January 11, 2017

Gregg Keizer, Computerworld:

Apple will steal a march on Microsoft this year when for the first time this century shipments of devices powered by its operating systems outnumber those running Windows, research firm Gartner said today.

In 2017, Apple’s combination of iOS and macOS — the former on iPhones and iPads, the latter on Macs — will take second place from Windows on the devices shipped during the year. The gap between the two will widen in 2018 and 2019, with Apple ahead of Microsoft both years.

Not terribly surprising, given the rise of mobile and Apple’s dominance in that space. But still, just a little bit satisfying.

Not clear from the article but, presumably, first place is held by Android.

Family sharing is extremely useful. Use it to share music, apps, photos, and even a calendar. No blood test required.

Nice job laying this out by The App Factor.

This is cool. iFixit pulled together a single page, scrolling gallery of 10 years of iPhone teardowns, from the original iPhone all the way to the iPhone 7 Plus.

Definitely worth a look.

DSL Reports:

AT&T continues to quickly hike the cost of unlimited data in order to drive its dwindling grandfathered unlimited data users to metered plans. Users in our forums say they’re being notified of a $5 bump in the cost of unlimited data starting in March of 2017. The hike would be the second such hike in as many years, after AT&T bumped the cost of unlimited data last February.

Back in the early days of the iPhone, success for AT&T was no guarantee. To help bring customers to the fold, AT&T offered unlimited data plans for a limited time.

These plans have been “grandfathered” since then, but AT&T has made a number of efforts to wean customers off those unlimited plans to more traditional metered data plans. These efforts continue with the coming $5 per month bump.

January 10, 2017

We will start with an overview and work our way to create a Koala in pure CSS.

There’s also a video you can watch as well as the written instructions.

We would like to welcome Chris Lattner, who will join Tesla as our Vice President of Autopilot Software. Chris’ reputation for engineering excellence is well known. He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple where he was primarily responsible for creating Swift, the programming language for building apps on Apple platforms and one of the fastest growing languages for doing so on Linux.

That explains what happened.

Spotify:

What you’ll do:

Provide world-class leadership to our playlist editors and supporting staff.

Identify and substantiate new playlist ideas, e.g. from a playlist for shooting hoops with your friends, to the perfect warm up playlist for addressing the nation about health care legislation that bears your name.

Who you are:

Have at least eight years experience running a highly-regarded nation.

Familiar with the Spotify platform, with experience in programming playlists at a federal level. Anything from an eclectic summer playlist, to a celebratory, “I just found my birth certificate” playlist.

Can speak passionately about playlists at press events. Let us be clear, you should be nothing short of one of the greatest speakers of all time.

Someone with good team spirit, excellent work ethic, a friendly and warm attitude, and a Nobel Peace Prize.

This is an oddly specific job posting.

The Fraser Canyon when things go sideways

Clayton Brown:

Trucking through the Fraser Canyon when things go sideways. Less than ideal conditions cause multiple problems along this long and narrow highway causing hundreds of motorists to be stranded for hours.

This video, even with its annoying as hell music, shows what truckers go through trying to drive in winter conditions. I don’t envy them. This road is the Trans-Canada Highway about 30 miles east of where I live. I love riding that road in the spring in summer (it’s one of the prettiest in British Columbia) but you couldn’t pay me enough to drive it in the winter.

I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for Swift.org. This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space.

As Gruber says, I’d love to know what the other opportunity is.

Over the years, Sonos has weathered competition from better known rivals like Apple and Bose to find a devoted audience among audio enthusiasts. But lately its wireless speaker has lost ground to an unexpected competitor, Amazon’s Echo.

Now it faces another challenge: a change in the corner office. After 14 years leading the company he helped found, John MacFarlane has resigned as chief executive of Sonos and has been replaced by one of his deputies, Patrick Spence.

I don’t understand the competition. To me, Sonos and Echo serve different purposes—Sonos is a wonderful wireless speaker system and Echo is more of an assistant.

China’s largest mobile social media network WeChat is offering its 768 million users a function which allows them to by-pass app stores such as Apple’s.

I’m not really clear on how they implemented this, but bypassing the App Store is certainly not something Apple is likely to look kindly on.

Popular Mechanics:

Despite what you heard, the Amish aren’t against technology. Communities adopt new gadgets such as fax machines and business-use cell phones all the time—so long as the local church approves each one ahead of time, determining that it won’t drastically change their way of life.

So it is with the Amish horse-drawn buggy. You might have thought the technology inside this 1800s method of transportation stopped progressing right around then. Instead, buggy tech keeps advancing, and buggy makers have become electricians and metalworkers to build in all the new tech you can’t see under the traditional black paint.

As a Nova Scotianer, I’d never seen an Amish buggy until, while riding my motorcycle through Pennsylvania, I came through a curve and saw a large pile of “dirt” in the middle of my line. Rear tire hit the dirt and squirted out from under me. Freaked me out. I looked behind me and realized it wasn’t dirt but horse manure. As I got ready for the next curve, I thought, “Where the hell did that come from?” Looking through the curve ahead, I saw the buggy in the road and literally laughed out loud. I slowed and came up behind the buggy and saw two small children in the back, facing rearward. It was a “buggy station wagon”! The kids waved to me, I waved back and then passed the buggy, still laughing inside my helmet.

Apple comments on Consumer Reports faulty MacBook Pro tests

Back in December, Consumer Reports issued a statement saying they could not recommend Apple’s new MacBook Pro because the latest batch of MacBook Pro laptops exhibited “battery life results (that) were highly inconsistent from one trial to the next.”

Many people saw issues with the tests as soon as they were published, and as it turns out, they were right. Consumer Reports were using hidden settings meant for developers, instead of using the normal settings that people use everyday, to test the battery.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop. “We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro.”

Consumer Reports updated their MacBook Pro page, but they are blaming the bug for the previous faulty results. The true problem was their methodology.

Bohemian Rhapsody played by 100+ year old fairground organ

This is a pretty amazing mechanism.

The Mac and the mouse cursor

Rob Rhyne (via DF) asked the question:

If you could take only one device with you, which one would you take? Ben Brooks or Federico Viticci would almost certainly choose an iPad.

However, I’d take a Mac. Exactly the 11-inch MacBook Air, which I’m using to write this article.

John Gruber responded:

If I could only use one device, it’d be a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bet a lot of people would pick an iPhone, though.

I’d take a MacBook Pro. I do too much that depends on the extra horsepower. That said, it’d be awful difficult to get past the basic need for a phone. Either choice would leave me without some basic functionality. The Mac and iPhone together fill my every device need.

That said, I read about another interesting thought experiment, posed by Mark Hibber (Seeking Alpha):

It would be so simple, if Apple just allowed iOS to support a mouse or trackpad driven cursor. Then iPads and iPhones really could begin to replace PCs. Then iOS really could be a viable option for professionals. Then the iPhone could finally realize its potential.

Why is cursor support so important? If the reader hasn’t tried this experiment, just go ahead and try it and you’ll see what I mean. Connect your iPhone or iPad to an external monitor (either through an adapter or through AirPlay). Great, you now have a mirror of what you have on your little iOS device. Now try to use it for something other than watching a movie, such as using one of Apple’s productivity apps from iWork.

You’ll figure it out right away. It’s mostly an unworkable arrangement, because all your user inputs have to go through the iDevice. You can’t see what you’re doing on the external monitor, so you constantly have to glance down at the iOS device. That’s the whole beauty of the cursor: You can see where you’re pointing without looking at the pointing device.

To me, this gets to the core difference between macOS and iOS, between my MacBook Pro and my iPhone/iPad. The cursor is a useful placeholder. It marks my spot, but also lets me keep my eyes glued to the screen while I drag and drop and mouse around with my hands. This really becomes an issue when the screen gets too large for my lap.

I don’t see Apple getting rid of the mouse cursor model. My gut here? Apple will either keep the Mac and iPad separate, as it is now, or will migrate the mouse to the iPad (as Microsoft and others have done).

Gartner:

Advances in various technologies will drive users to interact with their smartphones in more intuitive ways, said Gartner, Inc. Gartner predicts that, by 2019, 20 percent of all user interactions with the smartphone will take place via virtual personal assistants (VPAs).

And:

Apple’s Siri and Google Now are currently the most widely used VPAs on smartphones. Fifty-four percent of U.K. and U.S. respondents used Siri in the last three months. Google Now is used by 41 percent of U.K. respondents and 48 percent of U.S. respondents.

Interesting that Apple has not joined the Amazon Echo and Google Home party. The trend for voice is clearly rising. Though my Apple Watch is always listening, there is a core difference between Siri and Echo/Home. While both are always on, Echo and Home are more traditionally conversational. I ask about the weather and a voice responds, all without my having to tilt my watch to look at the screen or pull my iPhone out of my pocket.

Will Apple go this route?

Good tutorial for folks new to the Mac.

Short answer:

There was no USB-C back in 2012 when Apple shipped Lightning on iPhone 5. It didn’t exist. The spec wasn’t even finalized until August of 2014.

But there’s more to this article. I especially appreciate the overlay showing the relative footprints of USB-A, USB-C, and Lightning.

Will the iPhone ever move to USB-C?

USB-C would require another port change for customers. Many people weren’t very happy with the last one, and Lightning was 10 years after Dock. It’s only been 5 years since Lightning. And in that time, with hundreds of millions of devices on the market, Lightning has become ubiquitous enough that everyone has it, typically in abundance.

Interesting that the Mac has made the first move, going all-in on USB-C. I wonder if there’s a prototype USB-C iPhone floating around an Apple campus somewhere.

In the just-released Greenpeace report, Clicking Green: Who is winning the race to build a green internet?, Apple simply crushes it.

Through page after page of detailed analysis, Apple comes out on top, and usually by a pretty fair margin. Apple should be very proud of these results.

If you want to cut right to the chase, scroll to page 46 for an alphabetical walk through all company scores. Compare Amazon’s individual category grades (they got an overall C) with Apple (one of the few companies that got an overall A).

Nice job, Apple.

January 9, 2017

Jim Dalrymple returns to the show for the first episode of 2017. Topics include New Year’s Eve, Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant, Apple’s aging AirPort and Mac Pro lineups, the future of desktop Macs, Apple Watch battery life, and rumors of upcoming new iPads.

I always have so much fun doing Gruber’s show.

Yahoo Inc said Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer would step down from the board after the closing of its deal with Verizon Communications Inc.

Five other directors would also resign after the deal closes, Yahoo said in an filing on Monday.

Honda “Riding Assist” self balancing motorcycle

Honda:

In a global debut at CES, Honda unveiled its Riding Assist technology, which leverages Honda’s robotics technology to create a self-balancing motorcycle that greatly reduces the possibility of falling over while the motorcycle is at rest.

As a motorcyclist, this is really interesting and I desperately want more information. This is not a production bike though. It’s very much just a proof of concept at this point. But, if it does come to market, it might help riders, especially beginners, deal with those low speed manoeuvres that can be so difficult.

Furthermore, the series won’t have a single host in the drivers’ seat. Instead, the trio conceived of a format that is more of an interview series than longer versions of the “Late Late Show” bit, with a different “host” for every episode.

“We’re really excited about the pairings we’re putting together,” Corden said. Those pairings include more traditional musical choices like John Legend with Alicia Keys and Seth MacFarlane with Ariana Grande, but also more outside-the-box choices like Billy Eichner in the passenger seat, surrounded by the band Metallica, or former NFL star and talk show host Michael Strahan with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

It will be interesting to see how this goes. One of the keys to the success of the show was Corden’s personality and comedy, so I’m not sure how it will go with a longer format and different hosts.

New iPhone 7 Plus Ad: “Take Mine”

I love this ad if only because they do it in Greek with English subtitles. I think that’s kind of cool of Apple.

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Backchannel:

Apple is notorious for not looking back. When an anniversary of a big product approaches, the company routinely bounces requests to reminisce. (“I don’t think about that,” was Jobs’s response to me, on the 25th anniversary of Macintosh in 2008). In this case, Apple made an exception: last week I sat down with its senior vp of world wide marketing, Phil Schiller, who joined the company’s leadership team in April 1997, coincident with Steve Jobs’s return. Schiller had been deeply involved in the iPhone’s development and launch.

There are a lot of articles you can read today about the launch of the iPhone ten years ago but very few of them will be with one of the principals involved.

From a blog post that ran on the BBC News site, ten years ago today:

As the hype piled up Jobs told us we were witnessing history and he was going to reinvent the telephone – some doubts crept in.

And:

It is going to be expensive – $499 for the 4gb, $599 for 8gb – when it arrives in US stores in June.

And:

Apple is entering a market where giants like Nokia, Motorola and Samsung are making pretty smart phones. A bit of a contrast to the easier landscape which the ipod entered. Still – as Jobs pointed out – there’s a big market to aim at, with a billion mobile phones sold last year.

Fun looking back. After all, who knew what was coming? Well, Steve did.

BBC News correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, recalling that day, ten years ago, when the iPhone was first unveiled:

Ten years ago I was running from San Francisco’s Moscone Centre to a nearby hotel to edit a piece for the Ten O’Clock News when my phone rang.

“Have you got your hands on this new Apple phone for a piece to camera?” shouted a producer in London. “If not, why not?”

This appeared to be an impossible demand.

And:

Then I remembered that we had been offered – and turned down for lack of time – an interview with Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller. I turned around and headed back to the Moscone Centre. Having located Mr Schiller I asked whether before our interview I might just have a look at the iPhone.

He graciously handed his over – and rather than trying to ring Jony Ive or order 5,000 lattes as Steve Jobs had on stage, I brandished it at the camera for my Ten O’Clock News piece.

And:

The following weekend a Sunday newspaper columnist described me as having clutched the phone as if it were “a fragment of the true cross”, and some viewers complained that the BBC had given undue prominence to a product launch.

Undue prominence? As it turns out, no amount of coverage could fairly have been labeled undue.

Internet History Podcast:

Stop for a minute and imagine how momentous a change the iPod engendered within Apple itself. This was a company that, for nearly 30 years, had been a personal computer company. The blue sky thinking that allowed Apple to make a stand-alone MP3 player—to enter a mature market as an outsider and believe it could dominate—also engendered the sort of fearlessness that made it possible to break with other long-standing Apple shibboleths. The iPod eventually worked with Windows machines, even at the risk of cannibalizing Mac sales. iTunes eventually worked with Windows machines. Apple (gasp) made a Windows app! As Phil Schiller told Walter Isaacson in his Steve Jobs biography: “We felt we should be in the music player business, not just in the Mac business.” It was this conceptual leap, this strategic bravery (just as much as a penchant for good design and reliable manufacturing) that would be responsible for Apple’s success in the 2000s.

Apple was no longer just a computer company. It could be whatever it wanted to be.

And:

“I was actually pushing to do two sizes—to have a regular iPhone and an iPhone mini like we had with the iPod,” Apple’s chief hardware executive Jon Rubenstein says in Dogfight. “I thought one could be a smartphone and one could be a dumber phone. But we never got a lot of traction on the small one, and in order to do one of these projects you really need to put all your wood behind one arrow.”

And:

Jobs himself approved the list of people who could participate in the preparations, and more than a dozen security guards were on post 24 hours a day. Jobs originally decreed that all outside contractors hired to staff the event would have to sleep in the building the night before so that no details could leak out. Cooler heads eventually talked him out of it.

And:

Jobs rehearsed his presentation for six solid days, but at the final hour, the team still couldn’t get the phone to behave through an entire run through. Sometimes it lost internet connection. Sometimes the calls wouldn’t go through. Sometimes the phone just shut down.”It quickly got very uncomfortable,” Andy Grignon, the senior radio engineer for the iPhone remembered in Dogfight. “Very rarely did I see him become completely unglued. It happened. But mostly he just looked at you and very directly said in a very loud and stern voice, ‘You are fucking up my company,’ or, ‘If we fail, it will be because of you.’”

This is a great, great read.

January 8, 2017

Bloomberg:

The next frontier in digital advertising may be your car’s windshield.

Automakers, technology companies and glass manufacturers are teaming up to turn the display that graces the front of an iPhone into the windshield of a car — one that can show ads, directions and vehicle information to the person behind the wheel.

The advent of connected cars is creating a new sales battleground, and using a vehicle’s windshield may be the next way to pitch more products and services to consumers.

The closer we get to self-driving cars, the more inevitable (unfortunately) this will become.