February 20, 2017

Om Malik:

All I want to know from reviews is how it feels in hand, the pictures it makes and what is the actual performance from a daily usage stand point. The sensor size, the sensor type and what kind of processors mean absolutely nothing — what matters is the photos.

The challenge you have with the official reviews is that they don’t really post as many photos with their reviews, mostly because they actually are mediocre photographers and are unable to come up with visuals that can act as testimonials for the quality of the camera.

I wouldn’t go far as to say they don’t matter but I do agree with the overall premise – take the reviews with huge truckloads of salt. The only camera review site I trust implicitly is Digital Photography Review. Their reviews are both technical and creative and contain a wealth of information. But nothing replaces your own experience and word of mouth when it comes to camera reviews.

Weird Al releases rare Beatles cover as a sneak peek at his late 2017 boxed set

Weird Al has a career-spanning boxed set in the works, due for release this November. One track in the set is a never-commercially-released Beatles cover (video embedded below). I’m told that Weird Al recorded this in his garage, sent it to Dr. Demento, but Beatles’ lawyers sent him a cease and desist to prevent him from releasing it. Not sure what’s changed.

If you like Weird Al, this is some excellent work. Enjoy.

GoWatchIt tracks all the major sites (Netflix, Amazon video, HBO Go, Hulu, iTunes, etc.), along with DVD, Blu-ray, in theater, and on demand. Add shows you want to watch to your queue and GoWatchIt will email you when your show or movie is available.

As an example, I wanted to watch The King of Comedy (very obscure Martin Scorsese, Robert Di Nero movie), but it never seemed to hit on cable. Just got an email that it is showing on Starz. DVR set. Would have missed this. Thanks, GoWatchIt.

If you are interested in music or games, this is a fantastic post. Cabel Sasser, founder of Panic, Inc., takes us on a deep dive into the creative process as he starts with a melody noodling around in his brain and, step-by-step, brings it to life as the music for the new iOS game Stagehand.

Watch the videos in order, top to bottom. I absolutely love this.

If you play Pokémon Go, take the time to dig into Rene Ritchie’s post showing all the new stuff and how it works. Excellent job. Very helpful.

Tim Bajarin, writing for Time:

Despite Amazon’s success, Apple has no apparent interest in copying the Echo. After talking with Apple executives, I’ve come away with the impression that they’re more interested in turning Siri into an omnipresent AI assistant across devices, rather than designing a single device specifically to serve as a Siri machine.

Interesting point. The Amazon Echo exists simply to listen for, and fulfill, Alexa requests. Every other Apple device serves many purposes and also serves the ecosystem. More bang for the buck.

Apple’s new iPad Pro campaign

These four spots started running on Friday. As Rene Ritchie points out, these spots have that “I’m a Mac” feel to them.

The difference is that there is no character carry, no one who appears in all the ads. The design and tone is what carries from spot to spot.

See what you think.

February 19, 2017

The Washington Post:

But I’d never been to a dog show before a few days ago, when I went to New York to cover Westminster. Like many people, my main point of reference was the Christopher Guest satire “Best in Show.” So I learned a lot about the show-dog world, not least of which were the names of breeds that I’m sure weren’t in my family’s book, such as Xoloitzcuintli and Portuguese podengo pequeno.

Here are a few other things I learned.

I’ve never been behind the scenes at the Westminster show but have been for other much smaller shows and many of the things mentioned here are common throughout. It’s a fascinating world.

Drive Tribe:

It’s muscle memory, this business of riding a bike. The first tiny touch of counter steer to initiate the turn, feeling rather than seeing the road as it curves in from the left and then dipping a shoulder into my own turn as it starts, shadowing the road’s moves, squeezing in power, feeling it tighten, feeling the grip from the tyre as surely as running the palm of a gloved hand along the tarmac. It’s muscle memory.

Adjusting the bike’s trajectory by moving a shoulder or shifting a hip, I am reconnecting with the business of working as a team, machine and rider, sharing the goal of playing with the road’s curves and straights and dips and stringing them together to form a perfect whole.

Richard Hammond, of “Top Gear” and “The Grand Tour” fame, is not just a car guy. He also loves motorcycles. If you’ve ever wondered why those of us who ride do this incredibly dangerous thing, read this article. The feelings he describes in the beginning of the piece are bang on for many of us, as is the camaraderie you have with random other riders – they may be complete strangers but you have the “brotherhood” that ties you to each other in ways hard to understand or describe.

Den of Geek:

The film itself had no right to be as good as it turned out. Yet even from the start it’s a remarkably confident movie. It begins with everyone dying, no less. Considering Spock’s death being widely publicized before the film, this was a masterstroke. It sets the possible stakes while simultaneously subverting them, introduces the new character of Saavik, and sets up the theme. Kirk then enters, backlit and looking every bit the 18th century swashbuckler, before the lights go up and the artifice is revealed – these are cadets, on a training exercise, and Kirk is looking decidedly middle aged. Middle aged, and lacking a purpose. It was a theme touched upon in The Motion Picture, but here it is again, with gusto.

Khan is arguably the best Star Trek movie. At least, I think of it as being the most enjoyable out of a long list of pretty mediocre movies in the franchise. I won’t ever watch it again because I’m afraid it’s not as good as I remember it to be.

Could you survive a falling elevator?

Sounds like Bugs Bunny lied to us.

February 17, 2017

Mashable:

The cover was shot by portrait photographer Miller Mobley, who has worked for Billboard before and has photographed celebrities like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Tom Hanks, and Ryan Gosling.

As advanced as the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras and Portrait mode are — making it easy for anyone to get “professional-looking” photos — it’s not without limitations, especially for professional work.

I don’t know that I’d call the cover shot “stunning” (it seems fairly mundane to me) but the article is interesting for the discussion with the photographer about the additional challenges shooting with the iPhone creates.

BoingBoing:

This looks like a good collection of public domain novels, in Kindle format. I’ve been wanting to read Sister Carrie again, so I got this. It’s volume 1 of a 2 volume set.

There are some great, classic novels in these volumes. You can find volume 2 at the linked URL.

I’ve used a lot of tuners over the years, but this is one of my favorites. I have one of these that I use with my electric and acoustic guitars.

iPad Pro ad: “No PC viruses”

Is Apple resurrecting, at least in tone, the old “Mac vs PC” ads? They’ve posted a series of new iPad Pro ads you can watch here.

VOX:

To get more insight into the making of Planet Earth II, and the “Snake Island” sequence in particular, I spoke with series executive producer Mike Gunton and director Elizabeth White. The short version? Nature is pretty thrilling (and unforgiving) all on its own, but they’ve honed some techniques to better capture it anyway.

We all saw the amazing clip of the baby iguana being hunted by a terrifying army of snakes. Here’s how they shot it. I can’t wait for the DVD of Planet Earth II. There will be lots of behind the scenes stuff I find so fascinating.

Washington Post:

On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, announced that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean. Where manufacturers now use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”

The former is a safety designation, meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer good. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — a subjective guess of when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor.

That’s what most “use-by” dates indicate now, though studies have shown that many consumers believe they signal whether a product is okay to eat. In fact, it’s totally fine to eat a product even well after its so-called expiration date.

Great to hear there will be more clarity on what the “sell by” dates mean. I’ll throw out less food now.

Reverb:

You can use Alexa through your browser. Amazon’s AVS cloud services are now available to access through Reverb. AVS is Amazon’s cloud service that allows Alexa to be accessed through a web browser on macOS or Windows operating systems. You can talk to Alexa to play music, ask questions, get news and use your installed Echo Skills.

I’ve been playing around this morning with Reverb, seeing how it compares to Siri on the macOS desktop. If you don’t have an Amazon Echo-type product but want to see what all the hype is about, this will give you a taste.

Did you know that Time Machine stores a backup on your local hard drive if it can’t connect to your laptop’s backup drive? Those backups can consume a fair amount of space (say, 100GB or so) over time.

If you use Time Machine, take a few minutes to read this post from Lory Gil. You’ll learn how to disable and re-enable those locally stored Time Machine backups.

And if you are wondering where on your machine those backups are stored, start here. That article is a few years old but, as far as I know, still accurate.

Reuters:

Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal rocking the highest levels of power in South Korea, dealing a fresh blow to the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The special prosecutor’s office accuses Lee of bribing a close friend of President Park Geun-hye to gain government favors related to leadership succession at the conglomerate. It said on Friday it will indict him on charges including bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.

Samsung’s leadership has failed them. Thanking the stars above Apple has Tim.

Android Headlines:

Samsung Electronics filed for a “Bixby Reminder” trademark with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The filing was made on Thursday and seemingly describes one feature of Bixby, the company’s upcoming artificial intelligence (AI) assistant that’s heavily rumored to debut with the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus this spring.

Add Bixby to your list of the major digital assistants you’ll hear people talking with on the street.

Economic Times:

Apple will kick off its India manufacturing plans by initially assembling 3-4 lakh units of its iPhone SE model at the Karnataka plant being set up by contract manufacturer Wistron, as the maker of the iconic iPhones looks to take a deeper bite of a key market amid slowing global smartphone growth.

The Cupertino-based tech giant is likely to go ahead with the Bengaluru assembly plan without waiting for the government’s nod for the list of tax concessions that it had sought along with other demands. The company wants to “experience manufacturing in India”, a person familiar with the company’s plans told ET.

And:

The iPhone SE, launched amidst much fanfare in April 2016, was widely anticipated to be aimed at emerging markets, including India, as it was priced lower than all other iPhone models. But even the lower price tag of Rs 39,000 for a basic model of SE was too much for the mass market.

The handset is currently retailing at less than Rs 30,000 in India and would become cheaper still if produced here.

Makes sense. Start with the SE, get a sense of response, tweak follow-on models aimed to grow that market.

Last October, Google introduced something called the Fact Check tag. The idea is, publishers include the tag in a story for it to be considered for the tag. When the story is posted on Google News, a fact check-approved story will appear with the Fact Check label.

Here’s the original post about the Fact Check tag. And here’s an update from Google on the current state of Fact Check.

This is a great start. But it is far too limited. We need fact checking to spread beyond the Google News bubble. We need a Fact Check standard to spread to every single source of news, across the political spectrum.

When you go food shopping, you know you can check the standardized ingredients label to see how much sodium or fat is in a product. We need a reliable, verifiable label like that for the news. Sites could achieve an “All Fact” label if they achieve a set minimum percentage of fact checked stories.

Apple has an opportunity here. Join with Google to spread the fact check concept to Apple News. And beyond. My two cents? This is incredibly important.

[H/T John Kordyback]

Top five?

  • Apple
  • Amazon
  • Starbucks
  • Berkshire Hathaway
  • Disney

Works for me.

Just a heads up to rocket fans. SpaceX is launching an International Space Station resupply mission Saturday morning at 10:01 EST. You can watch the launch here.

NOVA show about battery technology. David Pogue hosts, very watchable, if a bit corny. Watch online here.

[H/T Steve Nygard]

February 16, 2017

Jalopnik:

Have you ever noticed cars shutting off one of their front lights to activate a blinker? Well, I certainly have, so to find out why I see awkward one-eyed vehicles signaling turns at seemingly every intersection. I decided to dig into it to find out what’s going on.

I’d noticed this a while ago and thought it was odd and a little annoying. Now that I know the reason, it’s just annoying.

The latest issue of Billboard features Camila Cabello on the cover in a stunning photo shot outside a rental home in Beverly Hills — with an iPhone 7 Plus using the new Portrait mode.

That is really remarkable. I love using Portrait Mode on my iPhone 7 Plus—even though I’m not a great photographer, Apple helps give my photos depth and polish that I wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise.

AT&T Inc said on Thursday it would make its unlimited data plan available to all wireless customers who pay a monthly bill, days after rival Verizon Communications Inc announced an unlimited option.

I really dislike the fact that we have to wait for a price war in order to get access to something like an unlimited plan. I don’t trust any wireless company.

Associated Press:

Every Oscar fist-pumped or tearfully cradled by Academy Award winners is first cast, buffed and fussed over at a foundry far from Hollywood.

Workers at the Polich Tallix fine art foundry, about 50 miles north of New York City, began work in late September on the awards to be handed out Feb. 26. Each of the 60 Oscars shipped from the hangar-like production floor is 13½ inches tall with the same distinctive Art Deco features polished to a mirror finish. Each glossy black base lacks only a winner’s nameplate, which is added after the ceremony.

Polich Tallix, which began making the awards last year, tweaked the look of the stylized knight with an eye toward the original statuettes handed out in 1929. The path of these new statues from a small town in upstate New York to center stage in Hollywood might not be the stuff of movies.

I didn’t realize there was a nameplate created for each nominee.