Futurology ~ Titan, Japan’s lost satellite, object returns, low-power RAM, DNA thermometer, Buckminster’s dome, tea leather, Double-Helix scientist


Moon of Saturn looks increasingly earth-like — The Cassini mission is sending us better data and images all the time of just what’s happening on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. And it’s beginning to look awfully familiar. The latest data NASA researchers have been poring over shows new details about the strange lakes and seas that trickle across Saturn’s frigid moon, Titan. It also draws comparisons between the only other interstellar body found to have similarly liquid lakes and seas on its surface — our very own Earth.
~ I still don’t want to live there.

We finally know what happened to Japan’s lost Black Hole Satellite — After a full month spinning out of control in space, Japan’s Space Agency has finally figured out how it lost control of Hitomi, a very expensive satellite that was hunting for black holes. This also means the agency will never get it back.
~ The equivalent of its wheels fell off – the solar panels. 

A mysterious object from Earth’s distant past has returned — A first-of-its-kind space rock filled with pristine material from the formation of the Earth itself has returned to the inner solar system, after billions of years in the cosmic boondocks. And it could help us piece together our planet’s origin story.
~ Er, welcome home?

Super-low-power RAM — Last week, Sunnyvale, California-based Adesto Technologies announced a new addition to its memory family, an ultra-low-power version of RRAM called Moneta. Adesto says its chips consume less than 1/20th the energy of the closest competitor.
~ Perfect for in-the-field devices you need to leave around monitoring flora and fauna. 

World’s smallest thermometer is made of DNA — Need to take a temperature in a hard-to-reach spot? Researchers have created the world’s smallest thermometer from DNA, and it could be used to measure temperature even within living cells.
~ I’m made of it too, you know. It’s remarkable stuff. 


Buckminster Fuller’s Biosphere Dome Might get a twin made of plants — Montreal’s Expo 67 was the most successful World’s Fair in history, a vision of the future laced with monorails and space-age architecture. Its stunning centrepiece was the Biosphere, a 76m tall geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller, which remained on the site after the fair left town. For the 50th anniversary of the Expo, one designer wants a vegetated version of the dome (left in the artists impression, above) next to the original (centre).
~ We used to call those ‘vegetated domes’ ‘hills’. 

New fake leather is made from tea — It’s tough. It’s thick. It’s brown. It’s a lot like leather — but in fact this new material is made in the lab from a brew of kombucha tea. Researchers from Iowa State University have developed the unusual new form of synthetic leather using some rather normal ingredients: shallow plastic tanks that contain cellulose fibres taken from kombucha tea, along with vinegar and sugar. When a colony of bacteria and yeast is added, the material grows on the top of the liquid’s surface. It can then be harvested and dried and — bingo! — a leather-like substance.
~ And when it gets wet, it’s game over. 

Double-Helix scientist may get biopic — Rosalind Franklin, the British scientist whose research enabled the discovery of DNA’s double helix, will be getting a biopic if spec script Exposure is made. Fingers crossed, because not only would a feature film bring Franklin some much-deserved recognition — her life would make for quite a dramatic movie.
~ Franklin has previously been the subject of a NOVA documentary on PBS, and a play called Photograph 51, performed in London with Nicole Kidman as lead.

Five Tip Friday ~ Mac tips to make your day better

Coz we all need a better day sometimes …

20160427_Customize1/ Add handy buttons to Mail’s toolbar — If you right- or Control-click on the grey area at the top of Mail’s window (and this is worth trying elsewhere, BTW, ie in the Finder, Safari …), choose Customize Toolbar from the pop-up that appears. You will then find extra buttons you can drag up into your toolbar for easy use.
Some people like ‘Organize by Conversation’ available under the View menu, but if you prefer to look at emails as individual items instead of as long chains of responses, you can use the Show Related Messages button to temporarily show the conversation for the selected email only, which can be really useful.

2/ Redirect — Using Redirect is a different method for forwarding emails when you’d like someone else to respond to them. When you forward a message the usual way, Mail changes the colour of the quoted text and puts the forwarding info at the top. When the person you’ve forwarded it to clicks Reply, it will send the response back to you, as you’re the one who forwarded it. But if you use Redirect, it leaves out all of that quoted text formatting and when the person you’ve redirected the message to clicks Reply, the response goes back to the original sender, just as if the email had been sent to the appropriate person in the first place.

3/ Move — You can always drag-and-drop emails into your mailboxes using the sidebar, but you might prefer the Move button. You just have to select the item you want to file away, and then click the Move button to get quick drop-down list to tell it where to go. For anyone with dexterity problems, this is often easier than dragging and dropping, as you don’t have to simultaneously hold your mouse or trackpad button down while you’re scrolling the sidebar. [These came from the Mac Observer, which has more pictures.]


4/ Back up text substitutions — Open System Preferences, go into the Keyboard option, then click Text. You will then see any keyboard substitutions you have set up (for example, I can type ‘mw’ in anything and my Mac fills out my full, lengthy home email address for me). Select one to modify it (click on one) or choose Command A (while the Command key is held down, press the A key) to select all of them. Now click anywhere on this fully selected list and drag them out to the desktop.  This creates a file on the desktop called ‘Text Substituions.plist’. If you ever lose your substitutions, you can just drag-and-drop them back into that same field in System Preferences, so keep this tiny file somewhere safe.

5/ Quick desktop cleanup — Hopefully you know that files strewn all over your Mac;s desktop is NOT a good idea. If anything goes wrong, these are easily lost or damaged as the Finder is NOT designed to look after files that aren’t, well, filed in Documents, Pictures etc. Not only that, since Finder is not designed to care for this load, your Mac will slow down and struggle, plus practically it’s harder to find files that aren’t categorised by their parent folders (Documents, Pictures, Movies …).
But you can delay your filing job, and speed your Mac up just be creating a new folder on the Desktop (click on the desktop, choose New Folder from the File menu) and give it a name like ToFile or ToSort or something, then drag all your desktop files into this. Much better. (But you really should go through and file these every couple of weeks.)

iTunes turns 12, free browser, analyst questions, death at Apple HQ, Icahn’s China concerns

iTunes turns 12 (note the NZ99¢ rental at lower left – this changes weekly)
iTunes turns 12 (note the NZ99¢ rental at lower left – click the image for a larger view – the cheap movie rental changes weekly)

Happy 12th birthday, iTunes Store; now it’s time to split — Apple’s iTunes Store celebrates its 12th birthday today. It’s been a great 12 years, and iTunes on OS X has been a great success – but now, as many others have recommended, it’s time to split it up. “Apple should take a cue from the iOS interface when it comes to iTunes on Mac OS X and split iTunes into different apps. On iDevice interfaces, there are separate apps for Music, Video, App Store, iTunes U and Podcasts. Apple should make this happen on Mac OS X – though they might call the Music app ‘iTunes,’ as that makes sense.”

Vivaldi 1.0 review: free browser offers innovative ideas, but some are more polished than others — New browser adds clever new design elements but might take a toll on your CPU. The new browser from some of the creators of Opera blends appealing looks with clever innovations. You can get it from here.

Best and worst analyst questions from Apple’s Q2 2016 Conference Call — In every Apple earnings conference call with analysts, there’s a range of questions fielded from good to bad. Sometimes worse. And sometimes most of them are just bad. But in Tuesday’s call for Apple’s second fiscal quarter of 2016, two analysts stood out for Bryan Chaffin as those who asked both the best and and worst questions.

Sheriff says death of man in Apple HQ ‘isolated,’ no one else at risk — The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday afternoon that the death of a man inside Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters earlier in the day was an “isolated incident,” and that no one else is at risk. The statement from the Sheriff puts to rest worries of a broader situation at Apple.

Citing concerns in China, activist investor Carl Icahn no longer owns shares of Apple — Billionaire Carl Icahn, who has used his financial clout to influence boardroom decisions at publicly traded companies, announced on Thursday that he no longer owns shares in Apple just days after the company announced its first revenue decline in over a decade. [Gosh, I’m sure he cares deeply about humanitarian issues …]

CareKit, hit SE, Alto’s Adventure, ANZ Apple Pay, iPads still going strong

CareKitApple’s CareKit tool launches today with four apps — Following on the heels of HealthKit and ResearchKit, Apple has launched its third medical framework, CareKit. Four apps are now available at the Apple App Store.
CareKit is a tool for assisting people in taking an active role in their care. iPhone apps using it make it easier for individuals to keep track of care plans and monitor symptoms and medication; providing insights that help people better understand their own health, says Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, Initiatives.

iPhone SE a surprise hit? After Apple’s latest quarterly earnings call, we got a hint Apple has a surprising hit product on its hands.

Alto’s Adventure on sale for iOS and TV — Ethereal, beautiful and exciting Alto’s Adventure has a simple premise: guide a character on their snowboard to round up llamas, do increasingly more complex stunts, jump over crevasses and try to keep from wiping out. Between the fun gameplay, the ever-changing weather in the game, the beautiful sunset and night scenes, and the atmospheric soundtrack, Alto’s Adventure is a joy to play. If you haven’t yet purchased it, Alto’s Adventure is now on sale at 30% it’s usual price.
The app includes the tvOS version as well, so those of you with the 4th-generation Apple TV can enjoy this astounding game on the big screen. The sale won’t last long, so get it now for NZ99¢ instead of $2.99.

ANZ to introduce Apple Pay in Australia — Apple Pay expanded services in Australia yesterday with the addition of ANZ Bank, the first major financial institution in the region to support Apple’s payments product after a limited rollout in November.

Five years later, iPad 2 keeps plugging on — Newer iPads might be faster or have higher resolution, but Apple’s 2nd-generation tablet keeps getting the job done for Joel Mathis. [My iPad mini 2 is three years old and still going strong, too.]

MagBytes 74 for April 2016

MB74Longer than usual as I was away in March and could not get connected reliably, this issue should make up for that with a lavish load of tips.

Download it in PDF form from this link – it looks a lot like this thumbnail at top left only it’s readable text and it’s linked up like crazy.

HERE’S THE LINK ———> Issue74Apr16
(Right-click or Control-click that to select where to download this file; if you just click or tap it, it will simply display in your browser. On iPad, hold your fingertip on the link for a few seconds to get options.)

Headphone jack threatened, FBI on hack

(Image from Engadget)
(Image from Engadget)

Intel pushes USB-C as headphone jack’s successor — The technology world has a seething hatred of the traditional 3.5-millimeter headphone jack – or so it seems, given that chip giant Intel is the latest company to propose replacing the aging plug with a digital alternative. From a user’s perspective, the move to digital headphones offers improved audio quality and the ability to communicate directly with – and draw power from – a mobile device means that headphones could become smarter and in some cases lighter, since some models would no longer require built-in batteries.

FBI still deciding whether to allow review of San Bernardino iPhone exploit — The FBI has yet to decide whether an exploit used to crack the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook will even be reviewed for possible disclosure, agency director James Comey said on Tuesday.

Apple’s low results, millennial mindsets, 2016 MacBook reviewed, dead body, 30 free filters, MagBytes

There is some good news today – MacPhun's free filter set
There is some good news today – MacPhun’s free filter set

Apple released its quarterly results — Here’s the official statement here, and the feedback from all and sundry follows. Basically, Apple’s results are disappointing everywhere, with significant declines in some sales: Tim Cook is still optimistic after Apple’s growth stalled in Q2 2016 and the Mac Observer points out that the sky is not falling in; Apple services and ‘other products’ see significant growth and Wall Street remains optimistic about ‘iPhone 7’ & Apple’s 2017 after the Q2 declines; but even iPhone saw its first year over year decline; iPad sales have continued their drop; at least loads of Mac buyers are new to Mac, and over it all, IMD professor Howard Yu reckons Apple’s sales show the ‘importance of self-cannibalisation‘. It’s a fascinating insight.

Amazon, Apple ‘closely match’ the mindset of millennials — Forty-two percent of respondents in a FutureCasts survey said that Amazon matched millennial mindsets closely, followed by 37% for Apple and 31% for Netflix.

Review says Apple’s early 2016 12-inch MacBook is a welcome improvement, but won’t change any minds — Apple’s second-generation ultraportable 12-inch MacBook features some noteworthy internal improvements, including an extra hour of battery life and Intel’s latest Skylake processors, that make it a worthwhile update. But all of the major concessions of the 2015 model remain, making it unlikely this refresh will change anyone’s opinion on the divisive-yet-impressive notebook [ie, not powerful enough, too expensive, too limited in ports].

Dead body found at Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters — An investigation is underway after a body was reportedly discovered at Apple’s Infinite Loop corporate headquarters in Cupertino. A recording of the initial dispatch call is said to point at a possible suicide in a conference room.

First Look at Macphun’s new Filters for Photos app works as an Apple Photos extension — Catch one-click fever as 30 new filters aim to make your snaps shine. The new, free filters [which I mentioned yesterday] run the gamut of vintage, black & white, color fantasy, cross process, oil painting, pen sketch, and more. You can apply filters in real time, mix and match filters, adjust the look, and even selectively paint on filter effects.

MagBytes tonight — It’s a very long issue – 19 pages instead of the usual 14 or so.

Indian panic buttons, Nokia to buy Withings

iPhones and other phones sold in India must offer a ‘panic button’ by 2018 — Within two years, all phones – including iPhones – sold in India must have a ‘panic button’ and built-in GPS, according to a new ruling by Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The document signed by the minister said “feature phones without the facility of panic button by pressing Numeric key – 5 or Numeric key – 9 to invoke emergency call” shall not be sold in India, reports The Times of India. The ruling goes into effect on January 1st, 2018.

Nokia buys health & fitness gear maker Withings in deal worth $192 million — Nokia Technologies on Tuesday announced a planned takeover of health and fitness accessory maker Withings, in a deal valued at €170 million.

MacPhun Filters for Photos, Sculley on Jobs, recruiting slows, Skype for biz, Earnings down, infinite Dropbox


Free new Filters for Photos — Macphun has announced a new Mac app, Filters for Photos. This free app works standalone and also within Photos as an Extension, and gives users the ability to add 30 new filters to their photos in a single click. Filters for Photos integrates with the Photos for Mac user experience, and helps more people be creative with their photography, without spending anything. It’s is available as a free download now (ie, from April 27th).
ExtensionsOnce you’ve installed Filters and dragged the expanded App to your Applications folder, open Photos, select a photo, choose Edit and click Extensions down the bottom to turn them on. When you register with your email address you unlock 15 more filters.

The John Sculley Interview: Apple’s DNA, Walks With Steve Jobs and more — Bryan Chaffin interviewed former Apple CEO John Sculley on April 11th, “an insightful and enjoyable experience. While the interview was ostensibly centered around his 2014 book Moonshot! (on Amazon and iBooks), Mr Sculley also shared anecdotes about his time at Apple and experiences with the late Steve Jobs, some of which I hadn’t previously heard.”

Apple’s recruiting efforts reportedly slow down — Apple has been cutting contract recruiters in the past few weeks and dismissing some full-time recruiters as well, meaning the company’s recruiting efforts have slowed, reports VentureBeat, quoting an unnamed “source familiar with the matter.” In all, more than 100 people could be affected by the moves, the article adds.

Skype for Business finally makes its way to the Mac — Microsoft’s new business communication product is finally coming to the Mac after the company launched it for PC users last year.

Earnings call could be low — At 2 PM PT/5 PM ET today, Apple holds its Q2 2016 earnings call to announce how the company fared financially during the past three months. The news is not expected to be pretty – in fact, many analysts believe Apple could report its first quarterly revenue decline in well over a decade.

Infinite Dropbox — Today, Dropbox has taken the wraps off Project Infinite, which makes it possible for individuals or team members to “see” terabytes of files stored in the cloud as if they were stored locally, but not have to sync all of that data locally.

iPad colour management, Microsoft keyboard, worker woes, Apple Watch sales and games

Yes, you can play games on Apple Watch
Yes, you can play games on Apple Watch

With iPad Pro and True Tone, Apple finds reason to nerd out over iOS color management — Every once in a while, Apple rolls out new behind-the-scenes features that are exceptional technical achievements but receive little fanfare. With the launch of the miniature iPad Pro, that focus shifted toward the important-but-impenetrable world of colour management.

Microsoft lets new Word Flow keyboard loose on the App Store with one-handed mode — Those who have a fondness for customising their iPhone keyboard can now do so in a Microsoft-approved fashion with the Redmond software giant’s new Word Flow keyboard for iOS. But Word Flow is only available only in US English for now, and only on the US App Store and there is no word on when — or even if — additional languages might ship. The keyboard is a free, 70.7-megabyte download from the App Store.

Apple supplier Pegatron still using low pay, excessive overtime, watchdog group says — One of Apple’s iPhone manufacturers, Pegatron, is still seeing its labour force put in excessive overtime — something unfortunately necessary for workers to meet basic financial needs, according to China Labor Watch.

This is a flop? Apple Watch debut-year sales double the iPhone in its first year — Despite mixed perceptions about the Apple Watch (high-profile VC Fred Wilson even called it a ‘flop’) analysts reckon the company has sold 12 million to 13 million in the year since its launch. As noted by Seeking Alpha. That’s double the 6M iPhones that were sold in its first 12 months of sales …

Apple Watch games — Here’s a slideshow of the 12 Apple Watch games you ‘should’ play, and developers speak out about the device as a gaming platform.

Macbook teardown, Apple earnings, Photos albums

Image of Apple's new MacBook, from Apple's MacBook page.
Image of Apple’s new MacBook, from Apple’s MacBook page.

MacBook teardown highlights improved battery tech, new SSD controller — A teardown of Apple’s 2016 12-inch MacBook suggests the new model’s better battery life stems from a mix of optimisations and a slightly larger battery, while its improved SSD speeds are linked to an updated proprietary controller.

Apple’s earnings tomorrow — Due to a memorial service for longtime Apple Director, friend of Steve Jobs, and executive mentor Bill Campbell, the earnings call for the second quarter of Apple’s 2016 fiscal year has been delayed until tomorrow. At 2 PM PT/5 PM ET tomorrow, Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri will announce how the company’s fortunes have been changing over the past three months, then take questions from Wall Street analysts. But Apple had 40% of all Silicon Valley profits in 2015.

What happens when you can’t control the album sort order in Photos when synced — When photos are in a specific order in certain albums in Photos, but this hasn’t synced to the iPhone or iPad and the photos are still in random order on those two devices, what do you do?

Peek and Pop, Japanese price cuts, Earth Day and Siri, Monet paintbrush, watchOS 2 SDK

Joy Factory's Monet stylus lets you paint on your iPad
Joy Factory’s Monet stylus lets you paint on your iPad

Apple Store app’s 3D Touch support expanded with Peek and Pop previews — In an update to its official Apple Store app on Thursday, Apple rolled out support for Peek and Pop 3D Touch gestures, a feature that lets users seamlessly preview products, images and other in-app assets.

Apple makes across-the-board cuts to Japanese iPhone prices — Apple on Friday instituted price drops across its entire Japanese iPhone lineup, typically slashing costs by about 10 percent, in what is reported to be a response to a fluctuating yen/dollar exchange rate.

Earth Day Video from Apple: ‘Ask Siri about Liam’ — Siri is, of course, Apple’s virtual assistant, and Liam is Apple’s recycling robot that helped the company recover 2204 pounds of gold in 2015. Siri asks Liam what he’s doing for Earth Day

iPad paintbrush — The Monet Stylus helps you unleash the artistic potential of your tablet or other touchscreen device. It’s designed to feel like a paintbrush in your hand, allowing you to produce sweeping brushstrokes as naturally as you would on a real canvas. It has a pressure-sensitive tip and a generous 165° writing angle. You can order this online, currently, with a discount.

watchOS apps for the App Store must be built with the watchOS 2 SDK starting June 1 — From June 1st, all new watchOS apps submitted to the App Store must be native apps built with the watchOS 2 SDK [software development kit] or later, according to a note on Apple’s developer website.

WWDC, Soda PDFs, Prince, MacFamilyTree 8, OS evolution, Chinese iTunes/iBooks Store shuttering


Apple has closed WWDC 2016 ticket lottery and sent confirmations to the winners — As scheduled, Apple on Friday closed ticket lottery registrations for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference and began sending out email confirmations to the lucky few selected at random to attend the event in June. This year, WWDC will highlight Apple’s four main operating systems, iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS, with attendees able to attend a series of lectures, hands-on labs and meetings with Apple engineers.

Soda PDF offers a decent amount of PDF editing fizz, and it’s free — This Mac utility lets you open, view and print any PDF file. You can also read any PDF file in 3D, read digital comic book files in 3D (.cbr and .cbz), fill and save forms, plus create PDFs from Word, Excel and 300-plus formats. Soda PDF 7 makes it easy to create PDFs directly from scanners or even image files.

Apple honours Prince on Twitter, Tidal takes opportunity to push exclusive streaming catalogue — Apple and Beats executives tweeted messages in tribute of legendary musician Prince, who passed away on Thursday, while Tidal took the opportunity to advertise its exclusive streaming rights to the musician’s catalogue.

Happy birthday, MacFamilyTree, which has grown to version 8 — Happy birthday, MacFamilyTree, which celebrates its 18th birthday. In honour of the achievement, Synium Software has announced MacFamilyTree 8.0, an update to the genealogy software for OS X. The software [which I think is terrific, btw] lets you explore your personal family history and discover your origins, ancestors and how your family has evolved over the course of time. Version 8 assists you entering your data and researching your family tree, and offers dozens of printable and configurable charts and reports, and publishes your family tree as a book or web site with a few clicks. It carries a 50% Update-Discount for everyone until July 17th – no matter if you own a previous version or not: US$29.99 (NZ$44.99) while  MobileFamilyTree 8 for iOS is available for US$9.99.

Evolution of MacOS/OS X and Windows in side-by-side animations — OS X and Windows both have their roots in the 1980s, over 30 years of change, growth, gradual evolution, and in some cases sudden revolution. BetterBuys posted a look back at both operating systems that includes animated GIFs of every major release, from Mac System Software1 to MacOS to OS X 10.11 and Windows 3.0 to Windows 10.

Apple’s iTunes Movies and iBooks Store shuttered by Chinese state agency, report confirms — Following the mysterious shutdown of two major Apple internet services in China last week, a report on Thursday claims the closure was mandated by a state agency in an apparent attempt to control content distribution.