Home virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and to a lesser extent, Apple’s Siri, are loved by some and feared by others. Here at TMO, our staff falls on both sides of that line. Most of us love Amazon’s Echo/Dot/Alexa, while I personally hold my nose at the underlying technology and fear its potential for home surveillance. I should add that most of our staff also think I’m flat out wrong. Note that I’m OK with that. Of all the virtual assistant companies, only Apple has a stated position of protecting our privacy, but the company also hasn’t released hardware like Amazon Echo or Dot. Online comic strip XKCD took a snarky, succinct— and yet oblique—look at the subject. I’d love to know what our readers think.
We write here a lot of about small drones. Amazon wants to deliver packages with drones. Drones have taken breathtaking aerial views of Apple Park. But what happens when one of the larger drones accidentally slams into a human being? Time for the automotive crash-test dummies to step up and tell the story! Well, the instrumentation does. Bloomberg has a great story on “Crashing Drones into Test Dummies for Safety” Watch a drone disintegrate as it strikes a crash-test dummy. It’s a battle of the bots. All for human safety, of course.
Fast food chain McDonalds is testing a fancy new way to order using your smartphone, because, you know, that’s what we’re looking for from McDonald’s. Customers in Monterey and Salinas, California can use the McDonalds mobile app to order food from home and have it ready when they get there. Andrew Orr explains.
With our first glimpse of iOS 11 most likely coming up in a few weeks at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, it’s fun to look at features we’d like to see in the next version of the iPhone and iPad operating system. Jacek Zieba put together a video showing many of those features in action, and it’s pretty compelling. How about a pop-up menu from the control center’s WiFi icon showing available networks, or group FaceTime video chats? We’d love to see more useful in-app screen controls and that option to clear app data and caches easily, too. But true multi-user support? Apple isn’t going there.
Yesterday was the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest, and also marks the contest’s 10th anniversary. Hackers compete in challenges to find security holes in popular software and mobile devices. This year, two Safari zero days were found by the white-hat hackers.
Dr. Mac was recently invited to review a smart deadbolt. He explained that he’s not a do-it-yourself type of guy, and probably didn’t have the tools or skills to install a deadbolt. He also questioned the need to ever unlock his door using an iPhone instead of a key. A Sense Smart deadbolt kit arrived a few days later; he installed it himself in under an hour.
Paul Hayes at Sky & Telescope has written a great tip about how to use the iPhone’s accessibility features to turn the iPhone’s entire display a specific color profile. For example, if you need to shade the iPhone’s entire display permanently reddish in order to preserve night-time dark adaption, you can do that. This technique would be particularly handy for amateur astronomers. While some astronomy apps have this feature, this tip applies to the iPhone’s display across the board. The tip is beautifully described, including an explanation of accessibility shortcuts, and also invites exploration for those who have certain kinds of color blindness. Check it out.
The second targeted travel ban to come from the White House has been temporarily blocked, but this time the fight didn’t include support from Apple, Google, Microsoft, or Facebook. They weren’t, however, alone in skipping out on signing the brief opposing the ban because less than half the companies that signed the previous brief participated in this one.
Apple didn’t sign the amicus brief opposing the second travel ban executive order, but that doesn’t mean the company supports it. John Martellaro and Dave Hamilton join Jeff Gamet to talk about Apple’s political versus business positions, plus they look at the features that keep them using their Apple Watch.
Matt Birchler mocked up a great concept for iOS 11’s lock screen and we’re hoping Apple is taking notes. His ideas are plausible because he builds on what Apple already gave us in iOS 10 with enhancements like a current weather badge, grouped and organized notifications, “smart notifications” triggered by activity or location, and more. Matt also took the time to explain his ideas, and now we’re seriously wondering why there hasn’t ever been a weather complication on our iPhone screens. You can check out Matt’s iOS 11 lock screen concept at the Birchtree website.
We have a deal for VPN fans, a two-year subscription to Private Internet Access. With this plan, you get unlimited bandwidth on up to 5 devices, including Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, and Linux PCs. There are more than 3,300 servers in 25 countries to choose from, and the subscription comes with a variety of services. Check out the details on the deal listing. The price through our deal is $59.95, some 63% off retail.
For this Quick Tip, Melissa Holt’s got some tricks for us on how to do text selection within a document, email, or webpage. So if you’re unfamiliar with ways to select text without clicking and dragging, come read this one! It’ll save you tons of time.
“Don’t kiss and tell” is a lesson Standard Innovation learned the hard—and expensive—way. The company agreed to pay out a US$3.75 million lawsuit settlement for collecting personally identifiable information about its We-Vibe vibrator users without their consent.
LEGO and tape are two words I hadn’t thought to put together until I saw Nimuno Loops, which is exactly that: LEGO-compatible tape, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s tape with the right size studs so you can stick LEGO bricks to it. Right now it’s an Indigogo campaign that’s gone over its funding goal by 9,320%, which is both awesome and insane. The tape is two studs wide and whatever length you want. You can bend it, cut it, and move it around thanks to its adhesive backing. Pricing starts at US$11 for two 6.5-foot rolls and you can choose from several colors. After something like five different people told me about Nimuno Loops LEGO-compatible tape, I knew I just had to share.
John has had his Apple Watch for just under two years and is loving it. He can’t imagine reverting to his old, dumb watch. As Fleetwood Mac said, “Never Going Back Again.” Here’s a list of eight things he can’t live without.
Check out this awesome video by Mari Lesterberg (via Laughing Squid). It’s a MIDI Drawing where she draws a story—about Mario, in this case—with MIDI notes. That makes it both a soundtrack and a story, which is intensely clever. She has many more, including a still dedication to Frank Zappa, stories about cars and trains, and childrens’ fairy tales. Ms. Lesterberg is a performing musician, which is always awesome, but these MIDI projects are just too cool.
Secure email is a pretty big deal. While knowing how to encrypt your email is great, you first have to decide which security method to use. You can go with Apple Mail’s built-in S/MIME support or OpenPGP. Which is better? Let’s look at them side by side and try to find an answer to that question.
I’ve been on a big anachronism kick lately, so it really resonated when John Kheit turned me on to this video of analog numeral displays. This is the sort of thing we had to look digital before we had digital. Or something like that. As noted by Boing Boing, this technology is called “edge lit digital display,” and it’s part analog and part mechanical. In the video, you can hear the mechanical relays clicking and buzzing away as they control which digit is being displayed. The video comes from Steve Johnson, who runs a website deliciously Steve’s Antique Technology. Steve, you had me at “Antique Technology.” He’s got a lot of info on these old systems.
It’s easy to use “Share My Location” in Messages, but there are plenty of times when you might want to send a saved marker straight from Maps. Maybe you’re planning a family vacation and have found a cool point of interest to visit, or perhaps you want to scout out new coffee shops to visit with your friends. Jeff Butts walks you through saving a map location and then sharing it, step by step.
Bryan and Jeff try and wrap their heads around a world where malware is being installed on Android devices in the supply chain, before customers even get the devices. They also take a trip into the anachronistic world of sealing wax and sealing wax stamps, as well as the fascinating world where 40 year-old Apple I computers are auctioned for hundreds of thousands of dollars.