How the tech industry outsources pollution to China [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Death by Design documentary
The hard-hitting Death by Design documentary is a sobering look at the environmental legacy of the tech industry.
Photo: Death by Design

The tech industry appears to be nice and clean, but it has a long and toxic history of environmental damage. Silicon Valley is home to the most Superfund cleanup sites in the country.

A new film, Death by Design, takes a sobering look at the electronics industry and its toxic environmental legacy — both in the United States and in China. The film offers a behind-the-scenes look at the cost of the devices we consume in some measure of ignorance.

Apple features heavily in the film, though it’s not the only tech company implicated.

This week on Kahney’s Korner, I talk to the documentary’s director, Sue Wiliams, about Apple, pollution and Silicon Valley.

How industrial design is changing the tech industry [Kahney’s Korner Podcast]

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Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Belkin's design director Oliver Seil says designers are basically psychologists.
Photo: Oliver Seil/Belkin

For many ugly years, manufacturers considered industrial design an afterthought. They would outsource the task to a contractor or neglect it altogether, in an effort to get products out quickly and cheaply.

The result: hideous-looking products that didn’t work well or proved difficult to use.

Nowadays, companies like Apple are changing the game when it comes to incorporating industrial design and user experience into product engineering.

On this episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk with Oliver Seil, senior design director with Belkin International’s Innovation and Design Group. Seil is Belkin’s Jony Ive, the top designer who overseas the company’s diverse array of products.

Belkin specializes in mobile accessories, from power packs and iPhone cases to WeMo home automation products

Jony Ive’s design book is much more than an ego trip

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Designed by Apple in California book
Apple's Industrial Design team has published a book of its work over two decades: Designed by Apple in California.

Increasingly, some Apple fans think Jony Ive has lost it.

He’s killing ports and headphone jacks left and right. The latest MacBooks value form over function. He’s designing gold watches for the 1 percent.

And now his glossy new photo book, Designed by Apple in California, looks like a $300, linen-bound ego trip.

Lust List: This compact 2-in-1 battery pack recharges your Apple Watch and iPhone [Review]

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Zens' iPhone/Apple Watch Powerbank has a 4,000 mAh capacity, which is good for two full charges of an iPhone 7.
Zens' iPhone/Apple Watch Powerbank has a 4,000 mAh capacity, which is good for two full charges of an iPhone 7.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

Lust List: Apple Watch Power Bank by Zens

When traveling, if you forget your charger, you’re often hosed. Especially for the Apple Watch. That’s why I keep a Zens Powerbank battery pack in my bag. The Powerbank features a built-in charger for the Apple Watch, plus a USB port for plugging an iPhone or iPad.

It’s light and easy to carry around, yet has enough juice for recharging an Apple Watch almost 12 times.

Lust List: Shure MV51 is a tough, versatile microphone for iPhone field recordings [Review]

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Shure MV51 microphone
Shure's MV51 microphone is MFi-certified and great for recording with an iPhone or iPad.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

Lust List: MV51 microphone by Shure

Looking like something Elvis Presley would rock, the Shure MV51 is a handsome, retro-styled microphone well-suited to podcasting with an iPad or iPhone. Sturdy and portable, I find it great for recording on the go. It’s small enough to throw into a jacket pocket and, because it’s made of all metal, it’s nigh indestructible.

Paired with an iPhone and Shure’s well-designed recording app, it’s a lot more compact than most podcasting rigs, and versatile enough for most recording situations. Best of all, the audio it captures sounds great.

How this money man helped Steve Jobs turn Pixar into a powerhouse [Kahney’s Korner podcast]

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Lawrence Levy former Pixar CFO
Lawrence Levy, Pixar's former CFO and author of To Pixar and Beyond.
Photo: Lawrence Levy

In the early ’90s, Pixar was in the middle of creating its first movie, Toy Story, but the company was in disarray. It was bleeding cash and floundering around looking for a business model.

To help turn it around, Steve Jobs hired Lawrence Levy, a former corporate lawyer, to help figure out how to make Pixar a real business.

In this week’s episode of Kahney’s Korner, I talk to Levy about how exactly he and Jobs made Pixar into one of the most successful movie studios in history.

New book paints intimate portrait of Steve Jobs at work [Review]

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To Pixar and Beyond by Lawrence Levy
In To Pixar and Beyond, Lawrence Levy offers an insider look at Steve Jobs' early struggles at the animation studio.
Photo: Lyle Kahney/Cult of Mac

After his death, Steve Jobs became mythic. He’s remembered as an asshole and a technology seer: a Tony Stark-like figure who could uniquely divine the sci-fi future, conjuring magical products from whole cloth almost single-handedly.

He’s also seen as infallible: a business and technology genius with powers of divination beyond those of us mere mortals.

But To Pixar and Beyond, a new book by Lawrence Levy, the former CFO of Pixar, paints a very different picture.

Internet freaks out about new MacBook Pro pricing

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The MacBook Pro will be more affordable next year.
The MacBook Pro will be more affordable next year.
Photo: Apple

While Apple is touting the new MacBook Pros as a major evolution of the laptop, the internet is in open revolt over the cost of the new machines.

The new MacBook Pros will set you back at least $200 more than last year’s models, and sometimes much more.

The top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro, for example, costs an eye-popping $4,299 — without tax, and with no preinstalled software.

Prices are even worse in Europe and Asia, where potential buyers are wondering if it would be cheaper to fly to the U.S. to buy a new machine than get one at home.

An illustrated history of the iPod and its massive impact

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DDOMNOUPCv3-P1.tiff

Editor’s note: This weekend was the 15th anniversary of the iPod, the humble digital music player that reshaped Apple.

To mark the occasssion, Cult of Mac is republishing this illustrated history of the iPod — put together to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary, and originally published on Oct. 22 2011.

An Illustrated History of the iPod

The iPod grew out of Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. Life was going digital. People were plugging all kinds of devices into their computers: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players. The computer was the central device, the “digital hub,” that could be used to edit photos and movies or manage a large music library. Jobs tasked Apple’s programmers with making software for editing photos, movies and managing digital music. While they were doing this, they discovered that all the early MP3 players were horrible. Jobs asked his top hardware guy, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could do better.