Extraordinary CGI images show America as you’ve never seen it before

The following CGI images, which were created using a combination of aerial photography and GPS data for a four-part PBS series called “America Revealed,” show America as you’ve never seen it before, revealing everything from the daily routes of pizza boys to the distribution of cell towers. To view the stunning gallery in its entirety, head over to the Daily Mail’s site. In the meantime, though, drink in these beautiful images, which are explained in captions excerpted from the Daily Mail.

 Extraordinary CGI images show America as youve never seen it before

“Linked in: The vast array of towers across the U.S. that enable almost anyone to communicate or connect to the internet, wirelessly”


 Extraordinary CGI images show America as youve never seen it before

“Snack time: GPS trails reveal the routes taken by cycling pizza delivery riders on one Friday night in Manhattan. Each rider’s shift lasts eight to nine hours, in which time they can deliver between 30 and 40 pizzas all over the city”


 Extraordinary CGI images show America as youve never seen it before

“Unemployment: The number of job losses in the U.S. chronicled in this stunning image”


 Extraordinary CGI images show America as youve never seen it before

“Way of the dead: These lines show the unpublicised transportation of dead bodies, some clearly being repatriated to their home states from the U.S.’s retirement mecca state of Florida”



Apple and Samsung combined for 55 percent of smartphone market in Q1, raked in 90 percent of market’s profits

samsung apple Apple and Samsung combined for 55 percent of smartphone market in Q1, raked in 90 percent of markets profits

As the smartphone market rapidly expands to include more devices from more manufacturers, and as an increasing number of consumers line up for those handsets, you’d think that once-dominant companies would be losing their grip. But you’d be wrong. According to a report released Friday by ABI Research, Samsung and Apple seem to be the only smartphone makers reaping the rewards of the burgeoning market. Together, the companies were responsible for 55 percent of the nearly 145 million smartphones shipped in this year’s first quarter. If that’s not enough to blow your hair back, ABI also found that Samsung and Apple raked in an astonishing 90 percent of the market’s profits. Yes, 90 percent.

If that doesn’t deliver a wake-up call to other manufacturers, it should. Especially considering both Samsung and Apple are expected to continue growing thanks to the impending launches of the Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5.

Windows RT’s steep price is just another reason why Microsoft could succeed in tablets where Android has failed

The tablet space, or, more accurately, the iPad space, is merciless. It chews up and spits out half-baked slates that don’t hold a candle to Apple’s class-leading iPad, and that’s a harsh reality Google’s learned the hard way. Despite the undeniable success the search giant’s had with smartphones, where Android’s carved out a dominant 61 percent market share, Google’s hardly made a dent in the market with the many tablets it powers. Sure, the Kindle Fire’s made some waves, but it runs a forked version of Android and barely resembles its unfortunate cousins, whose disparate form factors and disjointed operating system have made Google’s open-source platform a laughingstock among tablet consumers.

And that’s the unforgiving market Microsoft intends to enter this fall with Windows RT, the company’s tablet-focused offshoot of Windows 8. But unlike Android, which has fallen so flat that Google plans to take back the reins from wayward tablet makers and offer branded slates of its own, Microsoft won’t stumble out of the gate. In fact, it’ll have a much better shot at challenging Apple’s ubiquitous iPad for three reasons: Microsoft won’t let just anyone build around its operating system; it’s actively discouraging half-hearted efforts; and Windows RT, the centerpiece of Windows 8 tablets, will come in a single flavor.

Microsoft has stricter standards

Anyone with the inclination and resources can build an Android tablet, and that means the market’s flooded with dopey devices whose manufacturers are either inept, careless, or, in some cases, both. And Android’s reputation has suffered as a result. Microsoft, though, won’t make the same mistake. Rather than let any manufacturer with a few tools and a conveyor belt cobble together its tablets, Microsoft has been much more selective about the companies it partners with. Just last week, in fact, it was revealed that the software company froze out HTC, the device maker responsible for the first-ever Windows Phone, from the development of Windows RT-based products. Why? Apparently Microsoft isn’t convinced HTC knows enough about tablets to build a decent device. But even if it did, Microsoft isn’t confident that the struggling company could sell such a device.

And while that’s unfortunate for HTC, consumers ought to rejoice, because it’s a clear indication that Microsoft’s out to compete with the iPad, not just to fill shelves with lesser alternatives.

Windows RT is too expensive to half-ass

Android’s free and open-source, and that’s great for innovation, but it also means there’s nothing to stop individual tablet makers from cranking out multiple devices, none of which they’ve thought through. After all, they’re only paying for the hardware, so they can afford to throw a bunch of shit at the wall to see what sticks. Hell, just look at Samsung’s catalog. Instead of building one or two competent tablets, the company offers a handful of derivative nonsense that confuses more consumers than it wins over.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is charging manufacturers at the gate for its operating system. Eighty-five dollars a pop, to be exact. And that’s on top of Nvidia’s bill of materials, which is now over $100 per device. That’s prohibitively expensive, you say? Perhaps, for certain manufacturers. But that’s the point. While the steep cover charges will surely rub some device makers the wrong way, not to mention translate into higher prices for consumers, they’ll also make manufacturers think twice about the tablets they develop, and I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

What fragmentation?

windows 8 rt Windows RT’s steep price is just another reason why Microsoft could succeed in tablets where Android has failed

Fragmentation, or the presence of multiple versions of the same operating system across hundreds of different devices, is the peskiest scourge of Android. Despite having been developed literally years ago, and regardless of the availability of vastly improved alternatives, older, less-capable versions of Android persist, as do pathetically underpowered devices. And as if that weren’t enough, within those many versions of Android, even more variation exists, because device makers insist on putting their own spins on the software. The result is that users are often confronted with apps that aren’t compatible with their devices. What’s more, there are multiple learning curves within the Android universe. In other words, just because you’ve gotten the hang of one flavor of the OS on one device doesn’t mean the next device you pick up won’t have you scratching your head all over again, even though it’s technically a member of the same ecosystem.

Not that Windows RT won’t be confusing at first. With Windows 8, Microsoft will turn upside down an operating system that caters to more than 600 million people in its current form. And if early feedback is any indication, the transition won’t be easy, and some consumers will undoubtedly turn up their noses. But millions of consumers won’t, and once they’ve gotten a handle on Microsoft’s latest OS, in one form or another, they should have no problem diving into whatever devices it powers, including tablets.

Sure, some Windows tablets will be more powerful than others, but with a uniform OS and Microsoft watching the door, it’ll be the odd app that doesn’t work with every Windows RT-based tablet.

Of course, Windows 8′s success isn’t a sure thing, and the future of its tablets is even less certain. But this much is clear, regardless of how it shakes out: Microsoft has a much better chance at chipping away at the iPad’s dominance than Android has ever had.

The foolproof dock connector

How can you improve on Apple’s nine-year-old 30-pin dock connector?

You might start by reducing the size. Ever-shrinking gadgets need smaller connectors. You could also reduce complexity. A simpler design would be easier to use, easier to make, less prone to failure, more sustainable, and cheaper.

If those are the two big improvements, add one requirement: longevity.

arrow The foolproof dock connector

You have to design a connector like this for the long term. No technology can last forever, but the stakes are really high for this part. Last quarter alone, Apple sold close to 50 million iPhones, iPads, and iPods. This was in a quarter that many (crazy) people considered to be disappointing. All of those devices came with 30-pin connectors. Over the next 10 years, Apple will need to make a billion of these new connectors.

It has to be used across multiple product archetypes. These days it’s smartphones, tablets, PCs, and MP3 players, but you need to take into account things you might invent in the future, too. The iPhone was four years away from existence when the first 30-pin connector shipped. Needless to say, designing for longevity is the hardest part of creating a new connector.

So, reduced size, reduced complexity, and longevity.

Great design briefs aim for something more than just listing requirements. They try to have one succinct and clear thought that can be the rallying cry for the whole team. A headline. Something that can carry over to the marketing of the product. When you tell someone that headline, they instantly get it. Boom. Of course that would be the goal.

I think the goal of this leaked part is this: Design the foolproof dock connector.

Let’s start by thinking about connectors in a very elemental way: A post is inserted into a hole, which results in two metal ends touching to create a circuit.

As it turns out, most connectors for electronics are physically more complex than that. When you insert a connector into a port, you think you are inserting a post into a hole, but usually you are aligning a post inside of that hole with another hole that is inside of the post. This is a simplified cross-section of what it looks like:

standardbig1 The foolproof dock connector

Usually this works okay, but it does makes it harder to line up the two parts and can sometimes cause damage. Think bent VGA pins, or consider how many times you have to spin a USB connector around until you get it to fit. The current 30-pin dock connector is designed like this.

A better, simpler design would do exactly what we think we are doing. Inserting a post into a hole. Like this:

simplebig1 The foolproof dock connector

Some connectors are designed like this. Headphone jacks, for example. Reducing complexity reduces the chance for error.

The connection of the metal ends needs to remain constant to maintain a signal. That means connectors and ports are generally designed so a firm, solid metal piece comes in contact with a flexible metal piece. The flexible piece tightly hugs the solid piece, preventing signal loss. The flexible parts can be anything from pogo pins to just a thin piece of bent metal that physically flexes, like inside the 30-pin connector.

The solid parts are stronger because they’re solid. The flexible parts are weaker because they can move. Because the flexible parts are weaker, you want to make sure they are recessed so they can be protected.

overview The foolproof dock connector

The first thing you notice are the eight gold pins. They’re small, racetrack-shaped, and flat. They look like the connectors you would see on an SD card or even Apple’s OS X USB install stick from Lion. In other words, the stronger, solid pieces of metal are exposed, which means the weaker, flexible pieces of metal are probably concealed inside the port end of the device.

The solid gold pins are separated from each other within a white rectangular piece of plastic. That plastic rectangle is at the end of what looks like a flat silver post. The post appears to be solid. No posts with holes to align with holes with posts like on the 30-pin connector. This is a very simple “post in hole” design.

Those two design choices — exposed solid gold pins and a solid flat post — make this connector tremendously more durable than the 30-pin design. Again, the simpler you make something, the less prone to failure it becomes. It’s almost as simple as a headphone jack, which I think is the best analogy for this design.

Let’s dig a little deeper. The pins appear to be mirrored on both sides of that flat silver post. Meaning, you see pins on one side and if you flip it over, you would see an identical set of pins on the other side. It’s hard to confirm this without video, but I think that this is true.

The mirrored pins could be implemented in two different ways:

  1. 16 pins — 8 pins on the top and 8 different pins on the bottom.
  2. 8 pins — The 8 pins on the top and bottom have mirrored functionality.

Wait a second. 9to5Mac noticed that iOS 6 betas have references to a hardware feature called “9Pin.” The hardware feature is widely presumed to be a new dock connector featuring nine pins. That rules out the 16-pin option, but what about the eight-pin option? Kyle Wiens of iFixit has a possible answer for that: The silver post might act as a big grounding pin. There’s the ninth pin. (Coincidentally, USB 3 Standard A and B requires nine pins. I’m not saying this is USB 3 — it could just be an interesting coincidence.)

Regardless of the number of pins, this connector looks perfectly symmetrical, which means you can probably insert it in either orientation and it will work. That would solve the issue of inserting the connector incorrectly and causing damage. Yet another simplification and a win for users.

flush The foolproof dock connector

That flat silver post looks like it sticks out a bit. I think the extra length would help it adapt to a setback radius like you see on the iPad 2 and 3. It’s hard to tell from the picture just how far it sticks out, but if you look at one of the disassembled pieces, you can see a light grey plastic thing attached to the metal. I think this plastic will sit flush with the white plastic housing, giving you a rough idea of how long the post is.

divot The foolproof dock connector

On the edge of the silver post, there is a divot. The divot is most likely mirrored on the other side of the post. This looks to me like a locking feature. A spring-loaded clip inside the port could snap into the divots, giving it a nice audible click or locking sensation when you plug it in. (Update: Matthew Panzarino suggests that it could be a spring-loaded ball bearing acting as the clip in the port. That sounds right.)

Most connectors have sharp right angles at the end. The silver post on this design is rounded off. This could be helpful for docking. Instead of carefully aligning the connector with the port, you might be able to drop your iPhone into a cradle without having to aim it, preventing both damage to the connector and scratches to your device’s housing.

It’s impossible to know from these pictures if this connector is magnetic like MagSafe, but based on the length of the connector, the locking divots, and the fact that it’s rounded at the end, I’m going to guess that it’s not.

plastic The foolproof dock connector

That brings us to the white plastic housing. This is the area you grip when you insert the connector into your device. It’s racetrack-shaped, like the dock port we have seen in the leaked images of the unibody iPhone, which would be a good visual cue. Match this shape to this shape. Nice and obvious. The circular hole in the back of the housing is for the cable and looks to be roughly the same size in diameter as the current 30-pin connecter cable.

One thing I am really curious to know about is how that flat silver post was made. I don’t see any seams that would indicate that it was a stamped and folded like USB connectors typically are. It could have been machined from a solid piece of metal. It also could have been cast or injection molded.

Here’s some wild speculation: liquid metal can be injection molded. I’m not saying that this part is made with liquid metal — I’m saying that this is a good application for it. According to Wikipedia, liquid metal attributes include: “…high tensile strength, excellent corrosion resistance, very high coefficient of restitution and excellent anti-wearing characteristics…” Good features to have on a part that takes the amount of abuse that an iOS dock connector does.

Let me put it another way: After the “Unibody iPhone” piece came out, a few people asked me if that design was made out of liquid metal. I think it’s more likely that this connector is made out of liquid metal than the unibody iPhone.

I can’t say for sure that this is the new iOS dock connector, but my gut feeling says that it probably is. Even if it’s not, we can at least agree that this design has some pretty smart features baked in. A “job well done” to its creator.

Thinking about what the new connector needs to do (reduced size, reduced complexity, longevity), this design seems to cover all the bases.

It’s much smaller, and its solid pins and symmetrical post-and-hole design would be physically simpler. My guess would be that for the first year of manufacturing this part, it will be more expensive than it is to make the 30-pin connector. As Apple gets better at making it in scale, the cost will go down, and eventually it will be cheaper than the current design. It’s also important to remember when considering simplicity that less material means less cost and more sustainability. Stronger parts mean reduced repair costs. Less repairs equal happy customers. Over time, the savings could be huge.

Longevity is impossible to determine without knowing the technical specs of what we’re looking at. All we can tell from the physical attributes of this part is that it is small, robust, and could connect to both shallow and deep ports. That’s about it.

What I like about this design is that it doesn’t look like what you would expect a connector to look like. It looks like a consumer product. Refined. Finished. Non-threatening. Everything about it leads me to think it was designed by industrial designers and not electrical engineers. I’m sure engineers were involved with its creation, but industrial designers drove it. That’s rare for a project like this. At most companies, this would be a “technical” project led by the engineering team with design input, not a “design” project led by the design team with engineering input. Apple is not most companies.

Why does Apple need to invent their own connector? Why not use mini or micro USB? They’re smaller than the-30 pin connector. They’re standards. They’re likely cheaper. They already exist.

Part of it is control. We are about to witness one of the fastest connector adoptions in history because Apple created and completely controlled their own standard. I would be really surprised if it took more than 18 months for the entire iOS line and accessory market to adopt this connector.

I don’t think Apple’s motives are control for the sake of power. They want control to make the best thing they can. Go back to my imagined design brief headline. Design the foolproof dock connector. Give eight different companies that brief and you would get eight different solutions. Now try to get those eight companies to agree on just one solution. After several years of fighting over inane details, you would end up with a watered-down, sad version of a foolproof connector. If Apple could design a connector from scratch, without having to cooperate and compromise, it could very well end up looking like this.

Twitter: We’ve made more money from mobile than Web on many days

new twitter logo Twitter: Weve made more money from mobile than Web on many days

Twitter introduced ads to smartphone users’ timelines just four months ago and has only allowed promotional tweets since March, but the micro-blogging company has nonetheless earned more advertising revenue from its mobile platform than from its website on multiple days in the last quarter, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Asked at a conference in San Francisco Wednesday why Twitter’s succeeding where Facebook seems to have stumbled, Costolo said, “We’re borne of mobile. We have an ad platform that already is inherently suited to mobile, even though we launched our platform on the Web and only started running ads on mobile recently.”

According to Reuters, which cited a report from digital-media analysts eMarketer, Twitter could make as much as $260 million in 2012 and $540 million in 2014. Facebook, by contrast, made $3.7 billion in 2011.

Microsoft unveils Xbox Music, a music-streaming service for consoles, pcs, tablets, and phones

With E3 just a day away, Microsoft jumped the gun Monday, unveiling Xbox Music, a streaming-music service intended to go head-to-head with Apple’s iTunes. In addition to the company’s consoles, Xbox Music will also work with computers, tablets, and phones. Further details are fuzzy for the time being, but Microsoft  said that the service, which could extend to iOS and Android, according to earlier reports, will launch with over 30 million tracks.