February 18, 2020

TidBITS:

We think of “the cloud” as an amorphous space without limits. That may be true in the aggregate, but each of our personal cloud storage accounts has limits, and in comparison to the terabyte-sized drives in our Macs, our cloud accounts are often quite small. Nevertheless, you can usually go for years without bumping into their limits. I certainly did.

But when you do run out of space, it can be a major problem, since files may stop syncing, email could get rejected, and all sorts of other havoc could ensue. I recently hit this problem with iCloud, Dropbox, and Google.

As the tech guy for our family of 12 macOS and iOS connected devices, I’m the one charged with managing all the storage, backup, and maintenance details. What a PITA.

New York Times:

…his siblings and their mother gathered around him, and a brother-in-law took a family photo using his smartphone.

“We couldn’t think of a time when all of us had been together with Mom,” Ms. Musser, 34, said. “So we had the conversation. Did Mom want a photo with all seven of her children and was it morbid that one of them was dead?”

There ended up being several photographs. They are startling and beautiful. Mr. Alexander looks peaceful and regal.

In a collision of technology and culture, of new habits and very old ones, we are beginning to photograph our dead again.

Many of us have complicated feelings about death and dead bodies. Personally, I wouldn’t want to do this but I understand why some would.

“Fake Bakes” have millions of views on YouTube but don’t actually work

Chris Fox:

I tried out some “fake bakes” that have clocked up millions of views on YouTube, but don’t actually work!

I’m a “beginner cook” so I love little tips and tricks of cooking and baking. I’ve seen these “food hacks” all over Facebook and Twitter and many of them seemed suspect to me. Turns out, according to Chris Fox and Ann Reardon of @HowToCookThat, the vast majority of those hacks won’t work and some are even dangerous.

Bare Bones Software, makers of BBEdit, is one of my favorite software companies — in fact, I’ve been using BBEdit for more than 20 years. BBEdit has been updated to version 13, and is available in the Mac App Store as a subscription! Same great features. Same user experience. You can subscribe in the Mac App Store or purchase perpetual licenses directly from Bare Bones Software. Also, you can still get great merch, including Classic and Rebus T-shirts, enamel pins, and more in their merch store!

Amazing Stories Apple TV+ trailer

Steven Spielberg is a great storyteller. Think of all the iconic stories he’s laid at our feet, from the varied adventures of Indiana Jones, to ET, from Back to the Future to Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. There are some clunkers, for sure, but Spielberg is a master of visually laying out a ripping yarn.

Set your reminder for March 6th, when the first episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories reboot drops.

Slowly but surely, Apple’s catalog is growing. I am bullish on Apple TV+. All Apple needs here is time.

This reminds me of the rollout of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold.

Early days still, but I’ll go out on a limb and say Samsung has learned some hard lessons from that release and, I suspect, the Galaxy Z Flip will fare better than the Fold. Making a foldable phone is no easy thing, and Samsung is mastering (presumably) a technology that will give them an edge on newcomers to the market.

Two things:

  • Are foldable phones necessary? Is this an important evolution in smartphone technology?
  • Does this mean Apple is falling behind?

If the answer to the first question is yes, then I’d wager that Apple knows this and is quietly developing foldable expertise in a lab somewhere, choosing not to reveal their mistakes and strategy in public.

Steve Streza:

Over the years, Apple has built up a portfolio of services and add-ons that you pay for. Starting with AppleCare extended warranties and iCloud data subscriptions, they expanded to Apple Music a few years ago, only to dramatically ramp up their offerings last year with TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card. Their services business, taken as a whole, is quickly becoming massive; Apple reported $12.7 billion in Q1 2020 alone, nearly a sixth of its already gigantic quarterly revenue.

All that money comes from the wallets of 480 million subscribers, and their goal is to grow that number to 600 million this year. But to do that, Apple has resorted to insidious tactics to get those people: ads. Lots and lots of ads, on devices that you pay for.

We’ve all seen the wave of ads, seemingly everywhere you turn. Especially if you have not subscribed to a particular service.

Follow the headline link to Steve’s post, scan through the images. You’ve no doubt encountered ads like these, especially if you’re using social media.

I get it. Apple’s market is maturing, and shareholders demand growth. Apple has turned to services for that growth and these ads are a necessary evil. To me, the fault lies in the mechanisms of capitalism, in the self-defeating motivations placed on any publicly traded company.

Bradley Chambers, 9to5Mac:

Over the years, I’ve dabbled with using Spotify instead of Apple Music. Both platforms offer users access to millions of songs and offer a wealth of personalization options. The one thing that has always kept me coming back and sticking with Apple Music is iCloud Music Library. iCloud Music Library is a feature that allows you to upload your own music and have it live right alongside your Apple Music content. It’s a feature that I use frequently, and it’s something Spotify can’t match.

And:

A perfect example of the usefulness of iCloud Music Library is when artists hold new albums off streaming platforms for a few weeks/months after the release. Recent examples were Taylor Swift’s Reputation album and Adele’s 25 album. Both of these albums were massively popular, but neither were available on Spotify or Apple Music for months. Apple Music users could buy it from iTunes or Amazon MP3, add it to iCloud Music Library, and it would appear with their existing albums. Spotify users were out of luck getting it imported into their Spotify library on mobile.

With so much music available on both sides, features are what distinguish one service from the other. This one is a clear win for Apple Music.

Now if only I could get Apple to stop replacing the version of a song I added to my library with a version they have in theirs.

Leo Kelion, BBC News:

I submitted a subject data access request, asking Amazon to disclose everything it knows about me

Scanning through the hundreds of files I received in response, the level of detail is, in some cases, mind-bending.

One database contains transcriptions of all 31,082 interactions my family has had with the virtual assistant Alexa. Audio clips of the recordings are also provided.

And:

Clicking on another file reveals 2,670 product searches I had carried out within its store since 2017. There are more than 60 supplementary columns for each one, containing information such as what device I’d been using, how many items I subsequently clicked on, and a string of numbers that hint at my location.

One spreadsheet actually triggers a warning message saying it is too big for my software to handle. It contains details of the 83,657 Kindle interactions I’ve had since 2018, including the exact time of day for each tap.

This great read is the story of how this all evolved. Chock full of detail, chock full of links. Well done Leo.

Ron McElfresh, Mac360 founder:

A few years ago I came down with an odd neuromuscular disorder that has slowly become debilitating. After 18 months of tests with a dozen different doctors I was referred to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. More doctors and extensive tests confirmed a preliminary diagnosis of ALS. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Think of it as a slow-motion death sentence where muscles begin to waste away and tasks as simple as tying shoelaces or buttoning a shirt or standing become major accomplishments.

And:

My spirits are high (most of the time). I’ve led a good life, worked hard, and appreciate the loving support from family and friends, but I know– and feel– the end is near.

That means I can no longer continue to run Mac360 and the Apple Villagers websites as they are today.

Damn.

Here’s a link to a GoFundMe to help defray Ron’s medical expenses.

February 17, 2020

Apple:

Our quarterly guidance issued on January 28, 2020 reflected the best information available at the time as well as our best estimates about the pace of return to work following the end of the extended Chinese New Year holiday on February 10. Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated. As a result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided for the March quarter due to two main factors.

The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated. The health and well-being of every person who helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public health experts as this ramp continues. These iPhone supply shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide.

The second is that demand for our products within China has been affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic. We are gradually reopening our retail stores and will continue to do so as steadily and safely as we can. Our corporate offices and contact centers in China are open, and our online stores have remained open throughout.

Bad news for Apple but not completely unexpected. The company will undoubtedly bounce back.

MProve:

Kai Krause was born 1957 in Dortmund. He came to California in 1976 with two friends. He worked as a musician for Disney Sound Effects; the soundtrack for “Star Trek: The Movie” was created on his synthesizers. In fact Kai won a Clio Award for his sound effects in a Star Wars radio spot. Emerson, Lake & Powell bought sound systems from him and he is still working with Peter Gabriel today in order to fulfill his vision of visualized music as 3D sculptures.

He was running a forum for several years on AOL: Kai’s Power Tips & Tricks. He gave people tips and little pieces of code on line, simply because they shared his passion for computer graphics. This became an extensive and valuable collection of practical information how to get special effects with Adobe Photoshop.

Many of the filters in KPT3 like KPT Texture Explorer, KPT Spheroid Designer and KPT Convolver use a rectangular area that fits on a 14″ monitor. All other elements get blacked out – no menu bar, no Photoshop image window and no desktop. The user experience is really like coming into a room with a special suited environment for one specific task.

Krause’s software was simultaneously the most interesting and the most frustrating user interface I’ve ever experienced. Thanks to @Navesink for the link.

February 16, 2020

Inside Hook:

By now you’ve seen the video of the agitated man in the last row of a plane berating a woman in front of him for reclining her seat. While not shown in the viral video, the woman on the plane (Wendi Williams) later noted on Twitter that she did put her seat up while the man ate, and that the physical assault of her seatback started when she put the chair back down post-meal.

While violence is never the answer, a follow-up discussion in the InsideHook office on airline reclining seats got rather heated. Some editors were on team punchy’s side; others adamently defended the right to recline as much as they want whenever they wanted, because they paid for the seat and reclining is allowed under the airline’s rules.

As aircraft cabin designer James Lee once noted, “The question of the recline is like a zero-sum game. The gain of one person is the pain of the person behind.”

This whole “to recline or not to recline” issue has popped up again. For the record, as a guy who is 6’3″ tall with bad knees, you not only can’t recline your seat in front of me (the seat ends up slamming into my knees), I won’t let you, going so far as to physically prevent your seat from moving back. But, keep in mind, instead of blaming each other, we should get angry at the airlines who jam us into coach with seats so tiny even the average-sized person can’t fit in some of them.

VOX:

For the first time in four years, February has 29 days. That’s right folks, it’s a leap year, and it’s an exciting time.

Leap years always coincide with the summer Olympic Games and the US presidential election. There’s so much going on this year, we could really use the extra day.

The simple (and only) explanation for why we have leap days is that it takes 365.2422 days for our planet to complete one revolution around the sun. That means each 365-day year ends a quarter day’s worth short of the complete orbit.

Good explainer of leap years.

AppleInsider:

Crew and holiday-makers quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship because of the coronavirus are being given iPhones for easy access to information, and online medical consultations.

Passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, quarantined on board because of the coronavirus, are to be given iPhones for communication and information about the situation. Some 2,000 iPhones with a new medical consultation app are being provided by Softbank, and will be shared with one phone per cabin or crew quarters.

The ship is currently stationary off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. According to Japanese site Macotakara, passengers are using the medical app’s chat feature to communicate with doctors.

Trying to make a bad situation a little bit better.

Bloomberg Law:

Apple Inc. violated California law when it failed to pay employees for time they spend waiting for mandatory bag and iPhone searches at the end of their shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled.

The Feb. 13 decision is the latest in the battle over pay for off-the-clock work and marks the California high court’s third wage and hour opinion in two years interpreting the state’s employee-protective wage requirements. Apple won at the trial level in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which said employees of the Cupertino, Calif., tech company chose to bring bags to work and thus subject themselves to the company’s search policy. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit turned to the state court to interpret California law.

Compensation turns on the issue of whether the employee is controlled by the employer. Apple workers “are clearly under Apple’s control while awaiting, and during, the exit searches,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said.

This case is an excellent example of the fact that, while Apple appears customer friendly, they have some very employee unfriendly policies.

February 15, 2020

The Ringer:

What makes a song a “breakup song”? Does it have to be empowering, à la “I Will Survive” or most of the songs on Lemonade? Should it be for the lonely, like Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” or Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello”? Does it have to address the breakup in the lyrics? (Taylor Swift has many entrants in this category, and Marvin Gaye penned an entire album about his divorce.) What about songs with a famous backstory, like “Cry Me a River” or any track off of Rumours?

We here at The Ringer believe that since heartache comes in many forms, so should the breakup song. And in honor of Valentine’s Day, we decided to dig deep into the genre. Below, you’ll find our ranking of the 50 greatest breakup songs of all time, as voted on by our staff. The list spans several decades and many different moods, but all are rooted in some type of pain.

There are some great songs on this list. Glad my favourite artist made number one.

Inglourious Basterds “camera angel” clapper

Geraldine Brezca, 2nd Assistant Camera, is known as Tarantino’s Camera Angel.

This was a lot funnier than you would have expected it to be.

February 14, 2020

Thanks for sponsoring The Loop this week. Pro tools for iPadOS and iOS? You betcha. Video and Film makers can create pro storyboards fast with Previs Pro, then share in AR, digitally or in print. Get the Free trial here.

The Dalrymple Report: Mythic Quest, Essential, and Samsung

Apple TV+ tops the list of topics in today’s podcast as Dave and I talk about the newly released Mythic Quest. We also have some fun with Andy Rubin and Samsung.

Subscribe to this podcast

Brought to you by:

Linode: Instantly deploy and manage an SSD server in the Linode Cloud. Get a server running in seconds with your choice of Linux distro, resources, and choice of 10 node locations. Get a $20 credit when you use promocode dalrymple2020 at https://linode.com/dalrymple/.

February 13, 2020

Malware threats on Macs outpace Windows for first time ever

OMG! That headline! Run! HIDE! SAVE YOURSELVES!

Except…

This article spread like….well…a virus over the past couple of days, prompting much glee and snickering from certain groups of computer users. And it’s an example of something I rail about on a regular basis – a lack of objectivity, skepticism, and a willingness of the tech media to serve up whatever pablum is sent to them via a press release without any thought to those persnickety things called “facts.”

First of all, the “information” comes from a company called Malwarebytes, an antivirus software maker. Right there is your first clue this “report” may not be entirely objective. After all, while they are in the business of protecting users, they are also trying to sell you a product. One of the easiest ways to do that is through fear.

The Malwarebytes report speaks of a “virtual landslide” of malware detections on OSX devices.

What is a “virtual landslide”? 11. 11 Mac OS threats were detected in 2019. Now, that’s not nothing but….a landslide? I live in an area that has frequent real landslides and I can tell you, that’s a slide down a very low hill.

According to the report, Mac threats also differ significantly from those faced by PCs. While Windows machines are more likely to face traditional types of malware, the most prevalent Mac threats are adware and PUPs. The latter mostly consists of “cleaning” apps like MacKeeper and MacBooster.

So, while incredibly annoying…not all that bad?

The report states that in all of 2019, “only one incident involved anything other than tricking the (Mac OS) user into downloading and opening something they shouldn’t.”

One.

According to the last line in the Gizmodo article:

The main takeaway is that no, your Apple computer isn’t more immune to malware.

Glad they saved that until the very end. And the last line in the New Atlas piece?

for now, it seems education and the odd free malware scan are still sufficient to keep you relatively safe from anything but annoyance on a Mac.

The media should be pointing out these kinds of scare tactics. Report on the potential threats? Yes. Educate readers? Of course. But there’s is no need to use the same tricks as the anti-malware companies who are trying to shill their products.

Bryan Lehrer:

The reasons why Costco made sense for us are probably not dissimilar from the reasons of its ~100 million other members. Since its founding in 1983, the store has consistently delivered on providing value by selling almost any kind of product at competitive prices (among other things). In a ‘late-stage-capitalist’ landscape riddled with examples of, at worst, blatant greed, scams, and ripoffs, and at best, inadvertent marginalization from platforms, shopping at Costco is one of the few places that, according to its loyal customers, “feels like winning.”

Costco has been able to cement itself simultaneously as an inculpable crowd favorite and mothership of bottomless consumerism. I will ponder whether or not consumer happiness or value is the best proxy for individual (and environmental) well being, whether or not you can truly have your free sample and eat it too.

My wife and I are big fans of Costco. Even though it’s a two hour one way trip (including a ferry ride) away, we look forward to shopping there. As a matter of fact, we’ve got a big “Costco shop” planned for tomorrow. We’ll make a day of it in the Big City. While she gets her hair done, I’ll shop for new stuff for our recently adopted puppy and then we’ll go to Costco and have sushi afterward. Sounds like a perfect Valentine’s Day.

Many reasons to watch this. First, check out how much work goes into editing a podcast. I’d wager few podcasts get this much attention, this much love. This is amazing work.

Next, check out the design of Ferrite Recording Studio. The details are wonderful. And watching Jason work with Ferrite is like watching a master craft with beautifully well-designed tools.

To me, this is an app that raises the value of iPad, just as page-layout tools and LaserWriter raised the value of Mac, back in the day.

This post rocketed to the top of Hacker News yesterday. I couldn’t post it because of this.

But time passes and the post eased out of the top spot, the web site became accessible again.

Take a look. Don’t get caught in the “but it’s not usable” trap. This is some amazing design.

Well done, Justine.

At first blush, I liked this purely for the chance to see all the artwork in one place.

But then I started thinking about the questions Stephen Hackett posed in the text. Pretty, pretty good.

If the Hunting workout icon is standing in a cloud, who are they shooting at?

Edward Ongweso Jr, Motherboard:

DoNotPay, the family of consumer advocacy services meant to protect people from corporate exploitation, is launching a new app aimed at helping end our long national nightmare surrounding robocalls by giving you a burner credit card to get their contact details then giving you a chatbot lawyer to automatically sue them.

And:

Robo Revenge combines both features to automatically add you to the Do Not Call Registry, generate a virtual DoNotPay burner credit card to provide scammers when they illegally call you anyways, use the transaction information to get the scammer’s contact information, then walk you through how to sue them for as much as $3,000 per call under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law already on the books meant to protect consumers from calls that violate the Do Not Call Registry. The app also streamlines the litigation paperwork by automatically generating demand letters and court filing documents.

This strategy might be effective against US-based telemarketers. But not at all against overseas scammers trying to get at your bank account, arguably the more dangerous of the two. Still, it’s something.

New York Times:

Once considered one of Silicon Valley’s most promising hardware technology start-ups, Essential had raised $330 million in outside funding because of the track record of Mr. Rubin, who is widely credited with creating Google’s Android smartphone software.

And:

Essential was also dogged by news about Mr. Rubin and the circumstances of his departure from Google. The New York Times reported in 2018 that Google had paid Mr. Rubin a $90 million exit package after claims of sexual misconduct with an employee were deemed credible. Mr. Rubin has denied the claims.

From the Essential blog:

In October, we introduced Project GEM, a new mobile experience that our hardware, software and cloud teams have been building and testing for the past few years. Our vision was to invent a mobile computing paradigm that more seamlessly integrated with people’s lifestyle needs. Despite our best efforts, we’ve now taken Gem as far as we can and regrettably have no clear path to deliver it to customers. Given this, we have made the difficult decision to cease operations and shutdown Essential.

An amazing story. Rubin and company burned through $330 million in other people’s money, with nothing to show for it. Poof. It’s gone.

Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:

With the added Siri integration, you’ll be able to ask the assistant both informational queries, plus those requiring real-time information.

For example, you may ask Siri something like “When are the California primaries?,” which is a more straightforward question, or “Who’s winning the New Hampshire primaries?,” which requires updated information.

On my iPhone, most everything worked as advertised. On HomePod, some questions got the, “I can’t get the answer to that on HomePod” response.

Try it yourself:

What were the results of the Democratic Iowa Caucus?

This comes up when the information has not been pre-parsed for HomePod Siri and requires a web lookup.

February 12, 2020

First things first, this from Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post, commenting on Samsung’s new phones, announced yesterday:

With prices ranging from $1,000 to $1,400, either one is hard to justify as much more than a luxury.

Gruber:

There are way more people on the planet who’d rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around. But you’ll never see a tech reviewer claim that $1,000-1,400 is “hard to justify” for a laptop.

Read Gruber’s piece, headline-linked.

Obviously, current, state-of-the-art smartphones have indeed become much more expensive, beyond the budgets of many. But Gruber’s point is spot on. Smartphones have become the new laptops, the main computer for many people.

KQED News:

An Apple engineer who died when his Tesla Model X slammed into a concrete barrier had previously complained about the SUV malfunctioning on the same stretch of Silicon Valley freeway.

His complaints were detailed in a trove of documents released Tuesday by federal investigators in two Tesla crashes involving Autopilot, one in the Bay Area and the other in Florida.

This is the crash, back in 2018, that took the life of Apple engineer Walter Huang. If you’ve got the stomach for it, follow the headline link and check out the picture of the crash. The front of the Tesla is completely destroyed.

Fills me with anxiety just thinking about turning over control of my driving to any form of autopilot, let along being a passenger in a driverless car.