When Does Spring Start in 2014?

I couldn't be more frustrated about the fact that Siri in iOS 7.1 could not correctly answer the question, "When is the first day of Spring?" on the first day of Spring 2014.

Siri said that the first day of Spring in 2014 is Sunday, March 23.

When I asked Google via Safari, "When does Spring start?" The search engine got the answer correct.

I know Apple can do better than this. From what source are they obtaining this answer? It makes no sense to me at all, and I am a huge Siri fan.

After publishing the previous article about making ice for the 2014 NCAA Division III Men's Hockey Tournament, I strated looking for a more complete time-lapse movie that shows the full ice painting process.

Here's the best video I've found so far. It was created by the San Jose Sharks when they painted the ice in September 2013 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

My sons will love watching this when they get home from school.

The 2014 NCAA Division III Men's Hockey Tournament is taking place at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, ME on March 21 and 22, 2014.

The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal created a time-lapse movie of the process of setting up and painting the ice for the tournament. An staff engineer from the Colisée talks over the movie, explaining how they need to lay down 1/8 to 1/4-inch of water, let it freeze, then paint the ice with white paint, then lay down another 1/8 to 1/4-inch of water, then hand paint their play lines.

I have no idea why they didn't stay and capture the completed, ready-to-place surface. But, if you've ever wondered what it takes to put down a world-class sheet of ice for hockey, this video gives you a good idea. [ Hat tip to The Officials Warehouse Facebook Page ]

Martin O'Donnell sent me a link to this article on DailyFinance.com, Roku Will Always Offer the Ultimate Set-Top Box, in which Sam Mattera suggests that Roku will achieve and maintain this distinction because it has the least conflicts of interest of any of its current or expected competitors.

According to the article, a set-top box from Amazon.com will feature Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu Plus services, but not YouTube because Google will not permit it. This is because an Amazon Set-Top Box would use of a forked-version of Android as the box's base OS, just like the Kindle Fire tablets do. (That OS is known as FireOS.)

If you buy into that, then Google Chromecast is also crippled in a similar manner, because Amazon.com will not create an Amazon Prime Video app for Android. The existance of Amazon Prime Video as a native service on Android would remove one of the key differentiators of Kindle Fire tablets.

Roku 3 has an Amazon Instant Video client today, in part, because Amazon.com is not yet on the market with a set-top box that competes with it. Roku also has Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Major League Baseball, and YouTube. This is why people who don't have a major investment in iTunes video content love Roku so much.

But saying that any of these companies will "always" do anything is preposterous. Roku can only be counted on to produce a set-top box with a wide variety of streaming service clients for as long as it remains an independent company and the bigger companies mentioned in this article continue to see the world the way they do today.

Apple may always want to have maximum control over the presentation of its services, but AppleTV as we know it today may not exist forever as a standalone box.

I've recently wondered what would happen if Apple offered to allow an Amazon Prime Video app on AppleTV, but not Amazon Instant Video, which is a direct competitor to iTunes video in many respects? I don't think Apple will offer Amazon this opportunity, and I don't think Amazon.com will accept it if this distinction were made about its video services; Nevertheless, it would be an interesting offer for Apple to make.

I don't know what to say about Google or Amazon.com exactly. I use services from both companies and like them. But both companies may not always be willing to take the approach of giving away services at no direct cost to consumers, or providing these services with huge subsidies-- like they do today.

I don't think Roku goes the way of TiVo. But Roku is a darling of the technology press today more for what it isn't than for what it is.

iOS 7.1 Released

I am really pleased to hear that Apple released iOS 7.1 today.

There are a lot of features that improve services that I like, and we have waited a long time for this update to mature to the point where it could be released.

Some of the improvements that stand out to me are:

  • Improves Touch ID fingerprint recognition

    This is a big one for anyone with an iPhone 5S. I hope it resolves some of the relearning issues that seem to cause TouchID to degrade over time, and make users less confident in using it.

  • Manually control when Siri listens by holding down the home button while you speak and releasing it when you're done as an alternative to letting Siri automatically notice when you stop talking

    I don't know how many times Siri has decided I'm done talking before I truly am.

  • Accessibility, New options to display button shapes, darken app colors, and reduce white point

    I think is going to get used by people who just don't like the borderless buttons in iOS 7. I think the borderless buttons are fine. I just want to try this feature so that I know how and when to recommend using it.

  • FaceTime call notifications are automatically cleared when you answer a call on another device

    Making FaceTime more integrated with iCloud syncing is a huge step forward.

  • Fixes display of Mail unread badge for numbers greater than 10,000

    All I can say is no Inbox Zero at A6, so we need it.

I can't wait to see what they mean when they say "Continued user interface refinements".

Full disclosure: Although I am an active iOS developer, I have not been testing iOS 7.1 while it's in beta. Virtually all of the changes in it will be new to me when my iPhone and iPad are updated.

A few hours ago, I submitted an Operation Gadget reader app for the iPhone to Apple for their approval. I hope that they will approve the app within the next week, and then it will be available on the App Stores throughout the world.

It's been obvious to me for a long time that the most important new development on the Internet is occurring in the mobile space, and I want Operation Gadget to be part of these discussions.

More on the app itself when I learn if it has been approved.

At the Apple Inc. Annual Meeting, The National Center for Public Policy Research offered a shareholder resolution (see Proposal Number 9 in the Apple Inc. Proxy Statement, which I include at the end of this post), which pointed out that Apple's adherence to "sustainability practices" were not in the overall interests of the average shareholder.

I also wonder about whether all of the principles of sustainability are actually useful, and which are simply an appeasement to the environmental movement. But, I think that Apple's management and the NCPPR used this resolution to make points to influential groups in their respective constituencies about their adherence to abstract principles that make very little difference to the ecology of the Earth or to corporate governance.

Wednesday, Walter Isaacson weighed in on the current state of the tech industries. When asked by Andrew Ross Sorkin, "So, what's a bigger deal? Getting into China or Google, earlier this week, buying Nest?" This is a good question.

Isaacson's answer that, in his opinion, Google buying Nest is a bigger deal, appears to be news.

My question is: What makes Walter Isaacson anything more than an observer of the tech industries? Sure, he had access to Steve Jobs for long enough to write the authorized biography of Jobs that mesmerized many people including me. But, does that give him the insight into the industry that's necessary to make his opinion more newsworthy than someone who is doing a ton of research into the competitive positions of Google and Apple?

For those of you who are truly interested in understanding value of Apple getting into China, I recommend listening to Episode 107 of the Critical Path podcast. In it the co-host, an analyst named Horace Dediu, talks about the fact that Apple was permitted to bring its entire ecosystem into the Chinese market-- including iTunes, the iOS App Store, Apple's Maps application, and all of their other major services. This is not possible for Google, which is treated with great suspicion by the Chinese government and has been for some time.

There is no doubt in my mind that Nest is a strategic bet by Google on the Internet of Things and that this will be an important component in their strategy to provide services over the Internet that resonate with people who want to live an extremely connected life style.

But saying that Google acquiring Nest is more significant to the state of the tech industries than Apple executing on the delivery of iPhones to China Mobile customers doesn't make sense. To me, these two developments are each significant but aren't really comparable.

I have to point out the article by photographer Kyle Grantham of The News Journal of Delaware called Lions and Eagles and Snow, Oh My! In it he talks about the "hardest football game I've ever been asked to shoot... {that was} the most fun I've ever had on an assignment."

At the height of an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm last Sunday, Grantham went to a 400mm lens and used manual focus. This got him around one of the major the problem with most digital camera technologt these days:

Cameras today rely so heavily on autofocus for sports that snow renders them functionally useless. Imagine trying to photograph someone standing behind a waterfall. Even if you can see them clearly, no matter what you do your camera focuses only the water. The same went for every thick snowflake between me and the players on the field, and when you consider there were thousands falling every second the challenge was daunting.

You have to see the photos in this article to believe them.

Why Isn't Personal Hotspot in Control Center?

Kudos to John Gruber for pointing out this anonymous critique of iOS 7 user experience issues that was published on Tumblr. The important thing to note about this Tumblr blog is that the issues identified here have been posted periodically since September 24:

I agree with all of these critiques. The UX issue I came up with is shown in the screenshot. In the iOS Control Center, you have a bunch of controls at your fingertips. But, why isn't there a way to turn Personal Hotspot on and off from this panel?