Here Comes iPhone 8

Yes, the iPhone 6 models have been around only a few weeks. The iPhone 6s is expected this time next year and, if Apple follows tradition, should look much the same as this year’s model. Then, iPhone 7 and 7s. What about iPhone 8? Zach Epstein gushes over a concept iPhone.

Forget next year’s iPhone 6s. Forget the iPhone 7 expected in 2016 and its sequel, which will likely debut in 2018. A graphic designer who goes by “Steel Drake” took to Behance earlier this week to share his vision of the iPhone 8, a device that likely won’t debut until sometime in 2019.

And if Apple’s actual iPhone 8 looks anything like Drake’s vision, 2019 can’t get here soon enough.

Gimme a break.

iPhone 8 Concept

Sigh.

10 Worst Cars Of All Time

It’s difficult to agree with most on this slideshow photo list of lemon cars from Yahoo! How did they arrive at such a list of losers?

We referred to three lists as our main sources: Edmunds.com’s “100 Worst Cars of All Time,” TIME’s “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time,” and “The Worst Car in the History of the World” episode of Top Gear.

So, nothing original at all. Here’s what you’re after. The Spoiler Alert!

  • Ford Pinto
  • PT Cruiser Convertible
  • Reliant Robin
  • Lincoln Continental Mark IV
  • FSO Polonez
  • Citroen Pluriel
  • BMW X6
  • Lexus SC 430
  • Pontiac Aztek
  • Eagle Premier

What? No Chevy Vega? No Gremlin? No Yugo? Bad list. Bad. Down boy.

And So It Begins

Black Friday is on the horizon but some shoppers have already started the inevitable lines for bargains. Daniel Bean:

Two California women, ABC7 reports, have been camped outside of their local Best Buy since the middle of last week. The friends, equipped with blankets and snacks, are set to post up for a solid three weeks, hoping to be first in line when the store launches its Black Friday sale the evening of Thanksgiving.

What’s their game? A 52-inch HD TV for $199.

6 Ways To Love And Use The Mac’s Best Desktop Background Image Manager

My Mac’s Desktop background wallpaper doesn’t get changed often. Maybe three or four times in a year, but all three or four times within half an hour as I try out different backgrounds until one just ‘fits.’ You know how that goes, right? Even then, I think I spend too much time worrying about a Desktop background image that spends 99.99-percent of its time covered up by app windows, an image that not only seldom sees the light of day, but one I seldom see except through the translucent Menubar and Dock.

That changed with the Backgrounds app (that’s the name) that does six wonderful things to the Desktop, which combined make it worthy of the abnormally low price tag. If you like to muck around and use the Mac’s Desktop, this is the app that makes it work right.

First, Artwork. Backgrounds works with iTunes and displays the current track as wallpaper. Or, it will play a video that matches the current track as the background. It even activate automatically when you play a song in iTunes.

Second, Video. Background can play any video as the Desktop wallpaper, and you can setup a playlist of multiple video clips, or add a loop to make them play on and on as the moving background.

Third, Parallax. Move the Mac’s screen pointer (commonly referred to as the ‘cursor’ or mouse pointer) and get some visual depth; it even flips the x or y axis to simulate screen movement.

Fourth, System Monitor. It’s not like we don’t have enough ways already to monitor the Mac’s CPU and network connection, but Backgrounds parks those visuals into a nice speedometer where you can set your own bandwidth limits, combine it with the background image, even setup the speedometer size and positioning on the screen.

Fifth, Time. Every screensaver and every background utility should have time as default and Backgrounds is no exception. Customize the font, size, location on the screen, even change color and add shadows. It even supports multiple connected displays, and has separate settings for each one.

Finally, Quartz. Backgrounds has the option to run any quartz composition as background wallpaper. I saved that to last because it’s a non-starter for me, but some Mac users might be into Quartz Composer.

Overall, I don’t know of Mac background utility which packs in as much as Backgrounds for the lowest price possible, one notch above free. Nicely done. Simple to setup and use. Needs a better logo, but that’s a nit as logos are not my forte.

Lava Is Hot

If you needed a little more proof that flowing lava is hot– really hot– here’s more from Nicholas St. Fleur on Hawaii’s lava problem:

The first flames from the 2,000-degree Fahrenheit molten rock ignited a one-story home in Pahoa just before noon on Monday. It turned the entire 1,100-square-foot, $200,000 house into an inferno 45-minutes later… The slow-moving flow arose from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on June 27, and has trekked across the island unmitigated for the past few months at a rate of 15-20 yards per hour. Although this was the first house set on fire, it may not be the last to be consumed by the flames.

The Penalty For Bigamy

The latest news from Reuters is a report that Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith had 40 wives.

The Mormon church has admitted that founder Joseph Smith married about 40 women including a 14-year-old and others who were already the wives of his followers, having maintained for nearly 200 years that he was monogamous.

My father once told me about the penalty for bigamy. Two wives.

Space Is Really, Really, Really Big

Great graphic on VOX to describe just how big the known universe really is.

The vast majority of stars, meanwhile, are much, much older. When you look up at the more distant (but still quite visible) Andromeda galaxy, the light you see was emitted 2.54 million years ago — before humans had fully evolved into our modern anatomical state.

We’re very, very, very small.

How The Future Of Siri And A Personal Avatar On iPhone, iPad, And Mac Is A Bit Like CrazyTalk

Apple has a long way to go to turn Siri into a real personal assistant but our favorite iPhone and iPad talk back mechanism is on the right track. A few years ago I invested in a Mac app that I thought would personalize a digital assistant similar to Siri. Unfortunately, Siri hasn’t advanced much in recent years, and the CrazyTalk facial animation app for the Mac remains an interesting novelty, but has yet to be coupled to anything useful.

Worse, there’s no Siri on the Mac yet.

CrazyTalk for Mac is a facial animation app that combines voice, facial expressions, and text to give you an idea of what Siri could do in the future, if only Apple would recognize the true value of a more personable personal assistant.

Think about it. Facial animation on a character that works much like Siri, but on Mac as well as iPhone and iPad. CrazyTalk requires some effort to bring a true visual representation of Siri to the screen. Images have to be selected an prepared. The facial expressions need three dimensional profiling. Lips and mouth need to sync to the text. Motion needs to be added, then animation for the entire bodyless character.

Think of CrazyTalk as a mashup of page layout, 3D animation, Garageband, and PhotoBooth. You create the character and give it life starting with face puppeteering.

CrazyTalk

CrazyTalk comes with all the tools you need to create a personal character where facial animation matches audio output, lip-sync style. And that includes muscle animation of head and face, as well as reactions, eye control, expressions, and much more.

That means you’re getting an animation tool that focuses on characters instead of objects, faces instead of products, but every element of CrazyTalk can be applied to drawings of people and even animals.

The only real problem with using CrazyTalk to create a digital avatar is that you have to build it from the ground up. Almost. It comes with all the tools you need and plenty of characters to get started, but you can create your own.

More CrazyTalk

That makes CrazyTalk good for creating website avatars, but it’s the potential that I find more interesting, and that’s the marriage of personal avatar characters with Apple’s Siri technology to create a truly personable and seemingly intelligent personal assistant.

For now, the technology has limits. CrazyTalk works with a single animated avatar at a time. Animated the face to match Siri responses, for example, requires some substantial digital horsepower not easily dropped into a mobile device. Maybe that problem can never be solved. After all, the computers in Star Trek, as powerful as they seemingly were, could not do video communication between people (Star Trek communicators were audio only), and the Enterprise computer itself was audio only, no video avatar, either.

Still, a video avatar, Siri or some other character, would seem to be a natural progression of the technology. Apple has imbued a touch of human personality into Siri which would be even more attractive (usefulness is a different issue) with a visual representation.

Bungled Product Placement

Notice the MacBook Pro sitting on Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon’s desk? That’s product placement. Microsoft has been trying the same kind of promotion with the poor-selling Surface Pro tablet-notebook hybrid. Brad Reed:

During the coverage of last night’s midterm elections, CNN pundits all had Surface tablets lined up on the table that were supposedly being used to keep track of all the important races. However, GeekWire noticed that many of these pundits were secretly swiping away at iPads even as the shiny Surface tablets were right in front of them to use, attachable keyboards and all.

Ouch.

More Than You Need To Know About Palm Oil

Just when you thought it was safe to eat and then go back in the water, comes news about another oil that’s helping to destroy planet earth. Reuters:

Palm oil—which appears in a dizzying amount of food and cosmetic products and is a feedstock for biofuel—poses many environmental problems. It’s the largest driver of Indonesian deforestation, which destroys habitat and contributes to climate change. And ponds of wastewater at palm oil refineries release immense amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

But is it in Twinkies?

Supermodel Bashes Ferrari

News Flash: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Nicole Wakelin has details on what a jilted supermodel girlfriend can do with a sledgehammer and a Ferrari.

Gentlemen, here’s why you do not cheat on your supermodel girlfriend with another supermodel. Scratch that. Here’s why you simply do not cheat on the lady in your life, especially if you’ve got a car like the Ferrari 458 and a sledgehammer in your garage.

Stunning video. Turns out it’s an ad for Forgiato wheels.

The First Ever Rainy Day Photo App For Mac

Alright, to be fair, there may have been other apps that do some of what Rainy Daze does, but I don’t know where they are and I’ve been mucking around the Mac since the Mac launched in 1984. For photographers looking for something special, Rainy Daze is about as much of a one-trick pony photo effects app as you’ll find anywhere.

Rainy Daze means rain effects on photos. Got a photo? Add some rain. All kinds of rain. Romantic rain, a rain shower, vintage photo with rain, more rain.

As a photo effects utility that you probably don’t have already on your Mac, Rainy Daze works.

Rainy Daze - Vintage

And another, this one with a romantic rain look.

Rainy Daze - Romantic

The Rainy Daze interface is rather straightforward but you’ll find trial and error is your friend as there are plenty of sliders (not all with numeric controls, unfortunately) to adjust rain strength, color, direction, length, fade, and even cloud strength.

I recommend that you start the showers with the style browser which features many presets.

Rainy Daze - Controls

The built-in preview mode lets you see instantly exactly the effects and adjustments you apply to each photo. The sky can be darkened with a click, even on high resolution photos.

If you start with the presets and make adjustments that match your needs, those adjustments can be saved as custom presets and used again later.

If you’re using your iPhone and iPad to enhance photos, there’s also a less expensive iOS version of Rainy Daze.

Rainy Daze for iOS

If you could view my photo collection you could see exactly when I added Rainy Daze to my Mac.

As noted, the only real issue is the amount of time you’ll devote to moving sliders back and forth to get the right look. Presets are a good place to start, but every photo is different, so you’re likely to engage in trial and error more than you expect.

Nicely done. Not expensive. Good results. Cross platform.

One more.

Rainy Daze - Vintage

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.