(You're reading all posts by Leander Kahney)

About Leander Kahney

Leander Kahney Leander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)

This badass business card is made from an iPhone screen

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac This business card was made for an Apple engineer out of a genuine iPhone screen.

This business card, created from an actual iPhone screen, was made for an Apple engineer (whose name has been removed by request). Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Every year at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, a million and one business cards get handed out. Most end up in a desk drawer or, worse, the circular file. But last year one card stood out.

This glass business card is made from an actual iPhone screen, sourced from Foxconn’s factories in China. The lettering is laser-etched into the hardened Gorilla Glass — a very complex process.

The card belongs to an Apple engineer, who hung it on a lanyard around his neck. Everywhere he went, people pawed at it.

“Everyone was grabbing it asking him, ‘How the heck did you do that?'” said the card’s creator, who made a batch of 10 for the engineer.

The first question we had when we got our hands on one was, where do we put in our order? Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen.

Read the rest of this post »

Hot-rod Hackintoshes perform like the latest Mac Pro

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

This P280 Hackintosh screams like a Mac Pro. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Although it looks like a vanilla PC in a boxy case, the machine pictured above is a high-performance, custom-built Hackintosh.

This thing is hot! Known as the P280, after its Antec case, this Hackintosh is equivalent in performance to Apple’s latest Mac Pro workstation, but costs significantly less.

Roughly comparable to a Mac Pro costing $3,500, the P280 was assembled from off-the-shelf PC parts costing just over $2,000, including a water-cooling system to chill its chips. The Hackintosh runs Apple’s OS X Mavericks and, according to its builder, bests a similarly configured Pro on many benchmarks.

It has none of Jony Ive’s industrial design magic, of course, but that’s not the point. This is a DIY rig that’s as badass as it gets.

Read the rest of this post »

AAPL! AAPL! AAPL! Buy! Buy! Buy!

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Sell the house. Sell the car. Sell the kids. Take every penny you own and invest it in Apple stock, because the company is about to go gangbusters.

The big news from yesterday’s earth-shattering earnings call is that this is a company that is extremely confident about its financial future.

Apple has come under fire recently for not innovating. You’ve heard the whining: Apple’s lost its mojo. There have been some nice updates to existing products, but Apple’s done nothing lately to realign the universe. It’s been four long years since it’s last biggie — the original iPad. Where’s the latest product that reshapes the modern world?

To many observers, it looks like the company has been treading water in the two-and-a-half years since Steve Jobs’ death. Android is seating Apple’s lunch, and Apple’s got nowhere to go but down. Apple’s over.

But that narrative is nonsense. Wednesday’s earnings call — and the gobsmacking 7-to-1 stock split — clearly telegraphs that Apple’s executives have something huge up their sleeves. Maybe a couple of things. Maybe a lot of things.

If you’ve been paying close attention to the news and rumors, 2014 looks like it’s shaping up to be Apple’s biggest year in decades.

Read the rest of this post »

Heartbleed Security Bug: What Apple Users Need to Know

heartbleed

The newly discovered Heartbleed bug is being called the Web’s worst security bug ever.

It allows hackers to steal passwords and login details when users visit vulnerable sites — undetected. That’s the bad part: affected sites probably have no idea they’re vulnerable. The bug is subject to an emergency security advisory. Some experts are estimating that up to 66% of the Internet’s servers could be affected. Each server has to be fixed manually. So it could take a while.

In the meantime:

  • Don’t log into any sites until you’ve officially been given the all clear.
  • Change all your passwords for websites and email. Especially for sensitive sites like banks, credit cards and webmail. However: wait until you know a site has been patched before changing passwords. Sites like Tumblr and Yahoo sent out warning emails earlier today telling users to change their passwords.
  • Apple.com and iCloud appear to be unaffected, according to this (unofficial) list on Github.
  • Install the Chromebleed Checker for Google’s Chrome browser — it pops a warning if a site is vulnerable (Cult of Mac is not. See screenshot below).

We’ve reached out to Apple’s PR department for comment. No reply yet. We’ll update if Apple makes any statement or issues an advisory.

Read the rest of this post »

Are You An Old Git? And Other Questions For Apple’s Jony Ive

Jony_Ive_Sunday_Times

The UK’s Sunday Times has a long interview with Apple’s head designer Jony Ive in its Sunday Magazine (warning: paywall).

It claims to be the first in-depth interview Ive has given in twenty years at Apple, but breaks absolutely no ground whatsoever. Irritatingly, I can see the fingerprints of my Jony Ive biography all over the piece, but there’s no mention of the book.

The strangest thing is that Ive recycles the same quotes he’s used in the past. Believe me, I’ve read them all. He says that Steve Jobs’ ideas sometimes sucked the air from the room (previously uttered in his tribute to Jobs) and that he wanted to be a car designer, but other students made weird “vroom vroom” noises while they worked (from an Observer interview). There’s absolutely nothing new in the entire piece including the obligatory hint of an amazing new product, which of course, he can’t talk about.

The best part is 10 random-ish questions lobbed at him, which are:

Read the rest of this post »

Can These iMacs Cure Cancer? [Exclusive]

Can These iMacs Cure Cancer? [Exclusive]

In the quiet foothills of Kentucky, a massive supercomputer is churning through data. It is hunting for new drugs to fight cancer.

Every week, the DataseamGrid processes 300 man-years worth of calculations. Yeah, that’s 300 years of calculations every week. Drug discovery usually takes 10 to 15 years, but the DataseamGrid blazes through that work in a fraction of the usual time. It is one of the largest pipelines of potential new cancer drugs in the country. Researchers here are about to start human trials this year of a new drug discovered by the supercomputer, which, if successful, may lead to an entirely new class of cancer drugs.

Read the rest of this post »

Publisher’s Letter

striscia

A few years ago at a MacWorld party, I spotted a guy I knew and barged in while he was talking to someone else. “Have you got a story for me?” I asked. He came back with a few suggestions, each less newsworthy than the last. His former conversation partner stood by in silence. Then Mr. no-news said, “Wait a minute: this guy runs the largest Mac supercomputer in the world!”

That guy was Brian Gupton, one of the brains behind the DataseamGrid in Kentucky featured in this week’s magazine. We talked for a couple of hours, lost in conversation in the middle of a party. I liked him immediately on a personal level: here’s a guy from a blue-collar background who is hugely passionate about education. And it turned out he had built this gigantic supercomputer that was trawling through massive amounts of data in the search for a cancer cure.

There were so many strands to the story.

At the time we met, there were two promising cancer drugs in the works. One of them appeared to be almost 100 percent effective at eradicating stage IV carcinomas. I remember being completely flabbergasted: “Are you sure no one has written about this?” His answer was even more astonishing: only local press had picked up the story.

I was amazed that he’d managed to build a world-class research tool in a place that was being decimated by the declining coal industry. It was a public/private partnership, and an early example of utility computing – this was before cloud computing had taken off.  Another fascinating detail: some of the drugs they were exploring were being grown in genetically modified tobacco plants.

Gupton and his partners built the supercomputer with Apple’s Xgrid, a software package for distributed computing  which, at the time, came built into OS X.  This meant that anybody could build their own supercomputer. And it meant that universities, schools, research centers could potentially become these powerful grids, following in Dataseam’s footsteps. (Apple has since removed Xgrid from Snow Leopard, making that less possible.) Many school districts buy iPads for kids now, favoring one-on-one computing without desktops. Yet Gupton is as passionate as ever and the researchers are still bullish, saying it’s the largest cancer drug pipeline in the country.

Today, the Grid hums as researchers look for chemicals to disrupt or inhibit the growth of cancer. Based on the modeling techniques that won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry they’ve built a simulator that takes a 3D model of a cancer protein and matches it against a molecular model of a chemical, working with a library of 20 million chemicals.

This supercomputer on a shoestring is still going strong.

The Macintosh 30th Anniversary Celebration Event [Liveblog]

Some of the original Mac dev team, who are gathering to celebrate the Mac's 30th birthday.

Some of the original Mac dev team, who are gathering to celebrate the Mac’s 30th birthday.

CUPERTINO, Calif. — The Cult of Mac team is heading down to Cupertino to cover the special 30th anniversary celebration of the Mac, which promises to feature many of the original members of the Mac dev team.

Hit the jump for our liveblog of the evening’s events. We’ll start posting at about 5.30PM PST, about 30 minutes before the event is scheduled to start.

The Mac 30th Anniversary Celebration is being held at Cupertino’s Flint Center; the same 2,400-seat venue where Steve Jobs first introduced the Mac on January 24, 1984.

It was organized by Steve Jobs’ old friend Daniel Kottke, and filmmaker Gabreal Franklin, an early Mac software developer who is making a video documentary about the era.

There will be music, unreleased photos and video, and a big group photo. The event will feature three panel discussions:

  • Conception — Daniel Kottke, Larry Tesler, Rod Holt, Jerry Manock, Marc LeBrun, and Bill Fernandez will talk about the origins of the Mac.
  • The Birth of the Mac — Bill Atkinson, Randy Wigginton, Andy Hertzfeld, Bruce Horn, George Crow and Caroline Rose will tell their first-hand stories about creating the Macintosh.
  • Coming of Age of Mac — 3rd party software developers including Charlie Jackson, Jim Rea, Heidi Roizen, Ty Roberts, David Bunnell, Marc Canter, Maryline Delbourg Delphis, Adam Hertz and Steve Jasik will talk about the software that gave the Mac critical mass.

During the evening, Apple’s original angel investor and 2nd CEO, Mike Markkula, will gather 100 members of the dev team on stage for a group photo.

If you’re in the area, tickets start at $109.75 each and are available via Ticketmaster. Yeah, it’s pricey, but after expenses, all proceeds will be donated to charity, organizers say.

Read the rest of this post »

It’s Party Time at Apple HQ! Check Out These Photos From Cupertino

Apple_Mac_ anniversary_party_4

Apple is getting ready for a 30th Mac Anniversary party at the company HQ, according to pictures that have just started showing up on Instagram.

Several pictures from Apple’s Cupertino HQ taken in the last hour or so show giant birthday banners that have been hung off buildings. “Happy Birthday, Mac,” they say.

The photos are accompanied by hashtags mentioning #party and #concert. One picture shows technicians unpacking equipment, possibly for a live music act. In 2011, the British supergroup Coldplay played a set during the tribute to Steve Jobs.

Here are some more pictures of the party preparations. There’s also pictures of the big posters around the campus quad with thousands of employee’s names.

UPDATE: The U.S. pop band One Republic played the gig that was attended by hundreds of employees. Here’s a short clip of the performance.

One_Republic_Mac_30th

Apple CEO Tim Cook even tweeted about it. “Celebrating Mac’s 30th with some of my closest friends in Cupertino with OneRepublic,” he wrote. “Awesome.”

Tim_Cook_party_tweets

Read the rest of this post »

Publisher’s Letter

striscia

Tim Cook traveled to China for the third time in as many months to seal a blockbuster deal with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile carrier. Apple is now available on all of China’s largest cell phone networks, opening up a market of mind-boggling proportions. Cook, in a rare TV interview with the chairman of China mobile, said he was “incredibly optimistic” about Apple’s prospects.

People underestimate how big a deal China will be in the next 10 years. The West still thinks of it as a poor country, but within a decade more than three-quarters of the urban population will be middle class, according to McKinsey. By next year, China will account for about 20 percent, or $27 billion, of global luxury sales, according to another McKinsey report. Whether shopping at home or abroad, Chinese consumers are snapping up pricey cars, jewelry, clothes and watches. This is a tidal shift in an enormous economy. The pundits who say that Apple should be making a low-cost phone to compete with low-cost Android phones have got it wrong. Apple will end up selling every top of the line phone they can make and then some.

There are a few seeming contradictions to these trends. China may be known for its massive commerce of counterfeits, but middle-class consumers there are primed to pay a premium for the genuine article. Apple’s iPhones and other goods have clear status value, and middle-class Chinese consumers will buy them en masse.

Luxury car sales already prove this point: Jaguar sales were up 157% in China in 2013, nearly three times the growth in any other region. Growth is so strong, Jaguar Land Rover is shifting sales from Europe and the US to China, it’s now their primary market. Mercedes and Lexus are selling so many cars in China at a huge markup they’re not even bothering to export them. Even low-end retailers are adjusting their wares to suit these upscale tastes: Wal-Mart is also aggressively expanding in China, where they’re targeting the upper-middle class with suburban stores that require a car to reach and the shelves are stocked with pricey merch.

Japan in the 80s had a reputation for cheap shoddy knock-offs, now it’s the world’s third largest economy. Korea went through the same transition, thanks in large part to Samsung and other global conglomerates. China’s next. But now there’s a difference is scale: Tim Cook’s giddiness is due to the fact that the next decade, China will become a vast middle class economy with hundreds millions of consumers who want Apple’s products.

The essential Apple product will stay the same. I predict that Apple’s response will be much like that iconic American chain, McDonald’s. In addition to clogging arteries with Big Macs and fries from Norway to Lebanon, the local restaurants give a nod to local traditions. In France there are high-end pastries, there’s the Maharaja Mac of lamb or chicken in India and rice burgers in Hong Kong. It’ll be fascinating to see what Apple will offer in the way of “local menu” items in China.