Google’s Duplex Phone AI Feels Revolutionary →

June 28, 2018 · 11:54

Ron Amadeo, for Ars Technica:

Duplex patiently waited for me to awkwardly stumble through my first ever table reservation while I sloppily wrote down the time and fumbled through a basic back and forth about Google’s reservation for four people at 7pm on Thursday. Today’s Google Assistant requires authoritative, direct, perfect speech in order to process a command. But Duplex handled my clumsy, distracted communication with the casual disinterest of a real person. It waited for me to write down its reservation requirements, and when I asked Duplex to repeat things I didn’t catch the first time (“A reservation at what time?”), it did so without incident. When I told this robocaller the initial time it wanted wasn’t available, it started negotiating times; it offered an acceptable time range and asked for a reservation somewhere in that time slot. I offered seven o’clock and Google accepted.

From the human end, Duplex’s voice is absolutely stunning over the phone. It sounds real most of the time, nailing most of the prosodic features of human speech during normal talking. The bot “ums” and “uhs” when it has to recall something a human might have to think about for a minute. It gives affirmative “mmhmms” if you tell it to hold on a minute. Everything flows together smoothly, making it sound like something a generation better than the current Google Assistant voice.

So Google’s demo at I/O 2018 was partly staged. The journalists invited to test it out were not able to speak directly to Google Assistant but had to have an engineer enter their data manually. I assume that that last integration will be one of the easier parts of the project, which as a whole is extremely impressive. It will need to me more accurate though, so Google won’t need people to oversee the calls themselves — Google says it currently handles 8 out of 10 calls without the need for human intervention.

Other reports about Google Duplex from the past day or so:


How to Create a macOS Mojave USB Drive Installer

June 27, 2018 · 13:43

The macOS 10.14 Mojave public beta dropped yesterday and while some of you will go crazy and install it as your main OS, it is preferable to install it on an external drive for testing purposes only. While you can just download the installer as a developer or public beta tester and proceed to install it directly, creating an installation drive (e.g. on a pendrive) has its benefits, especially if you foresee the need to install Mojave more than once.

Continue reading →


Apple to Unveil High-End AirPods and Over-Ear Headphones for 2019 →

June 27, 2018 · 11:32

Mark Gurman, for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is about to pump up the volume on its audio-device strategy, planning higher-end AirPods, a new HomePod and studio-quality over-ear headphones for as early as next year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The current AirPods do a nice job of cutting you off from the outside world but they’re not even close to a decent pair of ANC over-ear headphones. Would adding ANC to the current AirPods make much of a difference? Would it be worth the hit in battery life? I can’t wait to find out. Oh, and please Apple… no hissing sounds.

There are over-ear headphones coming from Apple, too. Those will compete with pricey models from Bose Corp. and Sennheiser. They will use Apple branding and be a higher-end alternative to the company’s Beats line.

While I would love a decent pair of over-ears from Apple, I do wonder what the compromises will be. Bose QC35s are plasticky looking but nearly indestructible. B&O H9s look fantastic but their touch controls are terrible and should not have made it to consumers. Additionally, I would have expected Apple to push these through Beats since they own them already. The only reason that they wouldn’t want to, that I can see, is if they wanted to address the product to those customers who specifically avoid Beats and their sound profile.


Employee Abused Sexually in Apple Retail Store →

June 27, 2018 · 11:18

Reddit user clumsygirllovescats writes:

For 3 years I worked in an Apple retail store in almost every role they had […]

I was so scared for my safety that I quit. My close friend said that they refused to even acknowledge my existence as if I had never worked there.

If true, this is horrifying.


Two Keyboards at a Bar →

June 27, 2018 · 11:06

Michael Lopp, writing on Rands in Repose:

The bar is full. Two keyboards sit at the bar: APPLE EXTENDED II and MACBOOK PRO. The front door opens, TOUCHBAR looks around, sees the two keyboards at the bar, grins, and heads their direction. Skipping.

APPLE EXTENDED II sits at the bar nursing a Macallan 18. Next to him is MACBOOK PRO who has not taken a sip of his glass of water.

Enter at your own peril. Laughter guaranteed.

via Daring Fireball


Teen Hackers Snatched the Keys to Microsoft’s Videogame Empire →

June 25, 2018 · 11:20

Brendan Koerner, for Wired:

Pokora had long been aware that his misdeeds had angered some powerful interests, and not just within the gaming industry; in the course of seeking out all things Xbox, he and his associates had wormed into American military networks too. But in those early hours after his arrest, Pokora had no clue just how much legal wrath he’d brought upon his head: For eight months he’d been under sealed indictment for conspiring to steal as much as $1 billion worth of intellectual property, and federal prosecutors were intent on making him the first foreign hacker to be convicted for the theft of American trade secrets. Several of his friends and colleagues would end up being pulled into the vortex of trouble he’d helped create; one would become an informant, one would become a fugitive, and one would end up dead.

It’s amazing how fast someone’s judgement can become skewed the wrong way.


The Trouble With Johnny Depp →

June 25, 2018 · 11:15

Stephen Rodrick, for Rolling Stone:

Multimillion-dollar lawsuits, a haze of booze and hash, a marriage gone very wrong and a lifestyle he can’t afford – inside the trials of Johnny Depp.

This is a profoundly sad story, but one part did make me laugh:

Depp says the fight is for his children, Jack and Lily-Rose, a Chanel model.

“My son had to hear about how his old man lost all his money from kids at school, that’s not right,” says Depp. He rubs his eyes with his tobacco-stained hands. He says one of the proudest moments of his life was when Jack said he’d started a band and Depp asked what they were called.

“The kid says ‘Clown Boner.'” Depp smiles proudly. “We don’t need a paternity test. That’s my kid.”


Keyboard Service Program for MacBook and MacBook Pro →

June 23, 2018 · 00:58

Apple Support:

Apple has determined that a small percentage of the keyboards in certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Letters or characters repeat unexpectedly
  • Letters or characters do not appear
  • Key(s) feel “sticky” or do not respond in a consistent manner

Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider will service eligible MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, free of charge. The type of service will be determined after the keyboard is examined and may involve the replacement of one or more keys or the whole keyboard.

This program applies to all MacBooks with the butterfly switch keyboards — 2015 or newer MacBooks and 2016 or newer MacBook Pros.


iOS 12 Beta 2 Includes References to New Apple Watch Models →

June 21, 2018 · 11:02

Guilherme Rambo, for 9to5Mac:

The new Apple Watch identifiers found are Watch4,1, Watch4,2, Watch4,3 and Watch4,4. Those numbers match the existing variants of the Apple Watch Series 3, which are Watch3,1 through 3,4. There are also references to the model numbers corresponding to the new devices, which include MTUD2, MTUK2, MTX92 and many others.

It’s the Apple Watch that I’m mostly looking forward to this year — it’s time to replace my Space Black Series 0 with something new. The Series 1, 2, and 3 are basically identical design-wise, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a redesign this year. I hope it’s more than just a bigger screen in the same case, but at the same time, I want my existing watch bands to still be compatible.


EU Takes First Step in Passing Controversial Copyright Law That Could ‘Censor the Internet’ →

June 21, 2018 · 10:45

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

This morning, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in favor of the legislation, called the Copyright Directive. Although most of the Directive simply updates technical language for copyright law in the age of the internet, it includes two highly controversial provisions. These are Article 11, a “link tax” which would force online platforms like Facebook and Google to buy licenses from media companies before linking to their stories; and Article 13, an “upload filter” which would require that everything uploaded online in the EU is checked for copyright infringement. (Think of it like YouTube’s Content ID system but for the whole internet.)

EU lawmakers critical of the legislation say these Articles may have been proposed with good intentions — like protecting copyright owners — but are vaguely worded and ripe for abuse. “The methods to address the issue are catastrophic and will hurt the people they want to protect,” Green MEP Julia Reda told journalists earlier this week. After this morning’s vote, Reda told _The Verge_: “It’s a sad day for the internet … but the fight is not over yet.”

This is un-fucking-believable.


The EU Wants to Break the Internet →

June 19, 2018 · 16:50

K.G Orphanides, writing for Wired:

A proposed new European copyright law wants large websites to use “content recognition technologies” to scan for copyrighted videos, music, photos, text and code in a move that that could impact everyone from the open source software community to remixers, livestreamers and teenage meme creators.

In an open letter to the President of the European Parliament, some of the world’s most prominent technologists warn that Article 13 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive “takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the Internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”

What I’m doing here right here in this post — quoting a relevant passage from another article — could become illegal. If I read Article 13 correctly, I can’t even link to Wired without written permission. This goes way beyond the scope of memes, which I think K.G puts too much focus on.

We have 17 hours or so before this goes up for vote. You can voice your concerns here (including tweeting at MEPs).


Apple Pay Launches in Poland

June 19, 2018 · 08:08

Apple Pay officially launched in Poland this morning, around 3 hours ago. Eight banks are supporting it already — Alior Bank, BGŻ BNP Paribas, BZ WBK, Getin, mBank, Nest Bank, Pekao, Raiffeisen Polbank, and T-Mobile Banking Services — with PKO BP joining them in the near future.

There still appear to be some bugs to iron out, since Apple Pay Cash shows up in Apple’s Wallet in Poland, but since it requires a US social security number, it’s not possible to activate. Apple’s website needs an update too — Poland is not yet officially on the support page listing available banks.

Update

PKO BP just confirmed that they’ll support Apple Pay in Q3 2018, which isn’t as “near in the future” as I expected.


4K 144 Hz Monitors Don’t Really Display 4K at 144 Hz →

June 18, 2018 · 10:39

Reddit user Glennwing posted a great explanation of how the current breed of 4K 144 Hz displays actually work:

I’m seeing a lot of user reviews for the new 4K 144 Hz monitors, and it seems like everyone mentions that it looks noticeably worse at 144 Hz. I keep expecting these posts to say “due to the 4:2:2 chroma subsamping”, but instead they say “I’m not sure why” or something like that, both on here and on various forums. It seems monitor companies have done their usual good job of “forgetting” to inform people of this limitation, as most of the early adopters are apparently unaware that it is not actually capable of full 4K 144 Hz even though the subsampling was mentioned in the Anandtech article a month or two ago. In any case, I want to make people aware of what chroma subsampling is, and that these first-gen 4K 144 Hz monitors use it.

Basically, if you value image quality and want to use 144 Hz, then skip this generation of screens.


8 Banks To Launch Apple Pay on 19/06/2018 in Poland →

June 16, 2018 · 01:01

Jacek Uryniuk, for Cashless:

[…] this Tuesday will be the day Apple Pay becomes available for the customers of Alior, BGŻ BNP Paribas, BZ WBK, Getin, mBank, Nest Bank, Pekao and Raiffeisen Polbank. More banks will follow in the fall, probably in September. They will supposedly include Poland’s biggest retail bank, PKO BP.

The list of banks is more or less what I’ve heard myself, from another source, but the date should be solid, if there are no technical difficulties.


Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12

Everything You Need to Know About iOS 12 Shortcuts →

June 14, 2018 · 11:34

Federico Viticci, on MacStories:

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone – not just power users – can reap the benefits.

I was afraid magic variables would go away, but I’m surprised and happy to see that they have been retained. I like to imagine Ari Weinstein fought a battle there because this is not something I expected Apple to keep.

I hope they keep Ari and his team happy, so he can continue to build on the foundations of the most excellent Workflow (now Shortcuts) app. I don’t want even think about going back to using iOS without automation.


My Photography (47) — Misty Sunset, Corfu, Greece, 2009

June 14, 2018 · 11:03

I love visiting Greece for a number of reasons — the excellent cuisine, austere landscapes, and not much commerce. This was my first trip to Corfu and I can genuinly recommend going there. It’s not overcrowded, nature likes to show-off often, and… did I mention the delicious food? Just get a car or scooter and drive up and down the whole island — it’s not that big.

Shot with Canon 50D + Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L — f/8, 30 s, ISO 100 @ 35 mm.


There Is No Justification for What Mark Zuckerberg Did to WhatsApp →

June 13, 2018 · 15:01

Felix Salmon, writing for Slate:

Today, it seems inevitable not only that advertising will make it onto WhatsApp, but also that the advertising in question will be targeted—which is to say that when you use the app, Facebook will know exactly who you are, where you live, and what kind of products you might be interested in buying. It’s a complete repudiation of WhatsApp’s founding principles, and makes a mockery of its end-to-end encryption.

I strongly believe that Mark just doesn’t give a fuck and will continue to do whatever he wants, just because he can, until someone stops him. He has no moral backbone and is in it for the money. Facebook in its current form is built to not only make its users addicts, but the whole platform can be likened to cancer, growing on the backbone of the internet.


Teslas – (In)Secure by Design →

June 13, 2018 · 14:47

Tomasz Konieczny, on XSolve’s blog:

Tesla has become synonymous for a new trend in the automotive industry. Elon Musk’s electric car is on the lips of the whole world – or even the whole solar system after SpaceX shot it into space. That’s why it’s so shocking that a more “earthly” matter – the security of Tesla software – is far below modern standards.

While I have driven Teslas before, I never owned one, so I didn’t have a reason to bother with the security of the app, the website account or anything related. Quite frankly, I expected much more from Elon’s company, especially since cars from “traditional” manufacturers are known to be insecure for years now and his background would suggest that Tesla would be best equipped to handle security in a satisfactory manner.

P.S. I can’t even play enjoy the full functionality of my Steam games if they’re not secured by 2FA.


The Touch Bar Should Be Optional →

June 12, 2018 · 20:47

Ben Lovejoy, for 9to5Mac:

Offer people the option of paying say $250 less for an otherwise-identical non-Touch Bar model, and I think a lot of people would go for it.

I refuse to buy another Touch Bar MacBook. I had two and returned them both. At this point, I’d pay just to not have it, even though I would treat that as daylight robbery.


My Photography (46) — A Trip Down Romarshelmsfjorden, Norway, 2015

June 12, 2018 · 16:23

Our trip to Norway in 2015 started in Bergen, where we took a one-day cruise down the surrounding fjords, where I took this shot. The towering magnificence of the fjord’s wall dwarfed the ship we were on and I was so awed, that I almost missed the sleek waterfall — just look at how tall the trees on top are. While it was fun and took half a day, do make sure to reserve a full day for the Norway in a Nutshell trip, which is even better.

Shot with Fuji X100T: f/8, 1/90 s, ISO 400.