Volkswagen and Mercedes have concerns on Google’s in-car System

Silicon Republic:

Automobile manufacturing giants Volkswagen and Mercedes have revealed they have concerns that internet services provider Google may be using its in-car systems to gather too much data about their customers.

The companies voiced their objections at a European car industry conference last month, revealing concerns that a potential conflict may arise around making the gathered data available.

Google’s foray into driverless cars could be a conflict of interest that car manufacturers likely don’t want to encourage.

First impressions on WatchKit

David Smith on WatchKit:

Apple took a clever approach to handling the extremely constrained power environment of the Watch (at least initially). To start with 3rd Party apps will run in a split mode. The Watch itself handling the UI parts of the app with an iPhone based app extension doing all the heavy lifting and computation.

Apple is being smart by moving in this way. Baby steps, as it happened in iOS with 3rd party apps.

WatchKit software development tools for Apple Watch now available

Apple:

CUPERTINO, California—November 18, 2014—Apple® today announced the availability of WatchKit, software that gives developers a set of tools to easily create experiences designed specifically for Apple Watch™—Apple’s most personal device ever. Apple has the world’s most vibrant and innovative developer community, and now these developers can begin developing WatchKit apps before Apple Watch becomes available. Developers can create innovative WatchKit apps, actionable notifications and Glances, for timely information accessible by an easy, quick look at Apple Watch.

Developers can now start writing apps for the Apple Watch, planned to hit the shelves in 2015. 

How to copy screenshots directly to the clipboard

MacObserver:

If you use the keyboard commands for screenshots, the defaults are Command-Shift-3 for a full desktop screenshot, and Command-Shift-4 gives you the crosshairs to allow you to select the area you want to capture. If you add Control to those combinations, instead of getting a screenshot on your desktop, it just gets copied to the clipboard, and you can paste it wherever you need to use it.

How to reduce the size of a PDF file in Preview

Sometimes you need to reduce the size of a PDF file. There’s no need to use Adobe Acrobat or other professional PDF editing tools.

Just open the PDF file in Preview, go to File –> Export and select the option to reduce the file size, as in the screenshot.

What is net neutrality?

The Oatmeal has published the best explanation of what net neutrality is. This is currently a big debate in the US, with President Obama taking a clear stand in favour of net neutrality. 

The EU already embraced net neutrality at the beginning of 2014. 

On Evernote Contexts feature and where the money comes from

TechCrunch:

Context brings information from third-party sources into the app so users can read news articles and other content alongside their own documents and notes. Nikkei is the first international news source that has been integrated into Evernote Context and the partnership is expected to become available to Evernote Premium and Evernote Business subscribers by early 2015.

Evernote Context looks at data in your files and feeds you news articles and other information that it thinks you will find relevant. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden noted last month, this builds into Evernote’s attempt to build its content discovery play, a similar strategy to the ones taken by Facebook and Twitter as they seek ways to encourage people to spend more time on their sites. Libin has said that Evernote is considering an IPO within the next few years.

Evernote had a great start, and a bumpy growing phase marred by instability and badly optimized software. Now it is at a stage where it starts talking about a not so distant IPO. 

With Contexts, Evernote is shoving down the throat of their customers — even Evernote Business subscribers — data from an external source. The fact that you need to separately disable Contexts on each device says a lot about the plan. A note taking software should treasure the content that customers enter, not mix it with something taken from the Internet.  

I’ve dabbled in Evernote for a few years, never collecting more than a few dozens notes because of the lack of a migration path out of its service. A serious note taking / document management service should in fact have clear, non proprietary and well documented import/exports processes. 

Contexts is another good reason not to take Evernote seriously. The company is obviously not putting their customers’ interests first. 

A Drafts keyboard extension to create a Markdown link with clipboard content

I’ve just posted a script to the Drafts Action Directory. It is a simple script to take the URL copied from Safari, and create a Markdown link to it.

There are two ways you can use it:

  1. Press the button with no text selected.
    You end up with something like [|](url_copied) with the cursor between the square brackets (indicated with the character | in this example)
  2. Press the button after selecting some text
    You end up with something like
    [this is the text I selected](url_copied)

In case you want to manually copy/paste the script into Drafts, here is the simple code:

// Create Markdown link 
var sel = getSelectedText();
var selRange = getSelectedRange();
var clip = getClipboard();
if (!sel || sel.length == 0) {
setSelectedText("[](" + clip + ")");
setSelectedRange(selRange[0]+1,0);
}
else {
setSelectedText("["+sel+"]("+clip+")");
setSelectedRange(selRange[0]+selRange[1]+3,0);
}

This is by no means rocket science. I simply took the existing Markdown Link keyboard extension and added a variable that stores the clipboard content through the getClipboard() function.

Bluetooth LE headphones in the iPhone’s future

A few days ago Appleinsider reported that the FCC has been working on the certification for a yet-to-be-announced Beats Solo 2 wireless headphones:

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Friday published testing results for the as-yet-unannounced Beats Solo2 Wireless headphone, a Bluetooth-enabled version of the Apple-owned company’s mid-tier Solo2.

This announcement is likely the first hint we are getting that the 3.5mm headphones jack is on its way out on future Apple devices. The iPhone is a good candidate as the first Apple device to be released without a standard headphones connector. 

In his iPhone 6 review, 512pixels wrote:

The headphone jack is the thickest opening on the phone. It’s not hard to imagine that in the future this is going to limit what Apple can do thickness-wise.

Apple’s quest for thinner devices is now hindered by the physical size of a standard connector. In the same way Apple ditched the 30-pin connector in favour of the new Lightning interface, in one-two years it’s likely that we will be using iPhones without a headphones jack.

iCloud Drive ready for prime time or not?

David Sparks at MacSparky on iCloud Drive:

For a few weeks, it just didn’t work for me. Sometimes I could get one device to sync with the other temporarily but then a few hours later it would stop. I spent way too much time trying to troubleshoot it and ultimately concluded the problem was probably something server-based or software-based and entirely out of my control. I was like a tribesmen trying to forestall a solar eclipse by looking at chicken bones. I knew at some level that all of my attempts to sort things out was pointless yet I couldn’t stop myself because I needed these documents to synchronize for my work.

I haven’t experienced any of the problems that David describes in this post, but I have an extreme respect for David and his technical abilities. The fact that a power user like David has had problems with iCloud Drive (it just works…) says a lot of what other people out there might be experiencing.

iCloud Drive was not designed for geeks like us, and for that simple reason it should just work. It is inconceivable that documents don’t sync. Users like my mother simply cannot understand why the Numbers spreadsheet she’s looking at on her iPad doesn’t show the latest rows she’s added on her Mac.

For these users Apple needs to take action and fast. These are the users that inevitably, and with a genuine sense of disappointment, will tell you that things just don’t work as they used to.