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12th March 2019
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Photo Credit: Royal Mint

BBC:

Prof Stephen Hawking has been honoured on a new 50p coin inspired by his pioneering work on black holes.

The physicist died last year at the age of 76, having become one of the most renowned leaders in his field.

He joins an elite group of scientists to have appeared on coins, including Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Designer Edwina Ellis said: “I wanted to fit a big black hole on the tiny coin and wish he was still here chortling at the thought.”

I’ve always liked the fact that we place very important people on our money, such as Charles Darwin, James Watt, and Michael Faraday. It signifies their reverence to the entire world.

It also reminds me of a talk that Neil Degrasse Tyson made at The Tanner Humanities Center, where he spoke about what some countries place on their money, from the perspective of America not having a lot of scientific achievements on theirs.

11th March 2019
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For when Lorem Ipsum just isn’t enough, there’s Jeffsum:

A little text placeholder generator of Jeff Goldblum awesomeness.

For example:

God help us, we’re in the hands of engineers. I was part of something special. You really think you can fly that thing? Life finds a way. Eventually, you do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right? God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates Man. Man destroys God. Man creates Dinosaurs.

20th February 2019
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Josh Ginter at The Newsprint:

The details of this 81 megapixel image of the moon is jaw-dropping — you can see everything.

Best of all, it works incredibly well as an iPhone or iPad wallpaper. The way it lights up the lock screen — especially on the iPhone — is stunning. In effect, it looks like the iPhone progressively lights up the screen, creating a fascinating effect with the lit moon that isn’t replicated the same in other types of images.

He’s right, it looks incredible.

Check out the photographers post on Reddit.

28th January 2019
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I regularly read articles about Apple products that seem to try and be negative just for clickbait reasons, or because it’s a trendy thing to do. But not many of them are as confusing as this article in New Scientist.

In just under 500 words, Clare Wilson describes the new heart rate monitoring features in the Series 4 Apple Watch, the main one being the ability to run an ECG. However counter to the title, the main body of the article seems to praise the new feature. With about 20% of it actually explaining the point they’re trying to make:

But many people have an irregular heart rhythm without symptoms. They will be told by their watch to take the ECG result to a doctor. They could then get potentially risky surgery, go on unnecessary medications risking side effects such as dizziness. At the least, they will be falsely alarmed.

Several trials have investigated whether it is helpful to give ECGs to people without symptoms and the US Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that the evidence fails to show this approach does more good than harm.

The point they’re trying to make is that people will be diagnosed with irregular heart rhythms, but as they lack any negative symptoms, they may be lead to having unnecessary risky procedures.

I have two points to make regarding this. Firstly, if you have an irregular heart rhythm, and the watch detects it, then it’s doing exactly what it’s meant to do. And secondly, if you find you do have one, and even without symptoms, your doctor puts you through risky surgery, then that’s by no means the fault of the watch.

Some people will always read any slightly negative diagnosis with the worst case scenario in mind. That’s why there are such things as hypochondriacs. But then that’s also where qualified doctors come into it. By no means do I think Apple wants you to take an ECG on your watch, and based on that one result, have heart surgery. It’s an indicator that you can use to diagnose atrial fibrillation, and then you can go to a medical professional to further diagnose any issues.

20th January 2019
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David Sparks had an interesting take on AirPower, that maybe not many people actually care about it. But also that it would be good to end all the rumours:

I hope Apple does perfect and ship the AirPower, if for no other reason, so we can start talking about it. Regardless, I can’t help but think in the overall scheme of things, AirPower is small potatoes.

Maybe this is why Apple haven’t came out at any point with updates to the availability of it. They have had real issues with AirPower, like the heat caused by placing so many charging coils together. But there’s been zero news about it since the announcement, at least officially. Maybe because it’s just an accessory that only a tiny fraction of people will get, so it’s not actually a big deal.

16th January 2019
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John Voorhees, writing for MacStories:

Today, DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused web search engine, began using Apple Maps for location-based searches. The company, which previously used OpenStreetMap, switched to Apple’s MapKit JS framework, which Apple introduced at WWDC in June 2018.

This is a very good improvement to DuckDuckGo. Hopefully this kind of integration will also lead to more visibility into any flaws that it may have, which can be rectified once for the entire service. That can only benefit the other platforms Apple Maps is on.

Thinking about DuckDuckGo a bit more, them using Apple maps is probably a very good fit, as I personally see them as the “Apple” of search engines, as they both put a big emphasis on anonymising data requests, and respecting user privacy.

What I want to see next, is DuckDuckGo become the default option on iOS. But as Google already pay a ton of money for this, I don’t see it as being that likely.

7th January 2019
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Well, that’s the shortened version of the question that asked on Quora:

“Why isn’t bamboo wood a bigger worldwide industry, since it grows so quickly and is so strong? couldn’t it replace lumber and save many trees?”

It’s a question that I’ve often thought myself. You hear regularly about how bamboo is such a superior resource for many things, but I’ve never seen an objective reason why it’s not as widely used.

But in his answer, Raphaël du Sablon came to our aid with some very interesting reasons:

Okay, here is the long answer. Bamboo is the collective name for several dozen genera of grasses, all in the Bambusoideae branch of the “BOP” clade.[1] While most bamboo species are either shrubby or relatively short plants, a couple genera include particularly large species, typically called “timber bamboo” or “giant bamboo.” These are the bamboo of relevance.

Being in the grass family, bamboo is not a tree. Thus, material cut from bamboo stalks is not technically “wood.” Because of its roughly similar properties, however, and for marketing reasons, it often is referred to as a wood.

With that pedantry out of the way, let’s consider the uses of wood, and how bamboo compares. The big ones are fuel, lumber, and paper.

7th January 2019
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Michael Rockwell of Initial Charge:

As some of you may know, I recently started a new job. I’m now a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, helping WordPress.com users build their online business, share their ideas with the world, or do just about anything you could think of with a website. This new change in my life is at least partly to blame for the lack of publishing here on Initial Charge, but now that the holidays are behind us, I should have a bit more time for writing.

I’ve added quite a bit of new tech to my setup over the past few months and have plenty of thoughts and ideas to share about what’s happened in the world of Apple recently. But today, I thought I’d spend a bit of time discussing the new MacBook Air.

I found this to be a really insightful review. By no means am I thinking about getting a MacBook Air in the future. But I’ll forever be interested in how people use their devices for their work.

14th December 2018

Apple have announced some changes to the Artists Pages in Apple Music for iOS:

Apple Music in iOS 12 makes it easier to browse an artist’s catalog and discover new music to play. You’ll find the following changes in the new Artist Pages:

  • Improved Organization: Artist Pages are now better organized to make it easier to find the music you’re looking for, including Essential Albums and a featured release at the top of each artist’s page.
  • Personalized Artist Radio: Every Apple Music artist now has their own radio station. Press ▶︎ at the top of any Artist Page to start listening to music from across an artist’s catalog.

Connect posts from artists are no longer supported.

So Apple Music Connect is no more. Not exactly a big loss in my opinion though.

My opinions are similar to Nick Heer of Pixel Envy:

Aside from Connect, I think Apple Music’s social features have been fairly successful. I check out what the users I follow have been listening to all the time in the For You section, and I like the new Friends Mix added a few months ago. I’ve even noticed a better selection of user-created playlists. I would love to see continued investment and promotion of these more passive social features, rather than another attempt to create a Twitter-but-for-music social network.

I can’t say I regularly check what my friends are listening to, but I too have been finding a lot more user-created playlists. And I’ve noticed that playlists that I have created have been getting more attention from others.

Receiving updates from artists in Apple Music always seemed a bit odd to me, as I never really thought any artists would spend much time creating content for a limited outlet such as Apple Music. Especially as they surely knew it wouldn’t be that popular.

What I do want to see more of though, are social features designed for the listeners. With things like user-curated playlists, and smarter recommendations that take into consideration your interests, your friends, what’s trending in a certain area, etc. I’ve always found Spotify to be much better at this, and discoverability in general. And I’d much prefer Apple to compete on that front, instead of trying to attract Artists to be social on a music platform.