October 20, 2014

BIAS Desktop is the world’s most accurate, thorough and versatile guitar-amp modeler and designer. Its advanced amp-modeling engine captures the warmth and feel of real tube amps in every aspect, component by component. To start, the plug-in includes 36 authentic models of the most sought-after vintage and modern amps in rock ‘n’ roll history.

This alone is worth it—BIAS is my favorite amp modeling software for iOS, but then they added this to the Mac version:

Amp Matching utilizes a collection of underlying technologies to analyze and compare your currently selected BIAS amp model and the sound of a target tube amplifier, the corresponding cabinet and the microphone in front of it. It then executes the tonal compensation and enhancement needed to make your amp model accurately match the target tube amplifier.

Holy shit!

“I’m sorry.”

The Washington Post’s privacy story on Apple and how they got it wrong

The Washington Post ran a sensationalistic story this morning that claimed Apple would have user’s location, unique identifying codes and search terms when using Spotlight in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.

The function is part of Spotlight search, which was updated with last week’s launch of new Mac computers and Apple’s latest operating system, Yosemite OS X, which also is available for download to owners of older machines. Once Yosemite is installed, users searching for files – even on their own hard drives — have their locations, unique identifying codes and search terms automatically sent to the company, keystroke by keystroke. The same is true for devices using Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.

There’s only one problem with the story—it’s not true.

On iOS 8, here’s what Apple actually gets (PDF document):

To make suggestions more relevant to users, Spotlight Suggestions includes user context and search feedback with search query requests sent to Apple.

Context sent with search requests provides Apple with: i) the device’s approximate location; ii) the device type (e.g., Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod); iii) the client app, which is either Spotlight or Safari; iv) the device’s default language and region settings; v) the three most recently used apps on the device; and vi) an anonymous session ID. All communication with the server is encrypted via HTTPS.

To help protect user privacy, Spotlight Suggestions never sends exact location, instead blurring the location on the client before sending. The level of blurring is based on estimated population density at the device’s location; for instance, more blurring is used in a rural location versus less blurring in a city center where users will typically be closer together. Further, users can disable the sending of all location information to Apple in Settings, by turning off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions. If Location Services is disabled, then Apple may use the client’s IP address to infer an approximate location.

The anonymous session ID allows Apple to analyze patterns between queries conducted in a 15-minute period. For instance, if users frequently search for “Café phone number” shortly after searching for “Café,” Apple may learn to make the phone number more available in results. Unlike most search engines, however, Apple’s search service does not use a persistent personal identifier across a user’s search history to tie queries to a user or device; instead, Apple devices use a temporary anonymous session ID for at most a 15-minute period before discarding that ID.

Apple has posted its privacy policies on its Web site, so you can see exactly how they feel about it any time you want.

The fact is, Apple doesn’t collect data about its customers like other companies do, like say, Google. Apple sells products, not advertisements or customer data. By anonymizing the data it receives, Apple is able to make the operating system work better for you, while maintaining your privacy.

David Smith:

Since getting my iPhone 6 a few weeks ago I’ve been continuously trying to optimize the configuration of my home screen. The larger screen means that I now have an extra row of icons to fit onto the screen, but the physical size of device means that I can’t actually comfortably reach them.

Since you can’t arbitrarily place icons on your home screen this means the situation is actually worse. I now have to fill in the top row of icons with ‘stuff’ just so that I can easily reach my main icons without stretching.

I poked around at finding a better way and this was my solution. No weird hacks or jailbreak required.

An easy to do “hack” for those who have an issue with getting to the top row of icons on your iPhone 6 Plus.


OS X Yosemite introduces a beautiful new design, useful new connections between your Mac and iOS devices, and amazing new features for the apps you use most.

Lots of things to dig in to and discover if you have a Mac compatible with the required features.


Before you go blowing your entire paycheck on everything from big handbags to Big Macs, there are a few things to keep in mind about the platform. Read on to learn more about how Apple Pay works, how to get your iPhone ready for it, and most importantly, where you can go test it out yourself.

If you are lucky enough to have an new iPhone and live in the US, you can now buy stuff as if you lived in the future.

The text of this video has been available for a while but it’s still interesting to watch the video.


Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

More profit, more revenue, more sales. So – DOOMED!

iOS 8.1 available for download

You can go to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device to download it now.

Trunk Monkey

I laughed my balls off watching this.

Good link to save, just in case you need to do a clean install, rather than simply upgrading through the App Store.

Charles Arthur, writing for The Guardian, makes the case that Apple’s new iPad release is much more than a speed bump release. Rather, the addition of Touch ID to the iPad line is a huge milestone marker and a critical element in Apple’s Apple Pay rollout and pursuit of acceptance/adoption in the business sector.

The TouchID addition is important for people who use iPads in businesses, especially the giant “enterprises” where thousands of devices might be deployed. When I mentioned on Twitter that TouchID looked useful on the new iPads, the responses came thick and fast from people who don’t want to have to type their long IT department-mandated passwords into a screen, but would rather unlock them with the touch of a finger.

“TouchID [is] very important in enterprise for mobile workforces, particularly in customer-service scenarios,” responded Tim Edwards of Dootrix, an enterprise software development consultancy. Long passphrases are the enemy of quick interaction with a customer, he explained: “Fumbling around with a strong passcode doesn’t cut it for a quick customer interaction, especially in travel.”

As to Apple Pay:

Having already signed up a number of banks and merchants for its announcement on 9 September, Tim Cook said on Thursday that another 500 banks have come forward to get involved in Apple Pay, as well as a number of merchants (including Starbucks, which has had its own payment system going for some time).

“We believe ApplePay is going to change things profoundly,” Tim Cook said. The advantage that Apple has is that ApplePay will have a really big merchant ready to use it straight away: all of Apple’s stores, which number more than 250 in the US. Given that Apple has surely already sold at least 2m new iPhones in the US (and perhaps more like 5m), it’s highly likely that the value and volume of NFC transactions through Apple’s Stores in the US in the next two months will exceed that across the US in the previous ten months of this year.


One can argue that there aren’t many NFC-capable tills in the US, which is largely still stuck in the card-swiping dark ages; chip-and-pin, as used in the UK and the rest of Europe, isn’t yet mandatory.

But a series of terrible hacks which have given millions of credit card details to hackers because companies stored them following transactions means that the US banks have finally had enough. They are making chip-and-pin (also known as EMV) mandatory: by October 2015 any business that doesn’t have EMV implemented will have to bear the brunt of fraud, rather than being able to pass it to the banks, as they can now.

That means tills are being updated, and NFC payment capability is an inexpensive “nice to have”. Apple executives have indicated to me that they think that their timing on this is just right – and in business, it’s often timing that matter more than just technology.

Great read.

As detailed earlier today, Apple Pay is the biggest feature in today’s release of iOS 8.1. Along with Apple Pay and a variety of bug fixes, here are three more things you’ll see in iOS 8.1:

Instant Hotspot:

Instant Hotspot is another facet of Continuity that will be enabled with iOS 8.1. This feature lets a Mac remotely activate the Personal Hotspot capabilities of an iPhone when the two devices are near each other. The Mac can automatically detect an iPhone with Hotspot and users can connect to a Hotspot via the Mac’s Wi-Fi menu without needing to remove the iPhone from their pocket.

iCloud Photo Library:

iCloud Photo Library is designed to store all of a user’s photos and videos, making them accessible on all of their iOS devices. iCloud Photo Library is tied to a user’s iCloud account, using the storage space of their iCloud plans. With iCloud Photo Library, photos are kept in the cloud with a smaller version available on iOS devices, taking up less storage space. iCloud Photo Library will also tie in to the upcoming Photos app for the Mac, but until that is available, iCloud Photo Library will only be available on iOS devices.

And my absolute favorite, SMS Relay:

With SMS relay, both Macs (running Yosemite) and iOS devices like iPads are able to receive SMS messages that have been routed through a user’s iPhone. Currently, while iPads and Macs can receive iMessages, SMS messages are limited to iPhones. When SMS relay is functional, an SMS message that has been received will be forwarded to iPads and Macs, and users will be able to answer all of their messages on any device. It’s also possible to start SMS-based conversations directly on a Mac or iPad.

I do the vast majority of my writing on my Mac and I love the fact that I can respond to iMessages on my Mac. I can type faster on my Mac and, if my current workflow is on my Mac, I can copy and paste links and other content into a message. When I get an SMS message, I have to pull out my phone, my typing is slower, and I don’t have access to the data in my workflow. With SMS Relay, I’ll have seamless access to SMS. Fantastic.

IBM was once (not so long ago) one of the largest computer chip manufacturers in the world. Before Apple made the move to Intel chips, IBM was part of the alliance (along with Apple and Motorola) that produced the biggest competitor to Intel’s x86 architecture, the PowerPC.

Amazing to me that IBM’s chip business has fallen so far. They can’t just shut it down, though, as they are still very dependent on their self-produced Power chips. The deal gives IBM access to the chips for 10 more years, but the buyers get the engineering talent.

On today’s release of Apple Pay

At last week’s event, Apple announced that iOS 8.1 would be released today. The iOS 8.1 feature with the biggest potential impact is, no doubt, Apple Pay. From Apple’s official Apple Pay page:

Now paying in stores happens in one natural motion — there’s no need to open an app or even wake your display thanks to the innovative Near Field Communication antenna in iPhone 6. To pay, just hold your iPhone near the contactless reader with your finger on Touch ID. You don’t even have to look at the screen to know your payment information was successfully sent. A subtle vibration and beep let you know.

If you own an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you are good to go. If you own an iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, or iPad mini 3, you can use Apple Pay (via Touch ID) to pay within apps.

UPDATE: A number of people have said that the iPhone 5s should be a good to go device for app purchases. If you scroll to the bottom of the Apple Pay page, you’ll see a chart that shows iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s as being compatible with Apple Watch, but not compatible with in-app pay. The issue is the lack of the NFC chip and secure element.

And, of course, once the Apple Watch is released, you’ll be able to use your watch (combined with your Touch ID enabled phone) to pay:

You can pay with Apple Watch — just double‑click the button next to the Digital Crown and hold the face of your Apple Watch near the contactless reader. A gentle pulse and beep confirm that your payment information was sent.

If you haven’t read this already, this article talks you through the mechanics and safety of Apple Pay.

Apple Pay will be limited out of the gate, limited by hardware (as detailed above), and limited by merchant adoption. Best to think of this as the start of a new era. Apple has hit the ground running, with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express signed up, along with a good number of bank card providers. If your card participates in Apple Pay (you likely got an email from them if they do), your first step will be to add that card to your Passbook app.

According to Apple, there are more than 220,000 stores that have the contactless NFC readers in place and are set up to take Apple Pay today. I wonder if today’s iOS Apple Pay release will spur a new round of iPhone 6 purchases. I also wonder if McDonalds is going to see an unusual run of business today from people testing their new Apple Pay-enabled phones.

October 19, 2014

Yesterday, I was digging through an old pile of papers, when I came across some old Apple Newton marketing material. One of the items was a large format, two sided poster pre-announcing the Newton. Really brought back some memories. Back in 1993 (I think), I spent a week at Apple in what was called a “tech kitchen”, learning the ins and outs of NewtonScript. Part of the swag I got was the poster.

There’s no really easy way to bring the poster to life on-line, and I have not yet found this particular poster on any web site. But in my wanderings, I did come across this page, an incredibly detailed collection of Apple ads.

Oh, and if I do figure out a nice way of bringing that Newton poster on line, I’ll be sure to link to it. The best suggestion at the moment is to take a picture of it. Worst case, I’ll do that, though I’d really like to find a big scanner to really do it justice.

Follow the link for a fantastic look at some of the technology behind Big Hero Six. For example, from about two minutes in:

One of the things that our boss, John Lassiter, encourages us to do is to try to find something that people have never seen before. So if you’re making a move with a robot, he’ll say, “Look at all the famous pop culture robots. Look at WALL-E, look at C-3PO, R2-D2, the Terminator, the whole list, and then come up with something that occupies its own air space.”


Daniel Eran Dilger, writing for AppleInsider:

While still operating with full security measures in place—comically highlighted in assurances voiced by Stephen Colbert during the keynote to “triple down” on security—Apple is now working to share legitimate things for people to talk about rather than trying maintain an awkward silence between its product introductions.

The move follows a similar step by the company earlier this summer to invite roughly a dozen outside observers to experience WWDC, the company’s confab for developers that has previously been strictly limited to partners under Non-Disclosure Agreements.

Apple also opened up its WWDC session videos and actually encouraged its developers—and members of the media—to talk about the new technologies it was introducing, a marked departure from the days when even registered developers were advised not to say anything about anything, even to other developers.

The result has been nothing short of spectacular. Even people who don’t know C# from Shinola know about Swift, the new language Apple introduced at WWDC. APIs and initiatives from Metal to CarPlay and HomeKit to HealthKit are now familiar terms even to many non-technical people, despite being just a few months out of the gate.

Thoughtful read, resonates with me. The old policy caused a tremendous amount of stress for developers, hamstrung in their attempts to crowdsource solutions to bugs in beta releases of iOS and the iOS SDK, or just to figure out how to make the newest kit work properly.

On a more personal note, trying to write a book about upcoming revs of the SDK was fraught with communication roadblocks. As an example, when Jeff LaMarche and I were working on our very first iPhone development book, the first rev of the iPhone SDK had not yet been publicly released. Because everything was behind an NDA, there was lots we could not talk about, including the very important steps required to connect your code to an actual device (instead of running it in the simulator). All the details were hidden behind the official developer portal. This was terribly useful information, not particularly well documented (at least back then), and exactly the sort of thing that a how-to book should be laying out in detail. Which we were prevented from doing.

This is just one tiny example of the frustration of Apple’s rigid tight-lipped former policy. I love the new approach. One highlight for me was the incredibly humanistic way that Apple acknowledged the accidental release of information about the new iPads before Thursday’s keynote. Bringing Stephen Colbert on board as the Supreme Commander of Secrecy was genius. That move added to the brand, added to the likability of Apple as a company.

October 18, 2014

If you are at all a Bill Murray fan, this is a real treat. An hour and thirteen minutes of Bill being Bill. Delicious.

Judith Newman, writing about an autistic boy named Gus and his BFF, Siri:

Gus had never noticed Siri before, but when he discovered there was someone who would not just find information on his various obsessions (trains, planes, buses, escalators and, of course, anything related to weather) but actually semi-discuss these subjects tirelessly, he was hooked. And I was grateful. Now, when my head was about to explode if I had to have another conversation about the chance of tornadoes in Kansas City, Mo., I could reply brightly: “Hey! Why don’t you ask Siri?”

It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.

A lovely story.

Handoff is a new feature that lets you edit a document on one device, then continue editing on another device. Sarah Guarino does a nice job walking through the requirements and setup, then takes Handoff through its paces.

October 17, 2014

Kevin Harwood:

For Apple Pay, Apple has worked with the payment processing networks to create end-to-end security for the user leveraging the EMVCo specification, completely removing the actual credit card number from any part of the payment process and instead generating one time payment tokens that are useless after they are processed. Simply put, the Target and Home Depot breaches would not have even been possible with Apple Pay. Tom Noyes, a former credit card executive, goes so far as saying that Apple Pay is “… the most secure payments scheme on the planet.” Now that’s secure.

Apple will deliver convenience and security—the best of both worlds.

Ars Technica:

There are still good reasons to want an old, reliable USB stick. For instance, if you find yourself doing multiple installs, a USB drive may be faster than multiple downloads (especially if you use a USB 3.0 drive). Or maybe you need a recovery disk for older Macs that don’t support the Internet Recovery feature. Whatever the reason, you’re in luck, because it’s not hard to make one.

I always prefer to have at least one “offline” copy of the latest OS X version.

John’s OS X reviews are legendary and for good reason—this one is 25 pages.

Federico Viticci always does a great job with these articles.

Tech Republic:

A mere 35 years ago, Shenzhen was little more than a fishing village clinging to the coast, peering enviously at wealthy Hong Kong across the water. But then it was chosen to become the first of China’s special economic zones under Deng Xiaoping — an area where foreign investment and entrepreneurialism was encouraged.

Since then it has rapidly grown into a massive metropolis — one of the largest cities on the planet — and along the way it has also become the manufacturing heart of the global tech industry. If Silicon Valley is the world’s software epicentre, then Shenzhen is home of hardware.

I’ve got friends who regularly go to Shenzhen for business and they marvel at the scale and speed the city operates on.


Apple’s new encryption has prompted a breathtaking and erroneous scare campaign led by Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. In a speech at the Brookings Institute this week, Comey went so far as to claim that Apple’s new system risks creating an environment in which the United States is “no longer a country governed by the rule of law.”

This is absurd. The only actions that have undermined the rule of law are the government’s deceptive and secret mass surveillance programs.

The FBI has been beating this drum for quite a while now. Good to see so much pushback on it. The bottom line is, if we trusted our governments to do what was right, legal and in our best interests, we’d have less of a problem. But various governments have proven they are, at the very least, “unreliable” when it comes to our personal data.

Apple is serious about Swift. This consumer facing page appeared on Apple’s site yesterday. The Swift push has begun. [via iOS Dev Weekly]

Apple’s upcoming FY14 fourth quarter results conference call

Interested in listening in as Apple reports their fourth quarter results? All the details are here.

The live webcast begins Monday at 2p PDT (5p EDT) and is broadcast here. The call will be rebroadcast starting at 5p PDT (8p EDT) if you miss the live feed.

Making phone calls using Yosemite

One of the many new features you get for free with Yosemite is the ability to make and answer phone calls from your Mac. This assumes, of course, you’ve got an iPhone running iOS 8. I believe the connectivity between your phone and your Mac is established when FaceTime on both devices is tied to the same Apple ID.

To check this on your Mac, launch FaceTime and check Preferences from the FaceTime menu. On your phone, check Settings > FaceTime. Chances are good that this will just work out of the box, but good to know where to go if things are not already wired together.

Once your phone and Mac FaceTimes are on the same Apple ID, you are good to go. When your phone rings, OS X will launch FaceTime and a small window will appear, notifying you of an incoming call. You can answer the call, decline the call, or choose from a list of options including the ability to send an SMS to the caller.

If you miss the call, the incoming call window will stay up. Click on it and you’ll return the call.

If you answer the call, you’ll see a window like this one:

Incoming call

The wave of lines in the middle of the window react to your voice and do a good job giving you a sense of the relative call volume.

To learn more about making phone calls and Yosemite/iOS 8 continuity, check out Apple’s official continuity page.