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Tim Cook Calls for US Privacy Regulations in Time Op-Ed

User privacy is one of the social drums Tim Cook has been consistently beating for years now, and today that's continuing in an even stronger way with a new op-ed by Apple’s CEO published by Time. Cook writes:

I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation:

First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.

In addition to outlining these four principles, Cook gets more specific in calling for a particular organization to be formed that counteracts a “shadow economy that’s largely unchecked” whereby people’s data is sold by retailers and other companies without express knowledge or consent. He writes:

Meaningful, comprehensive federal privacy legislation should not only aim to put consumers in control of their data, it should also shine a light on actors trafficking in your data behind the scenes. Some state laws are looking to accomplish just that, but right now there is no federal standard protecting Americans from these practices. That’s why we believe the Federal Trade Commission should establish a data-broker clearinghouse, requiring all data brokers to register, enabling consumers to track the transactions that have bundled and sold their data from place to place, and giving users the power to delete their data on demand, freely, easily and online, once and for all.

Apple has established a consistent practice of standing for user privacy, partly owing to its highly publicized standoff with the FBI in 2016, but it seems that in 2019 the company wants that value to be even more pronounced. First there was the unavoidable banner at CES touting the iPhone's privacy advantage, and now today's op-ed. It will be interesting to see if any of the ideas Cook pushes bring about productive discussion on this issue, leading to practical change in US policy.

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Connected, Episode 226: The Instagram Secret Society

The boys discuss a bunch of Apple products that may be receiving refreshes after years of neglect, including the iPad mini and iPod touch, then are taught how to edit photos like pros by Tyler Stalman.

If you want to get better at taking pictures on your iPhone, you don't want to miss the second half of this week's Connected. I learned a lot from Tyler and now have a handful of new apps to play with. You can listen here.

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Dates with Siri

Before I get any further, let me tell you that some of what I’m going to say here was already covered by David Sparks in this post from almost six years ago. This was just a year and a half after the “beta” introduction of Siri with the iPhone 4S, and David was pleased with what Siri could do. I like a lot of what Siri can do with dates, too, but there are still some frustrating blind spots and inconsistencies. In fact, with one of David’s examples, Siri isn’t as convenient as it was six years ago.

Context has always been one of Siri’s weaknesses, and that’s where it failed Casey. Any normal human being would understand immediately that a question asked in January about days since a day in December is talking about the December of the previous year. But Siri ignores (or doesn’t understand) the word “since” and calculates the days until the next December 18.

Solid collection of examples of date calculations with Siri by Dr. Drang. As he notes, it's not that Siri can't answer complex questions involving dates – it's that you often have to phrase your questions with an exact syntax that a computer program can understand. This is frustrating because Apple promotes Siri as a smart assistant that can infer context without a refined syntax. I still run into a similar problem with time zone conversions; of course, the old trick I used to rely on no longer works for me unless I preface the question with "Ask Wolfram".

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Connected, Episode 225: The Bear Will Charge You

Stephen, Myke and Federico kick off 2019 with annual predictions, a look at Apple's recent TV moves and the most amazing Shortcut of all time.

On this week's episode of Connected, we share our predictions for Apple in 2019. You can listen here.

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AppStories, Episode 93 – 2019 Themes from Our Must-Have iOS and Mac Apps

On this week's episode of AppStories, we discuss the themes that run throughout our 2018 iOS and Mac must-have apps and what they mean for 2019.

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Macworld Profiles Mac Apps Developed for Over 25 Years

As we start a new year that could bring significant change to macOS, Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld, spoke to the creators of four Mac apps – BBEdit, PCalc, Fetch, and GraphicConverter – that have been around for at least 25 years and weathered a variety of past macOS and hardware transitions.

Rich Siegel of Bare Bones Software, which can trace BBEdit's lineage back to 1989 when the app was built for System 7, told Macworld that over the years:

We’ve extensively rewritten, upgraded, and optimized [BBEdit’s] internal architecture.… Even though it has evolved a great deal, BBEdit has stayed very close to its fundamental mission: empowering its users to accomplish tasks which would challenge or defeat other tools.

Not long after BBEdit came on the scene, James Thomson released the first version of PCalc on the Mac, which was also built for System 7. For Thomson, PCalc's evolving UI has kept working on the app fresh:

My passion since I first discovered the Mac nearly 30 years ago has always been making interesting and fun user interfaces. And look forward to keep doing it for a long time to come.

Fleishman also spoke to Jim Matthews, for whom FTP client Fetch has gone from full-time job to side project over the years, and Thorsten Lemke, whose GraphicConverter app has evolved from converting a handful of image formats to over 200.

Twenty-five or more years on one app is a remarkable accomplishment. The story of each app is different, but their developers share a common commitment to maintaining their apps for their customers notwithstanding the changes to the Mac and its OS over the years. Later this year, we should hear more about Apple's plans to help iOS developers bring their apps to the Mac App Store. Whatever impact those changes end up having on the Mac app ecosystem, I hope the sort of developer dedication that has kept BBEdit, PCalc, Fetch, and GraphicConverter around for over a quarter century perseveres.

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Jason Snell Goes Hands-On with Brydge’s Upcoming Keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro

Jason Snell tested a pre-production unit of the Brydge keyboard for the 2018 iPad Pro (in the 12.9" flavor) and it sounds like this will be the iPad keyboard worth waiting for:

To attach the iPad to the Brydge 12.9 Pro, you slide it into two hinged clips covered with rubber padding. As with previous models, it takes a little practice to get the feel right. My main concern once the new iPad Pro was unveiled was if Brydge would be able to design a clip small enough to only cover the iPad’s much smaller bezels that also held the iPad securely. I’m happy to report that the answer is yes—there’s enough room and once the iPad is attached, the connection feels solid.

The clips are the same size front and back, meaning you can remove the iPad, flip it around, and insert it back into the clips to use the Brydge as a “movie mode” stand, or even fold it down and use it as a double-thick, double-weight tablet. (I don’t really see the appeal, but Brydge says that some customers requested it.)

In a nice touch, the Brydge 12.9 Pro comes with a slight indentation at the bottom of the wrist-rest space (below where a trackpad would be, if it had a trackpad). This creates a natural lifting point to open the “laptop”, which was sometimes tricky on the previous models.

Once I was able to get my hands on a functioning unit of the original Brydge keyboard, I fell in love with the idea of turning the iPad into a "convertible" computer that could work both as a laptop and a tablet. I later upgraded to the second-generation Brydge keyboard and used it until I upgraded to the latest iPad Pro in November. Products like the Brydge keyboard tie into the iPad's hybrid nature – the multiplicity of input systems and work contexts that make it, as Jason also notes, more flexible than a traditional laptop or desktop computer. I was concerned that the smaller bezels of the 2018 iPad Pro were going to be an issue for a redesigned Brydge keyboard, but it seems like the company has not only worked around the iPad's new design constraints, but even improved upon previous generations of the keyboard case. I'm going to pre-order one as soon as possible.

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Connected, Episode 224: 2018 in Review

A look back at 2018: our predictions and a review of the news that mattered, as well as some that didn't.

On the final episode of Connected for the year, we look back at all the major Apple news and announcements of 2018. You can listen here.

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Apple Adds AI Head, John Giannandrea, to Executive Team

Today Apple announced that one of its most recent high profile hires, John Giannandrea, has been added as the twelfth member of the company's executive team. His title is now Senior Vice President of Machine Learning and AI Strategy. From the press release:

“John hit the ground running at Apple and we are thrilled to have him as part of our executive team,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Machine learning and AI are important to Apple’s future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We’re fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area.” 

News of Giannandrea's hiring at Apple first broke in April at The New York Times. Apple didn't formally announce the hire, however, until July. And here we are just a few short months later, with another press release from Apple announcing his promotion.

Giannandrea's role involves leadership of Siri, machine learning, and other artificial intelligence projects, all of which are right up his wheelhouse due to his former role as Google's chief of search and artificial intelligence. While it's hard to say from the outside what kind of difference his influence is making at Apple, this move is a good sign that the company's pleased with his early months of work. Perhaps we'll get to see the fruits of his labors at WWDC 2019.

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