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Khan Academy, LastPass and other awesome apps of the week

New Yorker illustrator plays with his art on Instagram

From Abstract Sunday, an Instagram Feed by the illustrator Christoph Niemann. Illustration by Christoph Niemann

From Abstract Sunday, an Instagram feed by illustrator Christoph Niemann. Illustration: Christoph Niemann

Artists don’t always explain themselves well.

Even acclaimed illustrator Christoph Niemann, who can articulate the mysteries of creativity better than many, doesn’t always understand the moment when the head, heart and eyes merge with skills and gifts to produce a brilliant piece. It’s like trying to put into words the act of breathing.

But every Sunday, we can behold the headwaters of his creative flow.

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6 ways Microsoft copied Apple with Windows 10 (plus some truly new ideas)

windows10

Microsoft just unveiled the future of Windows 10 today in Redmond. Along with some crazy holographic goggles that take on Google Glass and Oculus, company executives revealed the ambitious plan to make the next generation of Windows the first truly universal platform for desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones and more.

The 2.5 hour keynote was packed with new features coming to Windows 10 devices and the Xbox, but eagle-eyed Apple fanboys have already noticed a few ways Microsoft was influenced by some of Apple’s best features.

Here are 5 plays Microsoft stole from Apple’s playbook:

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How Apple would have made Google Glass a success

Photo: Google

Could Apple have done any better? We think so. Photo: Google

Now that Google has pulled Glass off the market, for the time being at least, we’re left with a handful of questions that can’t be easily answered — even by a face-mounted computer.

Questions like, “What went wrong?” And, “What didn’t go wrong?” And, perhaps most enlightening of all, “How would Apple have gotten Glass right?”

While Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of worldwide marketing, was not a fan of Glass, we’re certain Cupertino could have found success with a head-mounted wearable. Here’s how.

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Apple Watch wins the wrist war before it starts

Apple Watch. Photo: Leander Kahney

The closer we get to Apple Watch, the more advanced it looks in comparison to its competition. Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Ever since Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch last September, it’s been one disappointment after another as far as I’m concerned. Apple’s first wearable won’t come in the minimalist form factor of the fitness bracelets I love. Worse yet, the launch version of the fashion-forward device will lack GPS, suffer from underwhelming battery life and fail to offer truly native third-party apps.

For the first time, I realized I would not be buying an Apple product when it first hit the market. “It’s not worth lining up for,” I told my dad when he asked what I thought after the Apple Watch’s big reveal.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Apple Watch’s launch day, which is coming sometime this spring. And I’m not talking about the previously unthinkable — an Apple fan calling the Microsoft Band the best smartwatch on the planet. No, I’m talking about wading through an ungodly sea of really bad smartwatches at International CES earlier this month and seeing indisputable proof of just how innovative and disruptive Apple Watch actually will be.

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With HomeKit on horizon, home automation is about to get real

Wall of Philips remotes. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Soon this wall of antiquated remotes will be a thing of the past. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The year is 2018. After a long day at work, you pull into your driveway, whip out your iPhone 10 Plus and say, “Siri, I’m home.”

Your garage door opens silently, beckoning you to enter the ultra-connected smart home of the future.

As you walk in, your lights turn on. The wife used to get on you about leaving the lights on, but her nagging feels like a distant memory now. Your thermostat cools everything down to a comfortable 69 degrees. Knowing that you pulled into the driveway two minutes ago, your oven has started preheating itself. You usually fix dinner for yourself on Thursdays, so it’s time for frozen pizza.

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Best of CES 2015: Get a glimpse of the fantastic future

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Anything goes at International CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — Walk the halls of the massive International CES trade show and you’ll be bombarded by an outrageous number of pitches for products with radical new features.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 You can glimpse the shiny happy future of consumer electronics at the show, although some of the innovations on display are clearly destined for the dustbin of gadget history.

At the biggest booths, reps for big companies like Sony and Samsung — but, sadly, not Apple — talk up the latest additions to their product lines. At smaller booths, inventors show off prototypes for products that may not ever roll off an assembly line. There’s a nonstop blitz of “world’s first” products.

It’s impossible to see everything, but it’s a blast trying. Here are Cult of Mac’s picks for the best of CES 2015, from Lightning-enabled headphones and massive TVs to drones and self-adjusting belts.

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Withings’ new Activité Pop is a smartwatch you’ll actually want to wear

Withings smart watch. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The Activité Pop is a smartwatch for people who don’t like smartwatches. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — The problem with the state of smartwatches, beyond the sucky software, is that they’re all ugly. The Apple Watch might very well be the first wearable that not only works, but looks good too, although we won’t know for sure until the finished product is on our wrists this spring.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 There were dozens and dozens of smartwatches displayed on the sprawling show floor at International CES last week, but the only one that looked good enough to adorn my wrist was the new Withings Activité Pop.

It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of fancier watches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, but it’s not your average dumb watch either. And for now, just a smidgen smarter is smart enough.

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How sloppy security exposed Apple’s super-secret product plans

This login screen for a Quanta Computer database led to sensitive documents containing details on upcoming Apple products. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

This login screen for a Quanta Computer database led to sensitive documents containing details on upcoming Apple products. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


Incredibly sloppy security at one of Apple’s key suppliers exposed some of Cupertino’s most closely guarded secrets to anybody who could conduct a simple Google search.

For months, one of Quanta Computer‘s internal databases could be accessed using usernames and a default password published in a PowerPoint presentation easily found on the Web.

Quanta, based in Taiwan, is the world’s largest notebook manufacturer. In addition to Apple, Quanta assembles laptops and ultrabooks for dozens of companies, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sharp and Sony. The company is also supposedly assembling the upcoming Apple Watch and the long-rumored iPad Pro, though no official announcements have been made.

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Plastc organizes all your cards in one device

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Plastc is a simple device that organizes credit and debit cards. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

LAS VEGAS — Apple Pay is cool, but what if you don’t have the latest iPhone 6? The Plastc Card might be for you.

Cult_of_Mac_CES_2015 Plastc is a chameleon-like electronic card that stores up to 20 cards — debit, credit, gift and even security cards.

It’s the same size and shape as a regular card, but has a sharp and striking e-ink display. You simply swipe through the e-ink screen to choose the card you want, and swipe the mag stripe through the reader.

Instead of carrying 20 cards in your wallet, you carry just one.

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