February 13, 2020

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.

Adi Robertson, The Verge:

Apple has restored the email app BlueMail to the Mac App Store after its developer began a campaign to rally small developers. Blix, founded by brothers Dan and Ben Volach, has been locked in conflict with Apple for several months. It alleges Apple stole its anonymous sign-in feature for “Sign in with Apple,” then kicked it out of the App Store on flimsy pretenses to suppress competition. Apple, conversely, has said it removed the macOS app for security reasons.

From Apple’s point of view:

Apple has denied that its standards were inconsistent. “The App Store has a uniform set of guidelines, equally applicable to all developers, that are meant to protect users,” said the company in a statement. “Blix is proposing to override basic data security protections which can expose users’ computers to malware that can harm their Macs and threaten their privacy.” A spokesperson says that last week, Blix submitted a new version of its app that respected Apple’s Gatekeeper security software and resolved technical problems, including an issue that produced privacy and security warnings for users at launch.

Apple does take Gatekeeper seriously. In addition to Gatekeeper adherence, a new policy requires apps to go through a notarization process, where the developer uploads their app and it is scanned for malware. Hard to know if this is a developer not following protocol, or something deeper, perhaps connected to Blix suing Apple.

Blix fought their battle with Apple in public. You can read their side of this on the Bluemail web site.

Steven Levy, Wired:

I took it in stride that Zuckerberg looked even younger than his 21 years. I’d been covering hackers and tech companies for long enough to have met other peach-fuzz magnates. But what did shake me was his affect. I asked him a few softball questions about what the company was up to, and he just stared at me. He said nothing. He didn’t seem angry or preoccupied. Just blank. If my questions had been shot from a water pistol at the rock face of a high cliff they would have had more impact.

And:

Though I was unaware at the time, I had joined the club of those stunned by Mark Zuckerberg’s trancelike silences. Facebook VP Andrew Bosworth once called this stare “Sauron’s gaze.”

I know the above does not touch on Zuckerberg’s notebook. But it is just a taste of Steven Levy’s writing. He’s one of my favorite tech writers and has been for years. He wrote the first great book on Macintosh, 1994’s “Insanely Great.”

The linked article is an excerpt from Levy’s upcoming book on Facebook, and it’s him at his best. Terrific read.

Apple Pay, failure.

Apple, doomed.

Ever wanted to learn how to program? If you’ve got an iPad, Swift Playgrounds has been your solution for years. But thanks to Catalyst, Swift Playgrounds is now available on the Mac.

I like Swift Playgrounds because there’s zero programming experience required. I like Swift Playgrounds on the Mac because it is one step closer to Xcode.

February 11, 2020

A couple’s final words to each other accidentally recorded

The New Yorker:

A son makes a surprising discovery on his elderly parents’ answering machine after his father’s passing.

Do not watch this without a supply of tissues at the ready.

City Lab:

Japan’s 126 million residents lose a vast number of personal items every year. But a remarkably high percentage of them are returned to their rightful owners. As a recent BBC story reported, 83 percent of cellphones lost in Tokyo, for example, are eventually retrieved.

A finely tuned lost-and-found system, however, cannot exist on infrastructure alone. Fostering a culture that emphasizes returning lost property is also needed, and in Japan, it is a lesson that begins at a young age.

In a now-viral Twitter post, a woman named Keiko recounted how her young son found a 50-yen coin in a park in Japan’s Hokuriku region. He insisted on turning in the money—worth less than 50 U.S. cents—at a nearby koban.

The Japanese dedication to this principle is remarkable.

Inverse:

In an incredible feat of remote engineering, NASA has fixed one of the most intrepid explorers in human history. Voyager 2, currently some 11.5 billion miles from Earth, is back online and resuming its mission to collect scientific data on the solar system and the interstellar space beyond.

Voyager 2 is sister craft to Voyager 1. Both have been traveling through the solar system — and now beyond it — for the last four decades. Together, they have transformed our understanding of our stellar neighborhood and are already revealing unprecedented information about the interstellar space beyond the Sun’s sphere of influence.

The fix is no mean feat: It takes 17 hours one-way to communicate with Voyager 2 from Earth, which is the second furthest away manmade object in space (Voyager 1 is the most far manmade object). That means a single information relay takes 34 hours.

The fact that Voyager 1 and 2 are still operational is amazing. When the news came that Voyager 2 had gone dark, I thought its mission was over. But NASA engineers “kept working the problem” and managed to fix it – from 11+ billion miles away.

Some truly old school tech

This video, from a few years ago, was near the top of Hacker News this morning. Pretty cool.

It shows an Apple II, connected to an acoustic coupler, connecting to the net via a rotary telephone. That’s about as old school a net connection as you can get. RS-232, anyone?

Counterpoint Research:

Apple expected to lead the true wireless hearables market, selling more than 100m units in 2020. Competition for second place will remain fierce, especially in the premium market.

From the hearables Wikipedia page:

The neologism “hearable” is a hybrid of the terms wearable and headphone, as hearables combine major assets of wearable technology with the basic principle of audio-based information services, conventional rendition of music and wireless telecommunication. The term was introduced in April 2014 simultaneously by Apple in the context of the company’s acquisition of Beats Electronics and product designer and wireless application specialist Nick Hunn in a blogpost for a wearable technologies internet platform.

I read “hearables”, I think AirPods. Apple so dominates this market. If you’re interested in the history of the term and the market, the Wikipedia page is a fascinating read.

Follow the headline link, start scrolling. It’s a market for film and music royalties:

Artists turn to Royalty Exchange to raise money and take control of their financial future. We connect them with private investors through the world’s first online marketplace for buying and selling royalties. Creators love us because we give them a powerful new way to fund their career. Investors love us because we help them generate income that’s hard to beat. And our commitment to transparency and honesty ensures value for all.

A few (of many) highlights:

  • The film “Trading Places”
  • Jay-Z, Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind”
  • Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia”
  • “Black Water” and 23 other Doobie Brothers songs

Note that copyright is generally not included in the auction. You pay up front, get the royalties over time. Fascinating.

Wall Street Journal:

A judge’s approval of T-Mobile US Inc.’s takeover of Sprint Corp. will usher in a new balance of power in the U.S. wireless market and test whether three giants will compete as aggressively for cellphone users as four unequal players once did.

And:

The opinion will leave most of the country’s wireless customers with three major network operators: Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc. and the new T-Mobile. New entrant Dish plans to use the deal as a springboard for its mobile ambitions, while U.S. cable companies are stuck with existing providers’ networks for their fledgling cellular services.

And:

The judge was convinced both by testimony from Sprint executives that the struggling carrier was falling behind, despite what he described as “valiant attempts” to remain competitive, and from Dish that it would be able to operate a viable new carrier.

He also acknowledged the effort the FCC and Justice Department put into crafting a fourth nationwide carrier run by Dish. The agreement requires Sprint to sell airwaves and about nine million customer accounts to Dish.

Better for consumers? Who knows.

From the horse’s mouth: Here’s a link to the decision itself.

Joseph Cox, Motherboard:

The popular Edison email app, which is in the top 100 productivity apps on the Apple app store, scrapes users’ email inboxes and sells products based off that information to clients in the finance, travel, and e-Commerce sectors. The contents of Edison users’ inboxes are of particular interest to companies who can buy the data to make better investment decisions, according to a J.P. Morgan document obtained by Motherboard.

Edison responded in a Medium post titled A Reminder of How We Use Data and Protect Privacy:

To keep our Edison Mail app free, and to protect your privacy by rejecting an advertising-based business model, our company Edison Software, measures e-commerce through a technology that automatically recognizes commercial emails and extracts anonymous purchase information from them. Our technology is designed to ignore personal and work email, which does not help us measure market trends.

Edison puts privacy first in everything we do as a company and that includes making our users aware of how we use their data in our products.

If the product is free, you are the product.

Back in the ’70s, someone made this observation about television being free. Prescient.

February 10, 2020

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 Denver Post:

The night sky turned to daylight briefly as an epic boom echoed throughout the valley in Steamboat Springs Saturday night. The world’s largest single firework had just exploded.

At 7:56 p.m., fireworks expert Tim Borden successfully captured the world record for the largest single firework when the 2,797-pound behemoth illuminated the crowd during the Night Extravaganza at the annual Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival.

The 62-inch shell was launched from a 26-foot long mortar from atop Howelsen Hill, reaching nearly a mile in the air when it detonated, putting on quite the show.

That was one hell of a blast. I hope everyone in the area knew about it because that would scare the bejesus out of you if you were just out walking the dog.

New Yorker:

People in France remember the summer of 1997 for the deaths of Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and Jeanne Calment. The first became a household name by marrying into royalty; the second, by caring for the world’s sick and poor. Jeanne Calment, however, was an accidental icon, her celebrity the result of a form of passivity. For a hundred and twenty-two years, five months, and fourteen days, Calment managed not to die.

She was born at home on the Rue du Roure, in Arles, one of only four addresses she ever held. That February morning, in 1875, lavender smoke commingled with the cold in the tight streets of La Roquette, a traditional neighborhood of fishermen and the maritime trades. Plastic, tea bags, public trash cans, and the zipper had yet to come into the world. The life expectancy for a French woman was forty-five. Approximately one billion five hundred million people walked the planet, and Calment would outlive them all.

This is a long but fascinating story about a woman some of you may have heard of and whose life and death and age are still in dispute.

Counterpoint: I LOVED Apple TV+ Mythic Quest

Yesterday, Shawn posted a link to FastCompany’s Mythic Quest review. They appreciate it technically, but did not get the funny. Fair enough.

One particular line paints the picture for me:

I am not a gamer, so I can’t speak to the precision and accuracy of every detail.

And there’s the rub. You don’t have to be a gamer to get the humor, but it does help. There’s a lot of context in many of the jokes.

Personally, I absolutely love the show. I found it funny, insightful, irreverent, and clever. It worked for me and for my wife, a rare comedy in that regard.

No complaints about the FastCompany review. It was, overall, very positive. The reviewer just didn’t find it funny. I’ve read a number of reviews that shared my love for the series. So do give it a chance. It’s on my short list of the best shows on any streaming platform, period.

Samsung hasn’t officially posted the ad on YouTube yet, but that hasn’t stopped any number of people from capturing and reposting the ad themselves. One such capture is embedded below.

A pretty good ad, though two things stick out in the fine (tiny and blurry) print, there at the bottom of the screen:

  • You may notice a small crease in the center of the main screen, which is a natural characteristic of the screen.

And:

  • Screen images simulated.

The ad ends with, “Unpacked 02.11.20”. That’s tomorrow.

Makes me wonder if Apple will release a foldable that requires a public caveat about a crease in the screen.

Apple Pro Display XDR review (vs Sony Reference Monitor)

When Apple rolled out the Pro Display XDR, they compared it to the much more expensive Sony Reference Monitor ($43,000). Reviewer Vincent Teoh digs in.

Backstage at last night’s Oscars, writer/director (and winner of Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit) Taika Waititi was asked what writers should be asking for in the next round of talks with producers. His response was all about the Mac keyboard.

Watch for yourself. I’m guessing a number of you will be nodding your head in agreement.

February 9, 2020

Fast Company:

This insider access seems to help Mythic Quest nail its authenticity. I am not a gamer, so I can’t speak to the precision and accuracy of every detail. As an outsider, though, I will say that Mythic Quest certainly feels real, in the way that The Larry Sanders Show did for late-night talk shows.

The show even covers an admirable range of issues affecting the industry, like the “bro monoculture” of it all, and it’s nice to see the Sunny team take on progressive topics in a new venue.

This is all fertile ground for TV comedy, and considering how mind-bogglingly popular gaming is, it’s about time there was a TV comedy set in this world.

It’s just a bummer that the comedy isn’t funnier.

My wife and I watched the first episode last night and this review is pretty much how we felt about it. I’m not saying it’s a bad show but we didn’t laugh once during the first episode. Laughter should be a given in a sitcom.

AppleInsider:

Wacom has responded to allegations drivers for its tablet line are collecting data on its users and passing it on to Google, including the names of macOS applications being used, by claiming it has no access to personal data and what data it collects is anonymized before it is seen by the company.

“We apologize for any confusion regarding data collection being done by the Wacom software driver,” the firm states, “and the unclarity about the actual information collected.”

Wacom claims it collects data “for quality insurance and development purposes only,” with the driver collecting a “sample of information” such as the model, hardware usage, and the names of apps. The company does not collect MAC addresses nor serial numbers.

Hey Wacom – if you had thought about this to begin with, you wouldn’t be in this trouble now. Companies need to learn what “opt-in” means.

February 7, 2020

AppleInsider:

Most college students today have only known Apple as the fashionable, popular, commercially competent, and trend setting global technology giant it is today. However, 23 years ago Apple Computer, Inc. was struggling to survive while trying to sell Macs in a PC world centered around Microsoft Windows. Things began to change after Apple acquired NeXT in a surprise deal that was announced in the last week of 1996 and was completed on February 7, 1997.

Apple’s acquisition of NeXT Software 23 years ago most obviously provided the company with a modern operating system foundation. NeXT’s advanced software and development tools promised to replace the old Mac System Software that had debuted back in 1984. The “classic” Mac software platform had grown outdated and difficult to modernize without breaking the software that ran on it.

More importantly, however, the infusion of new management from NeXT served to clear out the unfocused fiefdoms at Apple that each sought to promote their own pet projects, often at the expense of other parts of the company.

With the way Jobs took over and made wholesale changes as well as inserting NeXT employees into almost every facet of the company, I always say today is the day NeXT acquired Apple.

The Dalrymple Report: AirPods Pro, Apple Maps, and Apple News+

Dave got his new AirPods Pro this week, so we spent some time talking about our thoughts on the product. We also discussed the improved Apple Maps, and share our thoughts on Apple News+.

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MacRumors:

Apple has been fined 25 million euros by a French consumer fraud group for intentionally slowing down some iPhone models with a software update.

The Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Suppression of Fraud (DGCCRF), which is part of the country’s economy ministry, concluded that Apple had failed to inform users that iOS updates to older iPhones could slow down their devices.

The investigation followed Apple’s admission in 2017 that it slows down some older iPhones with degraded batteries during times of peak power usage in order to prevent unexpected shutdowns.

Apple was damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. The biggest error was in not being more open and forthcoming about this decision as it was happening. That being said, this fine is likely an intentional slap on the wrist.