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November 9, 2023

Snippet: Court Rules Automakers Can Record and Intercept Owner Text Messages ☇

Suzanne Smalley for The Record:

A federal judge on Tuesday refused to bring back a class action lawsuit alleging four auto manufacturers had violated Washington state’s privacy laws by using vehicles’ on-board infotainment systems to record and intercept customers’ private text messages and mobile phone call logs.

The Seattle-based appellate judge ruled that the practice does not meet the threshold for an illegal privacy violation under state law, handing a big win to automakers Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen and General Motors, which are defendants in five related class action suits focused on the issue. One of those cases, against Ford, had been dismissed on appeal previously. […]

An Annapolis, Maryland-based company, Berla Corporation, provides the technology to some car manufacturers but does not offer it to the general public, the lawsuit said. Once messages are downloaded, Berla’s software makes it impossible for vehicle owners to access their communications and call logs but does provide law enforcement with access, the lawsuit said.

Automakers are generally really terrible at software, especially infotainment systems. Instead of improving that, they’ve gone the route of creepy and are trying to replace your smartphone as the brains of the operation. Stories like this lead me to two decisions for my next vehicle—I’ll try my best to opt out of any “connected” features (app, cellular service, etc.) and CarPlay must be available to act as a dumb display—if not, I’ll go elsewhere. I really hate how we’re having to treat everything like smart TVs.

November 7, 2023

Snippet: Apple’s Crash Detection Saves Another Life: Mine ☇

Daniel Eran Dilger for AppleInsider:

But I literally have some skin in the game with this new feature because Crash Detection called in an emergency response for me as I was unconscious and bleeding on the sidewalk, alone and late at night. According to calls it made, I was picked up and on my way to an emergency room within half an hour.

Because my accident occurred in a potentially dangerous and somewhat secluded area, I would likely have bled to death if the call hadn’t been automatically placed.

Not exactly the product review one plans for, but hopefully a reminder to enable Crash Detection on a supported device and set up your emergency contacts.

Snippet: On ‘Chinese knockoffs’ and Why Leica Works with Xiaomi ☇

Sam Byford:

The basic thesis of the feature, which was titled “How China rips off the iPhone and reinvents Android”, was that Chinese phone manufacturers develop their products for people with very different needs and wants to those in the West. These companies are all essentially forced to develop their own operating system atop open-source Android because of the lack of Google services in China, but the domestic dominance of “super app” WeChat and the popularity of custom themes makes it harder — or even less desirable — to develop a standout style of their own.

Unlike the US, the Chinese phone market is extremely competitive from top to bottom. At the high end you have Apple, of course, then there are Android options from Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Vivo, all of which make legitimately excellent hardware at this point. Those four companies all have full portfolios of flagship phones, including folds and flips, and they also offer solid options at entry level and the midrange. […]

I don’t think [Sebastiaan] de With meant it this way, but to highlight Xiaomi as a “Chinese” company when dismissing its products as “knock-offs” evokes an outdated stereotype. Is what Xiaomi does any more shameless than US companies like Meta lifting Stories from Snapchat — or more pertinently, Reels from TikTok? When Google directly copied iOS’ gesture navigation after iterating on a bunch of worse versions, I didn’t hear anyone lamenting a dearth of American creativity. […]

That brings me to hardware, and why Leica would work with Xiaomi as a partner. Leica is undeniably an aspirational brand for a lot of Chinese consumers. What it sees in Xiaomi is a popular, accessible domestic brand that puts out quality products, particularly when it comes to camera hardware. What Xiaomi gets in return is a high-end brand that can genuinely differentiate the camera experience on its phones.

I found this to be a fascinating read, primarily because the Chinese phone market is so different than so many other places in the world and it’s not iOS vs. Android as we’re used to. In some ways, it reminds me of the weird, fun world of unlocked dumbphones of the early 2000s, where there were all sorts of not-sold-by-US-carriers-but-worked-on-them models from Europe and elsewhere that had things like co-branded cameras or strange form factors. I think it’s also really nice to have assumptions and worldviews challenges, especially since we like to think of tech as monolithic everywhere in the world.

Snippet: What Does and Doesn’t Matter About Apple Shooting Their October Event on iPhone 15 Pro Max ☇

Stu Maschwitz:

Anyone who knows the tiniest bit about video production knows that the camera is a small, but important, but small, part of the overall production picture. “Shot on iPhone” doesn’t promise “and you can do it too” any more than Stanley Kubrick lighting Barry Lyndon with candlelight means anyone with candles can make Barry Lyndon.

But when the camera is the least expensive piece of gear on the set after clothespins and coffee, it does feel strange. I’ve been on a lot of productions like this, having played an active role in the DV filmmaking revolution of the late ’90s-to-early-2000s. It was an odd feeling to scrounge for the adapter plates required to mount a $3,000 DV camcorder purchased at Circuit City to a Fisher dolly that literally has no purchase price.

I dabbled in professional video in my early-20s, almost ending up down that career path. Our go-to was the fairly-modest Sony DSR-PD150, and the people who managed to work wonders with it showed how it wasn’t just the camera. Lighting, planning, good post-production, and little tweaks go a long way—there are a lot of things that matter and a lot that didn’t matter with Apple’s production. In short, it’s really cool that this was done with an iPhone, but the cynics seem to think that’s all you’d need. Likewise, a high-end camera in a novice’s hands without any other gear would also feel wasted.

Even if you don’t have a ton of money or resources, some of the ideas and techniques in Maschwitz’s post can carry over to help make your photos and videos better, or at the very least get you thinking a bit more creatively about the process.

November 6, 2023

Snippet: Apple Confirms No Plans for 27-inch iMac with Apple Silicon ☇

Dan Seifert for The Verge:

Apple will not be making an Apple Silicon version of the 27-inch iMac to replace the Intel-equipped model that it discontinued in 2022. The company is instead focusing the iMac line around the 24-inch model that was first released in early 2021 and just updated with the new M3 processor this fall.

Apple PR representative Starlayne Meza confirmed the company’s plans to The Verge. The company encourages those who have been holding out hope for a larger iMac to consider the Studio Display and Mac Studio or Mac Mini, which pair a 27-inch 5K screen with a separate computer, compared to the all-in-one design of the iMac.

The 27-inch iMac was a great computer for much of its run, but I also wonder if Apple should keep selling any iMac. Between the popularity of laptops and Apple selling a “good, better, best” lineup of modular desktops, the iMac is sort of the odd computer out—about the only thing it brings to the table is being a good-looking computer that cuts down on cable-clutter. Dropping it from the lineup and offering a 24-inch Studio Display could be a more compelling option.