John Gruber on IGTV

John posted this item to Daring Fireball a few days ago, and I agree with his take on IGTV.

As I tweeted, reading his comments got me thinking about how I've really fallen out of love with Instagram. I still use it fairly regularly, but the ads and the algorthimic timeline, among other "features," have sullied the experience for me. I'll be 37 come September, and I admittedly feel old and curmudgeonly about this—it feels like the service has been skewing towards a younger audience (teen-to-20s) for some time now. In my usage, I follow a few hard rules that hearken back to the "good ol' days": I only post a single photo at a time, I never use Stories, and I do not share memes or screenshots (anymore). Oh, and my account is private; Instagram has always felt more personal to me than something like Twitter, which for me is an essential work tool for me (sharing and networking). For better or worse, this setup works for me and i'm sticking to it.

On New AirPods

Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, writing for Bloomberg:

The Cupertino, California-based company is working on new AirPods with noise-cancellation and water resistance, the people said. Apple is trying to increase the range that AirPods can work away from an iPhone or iPad, one of the people said. You won’t be swimming in them though: The water resistance is mainly to protect against rain and perspiration, the people said.

Slated for 2019, the earbuds will likely cost more than the existing $159 pair, and that could push Apple to segment the product line like it does with iPhones, one of the people said. Apple is also working on a wireless charging case that’s compatible with the upcoming AirPower charger.

The company has also internally discussed adding biometric sensors to future AirPods, like a heart-rate monitor, to expand its health-related hardware offerings beyond the Apple Watch, another person said. The current AirPods will be refreshed later this year with a new chip and support for hands-free Siri activation, Bloomberg News reported.

My set of AirPods are still going strong. So delightful and so quintessentially Apple.

Apple Launches 2018 Midterm Elections Section in News

Apple PR:

The 2018 Midterm Elections section helps readers follow the latest on the elections with breaking news, exclusive highlights and analysis from reliable sources selected by Apple News’ team of experienced editors. Readers can quickly get up to speed on the most relevant topics and candidates by accessing the new section in the Apple News app from a banner across the top of the For You tab, as well as through Top Stories and the Spotlight tab.

“Today more than ever people want information from reliable sources, especially when it comes to making voting decisions,” said Lauren Kern, editor-in-chief of Apple News. “An election is not just a contest; it should raise conversations and spark national discourse. By presenting quality news from trustworthy sources and curating a diverse range of opinions, Apple News aims to be a responsible steward of those conversations and help readers understand the candidates and the issues.”

Like my buddy Stephen Hackett, I find it curious the New York Times is omitted from the initial crop of "diverse publishers" Apple is sourcing its coverage from. Maybe they'll be added over time, who knows. In any case, like Stephen, I'm not much of an Apple News junkie, but maybe this new section will change that. I'm definitely going to check it out.

On Integrated Classrooms

Great Seattle Times op-ed by Ilene Schwartz on the value of blending general education and special education students. She says University of Washington researchers have found evidence showing “children with and without disabilities do better in inclusive classrooms.”

As someone who worked in Pre-K special education classrooms for nearly a decade, I can confirm this is true. I also studied early childhood development, and can attest to the fact inclusive settings are ideal. Typically and atypically developing students can learn a lot from each other if afforded the opportunity. With the right kind of support, special education students can thrive in mainstream classrooms. This isn’t to imply special day classes are bad; they certainly have value, but the ideal scenario is to integrate as much as possible.

AirPower's Delay Explained

The always-intrepid Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

An executive at an Apple partner that manufactures third-party wireless chargers for iPhones, who asked not to be identified, said that the multi-device charging mechanism is challenging to build because it likely requires different sized charging components for the three types of devices, which would all overlap across the mat.

The AirPower charger is also more advanced than the current competition because it includes a custom Apple chip running a stripped down version of the iOS mobile operating system to conduct on-device power management and pairing with devices. Apple engineers have also been working to squash bugs related to the on-board firmware, according to the people familiar. They asked not to be identified discussing a product that hasn’t been released yet.

AirPower's failure to ship after close to a year must frustrate Apple executives. As for my expectations, I'm not particularly hankering for it at home. Where I think I'd definitely like one is for travel—the ability to simultaneously charge my iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods would relieve me from having to pack a trillion cables and charging stands in my baggae. I've been meaning to buy second sets of chargers to set aside specifically for travel, but buying one AirPower mat may be a better solution.

Accessible #3: Steven Goes to San Jose

Recorded inside Apple's Podcasts studio at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Steven interviews three special guests about their work and what Apple's WWDC announcements mean for accessibility. He sat down with Apple's Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, AssistiveWare CEO David Niemeijer, and WWDC18 student scholarship winner John Ciocca.

New USB Standard for Braille Displays Announced

Per a press release from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF):

USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), the support organization for the advancement and adoption of USB technology, today announced a USB HID (Human Interface Device) standard for braille displays, representing a collaborative step toward greater technological accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision. The standard will make it easier to use a braille display across operating systems and different types of hardware. It will also simplify development, removing the need for braille devices to have custom software and drivers created for a particular operating system or screen reader.

“This is another great example of how USB-IF device class specifications can improve people’s lives,” said USB-IF President and COO Jeff Ravencraft. “With more than 1000 members worldwide, USB-IF brings companies together to improve access to technology and provide a seamless user experience.”

This is a positive development, with a push from Apple. The company's Senior Director of Global Accessibility Policy & Initiatives, Sarah Herrlinger, said in part, “We’re proud to advance this new USB-IF standard because we believe in improving the experience for all people who rely on braille displays to use their Apple products or any other device.”

On San Francisco and Cash

Michelle Robertson, writing for SFGate:

Some San Francisco neighborhoods are more averse to cash than others, according to data collected by Square Inc. in March and April. Heavy shopping districts filled with new stores and young residents, like Hayes Valley and SoMa, favor card and digital payments over older neighborhoods with more established businesses, like the Richmond and Sunset districts.

I live in the Inner Richmond and can attest to the neighborhood's preference for actual cash. The majority of businesses I frequent are hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop dim sum places and other stores, and nearly all of them are cash-only. The only times I use something like Apple Pay is when I venture to other parts of the city, notably in various parts of the Sunset. Otherwise, I'm prone to ATM visits to get cash because that's how commerce works in my part of town. And I'm okay with that—I don't mind cash and I like supporting small businesses.

Salesforce Tower in Downtown San Francisco Opens

Excellent story from BuzzFeed's Mat Honan:

As noon approached, an Orthodox priest, a rabbi, a Zen Center reverend, an imam, an Episcopal bishop, a Catholic archbishop, and a leader from the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center stood on a stage in downtown San Francisco, clasped hands, and said a prayer: “Bless this magnificent edifice,” they intoned, “the Salesforce Tower.”

It was a bit ridiculous. But the Salesforce Tower itself, which opened to the public on Tuesday, is no joke. For San Francisco, it is a literal monument to the wealth and power of tech, and its grand opening brought together a nexus of powerful forces in modern-day California: the technology industry, Democratic politics, and the housing crisis.

As I said on Twitter, I have close friends and family who work at Salesforce. Upon further reflection, however, the more upset I am by this. Not by Honan's story, but by the sheer idea of the Tower. As I also said on Twitter, San Francisco is a city "in real shit shape," as Honan wrote, yet Benioff and other company executives expect people to come and gawk at this architectural monstrosity that cost over a billion dollars to build. Even worse, they get religious figures to come and bless the fucking thing? It's absurd. Then Benioff has the gall to wax on about helping the city by combatting homelessness and so forth. Honan was right on: This whole farce is and was Dickensian indeed.

Microsoft's New Accessible Xbox Controller

Chelsea Stark and Samit Sarkar, writing for Polygon:

The world of video games is not particularly welcoming to individuals with disabilities. Game makers and platform holders have made some strides in this area in recent years, but for the most part, they’ve left the hard work to third-party organizations. The Xbox Adaptive Controller is the strongest, clearest expression yet of Microsoft’s commitment to reaching people with disabilities, and it sprang in part out of a controller that’s on the opposite end of the accessibility spectrum.

[...]

“We cast a really inclusive map of partners and individuals to help us build this, in a much bigger way than we have normally for our products,” said Kumar. In addition to groups working in the gaming accessibility field, like AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, the veteran-focused charity Warfighter Engaged and accessory manufacturers, Microsoft consulted with the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Craig Hospital, a Denver-area rehabilitation center for brain and spinal cord injuries.

This new controller from Microsoft is a big deal for the video game industry and for Microsoft. As Dan Moren writes at Six Colors, it's heartening to see the other big players in tech make such a pronounced move in the accessibility space. Apple surely leads here—although they aren't doing anything hardware-wise—but it's great to see others follow their lead in acknowledging and supporting the disabled community. Huge kudos to Microsoft for their efforts here.

Apple's GAAD 2018 Efforts

Yesterday was Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Apple, as it has done the last few years, was an active participant in promoting the day—a day all about raising awareness for disabled people and the importance of accessible technology. Being the industry leader, Apple plays a big role.

For TechCrunch, I wrote a deep dive story on Apple's activities for this year, tied into the education announcements they made in Chicago in late March. Apple invited me to a small event at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, which was the highlight of the day. It was at that event where I got an opportunity to briefly interview CEO Tim Cook about GAAD and what accessibility means to the company and to him. The reporting was key, but man, how exhilirating it was for me. It was an amazing experience—one that I won't ever forget.