November 17, 2014

Great stuff.

I installed it and am having no issues so far.

Apple releases iOS 8.1.1

You can download the update by going to Settings > General > Software Update on your iOS device.

M. G. Siegler:

All the scenes in space? IMAX. All the exterior scenes on different worlds? IMAX. Most of the scenes inside the spaceship? Regular film. Interiors on Earth? Regular film. Scenes out in the corn fields of Earth? Largely IMAX.

The effect is profound. Traditional film suddenly feels very small and almost claustrophobic. Those black bars at the top and bottom of the screen become horizontal railings that while perhaps not trapping us in, are clearly guiding us along. When the screen opens up to IMAX format though, you’re set free. I kept moving my head up and down trying to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

One scene that stuck out in particular is when Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper is driving away from his farm. The shot goes from inside the truck, shot in film, to a shot from the back of the truck as the farm recedes, in IMAX, to a shot of a rocket launch, still in IMAX, to a shot of Cooper in a space shuttle, back in film format. You just couldn’t do something like this before this movie.


I’ve seen the question asked a lot on the internet this past week: is it worth seeing Interstellar in theaters? In my view, absolutely yes. But if you’re going to do it, you simply must see it in IMAX. You will quite literally be missing out on aspects of the film if you do not.

V.ALRT is a personal alert device, a button you carry with you that pairs with your iPhone (iOS 7 or later) or Android phone (Android 4.3 or later). When you press the button on the device, V.ALRT will automatically dial or text message to three pre-selected contacts, sending your current location along with a canned message (such as “I’ve been in an accident”).

There are obvious concerns here, such as accidental button presses. But I found the V.ALRT to be an interesting idea. The current price is US$59.99 with free shipping.

A boy and his atom

IBM made the world’s smallest movie by using a pair of electron scanning microscopes to move a series of atoms to create a stop motion effect.

Follow this link to see how they made the movie. It’s truly astonishing.

The end result is below. Hard to wrap my head around the fact that they were able to move individual atoms from one well defined position to another. Science!

If you put your iPhone in Lost Mode, Apple Pay should automatically be disabled for the device.

Still, good to know about this mechanism to remove your credit cards from the device’s approved Apple Pay list.

Sarah Guarino of 9to5mac walks you through the process.

From Apple’s press release:

Apple® today announced that the App Store℠ has added UnionPay as a payment option for customers in China. China UnionPay is the most popular payment card in China and will provide App Store customers with a simple and more convenient way to purchase their favorite apps. Customers can easily link their Apple ID with a UnionPay debit or credit card for one-tap purchases.

“The ability to buy apps and make purchases using UnionPay cards has been one of the most requested features from our customers in China,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “China is already our second largest market for app downloads, and now we’re providing users with an incredibly convenient way to purchase their favorite apps with just one-tap.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

The UnionPay partnership could potentially open the door for Apple Pay in China, if Apple can strike agreements with popular retailers and overcome technical and regulatory hurdles. Another route for Apple is a possible alliance with Alibaba, China’s largest e-commerce company, whose payment affiliate Alipay is the country’s largest mobile payment processor.


Many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.

My 2 cents: If Google Glass was going to grab hold as a consumer product, I think it would already have happened. That said, I think this will turn out to have been a good investment for Google. There are plenty of vertical applications for Google Glass’s heads up display. And there’s still the possibility that Glass can pivot in the consumer space, find another form factor that is friendlier, less threatening.

November 16, 2014

“Dollar for dollar, the Sound Blaster ROAR produces the best sound of any portable Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard.”

– Tom’s Guide

Thanks to Creative for sponsoring The Loop’s RSS feed this week. The compact Sound Blaster Roar boasts of two 1.5-inch high-frequency drivers, a dedicated 2.5-inch subwoofer, and a pair of side-firing passive radiators. Now, all these drivers will only sound as good as the music you play through them, and the Roar supports aptX and AAC over Bluetooth for high-quality audio streaming.

All this, while adding other features like NFC support, a USB port for charging, an integrated MP3 player through its microSD card slot that also allows you to record calls taken with the built-in speakerphone.

The Red Dot Design Award-winning Roar has received consistent 5-star reviews on Amazon since its launch. Now available at $149.99 via and



Nelly Bly’s idea was to try to beat the time of Phileas Fogg, the hero of Jules Verne’s massively popular 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days. She’d send dispatches back to the paper, make an adventure out of it. Her editor was in favor, but the World’s business manager — who liked the concept — wanted to send a man.

“It is impossible for you to do it,” he told her. “You are a woman and would need a protector.” Even if she could travel alone, he said, she’d want to take too much baggage. “There is no use talking about it,” he insisted. “No one but a man could do this.”

“Very well,” she said. “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”

With our world considered made so small with instantaneous communications, high speed train, plane and car travel, it’s hard to imagine what kind of true adventure, in every sense of the word, this would have been in 1889


Heyday transforms the photos and videos on your iPhone into a beautiful journal, presenting you with a delightful way to rediscover your most important memories. And since life happens when you least expect it, Heyday automatically chronicles the places you go and the things you see so you’ll never forget a meaningful place or moment again.

I mentioned and did a bit of a video review of Heyday on the Your Mac Life show last Wednesday. I’m not a “daily journal” kind of guy but Heyday is great for “following you around” and noting the places you’ve been, collating the pics you took and, at your leisure, allowing you to add notes, thoughts and impressions after the fact. Free in the iOS Store.

This is a nice list of one-hit-wonders, folks who had one big hit then faded into obscurity. The list starts in the 1960s and makes its way to 2006. But definitely not complete. Not even close.

How about 867-5309/Jenny by Tommy Tutone?

Or The Romantics, What I Like About You?

There are just so many more. But that’s the fun of lists. Love to read them, love to figure out what’s missing.

One entry on here, Sir Mix-A-Lot and Baby Got Back from 1992, immediately brought me to my favorite tweet of all time, this one from Ranjit Bhatnagar:

Sir Mix-a-lot likes big butts and cannot lie. His twin brother does not like big butts and cannot tell the truth. You may ask one question.

Must be the math geek in me.

Composr, the free app that lets musicians collaborate around the world

Composr is a free app that lets you start a song, then allows musicians add tracks remotely. As the song owner, you decide which tracks make the final cut.

I think this is a fantastic idea. I can work on songs with my brother, with friends across the country, even in other countries. Great concept.

Here’s a link to the Composr web site.

And here’s a link to the app itself.

Watch a handcrafted neon Apple logo being made

Matt Fuller collects all things Apple and he wanted a neon Apple logo to hang in his home to highlight his collection. Here’s his story, with the “making of” video below:

About a month ago I contacted Neon Shop Fishtail, a well-known neon shop in Chicago, and inquired about the possibility of fabricating a neon Apple logo for my suburban Chicago home.

I emailed the general email address on the neon website and quickly received a response from Tom Brickler, whom I later learned is the owner of the shop. I sent a Photoshop mockup of the idea I was envisioning. He told me that he liked the project and that he could start it later that week.

On a whim, I asked if the shop allowed customers to watch the fabrication of projects. I was very surprised when he invited me the next Friday afternoon. They not only allowed me to watch the fabrication, but they very generously allowed me to take photos and video, all captured on my iPhone 6.

The experience was fascinating to watch and I soon realized that the three men running the shop were extremely skilled craftsmen. Before I arrived, neon artist John Noga had already shaped three main parts of the logo, but had not yet fused them together. I was able to watch him create the leaf part of the logo from a straight white glass tube. He then trimmed and joined the larger pieces to form the lower apple part of the logo.

The next step was to bring the project to the basement where the two pieces were electrified with 15,000 volts of electricity, heating them to 550˚F to burn out the impurities inside the glass. The white tubes were then filled with argon gas to produce the white glow I had requested.

The last two steps, completed by Chevo Carreño, included “burning in” the tubes with electricity so they would glow evenly and then painting the non-glowing parts of the tubes. With the logo complete, I took it home that day.

This weekend I finished the installation. The logo is supported by clear plastic clips attached to the wall and the wiring is a simple series circuit that attaches to a dimmable transformer that plugs into a standard outlet. It was an easy job, except that I needed help mounting it high on the wall.

This is just badass!

November 15, 2014

Kim Komando, writing for USA Today:

When you install an app, you probably never read the app’s terms and conditions. You merely click “Agree.” In the terms and conditions, the app developer typically reveals what data you are voluntarily handing over to them such as your online activities, location, contact list, text messages, and more.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently analyzed the Google Play store’s top 100 apps operations, terms and conditions. They found the following 10 requested the most access to your smartphone or tablet’s hardware: Backgrounds HD Wallpaper, Brightest Flashlight,, Google Maps, Horoscope, Mouse Trap, Pandora, Shazam, Talking Tom Virtual Pet.

It makes sense that Google Maps needs your location and song-identifying Shazam needs access to your microphone, but why does a virtual pet, dictionary or wallpaper app need anything like that? Both iOS and Android have built-in flashlights, so you don’t even need an app.

As I read this, Google leaves it up to the app developer to be honest about their intentions. Without oversight.

iOS lets you set permissions on a case-by-case basis. Go to Settings>>Privacy and choose the permission, such as camera or GPS. Slide the slider to “Off” to deny a permission.

Unlike iOS, Android doesn’t have per-app permission controls. Google had it as a hidden feature in Android 4.4.2, but removed it. No one knows when or if it will be back.

I am surprised this is still the case, given the incredible (and appropriate) scrutiny leveled at both Apple and Google from privacy advocates. Is Kim right about this?

My brother works at Sears

Mike Myers and his actual brother worked on this spot for Sears Canada.

Find out who stopped by our Toronto office to visit his brother! Watch as Peter (long time Sears associate) explain to his brother what Sears Canada is all about and why we’re here to stay.

Yup. His brother works at Sears. [via my own flesh and blood, @stumark]

From the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) analysis of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sales since launch:

CIRP finds that a smaller percentage of iPhone buyers came from the Google Android platform after the September 2014 launch, relative to the percentage coming from Android after the September 2013 launch. After the most recent launch, 12% of iPhone buyers reported having an Android phone, compared to 23% after the September 2013 launch.

In other words, for the iPhone 5s launch, 23% of iPhone buyers came from Android. For the 6/6 Plus, 12% came from Android.

OK, now add this:

Android owners did buy more expensive iPhones, relative to the previous launch. At the September 2014 launch, 85% of iPhone buyers that previously owned an Android phone bought the new iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. In contrast, at the September 2013 launch, 52% of iPhone buyers that previously owned an Android phone bought the then-new iPhone 5S.

The first part tells me the relative camps are stabilizing. Android users are more and more sticking with Android, iPhone users the same. The ecosystem walls/tentacles are doing their job.

But that second bit tells me that when the defection does occur, when an Android user does come over, the draw is the larger size of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

“Historically, former Android owners gravitated to the lower priced iPhone models,” continued Levin. “Following this year’s iPhone launch, only 15% of former Android owners bought the legacy 5S and 5C, compared to 47% for the lower priced 5C and 4S following the 2013 launch.”

“Android owners, many of whom already had experience with phones with larger screen phones, were drawn to the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus,” continued Lowitz. “31% of former Android owners who bought an iPhone opted for the 6 Plus compared to only 25% of existing iPhone owners who chose the larger format flagship phone.”

This is all conjecture, given the study’s relatively small size (300 buyers), but interesting nonetheless. Add to this Tuesday’s UBS analyst note (via this article from Fortune) that reflected a study with 4,000 participants, 1,000 of them from mainland China.

• About 40% of respondents said they were likely to buy an iPhone 6 in the next year.
• Over half were leaning toward the higher-margin iPhone 6 Plus, compared with 38% for the iPhone 6.
• Demand in China was particularly high with 29% indicating they were very likely to buy the latest iPhone.
• More striking is Apple’s retention rate in China, which at over 80% “soars above Samsung and domestic brands”

No matter how you slice it, this all points in a positive direction for Apple.

November 14, 2014

As Manley Labs’ flagship compressor since 1994, the Variable Mu is a tube and transformer-driven classic that exudes hand-made craftsmanship. A gold standard among mixing and mastering engineers, the Variable Mu adds clarity and cohesion to stereo buses or your entire mix.

I love Manley gear and Universal Audio—I can’t wait to load this one into a project.

…estimates that 30% of American smartphone owners plan to use either Apple Pay or Google Wallet to buy things this holiday shopping season. What’s more, 17% of smartphone users surveyed said having the option to buy things with Apple Pay or Google Wallet would cause them to spend more money than they normally would.

Be smart Walmart. Nobody wants your shitty payment service.

Chris Bank does a great job of tackling UX and UI in this post.

When designing a website, you want your UX to be as positive as possible — you want your users to enjoy being on your website, that’s kind of the whole point. But you can’t just say “let’s improve our site’s UX” any more than a business can say “let’s make more money.” It’s the strategies you use to create your UX, namely the UI, that can enhance (or weaken) it.

I love listening to these isolated tracks. There’s some great information about the session here as well.

Anthony Colangelo:

The difference between knowledge and intelligence is key here. Knowledge is the collection of skills and information a person has acquired through experience. Intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge. Just because someone lacks knowledge of a particular subject doesn’t mean they can’t apply their intelligence to help solve problems.

I love that.

Google has quietly revealed it plans to retire the Google Wallet API for digital goods on March 2, 2015. The company plans to continue supporting the sale of apps on Google Play as well as in-app payments, but users will not be able to purchase any virtual items offered on the Web through Google Wallet.

You have to love Heineken.

[Via psfk]


This chart, from David McCandless’ fascinating new book Knowledge is Beautiful, ranks 87 dog breeds and compares those rankings to the actual popularity of those breeds in the US.

The ranking is based on a number of factors: trainability, life expectancy, lifetime cost (including the price of food and grooming), and suitability for children, among others.

The result: Border Collies, according to McCandless, are the finest dog breed in existence. Labs, Beagles, and Golden Retrievers, while not at the very top, are other popular dogs (at the top right of the chart) that he rates highly.

Where does your dog fit into this chart? If I had a dog, it would likely be a Labrador. Happily, they score highly on this chart.

The Sorkin sketch

This sketch from Late Night with Seth Meyers struck me as a pitch perfect parody, with a perfectly appropriate cameo at the end.

It’s clear that 4K video is coming. The question is, will the tipping point be a business as usual delivery mechanism as it makes its way through the usual suspects, first DirecTV, then the cable providers?

Or will Netflix tip the industry in their direction, making 4K video more of an online experience?

Another piece of this equation to consider is Apple’s approach. The new 5K iMac is a perfect vehicle for experiencing the successor to HD, this highest of definitions, and it is not lined up with DirecTV/cable in the same way that a large screen TV is. Seems to me the Apple TV is perfectly placed to straddle both sides of this divide.

UPDATE: Check the comments for an expanded take on these thoughts.

Sir Jony Ive gave a talk at London’s Design Museum, focusing on what he considers a tragic direction taken by UK design schools.

Speaking at London’s Design Museum last night, Ive attacked design schools for failing to teach students how to make physical products and relying too heavily on “cheap” computers.

“So many of the designers that we interview don’t know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computers are cheaper,” said Ive.

“That’s just tragic, that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three dimensional objects and not make one.”

Ive, who is Apple’s senior vice president of design, said that students were being taught to use computer programs to make renderings that could “make a dreadful design look really palatable”.

Sir Jony also spoke about Apple’s design approach:

Picking up on statements he originally made in 2012, Ive said that Apple – named the world’s most valuable brand by Forbes in 2013 – had become one of the world’s biggest companies by not chasing profit and instead focusing on “integrity”.

“We’ve tried very hard to be very clear, and this is absolutely sincere, that our goal at Apple isn’t to make money,” he said.

“We’re not naive. We trust that if we’re successful and we make good products, that people will like them. And we trust that if people like them, they’ll buy them. Operationally we are effective and we know what we’re doing and so we will make money. It’s a consequence.”

“You can look at something we’ve done and it costs a lot more to make it the way that we want to make it. I can’t justify that extraordinary additional amount of money to make it other than it’s the right thing to do. It’s made it better. There’s integrity there. You hope that people can tell the difference.”

There’s a lot more. A terrific read, all the way through.


At a BlackBerry event held earlier today in San Francisco they announced a new management-services partnership with rival Samsung Electronics. This is the very first time that the two companies have teamed up for a major product. The new partnership is designed to compete head-on with the new Apple-IBM alliance.

Fantastic idea. It further legitimizes the concept of an enterprise/consumer product partnership and gives enterprise managers a valid alternative to IBM and Apple. And by valid, I mean, who in their right mind would choose Samsung/BlackBerry over Apple/IBM? Where’s the beef in the Samsung/BlackBerry alliance? Certainly not with the malware riddled Android.

Samsung’s Knox system, which offers a suite of secure work applications, will run on BlackBerry’s new server, known as BES12, the companies said in a statement today.

Last year it was noted by InfoWorld that Samsung’s “Knox is their way to get past IT’s legitimate concerns over Android’s generally weak security and join Apple’s iOS and BlackBerry in the golden circle of trustworthy mobile devices.” This new alliance will now open more doors for Samsung and BlackBerry.

Ah, Knox. Anyone considering a Knox solution might want to read this first: After gaining U.S. government approval, Samsung Knox security for Android found to be “completely compromised”.