The New MacBook Air — ‘Sometimes, That’s Enough’ →

November 6, 2018 · 12:15

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

That fan is a weird place to start when talking about the new $1,199 MacBook Air. I’d rather jump into all the many good things there are to talk about: the pixel density on the new display, smaller bezels, Touch ID, the T2 security chip, a larger trackpad, and a smaller design. I’ll get into all that. But I want to hang with this fan noise for another minute because its whirring encapsulates the most important thing to know about this MacBook Air.

Namely: it’s a computer that will let you do whatever you want, even though some of those things are probably beyond its capabilities. It won’t say “no” when you want to open 20 tabs and eight apps and then edit a photo. (Though, sometimes, with a fan and spinning beachball, it will say “uncle.”) Most of all, it’s a computer that is familiar. It does everything you expect in a way that you’re used to.

Sometimes, that’s enough.

I’m still waiting for a 15 W TDP quad-core MacBook, be it a MacBook Air or refreshed MacBook Pro Escape. There’s currently a hole in the line-up and it feels that it’s there so as not to cannibalize MacBook Pro sales — the Air has a 7 W CPU, the Pros have 28 W parts, and the 2017 Escape has dual-core 15 W processors. Where are the quad-core 15 W TDP Intel Core i5s and Core i7s?

And no, no Touch Bar for me, thanks.


Apple iPad Pro Review 2018 — Future of Computing, Not a Laptop Replacement →

November 5, 2018 · 15:43

Nilay Patel, for The Verge:

I use Lightroom CC all the time and I would love to manage and edit all my photos on an iPad Pro, especially since editing with the Apple Pencil is so much fun on this display. But I have no desire to import hundreds of RAW files into my camera roll and iCloud photos account. When I brought this up, Apple very proudly pointed to a new Siri Shortcut from Adobe that imports photos from the camera roll into Lightroom and then automatically deletes them from the camera roll.

I couldn’t test that Lightroom Siri Shortcut, since it’s not yet available. But I can tell you that macro-based hacks around the limitations of an operating system are not usually included in bold visions of the future of computing, and that Siri Shortcut is a pure hack around the limitations Apple has imposed on the iPad Pro.

Oh, but it gets worse. I shoot photos in JPG+RAW, and the iOS PhotoKit API only allows apps to grab one or the other from the camera roll. So I could only import my RAW images into Lightroom, leaving the JPGs behind to clutter up my camera roll and iCloud storage. That’s untenable, so I just gave up and imported everything directly into Lightroom using my Mac, because my Mac doesn’t insist on abstracting the filesystem away into nonsense.

This is my single biggest gripe with Apple and Adobe — they still haven’t figured out how to make this as simple as on a Mac (or Windows machine, for that matter). This basically makes it impossible for me to use an iPad for processing my RAW files. I’m still hoping both companies get their act together, but after 8 years, I’m closer to just accepting this won’t happen.

Apple seems to want it both ways with the iPad Pro: it loves to tout the iPad’s laptop-dwarfing sales figures and industry-leading performance, but when pushed on the iPad’s limitations, the company insists that the iPad is still an ongoing attempt to build the future of computing, not a laptop replacement.

But after eight years, this double-sided argument is no longer tenable. Unlike virtually every other computer, the iPad is a product of Apple’s singular vision: the company designs the display, the processor, the operating system, and the limits of the applications and accessories that plug into it. And after all this time, it’s clear that whatever roadblocks and frustrations exist in using the iPad Pro are there because Apple wants them there. There just aren’t that many excuses left.

I still love the iPad but it’s far from being a laptop replacement for so many people. Apple did finally cave and introduce the Files.app so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for substantial changes in iOS 13, but I’m not holding my breath.


iOS 12.1 Brings Group FaceTime and New Emoji to iPhone and iPad →

October 30, 2018 · 07:40

iOS 12.1 will be available Tuesday, October 30, bringing Group FaceTime and more than 70 new emoji to iPhone and iPad. FaceTime changed the way people communicate and share important moments, and now with Group FaceTime, it’s easy to chat with more people than ever before — from 2 to 32 people. iOS 12.1 also brings Depth Control in real-time preview and Dual SIM support to iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XRcustomers.


Apple Watch ECG Will Be Limited by System Region Settings and Can Be Changed to Enable Use Outside US →

October 29, 2018 · 13:20

Guilherme Rambo, on 9to5Mac:

This limitation is not enforced by hardware, and if you buy an Apple Watch Series 4 in any country, it includes the new sensors. Looking at code within iOS related to the ECG feature, we’ve been able to confirm that its limitation to the US will be based on the software region of the user’s devices (iPhone and Apple Watch).

I wish Apple just required users, in areas of the world without regulatory approval, to understand that the ECG function is for their own personal use and that they shouldn’t bother sharing the information with doctors — a clearly worded pop-up or instructional screen should be sufficient. I don’t plan on switching my region to anything else because this is a hassle in a number of areas (which I don’t recall now but I remember doing it once and a number of things frustrated me).


Google’s Night Sight for Pixel Phones Will Amaze You →

October 26, 2018 · 23:42

Vlad Savov, for The Verge:

If you listen closely, you might be able to hear every other phone camera engineer flipping their desk and resigning in disgust. This is just an astonishing improvement. The Pixel 3’s camera is already among the very best low-light performers, so when a scene is so dark that it barely registers anything, you know there’s hardly any light. And yet, with Night Sight on, we actually see a scene that looks like a moderately noisy daytime shot.

These are the kind of shots (the Night Sight ones) that the first smartphones took in pretty decent lighting conditions. Computational photography is obviously the future but I did not expect such stunning results so quickly. I would actually consider getting a Pixel 3 XL if it had a dual camera system because I really enjoy having a 50 mm lens on my iPhone.


Huawei Cloned Another Famous Smart Speaker →

October 26, 2018 · 23:36

Saqib Shah, for Engadget:

As first impressions go, there’s the glaringly obvious: this device looks like a HomePod doppelgänger, complete with a stout, cylindrical design with control buttons at the top. But, at 399 yuan ($60) it doesn’t cost nearly as much as Apple’s $349 gadget. It also comes in black and white.

There are many words in the English language but I don’t know one that would sufficiently describe how pathetic the copycat trend is. What kind of designer would be actually proud of this work?


Google Pixel 3 Doesn’t Support 10W Qi Charging →

October 23, 2018 · 23:30

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is shipping out to the masses, and people hoping to take advantage of the new Qi wireless charging capabilities have run into a big surprise. For some unexplained reason, Google is locking out third-party Qi chargers from reaching the highest charging speeds on the Pixel 3. Third-party chargers are capped to a pokey 5W charging speed. If you want 10 watts of wireless charging, Google hopes you will invest in its outrageously priced Pixel Stand, which is $79 […]

Google got back to us. The Pixel 3 does not support 10W Qi charging at all. It supports 10W wireless charging, and it supports the Qi wireless charging standard, but these are two different things. Qi is capped at 5W, and for 10W wireless charging, you need a charger with what Belkin calls “Google’s 10W proprietary wireless charging technology.”

This is something I expected Apple to do, when they first introduced inductive charging, not Google.


Facebook Portal — Who You Call and What Apps You Use Could Determine What Ads You See →

October 17, 2018 · 11:00

Kurt Wagner, reporting for Recode:

Last Monday, we wrote: “No data collected through Portal — even call log data or app usage data, like the fact that you listened to Spotify — will be used to target users with ads on Facebook.”

We wrote that because that’s what we were told by Facebook executives. 

But Facebook has since reached out to change its answer: Portal doesn’t have ads, but data about who you call and data about which apps you use on Portal can be used to target you with ads on other Facebook-owned properties.

Of course it can. And over time it’ll probably do other nasty stuff to its users.


Morgan Knutson Tells His Story of Working at Google on Google+ →

October 16, 2018 · 12:50

Moran Knutson, in a long thread on Twitter:

Now that Google+ has been shuttered, I should air my dirty laundry on how awful the project and exec team was.

I’m still pissed about the bait and switch they pulled by telling me I’d be working on Chrome, then putting me on this god forsaken piece of shit on day one.

Read the whole thing, it’s worth it. I’m actually suprised (though I shouldn’t be) about how things are done over there.

If your team, say on Gmail or Android, was to integrate Google+’s features then your team would be awarded a 1.5-3x multiplier on top of your yearly bonus. Your bonus was already something like 15% of your salary.


Safari Content Blocker Evaluations — 2018/9/26 Edition →

October 11, 2018 · 09:50

Ben Brooks:

I ran another round of content blocker testing for Mobile Safari in order to take a look at which ones are the ‘best’ right now. To be fair: it’s really hard to find these content blockers on the App Store now, so I grabbed the ones which looked the most popular to me (top lists, and top search results) and then did the testing to see which was the best.

My favourite is 1Blocker X, which I have been using exclusively — it gets the job done, doing excellent work saving me LTE bandwidth (and battery at the same time). It is, in fact, so good, that my wife asked me to install it on her iPhone, and she’s not the type of person who enjoys the additional overhead of using a content blocker.


Apple Frames: A Shortcut for Framing Screenshots From Every Apple Device →

October 11, 2018 · 09:45

Federico Viticci, on MacStories:

When I published my iPhone XS Frames shortcut two weeks ago, I noted that my goal was to eventually support screenshots and device templates from other Apple devices, starting with the Apple Watch and MacBook Pro. After two weeks spent rebuilding the shortcut and asking Silvia to prepare several more templates, I’m happy to re-introduce my shortcut as the new and improved Apple Frames – a comprehensive custom shortcut to frame screenshots taken on every Apple device. Well, at least most of the current ones that the company is still selling.

Federico has two versions of the shortcut for Apple’s Shortcuts app — with and without the Macs. They’re both brilliant.


Amazon Orders Female-Driven Fantasy Series ‘The Wheel of Time’ →

October 11, 2018 · 09:42

Elsa Keslassy, for Variety:

Amazon Studios has ordered “The Wheel of Time,” an action fantasy series based on Robert Jordan’s bestselling fantasy novels, which have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide. Rafe Judkins (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) adapted the material into a series and serves as showrunner.

I read the first ‘Wheel of Time’ book in 1995 (or thereabouts) and the last one was published in 2013, so this is a universe in which I spent close to 20 years in. I hope the TV series is at least as good as ‘Game of Thrones’.


Why It’s Hard to Read the Time on the Infograph Apple Watch Face →

October 10, 2018 · 15:42

Marco Arment:

The Apple Watch is an amazing feat of technology. It’s a computer. It can display anything. With no mechanical or physical limitations to hold us back, any watch-face design from anyone could plausibly be built, enabling a range of creativity, style, and usefulness that no single company could ever design on its own.

But they won’t let us. In a time when personal expression and innovation in watch fashion should be booming, they’re instead being eroded, as everyone in the room is increasingly wearing the same watch with the same two faces.

Open this door, Apple.

Apple could hand pick a few designers and developers for all I care. The current selection of Watch faces is stale and long in the tooth too. They need to address this sooner rather than later.


Google Discloses Privacy Security Flaw Kept Quiet Since March →

October 9, 2018 · 17:30

Gerrit de Vynck, for Bloomberg:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it found a “software glitch” in its Google+ social network in March that could have exposed the personal data of as many as half a million users, but decided not to tell the public until Monday.

Google chose not to disclose the flaw out of concern it would trigger regulatory backlash, especially in the wake of criticism against Facebook Inc. for its privacy failures, according to the Wall Street Journal, which initially reported the news Monday. In a statement posted to its blog minutes after the report, Google said it plans to shut down Google+ for consumers and introduce new privacy tools restricting how developers can use information on products ranging from email to file storage.

Unsurprising.


Movie About Church Sexual Abuse Is a Contentious Hit in Poland →

October 9, 2018 · 11:49

Alex Marshall, writing for The New York Times:

“Clergy,” a new movie by the director Wojciech Smarzowski, starts with three priests drinking vodka until they can barely speak. One then drives drunk to a parishioner’s apartment and mumbles his way through the giving of last rites.

The picture of Poland’s priesthood only goes downhill from there. The priests steal money from their congregations, spy on each other, and exploit their connections with politicians, journalists and the police.

But much of “Clergy” focuses on one issue: Clerical child abuse, which the movie says the church covered up. In one scene, it incorporates accounts from real people who say they were abused.

This may not sound like the plot for a blockbuster movie — let alone one that features a heavy dose of comedy — but “Clergy” is a smash hit in Poland. It opened on Sept. 28, and more than 1.7 million people saw it during its first week, according to Kino Swiat, the movie’s distributor. That is a huge figure for a country of 38 million.

I thought that our current “democratic” government wound actually ban it outright.


Facebook Portal →

October 9, 2018 · 11:18

Portal was created with privacy, safety and security in mind. And it has clear and simple settings, so you always stay in control.

Having all of Facebooks privacy scandals in mind, this product feels like the perfect companion device to their portfolio… if it was released on April Fool’s.

Do not buy this product. You probably shouldn’t be using Google’s Home or Amazon’s Alexa either.


Microsoft Now Has the Best Device Lineup in the Industry →

October 4, 2018 · 22:21

Owen Wilson, on Charged:

The company took just an hour to unveil sweeping updates to its existing hardware, and what’s clear after the dust has settled is that Microsoft’s hardware division is a force to be reckoned with. Apple’s dominance on the high-end laptop space looks shakier than ever, because Microsoft’s story is incredibly compelling.

Rather than building out a confusing, incompatible array of devices, Microsoft has taken the time to build a consistent, clear portfolio that has something to fit everyone across the board […]

I really loved one thing about the Surface Book (review unit) I had a while back — when I was done typing, I could just detach the screen and use it as a tablet… or run desktop Lightroom, which I can’t do on my iPad Pro.

Microsoft, it seems, has removed all of the barriers to remaining in your ‘flow.’ Surface is designed to adapt to the mode you want to be in, and just let you do it well. Getting shit done doesn’t require switching device or changing mode, you can just pull off the keyboard, or grab your pen and the very same machine adapts to you.

It took years to get here, but Microsoft has nailed it. By comparison, the competition is flailing around arguing about whether or not touchscreens have a place on laptops. The answer? Just let people choose.

This coherency is what I had come to expect from Apple, but iPad and MacBook look messier than ever. Sure, you can get an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but you can’t use either of them in a meaningful way in tandem with your desktop workflow. It requires switching modes entirely, to a completely different operating system and interaction model, then back again.

I won’t even bother writing about the sorry state of Apple’s hardware updates but there is one thing that frustrates me daily. I usually start work on my iPad, and when I get to the tougher stuff, I pull out my MacBook Pro. It’s not even because I can’t do that work on the iPad, but because I can get it done 50% faster on MacOS. I would love to just attach/detach the screen or keyboard, instead of switching computers.


iPhone XS: Why It’s a Whole New Camera →

October 2, 2018 · 12:45

Sebastiaan de With:

iPhone XS has a completely new camera. It’s not just a different sensor, but an entirely new approach to photography that is new to iOS. Since it leans so heavily on merging exposures and computational photography, images may look quite different from those you’ve taken in similar conditions on older iPhones.

But unlike previous cameras, exactly because many of its leaps in quality are based on software, we can expect it to change, and even improve. This is just the first version of iOS 12 and Smart HDR.

Likewise, us developers need to update apps to take full advantage of the new iPhone XS and XS Max’s very capable sensor. Since it is such a different animal, simply treating it as any other iPhone will yield subpar results. We’re almost done doing our first take at it and we’ll no doubt have to work more on it in the future.

Sebatiaan also notes a few specific RAW quirks with the XS:

As it stands today, if you shoot RAW with an iPhone XS, you need to go manual and under-expose. Otherwise you’ll end up with RAWs worse than Smart HDR JPEGs. All third-party camera apps are affected. Bizarrely, RAW files from the iPhone X are better than those from the iPhone XS.

I’m going to test Halide’s Smart RAW function, which should allow to extract the maximum quality out of the camera.


Thee Shalt Not Mention iPhones XS & XR in Thy App’s Releaseth Notes →

September 24, 2018 · 15:34

Greg Knauss, on App Store Review rejecting release notes, mentioning the iPhones XS and XR by name:

You’ll note that I didn’t mention the names “iPhone XR” or “iPhone XS Max.” However, Apple again responded with a rejection […]

Apple apparently considers referencing the devices that an application is designed to run on not relevant to its functionality.

So on September 20, 2018, I squared my shoulders, modified the release notes again, and resubmitted the app:

A change was made. We can’t tell you what the change was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the Program License Agreement. But we can’t not tell you what it was, because that’s disallowed by Section 2.3 of the App Store Review Guidelines. This leaves the app in a state of quantum indeterminacy, and the waveform can only collapse when someone doing App Store reviews stops observing it.

Apple — sensing that I might not be taking the process seriously — responded […]

We had the same situation and I was as baffled as Greg. Hats off to him for standing his ground and fighting absurdity.


An Oral History of Apple’s Infinite Loop →

September 17, 2018 · 14:52

Steven Levy published a whole trove of anecdotes from Apple’s execs, including Steve Jobs, on Wired:

Espinosa: When Steve returned, I drove down to the local Flag and Banner store, bought a pirate flag, stuck an Apple sticker on it and cable-tied it to the bridge across the atrium. It was there for about four hours before security took it down.

I’m halfway through. They’re a must-read.


‘AirPower Really Is Well and Truly Fucked’ →

September 17, 2018 · 11:52

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

What I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies, is that AirPower really is well and truly fucked. Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces. Last year Apple was apparently swayed by arguments that they could figure out a way to make it not get hot. They were, clearly, wrong. I think they’ve either had to go completely back to the drawing board and start over with an entirely different design, or they’ve decided to give up and they just don’t want to say so.

Meanwhile we now have two generations of iPhone’s supporting inductive charging and one of the best chargers for them are from Samsung, though the new Logitech Powered seems like an interesting proposition.


The New Heart-Monitoring Capabilities on the Apple Watch Aren’t All That Impressive →

September 17, 2018 · 11:34

Katherine Ellen Foley:

The new Apple Watch, however, has the equivalent of one lead on your wrist, the company’s website says. “The tech that Apple is working with is very rudimentary compared to what we’d do for someone in a hospital or health care setting,” Moore said. Although the watch can detect changes in the patterns of a person’s heart rate, these changes really only show a user if she has a heart rate that is too fast, too slow, or beating irregularly—signifying AFib. The watch won’t necessarily give the full picture a doctor would need to diagnose a medical issue […]

Apple got two FDA clearances through a “de novo” pathway, meaning it had to use data to show that its device worked, and that it was safe. For the ECG clearance, the FDA reviewed a study conducted by Apple and Stanford University in California. This study, called the Apple Heart Study included 588 individuals, half of whom had AFib and the other half of whom were healthy. The app was able to identify over 98% of the patients who had AFib, and over 99% of patients that had healthy heart rates. Cardiologists were able to read 90% of the total readings, although about 10% of them were unreadable.

I’m no doctor but those results look pretty impressive.


How Apple Watch Saved Jason Perlow’s Life →

September 12, 2018 · 12:08

Jason Perlow:

Ultimately, though, I owe my life to my Apple Watch. Because it started this whole machine rolling. And I was very lucky to have my Afib caught during the last three months of public enrollment in the Heart Study, which ended in early August.

I’ve decided that I will be an Apple Watch customer as long as that product exists. That means I’m also going to be an iPhone customer for life as well. So heck yeah, I’m getting a new iPhone XS when the upgrade program kicks in. And a new iPad Pro.

But most importantly, I’m also upgrading to an Apple Watch Series 4 as soon as it becomes available.

I guess you can say I am now an Apple fanboy of circumstance — and of necessity. But I am incredibly thankful this product exists and we now have the technology to detect and correct these kinds of conditions in people. Apple’s leadership in early diagnosis is commendable and is a shining example to the rest of the health wearables industry.

Thank you, Apple. I owe you my life. And I guess we are going to be friends for a very, very long time.

This is probably the only mainstream tech product which saves people’s lives on the side.