Music

Why Steve Jobs Loved the IPod Shuffle (wired.com) 214

"Right after the keynote in which Steve Jobs introduced the iPod Shuffle, I went backstage with one question in mind: What makes an iPod an iPod?" remembers Steven Levy. mirandakatz writes Apple recently announced that it's officially discontinuing the iPod -- sad news for anyone who'd prefer to not have to lug around an entire phone to listen to music. At Backchannel, Steven Levy offers a requiem... The Shuffle, he writes, was unique in that it was an iPod stripped down to a single basic function -- and, as Steve Jobs told Levy in 2005, it made the perfect [cheap] gift for inculcating young kids in the ways of Apple.

"I will go buy them one of these for 100 bucks apiece," he told Levy, referring to why the Shuffle was an especially appropriate gift for his daughters, six and nine at the time. "They'll probably lose them in 60 days. But they'll get into it this way."

Jobs called the Shuffle "every bit an iPod -- just a different iPod," saying that the definition was simply "a great digital music player." (Though later he'd say that creating a radically smaller Nano was still "a huge bet.") Levy remembers the Shuffle as "one of the company's most fun products ever...stripped down to the one feature I adored," writing that he loved how "algorithmic serendipity" approximated a genius deejay (or "the 'Hand of God' chess move that Deep Blue used to confuse Garry Kasparov into thinking the computer had trespassed into realms formerly limited to brilliant humans.")

I bought my first mp3 player in 2000 -- an Archos Jukebox 6000 which weighed three quarters of a pound. Anyone else have fond memories they want to share about the iPod, the Nano, the Shuffle, your old Newton -- or your own first mp3 player?
Biotech

How Apple Is Putting Voices In Users' Heads -- Literally (wired.com) 91

schwit1 shared WIRED's report on "a life-changing technology." Steven Levy spoke with Mathias Bahnmueller as he tested a new Apple sound processor that beams digital audio directly into hearing aids. Bahnmueller suffers from hearing loss so severe that a year ago he underwent surgery to install a cochlear implant -- an electronic device in the inner ear that replaces the usual hearing mechanism. Around a million patients have undergone this increasingly mainstream form of treatment, and that's just a fraction of those who could benefit from it. (Of the 360 million people worldwide with hearing loss, about 10 percent would qualify for the surgery.) "For those who reach a point where hearing aids no longer help, this is the only solution," says Allison Biever, an audiologist in Englewood, CO who works with implant patients. "It's like restoring a signal in a radio station."

Cochlear implants bypass the usual hearing process by embedding a device in the inner ear and connecting it via electrodes to the nerve that sends audio signals to the brain... The system Bahnmueller was using came from a collaboration between Apple and Cochlear, a company that has been involved with implant technology since the treatment's early days. The firms announced last week that the first product based on this approach, Cochlear's Nucleus 7 sound processor, won FDA approval in June -- the first time that the agency has approved such a link between cochlear implants and phones or tablets. Those using the system can not only get phone calls directly routed inside their skulls, but also stream music, podcasts, audio books, movie soundtracks, and even Siri -- all straight to the implant... Apple will offer the technology free to qualified manufacturers.

Google's accessibility team for Android has no public timeline for any similar hearing aid support, though according to the article it's "on the roadmap."
Network

Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties (bloomberg.com) 92

According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.
Government

Apple Owns $52.6 Billion In US Treasury Securities, More Than Mexico, Turkey or Norway (cnbc.com) 93

randomErr shares a report from CNBC: If Apple were a foreign country, CEO Tim Cook might have considerable political clout in the United States. That's because the tech giant owns $52.6 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, which would rank it among the top 25 major foreign holders, according to estimates from the Treasury Department and Apple's SEC filings released Wednesday. Apple's stake in U.S. government securities as of June, up from $41.7 billion as of last September, puts it ahead of Israel, Mexico and the Netherlands, according to Treasury data released last month, which tracks up to May of this year. With $20.1 billion in short-term Treasury securities and $31.35 billion in long-term marketable Treasury securities, Apple still falls far below countries like China and Japan, which hold over a trillion dollars in U.S. government debt each -- which has caused considerable hand-wringing in Washington. Still, Apple is way above other big companies like Amazon, which owns less than $5 billion in U.S. government or agency securities combined, according to regulatory filings.
Cloud

Apple's Adoption Of HEVC Will Drive A Massive Increase In Encoding Costs Requiring Cloud Hardware Acceleration (streamingmedia.com) 203

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the last 10 years, H.264/AVC has been the dominant video codec used for streaming but with Apple adopting H.265/HEVC in iOS 11 and Google heavily supporting VP9 in Android, a change is on the horizon. Next year the Alliance for Open Media will release their AV1 codec which will again improve video compression efficiency even further. But the end result is that the codec market is about to get very fragmented, with content owners soon having to decide if they need to support three codecs (H.264, H.265, and VP9) instead of just H.264 and with AV1 expected to be released in 2019. As a result of what's take place in the codec market, and with better quality video being demanded by consumers, content owners, broadcasters and OTT providers are starting to see a massive increase in encoding costs. New codecs like H.265 and VP9 need 5x the servers costs because of their complexity. Currently, AV1 needs over 20x the server costs. The mix of SD, HD and UHD continues to move to better quality: e.g. HDR, 10-bit and higher frame rates. Server encoding cost to move from 1080p SDR to 4K HDR is 5x. 360 and Facebook's 6DoF video are also growing in consumption by consumers which again increases encoding costs by at least 4x. If you add up all these variables, it's not hard to do the math and see that for some, encoding costs could increase by 500x over the next few years as new codecs, higher quality video, 360 video and general demand increases.
Censorship

Joining Apple, Amazon's China Cloud Service Bows To Censors (nytimes.com) 51

Days after Apple yanked anti-censorship tools off its app store in China, another major American technology company is moving to implement the country's tough restrictions on online content. From a report: A Chinese company that operates Amazon's cloud-computing and online services business there said on Tuesday that it told local customers to cease using any software that would allow Chinese to circumvent the country's extensive system of internet blocks (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). The company, called Beijing Sinnet Technology and operator of the American company's Amazon Web Services operations in China, sent one round of emails to customers on Friday and another on Monday. "If users don't comply with the guidance, the offered services and their websites can be shut down," said a woman surnamed Wang who answered a Sinnet service hotline. "We the operators also check routinely if any of our users use these softwares or store illegal content." Ms. Wang said the letter was sent according to recent guidance from China's Ministry of Public Security and the country's telecom regulator. Amazon did not respond to emails and phone calls requesting comment. The emails are the latest sign of a widening push by China's government to block access to software that gets over the Great Firewall -- the nickname for the sophisticated internet filters that China uses to stop its people from gaining access to Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as foreign news media outlets.
Software

Are App Sizes Out of Control? 386

In a blog post, Trevor Elkins points out the large sizes of common apps like LinkedIn and Facebook. "I went to update all my apps the other day when something caught my eye... since when does LinkedIn take up 275MB of space?!" Elkins wrote. "In fact, the six apps in this picture average roughly 230MB in size, 1387MB in total. That would take an 8Mbit internet connection 24 minutes to download, and I'd still be left with 27 additional apps to update! More and more companies are adopting shorter release cycles (two weeks or so) and it's becoming unsustainable as a consumer to update frequently."

Should Apple do something to solve this "systematic" problem? Elkins writes, "how does an app that occasionally sends me a connection request and recruiter spam take up 275MB?"

Further discussion via Hacker News.
Facebook

Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device (bloomberg.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
Businesses

Apple's Shares Rise On Better-Than-Expected iPhone Sales (fortune.com) 60

Apple reported a 7.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its iPhones. "The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6% to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts' average estimate of 40.7 million units," reports Fortune. "Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier." From the report: Apple's shares rose 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday to $ 156.00. Many customers wait for Apple to launch its new smartphones before deciding on upgrading or replacing their current devices, which usually results in iPhone demand tapering in the months before a release. The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts on average expect the company to sell 45.55 million iPhones in the current quarter, according to FactSet. Apple sold 45.51 million iPhones in the year-ago quarter.
Iphone

New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report (theverge.com) 59

HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.
Microsoft

Microsoft Targets Google and Apple in Schools With 'Surface Plus' Hardware Subscription Program (geekwire.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft is launching a new subscription program for buying Surface computers and tablets in much the same way that many people now purchase smartphones, with no-interest financing for two years and the ability to upgrade to a new device before the term is up. Announced this morning at the launch of back-to-school season, the initiative is part of a broader push by Microsoft to gain new momentum in U.S. schools, where Google Chromebooks have taken the lead vs. Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft's new subscription program, called Surface Plus, will be available starting later today through the Microsoft Store in person and online. Microsoft's Surface Laptop, Surface Pro, Surface Book and Surface Studio are all options under the program. The program lets participants upgrade to a new machine after 18 months when they return their existing hardware in good condition. In addition to Surface Plus for students and consumers, Microsoft is offering a variation called Surface Plus for Business with the option to buy multiple machines under a single agreement, and the ability to finance a 55-inch Surface Hub as part of the agreement. The business version of the program also includes upgrade rights, with the timing of the upgrade depending on the length of the agreement. The fine print: an interest rate of 19.99% kicks in after 24 months.
Android

Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography? (9to5mac.com) 408

Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."
Iphone

Microsoft's Windows Phone Keyboard For the iPhone Is Dead (theverge.com) 42

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard for the iPhone had one unique feature when it launched more than a year ago: a one-handed mode that could be used with either your left or right thumb. Now, according to a support note spotted by Windows Central, it appears Microsoft is consolidating and removing the keyboard from the App Store, encouraging users to download SwiftKey instead. The Verge reports: Microsoft has tested out a number of iOS keyboards, and it now appears the company is focusing solely on SwiftKey after acquiring the app last year. We haven't seen any major additions to SwitftKey since Microsoft acquired it, apart from a separate Swiftmoji emoji predictor in July last year. Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboard now competes against the likes of Google's Gboard keyboard and various other iOS and Android keyboards. Have you been using Word Flow on your iPhone? If so, what has your experience been with the application? Do you plan on switching to Gboard or another third-party keyboard now that Word Flow is no longer supported?
Apple

Apple is About To Do Something Their Programmers Definitely Don't Want (medium.com) 315

Last week, The Wall Street Journal had a big feature on Apple Campus, the big new beautiful office the company has spent north of $5 billion on. The profile, in which the reporter interviewed Apple's design chief Jony Ive, also mentioned about an open space where all the programmers would sit and work. Ever since the profile came out, several people have expressed their concerns about the work environment for the developers. American entrepreneur and technologist Anil Dash writes: [...] There have been countless academic studies confirming the same result: Workers in open plan offices are frustrated, distracted and generally unhappy. That's not to say there's no place for open plan in an offices -- there can be great opportunities to collaborate and connect. For teams like marketing or communications or sales, sharing a space might make a lot of sense. But for tasks that require being in a state of flow? The science is settled. The answer is clear. The door is closed on the subject. Or, well, it would be. If workers had a door to close. Now, when it comes to jobs or roles that need to be in a state of flow, programming may be the single best example of a task that benefits from not being interrupted. And Apple has some of the best coders in the world, so it's just common sense that they should be given a great environment. That's why it was particularly jarring to see this side note in the WSJ's glowing article about Apple's new headquarters: "Coders and programmers are concerned their work surroundings will be too noisy and distracting." Usually, companies justify putting programmers into an open office plan for budget reasons. It does cost more to make enough room for every coder to have an office with a door that closes. But given that Apple's already invested $5 billion into this new campus, complete with iPhone-influenced custom-built toilets for the space, it's hard to believe this decision was about penny-pinching. The other possible argument for skipping private offices would be if a company didn't know that's what its workers would prefer.
Iphone

Apple's Next iPhone: Facial-Recognition, All-Screen Design (theguardian.com) 140

Apple may have just revealed the features you could expect in the next iPhone. Last week, the company released the firmware of the HomePod, a smart speaker which it will begin selling later this year. In the code, the company has accidentally spilled some features about at least one of the iPhone models. Developer Steve Troughton-Smith looked at the code to find that the next iPhone is going to feature facial recognition and a brand new "bezel-less" design. From a report: The near bezel-less design has long been expected, with leaks and rumours suggesting that Apple was following Samsung's design moves with the Galaxy S8 and producing a smartphone that resembles Android-creator Andy Rubin's upcoming Essential phone. Apple is not the first company to use IR-based face recognition as a means of unlocking devices and authenticating users. Microsoft's Windows Hello IR-based face recognition is found in its Surface line as well as Windows 10 computers from other manufacturers.
China

Apple Pulls Anti-Censorship Apps from China's App Store (fortune.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes Fortune:Services helping Chinese users circumvent the "Great Firewall of China" have been pulled from Apple's Chinese App Store en masse. On Saturday morning, at least some software makers affected by the sweep received notification from Apple that their tools were removed for violating Chinese law. Internet censorship in China restricts communications about topics including democracy, Tibetan freedom, and the 1989 Tienanmen Square protests. The culling primarily seems to have affected virtual private networks, or VPNs, which mask users' Internet activity and data from outside monitoring. According to a report by the New York Times, many of the most popular such apps are now missing from the Chinese App Store.
Cellphones

Do Kill Switches Deter Cellphone Theft? (arstechnica.com) 97

evolutionary shares an article from Ars Technica: San Francisco's district attorney says that a California state law mandating "theft-deterring technological solutions" for smartphones has resulted in a precipitous drop in such robberies. Those measures primarily include a remote kill switch after a phone has been stolen that would allow a phone to be disabled, withstanding even a hard reset. Such a kill switch has become standard in all iPhones ("Activation Lock") and Android phones ("Device Protection") since 2015... When measured from the peak in 2013, "overall robberies involving smartphones have declined an astonishing 50 percent... Because of this hard-fought legislation, stealing a smartphone is no longer worth the trouble, and that means the devices we use every day no longer make us targets for violent crime."
Patents

Apple Paid Nokia $2 Billion To Escape Fight Over Old Patents (theverge.com) 35

An anonymous reader shares a report: Apple's latest patent spat with Nokia resulted in a $2 billion up-front payment from the iPhone maker, a colossal sum that seems to indicate Apple was eager to avoid a protracted and ugly dispute that could rival the one it had with Samsung. The new details of the settlement, which was first announced back in May without the disclosure of a financial amount or the new licensing terms, were spotted in Nokia's second quarter earnings release. "We got a substantial upfront cash payment of $2 billion from Apple, strengthening further our cash position. As said earlier, our plans is to provide more details on the intended use of cash in conjunction with our Q3 earnings," reads the official transcript of Nokia's quarterly earnings call with investors yesterday. Neither Nokia nor Apple have disclosed the terms of the new licensing deal, including whether it involves recurring payments or how many years it will be in place.
IOS

Appocalypse Now - How iOS11 Will Kill Some Of Your Favourite iPhone Apps (independent.ie) 177

Ronan Price, writing for Independent: The app-ocalypse is coming and almost no one knows it. Apologies for the dreadful pun but, in about six to eight weeks' time, hundreds of thousands of older apps for iPhone and iPad will cease to work when Apple updates its iOS software to version 11. Businesses and consumers who rely on these elderly apps and update to iOS11 without knowing the consequences face a rude awakening. Their difficulty ranges from mere inconvenience that a useful app no longer functions to the complete loss of valuable data buried in a piece of obsolete software. Apple began signalling two years ago that it was signing the death warrant for older apps when it moved iOS to 64-bit software - essentially a more secure, faster and technologically advanced version that replaced the previous 32-bit code. First, Apple encouraged developers to rewrite their apps to 64-bit status but continued to allow 32-bit apps to function. Then it began to warn developers and customers that future iOS updates would experience compatibility issues. You may have seen -- and ignored -- the messages when launching apps in the last year telling you "App X needs up to be updated, the developer needs to update it to improve its compatibility." Finally, just this June, Apple confirmed that iOS11 would put the kibosh on 32-bit forever when it's released into the wild in late September. The announcement came and went with little fanfare from the public's perspective.
Businesses

Where's All My CPU and Memory Gone? The Answer: $5B Worth Slack App (medium.com) 190

Slack, valued at $5 billion, has received buyout pitches from several companies including Amazon and Microsoft. But the team collaborations service, which has over 5 million active users, continues to offer one of the most resource intensive apps you could find on Mac and iOS. From an article: TLDR; If you care about battery life or availability of your finite CPU and memory on your computer, then you probably won't want to use Slack desktop with more than one or two accounts. Slack resource usage increases linearly as you add more accounts, and it quickly adds up. [...] I noticed that my machine has been sluggish and its battery life has become poor. Whilst investigating this, it turns out that Slack desktop fails badly when used with multiple accounts. This is because CPU and memory usage increases linearly as you add more accounts to your Slack desktop client. As a result, I believe the growing trend to use Slack to be part of multiple communities is seriously flawed until Slack resolve this problem. The author, Matthew O'Riordan, has shared screenshots of Activity Monitor which shows that Slack application on his Mac was consuming more than 1.5GB of memory, and as much as 70 percent of the energy. The company's iOS app instills several more issues.

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