Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]

Motorola Razr Flip Phone Making a Comeback

· · Cool Stuff Found

USA Today writes: “Remember the Motorola Razr from the early 2000s? Motorola’s super-thin, metallic flip phone that was the “it” phone before the iPhone and Galaxy started a smartphone revolution. Well, if a new report [from the WSJ] is to be believed, it will soon be making a comeback.”

Estimated price ::cough:: US$1,500.

Screen size and 5G details aren’t yet known. But it seems like an uphill battle against modern smartphones with edge-to-edge displays. Maybe useful as a second phone? We’ll have to see if this fantasy from the past pans out.

Motorola Razr Flip Phone Making a Comeback

10 Influential Science Photos That Changed Us

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Earthrise - via NASA

In a terrific photo collection, Big Think presents “10 science photos that made history and changed minds.” The power of these photos expanded our consciousness, created new conversations, and changed our way of thinking. I particularly like the “Pale Blue Dot” photo, made famous by Dr. Carl Sagan with one of the most poignant commentaries ever made about our planet and its inhabitants. Check out all the photos. (Earthrise photo credit: NASA.)

TMO Background Mode Interview with TMO Contributor Andrew Orr

· · Background Mode Podcast

Andrew Orr on Background Mode

Andrew is a Contributing Editor at The Mac Observer assigned to the morning news desk. He is also a science and nature lover, with a special interest in botany, as well as an amateur nature photographer.

I asked Andrew about growing up in Michigan and his early interest in writing. He also started using computers when he was young and recalled how had to eradicate a virus from an Windows XP PC at age 13. Later he studied computer security at Bay de Noc Community College, and he attributes his technical writing success to the combination of his writing skill, interest in science, and experience with computers. Andrew told me how he was discovered by The Mac Observer and the tools he uses to collect and report the news each morning.

A CES 2014 Flashback: The Folly of Curved TV Screens

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Curved TV display

At one time, five years ago, curved TV screens were all the rage. Every TV manufacturer jumped on the bandwagon, fearful of being left out. Today, we know it was a fad. A folly. A technical dead end. Recently, ars technica took us back in time, via Twitter, to their prescient analysis. After a good technical roundup, “The flat-out truth on curved TVs” ars concluded:

The mishmash of arguments for a curved TV isn’t necessarily an indictment of the value of curved TV. This would not be the first time that manufacturers obscured the technical or scientific reasons for a decision because they think it’s too hard to explain to consumers. It may be easier to latch onto words like “immersive” and “theatrical” and hope no one asks the hard questions.

But, it would also not be the first time that manufacturers assigned value to some spec based on the idea that it qualitatively improved a viewing experience in some way, only for consumers to find the end result is underwhelming and, more importantly, not worth paying for.

LG Foldable 4K TV Declared the Hit of CES 2019

· · Cool Stuff Found

LG Signature OLED TV R

LAS VEGAS – Some TV’s are just too big. They get in the way. Or the space for them is too small. So why not have a TV that rolls up and gets out of the way? Chris Welch at The Verge has the full story and thinks this is the hit product of CES 2019.

Author Welch writes: “This is a TV that’s there when you want it and disappears when you don’t. Not everyone loves having a big, black rectangle as the focal point of their living room, and plenty of people don’t own a TV at all. TV makers are starting to realize that, for some, it comes down to aesthetics, so they’re designing products that blend better into the home.” And best of all? It’s OLED!

A Deeper Analysis of Apple's Mini Crisis

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Apple Park, Apple's new San Jose headquarters, opens in April 2017

Sometimes, well almost always, it’s good to wait awhile after Apple encounters a crisis of some sort and not get swept up in the venting, rage and fury. Later, cooler, experienced heads weigh in. This time it’s Ben Thompson at Stratechery. “As rare as last week’s Apple revenue warning from CEO Tim Cook may have been — the company last issued a revenue warning in June 2002 — the company has had other bad quarters in the iPhone era.” This is great analysis, worth reading.

TMO Background Mode Interview with Journalist & TMO Contributor Charlotte Henry

· · Background Mode Podcast

Charlotte Henry on Background Mode

Charlotte is a London-based technical journalist. She writes about Apple — and is now The Mac Observer’s newest regular contributor. She has also written for City A.M. (London’s daily business tabloid,) Computer Business Review, The Independent on Sunday and CapX. Her first book, Not Buying It, will be published in June.

I asked Charlotte how she got started in technical journalism. The first factor derived from the fact, that, as a youth, there were always new technical gadgets showing up in her home. The second was via her early interest in music creation on a Mac during her college years. We chatted about her first news blog and then meeting Jeff Gamet on the British Tech Network. Finally Charlotte shared some of her personal interests when she’s not writing: music, soccer and mystery novels.

Apple TV 4K Features HDMI 2.0a. But HDMI 2.1 is Coming

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Apple TV 4K event logo

4K/UHD TV is now mainstream.  But new 8K TVs are coming. CNET writes: “The current version of the ubiquitous HDMI [2.0] audio video connection can handle pretty much every video format available today, but with 8K on the horizon, TV and other hardware makers could hit its limits in the next few years. That’s where HDMI 2.1 comes in.”

This article fills you in on the new standard, what video protocols it supports, which TV makers are moving to it in 2019, and whether you’ll need new cables.

Eight Depressing, Illuminating Months With a Flip Phone

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A Flip Phone

Sometimes, an author can get away with writing about anything if it’s done with charm and grace. In this case Wired’s Jason Kehe decided to try living with a flip phone for eight months to see what he might learn. The story is not so much about the awkward disconnectedness of it all, but rather the remarkable social and technical impact.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed to write about this semifailed experiment. Disconnection has become the most congratulated, least convincing narrative gimmick of recent times, a widely excusable hypocrisy.

The author writes with a certain colorful, literary irony and sparkle. As a result, his social commentary about our fixation and dependence on the smartphone is delightful reading in and of itself. And yet, and yet, the author manages to make us ponder. What have we done to ourselves as humans?

Personal Tech That Got Fixed in 2018 and What Did Not

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Computer Frustration

On December 26, Brian X. Chen wrote for the New York Times: “Personal technology was so awful this year [2018] that nobody would think you were paranoid if you dug a hole and buried your computer, phone and smart speaker under six feet of earth.” However, some things did get better. Author Chen provides a list and his observations.

TMO Background Mode Interview with Astrophysicist Dr. Jill Tarter

· · Background Mode Podcast

Dr. Jill Tarter on Background Mode

Jill is a Ph.D. astrophysicist known for her work in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. She’s the former director of the Center for SETI Research (2000-2012) and Adjunct Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy at USC until 2014. Currently, she’s Chair Emeritus for SETI Research at the SETI Institute.

I asked Jill about how she got started with computers as well as astrophysics, her Ph.D. work and how she became involved with SETI. Then we delved into some of the broader issues of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, including the Drake equation, searching for ET technosignatures, searching with the right technologies, and what the social perspectives might be of an advanced, spacefaring civilization that survived its aggressive phase. Jill is an expert on SETI, and you’ll enjoy her awesome insights.


Be Careful About Which iOS Apps Track Your Location

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Spy in the data

At the Intego Security Blog, Kirk McElhearn writes: “The New York Times published an article this week about how apps are recording your location and selling the data to companies that “sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior.” Kirk walks us through iOS Settings and how to restrict which apps can track our location. Good stuff.