Welcome to the Second Golden Age

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We’re entering the 2020s and it’s fitting that we’re in the Second Golden Age. Or at least that’s what Robert Reich argues.

It is time to use antitrust again. We should break up the hi-tech behemoths, or at least require they make their proprietary technology and data publicly available and share their platforms with smaller competitors.

There would be little cost to the economy, since these giant firms rely on innovation rather than economies of scale – and, as noted, they’re likely to be impeding innovation overall…Republicans rhapsodize about the “free market” but have no qualms about allowing big corporations to rig it at the expense of average people.

If we’re in the Second Golden Age now, I wonder if we’ll enter a Second Depression in the 2030s? As the saying goes, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Apple News puts Humans First

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The Sydney Morning Herald has taken an in-depth look at how Apple News is developing.  Australia is one of only three countries in which the service is available, the others being the US and UK. The piece outlines the radically different approach Apple has taken to news compared to other tech giants. Its focus is on using human journalists, not algorithms, to curate news, not algorithms, in a bid to improve accuracy. That approach was summed up in a quote from Apple News Editor-in-Chief Lauren Kern:

“Misinformation can come out so quickly and spread so rapidly and that’s something that we take pride in not allowing to happen”  says Lauren Kern, the platform’s editor in chief, who is a former executive editor of New York magazine. “Our mantra is that it’s better to be accurate than first.”

Tips and Tricks for Civilization VI

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Jen Karner has some great tips and tricks for Civilization VI. Although her article specifically mentions the Nintendo Switch, these tips work for any platform.

I’ve been playing Civilization VI since it launched on PC in 2016, and with more than 700 hours logged I’ve got strong feelings on just about every kind of start, civilization and play style. During that time I’ve beaten the game a handful of times with Culture and Science victories and have restarted the game more times than I want to count — seriously.

The best tip on there is to play to your civilization’s strengths. Each civilization gives you a unique bonus, and you should take advantage of that.

Behaviourism - the Science That Makes Apps so Addictive

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behaviourism phone addiction

Behaviourism, the psychology theory that the behaviour of human beings is best understood as responding incentives and rewards, has been around since the 1930s. It was overtaken in scholarly thought in the 1950s, but it’s a big deal in Silicon Valley today. Behaviourism helps us understand why games are so addictive. Why Apple is obsessed with making the unboxing experience as pleasurable as possible. A fascinating feature in 1843 Magazine gives an in-depth explanation of how it all works and who the scientists are that make it all happen.

The more immediate and intense a rush of emotion a person feels the first time they use something, the more likely they are to make it an automatic choice. It’s why airlines bring you a glass of champagne the moment you sink into a business-class seat, and why Apple takes enormous care to ensure that a customer’s first encounter with a new phone feels magical.

Apple Toxic Chemical Reduction Efforts Rated A+

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Apple has received an A+ rating by the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families organization for its efforts to reduce its use of toxic chemicals. AppleInsider reported that despite being found to have some room for improvement, Apple was the only firm given the top rating this year. It builds on last year when it received an A rating from the same organization.  Retailer Target was the only firm to receive an A rating this year. Best Buy and Amazon were only awarded a C rating.

Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families is a body comprised of 450 businesses which has been issuing annual report cards called Mind the Store for three years. Each report awards a point score as well as an overall grade and this year Apple earned 106.25 out of a possible 135 points. Part of that point score was 15 out of 15 for what Mind the Store calls continuous improvement in a steadily expanding safer chemicals policy. It also scored 9 out of 15 for public disclosure and transparency. Other scores included 7.5/7.5 for establishing management responsibilities and 10/10 for supply chain accountability.

How to Edit HEIC Photos Without Data Loss

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William Gallagher has a good article on how to edit HEIC photos without data loss. HEIC is now the default format for photos taken by iPhones.

When it was just that Facebook and the rest weren’t supporting HEIC, we thought time would sort that out. Now that Apple itself is still automatically converting HEIC to JPEG in emails, we’re wondering what the point is. We’d just like it to be possible to set up a Siri Shortcut so that we could tell our iPhones “no, no, we meant JPEG” and have it switch back and forth.

You can manage these settings in Settings > Camera > Formats. Choosing High Efficiency will mean your iPhone shoots in HEIC. Choosing Most Compatible means your iPhone shoots in JPG.

Latest Data Breach: SMS Text Database Exposed

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A server belonging to Voxox (formerly Telcentris) in San Diego was exposed because the server wasn’t protected with a password. Security researcher Sébastien Kaul discovered that it was an SMS text database containing “tens of millions of text messages, including password reset links, two-factor codes, shipping notifications and more.”

Each record was meticulously tagged and detailed, including the recipient’s cell phone number, the message, the Voxox customer who sent the message and the shortcode they used.

If you’re dumb or negligent enough to not secure a password containing other peoples’ sensitive data, you should not be in whatever industry you’re in. I hope Senator Ron Wyden’s bill gets passed.

Apple Tops LastPass Naughty and Nice Holiday Shopping List

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LastPass has revealed it’s Christmas naughty and nice list, with Apple top of the pile.  They took the top retail sites and saw who was best at protecting personal information…and who was not. In particular, they looked at “key password requirements and other account security features to develop a ranking of the five most and least secure retail sites, based on whether and how well they met a set of criteria”. Apple was deemed the most secure e-retailer, followed by Best Buy and Home Depot. Wayfair was left propping up the naughty list.

Apple Looking for Chip Engineers in Qualcomm's Hometown

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iPhone 8 A11 chip production starts in TSMC factory

Apple is “aggressively” recruiting engineers to develop chip components in San Diego, according to Bloomberg. The move indicates that Apple may be adding San Diego to the locations in which it designs chips. A number of job listings have appeared for the city, which just happens to be the home of chipmaker Qualcomm. Here’s a snippet:

This month, Apple published 10 job listings on its website for chip design-related positions located in the city, marking the first time the Cupertino, California-based technology giant has publicly recruited for such roles in the Southern California hotbed for chip design. Apple is advertising for engineers to work on multiple types of chip components, including engineers to work on the company’s Neural Engine artificial intelligence processor and wireless chips.

Sign Up For Apple Rewards Barclaycard, Get Gift Cards

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Apple and Barclays are teaming up to offer a special promotion. If you sign up for an Apple Rewards Barclaycard Visa, you’ll get two US$25 Apple Store Gift Cards or App Store Gift Cards.

The Barclaycard Visa with Apple Rewards allows cardholders to rack up points when using the card to purchase products at Apple locations. The card rewards users with 3 points for every $1 spent at Apple, 2 points for every $1 spent at restaurants, and 1 point for every $1 spent on other purchases.

More details can be found on Apple’s financing page.

You Can Now Buy an Unlocked iPhone XR

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Apple customers can now buy an unlocked iPhone XR. This means that it’s not tied to a specific carrier so you can use your current SIM card. If you have a prepaid carrier, this is the model you’ll want.

SIM-free iPhone XR models are compatible with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and other carriers. The iPhone XR starts at US$749 for 64 GB models available in white, black, blue, yellow, coral, and (PRODUCT)RED. Higher-capacity models are available for US$799 (128 GB) and US$899 (256 GB).

New Version of Apple Watch Charger Out

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There’s a new version of the Apple Watch charger. The model number is MU9F2AM/A and has been added to the online Apple Store.

There are no design tweaks to the dock, which suggests that the new model includes unspecified internal updates. It is not known why Apple has introduced a revamped version, but the changes are likely to be minor.

You can pick up the new charger for US$79. The device is available for delivery starting on Friday, November 16, and should be in retail stores soon.

Rich People Worried iPhone Not Making Them Enough Money

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A couple of iPhone suppliers—Hon Hai and AMS AG—have said they probably won’t make as much money as they thought, and Wall Street is panicking.

The accumulation of warning signs has prompted analyst revisions in the past week. Guggenheim on Wednesday said the company’s recent reliance on rising average selling prices was “no longer enough” to boost growth at a time unit sales show signs of slowing. Shares in Japan Display Inc., one of the quartet that reduced its sales outlook, slid 9.5% Thursday.

I’m certainly no economic expert, but I’m pretty sure the fact that Apple is a stable company now is a good thing. Apple anticipated this years ago and is expanding their sources of revenue. Meanwhile, somewhere on Wall Street little Tommy won’t be getting a Maserati for Christmas.

Pocket Money Apps for Kids

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Lots of One Dollar Bills!

Teaching children how the value of money and budgets is hard. It is arguably getting even more difficult in our nearly cashless world. It can also be difficult for parents when their kids want some pocket money, but they do not have any cash on them. The AP had a good feature on this issue on Monday. It listed a variety of pre-paid debit cars and apps that can be downloaded and used as a virtual piggy bank.  They include apps such as gohenry, Nimbl and Osper in the UK, and Famzoo and Greenlight, which also works with Apple Pay, in the US. The aim is to offer both flexibility to kids and control for parents.

Space Tourism, Thanks to Blue Origin, is Almost Ready

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What Bue Origin customers might see in person.

Wired has a nifty article about Blue Origin, the Jeff Bezos company that will soon take tourists into space. The rocket is called New Shepard. “Starting next year, Bezos plans to use New Shepard to send passengers on jaunts into space. Clad in cool Star Trek–style jumpsuits, customers will settle into a comfy capsule and shoot up over the atmosphere for a quick peek at their home planet through panoramic windows and a few moments of weightless ecstasy. Though Blue Origin hasn’t announced the fee, it’s been reported to be a couple hundred thousand dollars per head, and Bezos anticipates ramping up quickly to a few flights a week.” 

Not Everyone is Welcoming Amazon to Queens

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Amazon HQ2 Long Island Queens

On Tuesday, Amazon announced that Crystal City in Virginia and New York City will house its second headquarters. You might imagine that the people in those areas would be excited by the prospect of new jobs and investment, not least the political leaders. Some, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo are. However, some serious concerns have been raised, not least Queens, where the New York City set up will be. The Financial Times took a look at what is causing this rather cold welcome for Amazon.

Yet while Andrew Cuomo, New York governor, and Mayor Bill de Blasio were toasting their success on Tuesday at luring the online retailer to the Long Island City section of Queens, Mr Gianaris could hardly have been less pleased. Along with a local member of the City Council, he issued a blistering statement accusing Amazon of “running a cynical game” in which it “duped” New York into offering $3bn in tax incentives and subsidies to woo one of the wealthiest companies on earth.

DeepMind Health Team Moving to Google (Update)

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Google’s subsidiary DeepMind Health is restructuring and becoming part of the company. Now that its new app Streams is a Google product, people are concerned that Google will start linking patient health data to their respective Google accounts. My thought: You could just delete your Google account, but the health data will likely be added to an advertising profile of you instead. Update: A spokesperson from DeepMind reached out to me to make some clarifications. I’ve also changed the headline to make it more accurate.

Patient data is, and will continue to be, kept strictly separate from other Google projects/products, and subject to strict audit and access controls. Our contractual agreements with existing partners, and their restrictive rules on patient data, are still in force and unchanged. Patient data remains under our partners’ strict control, and all decisions about its use will continue to lie with them. The move to Google does not affect this.

Don't Pick Holiday Presents That Can be Hacked

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Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included gift list helps you shop safe for the holidays. It shows all of the holiday presents and tech gear that can be easily hacked. Ashley Boyd, vice president of advocacy at Mozilla, told Wired:

We want to provide people information about how to make informed decisions when shopping for gifts that are connected to the internet. These products are becoming really popular. And in some cases, it’s easy to forget that they’re even connected to the internet.

I think this is a fantastic idea and it brings more awareness to the insecurity of many popular gadgets and gear.

This Website Lets You Listen to Orcas Using Hydrophones

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A website called Orcasound lets you listen to orcas using hydrophones, which are underwater microphones. Scientists use these recordings to find and study whales, especially at night or in bad weather.

The team behind Orcasound hope that non-expert listeners will help quickly alert researchers to the presence of orcas, so they can send out boats to test fecal matter and leftover bits of prey, thereby getting a better sense of what the whales are eating.

If you like whales and you’re interested in citizen science, check out Orcasound.