How to create your own HomeKit camera with a Raspberry Pi and Homebridge →

Andrew O’Hara for AppleInsider:

This project was built using HomeBridge. HomeBridge is a lightweight server that runs on the Raspberry Pi and emulates the iOS HomeKit API, bringing support to your own projects or (via plugins) to products that don’t currently interface with HomeKit or Siri.

For those who like to really tinker, it isn’t especially difficult to install HomeBridge yourself. However, we wanted this project to be accessible for anyone, so we’ve provided our own custom disk image for you to use.

The disk image we provide will include a copy of Raspbian Lite (the Raspberry Pi’s operating system), the necessary plugins and components for HomeBridge, as well as a few customizations to make the experience better.

Really great tutorial with a huge bang-for-your-buck factor. I’ve been meaning to try this myself, so maybe this will be just the nudge I need. HomeBridge works very well on my Pi; I use it to control my Nest Thermostat.

WhatsApp founder joins the #deletefacebook movement →

Casey Newton for The Verge:

In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion, making its co-founders — Jan Koum and Brian Acton — very wealthy men. Koum continues to lead the company, but Acton quit earlier this year to start his own foundation. And he isn’t done merely with WhatsApp — in a post on Twitter today, Acton told his followers to delete Facebook.

“It is time,” Acton wrote, adding the hashtag #deletefacebook. Acton, who is worth $6.5 billion, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. WhatsApp declined to comment.

What Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have done is purely vile. Facebook’s user count has been in decline, anyway, as millennials flee the service for alternatives. 1 If you ever were in doubt as to Facebook’s privacy policies, look at their track record and let this be the final nail in the coffin. If only there would be a swift demise to both companies. #deletefacebook

  1. Though most are on Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook. 

Gurman: Apple working on developing its own MicroLED screens →

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make small numbers of the [MicroLED] screens for testing purposes, according to people familiar with the situation.

The technology giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.

The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.

On the facility:

[…] There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs.

Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in 2014.

On the difficulty in making MicroLED screens:

Creating MicroLED screens is extraordinarily complex. Depending on screen size, they can contain millions of individual pixels. Each has three sub-pixels: red, green and blue LEDs. Each of these tiny LEDs must be individually created and calibrated. Each piece comes from what is known as a “donor wafer” and then are mass-transferred to the MicroLED screen.

Apple is clearly determined to be at the forefront of this new display technology. The only other entity known to be working on this as well is — of course — Samsung. Big surprise, right? They even showed off a prototype MicroLED TV earlier this year at CES. As difficult as OLED is to make, MicroLED sounds at least 10 times harder, so we won’t be seeing this for a while.

The display on iPhone X is just mesmerizing, so I can’t wait to see how MicroLED looks. The power efficiency, longer lifespan, and higher brightness features will be very welcome, but I haven’t heard specifically if it will improve upon the other weaknesses of OLED. Namely: image retention, burn-in, and off-axis color shifting. The latter is definitely noticeable, but an acceptable trade off for the time being.

Alexa’s unprompted laughing →

Shannon Liao for The Verge:

Over the past few days, users with Alexa-enabled devices have reported hearing strange, unprompted laughter. Amazon responded to the creepiness today in a statement to The Verge, saying, “We’re aware of this and working to fix it.”

Later on in the day, Amazon said its planned fix will involve disabling the phrase, “Alexa, laugh,” and changing the command to “Alexa, can you laugh?” The company says the latter phrase is “less likely to have false positives,” or in other words the Alexa software is likely to mistake common words and phrases that sound similar to the one that makes Alexa start laughing. “We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh,’ followed by laughter,” an Amazon spokesperson said.

This is pure hilarity, and it proves we give these personal assistants way too much credit. We’re in the relatively early days of this kind of interaction, yet we get upset when they can’t understand us perfectly. Of course they can’t — they’re computers!

A hotter topic than ever right now is that Siri is dumb, but in my experience, Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa have very similar abilities when it comes to understanding and interpreting.

KGI: Apple to release over-the-ear headphones later this year →

Benjamin Mayo for 9to5Mac:

KGI’s Ming-Chi Kuo today reports that Apple will release ‘high-end over-ear’ headphones in late fall ‘at the earliest’. Apparently featuring an all new design, it sounds like this is not a successor to the Beats Studio 3, but it will be Apple’s AirPods equivalent for premium over-ear headphones.

Very interesting. It’s looking like Apple will continue to make their presence known in this market alongside Beats. While I love over-the-ears, I’d be more interested in an in-ear variant of AirPods. Think BeatsX, but without the wire. I purchased BeatsX for use while drumming, and while they are pretty impressive, I could do without the wire. In-ear AirPods would be perfect for this, as the current ones don’t provide a seal in the ear canal needed for drumming. Not to mention, they fall out with ease from all the movement, but I digress.

The main question for Apple-branded over-the-ears is: how will these differentiate from the Beats Studio line? I can think of a few things:

  1. The sound profile will be different and less bassy than Beats are known for. Apple would go for a more neutral sound like AirPods and HomePod.
  2. Another way that would be in line with AirPods would be a unique charging mechanism. Perhaps Apple would include a headphone stand that also charges the headphones wirelessly (read: induction charging) when simply placed on the stand.
  3. Touch sensitivity for controlling music playback (i.e. volume, track skipping, etc.) since there is ample surface area available, unlike AirPods. Parrot Zik headphones have this kind of functionality.

As for what they would call it? I don’t know, ‘HeadPod’ sounds strange. Maybe AirPods Plus? Definitely has to be somethingPod.

AirPower wireless charging mat may launch next month →

Chance Miller for 9to5Mac:

According to a new report from Macotakara, Apple is on schedule to begin selling AirPower sometime in March through its own retail stores, as well as resellers such as Best Buy.

The report doesn’t offer a specific release date, with the blog’s source only saying that the release will occur sometime next month.

On price:

Pricing details remain unclear for AirPower. A Polish retailer listing back in November suggested that the wireless charging mat could be priced at $199, but as we noted at the time, it’s unlikely that the retailer would have inside knowledge of how Apple plans to price its unreleased product.

$199 sounds like way too much, even for Apple. $149 sounds more realistic for them, while $99 sounds like a pipe dream. I’d find it really hard to justify purchasing for anything upwards of $149.

Apple reportedly plans AirPods upgrades →

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Like with its mobile devices – the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch – Apple intends to frequently update the AirPods with new hardware features. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on a new version for release as soon as this year with an upgraded wireless chip, the people said. A subsequent model for as early as next year is planned to be water resistant, they added, asking not to be identified discussing private product plans.

The model coming as early as this year will let people summon Apple’s Siri digital assistant without physically tapping the headphones by saying “Hey Siri.” The function will work similarly to how a user activates Siri on an iPhone or a HomePod speaker hands-free. The headphones, internally known as B288, will include an upgraded Apple-designed wireless chip for managing Bluetooth connections. The first AirPods include a chip known as the W1, and Apple released the W2 with the Apple Watch last year.

A new W-series chip and “Hey Siri” are part of my wishlist for new AirPods, so I’m happy to see these features in the report.

Sounds like water resistance is still an additional product cycle out, but I’ve never had any issues with light rain or sweat while using the current AirPods.

There’s no hard launch date here from Gurman, but my guess is this fall to meet the holiday shopping season. On a related note, we’re still awaiting the release of Apple’s AirPower mat and standalone wireless charging case for AirPods. I really hope we see these sooner than fall, as I’m itching to ditch the rat’s nest of cables on my nightstand.

HomePod Review

My wife and I are casual musicians and both grew up with a love for music. Ever since we moved in together, we always have had a speaker in the kitchen — it’s the place we most commonly play music without headphones. The JBL OnBeat Venue LT speaker we’ve had in there has served us well, but has officially been usurped by HomePod. Here’s why.

Read on

Don’t use Facebook’s new ‘Protect’ feature →

Sarah Perez for TechCrunch:

Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook iOS app itself, under the banner “Protect” in the navigation menu. Clicking through on “Protect” will redirect Facebook users to the “Onavo Protect – VPN Security” app’s listing on the App Store.


Marketing Onavo within Facebook itself could lead to a boost in users for the VPN app, which promises to warn users of malicious websites and keep information secure – like bank account and credit card numbers – as you browse. But Facebook didn’t buy Onavo for its security protections.

Instead, Onavo’s VPN allow Facebook to monitor user activity across apps, giving Facebook a big advantage in terms of spotting new trends across the larger mobile ecosystem. For example, Facebook gets an early heads up about apps that are becoming breakout hits; it can tell which are seeing slowing user growth; it sees which apps’ new features appear to be resonating with their users, and much more.

Trojan horse, much?

Tons of people will enable this without question. Don’t be one of those people. If you’re looking for a good VPN service, check out Private Internet Access. I use it from time to time, and they have a good track record when it comes to privacy.