The M1 Macs

From Daring Fireball:

What you need to understand is that the best aspects of these Macs aren’t benchmarkable. It’s about how nice they are. The cooling system never making any noise doesn’t show up in a benchmark. I suppose you could assign it a decibel value in an anechoic chamber, but silent operation, and a palm rest that remains cool to the touch even under heavy load, aren’t quantities. They’re qualities. They’re just nice.

So far it appears that the new M1 Macs are a performance, efficiency and UX win. They’re an improvement in nearly every way, yet within the same enclosure as before.

The webcams still stink, however.

Overall, this is a great review of the entire experience of using  these new Macs and it has me very excited to upgrade whenever I end up buying a new machine.

Google discontinues its Google Nest Secure alarm system

From The Verge:

Google isn’t totally out of smart home security, though. It still sells video doorbells, security cameras, smoke alarms, and more.

For now.

Unless you’re using something that is absolutely mission critical to Google, prepare to have the rug pulled out from under you. Good on them for continuing to support the platform for now but you can already see the “sunset” blog post 12 months from now.

Bundled ‘Apple One’ Subscription Announced

From Nick Heer @ Pixel Envy:

I have reservations about how this will be promoted. I can see many push notifications, modal banners, and emails in my future telling me about how, for the same price I pay now, I can also have Apple Arcade. Or, for just a few dollars more, I can get News Plus and Fitness Plus. Thanks, but no thanks.

This is the thing that gives me the most discomfort about Apple’s services offerings. When you offer service tiers (Apple News and then a “Plus” service on top of that, etc) along with a bundle, your incentives as a company become misaligned. The marginal cost for Apple to throw in a banner or notification pushing their own content or services is extremely low as it is their platform, and therefore they’re way more likely to slip one or two of these in to push newer services in particular. Once that pattern is established, it will slowly find its way into every part of the OS. From a blog post by Steve Streza earlier this year that has a ton of great screenshots showing how bad this is getting:

Apple wants to grow their services business with drastic increases year-over-year. This means they are going to aggressively push more services into more places (including deeper into macOS and tvOS, which are also slowly having adware trickled into them). Apple TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card are all new this year, and are already strongly advertised in iOS. Apple Music has existed for a few years, and its level of advertising in the app is pervasive. As time goes on, these ads are going to get worse, not better.

I’m an Apple Music and iCloud subscriber currently and have tried a few of their other “Plus” offerings over the past year or so as they’ve come online. I actually like most of the services they offer and might try out this bundle as my kids get a little older and could make use of Arcade more. What bugs me the most is that there’s no way to fully disable the “Plus” experience if you’re not interested in Apple Arcade, News+, and now Fitness+. I don’t begrudge Apple for wanting to build on their platform to make it more sticky and a better overall integrated experience for their customers – I do begrudge them for prioritizing growth over respect for users who may not be interested.

Project Connected Home over IP Connectivity Standard Developing Into Reality

From the Zigbee Alliance blog:

When we set out in December 2019 to create a unifying standard for the smart home industry, there was naturally a lot of excitement — and of course, questions. Would this global consortium truly be able to bring this new standard to market? How long would it take? What products would actually emerge? Would we be able to pull off our promise to unify a fragmented industry under a single connectivity standard that would help companies focus on creating experiences over “plumbing”?

Eight months later, we are indeed executing on that vision as our progress has garnered global recognition and strength in membership, participants and technology. We are on track to deliver a draft specification by late 2020, and continue to drive towards our goal of releasing the standard in 2021.

I’ll be skeptical that companies like Nest and Ring ever fully adopt these standards but I’m hopeful. The fact that the Connected Home Over IP initiative made it past the introductory blog post is progress, I suppose. In an ideal world you can buy most any of the standard light bulb, thermostat, speaker or sensor products out there and get some functionality out of the box.

70 Top Republican National Security Officials Denounce Trump As Unfit, Announce Support For Biden

From Defending Democracy Together:

We are former national security officials who served during the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and/or Donald Trump, or as Republican Members of Congress. We are profoundly concerned about the course of our nation under the leadership of Donald Trump. Through his actions and his rhetoric, Trump has demonstrated that he lacks the character and competence to lead this nation and has engaged in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve as President.For the following reasons, we have concluded that Donald Trump has failed our country and that Vice President Joe Biden should be elected the next President of the United States.

Look at that list. This isn’t a bunch of lightweight GOP members.

Here’s why Apple believes it’s an AI leader—and why it says critics have it all wrong

From Saumel Axon at Ars Technica:

If big tech companies and venture capital investments are to be believed, AI and machine learning will only become more ubiquitous in the coming years. However it shakes out, Giannandrea and Borchers made one thing clear: machine learning now plays a part in much of what Apple does with its products, and many of the features consumers use daily. And with the Neural Engine coming to Macs starting this fall, machine learning’s role at Apple will likely continue to grow.

John Giannandrea joined Apple a few years ago from Google to run the AI part of the business and the fruits of his expertise appear to be paying off according to this article. There’s a lot of direct quotes and anecdotes in this article, but near the end you get the feeling that there’s a cultural shift happening in Cupertino:

After a long track record of mostly working on AI features in the dark, Apple’s emphasis on machine learning has greatly expanded over the past few years.

The company is publishing regularly, it’s doing academic sponsorships, it has fellowships, it sponsors labs, it goes to AI/ML conferences. It recently relaunched a machine learning blog where it shares some of its research. It has also been on a hiring binge, picking up engineers and others in the machine learning space—including Giannandrea himself just two years ago.

Remember when Giannandrea said he was surprised that machine learning wasn’t used for handwriting with the Pencil? He went on to see the creation of the team that made it happen. And in tandem with other teams, they moved forward with machine learning-driven handwriting—a cornerstone in iPadOS 14.
It appears that behind the scenes there’s a decent amount of restructuring happening that should help Apple deliver more practical enhancements to experiences without just shouting “AI” from the rooftops the way that Google does. Users don’t actually care about those implementation details, they just want nifty products that work well and get out of the way.

Microsoft Analyzed Data on Its Newly Remote Workforce

From Harvard Business Review:

Is work today permanently different from what it was before Covid-19 and the work-from-home shift? We don’t know yet, but the data can give us ongoing, real-time information that we can use to influence what happens next. We believe that what we learn about these changes will be key to organizational resiliency in the months and years to come

Lots of great insights in this breakdown. I’ve definitely seen the demise of the lunch hour first-hand. People try their best to protect it from meetings but I find most people are using it to eat and catch up on things that don’t quite need a meeting but need some follow-up. It’s fascinating to see tons of workplace norms fall so quickly when everyone that can is working remotely and using the tools at our disposal.

 

 

Revenge of the Suburbs

From Ian Bogost at The Atlantic:

But after the anxious spring of 2020, these defects seem like new luxuries. There was always comfort to be found in a big house on a plot of land that’s your own. The relief is even more soothing with a pandemic bearing down on you. And as the novel coronavirus graduates from acute terror to long-term malaise, urbanites are trapped in small apartments with little or no outdoor space, reliant on mass transit that now seems less like a public service and more like a rolling petri dish.
The pandemic will improve suburban life, perhaps in lasting ways. Take the automobile commute: The exodus from the office has dramatically decreased traffic and pollution, a trend that will continue in some form if even a fraction of the people who abandoned their commutes continue to work from home. Dunham-Jones, who is also my colleague in Georgia Tech’s college of design, thinks that even a modest rise in telecommuting could also increase the appeal of local walking and bike trips. Families have two cars, but nowhere to go. They are rediscovering the pleasures of pedestrianism.
[…]
Multigenerational households represent a modest increase in density, and they can make quarantine more tolerable on top of it. The summer is upon us, but camps are largely closed and ordinary family activities have been substantially disrupted. The spring lockdowns also proved that working from home while facilitating children’s remote schoolwork is extremely challenging. Intergenerational households offer more hands and eyes to watch the kids or manage mealtimes made incompatible by overlapping schedules. Schools have always been a huge driver of residential real-estate sales, and even a modest increase in online learning could shock the market. Economic pressure may encourage consolidation of some families into bigger but more populous single-family homes, while decoupling home values from school districts even somewhat could make them more affordable.

Living in the suburbs is a mixed bag as it’s always been – you trade things like culture, collectivism, walkability and energy efficiency for a longer commute, more space (but more isolation) and (often) better schools. However, I’m hopeful that this pandemic has shown us there’s possibility to find a middle ground now that more folks are working from their homes and helping educate from the comfort of our house. If we’re lucky, residents in suburban areas will look to invest more in their local communities and build them into places that might make those longer commutes less necessary. If we can move to a world where remote work is accessible for more folks, suburban and exurban communities can be more sustainable.

I try to remind myself daily how lucky we are to have a setup like we do – we have an office that I can work remotely out of, (mostly) uninterrupted during the day. Our kids can complete their schoolwork in the basement. We have a fenced in back yard that the kids can play in as well. So generally speaking the quarantine has been “easier” for our family than the average apartment dweller.

To our YouTube TV members: an update to our content and price

From the Youtube TV blog:

As we continue to evaluate how to provide the best possible service and content for you, our membership price will be $64.99. This new price takes effect today, June 30, for new members. Existing subscribers will see these changes reflected in their subsequent billing cycle on or after July 30.

I get that the content business is a cutthroat, low margin world. But we’re slowly getting into cable prices – which defeats the entire purpose of services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV.