Welcoming Wearables

Fascinating look into the popularity of Apple's expanding product line of wearables (which the Neil Cybart defines as Apple Watch, AirPods and Beats powered by the W1 chips) and comparing them in aggregate to the growth curve of previous product lines. 

With 3rd parties finding 97% and 98% customer satisfaction rating for the Apple Watch and AirPods respectively, it shouldn't be too surprising that these products are selling comparable units to the first few years of iPhones. 

The big news in some circles was that several major apps decided to abandon their Apple Watch apps, and on the surface it can look like this is a bad sign for the platform. Plenty of members of the Apple media circle have already dissected why this is an indication that the platform is only just starting to have any maturity and is still likely in the toddler stage of its development.

The first graph also puts into perspective why the iPad has been able to decline in sales YoY for a couple years straight and yet still is such a huge market for the company and in comparison to other PC manufactures. The first two years of iPad sales are simply totally incomparable to any product launched in history.

I Bought This Before, Take My Money

Note: The Nokia 3310 has sold out across the UK, despite our hard-hitting negative review. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, clearly. Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone are both listing "1 to 2 weeks" for the Nokia 3310 to be restocked.

Amusingly, or perhaps depressingly, Carphone Warehouse said there was "10 times more pre-registration interest for the Nokia 3310 than any other flagship devices out of MWC in the retailer's history."

It might be a bad sign when an objectively bad product is an order of magnitude more popular than any flagship device simply out of nostalgia. Our movies feel more and more like clip shows of previous cinematic marvels, South Park devoted an entire season to documenting how insidious this phenomenon has become. Our obsession with repurchasing the past is a dangerous game.

Whatever, it's still criminal how few NES classics were produced.

We Don't Take Kindly

This article does an absolutely terrific job of showing just how scary it is to be a minority in the suburbs. 

David Brewington, a black 18-year-old student from Albany, moved to Troy in January. Over his first three months in town, Brewington was stopped by police “once or twice a week,” he said. “We just be walking and they pull us over for no reason.”

White people are turning to the police force as a tool of oppression.

Paying for the Crimes You Don't Commit

5 years ago a young 19 year old was convicted of stealing a $150 TV.

According to The Independent, in 2012 Chatman was convicted of breaking and entering for stealing a television worth $120. It was his first offense, but because he was—again, you know why—Chatman was sentenced to five years’ probation. You read that right. He was 19, and a judge thought it necessary to make him property of the state for half a decade.

Then, in 2016, after 4 years of immaculately conforming to the stipulations of his probation, he became aware that he had been identified as a suspect in the robbing of a convenience store. Despite the fact that he had been meeting with law enforcement monthly, it took a year for him to be made aware of the situation. 

Browser Wars Are Still A Thing

John Gruber of Daring Fireball used a now deleted minor snub in a blog post by a Mozilla Firefox engineer as an excuse to write a thoughtful writeup on the state of internet browsers available on the Mac.

As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better.

This pretty much sums it up for me. There's a bevy of quality browsers available now, and Safari and Chrome are both excellent options with their own strengths which Gruber highlights beautifully. The only thing I'll add to his points is that Safari is also significantly better at memory management than Chrome on Mac OS, and is completely incomparable on iOS. 

Stacking the Deck

I've written a few times about the mounting issue that the prevalence of cameras have brought to light how unethically members of our police force behave all too frequently. The Washington Post today has written an article about a proposed bill which looks to put an outright stop to the already anemic oversight of police power. It's a solid article and absolutely worth the read. In article filled with a terrifying vision of our immediate future, there was this little nugget about the present:

Police officers are protected by qualified immunity, which requires you to show that not only were your rights violated but also a reasonable police officer should have known that the actions in question were a violation of the Constitution.

I actually didn't realize the current law was so draconian. So much for the old rule that my grade school teachers loved to remind everyone about, "ignorance is no excuse for the law", apparently unless you actually are the law.

Hardware Preinfected

HP is selling more than two dozen models of laptops and tablets that covertly monitor every keystroke a user makes, security researchers warned Thursday. The devices then store the key presses in an unencrypted file on the hard drive.
The keylogger is included in a device driver developed by Conexant, a manufacturer of audio chips that are included in the vulnerable HP devices. That's according to an advisory published by modzero, a Switzerland-based security consulting firm. One of the device driver components is MicTray64.exe, an executable file that allows the driver to respond when a user presses special keys. It turns out that the file sends all keystrokes to a debugging interface or writes them to a log file available on the computer's C drive.
"This type of debugging turns the audio driver effectively into keylogging spyware," modzero researchers wrote. "On the basis of meta-information of the files, this keylogger has already existed on HP computers since at least Christmas 2015."

So a diagnostic tool for the audio system simply writes out every key pressed on the device to a file in plain text available in the standard filesystem. Seems like the HP acronym stands for something new these days.

Representative Hypocrisy

"In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC proposes to return to the bipartisan framework that preserved a flourishing free and open Internet for almost 20 years. First, the Notice proposes to reverse the FCC’s 2015 decision to impose heavy-handed Title II utility-style government regulation on Internet service providers (ISPs) and return to the longstanding, successful light-touch framework under Title I of the Communications Act."

This is going to be an uphill battle to make the case that American's are not better off treating the internet as a utility. 

What Rinse Cycle Is Best for Electronics?

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop — ugh, that name — is one of the more interesting device announcements we’ve seen so far in 2017. It’s a mid-range notebook with a stripped-down operating system designed with simplicity in mind, and carries a not-quite-budget price of $999. It also happens to have an interior adorned with fabric. How luxurious! Unfortunately for Microsoft, there’s a really, really good reason why fabric and electronics don’t usually mingle: humans are gross.

This marks the first time the Surface line has released a product without a specific hardware novelty. The price point is a tad steep for the hardware, especially compared to commodity PCs, and so purchasers are certainly going to want the product to hold its value.

Fording the Future

Ford Motor Co.’s directors are pressing Chief Executive Mark Fields to sharpen his strategy as the company races to catch up on electric cars, reverse its shrinking market share in the U.S. and buoy its languishing stock price, according to people familiar with the situation.

Ford investors are understandably antsy as Tesla has quickly surpassed Ford in value. 

Now Wall Street certainly makes some bad bets. Still, John McElroy is giving quite the handicap with his bold prediction.

Harnessing Star Power

Solar City has announced their newest solar panels which are modified roofing panels, and they're significantly more affordable than was anticipated.

Tesla will begin with production of two of the four styles it unveiled in October: a smooth glass and a textured glass tile. 1 Roofing a 2,000 square-foot home in New York state—with 40 percent coverage of active solar tiles and battery backup for night-time use—would cost about $50,000 after federal tax credits and generate $64,000 in energy over 30 years, according to Tesla’s website calculator

Net Neutrality Déjà-Vu

John Oliver is back at it again, giving the proper enthusiasm to a subject as exceedingly boring and opaque as it is important, net neutrality. 

To recap, internet providers have been required to treat all websites equally, preventing the telcos from auctioning off delivery speeds to content providers like Netflix or Uber, or from blacklisting companies\services for competitive advantages. This came up years ago in 2014 and the public rallied making it exceedingly clear to the FCC that this is a widely accepted desire of the American populous.

The FCC started to enforce the net neutrality restrictions as demanded by the people and corporations of America. Verizon's response was to sue saying the FCC didn't have the proper authority to enforce this widely accepted desire of their corporate and consumer level customers. 

Verizon won, sort of, as the courts agreed there are two categories adorably named Title 1 and Title 2. The FCC was free to categorize the telcos as Title 2 so it seemed to be a frivolous victory. Verizon was going to need to work within the confines of the system desired by their customers.

Verizon responded in this game of cat and mouse by simply becoming the cat and the mouse. The new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, earned his qualifications for his current job by being the associate general counsel for Verizon, effectively the chief of Verizon's legal arm. In a surprise to no one, Pai has made it clear that he feels that his new job should not have these powers of authority over his old job at Verizon. Verizon should be free to ignore their customers.

So once again, we're back to begging the FCC to not ignore their constituents. As you can see in John Oliver's video, the FCC has made this process as convoluted as possible. In fact, in response to John Oliver purchasing gofccyourself.com, the FCC simply made the page that he linked to require you to jump through the same hoops his link was supposed to cut out, forcing the user to search for the obscure number 17-108, only then be presented with the appropriately named: Restoring Internet Freedom. 

I can't verify if this is true for everyone, but from my mobile devices I was unable to complete the form as it would not let me select my state. Classy.

This is out and out corruption with a small contingency of companies blatantly trying to rewrite the rules to give them undesirable advantages. Please let your voice be heard, again, by following the link

That said, this situation exemplifies the hollow victories that were so many of the most positives from the Obama administration. Due to the fact that neither the legislative or executive branches were involved in these decisions, these executive orders can simply be re-appropriated by every single executive branch. That is not how the rights of the people are protected.

The Best Produce is Also the Cheapest

Produce prices at your local Chinatown are likely a fraction of what they cost at other supermarkets, and if you've wondered why, you're not alone. In an investigative report for the Wall Street Journal reporter Anne Kadet admits she always assumed the low prices were a reflection of subpar produce. But a deeper investigation of New York's Chinatown with author Valerie Imbruce led her to the opposite conclusion, and reveals the hidden truths behind the neighborhood's fruit and vegetable supply chain.

I have been able to experience these markets first hand, and it is quite obvious they are not getting second rate produce. I have often wondered how on earth they are pulling this off, they have a bigger selection, at ridiculously lower prices and of higher quality. It really seems like that should be, at best, a pick two scenario; like in fast/good/cheap with meals.

You're Not Gonna Believe

You may have seen a few days ago that a new Oatmeal comic released. If you've never heard of the Oatmeal, he's a Seattle based comic who does terrific work and about once a year writes something which really knocks it out the park. That happened this weekend. If you haven't read it, do so, if you have, it's time for a quick re-read.

Snapchat Lines Up Original Content Deals

Snapchat is gearing up to launch a slate of original television shows, using the social network's unique, short-lived media hook as a means to create content that lasts between 3-5 minutes long. Snapchat has signed original show deals with a collection of companies over the past few months, including NBCUniversal, Turner, A+E Networks, Discovery, BBC, ABC, ESPN, Vice Media, Vertical Networks, NFL, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

After writing yesterday about how it's important for a brand to know what makes it desirable, I got to say Snapchat's CEO Evan Spiegel is a bright guy. Personally I'm not sure if even at 3-5 minutes the videos will be out of place in the Snap experience, but I could easily be thinking too narrowly.

The cat is out of the bag that the future of television is that it appears on tiny smartphones as much if not more often than on giant screens.

Coach Bands

Luxury fashion maker Coach has issued new leather Apple Watch bands and colors, offering quirky styles and bright patterns for the spring season, ranging in price from $125 to $150.

I've written previously that I think the future for traditional watch makers is to continue to stick to their traditional watches and to supplement the business by making their own bands. So far, two luxury fashion companies and one sports apparel company have expanded into the accessory market. We'll see if and when the traditional watch makers decide to start riding the coat tales of the most popular wearable of 2017.

As for these bands, I personally like the idea of the colorful graphics being tastefully hidden on the inside of the band.

Netflix Floats Past Pirates

Hackers attempted to hold Netflix ransom by threatening to release episodes of the new season of Orange Is the New Black on the Piratebay before they are available on the service. Netflix decided to ignore the threats, and the videos were leaked. 

Although the hack offers a reminder that even the best security can be undone by the so-called “weakest link”—Netflix can’t do much if a vendor is compromised—it provides a bigger lesson in how the internet has largely shifted away from torrenting. If a show lands on The Pirate Bay and nobody watches, did it really stream?
Consider that in 2011, BitTorrent accounted for 23 percent of daily internet traffic in North America, according to network-equipment company Sandvine. By last year, that number sat at under 5 percent. “There’s always going to be the floor of people that are always going to be torrenting,” says Sandvine spokesperson Dan Deeth. That group will surely enjoy whatever Piper’s up to in season five. But the idea that so small a cohort might prompt Netflix to negotiate with hackers seems absurd.

Harry Potter Killed Our Hero

But it wasn’t enough, and reports began emerging that the author-controlled NPC had been killed. Worse, Salomé appeared to have been killed not by one of the player groups that had pledged to take her down, but instead by a member of PAC who was supposed to have been protecting her. The community exploded with speculation about what had happened, even as Wagar confirmed via Twitter that Salomé was indeed dead.
Videos were quickly posted of the attack on Salomé. Was it an alpha strike by a fleet of dedicated combatants? A stealthy sneak attack? Aliens, perhaps?
Turns out it was an inside job—and a wizard did it. A very bad space wizard named Cmdr Harry Potter.

I've talked a lot about the future of VR/AR on this website and my podcast. If you haven't heard of it, Elite: Dangerous provides some awesome examples of what the future holds for humanity as we move to a world where hundreds of thousands of people will be able to interact simultaneously with each other in virtual environments. If you are curious what the future of storytelling can look like, I highly recommend you read this linked article. Also, go back and read up on some of the awesome tales from the Eve universe.