The Spell-Casting Edition Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Surprising Story Behind The Apple Watch's ECG Ability, by Andrew Tarantola, Engadget

In February 2016, a small start-up company called AliveCor hired Frank Petterson and Simon Prakash, two Googlers with AI expertise, to transform their business of smartphone electrocardiograms (ECG). The company was struggling. They had developed the first smartphone app capable of single-lead ECG, and, by 2015, they were even able to display the ECG on an Apple Watch. The app had a "wow" factor but otherwise seemed to be of little practical value. The company faced an existential threat, despite extensive venture capital investment from Khosla Ventures and others.

But Petterson, Prakash, and their team of only three other AI talents had an ambitious, twofold mission. One objective was to develop an algorithm that would passively detect a heart-rhythm disorder, the other to determine the level of potassium in the blood, simply from the ECG captured by the watch. It wasn't a crazy idea, given whom AliveCor had just hired. Petterson, AliveCor's VP of engineering, is tall, blue-eyed, dark-haired with frontal balding, and, like most engineers, a bit introverted. At Google, he headed up YouTube Live, Gaming, and led engineering for Hangouts. He previously had won an Academy Award and nine feature film credits for his design and development software for movies including the Transformers, Star Trek, the Harry Potter series, and Avatar. Prakash, the VP of products and design, is not as tall as Petterson, without an Academy Award, but is especially handsome, dark-haired, and brown-eyed, looking like he's right out of a Hollywood movie set. His youthful appearance doesn't jibe with a track record of twenty years of experience in product development, which included leading the Google Glass design project. He also worked at Apple for nine years, directly involved in the development of the first iPhone and iPad. That background might, in retrospect, be considered ironic.

A Journalist's Wrecked MacBook Keyboard Tells A Terrible Story, by Chris Matyszczyk, ZDNet

Not so long ago, a Best Buy salesman told me that the best Windows laptop is a MacBook. The simple reason, he said, is that MacBooks last twice as long as other laptops.

These latest MacBooks, though, seem incapable of lasting very long at all before beginning to disintegrate like a coalition of vast political egos.

Gates Says Steve Jobs Cast ‘Spells’ To Keep Apple From Dying, by Ros Krasny, Bloomberg

“I have yet to meet any person who” could rival Jobs “in terms of picking talent, hyper-motivating that talent, and having a sense of design of, ‘Oh, this is good. This is not good,’ ” Gates added of his sometime collaborator and competitor.

Even when he failed, he succeeded, Gates said, citing the 1988 introduction of NeXT, the computer that “completely failed, it was such nonsense, and yet he mesmerized those people.”


UnitedMasters Launches IPhone App For The Artists To Distribute Their Music Online, by David Mosley, Irvine Observer

The iPhone app works just like the service they used to supply solely through the web, giving artists the possibility to add their tracks (from iCloud, Dropbox or directly from text messages), then distribute them to a full vary of streaming music platforms, together with Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more. In alternate for this distribution, in addition to analytics on how your music is performing, UnitedMasters takes a 10% share on revenue generated by tracks it distributes. However, artists retain full ownership of the content they create.

Review: Mophie Powerstation Hub Solves Your Charging Woes, by Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider

When not plugged into a wall, the internal battery or a USB-C cord can be used to turn the powerstation Hub into a wireless charging pad.

Nature Walk Teaches How To Identify Native Plants, Noxious Weeds Through App, by Juliana Sukut, Billings Gazette

An app, iNaturalist, is a desktop, tablet, or phone app that brings a community of naturalists to your fingertips. The app uses your photos to help identify plants, wildlife, and insects within a larger online community of other naturalists.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite Is Great Till You Start Paying For It, by Clifford Colby, CNET

For me, the richness of the game may work against it. I don't really want to spend my time managing items and Foundables and Portkeys when I'd rather be doing what the game does best: playing.


Apple Is One Step Closer To Setting Up Its Retail Stores In India, by Harish Jonnalagadda, iMore

Apple hasn't had much to celebrate in India of late, but 2019 is becoming a turning point for the company. The Indian government has signed off on two key factories, allowing Apple to locally manufacture iPhones. That's a huge deal because India has a prohibitive 30% import tax on devices that are imported from other markets, and local assembly allows Apple to negate that tax.

Another development is around Apple's ambitions to set up a retail store in the country. India's local sourcing norms — which required a brand to source 30% of its comonents locally — disallowed Apple from setting up its stores here, but the government is relaxing that particular norm as it looks for an influx of cash from foreign brands.

An Online Preschool Closes A Gap But Exposes Another, by Nellie Bowles, New York Times

A government-subsidized program fills up fast and fits only a small fraction of the town’s 4-year-olds, he said. A private program that closed a decade ago was unaffordable for many of the 6,500 residents of Fowler, a predominantly Latino community of agricultural workers in California’s Central Valley. Otherwise, there are a handful of private day cares.

So Mr. Cardenas recently seized on an unusual preschool alternative that a group from Utah presented to him. “This is something that I have never seen before,” he said. “I wanted to be on the front line right away.”

Mr. Cardenas was referring to a “kindergarten readiness program” for 4-year-olds that takes place almost entirely online. Called Waterford Upstart and run by a nonprofit group,, it has children spend 15 minutes a day, five days a week over the course of nine months, tapping through lessons on a computer. About 16,000 children in 15 states graduated from the program this year, and the Waterford expects to expand the program to a projected 22,000 students by 2020.