November 19, 2014

FoundSounds is a unique new mobile app blurring the line between a social network and a collaborative art project. The premise is simple: if you find a sound you like, record it and share it with the world. Recordings are geotagged, and you can browse them by scrolling through a timeline or exploring a map. You can also construct sound collages that create intriguing sonic geographies. If enough sounds have been recorded in your area, consider taking a sound walk, which allows you to listen to recordings made near you. Walking past a concert venue would allow you to hear previous performances from that location, while passing by a new building would trigger the sounds of its construction. The vision of FoundSounds is to create a space where people can listen to sounds they might not normally hear. FoundSounds costs $9.99, the same as the price of an album in iTunes. FoundSounds is available on the iOS app store now.

Answer some questions and The Grid will not only build a site for you, it will also adapt with you. I have no idea if this works, but I can’t wait to try it out and see how it does.

I’ve looked at a lot of blogging/Web site platforms over the years, but I’m really impressed with Barley. There is no admin area, so everything is done on the page itself—you just start typing and it becomes a new post. Very slick platform.

The Guardian:

Their name might sound a bit ominous, but the 1,500-strong gang…is a long way from the Hell’s Angels.

They’re called the blood bikers: men and women all over Britain who dedicate a few evenings a week to transporting hospital deliveries across the country as stand-ins for the daytime professionals. They are all volunteers, and in 2013 they responded to around 35,000 urgent requests from hospitals, saving the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds. They take everything from blood and platelets to medicine and breast milk.

Great story about how volunteers on motorcycles transport medical supplies around Britain. Reminds me of another great organization called “Riders for Health” who do something similar in Africa.

Narrative:

In 1976, America turned 200 and cities around the country planned bicentennial celebrations. Twinsburg, a suburb of Cleveland, turned the event into double the reason to celebrate by dedicating one day of its bicentennial celebration to twins. Thirty-seven sets of twins attended that first celebration.

The world’s largest gathering of twins and multiples still attracts around 2,000 sets the first weekend of every August.

What a weird, cool place that would be in August.

I’m reading this book right now and I’m really enjoying it. Interesting to note that Jony Ive does the Foreword.

John Hodgman, from his blog, commenting on the story about an Uber VP suggesting digging up dirt on journalists:

I’m know he’s very sad and I know Uber is very sad. But to my mind, the only honorable (and SMART) move for himself, and the company he claims to be proud of is: resign, already. That he couldn’t, and Uber couldn’t take the hard next step and fire him, is baffling to me.

If this isn’t a fireable offense, are there any? Can Uber make ANY hard decisions? Or worse, would they only fire a person who had less wealth and prestige within the industry? What if one of their drivers made comments like that to a reporter? Or an intern?

[h/t to Stu Mark]

John Gruber dug into Google Analytics to get a sense of the percentage of Daring Fireball readers on an iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus vs other models. Terrific idea, good read.

Since Apple’s release of WatchKit yesterday, developers of all stripes have been digging through the SDK, trying to get a sense of what you can and can’t do. There’s a gold rush feel to it all, mirroring (in a much smaller way, perhaps) the excitement that surrounded the release of the original iPhone SDK.

Part of the analysis centers on the question of the OS at the center of Apple Watch. There’s some conjecture that Apple Watch runs iOS because the WatchKit UI elements are subclasses of UIKit classes. On one hand, reuse of elements of the UIKit framework isn’t the same thing (to me at least) as running the same OS.

On the other hand, it’s certainly not an unreasonable conjecture.

Good post by Jake Marsh, pulling all this together.

Twitter has long maintained a searchable index of recent tweets, about a week’s worth of tweets updated in real time. But they’ve now adopted that indexing technology to allow you to search from a database of every tweet ever sent, starting with this one.

To read about the technology behind this new index, click here.

Far more interesting is Twitter’s advanced search page. Take it for a spin.

As an example, use the date fields at the bottom to search from March 21, 2006 through April 30, 2006 (a span of 40 days) for the word pizza. To move back a year at a time, click in the date field, then click the date at the top of the popup. Click again to move back a decade at a time.

This search should yield 11 tweets, not including the promoted tweet. If you search for pizza between Jan 1 through Jan 7, 2007 (a span of 7 days) you’ll get 28 hits. Not particularly scientific, but it is interesting to see the growth of Twitter. If and when Twitter opens this up as an API, would be interesting to build an app that maps search terms over time.

November 18, 2014

No new features, but this is one of the best apps ever made.

Not sure which shirt looks best on you? Wondering if you take the Seahawks or the 49ers this Sunday? Ask your friends with Straw! Get instant responses delivered in real-time right to your phone, in a super visual, easy to decipher way.

I spoke with the developer about this app this afternoon and I really like it. It’s a cool way to get people’s opinion and share the results with whoever you want.

Initial users, fans, developers, even Sergey Brin—nobody seems to have much interest in this piece of shit product anymore.

Apple Watch represents a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology. Starting early 2015, you will be able to deliver innovative new experiences to your customers on their wrist. Learn how your existing app notifications can easily show up on Apple Watch. And by leveraging WatchKit, you can take your apps even further by extending and enhancing their functionality on Apple Watch.

This is a huge day for Apple. It may seem like this is just another SDK release for developers, but this is where Apple learns just how interested developers are in making apps for its new device. We’ve all seen it before with companies competing with Apple for iPhone and iPad apps—they matter to the consumer a lot. Products that don’t have deep developer support have a good chance of failing. When Apple does release the Apple Watch next year, they want to be able to stand up and brag about how many apps are already available. It’s an important day.

Apple is cracking down on Notification Center widgets in iOS once again, this time telling Neato that its note taking widget is unacceptable and will need to be removed due to the fact that it includes a keyboard.

I don’t understand Apple’s overall stance on this issue. I agree that some companies will, given the opportunity, take it too far and clutter the Notification Widget. However, there are times when an expanded widget makes sense.

Even the product page is the same as Apple’s for Nokia’s new tablet.

This tip arrived with iOS 8 and Yosemite, but is a little down in the weeds, so you may not have noticed it.

First things first, if you want to share tabs between your Yosemite powered Mac and an iOS device running iOS 8, go to Settings > iCloud and make sure the Safari switch is on.

Now go to Safari on your Mac and click the “Show all tabs” button (the icon with two squares to the right on the window’s title bar). You should see all the current tabs, plus sections for each of your currently shared iOS devices. You can tap one of those tabs and it will open. Tap the little x to the right of a tab and it will be closed on the iOS device.

On the flip side, go to your iOS device and launch Safari. Tap the “Show all tabs” button (lower right) and you’ll see your carousel of tabs. Slide that group up and you’ll see the list of open tabs on your Yosemite machine, as well as any other iOS devices. See a tab you want to close? Slide it to the left and tap Delete.

This clever detail is exactly the sort of thing that draws me to Apple products.

From Google’s research blog:

“Two pizzas sitting on top of a stove top oven”
“A group of people shopping at an outdoor market”
“Best seats in the house”

People can summarize a complex scene in a few words without thinking twice. It’s much more difficult for computers. But we’ve just gotten a bit closer — we’ve developed a machine-learning system that can automatically produce captions (like the three above) to accurately describe images the first time it sees them. This kind of system could eventually help visually impaired people understand pictures, provide alternate text for images in parts of the world where mobile connections are slow, and make it easier for everyone to search on Google for images.

This is an incredible achievement in computer vision and object detection. Imagine a virtual assistant that could help guide you down the street, cross safely, avoid a crack in the sidewalk, find the entrance to a building. If you are visually impaired, this might make a huge difference in your ability to get around without help.

Wall Street Journal:

Samsung Electronics Co. said it would reduce the number of smartphone models it offers next year, part of a move to cut costs to combat declining profit.

The South Korean technology major said it would cut the number of models by about 25% to 30%, Robert Yi, head of investor relations, said during a presentation in New York.

The decision to streamline its large smartphone portfolio came as the company seeks to cut costs to better compete with cheaper models, mainly from Chinese smartphone makers such as Xiaomi Inc.

Smart move. This approach clearly worked for Steve Jobs, in a move that is said to have saved Apple.

Fresh off a partnership deal with Microsoft that injected Apple with $150 million, one of Jobs’ first goals as CEO was to review the company’s sprawling product line. What he found out was that Apple had been producing multiple versions of the same product to satisfy requests from retailers. For instance, the company was selling a dozen varied versions of the Macintosh computer.

Unable to explain why so many products were necessary, Jobs asked his team of top managers, “Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?” When he didn’t get a simple answer, Jobs got to work reducing the number of Apple products by 70 percent.

Buzzfeed:

A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.

The executive was Uber Senior VP of Business Emil Michael and, according to the story, the female journalist was Sarah Lacey, who wrote this story for PandoDaily, an op-ed piece that excoriated Uber and its policies.

Michael’s remarks, assuming the story is true, were foolish and chilling, especially given the high profile nature of the crowd at the dinner.

Michael, who has been at Uber for more than a year as its senior vice president of business, floated the idea at a dinner Friday at Manhattan’s Waverly Inn attended by an influential New York crowd including actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington. The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and consultant to the company.

And before you dismiss the story as Buzzfeed hearsay, there were several journalists invited to the dinner, including a Buzzfeed editor, so this appears to be first hand reporting.

November 17, 2014

Vice:

It wasn’t just a smell; it was a force. With the first whiff, I thought, Camembert. But as the golf cart got closer, the smell became sweeter—noxiously sweet. You could call it the smell of death, but really it was the smell of what comes after: an obscene eruption of microbial life.

In the driver’s seat was Dr. Daniel Wescott, director of the Texas State Forensic Anthropology Centre.

He pointed to the corpse at our feet—one of the dozens of donor bodies exposed to the elements here in the forests and fields of Texas State University’s 26-acre decomposition research facility. Most of the local kids who tell ghost stories about the place just call it “the body farm.”

I had the opportunity to see the University of Tennessee’s version of this but chickened out.

The Guardian:

A coalition of technology and internet companies is lobbying to curb US National Security Agency surveillance powers and for more transparency on government data requests.

The Reform Government Surveillance coalition, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Apple, added its support for the race to pass a bill through the US Senate before the end of the year, which would inhibit mass data collection from emails and internet metadata.

Even if their motives aren’t 100% altruistic, it’s still good to see these companies shining a light on the issue.

TechCrunch:

I’m fascinated by the reviews left by Monument Valley players in the wake of the decision by the game’s developer (ustwo) to price a recent content update at not-free. Ustwo had released the original game at $4 featuring 10 levels. The game was a labor of love and earned many just awards. It also went to sell in excess of 1.4 million copies – a feat that exemplifies how arty mobile gaming can work very well. This latest pack brings 8 new levels to the game and costs a pretty trivial $2. And yet in its wake came a surge of 1-star reviews. But why?

First lesson is people can be cheap and petty.

Sixty-two percent of the weight of the web is images, and we’re serving more image bytes every day. That would be peachy if all of those bytes were being put to good use. But on small or low-resolution screens, most of that data is waste.

A phone leash that fits your lifestyle.

I’m not sure how popular those iPod touch loops were that Apple released, but perhaps popular enough to make it worthwhile for these folks to make it for the iPhone.

A great post here from Allyson Kazmucha, Serenity Caldwell and Rene Ritchie on how to use Apple Pay. I used Apple Pay at Home Depot, Whole Foods and Peet’s Coffee and it always works great for me. Getting your card into the iPhone and using it at a store is easy as can be.

From The New York Times:

Samsung Turns to BlackBerry for Better Security

Dumb and Dumber

Great stuff.

I installed it and am having no issues so far.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.1

You can download the update by going to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device.