May 19, 2017

Building a Hackintosh for $70

This is insane. Faster than the 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. For $70.

[H/T Mac Kung Fu]

Three videos to ease you through your Friday

Not quite sure how to describe these three videos, other than to say they are all old, all have a groove and they all make me smile. Thanks to the Twitterverse for sharing these.

Bloomberg:

An untitled portrait by Jean Michel-Basquiat sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in New York, setting a record for any American artist. The buyer was Japanese online retail magnate Yusaku Maezawa.

And:

The painting, which had a presale estimate of more than $60 million, was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000 by the late collectors Jerry and Emily Spiegel.

We were chatting about this purchase yesterday and someone asked how much that 1984 $19,000 was worth in today’s dollars. An interesting question. Take a guess, purely based on inflation. Then go to this inflation calculator and see how close you came.

Google:

Over 15 million players have contributed millions of drawings playing Quick, Draw! These doodles are a unique data set that can help developers train new neural networks, help researchers see patterns in how people around the world draw, and help artists create things we haven’t begun to think of. That’s why we’re open-sourcing them, for anyone to play with.

Load the Quick, Draw! data page and click on a drawing to see a ton of sketches of that same subject. The data underlying Google’s Quick, Draw! game is fascinating and it is now open sourced.

[AUTOPLAY, grrr]

Glenn Fleishman, Macworld:

Joseph Pierpoint discovered a folder in his Trash labeled “Lost & Found.” When he opened it, he found it contained over 50,000 files. Worse, “Any attempts to send these files to the Trash are thwarted by interruptions that state that this kind of solution is infeasible for one reason or another.”

Some interesting details here about fsck and the underlying Unix folder named lost+found.

Christina Farr, CNBC:

Tim Cook has been spotted at the Apple campus test-driving a device that tracks blood sugar, which was connected to his Apple Watch.

A source said that Cook was wearing a prototype glucose-tracker on the Apple Watch, which points to future applications that would make the device a “must have” for millions of people with diabetes — or at risk for the disease.

If Apple can crack this problem, a bloodless, continuous, glucose tracking Apple Watch, they’d help a lot of people, sell a ton of Apple Watches at the same time.

Siri’s potential to devalue iOS

Bob O’Donnell, in this Recode article:

Another fascinating aspect of these digital assistants is that they have the potential to completely devalue the underlying platforms on which they run. If I can use, say, Alexa across an iPhone, a Windows PC, my smart home components and a future connected car, where does the unique value of iOS or Windows 10 go? Out the door.

An interesting premise. Clearly, more and more people are using digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now. I believe digital assistants will grow in intelligence, usefulness, and mindshare. But I struggle with the argument that they will devalue their respective platforms.

The basic idea there is that Siri will become a platform and, eventually, you won’t care about operating system anymore. I do think that digital assistants have the potential to minimize the need for a user interface. But there’s only so much you can draw from a personal conversation. There are times when you need to see and peruse more data than can be transferred via voice.

I’d say that digital assistants are great for a synopsis of existing data, such as the list of events on today’s calendar or news headlines. But a deep dive is always going to be better on a screen (at least until we figure out a way to directly ingest data into the brain).

Same with data creation. Adding an event to a calendar is perfect for Siri, but writing code, or a long email that requires editing, or a deck of slides will always require a screen.

Digital assistants will always be a facet of the underlying operating system. Siri will always be a feature of iOS, a partner in the experience. As I’ve said many times, it’s all about the ecosystem.

May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, has died at 52.

So incredibly sad.

Twitter changes privacy policy, adds new tools. Go check “Your Twitter data”

Twitter updated their privacy policy. Some highlights from the official Twitter blog post:

Today, we’re announcing a suite of industry-leading tools to give you more access to your information and greater, more granular control over how it’s used. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to reflect the improvements that we’ve made to Twitter.

And:

We’re expanding Your Twitter Data to give you the most transparent access to your Twitter information to date, including demographic and interest data, and advertisers that have included you in their tailored audiences on Twitter. Each category of data will be clearly marked, and you will be able to view or modify this data directly.

There’s lots more to read in the blog post, but the changes to Your Twitter Data are worth exploring.

Take a few minutes to look around at all the data Twitter has collected on you. There’s a lot of odd data in my set. For example, here’s the list of languages Twitter has for me:

French, German, Slovenian, Indonesian, Basque, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Estonian, Portuguese, Tagalog

That’s certainly not representative. Not sure where these come from. Languages of people who I’ve interacted with?

Also interesting is the list of Interests further down the page. This was somewhat representative of my interests, but not exact. I wonder how this list was built.

Another interesting collection is the “tailored audiences” section. From mine:

You are currently part of 6624 audiences from 1573 advertisers.

Not sure what that means, but if I cared to tailor my advertising experience, there’s a button to “Request advertiser list”. I might dig into that at some point.

Take some time to look over Your Twitter Data. Good to know what choices you have.

Incredible 3-way wooden joint

I find the design of this 3-way joint terrifically clever. The narrator does an excellent job explaining and then building out the design.

John Mannes, TechCrunch:

Siri is a critical component of Apple’s vision for the future, so integral that it was willing to spend $200 million to acquire Lattice Data over the weekend. The startup was working to transform the way businesses deal with paragraphs of text and other information that lives outside neatly structured databases.

And:

Apple paid roughly $10 million for each of Lattice’s 20 engineers. This is generally considered to be fair market value. Google paid about $500 million for DeepMind back in 2014. At that time, the startup had roughly 75 employees, of which a portion were machine learning developers.

That math is fascinating. Machine learning seems a fantastic path for developers to explore.

Apple relies on a number of partnerships, including a major one with Yahoo, to provide Siri with the facts it needs to answer questions. It competes with Google, a company that possesses what is largely considered to be the crème de la crème of knowledge graphs. Apple surely has an interest in improving the size and quality of its knowledge graph while unshackling itself from partners.

And:

When you use Siri to search iTunes, the results have to come from somewhere. A knowledge graph makes it possible to draw complex relationships between entries. Today, Siri on Apple TV allows for complex natural language search like “Find TV shows for kids” followed up by “Only comedies.” A surprising amount of information is required to return that request and some of it might be buried in the summaries of the shows or scattered on the internet.

Terrific read. I’ve done some work with neural nets, AI, and machine learning. If I was just starting out, this is definitely where I’d focus, dive deep.

John Voorhees, MacStories:

Early last year, James Rath, a young filmmaker who was born legally blind, created a video about the impact Apple products have had on his life. That video caught the attention of Apple.

In the ensuing months, Rath’s YouTube career has taken off and he’s become a strong advocate for the blind.

To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Tim Cook spoke with Rath and two other YouTubers, Rikki Poynter and Tatiana Lee about accessibility. Cook and Poynter, who is deaf, discussed closed captioning and how accessibility is a core value at Apple. Lee talked to Cook about the Apple Watch and its ability to track wheelchair use. Rath and Cook explored the history of Apple’s commitment to accessibility and the democratization of technology.

Follow the link to watch the series of videos.

Emojipedia:

Having appeared in various shapes and sizes since Android 4.4; the amorphous blob that defined Google’s emoji appearance since 2013 is being retired.

In its place: a redesign of every emoji in Android, coming as part of Android “O” which was announced today at Google I/O.

Follow the link, take a look at the new artwork. It’s certainly an improvement. Given the fragmentation of Android updates, not sure how big an impact this will have.

Also mentioned by Google is functionality which would allow users to download newer emoji fonts to support the latest emojis even on older Android versions.

So that’s something. But it requires specific action on the part of the user. If they’ve not moved to update to a newer phone or newer version of Android, not sure how effective this will be.

May 17, 2017

In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned.

Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.

Okay, that’s bad, but there is some good news:

  • There’s no indication any customer information was obtained by the attacker.
  • Furthermore, there’s no indication Panic Sync data was accessed.
  • Finally, our web server was not compromised.

[Via John Gruber]

At its I/O 2017 developer conference today, Google announced Google Assistant is coming to iOS as a standalone app, rolling out to the U.S. first. Until now, the only way iPhone users could access Google Assistant was through Allo, the Google messaging app nobody uses.

It’s great that Google Assistant is coming, but the lack of integration with iOS will certainly hurt its chances of being used as much as Siri.

We — Manton Reece and Brent Simmons — have noticed that JSON has become the developers’ choice for APIs, and that developers will often go out of their way to avoid XML. JSON is simpler to read and write, and it’s less prone to bugs.

Two very smart guys that I respect a lot. I’m going to take a look at this.

Fidget spinner on bass

Pretty good technique all the way around.

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. plans to announce an update to its laptop lineup at an annual conference for app developers in early June, a move that could help offset new competition from Microsoft Corp. as well as declining iPad sales.

Apple is planning three new laptops, according to people familiar with the matter. The MacBook Pro will get a faster Kaby Lake processor from Intel Corp., said the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. Apple is also working on a new version of the 12-inch MacBook with a faster Intel chip. The company has also considered updating the aging 13-inch MacBook Air with a new processor as sales of the laptop, Apple’s cheapest, remain surprisingly strong, one of the people said.

Not sure why Microsoft is so heavily featured in this article. This makes it sound like Apple is reacting to a threat, as opposed to simply taking advantage of new processors to update the Mac line, spur sales.

MarketWatch:

An Apple Inc. manufacturer has completed a trial run of the first-ever iPhones assembled in India, in an important step in the U.S. tech giant’s push into the fast-growing South Asian market.

The manufacturing of Apple’s cheapest iPhone model, the SE, was handled earlier this month by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron Corp., which has an assembling unit in the southern state of Karnataka, a state official with direct knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Apple said in a statement that it has begun initial production of a small number of iPhone SE handsets in Bangalore and will begin shipping the Indian-made devices to domestic customers this month. The first devices could hit stores as early as this week or next, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The first step in an important journey for Apple in its quest to grow India market share.

How Google took over the classroom

From this The New York Times article:

In the space of just five years, Google has helped upend the sales methods companies use to place their products in classrooms. It has enlisted teachers and administrators to promote Google’s products to other schools. It has directly reached out to educators to test its products — effectively bypassing senior district officials. And it has outmaneuvered Apple and Microsoft with a powerful combination of low-cost laptops, called Chromebooks, and free classroom apps.

And, most importantly:

Today, more than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students — more than 30 million children — use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs, the company said. And Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose, are now a powerhouse in America’s schools. Today they account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools.

Those are some impressive numbers. Kids are growing up with an intimate understanding of how to use Google apps. Apple certainly is a player in this space, both with iPads and low-end MacBooks, but no matter the hardware, a major chunk of our kids are using Google Docs and Gmail.

Apple has iWork apps, has ported them to all the major platforms, true, and there are iCloud versions of the apps. But Google’s approach requires no app downloads, is driven by a link. There are no app installs to manage, just links to share back and forth. I’d argue the overall approach is simpler. For education, that is a vital difference. If a school district switches over from Chromebooks to iPads, there is no compelling reason for them to switch from Google Docs.

Take a few minutes to check out the offerings at your local Apple Store via Apple’s new Today at Apple page. Pick your favorite location, tap confirm, then start scrolling.

Some stores (such as New York’s SoHo Apple Store and San Francisco’s Union Square location) feature concerts and other performances. Most stores have a constant running string of classes, focusing on things like iPhone photography, making music with GarageBand, learning the ins and outs of Apple Music, video editing on your Mac, and lots more.

Good use of space, great for customers. Questions for me: Will the gatherings be compelling enough to draw people in and will Apple find a way to spread the word to draw crowds and keep them coming back.

May 16, 2017

Apple videos highlight accessibility achievements

One of the greatest things Apple has done with its technologies in recent years is to give people with disabilities the opportunity to be empowered and self-sufficient. Apple today published a series of videos showing how some of these people use their technologies.

May 18 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day and Apple stores around the world will host accessibility sessions so people can learn more about the technologies and features built into Apple products.

Carlos Vasquez

Carlos is the lead singer, drummer and PR manager for his metal band Distartica. Using VoiceOver, with Screen Curtain on iPhone, he can hail a ride, take a photo, and get the word out about his band’s album release while keeping his screen entirely black.

Ian Mackay

Ian is an outdoor and birding enthusiast. With Siri on iPhone, he can play a bird call or chat with a friend via FaceTime, and with Switch Control he is able to capture the perfect waterfall photo.

Meera Phillips

Meera is a teenager who loves soccer and jokes. She uses TouchChat on iPad to talk with her friends and family, and deliver the occasional one-liner.

Andrea Dalzell

Andrea is a nursing student and advocate for the disabled community. She uses Apple Watch to record wheelchair-specific workouts and share her victories with friends.

Patrick Lafayette

Patrick is a DJ and producer with a passion for music and excellent food. With VoiceOver, he has the freedom to express himself in his home studio with Logic Pro X and in the kitchen with TapTapSee.

Shane Rakowski

Shane is a middle school band and choir director who uses Made for iPhone hearing aids in her classroom so she can hear every note.

Todd Stabelfeldt

Todd is the CEO of a technology consulting company and a prominent member of the quadriplegic community. With Siri, Switch Control, and the Home app, he can open his front door, adjust the lights in his house, and queue up a party playlist.

This is a well done breakdown of the many services available for people that want to cut off their current cable TV subscription.

Currently, app-specific passwords are used to allow non-native apps like email clients to sign in to iCloud accounts that are protected by two-factor authentication. The security measure ensures that users can still link up their iCloud account to apps and services not provided by Apple, while also avoiding the need to disclose their Apple ID password to third parties.

Privacy and security are very important to Apple.

Universal Audio updated its software on Tuesday adding five new plug-ins. The plug-ins include Antares Auto-Tune Realtime; SSL 4000 G Bus Compressor Collection; Pure Plate Reverb; Fuchs Train II Amplifier; Eden WT800 Bass Amplifier.

There are videos on the product page introducing plug-in and what you can expect when using it. AS usual, UA has done a great job in choosing which plug-ins to release.

While we were on stage, Jack asked me to come back to work at Twitter. People cheered. But I wasn’t really sure if he meant it. After Tea Time, we spoke privately and Jack told me that he really did — he wanted me to come back and work at Twitter. The company I co-founded, the service I co-invented. I was stunned, but I knew the answer.

Other companies have brought back their founders—it has worked very well for some (Apple), and not so well for others (Yahoo).

This is a long read, but it’ll fly by. Beautifully crafted with lots of photos (by Dan Winters) and anecdotes (expertly related by long-time Apple historian Steven Levy).

One bit from the very end:

Last December, Cook, Ive, and Apple PR head Steve Dowling met with Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve’s widow. At the time, the campus didn’t have a name. One option was to brand the entire site after the company’s late CEO, but that didn’t feel right. A more intimate honor would come from lending his name to the 1,000-seat theater in the southeast corner of the campus. Not only had Jobs thought hard about what the theater should look like, but it will also be the stage for product launches like those he had so famously made his own. “It’s on a hill, at one of the highest points on this land,” Cook says. “It felt like him.”

And so his name will be on the theater. But anyone searching for Steve Jobs’ finger­prints on Apple Park will find them elsewhere—in the glint off the Ring’s curves, in the sway of the trees, and in the thousands of other details we can and cannot see.

Can’t wait for my first visit.

Esther Dyson pulled together this lovely collection of snapshots of people in the PC industry. This is real “back in the day” stuff. Lots of people I didn’t recognize, sprinkled with many I did. I love the young faces of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. And don’t miss Steve Ballmer playing charades.

[Via Dave Winer]

Daniel Eran Dilger, Apple Insider, steps through a series of cases where Apple was seriously behind, then overtook the competition. A few examples:

2007: A year prior to Peak iPod, Microsoft announced its own Zune to much fanfare as the “iPod-killer,” just as pundits began imagining in parallel that phones playing MP3s would kill Apple’s iPod empire. Everything seemed so dire for Apple. Zune could do wireless WiFi sync and MP3-playing feature phones appeared to cost much less than an iPod!

However, that year Apple introduced iPhone. Steve Jobs described it as “a widescreen iPod” in addition to a phone and “breakthrough internet device”. Zune staggered along like a zombie until it was terminated while basic phones playing MP3s were blown away by Apple’s “iPod phone” with a real web browser.

And:

2011: Google floated another feature Apple lacked for several years: Near Field Communications, or NFC, used in Google Wallet contactless payments. Google was supposed to rule in this arena, but Wallet failed to ever gain much traction, despite efforts to build out NFC payment infrastructure. Apple didn’t have NFC because it was so behind.

What Apple did instead was rapidly introduce Bluetooth 4 (starting with iPhone 4s) and build out a platform of near-proximity wireless integration between iOS devices, Macs and Apple Watch that was later branded as Continuity. Prior to launching Apple Pay, the company also lined up the dots for Touch ID, building security right into the design of its products.

Apple didn’t introduce Apple Pay until 2014, at least three years behind Wallet. However, the effort Apple put into building foundational support, and its prescience in supporting the much faster Bluetooth 4 rather than NFC for nearby connectivity, launched Apple far ahead of Google in both support for modern Bluetooth and in NFC payments, despite (or perhaps, because of) not being first to rush a loose payment concept to market.

Lots, lots more here. Terrific job, Daniel.

Jonathan S. Geller, BGR:

According to our source, Apple’s sights are now set on the epidemic of diabetes, and the company plans to introduce a game-changing glucose monitoring feature in an upcoming Apple Watch. An estimated 30 million people suffer from diabetes in the US alone, according to the American Diabetes Association, so Apple’s efforts could lead to a historic achievement in the world of health and fitness.

And:

Apple also plans to introduce interchangeable “smart watch bands” that add various functionality to the Apple Watch without added complexity, and without increasing the price of the watch itself. This could also mean that the glucose monitoring feature will be implemented as part of a smart band, rather than being built into the watch hardware.

A smart band is a natural evolution of, extension to the Apple Watch. Each Apple Watch includes a diagnostic six pin port, so there’s already a path for data flow between your existing Apple Watch and a new band.