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Other World Computing


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Interesting info on how Apple Music likes work

Jim Dalrymple:
Apple’s built in Radio stations are all handpicked songs. They are handpicked with a thought to what song is playing and what song comes after it. By doing this curation, Apple strives to make one song flow into the other so, hopefully, you won’t need to skip songs—or at least skip less often.

When you play a radio song, you will notice a heart—this is the like button. If you tap the heart, indicating you like that song, it does absolutely nothing to “tune” that station. Since the stations are human curated, there is no need for a tuning algorithm.

Tapping the heart does affect “For You,” the section of Apple Music that’s custom built with playlists, albums and songs tailored to your individual tastes.

There's also some more info on how the For You section of Apple Music works.

I've been playing around with it, and this seems to clear some things up. Personally, I feel preoccupied with what songs I own and don't own and what songs I might want to buy. Apple Music and the revamped Music app seems geared to the idea you'll be paying a monthly subscription for your music.



Trans Intl announce performance 2 TB Tiger SSD

IGM sponsor Trans International Thursday announced a 2 TB Tiger SSD storage solution. Geared toward performance applications, the SSD offers speeds of up to 540 MB/sec read and up to 520 MB/sec write.

The Tiger SSD drive is a 2.5-inch SATA III component utilizing 3D V-NAND flash that can fit into laptops, desktops, and servers.

The 2TB Tiger SSD is available now with a 5 year warranty for $1,195.



Ken Segall on Apple Watch's killer app

Further, what you consider to be killer probably existed previously on your laptop or camera. Which means that the killer part of iPhone really isn’t an app — it’s the concept of the phone itself. One device that does all that stuff, and fits neatly into your pocket.

The same can be said of iPad. The things you do on iPad can be done elsewhere, but the tablet’s form factor and interface make it far more portable and usable than the desktops and laptops that came before.

He argues the iPhone doesn't have a single killer app, but at its launch I'd argue Safari in your pocket was the killer app. That fits well with his point that the form itself is the real killer app.

I've been looking for that one killer thing that I can't live without on the Apple Watch. I'm not sure the watch's convenience of keeping my phone in my pocket is that big of a deal. Maybe even more so while the watch is tethered to the phone in my pocket.

My test is if I leave my phone at home, I always turn around. So far when I leave the Watch behind, I keep on going. When I make that u-turn is I guess when I know the Apple Watch has a killer app for me.



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Video: FLIR One thermal camera w/ Lightning Connector for iOS (Second Generation)

The FLIR One is a thermal imaging camera for the iOS that links to your device via a Lightning dock. This is the second generation FLIR One.




Second gen FLIR One thermal cam with Lightning connector now available

The FLIR One is a follow-up to last year's iPhone 5/5s case from FLIR. The new FLIR One uses a Lightning connector to attach to a compatible iOS device, so this time it's not limited to a specific model.

The FLIR One basically has two cameras, one for thermal imaging and another to provide image definition. It has an internal rechargeable battery so it can operate without drawing down the device battery. It can be used to take still or video images.

The FLIR One is available now for MSRP of $249.99.

I played around with the FLIR One at CES earlier this year and it looks pretty neat.




Report: How free apps are changing ad-supported content

An interesting report at Mac Rumors looks the changing dynamics of apps sales on mobile platforms. Conventionally, major publishers dish out a lot of marketing money to bring awareness to their software. Discovery on the App Store is strongly driven by sales charts, so if you can pay to get enough downloads, your title will gain critical mass and rise the charts for even more downloads.
This has given birth to an entirely new method of performance-based marketing known as user acquisition. In 2015's App Store, games typically aren't promoted through advertising on sites like TouchArcade and growing brand awareness in a traditional sense. Instead, developers pay countless different in-app advertising networks to just buy users and drive downloads directly."

Basically they're gaming the system.

Furthermore, when a game is free and money is made through in-app purchases, publishers just need to get people to install the game. If the game is compelling, people will pay to unlock features/resources.

This is a significant problem for many indie developers, who do not have nearly the same budget or resources to put towards marketing, and do not gain considerable traction on their apps as a result. The disparity also places pressure on enthusiast iOS gaming websites such as TouchArcade, Slide to Play and Gamezebo, as large developers move away from traditional advertising and towards direct user acquisition.




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iOS 9 looks to free up space for OS upgrades

Mike Beasley:
A new iOS 9 feature added in beta 1 was only discovered when users attempted to update to beta 2 earlier today. This new feature will allow the operating system to intelligently delete applications if you don’t have enough free space to perform a software update. Once the update is complete, the apps will automatically be reinstalled and your data will remain intact.

This is a novel approach to a problem. I've got a 16 GB iPad for the kids and I always have to delete some apps to do even modest delta updates of iOS. Sounds like this feature will do what happens during a device restore -- basically re-downloaded from the App Store. Presumably the app data will either be backed up on iCloud or retained on the device.



CarPlay coming to select 2016 Buick and GMC vehicles

GM announced that select vehicles of its Buick and GMC brands will receive Apple CarPlay support in 2016 models. CarPlay will connect to GM's IntelliLink system to provide touch and voice-activated control of Apple devices. IntelliLink integrates the iOS device into the on-board display package.

Drivers will have access to entertainment apps, news, music, messaging, and navigation.

Supported vehicles will be 2016 Buick LaCrosse and Regal and 2016 GMC Canyon, Yukon, and Sierra.



Apple changes course on Radio payments during trial

Peter Kafka:
Cue says Apple will pay rights holders for the entire three months of the trial period. It can’t be at the same rate that Apple is paying them after free users become subscribers, since Apple is paying out a percentage of revenue once subscribers start paying. Instead, he says, Apple will pay rights holders on a per-stream basis, the amount of which he won’t disclose.

If Apple feels strongly about doing an extended trail, they certainly have the bankroll pay for it. It will be interesting if using that bankroll from other products will be challenged as anti-competitive by other streaming services.

Anyway, this should help Apple refocus PR attention back on the product. It will be interesting if this change will encourage Swift and others to not withhold content on Apple Radio.



Taylor Swift sounds off on Apple Music free trial

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

Her position appears to be on principle, rather than specifically Apple as she made similar statement last year on her decision to pull the same album from Spotify:

I'm not willing to contribute my life's work to an experiment that I don't feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don't agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free.

The length of the three month trial appears to be a sore spot with the industry. Spotify has a similar unpaid free trail, but that is only 30 days.

The pragmatic position here is by giving consumers an extended trial they will be more likely to continue with a subscription. This trial is a chance for customer’s of other music subscription services to give a whirl, and also people like me who don’t subscribe to any music services to also try it out. In the long run, it would seem reasonable it will benefit all involved. The catch is if you’re an artist and your song peaks during that free trial, you may have lost out on a chunk of revenue.

To compensate for this, Apple reportedly has boosted the payout a few points. Again, in the long run this should help offset potential losses from a trial.

I think though the larger argument is the general revenue model of music. Swift feels music has value and shouldn’t be free, but there’s a lot of money to be made with touring, sponsorships, merchandise, and other promotional deals. Outside of the top 40 charts, it wouldn’t be surprising if there’s more money to be made outside of actual music sales. The more people who listen to an artist’s music, bigger the opportunities for these revenue streams. In fact, the small artists Swift cites may actually benefit the most in the free trial.

On the flip side, Apple is so huge, they could just eat the fees of two of the three free months and just offer one unpaid month similar to Spotify. Everyone would be happy and Apple would have built a lot of good will. But then, there could be charges of anti-competitiveness.

Either way, if an artist doesn’t feel comfortable with their music being available during Apple’s free trial, they should certainly feel comfortable withholding their work. It will be interesting to see how many artists eventually sign on.



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Recent Articles

Apple patches some issues with XARA exploit

iMore has a quote from Apple regarding initial efforts to addressing recently discovered exploits on OS X and iOS. Called XARA, the exploit allows a malicious app to basically intercept data as it passes between apps on the device.

Apple's statement:
Earlier this week we implemented a server-side app security update that secures app data and blocks apps with sandbox configuration issues from the Mac App Store," an Apple spokesperson told iMore. "We have additional fixes in progress and are working with the researchers to investigate the claims in their paper."




On Apple's accessibility push with iOS

Icon Factor's Craig Hickenberry:
But now there’s another incentive for thinking about accessibility: helping others also helps your downloads:

[Graph showing a spike in downloads after being features for accessibility]

If you’re a developer, you’ll want to learn more about how to implement accessibility in your own app. Apple has also put together a fantastic list of resources that covers all aspects of accessibility.

I've been spending a lot of time lately working on accessibility projects. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (often referred to as ADA) and it's sad that the Internet basically grew up with ADA, but is still in a sorry state.

Like the web, mobile also obviously emerged well pass the basic guidance for accessibility and it too is lacking. Even worse, there's significant demand for accessibility as in the U.S. approximately 20% - 30% of the population has some kind of impairment that may limit their ability to use modern products.

So, it's encouraging seeing Apple not only support accessibility functionality, but go further by pushing developers to make their products better.



Snowden on Apple privacy initiatives

Edward Snowden:
“I think in the current situation, it doesn’t matter if he’s being honest or dishonest. What really matters is that he’s obviously got a commercial incentive to differentiate himself from competitors like Google. But if he does that, if he directs Apple’s business model to be different, to say “we’re not in the business of collecting and selling information. We’re in the business of creating and selling devices that are superior”, then that’s a good thing for privacy. That’s a good thing for customers.

I think it's a good message that if you're a proponent of privacy, you should walk the walk and support companies that demonstrate a commitment to customer's privacy. Interestingly, Snowden also said that if Apple backtracks, it would be a betrayal of trust, perhaps meaning worse than companies offering little privacy protections but are at open and consistent about that stance.

I think Apple's focus on customer privacy is strategic, but also generally fits their business model. I also think it's genuine as in emphasizing privacy in a lot of ways puts the company at a disadvantage. A disadvantage such as the upcoming Siri improvements that could be more robust if Apple did similar data mining as Google for Google Now. Also, Apple is often at odds with partners who want customer data in when selling content.



Nice overview of new OS X and iOS vulnerabilities

Nick Arnott at iMore has a nice write up on the latest security issue facing mostly OS X, but in a limited way also iOS.

The article outlines the four different issues related to the OS X Keychain, WebSockets and browser extensions, OS X helper applications, using URL schemes to pass data between apps.

With this information users can be better informed on the vulnerabilities and how to protect themselves until Apple can better address the issue.



OS X/iOS flaws may make passwords vunerable

Dan Goodin:
Researchers have uncovered huge holes in the application sandboxes protecting Apple's OS X and iOS operating systems, a discovery that allows them to create apps that pilfer iCloud, Gmail, and banking passwords and can also siphon data from 1Password, Evernote, and other apps.

Interesting situation that seems to expose users even without granting an application administrative rights. It appears, however, the flaws with regards to website passwords may be no worse than installing a malicious browser extension.

1Password developer Agile Bits responded to the situation saying basically there are no easy fixes to the situation. They recommend being vigilant in installing software and extensions. Additionally, as far as 1Password goes, the exploit appears to require the absence of the 1Password mini background app. Ensuring that 1Password mini is properly running should provide some shelter as the browser transmits passwords to 1Password.

Agile Bits
The threat is that a malicious Mac app can pretend to be 1Password mini as far as the 1Password browser extension is concerned if it gets the timing right. In these cases, the malicious app can collect Login details sent from the 1Password browser extension to the fake 1Password mini. The researchers have demonstrated that it is possible to install a malicious app that might be able to put itself in a position to capture passwords sent from the browser to 1Password.

Note that their attack does not gain full access to your 1Password data but only to those passwords being sent from the browser to 1Password mini. In this sense, it is getting the same sort of information that a malicious browser extension might get if you weren’t using 1Password.

The distinction is that with regards to 1Password, the only password that is at-risk is one transmitted from the browser to 1Password. For example, this may be if you're entering or updating a password. It appears your master password and your bank of stored passwords are not at-risk.



Dark Sky weather app gets major update

I'm a big fan of Dark Sky. It was the first app to introduce alerts for impending rain and alternatives to the tradtional green blog weather radar. Since then it's gotten even better.

Dark Sky version 5.0 brings new alert options and an interesting option for iPhone 6/6+ users to send background info using the barometer sensor. Potentially, this crowd-sourced data could be used to create even more accurate local weather predictions.

Dark Sky sells for $3.99.

- Brand new layout, with a detailed hour-by-hour timeline for the next 24 hours (and for each of the next 7 days).

- Advanced Notifications: In addition to providing down-to-the-minute rain alerts for the next hour, you can now create custom alerts covering the next 24 hours for things like temperature, precipitation, snow accumulation, wind, and more. We'll also push severe weather alerts from the government weather service.

- A new weather reporter, so you can provide feedback on what exactly is happening out your window.

- iPhone 6 users can opt in to have their phones automatically provide us with pressure sensor data. This has the potential to dramatically improve our short-term forecasts in the future.

- Significant speed improvements when launching the app.

- UV Index. Because it's summer, and you need to protect your delicate skin.

- Landscape on the iPad (even my wife was complaining about that one).




Adobe announces updates to Creative Cloud

Adobe announced a full refresh of its Creative Cloud suite of desktop applications. In addition, the company announced a new stock image service and a new syncing feature.

Of course we never hold back on bringing you the latest cool features. This Creative Cloud release includes new Adobe magic and incredible performance boosts to your favorite desktop apps. The companion mobile apps bring that Adobe magic to your devices, and now there are even more ways for you to use the powerful, connected mobile-to-desktop workflows to create your best work. Due to popular demand, we’re adding two new iOS mobile apps to Creative Cloud, and Android support for four of our most popular mobile apps.

And to further accelerate your creative process, today we’re introducing Adobe Stock—our brand new service with deep connections to Creative Cloud and integration into your favorite desktop apps. Search, manage and purchase from 40 million curated Adobe Stock images directly within the new CC desktop apps.

At the heart of Creative Cloud is Adobe CreativeSync—an exclusive technology that ensures that your files, photos, fonts, vector graphics, brushes, colors, settings, metadata and stock images from Adobe Stock instantly appear in your workflow right where you need them. CreativeSync lets you start your creative work on any device and seamlessly pick it up on another. From initial idea to finished work, CreativeSync is the engine that lets you create wherever you are.

The whole subscription model doesn't really sit well with me at Adobe prices. In my mind, a monthly (or pre-paid annually, how ever you want to view it) should have a substantial discount over the retail version and should have frequent updates for both fixes and features. Perhaps too access to training and media libraries.

Adobe's model seems more like they figured how often people typically upgrade on the old conventional model (or perhaps how often they want them them to upgrade) and then set the price to meet that number. And then they still do these big roll out updates when they shouldn't make you wait, in my opinion.



Instacast podcast player is discontinued

Developer Vemedio announced it is shutting down and its popular podcasting app Instacast has been discontinued. Recently the company released an update with an Apple Watch app. I’d guess the watch app was final push to stay afloat.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and Instacast is my favorite app, so this is a bummer. I’ll revisit some other popular apps, but in the mean time I’ll ride Instacast into the ground.



Apple Pay to deliver 71.5%+ split to music owners

Peter Kafka:
In the U.S., Apple will pay music owners 71.5 percent of Apple Music’s subscription revenue. Outside the U.S., the number will fluctuate, but will average around 73 percent, he told Re/code in an interview. Executives at labels Apple is working with confirmed the figures.

Those totals include payments to the people who own the sound recordings Apple Music will play, as well as the people who own the publishing rights to songs’ underlying compositions. That doesn’t mean the money will necessarily go to the musicians who recorded or wrote the songs, since their payouts are governed by often-byzantine contracts with music labels and publishers.

A little interesting, Apple got the labels to agree to take no payments during Apple Music's free extended 3 month trial. Other than that, payments are about the standard 70/30 split with content providers.



Ars Technical looks at El Capitan

Andrew Cunningham:
As the beta continues, El Capitan will probably put a little more distance between itself and Yosemite, but all signs point to it being a Snow Leopard or Mountain Lion-style update focused on polish rather than pizzazz. That's probably the best thing for the platform, though. The yearly release cycle needs to have slow years to counterbalance the fast ones, and complaints about Apple's QA have been fairly common this year.

A nice complete look at the first beta of OS X El Capitan after a week of usage.



Podcast: iOS 9, El Capitan, Apple Watch + More

Join us as we recap a lot of the news out of Apple's World Wide Developer Conference. Lots of news about OS X, iOS, Apple Watch Beats Music and more.




Apple’s Schiller talks about 16 GB on entry level devices

Via The Verge:
Gruber suggested that Apple's iOS devices should come with more storage capacity at the low end; the entry-level iPhone has included just 16GB ever since the 3GS in 2010, which is becoming increasingly hard to justify in an age of multi-gigabyte app downloads and high-resolution video recording. But Schiller argued that cloud storage is picking up the slack. "The belief is more and more as we use iCloud services for documents and our photos and videos and music," he said, "that perhaps the most price-conscious customers are able to live in an environment where they don't need gobs of local storage because these services are lightening the load."

Yeah, I’m not buying that. My assumption is that this is all about product mix and profit margins. Memory is not remotely as expensive as the upgrade cost between devices. Maybe like 5% of that upgrade cost. Apple could easily eat the $5 or whatever and make the entry model 32 GB instead of 16 GB, but likely that means not as many people would opt to upgrade to the higher end model. That means the $5 additional component cost will actually be much more when factoring in the product mix and the overall hit to profit margins. Essentially the higher end iPhone/iPad models are subsidizing the 16 GB models.

I suspect it’s not about how much storage Apple thinks you need, but really the lowest advertised price Apple can do on a model design. I say this because i got a 16 GB iPad for my kids and it's ridiculously inadequate even before adding in any media that could be offloaded to the cloud.

This low-end configuration gets people in the door to either up-sell to a higher configuration or simply sell an iPhone to someone who might otherwise not buy one. In other words, that 16 GB configuration is likely what Apple feels necessary to get enough people to pay an extra $100 for an iPhone. Without that incentive, Apple would either have to reduce costs and therefor features, raise prices and hurt their positions in the market, or eat it and give up a whole bunch of money. That's not to say this is a bad strategy, but just seems silly to say things are this way because 16 GB is reasonable with the cloud.



OWC USB-C Dock goes on pre-order

Other World Computing announced a USB 3.1 docking system that utilizes the newer USB-C ports found on Apple’s latest laptop. The device is similar to their Thunderbolt Dock, which essentially allows you to connect multiple ports and devices to your computer via a single plug. The docking stations are ideal I think for laptop users with a desk setup at work or home. Everything can be physically connected to the dock and get linked up to your Mac via a single plug.

The USB-C Dock offers four USB 3 ports and a single USB-C port. There are two 1.5A high powered USB 3.0 ports, which means the dock can power external drives, or to quickly charge your mobile devices. The dock offers 60 watts of power to run external devices in addition to charging the connected Mac via the USB-C connector. Other ports include a SD card reader, Gb Ethernet, and audio I/O. The USB-C Dock also supports an HDMI connector that supports 4K displays.

The USB-C Dock will be available in three colors of gray, gold, and silver to match Apple’s new laptops. Other World Computing is taking pre-orders now for $129. The USB-C Dock is expected to ship in October.



Apple Watch watchOS 2 announced with native apps

The Apple Watch just shipped a few weeks ago, but Apple is already planning to release the first major release this fall.

Interestingly watchOS 2 will support native apps rather than requiring them to be tethered to the iPhone. It would seem the current setup might have just been an intermediate path to native apps just get give developers a quick and easy way to get their apps functioning on the Apple Watch. Native apps should open the doors to improved performance and additional features.

With the new OS, developers will be able to integrate hardware features into their apps. For example, they can make use of the Digital Crown, Taptic Engine, and heart rate sensor.

Also, Apple will provide new watch faces and greater customization options. An obvious addition will be the ability for developers to hook app data into watch face complications. So, for example, where the Apple Watch displays current temperature, users could swap that out for data fed from an app.



iOS 9 announced with refinements and iPad features

Monday Apple showed off iOS 9 which has a number of new features, but also a lot of refinements.

It appears Apple is working to fine tune iOS 9 more than pushing harder on new features. Apple said the new iOS will support the same hardware supported by iOS 8, which is unusual for new iOS launches. Furthermore, iOS 9 promises to improve battery life by an hour or so iPhones.

iOS 9 will also remedy a major issue for iOS 8 adoption which was the large space requirements needed to upgrade.

Some new features include an low power mode to automatically shut down various device features to reserve battery life for core functions. Users could do much of this already, but this feature should make it an easier process that I'd guess is similar to Airplane Mode.

One of the bigger features is Siri get a little smarter with proactive assistance and contextual reminders.

Another big feature for the iPad allows basically two app windows to be displayed at the same time. Slide Over allows a second app to be accessible while working in another app. Also, a new picture in picture feature is available for FaceTime calls and video playback so that the video screen can be floating above another app window.

iOS 9 is expected to be available this fall. Odds are there will be some new features announced when the next iPhone and perhaps iPads are also announced. In the mean time, a public beta will be made available in July





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