September 4, 2018

C. Scott Brown, Android Authority:

When the opportunity came up here for a writer to switch to an iPhone for a week to see what it’s like, I jumped on it. I figured this would be a way to put my convictions to the test. Is Android really better for me than iOS, or have I just become complacent and comfortable with Android?

I like the premise. But the execution was flawed.

Take a few minutes to make your way through the article. Scott clearly likes a lot about the iPhone, highlighting lack of clutter, the rewrite of the iOS App Store, iPhone’s superior Bluetooth implementation, and the ease of use of the Camera app.

But one dealbreaker for Scott:

The horrible layout of the keyboard makes you need to do not one, not two, but three taps to insert a comma in a sentence. First, you tap the keyboard-swap button, then you type a comma, then you hit the button to go back to the main keyboard.

Three strokes to use probably the second-most-used punctuation mark in the English language.

But as I pointed out in this tweet this morning, there’s a quicker way to type a comma. Press and slide the number (123) key, release on the comma, and you remain in the alphabetic keyboard. Fast and, once you know about it, easy.

The issue here is low discoverability. And, to me, the flaw in Scott’s experiment was tweeting out his concerns, to see if there are shortcuts (like the comma shortcut) or other solutions with the issues he raised, before he published.

All that said, this was an interesting read for me. There are clearly things iOS does better and things Android does better. Another example Scott raised was the way Android groups Notifications. If only he’d asked. This is a feature Apple has in place in the iOS 12 beta, coming soon to iOS devices everywhere. And iOS’s lack of fragmentation means anyone with an iOS device can get it, either by trying the public beta or waiting a few weeks for the release. No need to wait for a carrier update that might never come.

And those keyboard shortcuts? They’ve been around a long, long time. But if that comma thing was new to you, check out this terrific post (from 2016!) chock full of gems like this.

Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac:

Thieves have raided the fifth Bay Area Apple Store in less than two weeks, grabbing around $50,000’s worth of display products in less than 30 seconds.

It’s also the fourth time than this particular store has been robbed

And:

Display devices are automatically rendered useless once they leave the store Wi-Fi, but it may well be that thieves are able to sell the devices to people who fail to check them, or that they are broken for parts.

First, I loved the use of the word fortnight in the headline. Made me smile.

Trying to wrap my head around the money trail here. Is there an iPhone parts black market? If so, there’s got to be a lab somewhere where they pull these phones apart. Are the parts that lucrative?

Is it possible the thieves have some way to defeat the Apple security measures and are reselling the devices?

And, finally, this is the fourth time this store has been robbed. Need someone watching the front door for people in cinched hoodies. Maybe some machine learning to watch the front door, ring an alarm if it can’t detect a face.

Apple:

Apple has determined that a very small percentage of iPhone 8 devices contain logic boards with a manufacturing defect. Affected devices may experience unexpected restarts, a frozen screen, or won’t turn on. Apple will repair eligible devices, free of charge.

Affected units were sold between September 2017 and March 2018 in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, and the U.S.

If you’ve got an iPhone 8 and you are experiencing these sorts of issues, follow the link and enter your iPhone serial number to see if your device qualifies for the program.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. disclosed in a filing with the California Department of Motor Vehicles that one of its autonomous test vehicles was involved in a crash.

This is the first time a collision involving an Apple autonomous vehicle has been reported by the California DMV. The car, a Lexus SUV in self-driving mode, was rear-ended by another vehicle when it was preparing to merge onto a highway.

The Apple self-driving car was rear-ended, so this is not a flaw or weakness in Apple’s Project Titan. To me, it is a reminder that Apple operates, as much as possible, in stealth mode.

Will Apple build their own Apple Car, or focus on building software and hardware technologies that can be incorporated by more traditional automakers? If this sort of thing interests you, take a few minutes to make your way through this excellent rollup of what we know about Project Titan.

September 3, 2018

IEEE Spectrum:

Studies show that the amount of data being recorded is increasing at 30 to 40 percent per year. At the same time, the capacity of modern hard drives, which are used to store most of this, is increasing at less than half that rate. Fortunately, much of this information doesn’t need to be accessed instantly. And for such things, magnetic tape is the perfect solution.

Seriously? Tape? The very idea may evoke images of reels rotating fitfully next to a bulky mainframe in an old movie like Desk Set or Dr. Strangelove. So, a quick reality check: Tape has never gone away!

I bet the vast majority of people have no idea what magnetic tape storage is but that the vast majority of The Loop readership not only knows but has used it in the past and maybe still does.

August 31, 2018

After some years spent traveling the world, NetNewsWire is now back where it started! It’s my app again.

We’ve kept its room ready for all these years. And I am thrilled to welcome it home.

This is great news! I was a NetNewsWire user for many years and I can’t wait to see what Brent is going to do with it.

CNBC:

Warren Buffett is still a big believer in Apple.

The Oracle of Omaha was asked if he bought more shares in the technology giant after the end of the June quarter. “We bought just a little [more],” he said Thursday on CNBC in an interview with Becky Quick. Buffett explained that he loves Apple as an investment due to the power of its brand and ecosystem, not its short-term financial results.

“I do not focus on the sales in the next quarter or the next year,” he said. “I focus on the … hundreds, hundreds, hundreds millions of people who practically live their lives by it [iPhone].” He also called the iPhone “enormously underpriced,” saying that it’s worth far more than the $1,000 Apple charges.

“I have a plane that costs me a lot, a million dollars a year or something of the sort. If I used the iPhone — I use an iPad a lot — if I used the iPhone like all my friends do, I would rather give up the plane,” he said.

Shut up, Warren. I can barely afford an iPhone as it is.

Jason Kottke:

While sifting through boxes upon boxes of the original tapes for Yoko Ono, engineer Rob Stevens discovered something truly remarkable that had gone unnoticed all these years. “Early 2016, during the gestation period of this project, I’m in the Lennon archives with my people going through tape boxes that have labeling that’s unclear, misleading, or missing entirely”, says Stevens. “There’s a one-inch eight-track that says nothing more on the ‘Ascot Sound’ label than John Lennon, the date, and the engineer (Phil McDonald), with DEMO on the spine. No indication of what material was on the tape. One delicate transfer to digital later, the “Imagine” demo, subsequently enhanced superbly by Paul Hicks, appears within this comprehensive set. It was true serendipity.”

Listen for yourself.

William Gallagher, Apple Insider:

Yes, AirPods are clearly for playing music but you can rapidly choose where that audio comes from —and just what happens when you tap on the AirPods. AppleInsider details all the options.

This article goes beyond simply listing all the options you can assign to taps to each ear. For example, there’s this little nugget:

Just opening the AirPod case tells the iPhone to pay attention and shows battery information. You get the current charge of the case and an average of that for the two AirPods. Put one AirPod in your ear and now you get the individual battery charge for each one.

It’s worth checking this instead of relying on that average, too, because very often the two AirPods will have different levels of charge. Even though you always charge them in the case together, one may be significantly lower than the other.

That’s because one of them may have been acting as a microphone when you’ve received phone calls.

That last bit is pretty interesting and does explain why I sometimes have wildly different charge in my left and right AirPods.

Good post, worth a read.

9to5Mac uncovers images of new iPhones and Apple Watch

Before we get to the links, note that these are spoilers. If you don’t want to ruin the September 12th announcement, don’t jump to the articles.

Here’s the link to the article with the iPhones image.

Here’s the link to the article with the Apple Watch image.

This comment from John Gruber:

I’d love to hear the backstory on how 9to5Mac got these images. 9to5Mac offers no explanation for how they obtained them. Product marketing images and the names of new iPhones almost never leak from Apple. iPhone names sometimes get leaked in iOS builds, but not photos like these. These photos were almost certainly intended for the keynote. To my memory, this is unprecedented. My guess is that no one at Apple gave these images to 9to5Mac. I suspect Rambo, who is extraordinarily clever at finding things, somehow discovered them through a URL that was exposed publicly but should not have been.

This sounds feasible to me. I’d guess that some folks at Apple are having a very bad day.

Are you an avid reader? Check out the linked Reddit thread. In a nutshell, you’ll want to download the Libby app, which will connect to your local library and let you check out digital books and read them on your iOS device.

Convenient and free. All you need is a library card.

Bloomberg:

For the past year, select Google advertisers have had access to a potent new tool to track whether the ads they ran online led to a sale at a physical store in the U.S. That insight came thanks in part to a stockpile of Mastercard transactions that Google paid for.

But most of the two billion Mastercard holders aren’t aware of this behind-the-scenes tracking. That’s because the companies never told the public about the arrangement.

And:

The company said people can opt out of ad tracking using Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console. Inside Google, multiple people raised objections that the service did not have a more obvious way for cardholders to opt out of the tracking, one of the people said.

Off the top of your head, any idea how to find Google’s “Web and App Activity” online console?

Start off on this page: https://myaccount.google.com.

If you’re not already logged in, you’ll need to do so. Next, make your way to the “Person info & privacy” section and just start looking around, getting a sense of the options Google offers for managing your data. At the very least, be sure to check out the “Ad settings” page. Do this for each of your Google accounts.

August 30, 2018

The Kid Should See This:

This low-flying plane isn’t just taking a scenic ride. It’s about to stock the lake it’s flying over with up to 1,000 native fish… by dropping them from the sky. It’s a strategy that’s been used since 1956, a more efficient option than hiking by foot to the lakes with fish in large buckets.

According to Utah’s Department of Natural Resources, via Pattern, more than 95% of the fish survive the drop. Hallows explains, “They kind of flutter down, so they don’t impact very hard. They flutter with the water and they do really well.”

This is one of those things where your initial reaction is, “WTF? That can’t be a good thing!”

On Thursday, Apple announced the date for its special event and now they have released the web page where those of us not lucky enough to get press invites and be in attendance can watch the livestream. And, if you need a reminder, you can add it to your calendar.

The life-size LEGO Technic Bugatti Chiron

When we say with LEGO Technic you can BUILD FOR REAL, we really mean it! Here’s our amazing 1:1 version of the iconic Bugatti Chiron. Not only does it look like the real thing, it also drives as well – and to prove it we took it for a spin on the same German track where Bugatti do their testing…

This. Is. Bonkers.

The Atlantic:

Harland is the first name of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s founder (and now mascot), Colonel Sanders, and the company announced on Wednesday that it will award $11,000 to the first baby born on September 9, Sanders’s birthday, bearing the name Harland. Per a press release, the gift of $11,000 is “in honor of KFC’s 11 herbs and spices” and is intended for the newborn Harland’s college tuition.

In other words, there might soon be a child whose naming rights were effectively purchased by a company that sells fast food. It is sad to think of the conversation young Harland’s parents might someday have with him, explaining that he is named for the respected patriarch not of his family but of the company that makes the Double Down.

Marketing has never been a principled business, but KFC’s offer seems a new low.

Anyone participating in this offensive stunt should be visited by Child Protective Services to see if they are actually fit to parent.

Apple announces special event for September 12

Apple on Thursday announced the date for its special event. Scheduled for September 12, 2018 at 10:00 am, the event will be held at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s new campus.

Dubbed, “Gather round” by Apple, the invite contained no hint as to what products might be introduced at the event. While any number of products could make an appearance, September is usually the time when Apple releases its newest iPhone models.

Apple should also announce the release date for macOS and iOS during the event. We’ll be there to bring you all the news.

Engadget:

Google is ready to unveil a shiny new version of Wear OS at last. This is the third major release of the platform (the first since rebranding to Wear OS), and Google finally shows an understanding that what people want from a smartwatch is not a phone replacement. They want a reliable daily assistant and coach that is fast and unobtrusive. The new system doesn’t have obvious battery life enhancements, though, which is still a major pain that the industry has yet to solve. It may be up to Google’s partners to figure that out for themselves.

Watch the video embedded in the article to see the new Wear OS at work.

My immediate reaction? It’s still round. Dealbreaker for me.

Back in the day, before my iPhone or iPad was usable as a hotspot, I used to use my Mac as a hotspot. I’d plug it into, say, a hotel’s ethernet cable, then open up my WiFi for the folks around me.

I haven’t done this in years, since my iPhone hotspot works pretty well and since WiFi is so easily found. That said, in general, the performance you’ll get from an ethernet plugged-in hotspot is much better than you’ll get from your sometimes spotty cellular service.

Nice walkthrough from Jonny Evans. Tuck this one away and pass it along.

This is an interesting idea. Still early days, but I do see some potential here.

Jump to the site and type in a word or phrase. Picular will return with a palette of colors, each with the specific hex code of that color.

If you click on the color’s hex code, that code will be copied to the clipboard. If you hover over the image mini-icon (bottom right corner of a color), you’ll see the image from which that color was picked.

The results are uneven. For example, type grape and you’ll see see an orange color that was clearly not from the grapes in the image, but from a stem in the background.

But that aside, I do see some upside here. Very interesting idea.

Lots of interesting nuggets in this survey. It’s a quick read, a single page. A few highlights:

19% of Android users surveyed indicated they plan on switching to an iPhone in the next year, compared to 12% last year.

The numbers were relatively small, so this might simply be a sampling issue. But if that number proves accurate, that’s a pretty big swing.

I’d be interested in a similar survey showing percentage of iPhone users who plan on switching to Android.

Another interesting point: The percentage of iPhone users who intend to upgrade to a new iPhone was 23% this time last year, and increased to a whopping 48% in the most recent survey. Part of that might be the perceived maturity of the iPhone X and Face ID (i.e., the kinks have been worked out), adding to a natural response to the waves of marketing.

Joe Rossignol, MacRumors:

Apple will add 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air models released in Mid 2012 to its vintage and obsolete products list on August 31, according to an internal document distributed to Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers and obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source.

But:

Normally, this would mean the 2012 MacBook Air is no longer eligible for hardware service, except where required by law. However, Apple has decided to include the notebook in its recently launched pilot program that allows for repairs to continue into the vintage period, subject to parts availability.

Apple says 2012 MacBook Air models will remain eligible for service at Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Service Providers worldwide through August 31, 2020, a full two years after the notebook is classified as vintage. Mail-in service will also be an option in the United States and Japan through that date.

I appreciate Apple making this available, helping keep select older models on the road for that much longer. They could easily have not done this, which would have pushed people to buying new machines instead of repairing their existing machines.

Reuters:

Apple Inc has acquired a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, the company confirmed on Wednesday, a signal Apple has ambitions to make a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

And:

Apple confirmed it acquired Longmont, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics.

Here’s a link to the Akonia Holographics web site, in case you’d like to get a better sense of them. I’d imagine the web site will eventually be taken down as they migrate to Apple.

Interestingly, the most recent entries on the News page are from 2016.

August 29, 2018

Terry Fox Run 2018 TV spot

Terry Fox has been gone for 38 years but the memory of him, for myself and many Canadians, is as fresh as yesterday. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, please read about him and run or donate in his memory on September 16th.

Apple:

The Photos app helps you organize and share your growing collection of photos and videos. It also includes a built-in set of editing tools that can improve your photos dramatically with one click, or let you fine-tune all the details.

Our specially trained Apple Support Advisors are experts in using Photos to transform pictures from good to amazing — and they’d love to show you how in a 30-minute guided phone session.

This is an interesting experiment by Apple. I’m all in favor of people who are interested in photography getting as much education as they can, particularly when it comes to editing their photos. Sadly, this isn’t available outside of the United States so I can’t speak to how good the training is. If anyone has taken it, I’d love to hear about your experience.

It’s a bit of race to see if the auction hits its reserve or if Apple will throw a spanner in the works and try to have the auction taken down.

Here’s a link to the auction. As I write this, the current bid is $12,400.

Rob Griffiths compares a pair of (nearly) identical photos, taken four years apart, one with a pretty good pocket camera and one with, arguably, one of the best smartphone cameras on the market. To be fair, the pocket camera was a 2011 model, so the pictures might as well have been taken six years apart.

The results were interesting, both to show how far our smartphone cameras have come, but also for the comparison of file size, ISO, f-stop and shutter speed.

[Via Michael Tsai]

From Reddit:

What does everyone do to find new good music on AM? I’ve been having to use Spotifys discover and recommendations to get good music.

I prefer Apple Music to Spotify interface and usability wise but I really wish they would just up their algorithm game for discovering new songs or getting good songs based off “stations” I create based off a song I’m listening to. I sometimes get songs I already have or very mainstream options like Justin Biebers “No Brainer” come up and it’s like wow Apple lol

Here’s one response:

You need to put in a LOT of work to get Apple Music to work for you.

What Apple Music would like is that you select the genres and artists that you like when you set your account, listen to the stuff from your library or tracks suggested by For You and have Music do the rest. This works well if you only listen to mainstream stuff but falters if you look for artists with smaller listener counts (i.e. most of my library).

To fix this, you have to “Love” and “Dislike” a lot of songs yourself. For example, Music kept recommending Hip Hop for me (it’s probably the most popular genre on the platform); I had to dislike every Hip Hop song it threw my way for it to stop doing that. I also like Midwest Emo Pop Punk; most artists in that category are relatively unknown, so I had to import my Discover Weekly playlists for a few weeks and upvote songs from that to train Music to find artists like this for me. Apple Music’s For You didn’t get “good” until I spent roughly two weeks doing this. My New Music Mix is almost on par with Spotify’s Discover Weekly now, and I’m even getting Artist Spotlights from artists I didn’t think they did Spotlights on (like The Descendants).

The only issue I’m having now is that I’m scared to listen to hip hop on Music since I feel like it will begin recommending all sorts of Trap if I listen to even one or two songs (which I do sometimes; I like to stay current on the genre even though I don’t like it much).

I agree with all of the above, but I have found one path to music discovery that works well for me.

Recently, Apple Music introduced the Friends Mix to the top of the For You page. When I first fired up the Friends Mix, it was a bland rehash of my favorites. It was fine, but there was nothing really new to discover.

The key was adding new friends. Once I started sharing my Apple Music name (I embedded it in a tweet, which I pinned) and started following everyone who followed me, my friends list grew and my Friends Mix started getting interesting, much more enjoyable.

SIDE NOTE: My Apple Music name is ZZDAVE and I make every effort to follow all followers. Follow me and help me grow my Friends Mix.

As to liking and disliking songs, one tip is to let Siri do all the heavy lifting. Hear a song you like? Fire up Siri and say “I love this”. Siri will tap that heart for you. Same for “I dislike this”.

Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. tech industry has largely declared it is off limits to scan emails for information to sell to advertisers. Yahoo AABA -0.76% still sees the practice as a potential gold mine.

Yahoo’s owner, the Oath unit of Verizon Communications Inc., has been pitching a service to advertisers that analyzes more than 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes and the rich user data they contain, searching for clues about what products those users might buy, said people who have attended Oath’s presentations as well as current and former employees of the company.

Charles Arthur, in The Overspill, said it best:

Yahoo is like an object circling a black hole’s event horizon: it’s taking forever to actually fall in, yet its fate is certain. There’s simply no way for it to climb back out to be relevant.

Hard to argue. Been a long time since I’ve encountered a Yahoo email account. This does not seem like a winning strategy.

Zac Hall, 9to5Mac, via this post by Jason Snell:

Apple’s AirPort line may be discontinued, but AirPort Express got one heck of an update today. Firmware update 7.8 for the latest AirPort Express hardware (2012 2nd-gen model, no longer sold) adds support for AirPlay 2 and Apple’s Home app. The teaser for support has been present since iOS 11.4 beta, but support hasn’t been live before today’s version 7.8 firmware update.

A lot of people were excitedly tweeting about this yesterday, discovering new life for that long-serving AirPort Express they’ve had, seemingly, forever. Props to Apple for this update. An extended life for an excellent, under appreciated product.

And props to Jason Snell for the best headline of the bunch.