Spider-Man Will Stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe →

September 28, 2019 · 12:55

Brent Lang, for Variety:

After briefly breaking up, Sony Pictures and Marvel have found a way to get back in the Spider-Man business together.

On Friday, the two companies jointly announced that MarvelStudios and its president, Kevin Feige, will produce the third film in the “Spider-Man: Homecoming” series. It will once again feature Tom Holland reprising his role as the titular hero. The rumor mill roared back to life this week with hints that the two companies were close to brokering a new agreement.

This is great news! I really like what they’ve done with the character and Tom Holland was probably the best actor for the job.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max: The Battery Life Is Real →

September 18, 2019 · 13:47

Nilay Patel, for The Verge:

[…] the iPhone 11 Pro cameras are an enormous improvement over the XS, and they beat the Pixel and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus in most of our side-by-side comparisons. In fact, I think the iPhone 11 Pro is the best smartphone camera on the market right now.

Make sure to take a good look at all of Nilay’s samples. While the year-old Pixel 3 indeed has a lot less detail, especially in Night Sight mode, I do like the look of many of the Note 10 photos more. Their post-processing system still needs more work but Samsung really is in point with their cameras recently.

From my conversations with Apple, semantic rendering basically goes like this:

  • The iPhone starts taking photos to a buffer the instant you open the camera app. So by the time you actually press the shutter button, it’s captured four underexposed frames and the photo you want. Then it grabs one overexposed frame. (This is all basically the same as the iPhone XS and the Pixel 3, except the Pixel doesn’t grab that overexposed frame.)
  • Smart HDR looks for things in the photos it understands: the sky, faces, hair, facial hair, things like that.
  • Then it uses the additional detail from the underexposed and overexposed frames to selectively process those areas of the image: hair gets sharpened, the sky gets de-noised but not sharpened, faces get relighted to make them look more even, and facial hair gets sharpened up.
  • Smart HDR is also now less aggressive with highlights and shadows. Highlights on faces aren’t corrected as aggressively as before because those highlights make photos look more natural, but other highlights and shadows are corrected to regain detail.
  • The whole image gets saved and shows up in your camera roll.
  • This all happens instantly every time you take a photo.

I wasn’t a fan of Smart HDR on the XS and I actually preferred the look of the iPhone Xs shots when shooting backlit subjects — they weren’t as flat or dull.

The only place where I truly missed 3D Touch was the keyboard: you could press down anywhere on the keyboard to move the cursor around on the XS. With Haptic Touch, you press and hold on the spacebar.

I am going to miss this a lot. I tried using the Spacebar method and it’s going to take a while to get used to it.


The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Do Disneyland After Dark →

September 18, 2019 · 13:37

Matthew Panzarino, for TechCrunch, details how Direct Transfer works and what it’s limitations are:

Much of the iPhone 11 Pro’s setup process has remained the same over the years, but Apple has added one new feature worth mentioning: Direct Transfer. This option during setup sits, philosophically, between restoring from a backup made on a local Mac and restoring from an iCloud backup.

Direct Transfer is designed to help users transfer their information directly from one device to another using a direct peer-to-peer connection between the two devices. Specifically, it uses Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL), which also powers AirDrop and AirPlay. The transfer is initiated using a particle cloud link similar to the one you see setting up Apple Watch. Once it’s initiated, your old iPhone and new iPhone will be out of commission for up to two to three hours, depending on how much information you’re transferring.

The data is encrypted in transit. Information directly transferred includes Messages history, full resolution photos that are already stored on your phone and any app data attached to installed apps. The apps themselves are not transferred because Apple’s app signing procedure locks apps to a device, so they must be (automatically) re-dowloaded from the App Store, a process that begins once the Direct Transfer is complete. This also ensures that you’re getting the appropriate version of the app.

Once you’ve done the transfer, the data on your phone is then “rationalized” with iCloud. This helps in cases where you have multiple devices and one of those other devices could have been making changes in the cloud that now need to be updated on the device.

Apple noted that Direct Transfer is good for a few kinds of people:

  • People without an iCloud backup
  • People who have not backed up in a while
  • People in countries where internet speeds are not broadly strong, like China
  • People who don’t mind waiting longer initially for a “more complete” restore

Basically what you’ve got here is a choice between having your iPhone “ready” immediately for basic functionality (iCloud backup restore) and waiting a bit longer to have far more of your personal data accessible from the start, without waiting for iCloud downloads of original photos, Messages history, etc.

Direct Transfer also does not transfer Face ID or Touch ID settings, Apple Pay information or Mail Data, aside from usernames and passwords.

After iPhone Migration is complete, the Messages content from the device will be reconciled with the Messages content in iCloud to ensure they are in sync. The same is true for Photos stored in iCloud.

My plan was to make a full iTunes backup (under MacOS Mojave) and then restore it to the iPhone 11 Pro, which I would then upgrade to iOS 13.1 beta (13.0 is buggy), but I’m worried iTunes won’t like iOS 13.

Oh, about that improved Face ID angle — I saw, maybe, a sliiiiiiight improvement, if any. But not that much. A few degrees? Sometimes? Hard to say. I will be interested to see what other reviewers found. Maybe my face sucks.

I was hoping for a distinctly wider Face ID, even wider than the system on the iPad Pro.

On a tripod or another stationary object, Night Mode will automatically extend up to a 10-second exposure. This allows for some great night photography effects, like light painting or trailing.

Now this is a first! I’ll be extremely interested to test this out.

We are truly in a golden age for taking pictures of dark shit with phone cameras.

I chortled when I read this.


The iPhones 11 Pro and iPhone 11: ‘They Look and Feel Like a Single Camera With Multiple Zoom Levels’ →

September 18, 2019 · 13:31

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

I keep mentioning that the iPhone 11 Pro has a three-camera system and the iPhone 11 a dual-camera system. And I’ll mention that again. But what’s essential to understand is that you don’t need to know that the iPhone 11 camera systems consist of two or three discrete cameras. From the user’s perspective, they look and feel like a single camera with multiple zoom levels […]

This works for 720p and 1080p at frame rates up to 60 FPS, and for 4K at 24 and 30 FPS. The exception is 4K 60 FPS — when shooting 4K 60 FPS, once you start recording, you’re stuck with the lens you started with.

This is one of the main reasons I decided to upgrade from my XS to the 11 Pro and while I wish everything worked at 4K and 60 fps, it’s not that big of a deal.

Another bit of magic. There are two new options in Settings → Camera: “Photos Capture Outside the Frame” (off by default) and “Videos Capture Outside the Frame” (on by default). When these options are turned on, when you shoot with the 1x or 2x lenses (wide or telephoto), the Camera app will use the next widest lens to capture additional footage outside the frame of the lens you’re shooting with. In post, this allows you to rotate the photo or video — typically, to fix a crooked horizon — without cropping. This seems to be, unfortunately, a bit buggy in iOS 13.0, but when it works, it’s amazing. At some point when Apple has more confidence in this feature, I expect it to be on by default for both video and photos.

Now this is something which I am excited to test. I wonder if it’s already fixed in the betas of iOS 13.1.

The new SF Camera font is delightful. Literally no one is going to buy an iPhone 11 just to get a slightly more industrial-looking font in the Camera app, but it’s a nice bonus. Update: OK, OK, we all know there’s at least one person who might buy an iPhone 11 just to get the new SF Camera font.

I’m actually disappointed John didn’t go into greater detail on the new SF Camera font — I was secretly hoping it would have a whole section in his review.


I’ll Be Pre-Ordering a White iPhone 11 Pro Today

September 13, 2019 · 10:42

I was actually not planning on upgrading from my iPhone XS this year but there are two features which got me hooked. I’m not really into the ultra wide 13 mm lens — I would still prefer a proper tele in the 70-100 mm range — but the new video features, including the ability to record from two lenses simultaneously (via Filmic Pro) and to the possibility of continuously zooming between all three while recording, are what made my mind up.

I had a white X and it was great at masking all my fingerprints. Unfortunately, I decided to get a Space Grey XS and discovered that the lens is an absolute lint magnet (I don’t use a case and I didn’t even notice the lint on my X) so I’ll be going back to white again. Additionally, I love the look of the polished stainless steel case around the glass — it reminds me of high quality mechanical watch cases.

A little over 3 hours to go…


A Message About iOS Security →

September 6, 2019 · 19:17

Apple:

Google’s post, issued six months after iOS patches were released, creates the false impression of “mass exploitation” to “monitor the private activities of entire populations in real time,” stoking fear among all iPhone users that their devices had been compromised. This was never the case.

Second, all evidence indicates that these website attacks were only operational for a brief period, roughly two months, not “two years” as Google implies. We fixed the vulnerabilities in question in February — working extremely quickly to resolve the issue just 10 days after we learned about it. When Google approached us, we were already in the process of fixing the exploited bugs.

We now have two sides to the story. Where does the truth lie?


RAMA M60-A SEQ2 Updates →

September 6, 2019 · 16:37

RAMA WORKS:

All M60-A SEQ2 units have been machined. They are now off to be enamel filled on the back-weight and then packaged – this will take around 2 weeks. They will then be freighted to our warehouse for final packaging, packing and shipment!

I have a Moon Stealth pre-ordered. I’m actually more excited about this keyboard than the new iPhones!


iPhone 11 Pro Camera Lenses →

September 5, 2019 · 10:34

John Gruber, on Daring Fireball:

I use the 2x “telephoto” lens on my XS, and perhaps you do too. I particularly enjoy the superior Portrait Mode experience it affords. And I look forward to using the much-rumored wider-angled third lens on the new Pro iPhones. But I’m a photography enthusiast, and the vast majority of iPhone owners are not. Every iPhone owner actually benefits from better optics when they do “zoom in” for a photo using an iPhone with a 2x lens, but I don’t think an extra camera lens feels worth a $250 premium to most of them.

I went through my Photos library to see how many photos I took with the 26/28 mm vs. the 52/56 mm lens (they changed the focal length in the XS from 28/56 mm to 26/52 mm, if I recall correctly). Surprisingly, it’s almost exactly 50/50.

At this point, I’d love to see 26 mm, 52 mm, and 85 mm. I guess if Apple were to add a true telephoto lens, they’d aim for a 78 mm field of view (3x 26 mm), but I’m pretty sure they’ll include an ultrawide on the new iPhones 11 Pro in the 16 mm range. I’d probably prefer just a 26 mm and 78 mm. They’ll get there eventually, when they figure out the optics side of things. Or so I hope.


Remembering the Best Shareware-Era DOS Games That Time Forgot →

August 28, 2019 · 09:32

Samuel Axon, for Ars Technica:

In my case, the formative glory days were the 1980s and early ’90s, and the platform was MS-DOS. And while I did play popular commercial releases from publishers like Apogee and Epic, I mostly played shareware releases. Today, we’re going to look at some gems of that lost era.

I love reading about the games I grew up with but there are a lot on this particular list I never encountered, though I vividly remember EGA Trek.

And the nostalgia sets in…


iPadOS 13 (beta 5) — My Gripes and Comments When Using An External Keyboard

August 2, 2019 · 12:13

I have tried using an external keyboard with an iPad since 2010 and while it is possible, it’s nowhere near as good as on MacOS. I have tried various keyboards over the years, including Apple Wireless Keyboards, Magic Keyboards, third-party keyboards, but I am currently using a mechanical Doro67, which is fully user-programmable, connected via USB-C.

Below are some immediate gripes and comments I have regarding external keyboard implementation in the current beta of iPadOS 13:

  • Sometimes, when I Cmd + Tab into an app, e.g. into Ulysses from Safari, I can immediately continue writing where I left off. The keyboard is active and the cursor is waiting for input. At other times it is not. There is no key that I can press to resume writing without first physically touching the screen with my finger.
  • When Cmd + Tabbing into Safari, sometimes everything works as intended and I can use the Cmd + L shortcut to input the address I want to open or Control + Tab to the Tab I need. I can then use the arrows, PgUp, PgDn or Spacebar keys to navigate webpages. Unfortunately, sometimes iPadOS and/or Safari behave as if there is no keyboard connected and I have to touch the screen to make it active again.
  • Sometimes the keyboard just behaves like it’s not connected at all and I have to touch the screen to get it to work.
  • When switching between apps, there is a small delay, which I need to wait out before I can start typing. This delay is extremely frustrating.
  • Sometimes iOS/iPadOS thinks the Cmd key is stuck, especially after quickly Cmd + Tabbing through your list of previously used apps.
  • When using the Alt/Option + Shift + Left/Right Arrow to select text in e.g. Ulysses, the selection stops at the end of a word, omitting the space and/or punctuation marks after the word. When doing the same thing in Safari (editing text in WordPress), the word and the space behind it are selected. If there’s a comma or full stop after a word, and then a space, those get selected automatically too. This is inconsistent and Safari’s implementation is wrong. Perhaps this has something to do with WordPress and is not Safari’s fault but I don’t know that.
  • The above problem also happens when moving the cursor when editing text. E.g. Cmd + right arrow will move the cursor to the end of the word in Ulysses (correct) or to the beginning of the next word in Safari (wrong).
  • Ulysses has a typewriter mode, which often loses my set position. iA Writer has the exact same problem. I hope it’s not something the developers of those apps can’t fix.
  • My PgUp and PgDn keys often don’t work, e.g. in text editors such as Ulysses. Fn + Arrows don’t work either. Curiously, Safari is fine.
  • It is (mostly) possible to use both MacOS and Windows without taking your hands off the keyboard. There’s basically a way to do almost everything without using a mouse or trackpad. I have been a keyboard-shortcut user for the past three decades, since the DOS days, just because it’s faster. iOS is woefully behind in this regard.
  • I use the character picker almost constantly on MacOS (Control + Cmd + Space, to add arrows, etc. when needed. There is no way (that I know of) to do this under iOS/iPadOS (the emoji keyboard doesn’t have all of the symbols that I use, e.g. the arrow I used below).
  • If you use an external keyboard with your iPad, please make sure to go into Settings → Keyboard → Hardware Keyboard to turn auto-capitalisation and auto-correction on or off (off in my case).
  • If you use more than one keyboard language in iPadOS, you can use the Control + Space shortcut to switch between your languages — just hold Control and tap the Spacebar to cycle between them.

Keyboard support has been getting better over the years but it’s getting there at a glacial pace and is still far behind MacOS. I really hope they focus more on it in the future, perhaps even before iPadOS 13.0 rolls out this Autumn.

Photo: 11-inch iPad Pro with a Vortex Race 3.


In Hong Kong Protests, Faces Become Weapons →

July 31, 2019 · 08:14

Paul Mozur, reporting for The New York Times:

The police officers wrestled with Colin Cheung in an unmarked car. They needed his face.

They grabbed his jaw to force his head in front of his iPhone. They slapped his face. They shouted, “Wake up!” They pried open his eyes. It all failed: Mr. Cheung had disabled his phone’s facial-recognition login with a quick button mash as soon as they grabbed him.

Apple is not always on point but their implementations of Touch ID and Face ID are spot on.


Apple Contractors ‘Regularly Hear Confidential Details’ on Siri Recordings →

July 27, 2019 · 01:09

Alex Hern, reporting for The Guardian:

Apple contractors regularly hear confidential medical information, drug deals, and recordings of couples having sex, as part of their job providing quality control, or “grading”, the company’s Siri voice assistant, the Guardian has learned.

Although Apple does not explicitly disclose it in its consumer-facing privacy documentation, a small proportion of Siri recordings are passed on to contractors working for the company around the world. They are tasked with grading the responses on a variety of factors, including whether the activation of the voice assistant was deliberate or accidental, whether the query was something Siri could be expected to help with and whether Siri’s response was appropriate […]

“There’s not much vetting of who works there, and the amount of data that we’re free to look through seems quite broad. It wouldn’t be difficult to identify the person that you’re listening to, especially with accidental triggers – addresses, names and so on.

This is unacceptable.


Half of Top Free VPN Apps Affiliated with China →

July 19, 2019 · 09:08

Simon Migliano:

Our investigation uncovered that over half of the top free VPN apps either had Chinese ownership or were actually based in China, which has aggressively clamped down on VPN services over the past year and maintains an iron grip on the internet within its borders. Furthermore, we found the majority of free VPN apps had little-to-no formal privacy protections and non-existent user support.

Apple and Google have let down consumers by failing to properly vet these app publishers, many of whom lack any sort of credible web presence and whose app store listings are riddled with misinformation.

People will generally prefer not to pay for something when there is a free alternative. The thing is, there is no such thing as free — you just pay via alternative means. In the case of VPNs, you’ll be paying with your privacy and security, which is what a VPN is supposed to help with. Do not use free VPNs.


Think FaceApp Is Scary? →

July 19, 2019 · 09:03

Brian Barrett:

Faceapp is a viral lark that takes a convincing guess at what you’ll look like when you’re old. FaceApp is also the product of a Russian company that sends photos from your device to its servers, retains rights to use them in perpetuity, and performs artificial intelligence black magic on them. And so the FaceApp backlash has kicked into gear, with anxious stories and tweets warning you off of its charms. Which, fine! Just make sure you save some of that ire for bigger targets.

When the last wave of Faceapp photos hit the internet a few days ago, after they added their new filters, I was again tempted to install the app, just as I was a few years ago, when the exact same concerns were raised. Resisting the temptation was pretty easy though. Why is it so hard for others? And how did they forget so quickly?


Keep a Stiff Upper Lip (WWDC Feedback) →

July 11, 2019 · 13:05

Daniel Kennet:

I’m a person that would describe myself as “slightly introverted”. I cannot begin to describe how deeply uncomfortable it was to walk into the registration room on Sunday to multiple employees cheering and clapping at me, trying to give me high fives. I understand the want to make people excited, but this needs to have its limits. During the conference, I got cheered and high-fived pretty much the entire week for things like:

  • Picking up a bag of chips.
  • Walking down some stairs.
  • Coming out of the toilet.
  • Walking back up the earlier-mentioned stairs.
  • Walking down the street outside the conference when I was going somewhere else.

I’m not especially introverted and I generally find Apple’s “high five culture” strange.


July 9, 2019 · 20:20

The Surface Pro 6 got a quad-core 8th gen. 15W CPU in October 2019 2018. It took Apple 9 months to add 15W Intel parts to 13-inch MacBook Pros.

It’s things like this, that piss me off most.


My Photography (70) — Downtown Dubai, UAE, 2019

July 9, 2019 · 20:14

I managed to get on the roof of Libery House in Dubai, which has a great view of Downtown. Unfortunately, it was so humid today, that my “big” camera completely fogged up and wouldn’t clear up for over 30 minutes. I gave up and pulled my iPhone out of my pocket. I hate failure.

Shot with iPhone XS @ 26 mm: f/1.8, 1/35 s, ISO 400.


I Won’t Buy Another MacBook Pro Until Apple Drops the Touch Bar (Or Makes It Optional) →

July 9, 2019 · 15:53

Apple PR:

In addition, the entry-level $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro has been updated with the latest 8th-generation quad-core processors, making it two times more powerful than before. It also now features Touch Bar and Touch ID, a True Tone Retina display and the Apple T2 Security Chip […]

The Touch Bar is just bad design. Not only does it not provide any feedback whatsoever, I cannot use the keyboard without actually taking my hands off of it to look at what I want to touch (I use it primarily on my knees).

If Apple hadn’t added the Touch Bar to the non-Touch Bar model and just upgraded the CPU, I would be ordering one right now — the new CPUs are exactly what I have been waiting for. Unfortunately, they did, so that probably means no more Macs for me, at least until they get rid of the Touch Bar. And no, the Air is not sufficient for my needs — it lacks Display P3 and a proper processor.

Update

Clarified that I’m all for making the Touch Bar optional. I would actually consider paying a small premium not to have it.


My Photography (68) — The View from the 124th Floor of Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE, 2019

July 5, 2019 · 22:19

So this happened! I actually had a minute or two of vertigo after looking straight down. The view really is quite stunning. Just try to avoid the haze if possible (which I didn’t).

The Burj Khalifa has a number of terraces and it’s actually cheaper to go up to the 124th floor than the one even higher up (150+) and I’m not sure if that one offers an outdoor terrace. The one I was on has viewports that can fit a lens, if it’s not very big in diameter. I managed to fit my Sony FE 28 mm f/2 without major issues but I couldn’t use my Zeiss ZF 100 mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*. Forget trying to use any larger zoom lens, e.g. a 24-70 f/2.8 or 24-105 f/4. You can shoot through the glass itself of course, but there are so many reflections, you might want to use one of those special flexible anti-reflection hoods.

Don’t forget to look at the fountain show down below!

Shot with Sony A7R II + FE 28 mm f/2: f/8, 75 s, ISO 100.