Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for March, 2013

After All Is Said and Done

On September 10, 2009, Nine Inch Nails performed what would be their final show ever – a scorching 3 1/2 hour, 37 song set – and then waved goodbye.

Today, after more than 5000 hours of work logged on the project, and more than 3 years later, our group – a tiny little dot – finally and proudly presents to the world nine inch nails: [after all is said and done], as an entirely free internet download – a professionally produced documentary of the blistering and momentous “wave goodbye” of NIN , using exclusively fan-shot footage – a labor of love, filmed by the fans, made by the fans, and made for the fans.

If you’re fine with bootleg-quality audio, this is a hell of a production. Nine Inch Nails is coming back later this year, but this should tide you over until then.

How Apple Invites Facile Analysis

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times:

The peculiar stock market action and the vacuum in information have combined to generate a wave of news articles and market reports suggesting that Apple has lost its zip and is running as fast as it can just to keep up with Samsung, the maker of its own line of popular smartphones. Yet the notion that Apple is “ceding its crown” (Reuters’ words) in smartphones to Samsung or anyone else, however, is wrong or, at the very least, hopelessly premature.

Meet The Internet Frauds Who Want To Sell You A Top Gear-Endorsed $49,000 Bugatti

Bizarre story from Patrick George of Jalopnik:

When we were first alerted to the existence of poorly shot, poorly edited YouTube videos made by a replica car manufacturer that featured Tanner Foust and clips from Top Gear, it raised a number of red flags. What was Foust (and Steven Spielberg) doing endorsing this company? Can they really make you a Saleen S7 for $20,000? How come they never feature any completed cars on their websites? This was our first foray into the the bizarre world of Panama-based Super Replicas, lately known as “Top Gear Carbon Copies.” It’s a world full of unsubstantiated claims and falsehoods about celebrity-endorsed exotic cars that cost as much as a Toyota Camry and it’s been going on for years.

Be sure to watch the embedded videos, and read today’s follow up, too. This is about the strangest thing I’ve read all week.

Please Stop Fighting About Your Smartphone

Mat Honan, Wired:

Do you like Android? You should, it’s amazing. iOS? Wow, what a great platform, no wonder it started a revolution. Windows Phone? Seriously, it’s got a remarkable and beautiful interface. BlackBerry? There are plenty of great reasons people love it. And no matter which platform you adore, it’s shockingly possible to both have a preference and respect that other people may prefer an entirely different device. I know. Totally weird. But true.

This is the article I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but Honan nailed it better than I ever could have.

I’ve been guilty of this in the past. But you’ve probably noticed a fairly lighthearted tone in most of these posts. Remember: this is about smartphones and tablets; I’m not writing about war, or poverty, or starvation, or any other equally heavy topic. I strive to keep it as juvenile and jokey as I can. That’s how I roll.

But keep in mind that this doesn’t preclude you, me, or anyone else from having an opinion. Like discussing anything else — politics, religion, sex, and cooking — don’t be a dick about it.

Major Security Hole Allows Apple Passwords to Be Reset

Chris Welch, The Verge:

Apple yesterday rolled out two-step verification, a security measure that promises to further shield Apple ID and iCloud accounts from being hijacked. Unfortunately, today a new exploit has been discovered that affects all customers who haven’t yet enabled the new feature. It allows anyone with your email address and date of birth to reset your password — using Apple’s own tools.

Naturally, I tried to enable two-step authentication after reading this. However, it turns out that it’s only available in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand right now. This is a big problem.

The Battle of the Buds

Stephen Hackett, writing on the Tools and Toys blog:

Using old-school earbuds means I can’t take a call (as they don’t have a mic) nor control my music (no buttons). And since the EarPods aren’t super comfortable to use, I’ve been at a loss.

I was speaking with Shawn about this, and he gave me a challenge: could I find a set of earbuds I love for less than $100?

I use Apple’s in-ear headphones, which I find have absolutely wonderful sound reproduction — Nine Inch Nails’ “Even Deeper” has huge bass, but the trebles are still very delicate. My biggest complaint with these headphones is that the tips fall off far too easily. About a week ago, I lost one of the translucent white tips in the snow after it brushed against my jacket. Apple doesn’t sell replacement tips and, while they used to provide them for free at the Genius Bar, they recently stopped this practice.

I’ve been looking for a new pair of headphones for a while now, and Hackett’s recommendation seems perfect, for $40 cheaper than Apple’s.

Apple Reduces Functionality of Podcasts Recorded on Magnetic Tape

Apple updated the Podcasts app today with a couple of nice new features, but they replaced my beloved reel-to-reel playback interface with a flatter interface reminiscent of the pre-iOS 6 Music app. I loved the old-school look, though.

No, really.

What are you looking at me like that for?

This release comes on the same day as a Wall Street Journal report which claims that Apple’s software and hardware design teams are working much closer together than they ever have, with Sir Jony Ive guiding the whole process:

Some suggested that in Apple’s next mobile operating system, Ive is pushing a more “flat design” that is starker and simpler, according to developers who have spoken to Apple employees but didn’t have further details.

Hence this satirical reaction from “Policastro the Gouty”:

WAIT OMG JONY IVE REDESIGNED IT, iOS 7 WILL BE THE SECOND COMING OF FLAT/BOLD CHRIST

While I’m excited to see what Ive can do with both OS X and iOS, I’m hesitant to think anything significant will happen to the design or appearance of either this year. It’s a slow change necessitated by not wanting to disorientate the hundreds of millions of users of both.

Eric Schmidt Last Seen Attempting to Pry His Foot From His Mouth

Earlier today, it was reported that a Google Now app for iOS was stuck in App Store approval limbo, according to Eric Schmidt:

Asked directly when Google Now may arrive on iPhone, the chairman said “you’ll need to discuss that with Apple. Apple has a policy of approving or disapproving apps that are submitted into its store, and some of the apps we make they approve and some of them they don’t.”

However, an Apple spokesperson clarified that contrary to Schmidt’s suggestions, there are no Google apps waiting for approval:

[A] company representative tells The Verge that not a single app from Mountain View is currently in the review process — let alone trapped in limbo. That would include both new applications and updates to existing software, meaning even if Google Now is to eventually arrive as a new feature of Google’s Search app, it has yet to be received by Apple’s team of reviewers.

Eric Schmidt seems to have a policy of publicly blaming Apple for not approving apps that his company hasn’t even submitted. Last year, he hinted that the iOS Google Maps app was hanging in limbo:

“We haven’t done anything yet with Google Maps,” Schmidt told reporters in Tokyo today. Apple would “have to approve it. It’s their choice,” Schmidt said, declining to say if the Mountain View, California-based company submitted an application to Apple for sale through its App Store.

Yet this was simply not the case — Google hadn’t submitted a Maps app at all. In both cases, Schmidt was able to get some negative press for Apple with casual comments that simply don’t reflect the reality of the situation.

Swinging for the Stars

Rene Ritchie of iMore notes that contrary to Craig Hockenberry’s observations, outside hires have been made at Apple, and they turned out pretty okay:

Phil Schiller came to Apple from Macromedia, a company whose kludgy interfaces, customer-hostility, and software DRM is antithetical to Apple’s entire approach. Tim Cook came to Apple from Compaq, a company whose uninspired, beige-box take on personal computing is the opposite of the delight Apple strives to instill. Yet both Schiller and Cook merged brilliantly with Apple’s culture, and now enjoy the very highest positions within the company. They were home runs. They’re stars.

The End of Android

Dan Frommer, whose website has recently been redesigned:

But even from the outside, it’s easy to see that the Android situation isn’t ideal. Yes, it is the world’s “most popular” mobile phone platform, if you sort by the number of people using it, and that’s an impressive achievement. But it certainly isn’t making the sort of impact — on the world and on Google itself — that it perhaps could or should.

Convincing arguments. The Android platform may be the world’s most popular in terms of market share, but it is not healthy, and it cannot continue the way it is.

iOS 6.1.3 Contains Yet Another Lock Screen Bypass Flaw

Zack Whittaker, ZDNet:

Only two days after Apple released a lock screen fix that allowed unauthorized users to bypass the four-digit PIN code on iPhones and iPads, a new password bypass vulnerability has been discovered.

YouTube user videosdebarraquito was able to bypass the lock screen on an iPhone 4 using nothing more than a paperclip. By locking the device and enabling the Voice Control feature, it is possible to circumvent the lock screen by ejecting the SIM card from its tray at the moment the device starts dialing.

“Why are there so many of these flaws?” you ask.

Well, dear reader, the lock screen of an iOS device isn’t really that; it’s more like a pocket dialling mitigation screen. Remember that you can use Siri, Passbook, the camera, and music controls without having to type in the passcode. It’s been given so much access to the core iOS system that it becomes difficult to contain what is allowed, and to deny what is not allowed.

It’s amazing that these flaws get found, though, given how creative and tricky most of them are (take a look at the related videos on YouTube).

Gmail’s Overly-Sensitive Spam Filter

Dave Pell:

Reminder:

NextDraft went to spam for many users. Check for if there. Mark as not spam. Read. Enjoy.

Not only did NextDraft end up in spam for me, so did a variety of newsletters from Rag & Bone, Digg, and 7 For All Mankind, not to mention a recent Hover invoice. As I don’t use Gmail’s web interface, moving these messages to my inbox required the following steps:

  1. Sign out of my standard Google account.
  2. Sign into one of my email addresses.
  3. Decline (for the millionth time) Google’s invitation to add the account to the quick account switcher which never, ever works as expected.
  4. Trudge through the mess of actual spam messages to find the few legitimate (but important, cf. the Hover invoice above) emails.
  5. Open each one and mark them as “not spam”.

This was required for each of my five email accounts hosted with Google. It seems to me that the services the company is known for — search, email, Reader — are becoming steadily worse or are being killed altogether.

Google Alerts Are Now Useless

Jeffry Pilcher of the Financial Brand:

Starting sometime last year, The Financial Brand started receiving fewer and fewer Google Alerts. And when the Alerts did arrive, they contained fewer and fewer results. It’s gone from lots of Alerts, to many, to some, to a few… down to a trickle. Users can forget about creating any new Alerts — those pretty much won’t work at all. Indeed the volume of Alerts has decreased by at least 80%, dropping from 20-35 emails per day with 4-12 results each down to 4-8 emails per day with 1-3 results each. And the results are crummier than ever.

And here I simply assumed that publications had stopped quoting Rob Enderle. Dreadful.

Kevin Lynch at Apple

John Paczkowski and Peter Kafka of AllThingsD:

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling confirmed the hire, and said that [Kevin] Lynch will join Apple as vice president of technology, reporting to Bob Mansfield, SVP of Technologies.

A person familiar with the move said Lynch had aspired to eventually take the CEO job at Adobe, but that Shantanu Narayen isn’t giving that spot up anytime soon. At Apple, he’ll have a much less senior position, but potentially an important one, where he’ll be tasked with coordinating the company’s hardware and software teams.

Lynch one of the last to triumph Flash on mobile in an executive position. Granted, he was working for Adobe and therefore must market their products in the best possible light. But in a CTO position, it was partially his responsibility to steer the company’s products in the direction that the market was going.

Perhaps he’s reporting to Mansfield for boring corporate structural reasons, but it’s an intriguing placement for this hire. Mansfield runs hardware — something that Kevin Lynch wasn’t working on at Adobe. According to AllThingsD, his job is to “coordinate” hardware and software, but that sounds like a middle management position. Which makes me as curious as Craig Hockenberry:

The thing I don’t get with Kevin Lynch is that every SVP except Bruce Sewell has come up through the ranks. Apple hires from within…

Continued:

The only reason to go outside the company is to find some expertise that doesn’t already exist. What that is eludes me…

Truly bizarre.

Apple’s hires aren’t perfect, but they have a great batting average, especially for executives. Some people are calling this a mistake, but I like Manton Reece’s cautiously optimistic opinion:

Was he wrong about Flash? Yes. But I choose to view his move to Apple as an indication that he was at the wrong company more than that he was completely wrong-headed. Maybe it was time for something new, a course correction back to the earlier part of his career.

Lynch has a great history marred just recently. This is peculiar.

The World Has No Room for Cowards

Brian Krebs gets “SWATted“:

I heard someone yell, “Don’t move! Put your hands in the air.” Glancing up from my squat, I saw a Fairfax County Police officer leaning over the trunk of a squad car, both arms extended and pointing a handgun at me. As I very slowly turned my head to the left, I observed about a half-dozen other squad cars, lights flashing, and more officers pointing firearms in my direction, including a shotgun and a semi-automatic rifle. I was instructed to face the house, back down my front steps and walk backwards into the adjoining parking area, after which point I was handcuffed and walked up to the top of the street.

And then he had a conversation with the hacker responsible — the same one apparently behind Mat Honan’s hack last year. And the hacker’s dad, too:

At this point, Ryan’s dad grabs the phone and tries to tell me that his son didn’t really say that he hacked Mat Honan’s iCloud account, but that what he really said was he only knew the guy who hacked Honan’s account. Ryan’s dad goes on to explain that his son is basically a good kid who fell in with the wrong crowd, and that his son wouldn’t stoop to hacking other people, and certainly not to sending SWAT teams or any of that nonsense.