_1939

Apple takes great pains to keep the iPhone owner info out of the hands of developers. On the Mac, there’s an address book framework that will return the address marked as “me”, but as far as I know, there’s no Apple approved (hacks, yes, but not Apple approved) way to access the me card under iOS.

Making this information available via Siri seems at odds with Apple’s privacy standards and with the “no me card” developer policy. On one hand, it’s great to give someone a way to reach you if they find your phone. Kudos for that. But perhaps you could have a public and private version of your contact info, one for you and one for Siri to share with the world.

Just saying.

Want to listen to Apple’s FY15Q1 fiscal results conference call? Dial in info is here.

Or watch the webcast here.

The call starts Tuesday at 2p PT, 5p ET.

Crazy. And there’s an auction, just in case you can’t wait for the more modern version.

Writing for Monday Note, Jean-Louis Gassée discusses Apple’s brand-forking strategy when it comes to Beats:

You won’t find Apple logos on Beats headphones, and you won’t find any Apple references in a Beats headphone commercial. The headphones are part of the Beats Music streaming music ecosystem whose goal is to play everywhere, including the Windows Phone Store.

An interesting read, and no doubt the jury is still out when it comes to understanding the purpose/success of the Beats acquisition.

But inside that longer piece is a discussion of Apple’s ad spending habits:

Apple’s reputation, products, and imagery have coalesced into a brand, a mark that’s burned (as in the word’s origin) into the collective consciousness. Last year, Forbes called Apple the world’s most valuable brand. It’s impossible to measure contribution of the name and logo to the company’s success, but a peek at the Forbes’ list shows how little Apple spends advertising its products compared to Microsoft, Google, Samsung, or less technical companies such as Cocoa-Cola or Louis Vuitton.

Here’s a link to the Forbes’ list of Most Valuable Brands. Note that Apple’s brand value is $124.2 billion and their advertising budget is $1.1 billion. Their advertising budget is a mere .88% of their brand value.

The number two most valuable brand, Microsoft, has an ad/brand ratio of 3.65%. Google, number three on the list and not really thought of as a product company, has an ad/brand ratio of about 5%. Coca-Cola, number four, is at 5.8%.

Apple’s ad efficiency is remarkable. That is one powerful brand.

January 25, 2015

Washington Post:

When you sign up for the service, you can design a boyfriend (or girlfriend) to your specifications — kind of like picking the genes for a designer baby, except for an imaginary adult. You pick his name, his age, his interests and personality traits. You tell the app if you prefer blonds or brunettes, tall guys or short, guys who like theater or guys who watch sports. Then you swipe your credit card — $25 per month, cha-ching! — and the imaginary man of your dreams starts texting you.

Like something out of Her, this service fills a void by providing companionship via text. This particular service is strictly driven by humans, but no doubt an artificially intelligent version is on the drawing board somewhere.

Good tip from OSXDaily.

If you’ve never seen Fawlty Towers or Black Adder, comedic masterworks from John Cleese and Rowan Atkinson respectively, you’ve got a week left.

On the horizon, the first 5 seasons of M*A*S*H (arrives February 1st) and the new season of House of Cards (February 27th).

January 24, 2015

Go Mic Connect features a custom, compact design that clips to the top of your laptop or computer monitor, as well as internally shock-mounted dual microphone capsules and a headphone output for zero-latency monitoring. Go Mic Connect combines studio-quality sound and “next-level” technology for exceptional VoIP, podcast, speech-to-text and YouTube audio.

Really nice looking portable mic.

First things first, that’s a pretty good double-entendre headline (all credit to the author, Paul Ford).

This is the story of the planning required to host a web site that you know is about to get melted by traffic.

There was one part of the Internet that PAPER didn’t want to break: The part that was serving up millions of copies of Kardashian’s nudes over the web.

Hosting that butt is an impressive feat. You can’t just put Kim Kardashian nudes on the Internet and walk away —that would be like putting up a tent in the middle of a hurricane. Your web server would melt. You need to plan.

Read on for the technical details that made this all possible.

Fast Company:

The status quo changed in 1971, when Intel announced its 4004 microprocessor. On a single chip the size of a pinky fingernail, it contained the computing functionality of what would have once required multiple circuit boards full of electronics. The 4004 was followed by the 8008 in 1972 and the 8080 in 1974, each one adding dramatic leaps in capability over its predecessor.

And this:

At the heart of the system, the pair initially chose the Intel 8008, an 8-bit CPU. Around that, Kirschner built a device that could generate a 128-by-64 black-and-white display that used a pricey eight kilobits of RAM to store the image of the bitmap (the state of the screen’s pixels).

“At the time, memory was very, very expensive,” recalls Haskel. “I mean, a penny a bit, or something like that.” That limited both the graphical capability of the system and the complexity of the software. Each game had to be less than two kilobits (or 256 bytes) in size. For comparison, this paragraph of text alone takes about 384 bytes to store electronically in its simplest form.

A fascinating read, well written and rich in tech history.

There are some incredible patterns here, all Photoshop compatible, all free to use (covered by this Creative Commons license). Come and get ‘em.

This is just another thread in a long, troubling trend.

“There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers.”

Like most print and online media that make this move, Sports Illustrated will still have pictures. They’ll just be taken by free-lance photographers. Which means 1099 labor. Another source of benefits dries up right in front of us.

According to a source at Time-Life the layoffs will be effective in March, possibly on differing dates for specific photographers due to their individual agreements with the company. But because of this, the laid-off photographers will still be shooting the upcoming Super Bowl together for the magazine.

Talk about bittersweet moments. Their last big hurrah. Sad.

January 23, 2015

MacObserver:

Right now…companies like Neil Young’s Pono are telling people that audio files encoded at a bit-depth of 24-bits or a sample rate of 192kHz sound better than the 16-bit, 44.1kHz versions of the same audio on playback.

This difference between 16-bit/44.1kHz audio and anything greater than that has been tested (a lot… in double-blind tests) and we have yet to find any human that can reliably notice that difference.

Now just sit back and wait for the audio geeks to refute this article.

Backblaze:

It was one year ago that I first blogged about the failure rates of specific models of hard drives, so now is a good time for an update.

At Backblaze, as of December 31, 2014, we had 41,213 disk drives spinning in our data center, storing all of the data for our unlimited backup service. That is up from 27,134 at the end of 2013. This year, most of the new drives are 4 TB drives, and a few are the new 6 TB drives.

Wow. That does not look good for Seagate.

Vox:

The death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has brought considerable debate over whether he should be remembered as a “reformer” or the very opposite of one; whether his legacy will be that he preserved Saudi Arabia’s future or limited its present.

But as this story from a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia makes clear, there is one thing he will never be: as much of a stone-cold badass as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

My Queen is definitely a bad ass.

TSA:

2,212 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than six firearms per day. Of those, 2,212 (83 percent) were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 224 airports; 19 more airports than last year.

There was a 22 percent increase in firearm discoveries from last year’s total of 1,813.

The TSA has often been rightly derided as “security theater” but this catalog of various weapons confiscated from traveler’s carry on luggage is a little bit terrifying. And I will likely read too much into the fact that, out of the top ten airports for gun catches, eight of them were in the South.

Lars Andersen: a new level of archery

The video is kind of stilted but his archery skills are pretty incredible.

The Daily Dot:

Terrible news for anyone who has ever been bored on an airplane: the company behind SkyMall, that in-flight catalog you disdainfully flip through after you’ve suffered through all the available episodes of The Big Bang Theory, has announced its inevitable bankruptcy filing.

Why do we say “inevitable”? Because SkyMall is packed full of actually useless garbage that no human being would conceivably buy, even in a late-capitalist boom cycle. Thankfully, a legion of loyal Internet fans has done the noble work of archiving these inexplicable items:

Proof that air travel makes you crazy – I read that catalog many a time and thought, “Hey – I should buy that!” only to get on the ground, regain consciousness and never buy a damn thing from their catalog.

Video promoting Apple’s opening of the West Lake store in Hangzhou, China

Tomorrow, Apple opens another store in China and they have posted this video explaining the Chinese poem on the outside of it.