The Pixel 2 Has a Custom Google SoC for Image Processing →

October 17, 2017 · 18:20

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

In addition to the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Pixel 2 is equipped with the “Pixel Visual Core,” an extra, second SoC designed by Google with hardware-accelerated image processing in mind. At the heart of the chip is an eight-core Image Processing Unit (IPU) capable of more than three trillion operations per second. Using these IPU cores, Google says the company’s HDR+ image processing can run “5x faster and at less than 1/10th the energy” than it currently does on the main CPU.

The Pixel Visual Core is currently in the Pixel 2, but it doesn’t work yet. Google says it will be enabled with the launch of the Android 8.1 developer preview. At that time, the chip will let third-party apps use the Pixel 2’s HDR+ photo processing, allowing them to produce pictures that look just as good as the native camera app. The chip isn’t just for Google’s current camera algorithms, though. Google says the Pixel Visual Core is designed “to handle the most challenging imaging and machine learning applications” and that the company is “already preparing the next set of applications” designed for the hardware.

Having two entirely separate SoCs inside a smartphone is unusual. The Pixel Visual Core has its own CPU (a single Cortex A53 core to play traffic cop), its own DDR4 RAM, the eight IPU cores, and a PCIe line, presumably as a bus to the rest of the system. Ideally, you would have a single SoC that integrates the IPU right next to that other co-processor, the GPU. The Pixel 2 is based on the Snapdragon 835 SoC, though, and you aren’t allowed to integrate your own custom silicon with Qualcomm’s design. What Google can do is wrap a minimal SoC around its eight IPU cores and then connect that to the main system SoC. If Google ever set out to compete with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line, an IPU is something it could build directly into its own designs. For now, though, it has this self-contained solution.

I’m willing to bet Google is planning to or already working on their own SoC. Once (and if) it goes to market, I wonder if they’ll be able to compete with Qualcomm and Apple, and how many years it will take them to catch up. Designing your own custom silicon is definitely a huge advantage, one which Apple is currently successfully leveraging over their competitors.


Twitter Changed The World; Twitter Died

October 16, 2017 · 09:01

Mike Monteiro:

[…] I was in a cab headed to therapy, which meant I was in a mood and I absent-mindedly tweeted out “I’ve been shot!” then turned my phone off and went to talk to my therapist about becoming a well-adjusted human being.

When I turned my phone back on I had about 20 new messages. Texts, voicemails, and a bunch of tweet replies. Including my now-wife, wondering what hospital I was at. That’s the day I discovered what Twitter was for. It was for having fun. And telling jokes. (BTW, my wife still doesn’t think this was a good joke.) That’s when I was hooked.

It took me quite a while to get to Twitter and even though I was a bit more restrained in my jokes than Mike, I did have fun. A lot of it.

And at some point, and I don’t know exactly when or how or who — even scarier I don’t know if the people involved know when or how or who — Twitter made the decision to ride the hate wave. With their investors demanding growth, and their leadership blind to the bomb they were sitting on, Twitter decided that the audience Trump was bringing them was more important than upholding their core principles, their ethics, and their own terms of service.

And that, whenever that day might have been, is the day Twitter died.

Like Mike, I have been considering shutting down or just not using my account any more. I don’t like what Twitter has become. I don’t like myself on Twitter half the time. I do wish App.Net got a reboot today. That way, we could try to start fresh and fix the mistakes that were made. Soon, I will have less and less reason to engage on Twitter. Perhaps there’ll be an alternative around by then. Perhaps not…


The Impossible Dream of USB-C Wireless →

October 15, 2017 · 09:11

Marco Arment:

I love the idea of USB-C: one port and one cable that can replace all other ports and cables. It sounds so simple, straightforward, and unified.

In practice, it’s not even close […]

Maybe next time, we’ll get it right. But probably not.

This is the main reason I have been trying, not completely successfully, to keep as many things wireless as possible. To avoid cables completely and only use them when absolutely necessary. I’m pretty sure Apple would like that too and they’d prefer to get rid of the current Lightning ports on iPhones and iPads altogether, instead of replacing them with USB-C (or whatever comes next). Inductive charging is not a fix though. We need truly wireless charging first.


BBEdit 12 — It (Still) Doesn’t Suck®

October 13, 2017 · 15:53

Version 12 was released yesterday and Bare Bones Software published info on how to upgrade, depending on which version you’re on — you can find it here. It’s probably easiest to just upgrade when they ask you to — completely worth it in my opinion. They also published a complete change log:

BBEdit 12.0 contains many new features, enhancements, and refinements to existing features. It also includes fixes for reported issues. This document describes changes in BBEdit since the previous update (11.6.8).

BBEdit also has a wonderful manual which is totally worth reading. It’s probably the first software manual that I have read in my life.


Humans — The Most Destructive Parasites on Earth

October 12, 2017 · 08:29

We think of ourselves as smart, but we are in constant conflict with each other. We wage wars, kill, injure, hate, and focus on weapons of mass destruction, instead of making the world a better place to live in. We destroy the only planet in the universe which allows us to live — Earth. We have two genders, both equally important to our survival1, yet men believe they are superior. We all bleed red, but racism is more pervasive than acceptance. We look for guidance in our religions, but those divide us more often than not. We think and try to be different as individuals, and we are, but as a collective, we’re the same.

We are… doing it all wrong.

  1. Theoretically men are obsolete with today’s biotechnology.

Paweł Jońca’s Brilliant Apple Commentary in Illustration Form →

October 11, 2017 · 12:39

Paweł Jońca:

iMagazine (formerly Moje Jabłuszko) is a Polish digital lifestyle magazine which focuses on technology and Apple.

Since it’s birth, I have a page dedicated to my artistic commentary — sometimes in Polish, sometimes in English, but always about current technological events from around the world, usually about Apple.

His commentary for iMagazine is fantastic. Make sure to take a peek at all of his work over on Behance. You can also find more of his work here.


OnePlus Logs A Lot of Personal User Data →

October 11, 2017 · 10:48

Chris Moore:

OK, so it looks like they’re collecting timestamped (the ts field is the event time in milliseconds since unix epoch, which we’ll be seeing more of) metrics on certain events, some of which I understand – from a development point of view, wanting to know about abnormal reboots seems legitimate – but the screen on/off and unlock activities feel excessive. At least these are anonymised, right? Well, not really – taking a closer look at the ID field, it seems familiar; this is my phone’s serial number. This I’m less enthusiastic about, as this can be used by OnePlus to tie these events back to me personally (but only because I bought the handset directly from them, I suppose) […]

Amongst other things, this time we have the phone’s IMEI(s), phone numbers, MAC addresses, mobile network(s) names and IMSI prefixes, as well as my wireless network ESSID and BSSID and, of course, the phone’s serial number. Wow, that’s quite a bit of information about my device, even more of which can be tied directly back to me by OnePlus and other entities.

It gets worse.

This is one of the reasons I go iPhone. Apple isn’t perfect, but there’s less shit to worry about.


Killing Nazis →

October 9, 2017 · 17:33

Andy Chalk, writing for PCGamer:

The Wolfenstein series actually debuted way back in 1981 with the top-down stealth game Castle Wolfenstein, and its 1984 follow-up Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. But it became more widely known as an FPS series in 1992 with id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, a game about killing Nazis, and the prequel Spear of Destiny, which was also about killing Nazis. The series was rebooted in 2001 by Activision with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a game about killing Nazis, but went dormant again until the release of Wolfenstein, a game about killing Nazis, in 2009. Bethesda acquired the series along with id Software and gave it a powerful character-driven twist in 2014 with Wolfenstein: The New Order, a game about killing Nazis, and then followed up a year later with Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a “standalone expansion” prequel about killing Nazis.

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus comes out on October 27. Here’s Machinegames explaining some of the different ways it will enable you to kill Nazis.

Brilliant.


A Thousand Yes’ For Every No →

October 7, 2017 · 16:14

Joshua Topolsky:

Plenty has been written about the mind-numbing, face-palming, irritating stupidity of the notch. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. I would love to say that this awful design compromise is an anomaly for Apple. But it would be more accurate to describe it as the norm.

iPhone always were (and still are) distinguished by the rather obvious round home button — with it gone, they would just look like any other. I’m guessing this is one of the reasons that they chose to go with the ears and notch, which allow the screen to be almost bezel-less, creating a unique front design.

This doesn’t mean that we should adore it — I’m still on the fence, but leaning towards not liking it — or even accept it. Apple’s not forcing us to buy this model, but I wish they hid the notch, or even added a small chin and forehead to the design, a bit akin to the Galaxy S8. I’m pretty sure some are going to love the new design and gestures, while others will hate readjusting to the new paradigm. Personally, I’m worried about the pause needed, when swiping up, to get to the app switcher — pauses disrupt gestures.

I can’t help but think that the old “a thousand no’s for every yes” is near gone from Apple’s culture. I hope not, but looking at the big picture, it sure seems like it.


Is It True That iPhones Get Slower Over Time? →

October 7, 2017 · 16:01

Futuremark:

Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.

That said, there are some factors that might affect people’s perception of performance after updating an older device with a newer version of iOS. An update might add new features that use more resources or require more processing power. New apps developed for the latest models might not run as smoothly on older devices. Conversely, apps designed for an earlier version of iOS might not take full advantage of optimizations in the latest version. And then there is always the  psychological effect of knowing that there is a new and improved model available, which can make your own device seem outdated.

Myth busted.


UI Design for iPhone X: Top Elements and the Notch →

October 6, 2017 · 14:07

Max Rudberg:

Regardless of your feelings for the notch, the reality is that to do a near edge-to-edge screen on a phone in 2017; you need to make place for sensors and speaker. The technology to hide them behind the screen simply is not here. We’ve seen different manufacturers choose different solutions to the problem. This is the one Apple chose, so let’s work with what we got.

People will get over the notch sooner or later, but I’ll bet the jokes will be piling on for years to come. Personally, I’m still undecided — I will need to see it in person first.

Oh! Make sure to check out Max’s post — lots of good, sensible design information there.


My Photography (28) — Good Morning, Warsaw, Poland, 2017

October 4, 2017 · 12:27

I was hoping to get a good shot of Warsaw’s city centre on the return flight from Turkey and I started to have my doubts on the approach, still a good fifty kilometres out — the plane was facing the wrong way and the light was terrible. Luckily for me, we did finally swing around so that my seat was facing north, towards the city. Nothing’s perfect however — my seat was a little too far back, the wing blocked some of the view, and the air was rather dirty1. I do love how the sky lit up in the last moments before landing — this was something I wasn’t expecting.

Shot with Sony A7R II + FE 28 mm f/2: f/2.8, 1/60, ISO 400.

  1. Smog season is starting early this year.

My Photography (27) — Trust, Bodrum, Turkey, 2017

September 29, 2017 · 12:41

While sightseeing around the marina in Bodrum, I saw this cute cat, lying down in front of a Harley-Davidson (or whatever it was). The bike’s owner was just getting ready to ride off, but the cat was in the way. Even after a huge roar from the engine, it didn’t budge.

Arrogant? Definitely. Very trusting though.

Shot with Sony A7R II + FE 28 mm f/2: f/2.2, 1/6000 s, ISO 100.


Fixing Text Shortcuts Sync in iOS and macOS

September 27, 2017 · 07:15

One day, a few years ago, I got the runaround from Apple once again — my text shortcuts stopped syncing and they told me to wait for the next version of iOS. This was right after iOS 8.0 came out. Another year? No thanks. I found my own solution. I had to go through this again, after updating to iOS 10 last year. So that’s twice since the feature was added — not bad, not perfect.

Continue reading →


macOS Sierra & High Sierra — Apps Can Dump Passwords From Keychain

September 26, 2017 · 09:21

This applies to older versions of macOS too, as well as signed apps.

Patrick submitted everything needed for a fix to Apple. I wonder if they’ll also patch older versions of macOS. Hope they do, since I’m not planning on updating to High Sierra anytime soon.


Anatomy of a Moral Panic →

September 25, 2017 · 09:25

Maciej Cegłowski:

On September 18, the British Channel 4 ran a news segment with the headline, ‘Potentially deadly bomb ingredients are ‘frequently bought together’ on Amazon.’

The piece claims that “users searching for a common chemical compound used in food production are offered the ingredients to produce explosive black powder” on Amazon’s website, and that “steel ball bearings often used as shrapnel” are also promoted on the page, in some cases as items that other customers also bought.

The ‘common chemical compound’ in Channel 4’s report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon’s page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you’ll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. (Unlike Channel 4, I am comfortable revealing the secrets of this 1000-year-old technology.)

Quality journalism is rapidly becoming a niche, and US TV news stations are one example — they’re basically unwatchable. I recently turned on CNN for a few minutes and it was a circus — a far cry from the professionalism I remember from their first few years of broadcasting.

I assume things will get better in the future, but I believe only a handful of publications will retain quality, and it will get a lot worse before that happens.


Designing Websites for iPhone X →

September 23, 2017 · 10:53

Timothy Horton details how to design websites around the notch, to take full advantage of the iPhone X’s display:

Out of the box, Safari displays your existing websites beautifully on the edge-to-edge display of the new iPhone X. Content is automatically inset within the display’s safe area so it is not obscured by the rounded corners, or the device’s sensor housing.

I’m curious to see how websites will creatively use the notch to their benefit. I have a few ideas myself, but nothing solid yet.


Austin Mann Takes the iPhone 8 Plus to India →

September 23, 2017 · 07:39

Austin Mann:

I’m writing to you from a small hotel room in India having just experienced a magical adventure in western India orchestrated by friends at Ker & Downey. I’ve shot thousands of images and countless portraits with the iPhone 8 Plus and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

I know what I can achieve with my iPhone. While I’m sure the 8 and 8 Plus have great cameras, Austin is the one that can use them to create art, instead of just simple snapshots. Amazing work, as usual — make sure to go to his site to see all of his shots.

Photo credit: Austin Mann


It’s Fossil That Apple Is Threatening →

September 23, 2017 · 07:33

Joe Thompson:

“I haven’t met with anybody [in Switzerland] yet who sees this [downturn] as anything other than a slump,” he told me in March. “They don’t see the threat from the smartwatch.” Apple will continue to perfect the smartwatch, he says. “By version 3 or 4, everyone will be thinking this is a good thing to have. Forty to 80 million people will want this.”

I got used to having my most important notifications on my wrist rather quickly, so much so, that when I take off my Apple Watch to wear my mechanical one, I forget to check my phone.

The problem with the Apple Watch is that it’s not special — visually or otherwise — which is the exact opposite of wearing a mechanical watch that you love. That doesn’t mean the latter has to be expensive either — I’m currently wearing a €400 Xicorr FSO M20 which I simple adore and love to pause throughout the day just to look at. Despite having a Space Black Series 0, those feelings passed very quickly.

And that’s the problem with the Apple Watch for people such as me — I love its functionality, but it still competes for my left wrist with a classical piece of precise machinery. But I also wear a Fitbit Alta on my right wrist. If Apple chose to fight for that with a sport-band-type device, which offered Siri, Messages, and LTE, it could easily win the fray.


Craig Federighi Says 3D Touch App Switcher Gesture Will Return in Future Update to iOS 11 →

September 23, 2017 · 07:17

Joe Rossignol:

Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi has revealed that a popular 3D Touch gesture for accessing the App Switcher will apparently return in a future update to iOS 11.

Federighi, replying to an email from MacRumors reader Adam Zahn, said Apple had to “temporarily drop support” for the gesture due to an unidentified “technical constraint.”

I was getting ready to voice my disappointment — I use this gesture multiple times a day — but now I’m just happy it’ll be back soon!


iPhone 8 Is World’s Fastest Phone (It’s Not Even Close) →

September 22, 2017 · 20:29

Mark Spoonauer:

If you’re wondering how all this translates to real-world performance, we have more good news for iPhone 8 shoppers — and bad news for everyone else. To really put the A11 Bionic chip through its paces, we put the same 2-minute video, shot in 4K by a drone, on the iPhone 8, Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8+, and then added the same transitions and effects before exporting and saving the video.

The iPhone 8 finished this strenuous task in just 42 seconds, while the Note 8 took more than 3 minutes. The Galaxy S8+ took more than 4 minutes.

While I don’t much care for synthetic benchmarks, which are being posted all over Twitter today, I do like to have performance at my disposal, when needed. The real-world test above is one of those examples, where the differences are hard to comprehend without seeing them with your own eyes. I just wish they’d added an iPhone 7 to the mix, just to see how quickly the A-series of chips is evolving.

Having said all that, I prefer to have all that power in my iPad, which I use much more often than my iPhone. And I do — the A10X Fusion is still amazing.


iPhone 8 Plus Is The Best Smartphone Camera Ever Tested By DxOMark →

September 22, 2017 · 18:27

David Cardinal, writing for DxOMark:

The Apple iPhone 8 Plus has a main camera system truly worthy of a flagship phone. Similar to the iPhone 7 Plus, it features two cameras — a wide-angle 12MP main camera, and a 12MP telephoto camera with a slower lens for zooming in on subjects and for special effects such as Portrait mode. Comparing the camera datasheets of the older iPhone 7 Plus and the new iPhone 8 Plus make the two look almost identical; however, under-the-hood upgrades have given the 8 Plus an image quality and camera performance boost in almost every one of our tested categories.

I’m still curious as to the exact physical changes in the camera system — Phil Schiller said that the sensors are now larger, but what are their sizes? While the latter certainly helps, it appears that the greatest advances in the near future will be made on the software side.


Report Repeats Rumors of Larger 6.5-Inch iPhone for Next Year →

September 17, 2017 · 14:12

Ben Lovejoy:

Hinting at a source within Samsung Display, the report suggests that next year’s iPhone will be offered in two sizes: a 5.85-inch one with the same screen size as the iPhone 8, and a larger 6.46-inch ‘Plus’ model …

I strongly believe that Apple will at one point finally retire the current iPhone 6/6S/7/8 design and focus on the “edge-to-edge” design of the iPhone X. While they could simplify their lineup drastically, offering only an iPhone X in two sizes, they currently sell eight (8!) different iPhones — the 6S and 6S Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus, SE, and X1. Ideally, they would reduce that to three — an iPhone X with ~5”, 5.8″, and ~6.5“ displays — like they did with the iPads.

It will be interesting to watch how they handle the whole transition over the next few years.

  1. Elon Musk must be furious.

Why I Owned a Macbook Pro for a Day And What It Says to Me About the Future of Apple →

September 7, 2017 · 12:14

John Risby:

The short version of this story is if you have a late 2016 15″ touch bar model and you have problems with noises or the screen, go to Apple and, unless you know you’ve done something stupid like dropped it or put a hammer through the screen, demand they fix it or replace it.

The full version below is much longer and quite boring. But it’s here for public record and to get it off my chest more than anything else.

I had two 13“ MacBook Pro Touch Bar devices1 and returned them both, but not because there was something wrong with them — I just didn’t like the Touch Bar and short battery life. John’s story is a completely different experience though — having gone through something similar in regard to my iPhone 7 Plus, I believe every word he wrote.

Sadly Apple seem to have stopped trying to be the Porsche or Ferrari of computers, while keeping the same prices — or, in the case of this Macbook range, actually putting the prices up — but decided to adopt the customer services policies of a dodgy used car lot.

Sadly, they do seem to be going downhill, and I write this from personal experience.

  1. Pun intended.

A Simple Design Flaw Makes It Astoundingly Easy to Hack Siri and Alexa →

September 7, 2017 · 12:06

Mark Wilson:

Chinese researchers have discovered a terrifying vulnerability in voice assistants from Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei. It affects every iPhone and Macbook running Siri, any Galaxy phone, any PC running Windows 10, and even Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Using a technique called the DolphinAttack, a team from Zhejiang University translated typical vocal commands into ultrasonic frequencies that are too high for the human ear to hear, but perfectly decipherable by the microphones and software powering our always-on voice assistants. This relatively simple translation process lets them take control of gadgets with just a few words uttered in frequencies none of us can hear.

The researchers didn’t just activate basic commands like “Hey Siri” or “Okay Google,” though. They could also tell an iPhone to “call 1234567890” or tell an iPad to FaceTime the number. They could force a Macbook or a Nexus 7 to open a malicious website. They could order an Amazon Echo to “open the backdoor.” Even an Audi Q3 could have its navigation system redirected to a new location. “Inaudible voice commands question the common design assumption that adversaries may at most try to manipulate a [voice assistant] vocally and can be detected by an alert user,” the research team writes in a paper just accepted to the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security.


Apple, Amazon Join Race for James Bond Film Rights →

September 7, 2017 · 12:04

Tatiana Siegel:

The James Bond sweepstakes has taken an unexpected turn. While Warner Bros. remains in the lead to land film distribution rights to the megafranchise — whose deal with Sony expired after 2015’s Spectre — a couple of unlikely suitors have emerged that also are in hot pursuit: Apple and Amazon.

The tech giants are willing to spend in the same ballpark as Warners, if not much more, for the rights, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. MGM has been looking for a deal for more than two years, and Sony, Universal and Fox also had been pursuing the property, with Warners and Sony the most aggressive.

But the emergence of Apple — which is considered such a viable competitor that Warners is now pressing MGM hard to close a deal — and Amazon shows that the digital giants consider Bond one of the last untapped brands (like a Marvel, Pixar or Lucasfilm) that could act as a game-changer in the content space. Apple’s and Amazon’s inclusion in the chase would indicate that more is on the table than film rights, including the future of the franchise if MGM will sell or license out for the right price.

The Star Wars franchise has shown that refreshing the format is a potentially viable strategy. I really loved The Force Awakens and Rogue One wasn’t far off — it’s not perfect, but it is a chance to spend more time in the Star Wars universe. The James Bond series of movies is my other favourite — I’ve been watching them all my life — and there is a potential here to expand upon it, perhaps even venturing into TV show territory. James has worked with other 00 agents in his movies before and I’d happily watch their adventures too.

Oh! Apple still hasn’t proven itself trustworthy in this sector (Tim Cook and Bono, Planet of the Apps), so I hope they don’t screw this up, if they get the rights.


Apple to Reveal Steve Jobs Theatre on September 12, 2017 →

September 7, 2017 · 11:55

Alex Webb:

The entrance to the venue sits underneath a silver disc, whose supporting glass panels make it seem to float 20 feet above the surrounding clearing. The auditorium itself occupies four underground stories, and to get there, journalists will descend a staircase spiraling down alongside the walls.

It also boasts two custom-made rotating elevators, which turn as they ascend and descend so that passengers enter and exit by the same door even as they go in and out from different directions. So far, so Apple—the more elegant single door, with its complex engineering, preferred to the more obvious double-door solution.

Once CEO Tim Cook and his cohorts finish showing off the new iPhones, Apple Watch and TV onstage, a surprise will await the departing attendees. An inside wall, which obscures a hollow space below the floating saucer, will retract to reveal the product demonstration room, according to someone with knowledge of the design. For fellow Brits: think the Thunderbird 3 launchpad underneath Tracy Island’s circular pool house.

I’m sure the new iPhone will be great, but this new building has me more excited at the moment.