September 19, 2018

Building a Moon Base Today

I came across this video by way of and immediately recognized the design. Kurzgesagt is an amazing educational YouTube channel. 


Doctor and Medical Device Company Take Issue With Apple’s ECG Claims

Regarding Apple’s claims of 98% accuracy when detecting aFib (Atrial Fibrillation), Dr. Venkatesh Murthy, a cardiologist from the University of Michigan had this to say to Health News Review:

Neither of these sets of data have been published or peer-reviewed … In both of these data sets, researchers knew who had AFib. The numbers will change significantly when tested on a large population of people.

“The big problem with this conclusion is that this population has a prevalence of AFib that is probably 100-fold larger than Apple’s target market,” Murthy said. “This is not good. However, the major caveat here is that we are still lacking most of the information needed to be sure how this experiment was done, so we really are just guessing.”

I can understand his concern. It’s jarring, especially in the medical community, when a big-name tech company that’s never made mainstream medical devices before comes out and says they’ve added this medical functionality to their product and it’s 98% accurate.

The onus should be on Apple to provide the study data and prove that claim. 

Just as well, medical device company AliveCor had some beef with Apple when it said it was the first OTC (over-the-counter) device to receive FDA clearance, a claim they believe should rest squarely on their KardiaBand. Unfortunately they failed to consider the fact that the KardiaBand is not a smart watch, nor a single purpose device at all. The KardiaBand is entirely useless without an Apple Watch, itself; one cannot buy a KardiaBand alone and expect to be able to monitor heart rhythm. Therefore, while it technically is the first OTC product, it is not the first device. The article in Cardio Brief even calls it an “accessory.” 

The distinction is there for those who bother to look. 

Spending a few moments reading some of its reviews on Amazon, the KardiaBand doesn’t seem to be faring too well with consumers, running with a 2.5/5 star rating. 

Now, their new product is a much more substantial reader that can detect up to 100 different diseases. There isn’t much info on this new device besides the fact that it’ll have 6 leads which should be more accurate in measurement gathering. We don’t even have a name yet and certainly not a price. I wouldn’t be surprised if it landed in the same $400-500 price range as the Watch itself. 

For most consumers that want a watch, this won’t matter. Do you pick the dedicated device that’s likely to be expensive and still buy a Watch that does almost the same thing? Probably not. Those who have actual heart problems won’t rely on the Watch for a diagnosis. AliveCor should understand that. If I had to guess, AliveCor took the defensive position because they saw Apple build into the Watch something they spent a lot of time on and wanted to become a decent slice of the Watch band market. Now, their band has no purpose and the announcement of their dedicated device so early screams “don’t forget about us, we’re relevant, too!”


September 18, 2018

Co-Founder of Salesforce Buys Time Magazine

Martin Crutsinger, AP:

Time Magazine is being sold by Meredith Corp. to Marc Benioff, a co-founder of Salesforce, and his wife [Meredith], it was announced Sunday.

“We’re pleased to have found such passionate buyers in Marc and Lynne Benioff for the Time brand,” Meredith president and CEO Tom Harty said in a statement. “For over 90 years, Time has been at the forefront of the most significant events and impactful stories that shape our global conversation.”

The prospective sale is expected to close within 30 days. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Benioff said he and his wife were investing “in a company with tremendous impact on the world, one that is also an incredibly strong business. That’s what we’re looking for when we invest as a family.”

This sounds like fantastic news. The Washington Post has done well under Bezos’ wing and I’d expect Time to do well, too, under Benioff’s. 

September 17, 2018

Additional Details About What Happened to AirPower

Writing on his blog, Sonny Dickson says:

According to our sources, the broad feeling of many working the project at Apple is that the device may be doomed to failure, and may not be viable at all unless significant advancements can be made.

I brought up AirPower yesterday in the recap of John Gruber’s post about the most recent Apple event. This post just further solidifies the rumors that AirPower has entered a state where it’s not likely to ever be completed. Sonny’s post goes into pretty great detail about the specific issues the development team is facing. I can’t imagine it’s uncommon for projects to face substantial setbacks like this, but what blows my mind (and many an Apple pundit, alike) is that they announced this so soon.

As someone that has several wireless charging mats and an iPhone X, Watch, and AirPods, I would have liked to see AirPower come to be. Right now, one gets a mat, one gets a wireless-cable mix, and the third gets a regular USB-A to Lightning cable. 

The Apple of just a few years ago wouldn’t have announced AirPower until it was close to if not entirely ready for shipping. Last year they mentioned it, said nothing, then all but eliminated reference to it. I can’t say it’s over–there’s a chance it’ll make its way out into the daylight–but odds aren’t good. 


MacStories’ iOS 12 Review

iOS 12 released to the public, today. If you’re like me, you downloaded and upgraded, already. If not, MacStories’ iOS 12 review will set you straight. 

iOS 12, available today for the same range of devices that supported iOS 11, feels like a reaction to changes that have occurred around Apple and consumer technology over the past year.

While iOS 11 may go down in Apple software history as the touchstone of the iPad’s maturity, it will also be remembered as one of the company’s most taxing releases for its users. You don’t have to look far into the iOS 11 cycle for headlines lamenting its poor stability on older hardware, plethora of design inconsistencies (which were noted time and time again), and general sense of sluggishness – issues that may have contributed to a slower adoption rate than 2016’s iOS 10.

Written by none other than iOS aficionado Federico Viticci, It comes in eBook format if you’re a MacStories club member and an audiobook option (narrated by Mike Hurley from the podcast network) for $9.99. You’ll find a plethora of large, beautiful animations and screenshots taking you through every nook and cranny of iOS 12. 

Spend an afternoon reading (or listening). You’ll be glad you did. 

September 16, 2018

Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s Event

Yesterday, John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show fame posted a dissemination of the goings on from Apple’s iPhone XS/XS Max/XR and Watch Series 4 event last Tuesday. I read the whole thing and a few things absolutely jumped out at me and I wanted to cover them, here. 

The space

Last year, John talked about the new Steve Jobs theater. This year, he reminisced on the entire idea of having these kinds of events at such an exclusive location:

[W]hat the Steve Jobs Theater provides that no venue in San Francisco ever could is seclusion. Apple Park really feels like it is its own world. Putting “Park” in the complex’s name was exactly right. In terms of sight lines and feeling like you’re isolated from the rest of the world, the effect is very similar to being in one of the theme parks at Walt Disney World. As you walk the pathway uphill from the Visitor Center to the theater, ambient music plays from hidden speakers. The only thing man-made you can see from the pavilion atop the Steve Jobs Theater is Apple Park’s Ring building, seemingly on the horizon.

One hundred percent. I can imagine the level of detail Apple went into to create a space that didn’t feel like _just an ordinary event venue_. Anyone can hold a press conference at a hotel, expo/convention center, or stadium. Apple has to do it their own way. In these reveals, Apple strives for intimacy, to make you feel like it’s just you and Tim, Phil, and the gang. There’s no way they could pull off that range of emotions in a place like Moscone.

John goes on to mention that they hold but a couple events there a year. From Apple’s perspective, that’s absolutely acceptable. This space wasn’t meant to be a place where something is discussed every six weeks. I can imagine the company doesn’t even hold much in the way of internal events there. The Steve Jobs Theater is an architectural expression of Steve Jobs himself.

The Watch

Both John and I agree the Watch stole the show. Hands down the Watch quickly became the biggest deal this year. A reduction yet increase in size (thickness versus screen dimensions and pixels), ECG, improved cellular (thanks to the ceramic back), new faces that took complication display to the next level, and probably the single coolest feature of all: the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up mode. Fall and stay still for one minute and the Watch will summon either emergency services or an emergency contact. How freaking cool is that? It seems like a no brainer, but detecting a fall reliably is hard… calling is easy.

The Series 4 displays take up so much more of the face of the watches that the new 40mm watch’s display is larger than the display on the old 42 mm models — the new small watch has a larger display than the old large watch.

This is actually a struggle for me, now. I know for a fact that I want one of these, but because of the size changes… I don’t know which one. I’ll have to wait patiently and see how they fit in the store starting this upcoming Friday the 21st. If I could manage to work my way into a 40mm, instead, I’d be extremely happy. The 44mm is a not insignificant amount more expensive than the 42mm of the same configuration was. 

I’m a little bummed to see no Edition this year. The white ceramic Edition looked super clean. I pictured it with a white link band, too, and almost caved. I’m glad I didn’t though because resell values for Editions are trash. Still, I can admire from a distance.

The iPhones

It should be plainly clear by now that Apple has no interest in updating their budget phone line. Each of the new models all slot into the formerly-premium and really premium categories. The iPhone XR is the most interesting, though I wish they would have chosen to make it smaller, more like the iPhone 8. I’d be curious to see how many people end up with one compared to an iPhone 8 now, or one of the lesser iPhone XSes. 

Oh, that name? What the hell were they thinking?

A Roman numeral is hard enough. But to put two alphabetic characters next to each other and expect people to treat one as a Roman numeral and the other as a letter is too much. They look like ex-arr and ex-ess so people are naturally going to see them and say them as ex-arr and ex-ess.

Yes. Yes. Yes. A year later, I still have people asking me how to pronounce it. They know I’ll know because I’m the “Apple guy,” but they shouldn’t have to. No one actually knows where the X = ten naming scheme originated (OS X) so how are they supposed to draw the conclusion that Apple opted to name the iPhone similarly? 

Hell, I even have a hard time just saying the words “iPhone Ten Ess Max” out loud without having to repeat myself; more often than not I get tongue-tied or end up saying something like Ten Ex Max. I hope that marketing person was fired.

Naming aside, the internals of the XS and XS Max are pretty dang good. I love to see steady incremental improvements to hardware and Apple seems to know how to deliver on that front (at least from the perspective of mobile devices… let’s not discuss the MacBook line). This–and because I wanted the gray model this time–is why I went for it. 

Also important: AirPower

I had almost entirely forgotten about it. AirPower was supposed to drop this year and while the year isn’t over, it seems Apple has just about nothing to say at this point:

I wrote about AirPower’s absence earlier this week. What I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies, is that AirPower really is well and truly fucked.

Not surprising. The idea that one would have several heat-generating power exchanges in such a small space really blew my mind. My single iPhone gets hot when charging on its mat. If it gets bumped out of alignment, it gets fucken hot and doesn’t even charge. Who knows what the hell is going on on the inside but it can’t be good. 

Now imagine that being a possible scenario on a single pad, one that’s also supposed to charge an Apple Watch using whatever proprietary method it charges, now.

The result? 

Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces.

Oh well. It was a nice idea. Maybe someday? I’d still like Qi-capable AirPods, though. I’d go for that. 


I glossed over a lot of Gruber’s discussion so go check out the the rest of his piece. It’s informative and definitely worth reading. 

ArsTechnica’s Least Favorite Subjects to Cover

Ars Technica:

You might think being a science writer is a dream job, one that means spending all day learning new things about a seemingly endless sweep of interesting fields. And, to an extent, you’d be right. But in other ways, it’s also a place where dreams go to die. Things you think should be fascinating—things that, in some cases, you’ve dreamed about knowing more about for much of your life—turn out to be staggeringly dull.

Their list is surprising. I would assume talking about all these things would be awesome. Turns out, not so much.

September 15, 2018

Are Technica’s Android 9 Mega Review

Rom Amadeo writing in his 19,000(!) word Android 9 review:

Android 9 includes an experimental gesture navigation system and built-in notch support. There’s also a new screenshot editor, lots of improvements for text selection, and changes to the way rotation works.

Under the hood, more changes have come, too, with AI-powered battery usage controls, new rules for Play Store developers, and changes to how apps get distributed.

I think it’s pretty fair to say the “notch” that everyone made fun of Apple for doing is now a mainstream thing. Such is the punishment of being first. 


Om Malik’s Takeaways from the Apple Event

Om Malik has a good list of what should be considered the most important things Apple talked about at their event last Tuesday. Specifically, I enjoyed his subtle jab at Bloomberg:

When it comes to the new iPhones, many including some members of media are participating in a collective shrug. Bloomberg was impressed by the “pricing” and not the technology? When I read that, I went really? I mean that new shiny new A12 Bionic chip with more cores in its neural engine, ability to do way more with its GPU and CPU isn’t enough technology? I mean seriously — this is the most impressive work. Steve Jobs would be so proud! I mean, this is some chip nerd nirvana.

Bloomberg is a financial publication, so money is all they really care about, deep down, even if they claim to be focused on other aspects of technology reporting… like the technology.

September 14, 2018

You can’t say anything anymore! You can’t even make jokes!


There’s a constant complaint from people in positions of power, mostly men, who keep making the ridiculous assertion that they’re not able to speak in public. What they actually mean is they no longer understand the basis of the criticisms they face.

Being a comedian means having to say things that an audience finds funny; if an audience doesn’t find old, hackneyed, abusive jokes funny anymore, then that comedian has to do more work. And what we find is, the comedians with the most privilege resent having to keep working for a living.

I’m glad someone is able to approach this from such a neutral perspective. I’ve had very similar thoughts for quite a while but don’t have the verbal dexterity to put it out there in such a way that doesn’t make me sound like an ass or a rambling fool.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
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