Long USB-C cables, original content, Sonnet Breakaway, Bioshock Remastered


The PSA has found that Thunderbolt 3 cables longer than 0.5m generally don’t support USB 3.1 speeds — USB-C is the future of computer connectivity, at least for Apple users, but there is a great deal of confusion over USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and what any given cable with USB-C connectors is capable of. Put simply, USB-C as a term by itself means nothing about data speed or charging ability — it’s only a description of the physical connector. Thunderbolt 3 at 40Gbit per second has to be USB-C at both ends. USB 3.1 at 5Gbit per second or 10Gbit per second does not. Both share the same physical USB-C connector for the host device.
AppleInsider breaks it all down.

Apple to spend $1B on original content for up to 10 new TV shows over next year — Apple is reportedly budgeting about $1 billion to secure and produce original video over the course of the next year, a figure which may soon make it a competitive force in that arena.

Sonnet’s eGFX Breakaway Box ships — Sonnet Technologies is shipping its eGFX Breakaway Box with 350W power supply, the first in the company’s new series of Thunderbolt 3 to PCI Express (PCIe) expansion chassis for professional graphics and gaming applications.

BioShock Remastered comes to the Mac on August 22 — Feral Interactive has announced that BioShock Remastered, a version of the first-person shooter running in 1080p, will be released for macOS on August 22nd to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the game’s original release. It was originally developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K for Windows and console.

Review ~ Norton Wi-Fi Privacy


A new entrant into the increasingly busy world of wireless and privacy is this pack by Norton, which promises to secure your wireless connection wherever you may, as of course the beauty of wifi is that you don’t need to plug it in. And it’s almost refreshing to get a pack these days, it’s kinda retro. In this case there’s nothing in it apart from some text telling you what to do and a long Licence Key.
But if you, as I do, imagine a wifi zone as a sort of invisible bubble, about 50 metres across in the case of wifi and about 10 for Bluetooth, within which connections can be made to the ’net, it’s a bit hard to monitor who else is in that zone and what interest they may be taking in your devices.
The way Norton WiFi Privacy does this is by the tried-and-true method of setting up a Virt
ual Private Network, or VPN. This is an arrangement whereby a secure, apparently (ie, virtual) private network is achieved using encryption over a public network like the internet.
Typically, your connection is directed to another server, not the expected one, ghosting across the networks, and most VPN services work on a subscription basis – this is no different, with the pack you can buy set to one year and available to be used on macOS, iOS, and also Android and Windows across five devices. So for a family or business trip somewhere for any length of time, this offers a viable solution.

Installation — Open the pack, visit http://www.norton.com/setup, enter the Licence Key, click Next, follow the on-screen instructions. This process installs the relevant software for whatever device you are on. You (inevitably, these days) have to set up an account, or log in if you already have one, click on Enter a new Product Key, you get asked to set up Automatic Renewal (in other words, it takes money out of your account again in one year) but you can Skip, then click Agree & Download. The disk image with the installer downloads (it’s called NortonWiFiPrivacy.dmg), double-click that, drag the Norton WiFi Privacy.app file into the Applications Folder alias the installer puts in that folder for you (this actually installs the app into your actual Applications folder), drag that off your desktop and voila.
Make sure you remember to eject the virtual disk image just as you would a plugged in additional hard drive or USB thumb drive.

The app — Double-click the app and it will launch, probably asking for your (in this case) Mac password to complete installation, sign in with that Norton’s account you set up online, and voila, like most VPNs I was thrown straight off Netflix, as Netflix is sensitive to VPNs ever since it was discovered people were ghosting their connections as if from America to get a much broader selection of titles. The app is installed into your top-right menu which has the following options: the cogwheel icon that’s shorthand for Settings/Preferences, a silhouette of a person that takes you to your Account Settings, and below that three tabs: WiFi Privacy, Virtual location (where it appears you are connecting from) and Ad Tracking.
The first tab lets you toggle the VPN on or off by clicking the big round graphic in the middle; Virtual Location not only shows you where you auto-ghosted to but lets you pick a virtual location (from almost 30 countries) and Ad Tracking blocking is an extra feature – as most other VPN services don’t offer this.
Another VPN service I have, VPN Unlimited, certainly does not, just quick connections to VPN servers via security profiles in installs into System Settings>Network. This was one I bought for a fixed price for 5 years; in my case it was less than NZ$50 as I waited for a deal to appear.

Some of the VPN services out there look a little shoddy, and you don’t really know what you’re getting. Or who is actually managing your connection and what they can monitor. This is one by one of the most trusted security companies in the world, with a solid reputation. The ability to block Ad Tracking is a plus, but boy, does this slow your Mac’s internet to a crawl! In my case, down to a Ping of 588 milliseconds, download speed of 8.81Mbps and upload of 12.1Mbps over Gigabit Fibre.
Turning it off bounces straight back to a ping of 3 milliseconds, 270Mbps download and 189Mbps upload – dramatically faster (over Ethernet instead of WiFi I get download figures around 920 for download). Using VPN Unlimited instead, I get a Ping of 51milliseconds, download of 21.1Mbps and upload of 32.7 (all a little odd as normally download speeds are far better than upload).
All these speeds vary over time of day, network load etc, so it’s just an indicator.
In other words, over WiFi, Norton WiFi privacy cuts my connection download speed by 96.7%, whereas VPN Unlimited cuts it by 92%. Bouncing your connection around several servers, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres away in the case of New Zealand, is bound to lead to slowdowns. With VPN running over WiFi we’re ending up back at normal pre-Fibre broadband speeds instead of the rocket speeds we have been able to get over Fibre in the last couple of years. Fine for safe email delivery, sure, and logging onto that bank account, but if you were trying to watch a movie in iTunes somewhere in safety, you’d be tearing your hair out.
Just for the sake of argument, VPN Unlimited over Ethernet instead of WiFi gives me a download speed of 35.9 and upload of 57.1. With Norton’s VPN running, this was better: Ping 74, download 120Mbps and upload 117Mbps, so in this case, using it with Ethernet instead of over WiFi is definitely preferable. (As I’ve said before, wired connections will always be faster – however, in hotels etc, and definitely in cafés and airports, you will almost never have access to a wired connection.)

Conclusion — Despite all that potential security and protection, you’d really want to hope Norton can make this faster.

What’s great — A trusted brand
What’s not — Big slowdown once running
Needs — People needing coverage over several different devices (as the single user price is not as cost effective)

Norton WiFi Privacy NZ$139.99 for 5 users (3 users $119.99, 1 user $89.99)

System — Current and previous two versions of macOS and iOS (and Android 4.0.3 or later, Windows 8 to 10)

More info — Norton NZ

Review ~ moshi symbian compact dock for USB-C Macs


If you have a new MacBook or MacBook Pro, you only have USB-C ports which are wonderful in every single way except one: hardly anyone uses them. Ouch. I mean, they’re faster, daisy-chainable, multi-functional … you know what I mean.
So, to get anywhere with these marvellous machines, you need dongles … dongles that basically step down all these marvellous new capabilities to the boring old tech everything else uses: USB, Ethernet, HDMI … but hey, you can go one better.
A Dock – one device, that only uses one of those precious be-all/end-all USB-C (AKA Thunderbolt 3) and parlays it into a veritable party of those old technology connectors so you can run everything you already have while, best of all, leaving three more of those USB-C ports (in the case of the 15-inch MacBook Pro) for newer technology. Once it shows up.
And these marvellous Docks will set you back a few hundred, but they do a lot of work for the money. I hope to look at Belkin’s and Kensington’s Thunderbolt 3 Docks soon (popularity seems to be affecting supply), but in the meantime, let’s assess this little Moshi contender, the symbus.

Small — This is a very compact (by Dock standards) and thence portable (although it needs its own power supply) USB-C hub. It’s only about the size of a packet of cigarettes – remember those?
The symbus is silver and sits on a fairly substantial, non-slip pedestal and has a fixed USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 cable coming out of the back, about 25cm long, which goes into your Mac, and a power-brick with NZ/AU power supply that plugs in. As for ports, it can’t fit as many as a full-size Dock but its array is well considered and, for many, indispensable: 1000mbps Ethernet, HDM for an external monitor or projector, and 2x USB-A 5Gbps ports.
In turn, plugging in the symbus, since it has a power supply of its own, can push up to 65 watts – enough to charge a MacBook or MacBook Pro 13-inch (the MacBook Pro 15-inch with Touch Bar needs 87 watts, so it’s not up to that). But on compatible Macs, that means another port is released for you.
Symbus will provide power delivery up to 65W for laptop charging. This is enough for MacBooks and MacBook Pros up through the 13-inch model from late 2016, but the 15-inch MacBook Pro (late 2016) with Touch Bar requires 87W of power to charge it.
The USB ports carry different power too. The left-hand USB port is high-speed for charging smartphone and tablets (2.1A). This meant it also ran my Zoom UAC-2 Audio Interface; the other port did not, so the right one’s more for mice, keyboards and other low-power requirements.

The symbius has two USB ports on the front, one Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, the fixed USB-C cable out and the power supply-in on the back.

App for that — Although this is a plug-and-play device, moshi has an an app in the Mac App store (free) called the USB-C Dock Utility which adds the features of letting you eject any USB devices plugged into the Dock at once, it indicates Ethernet status and lets you update firmware on the symbus should it be available.
This installs into your more amenable (to customisation) right-side menus at the top of your monitor.

Alternatives — Moshi also makes a USB-C Multiport Adapter, a 3-in-1 hub that supports 1080p and 4K video output to HDMI plus one USB port, with a pass-through USB-C port so it can also be used to charge a MacBook, for NZ$140. https://www.moshi.com/usb-c-multiport-adapter )

Conclusion — A handy compact Dock, in effect, that limits itself to the most useful features in a small form factor (Ethernet, HDMI and two USB ports). However, some devices need the high power port (some audio interfaces) and you’ll need to remember that’s the left-hand-one, not the right-hand-one.

What’s great — Attractive, small, portable, slick and very useful
What’s not — Good luck finding one. Moshi is still setting up retail sales in New Zealand. It’s also expensive for only four ports, it’s getting near the prices of much bigger Docks with 10 ports like the Kensington (NZ$380, but only charges to 60w) or Belkin ($640 but charges to 85w)
Needs — Anyone wanting to free up one or more ports, and those who prefer faster (than wifi) internet access, as I do, with Ethernet.

Left: my wifi speeds over Gigabit fibre; right over Ethernet (higher numbers = faster). Physical wires are always faster than over the air.

Moshi symbus Compact docking station NZ$269.99 (US$124.95)
System — Any USB-C or Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop – Thunderbolt-3 compatible and 100% plug-n-play, no drivers needed, although firmware updates are available through the free moshi app. HDMI port for adding an external display (4K@30Hz, 1080p@60Hz); Gigabit Ethernet port for wired data transfer up to 1000 Mbps; 2xUSB-A ports for connecting a keyboard, mouse, or hard drive; USB PD function for fast-charging USB-C laptops (up to 50W, which does not include the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar) with integrated Smart LED charging indicator (for Macs that are supported)
More information — Moshi

iOS Public Beta 5, locking down AirDrop, ARKit demos


Mac Observer has placed all the Apple ARKIt demos it can find in one YouTube List

Apple releases iOS 11 Public Beta 5, speeding up the release cycle — Apple has released iOS 11 Public Beta 5. Mac Observer noted earlier that Apple released developer betas just one week after the last developer betas. That, plus a same-day release of a new public beta shows that Apple is speeding up its release cycle. Apple release iOS 11 Public Beta 4 last Tuesday, just six days before.

How to secure AirDrop on your iPhone to prevent unwanted photos — Reports have circulated that miscreants are sending unsolicited, inappropriate images to people in US public venues. While Apple’s default settings prevent this, AppleInsider shows you how to check the setting, and lock it down, if you’ve changed it for some reason.

Watch lots of ARKit Demos in one place — ARKit, Apple’s answer to augmented reality (AR) on iOS, has become tremendously popular already. Folks have posted quite a few ARKit demos on YouTube since Apple’s announcement of of the software development kit at WWDC 2017. Mac Observer will add to it as more ARKit demonstrations come on our radar.

Mac laptops up, 4th in brands, Aurora HDR 2018, macOS Public Beta 5, cellphone data concerns, Canadian dollar bond, eclipse map, another Dock, Video File List


Mac laptop sales are up 17.1% quarter-over-quarter — Apple sold an estimated 3.98 million Mac laptops in the second quarter of the 2017 calendar year for a quarter-on-quarter increase of 17.1%, according to TrendForce. The tech giant now ties for fifth place among the top global notebook brands, notes the market research firm.

Apple number four on NetBase’s list of the ‘most loved global brands’ — NetBase, which specializes in enterprise social analytics, has released its “3rd Annual NetBase Brand Passion Report: Top 100 Global Brand Love List.” Apple is in the top 10 of the most loved global brands at number 4.

Macphun announces the release of Aurora HDR 2018 that arrives in September — Except for being available for Mac and Windows, the new Aurora HDR 2018 will get a completely new user interface, become significantly faster and get some new features, like Lens Correction and much more. Get the sneak peek of what’s coming below. Don’t forget to check out the additional presets, if you have Aurora, either; some are free.

Apple releases macOS High Sierra Public Beta 5 — Along with developer beta updates for iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, Apple also released macOS High Sierra public beta 5 (build 17A344b). Like the developer beta, it includes bug fixes and other improvements.

Apple, Facebook, Google & others sign brief concerned about warrantless location tracking — Several high-profile technology companies, including Apple, have submitted a amicus brief in a key case at the US Supreme Court, expressing concerns about warrantless police access to cellphone location data.

Apple to borrow again with company’s first-ever Canadian dollar bond — Apple’s international borrowing continues to expand to new countries, with the company revealing in a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Tuesday that it will offer its first debt offering in Canadian dollars.

Interactive map shows solar eclipse details in your browser — The 2017 solar eclipse that’ll be visible from coast to coast in the continental United States is only a week away, so you’re running out of time to get ready for the once in a lifetime event in that hemisphere, here’s a great list of tips to help you enjoy the August 21st event, but there’s always room for more — like this awesome interactive web-based map that shows the eclipse details wherever you click.

StarTech’s Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station provides full power delivery and lots of connectivity options — *StarTech’s US$405 Thunderbolt 3 Docking Station with Full Power Delivery is one of the first (perhaps the first) docking stations on the market that provides full power delivery for Thunderbolt 3 enabled Mac and Windows platforms, so it’s perfect for Thunderbolt 3-equipped MacBook Pros. The StarTech device packs a 170W power adapter for efficient powering and charging (up to 85W). Most Docks don’t, and can only charge-up MacBooks and MacBook Pro 13s – not 15s.
[*I haven’t seen this brand in new Zealand.]

Lakehorn AG introduces Video File List 1.0 for macOS — Lakehorn AG has introduced Video File List 1.0 for macOS. The app is used to find out more about any collection of movies files.

High-tech iDevice guitar, Smart Connectors, Sony CarPlay, Apple and Aetna


Self-contained, Smart Fusion guitar launches with iPhone/iPad integration — The line of US$1399 Fusion Guitars are now available online to musicians in the US. Billed as “the world’s most advanced electric guitar” they allow musicians to unplug, learn and create music just about anywhere. Incorporating a built-in amp, speakers and iPhone integration for access to tones, guitar effects and apps, these next generation musical instruments have lots of features. [Not exactly slim-line, though…]

Apple says more Smart Connector products for iPad Pro are coming — A recent conversation with manufacturers mostly points the finger at Apple for slow rollout of Smart Connector peripherals, but Apple itself says that vendors have products in the pipeline using the technology.
Apple’s Smart Connector debuted with the iPad Pro in the fall of 2015. At present, the connector is seen on the entire iPad Pro line, including the new 10.5-inch iPad Pro. It has yet to debut on the iPhone, despite being rumored for inclusion in the iPhone 7.
The only peripherals for it at present are made by Apple itself, or Logitech.

Upcoming Sony in-car audio systems will support Apple CarPlay — Sony Electronics has announced its XAV-AX200 and MEX-GS820BT in-car audio systems, which include support for Apple’s CarPlay. Both will be available by year’s end, but pricing hasn’t been announced.

Apple, Aetna, major hospital chains allegedly teaming up for customer discounts on Apple Watch — Apple reportedly held a number of discussions with Aetna in the beginning of August to see how to best bring the Apple Watch to the 23 million customers of the insurer.

Chinese iCloud overwatch, Surface tensions, Google pays Apple billions, AR’s inexorable rise


Chinese government sets up committee to watch over Apple’s new iCloud data centre — China’s Guizhou province is setting up a working committee specifically to oversee Apple’s new data centre in the region, which was established to comply with cybersecurity laws that went into effect earlier this year. [As in you’re secure unless you criticise the regime.]

Leaked Microsoft memo points to high initial return rates for Surface Book & Surface Pro 4 — Problems with the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 may be responsible for Consumer Reports’s recent decision not to recommend the Surface line as a whole, a leaked Microsoft memo suggests.

Analyst: Google will pay Apple $3 billion this year for remain the default iOS search engine — In a note to clients , Bernstein analyst AM Sacconaghi Jr says Google will pay Apple $3 billion this year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. Google paid Apple $1B billion for the privilege in 2014.

Spending on AR, VR predicted to double (or more) every year through to 2021 — Good news for Apple and its ARKit: worldwide revenues for the augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) market are forecast to increase by 100% or more over each of the next four years, according to the latest update to the Worldwide Semiannual Augmented and Virtual Reality Spending Guide from the International Data Corporation (IDC).

More about coming iOS 11, AirPods control expanding, silent song successfully expresses frustration, Watch GoT heart rate spikes


How to use Apple’s native Screen Recording feature in iOS 11 — One potentially useful feature coming to this next iOS 11 is a native Screen Recording option on the iPhone and iPad. Here’s how you will be able to make use of it, including embedding results into a video.

Also in iOS 11, AirPods controls will expand with separate left/right earpiece taps, skip track ability — Apple’s AirPods are currently limited to a trio of controls on both earpieces, but their functionality will be greatly enhanced this southern spring (northern autumn) with the release of iOS 11, giving users the ability to give each wireless pod a separate, customizable function with a double tap.

Song meant to spoof car audio systems climbs into top 50 on Apple’s iTunes charts — A track consisting of nothing but 9 minutes and 58 seconds of silence is currently sitting at 49th place in Apple’s iTunes charts, apparently out of frustration with the way many car audio systems work. Called A a a a a Very Good Song, the NZ$.1.79/US99-cent track released by Samir Mezrahi copes with the fact that many audio systems will simply play tracks in alphabetical order whenever an iPhone connects via USB. [The lyrics are very meaningful. Well, at least as meaningful as most of the crap available, anyway, while being easier to listen to.]

Apple Watch app tracks viewer heart rate spikes during Game of Thrones Fans of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones are more excited by dialogue than by action scenes, according to a study by heart monitoring app Cardiogram of Apple Watch users. Four out of the top five scenes to cause high pulse rates in viewers centred around drama between characters, rather than violence, the Cardiogram app found. [I find that strangely encouraging!]

13 MacBook Pro vs 15, Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock, Apple and Irish tax, Ulysses subscriber, Screens 4, Commander One, Atlas Recall


Video: 13″ vs. 15″ 2017 MacBook Pro: which Apple notebook is right for you? Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup was recently updated with faster processors and more affordable configurations, but choosing the best model for your needs can be a tough decision. AppleInsider brings some clarity to the situation, helping you narrow down your choices in a video. Meanwhile, Mac Observer takes issue with Business Insider’s article about Apple still selling old and expensive computers, and these are the ones you shouldn’t buy.

Review: Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Express Dock HD solid choice, but little sets it apart from alternatives — Belkin has refreshed its line of Thunderbolt docks for the MacBook Pro’s Thunderbolt 3, but besides full charging power for the 15-inch MacBook Pro, Apple Insider thinks the new version doesn’t do enough to distinguish it from competitors.

Apple & Ireland ‘close to deal’ to protect government from losses while holding $17.7B in escrow — Apple and the Irish government are reportedly nearing a deal that would shield the latter from losses incurred while holding up to $17.7 billion in Apple cash, including interest – money that may be due in back taxes following a 2016 European Commission ruling.

Writing tool Ulysses for macOS, iOS shifts to monthly US$4.99 subscription model — Effective immediately, writing tool Ulysses is switching to a subscription model after having been a paid app for iOS and macOS since launch.

Screen sharing tool Screens 4 for macOS and iOS gains Touch Bar support, improved file transfer — Screens 4 by Edovia lets you see and control the screen of one Mac from another. Wherever you are in the world, you can get your own files, see your own documents and even run apps you don’t have with you. Screens 4.1.1 costs US$29.99, and requires macOS 10.11 or newer. The iOS version sells for US$19.99, does not require the Mac version to work, and requires iOS 10.

Commander One is a useful Finder enhancer for ‘power users’ — Eltima’s Commander One is a handy Finder enhancer that’s great for macOS power users, plus, the latest version is 100% written in Apple’s Swift programming language.

Find anything fast on your Mac with the Atlas Recall app and service — If you wrote it, read it or saw it on your Mac, Atlas Recall can find it again swiftly and easily. Atlas Recall is a Mac app with an iPhone companion that you leave running all the time. While Spotlight indexes your hard disk, Atlas Recall instead watches all you do and takes notes. [Crikey, who wants that??]

The Apocalypticon ~ Fury and ‘frankly power’, Satan’s heat, Russian NSA hacks, Lesser Cocking, Silicon wasters, victimising women, Thiel spies, life-saving Apple, airline hate


Trump offers North Korea fire and fury. [Oh, you thought I was joking with this blog?] The oh-so-really-really eloquent one said “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” said Trump. “They will be met with fire, fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”
[I bet Trump was a real a-hole even at kindergarten.] One has to wonder, when will we finally die out? Futurists, anthropologists, science fiction authors and others have been asked this question by Gizmodo.

Meanwhile, North Korea has secret plans to attack Guam. We know this, because North Korea stated “The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the KPA [Korean People’s Army] will cross the sky above Shimani, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures of Japan,” the statement said. “They will fly for 3356.7 km for 1065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40km away from Guam.” [Oh my God, how will we work out what North Korea is planning? Fiendish!!]

Meanwhile, Europe is already suffering the heat of Satan. At least two people have died over the course of the heat wave, which caused temperatures to spike as high as 44°C (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in southern Spain and 40°C in the French Riviera. Temperatures were forecast as high as slightly over 42°C in mainland Greece. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if this heat wave could be correlated with all those other heat waves across the world, or the inexplicable trend of the planet breaking global heat records on a regular basis. [Nope, You’re just being silly, Gizmodo.]
Talking about Satan … Monsanto has been editing its own ‘independent’ product reports.

But wait! A global investment firm has also warned of an almost unheard-of phenomenon called Global Climate Change. A leading British global investment firm has a warning for its clients: if we keep consuming oil and gas at current rates, our planet is on course to experience a rise in global average temperatures of nearly 8°C (14°F) by the end of the century. This would make Earth basically uninhabitable for humans. [Whereas I thought investment firms were uninhabitable by humans. You see? Delusion is hardly exclusive.] And hey, now there’s a game for that. [This will be As Much Fun as TV3’s The Project.]

Russian hotel hackers use NSA tool — A Russian espionage campaign has used Wi-Fi networks to spy on high-value hotel guests [that’s me safe then], and recently started using a leaked NSA hacking tool to upgrade their attacks. But maybe it’s not the Russians we should be fearing so much, at least with election fraud?

AI and Lesser Cocking Vestibulaton … Artificial intelligence networks have already come to the rescue of craft brewers, metal bands and guinea pig owners who are looking for wacky new names. Now, digital consultant Dan Hon wants to use those same neural networks to help Britain come up with even more amusing place names. This from the country that’s already come up with locales such as Papplewick, Blubberhouses and Picklescott and which called a river The Piddle. [I’m still reeling from the ‘Buttcombe Ale’ I spotted on tap in a Birmingham pub a few years back.]

Coasters are millionaire Silicon Valleyites who do virtually [get it?] nothing for loads of money. Yes it’s a thing. Aspirational?

And while we’re talking about rich a-holes, Peter Thiel, who recently got special citizenship in that citadel of freedom, New Zealand, on the special circumstances that he was a rich a-hole, apparently [this is always guaranteed to super-impress National politicians] has been selling Palantir data storage, analysis, and collaboration software to police departments throughout the US. Most of Palintir’s business, though, is with the military. [Doesn’t that just make you feel all safe and snuggly? And yes, LoTR fans, you’re right about the implications of the system’s name.]

An image site victimises countless women, and almost nothing can be done about it. No, this isn’t fake news, unfortunately, being spread by ‘social’ bots.

Apple refuses to enable tech that would ‘save lives’ — Apple is still ignoring requests to enable a feature called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS. Enabling AML would give emergency services extremely accurate locations of emergency calls made from iPhones, dramatically decreasing response time. Google’s successful implementation of AML for Android is ‘already saving lives’. [And also, of course, enable you to be tracked with pinpoint accuracy by Agents of Despond like Peter Thiel.]

And you know I always like to end on a positive note: there’s a new way to tell airlines you hate them. Two airlines have dipped their wings into the waters of two-way texting. Hawaiian Holdings’s Hawaiian Airlines is adding the feature while JetBlue Airways took a stake in a software startup that will allow its call centre staff to start texting customers in the coming months. And they’re inviting you to ask questions, and maybe even complain. [Maybe?!]

Futurology ~ Einstein’s test, Trappist music, big Dawn, moon cellphone, accelerator gold mine, ancient deep, Sahara Solar for EU, app injects AR, NZ Tesla salt power, squishy robot future, ancient skull


Another Einstein theory passes another test — A team of scientists used 20 years of data from several telescopes to watch how three stars orbited the centre of our own Milky Way Galaxy, Sagittarius A*. They have created a general relativity theory test in a mass regime that isn’t well-tested today. The theory checks out, yet again, for Albert Einstein’s expanded theory of motion and gravity, the theory of general relativity.
~ For now.

Program allows you to make songs with the sounds of planets orbiting the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 — The player is part of a bigger program, aptly called System Sounds, which is the brainchild of a group of astronomers who have been studying the “resonant chain” of the TRAPPIST-1 star’s seven Earth-sized exoplanets, which were announced to the world back in February. A resonant chain describes how the alien planets’ gravitational tugs work together to keep them all in stable and circular orbits around each other and their host star.
TRAPPIST-1 represents the longest resonant chain “that has ever been discovered in a planetary system“.
~ Team with Belgian beer. Mmm. 

Massive spacecraft reporting back on asteroids — Dawn is 19.8 metres (65 feet) from tip to tip and it has an ion drive! But Dawn also has a serious job to do. Launched in 2007, it has been investigating Ceres and Vesta, two mysterious protoplanets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. These are smallish, truly ancient bodies, remnants of the early solar system (protoplanets are bodies that formed early on, some of which turned into actual planets like Earth) with plenty of secrets to tell – secrets that Dawn has been unravelling.
~ Ion drives start slow, but after 10 years Dawn is travelling at 40,233kph (25,000 miles per hour). 

Cellphone tower for the moon — The German company Part Time Scientists, which originally competed for the Google Lunar X Prize race to the moon, plans to send a lander with a rover in late 2018 to visit the landing site of Apollo 17 (NASA’s final Apollo mission to the moon, in 1972.) Instead of using a complex dedicated telecommunication system to relay data from the rover to Earth, the company plans to rely on LTE technology – the same system used on Earth for mobile phone communications – because the German startup is preparing to set up the first telecommunication infrastructure on the lunar surface.
~ Boy, aliens are going to love this. 

Particle accelerator in gold mine searches the stars — It took more than the 10 minutes to get down, the accelerator was sent so deep,  with the elevator slowed to a crawl to protect Caspar’s delicate, antique belt and pulley as it descended from the ground floor to the “4850 Level”— this is 1478 metres (4850 feet) underground, where the dirt floors are studded with metal tracks and a light breeze blows. The Caspar team wants to learn how stars a little older than the sun synthesize heavy elements.
~ Well, isn’t that the burning question on everybody’s lips?

Ancient deep-sea creature discoveries — Last month, scientists aboard the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer visited a poorly-explored deep sea area about 1500km west of Hawaii. From giant sea spiders and rare snailfish through to comb jellies and glass-like corals, these are some of the weirdest critters we’ve seen in a while.
~ Clearly they haven’t watched the New Zealand parliament live feed. 

Sahara solar could help power the EU — In the global race to ditch fossil fuel reliance for more renewable energy sources, Europe is already making some impressive strides. That is likely to ramp up considerably thanks to a new European Union plan to build a large solar plant in the Sahara desert with the ability to generate enough power to keep much of Europe juiced up.
~ Endangering 12 lizards and three scorpions. 

Gaming company turning Starcraft into an AI lab — The new release of the StarCraft II API on the Blizzard side includes a Linux package made to run in the cloud, and with support for Mac (and that other platform). It also has support for offline AI vs. AI matches, and those anonymized game replays from actual human players for training up agents, which is starting out at 65,000 complete matches, and will grow to over 500,000 over the course of the next few weeks. StarCraft II is such a useful environment for AI research basically because of how complex and varied the games can be, with multiple open routes to victory for each individual match.
~ So one day, super intelligence can win a pointless game of something. 

iOS app injects the internet internet into real life — Mirage is an iOS app that’s the first to marry augmented reality’s hidden-world appeal with social media’s shareable, re-mixable content. And in doing so, it’s making AR not simply a technology of curiosity, but one of connection.
~ You know, it’s ‘augmenting’ reality. 

New Zealand salt gets Tesla power — A 250kW Tesla Powerpack system has been integrated with a a 660kW wind turbine at a a salt manufacturing factory at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. The first project of its kind in Australasia, it’s about to be switched on.
Vector Energy Solutions is the company working with Dominion Salt to integrate the battery storage system, which aims to meet 75% of the site’s energy needs on-site, rather than from the national grid. The system will be fully functional before the end of the year, Vector reckons.
~ Sustainable salt …

Squishy robot future — Many researchers advancing the field of robotics are actually engineering simpler bots designed to reliably perform very basic tasks. So instead of one day facing a terrifying future filled with terminators, these squishy rolling doughnuts might be our biggest threat. Yoichi Masuda and Masato Ishikawa detail their work on these bots in a paper, Development of a Deformation-driven Rolling Robot with a Soft Outer Shell, published for the 2017 IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics. The researchers have designed this robot to function like the simplest of machines: the wheel, in this case made from a soft material that’s squished and stretched by a set of four wires connected to an inner core.
~ Easy to pack and carry, as well. 

13-million-year old skull tantalises — The unexpected discovery of a 13 million-year-old infant ape skull in Kenya is offering a tantalising glimpse of a new species that lived well before humans and apes embarked upon their very different evolutionary paths.
~ It’s a remarkable discovery as a complete skull this old has never been found before. 

Five Tip Friday ~ for iOS and Apple Watch


1/ Change the Playlist pictures in iOS Music — By default, playlists within the Music app use the albums’ artwork as their identifying image. But you can take a picture to use or grab one from your Photos library: here’s how on iPhone/iPad.
Open the Music app, and then click on the Library tab to visit the Playlists section.
Touch the one you’d like to change the picture on, and tap the Edit button at top right on the subsequent screen.
In this editing mode, you’ll see a small photo icon appear on the playlist’s image at top left – tap that.
You’ll be given an option to either take a photo or choose one from your library.Choose, or take, and tap Done to finish the job.
The change will sync to your other devices if you’re using iCloud Music Library. Cool, right?

2/ Use your Apple Watch to auto unlock your Mac — Apple added a feature in macOS Sierra and watchOS 3 called Auto Unlock. This lets you automatically unlock your Mac by waking it up. It’s handy to use and easy to set up if you have an Apple Watch running watchOS 3 and a mid-2013 or newer Mac running macOS Sierra 10.2 or newer.
First you’ll need to set up two-factor authentication for your Apple ID, as this doesn’t work with two-step verification. Apple has a support page to switch from verification to authentication (Mac Observer has an article on setting up 2FA here).
Once that’s set up, turn on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on your Mac. You’ll also need to be signed into your Watch and Mac with the same Apple ID and your Mac can’t be using Internet Sharing. Check to make sure in System Preferences > Sharing. Next, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy.
Both your Mac and Apple Watch need to be set up with a passcode. On your Watch, go to Settings > Passcode > Turn Passcode On. On your Mac, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups > Change Password.
Now on your Mc, click on the Apple icon () in the upper left corner of your screen.
Click System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General.
Check the box next to Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.
It will take a couple of seconds to activate. Now, the next time you need to wake up your Mac, Apple Watch auto unlock will automatically unlock it. It’s just magic.

3/ Ditch the Honeycomb App Grid in watchOS 4 — Along with the Developer Beta 1 of iOS 11, Apple also recently released the first preview version of watchOS 4. This developer beta (so still not generally available to everyone) brings some under-the-hood enhancements, new watch faces and more intelligence and fitness features. It also includes something that wasn’t announced – you can now ditch the awkward honeycomb app grid and instead get a list of your installed apps:
Press the Digital Crown to get to your Apple Watch Home screen. Then, Force Touch the screen and a brand new configuration panel shows up.
Choose between grid view or list view.
Once you’ve made the switch, you can scroll normally through your apps in a list, sorted alphabetically. You can also rotate the Digital Crown to move through your apps, which are sorted alphabetically.
There isn’t any way to rearrange your apps in List View, at least for now. Bear in mind, though, this is still only Developer Beta 1 of watchOS 4 so more changes may be yet to come in future beta versions of the wearable operating system. The developer beta is available now, and the full release is expected in northern autumn 2017.
(It’s also worth noting that watchOS 4 will leave some iPhone owners out in the cold. It requires a paired iPhone 5S or later with iOS 11 to download and install. This is because Apple has removed 32-bit device support in iOS 11. Devices like the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, and iPhone 5C are only 32-bit devices, so they aren’t supported by the latest version of the operating system.)

4/ iMazing — You know how getting files off an iPhone or iPad onto a Mac can be a mission, mostly because AirDrop only works sometimes? An app for macOS called iMazing changes all that. It’s not cheap though: a single license for iMazing costs US$39.99, a universal license is US$49.99, or you can get five licenses US$69.99 (for both Windows and Mac). all you need to do to unleash this power is plug your iPhone/iPad into your Mac with the charge cable (since it’s USB at the end that goes into the power charger). For example, via iTunes, it’s easy to transfer music from Mac to iPhone or iPad. What if you want to export tracks off your iOS device? That’s not possible in iTunes, but it’s a snap with iMazing: select the media files you want, whether they’re songs, movies, TV shows, podcasts, or audiobooks, then click Export to Folder, and iMazing will happily transfer them to your hard drive. It’s even smart about it, recognising the tracks you already have in iTunes and leaving them alone.

5/ Archive and even print Messages — If you want to save your text messages and iMessage conversations to your desktop, or even print them, with iMazing you can. It doesn’t matter if you want a PDF, text document, comma-separated values (CSV, like a spreadsheet) file, or a full printout of your messages, this app can handle it. You can also export attachments separately, for those times when you want to get a bunch of images out of your text message history.

There’s lots more about this app at Mac Observer.

Portrait mode, Titanfall Assault, Ristar, AirPlay 2, Wicked Brainstorm allows brainstorming within Messages


Apple’s Portrait Mode in iPhone 7 Plus and iOS 11 exits beta, allows effect to be turned off after the fact — In the latest iOS 11 beta, Apple has taken the Portrait Mode camera setting out of beta, and has altered how the camera roll handles the pictures to allow for the effect to be removed from a picture using it at any time.

Titanfall: Assault real-time strategy title lands on iPhone, Sega Forever drive expands with Ristar — Two major titles have arrived on iPhone and iPad as free-to-play titles this week, with Nexon’s Titanfall: Assault introducing real time strategy to the battlefield-based franchise, while Ristar has been ported to iOS a full 22 years after its first release on the Sega Genesis.

Watch: AirPlay 2 delivers speaker integration with HomeKit, Siri support, more — When iOS 11 launches this fall, Apple will roll out a revamped version of its AirPlay protocol featuring speaker support for HomeKit, multi-room audio, shared up-next playlists, Siri integration and more, as you can see in the video at this link.

Wicked Brainstorm lets you brainstorm up a storm in iOS Message — It can be very handy to be able to brainstorm with folks. However, it hasn’t been practical using Messages on your iPhone or iPad.
Now it is, thanks to Wicked Brainstorm. Before using the app, brainstorming buddies would see all ideas mixed in with every other text message. With Wicked Brainstorm, those ideas are gathered together, yet still kept within Messages. When you’re done, you can turn the brainstormed list into a checklist and even vote as a group on the best ideas. It’s a free app, too.

 

Apple Mac, iPhone & iPad news for New Zealanders

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