The Auto-Alt Edition Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Facebook Begins Using Artificial Intelligence To Describe Photos To Blind Users, by Casey Newton, The Verge

Automatic alt text, which is coming to iOS today and later to Android and the web, recognizes objects in photos using machine learning.

Say What You See, Facebook, by Nicola Twilley, New Yorker

When Matt King signed up for Facebook, in 2009, he had already lost so much of his vision that he navigated the Internet using a screen reader, a piece of software that reads a Web page’s architecture and content aloud. At the time, King was an engineer at I.B.M. and an internationally ranked competitor in the sport of tandem track cycling. (He and a sighted companion took fourth place at the 1996 Paralympic Games, in Atlanta.) Nevertheless, for King, the process of creating an account and finding friends—something that might take a sighted person fifteen minutes—consumed an entire Saturday morning. Worse, once he made his way over to his friends’ walls, they were mostly silent. The majority of people’s posts consisted of photographs, which, without an explanatory caption, were invisible to him. “I thought, Great, here’s one more space that is kind of useless to me,” he said.

King is now an accessibility specialist at Facebook. With Jeff Wieland, who leads the company’s accessibility efforts, he is behind Automatic Alt Text, a new technology that relies on artificial intelligence to generate spoken descriptions of photographs. The feature begins rolling out today to Facebook users whose iOS screen readers are set to English, and will gradually make its way into other languages and platforms.

Hey Siri, Steal!

Siri Security Flaw On iPhone 6s & 6s Plus Grants Access To Contacts And Photos Without Passcode, by Mikey Campbell, AppleInsider

A newly discovered Siri search handling bug allows nefarious users to bypass passcode protected lock screens on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus handsets, granting easy access to Contacts and Photos data. The vulnerability is likely applicable only to a subset of devices, however.

Apple Has Made Siri A Baseball Trivia Guru, by Fitz Tepper, TechCrunch

Just in time for the start of baseball season, Apple has beefed up Siri’s knowledge of baseball stats, scores, and trivia. Siri can now do things like tell you Babe Ruth’s career batting average, the lineup of the 2008 World Series-winning Phillies, or even who won the World Series in 1934.


How To Manage File ‘In Use’ Or ‘Locked’ Errors In OS X, by Topher Kessler, MacIssues

The easy solution to this problem is to quit the offending program, and thereby release the lock held on the file, but identifying the program can be difficult, especially if the process is some background task. To manage this, we are going to drill down into the Terminal and make use of a few commands.

1Password 6.2 For Mac Adds Automatic Login Naming + Upgraded Data Importer, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

First, intelligence behind the automatic login and password filler is smarter in the new version, which means using the keyboard shortcut or browser extension to fill in your info will fail fewer times. The database upgrade also means that naming new logins will be easier as 1Password will be smarter about guessing what website you’re new login is for.

Run Better Meetings With Agenda Minder, by John Voorhees, MacStories

The premise of Agenda Minder is simple – break down and focus meetings on their core components – objectives and agenda items. A little planning can go a long way. The left pane of Agenda Minder is dominated by a list of your meetings. Setting up a meeting is as simple as giving it a title and date. You can also add an objective and notes. Once you have multiple meetings set up in Agenda Minder, you can sort them by preset chronological criteria or alphabetically.

TextExpander Updates Focus On New Service, by John Voorhees, MacStories

The apps include some interesting updates, but at the center of the updates is a new service,, which provides snippet group syncing, sharing services, and team management. Smile is simultaneously moving TextExpander to a subscription pricing model, a development that I expect will not be popular with some long-time customers.

My Favorite Mac Folder And File Sync App, by Bohemian Boomer


Apple's ResearchKit Incorporates More Genetics Through New 23andMe Module, by Roger Fingas, AppleInsider

Private genetics firm 23andMe has released a new software module, allowing its genetics results to be incorporated into ResearchKit apps. [...] Both the module and necessary documentation can be found on GitHub, Apple said. For a person's 23andMe results to be brought into a medical study, they must already be a 23andMe customer — whether the subject volunteers the data, or testing is funded by the organization running the study.

Microsoft Takes The Lead In Apps That Work Together, by Galen Gruman, InfoWorld

Now, as announced last week at the Build 2016 developer conference, Microsoft is prepping for the release of Project Rome APIs for Windows PCs and smartphones, and -- having largely given up on owning the mobile platform -- it plans to release SDKs for iOS and Android, though not for OS X, since Microsoft remains unwilling to accept its decline on the desktop.

Project Rome is both similar and dissimilar to Handoff, and those differences perhaps will help it gain broader adoption than Handoff has attained.

Being A ‘Dumb’ Girl In Computer Science, by Rewriting The Code

Exposing my vulnerabilities publicly and confidently gave that girl the strength she needed to participate. That’s when I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life – I want to use computer science to inspire other women to explore computer science.


Apple Stores To Transition From Traditional Plastic Bags To Paper In Latest Environmental Move, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

In a note sent to retail employees and obtained by 9to5Mac Apple has announced that it will be moving away from the iconic plastic drawstring Apple Store bags in favor of new paper bags made out of 80 percent recycled materials.

EU Competition Chief Says Unclear When Apple Tax Probe Will Be Decided, by Foo Yun Chee, Reuters

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she had asked Ireland for more details, which in turn raised new questions that required a response from the authorities and occasionally from Apple as well.

"The first priority is the quality of the case work... And therefore it is very difficult to make predictions as to when the case will be ready for a decision," Vestager told a European Parliament hearing.

The Time That Tony Fadell Sold Me A Container Of Hummus., by Arlo Gilbert, Medium

That’s a pretty blatant “fuck you” to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware. [...] Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next? If they stop supporting Android will they decide that the day after the last warranty expires that your phone will go dark? Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire/smoke alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device? Will Google/Nest endanger your family at some point?

Bottom of the Page

There are really just too many things to read, to listen, to watch, on my iPhone and iPad. The latest addition for me: Audible's Channels.

I hope I don't get heart attack and die tomorrow and miss out on all these.


Thanks for reading.