January 19, 2019

How does a “Pull-Back” toy car work?

Not only is this a really good explanation of what’s happening inside these little cars, the animation is really well done.

MacRumors:

Four months after being discontinued, the beloved iPhone SE has made a sudden return to Apple’s online store this week.

Apple is offering the iPhone SE with 32GB of storage for $249 and with 128GB of storage for $299 on its clearance store in the United States. These are brand new, unopened, and unlocked models with unchanged tech specs, including a 4-inch Retina display, A9 chip, Touch ID, and 12-megapixel rear camera.

The iPhone SE is still a beloved “little” phone, suitable for a lot of people. This is the best deal Apple has ever offered on it.

MacStories:

Apple shared five new videos on its YouTube channel today, all of which center around working on an iPad Pro. Each video covers a different iPad workflow.

What I love about these videos, each of which are just over a minute long, is that they demonstrate the actual apps and workflows you can use to accomplish these tasks on the iPad Pro. For example, the podcast hosting video features Anchor for recording, editing, and publishing the podcast, Files for adding audio from an external source, and GoodNotes for holding your speaking notes. The video on taking notes features Notability exclusively, highlighting the app’s versatility for handwritten and typed notes, drawings, and audio recordings.

As the iPad “matures”, its ability to do the things formerly requiring a desktop or laptop becomes greater and greater.

FastCompany:

In 2016, the Sierra Club sent volunteers to more than 300 dealerships around the country to record their experience shopping for an electric vehicle. The results were dismaying, to say the least. More than 1 in 5 Ford and Chevy dealers had failed to charge an EV so it could be taken for a test drive. Only around half of salespeople explained how to fuel a plug-in vehicle, and only a third discussed the tax credits available to buyers.

Researchers further explained that EVs need less maintenance than conventional cars, which puts a dent in the dealer’s bottom line.

There’s plenty of blame to go around as to why EVs are not more popular but with dealerships being some of the frontline troops when it comes to first information and then sales, they take on a good percentage of the responsibility for the lack of sales.

January 18, 2019

Gizmodo:

A lot of people don’t like drones. Flying robots with increasingly powerful cameras and a growing number of tools sounds like the scariest parts of the dystopian future we were warned about. But as is often the case with emerging technology, there’s another story to tell. Outside of the stunts and spectacles, a growing number of drones are doing work. Some of them are doing police work, which is potentially scary, but the vast majority of enterprise applications for drones is refreshingly positive.

Like so much of technology, good or bad depends on how we use it. I had a blast flying my DJI Mavic 2 Pro (until it plummeted out of the sky and into our local harbour, never to be seen again), but there are enough horror stories of improper drone flying to make many of us understandably concerned about their use – not just by hobbyists but also by our governments.

FastCompany:

Thirteen years ago, during an unassuming Sunday football game on Fox, America suffered a mass hallucination–and it’s never woken up.

There was no explanation as to why a cyborg football player had suddenly appeared, hopping, stretching, and flexing across millions of TVs. He had no name, no origin story, and no fundamental logic justifying his existence.

No one outside Fox knew where the robot–named Cleatus–came from, or which creative director summoned him from the depths of the network’s psyche. So, nine months ago, I reached out to Fox Sports–because I needed to know. I would blow this story wide open.

There are few things I find more annoying during my sportsball viewing than this stupid robot.

The Dalrymple Report: Apple Watch, Netflix and Facebook with Dave Mark

Dave and I discuss the Apple Watch and health, more disastrous news for Facebook, and Netflix’s blockbuster numbers.

Brought to you by:

EXPRESSVPN: Take back your Internet privacy TODAY and find out how you can get 3 months free, go to EXPRESSVPN.com/tdr.

Subscribe to this podcast

Road Racing World:

Motorcyclists have long championed riding as their main road to stress relief and positive mental health. Today, the results of a neurobiological study conducted by a team of three researchers from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior yielded pioneering scientific evidence revealing the potential mental and physical benefits of riding. Funded by Harley-Davidson, the study found that motorcycling increased metrics of focus and attention, and decreased relative levels of cortisol, a hormonal marker of stress.

Researchers recorded participants’ brain activity and hormone levels before, during, and after motorcycling, driving a car, and resting. While riding a motorcycle, participants experienced increased sensory focus and resilience to distraction. Riding also produced an increase in adrenaline levels and heart rate, as well as a decrease in cortisol metrics results often associated with light exercise and stress-reduction.

Even though the study was funded by a motorcycle manufacturer which may throw its conclusions into question, I’d bet everyone who rides agrees with the study’s results. For me, I know that riding relaxes me while, at the same time, increases my focus. While it’s the most dangerous thing I do, it’s also one of the best things I do.

Close up look at the new iPhone smart battery cases

Rene Ritchie offers a look at the new iPhone smart battery cases, with lots of closeup and lots of detail. Excellent work.

Nathan Halverson, Reveal News (via DF):

A trove of hidden documents detailing how Facebook made money off children will be made public, a federal judge ruled late Monday in response to requests from Reveal.

A glimpse into the soon-to-be-released records shows Facebook’s own employees worried they were bamboozling children who racked up hundreds, and sometimes even thousands, of dollars in game charges. And the company failed to provide an effective way for unsuspecting parents to dispute the massive charges, according to internal Facebook records.

And:

When the bill came, his mom requested Facebook refund the money, saying she never authorized any charges beyond the original $20. But the company never refunded any money, forcing the family to file a lawsuit in pursuit of a refund.

And:

In one of the unsealed documents, two Facebook employees deny a refund request from a child whom they refer to as a “whale” – a term coined by the casino industry to describe profligate spenders. The child had entered a credit card number to play a game, and in about two weeks racked up thousands of dollars in charges, according to an excerpt of messages between two employees at the social media giant.

It’s like letting a child into a Vegas casino with their parents’ credit card, then sending the parent into a maze of twisty passages if they wanted a refund. This whole thing is awful.

FXGuide:

The film’s genus lies in two key choices: firstly, the film makers did not hide away from the fact that there have been so many different tellings of the Spider-Man story previously, but rather embraced it. Secondly, they designed an original comic book visual style unlike any other film. Together these elements have been perfectly combined to produce a surprisingly original film that delivers the most inventive visuals seen this year.

This is amazingly informative. Each section of the article starts with a panel that shows off a specific technique, then digs into what went into making that look so compelling.

What a great movie.

[H/T @brisance]

Edward C. Baig, USA Today:

Apple and Johnson & Johnson are teaming up on a study to determine whether the latest Apple Watch, in conjunction with an app from the pharmaceutical company, can accelerate the diagnosis of a leading cause of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that causes about 130,000 deaths and 750,000 hospitalizations each year in the U.S., Johnson & Johnson said. Up to 30 percent of cases go undiagnosed until life-threatening complications occur. Worldwide, about 33 million people have the condition.

And:

Burton believes “the study has the potential to show that there is a lot more atrial fibrillation out there in the real world in older people than we ever imagined, and if you use a tool like an Apple Watch to detect and funnel people to care, you can really drive down stroke risk in those patients.

So what does AFib have to do with stroke? From this article from the National Stroke Association:

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the U.S. AFib is a type of irregular heartbeat, often caused when the two upper chambers of the heart beat unpredictably and sometimes rapidly. These irregular heartbeats can cause blood to collect in the heart and potentially form a clot, which can travel to a person’s brain and cause a stroke.

I do get how the Apple Watch can detect AFib. Not clear exactly what additional role the Apple Watch will have in predicting/preventing stroke. But that’s what the study’s for.

Recode, summarizing a detailed letter Netflix sent out to shareholders:

At the end of December, Netflix said that 45 million people had watched Bird Box, a Netflix-owned thriller starring Sandra Bullock that came out just before Christmas.

That is a ridiculous number. Compare that to the viewing numbers for one of the most watched shows on cable, Game of Thrones. From The Telegraph:

Game of Thrones has long smashed records for HBO, the cable network it is broadcast on in its native US: it beat The Sopranos as the network’s most-watched series ever in 2015, after crossing the 18.2 million viewers-per-episode mark.

But that’s small fry in comparison to the average 31 million viewers per episode that season seven has witnessed, an 24 per cent increase on 2016’s ratings.

Think about this. Bird Box is new. It has no lead-in, no history, not much in the way of marketing. And it crushed Game of Thrones. Right out of the box. Because Netflix.

The Academy Awards, which was one of the few high-water mark audiences on network television, had 26.5 million viewers last year. At its absolute height, it hit 46 million viewers. Bird Box out of the gate numbers.

And:

Netflix says that Bird Box, which was released late last year, added another 35 million households in the first four weeks after its release, bringing its total audience to 80 million households.

And:

Netflix says that both You, a young-adultish thriller, and Sex Education, another show with a young-adult bent, should each reach 40 million households in their first four weeks on the service.

Apple has the right idea, I think. They have the distribution, already in place. Only question is, can they build compelling content? And, to me, that comes down to picking the right partners.

January 17, 2019

Global News:

Skygazers are set to be treated to a total lunar eclipse this weekend, on top of a “super blood wolf moon.”

The cosmic event is the convergence of a few stellar lunar events — an eclipse coinciding with a supermoon turning an eerie blood red.

The eclipse will be visible to much of the Western Hemisphere, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico and South America on Sunday, Jan. 20, and finish early Monday, Jan. 21 (ET time).

Ignoring all the silly qualifiers, this will be a pretty incredible event, especially for those of us on the West Coast of North America. Sadly for us here in the Vancouver area, the forecast is for rain Sunday evening.

Jeremy Burge did some side-by-side low light shots, showing the iPhone camera vs Android’s Night Sight. Scroll through the tweets below:

To me, this is my iPhone camera’s biggest weakness, the one feature that tempts me to carry a Pixel 3, just for the ability to capture better low light images.

Google has a fantastic writeup on Night Sight in this blog post. Jump to the section titled “Capturing the Data” for the details.

As you make your way through the Twitter thread, don’t miss the interaction between Jeremy and Rene Ritchie. It’s not clear that my iPhone is not capable of producing similar, or even superior low light images. It may be simply that Apple chose not to ship a low-light mode that did not deliver pictures that met their standards. But as is, I’d rather have the oversaturated Night Sight images than ones that were simply dark.

Rene Ritchie lays out his vision for the future of iOS. Some great ideas here. My favorite (and I’ve been cheering for this concept for a while now):

Lock Screen Complications

Apple Watch provides rich, on-demand information, through complications. With them, not just the time, day and date, but everything from the temperature to your next appointment, stock prices to your current activity level are instantly, glance-ably available. And so are the apps behind them, both the ones made by Apple and many from the App Store.

A variety of Android phones do this as well. Some persistently through always-on displays.

Unlike notifications, which bring event-based information to you as it happens, complications are just always there, chill, hanging out, available whenever you want them. And that makes for a huge improvement in convenience.

If Apple delivers just one thing from Rene’s wish list, customizable iPhone lock screen complications would top my list.

Even if you don’t have a single bit of developer in you, this is a fascinating look at an Apple product that never made the official catalog.

A taste, from the beginning of Stephen Hackett’s MacStories writeup:

In his keynote introducing the switch to Intel, Steve Jobs introduced the weirdest Mac of all time: the Apple Developer Transition Kit.

After announcing the change, Jobs revealed a secret. The Mac he had been using to demo software all morning actually had a 3.6 GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor inside.

Needless to say, the crowd went wild.

Great read.

This is a really well organized list of habits and resources to improve your online privacy and security. Spend a few minutes just scanning the list. Are you following these habits? If not, dig in a bit, follow the links.

And that thing about freezing your credit? Sound advice.

Christine Chan, iMore:

When you charge your iPhone in the Smart Battery Case, the iPhone will usually have priority when normal or fast charging. Once the iPhone reaches about 80 percent charged, the charging is split and allocated to the Smart Battery Case instead. However, if you use a power adapter that can provide more power, such as a MacBook Pro USB-C power adapter, then it can fast charge both the iPhone and Smart Battery Case at the same time. What has priority depends on how much power is being taken in.

Good to know.

Tim Cook, writing for Time Magazine:

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.

And:

One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer—something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker”—a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer.

The trail disappears before you even know there is a trail. Right now, all of these secondary markets for your information exist in a shadow economy that’s largely unchecked—out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers.

I applaud Tim’s efforts here. But this road is a difficult one. Just think about all the efforts made to prevent spam, both in your email, and via your phone.

The national do-not-call registry was a solid idea. But it lacked teeth. Like most people, I still regularly get phone calls from spammers and scammers, some spoofing local numbers to make me think the call is from someone I know.

Ridding ourselves of the spammers and scammers takes legislation with teeth. Ridding ourselves of behind the scenes data-brokers will take the same.

Again, I applaud the effort, but it won’t be easy. As always, follow the money. If what you want to get rid of is enriching someone, they’ll use that money to hamper your efforts, via lobbying and political donations. Fortunately, in this case, Apple has deep enough pockets to make a difference here.

Go get ’em Tim.

January 16, 2019

Wired:

If you use social media, you’ve probably noticed a trend across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter of people posting their then-and-now profile pictures, mostly from 10 years ago and this year.

In various versions of the meme, people were instructed to post their first profile picture alongside their current profile picture, or a picture from 10 years ago alongside their current profile picture. So, yes: These profile pictures exist, they’ve got upload time stamps, many people have a lot of them, and for the most part they’re publicly accessible.

But let’s play out this idea.

We’ve mentioned often here how we give up way too much data voluntarily. Some of it, like this “challenge”, while seemingly innocent, may actually be sneaky and insidious.

Tom Bridge:

I bought my Apple Watch Series 4 when Apple announced it this summer, an upgrade from my Series 2. I was attracted by the fall detection (I’m an award-winning accident prone fellow) and also by the new ECG feature. I have a family history of atrial fibrillation, and I’m now 40, so some precautions seemed wise.

This afternoon, I was helping a client move offices, mostly just deconstructing a simple network rack and moving access points into new space. I was doing some physical work, but nothing anyone would mistake for exercise. But, then I felt it. My heart was pounding. I got dizzy. Tunnel vision. I had to sit down.

We’ve heard a lot of these stories and we’ll hear a lot more. If nothing else, the Apple Watch is making many more people much more aware of the overall health and well being. I know it’s already helped me lose weight and I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks.

lifehacker:

Adobe appears to have upset a number of users with another price increase for its app subscriptions. While the hit only appears to be targeting specific countries at this point—you’re spared, North American users—there’s no reason to think that you won’t have to pay more to subscribe to an Adobe app (or its whole suite of creative apps) at some future point.

I created this list of 27 good alternatives to Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps based on what people appeared to be excited about.

This is a great list for those of you who are looking for and can use alternative apps. There are a couple of apps I’m going to test out for color grading my drone footage.

The insurers are exploring ways to subsidize the cost of the device for those who can’t afford the $279 price tag, which is the starting cost of an older model. The latest version of the device, which includes the most extensive health features including fall detection and an electrocardiogram to measure the heart’s rhythm, retails for a minimum of $399, which many seniors could benefit from but can’t afford.

This makes perfect sense for Apple. The health features of the Apple Watch continue to help people of all ages and save lives. Getting these devices into the hands of seniors is the right thing to do for all involved.

Composer, sound designer Joel Corelitz has a gift for you. It’s a collection of music he created that is free for you to use in your own projects.

Bookmark the page, as I suspect this collection will grow over time, and you never know when the need will strike.

Pull up Siri and ask these two things:

  • How many days since December 17th?

and:

  • How many days since December 17th, 2018?

You’ll get two different responses. Now go read the linked post. Very interesting.

Niko Kitsakis (via Michael Tsai’s blog):

People called good Macintosh software “Mac-like” because that’s what it felt like. If an application did not adhere to those seemingly unwritten rules, you would develop an itch in the back of your head. Something was off.

This “Mac-like” feeling was at the core of the classic Mac OS era. It’s what gave the Mac its legendary status and its place in history. And while the first versions of OS X broke with some conventions, things became better as OS X progressed. That is to say, until 10.7 came out and started a trend of questionable design decisions that has been continuing ever since.

This is a short-but-sweet post that lays out a specific example of the power of a properly constructed interface. The oldest “Save changes” dialog asked a question, but populated the response buttons with Yes, No, and Cancel. A look at the button only was not helpful.

This evolved into the use of verbs in response buttons, with Save, Don’t save, and Cancel.

The Mac design language was so powerful, and so widely adopted, that any app that did not follow the rules stood out like a sore thumb. Mac applications were instantly recognizable, and apps from outsiders tended to look ugly, in comparison, as those outsiders did not know the rules to follow.

Does the modern macOS and iOS app universe still hew to a common standard? Are Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines lost in the incredible complexity of application creation? Are we better off with fewer rules and less oversight on the things we create? Or might the pendulum swing back, with apps that are recognized as following the iOS and macOS HIGs?

Here are the product links:

All three come in black or white. All three priced at $129.

Battery life varies per model, with the iPhone XR up to a whopping 39 hours of talk time.

DuckDuckGo blog:

We’re excited to announce that map and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo for mobile and desktop are now powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework, giving you a valuable combination of mapping and privacy. As one of the first global companies using Apple MapKit JS, we can now offer users improved address searches, additional visual features, enhanced satellite imagery, and continually updated maps already in use on billions of Apple devices worldwide.

With this updated integration, Apple Maps are now available both embedded within our private search results for relevant queries, as well as available from the “Maps” tab on any search result page.

I love this integration. It is very well done, and is blazingly fast.

Head to DuckDuckGo.com and type pizza in the search bar. Look for a block on the page with a map and click the Open Map button.

Just a taste, but this is privacy-respecting Apple Maps. Brilliant integration.

See also, DuckDuckGo’s CEO writing about their revenue generation model.

January 15, 2019

Ars Technica:

Another round of Netflix price hikes is upon us. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Netflix will increase the prices of all of its subscription plans, effective immediately, for all new customers. Existing customers will see their rates increase over the next three months.

Netflix’s most popular plan, which lets users stream HD content on two screens simultaneously, will now cost $13 per month. That’s an 18-percent increase from its previous $11 monthly price. Netflix’s premium plan, which includes HD and UHD streaming on up to four screens simultaneously, will now cost $16, up from $14 monthly. The most affordable Netflix option, the “basic” plan, increases by $1, from $8 per month to $9.

Netflix last increased its prices at the end of 2017, but only its standard and premium plans were affected. This time around, all three plans will cost more, resulting in a price hike that affects all US Netflix users.

It will likely eventually affect customers in other countries as well. We are a Netflix family but, at what point will these increases stop us from paying for the service?