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Tag: Apple

A selfie cliché is a selfie cliché is a selfie cliché

Friday, 2 February, 2018 0 Comments

“I took advantage of our tendency to be unoriginal on social media to make this animation,” says Hiérophante, who adds: “Some people point out to me that some similar videos already exists so it seems that making a video about clichés is a cliché too.” The most popular clichés include, #selfie, #peacesign, #latte, #tattoo and #sixpack, and these homogenized variations on a theme here are as trite as their creators.

PS Remember last week’s media narrative about iPhone X being less popular than expected? Here’s Apple CEO Tim Cook on the firm’s latest results:

“We’re thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple’s history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup. iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November.”


One channel to rule them all

Monday, 4 December, 2017 0 Comments

As J.R.R. Tolkien fans know, the One Ring is the central plot element in his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. It’s got a malevolent power, this ring, which is not surprising as it was created by Sauron as part of his plan to conquer Middle-earth. The words inscribed on the Ring were uttered by the Dark Lord himself as he forged it:

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”

There is no parallel to be drawn between YouTube and the One Ring, of course, but it has turned into the internet for video content from Middle-earth. All the big players publish on Google’s channel: Amazon is there, so is Microsoft, so is Twitter, so is Facebook and Apple has now bowed to reality.

“Someone else always has to carry on the story.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings


“Hey Siri”

Monday, 23 October, 2017 0 Comments

Apple has published a a paper on how its devices listen for people using the “Hey Siri” command/query. There’s a lot of machine learning going on here:

“The ‘Hey Siri’ detector uses a Deep Neural Network (DNN) to convert the acoustic pattern of your voice at each instant into a probability distribution over speech sounds. It then uses a temporal integration process to compute a confidence score that the phrase you uttered was ‘Hey Siri’. If the score is high enough, Siri wakes up. This article takes a look at the underlying technology. It is aimed primarily at readers who know something of machine learning but less about speech recognition.”

Note: Apple says: “Hey Siri” works in all languages that Siri supports, but “Hey Siri” isn’t necessarily the phrase that starts Siri listening. For instance, French-speaking users need to say “Dis Siri” while Korean-speaking users say “Siri 야” (Sounds like “Siri Ya.”) In Russian it is “привет Siri” (Sounds like “Privet Siri”), and in Thai “หวัดดี Siri”. (Sounds like “Wadi Siri”.)


Apple and the War of the Ems and the Ens

Tuesday, 11 July, 2017 0 Comments

In short: Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 will replace the convention of typing two hyphens to obtain a “long dash”, the so-called em dash —. So today, if you type – – it’s turned into —. With iOS 11, however, two hyphens become the shorter en dash: –. And to get an em dash, you’ll have to type three hyphens - - -.

Is this important? Glenn Fleishman thinks it is and he has devoted a detailed post to the matter. His conclusion: This change appears in the beta release of iOS 11, so it may not end up in the final version later this year.

By the way, the most famous em dash user was Emily Dickinson, who employed it in her poetry to emphasize emotion and punctuation —

Luck is not chance

Luck is not chance—
It’s Toil—
Fortune’s expensive smile
Is earned—
The Father of the Mine
Is that old-fashioned Coin
We spurned—

Emily Dickinson (1830 — 1886)


iPhone: A perfect 10 for the perfect device at 10

Friday, 30 June, 2017 0 Comments

“Here’s to the #iPhone that changed the world, to the man who dreamed it & the people at Apple who have never stopped looking to its future.” So tweeted @tim_cook yesterday.

It’s been ten years since the iPhone went on sale and, looking back, John Gruber gives it a “Perfect Ten.” Snippet:

“The iPhone’s potential was obviously deep, but it was so deep as to be unfathomable at the time. The original iPhone didn’t even shoot video; today the iPhone and iPhone-like Android phones have largely killed the point-and-shoot camera industry. It has obviated portable music players, audio recorders, paper maps, GPS devices, flashlights, walkie-talkies, music radio (with streaming music), talk radio (with podcasts), and more. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft wouldn’t even make sense pre-iPhone. Social media is mobile-first, and in some cases mobile-only.”

Gruber adds that Nokia and BlackBerry weren’t just disrupted by the iPhone, they were “utterly obliterated.” And he declares that the full potential of the iPhone is still to be discovered: “No product in the computing age compares to the iPhone in terms of societal or financial impact. Few products in the history of the world compare. We may never see anything like it again — from Apple or from anyone else.”

For all those who now say that they saw it coming, a re-reading of “Mobile, smartphones and hindsight,” which Benedict Evens published on 9 February last year continues to reward. Superbly researched, beautifully presented and elegantly written, the piece is filled with wisdom:

“It’s always fun to laugh at the people who said the future would never happen. But it’s more useful to look at the people who got it almost right, but not quite enough. That’s what happened in mobile. As we look now at new emerging industries, such as VR and AR or autonomous cars, we can see many of the same issues.”

The future happened 10 years ago and the words used by Steve Jobs when he revealed the iPhone to the world continue to echo:

“So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone… are you getting it?

These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.”

Perfect. 10.


Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

Thursday, 22 June, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of the new book by Tim Harford, best known to readers of the Financial Times as The Undercover Economist. True to elitist form, he conjures up pieces for that paper with intros like “Some things are best left to the technocrats: On any piece of policy, the typical voter does not understand what is at stake.”

The upcoming book is based on Harford’s BBC podcast 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy. One of them is the iPhone, and Harford trots out his typical take on its revolutionary impact thus: “Surprisingly, Uncle Sam played an essential role in the creation and development of the iPhone — of course, much has been written about the late Steve Jobs and other leading figures at Apple and their role in making the modern icon, and its subsequent impact on our lives. And rightfully so. But…”

But there’s always a “But…” However, here’s the blurb for Harford’s book, which will be published on 29 August:

“New ideas and inventions have woven, tangled or sliced right through the invisible economic web that surrounds us every day. From the bar code to double-entry bookkeeping, covering ideas as solid as concrete or as intangible as the limited liability company, this book not only shows us how new ideas come about, it also shows us their unintended consequences — for example, the gramophone introducing radically unequal pay in the music industry, or how the fridge shaped the politics of developing countries across the globe.”

Very Harfordian that, “…the gramophone introducing radically unequal pay in the music industry.” And it all began so harmoniously. In 1903, HMV in England made the first complete recording of an opera, Verdi’s Ernani, on 40 single-sided discs, and on 10 June 1924, George Gershwin recorded a shortened version of Rhapsody in Blue with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. It was released on two sides of Victor 55225 and ran for 8 minutes and 59 seconds. But as Tim Harford would say, “But…”

Rhapsody in Blue


WeChat is the world in China

Saturday, 6 May, 2017 0 Comments

Ben Thompson writing on Wednesday about Apple iPhone sales in China distills the challenges into one word, one app: WeChat. Here’s how he puts it:

“The fundamental issue is this: unlike the rest of the world, in China the most important layer of the smartphone stack is not the phone’s operating system. Rather, it is WeChat. Connie Chan of Andreessen Horowitz tried to explain in 2015 just how integrated WeChat is into the daily lives of nearly 900 million Chinese, and that integration has only grown since then: every aspect of a typical Chinese person’s life, not just online but also off is conducted through a single app (and, to the extent other apps are used, they are often games promoted through WeChat).”

The piece by Connie Chan referred to by Thompson is the must-read for anyone wishing to learn about the WeChat phenomenon: When One App Rules Them All: The Case of WeChat and Mobile in China. And for those who don’t get the revolution that WeChat represents, this paragraph by Ben Thompson is sobering:

“There is nothing in any other country that is comparable: not LINE, not WhatsApp, not Facebook. All of those are about communication or wasting time: WeChat is that, but it is also for reading news, for hailing taxis, for paying for lunch (try and pay with cash for lunch, and you’ll look like a luddite), for accessing government resources, for business. For all intents and purposes WeChat is your phone, and to a far greater extent in China than anywhere else, your phone is everything.”

WeChat


Appleology and Renishaw

Tuesday, 2 May, 2017 0 Comments

In the grim days of the Cold War, the expression “Kremlin Watching” had relevance. It referred less to the specific building, the Moscow Kremlin, than to what it represented: the Soviet Government. This was an institution that people had good reason to watch with care as the smallest signal might offer an indication of what was happening and what might be expected next. Out of “Kremlin Watching” grew “Kremlinology”, which persists in the English language, being used figuratively to decrypt the actions of large, powerful, opaque institutions.

Apple is one such institution and Apple Watching has become a survival skill for those who wish to understand how modern fortunes are made and lost. Back at the beginning of last month, investors woke up to the news that shares in the UK chip designer Imagination Technologies had plunged more than 60 percent after Apple said it would end a deal to use its products. Apple uses the chips in its iPhones, iPads, and iPods under a licensing agreement and its royalty payments account for about half of Imagination’s revenues. The company’s shares promptly fell 165 pence to 103 pence, valuing it at about £250 million – down from about £765 million before the announcement was made. Why? Apple Watchers revealed that Apple is developing its own chip technology.

But for every downside there’s an upside and that’s very good news for investors in Renishaw Plc. Who? “We are a global company with core skills in measurement, motion control, healthcare, spectroscopy and manufacturing,” says the Gloucestershire-based firm. But there’s more to the story than that. In a recent note to clients, Stephen Swanton of the research firm Redburn pointed out that while Renishaw has never explicitly said Apple uses its technology, a Renishaw probe was shown in an iPhone promotional video as the device’s casing was being machined. Such are the fleeting signs that Appleologists must be alert to.

“The iPhone is now made to a level of precision not far away from that at which Rolls-Royce operates with aero engine fan-blade manufacturing,” said Swanton in a display of the finest Appleology that was subsequently quoted by Bloomberg.

The iPhone 8 is predicted to launch by September, 10 years after the original iPhone premiered. Expect lots and lots of Appleology between now and then.


Expressive video, says Apple

Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 0 Comments

Cupertino, California — “Apple today introduced Clips, a new app that makes it quick and fun for anyone to create expressive videos on iPhone and iPad. The app features a unique design for combining video clips, photos and music into great-looking videos to share with friends through the Messages app, or on Instagram, Facebook and other popular social networks.”

That’s how yesterday’s PR release from Apple about its new Clips app begins. The word “expressive” does not appear anywhere in the Clips text so the curious reader has to search further for enlightenment. Is expressive video like immersive video? Or is it a format like FLV video, MP4 video or AVI video?

Susan Prescott, Apple’s VP of Apps Product Marketing, has the answer: “Clips gives iPhone and iPad users a new way to express themselves through video, and it’s incredibly easy to use.” Ah, so obvioius. And it’s incredibly easy for Apple to create new video categories. After expressive video, we can expect communicative video, indicative video, demonstrative video and assertive video, no doubt.

The most interesting aspect of Clips is what Apple calls “Live Titles.” This feature lets users create animated captions and titles using their voice. Effects include speech bubbles, shapes and posters. The captions are generated automatically, as you speak, appearing on screen synced with your voice and you can change them by adding your own text, punctuation or emoji.

Live Titles supports 36 different languages and the Clips app will be available for free in the App Store at the beginning in April. Over to you, Samsung.

Clips


Brexit: What would St. Patrick do?

Wednesday, 15 March, 2017 0 Comments

St. Patrick Background: St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain. Where exactly is a matter of debate. Claims have been made for England, Scotland and Wales as his birthplace. According to the Confession of St. Patrick, he was captured by a group of Irish pirates at the age of 16, enslaved and then held captive in Ireland for six years. Good Christian that he was, he forgave his captors and the Irish in general. He then set about converting them and his success rate was a remarkable 99.9%, it is said.

What Patrick could not do, however, was help the Irish to understand that they needed to stay on good terms with their neighbours in Britain. The Irish of the fifth century saw the “big island” as place to plunder or to dispose of their excess people and problems and little has changed since.

Foreground: The Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973 on the same day as the United Kingdom and this was no coincidence. Dublin depended greatly on food exports to the UK and being outside the EEC zone would have meant tariffs and quotas affecting its most important market. It was a pragmatic decision, therefore, but there was an element of romance as well in that many in the Irish establishment hoped that the deal would weaken the Anglo-Irish relationship in favour of Europe. And it all turned out for the best in the end. Ireland got lots of lovely subsidies from Brussels, local politicians upgraded to luxury junkets, inward investment from the USA flowed like champagne at Cheltenham and the benefits of Britain were untouched. Note: Irish citizens living in the UK are treated as British citizens in all but name.

St. Patrick But all this changed, utterly, with the Brexit vote. The cat is now among the doves, as peace-loving Patrick might have said. Once Article 50 is triggered by the UK government, Ireland will have to face the fact that it depends on the US and UK consumer so much that almost two-thirds of it goods and services will go to markets outside the remaining EU 27 members. Paddy is now confronted with the conundrum that while he’s commercially and culturally part of the Anglosphere, he’s told by his elites that he should feel closer to Brussels than Boston and it’s giving him headaches. Then, there are the bills.

In 2014, Ireland became a net contributor to the EU. Dublin paid €1.69 billion to Brussels and got €1.52 in return. After the UK leaves and the EU needs to pay those bills, Ireland will be expected to put more in the pot. Then there’s last year’s EU decision against Dublin’s cosy tax arrangement with Apple that could cost €13 billion. If all those giant US companies in Ireland are no longer able to dodge tax and if their companions in London are no longer able to ship their UK turnover across the Irish Sea to be taxed at a much lower Irish rate, the luck of the Irish might run out. But there’s more.

Much of Ireland’s exports are transported through British ports on the west coast, then across the mighty motorways that Paddy helped build before leaving British ports on the south and east coasts for EU destinations. When the UK is outside the Single Market and Customs Union there will be serious administrative and financial challenges to getting goods to their EU markets without quicker and cheaper alternative routes. And the combination of being outside the Schengen Agreement and the Common Travel Agreement means that the Britain’s borders will begin at Ireland’s ports and airports.

Tricky.

People scoffed recently when Lord Kilclooney wrote in the Belfast News Letter that Ireland needs to consider its positon in the EU, but his advice should not be dismissed so lightly. He concluded: “The two alternatives are for the Republic to get special status within the EU or for the Republic to exit the EU the same day as the UK — that would mean there would be no problems at the border and would eliminate the damage now being caused to the Southern Irish economy.”

Paddy doesn’t want to hear this, of course, but Saint Patrick would whisper in his ear what Louis MacNeice once said: “World is suddener than we fancy it.”

St. Patrick


The rise and rise of the femme bots

Wednesday, 22 February, 2017 0 Comments

Joanna Stern, writing in The Wall Street Journal: Alexa, Siri, Cortana: The Problem With All-Female Digital Assistants. Snippet:

“You get the point: The virtual assistants popping up in our lives sound overwhelmingly female. ‘I’m female in character,’ Amazon’s Alexa responds if you ask her if she is a woman. In their own clever ways Google, Apple and Microsoft’s voice assistants will tell you they’re genderless…in unmistakably womanlike voices.

As femme bot after femme bot has invaded our phones , speakers, cars, TVs — even our refrigerators — I’ve been left wondering: Where the man bots at? And why do these hunks of plastic and electronics need to be assigned a gender at all? My Amazon Echo doesn’t have any reproductive organs.”

Apple’s Siri, by the way, is the only one of this bunch of bots with a male voice option: “Siri may default to a female voice in the U.S. but Apple provides both male and female voice options for iPhone and iPad users to choose from. In fact, on iPhones where the language is Arabic, French, Dutch or British English, Siri defaults to a male voice.”

Men and women may prefer female voices for their digital assistants, @WSJ writes, but adds, “it’s about time we had more male options.”