What I Learned This Week 3/11/16

What I Learned This Week is a weekly blog of small dollops of info I remember from the previous 7 days. It covers a wide range of topics, often tech, but sometimes wrestling, beer and a random selection of other things too. Have anything to add, find me on Twitter

Touch bar is the future

Apple announced the new MacBook Pro models this last week, I have one sitting in a box right next to me now waiting to be opened up. The photos look gorgeous, so can’t wait to see one in the flesh aluminium. Unfortunately there’s a slightly longer wait for the touch bar, but getting hands on with that should be pretty exciting.
As with most new things Apple announce, the keynote left me unsure quite what to make of the new feature, but the more I learn the more exciting it gets.
As with most new Apple features, its not new. I do recall rumours of similar keyboards many years ago when Apple were first releasing iOS devices. Much like the many many years the iPad was in secret development, it seems this feature has been around internally for a while.
Its a modified version of the Apple Watch it seems, which its self is a modified iOS device. I’d love to get the chance to check out some of Apple’s prototypes, but they’re usually very protective of these, even years down the line.
One of the benefits of using iOS for this is the addition of the secure enclave that comes along with Touch ID. This not only works with Touch ID, but now stores your passwords and certificates, keeping them far more secure than ever before.
It also can keep you safe from the NSA by controlling the iSight camera, meaning the activation LED can’t be hacked.
Edit: I have had chance to play with the non-touch bar version for the first time today, and my word is it an incredible computer. The keyboard is a big upgrade from the MacBook, and the design is a massive upgrade from the previous design.

Enhance

This week in exciting but not entirely useful things that neural networks can do, something that could actually be useful! This Github hosted Python neural net can upscale images, without adding all the usual artefacts. Oliver Cameron here got some incredible results which appears to be not quite representative. But the technology looks very promising, and as with neural nets, it will get better with time!

Viva La MAS

I’m not a fan of the Mac App Store in general. I don’t hate it, just find it somewhat annoying. What I really dislike though, is having to use the Mac App Store to update apps. It feels like bloatware when updating apps, and software updated really should feel painless. This app lets you update software from the Mac App Store right from terminal without loading up the App Store.
You’ll need Homebrew installed if you’re looking to try this out yourself.

Electronics is a Dirty Business

Ethical Consumer have long kept tabs on the businesses who make the things we buy to help us consciously spend better. Ethical consumerism is one of the best ways to help shape the world into what you’d like to see, so its always worth checking their reports if you’re looking into a new purchase.
This week EC updated their ratings for laptops, and the scores are less than impressive. The highest score s 7.5 out of 20, with Lenovo, ASUS and Apple taking joint first place. Some of the detail in Apple’s rating is perhaps a little harsh. Like marking them down for the marketing tactics of 3rd parties in the App Store, but then the point of these reports is to be hyper-critical.