The Raising-the-Bar Edition Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Claps And Cheers: Apple Stores' Carefully Managed Drama, by Jonny Bunning, The Guardian

How do you create an engaged, happy, knowledgeable workforce that can pass, however implausibly, as an entire battalion of geniuses in towns across the country? More importantly, how do you do all of that without the stick of the authoritarian boss or the carrot of a juicy commission?

Apple’s solution was to foster a sense of commitment to a higher calling while flattering employees that they were the chosen few to represent it. By counterintuitively raising the bar of admission, crafting a long series of interviews to weed out the mercenary or misanthropic, Johnson soon attracted more applicants than there were posts. Those keen enough to go through the onerous hiring process were almost by definition a better “fit” for the devotional ethos of the brand, far more receptive to the fiction that they weren’t selling things but, in an oft-repeated phrase, “enriching people’s lives”, as if they’d landed a job at a charity.

Apple Announces Its ‘Best Of 2018’ Lists Across Apps, Games, Music, Podcasts And More, by Sarah Perez, TechCrunch

The best app of 2018 on iPhone was the iPhone version of the popular Procreate drawing app for iPad, Procreate Pocket.

Meanwhile, the top iPad app was Froggipedia, an AR app that lets you virtually dissect a frog so you don’t have to actually dissect a frog.

Six Years With A Distraction-Free iPhone, by Jake Knapp, Medium

I’ve had a distraction-free iPhone for six years now. And there have been costs. I lost my reputation for instant email response and immediate task turnaround. Without the tug of my phone, I drifted off of Facebook and lost touch with some friends.

But there were rewards as well. Without infinite friends, I paid better attention to moments with my wife and kids. This, for me, was and is the most important reason to redesign my relationship with my phone. It’s also very personal and specific to me, so I’m not going to linger on it.

It’s the second benefit I want to focus on — a very unexpected benefit.

Dodgy iOS Apps Scammed Users By Abusing The iPhone’s Touch ID Feature, by Dan Goodin, Ars Technica

The scam worked by displaying a message as soon as the app was opened. It told users to scan their fingerprint to view a calorie tracker or receive another personal service. When users complied, the apps displayed a popup window that said they had been charged a fee. Less than two seconds later, the popup disappeared, but by then it was too late for many users. Anyone with a card linked to their Apple account was already charged.


Apple Launches Dedicated Store For Military And Veterans With Discounted iPhones, iPads, And More, by Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac

Apple has today opened up a new online store for active military personnel and veterans to make purchasing its products at a discount more accessible. Different from its education pricing, eligible military customers will receive 10% off Apple products, and the new discounted pricing even includes iPhones, Apple Watch, accessories, and more.

How Ring's Neighbors App Is Making Home Security A Social Thing, by Ben Fox Rubin, CNET

Pointing to the early benefits of Neighbors, Siminoff and Kuhn said there was a spike in activity on the app when the Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire hit Southern California last month. People were able to ask about specific streets and share safety tips. While users typically get two to five alerts per week, post and comment volume surged over 1,000 percent in the affected areas, the company said.

"We had 30,000, if you will, camera reporters in the field able to report how things were where they were," Siminoff said. "It is hyper, hyper, hyper local."

5 Alternatives To Apple’s Discontinued Print Services For Photo Books, Calendars, And Cards, by Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac

Custom photo books and calendars make great gifts, and it’s fun to set yourself apart with unique holiday greeting cards. However, after Apple announced it would be discontinuing its native photo printing services this past fall, this is the first holiday season that users will need to find a substitute. Follow along for five alternatives to print your photo books, calendars, and cards with the Photos App on Mac as well as iPhone.

Review: Nanoleaf Canvas Pulls Double-duty As A Functional HomeKit Wall Light & A Piece Of Art, by Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider

For some, it may be hard to overcome the high price tag of the Canvas. But it is such a cool product we had a hard time not showing it off. It can get quite dim which makes it a great nightlight. HomeKit can automate it by turning it on or off with geofencing, or through a motion sensor in your home's setup. And, the touch functionality is fun if a bit on the gimmicky side.


Optimizing Siri On HomePod In Far‑Field Settings, by Audio Software Engineering and Siri Speech Team, Apple Machine Learning Journal

The typical audio environment for HomePod has many challenges — echo, reverberation, and noise. Unlike Siri on iPhone, which operates close to the user’s mouth, Siri on HomePod must work well in a far-field setting. Users want to invoke Siri from many locations, like the couch or the kitchen, without regard to where HomePod sits. A complete online system, which addresses all of the environmental issues that HomePod can experience, requires a tight integration of various multichannel signal processing technologies. Accordingly, the Audio Software Engineering and Siri Speech teams built a system that integrates both supervised deep learning models and unsupervised online learning algorithms and that leverages multiple microphone signals. The system selects the optimal audio stream for the speech recognizer by using top-down knowledge from the “Hey Siri” trigger phrase detectors. In this article, we discuss the machine learning techniques we use for online signal processing, as well as the challenges we faced and our solutions for achieving environmental and algorithmic robustness while ensuring energy efficiency.


Tim Cook To White Supremacists: "You Have No Place On Our Platforms", by Julia Alexander, The Verge

“Apple is a technology company, but we never forget the devices we make are imagined by human minds, built by human hands, and meant to improve human lives,” Cook said. “I worry less about computers that think like people and more about people that think like computers. Technology should be about human potential. It should be about optimism.

“We believe the future should belong to those who view technology as a way to build a more inclusive and hopeful world.”

Apple Sucked Tumblr Into Its Walled Garden, Where Sex Is Bad, by Jason Koebler and Samantha Cole, Motherboard

We don’t know for sure whether Tumblr made this final decision under pressure from Apple, or because the platform felt like it could not competently moderate the platform any longer. But the decision to get rid of adult content wholesale is consistent both with the corporatization and sanitization of the internet that Apple has led the charge on.

Tumblr’s decision is even more disappointing because it’s obvious in D’Onofrio’s explanation that Tumblr leadership does not understand the important role that Tumblr held in the adult content community.

Bottom of the Page

I've just unsubscribed from a podcast simply because they pushed out a new episode that is nothing more than an announcement that their upcoming episode has been delayed, followed by a rather-long advertisement.

It is fine, dear podcast creators, if you want to keep to a regular publication schedule. But if you can't make it, you don't have to pad your schedule with reruns or clip shows or, worse, an announcement of you not able to keep to the regular publication schedule that you imposed on yourself. All podcast clients, I imagine, are able to regularly check for new episodes of subscribed podcasts. You can publish new episodes only when there are really new episodes. The audience will still be here.


Growing up, I always confused between the Star Wars theme and Superman theme.

I'm glad I am not the only one.


Thanks for reading.