November 24, 2017

Longreads:

On Thanksgiving Day, 1942, an audience stuffed full of holiday cooking settled into the plush seats at the Hollywood Theatre on New York’s Fifty-First Street to watch the premiere of Casablanca, a new film from Warner Brothers. With few Americans knowing Casablanca was a city in French Morocco — let alone how to find it on a map — the studio banked on audiences’ love of wartime intrigue, along with the star power of Bogart and castmates Claude Rains and Paul Henreid, to sell the film.

Casablanca made its debut two-and-half years after Germany marched into France, triggering a massive refugee exodus. As the Nazis advanced, the population of France fled south, hoping to avoid being swallowed up by Hitler’s burgeoning empire. Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Austrians, and Spanish Republicans who had fled their homelands to seek sanctuary in France before the war, once again found themselves on the run. Thousands would end up in Casablanca.

Casablanca is my favorite movie of all time and, while I knew the circumstances were based in fact, this story goes much deeper.

Vox:

Some cities in Europe are undergoing a fascinating transformation: they’re getting rid of all of their road signs.

For us in North America, this might be a terrifying thought. But we’ve all seen video of traffic, particularly in Asia, where masses of people, buses, cars, and motorcycles all seem to be able to manage. The video points out that where this has been tried, pedestrian accidents have fallen sharply. But it also points out how these traffic controls don’t serve disabled communities very well.

Wired:

txt.fyi has no social mechanics. None. No Like button, no Share button, no comments. No feed showing which posts are most popular. Each post has a tag telling search engines not to index it, so it won’t even show up on Google. The only way anyone will see it is if you send them the URL or post it somewhere. txt.fyi is a tool for putting stuff online—but without the usual features to help something become a pass-around hit.

I call it antiviral design.

I’m a big fan of “antisocial” media. I don’t track stats, I don’t care if someone “likes” what I post and I have no idea how many followers I have on Twitter (and don’t care). Whatever I post on social media, I post because I like it, not because I care what anyone else thinks.

This might be a tool for people who just want to get thoughts online without having to worry about all the detritus that comes with it. My fiance (soon to be wife!) is semi-interested in blogging but has zero interest in learning about SEO, WordPress, HTML, etc. This might be the perfect site for her.

Fast Company:

Despite Wall Street’s pessimism, industry leaders sound downright bullish on the future of traditional retail.

What we’re seeing now, industry executives say, is a rational, albeit painful, course correction. One study from retail-research firm IHL Group found that a mere 16 chains, including Radio­Shack and Payless, account for nearly half of all store closings, and that there will be a net increase of more than 4,000 stores in 2017 and 5,500-plus in 2018.

While it feels like “everyone” is shopping online and retail is on its death bed, this story says it’s not as bad as what it may seem.

I may be an outlier but I still like going to the mall (on occasion) and walking around, if only for the people watching.

Gizmodo:

Have you ever sat down to watch that film that critics are raving about only to be massive unimpressed? Sure, Mark Kermode might have loved The Florida Project, but let’s be honest – what it really needed was a few more car chases and explosions to liven things up.

In fact, it often seems like critics and ordinary cinema-goers are at loggerheads: They want beautifully crafted tales about people in the olden days having feelings, which elucidates universal truths about the human condition. While we want massive robots hitting other robots.

This kind of stuff always fascinates me – how critics can love or hate a movie but audience reaction is the complete opposite. I first noticed this when I saw Naked Lunch and Barton Fink in 1991. Critics loved the two films so I saw them for that reason alone. I hated both of them.

But then again, I hated Forrest Gump so go figure.

Open a six-pack all at once

I definitely would have used this in college but it does seem like a lot of effort for a fairly simply process.

November 22, 2017

Smartphone maker Apple Inc and its biggest manufacturing partner on Wednesday said that a small number of students were discovered working overtime in its Chinese factory, violating local labor laws.

Many of the headlines surrounding this story seem to indicate that Apple was caught forcing students to work like slaves. The truth is, Apple has held the companies it works with to a higher standard than anyone else when it comes to helping the workers.

Apple’s new holiday ad

The ad is called “Sway.”

Inside The Museum of Modern Art

MOMA:

As the Museum of Modern Art prepares to ship 200 masterworks by artists like Picasso, Cézanne, Rothko and de Kooning for a special exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, other MoMA staff begin to install a new line-up of exhibitions in New York. See what it takes to run a modern museum in our new documentary series: “At the Museum.” A new episode premieres each week.

I’m not a huge fan of modern art but I visited the MoMA every time I was in New York City. I love the “quietness” of these videos – there’s no narration or voiceover. Just the sounds of the city and the MoMA staff going about their jobs.

As you would expect, Amazon has Black Friday deals on a ton of items. This page will help get you started.

This is a great article by Steven Aquino on how Face ID stacks up in his uses on the iPhone X.

Research by Apple Inc computer scientists on how self-driving cars can better spot cyclists and pedestrians while using fewer sensors has been posted online, in what appears to be the company’s first publicly disclosed paper on autonomous vehicles.

So interesting that Apple would do this.

The Atlantic:

The top-scoring panoramic photos entered in the eighth annual Epson International Pano Awards have just been announced. The contest is meant to showcase the best work of panoramic photographers around the world.

Enjoy these wide images of our natural and human-built worlds on the largest screen available to you.

There’s approximately a million “photo contests/awards” nowadays and I avoid posting about most of them but these images are spectacular and I had to share. Thanks to John Kordyback‏ for the link.

Big picture of the iPhone X projected IR dot pattern

Fascinating project from Oliver Thomas. He bought a high resolution camera that can capture infrared images. He set the camera up on a tripod and shot the IR dot pattern projected by the iPhone X.

Here’s the tweet:

Check out that image. Amazing. Not clear if all those dots are projected all at once or if a shorter shutter opening would show just some of this overall pattern.

Looking forward to more of this work. Nice job, Oliver.

This is a terrific piece from Ben Lovejoy, 9to5Mac, a realistic look at the experience of shooting with the iPhone X camera.

I’ve been using the iPhone 8 Plus (similar cameras, but the iPhone X has a slightly faster telephoto f/2.4 vs. f/2.8 – and the X has OIS in both lenses) for the past few days and my experience has been similar to Ben’s.

I will say, I find the iPhone 8 Plus camera to be astonishing.

Take a moment to compare the two images in this tweet. One was taken at the base of Philadelphia City Hall, looking up to the top of a tall tower. Without moving, I took a second shot, pinching out to zoom in on a statue at the top of the tower.

I was floored by the amount of detail in that second shot. Amazing to get this kind of result from a phone that fits in my pocket.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

When the $350 gadget debuts early next year (on Friday Apple delayed the launch from December), the HomePod won’t be able to do many of the things the Echo can. Amazon offers thousands of “skills” (voice-activated apps) that let users do a range of things (including buy stuff from Amazon). The Google Home Mini, which debuted earlier this year, is similarly endowed. The HomePod will be mostly limited to playing tunes from Apple Music, controlling Apple-optimized smart home appliances and sending messages through an iPhone.

“This is a huge missed opportunity,” said one of the people, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. Apple declined to comment.

I’m just going to quote this Daring Fireball piece from 2006, which itself quotes a post from the San Jose Mercury News, but Gruber really brought this to fame:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

This pattern repeats itself over and over again. They’re not going to just walk in. Until they do.

My money is on Apple and HomePod here. This is not casting doubt on Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. But Apple has an obvious advantage, a real barrier to entry for both Google and Amazon. Even if they don’t reveal all their cards from day one, HomePod (and HomePod Mini, if such a thing eventually ships) will have intimate, private API access to the Apple ecosystem.

Silly to bet against that home court advantage.

From the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum event invitation:

Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer of Apple, is widely considered the world’s most influential industrial designer and plays a key role in Apple’s status as one of the most recognized and innovative brands in history. As CDO, he is behind all aspects of the look and feel of the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Apple watch—as well as major architectural projects like Apple Park—and new ideas and initiatives in development.

He has been described as one of the most powerful people in the world’s most valuable company and is a 2017 honoree of the Smithsonian’s American Ingenuity Awards (the “Golden Globes of intellect”), which honor revolutionary breakthroughs in the arts and sciences, education and social progress. Ive will be joined in conversation by Rick Tetzeli, Editor At Large of Fast Company and author of the bestselling biography Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.

Sadly, tickets are all gone, but:

  1. There is a waiting list, in case you’ll be in Washington DC next week
  2. Hopefully, Fast Company will video the interview, put it on their web site.

[H/T, The minimaluminiumalistically musing Not Jony Ive]

November 21, 2017

Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.

They simply neglected to tell anyone they had been hacked. There is nothing this company won’t do.

The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission unveiled plans on Tuesday to repeal landmark 2015 rules that prohibited internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content in a move that promises to recast the digital landscape.

I don’t understand how they think this is a good thing.

Vice:

From Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen to Queen, few have ever captured legendary musicians quite like photographer and photojournalist Neal Preston. Over the course of his 48-year career, the New York–born, self-taught shutterbug witnessed the rise of rock ‘n’ roll and the global culture shifts that came with it.

You’ve probably never heard his name but I guarantee you’ve seen his images. I love the disdain he shows for present day, digital photographers and the bloodless way they talk about their work. I see a lot of his images and think, “Well, they couldn’t have been that hard to get” until I realize, he was shooting his iconic shots using a film camera. I could never get those shots.

Motherboard:

The idea of websites tracking users isn’t new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand. In the first installment of a series titled “No Boundaries,” three researchers from Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world’s most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server.

Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers’ findings.

This list of the websites that do this should make you very, very angry.

MacStories:

However, long-form writing is a different animal altogether that benefits from a project-based approach that also includes tools for planning, organizing, researching, and tracking. Today, Literature and Latte released version 3.0 of Scrivener for macOS with a long list of new features that cements its spot as one of the premier project-focused apps available on the Mac for long-form writing.

Scrivener isn’t just for book writers, but the features that cater to them are what sets the app apart from other text editors.

I no longer write long-form but I would have loved this app in college and almost every long-form writer I know uses and loves Scrivener.

Many people realize that smartphones track their locations. But what if you actively turn off location services, haven’t used any apps, and haven’t even inserted a carrier SIM card?

Even if you take all of those precautions, phones running Android software gather data about your location and send it back to Google when they’re connected to the internet, a Quartz investigation has revealed.

Damn, Google.

Apple’s TrueDepth camera features multiple sensors to create a depth map in real time on the iPhone X. Google’s solution relies entirely on machine learning and an impressive single camera to accomplish the same effect on the Pixel 2. Here’s a look at how these two methods compare!

There is no doubt how important selfies are to smartphone owners these days.

The Apple Watch comes with a stock app called Breathe that reminds you to, um, breathe. There’s actually more to it than that, but the thought of needing a reminder to breathe makes me giggle. The point is, the app has this kinda awesome interface with a nice animation.

Very nice.

Apple Inc said on Tuesday it has removed several apps including Skype, Microsoft Corp’s internet phone call and messaging service, from its app store in China after the country’s government pointed to violations of local laws.

Apple has to abide by the laws of the countries it operates in.

November 20, 2017

Yahoo:

Apple’s iPhone X is an exceptional smartphone. It’s easily the best iPhone the tech giant has ever produced thanks to its improved design, vivid edge-to-edge screen and fantastic Face ID facial recognition scanner.

But the iPhone X has another feature that hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as its ability to use animojis: its camera. See, the iPhone X’s shooter features a dual-lens setup that’s much like the 8 Plus. However, it can capture more light than the 8 Plus’s camera, making for improved image quality.

To test how well the iPhone X’s camera performs, I put it up against the 8 Plus, Google’s Pixel 2 XL and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8. And while each of the handsets performed incredibly well, Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone X outperformed them where it mattered.

We’re going to see a lot of these shootouts but there’s no reason to believe the results will be any different.

Wired:

While Woods is one of several DMs-for-hire out there, this isn’t his hobby or a side gig; it’s a living, and a pretty good one at that, with Woods charging anywhere from $250 to $350 for a one-off three-hour session (though he works on a sliding scale). For that price, Woods will not only research and plan out your game but also, if you become a regular, answer your occasional random text queries about wizard spells.

I had no idea there was any such thing as a professional DM but, of course there is.

Mental Floss:

A good poster can make all the difference when it comes to decor. Posters are a cost-effective and fun way to add color, tie together a room, and show off the owner’s personality. If you want to help a loved one track down a poster that doesn’t look like it’s straight out of a college dorm room, here are 11 prints we suggest gifting.

As we get older, it gets harder and harder to find unique, interesting gifts for friends and family. Some of these posters might be just the ticket. I especially love the retro patent ones.

Apple Park AR demonstration

A really cool demonstration of AR in action. I’d love to get to the new Visitor Center to see it for myself.