29 October 2020

The Guardian: “Hand dryers v paper towels: the surprisingly dirty fight for the right to dry your hands”

Public bathrooms offer three primary options to dry a pair of wet hands. First, there is the venerable crisp-pleated paper towel. Second, the old-style warm-air dryer: those indestructible metal carapaces that, through their snouts, breathe down upon our hands. And finally, the jet dryer sub-species of the sort Dyson makes, whose gale-force winds promise to shear away every drop of moisture rather than slowly evaporating it. In the quest to dominate the world’s restrooms, Campbell discovered, Dryer v Towel is a pitched contest of business strategy and public relations. Expect to be lied to a lot, Campbell told me. It’s almost like the cola wars. You have Pepsi v Coke, and you have hand dryers v paper towels.

The chief battleground for this duel is public hygiene. Science has tried and failed to come to a consensus about the hygienic superiority of one product over the other. Even so, the paper towel industry has funded or promoted a rash of studies claiming that hand dryers turn bathrooms into mosh pits of pathogens. These results almost always make news. Any sort of health scare is a gift to a journalist – an opportunity to write viral headlines such as “Hand dryers are blowing bacteria all over your hands” or “Hand Dryers are Germ-Flinging Bullshit”.

Samanth Subramanian

Nice overview of a mundane topic. There are numerous arguments for and against the two competing options, and unfortunately increasingly hard to cut through advertising and studies funded by each side to discredit the other to find impartial facts.

28 October 2020

Financial Times: “Apple develops alternative to Google search”

In a little-noticed change to the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 14, Apple has begun to show its own search results and link directly to websites when users type queries from its home screen.

That web search capability marks an important advance in Apple’s in-house development and could form the foundation of a fuller attack on Google, according to several people in the industry.

The Silicon Valley company is notoriously secretive about its internal projects, but the move adds to growing evidence that it is working to build a rival to Google’s search engine.

Two and a half years ago, Apple poached Google’s head of search, John Giannandrea. The hire was ostensibly to boost its artificial intelligence capabilities and its Siri virtual assistant, but also brought eight years of experience running the world’s most popular search engine.

Tim Bradshaw & Patrick McGee

Unsurprising, considering recent antitrust actions by the US government, and a rumor that has been circulated for years. The evidence so far is rather weak in my opinion.

MacRumors: “MagSafe Charger only charges at Full 15W Speeds with Apple’s 20W Power Adapter”

YouTuber Aaron Zollo of Zollotech tested several first and third-party power adapter options with the iPhone 12 Pro and a MagSafe charger using a meter to measure actual power output. Paired with the 20W power adapter that Apple offers, the MagSafe Charger successfully hit 15W, but no other chargers that he tested provided the same speeds.

For maximum charging speeds with the MagSafe Charger and an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro, Apple’s 20W power adapter is required, and older power adapter options won’t work as well. Third-party companies will need to come out with new chargers that use the particular power profile that Apple is using to provide the optimum amount of power before a third-party charger will be able to provide the full 15W with the MagSafe Charger.

Juli Clover

Apple products in 2020: you need a flowchart and expert advice to decide which power adapter to buy.

27 October 2020

The Washington Post: “Gruesome details emerge in beheading of French teacher who showed students Muhammad cartoons”

As further details emerged, the incident reignited some of the most explosive debates in the French national lexicon: the value of free expression in a country that, unlike the United States, does abide by hate-speech laws, and the place of Islam in a nominally secular but post-colonial society in which Muslims are among the largest minority groups.

Paty’s decision to show these drawings to teenage children raised eyebrows, with some Muslim parents complaining to the school’s leadership, French media reported. One of the offended parents took his dispute to social media, which is probably how the suspect — who had no known ties to the school or to that parental dispute — learned of the issue, authorities suggested.

But according to some parents, Paty had also tried to be as sensitive as possible to offensive potential of the images he wanted to discuss.

Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of a 13-year-old in Paty’s class, told Agence France-Presse that he had allowed Muslim students to leave the classroom during the discussion.

At no point did he want to be disrespectful — that’s what my son told me, he said.

James McAuley

Horrendous and shocking murder, recalling the Charlie Hebdo attack five years ago, an attack both on free speech and on secular institutions.

The Guardian: “Why Israel is quietly cosying up to Gulf monarchies”

The original impetus for these developing relationships between Israel and the Gulf states was a mutual distaste for Barack Obama. In the early years of the Arab spring, he infuriated the Saudis and the UAE, and alarmed Israel, by abandoning Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak, and then voiced support for the popular uprising in Syria and called for Bashar al-Assad to resign. In 2015, when the US-led nuclear agreement was signed with Iran, it was vehemently opposed by Israel and most Gulf states. That September, Russia’s military intervention in Syria marked the beginning of the end of the crisis for Assad. Tehran’s steadfast support for its ally in Damascus, and its backing of Hezbollah in Lebanon – Iran’s “axis of resistance” – was regarded with identical disgust in Jerusalem, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

One former UAE diplomat told me that the threat from Iran today had a unifying effect comparable to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to a previously unacceptable US military presence in Saudi Arabia. If it wasn’t for the Palestinian issue, the ex-diplomat said, this relationship with Israel would be very public, and it would be very welcome, because we need their military equipment and technology.

Jamal al-Suwaidi, the founder of the government-backed Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, put it more bluntly: The Palestinian cause is no longer at the forefront of Arabs’ interests, as it used to be for long decades; it has sharply lost priority in light of the challenges, threats and problems that face countries of the region. Similarly, he added, the question of Israel was not comparable to the threats posed … by Iran, Hezbollah and terrorist groups.

Ian Black

Fascinating changes in the dynamics of Middle East politics. It began covertly during the Obama presidency and continued under Trump, who has encouraged and embraced the authoritarian leaders in the region. With a mutual enemy in Iran, an unreliable ally in the United States, and shared tendencies towards dictatorship and neglecting the interests of the people they rule, a rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf monarchies is not the most surprising development in global politics.

26 October 2020

The New York Times: “Apple, Google and a Deal that Controls the Internet”

Nearly half of Google’s search traffic now comes from Apple devices, according to the Justice Department, and the prospect of losing the Apple deal has been described as a “code red” scenario inside the company. When iPhone users search on Google, they see the search ads that drive Google’s business. They can also find their way to other Google products, like YouTube.

Apple now receives an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion in annual payments — up from $1 billion a year in 2014 — in exchange for building Google’s search engine into its products. It is probably the single biggest payment that Google makes to anyone and accounts for 14 to 21 percent of Apple’s annual profits. That’s not money Apple would be eager to walk away from.

In fact, Mr. Cook and Mr. Pichai met again in 2018 to discuss how they could increase revenue from search. After the meeting, a senior Apple employee wrote to a Google counterpart that our vision is that we work as if we are one company, according to the Justice Department’s complaint.

Daisuke Wakabayashi & Jack Nicas

The first concrete results of the antitrust hearings earlier this year are becoming public, along with interesting revelations about the hidden deals between Silicon Valley companies. Even if the US Department of Justice loses this case against Google, I think raising public awareness about these deals could still have an impact on Apple’s and Google’s future business decisions. It also shines an unfavorable light on Apple’s constant virtue signaling around privacy: while it publicly claims to protect users’ interests, in private Apple allowed Google privileged access to vast amounts of data – for the right price!

24 October 2020

LensWork: “LW1206 – Video invades Photography”

But in terms of using the medium to create a personally expressive art statement I just don’t see much in common between photography and video, either from the producer’s point of view and particularly from the consumers point of view. So, I guess it kind of feels to me like this convergence in the hybrid world between video and photography is something that’s happening in the history of photography because of the drive of manufacturers to do something, not because of the demand of photographers, not because of the demand of consumers, that there could just as easily be something out there that was a video camera that didn’t do stills, which by the way that exists, there’s a whole world of video cameras that don’t do stills, or if they do stills, it’s a secondary feature that hardly anybody uses.

But video has invaded still photography to the point where it’s almost unavoidable.

Try going to Canon and asking them for the newest latest camera they have that does not have video capabilities. There isn’t one. Same can be said with all the manufacturers. Video has invaded photography.

Brooks Jensen

I rarely write about podcasts on my blog, but in this case I listened to this episode from the LensWork podcast and it reminded me on my own frustration around this topic. Just like Brooks, I have next to no interest for shooting video and I use my camera almost exclusively for (still) photography. The reason may well be that, like Brooks, I picked up photography long ago, in the film era, when cameras were dedicated to this single purpose. But aside from that, photography for me is about the fascination of a moment captured for ever, a fixed reflection of a world in constant motion – you might even say that the camera captures something that does not truly exist, because we experience the world as a never-ending flow, not as a series of snapshots. In contrast, video seems just a reproduction of reality, a repetition that does not add anything of interest, and I would rather experience more of the world than repeat my past memories.