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Uber Misled Public About Its Self-Driving Car That Was Caught Running a Red Light

26 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Mike Isaac and Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting for The New York Times:

The experiment quickly ran into problems. In one case, an autonomous Volvo zoomed through a red light on a busy street in front of the city’s Museum of Modern Art.

Uber, a ride-hailing service, said the incident was because of human error. “This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers,” Chelsea Kohler, a company spokeswoman, said in December.

But even though Uber said it had suspended an employee riding in the Volvo, the self-driving car was, in fact, driving itself when it barreled through the red light, according to two Uber employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements with the company, and internal Uber documents viewed by The New York Times. All told, the mapping programs used by Uber’s cars failed to recognize six traffic lights in the San Francisco area. “In this case, the car went through a red light,” the documents said.

I called this correctly back in December: their PR statement was carefully worded to mislead:

At first read, it sounds like Uber is saying there was a human driving the car. But if you parse it closely, it could also be the case that the car was in autonomous mode, and the “human error” was that the human behind the wheel didn’t notice the car was going to sail through a red light, and failed to manually activate the brake. I think that’s what happened — otherwise the statement wouldn’t be ambiguous.

Another case where lying has made a situation much worse. Everyone now knows the truth — their self-driving car was caught running a red light in downtown San Francisco — and the company’s (already questionable) credibility is shot. No one will believe a word the company says about future incidents with its autonomous cars.


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25 February, by Daring Fireball Department of Commerce[ —]

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White House Bars News Outlets From Press Briefing

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Michael M. Grynbaum, reporting for The New York Times:

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times and Politico were not allowed to enter the West Wing office of the press secretary, Sean M. Spicer, for the scheduled briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer only allowed in reporters from a handpicked group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.

Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Fox News also attended.

Reporters from Time magazine and The Associated Press, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House’s actions.

Every news organization should have joined the AP and Time in boycotting this briefing.

Josh Marshall:

I think it is both more accurate and more productive to see this as cowardice rather than some sacrilege against journalism.


Tech Companies Stand Against Trump’s Rollback of Transgender Rights

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Tony Romm, reporting for Politico:

Apple, Uber and Microsoft led a growing collection of tech companies taking aim at President Donald Trump after he issued a directive on Wednesday that rolls back federal protections for transgender students in public schools.

In a statement, Apple stressed its belief that “everyone deserves a chance to thrive in an environment free from stigma and discrimination,” adding: “We support efforts toward greater acceptance, not less, and we strongly believe that transgender students should be treated as equals. We disagree with any effort to limit or rescind their rights and protections.”

Uber, meanwhile, said it’s “proud of our longstanding opposition to harmful initiatives aimed at the LGBT community,” and it pledged it would “continue to speak out against discriminatory actions and in favor of good policy that champions equality and inclusion for all.”

And Microsoft, through a tweet from president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, swiped at the order in a subtle way. “Since Jan. 1, 1863, the federal government has played a vital role in protecting the rights of all Americans. Let’s not stop now,” Smith wrote, referencing the Emancipation Proclamation.

Trump’s retrograde stance on transgender rights is heartbreaking, but it’s not going to take us back. Trump’s administration can change how the law is enforced, but it can’t change society. Laws can (and sadly, will) be rolled back. Our collective social conscience cannot.


CNN: ‘FBI Refused White House Request to Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories’

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

CNN:

The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump’s associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN.

White House officials had sought the help of the bureau and other agencies investigating the Russia matter to say that the reports were wrong and that there had been no contacts, the officials said. The reports of the contacts were first published by The New York Times and CNN on February 14.

The direct communications between the White House and the FBI were unusual because of decade-old restrictions on such contacts. Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.

Something outrageous comes out of the Trump Kakistocracy every single day, but we should never tire of calling it out. This story is outrageous. It’s a baldfaced attempt to subvert the rule of law.

The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.

The White House initially disputed that account, saying that McCabe called Priebus early that morning and said The New York Times story vastly overstates what the FBI knows about the contacts. But a White House official later corrected their version of events to confirm what the law enforcement official described.

The same White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories. A law enforcement official says McCabe didn’t discuss aspects of the case but wouldn’t say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.

I would love to know who the White House official is who sold Priebus out here. Whoever it is is trying to get Priebus to resign or be fired. (And if the allegations are true, he should be fired, if not prosecuted for obstruction of justice.)


Video Pros Moving From Mac to Windows for High-End GPUs

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Marco Solorio, writing for One River Media:

But as good as that juiced up Mac Pro Tower is today, I know at some point, the time will have to come to an end, simply because Apple hasn’t built a PCIe-based system in many years now. As my article described, the alternative Mac Pro trashcan is simply not a solution for our needs, imposing too many limitations combined with a very high price tag.

The Nvidia GTX 1080 might be the final nail in the coffin. I can guarantee at this point, we will have to move to a Windows-based workstation for our main edit suite and one that supports multiple PCIe slots specifically for the GTX 1080 (I’ll most likely get two 1080s that that new price-point). I’m no stranger to working on Windows systems (I’ve built my own Windows boxes since Windows 3/NT) and have Windows systems running now in our facility. But with that said, I do prefer Apple OS X when possible. But with no support of a modern PCIe-based workstation from Apple, our hands are tied to move to Windows. […]

With all that said, I see (and have already seen) a huge migration of longtime Apple users (such as me) going to Windows systems for their main workstation needs. The sheer power and lower cost is just too huge at this point. The Nvidia GTX 1080 just compounded that point exponentially stronger.

This may be a small market, but it’s a lucrative one. Seems shortsighted for Apple to cede it.

Update: I didn’t notice that this post was from May of last year, but given that there haven’t been any changes at all to the Mac Pro lineup since then, I can only imagine the situation is worse today than then.


Apple Says iOS 10.2.1 Has Reduced Unexpected Shutdown Issue on iPhone 6 and 6S

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Matthew Panzarino:

Over the past couple of iPhone versions users have complained of “unexpected” shutdowns of their devices. Some iPhone 6, 6S, 6 Plus and 6S Plus devices could basically go dark unexpectedly, forcing a user to have to plug them into an outlet to get them to power back on.

Apple has been working on this very annoying bug and it says it has come up with a fix of sorts that should mitigate the problem on a majority of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices. The fix is actually already on your iPhone if you have installed iOS 10.2.1 — something that around 50 percent of iOS users have already done. After letting the fix simmer on customer devices, Apple now has statistics to share on how it has improved the issue, citing 80 percent reduction on iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction on iPhone 6 devices.

I used to see this occasionally on my 6S, but as Panzarino notes, it was never a problem with the 7.


From the Department of ‘Other Than That, How Did You Enjoy the Play, Mrs. Lincoln?’

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Wirecutter headphone editor Laura Dragan, in The New York Times’s “Ask the Wirecutter” column:

Why aren’t the new Apple cordless earbuds on the list?

Ah, the AirPods. The current working term for those kinds of headphones is “true wireless.” Aside from not having a cord to tangle and being decent at taking phone calls, the AirPods didn’t improve much over the corded EarPods. The sound quality is the same (which is to say, meh, with no bass). Plus the battery life is less than a full day at work, so you had better remember to charge them at lunch time. And this for $130 more than a replacement pair of EarPods? I don’t think they’re fully cooked yet.

“Aside from not having a cord to tangle” is a bizarre thing to say about AirPods. Not having a cord to tangle is the entire reason they exist. The fact that Apple now thinks wireless headphones are ready for mass market use is the primary reason the iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone jack.

The sound quality is not the same as with Apple’s wired earbuds — almost everyone seems to agree it’s better. And the battery life can easily get you through a full work day with a few trips to the charging case. I totally get why many people — audiophiles in particular — would still prefer wired headphones, but AirPods are fully “cooked”.

Even weirder, in Dragan’s own report on The Wirecutter, she ranked AirPods as the “best for iOS and phone calls”. I don’t see how that previous advice possibly squares with the headline on this column, “How to Decide Which Headphones to Buy (Hint: Not Apple’s AirPods)”.

My best guess here is that the problem isn’t with Dragan, but rather with the Times selectively editing her comments and choosing an explosive but entirely misleading headline for the purpose of clickbait. Shameful.

(Via Neil Cybart on Twitter.)


Amazon Says Alexa’s Speech Is Protected by the First Amendment

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Ashley Carman, reporting for The Verge:

Amazon has filed a motion to dismiss a search warrant for recordings from an Echo owned by a suspected murderer. Amazon argues that both its users’ requests to Alexa and the response the company produces are protected under the First Amendment. The company says it should only have to turn this data over if law enforcement meets a high burden of proof.

Good for them.


Neil Cybart: ‘Apple Doesn’t Need to Buy Netflix’

24 February, by John Gruber[ —]

Speaking of Neil Cybart, his public column this week is a great read:

Calls for Apple to buy Netflix are getting louder. Instead of evaluating whether Apple should buy Netflix, a more valuable question is whether or not Apple actually needs to buy Netflix to accomplish its goals. Upon closer examination, it becomes clear that calls to buy Netflix are misplaced as Apple is chasing after something entirely different in the video streaming space.

I agree with his analysis wholeheartedly.


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