January 15, 2020

Dave Bautista played Drax, arguably the most delightful character in Guardians of the Galaxy.

My favorite line:

Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.

Great writing, but great acting brought it home.

January 14, 2020

LifeHacker:

We know—you’re too tech-savvy to be fooled by an online scam. But even the smartest among us can fall victim to internet trickery, and we’ve all got those friends and relatives who could use a little extra help with digital security.

The basic rule for surviving internet scams is simple: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A little common sense goes a long way to realizing that you aren’t going to suddenly win the Spanish National Lottery when you didn’t even know you had a ticket.

Here’s our definitive guide to helping you (and your loved ones) stay safe online.

I’m sure no Loop readers would fall for any of these but this is a great article to pass along to those you know who may not be as technically literate.

HBO’s “McMillions” official trailer

HBO:

This documentary series chronicles the stranger-than-fiction story of an ex-cop turned security auditor who rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion for a decade, stealing millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S. The series draws on exclusive firsthand accounts and archival footage, featuring: the FBI agents who brought down the gaming scam; McDonald’s corporate executives, who were themselves defrauded; the lawyers who tried the case; and the culprits and prizewinners who profited from the complicated scheme, as well as the individuals who were often unwittingly duped into being a part of the ruse.

I read about this years ago and it pissed me off. I was an avid player of this silly game during this time (although I haven’t set foot in a MacDonald’s in decades) and I knew I had no chance of winning. Little did we know, none of us did.

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 below, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

January 13, 2020

New York Times:

Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on Apple and other technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple has provided no “substantive assistance.”

Regardless of CEO Cook’s seemingly (even if out of necessity) chummy relationship with President Trump, Apple’s response to this will likely be the same as it was in a similar case in 2016 – Apple will tell the government to go pound sand.

Digiday:

Right now opt-in rates to share data with apps when they’re not in use are often below 50%, said Benoit Grouchko, who runs the ad tech business Teemo that creates software for apps to collect location data. Three years ago those opt-in rates were closer to 100%, he said. Higher opt-in rates prevailed when people weren’t aware that they even had a choice. Once installed on a phone, many apps would automatically start sharing a person’s location data.

Apple’s latest privacy protection move, however, is making people more aware that they do have a choice about which data is shared. Seven in 10 of the iPhone users tracked by location-verification business Location Sciences downloaded iOS 13 in the six weeks after it first became available, and 80% of those users stopped all background tracking across their devices.

“People have decided to stop their phones’ sharing location data at a universal level,” said Jason Smith, chief business officer at Location Sciences.

As always, I have little to no sympathy for companies trying to make a living off selling my data without my expressed permission.

Incredibly satisfying sphericons

3D Printing and experimenting with these crazy, mysterious shapes called ‘sphericons’.

I’ve never wanted a 3D printer more than after watching this video.

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.

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.

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.

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?

January 12, 2020

The iPod timeline from 1st phone call to shipping product

I saw this on Twitter and it blew my mind.

9to5mac:

Apple TV+ has scooped its first major awards win. Billy Crudup won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Critics Choice Award, for his performance as Cory Ellison in The Morning Show.

In this year’s Critics Choice awards, Apple’s streaming service only got one nomination but it converted that into a win. Crudup edged out competition from the likes of Asante Blackk (This Is Us), Asia Kate Dillon (Billions), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Tim Blake Nelson (Watchmen).

No argument here. Crudup was a scene-stealing delight.

January 11, 2020

Shot on iPhone 11 Pro video “Daughter”

I’M NOT CRYING! YOU’RE CRYING!

And here is the behind the scenes video.

January 10, 2020

The Hollywood Reporter:

Oprah Winfrey is stepping away from a documentary that centered on a former music executive who has accused Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct.

The film has been among the highest profile doc projects set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month. Winfrey, who until now had served as an executive producer on the film, planned to air it on Apple TV+ following the festival.

“I have decided that I will no longer be executive producer on The Untitled Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering documentary and it will not air on Apple TV+,” Winfrey said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “First and foremost, I want it to be known that I unequivocally believe and support the women. Their stories deserve to be told and heard. In my opinion, there is more work to be done on the film to illuminate the full scope of what the victims endured, and it has become clear that the filmmakers and I are not aligned in that creative vision.”

This happens on a fairly regular basis in Hollywood but will nonetheless be a blow to Apple. It is the second film to be pulled from Apple’s lineup. The Banker was pulled late last year.

Apple:

Apple has determined that some Smart Battery Cases made for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR may experience charging issues. An affected Smart Battery Case may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Battery case will not charge or charges intermittently when plugged into power
  • Battery case does not charge the iPhone or charges it intermittently

Affected units were manufactured between January 2019 and October 2019. This is not a safety issue and Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will replace eligible battery cases, free of charge.

If you have the battery case for any of these three affected phones, contact Apple about getting a replacement.

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.

The Dalrymple Report: Volume, AppleCare, and Dio Holograms

I don’t think Dave and I have ever talked about the legendary singer Ronnie James Dio on the show before, but we fix that this week. We also discuss the various ways to adjust volume levels on iOS and Dave’s surprise check from AppleCare.

Brought to you by:

LinkedIn: Go to LinkedIn.com/DALRYMPLE and get $50 off your first job post!

Subscribe to this podcast

Ars Technica:

I have taken it upon myself to decide, once and for all, which is the superior ’80s murder-copter: Blue Thunder or Airwolf?

You remember Blue Thunder and Airwolf, right?

Blue Thunder was a 1983 movie starring an experimental, machine-gun-toting police helicopter that eventually tears up Los Angeles. The movie’s human star is an LAPD helicopter pilot (played by Roy Scheider) whose name is Murphy, because all movie cops are named Murphy. Murphy uncovers a conspiracy involving the chopper that leads him into the aforementioned aerial dogfight over the streets of LA.

Airwolf, by contrast, was a totally different thing. It was a TV show that ran on CBS from 1984 to 1986 before squeezing out one more season on the USA network. It also involved an experimental military chopper flown by a sullen ex-Army pilot with the shockingly preposterous name “Stringfellow Hawke” (played by Jan-Michael Vincent).

What a great trip down memory lane. I’ve studiously avoided re-watching Blue Thunder because I don’t want my childhood memories of enjoying it immensely be ruined by discovering, as an adult, that it was actually a bad movie.

Inside a Chinese iPhone battery making factory

Strange Parts:

We’re visiting a giant factory in China that makes lipo iPhone batteries, aka lithium polymer batteries, and seeing how they are made from start to finish. This is by FAR the coolest and biggest factory I’ve been to to date.

This was a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.

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?

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.

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.

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.

William Gallagher, AppleInsider:

A new Emergency Power Save Mode (EPSM) will be able to broadcast a distress signal in multiple different ways while also minimizing battery use in order to keep the device working until the user is rescued.

This is from a patent application. No guarantee we’ll ever see this in a shipping iPhone, but I do like the idea.

January 9, 2020

Steve Jobs iPhone 2007 presentation

I was in the audience that day 13 years ago. While we “knew” it was going to be called the iPhone, we had no idea what it would actually look like. To say it blew our minds would be an understatement.