Terrified mom calls ambulance after daughter messages prank selfie

Everyone likely remembers the first time they saw Apple’s Photo Booth app, and chuckled to their friends while contorting their features to resemble a chipmunk or big-eyed cartoon character.

An amusing new story reveals what can go wrong when sending such pictures, however: A mom in Edinburgh, Scotland, became convinced her daughter had suffered a terrifying allergic reaction after being shown one such image.

When the concerned mother asks what happened, her daughter told her that it was the result of a nut allergy — leading to the response, “Jesus Christ almighty, what has happened to your face?” after her mom saw the scale of the facial distortion. The mom then said she would phone an ambulance to get her daughter at work, although it’s not clear whether she went through with her promise.

The tweet has gone viral since the iMessage exchange was posted online, having so far been retweeted 1,200 times.

Hope she doesn’t snack on some nuts by mistake, now. Mom may not be a help.

Apple asks courts to stop wasting time over unlocking iPhones — it ain’t gonna happen!

Apple has spoken about privacy rights for its customers before, but newly released court documents show that the company is practicing what it preaches.

…A newly unsealed court transcript from an October 2015 hearing in Brooklyn shows that Apple petitioned the court to stop asking it to unlock iPhones in a brief, as part of their participation in a trial against a meth dealer.

During the hearing, a judge asked Apple to explain why it had ignored U.S. prosecutors’ search warrants to unlock the iPhone 5s of Jun Feng, who pled guilty to conspiracy attempt to distribute methamphetamines and was charged alongside six others.

The government asked for Apple’s help because Feng’s iPhone 5s, which had Apple’s iOS 7 operating system, was programmed to erase all its data after 10 unsuccessful attempts to unlock the phone. Even Homeland Security’s password-unlocking system — which will go through every combination available — was unable to obtain information from Feng’s phone…

❝“In most cases now and in the future, the government’s requested order would be substantially burdensome, as it would be impossible to perform,” lawyers for the company wrote…“For devices running iOS 8 or higher, Apple would not have the technical ability to do what the government requests — take possession of a password-protected device from the government and extract unencrypted user data from that device for the government. ”

Apple noted that operating systems like iOS 8 and the current iOS 9 are designed to be impenetrable — even by Apple itself…

❝”Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a ‘backdoor’ in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will,” says the statement.

Some day, some way, the government of the United States may rediscover the urge to join the current century. Our elected officials, state and federal, may eventually recover dedication to the Founding Fathers love of individual freedom and quit trying to use the courts and Congress to enforce obedience to lazyass lawmen.

I expect that will be accompanied by flying pigs and snowcones sold on the sidewalks of Hades. Until then, I am pleased to applaud Apple’s willingness to support folks who think we actually have a right to privacy.

Apple personalizes photography — iPhone users win Cannes Gold Lions

Ahmed fiesta pic
Ahmed’s pic from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has shown up around the world

Apple’s World Gallery, part of the “Shot on iPhone 6” media blitz, was honored at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival for Creativity with five Gold Lions and a Grand Prix award in the outdoor category.

…Jury president Juan Carlos Ortiz, creative chairman ad agency DDB Americas, heaped praise on the idea of sourcing media from the public sphere. The strategy flies in the face of traditional media strategies which rely on art contracted from professional photographers.

“It’s not just a great idea, it’s a game changer,” Ortiz said. “It’s really opening a new way of doing things and changing behavior.”

World Gallery first showed up online in March as a collection of images taken by iPhone 6 users. While some images were captured by professionals in the photography field, many were shot by pro-am or amateur users. Earlier this month, Apple added a video section to the minisite, again featuring footage borrowed from iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners.

I started noticing the video adverts showing up on TV in the last couple of weeks. Not only impressive work in most instances, I’m especially happy to see mostly amateurs receiving recognition.

There was a time, decades ago, that Kodak brought similar capabilities to hobbyist photographers. I’m delighted to see it happening again.

Apple’s ResearchKit offers scientists access to millions of volunteers


Jeff Williams introduces Apple’s medical research kitReuters/Robert Galbraith

Apple just released ResearchKit, an open-source software tool designed to give scientists a new way to gather information on patients by using their iPhones.

Several top research institutions have already developed applications to work on the ResearchKit platform, including those pursuing clinical studies on asthma, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. They include Stanford University School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College.

The format will allow users to decide if they want to participate in a study and decide how their data is to be shared with researchers…

The ResearchKit platform is designed to work hand in hand with Apple’s HealthKit software, which allows iPhones to work with health and fitness apps that gather information on weight, blood pressure, glucose levels and asthma inhaler use.

The ResearchKit also allows researchers access to accelerometer, microphone, gyroscope and GPS sensors in the iPhone to gain insight into a patient’s gait, motor impairment, fitness, speech and memory.

The software is also designed to help researchers build more diverse study populations, which traditionally have been limited by physical proximity to large academic medical centres.

My wife teases me – calls me her personal emoticon. And I admit I cried a little when Tim Cook and Jeff Williams were introducing ResearchKit.

The primary cause of my mom’s death was Parkinson’s. She devoted a lot of her life to the American Heart Association. I’ve done some similar things; but, the best was being able to volunteer as a human test subject for one ailment that, right now, still affects millions of people. Shingles. My mom suffered through some painful episodes and it pleased me much to be in the final test cycle of the Shingles vaccine before it was approved.

That was a big deal because it included several thousand volunteers nationwide. With ResearchKit, computational analysis of everything from day-by-day, minute-by-minute tracking of symptoms, response, exercise, a great deal of information previously only available from small groups, narrow demographics – can now be collated from millions of volunteers.

Doctors, researchers, universities worldwide can develop apps to fit their particular needs. And you decide what you wish to participate in – if at all.

You decide whether or not you are anonymous. You decide the boundaries for your participation. Apple sees none of the information. It’s all up to you.

Tim Cook and the designers at Apple feel the potential for this concept is so important — they’re making the SDK open source and developers can proceed on any platform they wish. You won’t have to own Apple products to participate.

What will your verse be?

I’ve spent most of my life living multiple directions at the same time.

I went from being a kid performing artist as a classical musician to teen jazz musician – while studying photography and literature.

I went from industrial engineering to a major in English literature – after switching to a 12-string guitar. And stopped racing cars, legally or otherwise, which included a very short stint driving for a bootlegger.

There’s more – especially political struggles over the last half-century or so. But, if you’re a regular visitor to this blog you’ll bump into those tales, the pleasure I experience from materialist philosophy and dialectics, science and society.

But, the arts in one form or another should be part of everyone’s life. Today’s technology brings ease and experiment into everyone’s life. Music, photography, writing, reading, experiencing all the wonder of human creativity and nature’s reach can be in the palm of your hand.

The shared experience of seeing a scientist in Alabama – or a technology and business journalist in San Francisco – become really skilled with the digital tools they have chosen to describe the beauty of existence makes me one of the happiest critters on Earth.

When a company chooses to sell their wares on the basis of this capability adds to that enjoyment.

GM and Ford open their cars and trucks to app developers


Chrysler’s new hood ornament

Auto companies have experimented with software that connects phones and cars, but Ford and GM are the first to open the way for any software developer to create an app that runs on a vehicle. The move is intended to make cars more attractive to younger buyers. But giving third parties some control over the driver’s experience isn’t without potential risks to driving safety and to security.

Ford was the first to make its pitch to app developers at a press conference on Monday. The program is an expansion of the company’s Sync software, which is already found in many vehicles and was developed in collaboration with Microsoft. Up to now, the apps created for Sync were made with close partners of Ford.

The new system is closer to Apple’s App Store. Anyone can access the tools needed to create a Ford app and submit it for approval and distribution through Ford’s store. Unlike Apple, Ford makes those apps available free.

Apple’s App Store hasn’t any free apps?

GM announced a similar program soon after Ford, saying that apps made by third-party developers would appear in an “app catalogue” that will be available for GM cars in 2014. Ford and GM will allow apps to interface with cars’ audio and display systems and to access some data from the engine, such as mileage and speed. They will access the Internet through a tethered phone or a car’s own Internet link.

Both Ford and GM demonstrated some prototype apps at CES, including radio apps TuneIn and iHeartRadio and a Weather Channel app…

An example of a mobile app suited to cars was provided by Glympse, whose app is already available for Ford’s Sync system; it lets drivers share their location with family or friends with a single voice command or the press of a dashboard button. “We knew that with the right experience it could be more intuitive and easy to use in the vehicle,” said Brian Trussel, the founder of Glympse. User data shows that many people already use the app while in the car, he added, and a version integrated with the car is safer to use that way than one on a mobile device. Both Ford and GM also discussed the potential for apps that recommend nearby businesses…

Predictable worry-wart commentary appears here and there in the article. Questions of security are as relevant as they are in any communications system. Nothing new.

Questions of distractions while driving are more to the point. People stupid enough to text while driving will have to limit themselves to their cell phones. I doubt if anyone in the car biz will put that facility into their software. My wife has a new Ford and she’s more bemused by cruise control – a new experience for her. Though the new and improved Sync does everything it’s supposed to do – and very well. Voice control works as advertised.

Keep tabs on your baby via an iPhone or iPad

Belkin has announced the launch of its WeMo Baby device that turns any iOS device into a digital baby monitor. Comprising a Wi-Fi connecting baby monitor and an accompanying iOS app, the WeMo Baby lets anxious parents listen to high-quality audio from their baby’s room whether they’re in the next room or the other side of the world … though it’s probably not a good idea that the baby is left that unattended.

Once the inoffensive-looking device is installed in a nursery (or anywhere you want to listen to for that matter), users download the free iOS WeMo Baby app and connect it to their existing Wi-Fi network. They can then use an iPhone or iPad to listen in to streaming audio using 3G/4G or Wi-Fi.

There’s no video like we’re seen previously on the iBaby monitor and BabyPing, but there is a visual indicator of baby noise, complete with a dial going from a contented green to ominous orange. Because there’s no range limit as is often the case with traditional baby monitors, and listening does not require an additional receiver, it’s claimed the WeMo Baby will allow parents to travel further afield while their little-ones sleep…

The Belkin WeMo Baby will support up to six users. It is “Coming Soon” and it will sell for US$90.

Want to know when political ads are lying – and who paid for them? There’s an app for that

What if every political ad came with a “truthiness” disclaimer? That’s essentially the goal of the Super PAC App, a new project from former students at MIT’s Media Lab.

Their free iPhone app…listens to political advertisements on television and matches the ad’s audio waves against a database — much like the Shazam app identifies music. It then tells the app’s user who paid for the ad and how much they’re spending on the campaign before pointing them to nonpartisan sources — PolitiFact, FactCheck.org and others — to try to verify the ad’s claims.

The app is free of advertising and is funded in full by a grant from the Knight Foundation, according to Dan Siegel, one of the app’s co-creators.

The fact-checking process is especially important this year, said Siegel, because Super PACs for the first time can spend unlimited funds on presidential campaign ads. In recent weeks TV airwaves in battleground states have been full of ads making negative claims about both President Obama and his rival Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee…

Useful, in your own mind – and you can dazzle your peers with information and understanding which runs counter to the very premises of American politics.

Obsessing over iPhones won’t cure imagined ills

On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone went on sale…Apple has since sold more than 217 million iPhones worldwide and sparked a commercial, cultural and — most surprising — behavioral revolution…

According to a study of medical workers at the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, 76 percent said they’ve experienced “phantom vibration,” that insistent buzz from an imagined text or phone call. Scientists speculate it’s the result of random nerves firing, biochemical noise that our brains tuned out until they were reconditioned by the iPhone.

“The iPhone has changed everything about how we relate to technology, for both good and bad,” said Larry Rosen, a psychologist and professor…According to his research, almost 30 percent of people born after 1980 feel anxious if they can’t check Facebook’s website every few minutes. Others repeatedly pat their pockets to make sure their smartphones are still there.

Indulging those tiny, persistent urges brings us only a brief respite…“The relief is not pleasurable,” Rosen said. “That’s the sign of an obsession…”

The App Store’s 650,000 offerings help people massage Excel data on the go, monitor their blood sugar and entertain their kids. More subtly, the iPhone’s tremendous commercial success has made “user-centered design” a buzz phrase in business…

The latest iPhone-inspired cottage industry has nothing to do with old- timey photo filters. It’s books that examine the device’s biological and societal effects…“The great thing about the iPhone is that we carry it with us all day long,” Rosen said. “The bad part is that we carry it with us all day long…”

For every feel-good story about an autistic child lighting up at the sight of a new app, there’s a story like that of actor Alec Baldwin getting kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to quit his “Words With Friends” game.

The big question: Is the iPhone a “bicycle for the mind,” as the late Jobs said about the first Mac, or a crutch that does too much of our thinking for us and increasingly takes the place of real human connections?

Yes, the article is mostly whining about neurotic behavior, worrying about whether or not we should be whining about neurotic behavior. Which is a reasonably neurotic symptom on its own.

I believe I’m standing on firm ground when I conclude that when borderline neurotics get more and more neurotic – don’t blame the object of their fixation. If it wasn’t an iPhone it might be Reality TV. If it wasn’t Reality TV it might be extraterrestrial visitors. It might even just be worrying over the cost of paying for your shrink.