Alex Gibney’s New Documentary Paints An Ambivalent Portrait Of Steve Jobs

 writes: Earlier this week, I joined a group of journalists to meet with director Alex Gibney and discuss his new film, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine — and the first thing he did was put away his iPhone.

It was no big deal, but the action took a little extra humor and weight since the documentary is all about our relationship with Jobs and the products he created. It opens with footage of the mass outpouring of grief after Jobs’ death in 2011, and the rest of the movie asks: Why did people feel so much attachment to the CEO of an enormous tech company? And is Jobs really worthy of such admiration?

“The way the Jobs film ends, there’s no prescription there. To me, the best films are the ones that force you, not force you but encourage you to take something out of the theater and the questions roll around you in your head.”

Gibney isn’t trying to convince people that they should stop buying Apple products — after all, he’s still got that iPhone. Instead the aim is to raise questions about Jobs’ values and the influence those values had on the rest of Silicon Valley (where Gibney often sees a similar “rough-and-tumble libertarian vibe”).

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“The film is not a slam. The film is a meditation on this guy’s life and what it meant to us. It’s not so simple.”

“The way the Jobs film ends, there’s no prescription there,” he said. “To me, the best films are the ones that force you, not force you but encourage you to take something out of the theater and the questions roll around you in your head.”

On the other hand, the film’s ability to address those questions may have been hampered by the fact that many people declined to be interviewed — there’s no Steve Wozniak, no one currently at Apple, and the closest you get to Jobs’ family is Chrisann Brennan, the mother of his first child Lisa. In fact, Gibney recounted how Apple employees walked out of a screening of the movie at South by Southwest — at the time, Apple’s Eddy Cue tweeted that it was “an inaccurate and mean-spirited view of my friend.” Read the rest of this entry »


Apple TV 4 Hardware Revealed: A8 Chip, Black remote, 8/16GB Storage, Same Ports, no 4K 

flat-screen-television

Priced at $149, will include universal search for finding content across providers.

Mark Gurman reports: The fourth-generation Apple TV, set to be unveiled at an event on September 9thand released in October, will feature a mix of new and familiar hardware, according to reliable sources. While the new device will sport a much faster processor than the current Apple TV, a color-matched remote control, and a somewhat larger body, it will lack support for 4K video streaming and have the same basic ports as the third-generation model…

[Next-gen Apple TV priced at $149, will include universal search for finding content across providers – AppleInsider]

[Also see – Apple TV Rumor Roundup: Everything We Think We Know – Gizmodo]

The current Apple TV design, first released in late 2010, has 8GB of internal storage for caching media, and the fourth-generation boxes in testing surprisingly range from 8GB to 16GB of storage. We are told that Apple has considered two pricing strategies: the simultaneous release of a $149 base model with 8GB of storage alongside a $199 16GB model, or the release of the 16GB Apple TV alone at $149. In either case, Apple will offer a $149 Apple TV.

Apple TV HBO

While the new Apple TV will include an App Store for deep support for gaming, sources say that the limited storage offered by 8GB and 16GB flash memory is appropriate for the new model, as all content outside of applications will be streamed directly from the Internet. Additionally, the new Apple TV runs an iOS 9 core, and iOS 9 includes several new features for reducing the file size of App Store apps, including the ability to load games in level-sized chunks and stream rather than store videos within app binaries.

[New Apple TV Will Feature Universal Search, Start At $149 – BuzzFeed]

[Also see – The next-gen Apple TV could be the most exciting product Apple has released in years – BGR.com]

Sources indicate that the new Apple TV will be powered by the A8 chip found in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, coming in behind the A9-based iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. In iPhones, the A8 is notably less powerful than the A8X chip found in the iPad Air 2, which includes an additional processing core and improved graphics. Read the rest of this entry »


Report: New Apple TV to be Unveiled in September, but Without Expected TV Subscription Service

tim-cook-apple-tv

The Apple TV is also expected to gain Siri voice search support in its update this fall, as well as more on-board storage.

Chance Miller reports: According to a new report from BuzzFeed News, Apple is currently planning to unveil its refreshed Apple TV in September. The company had originally planned to unveil the device at WWDC this summer, but scrapped it from the event at the last minute. A September unveil has seemingly been expected since the announcement was pulled from WWDC.

“It was reported in the past that the device will not feature support for 4k content, as Apple feels there is not a large enough market for the feature at this time.”

The report goes on to corroborate much of what we reported earlier this year. The refreshed Apple TV is expected to be slimmer than the current-generation device and will feature Apple’s new A8 chip. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] ‘Amazing Grace’ Performed by Condoleezza Rice & Jenny Oaks Baker

Download “Amazing Grace” by Condoleezza Rice and Jenny Oaks Baker on iTunes.


‘Mad Men’ Retrospective

mad-men-google-play

Mad Men Retrospective on Google Play Includes Free Episode

 writes: “Mad Men,” as it nears the finish line after eight years on TV, is getting a virtual retrospective on Google Play that will allow fans to relive the show’s run — a promo that includes free streaming access to the series’ very first episode.

betty-draper

Under a pact with LionsgateGoogle Play is debuting “The Mad Men Experience,” at madmen.withgoogle.com. The website is billed as an interactive, art-exhibit-style destination set in the world of 1960s Madison Avenue with more than 300 pieces of content released for the first time in a digital environment. Those include rarely seen artwork interviews with cast audio commentaries and other features.

Don-Draper

The deal is Google Play’s first digital fan experience for a TV show, and it’s aimed at driving viewers to purchase episodes and full seasons of “Mad Men” from the online store. In addition, for a limited time Google Play will stream season one, episode one (“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”) for free on Google Play, available to users in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia. All prior seasons of “Mad Men” also are available for streaming on Netflix, and for purchase on Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s Instant Video services. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Star Wars’ Films Will Be Available for Download

star-wars

“Star Wars” is finally arriving on the world’s most wretched hive of scum and villainy: the Internet.

All six “Star Wars” movies will be available to download for the first time — legally, anyway — starting Friday, April 10, from major digital retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu.

“Hard-core fans will likely want to know that the digital versions will be the same ones that the always-tweaking George Lucas released on Blu-ray, not the original theatrical versions.”

Disney and 20th Century Fox, which together control rights to the films, will make them available to purchase for digital devices individually and as a set. Previously, “Star Wars” has been available on DVD and Blu-ray, but not online.

Prices will be set by retailers. The movies will only be available to buy, not to rent via video-on-demand. Read the rest of this entry »


What’s the Apple Watch Good For?

watchmaker

Developers and designers debate whether the Apple Watch will find its purpose

John Pavlus  writes: When Apple unveiled the first iPad in 2010, many pundits scoffed. Among the gripes: tablet computers had been tried before without success; most people already had laptops; and wasn’t it just a giant iPod Touch?

 “A watch is a very covert object,” she says. “I could see a new kind of private language or low-level communication emerging from this kind of wearable, using pulses or squeezes.”

— Laura Seargeant Richardson, a user experience expert at Argodesign, a consultancy based in Austin, Texas

The market, as we know, reacted differently. Tablet computers are now a hit—thanks in no small part to Apple’s savvy design, which offered people something that was instantly comprehensible and easy to use, but also flexible enough to suggest thousands of new applications.+

With the upcoming release of the Apple Watch, the company seems poised to repeat the trick. Despite a raft of existing smart watches from companies including Samsung, Motorola, and Pebble, wearable technology has resisted mainstream appeal, partly because the devices don’t feel particularly useful (see “So Far, Smart Watches Are Pretty Dumb”).

apple watch humor

The advance marketing for the Apple Watch has done little to explain why this product will fare better, but the tools (WatchKit) and documentation (Human Interface Guidelines) released for app developers provides some clues. They suggest a simple, intuitive mode of interaction centered on streamlined alerts. If the market influence of the iPhone and iPad are any indication, the user experience patterns that Apple establishes may come to define what all smart watches are “for” in eyes of their users.

The Apple Watch might seem like a computer that resides on your wrist, but technically that isn’t the case. Apps that run on it are actually just extensions of iOS apps that run on an iPhone; they use the watch as an auxiliary display. This encourages developers to exploit the device as a kind of remote control for their existing iOS apps, and imagine the UX accordingly.

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“You’re not allowed to run code on the watch at all,” says William Van Hecke, user experience lead at the Omni Group, a productivity software vendor that’s developing apps for the Apple Watch.

Nik Fletcher, product manager at Realmac Software, says his team “carefully reduced the core essence” of the company’s to-do list app, called Clear, in order to adapt it for the Apple Watch. Whereas the full iOS app lets users reorder tasks or mark off entire lists in one stroke, and includes animations and sound effects, the new version focuses on what Fletcher terms “recall and completion.” Upcoming reminders can be viewed using the watch’s (noninteractive) Glance view, and individual items can be crossed off. New entries must be input via the iPhone or Mac version of the software. Read the rest of this entry »


A Wireless Sensor That Locks Your Mac When You Walk Away

 Sesame-mac-wired

 writes: Security is boring—particularly when it works properly.

The new Sesame 2 key fob is a dead-simple security solution for your Mac that’s exactly the right kind of boring. It automatically locks your computer when you walk away from it. Also, not as boring, it allows for some customizable actions including two-factor authentication.

The small device fastens to your keychain or slips into your change pocket and pairs to your Mac over Bluetooth. It can determine your physical distance from your machine, and when you wander too far away from your Mac, it can force the screen to lock, requiring a login to access the desktop again.

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When you return, it can either unlock your computer automatically or, if you have the optional Two-Factor Authentication mode enabled, require both the system password and the Sesame 2 to unlock the computer.

Atama originally put out its first Sesame Bluetooth key last year. This new version, the Sesame 2, is now available on the London-based company’s website for $39, or at Apple Stores and Amazon in the U.K. for £39.

The distance that triggers a screen lock is somewhat customizable—users can choose between “Near” and “Far” locking distances. While there’s some fluctuation in actual distance because of varying real-world conditions, the “Near” option typically locks your Mac once you step 20-25 feet away from it. Read the rest of this entry »


Are Netflix and iTunes to Blame?


[VIDEO] You Know What’s Fun? Swing is Fun. Jazz Violinist Nora Francesca Germain

Swing is Fun” by Nora Germain from Album ‘Little Dipper’ available now. Copyright Nora Germain 2014. Download here.

Nora-Germain

Nora Francesca Germain

Nora Germain on twitter.


Reality Check: Despite Apple’s Privacy Pledge, Cops Can Still Pull Data Off a Locked iPhone

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A reminder to iPhone owners cheering Apple’s latest privacy win: Just because Apple will no longer help police to turn your smartphone inside out doesn’t mean it can prevent the cops from vivisecting the device on their own.

“I am quite impressed, Mr. Cook! That took courage. But it does not mean that your data is beyond law enforcement’s reach.”

—  iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski

On Wednesday evening Apple made news with a strongly-worded statement about how it protects users’ data from government requests. And the page noted at least one serious change in that privacy stance: No longer will Apple aid law enforcement or intelligence agencies in cracking its users’ passcodes to access their email, photos, or other mobile data. That’s a 180-degree flip from its previous offer to cops, which demanded only that they provide the device to Apple with a warrantto have its secrets extracted.

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In fact, Apple claims that the new scheme now makes Apple not only unwilling, but unable to open users’ locked phones for law enforcement. “Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access [your personal] data,” reads the new policy. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

“I can do it. I’m sure the guys in suits in the governments can do it. And I’m sure that there are at least three or four commercial tools that can still do this, too.”

But as the media and privacy activists congratulated Apple on that new resistance to government snooping, iOS forensics expert Jonathan Zdziarski offered a word of caution for the millions of users clamoring to pre-order the iPhone 6 and upgrade to iOS 8. In many cases, he points out, the cops can still grab and offload sensitive data from your locked iPhone without Apple’s help, even in iOS 8. All they need, he says, is your powered-on phone and access to a computer you’ve previously used to move data onto and off of it. Read the rest of this entry »


Amazon Unveils ‘Fire Phone’

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone Associated PressAfter months of leaks and speculation, Amazon unveiled its ‘Fire Phone’ smartphone. The new phone has a 4.7-inch screen, a 13-megapixel camera and unlimited photo storage in cloud, as well as a 3-D like effect where the images move where you do.

The phone will be available July 25, and sells for $649 to $749 with no contract…(read more)

Digits – WSJ

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the new Amazon Fire Phone Associated Press


Jonathan Wilner: Bundled Cable Channels Are Here to Stay — And That’s a Good Thing

Illustration: elapela/Getty Images

Illustration: elapela/Getty Images

Note: Jonathan Wilner is a pro-bundler, he defends the practice. In this article for WIRED, he speaks for the cable companies, not the consumers. Founder of the broadband pay TV platform Unlimited Football, and former VP of technology at Foxsports.com, Wilner represents the sellers of bundled programming, not the interests of individual customers. His opinions should be viewed with that in mind. My comments are in italics.

Wilner writes:  These days, barely a week passes in the U.S. entertainment industry without litigation, legislation, or argumentation over bundling–the practice of offering a “package” of channels instead of the option to buy a la carte. I, for one, say enough with bundle bashing. Bundling is hardly unique to the entertainment industry, nor is it solely an American phenomenon. There’s a reason for this: Bundling benefits consumers and vendors in more ways than one.

Bundles exist and are popular with consumers across a range of goods and services: Computer software, automobile trim and option packages, restaurant meals, gym memberships, even amusement park tickets…

I have to interrupt Wilner for a moment, to point out the obvious. These are bad examples. With the exception gym memberships (bundle-only) none of these examples put consumers in the position of “buy a bundle, or no deal”. Amusement parks, computer software, restaurant meals, sure, those things are offered in package form, but are also available individually. Clearly you can buy one restaurant meal, you can buy one software program, one amusement park ticket, one pair of custom headlights for your car. Hell, if you wanted, you could buy one headlight. Ala carte.

Cable companies don’t “offer” programming in bundled form–that’s your only choice. Take it or leave it. (and they arrange the bundles, not you) You “get” to choose among bundled packages. In order to get programming from a cable TV provider, accepting a bundle is they only way to get it . Why does Wilner offer such poor examples?  

Imagine if you wanted to buy an airline ticket, and your only option was to buy a vacation package that included dozens of airline tickets? Or if you wanted to one out, but had to buy a booklet of 25 meal tickets? That’s the current arrangement with cable companies.

And despite all the furor over television bundling, non-TV programming often is bundled too: NBA League Pass, Netflix, Hulu, even Sirius radio subscriptions require consumers to pay a flat rate for a package that may include programs they don’t want.

In other words, “hey, these other providers do it.” So what? It’s still an anti-consumer practice. 

While anti-bundling advocates purport that a la carte programming would reduce costs to consumers, it simply isn’t true. In a series of posts from his blog Stratēchery, Ben Thompson provides compelling evidence to show that if ESPN was offered on an a la carte basis, it could maintain its current profitability only if individual subscribers paid about $100 a month for it.

Read the rest of this entry »


Apple releases a Beatles channel for Apple TV

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It’s no surprise that Apple is getting in on the landmark anniversary of Beatlesmania in the US. It’s launched a Beatles channel for the Apple TV with the Beatles’ initial appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show available for free streaming. It also promotes Apple’s release of the Beatles’ U.S. albums, which differ greatly from the UK versions in the early years.

It’s been 50 years since The Beatles made their way to the US and changed music forever, and now Apple is commemorating that with a special channel on the Apple TV. For a limited time, Apple TV owners will be able to view The Beatles’ back-to-back performances on The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago.

Read the rest of this entry »


Okay, Well, I Never Said I was Perfect

Okay, Well, I Never Said I was Perfect


Study: Studios Need to Offer More Movies Online to Curb Piracy

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Ted Johnson writes: Adding to a growing body of competing data on who bears the blame for rampant online infringement, two George Mason U scholars unveiled a website that claims that few of the most pirated movies are even available online legally.

Shorter windows would help counter piracy, the authors say, though theater owners are unlikely to agree with changing windows substantially in the near future.

The site — piracydata.org — shows that of the top 10 most pirated movies in the past week, none are available for streaming, three were available for digital rental and six were available for digital purchase. The authors of the study, Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado from GMU’s Mercatus Center and developer Matt Sherman, relied on data from TorrentFreak and Can I Stream It. The top pirated movie, “Pacific Rim,” was available only for digital purchase, their study showed.

The study showed that over the past three weeks, 53% of the most pirated movies have been available legally in some digital form. In the same period, only 25% have been available for rental or streaming, and 0% have been available on a legal streaming service.

Read the rest of this entry »


Justice Department Seeks Oversight of Apples iTunes Store

Punishment Would Include Music, Movies and TV Content Sold on iTunes

By CHAD BRAYIAN SHERR

Apple Inc.’s e-book problem is spilling over into its other media businesses.

After winning last month an e-books antitrust suit against Apple, the Justice Department on Friday asked a federal judge to limit Apple’s influence in the publishing market and give the government oversight of the iTunes Store and App Store.

The government proposals, if accepted, could give music, television-show and content owners more leverage in negotiations with a company that has been an aggressive bargainer in opening up traditional media to digital distribution.

Apple is currently negotiating with owners of video programming about potential new devices and services for the living room. After negotiating with record labels, it recently announced a new music streaming service, iTunes Radio.

The government seeks to prohibit Apple from reaching agreements with media companies that increase the prices at which Apple’s rivals sell e-books, music, TV shows or movies.

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The Apple logo inside the entrance to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York.

Apple objected strongly to the proposals, calling them a “draconian and punitive intrusion into Apple’s business, wildly out of proportion to any adjudicated wrongdoing or potential harm,” in a court filing Friday.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan found that Apple had colluded with five major U.S. publishers to drive up the prices of e-books. The remedies proposed Friday underscore the risks Apple took when it gambled with a trial after the publishers settled similar civil allegations. The company has said it plans to appeal.

The trial earlier this summer revolved around the steps Apple took to gain a foothold in e-books when it created what it called iBookstore. Apple still makes the bulk of its revenue from products such as the iPad and iPhone, but the iTunes Store, which houses the iBookstore and App Store, is a strategically important area that accounts for about 10% of the company’s revenue.

Read the rest of this entry »