Today’s Apple Special Event

Apple held their hardware event today (click the link to watch the keynote)

Announced today were a New iPad Pro:

Apple today introduced the new iPad Pro with all-screen design and next-generation performance, marking the biggest change to iPad ever. The all-new design pushes 11-inch and 12.9-inch Liquid Retina displays to the edges of iPad Pro and integrates Face ID to securely unlock iPad with just a glance.

The A12X Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine in iPad Pro outperforms most PC laptops and offers a new USB-C connector, Gigabit-class LTE, and up to 1TB of storage to enable powerful new mobile workflows.

There weren’t a lot of surprises here, as the iPad Pro went to Face ID and lost the home button. Dropping Lightning for USB-C has been rumored for a while as well, I wonder if we’ll start seeing the iPhones switch to USB-C next year?

The Apple Pencil also got an update, gaining wireless charging, magnetic pairing,  tap gestures and a new flat styling.

A new 13 inch MacBook air:

Apple today introduced an all-new MacBook Air, bringing a stunning 13-inch Retina display, Touch ID, the latest processors and an even more portable design to the world’s most loved notebook. Delivering the all-day battery life it’s known for, the new MacBook Air is available in three gorgeous finishes — gold, space gray and silver.

The most affordable Retina-display Mac ever also includes an Apple-designed keyboard, a spacious Force Touch trackpad, faster SSDs, wide stereo sound, the Apple T2 Security Chip and Thunderbolt 3, making the new MacBook Air the perfect notebook to take with you everywhere you go.

This was a much needed update to the MacBook Air.

And a new Mac mini:

Apple today gave Mac mini a massive increase in performance. Now with quad- and 6-core processors, up to 64GB of faster memory and blazing fast all-flash storage, the new Mac mini delivers an insane five times faster performance, making it the most powerful Mac mini ever made.

And with Thunderbolt 3 ports, the Apple T2 Security Chip and a 10Gb Ethernet option, the new Mac mini is a faster and more capable desktop that can do so much more.

Again, a much needed hardware upgrade, the Mac mini needed this upgrade and it finally got it.

Fifty Years of BASIC, the Programming Language That Made Computers Personal

Harry McCracken, writing for Time:

It was huge news among the small number of people who could be called computer nerds at the time — people like Paul Allen, who was working as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston.

When he bought a copy of the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics at the Out of Town newsstand in Harvard Square, with the Altair on the cover, he and an old friend — a Harvard sophomore named Bill Gates — got excited. Immediately, they knew they wanted to try to make the Altair run BASIC, a language they’d both learned in its original timeshared-via-Teletype form at the Lakeside School in Seattle.

Actually, Allen had been ruminating about the possibility of building his own BASIC even before he knew about the Altair. “There hadn’t been attempts to write a full-blown programming language for a microprocessor,” he explains. “But when the chips leading up to the 8080 processor became available, I realized we could write a program for it that would be powerful enough to run BASIC.”

I learned to program with BASIC, on my old color computer 3 I got for Christmas in the first grade, i used it for many years and have some fond memories of it, even if it was a pain in the ass.

Programming languages have come a long ways from those days, not so basic anymore.

IBM’s Acquisition of Canadian-founded Red Hat One of the Largest Ever

Jessica Galang, writing for Betakit:

Open source software company Red Hat is being acquired by IBM for $34 billion USD. Depending on who you ask, it is either the second or third-largest tech acquisition of all time.

Red Hat was co-founded in 1993 by Canadian entrepreneur Bob Young, who built the business with co-founder Marc Ewing from Raleigh, North Carolina. The platform provides open source software solutions, delivering Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies. According to ZDNet, Red Hat was the first billion-dollar pure play open source company.

The company underwent an IPO in August 1999, the same year Young stepped down as CEO. He would resign as chairman by 2002 and as director by 2005, according to the Globe and Mail.

“Red Hat’s board of directors fired me in 2000 and that’s why Red Hat is so successful today,” Young told ZDNet in a 2014 interview. “I had the skills for a startup. I didn’t have the skills to grow Red Hat from 400 to 9,000 employees.” Since then, Young has gone on to found self-publishing site Lulu.com and is currently owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

IBM and Red Hat’s partnership has spanned 20 years, with IBM serving as an early supporter of Linux. The tech giant has collaborated with Red Hat to develop and grow enterprise-grade Linux, and more recently to bring enterprise Kubernetes and hybrid cloud solutions to customers. IBM said these creations have become core technologies within IBM’s $19 billion hybrid cloud business.

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president, and CEO of Red Hat. “IBM will become the world’s #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.

IBM said it would continue to build Red Hat partnerships, including those with cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Alibaba, in addition to the IBM Cloud.

“Open source is the default choice for modern IT solutions, and I’m incredibly proud of the role Red Hat has played in making that a reality in the enterprise,” said Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.

“Joining forces with IBM will provide us with a greater level of scale, resources and capabilities to accelerate the impact of open source as the basis for digital transformation and bring Red Hat to an even wider audience – all while preserving our unique culture and unwavering commitment to open source innovation.”

Google’s Night Sight for Pixel phones will amaze you

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

Google’s Pixel phones have already changed and improved smartphone photography dramatically, but the latest addition to them might be the biggest leap forward yet. Night Sight is the next evolution of Google’s computational photography, combining machine learning, clever algorithms, and up to four seconds of exposure to generate shockingly good low-light images. 

iPhone XR: Hands-on and first impressions

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

The iPhone XR is available for pre-orders now and it officially arrives in stores on Friday. I got my hands on one Wednesday and after using it for a few hours, my initial impression is that it’s going to be a mainstream hit that pleases buyers while also improving Apple’s bottom line. Let’s dive in.

[…]

This is a gorgeous phone. It’s available in six colors, and while the black and white models look very much like the phones Apple has been releasing for the last few years, the blue, coral, Product(RED), and yellow models absolutely do not. When laying screen up on a table, you can still see the colored aluminum frame around the edges. But flip it over—or hold it in your hand—and the shiny glass colored back pops out with enormous personality. I took possession of the coral model, which lies somewhere between pink and orange on the spectrum, and it’s spectacular.

The aluminum frame colors are less shiny and more subtle than the colors on the backs, and you’ll need to decide if the color combinations work for you. The yellow (with a yellow-gold frame) clashes a bit much for me, but the blue, red, and coral models all look fantastic.

This is a phone that looks spectacular when it’s not being covered by a case, which may be why Apple isn’t making cases for the iPhone XR, and the online Apple Store seems to only be selling clear Otterbox cases. I get it. I wouldn’t want to drop one—but this is a phone that I would hate to cover up. (Apple says the iPhone XR’s back glass is stronger than the glass on the iPhone X, though not as strong as that on the iPhone XS. The iPhone XR’s front glass is apparently identical to the XS glass, which Apple says is the most rugged smartphone glass around.)

[…]

The question that all the reviews of the iPhone XR ask is pretty simple: What does this phone lack that the iPhone XS and XS Max offer? There’s a lot less difference between the models than you’d think. The biggest one is the screen—it’s a 6.1-inch diagonal, roughly halfway between the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, and it’s LCD based, rather than using the OLED technology found on the other iPhone X series phones.

What you give up when you go LCD is, for the most part, a higher dynamic range. Most notably, blacks are blacker, because OLED screens generate their own light rather than having to be lit from behind by a backlight. Backlit screens glow, even when trying to display a perfect black—and it’s noticeable. My lock screen image is the picture of an astronaut taken from the surface of the moon, so there’s a lot of dynamic range. When you look at that image on an iPhone XS, the blackness of space is absolute. On the XR, it’s more of a… space gray?

[…]

With the arrival of the iPhone XS, if you add last year’s iPhone 8 into the mix, Apple now offers five phones at four distinct sizes. The smallest phone is the iPhone 8, followed by the incrementally larger iPhone XS. At the top of the range are the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone XS Max.

But right in the middle is the iPhone XR. It’s just slightly larger than the iPhone XS, and slightly smaller than the iPhone XS Max. When I’m holding it in my hand, it definitely feels large—this is definitely a follow-on to the iPhone Plus line, not the regular iPhone line. Some people who might consider the iPhone XS could try the iPhone XR and decide that the extra width and screen size are worth the savings.

[…]

Which brings me to the most appealing feature of the iPhone XR other than its color: the price. The iPhone XR is the lowest priced of the 2018 model iPhones, starting at $749. Both of its two step-up storage levels, $799 for 128GB of storage or $899 for 256GB, are less than the starting price of the 64GB iPhone XS. That makes the iPhone XR a remarkably good deal compared to the iPhone XS.

When I hold this phone in my hand and look at the colorful sides and back, and the big, bright display, it’s hard to believe I’m looking at the lowest-priced new iPhone. It certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap.

Jason has several excellent points in his review, go read to the full review to see them all.

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

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.