Category: Geek

Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to be Gay”


Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

Throughout my professional life, I’ve tried to maintain a basic level of privacy. I come from humble roots, and I don’t seek to draw attention to myself. Apple is already one of the most closely watched companies in the world, and I like keeping the focus on our products and the incredible things our customers achieve with them.

At the same time, I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.

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OK Go — an Amazeballs music video

When Honda unveiled the slimmed-down βeta version of its Uni-Cub last year, it might have thought the minimalist electric vehicle would find its most enthusiastic audience inside office buildings, where it would simultaneously lighten the load of worker drones and perhaps inject a bit of rolling robotic tech-type fun into an otherwise drab and dreary day. It was wrong. Clearly, this personal mobility machine was destined for greater things.

For instance, it could be used for electric unicycle square dancing (Okay, technically the Uni-Cub β employs one wheel and a caster-type ball, thereby disqualifying it from unicycle status, but whatever.) Or even better, it could be a platform upon which the power pop group OK Go and a few hundred Japanese school girls could perform awesome maneuvers, including the aforementioned electric unicycle square dancing, in their latest totally amazeballs video. Honda reportedly paid for the new video, which was shot at half-speed and when you watch it, you’ll know why.

As is the band’s wont, it’s all done in one take, and is sure to drop your jaw. Ok, go!

Let’s get a geek thing or two out of the way. This was shot in one take which means it was shot with a drone. That’s way cool – there obviously is sufficient stability, control and capability to produce what you see before you. Every choreographer and cinematographer must be playing with drones, by now.

Next – Honda gets better every minute of the day at building-in stability to inherently unstable mechanisms. Especially robot attendants for not-very-mobile senior citizens. All the other uses for one-person mobility over moderate distances are counter-productive to human health – in my mind.

Yes, I’ve worked in facilities that used electric vehicles when speed was an important component of getting from one part of a sprawling facility to another. Working in a major teaching hospital with buildings connected by tunnels for unimpeded traffic, techs who needed a load of equipment for their work utilized electric tricycle go-carts to get from engineering central to the job. And when a code was broadcast on the hospital public intercom for “smell of smoke” – everyone in engineering stopped whatever they were doing and walked briskly or hopped onto the nearest electric cart and went immediately to the designated point of danger.

We were the first line of defense against a hospital fire. Carts would arrive with two or three or four techs, anyone trained to stop a fire, hanging onto the top of the carts.

Otherwise – especially in comparable industrial facilities – if you had a half-mile or more between jobs/meetings you took a single-speed bike and got a little exercise along the way. Or you walked. Both better for your health than arabesques with Japanese schoolgirls.

Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t freaking get up!

Help, I've fallen...
Click to activate loop

This is an animation test. Yes, none of these people exist in real life (not even Waldo), so no one was harmed in the test.

Creator Dave Fothergill vfx says, Crowd dynamics test using Miarmy for Maya, shows the new servo force feature which allows struggling animation once the agent has become dynamic.

Which means nothing to me, but digital animators will recognize the terms. If you are interested in the technical aspects, there’s more in the comments at vimeo. To most of us, it’s just a hilariously goofy sequence that you shouldn’t feel bad about laughing at.

MAYA is the one piece of software that could ever tempt me into trying animation.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Pic of the Day

apple eula

I wonder how original sin as a concept would work out in today’s tech environment?

Only a casual thought; but, I still wonder how fundamentalists deal with tech goodies. There is after all an essential contradiction between belief – and normal daily activity requiring spontaneous materialism. You really don’t expect your favorite shrub by the driveway to burst into flame and philosophize out loud.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport launches fleet of electric taxis

Traveling by jet airplane may not be the greenest mode of transportation, but if you’re landing at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, at least you’ll be able to get into town under pure electric power.

The Dutch airport has inaugurated a new fleet of 167 Tesla Model S taxis, giving it the largest fleet of all-electric taxis of any airport in the world. The cabs will be operated by two taxi companies – BBF Schipholtaxi and BIOS-groep – who will shuttle passengers to and from the airport with zero emissions.

“This represents a crucial step in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and become one of the world’s three most sustainable airports,” said Schiphol Group CEO Jos Nijhuis. Last year, the airport authority brokered a deal to buy Europe’s largest fleet of electric buses to shuttle passengers to, from and between terminals as well. So whatever you may be planning to burn while in Amsterdam, at least it doesn’t have to be fossil fuels.

Just don’t smoke the seeds!

Oh – and by the way, what kind of taxis are at your local airport? In my neck of the prairie, they look like leftover Ford Crown Vics bought secondhand from the State Police.

A mother’s tale about her son, autism — and Siri

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F. Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them. After a while I heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri: “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus: “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri: “See you later!”

That Siri. She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything. Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one. Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

This is a love letter to a machine. It’s not quite the love Joaquin Phoenix felt in “Her,” last year’s Spike Jonze film about a lonely man’s romantic relationship with his intelligent operating system (played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson). But it’s close. In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.

Read on! Long, informative, interesting.

I’ve always talked to machines. The conversation moved from cars to electronics to computers. Record-keeping has become data-mining. The river of experience has reached a rapidly broadening delta.

Gus: “Goodnight, Siri. Will you sleep well tonight?”

Siri: “I don’t need much sleep, but it’s nice of you to ask.”

Lessons Jony Ive learned from Steve Jobs


Early days at Apple

“Steve [Jobs] was the most remarkably focused person I ever met in my life,” Apple’s senior vice president of design Jonathan Ive told Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter during the closing event of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.

“The thing with focus is that it’s not this thing you aspire to, like: ‘Oh, on Monday I’m going to be focused,’” said Ive, who rarely gives interviews. “It’s every single minute: ‘Why are we talking about this when we’re supposed to be talking about this?’”…

In addition to learning from Jobs about the importance of focus and of prioritizing the product over emotions, Ive said he “learned the whereabouts of a lot of rubbish hotels when we traveled…”

The wide-ranging conversation also touched on the size of Apple’s core design team (just 16 people, and they still begin their process with drawings), the new iPhone (Ive said its rounded edges make the bigger screen feel “less wide”) and the new Apple watch, which Ive described as the culmination of hundreds of years of function-first thinking.

“Why a watch and why not a pendant?” asked Carter.

Over the years, Ive replied, people learned that time pieces work best when they’re worn on the wrist. “It’s a really great place to glance quickly, for information,” Ive continued. “When we started working on it, it seemed like a natural, obvious place for the technology to end up…”

Ive said his team was focused on the here and now. “I don’t think we think about designing for a point in time. We hope that if it is truly simple, and we do a good job, then it will endure…”

I guess I’ve cared about design going back to early years as a motorhead. I followed Formula One racing, gran premio, since the early 1950’s – through the transition from pre-war concepts of engineering and aeronatutics into the grace and function of the Mercedes Silver Arrows. The same happened with sports cars in the period starting with Cisitalia and the bodywork of Bertone.

I still own an early aluminum-framed Olivetti portable typewriter. There are other examples. It starts as simply as looking at something made by human design, respecting functionability, understanding the blending of the two as design.

There’s lots of crap masquerading as industrial design. It falls by the wayside over time. Most of what’s discussed in the article stems from the interaction of Ive and Jobs. Some, of course, goes back to school days and beyond. It’s all of interest.

Audi sedan ready for fast laps at German Gran Prix circuit — without a driver

Two years ago, the idea of driverless cars on our roads seemed crazy to many people. Today, the technology is being built into our cars, and a driverless Audi RS7 is set to lap Hockenheim at the same pace as a professional racing driver. The event on October 19 will show just how far driverless cars have come.

Audi has been working on autonomous vehicles for a number of years. In 2009, it tested a driverless Audi TTS on the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 2010 that TTS drove the Pikes Peak mountain race circuit in Colorado, followed by some impressive laps on California’s Thunderhill Raceway in 2012. Back then, the TTS couldn’t quite keep up with the pro drivers, but the RS7 is able to do just that.

Although Audi has received licenses for testing its driverless cars on public roads in Florida and California, the company says that the race track is the most demanding place for testing driverless cars. This, it says, is due to the high levels of precision and entire lack of errors that are required. The RS7 will use “specially corrected GPS signals for orientation on the track” that are accurate to within 1 cm and will receive data via WLAN or high-frequency radio should the need for fallback arise…

The automaker claims that the technologies it is developing for driverless cars will be featuring in vehicles by the end of this decade. These technologies will include cars’ ability to take over steering and acceleration when they’re in a traffic jam and automatic parking maneuvering.

The lap of Audi’s driverless RS7 around Hockenheim will be broadcast on the company’s website on October 19.

Old-timey motorheads like me will be waiting and watching.

Super-centenarian lies about her age because of mediocre Facebook code

Anna Stoehr
Click to enlarge

When silver surfer Anna Stoehr decided to join Facebook on the eve of her 114th birthday, she came across an oversight which Mark Zuckerberg and pals may not have anticipated.

Anna noticed 1900, the year she was born, was not listed as an option when she registered her date of birth to the site – that only stretches as far back as 1905.

So she was forced to do what countless other youngsters do every day to join the site, and lie about her her age…She got around the problem by knocking 15 years off her age and becoming, in the eyes of Facebook at least, a sprightly 99-year-old.

The supercentenarian’s interest in technology was piqued when she befriended Joseph Ramireza, a sales rep who had sold a phone to Anna’s 85-year-old son Harlan.

What followed was an unlikely friendship which saw Joseph visit Anna at her residential home in Minnesota, and teach her about the internet…Now a tech-savvy whizz, Anna can be found whiling her time away FaceTiming friends and family from her new iPad and connecting with friends on the social networking site.

With the help of Joseph, she has also drawn the problem to the attention of Mr Zuckerberg, writing a letter to the Facebook founder (on a typewriter) in which she says: ‘I’m still here.’

Seems like a reasonable goal to me. Facetime rocks! Too bad Facebook hasn’t a clue about age.

Thanks, Mike