iOS 12.1 will improve selfie quality on the iPhone XS and XR

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge

Ever since the iPhone XS came out, there’s been criticism of its front camera — specifically, that it overly smooths skin. This, of course, was dubbed “Beautygate” in reference to Samsung-style beautification filters, which Apple has always insisted it doesn’t use.

Whatever the case, it was definitely there, but now it’s going away: during our iPhone XR review, Apple told me that iOS 12.1 will fix a bug in its smart HDR camera system that resulted in smoother-looking photos taken by the front camera on the iPhone XS and XR.

Essentially, Smart HDR was choosing the wrong base frame for HDR processing when you took a selfie.

When this issue came about, people thought it was due to Apple intentionally doing some overly aggressive noise reduction or something else.

But nope, just a Smart HDR bug.

A few thoughts on the iPhone XS Max

M.G. Siegler sharing his thoughts on the iPhone XS Max:

It’s been awhile. Over a month since my last post, in fact. I’ve been busy — in the best way possible.¹ Since it has also been about a month that I’ve had the latest iPhone, I wanted to jot down some thoughts before they fade into time.

[…]

Yes, even a month later, the name is still ridiculous. Yes, still Microsoft ridiculous. My rationale for getting the massive model was pretty simple:

I had used the iPhone X for the past year so I wanted something different. I debated Gold, but didn’t think I could pull it off. Plus, prior to the iPhone X, I had used the iPhone ‘Plus’ models, so I figured I was used to the larger form factor.

The ‘Max’ is slightly shorter and thinner while weighing a smidge more than those models. But, of course, the screen is significantly larger (6.5” versus 5.5”). Thank god for the ‘Reachability’ feature in iOS.

As it turns out, I may have been too used to the ‘Plus’ size — from day one, the ‘Max’ model didn’t feel all that different than the regular ‘X’ size, even though it is (it’s quite a bit taller, wider, and heavier). I continue to be surprised that this is the case, but it’s just not a huge difference in my book.

And that’s a little annoying to me. Because…

A month later, I think I’ve determined I actually prefer the ‘X’ — and now the ‘XS’ — size. This wasn’t the case when “downgrading” from a ‘Plus’ phone to the “regular” iPhone in generations past — I found the smaller versions to be almost comically small when switching between the two. With the ‘Max’ to the ‘X’ or ‘XS’, to be honest, I just like the latter form factor more — I find it to be a more natural size that feels better in the hand.

Obviously, your mileage may vary, but I think part of my feeling is due to the fact that unlike when the ‘Plus’ models hit, it doesn’t seem like developers have really done anything to tailor their apps for the larger screen of the ‘Max’. Apple did, but not in the same way as they did with the ‘Plus’, where the entire OS changed in landscape mode, for example (it doesn’t here). And as a result, many apps just look sort of chunky now. I thought reading would be a huge advantage on this screen, but it looks weird reading sort of chunky text.²

All of that plus the fact that the bigger model doesn’t have the better camera system this time around (again, unlike the ‘Plus’ era), puts a lot of checks in the ‘XS’ box. If there’s one saving grace of the ‘Max’, it’s the bigger battery and as such, the slightly better battery life. That’s nice, but I still think I would have gone ‘XS’ all things considered.

[…]

In terms of things like speed, I honestly can’t say I notice any difference with this device versus last year’s X model. Both are insanely fast and nothing seems to push either all the much. I do seem to have fewer memory issues now, which could be due to more RAM,³ or just the device being newer.

The new camera system is much better in low-light environments. And I still find it weird how little Apple played up the camera upgrades in the keynote — maybe they didn’t want to draw the comparisons to Google’s Pixel devices, which many folks now seem to consider to have the better camera system?

Lastly, I’ll just give a shout-out to the clever way Apple “hid” the notch with their default iOS 12 “bubble” wallpapers.⁴ The bubble’s crest comes up just to the edge of the notch but doesn’t touch it, leaving the OLED’s ultra-black black to fill in the rest and hide the notch from view. It’s subtle and clever. Very Apple.

I could go on with iOS 12 changes, but there’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said since so many people (myself included) have been using the (very stable) betas for a long time now. I will give a special shout-out to the addition of third-party password managers, like 1Password, to the system-wide keychain. This is a total game-changer in terms of productivity.

Apple CEO Tim Cook Is Calling For Bloomberg To Retract Its Chinese Spy Chip Story

John Paczkowski and Joseph Bernstein, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

“There is no truth in their story about Apple,” Cook told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.


This is an extraordinary statement from Cook and Apple. The company has never previously publicly (though it may have done so privately) called for the retraction of a news story — even in cases where the stories have had major errors, or were demonstratively false, such as a This American Life episode that was shown to be fabricated.

Reached for comment, Bloomberg reiterated its previous defense of the story. “Bloomberg Businessweek’s investigation is the result of more than a year of reporting, during which we conducted more than 100 interviews,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in response to a series of questions.

“Seventeen individual sources, including government officials and insiders at the companies, confirmed the manipulation of hardware and other elements of the attacks. We also published three companies’ full statements, as well as a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We stand by our story and are confident in our reporting and sources.”

Matt Honan: “The Google Pixel 3 Is A Very Good Phone. But Maybe Phones Have Gone Too Far.”

Matt Honan, reviewing the Google Pixel 3:

The world is on fire but the new Google Pixel 3 — a Good Phone, which I do recommend you buy if you like Android and can afford it, although its updates are mostly incremental — in my pocket is cool to the touch. A dark slab of metal and glass. It comes alive when I rub my finger across the back of it.

And then!

“We’re doomed,” a colleague texts me on Signal*. A push alert from a well-regarded news site has more details on the alleged murder and dismemberment of a Saudi journalist. On Nextdoor, several neighbors report that their drinking water has tested positive for unsafe levels of pesticides. The Citizen app prompts me to record video of an angry naked man rampaging in the shit-strewn streets of San Francisco. Facebook is hacked and our information is out thereEveryone on Twitter is angry, you fucking cuck. You idiot. You tender, triggered snowflake. Everyone on Instagram is posturing, posing. You are less beautiful than they. The places you go are not as interesting.

[…]

I don’t recall exactly when my phone became such a festival of stress and psychological trauma, but here we are.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh but that camera! That screen! The Lens feature that can tell me what I’m looking at — what kind of plant it is or what kind of animal it is or what information is captured in a business card so that I do not have to go to the library and I do not have to enter it in or even remember it at all. I don’t have to remember! Okay, Google, I don’t want to think about it. Okay?

[…]


We are reaching a point of no return, when it comes to information collection, if we have not already gone beyond it. Cameras and screens, microphones and speakers. Capture your face and your voice and your friends’ faces and voices and where you are and what’s in your email and where you were when you sent it and… What did you say? Click, here’s an ad. And where did you go? Click, here’s an ad. Who were you with? Here’s an ad. What did you read here’s an ad how do you feel here’s an ad are you lonely here’s an ad are you lonely here’s an ad are you lonely?
Some of the new Pixel 3’s best features are ones designed to help you not use the phone.

Digital Wellbeing (which you can also enable on the previous Pixels) will turn your phone’s screen grayscale and turn off your notifications. It will tell you how much time you have spent on your phone for the day, and which apps you have spent that time in. You can also set a time limit on apps if you want. I found this useful and good. (It is also easily circumvented.)

[…]

Google is at the top of its game when it comes to hardware. While hardware may only be a queer little sideline for the company, it has never rolled out better devices. This phone is amazing. The operating system is amazing.

There are a few apps on the iPhone that I wish this Pixel 3 had (FaceTime, for example) but overall I strongly prefer this device to the new iPhone. And, in my estimation, all other Android phones are just garbage by comparison. (Having said this, Paczkowski’s dictum holds true here: Pick the ecosystem you like. Spend what you can afford. Buy the newest device. If you like iOS, you should get an iPhone. If you really love Samsung, get a Galaxy Note or whatever. If you can’t afford this phone, but you like Android devices, there are some excellent devices from Motorola in particular that are more reasonably priced.)

Twilio to acquire Sendgrid

Twilio to acquire Sendgrid

Jeff Lawson, writing on the Twilio blog:

We started Twilio 10 years ago to democratize communications, giving developers the power to make a phone ring with just a few lines of code. Over the years, we’ve evolved our platform to address nearly every channel that companies use to communicate with their customers, including voice, video, SMS, chat, smart speakers like Alexa, and messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and more.

As we continued to add new means of communication, you’ve told us that there has been one missing from our platform — email.  We’ve watched SendGrid on their journey to build the industry’s best cloud-based email delivery platform. They’ve taken the same developer-first approach as we have – building a great API, reducing friction to getting started, focusing on trust and quality and showing developers what’s possible with the power of code.

Both Twilio and SendGrid have been hearing from you, our customers, that having a single platform for all customer engagement would be remarkably valuable. The addition of the leading email API platform to the leading cloud communications platform can provide you with the most powerful resource to connect with your customers on any channel.

If you’ve been at a hackathon, conference or meetup in the past 10 years you may have seen someone in a red Twilio track jacket and someone in a blue SendGrid hoodie serving developers side-by-side. We’re excited about the opportunity to continue that journey of serving you, the developers in our community, as one unified platform.

There’s some work that we have to do to close the acquisition before we can operate as one company. So everything will be business as usual until that happens, which we expect to be some time in the first half of 2019, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions.

We can’t wait to see what you build!

This is a good matchmaking, adding email to their current offerings expands what channels they can reach out to.

Google Pixel’s product directors on single cameras and notches

Google Pixel’s product directors on single cameras and notches

Brian Heater, writing for Techcrunch:

Google hardware launches are never spec-fests. The search giant would rather just sit on the sideline while companies like Apple and Samsung battle it out on that front. In fact, numbers like screen resolution, processor speed and battery capacity were conspicuously absent from today’s presentation.

Instead, the company seems more content to have hardware serve the product’s software — it’s a strategy that certainly makes sense given the company’s background. That often means that products like the Pixel don’t offer major spec upgrades year over year, instead relying on breakthroughs in AI, ML and the like to take them to the next level.

As such, the company regularly tosses out words like “pragmatic” and “practical” when discussing the decisions made in service of producing the Pixel 3. One such move was the continued reliance on a single rear-facing camera, when the competition is adding two or three to get the job done.

“We look at all of the different configurations we can get,” VP of Product Management Brian Rakowski tells TechCrunch. “If we would have added another lens, it would have given us no benefit over what we get with one really good lens.”

[…]

That decision is what lead to the mismatched notches on the Google Pixel 3 (no notch) and Pixel 3 XL (giant notch). While the company has happily embraced hashtag notch life in Android Pie, the smaller Pixel’s slim profile wouldn’t have benefited from the addition of a notch.

“With the small one,” Rakowski explains, “it turns out the space is just too small when you put the wide-angle lens in. It’s a narrower phone, so you have room for an icon or two, whereas on the bigger phone everything you need for the status icons is up there, and it’s a very good use of the space.”

When I suggested the company was “notch agnostic,” both execs laughed in agreement. The hardware, Rakowski explained, is secondary to the overall experience. “We’re not obsessed with the specs,” he says. “We’re obsessed with the features and experiences.”

Instant Pot Turkey breast

It’s thanksgiving, which means turkey time.

I usually buy butterball boneless turkey breasts to make since I like getting more meat out of my turkey, and these are all meat and no bones (hence the name)

Cooking one with an instant pot is actually pretty quick, and tasty.


What you need:

  • 1 Butterball Turkey Breast Roast
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 tbsp butter, cut into slices
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 Turkey gravy packets

How to make it:

  1. Remove the packaging from the turkey.  
  2. Add the butter and oil to the instant pot and set on high saute mode.
  3. Once the instant pot reaches temperature, add the turkey and sear it from all sides, this should take about 5 – 8 minutes.
  4. Remove the turkey from the pot.
  5. Place the onion, garlic and chicken broth in the bottom of the pot.
  6. Add the trivet and place the turkey on top of it.
  7. Sprinkle the lemon juice, seasoning, and paprika on the turkey evenly.
  8. Close the lid to the and set the valve to sealing.
  9. Then use manual mode on high pressure and adjust the time to 45 minutes and let cook.  (this is based on 1 minute per ounce)
  10. Once cooking is done, natural release for an additional 20 minutes. 
  11. Remove the roast, and add both gravy mixes.
  12. Turn the pot back to the saute setting and whisk continuously until it comes to a boil and then about 3-5 additional minutes until it thickens. 
  13. Turn the instant pot off and remove the gravy from the heat.  The gravy will continue to thicken as it cools as well.
  14. Cut off the netting from the turkey breast and place on a platter to carve.

The Mandalorian

The Mandalorian

Actor / director Jon Favreau took to Instagram last night to tease the Star Wars TV show that he’s running.

On Instagram last night, Favreau posted:

View this post on Instagram

#starwars #TheMandalorian

A post shared by Jon Favreau (@jonfavreau) on

This will be the first live action Star Wars TV show, so that should make it interesting in itself, and should make a good launching point for Disney’s Streaming service next year when it launches, much like the Titans tv show on the DC Universe streaming service this month.

Why are Apple Watch faces such a mess?

Jason Snell, writing at Macworld:

It takes time to get a new operating system up and running. With watchOS 5, it feels like Apple has finally addressed most of the rough edges. Apps are more powerful; devices are more capable of acting on their own without the aid of an iPhone. I can understand why other features trumped the prioritization of watch faces, but it’s time. Apple needs to really revisit how it approaches watch faces.

Since the day the Apple Watch was announced, developers have clamored for the opportunity to design custom watch faces. That may never happen — there are plenty of reasons for Apple to consider the face designs sacred and something the company must control itself. But if Apple insists on having a monopoly on face design, it’s incumbent on the company to be a better steward of those faces.

[…]

It takes time to get a new operating system up and running. With watchOS 5, it feels like Apple has finally addressed most of the rough edges. Apps are more powerful; devices are more capable of acting on their own without the aid of an iPhone. I can understand why other features trumped the prioritization of watch faces, but it’s time. Apple needs to really revisit how it approaches watch faces.

Since the day the Apple Watch was announced, developers have clamored for the opportunity to design custom watch faces. That may never happen—there are plenty of reasons for Apple to consider the face designs sacred and something the company must control itself. But if Apple insists on having a monopoly on face design, it’s incumbent on the company to be a better steward of those faces.

Every face needs to be modernized and support the new complication styles, at least on Series 4. Key system apps and features like Messages and cellular status should be available on all faces. Every face design should be more flexible.

And moving forward, Apple should allow developers even more power in building complications. Complications should be able to appear when they have something to say and disappear when they don’t—for example, I’d love for a Timer complication to appear when I’m running a timer, but the rest of the time I’d rather not see it. If complications truly are the best face of Apple Watch apps, the developers of those apps need more power to build good ones.

Watch Faces are the face of watchOS. The complications on them are the face of every watchOS app. The design and implementation of Apple Watch faces needs to be more than an afterthought.

How Facebook could screw up Instagram now that its founders are leaving

Dan Frommer, writing for Re/Code on how the Instagram founders leaving could leave it open for Facebook to screw up:

Instagram’s founders are finally leaving Facebook, six years after they sold their startup to Mark Zuckerberg. We’ll skip the drama of their departure in this post. This is about keeping a great thing going — and how Facebook could potentially mess it up.

Instagram is, in many parts of the world, the most culturally relevant technology since texting. And that has everything to do with its founders — Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger — and their teams, who have meticulously shaped it since creation, executing near-flawlessly with tight control.

Walking through the things that make Instagram so special — its network, product, experience and institutional taste — it’s easy to see vulnerability in the wrong hands. Facebook can’t afford to screw this up — especially now, as it increasingly relies on Instagram for growth and for engagement from younger users.

[…]

For the near term, it’s likely that Instagram’s network and product will keep it going strong. (It’s not like there’s a suitable alternative!) Many interesting and talented people still work there and won’t necessarily follow the founders out the door. But over the years, it’s crucial to keep a strong sense of identity of what it uniquely means to be Instagram or it will lose its magic. Who will do that? Is that something Mark Zuckerberg cares about?

Apple has largely kept its impeccable institutional taste after Steve Jobs’s death because Tim Cook is a very classy CEO, and Jony Ive and his industrial design sensibility have long been the driving force of the company. So things keep going. YouTube has also done well since its founders left many years ago — credit to Google — so there’s hope.

Dan makes a few good points in his article, so hopefully, Facebook will leave Instagram alone and not mess with it too much.