March 19, 2017

Bloomberg:

But none of these (Uber) scandals has the potential financial impact of the one Uber has said the least about: a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc.—the parent of Google and Google’s self-driving car division, now called Waymo—over driverless cars. Waymo says Uber is in possession of, and is basing the future of its business on, technology that was stolen by a former employee.

There’s no doubt that various versions of “autonomous cars” are the future. But, just like the cars we drive from dozens of different manufacturers today, I don’t think that future belongs to just one company.

New York Times:

It is the unofficial soundtrack of basketball, a noise consistently heard but rarely considered — rubber-soled shoes squeaking on the hardwood.

Squeaks are the background rhythm to the game. But that sound is also one of the enduring mysteries of sports, and presents a question that gets scientists talking: Why do basketball shoes squeak?

To understand, it may help to consider violins and the California spiny lobster.

The facetious answer to the headline, “Because of the sneakers”, belies the very interesting science behind it. I love the sound. It’s the sound of my childhood.

Fast Company:

Garry James, 60, is perched on the edge of his hospital bed, temporarily unhooked from monitors that track his vital signs. It’s his third week waiting for a heart transplant, a nerve-wracking process that can stretch out months or even years, but he greets me with a wide smile.

These days, James uses the iPad to message his nurses, order magazines, make notes, browse medication side effects, reserve lodging for his family when they visit from Las Vegas, and review his medical record. The device has helped him feel more in control of his own care. “I want to have an intelligent conversation with my doctor,” James says. “Just enough to be guided on the right path.”

An iPad might not seem revolutionary in the internet age, but it’s actually a big step forward for patients to have digital health information at their fingertips.

Apple has made overtures into the health care market but I don’t think we are even close to seeing what their complete plans are yet.

NBC Bay Area:

Ron Powers spends a few days and nights every week doing strangers’ laundry. For free. And he couldn’t be happier about it.

Driving the streets of Santa Cruz in a van he outfitted with two washers and dryers, the Scotts Valley resident visits homeless shelters and encampments, offering to help keep what few clothes they have clean. The service he offers, Powers said, is not only a chance to do some good but make a connection.

“It’s one thing to wash someone’s clothes, even to feed them and help them, but it’s another to feed the soul,” he said.

What a kind and generous thing to do.

March 18, 2017

Bottlenose dolphins, Marlborough Sounds

Damian Christie captured video of these frolicking bottlenose dolphins chasing his boat through the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand.

I’ve seen dolphins do this off the bow and stern of a Canadian Navy warship when I was younger and it was an amazing thing to watch. They actually seemed to be enjoying pacing the ship and playing in the wake.

ABC News Australia:

After collecting dust in high-security vaults for more than 65 years, hundreds of reels of film showing Cold War nuclear bomb tests have been declassified by the United States.

From 1945 to 1962, the United States detonated more than 210 nuclear bombs, with multiple cameras capturing each explosion at around 2,400 frames per second. For decades, about 10,000 of these films have been locked away, sitting idle, scattered across the US in high-security vaults. Until now.

A team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has worked for the last five years on finding, declassifying and preserving the films’ content before it was lost forever.

These videos are simultaneously fascinating, beautiful, and terrifying.

Ars Technica UK:

Google has developed and open-sourced a new JPEG algorithm that reduces file size by about 35 percent—or alternatively, image quality can be significantly improved while keeping file size constant. Importantly, and unlike some of its other efforts in image compression (WebP, WebM), Google’s new JPEGs are completely compatible with existing browsers, devices, photo editing apps, and the JPEG standard.

Looks good so far. As a photographer, I’m always fighting the battle between file size and image quality. Anything that can help is a win.

Backchannel:

November 5, 2013, a rocket launched toward Mars. It was India’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan, and a terrific gamble. Only 40 percent of missions sent to Mars by major space organizations — NASA, Russia’s, Japan’s, or China’s — had ever been a success. No space organization had entered Mars’s orbit on its first attempt. What’s more, India’s space organization, ISRO, had very little funding: while NASA’s Mars probe, Maven, cost $651 million, the budget for this mission was $74 million. In comparison, the budget for the movie “The Martian” was $108 million. Oh, and ISRO sent off its rocket only 18 months since work on it began.

A few months and several million kilometers later, the orbiter prepared to enter Mars’ gravity. This was a critical moment. If the orbiter entered Mars’ gravity at the wrong angle, off by so much as one degree, it would either crash onto the surface of Mars or fly right past it, lost in the emptiness of space.

What a great story.

March 17, 2017

My thanks to Twocanoes Software for sponsoring The Loop with Winclone 6 this week.

Winclone is the award-winning Mac app used to backup, clone, restore, and migrate Windows installed on your Boot Camp partition. Winclone 6 adds in a bunch of new features, including full compatibility with the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros, ability to mount your Boot Camp partition as a writable volume, a fresh new look and much more.

Get 50% off all editions of Winclone 6 this week with coupon code THELOOP

Fortune:

Security researchers have identified a “highly effective” phishing scam that’s been fooling Google Gmail customers into divulging their login credentials. The scheme, which has been gaining popularity in the past few months and has reportedly been hitting other email services, involves a clever trick that can be difficult to detect.

Researchers at WordFence, a team that makes a popular security tool for the blog site WordPress, warned of the attack in a recent blog post, noting that it has been “having a wide impact, even on experienced technical users.” (See these people, whose accounts were targeted.)

Here’s how the swindle works.

No, “everyone” isn’t but it is (unfortunately) a very clever phishing scam that can catch the unwary off guard. It also points out the effectiveness of two-factor authentication and password managers like 1Password. They wouldn’t load your password on the phishing site because the fake site URL wouldn’t match the real one in 1Password.

[H/T Daniel Jalkut]

TechCrunch:

ABC News is rolling out an updated Apple TV application, live today, which makes the news division the first to offer a simultaneous multi-stream viewing experience in its tvOS application. At launch, there are a dozen different live streams users can choose from, presented in a row as the bottom of the screen. These can be placed in either a dual-screen mode or even a quad-screen view, depending on your preferences.

Multiple live streams is something you’d normally associate with sports apps – like the MLB at Bat Apple TV app, for example, which lets viewers watch games side-by-side. Fox Sports and Canal in France also offer a similar feature.

For a news junkie like me, this would be incredibly cool but only if I could choose different news sources. Alas, that’s not yet possible.

Nieman Lab:

Designed to help people diversify their news consumption habits, Read Across the Aisle tracks how often users read stories from roughly 20 news sources across the ideological spectrum, with The Huffington Post at the far left of the spectrum, Fox News at the far right, and others like The New Yorker, NPR, and The Christian Science Monitor in between. A slider bar at the bottom of the screen moves from left to right based on how much time users spend reading news from certain sources, and how ideologically extreme the app deems those sources to be.

The app is designed to help users escape their news consumption bubbles. When the user’s reading habits skew too far to either side, the app triggers a notification recommending that they switch things up.

One of the dangers of the ability to personalize everything on the internet is that we sequester ourselves in walled gardens. We get information that is not only tailored to our wants and needs but also actively blocks out and ignores even slightly “dissenting” opinion. This app can help combat that.

St. Patrick’s Day myths and legends

Did you know St. Patrick was “Roman”, not Irish? Or that there’s no such thing as a “Shamrock”? Do you know the Irish (and many of the rest of us) wear green today? Well, prepare to be better informed.

Mrs. Porter’s 2nd grade class survey:

A second-grade class in Indiana is learning about graphs, and they need you to help by filling out their survey.

“Please help our class as we study surveys and graphs. We would love to see how many responses we can get and all of the different places our responses come from. Each student in our class has created one of the questions in this survey.”

This is just too cute for words.

Apple adds permanent spot on the App Store just for indie games

Last week, we posted about Apple’s special indie games App Store promotion. Well, looks like that move is permanent:

Nice move, Apple.

Yahoo:

Follow is a new, free navigation app for iOS and Android that allows drivers to take on the role of “leader” or “follower.” The app constantly keeps track of the leader, which means the followers will never have to risk running a red light to catch up or placing a phone call to find out which turn the leader took.

In order to ensure that everyone in the group is on the same page at all times, Follow pings the location of the leader and the followers three times a second. In other words, no matter how fast you’re traveling, you’ll never lose track of another driver. Follow also notes that drivers can turn off tracking at any time, so you won’t have to worry about your privacy being invaded when the trip is over.

I can see this app being very useful for me. In a car, you can just call the other vehicle to find out where they are if you lose them. But, as a motorcyclist who often rides with others, an app like this would be a huge assist in allowing us to keep track of each other.

With a simple terminal command, you can add a “recent apps” icon to your dock. Click the icon and a stack of your recent apps appears. Click an app and away you go. Not a new tip, but little known and definitely useful.

Watch Beats 1 Creative Director Zane Lowe give SXSW music keynote

Zane Lowe is the creative force behind Beats 1 Radio. Watch the video below for his SXSW 2017 keynote. If nothing else, click to about 5:48 in to hear Zane talk about his father and his role bringing rock to New Zealand.

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Tap-tapping your earbud and asking your phone out loud to turn the volume up doesn’t seem simple—but would a complex series of gestures really help?

As Jason points out in the quote above, how do you raise and lower the volume in a device with no dedicated volume buttons? A bit of a conundrum. And as the AirPods evolve as a product line, as they become capable of more complex behavior, will Siri be the solution?

Interesting post on the quest for balance between simplicity and complexity.

Business Journal:

Two years ago, Apple bought 3,600 acres in Brunswick County.

The goal, however, wasn’t to turn the sprawling forest into a manufacturing plant or to construct a gigantic Apple store. It’s purpose is to create a “working forest” that supplies Apple with paper products for packaging, while at the same time protecting the state’s environmental resources.

According to The Conservation Fund, the Arlington, Virginia-based group Apple tapped to manage the effort, the project is starting to show returns – both for Apple and for the state of North Carolina.

When this purchase was first news two years ago, a lot of people assumed it was for construction. It’s really interesting to read what Apple is doing with the land instead.

Neil Hughes, AppleInsider:

Starting Thursday, Apple Music launched a new user-driven promotional program on Twitter with the hashtag “#MusicForEveryMinute”, promoted by student ambassadors who will be rewarded with an extra three months of free subscription.

Here’s an example:

Smart marketing on Apple’s part.

March 16, 2017

The Verge:

Today some Google Home owners are hearing something extra when they ask for a summary of the day ahead from the smart speaker: an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Several users on Reddit have noticed the audio ad and Bryson Meunier posted a clip to Twitter. Some Android users are also getting the ad through Google Assistant on mobile.

The ad is delivered using the regular Google Assistant voice, so it blends in seamlessly with the other information — but some people still aren’t happy about it.

If this comes as a shock or a surprise to you, you haven’t been paying attention. Advertising is what Google does.

VentureBeat:

Starting today and available to all iPhone users next week, you can talk to Amazon’s intelligent assistant Alexa while using the Amazon app.

Naturally, the voice assistant is able to shop and track packages, but it can also do most of the things Alexa can do, like tell a joke, give weather updates, and predict the Best Picture at the Academy Awards or the winner of the Super Bowl. It also plays music, controls Internet of Thing (IoT) devices, and grants Amazon app users access to more than 10,000 skills.

The tech media wants to portray this as “taking on Siri” but, because it’s buried inside an app, it’s unlikely to affect Siri usage at all.

dezeen:

Yves Béhar’s studio Fuseproject has created a television for Samsung that is indistinguishable from a framed artwork when hung on the wall.

The Frame is a smart television that is designed to “disappear in the décor”. It sits flat against the wall and displays artworks when not in use – turning completely off only when nobody is in the room to appreciate them.

This is one of those things you would have thought was blindingly obvious and should have been invented long before now. I’d buy one of these TVs.

Quartz:

Delivery drivers for local milk and cream company Oakhurst Dairy have been tussling with their employers over whether they qualify for overtime. On March 13, a US court of appeals determined that certain clauses of Maine’s overtime laws are grammatically ambiguous. Because of that lack of clarity, the five drivers won their appeal and were found eligible for overtime. The case now can be heard in a lower court.

The profoundly nerdy ruling is also a win for anyone who dogmatically defends the serial comma.

This is a great story for the grammar nerds among us.

Tom Negrino died on Wednesday, March 15th, 2017. He chose the method and time of his death. He died as he lived – with strength, dignity, and class.

Tom was a big supporter of AppCamp4Girls and has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to that organization.

Be in peace, my friend.

John Oliver’s hilarious Samsung commercial

This is definitely not safe for work, but damn it’s so funny.

The Guardian:

In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen – and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC – most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there. When the Queen Mother passed away on the afternoon of Easter Saturday, in 2002, at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, she had time to telephone friends to say goodbye, and to give away some of her horses. In these last hours, the Queen’s senior doctor, a gastroenterologist named Professor Huw Thomas, will be in charge. He will look after his patient, control access to her room and consider what information should be made public. The bond between sovereign and subjects is a strange and mostly unknowable thing. A nation’s life becomes a person’s, and then the string must break.

As a loyal subject of Her Majesty, I will be very sad when this inevitable day comes but this is a fascinating article on what happens afterwards.

Unboxing my Blue Microphones Baby Bottle Mic

I recently picked up a new Baby Bottle Mic from Blue Microphones. I wanted a great quality, versatile mic, but I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars—this mic is perfect.

Watching March Madness on your Mac and iOS device

Into March Madness? Got a bracket or three you want to track in real time?

Two links to get you started:

Enjoy!