Tag Archives: apple

Apple Drops New iPhones and iOS

Apple, being the trillion dollar company that it is, has just dropped yet the latest version of its iPhone. The new devices, the iPhone XR iPhone XS and XS Max,  are the new flagships of the Apple product line.  The XR is replacing the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus  and bringing updates like Face ID and an edge-to-edge design.

But lets get one thing straight; these phone won’t come cheap. The iPhone XS will come with  64GB, 256GB or 512GB of storage for $999, $1,149 or $1,349 respectively. Throw another $100 on top of that for the iPhone XS Max with the bigger display ($1,099, $1,249 or $1,449). But even with the new features you can only choose from three colors, silver, gold and space gray.

The iPhone XR will start at $749 for 64GB, with 128GB and 256GB also available for $799 and $899. But you do get a better color selection. Apple offers white, black, blue, yellow, coral and red for this model.

In case you’re trying to decide which is best for you the  XR is the entry-level iPhone for this year. In case your money ain’t ready for the new top of the line XS and XS Max. The XS and XS Max are the exact same phone with the difference being two different screen sizes. These are the top of the line models with a better display, better cameras and made with rugged stainless steel.

But aside from the price and pretty pictures these phones will come with some new features that may interest you. These include dual SIM capability allowing you to use the phone with two different numbers. One for work, one for personal calls. Or for people who use prepaid phone cards. If you travel a lot the dual SIM comes in handy to load up SIMs from regional carriers.

Another new feature of the phone is the camera. Look, Apple is getting closer and closer to making taking pictures, professional quality pictures, as simple as ramen noodles.  These new phones offer new photo features like HDR or “high dynamic range” that allows you to blend several pictures together to get a wider range of shadows and highlights. You can’t do this with a normal camera.

The camera also eliminates the split second or two between the time you hit the button and when the picture is actually taken. Known as shutter lag, Apple solved this problem by allowing the phone to take pictures constantly when the camera app is open. These pictures are sent to a buffer then deleted once you do snap the picture saving the image.

Another feature of the camera is called the Bokeh control that allows you to bring the background into focus on your pictures. Pretty cool huh? 

Being worth $1 trillion means you ain’t no one trick pony. Apple is just as good at software as hardware. The company also announced the release of its new iOS operating systems.

If you’re using an Apple desktop computer the new MacOS Mojave is the next major update to the Apple’s operating system. It drops on September 24.  Mojave features a new dark mode for better visibility and legibility, stacks for keeping your desktop nice and neat and an updated Finder that lets you do more without launching another app, a new screenshot app and support for FaceTime calls with up to 32 people.

Last, but not least. Apple updated its HomePod device. Apple is bit behind the only other trillion dollar company in the world, Amazon, when it comes to smart speakers. But Apple did offer a few upgrades for the HomePod including searching for songs by asking Siri about specific lyrics. You can also make and take phone calls from the device and ping that new iPhone (or the old one) in the event you lost it somewhere in the house.  Apple’s HomePod now offers a feature that Alexa already had; multiple timers. This feature lets you keep the HomePod in the kitchen playing music and while timing that cake in the oven. If you can’t decide between the Alexa and the HomePod you should read this article.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Kenya Barris

Netflix has netted yet another major black television producer. Kenya Barris, creator of the ABC comedy Black-ish and the spin-off Grown-ish, has signed a multi-year deal with the streaming television service.

Barris will remain an executive producer on those shows while exclusively developing new series for Netflix. According to Techcrunch Barris’ deal only covers his television work because Barris, who co-wrote Girls Trip, has a first-look movie deal at Fox. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Barris agreed to a three year deal with numbers in “high-eight-figure range.”

Barris joins Netflix after negotiating his way out of a contract with ABC Studios. Barris’ label, Khalabo Ink Society, will write and executive produce Netflix shows that “reflect culture through an urban- youth- and female-focused lens.”

Netflix Vice President of Originals, Cindy Holland said of Barris, “Kenya Barris is one of our great modern storytellers. Kenya uses his voice to make audiences more aware of the world around them, while simultaneously making them laugh. His honesty, comedic brilliance and singular point of view, combined with the creative freedom he will enjoy at Netflix, promises to create powerful new stories for all our members around the world.”

Netflix is bringing onboard some of television’s  greatest black talent. Television producer Shonda Rhimes  joined Netflix last year. But Netflix is not alone. It seems that streaming television is the medium of choice for black talent as heavyweight producers like Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins have joined Amazon and Oprah Winfrey has joined Apple streaming television efforts.

 

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

Tech Diversity Still a Struggle

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) payed another visit to Silicon Valley last week with the intent of holding tech companies feet to the fire for more diversity. Apple, PayPal, Twitter, Square, and Airbnb were on the schedule. The CBC has made this trip twice before but this time they expanded the number of members on the trip to include Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Waters said during a panel discussion at Lyft,  “I’m not urging, I’m not encouraging. I’m about to hit some people across the head with a hammer.” Waters, referred by some CBC members as the “The Enforcer”  said, “I’m talking about some regulation. I’m talking about using the power that our voters have given us to produce legislation and to talk about regulation in these industries that have not been talked about before.”  Waters threat can only be considered valid if the Democrats regain control of the House and Senate in November.

Diversity numbers for tech companies are stagnant at best. But some companies have shown improvement. Uber showed that its corporate workforce (excluding drivers and support contractors) consisted of 2.6 percent black employees in 2018, up from just 1 percent in 2017. Twitter reported having 3.4 percent black employees in 2017, compared to 3 percent in 2016.

But Uber’s Chief Brand Officer, Bozoma Saint John, believes the key to diversity in the tech sector is held by white men. Saint John believes it is up to “white men to look around in their office and say, ‘Oh look, there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change this.'”

According to CNN Saint John asked; “Why do I, as the black woman, have to fix that?There’s 50 of you, there’s one of me…I want white men to make the noise.” Saint John labeled the idea that diversity problems are rooted in a lack of suitable female and minority job candidates as “bullshit.” She believes the problem lies with hiring practices that favors what is comfortable to those doing the hiring.  In January Uber hired its first Chief Diversity Officer, Bo Young Lee.

The CBC also made other requests of Silicon Valley companies during the visit. In addition to the demand for more diversity the CBC asked that tech companies help fund more affordable housing for communities in need and combat the impact of gentrification. Other legislation the group is also considering includes the Community Reinvestment Act requiring financial institutions to meet the needs of the low-income communities. CBC members are also raising money to assist girls, people of color, and the poor receive STEM educations. 

Breaking It Down

Although I applaud the efforts of the CBC to improve diversity I don’t believe this is the right way to do it. Threats are not going to change a lot in this situation. Especially threats that are toothless unless the Democrats flip Congress.

If blacks and people of color are to make gains in tech employment we need to focus on creating a rich pipeline of candidates. Yes, there are plenty of talented black software engineers and project managers in the job market. But we need to incorporate Silicon Valley companies into the education process. I would urge Rep. Waters to introduce legislation that would benefit tech companies who invest in black campuses as teachers. Encourage them to create programs that move a talented student of color progressively from the classroom to an internship and eventually full time employment. Find a way to gently conjole these companies into recruiting and training capable candidates for jobs that may not have considered.

My anger with this issue, and I have said this before, is that major sports companies can go into the worst schools in the nation and select the next great linebacker or point guard. But tech companies ignore this business model. Its right before their eyes and yet they remain blind. Rep. Waters, if you read this, that is where you need to be. Don’t threaten them but show them the way.

 

 

 

Black Woman to Lead Diversity at Lyft

Nilka Thomas

Lyft, the chief rival to Uber in the ride sharing market, has named Nilka Thomas as its new Vice President of Talent and Inclusion. Thomas will  oversee recruiting, inclusion, diversity and employee relations.

Thomas is a native of  Anchorage, Alaska and attended the University of Oregon where she was an All-American in track and field. She graduated with a degree in psychology and sociology. Prior to joining Lyft Thomas worked as the Director of Global Diversity, Inclusion and Governance at Google. Thomas is now the highest-ranking member of the Lyft team focused on inclusion and diversity.

Lyft wrote in its blog that “Nilka will lead efforts to source and hire top talent, and ensure that inclusion and diversity efforts are seamlessly integrated from the earliest candidate touch points.”

Thomas is following in the steps of other black women who have taken on the challenge of diversity in the work place. At Apple Denise Young Smith was charged with improving diversity. At Twitter Candi Castleberry-Singleton has been named Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity. Neilsen Holdings, an audience measurement company,  named Angela Talton as its new Chief Diversity Officer.  At  Pinterest Candice Morgan was named as the Diversity Chief.

See also: Black Women Leading Corporate Diversity Programs

Tech Addiction is Real!

We have a problem. We are addicted to our technology. Its that feeling you get when you can’t find your cellphone? Or you can’t get your computer or tablet to connect to the Internet? Or when you have not checked your Facebook page in a few hours or days? Tech addiction is real!

Black parents make the mistake of permitting unsupervised use of technology by children and teens. Far too many parents, black and white, use phones and tablets to babysit young children and ignore a teenager who is constantly on his or her cellphone. That is the start of tech addiction in our children. According to Psychology Today troubling studies have connected delayed cognitive development in children with extended exposure to electronic media.

Apple, the most successful consumer tech company on earth is feeling the heat. Two of Apple’s biggest investors, controlling $2 billion in Apple shares, are pushing the company to curb growing smartphone addiction among children.   The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalsTRS)  and Jana Partners LLC, sent an open letter to Apple urging the company to take a  “defining role” in turning the tech industry’s attention toward the health and development of the next generation of tech users. The group said the move is “both good business and the right thing to do.”  In the letter the group said, “There is a developing consensus around the world, including Silicon Valley, that the potential long-term consequences of new technologies needs to be factored in at the outset, and no company can outsource that responsibility.”

According to a report from Common Sense Media 50 percent of teens age, 12 to 18, reported feeling addicted to their mobile devices. Fifty-nine percent of parents agreed their teens were addicted. 

The is most frightening fact about tech addiction is that designers and software developers intentionally designed these products to be as addictive as possible. A model they may have picked up from cigarette makers.

Tech and social media addiction works very much like any other addictive drug on the brain. When using chemical drugs the brain’s pleasure centers are stimulated causing the user to want more until the body becomes dependent on the drug to feel normal. Researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center performed tests on teens using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to monitor brain activity when using social media. Researchers found certain regions of the brain became activated by “likes.” The fMRI scans revealed that the part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the brain’s reward circuitry, was especially stimulated when teens were shown that their photos received a high number of likes. Scientist believe that this could inspire them to use social media more often.

 

Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive, has admitted that using your iPhone too much could be considered “misuse.”

 

According to research by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, trends in teenage mental health began to appear in 2011 and 2012 as smartphones became  commonplace among teens.  “There was a doubling in the suicide rate and tripling in emergency room admissions of self-harm among young girls,” Twenge said. “And there was a 50 percent increase in the clinical depression rate.”

Social media addiction is another serious threat to mental health.  Tech executives and the people who practically invented social media have spoken out in recent months about the dangers and harmful effects of what has become an age of Internet junkies. This group of former Apple, Facebook and Google employees have banded together to form an anti-tech addiction coalition called the Center for Humane Technology.

Since 2014 the center has been working to raise awareness of tech addiction. Aptly named “The Truth About Tech,” the campaign is designed to educate parents, teachers and students about the harmful and addictive effects of technology. The coalition is especially focused on the endless hours teens and children spend with their eyes glued to a glowing screen. This obsession  can lead to to anxiety, depression, shortened attention spans, sleep deprivation and negatively affect a healthy social development of teens who are already in the grips of adolescent insecurity.

Social media addiction is not just a young person’s addiction. Far from it. Plenty of adults have become addicted to constant texting and wasting hours on Facebook. So much so that Facebook and social media has become a workplace issue. Employees have been found out and terminated for sexually harassing co-workers on social media, sharing company secrets or criticizing their supervisors. Not to mention wasting millions of hours annually.

According to research performed by CareerBuilder technology is the leading cause of lost productivity in the workplace. The poll revealed that 24 percent of workers admitted spending at least an hour a day on personal email, texts and personal calls. According to the poll the biggest time wasters are doing the following;

  • Talking on the cell phone and texting – 50%
  • Gossiping – 42%
  • On the Internet – 39%
  • On social media – 38%

Like all addictions it makes it way into the homes of those affected. According to Common Sense Media 36 percent of parents and teens argue about the use of technology. 

According to AddictionsExperts.com these are the symptoms of technology addiction;

  • The need to be on a piece of technology during all waking hours. An addict may even take a phone to bed at night, or use a mobile device while in the bathroom.
  • Talking incessantly about technology and spending copious amounts of money on the latest equipment. For technology addicts, having new technology is more important than paying the mortgage.
  • Using technology to avoid social situations. The technology addict may reduce the amount of time he or she deals with people by focusing on technology instead.
  • Playing games online for hours and hours, even if your family members and friends are begging you to stop. When you don’t play the games, you feel like you’re missing something.
  • Constantly checking social media pages for updates, as well as making updates about even mundane, day-to-day activities.
  • Feeling “left out” when technology isn’t available, and borrowing others’ devices to check in.

 

 

 

 

ALERT! – Specter and Meltdown Security Flaw – ALERT!

Regardless of what computer you own, Apple or Windows, Spectre and Meltdown security flaws affect you. Security researchers recently revealed the details of these two microprocessor security flaws. Chips made by Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and others are in billions of devices making them sitting ducks for hackers.

Devices with these chips include phones, tablets, PCs, and computer servers. Exploiting the vulnerability opens the door for hackers to steal personal data, passwords, cryptographic keys, and other supposedly inaccessible information from device owners. While the average consumer should exercise caution the impact on business could be devastating. 

The Meltdown flaw only runs on Intel chips while the Spectre flaw can affect devices with virtually any modern processor.

Computer microprocessors handle data like a passwords or encryption keys. Normally these are kept from other apps. But both Intel and AMD pride themselves on the speed of their chips. To do this the chips use whats known as “speculative execution” to try to guess answers that may be needed if a chain of calculations came out a certain way. Since the delay in calculations can be predictable researchers found that a rogue app could guess where confidential data was located in a chip’s memory and steal it.

Regardless of your web browser, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, or any version of the Windows family, they all use Javascript code.  Hackers could introduce a data stealing Javascript program and post it on any chosen web site. Your browser app would automatically run the rogue code like it was an ordinary part of the site’s features resulting in your data becoming vulnerable or stolen. As you can see this is an extremely grave threat to business computing.

Although this vulnerability is now known there is no evidence anyone has used it…yet. And that is where the danger lies. The danger of these flaws is so great that tech companies  swung into action quickly to fix the problem. Perhaps too quickly.

According to various news sources the Microsoft patch to fix the flaw has been damaging some devices.  In some instances the computers are suffering performance problems while others have been bricked. A bricked computer is frozen and unusable. The problem has become so bad that Microsoft has halted issuing the patch for both Spectre and Meltdown for AMD equipped computers and devices.

Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich addressed the Meltdown and Spectre issue as the keynote speaker at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “I want to thank the industry for coming together to address the recent security research findings reported as Meltdown and Spectre,”  said Krzanich. He called the response to the issues a “collaboration among so many companies.” Krzanich promised that “for our processors and products introduced in the past five years, Intel expects to issue updates for more than 90 percent within a week, and the remaining by the end of January.”

Browser makers have swung into action to combat the flaw. Users of Google Chrome should turn on a feature calledsite isolation.”  The feature prevents malicious Javascript from accessing sensitive data. Google will soon release an update to Chrome’s Javascript feature that will improve protection against Spectre attacks, however, browser performance may suffer.

Microsoft has already issued a Windows security update for its Internet Explorer and Edge browser apps labeled “KB4056890” to protect against Spectre. According to Microsoft the update will change the browser’s features to protect confidential information in a device’s CPU. But make sure you check if your device has an AMD chip before using this patch.

Firefox maker Mozilla said its newest apps changed several features to make Spectre attacks more difficult. Released on January 4th, Firefox version 57.0.4 includes the new protections. Mozilla said in a blog post that it is studying additional ways to strengthen security against the attacks. “In the longer term, we have started experimenting with techniques to remove the information leak closer to the source, instead of just hiding the leak by disabling timers. This project requires time to understand, implement and test.”

Apple is planning to release an update to Safari in “coming days” to protect against Spectre. Early tests of the Apple updates showed a minimal impact on browser performance. For additional information on Apple products click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple’s Diversity Chief Departs After Just Six Months

Denise Young Smith

Denise Young Smith, a 20 year Apple veteran, is departing her job as the first Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion after just six months. Smith has announced she will be accepting a position as executive in residence at Cornell Tech in January.

Smith’s departure was planned but comes on the heels of a controversial comment made in October.  Smith was speaking on a diversity and racial injustice panel at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia. She was asked by Quartz’s moderator Aamna Mohdin  if she would focus on any specific group in her diversity efforts. Her reply was not well received. Smith said she wouldn’t single out any one demographic for advancement. Her comment, transcribed by TechCrunch is as follows;

“I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around… because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads. And I’ve often told people a story—there can be 12 white blue-eyed blonde men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation. The issue is representation and mix and bringing all the voices into the room that can contribute to the outcome of any situation.”

Silicon Valley has a serious diversity problem and Apple is not immune. Apple’s workforce numbers show that only 9 percent of Apple’s workforce is African-American, 12 percent Hispanic, 19 percent Asian and 56 percent white. It’s not a pretty picture when you consider that most non-white employees are found in  Apple’s retail stores. Smith was expected to at least make progress on the issue but not a lot has changed. However, she was working on developing Apple’s diversity scholarship program.

Realizing she had fumbled the issue Smith emailed her team following the comments;

Colleagues,

I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color and the underserved and unheard. 

Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion. 

I regret the choice of words I used to make this point. I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry. 

More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.  

Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone. 

Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other. 

Best,

Denise

Breaking It Down

This was  a sad day for the idea of diversity in Silicon Valley. People of color thought Apple had appointed a warrior to fight the diversity fight. Perhaps they did. Perhaps Smith misspoke. People do that. But her statement reveals how severe the diversity problem is in Silicon Valley boardrooms. A boardroom that she was apart of. Did she feel not focusing on a single group was an effective strategy? Again, perhaps. But diversity is about bringing in different colors of skin as well as ideas. Its about inclusion. I believe her when she said she believes in that. What she failed to realize is that ‘blue eyed blond white men” are not what her job asked her to bring in. This is just not what diversity advocates want to hear from a person in her position. Wrong choice of words Ms. Smith but lets move on. Smith is a women. A black women. A successful black women. A successful black woman at the world’s most successful company. She was in a position to change things, to make difference, To find other women and minorities who are as capable as her and look like her. I’m not going to label her a failure. But she clearly stumbled.