iPhone 6 Recall: Fact? Or, Fear Mongering?

Does Apple have a huge problem with the flagship 128GB iPhone 6 Plus? Or, is South Korea media engaging in the fine art of fear mongering? From BusinessKorea:

Functional defects in some of Apple’s latest smartphones have been observed. According to overseas IT news sites on Nov. 2, problems have been reported related to data storage in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+.

How so?

To reduce cost, Apple reportedly used TLC NAND flash in the 128GB version of the iPhone 6+ and some other models. Previously, TLC NAND was used in some iPads, whereas more expensive but more stable MLC NAND was used in most of the iPhone series.

Reportedly? Did anyone bother to open up a 128GB iPhone 6 Plus to see inside?

As numerous reports of low read performance of the Samsung SSD 840 and 840 EVO using TLC NAND flash have surfaced on the Internet, a problem in the controller IC is considered to be the more likely cause of the defects. As the controversy over the SSD 840 and 840 EVO grew, Samsung embarked on firmware upgrades. Some in the industry think that if TLC flash is indeed the cause of the defects, Apple might recall all of the products that have been sold so far.

‘Might.”

This sounds much more like typical Samsung skullduggery in the face of more Koreans buying new iPhones than buying new Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

10 Most Reliable American Cars

From Consumer Reports:

The highest-ranked domestic brand this year is Buick, coming in at 6th place. Most other U.S brands fall much lower on the list, with the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands claiming five of the bottom seven places, and Ford ranked 23rd overall out of 28 brands. Generally speaking, this wasn’t a good year for the domestics.

Spoiler Alert!

  • Small cars: None
  • Hybrid/electric cars: Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Compact luxury cars: Buick Verano
  • Midsized cars: Ford Fusion (1.5L)
  • Large cars: Buick LaCrosse (4-cyl.)
  • Luxury cars: Cadillac CTS
  • Sporty cars: Chevrolet Camaro
  • Small & midsized SUVs: None
  • Large SUVs: Chevrolet Traverse
  • Luxury SUVs: Buick Enclave
  • Full-sized pickups: None

Ouch

725 Horsepower

This just looks mean. From Viknesh Vijayenthiran on a customer Mustang mod:

The appearance mods include a chin spoiler, custom upper and lower grills, a rear spoiler, a rear diffuser and new side sills. The performance modifications include adjustable dampers and sway bars, lowered springs, a cold air intake, a custom Magnaflow exhaust system, and a supercharger. The most powerful Mustang RTR is rated at 725 horsepower and features the Mustang GT’s 5.0-liter V-8 with the supercharger attached.

Where can you drive such a beast? Anywhere you want (just not as fast as you may want).

725 HP Mustang

See? Mean.

How To Make A Circular Photo On Your Mac

Every Mac graphic design app worth the price tag has certain common capabilities. Resize an image, for example. Adjust the color. Crop. Convert an image and export to a different file format. One somewhat less common capability is the circular photo. Taking a photo and cropping or resizing to different aspect ratios is child’s play– until you need to create a circular photo.

Most of the major Mac graphic design and photo enhancement apps can turn a standard aspect ratio photo into a circular photo, but often the effort requires a few clicks; after knowing which clicks to make.

Enter the ultimate one-trick pony app that creates circular photos on your Mac. The app is called CutAround and that’s what it does. It creates a circular cropped section from any photo.

CutAround doesn’t claim much more than the expected basics. Grab a photo, cut out a cropped section as a circle.

CutAround

Options are straightforward and expected for an app that provides change from a $2 investment.

Add a border with colors. Save the settings (size) to be used on other images or photos. Define the cutout by moving the circle across the photo, and create a circle with a specific pixel number radius. Rescale the cutout’s size. Export the cutout as JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, BMP.

CutAround Example

You won’t waste much time trying to figure out how to use CutAround, even though it comes with an 11-page user guide (more of a visual tour than a manual). Obviously, not everyone needs to create a circular photo, but CutAround makes the process much easier and less expensive than some of the traditional graphic design apps.

Well done. Cheap.

Porsche Hybrid: Why?

From Yahoo! Autos.

With a 333 HP supercharged V-6 mated toa 95 HP electric motor, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid is… $76,400… above the $61,7000 diesel but below the $113,600 Turbo.

Who wants this? Is it to save money on fuel? Buy something less expensive. Big savings. Done.

UFO’s Are Real, Aliens Have Federal Jobs

Deathbed confession from Boyd Bushman, aerospace scientist, government worker, and former Area 51 insider. Norman Byrd:

But far more shocking — some might say more disturbing — was Bushman’s claims that aliens that had traveled to Earth were out and about, working for the federal government. The scientist said there were 18 extraterrestrials working for the government. Some of them were at least 250 years old.

And they’re doing a bang up job making the government what it is today.

6 Weird Trucks

I’m more of a car guy than a truck guy, but some of these look like they’d be fun to tool around town. Keith Griffin has details and photos:

We’ve been featuring some pretty weird trucks lately— a Unimog, a Fiat. And it got me thinking about other weird trucks out there. To save you the trouble of searching, I’ve come up with 5 of the weirdest trucks from around the world. It’s an offbeat collection of converted 4x4s, construction trucks that could crush LeBron James’ Kia K900 like a gnat, and the biggest dang Fiat you have ever seen.

My fav:

Fiat Panda CJ17

How The Mac App Store Messes With The App Economy

The Mac App Store has three major issues which Apple needs to address. The first is search. It sucks. Search on MAS is helpful for developers, not for Mac users trying to find the best apps.

The second major issue is free trial versions or a way to try an app and pay later if you like it. App developers get around that limitation by creating an additional free trial version with limited functionality. Or, they limit the free app, but put add-on, in-store purchase options with extra features, but for an extra charge.

That’s messed up.

The third major issue is the inability to upgrade an app to a new version. Updates, yes? Upgrades, no. So an app on MAS can be updated from, say, version 1.5.1 to 1.6, but not the typical upgrade route to a full-on version 2.0 with substantially new features.

That’s messed up, too.

Apple’s convoluted method requires developers to create entirely new versions to go the upgrade route, and that spawns a number of other issues. A good example of that is Flare, a terrific photo and image enhancement app from a few years ago. Instead of being upgraded to version 2.0, existing MAS customers are forced to pay the full retail amount for the new version. To their credit, Flare’s developers, the highly acclaimed folks at The Iconfactory, put the new version ‘on sale,’ discounted for a limited time.

The new version isn’t just the old version with a few tacked on features and a new user interface, though anyone having to pay a non-upgrade price might think so. After all, the ‘on sale’ discounted price is available to all Mac customers, not just those who purchased the first version.

Flare 2 comes with a host of new photographic filters not available in the original. These include the increasingly popular tilt-shift, Bokeh rings, plus paper, highlights and shadows, and more standard options like saturation and vibrance.

Flare for Mac

Those new filters work well with the existing filters– exposure, tint, duotone, gradients, blurs, grains, glows, halftone, pixelate, sharpen and many, many others.

Flare 2.0 looks more like a Yosemite app than Mavericks, and that’s by design, so the user interface is lighter, friendlier, simpler than the original. Still, it contains the basics– advanced edit, batch processing options, a dark interface to match Yosemite, and Flare even handle RAW photo formats but still exports JPEG, PNG, and TIFF images.

If you don’t want to spend much money on a very good photo and image enhancement app, Flare is a good choice. There’s even a free iOS version of Flare filter extensions for iPhone and iPad which work in concert with the Mac app. It’s called Flare Effects.

Maybe Apple has great plans for the the iTunes and Mac App Stores, but for now, search, trial versions, and app upgrades are anything but beneficial for the customer, and that messes with the app store economy.

Time To Grovel

Is it time for Amazon to admit defeat, shutter the failed Fire Phone, and crawl to Apple and beg for the rights to sell the iPhone?

Phil Moore:

First, it needs be pointed out all the reasons why Apple and Amazon might not want to work together. Amazon was the prime witness, and arguably the instigator, of the federal government’s crackdown on Apple’s eBook pricing. Despite the straightforwardness of selling the no-contract iPad, Amazon refuses to officially carry it, instead steering customers toward its own Kindle Fire tablet while only offering various older-model iPads at oddball pricing. These two companies don’t get along – and yet they are partners when it comes to reselling Mac computers and other product lines.

I don’t see this happening anytime soon, but if Amazon gets to sell the iPhone it will be a classic case of groveling at the lowest possible level. Snails and slime would be looking down on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ position at the feet of Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The Forgotten Corvette Collection

Great find, great story. Alex Lloyd on a collection of 36 Corvettes gathering dust for 25 years.

Corvette Collection

‘Do The Right Thing’

Apple has a problem with the 2011 MacBook Pro and won’t fix it. Now they’re getting sued by customers.

Apple’s MacBook Pro laptop family has long stood at the very head of the premium portable computing market, offering great performance coupled with a powerful and attractive operating system to those willing to pay. Models sold in 2011, however, are claimed to have a flaw: a lead-free solder used to attach the graphics processor to the logic board, which becomes brittle due to the frequent rapid heating and cooling cycles typical of such devices. Over time, this is claimed to result in throttling of the graphics processor, graphical corruption and eventually complete failure of the laptop itself.

Sometimes it costs money to do the right thing, but sometimes the cost of not doing the right thing is much higher.

Why Quicksilver Never Caught On With Most Mac Users

One of my favorite Mac utilities is also the most difficult app I’ve ever tried (and failed often) to master. This power app is called Quicksilver and billed as a productivity app though you’re likely to lose some productivity while trying to improve your productivity.

Using the word ‘productivity’ three times in a single sentence should at least tie the record.

Quicksilver is a free launcher app for the Mac which gives you quick, keyboard-based options to handle basic tasks or customized tasks without using mouse or trackpad. Think of it as Command-Tab app switching gone wild, or OS X Yosemite’s version of Spotlight but with tricks and a touch of artificial intelligence.

As a launcher, Quicksilver gets you to apps, contacts, music, documents, files, and more with just a few keyboard clicks. That’s the claim to fame, and the problem. Keep your hands on the keyboard and away from mouse or trackpad and, ostensibly, you’re more productive.

Enter specific keywords on your Mac and Quicksilver responds with appropriately matched options, but also learns as you go. It also comes with dozens of add-on options so the app can be customized, almost automatically, for your Mac workflow.

Quicksilver Screenshots

That’s the problem. Workflow. And that may explain why the app isn’t commercial, and you’ll be hard pressed to find many Quicksilver users among the Mac clan. Quicksilver, though simple enough to setup and begin using, requires an adjustment in our workflow procedures and methods. It’s keyboard driven, and though you can still use mouse or trackpad, doing so defeats the purpose.

Because Quicksilver comes with many add-ons in the way of plugins, it’s highly customizable, but that requires a Mac user to think through their usage workflow, adjust to new tools or ways to access tools, and, well, simply put, make changes.

Some of what makes up Spotlight in OS X Yosemite takes inspiration from Quicksilver, so Apple layers in functionality slowly, so as to increase adoption. But even Spotlight forces a Mac user to think about what’s going on during the search, while Quicksilver lets you type what you want and then figures it out over time.

I’ve been using a Mac about as long as anyone on the planet not associated with Apple in 1984, and getting true productivity from Quicksilver has been a long running challenge. Some of that may be attributed to a learning disorder whereby shortcuts are not retained, or perhaps because using only the keyboard takes me back to the early days of learning CP/M on an Osborn 1.

Regardless, using Quicksilver is easy at first but requires effort to become truly productive (which often means simply avoiding the trackpad and mouse as much as possible), and the reward may not come quickly.

Here’s the key.

Quicksilver gives you quick access to all your important things. With only a few keystrokes, you can get to your applications, files, contacts, bookmarks, music, etc. Don’t get distracted though; although Quicksilver finds and launches things quickly and extremely well, it’s more about doing, not finding.

Install Quicksilver, and begin using it by typing instead of pointing and clicking to launch apps or find files. Quicksilver learns your habits as you go, and you learn how Quicksilver functions. I love it and hate it at the same time.

‘Invite Only’ Ferrari

CNBC:

Ferrari just got even more exclusive. The Italian luxury automaker is gearing up to start production on its invite-only supercar known as the Ferrari Sergio, and only six people will be able to get their hands on one.

Price tag? If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Ferrari

Let The Boycotts Begin

Over the weekend drug store behemoths CVS and Rite Aid began blocking Apple Pay. Now customers are blocking CVS and Rite Aid. What’s going on? Ben Lovejoy:

Rite Aid has joined CVS in disabling Apple Pay as a payment method in its stores. Like CVS, Rite Aid is a member of the Merchant Customer eXchange (MCX) consortium promoting a rival mobile payment service, CurrentC.

CurrentC is clunky, tracks user information, and is less secure than Apple Pay. So, why push that instead? It’s not about the user experience. MCX makes more money for the stores.

How Your Mac Can Make And Receive Phone Calls On Your iPhone

One of the much ballyhooed features of iOS 8.x and OS X Yosemite is the ‘Continuity‘ option which lets Mac or iPad make and answer phone calls through your iPhone. That’s a handy new feature. While working on your Mac or viewing the iPad, instead of digging through purse, pocket, or backpack to make or receive a call, the calls can be handled by whatever Apple device you’re using at the time. Leave the iPhone where it is.

It’s a great idea whose time has come but there are a few caveats. First, all the devices need to be running iOS 8.x, and OS X 10.10 respectively, all need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, and for Mac users, you need one that supports Bluetooth low energy mode. If your Mac is too old then you’re out of luck. No calls for you.

Unless you add HandsFree to your Mac.

This clever Mac utility works much the way Bluetooth in your car works with your iPhone (or Android smartphone). It gives you an option to make and receive phone calls– from your Mac– through your iPhone, so it works much like Continuity on newer Macs.

Here’s what happens. A phone call comes in to your iPhone, which alerts your Mac with a pop up window. One click declines or accepts on the device you want.

HandsFree

Your Mac becomes a handsfree phone, and works about the same way as Continuity on newer Macs, and similar to Bluetooth in a car.

There’s a built-in menu to search Contacts to make a call, or you can use the dial pad. Calls will use your Mac’s built-in microphone and speakers (but you can use earbuds or a headset, too).

Preferences are many but not overbearing; mostly easy to setup, and configuration is self explanatory.

HandsFree Setup

As an added bonus you’ll also be able to see notifications for low battery on your iPhone, and any missed calls.

Once setup and installed you’ll be able to use your Mac to receive and make phone calls through your iPhone (or other Bluetooth-equipped smartphone), pretty much exactly the way it works in a Bluetooth-enabled car.

Mostly.

Bluetooth connectivity can be finicky sometimes. When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t, troubleshooting to find a solution could become a full time job. For me, on my older iMac with a new iPhone, it works fine, and couldn’t be easier to use.

HandsFree on a Mac

Not bad, priced right, and there’s a trial version to make sure it works on your Mac and smartphone.

Apple Cheapens The Mac mini

Hot on the heels of a record breaking financial quarter, customers now have a chance to examine Apple’s newest Mac mini. It’s not good news. Robin Harris:

  • Soldered-on RAM replaces the SODIMMs that have been used for years, doubling the cost of add-on memory.
  • The barely useable thumb indents on the removable bottom plate have been removed.
  • Unusual T6 Torx security screws now make it difficult to open the door to the interior.
  • The two former SATA ports — which allowed two-drive configurations — are now a single SATA port and a new socket that may support a PCIe flash drive.

Apple went cheap.

Puppy-sized Spider

It’s called the the ‘birdeater.’ It’s a spider the size and weight of puppy and far bigger than the average adult hand. The video is scary.

Known as South American Goliath birdeater, the humongous eight-legged creepy crawly creature has a body the size of a fist and a leg span the size of a small child. Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently encountered one while taking a nighttime stroll through a rain forest in Guyana.

Zombie-proof Log Cabin

I’m not sure why modern society has such an attraction to vampires and zombies, but if you fear a zombie apocalypse, here’s what you need. A zombie-proof home with a guarantee.

You hear the horrifying groans. Decaying hands scrabble at the door, trying to find a way in. They want to eat you. You sit down on the sofa, kick your feet up and open a can of Spam. No worries. You’re inside a Zombie Fortification Cabin from Tiger Log Cabins. All you have to do now is wait in safety and comfort for the zombie apocalypse to blow over.

As if.

The ZFC-1 is a log cabin kit designed with the walking dead in mind. The structure consists of three connected buildings. It comes stocked with reinforced slit windows, walls and doors; a barbed-wire surround; an escape hatch on top; and a living room with Xbox, TV and sound system. It comes with an arsenal storage unit to secure your anti-zombie weaponry. There’s also a toilet system, garage, kitchen area with microwave and an upper deck with a full view all around so you can keep an eye out for the oncoming horde. A garden section means you won’t have to take over an abandoned prison to start a small produce farm.

Price? More than $150,000 with installation, security cameras, solar panels.

A Few Words About Mac Text Editors And CSS

As a long time web developer I have a growing collection of Mac-based tools of the trade, including the aging but oh-so-useful BBEdit text editor, the must-have MAMP for local Mac development, and a whole list of add on utility apps which accompany the trade; Coda, Transmit, Yummy FTP, TextMate, CSSEdit, the usual graphic and media culprits from Adobe, and a few apps that work well cross platform– Textastic and Transmit for iOS, and others.

The only problem with using developer tools for the Mac is CSS, which seems to be the ugly stepchild of development tools. Every notable text editor for the Mac incorporates CSS, but few do so as elegantly as the discontinued CSSEdit, a Mac-only CSS editor of great renown. I’ve often said the only thing missing from CSSEdit was a decent text editor. The developer introduced Espresso, a text editor for the Mac with some of CSSEdit thrown in, bolted on, but otherwise less than the original.

Most text editors come with features, functions, syntax, and a range of tools which are programmer specific, as opposed to website development specific. It’s as if HTML, XML, JavaScript– and especially CSS– are second class citizens in the tool trade. The best CSS editor for the Mac was– and remains– CSSEdit, despite the advances of little brother Espresso.

What made CSSEdit such an advancement over text editors with CSS syntax and tools as an afterthought was the ability to edit CSS in a live preview instant updating mode using the CSS from a website. A few Mac text editors can do something similar, but none have the ease-of-use inherent in CSSEdit.

CSSEdit for Mac

Though the aging CSSEdit does not handle CSS3 very well, here’s an example of a CSS-specific issue not addressed by newer versions of Mac text editors. Minify; compressing text to reduce file size. Doing so often requires yet another utility app. CSSEdit, though, could expand minified CSS properly to make for easier editing from within the app. I can’t find a similar function in Espresso or most other major text editors with CSS editing functionality.

An older version of Panic’s popular Coda text editor paid homage to CSS with menus of CSSEdit-like features, and the multi-pane windows made it easier than most editors to view changes to code in preview mode, but CSS in the latest version is handle inline instead, rather than from a suggestive menu of CSS options.

Looking back, my original desire was to have a modest text editor built-in to CSSEdit for the Mac with an upgrade to handle CSS3 (instead of the Espresso solution, which is a comprehensive text editor with CSSEdit-like functions seemingly bolted on). In the more than four years since that great app was discontinued I’ve tried a few dozen text editors, some CSS specific, but none have captured the capability and ease-of-use that came with CSSEdit.

I’m a firm believer than nothing improves without change, but there are times when change does not improve the status quo.

Thinner, Lighter, Faster

That pretty much sums up Apple’s new line if iPhones and iPads. James Kendrick noticed that Apple didn’t give much love to the new iPad mini 3:

While it was evident Apple believes the iPad Air 2 is a big play for the company, the new iPad mini 3 didn’t have much of a launch.

The new little iPad only got a few minutes of discussion at the event, and wasn’t demonstrated at all. This was probably due to how little has changed from the iPad mini 2. Apple added Touch ID — the secure fingerprint reader —and a gold option. Everything else in the iPad mini 3 is exactly the same as the iPad mini 2.

That new Touch ID sensor results in the iPad mini 3 starting at a cost of $399, which is $100 higher than the iPad mini 2. Adding the same Touch ID sensor that’s on the iPhone is a good feature, but not at that price.

It’s a no-brainer. Apple makes more money on the iPhone 6 than on the iPad, but it does say that Apple is interested in making more money than making iPad mini customers happy.