Recent Articles By Andrew Orr [RSS]

German Apple Pay to Launch Soon

· Andrew Orr · News

Heads up Apple customers in Germany: German Apple Pay is launching soon. Banks like HVB and Bunq have already sent out emails to customers.

Google Just Open-Sourced a Machine Learning Technique

· Andrew Orr · Link

Google has made a particular machine learning technique open-source. It’s called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), used for natural language processing (NLP).

With this release, anyone in the world can train their own state-of-the-art question answering system (or a variety of other models) in about 30 minutes on a single Cloud TPU, or in a few hours using a single GPU.

For more technical details Google released a white paper called BERT: Pre-training of Deep Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding.

Examining Smartphone Environmental Impact

· Andrew Orr · Link

Researchers from McMaster University set out to examine smartphone environmental impact. Their study shows that buying a new phone consumes as much energy as using a phone for ten years.

Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.

What Advertisers Think of Safari Anti-Tracking

· Andrew Orr · News

Apple built a new Safari anti-tracking feature into its browser. Advertisers aren’t happy about it, which means it’s great for users.

Here's The Only iPad Pro Review You'll Need

· Andrew Orr · Link

Rene Ritchie’s iPad Pro review is the only one you’ll need. 90% of these reviews are written by jaded tech reporters who can’t get over the “But can it replace a computer?” question, to which most of them shout an indignant “NO!”

I like Rene’s writing because in my opinion he seems to write from the perspective of the average, everyday consumer. Whereas many tech reporters write things from their own point of view, which may not reflect their audience. His iPad Pro review has useful information, and I definitely recommend it.

Walmart App Adds AR Product Scanning

· Andrew Orr · News

The Walmart app received a new function recently: Customers can use the AR scanning tool for product comparisons.

Inside Look at MacStadium's Mac Mini Server Farm

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Remember at Apple’s keynote where we saw that a company had created a Mac mini server farm? That was MacStadium, and YouTuber Snazzy Labs visited the place. Besides Mac Minis, the company also has racks of the 2013 Mac Pro, and MacStadium recently added some iMac Pros. Since there aren’t a lot of companies doing this, MacStadium had to build custom server racks to house the minis. The company uses VM software in order to avoid needing expensive internal storage. The Mac Pros have had their internal storage removed entirely, and the minis boot off of the Mac Pros to create a giant external storage enclosure. The video is a fascinating glimpse into MacStadium, which is a company that provides the server farm as an “infrastructure-as-a-service.”

iPad Pro Finally a Capable Computer for Everyday Consumers

· Andrew Orr · Link

Jesus Diaz writes how he replaced his MacBook Pro with a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and hasn’t looked back since.

I’m able to do everything I used to do with my MacBook on my 12.9-inch iPad Pro…If you are thinking that an iPad with a keyboard is a laptop, you are wrong. The iPad is better than a laptop. Better than any other computer I’ve used before. And I’ve been looking for the perfect computer for a long time.

I’d love to get my hands on the new 11-inch iPad Pro, and my plan will be the same. I only ever use my MacBook Pro for writing and web browsing, and an iPad would be the perfect replacement for me.

Proposed Bill Would Jail Executives Who Mishandle Customer Data

· Andrew Orr · Link

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) proposed an early draft of a bill that would create harsher penalties for companies that mishandle customer data.

Wyden’s draft proposal, called the Consumer Data Protection Act, would give the FTC more authority and resources to police the use of data by adding a total of 175 new staff. Under the proposal, the FTC would also be allowed to fine companies up to 4 percent of revenue for a first offense.

The legislation would also create a centralized Do Not Track list meant to let consumers stop companies from sharing their data with third parties, or from using it for targeted advertising.

I think this sounds fantastic. Companies like Equifax that put Americans in danger by not properly securing our data should be heavily fined. Having the executives jailed is a bonus.

This 2MB Image Contains Entire Works of Shakespeare

· Andrew Orr · Link

A man named David Buchanan fit the entire works of William Shakespeare in a 2MB image. It’s an example of steganography, and it’s quite cool.

“So basically, I wrote a script which parses a JPG file and inserts a big blob of ICC metadata,” he said. “The metadata is carefully crafted so that all the required ZIP headers are in the right place.” This process was quite fiddly, he added, saying it took a few hours to complete, although he wrote the script itself over a span of a couple of months.

Since it’s a JPG image, you’ll have to unzip it via Terminal. Open Terminal, type unzip then drag and drop the image in. Unless you opened Terminal inside a specific folder, it will extract everything to your home directory.

Here's How Apple Watch Changed The World

· Andrew Orr · Link

John Biggs writes how the Apple Watch changed the world. Not just the watch industry, but people in general.

Watch analysts believe that Apple created a halo effect. Of the millions of people who bought and wore an Apple Watch, a majority had never worn or thought about wearing a watch. Once they tried the Apple Watch, however, and outfitted it with leather bands, fancy Milanese loops and outfit-matching colors, the attitude changed. If wearing watches is so fun and expressive, why not try other, more storied pieces?

China Wants Other Countries to use Great Firewall Tech

· Andrew Orr · Link

China is exporting its Great Firewall tech to other authoritarian countries, like Russia and Uganda, so they can censor their citizens better.

A new report from Freedom House — a US government-funded NGO — supports this. During 2018, the authors found, “internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year.”

“A cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems,” Freedom House said.

Publishers are Drooling Over These Tiny Books

· Andrew Orr · Link

Book publishers want to breathe new life into the industry by making tiny books the size of a smartphone.

This month, Dutton, which is part of Penguin Random House, began releasing its first batch of mini books, with four reissued novels by the best-selling young-adult novelist John Green. The tiny editions are the size of a cellphone and no thicker than your thumb, with paper as thin as onion skin. They can be read with one hand — the text flows horizontally, and you can flip the pages upward, like swiping a smartphone.

I know this is a moot point but I already have smartphone-sized books inside my smartphone. Still though, I’m sure these will be popular among commuters and travelers.