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AirPower fail: The latest victim of Apple’s OCD

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ZDNet

On Friday, a year and a half after AirPower was first announced in September of 2017 in conjunction with the rollout of iPhone X and iPhone 8, and after months of speculation about its absence at the most recent Apple hardware events, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio, confirmed that the company would cancel the product. In an e-mail letter sent to technology website TechCrunch, he wrote that AirPower would “not achieve our high standards.” 


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To recap, AirPower was the extremely ambitious high-speed wireless charging pad that was intended to juice up an iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch simultaneously using Apple’s own implementation of the Qi wireless charging standard. 

Unlike other charging pads on the market designed to handle multiple products at once, the AirPower distinguished itself by having the capability of charging the iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch all at the same time regardless of their orientation and positioning in relation to the charging coils. This would have made it the most user-friendly and desirable wireless charger on the market — had it actually been released. 

Allegedly, based on conceptual patent filings, the AirPower was able to achieve this flexible orientation wireless charging by having many 3D coils in extremely close proximity to each other — which also required extremely complex power management in order to prevent the coils from generating excessive heat and to mitigate the generation of overlapping harmonic frequencies between the coils.

As it is, Apple’s own Qi implementation runs at a lower 7.5W rather than the maximum 10W and 15W of its Android competitors, reportedly because the newer generation iPhones with wireless charging capability got way too hot at those increased power levels.

Ultimately, I believe Apple did the right thing. Can you imagine the potential “PowerGate” of cooked iPhones, Watches and AirPods? It’s far less egg on Apple’s face to cancel the product outright than to release a dangerous dud.

Apple very rarely cancels products outright after announcing them. The last time it did this was in August of 1996, when it decided to cancel its Copland OS, which proved too difficult a project for the company. It eventually ended up migrating to Mac OS X, which is heavily based on NeXT’s (and Steve Jobs’) BSD UNIX OpenStep object-oriented graphical OS instead.

The public cancellation of AirPower is a huge embarrassment for Apple. But given the company’s obsession with bleeding edge engineering and its compulsion for thinner, lighter, faster, more densely packed and difficult-to-repair products, such an embarrassment was inevitable.

It was only a matter of time before the technologically ambitious post-Steve Jobs Apple, like Icarus, would fly too close to the sun.

Indeed, Apple’s obsession with sleek industrial designs that outperform rivals is what attracts many customers to the company’s products in the first place.

But AirPower is not Apple’s only problem product: Over the last decade we’ve had Antennagate, Batterygate, Flexgate, Bendgate, iPhone WiFi connectivity issues and various system stability problems over multiple generations of iOS 11 and 12. Most recently, the engineering quality of the keyboards used in the 2015 and later versions of MacBook Pro are under intense scrutiny by even the company’s most loyal adherents.

Many of these problem products are the result of Apple pushing the envelope to release new features, rather than concentrating on product stability. However, we have to give the company credit where credit is due. Without Apple’s push towards innovation, without its capturing of the bulk of mind share in the luxury consumer electronics  market, we probably would not have seen competitors such as Microsoft, Google and Samsung release equally compelling products. 

Without the introduction of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, would we have even seen Microsoft Surface come to fruition and become the most desirable touchscreen Wintel PC laptop line in the technology industry? 

Would we have seen Samsung and Huawei release folding phones — with cutting-edge through-the-screen ultrasonic fingerprint readers and facial recognition — had Apple not upped the game with iPhone X? 

Would we have seen Google push the capabilities of smartphone cameras and image processing in the Pixel Phone had Apple not established the gold standard in mobile device camera performance in the iPhone 5 and later models? 

Would we have even seen an Alexa or a Google Assistant without the introduction of Siri? It’s hard to say.

But all of this thinness, lightness, sleekness and density of features comes at a price. Consumer electronics, not just Apple’s own products — have become virtually unserviceable. There are no batteries on smartphones that an end-user can swap out, there’s no memory or disk storage on most new laptops currently sold that can be field replaced or upgraded. 


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The thinning and sleeking of these devices has killed off the legacy expansion and built-in connectivity that we used to take for granted. We also now enjoy less business-friendliness and durability, and our devices now require thick, rubberized plastic cases — negating much of the sex appeal of the iPhone and iPad — in order to prevent severe damage in even shallow drop scenarios. 

Going case-less with an iPhone and with its Android rivals is now foolhardy at best, and will virtually ensure the device will be damaged with a single misstep or a sweep of the hand.

My recently corporate-issued MacBook Pro 2018 A1990 is a technical marvel of lightweight power. But to make it work on my desk at home, connected to a mouse, external keyboard, two 4K DisplayPort monitors, a HD webcam, a wireless headset and gigabit ethernet, I needed to buy a $300 Thunderbolt 3.1 hub because the thing only has 4 USB-C ports for connectivity. 

Arguably, most laptops requiring desktop peripheral connectivity have needed similar docking stations in the past. But even for basic connectivity in mobility scenarios, MacBook Pro customers complain about having to buy and carry multiple “dongles” to get the functionality they need because they are missing the necessary ports. The dongles on Apple products are so despised that they have become meme legend in recent years.

With the cancellation of AirPower, Apple has an opportunity to reflect on all of these things that have been the focus of customer ire and engineering embarrassment. The company needs to stop the ultra-thin, ultra-light train and focus more on product build quality and reliability. It needs to reconsider right-to-repair and overall ease of serviceability, and improving the customer experience with service requests at their retail stores.

Has Apple finally flown too close to the sun with its cancellation of AirPower? What does it need to do in order to get back on track with shipping reliable and well-engineered products that gave it such loyal fan base in the first place?Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Buffalo shooter invited others to his private Discord ‘diary’ 30 minutes before attack – TechCrunch

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Discord has provided more insight into how the shooter who opened fire in a Buffalo, New York supermarket over the weekend used its service prior to the tragic act of violence.

The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, is charged with first degree murder in the mass shooting, which left 10 people dead and three injured. In the month leading up to the attack on the Buffalo Tops grocery store, which he researched and selected in an effort to harm as many Black people as possible, he used Discord to document his plans in extreme detail.

According to Discord, the suspected shooter created a private, invite-only server that he used as a “personal diary chat log.” The server had no other members until 30 minutes before the attack began, when a “small group of people” received an invite and joined.

“Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server,” a Discord spokesperson told TechCrunch. TechCrunch reached out to the company for more details about the server’s activity and insight into how it handles moderation for private servers and messages.

Discord, a text and voice chat app, is best known for its large, public messaging rooms but it also allows users to create private, invite-only servers. In updates to the Discord server, which shares a username with the Twitch channel he used to livestream the shooting, the suspect documented his violent, racist views in depth. He also detailed the logistics of how he would carry out the mass shooting, including the gear he would use, his shopping trips leading up to the shooting and his day-of plans.

While it’s unknown what other Discord servers Gendron was active in, he references his activity on the app in the chat logs. “I didn’t even think until now that the people in my discord groups are probably going to get no knock raided by ATF and FBI agents,” he wrote. While Discord served as a kind of digital journal for the atrocities he would later carry out, he also compiled a nearly 200-page screed about his beliefs, weapons and plan to commit violence in Google Docs.

In early May, he expressed concerns that Google might discover his plan for violence in messages sent on the private Discord server. “Ok I’m a bit stressed that a google worker is going to see my manifesto fuck,” he wrote. “WHY did I write it on google docs I should have had some other solution.” Unfortunately, those concerns were unfounded. After the shooting, Google did remove the document for violating its terms of service.

The suspect, who livestreamed the shooting over Twitch, also spent time on 4chan’s /pol/, an infamous submessage board rife with racism, misogyny and extremism. Unlike mainstream social networks like Discord, 4chan does not do any proactive content moderation and only removes illegal content when required to do so. In Discord chat logs reviewed by TechCrunch the shooter notes that he “only really turned racist” after encountering white supremacist ideas on 4chan.

Five years ago, Discord was implicated in the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, an open gathering of white supremacists and other far-right extremists that ended with one counter-protester dead. The rally’s participants and organizers came together in private Discord servers to plan the day’s events and discuss the logistics of what would take place in Charlottesville. The company responded by cracking down on a number of servers hosting extremism, though maintained that it did not read messages on private servers.

Like Reddit, most of Discord’s hands-on moderation comes from community moderators within its chat rooms. And like most social media companies, Discord relies on a blend of automated content scanning and human moderators. Last year, the company acquired Sentropy, an AI software company that detects and removes online hate and harassment, to bolster those efforts.

In the years following the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Discord successfully sought to distance itself from its association with the far-right extremists and white supremacists who once called the social network home. More recently, Discord has also put some distance between its current brand and its origins as a popular chat app for gamers, reframing itself as an inviting hub for a huge spectrum of thriving online communities.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families,” a Discord spokesperson said of the tragedy in Buffalo, adding that it is assisting law enforcement in the ongoing investigation. “Hate has no place on Discord and we are committed to combating violence and extremism.”

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Twitter rolls out the ability for creators to host Super Follows-only Spaces – TechCrunch

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Twitter has announced that it’s rolling out Super Follows-only Spaces. Creators who offer Super Follows subscriptions can now host Spaces exclusively for their subscribers. The social media giant says this new option will give creators a way to “offer an extra layer of conversation to their biggest supporters.”

Subscribers globally on iOS and Android will be able to join and request to speak in Super Follows-only Spaces, whereas subscribers on Twitter’s web platform can join and listen, but won’t have the option to request to speak. Creators can start a Super Follows-only Space by selecting the “Only Super Followers can join” button when starting a new Space. Users who aren’t Super Following a creator will still see the Space, but won’t be able to access it unless they subscribe.  

It’s worth noting that the new Super Follow-only option for Spaces isn’t the only way for creators to hold exclusive Spaces. For example, Twitter launched its Ticketed Spaces feature last year to allow creators to set a price for users to listen in on a Space. Creators can set their ticket price anywhere between $1 and $999 and can also limit how many tickets are sold.

Super Follows, which was first revealed in February 2021, allows users to subscribe to accounts they like for a monthly subscription fee in exchange for exclusive content. Super Follows is currently in testing with select creators in the United States on iOS. Eligible accounts can set the price for Super Follow subscriptions, with the option of charging $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 per month.

The launch of Super Follows-only Spaces adds another layer of exclusivity to Super Follows subscriptions. Twitter says it plans to launch more Super Follows features to allow creators to grow their audiences and get closer to their most engaged followers.

Twitter says its research shows that hosting consistent Spaces leads to more follower growth and also gives creators more ways to engage with their followers. The company found that consistently hosting Spaces, around two times per week, leads to a 17% follower growth over a quarter. In addition, the company says creators who host consistent Spaces for a month see a 6-7% growth in followers, and creators who do so for two months see a 10% growth in followers.

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TikTok launches its first creator crediting tool to help video creators cite their inspiration – TechCrunch

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After years of stolen memes and uncredited dance trends, TikTok today is introducing a new feature that it says will be the first iteration of its creator crediting tools that allow creators to directly tag and credit others using a new button during the publishing process. This button lets creators credit all sorts of inspiration for their content, including dances, jokes, viral sounds, and more — and will help TikTok viewers discover the original creators behind the latest trend by tapping on the credit from the video’s caption.

Larger creators lifting ideas from smaller ones is an issue that’s not limited to TikTok. But as one of the largest social apps on the market, particularly among a younger Gen Z to Millennial demographic, how it approaches the issue of creator recognition matters.

To that end, TikTok says it’s now rolling out a new feature that will allow users to add a credit as part of the publishing process on the app.

Image Credits: TikTok

To access the feature, users will tap on a new “video” icon on the posting page after creating or editing their own video. Once on the video page, users will be able to select a video they have liked, favorited, posted, or that had used the same sound.

After this video is selected, the video tag will be added as a mention in the caption.

Those whose videos were tagged by another creator will then be alerted to this via an alert in their TikTok app Inbox.

Image Credits: TikTok

The feature’s launch follows years of controversy over creator credits and attribution on TikTok.

In particular, TikTok had struggled with some of its top stars sourcing new choreography to perform in their dance videos from creators on other, smaller platforms — like the rival short-form video app Dubsmash, later acquired by Reddit. Many of these unknown creators had helped kick off TikTok’s biggest dance trends in years past, like the Renegade, Backpack Kid, or Shiggy. And many were creators of color, who saw their dances go viral after more famous TikTokers would perform their moves without tagging them as the inspiration. This issue came to a head when The New York Times in 2020 reported on the original creator of the Renegade, then a 14-year-old Atlanta teen, Jalaiah Harmon, who hadn’t received credit for her work after TikTok’s largest creator, Charli D’Amelio, performed her dance for her millions of fans, helping her to further grow her already outsized celebrity status.

The following year, a similar controversy made headlines after TikTok star Addison Rae went on “The Tonight Show” where she taught host Jimmy Fallon a number of popular TikTok dances. Meanwhile, the dances’ original creators, many of whom are Black, remained uncredited in the segment. Later, a number of Black creators went on strike as part of a viral campaign to call attention to the issue of creator credits by refusing to choreograph a dance to Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single.

D’Amelio and some other creators have since begun to handwrite dance credits in their video descriptions, often using the shorthand “dc” for dance credit followed by a tag pointing to the username of the creator. A famous Hollywood choreographer, JaQuel Knight, who made history as the first to copyright his work, has also begun helping other dancers on TikTok get credit for their work too, Vice reported in December.

But dances aren’t the only things being stolen on TikTok. Creators have fielded accusations of stealing everything from cheerleading routines to comedy bits to challenge ideas to music or sounds and much more.

 

A TikTok spokesperson acknowledged the problem with credits on the platform, noting that the culture of credit was “critical” for the community and for  TikTok’s future. “Equitable creator amplification is important for creators, especially the BIPOC creator community,” they added.

Image Credits: TikTok

In an announcement, Director of the Creator Community at TikTok, Kudzi Chikumbu introduced the feature and highlighted other efforts the company has made to help better highlight original creator work on its platform.

Chikumbu pointed to TikTok’s Originators series, launched last October, which showcases trend originators through the app’s Discover List feature. TikTok also recently debuted a TikTok Originators monthly social series highlighting Originators on the platform. In addition, the TikTok Creator Portal includes a “Crediting Creators” section that highlights the importance of attributing trend originators for their work. Here, the company lays out best practices for crediting originators and explains how to find the originators if you aren’t sure who had started a trend.

The use of the new crediting tag could help make it easier for creators to cite their inspiration. However, it still relies on user adoption to work. If a creator wants to lift ideas without credit, they could simply not use the feature.

“It’s important to see a culture of credit take shape across the digital landscape and to support underrepresented creators in being properly credited and celebrated for their work,” said Chikumbu. “We’re eager to see how these new creator crediting tools inspire more creativity and encourage trend attribution across the global TikTok community.”

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