NBC’s Peacock streaming service will launch on July 15th with three different price tiers

The Verge:

Comcast and NBCUniversal announced today that Peacock will be available in three tiers: a free option (Peacock Free) that comes with limited programming; an ad-supported complete version that is free to existing Comcast customers and $5-a-month for everyone else; and a $10-a-month ad-free subscription option that is open to anyone. That one is known as Peacock Premium.

And:

This brings us to Comcast and NBCUniversal’s final ace in the hole: licensing. NBCUniversal and Comcast own some of the most important licenses in Hollywood. The entire Harry Potter collection, for example, belongs to NBCUniversal right now. WarnerMedia licensed the rights to the franchise a while back, and it will have to wait until those expire (or a new deal is struck) before the movies can migrate over to HBO Max. Since NBCUniversal owns a few important licenses and can license its own series to other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which rely on third-party content, Peacock becomes less of a risky bet on streaming. There’s always something for the customer, with NBCUniversal being able to rotate new and older series in and out on a constant basis.

If the streaming biz is of interest, read the whole article. From the marketing shots I’ve seen, NBC has an Apple TV app in the works. I suspect it’ll be available at rollout.

Here’s a link to the Peacock home page. Be sure to click play/sound on to play the weird egg-hatching video at the top of the page.

Apple made this

[VIDEO] Apologies in advance. This is truly bad, a flawed, monstrous gem unearthed from the bowels of The Unofficial Apple Archive. Embedded, with regret, in main Loop post.

You can now use iPhones as Google security keys for 2FA

9to5Google:

Last year, Google announced that all Android 7+ devices can be used as two-factor authentication when signing into Gmail, Drive, and other first-party services. Most modern iPhones can now be used as a built-in phone security key for Google apps.

And:

A built-in phone security key differs from the Google Prompt, though both essentially share the same UI. The latter push-based approach is found in the Google Search app and Gmail, while today’s announcement is more akin to a physical USB-C/Lightning key in terms of being resistant to phishing attempts and verifying who you are. Your phone security key needs to be physically near (within Bluetooth range) the device that wants to log-in. The login prompt is not just being sent over an internet connection.

Feels like a step in the right direction, a tool to help stop SIM-swapping. Ultimately, I’d love all my log-in services to offer a setting that limited logins to Face ID only, with Face ID required to change that setting as well.

Wall Street Journal Editorial Board op-ed backs Apple in encryption battle

The op-ed is a long, logical walkthrough of the claims by Attorney General Barr and the counterclaim on the values of both privacy and encryption.

But at its heart:

Apple is no doubt looking out for its commercial interests, and privacy is one of its selling points. But its encryption and security protections also have significant social and public benefits. Encryption has become more important as individuals store and transmit more personal information on their phones — including bank accounts and health records — amid increasing cyber-espionage.

Criminals communicate over encrypted platforms, but encryption protects all users including business executives, journalists, politicians, and dissenters in non-democratic societies. Any special key that Apple created for the U.S. government to unlock iPhones would also be exploitable by bad actors.

If American tech companies offer backdoors for U.S. law enforcement, criminals would surely switch to foreign providers. This would make it harder to obtain data stored on cloud servers. Apple says it has responded to more than 127,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies over the past seven years. We doubt Huawei would be as cooperative.

A worthy read.

The making of Mojo, AR contact lenses that give your eyes superpowers

FastCompany:

When I looked into the user interface of Mojo Vision’s augmented reality contact lenses, I didn’t see anything at first except the real world in front of me. Only when I peeked over toward the periphery did a small yellow weather icon appear. When I examined it more closely, I could see the local temperature, the current weather, and some forecast information. I looked over to the 9 o’clock position and saw a traffic icon that gave way to a frontal graphic showing potential driving routes on a simple map. At 12 o’clock, I found my calendar and to-do information. At the bottom of my view was a simple music controller.

This is a mock-up, not a shipping product, but still, an audacious concept.

In the coming decade, it’s likely that our computing devices will become more personal and reside closer to—or even inside—our bodies. Our eyes are the logical next stop on the journey. Tech giants such as Apple and Facebook are just now trying to build AR glasses that are svelte enough to wear for extended periods. But Mojo is skipping over the glasses idea entirely, opting for the much more daunting goal of fitting the necessary microcomponents into contact lenses.

I do believe the future will see more and more augmentation, tech that brings the human body across the chasm, towards robots that are themselves trying to become more human. Will we meet in the middle? Become one giant AI, discarding flesh and bone entirely?

Fascinating read. And worth noting that one of the principals in this project is Steve Sinclair, formerly of Apple.

Apple taps drone specialist to lobby Washington on aviation

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has engaged a specialist in drone and aviation law as a Washington lobbyist, suggesting the company is pushing further into the growing field.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant retained Lisa Ellman, a parter at Hogan Lovells, to conduct the lobbying. Ellman leads the law firm’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems practice. She also co-founded the Commercial Drone Alliance and is working to expand the commercial drone industry, according to her biography online.

And:

The company used drones a few years ago to help it collect mapping data. In December, it met with regulators about a proposed law that would require drones to sport virtual license plates. The company also sells several drones from DJI through the Apple website and Apple retail stores.

And:

Apple has a team exploring satellites, a type of unmanned aircraft, and Ellman could assist in regulatory efforts that would need to be conducted to launch such an effort. Apple rivals, including Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc., have developed drones in recent years.

Drones are certainly a massive business, especially on the military side. Does this connect to Apple’s reported autonomous vehicle efforts? Does this simply fall under miscellaneous?

Why everyone is copying AirPods

[VIDEO] MKBHD is answering an obvious question here. It’s all about the money.

But watch it anyway (video embedded in the main Loop post). I found this a fascinating dive into the AirPods business, starting with Phil Schiller’s “courage” announcement, then branching into Apple’s success and everyone else revving up their copiers.

An avenue by which it might be technically possible to give an iPhone ‘the software equivalent of cancer’

Nick Heer, on the FBI asking Apple for a backdoor version of iOS:

At no point — then or now — has Cook or anyone at Apple publicly confirmed how such a backdoor may be installed, or if it’s even possible. Presumably, it would use the iOS update mechanism, but how could permission be granted if the passcode to the iPhone isn’t known?

Nick then takes a Mac with a clean Catalina install, and an iPhone that has never been connected to that Mac, creating a simulation of a stolen, locked iPhone. He then installs an iOS update on that iPhone, all done without entering a passcode.

That said:

To be clear, my iPhone still prompted for its passcode when the update had finished its installation process. This did not magically unlock my iPhone. It also doesn’t prove that passcode preferences could be changed without first entering the existing valid passcode.

But it did prove the existence of one channel where an iPhone could be forced to update to a compromised version of iOS. One that would be catastrophic in its implications for iPhones today, into the future, and for encrypted data in its entirety. It is possible; it is terrible.

Does Nick’s experiment show a weakness in the process? Could a compromised iOS update be added which disables the passcode?

Certainly interesting. Taking this with a grain of salt, at least until someone follows this all the way through and unlocks an iPhone using this approach. Which I hope never happens.

Spike Jonze’s ‘Beastie Boys Story’ lands at Apple TV+

Hollywood Reporter:

The Apple streamer has picked up the documentary about the legendary hip-hop group directed by Spike Jonze and featuring Grammy Award-winning bandmembers Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz talking about their music career and 40-year friendship.

And:

A special cut of the feature documentary will open exclusively in select Imax theaters for a limited run from April 3, before the film debuts globally on Apple TV+ on April 24.

Looking forward to this one. Hoping there’s a good amount of focus on Def Jam and Rick Rubin. From the Beastie Boys Wikipedia page:

Following the success of “Cooky Puss”, the Beastie Boys began to incorporate rap into their sets. They hired a DJ for their live shows, New York University student Rick Rubin, who began producing records soon thereafter. He formed Def Jam Recordings with fellow NYU student Russell Simmons, and approached the band about producing them for his new label.

As important a subject as the Beasties are, I think Rick Rubin is an even more important figure in the tree of musical history. Would love to see Apple produce a Rick Rubin doc as a follow-on.

Using an iPad Pro to create posters for Apple TV+ shows

[VIDEO] These two videos, released yesterday by Apple, act as ads for both Apple TV+ and the iPad Pro (videos embedded in main Loop post). They also serve to highlight artists and their specific techniques.

Some great artwork. Watching these two, it struck me how incredibly complex these posters are, how many layers they each had.

I’m told that that “layers rendering slowly” effect is a feature of Procreate, gives the artist a chance to see all the elements fall into place, something the iPad Pro renders too quickly to see without help.

Sleeping Beauty proposal

[VIDEO] Find a few minutes to watch this with sound on, uninterrupted. And watch all the way through that second bit of video. Great.

The video is embedded in the main Loop post.

Apple takes a (cautious) stand against opening a killer’s iPhones

Inflammatory headline aside, this New York Times piece is chock full of interesting quotes:

Executives at Apple have been surprised by the case’s quick escalation, said people familiar with the company who were not authorized to speak publicly. And there is frustration and skepticism among some on the Apple team working on the issue that the Justice Department hasn’t spent enough time trying to get into the iPhones with third-party tools, said one person with knowledge of the matter.

And:

The stakes are high for Mr. Cook, who has built an unusual alliance with President Trump that has helped Apple largely avoid damaging tariffs in the trade war with China. That relationship will now be tested as Mr. Cook confronts Mr. Barr, one of the president’s closest allies.

And:

At the heart of the tussle is a debate between Apple and the government over whether security or privacy trumps the other. Apple has said it chooses not to build a “backdoor” way for governments to get into iPhones and to bypass encryption because that would create a slippery slope that could damage people’s privacy.

And:

Bruce Sewell, Apple’s former general counsel who helped lead the company’s response in the San Bernardino case, said in an interview last year that Mr. Cook had staked his reputation on the stance. Had Apple’s board not agreed with the position, Mr. Cook was prepared to resign, Mr. Sewell said.

And:

Mr. Cook has made privacy one of Apple’s core values. That has set Apple apart from tech giants like Facebook and Google, which have faced scrutiny for vacuuming up people’s data to sell ads.

“It’s brilliant marketing,” Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor who has written a book on the tech giants, said of Apple. “They’re so concerned with your privacy that they’re willing to wave the finger at the F.B.I.”

And:

A Justice Department spokeswoman said in an email: “Apple designed these phones and implemented their encryption. It’s a simple, ‘front-door’ request: Will Apple help us get into the shooter’s phones or not?”

This is a giant issue. I don’t think there’s any way for a master encryption key to be created that won’t eventually get leaked or stolen.

If such a key was created, is there a case so important that would make putting that key in the hands of the world at large worth the risk? To me, that’s the heart of the dilemma.

Benjamin Mayo: Text selection on iOS 13, one way it is a downgrade from iOS 12

[VIDEO] I find text cursor placement in iOS 13 a vast improvement over the same in iOS 12. The team clearly recognized the problem of your finger blocking your target, giving you the ability to easily grab and drag the text cursor from place to place, making the “drag cursor” both large and a bit raised so your finger doesn’t get in your way.

As Benjamin Mayo points out in the video embedded in the main Loop post, text selection is a different beast. I find this true, especially when you try to select text or place the cursor in the Safari address bar.

Watch, judge for yourself.

Apple’s official response to AG Barr over unlocking Pensacola shooter’s phone

Input:

Earlier today Attorney General William Barr called on Apple to unlock the alleged phone of the Pensacola shooter — a man who murdered three people and injured eight others on a Naval base in Florida in December. Apple has responded by essentially saying: “no.”

I disagree with this characterization. Read Apple’s response. It’s more nuanced. If I had to capture it simply, I’d quote this paragraph:

We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.

Follow the headline link, read Apple’s response for yourself.

Gruber: How to add “Quit Confirmation” to macOS Safari

One of the first anomalies I came across in my life of Mac was that you could never quit the Finder. Everything else (mostly) responded to Command-Q, but the Finder was backstopped.

But I digress.

One of the apps that I almost never quit is Safari. If I quit, it’s usually because something went wrong and I need a fresh start. But that rarely ever happens. Safari has gotten better and better over the years at isolating problems, meaning I can usually solve any issues by closing a problematic tab.

Like Caps-lock, the Safari Command-Q is ripe for replacement. John Gruber:

I don’t accidentally quit Safari often, but it does happen. And it’s mildly annoying every time. The last time it happened, I resolved to fix it myself. That’s where my AppleScript comes in.

AppleScript is free, this is worth a look, especially if you’ve never used AppleScript before.

As John footnotes, there is another, simpler solution:

If the only thing you want to do is disable ⌘Q in Safari (or any other shortcut, in any other app, for that matter), the easiest thing to do is use the Keyboards panel in System Prefs (then go to Shortcuts: App Shortcuts) to either set Safari’s shortcut for File → Quit to nothing at all, or to something you won’t hit accidentally, like, say, Control-Option-Shift-Command-Q. Almost no work at all, no third-party software required.

I like the experiment. If you do take it on, be sure to read Gruber’s article in full.

AirPods Pro firmware update shows “fairly significant drop” in noise cancelation, “significantly better” frequency response

Via MacRumors, RTINGS.com published updates to their AirPods Pro analysis, in response to firmware update 2C54.

Follow the headline link and search for the word Update. There are a number of them, all dated 1/10/2020.

The most significant negative:

After updating to Firmware 2C54, we retested the headphones and our results showed a fairly significant drop in isolation performance, primarily in the bass-range. This means that with ANC turned on, these headphones won’t do nearly as good a job blocking out the low engine rumbles of planes or buses as they did before this update.

From the MacRumors post:

Apple pulled the 2C54 firmware only days after its release, so it is presumably working on the issues described. You can tell what firmware version you have by going to Settings -> General -> About -> AirPods Pro.

UPDATE: A Loop reader offered this comment:

In my opinion, the difference is huge! I initially thought my AirPods were not working well. Many times a day I would me moving them in my ears to see if I could get a better fit. Grabbed my dad’s AirPod Pros, and the noise cancellation was amazing.

Today with the news, I checked my AirPods, and saw I had the bad update. Checked my dad’s AirPods, his still running the old firmware. Re-did my Ear Tip Fit Test using my AirPods and it now says that it’s not a perfect fit. When I bought it, it said it was.

Anecdotal, but from a source who knows this space. I hope Apple fixes this.

Low power mode for Mac laptops

Marco Arment:

Modern hardware constantly pushes thermal and power limits, trying to strike a balance that minimizes noise and heat while maximizing performance and battery life.

And:

Apple’s customers don’t usually have control over these balances, and they’re usually fixed at design time with little opportunity to adapt to changing circumstances or customer priorities.

The sole exception, Low Power Mode on iOS, seems to be a huge hit: by offering a single toggle that chooses a different balance, people are able to greatly extend their battery life when they know they’ll need it.

Mac laptops need Low Power Mode, too.

Marco digs into the benefits of disabling Turbo Boost, in effect, offering a low power mode that helps your MacBook run significantly cooler, likely extending battery life as a result.

The one remaining use of the word “Macintosh”

Adam Engst, TidBITS:

A quick quiz—just answer quickly, without thinking about it: Are you a Macintosh user?

I’m not actually interested in what computer you use, but your reaction to the word “Macintosh.” If you didn’t blink at it, you’ve probably been using Macs for over two decades, whereas if it sounds funny, or even entirely foreign, your experience with Macs is probably shorter. Or you respond well to branding changes.

If you are a Mac user, think about where you might encounter the word Macintosh. Interesting post.

How music copyright lawsuits are scaring away new hits

Rolling Stone:

In the five years since a court ruled that “Blurred Lines” infringed on Marvin Gaye’s 1977 “Got to Give It Up,” demanding that Thicke and Williams fork over $5 million to the Gaye estate for straying too close to the older song’s “vibe,” the once-sleepy realm of music copyright law has turned into a minefield. Chart-topping musicians have been slapped with infringement lawsuits like never before, and stars like Ed Sheeran and Katy Perry are being asked to pay millions in cases that have many experts scratching their heads. Across genres, artists are putting out new music with the same question in the backs of their minds: Will this song get me sued?

To me, this mirrors the patent trolls in tech. Achieve a certain level of success with a technology, or a song, and you’ll pop up on troll radar.

Apple shares goal of “closed-loop” manufacturing that does not rely on the mining industry

Reuters:

Apple Inc. is trying to change the way electronics are recycled with a robot that disassembles its iPhone so that minerals can be recovered and reused, while acknowledging rising global demand for electronics means new mines will still be needed.

Daisy, Apple’s recycling robot, is not news. But this is an interesting slant:

The Cupertino, California-based company says the robot is part of its plan to become a “closed-loop” manufacturer that does not rely on the mining industry, an aggressive goal that some industry analysts have said is impossible.

And:

“There’s this ego that believes they can get all their minerals back, and it’s not possible,” said Kyle Wiens, chief executive of iFixit, a firm advocating for electronics repair, rather than replacement.

Ego or not, I applaud this effort. The more rare earths that can be reclaimed, reused, the less we have to pull out of the ground. And the less dependent we are on specific regions where rare earths can be found.

Academy Award nominations. Notice anything odd about that Actor in a Supporting Role category?

I’m old school. Love the Academy Awards, though I’m trending towards the irreverent Golden Globes these days.

Ever since I was a kid, always looked forward to the nominations, looked forward to the actual broadcast. But with Twitter, etc., the bloom is off the rose, at least a bit. Everything associated with the movies has just gotten so over-exposed.

But I digress.

Follow the headline link, check out the nominations. One thing that stood out to me was the Actor in a Supporting Role category: Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Brad Pitt.

The youngest of these actors is Brad Pitt. And he’s 56. Weird, no?

RIP Neil Peart, arguably the finest rock drummer that ever lived

Watch the video. Neil Peart makes virtuosity look so easy.

From the linked Rolling Stone appreciation piece:

Peart was one of rock’s greatest drummers, with a flamboyant yet utterly precise style that paid homage to his hero, the Who’s Keith Moon, while expanding the technical and imaginative possibilities of his instrument. He joined singer-bassist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson in Rush in 1974, and his virtuosic playing and literate, wildly imaginative lyrics – which drew on Ayn Rand and science fiction, among other influences – helped make the trio one of the classic-rock era’s essential bands. His drum fills on songs like “Tom Sawyer” were pop hooks in their own right, each one an indelible mini-composition; his lengthy drum solos, carefully constructed and full of drama, were highlights of every Rush concert.

Rest in peace, Neil.

Apple slashes estimated trade-in values of iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch models overnight

Tim Hardwick, MacRumors:

Yesterday on Apple’s device trade-in program web page, the iPhone XS Max had an estimated trade-in value of up to $600, but today Apple is only offering up to $500 –– a full $100 less than it did 24 hours ago. The only devices that have been spared reductions are the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini, and ‌Apple Watch‌ Series 1, 2, and 3.

Follow the headline link for details on old vs. new trade-in pricing.

There’s a benefit, to me at least, of bringing your old iPhone to the Apple Store, doing the transfer from old to new, then leaving with a complete transaction, no need to worry over packaging up your old iPhone and fretting over the pricing you get.

But at some point, that trade-in number matters, tips the scale, makes the search for a better trade-in deal worth the hassle. This that point for you?

Amazon and PayPal war over browser plug-in

Louise Matsakis, Wired:

Days before Christmas, at the height of the last-minute holiday shopping rush, an ominous message appeared on Amazon.com. It warned shoppers who used a popular browser extension called Honey that the service, which promises to track prices and discount codes, was “a security risk.”

“Honey tracks your private shopping behavior, collects data like your order history and items saved, and can read or change any of your data on any website you visit,” the message read. “To keep your data private and secure, uninstall this extension immediately.”

If you’ve logged into PayPal lately, you’ve no doubt seen heavy duty marketing for the Honey plug-in. It’s a nice idea, looking out for coupons and discount codes for things you are buying.

Amazon flagged it as a security risk. Genuine concern for your safety?

Amazon has a browser extension of its own called Amazon Assistant. It also tracks prices, just like Honey, and allows you to compare items on other retailers to those on Amazon.

Reading the article, seems like this is more about thwarting competition on Amazon’s part, not at all about safety.

BeOS, the OS that almost saved Apple

Back in the day, Apple was beleaguered, and made the decision to acquire an OS from outside the company to come in and save the day, pave a new path for Apple.

The choice was narrowed down to, of course, Steve Jobs and NeXT, and a little known company called Be, Inc, with an OS called BeOS. The company was founded by long-time Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée.

The linked article tells a bit of the Be side of the story.

There’s a man whose remains are on the moon

Not sure how I missed this. Is this common knowledge? A fascinating story. Happened back in 1999.

As far as I know, Eugene Merle Shoemaker, from Los Angeles, is the only human whose remains have left the planet.

Follow the headline link, scroll down to the section labeled “Death”.

UPDATE: A number of folks have pointed me to this page, which lists people whose remains have been “buried in space”. Shoemaker remains the only person whose remains were placed on another celestial body. But a pretty fascinating list.