There is a perspective that says it’s pointless for the pros to predict what Apple will say in the WWDC Keynote, but it’s wrong.
Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]
Apple’s annual worldwide developer conference isn’t just a technical conference for developers, rather, it’s a framework for Apple’s future ecosystem.
People of means don’t spin their wheels on frustrating shopping expeditions, however, AIs could be the equalizer for the rest of us.
The Apple analyst Gene Munster, now with Loup Ventures, has provided his predictions for new and updated Apple products at WWDC—which starts June 5th. He includes a probability with each of the four items. Personally, I think the probability for a 10.5-inch iPad Pro should be a little higher, just because Apple is way behind in its iPad refresh cycle. But check out Gene’s estimates and see what you think.
Dr. Kiki Sanford is a neurophysiologist with a Ph.D from U.C. Davis. She’s a popular science communicator and creator of This Week in Science podcast and radio show. This is her second appearance on Background Mode. For those who missed her first show, Kiki explained her upbringing and early interests in ecology, conservation and animals. Her Ph.D. work was on how finches store memories and navigate. In this encore appearance, Kiki and I get geeky with science: an in-depth discussion of epigenetics, the ecology of our kitchens, brain size (and language) in animals, probiotics, how wine protects the human brain, and her favorite subject: world domination by robots. We finished with a discussion about how you can support science research. After spending 40 minutes with Kiki, you’ll want to be a scientist too!
Apple customers have waited for a long time to get new, updated Mac models. Apple kicked off the resurgence in late 2016 with the Touch Bar MacBook Pro, but there remained serious concerns. And that’s a Good Thing™. The development of technology and the approaches by the competition have evoked a strong, clear, intelligent response from the community that amounts to an excellent, thoughtful conversation about what Macs should be all about going forward. Particle Debris page 2 discusses that and ponders more new Mac hardware at WWDC in June.
David Greelish is an author, podcaster and personal computer historian. Back when he was in college in the mid-1980s, he got a job in one of the early computer stores that was also an Apple dealer. They sold all kinds of PCs, but David fell in love with the Mac. While he couldn’t afford one, his quest continued until he was able to acquire a used Lisa (that ran Mac software). Like many of us, he fell in love with the early computer movement, and that started his obsession with computer history. He’s the founder of the Historical Computer Society, the Atlanta Historical Computing Society, and was Cofounder/Director of the first Vintage Computer Festival S.E. His interviews with industry luminaries are legendary. Take a walk down computer memory lane with me and David.
The Particle Debris item of the week isn’t a written article. Instead it’s a concept video, a joint effort by Federico Vittici at MacStories and designer Sam Beckett in the UK. The reason it’s so cool is because it punctuates the hunger we all have for a new iOS on the iPad that leaves the past behind, truly enables and excites. John is excited, and you will be too. Plus: rebirth of the Mac.
Serious work, driven by competition, is being done to develop Siri as a better artificial intelligence. Pioneering work is being done on how Siri, in the future, will assess the accuracy of its information. When the human-machine conversation gets really sophisticated, will Siri be able to judge its own authoritativeness? Will we?
Steven Levy has written a stellar article at Wired about his tour of the new Apple campus, Apple Park, aka The Mothership. The focus is on the design details inspired by Steve Jobs and the building as “Steve’s gift.” John read the article and has some follow-on thoughts to offer.
The internet has turned into the Wild, Wild West. People are exposed to threats daily, but help is often far away in time and space. But, like the old American Wild, Wild West times and technology change. It’s high time our leading tech companies like Apple and Microsoft put artificial intelligence to work truly protecting us. That’s the noblest cause for advanced technology right now.
Now that Apple has committed to a new Mac Pro, prosumers are salivating at the thought of what Apple might deliver. And the thinking also seems to be bleeding over into the iMacs (with Xeon CPUs) and MacBook Pros, high-end Macs that’ll have to carry our most demanding computational loads for awhile. Particle Debris points to two articles by Mac experts. One asks how the competition is doing against Apple’s laptops and the other has a focus on raw laptop speed.
Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Vanderbilt University. Her research specialty is black holes and gravitational waves. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to be an astrophysicist. In our interview she tells the story about, as a teenager, lying in a field under dark Montana skies and gazing at the Milky Way (the edge of our galaxy). She wondered about all those stars and planets and whether there were other civilizations out there looking up at their own starry skies. It was transformative. Today, she uses a Mac and supercomputers to study how black holes generate ripples in the fabric of spacetime and deepen our astronomical understanding and perspective. Kelly, her students and associates are also devoted Mac users, and she tells me why.
Microsoft is a changed company under CEO Satya Nadella. We’re not the first ones to notice. This change has manifested itself in several ways, most notably the willingness to provide solutions on whatever platform the customer wants to work with. More exciting, however, is how people interact with their computers. This week, John points us an article that reveals Microsoft’s important new thinking about the human-machine interface.
The conceit of AI agents like Alexa, Cortana, Google Home and Siri is that they are to be always listening, invited to be treated as trusted family members. Or the loyal computer of our family’s starship. John Martellaro doesn’t like these analogies at all.
The rings of Saturn are about 10 meters thick. Yet they light up the solar system with wonder and awe. In this NASA image, the Earth is seen from the Cassini spacecraft through a gap in the rings of Saturn. It’s an encore of the famous Pale Blue Dot image of Earth seen from 6 billion km away back in 1990. In this new image, if you look closely, Earth’s moon is also visible. As astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson might say, this one photo provides a substantial cosmic perspective. We are tiny. We are alone. This is the only home we have.
The designs of desktop and laptop PCs and Macs have reached a plateau. There’s not much more to be done. But user hunger for computational power never ceases. While Apple has traditionally focused on design, it may be time for Apple to, instead, dwell on sheer computational power, an enduring addiction for everyone.
In the 1980s, some people had 3 meter steerable satellite dishes and could freely access raw network feeds from geosynchronous satellites. Then the networks encrypted everything, and we migrated to smaller dishes and monthly service from Dish and DirecTV. But that’s just one-way TV, and it may be gone soon. The Next Big Thing could well be low-latency, full internet access with TCP/IP via low-earth-orbit satellites. Particle Debris page two points to several articles that cover the emerging story.
Jennifer Ouellette is a freelance science writer, editor and book author. Her work has appeared in Physics World, Discover, New Scientist, Physics Today, Salon and Nature. In 2010, she published the book “The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.” With a degree in English literature, Jennifer didn’t start out intending to be a science writer. But thanks to serendipity, she landed her first job with the American Physical Society who discovered she could write really well. The thinking was that it would be easier to teach her physics than teach physicists how to write! It opened her eyes to the field. So how does one become a famous science writer? Jennifer tells a great story.
Two very interesting things happened this week. First, we heard that Apple may be making its own Siri-powered Echo-like device, to be announced at WWDC. Later in the week, we heard that Amazon will now bring its video app, Prime Video to the Apple TV. Mere coincidence? John, just for fun, imagines a recent, fictional conversation between Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook.