October 2, 2015

The first project is to build an artificial brain from scratch that can pass a high school science test. It sounds simple enough, but trying to teach a machine not only to respond but also to reason is one of the hardest software-engineering endeavors attempted — far more complex than building his former company’s breakthrough Windows operating system, said to have 50 million lines of code.

The second project aims to understand intelligence by coming at it from the opposite direction — by starting with nature and deconstructing and analyzing the pieces. It’s an attempt to reverse-engineer the human brain by slicing it up — literally — modeling it and running simulations.

Apple has purchased VocalIQ, a startup located in the United Kingdom that has developed a natural language API to allow computers and people to have a more natural dialogue, reports Financial Times. According to VocalIQ’s website, the company has developed a self-learning dialogue API built on 10 years of natural language research, belief tracking, decision making, and message generation.

Siri is becoming an increasingly important part of how people interact with Apple’s devices and operating systems.

Thanks to Twocanoes Software for sponsoring The Loop this week. Makers of Winclone, the best Mac app for migrating, cloning and backing up your Boot Camp partition. This week Loop readers can use the code “theloop” to get 10% off Winclone 5, just in time to backup Boot Camp before upgrading to El Capitan. If you run Boot Camp in labs or classrooms, Boot Runner 2 from Twocanoes is a time saver for remote scheduling of maintenance reboots and an easy to use OS picker for your users. Check out the video or get the 14-day trial and see how easy Boot Runner makes managing dual boot Macs.

The European Commission is probing whether Samsung televisions’ sensed when they were being tested for energy efficiency and changed their power consumption to get better ratings than they deserved.

Samsung admits that its TVs radically changed their power-consumption during testing, but say that the low-power mode was inadvertently triggered by the tests, and was meant to be an automatic power-saving feature.

Sure it was.

These 11 actors play more than 100 Simpsons characters

Amazing to see all those different voices coming out of the same person. Just great!

Kirk McElhearn, writing for Intego:

Apple has offered two-factor authentication for some time (here’s how you set it up), but with the release of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, Apple is changing the way this works. Previously, you had to save a recovery key, a long string of characters that Apple suggested you print out and store in a safe place. This presented a number of problems, however, such as people not saving it, losing it, or not being in the location where it was stored when they needed to access it.

It’s a good idea to turn on two-factor authentication, especially now that the process is a bit simpler. If, however, you get locked out of your account, it can take several days for Apple to reinstate it. If this happens, go to iforgot.apple.com and follow the instructions. Apple will contact you and ask you a number of questions, so you can prove that you are, indeed, you, and have not been replaced by an alien or a cyborg.

Note that two-factor authentication is different than two-factor verification. From Apple’s web site:

Two-factor authentication is a new service built directly into iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. It uses different methods to trust devices and deliver verification codes, and offers a more streamlined user experience. The current two-step verification feature will continue to work separately for users who are already enrolled.


If you can’t sign in, reset your password, or receive verification codes, you can regain access to your account by requesting account recovery. Simply provide a verified phone number where you can receive a text message or phone call regarding your account. Apple will review your case and send an automated message to the number you provided when your Apple ID is ready for recovery. This message will direct you to iforgot.apple.com to complete the required steps and regain access to your account.

Account recovery will take a few days—or longer—depending on what account information you are able to provide. The process is designed to get you back into your account as quickly as possible while denying access to anyone who might be pretending to be you.

This last bit is a bit mysterious, but that doesn’t bother me. The key is that Apple recognizes that social engineering may be at work and has a protocol in place to at least make it possible to get your account back if you lose all your safety nets.

New York Times:

Ad blockers, which Apple first allowed on the iPhone in September, promise to conserve data and make websites load faster. But how much of your mobile data comes from advertising? We measured the mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the top 50 news websites – including ours – and found that more than half of all data came from ads and other content filtered by ad blockers. Not all of the news websites were equal.

It’s a steady fall from the quickest to load (The Guardian) down to the piggiest, slowest of them all (Boston.com).

Will ad blockers impact the behavior of the more bloated sites? Or will they feed on the folks who don’t install them, accept the percentage drop in revenue, make it up by increasing the bloat?

Sanjay Ved:

A strange thing happened at 1:20 AM Eastern Time on Tuesday, September 29. I was learning more about the Google Domains interface, and typed google.com and clicked search domains. To my surprise, Google.com was showing as available!

He actually ended up owning one of the most valuable domains in the world, albeit for a brief, shining moment. Fascinating story.

From the Target announcement:

Expected to be one of the season’s hottest gift items, Apple Watch is coming to some Target stores this week and all stores by Oct. 25.

At Target.com, Apple Watch will be available beginning Oct. 18.

Guests can choose from 20 models—in both 38mm and 42mm sizes—including beautiful space gray and rose gold colors. Select models and bands will be available at all Target stores, and an expanded assortment of Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch will be available on Target.com. Prices range from $349 to $599.

Safe to assume Apple Watch Edition will not be one of the available models?

Interesting bit at the bottom of that page:

Looking to save? REDcard holders always receive 5 percent off nearly all purchases at Target stores and Target.com, and free shipping at Target.com.

I’m going to take a flyer here and assume that this 5 percent discount does not apply to Apple Watch.

UPDATE: Just got an email from someone at Target corporate telling me that the 5 percent discount DOES apply to Apple Watch. Such a deal!

Husain Sumra, writing for MacRumors:

Since the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have been available on September 25, many users have begun reporting that their 6s or 6s Plus will randomly turn itself off completely, even when it’s left unattended and with sufficient battery power. It’s unknown what causes the shut off, but some users have also reported their home button feels warm to the touch when trying to revive their phones.

This appears to be an iOS 9 issue, rather than a 6s, 6s Plus issue.

Users on Reddit, the Apple support communities and the MacRumors forums have experienced the issue. While 6s and 6s Plus users have seen the majority of incidents, some iPhone 6 users have also reported the issue, indicating that iOS 9 may the root of the problem.

This is happening (I’ve confirmed this via Twitter) on both the latest released version of iOS 9 (iOS 9.0.2) as well as on the latest beta (iOS 9.1 beta 3).

No response from Apple yet.

October 1, 2015


Apple has long touted the power and design of its devices, but recently the world’s most valuable company has been emphasizing another feature: privacy. That’s no small matter when many users store important private data on those devices: account numbers, personal messages, photos.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talks to NPR’s Robert Siegel about how the company protects its customers’ data, and how it uses — or doesn’t use — that information.

Yet another fascinating interview with Cook. He is really hammering home the security and privacy angle of Apple’s corporate position.

Amazon to ban sale of Apple, Google video-streaming devices


Amazon.com Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t “interact well” with Prime Video. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said.

Interesting, if foolhardy, move by Amazon. They want to push sales of their own product so much, they are willing to give up the revenue generated by the more popular competitors products. I bet this means we won’t be seeing Amazon’s Prime Video on the Apple TV anytime soon.


Ms. Fiorina’s trainwreck stint at HP has been well documented. But I want to address one tiny but telling aspect of her misbegotten reign: an episode that involved her good friend Steve Jobs. It is the story of the HP iPod.

The iPod, of course, was Apple’s creation, a groundbreaking digital music player that let you have “a music library in your pocket.” Introduced in 2001, it gained steam over the next few years and by the end of 2003, the device was a genuine phenomenon. So it was news that in January 2004, Steve Jobs and Carly Fiorina made a deal where HP could slap its name on Apple’s wildly successful product. Nonetheless, HP still managed to botch things. It could not have been otherwise, really, because Steve Jobs totally outsmarted the woman who now claims she can run the United States of America.

I can talk about this with some authority. Not only have I written a book about the iPod, but I interviewed Fiorina face to face when she introduced the HP iPod at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show, and then got Steve Jobs’s side of the story.

Hindsight is 20/20 but many of us saw this deal as a “Huh? WHY!?” kind of move by HP. Many more of us predicted it would be a disaster, but not for Apple.

Good list of some of the top companies and where they stand with compatibility. Obviously, this will continue to change. Personally, I keep my music production machine a version back to ensure all of my music software works.

Google is close to rolling out a tool named “Customer Match” which, it appears, will combine a logged-in Google account with any email address handed by a customer to a retailer to create lists of addresses to target specific users with marketing material.

Creepy bastards.

From the Apple press release:

Apple® today announced that James A. Bell, former chief financial officer and corporate president of The Boeing Company, has been elected to Apple’s board of directors. Bell brings more than four decades of experience in finance, strategic planning and leadership in complex organizations. During his 38-year career at Boeing, he also oversaw Boeing Capital Corporation and Boeing Shared Services, and was interim CEO of The Boeing Company in 2005.


Bell is a member of the board of directors of JP Morgan Chase, Dow Chemical Company, CDW, and a Trustee of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. He has also worked with New Leaders for New Schools to help develop talented teachers and principals, and served on many community-based boards. Bell attended California State University, Los Angeles where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

Impressive resume, interesting choice.

Mikey Campbell, writing for Apple Insider:

It seems rumors that claimed Apple conducted research into an “iRing” wearable product were based in reality, as a new patent application reveals work on a finger-mounted device stuffed with microphones, motion sensors, a haptic feedback system, biometric sensors, cameras and even a small display.

Mac shrinks to phone, phone shrinks to watch, watch shrinks to ring. A natural progression.

Arthur Neslen, writing for The Guardian:

Independent lab tests have found that some Samsung TVs in Europe appear to use less energy during official testing conditions than they do during real-world use, raising questions about whether they are set up to game energy efficiency tests.

The European commission says it will investigate any allegations of cheating the tests and has pledged to tighten energy efficiency regulations to outlaw the use of so-called “defeat devices” in TVs or other consumer products, after several EU states raised similar concerns.

Remind you of anything?

The apparent discrepancy between real-world and test performance of the TVs is reminiscent of the VW scandal that originated in the US last week. The car company has admitted fitting software to 11m diesel vehicles worldwide which meant the cars produced less pollution during testing than real-world driving.


[H/T Robert Davey]

That is one long list.

Brian X. Chen, writing for the New York Times:

In the first test, we recorded the data sizes of the 50 most popular news websites with and without ad blockers enabled. We used those figures to calculate approximate page load times on a 4G mobile network.

In the second test, which was designed to measure battery life, we compiled a custom iPhone app to cycle through dozens of popular websites in an endless loop. We then timed how long it took the battery to completely drain from our phone with and without ads.

Some of the results:

The benefits of ad blockers stood out the most when loading the Boston.com website. With ads, that home page on average measured 19.4 megabytes; with ads removed using Crystal or Purify, it measured four megabytes, and with 1Blocker, it measured 4.5 megabytes. On a 4G network, this translated to the page taking 39 seconds to load with ads and eight seconds to load without ads.

In another example, the home page of The Los Angeles Times measured 5.7 megabytes with ads. After shedding ads, that dropped to 1.6 megabytes with Crystal and 1.9 megabytes with Purify and 1Blocker. On a 4G network, the page took 11 seconds to load with ads and four seconds to load without ads.

Loading times for The New York Times were also faster with ad blocking software. The home page of NYTimes.com measured 3.7 megabytes when loaded with ads and took seven seconds to load; Purify shaved the size down to 2.1 megabytes and cut the loading time to four seconds.

And Chen’s ultimate conclusion:

As for me, the test results spurred me to keep Purify enabled on my iPhone. While I’m browsing, the app lets me easily denote a website whose ads I want to allow to be shown, an action known as “whitelisting.”

That means the websites I enjoy visiting that have slimmer ads — like TheGuardian.com, and, ahem, NYTimes.com — will be whitelisted. But sites saddled with ads that belong in digital fat camp will remain blocked for the sake of my data plan.

Zane Lowe used to work for Ben Cooper and Radio 1 before he left to help create Beats 1 for Apple. Now they’ve gotten together again, on stage at the Radio Festival in London.

Here are a few snippets from Music Week’s transcription of their conversation.

On signing with Apple:

I was at my kitchen table with my wife and my manager. And Apple do contracts really nicely – real attention to detail. I signed it and [laughs] my manager took a photo, it was so funny, I was like [strikes classic new centre forward signing pose]. He said, What shall we do with this? And I was like, Nothing! Don’t let anyone see that. Ever! It was cool, it was a moment.

On music as a core value of Beats 1:

What works in America might not work in Tokyo and might not work in Mexico City.

But we know Tokyo and Mexico City love Beats 1, so we’ve found a language that is common, and I believe that language is music. I loved waking up and listening to a good breakfast show when I was living in London, but every time I hear someone talk to a reality TV star, or talk about what’s in the papers, you’re off message from what I want, which is music. So I put the spotlight entirely on music. I’m bringing it back to music every single time. Because that’s what I know and that’s what Trent Reznor and Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue told me to do: We’re here for music, it’s about music, focus in music, play great music and make as much noise as you possibly can for music.

On measuring success:

When I said to Apple, What is success? Because I come from a ratings system where I’m told I’m either up or down. Is that what we’re gonna do? Are you gonna give it to me every day? They said, No, we have our way of dealing with numbers. Apple don’t share numbers. So I said, How do I find out? They said, Noise. Go out and make as much noise as you can, and that’s what we’ve been doing. You said some rightful things about the job you’re doing at the BBC, so allow me one: we are loud as fuck right now. Maybe our meter isn’t an abacus, maybe our meter is a volume meter.

And yes, we have data, we’re Apple, they probably have some data for me on the percentage of what I’ve said is right or wrong straight after this, but the point is that Beats 1 is there to create noise for music. We work with incredibly exciting DJs and amazing artists. We gave 70% of the station’s real estate to artists and said, You do it. You do it. And by the way, artist-led radio is an opportunity, not an invention.

Lots more to this. Great read. Full of little insights into the birth of Beats 1.

Just one example:

The Pink ghost, known as Pinky, is programmed to try and land on the space 16 pixels (or two tiles in front) of Pac-Man to ambush him. However, due to “overflow error” in the game’s code, if Pac-Man is facing upwards, Pinky will instead attempted to land on the space 4 tiles in front of him and 4 tiles to the left. Interestingly, because Pinky is programmed to always be ahead of Pac-Man, you can usually make her stop chasing you by heading straight for her.

Loved every bit of this.

A bit of Spotlight playing around

Spotlight continues to evolve, both on the Mac and in iOS.

Try your hand at searching for current information about the weather or your favorite sports team. For example, on my Mac, if I type:

What is the weather

I get a nice chart showing local weather both hourly and daily. In iOS 9 Spotlight, if I type:


(just need the first four letters), I’ll get a short summary of the local weather right now. Tap that cell, and it brings up the Weather app which looks very much like the El Capitan Spotlight results.

On the sports side, in El Capitan Spotlight, if I type:


(first five letters of Nationals, my local baseball team), I get the box score from last night. As I type, spotlight offers to fill in the rest of my query, so when I get what I want, I can just stop typing.

On the iOS 9 side, the results are similar, but not identical. Clearly, they use different natural language parsing engines. And both the iOS 9 and El Cap Spotlight parsing engines seem different than that used by Siri.

Spotlight on the Mac has long been able to function as a calculator. But now that calculator functionality is available in iOS 9. Want to give it a try? Bring up spotlight (on the Mac hit command-space, in iOS 9, pull down from the home screen or swipe right from the first home screen), then type an equation or a conversion:

10 pounds


10 pounds in ounces

The results on the Mac are more comprehensive, but good to know the iOS 9 version can do this. Since iOS 9 Spotlight does not use the numeric keyboard, the calculator is a bit of a pain, but the conversion element works well. And you can tap the result to bring up a Google page to take this further.

Something that’s evolved over the years on the Mac is the Spotlight window itself. Now, in El Capitan, you can click in the Spotlight window to drag it around and, of course, click/drag on the bottom or top edge to make the window shorter or taller.

Once you resize/move the Spotlight window, it’ll keep that form. Want to recenter the window? Click and hold on the spotlight magnifying glass icon in the menu bar. An odd little Easter egg, that.

There is much more to Spotlight than these few examples. And not sure how much of this is brand new, either. But I’ve been playing around, got a bit curious, so now you have to suffer.

Have any other Spotlight tips or tricks? Tweet ‘em to me (@davemark) or add them in the comments.

Arnold Frisch, writing for Seeking Alpha [Free reg-wall]:

Toyota put the first Prius vehicles on sale in Japan in 1997. Since then, including all of the Prius varieties, they have sold 5,300,000 vehicles for approximately $115 billion. This does not include the hybrid Camry and the Toyota and Lexus SUVs. But it took them seven years before they were able to break the barrier and sell 126,000 cars in 2004 (for about $2.8 billion).


Tesla delivered their sports car starting in 2008 and continued deliveries until 2012 when they introduced the Model S. There were only 2,500 sports cars delivered (at $100,000+ each) and the Model S volume was at 75,000 in June 2015 (at an average price of about $85,000). Tesla’s total vehicle sales as of June 2015 were around $6.6 billion. However, they have just started to deliver their SUV and low-cost vehicles are scheduled for delivery starting next year. They also have gone into a sideline, selling battery storage systems for solar collectors. I reference a very good review of the latest variant of the Model S.

So, it took seven years after introduction for Toyota to get into the billion-dollar per year club, and it also took Tesla about seven years.


But there is no argument over the fact that neither Toyota nor Tesla made any money at this for at least six or seven years.

Apple committed to about four years of development work involving 1,800 people – probably at a cost approaching $2 billion per year.

The math is certainly not exact, but if indeed Apple is intent on building, shipping, and selling a vehicle in 2019, it could be (adds seven years in his head) 2026 before they sell enough vehicles to cover their yearly costs.

On a side note, if you tap over to the Prius Wikipedia page, scroll about halfway down, you’ll see the year-by-year worldwide Prius sales numbers. This is, obviously, a very small sample size and a different era, but it is interesting to see these two examples to get even the slightest taste of what’s in store for Apple’s rumored vehicle.

September 30, 2015

Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Google Inc (GOOGL.O) have agreed to bury all patent infringement litigation against each other, the companies announced on Wednesday, settling 18 cases in the United States and Germany.


Some very interesting changes in how Windows is installed in Boot Camp on OS X 10.11 “El Capitan”. When you open Boot Camp Assistant on a new Mac that supports Windows 8 or later, you’ll get the new Boot Camp interface.

Good information if you use Boot Camp.

Nobody’s home has perfect acoustics, and we don’t want to adapt our lives around our speakers. Your speakers should sound great, wherever you choose to put them. So, we decided to make them adapt to the environment around you. We call this Trueplay. Sonos speakers already sound fantastic, but Trueplay brings you even closer to how music should sound. With Trueplay tuning, your speaker can analyze the acoustic profile of any room and fine-tune itself. Most importantly, tuning with Trueplay is incredibly easy to do.

This sounds really impressive. I love Sonos products and can’t wait to hear this.

Sometimes I just love Gruber.

A few days later, we got an email from Apple informing us that we violated their terms and conditions—and the offending developer account had been banned. Unfortunately, iFixit’s app was tied to that same account, so Apple pulled the app as well. Their justification was that we had taken “actions that may hinder the performance or intended use of the App Store, B2B Program, or the Program.”

Live and learn.

Well yeah, it’s an unreleased product that’s meant for developers to make apps and test on. Nobody is allowed to post information about it. I have a hard time believing they didn’t see this coming.

Jim and Dan talk about today’s release of Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan!), iOS 9.0.2, Dan’s new iPhone 6s, 3D Touch, the awesomeness of Siri, and a new age of computing.

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