It’s easy to draw, write, and sketch on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, but it just doesn’t feel the same as when you put a real pen or pencil to paper. It’s slippery, too glossy, and feels like plastic. Furthermore, the Apple Pencil just doesn’t float across the screen the way a good pencil does on high-quality paper. A project on Kickstarter aims to solve that dilemma. The project is PaperLike, and the moniker really fits. The inventor has tried a bunch of different styli and screen protectors, and nothing felt quite right. That’s why he decided to make his own. In addition to making the iPad Pro feel like plastic, the overlay also reduces glare, eliminates fingerprints, and protects your screen from scratches. PaperLike will ship in June 2017, and you can get yours early for 17 Euros.
Smile PDFpen 9 and PDFpen Pro 9 for the Mac are out, and are loaded with more than 100 new features. The new versions improve annotations, and table of contents editing; export to JPG, PNG, 1-bit TIFF, and flattened PDF, plus exporting to several resolutions; can make and open links in other files, and supports forms with calculations; improves font smoothing, and more. PDFpen Pro is my go-to PDF editing app and it’s much easier to use than Adobe Acrobat. PDFpen 9 costs US$74.95 and PDFpen Pro 9 is $124.95. The upgrades for both cost $30 and are free if you purchased after January 1st, 2017. You can download demo versions at the Smile website.
Slickwraps has a new wrap for your iPhone that kicks it beige. Well, plus 6 colors. Whatever, it’s old school, with Apple’s original logo and a beige color harkening back to the Apple ][. They’re versions for iPhone 5S/SE to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, all priced at $19.84. See what they did there? The wrap comes with a front and back piece, each of which adheres to your iPhone and is designed to be removable. I’ve no idea if this is licensed, but I’ve a hunch that if you want one of these wraps you should get it sooner, rather than later. Slickwraps called it a limited run, too. As a huge fan of the original Apple logo, I think these are the bee’s knees.
There will be many challenges for Apple as it designs the next generation Mac Pro. It will have to present with Apple’s unique design language, but the form will also have to follow the function as a modular device. For the practical minded user. The low end will have to be affordable, but it will also have to support the very best CPU/GPU/ and bus architecture. Here’s a concept video that pays homage to the (2008-2012) Mac Pro, has a modest desktop footprint, and still looks like it would be big enough to contain kind of power we drool for. Amazingly, it reminds me of HP’s Z2 Mini as well.
Every wonder what it’s really like to make iPhones in a Chinese factory? New York University student Dejian Zeng found out by working in one for 6 weeks for a summer project. BusinessInsider interviewed him about the experience, where he discussed the daily life of a worker. He shared a dorm with 7 people, worked 12 hour shifts, did repetitive tasks, and got paid more than the minimum wage. “I mean, it’s simple,” he said, “but that’s the work that you do. Over, over, over again. For whole days.” He also described being on an assembly line ramping up a new product, an experience that was punctuated by hours of boredom waiting for the next unit to work on. It’s an excellent read—I’m writing it up as a Cool Stuff Found, rather than a full article, because I want to encourage everyone to read it. Plus, these kinds of manufacturing jobs are not going to come back to the U.S., at least not for humans to do.
Check out Air Vinyl Design‘s self titled product, Air Vinyl. They’re simple vinyl decorations for your plain white AirPods case. Sure, a lot of people would never sully their pristine Apple design, but a lot of people love to decorate their Apple devices. Since the AirPods case is something you need to use all the time, I can definitely see folks wanting to personalize them. Especially if you want a way to quickly identify your case from everyone else’s. Air Vinyls are made of vinyl, and they’re designed to be removable. There are currently eight designs, as shown, but the designer told me he has ones coming for San Francisco, New York City, and Chicago, and when I suggested Cupertino, he thought it a splendid idea. They’re being sold in sets: Los Angeles, CA; Music Mixer; and Rorschach Drops, as grouped below. Each set is $5.99.
German software company fournova has put together a delightful illustrated history of iOS to mark its ten hear history. It starts with the Steve Jobs introducing a device that runs on special version of what was then called OS X. Each iteration of iOS through iOS 10 then gets its own panel highlighting what was new and some of the people involved with presenting it. It’s a fun look through the years, and I saw a couple of things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. Check it out!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was great, but not everyone is happy with Luke Skywalker’s lines in the movie. The team at Bad Lip Reading fixed that in an epic way with their new video where Mark Hamill, who plays Skywalker, voices Han Solo. And if this is your first time experiencing Bad Lip Reading, I apologize for killing your entire afternoon.
As part of the Discovery update, Microsoft is also bringing a new feature to the game called Marketplace. Minecraft Marketplace is coming to the Windows 10 platform, as well as Minecraft Pocket edition for mobile platforms. Players can create and sell items in the Marketplace using a form of game currency called Minecraft Coins. When a player creates an item to sell, they can set their own prices as well as take a small percentage of the sale. Once you sell something, such as a custom skin or a map, the app platforms will take a 30% cut. Players can access items they buy through their Xbox Live account. This means that you can access your purchases no matter what platform you use. Microsoft will launch a public beta on Android in mid-April. The beta will test the Microsoft Coins so you won’t see any player creations yet. Microsoft is also hosting a Reddit AMA on April 20 from 9AM-12PM PST.
The first teaser trailer for Thor: Ragnarok is out and the worst thing about it is that now we have to wait until November for the movie. It looks like a big screen version of Planet Hulk, and I’m totally fine with that. For those of you outside the comic book world, that means Thor and Hulk get to battle gladiator-style on an alien planet. Plus, we get more Loki and now Cate Blanchett as Hela. November can’t get here soon enough.
I’m not sure how I’ve never heard of Puddles the Clown, or more properly Puddles Pity Party. Dude can sing. I mean, he can sing. Check out his emo cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me,” or holy heck, “Come Sail Away.” OK, fine. I have a thing for clowns, the more evil the better unless they jumped the shark and formed a posse. Puddles isn’t evil, but he’s a clown, and you add in that voice, and man, this guy is awesome. So anyway, the song that brought me to Puddles Pity Party is this mashup of “Pinball Wizard” and “Folsom Prison Blues” [via Boing Boing]. In the description he acknowledges that he got the idea from the late Gregory Dean Smalley, but one way or another it’s clever. One note, though: that big flourish in Pinball Wizard was originally John Entwistle’s bass, not a guitar. Everyone thinks it’s a guitar, but no, it’s a bass. I mean, whatever, right? Because Puddles’s guitar is made of paper, so really, my pedantry isn’t the point. Right? Fine. Whatever, I’ll just try and love it, because Puddles the Clown has the voice of an angel. 😂
Walt Mossberg announced Friday that he will retire in June. Mr. Mossberg came to fame in the 1990s as tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He consistently dinged Apple until shortly after the return of Steve Jobs. His career rose sharply as tech exploded and became an ever-more important part of modern society. He was one of the few journalists blessed by Steve Jobs, and was often given advanced access to Apple’s leadership and products. He and journalist partner Kara Swisher also got Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and other Apple execs on stage for the AllThingsD conference, as shown in the image below, and later at Re/code’s Code conference. I didn’t always agree with Mr. Mossberg, but he contributed greatly to our understanding of what the tech world was up to. Accordingly, salute, Mr. Mossberg, and enjoy your well-earned retirement!
LEGO and the Raspberry Pi are both awesome, and combined to make a working classic Mac? Totally brilliant. That’s what Jannis Hermanns did with a Raspberry Pi Zero, an e-paper display, and NES Mac software. His little LEGO Mac even has Wi-Fi, which hadn’t been invented when Apple introduced the computer in 1984. Sadly, there is a Dremel tool involved to make it all come together, but the end result looks great—and at about $100 for all the parts costs a lot less that the original Macintosh.
Several social media companies have agreed to a US$5.3 million settlement for being obnoxious about user privacy. The suit stems from 2012, when Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, Foursquare, Kik, Path, Gowalla, and Foodspotting all took advantage of the way iOS worked at the time. More specifically, these companies sucked up our Contacts without telling us. iOS later required user permission to access our Contacts. The settlement was reported by Law360, who said the $5.3 million would be used to pay out damages to people who downloaded the above-mentioned apps between 2009 and 2012. What that means is the attorneys in the case get a phat paycheck, the companies get a slap on the wrist, and the millions of users who downloaded those apps will get pennies. Yay!
Western Digital is finally selling an external SSD. This solid state drive is part of its My Passport series of portable drives. As you can see from the photo, it’s a tiny and highly portable external SSD capable of achieving data transfers of 515 Mb/s. If you’re looking to buy an external SSD for your MacBook, this looks like a great purchase. Western Digital put USB-C ports into this drive, so you won’t need an annoying dongle to use it with your Mac Book Pro with Touch Bar or MacBook. If you don’t have a USB-C laptop, have no fear. Every drive comes with a USB-A adapter in the box to use with other laptops. It’s available in three sizes: 256GB at US$99, 512GB at US$199, 1TB at US$399.
Back in January, during CES, TMO wrote up a news story about Sony’s new XBR-A1E BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV. At the time, the product was not yet shipping, and we didn’t know what the prices would be. As a recap, Sony has embraced the OLED technology for its new line of 4K/UHD TVs, a market previously held only by LG. Now we know the details from the official press release for the two smaller models. For 55-inch: US$4999.99. For 65-inch: $6499.99. Sony says these TVs will be “available in stores beginning in April 2017.” OLED displays consistently win the picture quality battle against any kind of LCD, and so it’s important and timely for Sony to enter this market. No doubt, prices will be lower for the 2017 holidays.
Art is all around us and can show up in the most amazing places, including the electromagnetic fields from our smartphones. Luis Hernan used that idea to turn Wi-Fi signals from smartphones into light painting, and it’s awesome to see. He uses a Kirlian Device to track Wi-Fi signal strength and long exposure photography to capture his images which look like colorful webs of light spun into everyday scenes. You can check out his beautiful work at the Digital Ethereal website.
Kanye West has carried the streaming music industry past another milestone. His most recent album, The Life of Pablo, was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). What’s new and different is that it did so through streams only. Pablo wasn’t made available as a digital download on iTunes or other online music stores. It was instead offered as a streaming product through first Tidal, and then Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, and other services. Pitchfork reported that Pablo has been streamed a staggering 3 billion times, with 1.5 billion of those streams in the U.S. It’s the U.S. figures that earned it Platinum status, and that certification did not include the copies of Pablo sold direct by Kanye. Streaming music—including Apple Music—are clearly the near-term future of the music industry. Earning Platinum certification through streaming only is symbolic of that tidal shift. It’s also further validation for Apple’s investment in Apple Music.
Have you ever prepared a salad and thought to yourself, “I wish a robot could do this!” Well you’re in luck, because a company called Chowbotics Inc. created a salad robot called Sally. The robot is more of a tosser than a chef, as a human must load the device with prepared ingredients. (A word of caution though: the robot apparently can’t handle avocado very well.) It’s main selling point is that the customer can specify their ingredients and even the calorie count of a salad. Plus, the jack-a-nape in front of you doesn’t get to graze on the salad bar with his grimy fingers. The salad robot costs US$30,000 right now and is aimed towards small businesses and grocery stores. Eventually Chowbotics hopes to shrink the technology down to a household-friendly size. Sally is really little more than a stepping stone towards our robot welfare state (as John Kheit says), but it’s interesting to see those steps laid out in front of us.
Elon Musk isn’t the only CEO who has his eyes on reusable, commercial space vehicles. Recently, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos floated a white paper to NASA management that outlines a plan to send as much as 10,000 pounds of cargo, in a lunar lander, to the moon in a single trip. It’s called Blue Origin. The target would be near the Moon’s south pole, the Shackleton Crater, where there are sections of permanent sunlight that may also harbor ice, key to a permanent human base. It all sounds very Robert Heinlein-esque, these billionaires setting out on new commercial missions. Very cool.