The Gentle-and-Optimistic Edition Thursday, July 18, 2019

The App That Tucks Me In At Night, by Amanda Hess, New York Times

Last year, during a stretch of anxious nights, I stumbled upon an app that offered to help me fall into a deep and restful sleep. It would do this by, essentially, programming my phone to lull me into unconsciousness. Now, every night, I crawl into bed and scroll aimlessly through my phone in the dark until I have exhausted all of its mindless distractions — email, Instagram, a virtual wooden-block puzzle. Then I open one last app. My phone speaks to me for 20 minutes, and then it plays nature songs for a very long time.

The voice in the phone is a woman’s, which I like. I don’t need some man telling me what to do. Her tone is gentle and optimistic. It sounds like she is smiling as she speaks. Her words are crisp and clear, but they are softened, almost slurred around the edges, as if she is delicately easing me into each sentence and then releasing me back into silence. Her “ands” are so subdued that they are nearly implied. Sometimes she pauses for long stretches at a time, and that is wonderful, too.

The Sad Truth About Sleep-Tracking Devices And Apps, by Brian X. Chen, New York Times

Ultimately, the technology did not help me sleep more. It didn’t reveal anything that I didn’t already know, which is that I average about five and a half hours of slumber a night. And the data did not help me answer what I should do about my particular sleep problems. In fact, I’ve felt grumpier since I started these tests.

That mirrored the conclusions of a recent study from Rush University Medical College and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Researchers there noticed patients complaining about sleep data collected by apps and devices from Nike, Apple, Fitbit and others.

In their study, the researchers warned that sleep-tracking tech could provide inaccurate data and worsen insomnia by making people obsessed with achieving perfect slumber, a condition they called orthosomnia. It was one of the latest pieces of research supporting the idea that health apps don’t necessarily make people healthier.

Coming Soon

Voice Control Is A Game Changer For Voice To Text Dictation Apple Devices, by David Sparks, MacSparky

The new voice control feature is a significant upgrade to voice to text dictation on all Apple devices. It’s going to be baked into everybody’s device without any subscription or additional software, and if you want to start writing text with your voice, there is no better time to start than September.

iOS And iPadOS 13 Beta 4 Signals Death Of 3D Touch, Rise Of Context Menu, by Jeremy Horwitz, VentureBeat

The key change in iOS/iPadOS 13 beta 4 is that the timing for the Context Menus and a related UI feature — Home screen icon rearrangement — has been tightened to perfection. Hold down on an app icon for just under two seconds, or long enough to be “holding down” rather than tapping for selection, and a Context Menu pops up, as shown above. Hold an additional second or so and icons begin to shake to indicate they can be arranged.

No Howard Stern

Have We Hit Peak Podcast?, by Jennifer Miller, New York Times

It’s no wonder that the phrase “everyone has a podcast” has become a Twitter punch line. Like the blogs of yore, podcasts — with their combination of sleek high tech and cozy, retro low — are today’s de rigueur medium, seemingly adopted by every entrepreneur, freelancer, self-proclaimed marketing guru and even corporation. (Who doesn’t want branded content by Home Depot and Goldman Sachs piped into their ears on the morning commute?) There are now upward of 700,000 podcasts, according to the podcast production and hosting service Blubrry, with between 2,000 and 3,000 new shows launching each month. In August William Morrow will publish a book by Kristen Meinzer, a co-host of the popular “By the Book” podcast. Its title: “So You Want to Start a Podcast.”

Is It A Good Idea For Apple To Buy Exclusive Rights To Podcasts?, by Jason Snell, Macworld

While I can see powerful arguments for Apple to buy exclusive audio content and release it in the Podcasts app, there’s every chance it won’t succeed. Other companies have tried this same approach and, at least so far, nobody has really succeeded in breaking the power of the open, flexible podcast ecosystem.

And while Apple’s power position in podcasting gives it a leg up, let’s also not forget that Apple is hardly experienced in getting users to pay for exclusive content. Apple News+ is at best a work in progress, and Apple TV+ is still a few months away from launching. Apple’s probably got the money to make exclusive podcasts an experiment worth trying, but there are plenty of reasons for it not to succeed.

Privacy Matters

This Bluetooth Security Flaw Could Let Hackers Track Your Windows, iOS, And macOS Devices, by Ravie Lakshmanan, The Next Web

The vulnerability allows an attacker to passively track a device by exploiting a flaw in the way Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is implemented to extract identifying tokens like the device type or other identifiable data from a manufacturer.


Apple MacBook Air (2019) Review: The New Normal, by Dieter Bohn, The Verge

There’s always a better version coming next year. Maybe Apple will redesign the keyboard or maybe Intel will finally deliver a better processor or maybe, well, there are a lot of maybes. That is the way of all tech purchases! You always have to balance what you’re willing to spend and what you’re willing to lug around in your backpack.

What made that classic MacBook Air so special is that it cut through all those caveats for so many people and did it consistently for so many years. 2019’s MacBook Air is good, but it hasn’t yet earned the title of The Default Laptop.

Apple's New MacBook Pro And Air Are Both Battery Life Winners, by Dan Ackerman, CNET

The takeaway is, if you're trying to decide between a new MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, they both get around 10.5 hours of streaming video battery life, so you won't have to choose battery life at the expense of power, price, features or design.

'Snoopy In Space' Trailer Teases Upcoming Peanuts Show For Apple TV+, by Michael Potuck, 9to5Mac

Apple TV+ is arriving this fall with a host of original content. Among the new programs will be Snoopy in Space and we’ve got our first look at the upcoming show with a new trailer today.


A Comprehensive Guide To The Modern Furnishings Of Apple Store Boardrooms, by Michael Steeber, 9to5Mac

The iconic wood tables that fill every Apple Store have long been globally admired as symbols of tasteful interior design. Fewer people are aware that recent top Apple Stores contain a hidden space called the Boardroom. Each Boardroom is decorated with a collection of premium furniture and accessories from some of the most respected designers in the world. We tracked down these hard-to-find items to create a directory for those with a discerning eye for design.

How Apple Has Tackled Security Leaks In iPhone And Mac Factories, by Amber Neely, AppleInsider

Electronic leaks are particularly troublesome. CAD renderings and schematics leaks of the upcoming iPhone have showcased the suspected three-lens camera. Apple has shifted resources to preventing these sorts of leaks, with an team in Apple's headquarters allegedly spearheading the efforts.

Apple's competitors, such as Google, Samsung, and LG are now trying to replicate Apple's efforts. These efforts have become more significant, now that companies like Huawei have attempted to steal technology from competitors including Apple.

Bottom of the Page

Two nights in a row, I woke up in the middle of the night, and couldn't get back to sleep, worried about work.

I need a calming voice in my head to constantly remind me: it's only work.


Thanks for reading.