A long time ago in this galaxy, Steve Jobs thought the 7-inch class iPad would be a bad idea. There wouldn’t be enough room to create great apps, he said. The rest of the tablet market jumped in anyway, and Apple just had to follow. Think education. But Mr. Jobs was right. The 7.9-inch experience wasn’t that great for anything but iOS. Phablets arrived. And so, John ponders the demise of Apple’s iPad mini.
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Dr. Phil Plait is an astronomer and a very popular science communicator. His blog, Bad Astronomy, “covers the entire universe, from subatomic particles to the Big Bang itself, astronomy, space exploration, and the effect of politics on science.” Like many young astronomers, Phil’s interest in astronomy ignited when he first saw Saturn and its rings through a telescope. He earned his Ph.D. working on the study of supernovae with the Hubble Space Telescope. We chatted about his career, his enduring work in amateur astronomy with his telescope, his love for science communication, why people who don’t believe in the Apollo moon landings are wrong, the study of a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet collision with Earth, how climate change is affecting us, and the recent discovery of a nearby solar system with Earth-like planets.
Artificial Intelligence agents started out as friendly voices that could answer some simple questions. We’re in a new phase now in which AI agents can order goods and control our home. Recently, Google tried to jump to another level when it introduced an ad into a morning briefing. We can see where this is going, and it’s not good.
We write here a lot of about small drones. Amazon wants to deliver packages with drones. Drones have taken breathtaking aerial views of Apple Park. But what happens when one of the larger drones accidentally slams into a human being? Time for the automotive crash-test dummies to step up and tell the story! Well, the instrumentation does. Bloomberg has a great story on “Crashing Drones into Test Dummies for Safety” Watch a drone disintegrate as it strikes a crash-test dummy. It’s a battle of the bots. All for human safety, of course.
Paul Hayes at Sky & Telescope has written a great tip about how to use the iPhone’s accessibility features to turn the iPhone’s entire display a specific color profile. For example, if you need to shade the iPhone’s entire display permanently reddish in order to preserve night-time dark adaption, you can do that. This technique would be particularly handy for amateur astronomers. While some astronomy apps have this feature, this tip applies to the iPhone’s display across the board. The tip is beautifully described, including an explanation of accessibility shortcuts, and also invites exploration for those who have certain kinds of color blindness. Check it out.
John has had his Apple Watch for just under two years and is loving it. He can’t imagine reverting to his old, dumb watch. As Fleetwood Mac said, “Never Going Back Again.” Here’s a list of eight things he can’t live without.
Recently, Fast Company published an article on “Why Employees At Apple And Google Are More Productive.” It’s probably true. John Martellaro dug into the article and found things to like as well as things to expand on based on his own experiences.
Michael Gartenberg is currently the analyst in residence for iMore.com. Before that, he spent three years as Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, reporting directly to Senior VP Phil Schiller. In his second appearance on Background Mode, we caught up on the latest news and things we couldn’t get to last summer. Michael told me about the nuances of being an Apple marketing manager and Apple’s different marketing groups. He explained how one just has to already know what to do as an Apple employee. Then he discussed his fondness for the iPhone SE and delved into its sales numbers and merits. Finally, we moved on Apple’s October 2016 “Hello Again” event, explored the new MacBook Pro, computer touch philosophy and the Microsoft Surface Studio impact. Michael tells a joke.
Our artificial intelligence agents can either be embedded in our computers and/or mobile devices. Or they can reside in a cute little colorful cylinder that sits on a table. Which is better? Which is the future? Which should you invest in? Maybe Siri knows.
When we think about flying cars, an idea that goes back more than 50 years, we often think of awkward technical concepts. Where does one stow the wings when driving? How does the designer efficient.y handle the propulsion for both roads and air? Airbus has come up with an ingenious solution, brilliant in fact. The autonomous drone comes and lifts the passenger module away. Digital Trends has the story and the demo video. It’s still just a concept, and a real product is 7 to 10 years away, according to Airbus. And then there’s the issue of FAA regulations even if it’s autonomous in all modes. Could be very cool. And no more sitting idle in rush hour traffic.
Hewlett-Packard’s new Z2 Mini is a next generation PC. With an option for a fast Xeon CPU, strong M620 graphics than can drive four 4K displays, 32 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD on the M.2 bus and room for an additional internal hard disk, it’s a small, beautiful, powerhouse that’s aimed at creative professionals. And it won’t make your credit card melt. John Martellaro offers his perspectives in this occasionally geeky and unconventional review.
These days, it’s easy to collect a lot of data in the course of a research project. And, often, that big data collection is hard to interpret and glean new insights from by data analysis alone. That’s where scientific visualization comes in. Here’s a site that celebrates those images which are frequently just plain beautiful as well. From the website: “The Wellcome Image Awards are Wellcome’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine and life. Now in their 20th year, the Awards recognise the creators of informative, striking and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of healthcare and biomedical science.” Check it out.
Jason Snell is one of the best known Apple technical journalists. He’s the Editor-in-Chief of the Apple focused website Six Colors, and he told me the intriguing story about how that name came to be. Previously he was Senior VP and editorial director at IDG, publishers of Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive. Jason always knew he wanted to be a journalist, and he told me the story about, as a kid, standing on his back porch in a rainstorm and pretending to do a live TV weather report. In 1991, he created InterText, one of the first online fiction magazines. Today, Jason writes and podcasts about everything Apple. In our show, Jason shared his thoughts about many of the most timely and pressing topics related to Apple today: the Mac and iPad futures and the Apple TV.
Like the rest of the tech industry, Apple is a company that is in constant change. Sometimes the change is celebrated, and sometimes the change is uncomfortable. In other words, Apple always has its eye on the ball. It just may not be the same ball we’re accustomed to watching.
Recently, Blancco published a report on the performance and health of iPhones and Android smartphones. A key finding was that iPhones are less reliable than Android devices. It created quite a stir, and the report intrigued John, so he asked for a copy of the report and looked into the findings. Here’s what he found.
NASA’s Apollo 11 space capsule “Columbia” took astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to lunar orbit and safely back home in July 1969. The fiftieth anniversary of that trip is coming up soon, so the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is going to put the 13,600 pound capsule on display in four major U.S. cities starting late this year and continuing into 2019. This article at NPR has the story, the cities and the dates. (Image credit: Smithsonian.)