Don’t Blame Anyone for the Celebrity Photo Leaks… Yet

Just because there was an iCloud security flaw near to the time nude photos of celebrities leaked last week, it does not mean that Apple are to blame. Even though many of these celebrities likely had weak passwords, there is nothing to confirm that the ‘hack’ is their fault.

Headlines blaming companies and people are frustratingly inaccurate. It may have been iCloud’s fault, but a host of other factors could also be involved, as the Guardian report:

It was initially suggested that Apple’s iCloud service could have been compromised to access the images, but experts have said this was unlikely. Independent security expert Graham Cluley told the Guardian suggested that a hacker could have worked for years to gather information leading to the images, or could have hacked an address book with celebrity emails and then used phishing techniques, where users are tricked into divulging their password by fake emails. “My suspicion is that this isn’t an iCloud security flaw as such,” he said.

Wait for proper investigations to take place before making a judgment. All we need to know now is that this was a terrible exploitation that needs to be prevented somehow in the future. Celebrities are people too.

Super Premium, Incredible Value Earphones: RHA MA750i Review

My poor old Klipsch S4is broke recently. They lasted me a good few years, had set me back £80, and sounded great. As the price suggests, they are mid-range earphones, from a respected company. They were comfortable and lightweight: I was pleased.

But I needed replacements, and after hearing good things about a relatively unknown British brand: RHA, I took the plunge and purchased their highest end earphones1, at only £90. That price, for what were meant to be some of the best earphones you can buy left me sceptical. But I risked it—I had a £60 Apple Back to School voucher anyway. Needless to say, I was so impressed from the moment I saw them, let alone listened to them.

Unlike my old plastic—rather cheap looking S4is—the 750is are made from stainless steel, which are heavy, but luckily have over ear wires that come with multiple benefits such as reducing interference, and holding the weighty earbuds into your ear. The inline remote is also steel and rubber, and the 3mm jack is gold plated, with a steel cover and a spring over the wire to prevent fraying—an all too common problem with cables of this sort. It is hard to not appreciate just how durable these buds are. And they come with a three year warranty too; if that’s not enough to make them worth the cost, what is?

This build quality does bring about a downside, however. I personally prefer in-ear headphones to over-ear ones because they are so portable. The 750is aren’t that portable, and often don’t fit in my pocket. They do come with a leather carry case, however the quality of this was very poor. Not only was the logo printed wonky, but the zip hardly worked and the pouch inside that is meant to fit the headphones didn’t stretch wide enough to fit just one bud. But this is a petty complaint—RHA had to make a compromise somewhere.

Of course, the most important part of any earphones are how they sound. RHA include ten different pairs of rubber and foam tips to assure you get a perfect in-ear seal, and this goes far. It takes some trial and error, but finding the right fit creates some excellent sound isolation.

The actual drivers themselves are what really shine though. I’m no real sound coinnessuer, but these headphones rival the best of the best: I’ve used £250 Bose earbuds that compete. You would not be mistaken if you found that bass was lacking, as it isn’t as punchy as it could be, and there are some vibrations when notes get too deep, but it isn’t bad. I’d rather it be quiet than loud and muffled. The trebles are crisp, with every tap of a tambourine or hit of the hi-hat reproduced perfectly. Vocals are unbelievably smooth, along with all the other mids. They are so clear and warm and an absolute pleasure to listen to. I found alternative and rock are the genres where this really shines, as live instruments and autotune-less singers encapsulate everything these immersive buds do well.

Just to remind you, you’re paying £90. You can save £10 and ditch the iPod friendly remote too.

I cannot recommend these earphones enough. RHA are making a name for themselves as producing high quality, durable products, made and designed with care. A pleasure to use and own. Splash out and ditch those Apple EarPods. Or save some money, ignore the bigger, more expensive brands, and go for these. They are so worth it.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Shortly after writing, I found the company will shortly launch a new top-end model, the T10i, so I purchased their second most ‘premium’.

iWatch To Reach $400, But With Cheaper Options

Re/code’s sources prevail once again, this time revealing some information on the price of Apple’s upcoming wearable:

Apple executives have discussed charging around $400 for the company’s new wearable device.

Pricing has yet to be finalized for the forthcoming product, which is expected to begin shipping next year. Sources say consumers should expect a range of prices for different models including lower priced versions.

$400 is an excellent price point for affordable luxury. It comes well below what you can pay for a premium watch, but well above what the competitors are currently producing, suggesting it will be a ‘no compromise’ device. The iPhone was also somewhat expensive when first released.1

Cheaper options will be necessary if the iWatch is to be competitive, but as Apple may be reinventing a product category here, they need one model to highlight what the company are capable of—they shouldn’t worry about price when doing this.

 

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  1. The 4GB model cost $499, the 8GB option totalling $599. This was above the competition, but the device was unrivalled in design and features.

The Apple PR Team Is Far More Complex Than We Think

Apple’s PR team is going under change, and 9to5Mac present an extensive look at that small group of employees and their relationship with the media. It is a fascinating read, that you must take a look at, even if it does mean that 9to5Mac’s poor relationship with Apple will not change. A few picks from the piece are below:

Unsurprisingly, Press Events are planned in much detail, rehearsed, and done so with constant contact with media outlets. They need to manage expectations as best they can:

The process starts weeks before keynote addresses. Apple’s PR/Communications and Marketing teams keep an eye on media reports to determine expectations, leaking information to temper expectations that won’t be matched by the announcements. Executives typically practice for two weeks in Apple’s Infinite Loop auditorium, and senior PR members prepare special white booklets to be handed out to the rest of the Communications group during a lengthy meeting, held about one week prior to the main event.

Apple will often feed news outlets stories to twist what another organisation may have said. Pitching publications against each other seems like a nasty and manipulative strategy, which is almost disrespectful to journalists. On one of many strategies:

Another cornerstone tactic of Apple PR was playing publications against each other, according to Brian Lam, founder of The Wirecutter and former head of Gizmodo. When print magazines dominated, Jobs could get either Newsweek or TIME to promote Apple on the front cover by making them compete against each other for an exclusive. Lam explained that “you can’t convince them to give you a cover, but you can convince them to take a cover from a competitor.” As technology blogs became more important, Jobs played rivals Gizmodo and Engadget against each other, publicly complimenting the freewheeling Gizmodo‘s work in front of the more serious Engadget‘s then-editor Ryan Block.

There is a excellent account on PR “tyrant” Katie Cotton’s departure from Apple. It highlights the changes that Tim Cook wanted to happen to Apple following Steve’s death:

When Tim Cook officially took the reins at Apple in late 2011, “he started informing the PR group that Apple needs to become a friendlier company,” both internally and in the public’s eye. The message was clear, but it was unclear whether Cotton would be able to meet that expectation. As an Apple employee said, “is Tim going to [still] want Katie, an attack dog with Steve’s DNA” at the helm of the company’s image? Cook opened Apple up to the Fair Labor Association, began to match employee charitable contributions, and gradually made not only himself but also other top executives available for magazine interviews. Change was afoot at Apple, and Cook wasn’t playing by all of the established rules.

Read more

iWatch to Ship After Christmas, But That’s Good

Re/code report, in regard to the upcoming Apple wearable:

It’s going to be a while before anyone is actually wearing it. Sources in position to know tell me it won’t arrive at market for a few months. “It’s not shipping anytime soon,” said one. So when does Apple plan to ship its eagerly anticipated wearable? That’s not clear, but my understanding is that we’re unlikely to see it at retail until after the holiday season — think early 2015.

This is really good for Apple PR and marketing. Apple’s announcements are most exciting when a product is truly secret, such as the iPhone, iPad or Mac Pro. Leaks usually occur from the production line, so announcing a product before it even reaches that point means that the details remain under tight guard.

Of course, this can only happen when Apple announce a new product category, or any device that will not cannibalise one of Apple’s existing markets. The iWatch fits into this category, so I expect a genuinely riveting event on September 9th.

Coffee Naps are Better than Coffee or Naps

Vox highlighted some interesting studies that may help me through my continuing tiredness:

If you’re feeling sleepy and want to wake yourself up — and have 20 minutes or so to spare before you need to be fully alert — there’s something you should try. It’s more effective than drinking a cup of coffee or taking a quick nap.

It’s drinking a cup of coffee and then taking a quick nap. This is called a coffee nap.

It might sound crazy: conventional wisdom is that caffeine interferes with sleep. But if you caffeinate immediately before napping and sleep for 20 minutes or less, you can exploit a quirk in the way both sleep and caffeine affect your brain to maximize alertness.

The article goes on to explain how adenosine, the chemical that makes you feel tired following brain activity, is both cleared by sleeping and blocked by caffeine. As long as you don’t sleep for long enough to enter a deep sleep, by the time the caffeine kicks in, you’ll feel even more awake.

It makes a lot of sense, given that caffeine takes about 20 minutes to work, and often when I drink coffee, I’m feeling tired enough that I would take a nap anyway. A clever idea.

Macbook Pro with Retina Display: One Week Later

I got a new computer last week.

As someone who spends an obscene amount of time in front of a screen, and will shortly be heading off to uni where I’ll never stop typing, I felt it necessary to push for a more powerful machine and future-proof. So of course I went with the Pro, and have been briefly noting my observations over my first week with this magnificent piece of engineering.

It goes without saying that this thing looks incredible. Jony Ive and his team have not been particularly radical with the Macbook Pro’s design since the first unibody model, and even though the Retina display model is impressively thin, it still has the timeless enclosure that we know and love.

The display, as expected, has ruined all other computers I use, like the Retina display iPad did with tablets and phones. It’s crisp and more importantly, bright and vivid. I was worried that watching downscaled HD content would be a poor experience, but it is not; contrast is well balanced and the downscaling is hard to notice. Many webpages, even big name ones like Amazon still don’t use HiDPI graphics which is disappointing. In fact, looking at any low resolution image or graphic is a horrible experience. But that isn’t the resolution’s fault—it’s mine.

Yosemite is looking good at this resolution too; it really was made for the retina display. Typography is clean, colours are bright and iconography ‘harmonious’. It runs smoothly and the animations are slick and fast. More when I’m out of NDA on this I’m sure.

This machine is fast. It’s my first ever SSD, but I can’t quite get over just how snappy it is. I ask myself why I never invested in one before. Apps launch without hesitation and often surprise me when they do so. Games run quite well with the Iris Pro graphics chip—I can run Bioshock Infinite on the highest graphics settings (without antialiasing) and get reasonable performance, even if it isn’t at the full Retina resolution. 16GB of RAM as standard is good future-proofing; I haven’t seen more than 25% memory pressure yet. I can’t wait to get Final Cut working and really push the 2.2Ghz i7 to its max.

I have noticed that the laptop does get really hot at times, especially when gaming. It can get to 99ºC in a few seconds, but also cools back to 45ºC in the same amount of time, so there is no worry. The positioning of the CPU means that the aluminium between the keys does get hot, so sometimes typing straight after playing a game is an odd experience—it kind of hurts!

The speakers are disappointing. Apple made a relatively big deal of them when they first announced this computer, but I found them to be achingly average. They reach acceptable volume, but do have a ‘tinny’ sound and a very noticeable lack of bass. No big deal, as I rarely would use them, but frustrating for what is meant to be Apple’s highest end laptop.

I haven’t had a day out with this laptop yet to test the battery properly, but when I head back to work next week I will do. I haven’t had to worry about it, seeing estimations of between 6 and 9 hours from a full charge when web browsing, all the way down to 1 or 2 when using power hungry apps and games. It is worth noting that these calculations are somewhat sporadic, and often completely inaccurate, so once again, I can’t judge until I’ve taken it out.

The Macbook Pro is an amazing machine. It works just great, and it feels super premium. It feels like the best laptop in the industry. It has everything, and more importantly, Apple’s ecosystem. I’m so glad I didn’t get the Air, even if this is pretty heavy.

Screens are NOT Killing Our Brains

Readwrite published a ‘tabloidesque’ scare story headlined: “Our Growing Obsession With Screens Is Killing Our Brains”. It was a hugely misleading title.

Last year, Mangen analyzed reading comprehension of 72 10th graders. She broke the students into two groups: One group received information on paper and the other read PDFs on a computer screen. She found that students who read on the computer screens comprehended less than their paper-reading peers, and students who read digital copies of information forgot it much quicker.

It’s not just reading that could be suffering, but writing too. As handwriting and cursive notebooks are replaced by iPads and laptops, educational development in students who are just beginning to read and write creatively could be negatively affected.

Of course, reading off of a computer screen will decrease comprehension, due to fatigue and eye strain. It doesn’t mean that our brains are dying. Likewise, handwriting will decrease if people write less, just like any skill wears off after practice; once again, our brains aren’t being ‘killed’.

Prolonged time in front of a computer, or video games, is a bad thing, but a click-bait title like this was unnecessary, especially when the article inadvertently debunked it.

Apple’s iWatch is Coming on September 9th

A Re/code report, from renowned John Paczkowski, has made it appear extremely likely—almost definite—that Apple will announce their much rumoured wearable device on 9th September, alongside the next generation iPhone.

The new device will, predictably, make good use of Apple’s HealthKit health and fitness platform. It will also — predictably — make good use of HomeKit, the company’s new framework for controlling connected devices — though it’s not clear how broadly or in what way.

While the device will clearly have a plethora of great features; will probably look fantastic, as Apple’s design team remains almost identical to when other category defining products like the iPhone and iPad were announced; and will be full of innovations; I worry that it won’t have the impact that Apple are used to.

We are in the era of ‘new’ Apple. An Apple that is far more open to change than it was under Steve Jobs, but it has yet to pull of a truly revolutionary product—a product that would force all its competitors to make a U-turn. We can’t criticise them for this as it has only been four years since the last time they made such an impact with the iPad, but I do hope that wasn’t the final time. I’m confident that their use of superlatives at the event will be accurate, but will a ‘magical’, ‘amazing’ and ‘gorgeous’ device be enough?

I’m scared. But also optimistic, as Apple’s team are as stand-out and unique as ever.

Dropbox Slashes Pricing, Adds Features

Dropbox made some exciting announcements today:

We don’t want you to worry about choosing the right plan or having enough space. So today, we’re simplifying Dropbox Pro to a single plan that stays at $9.99/month, but now comes with 1 TB (1,000 GB) of space.Simple collaboration is one of the reasons people choose Dropbox Pro, but we’ve heard you ask for more ways to protect the stuff you share. That’s why we’re bringing new sharing controls to Dropbox Pro.

Finally Dropbox bring their service in line with Google Drive, a service that offers the same price plan. Personally, while I like Dropbox, I’ve settled with a combination of Drive for documents (where I have 100GB of storage), Flickr for photos (1TB comes free) and I’ve recently moved from CloudApp to Droplr, for fast sharing of any file with no storage restrictions. Droplr also has password protection like Dropbox.

Dropbox seems to be a hugely popular service, and I see it as a great all-round solution for most cloud storage needs. But there are rivalling companies who do better work in certain areas, and so using more than one often gives a better experience than using just one service to cover all your needs. I can’t recommend Dropbox unless you want the ultimate convenience, which isn’t a bad thing.