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SpaceX CRS-7 breaks up post-launch

This morning, I joined the press and other NASASocial members to view the launch of SpaceX’s CRS–7 mission. The launch itself was stunning. We were about 4 miles away, right across the water from the pad.

My video (Forgive the shaky cam; I shot this with one hand with my iPhone as I was taking still photos from a tripod.) doesn’t do the experience of the thing justice.

A couple of minutes away from launch, a silent anticipation fell across the crowd. The voice marched on, marking off the seconds, and then it started.

Because sound travels slower than light, we felt and heard it a moment after we saw the steam and flame. It all felt much slower than I had guessed it would. Once the sound came, it was stunning. The power of thing was impressive, even miles away.

The rocket continued to climb, and was just about out of sight when it broke up. When the “anomaly” was announced, the excitement that had built up was instantly snuffed out. Many of us instantly thought of the programs lost, but were also relieved the flight was unmanned.

That said, today is a reminder that space — even commercial travel — is hard. Up until today, SpaceX’s track record has been perfect, but even the best-engineered systems in the world aren’t immune to failure.

In the coming weeks, I’m sure SpaceX will have more to announce about what happened this morning, and NASA will have news on how to re-supply the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Until then, it’s a rough today for space nerds.

The sky calls to us

Outside of the building where the space shuttle Atlantis is on display at Kennedy Space Center, this quote greets visitors:

I’m spending the rest of the week in Florida as part of the NASA Social program, covering Sunday’s SpaceX CRS–7 launch.

I applied a few weeks ago, while in San Francisco at WWDC, and was excited to learn I had been accepted. I drove down yesterday, and spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, where I saw Atlantis and lots of other bits of NASA history. The actual program kicks off in the morning.

I’ve always felt a connection to the space program. While I was born on a tragic day in space history,[1] I am in no way unique in my interest in all things NASA.

As I was walking around the various exhibits I visited today, I couldn’t help but notice how excited many people were about what we were seeing. There were kids standing on their tiptoes, trying to stretch to be tall enough to see into the visor of the vintage space suits. There were old men who clearly remembered the news coverage being played back for education purposes. People were taking photos, asking questions and genuinely learning.

I wasn’t alone in my nerdiness, and that was a nice feeling.

The glories of the universe are breathtaking on their own, but when coupled with the grit and grind required to climb on top of a live rocket to go explore them, the whole business becomes truly inspiring and heroic.

That’s the crux of it. The space program takes the best qualities found in humankind and couples them with the best technology we can build. That’s exciting, and with a return to the Moon and a manned journey to Mars on the horizon, I no longer have to be jealous of the generation that watched those early astronauts answer the call Carl Sagan identified.


  1. Some of you are feeling really old right now, while others of you can’t believe how old I am. Time is weird.  ↩

Kbase Article of the Week: AppleWorks 6.2.9 for Mac

Version 6.2.9 would end up being the final build of AppleWorks, the company's long-running suite of office applications. Here's what was included in the update:

This update to AppleWorks 6.0 and later supports mice with scroll wheels and improves the performance and reliability of AppleWorks’ presentation and spreadsheet environments. AppleWorks 6.2.9 also offers improved printing and resolves issues using web based templates and clip-art on networks using proxy servers.

Like countless long-time Mac users, I have fond memories of writing in AppleWorks, and to this day, wish I could still run it from time to time.

On Hulu's Seinfeld apartment and Jerry's Macs

Christina Warren:

Hulu recreated nearly every aspect of the Season 8-era Seinfeld apartment with great attention to detail.

Except for one thing. They gave Jerry an old PC.

After Carrie Bradshaw, Jerry Seinfeld might be the most visible Mac user in 1990s television. Over the course of Seinfeld's 9 seasons, Jerry's apartment frequently showed off various models of the Macintosh. Everything from the Mac SE/30 to a PowerBook Duo with Duo Dock, to the 20th Anniversary Macintosh were featured on the show.

In addition to the compact Mac shown in Christina's post, I too remember Jerry having a 20th Anniversary Macintosh as well as a PowerBook Duo.

How to set Logic Pro X's project time and banish that pesky leading hour

If you record or edit in Logic, you may have noticed the fun quirk of the application in which the project time has an hour added to it by default:

This has always annoyed me while working on podcasts, as I don't need the options and power that time synchronization offers. Thankfully, it's easy to tell Logic to remove the leading hour by navigating in the menubar to File → Project Settings → Synchronization.

There, you can change the highlighted field from 01:00:00:00.00 to 00:00:00:00.00.

And boom:

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Apple discontinues original iPad mini

This morning, Apple quietly removed the original iPad mini from its online store, as noted by 9to5Mac:

Apple’s discontinuation of the iPad mini leaves the remaining iPads as a completely 64-bit family, all using either A7 and A8X processors rather than the iPad mini’s aging A5. It also means that all remaining iPads have Retina displays and unified Wi-Fi + Cellular models.

While the A5 is still around in a couple of very sad devices, I know a lot of developers are glad to see Apple finally moving forward. iOS 9 will run on a lot of older devices, but I do think it may be the last iOS release to hold that line.

The original iPad mini was perhaps the first example of Tim Cook's approach to products. It was the iPad 2 — in a smaller, cheaper form — and it sold like crazy.

I'm currently using an iPad Air 2, but I loved my original iPad mini. Sure, it didn't have enough RAM or even a Retina display, but it made iPad apps far more mobile, and it marked the first time I wasn't embarrassed or annoyed to use an iPad someplace public like a coffeeshop or park.

All that aside, Apple let this device linger too long. It's the downside of Cook's operations brain that brought us the device in the first place. Now I just hope the device will get a nicer update than last year.

Ten years ago, Apple brought podcasting to iTunes

Ten years ago this month, at WWDC 2005, Apple brought podcasting to iTunes.

The feature launched on June 28, 2005, three weeks after the keynote. Here's the Apple PR Machine:

Apple today announced it is taking Podcasting mainstream by building everything users need to discover, subscribe, manage and listen to Podcasts right into iTunes 4.9, the latest version of its award winning digital music software and online music store. iTunes users can now easily subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.

“Apple is taking Podcasting mainstream by building it right into iTunes,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Podcasting is the next generation of radio, and users can now subscribe to over 3,000 free Podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod.”

It's hard to read Jobs' personal excitement about the medium, but he says, "We see it as the hottest thing going in radio. Hotter than anything else in radio." He clarified that this content wasn't just by amateurs, but that major companies were in the mix as well.

The subscribing and auto-downloading of new content is what made podcasting the "TiVo for radio," Jobs said, highlighting iTunes' ability to do just that — and sync the files over a cable to iPods, making podcasts portable.

He closed his presentation on the feature saying, "We think it’s going to basically take podcasting mainstream, to where anyone can do it. We're bringing innovation to the market."

Turns out, Apple did just that.

It took just two days for the iTunes directory to see one million subscriptions, but the library itself wasn't all that large compared to today. 3,000 podcasts doesn't seem like a lot of shows anymore, and in June 2013, Apple hit a major milestone with their directory, as reported by Lex Friedman:

Apple on Monday announced that the iTunes Store eclipsed 1 billion podcast subscriptions. That’s a whole lot of talking. A special promotion appeared in the iTunes Podcasts directory to commemorate the big number.

Apple says that those billion subscriptions are spread across 250,000 unique podcasts in more than 100 languages, and that more than 8 million episodes have been published in the iTunes Store to date.

Today, the iTunes directory is home to over 500,000 discrete podcasts, but it isn't the only directory out there. Apps like Overcast, Pocket Casts and more maintain their own, separate directories with unique curation and search features.

For many types of shows, these third-party clients have eclipsed iTunes as the primary way people consume podcasts, putting Apple in a position of power, but not dominance, in some parts of the market. There are still a lot of people who use iTunes — and its extension on iOS, Podcasts, to listen to shows.

While WWDC 2005 has gone down in history for some bigger news, I'll always remember it fondly.

Connected 44: Ignorance By Design

I missed Connected this week, but it's a good one:

This week the Europeans are going it alone to talk about the new iOS Notes app, iOS 9 on the iPad, Editorial 1.2, and whether WatchKit should have existed.

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