Apple’s spaceship campus is looking more impressive as construction gets closer to wrapping up, and TMO’s latest drone pic really drives that home. Taken Wednesday, our intrepid drone pilot’s flying skills let you see the roof solar panels are nearly all installed, landscaping is starting to come together outside the massive building, and the giant courtyard in the building’s center is taking shape, too. The building really looks like something from JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. Apple Campus 2.0 isn’t finished yet, but is moving along well enough that the company will likely start moving in some time in 2017.
Vulnerability Lab has published a video to YouTube (via AppleInsider) demonstrating a method for bypassing the Activation Lock on an iOS device. Researchers discovered a convoluted series of steps one can go through starting with a buffer overflow, and also using a Smart Cover…it’s complicated. The bottom line, though, is that the method would allow someone to bypass the Activation Lock, meaning they could use a device that’s been locked by Find My iPhone. Apple is usually able to patch these bypasses, but this video nicely highlights the ongoing cat and mouse game involved with security. The video is presented in real time, meaning there are long stretches where not much is happening. It’s interesting, though, to see the steps necessary for the exploit and the end result.
I have no idea how practical these products are, but they’re gorgeous. Check out the Orée Board and Orée Touch Slab, a keyboard and trackpad made from wood. The Board is portable and can connect via USB or Bluetooth. It’s designed to work with macOS and iOS, or Windows and Android. Each is made from a single piece of wood, making individual units unique. The Touch Slab is a multitouch trackpad that can also be used as a numeric keypad. Look closely and you’ll see the keypad outlined on top. It’s Bluetooth only, and works with macOS, and Windows 7 or 8. The Board is priced at US$129, while Touch Slab is $150. I haven’t tested them, but they totally caught my eye.
Forget Pokémon. A really cool use for augmented reality on your iPhone is an animated 3D model of the White House, complete with an audio tour of its importance and history. The new app 1600, released this week by the White House Historical Association, uses AR to build a fully animated 3D model of the White House on a $1 bill while White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest narrates a miniature history lesson. Users can also tap on various parts of the model to reveal additional information and a few hidden secrets. Check it out now for free on the iOS and Android app stores.
Apple has a new iTunes promotion titled “Under $10 in HD: ’90s Essentials.” It includes movies like Clueless, The Matrix (the first one, only, thank you), Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Silence of the Lambs, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Fight Club, American Beauty, and 22 others. Most are $7.99, and many are less than that.
You all know that we love Plex around here, and yesterday the company announced that its new Plex Media Player app for Mac and Windows, which had previously been limited to paying “Plex Pass” customers, is now free for everyone! Even better, the latest version of the app now supports both a “10-foot” interface for navigating with a remote as well as the Plex “Web” interface for more intimate use with mouse and keyboard. Check out the announcement at the Plex Blog and download your copy of Plex Media Player for macOS.
Former iPhone hacker George Hotz has released his company’s self-driving car software and hardware as open source. The software itself is on GitHub, as well as 3D printer plans for housing the smartphone needed to run it. The Verge reported there is only one device that will work—the OnePlus 3—and you’re going to need some specific Honda or Accura models to use it. And really, what could go wrong with a bunch of folks experimenting with unproven autonomous vehicle software? Mr. Hotz has been developing the software and hardware as an after-market conversion kit, which he intended to compete with Tesla’s self-driving system. He abruptly announced he was pulling the product from market after regulators had the temerity to express an interest in it. This week, he announced its release as an open source project, rather than a for-sale product. Again, what could go wrong?
Google Earth Timelapse is “a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years.” It’s not exactly new, but the project was just updated this week with new data and improved historical images. Head over to the Timelapse website, zoom into your favorite location, and watch the path of rivers change, glaciers melt, and cities spread from 1984 through 2016. It’s an incredible way to view the immense library of Google Earth’s satellite imagery.
Check out Canopy from Neat Studio, a case specifically for Apple’s Magic Keyboard. In addition to being a case, it can also serve as a stand that holds your iPad Pro (or other device) up while you’re typing. It has a synthetic canvas cover and a microfiber interior. The strap that holds it shut is leather, and it holds your Magic Keyboard using micro-suction pads. I haven’t tested it out, but if I was going to haul a Magic Keyboard around, putting it in a case makes a lot of sense. Canopy is available for pre-order for $40. The company said it’s trying to deliver before Christmas, but can’t guarantee it.
Blending colors on your computer typically doesn’t give the results you expect, meaning where they overlap ends up being some weird dark color. That’s because most apps take shortcuts with the math. MinutePhysics put together an awesome video explaining exactly what’s happening and why—and it’s totally worth watching. The downside is now all of the blur effects that are done wrong will really stand out. You’re welcome.
Check out the latest flyover video of Apple Campus 2.0, posted by Sexton Videography. It’s an HD tour of the so-called Spaceship HQ that shows just how far the architectural masterpiece has come. Complete with labels letting you know what you’re looking at, you can see side buildings, parking structures (with solar panels installed), landscaping, and how much of the main building has taken shape. It’s labeled “December 2016 Update,” but the video was posted November 25th. It’s a great tour. Adjust the resolution up to 1080p, as desired.
Apple’s iBooks has loads of books on sale, and they’re all $0.99, $1.99, $2.99, or $3.99. There are hundreds of them in Fiction & Literature, Mysteries & Thrillers, Biographies & Memoirs, Nonfiction, Romance, Young Adult, Kids, Cookbooks, Food & Wine, and SciFi & Fantasy. It’s a mix of big and little names, including Tolkien, Daniel Silva, Stephen Ambrose, Bill Bryson, Neal Stephenson, Octavia Butler, and many, many more. If you scroll all the way to the right on any given category, there’s a “See all” link that will take you to every book in just that category. I personally just picked up Atlas of Lost Cities.
The new Touch Bar MacBook Pro doesn’t include an Ethernet port—just like Apple’s other laptops—and despite the company’s long list of adapters, it doesn’t make a USB-C to Ethernet dongle. Apple offers Belkin’s USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter but it’s back ordered 7 to 10 weeks, which isn’t much help if you need one now. Anker, however, is selling one on Amazon that’s shipping now, and it’s less expensive than Belkin’s at US$22.99 instead of $26. Anker has a solid reputation, which is why I already ordered mine. Bonus: Amazon Prime members get two-day free shipping.
Check out StällDesk on Kickstarter. This project is for a standing desk made from high-quality—and very attractive—plywood called ApplePly. The retail price for this desk will be $199, but there are currently early bird funding options left at $129 that will get you one. The thing that first grabbed me about this desk is that it’s gorgeous. The shape is sleek and elegant, and the finish is beautiful. It’s adjustable, and you assemble/disassemble it without using screws. It’s also very strong, courtesy of ApplePly. Check out the project’s page for images of people standing on it. Also check out the closeup images of the StällDesk itself to see the fit and finish. The company is raising $20,000 for custom runs of ApplePly and new tooling, and the desks are being made in Colorado.
Apple released a new commercial this week called Frankie’s Holiday. It’s a touchy-feely piece vaguely showing an iPhone being used by Frankenstein’s Monster to reach out to his community. I love it. It’s cute. Touching. A little off-beat.
There’s been discussion for a while now that Jony Ive was on his way out at Apple, or that he was trying to leave. My favorite was when being promoted to the C-Suite in Cupertino was somehow proof that he was leaving. That doesn’t make sense. Seems Apple’s new coffee table book, Designed by Apple in California, is also being seen as some kind of swan song for Sir Jony. John Gruber’s The Talk Show podcast added fuel to such speculation, but Mr. Gruber posted a written piece arguing the opposite was his intent, saying: “Fundamentally I think Jony Ive loves Apple, feels a responsibility to the legacy of his collaboration with Steve Jobs, and that whatever aspirations he has for the remainder of his career, personally, they’re only possible at Apple.” I agree with that. Sir Jony has a bit more freedom these days to do side projects like Claridge’s Christmas Tree, but he’s not leaving Apple for a long while to come. Mr. Gruber’s piece is solid analysis, and I recommend it.
A friend of mine let me know last night that Australian Apple customers were also emailed about a Black Friday sale. To my knowledge, this is the first time Australia has been included in Apple’s Black Friday sales, in part because Black Friday isn’t a thing in Aussieland. As with other markets getting this sale, the Apple.com/au site has a landing page featuring an Apple Watch, with the message that, “Friday can’t come soon enough.” I’m noting this because it shows a push by Apple to make a splash with this sale. As I said, Black Friday isn’t a thing Down Under. Not only is there no “Thanksgiving” holiday weekend happening (there is a “Thanksgiving” celebration unrelated to our Pilgrims, of course), but holiday shopping has a more general ramp up than it does in the States. That said, American culture pushes out to many corners of the world, and the idea of “Black Friday” as a time for sales isn’t unheard of. It’s merely uncommon. Jeff Gamet and I discussed this on Wednesday’s Apple Context Machine. It’s possible that Apple is feeling the need to goose December quarter sales.
SwitchEasy has a new case for iPhone aimed particularly at Jet Black iPhone 7 owners who want to show off that Jet Black finish and have a case, too. The case is called Glass, and the back is made out of hardened glass (7H on the Mohs’ scale of hardness). The company says it has 90% optical transparency, and it was designed with a 1mm gap between the phone and the back of the Glass. That’s to minimize contact with the case to preserve that Jet Black finish. It has a retail price of $39.99.
I found a fun new mathy kind of puzzle game for you called Magic Square Puzzle. It’s from Japanese developer Tristore, and it’s pretty cool. Borrowing from a number of disparate flavors of such games, it gives you a grid of numbers. Your job is to arrange them in order so that every row adds up to a certain number. At the “Easy” level, you only have to line up the horizontal rows, and there are only three rows. At the hard level, you have a 4 x 4 grid, and you have to line up the horizontal and vertical rows, as well as two horizontal rows. That’s well beyond my ability to solve, but there are four levels of difficulty. Oh, and you can’t drag any number to any square you want. Instead, by sliding a number up, down, or sideways, you rotate the entire row. Numbers fiends will love this stuff. One last thing: in the screenshots below, I cut out the ads at the top of the screen. On the other hand, the game is free and there are no in-app purchases. Personally, I’d love an in-app purchase to go ad-free.
Apple announced its Black Friday sale for 2016. Black Friday is the only day of the year Apple offers discounts on its products, and the company skipped Black Friday altogether last year. Apple sent out an email to customers pointing to a placeholder page for Black Friday. That page has no details, but says, “Our one-day shopping event will be here before you know it. Come back this Friday to check everyone off your list.” Both the email and the placeholder page feature an Apple Watch with Friday, November 25th, marked on the face. Seems likely that Apple Watches will be included in the sale, but you never know with Apple.