September 30, 2012

Janet Napolitano Doesn't Use Email

Joseph Straw, writing for The NY Daily News:

“‘I don’t have any of my own accounts,’ she told a cybersecurity conference hosted by National Journal. ‘I’m very secure.’ Asked if her reasons for sticking to other forms of communication had to do with concerns about email security, she hedged and said she avoids email for ‘a whole host of reasons.’”

The Secretary is privy to intelligence sources such as the NSA’s Echelon program, and knowledgable about the massive data center that agency is building in the Utah desert.

Do you think Nepolitano’s insider knowledge of privacy-invading government technology programs informed her choice to avoid email, much? What does that say for the rest of us?

September 29, 2012

Chalk Art by David Zinn

Imagine living with this art scattered about outside your home. What a whimsical little community that would be. (Via The Loop.)

Underwater Pistol Demo

High-frame rate video of firing both a revolver and a semi-auto pistol under water. Pretty neat.

The expanding gas bubble emitted from the barrel of the semi-auto is quite beautiful … it emerges at just after the 3:00 minute mark. (via kottke.org.)

Know Your States

This is kinda fun.

September 28, 2012

∴ Goodell Letter to Fans: 'You deserve better'

ESPN:

“NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tells fans ‘you deserve better’ than games worked by replacement officials.”

Which he might have followed with “I hereby tender my resignation as commissioner of the National Football League.”

I’d had a generally high opinion of Goodell until last year’s player lockout, born more of enjoyment of the game over which he presides than appreciation of his management style.

He’s done a fair job of preventing the NFL from descending into the thug squad that the NBA threatened to become a decade ago. The league has taken steps to reduce the likelihood of traumatic head injury in a game built around hard knocks, too. And every year like clockwork, the NFL has moved from training camp to pre-season to regular season to playoffs to championship, taken a couple months’ breather and re-started with OTAs.

Everyone can appreciate a well-oiled machine.

Mostly, though, I was happy with the league and its commissioner because I was happy watching the game, and the games were mostly good and as fair as human, professional officials could make them.

Between the players’ lockout and this season’s officials’ lockout, though, it’s become clear that Goodell and some of the owners he represents don’t deserve admiration. The aphorism “if you’re not paying for something, you are the product” has never been more clearly true than in the regard the league has displayed for its fans this season. That is, not much.

As in: here’s a product, it’s not as good a product this year because it’s making almost everyone unhappy, but we’re still getting season ticket and broadcast revenues in the billions, so bugger off while we thrash the officials’ union at the bargaining table.

Pro sports is a business. Business exists to make a profit. More profit is better, until it comes at the expense of the producer, product or customer. There is a balance to be maintained between profiteering and spreading the wealth in any business endeavor, a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Goodell and the NFL ownership crossed that line this season, in fact, they went so far past the line that there no longer is a line. There’s just what the league can get away with while keeping up revenues and the queasy feeling that comes from knowing it.

That was the league’s biggest mistake: letting fans know that their enjoyment isn’t their goal. Hence the commissioner’s “letter.” He needs to mend a few fences, if only symbolically. What a bunch of assholes.

Maybe I’ll start watching hockey. Oh, wait.

Wow

Apple CEO Tim Cook:

“At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.”

(Via The Verge.)

Click through for the full note from Cook.

The first paragraph is the primary thing any business should do when faced with unsatisfied customers: apologize and explain what will be done about the problem. Even when there is nothing a business can do to fix a problem, an apology goes a long way with most customers.

It'll be interesting to hear how far Tim's apology goes with Apple customers.

The Google C-suite must be having a good day today.

September 27, 2012

Apple Removes iPod Socks From Online Store

AppleInsider:

“iPod Socks, a cloth accessory that Apple has sold for years to protect its portable music players, have been removed from the company’s online store.”

I don't know what's worse: that Apple discontinued this oddball accessory, or that I've labored under the mistaken impression until now that they were, ya know, socks. For your feet.

Jeez.

Herbert Lom, Boss in Pink Panther Movies, Dies

MSNBC:

“The actor played the increasingly crazed Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus alongside Peter Sellers’ hapless Inspector Clouseau in the film series.”

I remember first seeing one of the Pink Panther movies at a drive-in theater as a kid. My dad was partial to Lom's Dreyfus character, who had an eye twitch and a propensity to attempt the murder of Clouseau. He'd play-act Lom's part for weeks after seeing the film, crazily mumbling "kill Clouseau" when someone mentioned the movie or one of the characters. He was a real card.

Malicious Code Can Wipe Out Some Samsung Phones

Brian X. Chen, writing for The NYT:

“A simple line of malicious code embedded in a Web page can cause some Samsung Galaxy smartphones to lose all their data, security researchers revealed this week. But Samsung says a fix has been out for months.”

The Android phone market is going to be an Achilles heal in getting this fixed. Carriers are notoriously slow in rolling out system software updates, and 'droid phone owners are notoriously slow adopting them.

A few hard data losses among the user base should provide motivation to update sooner, though.

September 26, 2012

Apple Had Over a Year Left On Google Maps Contract

Chris Ziegler, writing for The Verge:

“Apple’s decision to ship its own mapping system in the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 was made over a year before the company’s agreement to use Google Maps expired, according to two independent sources familiar with the matter.”

Classic case of tearing off the band-aid.

Apple’s millions of customers have provided valuable feedback to Google mapping engineers for years, immeasurably improving Google’s map product. The company faced a decision: when to jump from a mature, much-loved app that benefited its competitor to a young, flawed product in need of customer feedback, which also breaks their reliance on a competitor. They chose now.

Today the Apple map app is a source of derision, but a year from now no-one will care. Apple’s map app will have benefited from use. In the mean time we’ll see a steady stream of aging, not-as-funny-for-the-repeated-telling stories about vertical highways and half-constructed stadiums.

Google is reportedly moving to build an iOS map app of their own. No surprise there. With 100,000,000 devices already upgraded to iOS6 and Apple’s own map app, Google has suddenly experienced a marked decline in mobile use of their mapping product. They need an iOS app in the hands of iPhone users yesterday. As of September 19, really.

RIM CEO: "We're Not Sleeping Much"

Ina Fried, writing for All Things Digital:

“RIM Chief Executive Thorsten Heins says the BlackBerry maker is gearing up for a big launch for the first BlackBerry 10 devices in the first quarter of next year.

‘I think we have a clear shot at being the No. 3 mobile ecosystem in the world,’ Heins said.”

Ouch. Aiming high, huh?

Remember when Blackberry phones were the hot item? Before the original iPhone set the smartphone world on fire, a "crackberry" was the device to have. News stories abounded about users unable to put down their Blackberrys, rising mid-night to check mail messages and toting them along on vacation. How times have changed.

By refusing to evolve their basic design, relying instead upon the Blackberry messenger technology that let users avoid wireless carrier messaging fees and mind-share momentum to sell phones, Research In Motion let the smartphone world pass it by.

All of which points to a long-held truth in technology development: innovate or die. Steve Jobs saved Apple when that company was circling the drain fifteen years ago. Who will save RIM?

Robot Cars Now Officially Legal In California

Cyrus Farivar, writing for Ars Technica:

“The new law obliges the California Department of Motor Vehicles to draft regulations for autonomous vehicles by January 1, 2015.”

DMV may not be the timeliest agent for change, but the legislature is moving California into the future anyway. Joining Nevada as a testbed for autonomous vehicles, California’s roads will provide a more complex test for Google and other software makers.

We’re slowly moving toward a Minority Report future for our highways. Can’t wait.

September 24, 2012

How Far "Back" Has Apple Come From the Dead?

Macworld (among others) reports that 100 million iOS devices have been upgraded to iOS 6, released just five days ago.

How's that again? 100 million upgrades in five days.

They sold a few new iPhones, too.

I gave up Apple for dead when I read that Steve Jobs had returned to the company back in 1997. I've never been so pleased to be so wrong.

Apple's Map App - Where the Effort Went

Anthony Drendel:

“It seems like people really hate the new Maps in iOS 6. Now, I’m not disputing that Maps does give a lot of strange results to a lot of people all around the world, but for a large, large number of people, iOS 6 Maps has been a huge improvement over Google Maps. I’m talking about those of us who live in China (you know, the place with 1.3+ billion people and the second-largest economy in the world). Google Maps was always pretty terrible here. In the big cities and tourist centers, it was passable. Once you left China’s large metropolises, however, you were pretty much on your own. You could usually see expressways, highways, and even a lot of smaller roads, but there were very, very few shops, restaurants, banks, ATMs, etc. listed. That has changed with iOS 6. “

(Via DF.)

Very telling. Apple has put a lot of effort into selling in China. We're now seeing some of the behind-the-scenes work, as well.

Review: US population, 0.312 billion, give or take. China population, 1.34 billion, same. I'm sure Apple cares about US vertical freeways and disjoint communities in their new maps app. I'm sure, too, that they focused more engineering effort to include Chinese details than US complainers realize.

∴ What's Today? iPhone 5 Day.

Today is the day the box arrived. After a 3 AM ordering frenzy and last week’s delayed delivery (due to intervening vacation plans), the long-awaited replacement for my aging iPhone 3Gs arrived from Fedex.

The step-up from my old phone, now three generations aged, is revelatory. I’d forgotten how responsive these phones can be, and the new (to me) display is a beauty.

And the battery. My old iPhone, running continuously for three years, was good for about 50% of the charge, after which it would promptly shut down hard. Sooner if I ran an app employing 3G networking (Foursquare and Instagram, I’m looking at you). I’d have to let it “rest” a bit before a cold re-boot.

No mo’. I expect to be back to a full day on a single charge despite using the phone, browsing, checking email and listening to podcasts.

And the camera. Better that the battery repeatedly killed Instagram during a recent vacation than keep photos made with blurry-cam. Nothing like seeing your Facebook photos, shot on an older cell phone camera, blown up on a laptop display. Ugh. The new camera shoots a full 8 mega-pixels of data.

So, to iPhone 5. In a nut: fast enough processing to seem like magic again, with a display of deep, rich color. This is my first Retina device, so again, it’s a revelation. This model sports 32GB DRAM so I can no longer see a storage horizon. I have yet to tap LTE networking, but early reviews claim similarity to WiFi. Wow.

Setup was a breeze: turn on, provide WiFi password, select from among new, restore backup from iCloud or restore from iTunes. Enable location services, enable Siri, done. After restoring from a just-made iTunes backup my new phone was a mirror of the old. Everything was in its place and operational.

The new phone has a new connector, and despite obsoleting my nearly-new Elevation dock I like it. It’s small, connects to USB and plugs into the phone with a satisfying “thunk.”

iPhone 5 comes with those new ear pods you might have seen on TV. They fit better than those nasty round thingies that came with previous iPhones and iPod Touches, the ones that hurt my ear after a half-hour and never stayed put. I haven’t tried out the new ones for sound yet. I read good things about them, though it’s useful to recall that they sell for $30, and that’s an Apple-$30, so don’t compare them to a $100+ pair of Etymotics.

Worth the wait, the hype and the early wake-up.

∴ Crowd Calls Bullsh*t On Replacement Officials

If you stayed tuned to last night's Ravens - Pats game through the fourth quarter (I tuned out for a Dark Knight fix in the third) you were witness to what sounded like the entire city of Baltimore chanting "bullshit" at the ref's call. The crowd seemingly spoke with one voice. It was downright remarkable.

What's even more remarkable is the NFL's disregard for the game, the players and the fans for letting this go on so long. The replacement officials are clearly out of their depth. Their calls are all over the place (in one instance a team was awarded two extra coach's challenges yesterday) and in many cases, in error. There is no timeliness to their officiating. The gameplay is suffering.

I cannot believe the cause is anything more than a very greedy league letting their product suffer rather than come to terms with that critical element of their product. The owners simply don't care about poor officiating any more than they care about perpetual poor game play from teams whose owners milk their franchise for every dollar by not paying better players to join them, TV blackouts despite empty stadium seats, and highway robbery prices on souvenirs.

What's at work here is an employer refusing to bargain in a meaningful way for fear of setting a precedent. This is what happens when a monopoly is allowed to continue … the NFL doesn't moderate their position because they don't have to. Where else will fans and players turn for pro football play?

QE Infinity and US Stock Market

David Kotok:

“For US stock market investors, these facts lead to only one conclusion: the bias has to be toward fully diversified investing in US stocks.”

David takes a short, winding road through US Fed policy, the unemployment rate and investment practices to come to that conclusion. His thoughtful commentary points to a simple truth: if you're fortunate enough to have stabile employment and careful enough with your finances, hard economic times present as much potential for gain as good times.

In other words, keep your head down, your mind engaged and keep doing what you do.

September 19, 2012

Quick, Easy and (Relatively) Cheap

I did a quick and easy upgrade to my wife’s 2009 MacBook Pro today. We bought her machine before solid state drives (SSDs) were available from Apple, so until today she’s been computing with a hard drive.

The machine was built with a quick CPU and plenty of memory, but the mechanical hard drive created a bottleneck. That became obvious after I began using a later-model MacBook Pro last year, which was by then available with an SSD.

We waited for economy of scale to kick in, when prices would plummet. Replacement SSDs have cost about triple an equivalent-sized hard drive until recently.

The solid state memory vendor Crucial came out with a lower-priced SSD line, the M4, this year. Last week I found a 256GB model on sale at Amazon for $165. That’s by far the cheapest per-gigabyte price I’ve seen.

Swapping the drives was made easy by SuperDuper!, the excellent backup application from software vendor Shirt Pocket. We’ve used it to make nightly backups of our primary drives for years, but in this case our backup would become the data source for Kelly’s new SSD. I used SuperDuper!’s Smart Update feature to bring the USB-connected external backup drive’s contents equal to the boot drive, which took about ten minutes.

Ten screws and the laptop’s lower panel was off, two more and the stock hard drive was out. A quick swap and more screwdriver action had everything back together in less than five minutes. I put aside the old hard drive, just in case.

The difference between SuperDuper! and other backup solutions is mainly in the recovery phase. SuperDuper! creates bootable backups, which let you get back up and running from the backup drive in just a couple of minutes, rather than hours or days later after replacing the failed internal drive. Such a backup can then be used to populate a new internal drive. That was the second half of today’s project.

I restarted the laptop, booting from the external drive this time, then ran Disk Utility from there to partition and format the new SSD. SuperDuper! then cloned the external drive’s contents to the new drive. About an hour later I rebooted, this time from the SSD. Job complete.

Total time to upgrade: about an hour and a half, much of it spent doing other things while cloning the backup to the SSD. Total expense: $165 for the SSD, plus $28 for a copy of SuperDuper! three years ago.

Man, that SSD is fast.

Mike’s Tax Notes

Michael Arrington:

“I’ve been spouting off a bit lately on politics and I keep making the same arguments to people, one at a time, on Twitter and Facebook. I’m aggregating some of them here so I can point to it later.”

Mike ruminates on taxes, wealth and democracy. Worth a read.

If you're in agreement, call yourself a libertarian.

September 17, 2012

Mitt Romney: Half of You are Losers

Joshua M Brown, writing for The Reformed Broker:

“Republicans will say he’s telling the truth, Dems will say he’s a monster. Independents (like me) will shrug and political commentators will say ‘it’s pretty tough to be the President with this much disdain for half the country.’”

The video.

Are you one of the losers, or one of the suckers he expects to vote for him?

Dogs, Explained

Makes sense to me. Mine is laying on her back, staring at the wall.

Beer of the Weekend: Sixpoint's Sweet Action

This week’s Beer of the Weekend was brought to you by the good people of Sixpoint Brewery of Brooklyn, New York, and the number four.

I picked up a four-pack (see what I did there?) of this brew on a flyer this past Friday after the weekly beer-tasting at Cork and Fork of Gainesville, Virginia (Facebook link, because even though they don’t know an IPO from a hole in the ground they currently define social media). The sampled beers were a gamut of interesting (the Scottish dark brew aged in single-malt Scotch barrels at $12 per 12-ouncer) to “meh” (the forgettable Oktoberfest) so I took a stroll along the wall of beer, settling upon a variety of offerings from Sixpoint Brewery. I selected Sweet Action, their first, and now I need to discover their entire line.

Sixpoint’s Sweet Action is an ale of ample malty sweetness, balanced by enough hop bitterness to remind you that 1. the reinheitsgebot specifies four ingredients and this example provides plenty of each, and 2. hops don’t mean your beer need taste of grapefruit.

Sweet Action is a yummy (yes, yummy is the right adjective. You beer geeks know what I mean.) beer good for a late summer afternoon when you’ve put another hurt on your body painting the bathroom ceiling and just want to unwind before heading back to those weekday bastards, when dinner is still just an idea and there are good tunes on the satellite music channel and the Internet is full of interesting things to read and you’re pondering 1. the arrival in your home of Apple’s next generation phone and 2. the kidney-rattling, fear-inducing roller-coaster ride that is modern air travel to a far-northern, perpetually under-the-glacier destination you’ve paid to “enjoy” in a few weeks. It’s good for run-on sentences. It’s good for relishing the brewer’s art. It’s just good.

I think I could make Sweet Action my house beer. It’s a rounded brew dialed up to eleven, a reminder that beer should foremost be a taste sensation and a labor of love. You should taste the love. I taste that in Sweet Action. I know these guys are downright proud of this beer.

Look for Sixpoint’s brew in pint cans (yep, cans) at your better beer merchants. I like it, and if you like beer you’ll like it, too.

Court To Rule On Topless Duchess Kate Photos Tuesday

MSNBC, aka NBCNews, or whatever they're calling their multi-zillion-dollar online venture with Microsoft, the company that routinely loses billions, yes, BILLIONS with their online division:

“A French court will announce on Tuesday whether it will enforce an injunction that Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate have sought against magazine Closer to prevent further publication of topless photos of her.”

Here's a thought: if you, as one of Earth's most sought-after people don't want to be seen sunbathing topless, perhaps you shouldn't do so where cameras can find you.

Surely you've heard of these so-called "tele-photo lenses," no? They teach that in the finer British schools now, right?

Rick Santorum's Candid Assessment

David Frum, writing for The Daily Beast:

“Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum made a bit of news this weekend, declaring that ‘we will never have the elite, smart people on our side’ at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.”

Aw, you already have them, Rick. Palin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Bachmann, Ingraham, etc. You know, the elite, smart people.

September 15, 2012

iPhone 5's A6 CPU: a Custom Apple Core Instead

Anand Lal Shimpi, writing for Anandtech:

“The A6 is the first Apple SoC to use its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren’t based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple’s own creation.”

This is Steve Jobs' legacy: bit by bit, Apple reduces its dependance upon others. This time around, iPhone's silicon is home-made IP.

September 14, 2012

Windows Phone 8 Has Officially Gone Gold

Daniel Rubino has the story.

Interesting timing. Apple sells out the first wave of iPhone 5s in an hour, carriers bump out availability by two weeks, and here comes Redmond.

(Via Rene Ritchie.)

Meg Whitman: We Are Going To Release A Smartphone At HP

Jay Yarow, writing for Silicon Alley Insider:

“Speaking with Fox Business, Whitman says, ‘We ultimately have to offer a smartphone,’ because the future of computing is smartphones. In developing countries people aren’t going to buy HP desktops or laptops. If HP doesn’t want to be hosed, it has to deliver a smartphone.”

Great, another Android clone. Just what the market needs.

The only company making smartphone money (other than Apple) is Samsung, and they just lost a billion-dollar lawsuit to Apple for copying the iPhone’s design and operation. The rest of the Android clone makers are, well, the rest. One more is just one more also-ran.

We haven’t yet heard from Microsoft, whose Windows Phone 8 OS should appear before year’s end. Their technology previews look promising. I’ll bet their phones are a viable alternative to Apple’s iPhone 5/iOS 6 combination.

What’s left for HP? Maybe they’ll innovate and offer something truly new in the smartphone space. Skull implant? Wearable communications? Pay-by-touch? What?

Preorders of iPhone 5 Sell Out In Less Than An Hour At Apple

Zach Epstein, writing for Boy Genius Report:

“Apple (AAPL) made preorders of its new iPhone available on apple.com at 3:01 a.m. EDT, 12:01 a.m. PDT and in less than one hour, the company’s initial stock of new iPhones for Verizon Wireless (VZ), AT&T (T) and Sprint (S) was depleted.”

One hour.

iPhone 5 Lightning Connector, Explained

Rainer Brockerhoff has a very informative dissection of Apple's new digital connection and charging technology, called Lightning.

I'm glad Apple went with a new, though proprietary design for their new connector, rather than micro-USB. Lightning is much more capable than USB 2, and promises greater speeds than even USB 3 if and when it's connectible with Apple's Thunderbolt port.

(Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me. Gallileo, Gallileo … sorry. Couldn't resist. Poor Freddie.)

I'm glad, too, I went against my initial geek instinct to buy into the Android ecosphere three years ago. Apple's iPhone and related technologies have been not only technically superior in hardware, software and user interface, but more elegantly designed for easy, natural user experience, too. Android and the clones have steadily improved, and version 4 of the Android OS is reportedly very good. iPhone and iOS have been at least that good for the three years I've been a customer. Great stuff.

September 13, 2012

Fed To Buy More Bonds Until Jobs Rebound

Between this (Reuters):

“The Federal Reserve launched another aggressive stimulus program on Thursday, saying it will buy $40 billion of mortgage-related debt per month until the outlook for jobs improves substantially as long as inflation remains contained.”

and this:

“policymakers said they would not likely raise rates from current rock-bottom lows until at least mid-2015. Previously, it had set such guidance at late 2014.”

it’s a safe bet that mortgage rates will remain at current, historical lows or decline over the next three years, unless inflation takes off in the mean time. That’s good news for anyone holding an adjustable rate mortgage, and those closing in on eligibility for a refi on their current, higher-rate mortgage. Not so much for those relying on fixed-income securities for retirement income.

September 12, 2012

∴ Live Blog-Following the Apple iPhone Event

Just a quick aside about today’s media coverage of the iPhone event. As most hardcore Apple fans know, the company doesn’t provide live audio or video coverage of their public keynotes, and only delayed, recorded video coverage of WWDC developer sessions. Real-time coverage happens via “live blogging.”

A media outlet’s reporter writes second-by-second updates to a weblog, narrating what he or she hears to a scrolling, time-stamped page on the outlet’s web site. At the same time, one or more photographers snap and upload images that are immediately incorporated into the stream. All data moves over 3G or 4G cellular wireless connections.

But the photos are usually interspersed among the text items on the web page, so it gets a little tedious scrolling up and down as large images rapidly scroll away what you’re reading. One of today’s media outlets did something new, and better, though.

I usually follow these events through live blogs at four or more sites, in case one or another chokes from heavy readership. Today’s lineup included The Verge, Anandtech, Macworld and Engadget. Anandtech was the newbie this time around. Hands-down, Engadget had the best live blog presentation.

The photos were presented across the top of the page in a Cover Flow-like progression. Engadget must have had multiple photographers continuously shooting, because the rapid succession of images was almost like slow-scan TV. And the images didn’t interrupt the flow of text, which occupied its own half of the page.

I could flip back and forth through the photos as the text continued to update, and the images didn’t return to automatically updating until I flipped back to the last one.

And most importantly of all, Engadget’s live blog stream didn’t choke. I didn’t have to reload the page once during an hour and forty minutes of coverage.

Very well done, Engadget. You’re my go-to live blog resource. Your Apple coverage technology was … Apple-like in its simplicity and effectiveness.

A Rare Apple Miss

9To5Mac:

Ping is over September 30th, Apple no longer accepting new members

Now go ahead, ask: what's Ping?

And October Brings ...

Apple announced their latest iPhone model today, along with an updated iPod Touch and a revamped iPod Nano. They still have an October media event in the works, though, but they’re finished with the usual fall line-up of phones and music. So maybe this is a real thing?

Or maybe we’ll see the rumored MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display.

My money's on the iPad "mini."

∴ Apple Today [UPDATE]

(Updated with links to the new products.)

The rundown from today’s Apple event:

We have a new mobile phone, called iPhone 5. The features:

  • taller, 16x9 display, 4-inches diagonal. 1136x640 resolution.
  • Retina display, 326 pixels per inch.
  • 18% thinner, 20% lighter than iPhone 4S.
  • old apps run letter-boxed until developers update them.
  • LTE, 4G wireless on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the US.
  • WiFi-N on both 2.4 and 5 Ghz, up to 150Mbps.
  • new CPU, the Apple A6. 2x faster than A5 CPU (iPhone 4S chip), more energy efficient.
  • longer battery life than iPhone 4S: 8 hours LTE, 3G browsing or talk time, 10 hours WiFi browsing.
  • same camera as iPhone 4S, but thinner. 8-megapixel, 3264x2447 resolution. Sapphire lens cover, more durable. Dynamic low-light mode for 2 f-stops more light gathering. 40% faster image capture. Panorama photography built in.
  • 1080p HD with face detection, records stills while capturing video.
  • FaceTime over cellular networks!
  • 3 microphones for voice recognition and noise cancelation. Mikes handle a wider spectrum of audio, too.
  • New 9-pin connector, called Lightning. Reversible plug. 80% smaller than existing connector. (Ok, eight pins plus the shield, which conveys ground.)
  • No NFC (near-field communications).
  • PRICES: same as iPhone 4S: 16, 32 and 64 GB for $199, $299 and $399 on two-year contract. Comes in black and white versions. 16 GB iPhone 4S is $99 on contract. 8 GB iPhone 4 is now FREE on contract. iPhone 3Gs is discontinued.
  • Pre-ordering begins this Friday, September 14. Shipping begins September 21 in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

iOS 6 news:

  • new, non-Google maps app.
  • Facebook integration, same as the existing Twitter integration.
  • shared Photo Stream lets you share photos with other iOS users.
  • Launch apps by voice with Siri.
  • Available September 19.

A new version of the iTunes store will be included in iOS 6. Better presentation of music, movies, TV shows, apps and books. Facebook “Likes” are integrated with product pages. A new Mac and PC version will include iCloud account integration (you’ll see all your past purchases) and will be available late October.

iPod news:

  • new 7th generation iPod Nano: very slim and small, 2.5-inch multi-touch display, home button on front, audio controls on side, seven colors. FM tuner with “DVR” pause and rewind capability. Look at photos, watch video. Built-in pedometer. Bluetooth for audio streaming. Uses the new Lightning connector. 30-hour battery. 16 GB for $149. Available in October.
  • new 5th generation iPod Touch: 6.1 mm thick, 88 grams weight, brushed aluminum back. 4-inch display, like iPhone 5. Same A5 CPU as iPhone 4S. 40 hours audio playback, 8 hours video. New iSight camera, 5 megapixel with sapphire lens cover and LED flash like iPhone 5. Same video capability as iPhone 5. Same Bluetooth, WiFi capabilities as iPhone 5. No 4G cellular, so this isn’t a shrunken iPad. Includes Siri! Comes in five colors. 32 GB for $299, 64 GB for $399. Available in October.
  • iPod Shuffle colors change. That’s it for this one. 2 GB for $49.

September 11, 2012

"Daddy, I wish this was all just a dream."

Neil DeGrasse Tyson's day-after reminiscence of 9/11, which he and his family witnessed from the front row.

Every year I think we're getting further from that day, yet every year the memory of those events, and the memories of others, brings it back fresh as yesterday.

September 10, 2012

Romney Campaign Clarifies Candidate’s Meet The Press Comments On Pre-Existing Conditions

Sahil Kapur, writing for TPM:

“In a Sunday interview, Mitt Romney spoke out for a popular provision in the Affordable Care Act that guarantees coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But his campaign later clarified that he supports a scaled back version of the policy with much weaker protections.”

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

Or: poor Mitt, every time he has a fit of reasonableness the party fringe remind him "we're Republicans."

September 9, 2012

Romney, Ryan Refuse To Identify Tax Loopholes They'd Close

Sahil Kapur, writing for TPM News:

“In separate interviews Sunday, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan refused to identify which tax loopholes they would close in order to pay for their large tax cuts.”

Fox Business has a concise list of the biggest revenue-losing "loopholes," those deductions and credits that let taxpayers exclude income from taxation. With a list like that, is it any wonder the GOP ticket refuses to detail what loopholes they'd close? Who would willingly vote for that?

Thus Begins Mitt's Big Pivot

Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, reports the start of Mitt’s Etch-A-Sketch campaign phase:

“Now that he’s definitively trailing in the polls and needs to appeal to non-wingnuts, it turns out that Mitt Romney doesn’t hate Obamacare quite as much as he’s been telling the tea partiers for the past year:
‘Of course there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place,’ he said in an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. ”One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.’ Romney also said he would allow young adults to keep their coverage under their parents’ health-insurance.”

You had to know President Mitt wouldn’t be the Republican politician to take away affordable health care from the poor. Actual voters (though still a wide minority of those polled) want  the program that President Obama and both parties in Congress put in place.

Now Mitt claims there are “a number of things” he likes about health care reform.

No shit, Mitt. Keep reading, you’ll find more you like in the Affordable Care Act. After all, it was modeled after your own Massachusetts health care reform, with input from your own people.

(His statement on Meet The Press has got to make the GOP's Tea Party wing nervous. What else will Mitt find that he likes from President Obama’s legislative agenda? The mind boggles.

Rush Limbaugh must be having an apoplectic fit of ‘I told you so.’ Yes you did, Rush. Yes you did.)

FBI Launches $1 Billion Face Recognition Project

Sara Reardon, writing for New Scientist:

“As part of an update to the national fingerprint database, the FBI has begun rolling out facial recognition to identify criminals.
It will form part of the bureau’s long-awaited, $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme, which will also add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification to the toolkit.”

(Via Engadget.)

Hmm. If we couple the FBI's new facial recognition system to the ubiquitous security camera networks growing in cities and towns across the US, and add voice identification to the NSA's Echelon program and that agency's massive, new data center in the Utah desert, and link the two with law enforcement's increasing use of pilotless, drone aircraft, we get …

September 8, 2012

Look Up, Feel Small, Be Amazed

The star field beyond the Earth is particularly inspiring. Try watching it in full screen mode…

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

∴ Ze Vesper For You, Mr. Bond?

Mixed a couple of Vespers today, one built around Hendrick’s (oh my god) gin and the other upon the sturdy, manly, and yes, even Bondian Brokers. All for the sake of comparison. It’s a science, really, although I lost track of the scientific method somewhere along the way. No matter.

Hendricks Vesper: floral citrus, with a mild off after-taste engendered by the gin’s cucumber flavor. This was the milder of the two, not quite a straight-up Vesper due to the Hendricks. An enjoyable cocktail if you possess an acquired taste for Hendricks.

Brokers Vesper: stiff, crisp, even brutal, tundra-trudging and austere in the absence of anything but the essential gin-vodka-lillet flavor. Brokers’ 94-proof adds a measure of harsh to the mix. Truer to the original, which was mixed with Gordon’s gin back in the day when that liquor was also 94-proof.

Decision: Hendricks. Try Bombay Sapphire if Hendricks’ cucumbers aren’t to your liking and Brokers’ harsh doesn’t suit. Or man-up, because it’s a martini, after all.

Our next experiment: the Vesper mixed with quinine powder to better approximate Kina Lillet’s original flavor, no longer available and superseded by Lillet Blanc. Have to source the quinine, first.

And yes, I was watching Daniel Craig’s violent, yet sterile transit through the world as I sampled these libations. Poor Vesper.

September 6, 2012

The Difference Between the U.S. and Europe in 1 Graph

Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic:

“The euro zone has Greece. The United States has Mississippi. Or Missouri.”

Or, Medicaid and food stamps explained in the context of the Euro zone crisis. Click through for a revealing graphic. It's why we're called the UNITED States.

Favorite quote:

The Germans call this sort of thing “a permanent bailout.” We just call it “Missouri.”

I love this stuff.

Kindle 'Paperwhite' E-reader Announced

Sam Byford, writing for The Verge:

“Amazon just announced the latest iteration of its ‘traditional’ Kindle e-reader. It uses the expected new ‘paperwhite’ screen technology for a sharper (212 ppi) and higher-contrast display, and also features a frontlight”

Amazon announced a slew of new "reader" products today. Most can safely be ignored.

Skip the Fire. Buy an iPad, or the upcoming iPad "mini", if you're in the market for a tablet computer.

Skip all other iterations of the Kindle. Why buy a lower-contrast device when the paperwhite version is available for a few more bucks?

Skip 3G connectivity. Wifi at home is more than enough for book, magazine and newspaper (what's that?) downloads. See "iPad," above, if your needs exceed this.

If you're in the market for a simple, low-priced "reader" you'll do no better than the latest, paperwhite background Kindle Touch for $119.

At Least We Know What Skynet 'bots Will Look Like

September 2, 2012

Marco: Bugged

Marco Arment:

“Like racial, gender, and sexual-orientation discrimination, the direction we’re going over time is obvious, although we’re moving too slowly for many people (or too quickly, if you’re on the ‘conservative’ side of these issues).”

The tide of history, as Marco points out, is obvious. The sticking point with affordable health care for many is the intersection of social policy and economic reality. It costs nothing to admit error and embrace social change away from discrimination. Pursuing national health care, however, requires understanding and accepting the logical progression that group savings will overwhelm individual expense.

It helps, then, that we recognize the evidence at hand: that an individual's expenses, spread over a broad-enough group, and a group's economic weight employed as a bargaining tool, can combine to keep the growth of expenses closer to the prevailing rate of inflation than an individual will experience on his or her own.

September 1, 2012

'Jonathan Livingston Seagull' Author Crashes Plane

MSNBC.com:

“Richard Bach, the author of the 1970s best-selling novella ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ among other spiritually oriented books rooted in themes of flight and self-discovery, was in serious condition Saturday after his small plane crashed in Washington state.”

I liked his work quite a bit, especially 'Jonathan.' It had a decidedly seventies feel and appealed to the heartbroken, yet hopeful. I hadn't thought about it much in the two decades since, until I came across this news item. Be well, Richard.

Krugman: Monetary Versus Fiscal Policy, Revisited

Paul Krugman:

“Sometimes, they say, I declare that monetary policy is ineffective once you’re at the zero lower bound; other times I berate Ben Bernanke for not doing more. Which is it?”

He goes on to clearly identify his take on the economy and what policymakers should do about it.

I know there will be carping about the "government just goes out and creates jobs" part. Many claim that government doesn't create jobs, which is, of course, bullshit. I've held a government job or two for twenty-six years, first as an air traffic controller and then as a software engineer.

In the grander scheme, too, government possesses the ability to be the employer of last resort. Heard of the WPA? That agency employed Americans during the Great Depression, building out our infrastructure and bridging the gap until the greatest peacetime expansion in US history began, on deficit-spent money.