May 21, 2015

We should all be aware of accessibility when making our apps. Apple has posted a few on its “Accessibility Awareness” page on the App Store.

There are a lot of changes in the new version. Two that really stood out to me are the fact AmpliTube for iOS now uses the same amp DSP as AmpliTube 3 Custom Shop for OS X, and the “Cab Room” that allows 3D miking of cabinets with up to two mics. I just downloaded it.

In 2011 and 2012, the NSA and the communications intelligence agencies of its “Five Eyes” allies developed and tested a set of add-ons to their shared Internet surveillance capability that could identify and target communications between mobile devices and popular mobile app stores—including those of Google and Samsung.

Notice two words not mentioned anywhere in this story? “Apple” and “iOS.”

I tested this app and love it. It’s so easy to use on the Apple Watch.

Just speak:

“Five point ninety-nine” gets you 5.99 “One hundred US dollars to euro” gets you 100 USD converted to EUR

Works great for me.

Go to and enter an artist and title. SongBPM will search its database and return all songs that match, along with the beats per minute (BPM) for each song.

As an example, if you type Nirvana and Smells Like, you’ll get several versions of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Steve Jobs and time travel

Yesterday, I posted this video, a collection of photos and audio interviews of Apple’s early days. A reader alerted me to an interesting picture of a young Steve Jobs at about 1:50 into the video.

Here’s a still from the video. Notice anything interesting (the red arrow is mine)? Passing resemblance? A possible source of inspiration? Or was it simply time travel?


From the Spotify blog:

Every week millions of you lace up and hit the road to Spotify. Music is the perfect running companion but sometimes you need even more motivation to push on. That’s why Spotify Running is all about helping you go the extra mile.We’ve combined the best music on the planet – recommendations based on your listening history, multiple-genre playlists and original running compositions written by some of the world’s foremost DJs and composers – all tuned to your tempo and seamlessly transitioned to ensure you’ll never miss a beat. Start running and Spotify will detect your tempo, matching the perfect music in time to your step – making you a harder, better, faster, stronger runner.

This is Spotify’s latest move to distinguish itself from streaming competition from Apple, Pandora, Jay-Z’s Tidal, and the like.

The promo video is below. Pretty good idea.

I wonder if Spotify adjusts the feed as you speed up or slow down. I get the sense from the video that you set it up as you get started. If the tempo of the music is not reactive, not sure how useful this will be. Hills slow you down, terrain is inconsistent.

Seems to me, this is a perfect problem for the Apple Watch, assuming the Apple Watch is accurate enough.

From Yahoo TV:

After more than 6,000 broadcasts and 33 years in late night television, David Lettermantook the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater for the final time on Wednesday.

The venue, which has been Letterman’s home since 1993 when CBS bought it for $4.5 million, was packed with stars, many of whom have been regular guests on the show, including Chris Rock, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld.

The weeks leading up to his departure have included a parade of the famous who have made the trip to midtown for a final session with Letterman: Tom Hanks, George Clooney,President Obama, Tom Waits, Oprah Winfrey, Billy Crystal, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Al Pacino, John Travolta, Julia Roberts (who astutely observed: “I think stupid people annoy you”) and Bill Murray, who on the penultimate show popped out of a cake and proceeded to give Letterman a bear hug covering him with frosting.

And from this New York Times appreciation piece, the definitive word about his supposed relationship with Julia Roberts:

Ms. Roberts’s and Mr. Letterman’s rapport over the years — she appeared 26 times — became legendary: They would flirt. They would kiss. They would collapse in laughter. Except for a few appearances here and there, she said, she almost never went on another late-night talk show.

Like Mr. Stern, she pointed to Mr. Letterman’s originality and his smart brand of humor as distinguishing characteristics of his show.

“If you can’t keep up with his intellect, you have to keep up with his wit and/or his timing,” she said. “I kept up with his tempo. It’s like, ‘He is going to go this way, and now we’re going to go that way.’ I just try to keep up with him because you never know what he’s going to say or what he’s going to do.”

Despite the close bond she developed with Mr. Letterman on the air, Ms. Roberts said she had never once seen him away from his studios. Other than an occasional phone call or a brief chat during commercial breaks, the whole of their relationship has played out on television.

We’ll miss you, Dave.

May 20, 2015

The Wall Street Journal:

Phone cameras have made photography everyone’s hobby. But even owners of the fanciest smartphones would recognize the many genres of disappointing phone-ography: The blurry runaway toddler. The lifeless landscape. The grainy candlelit dinner. The ghoulish flash portrait.

We need to save personal tech’s most endangered species, the stand-alone camera.

There’s no doubt that camera phones in general and the iPhone in particular are really good cameras – for phones. And while we’ve all seen or taken great shots with our iPhones, it’s definitely a “jack of all trades, master of none”.

A good camera provides a wider range of possibilities – from zoom to control over depth of field to capturing low light and a higher dynamic range. If you’re not satisfied with the shots coming out of your iPhone, I’d encourage you to learn more about photography in general by taking a class or reading books and web sites on it but don’t neglect the thing that actually takes the shot – the camera itself.

As an example, over the weekend, I went to a local track to take pics of one of my favourite subjects – motorcycles. Of the 15 shots, only two would have been possible with the iPhone.

Smartwatch maker Pebble seems to be in some trouble. According to sources close to the company, the company is having trouble maintaining its growth and has turned to a Silicon Valley bank for a $5 million loan and $5 million line of credit. Valley VCs have been turning down the company’s requests for new capital.

You can see why VCs would not want to take on Apple.


As it turns 40 this year, ILM can claim to have played a defining role making effects for 317 movies. But that’s only part of the story: Pixar began, essentially, as an ILM internal investigation. Photoshop was invented, in part, by an ILM employee tinkering with programming in his time away from work. Billions of lines of code have been formulated there. Along the way ILM has put tentacles into pirate beards, turned a man into mercury, and dominated box office charts with computer-generated dinosaurs and superheroes.

What defines ILM, however, isn’t a signature look, feel, or tone—those change project by project. Rather, it’s the indefatigable spirit of innovation that each of the 43 subjects interviewed for this oral history mentioned time and again. It is the Force that sustains the place.

I can’t think of another person, organization, studio or company that has had a hand in as many of the movies I love as ILM. They have been an integral part of my movie enjoying experience.

This is an amazing video, a collection of audio interviews and still photos, beautifully edited together to capture the early days of Apple. You’ll hear lots of Steve and Woz, and some excellent anecdotes.

The best moment for me was the anecdote (that starts off the video) from Paul Terrell about the phone call he got asking him to commit to buying that first order of Apple I computers from the electronics supplier Steve and Woz were pressing for 30 day term credit. If that deal hadn’t happened, Apple might never have gotten off the ground.

Like a good scam story? How about one about scamming a quiz show? This one is a few years old, but I just ran into it today, thought it was good enough to share. Enjoy.

When he was a teenager, Les Baugh was racing with his brother and ran into some live power lines, ultimately losing his arms. Much later in life, he has been given the chance to try out some new, bionic limbs, arms and hands that he can control with his thoughts.

This is incredible progress. Gives a sense of reality to the pursuit of a head transplant, a big step in the quest for immortality.

Neil Cybart, writing for Above Avalon:

We are quickly approaching a pivotal moment in Apple’s history as technology and mobile are on a collision course with the automobile. While most would conclude Elon Musk’s Tesla and a few of the strongest automakers are the leading contenders of this new automobile era, Apple and Uber are the two companies best positioned to rule the new era of the automobile.

This is a long read, but fascinating all the way through. At the heart of this discussion is the question of what drives (excuse the pun) today’s (and tomorrow’s) automobile purchase.

On one hand, people want simple utility, a safe way to get from point A to point B. Uber delivers this at a reasonable cost. If you live in an urban or suburban area, this model works well. Though some people care about arriving in style, most people just need a ride and are OK getting there in a compact car, as opposed to a black SUV. This utilitarian outlook is especially strong in harder economic times, when tighter pursestrings push luxury further into the background.

On the other hand, there’s the quest for personalization:

Having a car be able to adapt to whoever is sitting in it, which makes more sense in a world where car ownership is on the decline, will be one of the most revolutionary developments the automobile has ever experienced. We are used to a certain level of customization in automobiles such as different seat positions, but personalization will add much more in the way of software to customization to produce an entirely new experience. A family with four kids and luggage has different needs than a commuter headed to work. Having a car that can adapt to both of these users in terms of seating, amenities, and not to mention technological needs and luxuries will be much more important than having a car that has fast acceleration or longer driving range.

And few companies can deliver as elegant and personalized an experience as can Apple.

There’s lots more to the article (notes on history, self-driving cars, Tesla, CarPlay). A terrific read.

Mark Gurman, writing for 9to5mac:

During his trip last week across China, Apple CEO Tim Cook held a meeting at Apple’s China headquarters with several employees in attendance, according to sources with knowledge of the briefing. Cook reportedly reiterated several recent China-focused announcements, including the new forest-focused environmental initiatives and improvements for education, but he also mentioned some new tidbits regarding the upcoming retail launch for the Apple Watch and the rollout of Apple Pay for China…

Regarding the Apple Watch, Cook began by telling the employees that “the Watch could not be going better, we’re working really hard on making more.” Cook joked that Apple wishes it had more operations staff and engineers to make the launch go even smoother, according to the sources. Notably, Cook promised that Apple Stores will begin carrying Apple Watch stock “by June.” This indicates that comments from Angela Ahrendts in April are still on track. For the first time, Cook also confirmed that the upcoming June in-store launch will include the company’s stores in China.

This is pretty big news. What do you do if you’ve got a Apple Watch on order and a shipping date in late June? Me, I’d leave it in the cart, then plan a trip to my local Apple Store in a few weeks, see if you can’t get that watch off the shelves then, once watch is in hand (on wrist?), cancel the online order.

This situation is going to create a little inventory bubble for Apple. But no matter, I suspect Apple will sell every watch they can make.

May 19, 2015

Banjo cover of ‘The Final Countdown’

Pretty amazing.

This addresses a few of the things I’ve had trouble with.

Great article, written by EVH.

You can now subscribe to the new podcast I do with Merlin Mann on iTunes.

Bird laughs like super villain

Take 30 seconds and have a good laugh.

In a letter to be sent Tuesday and obtained by The Washington Post, a coalition of tech firms, security experts and others appeal to the White House to protect privacy rights as it considers how to address law enforcement’s need to access data that is increasingly encrypted.

Added support for the Apple Watch – now you can use PCalc without taking your phone out your pocket! Includes a full calculator app, a tip calculator, and a glance to see the result of your most recent calculations.

It’s great to see PCalc on the watch.

Samsung has just released a public beta of its new feature called Samsung Flow, which is essentially a ripoff of Apple’s Continuity – introduced last year. This new feature will allow users to start a task on one device, and be able to pick it up and continue from another.

Can this company can up with nothing original? I’m all for competition, but Jesus, this continuous copying is getting tiresome.

Elvis: Burning Love

Elvis is just a badass.

British Pathé:

Follow us through the 20th Century and dive into the good and the bad times of the past. Feel free to explore more than 80,000 videos of filmed history and maybe you’ll find stuff no one else has ever seen.

Do not go to this site if you want to get any work done today. Thanks to my friend Antonio Rosario for the huge time suck.

Apple intros new MacBook Pro, lower-priced iMac with 5K display

Everyone has been focused on the new gadgets coming out of Cupertino, but Apple’s Mac team has been killing it lately. First the new MacBook, and now updated MacBook Pro and lower-priced iMac with a 5K display.

The new MacBook Pro features the Force Touch trackpad first introduced on the MacBook. The trackpad has built-in force sensors and a Taptic Engine that delivers haptic feedback. I’ve been using this on the MacBook since it was released and I love the interaction and feedback you get from it.

Apple didn’t just add the Force Touch trackpad. According to Apple, it also features up to 2.5 times faster flash storage than the previous generation, with throughput up to 2GBps, and offers an additional hour of battery life, with up to 9 hours of wireless web browsing and up to 9 hours of iTunes movie playback. Graphics on the computer are up to 80 percent faster performance, as well.

This is the new iMac:

With a resolution of 5120 x 2880, the new $1,999 iMac with Retina 5K display has 67 percent more pixels than a 4K display, and features a 3.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost Speeds up to 3.7 GHz and AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics. The new iMac also includes 8GB of memory and 1TB of storage, as well as four USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt 2 ports that deliver up to 20Gbps each, twice the bandwidth of the previous generation. The top-end iMac with Retina 5K display now starts at $2,299 and features a 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.9 GHz, AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics and a 1TB Fusion Drive.

I couldn’t have said it any better than that. The only thing I can add is: I want one!

The new MacBook Pro is available today and starts at $1,999. The new iMac is also available today starting at $1,999.


I had the good fortune to be around for the dawn of some of the most significant technological developments in human history: the arrival of personal computers, the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the current dominance of social media and mobile devices. These and other technological advances continue to alter our world at an ever accelerating pace. One day Apple is on the verge of bankruptcy. The next day (or so it sometimes seems), it is the largest most profitable company on earth. Who’d have guessed?

There are a lot of people I wish would retire from writing about Apple – Ted Landau is not one of those people. Many of us owe a great debt of thanks to Ted for all of his many years of service to the Mac Community. For me personally, I was a fan of his writing at MacFixIt and he was always extraordinary helpful whenever I emailed him. As a podcaster, I interviewed him several times and, as a speaker at Macworld Expos, I was lucky enough to sit and chat with him on many occasions. Quiet, soft-spoken, gracious, kind, knowledgeable, Ted is all that and more. We wish him all the best in his retirement!

Jason Scott, of the Internet Archive, wants your AOL CDs.

I think the big question back is why wouldn’t I try to image and archive all these CD-ROMs that came out of America Online? After all, for some time, half of all CDs manufactured in the world had an AOL logo on them. Like it or not, folks – those things are payloads of history.

You see, there wasn’t “a” AOL CD that went out. There were so many variations, containing so many different add-ons and wrap-ins, that they became time capsules in themselves. So yeah. I want them.

For real. He gives his mailing address and everything.

File this one under history.

Kirk McElhearn digs in to Spotlight queries on the Mac, shows you some excellent tips that will help you find that elusive file. This goes well beyond the basics. Read. Learn.