Tag Archives: iPhone

Robots organize your photos, so you can procrastinate

If you’re like many people, you have thousands of photos on your phone, long forgotten after you’ve posted a few on Instagram or Facebook.

They don’t have to stay forgotten. Apple and Google are both applying a form of artificial intelligence called “machine learning” to organize your pictures and video _ and along the way, help you rediscover last year’s vacation, dinner with close friends and a casual summer outing to the park.

Apple’s tools are part of last month’s iOS 10 system update for iPhones and iPads. The Google Photos app for Apple and Android devices has a digital assistant to automatically organize these memories _ and Google signaled last week that it will only get smarter. And on Wednesday, Google introduced additional features for rediscovery.

Here’s a look at how they take you down memory lane:

APPLE’S MEMORIES

Apple’s new Memories feature automatically generates video highlights around a theme, such as a trip or birthday party. Individual photos and snippets from video are chosen for you, as is the music, though you can change it to reflect a different mood.

This isn’t just a slideshow. There’s slow zooming and panning, reminiscent of Ken Burns historical documentaries. Some of the photos also come to life, at least on newer iPhones that automatically take three seconds of video with every photo.

When you’re ready to share, the app creates a standard movie file _ so it works on Windows and Android devices, too.

For me, Apple’s app created a “Florida to Illinois” package for a three-week trip in January and one for a day trip to Philadelphia last November. But Apple goes beyond date and location. Apple created a “Together” package for shots with family over the past two years. It also created an “At The Beach” package with beach photos since 2013. Other scenic themes could include mountains, lakes and sunsets.

Apple offers up to three new Memories a day. You can create more based on photos you add to an album and generate new automated ones by scrolling down to “Related.” You can also add or delete images within Memories _ in my experience, a few included mundane screenshots I had to get rid of.

Nothing will ever replace the human touch. But let’s face it, even though I keep meaning to organize my photos, I never find the time. The machine-generated selections aren’t necessarily ones I’d choose myself, but with a small amount of tweaking, they’re presentable and will tide me over until I get around to catching up manually … someday.

 

GOOGLE’S ASSISTANT

Google Photos has been at this longer and offers more types of packages. With collages, Google combines smaller versions of several shots into one layout . Animations combine a bunch of photos taken in succession so that they resemble as a moving image . Unlike typical “GIF” animation files, Google applies its magic to align successive shots, so buildings and bridges look steady _ without the shake common with handheld video. Google also offers albums and video highlights, though without the Ken Burns effect.

Google’s Assistant generates much of this for you automatically. You can edit auto-generated albums and video highlights, but not collages or animation _ although you can create your own from scratch. (That does defeat the purpose of letting the robots do the work, though.)

Sharing is easy and doesn’t require recipients to have Google Photos.

The results vary in quality. I tend to take several shots of the same subject, just in case some are blurry. Yet I get collages and animations out of those repetitive shots. The albums and video highlights I got are grouped by location and date, though Google says it will be doing more with themes , such as following a kid growing up.

Most of my computer-generated creations are animations and collages. As with Apple, Google’s choices aren’t necessarily ones I’d make, if only I had the time. But some are good enough that I look forward to alerts for new ones to check out.

I also enjoyed a feature called “Rediscover this day.” Google will automatically create collages from shots taken on a day, say, two years ago. On Wednesday, Google said it will apply that to people, too, so you’ll get collages of you with a specific friend or family member.

 

SEARCHING

Apple and Google are both getting better at image recognition. Apple’s version tends to be more conservative. While Apple found four photos in a search for fireworks, Google found dozens. Google also found more photos with hats, though one was actually a strange hairdo and a few were of a headband. Then again, Apple thought an illustration of a hut was a hat.

Google is also bolder with face recognition. Its technology is smart enough to recognize the same child at 2 months and 6 years, while Apple often separates the same child into multiple identities (you can merge them, and things will be fine after that).

Google has an edge over Apple in part because it taps its powerful servers to process photos. Apple leaves all the machine thinking to your device as a privacy measure. But Apple says it also favors being right more than complete to reduce the work people need to do to fix things. Being wrong can also have consequences: Google had to apologize last year after its software got too aggressive and mistakenly labeled two black people as gorillas.

 

STORAGE

To free up space, both services will automatically clear photos from your phone after uploading them to the internet, once you activate the option. You still have a lower-resolution version on the device and can get the sharper image anytime, as long as you’re online.

Google Photos offers unlimited online storage of photos at up to 16 megapixels and videos at 1080p high definition _ good enough for most people. It will compress larger photos, or you can store the original and have it count toward your Google Drive limit, which starts at 15 gigabytes for free. Apple’s iCloud Photo Library requires paying once you exceed 5 gigabytes, which is enough for a few thousand photos.

 

On the Web

Apple Memories video from January trip.

Google animation of fountains.

Google collage.

What’s a Zubat? Pokemon Go, how to play

Confused by the Pokemon Go mania sweeping the world?

You’re not alone.

For those who don’t know the difference between a Squirtle and a Zubat, here’s a look at the game, how to play it and some of the problems it’s causing.

WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO I GET IN ON IT?

Pokemon Go is a free game app that you can download for your iOS or Android smartphone. The game asks players to wander their real-world neighborhoods on the hunt for the animated monsters made famous years ago by cartoons, video games and trading cards. Players build their collections, make their Pokemon more powerful and do battle with those held by other players.

Set up is relatively quick. You customize your avatar – choosing the color of its hair and style of clothing – then set off on your adventures. Fans like how it takes gaming into the streets and gets people walking around outside instead of sitting in front of a console system hooked up to a TV.

Part of the setup process also involves signing into the app with a Google account, at least unless you have an existing account with the Pokemon site’s own “training club .” (It’s rationing out new signups.) The Google sign in process prompted a backlash over privacy concerns, but we’ll get to that later.

SO, IN A NUTSHELL, HOW DO I PLAY?

The app displays your avatar amid a grid of streets and other bits of geography, such as rivers and parks. It’s like a bare-bones version of Google Maps with a pretty sky above it. You can see in all directions by spinning your character around.

But it takes a little getting used to. The streets don’t have names on them, making it tough to determine which way you need to walk until you actually start moving. (A compass icon points north, if you find that helpful.)

Look around and you’ll see floating light-blue blocks that signify “Pokestops,” landmarks that could be anything from the entrance to a park to fancy stonework on a building. Tagging these spots with your phone earns you “Pokeballs,” which you can use to throw at, and ultimately collect, Pokemon, along with other items.

The actual Pokemon — there are 128 initially listed in your profile’s “Pokedex” — also appear on your grid from time to time. Tapping on them brings them up on your screen, allowing you to fling your Pokeballs at them. The idea is to bop them on the head and capture them inside the ball.

Fair warning, some Pokemon are easier to hit than others. Some can escape from Pokeballs, forcing you to re-capture them.

HOW DOES AUGMENTED REALITY FIT IN?

The app makes it look like the Pokemon are right in front of you by using your phone’s camera to capture an image of the street and display the Pokemon on top of it. This has resulted in some pretty funny pictures on social media.

But the augmented reality feature also makes it tougher to hit the Pokemon, because you have to point the phone at the beast’s supposed location. Turning the feature off by flipping the switch in the top right-hand corner of the screen puts Pokemon right in the middle of the screen, making them easier targets.

SOUNDS LIKE FUN. WHAT’S THE BIG PROBLEM?

While it’s great that people are out walking and exploring, a lot of them are also walking — often the busy streets of big cities like New York — with their heads down and eyes glued to the screens.

This has prompted worries about people walking into traffic, trespassing onto private property or finding themselves in unsafe situations. Many players are children, raising the anxiety level.

Some real-world locations aren’t so keen on attracting players, either.

Operators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland have asked that their site be removed from the game, saying that playing it at the former Nazi German death camp would be “disrespectful.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Arlington National Cemetery have also asked visitors to refrain from playing.

IS THE APP ACTUALLY READING MY GMAIL?

No. Well, at least, not anymore.

When it first launched, the app asked users who signed in with Google for access to their accounts, but didn’t specify that it was asking for access to their entire account including their Gmail, Google documents, Google search history and maps.

The backlash was a strong one. Niantic, the game’s developer, said Monday that it never intended to request such sweeping data access and hadn’t collected information beyond the user’s ID and email address. And on Tuesday, it issued an update that pared back the authorization in the Google sign in to just that data.

Apple makes Siri smarter, rolls out software improvements

Apple kicked off its annual software developer conference with an artificial intelligence upgrade for Siri, its digital assistant, as well as new software features for other devices and an overhaul of its music service.

CEO Tim Cook opened the event with a moment of reflection for the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida. He called the shooting a “senseless, unconscionable act of terrorism and hate aimed at dividing and destroying,” and noted that Apple makes a point of celebrating its diversity before asking the crowd to rise and take part in a moment of silence.

 

MAKING SIRI SMARTER

Artificial intelligence, personified by the wisecracking Siri, is starting to play a larger role in Apple’s future plans.

On June 13, Apple announced that the voice-controlled assistant will work on Mac desktop and laptop computers, where it can locate files and perform other feats. Siri will also gain new capabilities with Apple TV, where it will let you launch live TV viewing with voice command and search YouTube and the iTunes store for videos.

Perhaps more important, Apple is letting Siri work with applications made by other companies. The change will open up new ways for Siri to help iPhone owners get things done more quickly.

Such AI features are emerging as a major new tech battleground, one where Apple is racing to catch up with other virtual assistants from Google and Amazon. Amazon’s assistant, Alexa, is enjoying a surge in popularity, partly because it works well with a variety of other applications.

 

GETTING TO KNOW YOU

Experts say the changes could make Siri more useful to consumers and help Apple learn more about its users. But it could diminish use of Apple’s homegrown apps, such as Apple Music or Maps. Now, users might ask Siri to open a competitor like Spotify.

With AI, “systems get much better the more they know about the user,” said Alan Black, an expert in voice-enabled technology at Carnegie Mellon University.

Apple, however, has long been reluctant to pry too deeply into your personal information. And some experts say that has put it at a disadvantage compared to Google, which has compiled vast quantities of data — about both individual users and consumer trends — from its search engine, Gmail, maps and other well-liked online services.

Apple’s Ai improvements aren’t restricted to Siri. An update to the iMessage app, for instance, will rely on machine learning to automatically suggest appropriate emoji to place alongside texts. It will also show graphics and thumbnails of the information contained in a web link and automatically play online videos when they’re opened by a recipient.

 

NEW COATS OF PAINT

Apple, however, is eager to keep users engaged with its own apps and services, and announced several redesigns aimed at making them more useful and less complicated.

Its iMessage app, for instance, will let you change the size of the bubbles surrounding the text to help convey the feelings underlying the words. For instance, an expression of love might be displayed in a large bubble while a message of condolence might be shown in a very small bubble.

The feature is similar to an upcoming Google messaging app called Allo. Both are expected in a few months.

Apple Music, which now has 15 million paying subscribers, is getting a new interface that’s intended to be simpler and that will make it easier to find music you store on your phone, and not just tunes you can stream from the internet.

The company also opened its once-maligned Maps app to developers, with the goal of enabling a range of easy-to-use features. Senior vice president Eddy Cue says the new app will let you find a restaurant, book a reservation, request a car from Uber or Lyft and pay for it using Apple Pay, all without leaving the Maps app.

Apple is also making it possible to subscribe to various publications like The Wall Street Journal and read the stories inside the News app. News alerts from your favorite outlets will also pop up on your device’s lock screen.

 

WHAT TO WATCH

Apple’s watch, the company’s first new product since Cook replaced co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011, is getting an upgrade in September that will bring fitness tracking to wheelchair-bound users . The retooled watch software will include an “SOS” feature that will automatically call for help in emergencies and the ability to share exercise activities with other people. It will also launch software apps faster than before.

Apple is making it easier to use its Apple TV set-top box as the new hub of a digital home. The new version of its tvOS system software will let you sign in once to access channels from several different TV network providers. It’s also adding services like Dish’s Sling TV and Fox Sports Go.

 

PAY AS YOU GO

The company’s digital payment system, Apple Pay, is coming to the web. The service already lets people pay in stores without opening a separate app, by holding their phone or watch near a reader.

Apple says users can now use their phone’s fingerprint sensor to pay and check out when they are shopping online using a web browser. Google brought a similar feature to Android Pay last month. Apple says it will soon expand the service to Switzerland, France and Hong Kong. It’s already available in the U.S., the U.K., China and a few other markets.

 

Apple still strong at 40, but are best years behind it?

Apple turned 40 this spring, and it’s a very different company from the audacious startup that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world’s most valuable public corporation, with 100,000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open next year. But despite its astounding financials — Apple reported $53 billion in profit on $233 billion in sales last year — some critics have suggested Apple’s best years are behind it, as it has struggled to come up with new products and match the phenomenal success it has had in recent years.

Not surprisingly, longtime employees like software vice president Guy “Bud” Tribble disagree.

“We still think we’re going to change the world,” said Tribble, one of a half-dozen Apple staffers selected by the company to briefly reminisce with reporters this week. Tribble started with Apple in 1980 and worked on the original Macintosh team. He added: “We had no idea back then that Apple would grow to the size that it is.”

The company now boasts that more than 1 billion Apple devices — iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — are in regular use around the world. Those products are widely admired and imitated. But Apple depends on the iPhone for two-thirds of its revenue. And after selling a record number of iPhones last year, analysts say sales are leveling off and may even decline this year.

As it enters middle age, Apple may find it difficult to maintain its leadership in the industry. Some experts say it’s getting harder to come up with new advances to distinguish Apple’s products from those of its competitors.

“Apple is still as good as it used to be, but everyone else has gotten better than they used to be,” said James McQuivey, a tech analyst with Forrester Research.

He cited longtime rival Microsoft, once viewed as an industry laggard, but now credited with pioneering tablet computers with detachable keyboards _ a category even Apple is embracing with the business-oriented iPad Pro. By contrast, he noted, Apple’s latest iPhone is a downsized version of earlier models.

Longtime staffers said Apple still has the zeal to create revolutionary products.

“We’ve done this more times than anybody else,” said Greg Joswiak, a 30-year employee and vice president for product marketing. He listed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and the company’s online App Store, the new Apple Watch and recent initiatives to create new health-tracking and medical-research apps for the iPhone and Watch.

Apple is widely believed to be exploring new businesses, from electric cars to virtual reality, but analysts say developing products in those categories could take years.

“We want to go into new industries … and really challenge the status quo,” said Divya Nag, a former medical researcher and entrepreneur hired in 2014 to work on Apple’s health projects. Always secretive about specific plans, Apple declined to provide Nag’s job title. Her resume shows a track record of helping win FDA approval for new medical inventions.

Apple’s growth hasn’t been smooth. Jobs was forced out in 1985, leading to a revolving door for chief executives until he returned in 1997, as the company he co-founded was on the brink of collapse. “There was a time when you were worried about keeping engineers here,” said Cheryl Thomas, a vice president for software engineering who joined Apple in 1989.

And in 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst, Joswiak said Jobs refused to cut spending when competitors were tightening their belts. Joswiak said Jobs pledged to “invest in ourselves more than ever before. We then suffered through 11 straight quarters” of dismal financial returns.

Jobs’ death from cancer in 2011 led to the elevation of current CEO Tim Cook, who’s intense but softer spoken. Tribble credits Cook with maintaining Apple’s focus on quality products, even as Cook has taken his own path in running the company.

Far more than Jobs, Cook uses his prominence to speak out on social issues, from global warming to civil rights and individual privacy. He recently challenged the U.S. government in a high-stakes legal dispute over an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer. While that drew criticism from top Justice Department officials and GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, Joswiak said he was proud of Apple for taking what he considers a principled stand.

Apple remains one of the most sought-after brands. BAV Consulting, a firm that tracks brand reputation, said that after reaching a low in 2001, just before the iPod came out, Apple is now in the top 1 percent of American brands. And it’s in the top 2 percent of brands “being worth paying more for” — which means it can get away with charging more for its products, according to BAV.

Even at 40, the company hasn’t lost its passion, Thomas said. She said she wanted to work there since seeing the famous 1984 Macintosh commercial, in which a young woman hurls a hammer at the giant image of a Big Brother figure.

The idea of joining what was then a tech upstart didn’t sit well with her father, a career IBM scientist, who advised Thomas: “You need to think with your head and not your heart.”

But Thomas said: “I thought with my heart.”

Out with the old…iPhones? 4 ways to reuse, resell, recycle

Each year, Apple dazzles its devoted fans with faster, sleeker, more powerful iPhones with better cameras and a bevy of bells and whistles.

So, what’s to become of last year’s model?

Instead of sentencing it to a lonely existence in a desk drawer, there are plenty of ways to reuse, recycle or resell older phones. Here are a few:

• DONATE TO CHARITY

Several charities accept old phones for donation, though it’s worth remembering that these groups probably won’t physically give your old phones to people in need. Rather, they work with phone recyclers and sell your donated phones to them.

A nonprofit group called Cell Phones for Soldiers will take your “gently used” phone and sell it to a recycling company. It will then use the proceeds to buy international calling cards for soldiers so they can talk to their loved ones back home.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence works in a similar manner. About 60 percent of the phones it collects are refurbished and resold. The money goes toward supporting the coalition. The remaining 40 percent of the phones are recycled, according to the group’s website. It pays for shipping if you are mailing three or more phones. The group also accepts other electronics such as laptops, video game systems and digital cameras.

• $ELL FOR $OME CA$H

You can always join the eBay hordes and sell your phone on the site for a few hundred bucks, if you are lucky. There will likely be a flood of the gadgets soon after people start getting their new phones, so it might make sense to wait a little.

There are also plenty of other options.  A company called Gazelle will make an offer for your old phone based on its condition, your phone carrier and other information. For example, a 64 gigabyte iPhone 6 on AT&T in good condition (no cracks, major scratches or scuffs, turns on and makes calls), would get you $305 this week. The same phone on Sprint, meanwhile, would rake in $220.

Glyde.com also offers to help you resell your old phone. A recent check showed the same iPhone, with charger included, getting you $376.10 — provided there is a buyer.

• TRADE IN FOR SOMETHING ELSE

Apple will give you store credit for old devices that you can then use for new gadgets. You can do this in a retail store or online, where you’ll get an estimate before mailing in your phone. An online check for the phone above yielded an estimated $325 Apple Store gift card this week.

The video game retailer GameStop, meanwhile, offers cash or store credit for old iPhones (along with iPods and iPads).

• REUSE, REPURPOSE

Even without cellular service, you old phone will be able to get on Wi-Fi, so you can use it to stream music, post on Facebook or do pretty much anything else you want provided you are in Wi-Fi range. Keep it for yourself, or load it up with kid-friendly apps and games and hand it down to your children.

Review: Documentary presents Steve Jobs’ darker side

Was Steve Jobs a brilliant visionary whose singular mind, capable of blending art, technology and commerce as never before, inspired the world to “think different” and changed the way we live?

Or was he a ruthless businessman who treated co-workers callously, took credit for the work of others, and often acted out of jealousy and spite?

Documentarian Alex Gibney is known for pulling no punches when it comes to his subjects, most famously Scientology in his recent Going Clear. And so it should come as little surprise that in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, he comes down heavily on that second, darker image of the Apple CEO. Even if you haven’t read much of the copious material out there on Jobs, who died in 2011, you’ll know some of this, especially his early attempt to dispute his paternity of his first child Lisa, even as he was raking in millions. But though Gibney doesn’t seem to come up with anything truly groundbreaking, there’s surely more negative stuff here — and lots more detail —than you’ve encountered before.

With this, Gibney, a skilled filmmaker, has little trouble holding our attention for more than two hours. But he raises another tantalizing question without really answering it: What does our collective adulation of Jobs and his creations say about US? Perhaps it was all too much for one movie.

The film begins, wisely, with the stunning reaction to Jobs’ death of pancreatic cancer, similar to the grief that erupted with the passing of John Lennon — only expressed in 2011 technology. We see the makeshift shrines outside Apple stores, and the ubiquitous hashtag #iSad. A young boy explains, incredulously: “He made EVERYTHING!” On the news, Diane Sawyer speaks of “a global wake.”

How to explain this impact? Gibney gathers footage both of the brash young Jobs with long hair, proclaiming how the computer, once bulky and scary, will change people’s lives, and famously giving the finger to IBM; and the older Jobs, in his second stint with Apple, pacing the stage in his black turtleneck and delighting fans with those much-awaited product launches.

And there are much less flattering elements, in interviews with people who worked with (or loved) Jobs: for example, Bob Belleville, who came over from Xerox in the ‘80s. “How bad could this be?” Belleville recounts thinking beforehand. “I didn’t realize how bad it could be.” The memories cause him to weep.

We hear how Steve Wozniak, the eventual Apple co-founder who began his journey with Jobs in a garage, did much of the work on a video game the duo sold to Atari, but was iced out of most of the money by his friend. And there’s school buddy and Apple employee Daniel Kottke, wondering succinctly: “How much of an asshole do you have to be to be successful?”

Chrisann Brennan, mother of Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Jobs’ daughter did not cooperate with the film — nor did his widow, Laurene Powell, or Apple itself), describes telling Jobs she was pregnant and watching him clench his jaw and slam the door.

There’s also sobering detail on working conditions (and suicide rates) at the Chinese factories where Apple products are made; on a scandal involving Apple stock options; and on Jobs’ zealous pursuit of the tech bloggers who wrote about an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left in a bar. We’re also told how, contrary to Bill Gates and his huge philanthropy, Jobs ended Apple’s charitable gifts.

Yet there’s admiration, too, for Jobs’ creative mind, specifically the crucial connection he was able to make between a piece of machinery and the human experience it could provide. As the film says of the iPod: “It wasn’t a machine FOR you. It was you.”

And it’s Gibney himself who best describes the lure of a shiny Apple phone.

“I had to have an iPhone,” he says. “My hand was drawn to it like Frodo’s hand to the ring.”

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a Magnolia release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language.” Running time: 127 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Top Apps for iPhone, iPad

Top Paid iPhone Apps: 1. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Mojang. 2. Heads Up!, Warner Bros. 3. Five Nights at Freddys 4, Scott Cawthon. 4. VHS Camcorder, Rarevision. 5. Geometry Dash, RobTop Games AB. 6. Lara Croft GO, SQUARE ENIX INC. 7. Akinator the Genie, Elokence. 8. Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations. 9. Ski Safari 2, Sleepy Z Studios Pty Ltd. 10. 7 Minute Workout Challenge, Fitness Guide Inc.

Top Free iPhone Apps:

1. Happy Wheels, Jim Bonacci

2. Messenger, Facebook, Inc.

3. The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, Scopely

4. Facebook, Facebook, Inc.

5. Instagram, Instagram, Inc.

6. YouTube, Google, Inc.

7. Layout from Instagram, Instagram, Inc.

8. Snapchat, Snapchat, Inc.

9. PAC-MAN 256 – Endless Arcade Maze, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe

10. Pandora Radio, Pandora Media, Inc.

Top Paid iPad Apps:

1. Minecraft: Pocket Edition, Mojang

2. Notability, Ginger Labs

3. Five Nights at Freddys 4, Scott Cawthon

4. Explore Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, PBS KIDS

5. Lara Croft GO, SQUARE ENIX INC

6. Geometry Dash, RobTop Games AB

7. Doc McStuffins Pet Vet, Disney

8. Terraria, 505 Games (US), Inc.

9. Ski Safari 2, Sleepy Z Studios Pty Ltd

10. RotoWire Fantasy Football Draft Kit 2015, Roto Sports, Inc.

Top Free iPad Apps:

1. Happy Wheels, Jim Bonacci

2. PAC-MAN 256 – Endless Arcade Maze, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe

3. YouTube, Google, Inc.

4. Netflix, Netflix, Inc.

5. Calculator for iPad Free, International Travel Weather Calculator

6. Messenger, Facebook, Inc.

7. Google Docs, Google, Inc.

8. Google Drive – free online storage from Google, Google, Inc.

9. Facebook, Facebook, Inc.

10. The Walking Dead: Road to Survival, Scopely

Steve Jobs seen as brilliant, brutal in new documentary

Four years after his death, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs still fascinates the public, with two major new films this fall analyzing his life and career.

For award-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney, it is also time for re-assessing the hard-driving perfectionist who revolutionized the way people communicate but whose treatment of friends, family and co-workers was sometimes rife with contradiction.

“Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” breaks no new ground factually. But it contrasts the man who once aspired to be a Buddhist monk with the businessman who initially denied paternity of his first child and presided over a company that paid Chinese iPhone makers a pittance and pared back its philanthropic programs while reaping billions in profits.

“He had the focus of a monk, but none of the empathy,” Gibney comments in the film, whose tagline is “Bold. Brilliant. Brutal.”

The documentary, arriving in U.S. movie theaters on Sept. 4, uses archival footage of Jobs as well as interviews with journalists, some former friends and ex-Apple employees. Both Apple and Jobs’ widow Laurene declined to co-operate.

Gibney says he didn’t set out to vilify Jobs, whose death of pancreatic cancer in 2011 was mourned worldwide with an intensity usually afforded a rock star.

“The imperative for me to make this film was why so many people who didn’t know Steve Jobs were weeping when he left,” he said.

Apple, he added, has a cult aspect that fascinates him.

“There is a passion for the person and the products that is so deep that any criticism can’t be tolerated. Why should that be? Is it not possible that we can discuss how pitifully paid are the workers in China… even as we may admire some of the technological aspects of the Apple product?

“There seems to be a need to deify that stuff in a way that brooks all criticism, and that does verge sometimes on the religious,” Gibney said.

Gibney says there is one question he would have liked to ask Jobs, given the chance.

“He kept talking about values, the values of Apple. I would have asked Steve Jobs, ‘what are your values?’ Please express your values. That is what I would have liked to hear from him in an honest and straightforward way.”

Another film about Jobs, the feature movie “Steve Jobs” starring Michael Fassbender as the late Apple CEO, is due for release in October.

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Lisa Lambert)

What’s cool for back to school? A fresh look at the gear

For kids of all ages, one big thing helps soften the blow of summer turning into fall: fresh and fun back-to-school gear.

Supplies with popular licensed characters from movies, TV shows and books always make a splash among younger kids, while older students contemplate design and functionality for everything from lockers to dorm rooms to smartphone cases.

For phone-toting high school and college students with an eye for smart design, NewerTech NuGuard KX cases for the iPhone promise protection and a much better fit in the palm of a kid’s hand than other heavy-duty cases on the market.

The NuGuard KX cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use state-of-the-art “x-orbing gel technology to absorb and evenly distribute kinetic energy.” This means the case provides the massive impact protection that kids need but is a fraction of the size of those other protective cases that fit like a brick in a hip pocket and cramp the hand of talkers and texters with a lot to say. The KX case, measuring a thin 1/2 inch thick when on the phone, slides into a pocket or even stows neatly in a day-planner.

Plus, the one-piece design — a hard shell with a soft interior available in red, black, blue and midnight — means fast installation, easy access to ports and buttons, simple cleaning and less to lose.

The additional “impact x-orbing” screen armor keeps the glass screen on the iPhone looking new, preventing damage from impacts and scratches but not interfering with the Retina display. Other screen covers might slip or turn yellow but the self-adhesive NewerTech cover installs without the use of water to preserve bubble-free clarity and block dirt and dust. The armor even held up to NewerTech’s hammer-hit tough claim.

For those with an eye toward color, a stop at Poppin.com might go a long way in desk supplies, dorm storage and other gear. Among the New York City company’s back-to-school products is an 18-month, spiral-bound planner good from July 2015 to December 2016. It includes weekly and monthly views with color-coded pages by month, along with a handy translucent front pocket.

“We’ve been very pleasantly surprised in past years with how well we’ve done with planners,” said Jeff Miller, Poppin’s vice president of product design. “You hear so much about how everybody’s moved to electronic whatever but we’re very much still in a paper age on planners for students.”

Dorm rooms remain, well, dorm rooms, so space is at a premium. Poppin sells a storage unit called the Box Seat for the college contingent tired of the milk-crate look. It’s covered with fabric in light and dark gray, navy, orange, red and pool blue, and is sturdy enough to withstand 275 pounds.

At Staples, students at two middle schools will see the fruits of their labor hit shelves. They were chosen to work in teams to come up with school supplies of their own for the company’s new Designed by Students Collection.

Among the winning products: The Big Pen, a pencil case that looks like a pen or pencil and actually writes. It comes in versions that are highlighters, ball point pens, markers and mechanical lead pencils. The cases include a pencil sharpener and real erasers at one end. Refills are available for the writing-implement part.

Another of the student designs chosen is an ingenious locker organizer that zigzags vertically to create nifty cubicles. The Floating Shelf comes in color combinations worthy of boys and girls — neon green and gray, purple and pink, and black and dark blue.

Alison Corcoran, senior vice president of marketing for Staples, said the company worked closely with about 48 students in all, from Middle School 88 in Brooklyn and the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. About 14 products are included in the collection.

“They made presentations. The teams did self-criticisms and evolved their ideas as part of the curriculum,” she said. “School supplies have been around forever. We thought, let’s take a fresh look with the people who are actually using these things on a day-to-day basis and ask, `How can we make them better and more relevant?”’

Yet another of the student designs is the Back2Back School Bag, a rectangular-shaped backpack that provides wider storage space and has two oversize slots for laptops and folders. It also includes a separate, attached compartment at the bottom to segregate lunch or snack items — or smelly gym shoes — from the main compartment.

“Kids loved it. It’s a highly functional shape,” Corcoran said of the unusual design.

This year, the rambunctious little yellow Minions with the big goggles have their own feature-length film spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise, and have surfaced on backpacks and notebooks available at Target.

A new take on Charlie Brown in another theatrical release, “The Peanuts Movie” due out in November, might have something to do with two choices in Snoopy-theme soft lunch bags, including one with the famous beagle snoozing on top of his equally famous doghouse.

Givebacks have grown among companies doing business in back-to-school. Many offer buy-one-give-one programs to kids and classrooms in need, or they’ll fill donated backpacks with school supplies to donate.

At Yoobi, a spate of new supplies in that vein was curated by Usher. The Yoobi X Usher collection was designed by artist Jonni Cheatwood and features five prints for more than 20 products, ranging from blue paint drips to pink-and-green splatters in binders, notebooks, pencils, pencil cases, folders and journals. For every item purchased, Yoobi donates an item to a worthy classroom. The collection is available at Yoobi.com and in Target stores nationwide.

It’s not the first education-focused collaboration for Usher, who has two school-age sons. They, too, had a hand in the project, the singer said by email.

“I looked at what colors they were drawn to and in a very sly way, I’d show something to them and ask, ‘What do you think about this? Do you like this color?’ That helped me curate the collection,” he said.

Tech Tips: Stuff you didn’t know you could do on Facebook

Did you know you can add a pronunciation guide to your name on Facebook?

Overlay colorful text on the photos you post?

How about mark the end of a relationship without your 500 closest friends getting notified?

Many of these tips and tricks aren’t well known, even to veterans of the 1.5 billion-strong people-connector and time-waster.

Facebook is constantly updating its service, adding new features or tweaking old ones. A lot can slip through the cracks even if you are scrolling through your friends’ updates several times a day.

Here are a few ways to enhance your Facebook experience:

HOW DO YOU SAY THAT?

More than 83 percent of Facebook’s users are outside of the U.S. and Canada, and they use over 80 languages to communicate with friends and family. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of different ways to say your name. To add a pronunciation guide, go to the “about” section of your profile and click on “details about you,” (called “more about you” on mobile) then “name pronunciation.” Here, Facebook will offer suggestions for your first and last name that you can listen to before selecting. If none work, you can also type in your own phonetic pronouncer.

ONE-TIME PASSWORD

Logging in from a public computer? If you don’t feel comfortable typing in your password on a shared machine that might have malicious software, Facebook lets you request a temporary one by texting “otp” to 32665. You’ll get an eight-character passcode that works for the next 20 minutes and cannot be reused.

UNSUBSCRIBE

Anyone who’s commented on a popular Facebook post, or belongs to a particularly chatty group, knows that those notifications telling you that “Jane Doe and 4 others also commented on a post” can get a bit annoying.

You can turn off notifications for individual posts by clicking on the globe icon on the top right corner of your Web browser, then on the “X” next to the individual notification. You can also change your notification settings here to get fewer or more of them for each group that you belong to.

To do this on mobile, click to view the original post, then click the down arrow in the top right corner of the post. You’ll see an option to “turn off notifications.”

KEEP IT ON THE DOWN-LOW

Announcing engagements and marriages on Facebook is fun. Post and watch the likes and congrats roll in. Bask in the love and glory. Fast-forward a few years for some couples, and the glory fades, not to mention the love and marriage. In this case, you might not want to announce the irreversible breakdown to 450 of your closest friends.

Thankfully, you can still mark the end of a relationship without notifying everyone. Go to your profile and click on the “about” section, then “family and relationships on the left.” Under relationship, you’ll see a gray icon that probably says “friends,” or maybe “public.” Change it to “only me.” Then change your relationship status. After a while, you can change it back if you wish. Your hundreds of acquaintances will be none the wiser, unless they are stalking your profile to see if you are single.

PICTURE PERFECT

Thanks to a popular but little-known new feature, Facebook lets you spruce up the photos you post by adding text and quirky stickers, such as drawings of scuba gear, sunglasses or a corn dog. This tool is available on iPhones and is coming soon to Android devices. To use it, choose a photo to upload and click the magic wand icon. Here, you’ll find text overlay options as well as the same stickers you can use in other parts of Facebook.

Many of these tips and tricks aren’t well known, even to veterans of the 1.5 billion-strong people-connector and time-waster.

Facebook is constantly updating its service, adding new features or tweaking old ones. A lot can slip through the cracks even if you are scrolling through your friends’ updates several times a day.

SECURITY

Another recent addition to Facebook’s trove of tools is a “security checkup” that guides users through a checklist aimed at making their account more secure. This includes logging out of Facebook on Web browsers and apps they are not using, and receiving alerts when someone tries to log in to their account from an unfamiliar device or browser. To use it, go to https://www.facebook.com/help/securitycheckup on your computer _ this feature is not yet available on the mobile app.

Got more tips to share? Find WiG on Facebook and share there.