Boing Boing 

Tech journalism

Dan Gillmor sez, "This is a story about a story about a rumor of an invitation to an announcement of a product launch. Needless to say, the company involved is Apple."

Steve Jobs, Romantic

At O'Reilly Radar, Doug Hill with a worthy read on the late Apple CEO: "I’d like to talk here about a spirit that Jobs carried within himself. It’s a spirit he relied on for inspiration, although he seemed at times to have lost track of its whisper. In any event, what it says can tell us a lot about our relationship to machines. I refer to the spirit of Romanticism. I spent much of this past summer reading about the Romantics — the original Romantics, that is, of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries — and it’s remarkable how closely their most cherished beliefs correspond to principles that Jobs considered crucial to his success at Apple."

Unique issues in Japan for Apple iOS6 maps

Inconsistencies and funny goofs with Apple's new iOS6 maps feature have been widely reported. But in Japan, a country-specific set of technical issues contribute to the feature's lack of reliability there. The biggest problem, according to a NYT article by Hiroko Tabuchi, is that "much of its data appears to be drawn from OpenStreetMap Japan, a Wikipedia-like service that contains a lot of incorrect and outdated information," and Japan "uses a system of longitude and latitude that differs slightly from the global standard." Apple may have mixed up conflicting data sources that use both systems. (NYTimes.com)

Advisory: iOS6 maps on the tube


The London Underground workers made a funny.

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: source unknown -- if you know it, please leave details in the comments)

IOS6 maps fail so hard, a Tumblr is born

You know you have an issue when someone brews up a Tumblr to mock you: theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com.

RIP, Ping

During last week's iPhone 5 unveil, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the company's social network foray would be mothballed on September 30. That gives you, like, 2 weeks to figure out what the hell Ping is. Cook signaled this was coming earlier this year at the All Things Digital 2012 event: “We tried Ping, and I think the customer voted and said ‘This isn’t something that I want to put a lot of energy into.’”

Kirby Ferguson's TED Talk: "Embrace the Remix" - a must-see

Kirby "Everything is a Remix" Ferguson, whose work we've blogged about a lot, gave an amazing, must-see TED Talk about the way that creativity comes about as the result of creative re-use of others' work. It's not just explicit remixes and samples -- everything from the iPhone to Bob Dylan's music are made out of other peoples' inventions and creations. Ferguson shows that our cognitive bias for "loss aversion" makes us willing to take others' ideas, but furious when others take our ideas and build on them (cue Steve Jobs saying "I've always stolen shamelessly from the best" and contrasted with his vow to "go thermonuclear on Android" because "It is a stolen product.") We rationalize that the stuff we take from others is just plumbing -- uncreative infrastructure to which we add our own special snowflakes of creativity. But everyone thinks that his or her work is a special snowflake and everyone else's is boring plumbing. The truth is, it's both. And copyright and patent laws, with their "awkward metaphor" of property, have it backwards. They make hypocrites out of all of us, forcing us to pretend that our inspiration arrived holus-bolus, as our brains were bestirred by mystical muses -- and to deny our participation in the ancient tradition of ripping off the best and making something that's ours out of what we take.

Embrace the Remix (via TechDirt)

Searching for Magic in India and Silicon Valley: An Interview with Daniel Kottke, Apple Employee #12


Daniel Kottke lives and works in Palo Alto, Ca. Here, he talks about the genesis of his 1974 trip to India with Steve Jobs.

Daniel Kottke was one of Apple's first employees, assembling the company's earliest kit computers with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in a California kitchen. In 1974, Jobs and Kottke backpacked across India in search of themselves; now, they are industry legends. Along the way, he debugged circuit boards, helped design the Apple III and the Mac, and became host of Palo Alto cable TV show The Next Step.

Read the rest

Apple suspends over-the-phone password resets

Following the incredible social engineering hack suffered by Wired's Mat Honan over the weekend, Apple's shut down the exploit by "ordering support staff to immediately stop processing AppleID password changes requested over the phone."

What do you think of the new Apple "genius" ads running during Olympics 2012 TV coverage?

The internets are a-flutter with critics of these new Apple ads. I'm not crazy about them. They feel like they're for Best Buy or something, not Apple. I do wish they'd just bring back John Hodgman. (via @nytjim)

Spacecraft 3D: Nifty robotic space travel augmented-reality app from NASA JPL

I recently had a chance to visit NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory with Miles O'Brien. At the NASA center in Pasadena, engineers are readying for the long-anticipated landing of the Mars Curiosity rover on Aug. 5. During our visit, we met with the team behind a cool new iOS app from JPL: NASA's Spacecraft 3D, an augmented reality application that allows users to "learn about and interact with a variety of spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth, and observe the universe."

Using a printed AR Target and the camera on your mobile device, you can get up close with these robotic explorers, see how they move, and learn about the the engineering feats used to expand our knowledge and understanding of space. Spacecraft 3D will be updated over time to include more of the amazing spacecraft that act as our robotic eyes on the earth, the solar system and beyond!

The app is really a ton of fun. You can download it here for free, iPad and iPhone and iPod Touch. Here's the JPL press release announcing its release.

Apple rejects "Angry Syrians"

Frederic Jacobs produced an iOS app called "Angry Syrians," which was apparently blessed by Rovio. It was intended to raise awareness of the ongoing bloodbath in Syria. Apple rejected it because "We found your app contains defamatory or offensive content targeted at a specific group, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines." (the defamed and offended group in question is the brutal Assad regime and its supporters). (via Hacker News)

Apple loses UK patent battle

In the UK, Taiwan's HTC challenged four Apple patents covering "slide to unlock" and other touchscreen-related features. The High Court agreed today, describing them as either too obvious, or foreshadowed by earlier patents. Analysts expect the outcome to significantly influence the many other patent battles taking place between Apple and its competitors worldwide.

Indie author gets sticker shock from Amazon "delivery fees"


Andrew Hyde wrote and self-published a great-looking travel book and put it up for sale on Amazon, iBooks, B&N, and an indie marketplace called Gumroad that retails the PDF. The book had an exciting launch and the sales on Amazon were really high, but he got some sticker-shock when he found out that Amazon was charging very high "delivery fees" for his books, even when the buyers were buying from WiFi. He calculated the book-delivery markup over the rate Amazon charges for website hosting and concluded that Amazon charges authors a 129,000% markup for moving a file from A to B. Apple did better, but are total jerks about it. B&N didn't sell enough to move the needle for him. The whole post is a bracing reality-check.

The file itself is under their suggested 50MB cap Amazon says to keep it under at 18.1MB. The book contains upwards of 50 pictures and the one file for Kindle needs to be able to be read on their smallest displays in black and white and their full color large screen Mac app). I’m confused. Amazon stores a ton of the Internet on S3/EC2, they should have the storage and delivery down. If I stored that file on S3/EC2 it would cost me $.01 PER FIVE DOWNLOADS. Hat tip to Robby for that one. Use Amazon to run your website: .01 to download a file. Use amazon to sell your book: $2.58 per download + 30% of whatever you sell.

Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~129,000%

...Apple is actually quite good at a flat looking $7 per $9.99 purchase. They host the file and their iBooks Author is fantastic for book creation. Their app store customer service is about as bad as I can immagine (no phone, email or ticket support). You have to play by their rules and their rules happen to include error messages that block your book from being published with the descriptive “Unknown Error.” As a testament to their not giving single fuck, their “Contact Us” is a FAQ with no way to send a message. The book looks amazing on iPads through iBooks though!

Amazon’s markup of digital delivery to indie authors is ~129,000%

Virgin Mobile offers no-contract iPhone plan for US customers

Virgin Mobile USA, which operates as a sort of sub-brand of Sprint in the United States, today announced plans to begin selling the iPhone on June 29 with pre-paid, no-contract voice and data service starting at $30 per month.

The no-strings-attached connectivity comes at a higher hardware price: iPhone 4S at 16GB is $649, and the iPhone 4 at 8GB is $549. Plans include "Unlimited" texting and data (well, unlimited up to 2.5GB).

Read the rest

Matthew Modine to play John Sculley in Jobs biopic

Sculley modine
Matthew Modine will play the man who fired Steve Jobs.

Film actor Matthew Modine has signed on to the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic entitled jOBS, which stars Ashton Kutcher as the late Apple founder. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote), the film will chronicle Jobs' life from 1971 through the 21st century. Modine has been tapped to play John Sculley, the former Pepsi-Cola CEO whom Jobs recruited to lead Apple in 1983. Sculley has longbeen known as the man who "fired" Jobs two years later. The two had clashed in their respective roles at Apple, leading up to Jobs' removal fromthe company in 1985. Sculley served as Apple CEO from 1983 to 1993. Book of Mormon star Josh Gad will portray Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the film, due out this fall. The movie began principal photography in June. Early scenes will be shot in the actual Los Altos home where Jobs grew up and in thehistoric garage where he founded Apple.

Matthew Modine joins Steve Jobs biopic

How to: Anodize aluminum

I absolutely love this this new video from Engineer Guy Bill Hammack. Why? Because Hammack managed to make me intensely interested in something I'd previously never really thought twice about—the anodized aluminum coatings that cover—most famously—Apple products.

I sat down to watch this video expecting to be bored. By the end, I was captivated. What more can you ask for in an explainer?

Video Link

Retina display laptops expected at WWDC

It is the dumbest week of the year to buy a new Mac. [Ars]

Apple iMac was almost named "MacMan," until this guy stopped Steve Jobs

Fast Company has published an excerpt from Ken Segall's new book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success. The excerpt recounts the tale of how former ad exec Segall helped steer then-Apple-CEO Steve Jobs away from a bad branding decision for what would eventually (thankfully!) be named the iMac.

Segall was part of the team that came up with Apple's famous "Think Different" campaign. In 1998, his agency was at One Infinite Loop one day for a dramatic unveiling of a new line of candy-colored home computers. The Apple device code-named "C1" looked like nothing else on the market at the time:

Steve gave us a challenge: We needed a name for this thing. C1 was on a fast track to production, and the name had to be decided quickly to accommodate the manufacturing and package design process. “We already have a name we like a lot, but I want you guys to see if you can beat it,” said Steve. “The name is ‘MacMan.’ ”

Read the rest here. Spoiler: Blame Phil Schiller for the awful almost-name!

iPod Body Mod: magnetic wrist piercings become mount for Apple iPod Nano

REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Tattoo artist Dave Hurban displays an iPod Nano which he has attached to his wrists through magnetic piercings in his wrist in New York, May 14, 2012. Reuters has an interview with him here.

"I just invented the strapless watch," he said on Monday of his Apple Inc device, set to display a clock.

Hurban cheerfully recounted how he mapped out the four corners of the iPod on his arm and then inserted four titanium studs into his skin. Once the incisions healed, he popped on his iPod, which is held in place magnetically.

"It's way simpler than you think it is," said Hurban.

Below, Durban's HOWTO video for the project he calls "iDermal," explaining how he pulled it off. Not that he can just, you know, pull them off now.

Read the rest

Apple rumors: sweet new 3D map feature coming to iOS6

Word on the Apple blogs today: in development for iOS 6, a maps application developed entirely in-house, to replace the Google Maps program running on iOS since 2007. "The application design is said to be fairly similar to the current Google Maps program on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch," reports 9to5mac.com, "But it is described as a much cleaner, faster, and more reliable experience." Sources tell 9to5Mac the new app "will blow your head off." MacRumors has more. (via AllThingsD)

Why Tech Review is ditching its iPad edition

Jason Pontin, editor of MIT's Tech Review, explains why his magazine deprecated its iPad app and went to "a simple RSS feed in a river of news," and why it's moving to "HTML5, so that a reader will see Web pages optimized for any device, whether a desktop or laptop computer, a tablet, or a smart phone. Then we'll kill our apps, too." TR spent $124,000 on developing tablet editions and sold 353 iPad subscriptions. The complexity of delivering for both landscape and portrait modes had the magazine developing six versions of its content every month ("a print publication, a conventional digital replica for Web browsers and proprietary software, a digital replica for landscape viewing on tablets, something that was not quite a digital replica for portrait viewing on tablets, a kind of hack for smart phones, and ordinary HTML pages").

Software development of apps was much harder than publishers had anticipated, because they had hired Web developers who knew technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Publishers were astonished to learn that iPad apps were real, if small, applications, mostly written in a language called Objective C, which no one in their WebDev departments knew. Publishers reacted by outsourcing app development, which was expensive, time-consuming, and unbudgeted.

But the real problem with apps was more profound. When people read news and features on electronic media, they expect stories to possess the linky-ness of the Web, but stories in apps didn't really link. The apps were, in the jargon of information technology, "walled gardens," and although sometimes beautiful, they were small, stifling gardens. For readers, none of that beauty overcame the weirdness and frustration of reading digital media closed off from other digital media.

Without subscribers or many single-copy buyers, and with no audiences to sell to advertisers, there were no revenues to offset the incremental costs of app development. With a couple of exceptions, publishers therefore soured on apps. The most commonly cited exception is Condé Nast, which saw its digital sales increase by 268 percent last year after Apple introduced an iPad app called Newsstand that promoted the New York publisher's iPad editions. Still, even 268 percent growth may not be saying much in total numbers. Digital is a small business for Condé Nast. For instance, Wired, the most digital of Condé Nast's titles, has 33,237 digital replica subscriptions, representing just 4.1 percent of total circulation, and 7,004 digital single-copy sales, which is 0.8 percent of paid circulation, according to ABC.

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps (via Kottke)

Amtrak users, rejoice! Smartphone scans soon to replace paper tickets.

In the New York Times, Brian X. Chen reports on Amtrak's plans to use Apple iPhones as an electronic ticket scanner on several routes, including Boston, MA to Portland, ME, and San Jose, CA, to Sacramento, CA. "By late summer, 1,700 conductors will be using the devices on Amtrak trains across the country," and passengers can choose to print tickets or display a bar code on their smartphone screens for conductors to scan.

Sergei Brin on the existential crisis of the net: walled gardens + snooping governments

Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave an interview to The Guardian in which he expressed his fear that the rise of walled gardens like Apple's iOS ecosystem and Facebook, combined with increased state action (even in so-called "liberal" western states) to spy on and control the Internet, that the Internet faces a real existential crisis. The interview is part of a larger series in the Guardian on the subject of the Internet's future, and the whole thing is worth your time.

He said he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, but warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and balkanising the web.

"There's a lot to be lost," he said. "For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it."

Brin's criticism of Facebook is likely to be controversial, with the social network approaching an estimated $100bn (£64bn) flotation. Google's upstart rival has seen explosive growth: it has signed up half of Americans with computer access and more than 800 million members worldwide.

Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

He criticised Facebook for not making it easy for users to switch their data to other services. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.

Later in the interview, Brin talks about the measures that Google takes to avoid turning over its vast storehouse of personal information to snooping US authorities, but there's no evidence that anyone asked him the obvious question: "Why not collect less information, and delete it more often?"

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin

Antitrust and ebooks: regulators miss the big DRM lock-in picture

US antitrust regulators have never really been able to find the right place to stick their lever and pry when it comes to the Internet (witness their failure to understand Microsoft's platform dominance in the 90s). Now they're going after various publishers and Apple over price fixing (my publisher is included, and for the record, I don't agree with their stance on "agency pricing"), but they're missing all the big elephants in the room: platform lock-in by way of DRM, prohibitions created by both Apple and Amazon on using third-party payment systems on their apps, and all the associated ticking bombs that represent the real, enduring danger to the ebook marketplace. Every dollar that is spent on a locked, proprietary platform is a dollar of opportunity cost that society will have to spend to get out from under the would-be monopolists of ebooks when (not if) they abuse their power (see my latest PW column on this).

Wired's Tim Carmody does a really good job of pointing out the fail here, as antitrust regulators miss the forest of lock-in for the trees of abusive pricing.

What’s left out of the Justice department’s lawsuit might be even better news for Amazon than what’s included. There is no broader look at any of the anticompetitive vagaries of the e-book market beyond publishers’ negotiations with retailers in the period before and after the launch of iBooks.

The suit blasts most favored nation agreements without noting that Amazon has aggressively pursued MFN agreements with publishing partners, including partners whose books it sells wholesale. It’s completely silent on retailers’ and device manufacturers’ use of DRM to lock customers into a single bookstore. Amazon is purely a market innovator, not a budding monopolist, even as the DOJ notes that Amazon’s pricing power helped determine pricing power across the industry.

Blogger Mike Cane wrote a powerful email to attorneys at the Department of Justice listed in the lawsuit titled, “Dear DoJ: You Need To Sue Apple Again.” It cites Apple’s in-app purchasing rules that prohibit Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and other retailers from offering books for iOS devices on the same terms that Apple can offer in iBooks, without browser workarounds.

This, Cane says, “is every bit as much restraint of trade as the collusive price-fixing that made the Department bring Apple and its co-conspirators before the court for remedy.”

But it’s actually great news for Amazon that the DOJ isn’t opening up restrictions on in-device purchases. Once thrown, that stone bounces back to hit Amazon in the face right away.

Jeff Bezos Should Send Eric Holder a Christmas Card

Saving the whales? Now there's an app for that, too.

An interesting new iOS app launched today called Whale Alert. Though it's available for anyone, the iPhone/iPad app is intended primarily for use by workers in the shipping and maritime industry. It "combines science and technology to help save critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by reducing threats of collisions with large ships along the East Coast of North America."

From the launch announcement by IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare):

The app links the bridge of a ship to the latest data about right whale detections and informs users when their vessels enter right whale management areas. The app uses Global Positioning System (GPS), Automatic Identification System (AIS), the web and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA’s right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity. A key feature of Whale Alert is a display linking a system of near real-time acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls to an iPad on a ship’s bridge showing the whale’s presence to captains transiting the shipping lanes. In a matter of seconds the ships position is updated on the iPad in relation to any endangered right whales in the shipping lanes allowing the ship to safely slow down and navigate around the whale.

North Atlantic right whales, which live along North America's east coast from Newfoundland to Florida, are one of the world’s rarest large animals and a species on the brink of extinction. So few exist -- about 450 -- that scientists have identified and named almost all of them. Collision with ships is a leading cause of right whale death.

Link to Whale Alert at the Apple App Store. More about the project at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) website.

More app screenshots below, along with a shot of the beautiful and endangered cetacean they're trying to save.

Read the rest

A new tradition in China: honoring the dead with paper iPads, iPhones


Paper replicas of iPads and iPhones with other gadgets for sale for the Chinese Qingming festival at a prayer supplies shop near Kuala Lumpur. Chinese people go to cemeteries during the festival to honor the dead with prayers, food, tea, wine and paper replicas of flashy cars, Louis Vuitton bags, and other bling for the ancestors to enjoy in the afterlife. Reuters/2011.

April 4 in China marks Tomb Sweeping Day (Qingming Festival), an ancient cultural tradition in which families honor their ancestors by visiting their tombs and leaving offerings of food. Not unlike Día de Los Muertos, really.

Brian Ashcraft writes at Kotaku:

Paper replicas depict items that can be used in the afterlife, such as clothing, money, and cars, are burned. Over the years, this tradition has evolved with the times as evident by a recent must-have paper replica: the iPad.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook visits Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, China

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook speaks to employees during a visit to the iPhone production line at the newly built Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, in Henan province, China. Photo taken March 28, 2012 (REUTERS). Reports and analysis on the significance of the visit: Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Wired News, IBT, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times.

Heatgate or Hype? Thermal imaging of new iPad vs. iPad 2 (photo)

Apple's newest iPad, (R) and its predecessor, the iPad 2, are pictured with a thermal camera in Berlin March 22, 2012.

Consumer Reports effectively launched "heatgate" hysteria this week, when it reported test results showing that the new iPad reached temperatures of 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) after 45 minutes of running an intense action game, or up to 13 degrees F (8 degrees C) hotter than the previous iPad under similar conditions. Consumer Reports, of course, was central to the earlier iPhone 4 "antennagate" storm.

But other reviewers have different findings on temperature/stress-tests with the 2012 iPad. Time disagrees that the issue is a problem. ZDNet has a contrary take on things also. And the Gruber. And Macworld, and The Loop, and CNET, too.

Read the rest

DODOcase's new iPad covers: pretty sweet

I'm a big fan of DODOcase's handmade-in-SF iPad cases, and the classic, restrained minimalism of their basic black line and "Essentials" collection. They've just announced a Spring/Summer series for the new iPad with vibrant two-tone colors, and the option of adding foil or black personalized lettering. And, if you like, a little hole for the iPad camera to peek through.