Humane in Acquisition Talks with HP →

Tripp Mickle and Erin Griffith, at The New York Times:

About a week after the reviews came out, Humane started talking to HP, the computer and printer company, about selling itself for more than $1 billion, three people with knowledge of the conversations said. Other potential buyers have emerged, though talks have been casual and no formal sales process has begun.

Humane retained Tidal Partners, an investment bank, to help navigate the discussions while also managing a new funding round that would value it at $1.1 billion, three people with knowledge of the plans said.

Two jokes came to mind:

  1. The Humane Pin does kind of look like something Palm may have eventually made.
  2. Wow, the AI hardware scene is really heating up.

2024 ADA Winners Announced →

Apple Newsroom:

“It’s inspiring to see how developers are using our technology to create exceptional apps and games that enhance the lives of users,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. “This year’s winners have demonstrated how apps can create powerful and moving experiences — and we’re excited to celebrate their hard work and ingenuity at WWDC this year.”

Seven different categories recognize one app and game each for delight and fun, inclusivity, innovation, interaction, social impact, visuals and graphics, and a new spatial computing category. Winners were chosen from 42 finalists.

There are some great apps on this list. Congrats to the winners!

Bartender Sold →

Ben Surtees, the original developer behind the excellent macOS utility Bartender, concerning the recent sale of the app:

After the release of Bartender 5, I came to the realization that supporting all the users and maintaining the app at the high standard I expect and you deserve was too much for one person. It required a dedicated team that could provide continuous support, innovate, and keep up with the fast-evolving macOS landscape. This realization led me to make a difficult decision.

Three months ago, I sold Bartender to Applause, a company with the resources and expertise to take the app to new heights. Applause shares my vision for Bartender and is committed to maintaining its core values while bringing in new features and improvements. I truly believe they are the right team to continue the journey and ensure Bartender remains a valuable tool for all of you.

I understand that the transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. Recently, there was a change in the signing certificate for the app, and unfortunately, this change wasn’t communicated properly to you, our loyal users. I apologize for any confusion or concern this may have caused. Please rest assured that Bartender is signed by a valid Apple ID developer and notarized by Apple, which verifies the app to ensure it is free from malware.

(I take slight exception with his explanation of Notarization. You can read more about how the process works over at The Eclectic Light Company.)

While this does clear up much of the panic that has surrounded this app for the last day or so, so much of this mess could have been avoided if Applause had communicated with its new users.

That said, I fully understand why users of Bartender feel uneasy about its future, despite what Surtees wrote about its new owner.1 Hidden Bar, Vanilla, and Ice all seem like nice alternatives. I’m currently playing with Ice myself and I suspect David and I will talk about this on a future episode of Mac Power Users once we’ve had more time to explore.


  1. Applause’s website makes me feel weird inside. 

Elon Musk’s xAI to Build ‘Gigafactory of Compute’ in Memphis →

xAI, Elon Musk’s AI company (no not that one) is coming to my hometown with what would be the world’s largest supercomputer, as reported by Samuel Hardiman at The Daily Memphian:

The Elon Musk-founded artificial intelligence startup — xAI — is building an AI supercomputer in Memphis, officials announced Wednesday, June 5.

The facility, when completed, could be worth billions of dollars and be one of the most advanced computing facilities in the world.

Musk recently told investors he planned to build a supercomputer for xAI but did not say where, according to a presentation obtained by business news site The Information.

Neil Strebig at The Commercial Appeal writes:

Chamber President and CEO Ted Townsend said this project represents a multibillion dollar investment and is the largest by a new-to-market company in Memphis history. Final job counts and total investment are still being calculated by the company, he said. The project is expected to open this year.

Few specifics were provided about the project, which is called “xAI’s Gigafactory of Compute,” including its location. Townsend said due to global security concerns, the location would not be announced.

The Daily Memphian reports that the deal came together very quickly, and that the location is an old Electrolux oven factory, which has been undergoing mysterious renovations for several weeks. The area where the factory is located is home to other industries, and seems well-equipped for the task. Here’s more from Hardiman’s article:

Supercomputers like the one xAI building in southwest Memphis need considerable electricity. The facility is less than a mile from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Allen Combined Cycle Plant by car and it’s even closer as the crow flies.

Memphis Light, Gas and Water said there is enough electric capacity on its system and TVA’s for the project. Power to the supercomputer would be interrupted if the system is stressed.

“They’re working on that with Tennessee Valley Authority and our team to determine how much off-peak they can come when the demand gets high, and what the terms of that will be,” MLGW CEO Doug McGowen said.

(I guess we now know where those unused H100s are going.)

Memphis is a curious choice for this. The city is in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, and we’re prone to severe weather. That said, we enjoy a low cost of living and local government officials have been working to incentivize new developments in town.

This is an exciting, if unexpected, bit of news around here. Beyond FedEx, St. Jude, and AutoZone, Memphis does not have a lot of high-paying tech jobs, and this could accelerate things… assuming it takes shape as promised. And assuming Musk doesn’t screw Memphis over.

Researcher: Windows 11 Recall a ‘Disaster’ →

Windows 11’s Recall feature has garnered a lot of attention since being announced, and much of that has focused on the potential privacy implications of software that basically tracks everything you do on your PC.

Cybersecurity expert Kevin Beaumont has taken a look at the feature, and uhhhhhh:

Microsoft told media outlets a hacker cannot exfiltrate Copilot+ Recall activity remotely.

Reality: how do you think hackers will exfiltrate this plain text database of everything the user has ever viewed on their PC? Very easily, I have it automated.

He explains more in a post on Medium:

Every few seconds, screenshots are taken. These are automatically OCR’d by Azure AI, running on your device, and written into an SQLite database in the user’s folder. This database file has a record of everything you’ve ever viewed on your PC in plain text.

Tom Warren at The Verge:

Microsoft maintains Recall is an optional experience and that it has built privacy controls into the feature. You can disable certain URLs and apps, and Recall won’t store any material that’s protected with digital rights management tools. “Recall also does not take snapshots of certain kinds of content, including InPrivate web browsing sessions in Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome, or other Chromium-based browsers,” says Microsoft on its explainer FAQ page.

However, Recall doesn’t perform content moderation, so it won’t hide information like passwords or financial account numbers in its screenshots. “That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry,” warns Microsoft.

Warren also notes:

Microsoft is currently planning to enable Recall by default on Copilot Plus PCs. In my own testing on a prerelease version of Recall, the feature is enabled by default when you set up a new Copilot Plus PC, and there is no option to disable it during the setup process unless you tick an option that then opens the Settings panel. Microsoft is reportedly discussing whether to change this setup process, though.

Gulp.

Sponsor: PowerPhotos by Fat Cat Software →

PowerPhotos works in conjunction with the Apple Photos app, filling in missing features that Photos itself doesn’t provide. With PowerPhotos you can manage multiple photo libraries, either splitting up an existing library into smaller ones, or merging multiple libraries together into one. You can browse and search your libraries, copy photos and albums between libraries while retaining edits and metadata, and find and remove duplicate photos.

PowerPhotos is designed to help you clean up your photo libraries and save space in the process. Its duplicate detection feature can be used to delete extra photos in your library and reclaim disk space and space used in iCloud. If you want to further cut down iCloud usage, PowerPhotos can help split up your library into multiple libraries, so that you can store many of your photos locally on your Mac in separate libraries while still keeping some of your photos in iCloud.

PowerPhotos

If you already have multiple libraries, PowerPhotos can merge those libraries together, while weeding out duplicates in the process. If you have old backups or libraries from other computers or family members, PowerPhotos can consolidate them all into one library for you. It can even merge and convert old iPhoto or Aperture libraries you have lying around. PowerPhotos also has an advanced export function, a global menu bar item for easy library switching, multi library searching, the ability to open libraries in separate windows, and much more.

PowerPhotos 2.0 can be downloaded for free and offers many of its features for free. Purchasing a license will unlock advanced features such as library merging, deletion of duplicate photos, and unlimited photo copying and exporting.

Existing users of PowerPhotos 1.0 or iPhoto Library Manager can use their serial number to upgrade for 50% off the regular price, and 512 Pixels readers can use the coupon code 512PIXELS to receive a 20% discount.

Siri’s AI Era Arriving Soon

There has been much debate about what Apple’s upcoming AI-based features could look like. With WWDC’s keynote just eight days away, Mark Gurman has some information about how Siri could be transformed by new technology:

The big news at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next week will be the company’s renewed push into artificial intelligence. As I’ve outlined previously, Apple’s approach will integrate AI into many of its core apps and features, including Photos, Messages, Notes and the Safari browser. It will handle voice memo transcriptions and provide recaps of meetings, text messages, emails and articles. There also will be new bells and whistles like AI-created emojis.

But Apple’s original AI product — Siri — will get some love as well. The company is overhauling the digital assistant with its own large language models, an underlying technology behind generative AI. The new system will allow Siri to control individual features within applications for the first time. This won’t require any setup by the user or from developers, differentiating from existing features like Siri Shortcuts and App Intents. Instead, the iPhone’s AI will analyze what a person is doing and auto-enable Siri to help.

For instance, users could ask Siri to delete or forward an email. Or they could have Siri edit a photo, summarize a meeting or move a note to a different folder — all within the apps themselves. Today, Siri mostly lives outside of the app universe, controlling more general items like smart home appliances, music and system settings. Over time, this new feature will expand to allow multiple commands at once. For example, you could tell your iPad to write an email and send it to your spouse.

The day after OpenAI demoed ChatGPT-4o, Microsoft announced a new class of Windows laptops, powered by Qualcomm Arm chips and boasting a slew of AI-powered features. Some of these features run on device, while some rely on the cloud, but at the heart of almost of them is Microsoft’s multibillion dollar investment in OpenAI.

Google, on the other hand, is going it alone, building LLM-powered features internally. As is its usual style, Google has already announced and cancelled several different products under the AI umbrella, but in recent weeks, it has launched the single most important AI-powered service the world has yet seen in the form of Google Search with Generative AI.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock — or ate one — you know how that started. Google has taken the most important property on the web and turned it into something that will confidently lie to its users. It’s been astonishing to watch it burn so much brand capital on a new feature.

That brings us back to Apple. There’s no doubt that Apple is next in line to infuse its products with AI-powered features, but much of the baggage that comes along with AI seems antithetical with Apple’s brand.

Let’s talk about hallucinations for a moment. I think IBM’s definition of the term is pretty good:

AI hallucination is a phenomenon wherein a large language model (LLM) — often a generative AI chatbot or computer vision tool — perceives patterns or objects that are nonexistent or imperceptible to human observers, creating outputs that are nonsensical or altogether inaccurate.

Preventing a LLM from giving a user incorrect data has become a devastatingly difficult problem to solve. On a recent episode of Decoder with Nilay Patel, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said this on the topic:

Are we making progress? Yes, we are. We have definitely made progress when we look at metrics on factuality year on year. We are all making it better, but it’s not solved. Are there interesting ideas and approaches that they’re working on? Yes, but time will tell. I would view it as LLMs are an aspect of AI. We are working on AI in a much broader way, but it’s an area where we are all definitely working to drive more progress.

“Year on year” sounds like a long time scale to me, and one that won’t be met by the time iOS 18 and its siblings launch this fall. Maybe Apple has made a breakthrough on this front, but that’s yet to be seen. If Apple is going to rely on OpenAI for some things, don’t expect Siri to be much more reliable than ChatGPT.

Original Siri

It’s not surprising that the Siri brand is going to be home to many of these features. It’s been around since the iPhone 4S. Here’s a bit from that 2011 press release:

iPhone 4S also introduces Siri, an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Siri understands context allowing you to speak naturally when you ask it questions, for example, if you ask “Will I need an umbrella this weekend?” it understands you are looking for a weather forecast. Siri is also smart about using the personal information you allow it to access, for example, if you tell Siri “Remind me to call Mom when I get home” it can find “Mom” in your address book, or ask Siri “What’s the traffic like around here?” and it can figure out where “here” is based on your current location. Siri helps you make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, get directions and more. You can also get answers, find facts and even perform complex calculations just by asking.

A lot of that sounds like the things people expect from the likes of ChatGPT or Gemini today, doesn’t it? Maybe’s Siri’s habit of whiffing on basic requests will buy Apple some leeway when it comes to hallucinations.

Then there’s the environmental impact of all the hardware required to power these features. Undoubtedly, Apple is working hard to run as many of these models as possible locally on users’ devices, but even Apple is rumored to be looking to the cloud to power some things. Then there’s the company’s stance on user privacy.

There a lot of circles to square, but Apple probably doesn’t have a choice here. Users — and the market — expect these features from platform owners now, regardless of their actual utility.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying: I think generative AI has some amazing uses and is here to stay. This movement is more than a flash in the pan, and Apple should have a plan for incorporating it across its operating systems. However, I think Apple has to move more carefully here than the likes of Microsoft and Google. The way Apple sees — and talks about — itself may hang in the balance.1


  1. Look no further for evidence of this then the backlash to that recent iPad ad. The video was not about AI, but people sure took it that way, and were not happy about it. 

How Craft Built Its visionOS App →

Kristof Gruber, Product Engineer at Craft:

Entering a new platform only happens a few times in a developers life. It is a rare and delicious event, when you step in the realm of something genuinely new. If you are fast, you can feel yourself like the explorers in old times. Everything is new, and flexible; the new platform doesn’t yet have established patterns, which gives you plenty of space to experiment.

We, at Craft, already had this chance once, when we started using Mac Catalyst, a wonderful technology, which allowed us to bring our iOS app to the Mac. Since then, we are using a common code base for building all our apps on all the platforms we support: iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. With the introduction of visionOS, we could build on these solid foundations.

The blog post goes on from there, detailing the team’s approach — and challenges — in tuning Craft for visionOS users. It’s a fascinating read.