Category: Links

Google Allo to shut down in March, putting focus on Messages and Duo

Ry Crist, writing for CNET:

Several months after “pausing investment” in the service, Google is officially shutting down Allo, its messaging rival to the likes of Apple iMessage, Facebook Chat and WhatsApp.

The search giant said in a blog post Wednesday that the app will work through March. Until then, users will be able to export their existing conversation history.

“We’ve learned a lot from Allo, particularly what’s possible when you incorporate machine learning features, like the Google Assistant, into messaging,” the post says.

Attention will now shift to Messages, Google’s Android-based messaging app. That comes with a focus on RCS, which is set to give Android users advanced messaging features like read receipts and higher-resolution image-sharing capabilities. Additionally, Google will continue to support Hangouts for group chat and Duo for video chat.

“We’re … ready to take what we’ve learned from Allo and put it to work to make Messages even better,” Google’s post reads. “And by refocusing on Messages and Duo for consumers and Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet for team collaboration, we’re focused on delivering a simpler and more unified communications experience for all of you.”

Another one bites the dust when it comes to Google messaging services.

Microsoft Is Worth as Much as Apple. How Did That Happen?

New York Times:

Just a few years ago, Microsoft was seen as a lumbering has-been of the technology world.

It was big and still quite profitable, but the company had lost its luster, failing or trailing in the markets of the future like mobile, search, online advertising and cloud computing. Its stock price languished, inching up 3 percent in the decade through the end of 2012.

It’s a very different story today. Microsoft is running neck and neck with Apple for the title of the world’s most valuable company, both worth more than $850 billion, thanks to a stock price that has climbed 30 percent over the last 12 months.

So what happened?

Ever since Satya Nadella came on board in 2014, Microsoft has been following his vision for the company, they’ve re-invented themselves by dumping a lot of stuff that didn’t work and focusing on what did and the end result is a new Microsoft.

Jason Snell on the New Ipad Pros: ‘a Computer, Not a Pc’

Jason Snell, writing for Six Colors:

With the iPad Pro and improvements to iOS and various iOS apps, I reached a point where I could do most or all of my required work on the road without bringing a Mac along. (I’ll get into some of the limitations below, because they still remain — and are frustrating reminders of how young this product still is.) I wasn’t going to leave the iPad behind, but I no longer needed to bring the Mac. My bag got lighter.

So when I review the new iPad Pro, it’s as someone who has chosen this platform as a tool to get work done around the house and on the road, in addition to all the other things the iPad excels at, like letting me read the news in the morning in bed while sipping my tea.

Marco Arment on the 2018 Mac Mini

Marco Arment:

I hardly ever think about my Mac Mini, but it serves a vital role for my family as our home-theater mixerPlex server, ScanSnap server, Apple Photos backup, and Backblaze host for our NAS.1 Almost every port on the back is in use, and it runs 24/7, reliably, in total silence.

Until last week, I thought it would be the last Mac Mini that Apple ever made.
And when rumors started swirling about an imminent Mac Mini update, I assumed the worst: if it came at all, it would be a tiny box with a slow, ultra-low-power processor and almost zero ports, optimizing for small size instead of versatility.

I don’t think this was an unreasonable fear after the 2014 Mac Mini update, which made many key aspects much worse without making anything much better. It seemed clear then, and for the following four years that it went without an update, that Apple held the Mac Mini and its customers in very low regard.

Not anymore.

The 2018 Mac Mini is real, and it’s spectacular.

It makes almost nothing worse and almost everything better, finally bringing the Mac Mini into the modern age.

[…]

A new Mac Mini could’ve been so much worse. At many times in its past, it has seemed unloved, neglected, and downright punitive — a similar pattern to Apple’s other headless desktop, the Mac Pro. It seemed for a while that Apple lacked any interest in making Macs anymore, especially desktops.

Last year, with the introduction of the absolutely stellar iMac Pro, Apple showed us a glimpse of a potential new direction. It was downright perfect — a love letter to the Mac and its pro desktop users, and a clear turnaround in the way the company views the Mac for the better.

We didn’t know until now whether the iMac Pro’s greatness was a fluke. But now we have another data point: the last two desktops out of Apple have been incredible. After this, I have faith that they’re going to do the new Mac Pro justice when it finally ships next year.

The new Mac Mini is a great update, out of nowhere, to a product we thought would never be updated again.

Of course, with Apple’s track record on the Mac Mini, it may never be updated after this. This is either the first in a series of regular updates with which Apple proves that they care about the Mac Mini again, or it’s the last Mac Mini that will ever exist and we’ll all be hoarding them in a few years. We can’t know yet.
But today, this is a great update, a wonderful all-arounder for lots of potential needs, and just a fantastic little computer.

Remembering Stan Lee

From the New York Times Obit:

If Stan Lee revolutionized the comic book world in the 1960s, which he did, he left as big a stamp — maybe bigger — on the even wider pop culture landscape of today.

Think of “Spider-Man,” the blockbuster movie franchise and Broadway spectacle. Think of “Iron Man,” another Hollywood gold-mine series personified by its star, Robert Downey Jr. Think of “Black Panther,” the box-office superhero smash that shattered big screen racial barriers in the process.

And that is to say nothing of the Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and other film and television juggernauts that have stirred the popular imagination and made many people very rich.

If all that entertainment product can be traced to one person, it would be Stan Lee, who died in Los Angeles on Monday at 95. From a cluttered office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in the 1960s, he helped conjure a lineup of pulp-fiction heroes that has come to define much of popular culture in the early 21st century.

The 2018 Ipad Pros

John Gruber:

The iPad Pro is like a computer from an alternate universe. In the normal universe, Moore’s Law has stopped delivering significant year-over-year returns, and high-performance portables need fans to cool them. In the iPad universe, Moore’s Law still delivers year after year, and a super-fast, genuinely “pro” portable needs no fan.

[…]

The new Apple Pencil is one of the best “2.0” products I’ve ever seen. The original Apple Pencil is a terrific product, but the new one nears perfection for the concept.

[…]

I’ve been using the 12.9-inch model for testing over the last five days. It’s a lot easier and more comfortable to hold. There have been times when I forgot I was using the “big” iPad.

[…]

iPad is not really a multi-user device, because unlike MacOS, iOS still doesn’t have any concept of user accounts. But I know that many people use iPads as shared family devices. iOS 12 limits you to two faces with Face ID — your default face and an “alternate appearance”.

[…]

The new Smart Keyboard Folio cover is a much better design than the old Smart Keyboard. As promised by Apple, it’s much sturdier and more stable. Apple is really serious about all these magnets. They work. The downside, though, is that it’s thicker on the device, because it covers the front and back. I think this trade-off is worth it.

Austin Mann: A Photographer’s Review of the iPad Pro

Austin Mann has published an excellent review of the new iPad Pro for photographers:

I was working with Mavic Pro 2 in the black volcanic deserts of south Iceland. While sitting in the car (in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere), I decided to offload my images and review them.

I pulled out the iPad Pro and a card reader, and within only a few moments I was reviewing them on screen. Next thing I knew I was editing them with the Pencil in Lightroom CC and then I shared one with my wife—all within just a few moments.

It’s really easy to sit just about anywhere (even with a steering wheel in your face) and not just use it, but use it to its full extent. Another cool feature in this scenario is eSIM.

Because the iPad Pro is connected to cellular, even in the middle of nowhere Iceland, I could quickly share the images without even thinking about my connection, WiFi, hotspots, etc. Time wasn’t mission critical on this shoot, but in a scenario where time is of the essence, this kind of workflow could be a game-changer.

Samsung shares a glimpse of its folding ‘Infinity Flex Display’ smartphone

Lucas Matney, writing for TechCrunch:

After hyping its unveil of its long-rumored folding smartphone, Samsung kind of delivered an announcement, revealing a dual-screen folding phone prototype.

“How can we make the screen bigger without actually increasing the size of the device itself?” a Samsung exec posited onstage.

The company showcased a prototype of its “Infinity Flex Display,” a device that can be unfolded. In a pitch black room, a company exec showcased the device, which was housed in a larger case to “obscure the form factor.” There’s a conventional outer display on the front with a fairly low screen-to-body ration, but when you unfold the phone, there’s a massive 7.3″ display on the inside.

It’s clear that despite hyping this “innovation,” Samsung isn’t quite ready to release a device of this type yet. The company says it will start mass production of the new display type in the coming months. The company teased more announcements surrounding the device at the next Samsung Unpacked event in 2019.

Whether this is the future of the phablet or not, it’s certainly an evolution of the smartphone form factor. Samsung believes that the folding display is the “foundation of the smartphone of tomorrow,” but whether there’s more beyond the gimmick certainly wasn’t clarified today.

Marvel’s Unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four Movie Is Now on Youtube

MovieWeb:

Perhaps the most famously bad Marvel movie in history is now available to watch in its entirety online. In 1994, a low-budget The Fantastic Four movie was completed, but never released and has existed in infamy ever since.

In an era long before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even a few years before Blade would help establish Marvel as a brand that could do business at the box office, this cheap monstrosity happened. And now, those brave enough can view it for themselves.