Behind The Scene Of The Martian

October 3rd, 2015

A very nice and in-depth discussion between Andy Weir (the author of The Martian) and Adam Savage (of Mythbuster fame) about how The Martian came to be, including the crazy accurate math.


Well worth the 55 minutes run.


Writing’s On The Wall

September 25th, 2015


Today marks the release of the theme song for the upcoming James Bond movie SPECTRE. Recorded by Sam Smith, the song just dropped on the main streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and company.


I just had a listen to it.


The first listen is always the most difficult one. My first reaction is that this song doesn’t sound like a Bond song. There are few factors that contributes to my assessment.


First, Sam Smith’ style is very peculiar, you either like or you don’t, I don’t think there’s much middle ground. Secondly, is setting a very specific mood. You can always tell a lot from a Bond theme song and this one is a confirmation that a cycle is coming to a close1.


Have a listen for yourself and let me know what you think.


Full disclosure: I still prefer Adele’s take on 007.

  1. The end of Daniel Craig as James Bond. 

Apple Special Event – September 2015

September 10th, 2015

Luckily I fly a lot and today’s journey to Leeds is going to give me time to the no about what we saw yesterday afternoon. It was a busy day for Apple, with the now usual end of summer event, super packed with new and exciting stuffs.


I have few things to say about it, and i’ll respect the order in which they were presented on stage, to give the same flow and continuity given by Apple.


Lights out. Queue slide one.






There are good news here for existing and new owners.


For existing owners of Watch, the biggest news is that arrival on watchOS 2 on September 16th. The update will bring native apps, but perhaps the biggest advantage will be represented by third-party complications. It always felt kind of limiting to only be able to count on Apple-provided complications, especially because having info on the watch face is by far the best way of interacting with your Watch.


Let’s now talk of the “new” hardware. We’ve got new colors for the plastic sport bands, with less “flashy” tonalities, plus a new amazing Classic Buckle revision1.


Particularly interesting is the high-level fashion partnership with Hermes. Apple announced a new line of watches to sit between the Watch and the Watch Edition range. There are three exclusive watch straps – the double loop looking especially good – and a new watch face, only available on that line, to complement the Hermes branding and I guess to make it look almost proprietary to them (at least fashion-wise)2.


All in all it was a solid segment for the Watch. Nothing too surprising, but a good iteration cycle over a new product, as we should expect from a company like Apple.






Now let’s talk for a whole about the physical and metaphorical king of the show: the iPadPro.


At 12.9″ diagonal, it is a massive real estate screen. As always Apple was big on numbers: how many millions pixels, how many sensors and so on and so forth. If you ask me, the most important takeaway from that is the iPadPro in landscape can run a full-size portrait mode iPad app plus having the space for almost another one.


As Schiller said on stage, the side-by-side functionality in iOS 9 was built for this device and you can easily see the reason why.


The other very important message is how powerful this thing is. It’s faster and more powerful than many laptop on the market today, all in a casing that is just about as heavy as the original iPad3.


The power of the hardware is once again given to developers to create amazingly powerful software. The demo section for the iPadPro was very much spot on in my opinion. I guess to better understand this segment, I need to give a bit of background. It’s been a couple of month now since i’be started using my iPad at work more and more over my standard issued laptop. The advantages are clear: much faster, much more portable and more powerful. I’m especially an avid user of Microsoft Office, which is why I was probably among a few number of people being very excited about the first demo.


It was then kind of fun to see Schiller introducing a Microsoft SVP to demo what’s coming. Nothing revolutionary, but at least we’ve got a confirmation of full support for Office on iOS 9, especially related to split view and side-by-side functionalities4.


I’ve also liked the Adobe demo quite a lot. It demonstrate the power and flexibility of the iPad in general as a platform and in this specific case the fact the all these workflows are going to be super fast on the new iPadPro. I guess that before continuing I might have to mention the #smilegate brought upon us by all the press out there. During the demo, the Adobe representative showed a picture of a woman and with the magic of the software he edited her face a put a smile on her face with one flick of the Pencil. If you ask me I don’t see why the Internet had to go crazy about it. He wasn’t fixing her, he was demoing a software feature by simulating a fashion magazine, where the canon calls for a smile. If you have a problem with that call Vogue, don’t use Adobe to get more page views.


Moving on to accessories. As it is now common, Apple introduced its own line of accessories. The difference this time is that the target wasn’t to make the iPad more beautiful, but instead they are geared toward augmenting its functionalities and power.


Smart Keyboard




With such a big and gorgeous screen it would be stupid to waste most of it by displaying a software keyboard. That’s why Apple took a page from Microsoft book by announcing the Smart Keyboard. As the Surface, the iPad has a new interface port (Smart Connector), where accessories can connect to to transmit power and data. The Smart Keyboard in fact doesn’t have a battery or Bluetooth. You just slide the iPadPro on top of it and you can start working immediately. In therm of size, is a full size keyboard, but it also has shortcut buttons to call iOS-specific actions and the keys are using the same butterfly technology introduced with the new ultra-thin MacBook.


It was interesting to wake up this morning to Logitech announcing a third-party keyboard cover ready for launch on day one. Even more interesting is the line in the press release noting the Apple and Logitech had been working together in advance in order to deliver this accessory for day one, another sign of a more open Apple when it make sense for the benefit of the platform.






Among other things, it seems that Apple also had time to reinvent the pencil!


Joking aside, the Pencil is the first stylus designed and produced by Apple in-house, in order to complement the iPadPro. Again, it just seemed logical to have such a pointing device, considering the advancements brought in by the new massive screen. We saw a couple of interesting demo that underlined how the Pencil is meant to be used for ultra-high precision sessions, rather than a general pointing device (for which the human finger still makes a great job at).


Many people will keep pointing out about the moment Steve Jobs derided the concept of the stylus and they’ll all be missing the point here. It’s very clear where Apple is drawing the line here (no pun intended): it’s a precision tool, not a mouse.


How much does this thing costs?


Of course one of the big miseries of the iPadPro was its positioning in the market and in the current iPad lineup. Turns out Apple made some very peculiar choices with the price/size matrix for the new device. The iPadPro will only have two storage sizes: 32GB or 128GB. It’s very strange that they didn’t put anything in between, such as a 64GB configuration.


In term of connectivity you can choose between a wifi only or a wifi + LTE, but there’s a catch. LTE will only be available on the 128GB model.


Prices for the UK haven’t been announced yet, nor we have a specific release date. At the moment we only know that it’s coming in November. Looking at recent history my best guess is that we can just take the price in dollars and replace the currency symbol with pounds to get our prices (or very close to that).


The iPadPro starts at $799 and goes up to more than a $1,000. The Pencil comes in at $99 and the Smart Keyboard is $129. If you want everything is going to be an expensive holiday season for you.


The price point also makes for a good set of observations: who is it for?


Creative and designers, yes. Photographers I assume; such a majestic screen on location, combined with the new powerful set of Adobe apps should be a joy. Any kind of professional that normally uses a laptop only for emails, general web browsing and a decent amount of time spent with Microsoft Office5.


I think this is going to be a solid productivity tool for many people across several different industries. Maybe it won’t sell like hot cakes, but it won’t disappoint.




The other big item on the waiting list for yesterday’s event was of course the tv. Thanks to the ever growing accuracy of Mark Gurman over at, we knew a new model was coming, we even knew the design would remain the same (the new device is just a bit taller than the other one, but with the same footprint).


Nothing was really surprising about it. If anything the tv represented a way for Apple to catch up on other competitors early models.


We have a Siri remote (we had an Amazon Fire TV remote with voice search a while ago). We have a remote with touch input and Bluetooth connectivity rather than IR (finally!). We have an AppStore for apps and games (finally x 2).


In all fairness I’m not a big fan of tv in the first place, so for me this was just an interlude before the iPhone announcement. It was an overdue refreshment cycle for a very much outdated device. In addition to that, many of the main streaming feature are restricted to the US anyway, so for us europeans there isn’t much to talk about.


iPhone 6s + 6s Plus


Now let’s finally move to what everyone was waiting for: the new iPhones. As usual for the off-years, we got the S upgrade in the form of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus6.


So. What’s new here. According to Apple’s marketing tag line, everything. The headline this year is going to be the new 3D Touch. The new iPhones will have 3 layers of touch sensitivity7. There’s the simple touch, the peek (which is a touch with a bit of pressure) and the pop (a touch and a bit more of pressure). Each level will give access to different layer of information depending on where you are within the system.


If this sound complicated it is because it is complicated. I’m sure feels will love it, I don’t know how “regular” people will live with that. I’m sure it will have quite a learning curve to become really accustomed to it, especially to become comfortable with the different of pressures you need to apply to get what you want out of the system. It makes for good marketing, at the moment I’m a bit skeptic about the real life applications.


The second big focus was the camera. As with every revision there have been improvement in the camera sector. There’s still an ugly bulge on the new iPhones, but they’ve also got an upgraded sensor with 12 megapixels and the ability to record 4K videos.


From a software point of view, the new camera has a new function, called live picture. With it, the new iPhone can capture few seconds before and after your still shot, to add a layer of animation to an otherwise static picture. The feature looks really nice, still by being limited to new iPhones initially it would be difficult to share it outside a very limited circle of friends.


For me tough, the biggest iPhone announcement had nothing to do with software or hardware, but it was the business side instead. Apple announced an annual update program that you can take advantage of by buying your iPhone into an Apple Store. This new program works the same as a 24 months carrier plan: you pay a certain amount to start the contract and then you have a monthly fee. The catch here is that despite being a 24 months agreement, you can update your phone every 12 months. I was super excited about it, until they announced that initially it was limited to the US, but i’m hoping it will make the jump soon to this side of the pond.




So, to conclude this very long piece. This Apple event was super packed with new things across all of their business units. The iPadPro looks to me like the clear winner of the night. And finally, yes Apple is going to make a ton of money during the upcoming holiday season.


Get ready for crazy town.


  1. It’s the Saddle Brown pictured above. £129 and 11-12 weeks wait for it to ship -.- 
  2. Presumably you’ll still be able to switch to other watch faces if you so wish. 
  3. Which is kind of amazing if you things about how far we’ve come from the original iPad, only five years ago. 
  4. It immediately reminded of the “cold” welcome reserved to Bill Gates when he announced that Microsoft was about to invest in Apple. That friendship will never be a love affair, despite all of the efforts. 
  5. Yes, I’m trying to find a way to fit this device in my life, by using these high-level pitch to myself :) 
  6. Those names are becoming a mouthful to pronounce. Apple get a grip. 
  7. The more the merrier…I guess? 

Marvel’s Civil Wars Teams Revealed

August 28th, 2015

Spoilers Ahead. Be Warned.

YouTuber MrSundayMovies may have completely ruined the surprise1 of who’s going to fight against who in the upcoming Captain America’s chapter: Civil War.


It looks like suddenly this movie has become interesting for real. One sure thing is that once again it’s going to be packed with many different heroes from the Marvel Universe. To be honest, I was kind of surprised by the team-up.


Iron Man




In the Red corner, from left to right we find: War Machine, Black Widow, Iron Man, Black Panther and The Vision.


This team will see the debut of Black Panther ahead of his solo movie. But the real surprise is to see the Black Widow on Stark’s side. At the end of the latest Avengers movie she seemed to be a good friend of the Cap, helping him re-building the New Avengers from the ashes of the Old Avengers. Looks like things will get nasty in between the two.


Captain America




In the Blue corner, the team will be composed of the following: Hawkeye, Sharon Carter, Captain America, Falcon and Bucky Barners (The Winter Soldier).


Few new faces and surprises here as well. The newbie will be Sharon Carter, the descendant of Peggy Carter (Cap’s life-long love). We already saw her in action as the “nurse” and good neighbour of Cap during the Winter Soldier movie, we were not expecting a more leading role here (welcome to the party). Then I guess Steve & Bucky are back being pals like the good old times. Finally in the background you can spot Falcon’s bird-robot, joining the fight (who doesn’t love a cool autonomous drone shaped like a bird?!).


Finally, there’s also a picture of the two teams showing off their cards.




Who’s going to win? We’ll have to wait May 2016 for an answer2.


  1. Not really. The first teaser for the teaser-trailer, before the trailer would have probably spoiled it anyway. 
  2. My money is on Iron Man’s team. Come on, he has The Vision. And guns. A lot of them. 

Hosting A Party For 1 Billion Friends

August 28th, 2015

Mark Zuckerberg wrote yesterday:

We just passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.

On Monday, 1 in 7 people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family.

I’m not even sure I can completely understand these numbers anymore. They are way to big for a single person.


The sure thing is that now Facebook is everywhere. It is all around us.

M Is For Moneypenny

August 26th, 2015


Taking a page from 007, Facebook today introduced M.

Today we’re beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people.

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

The most interesting part to me is the human supervision1 on top of the software.


The world of AI driven personal assistants is definitely the new Holy Grail for any software companies nowadays. So far probably the best and most successful example is Amazon’s Alexa by means of Echo. Despite everything, that system is still quite limited in functionalities and cannot make decisions on itself.


The Facebook approach instead seems to have a much broader scope in principle and looks like a real-life personal assistant. On top of that consider the amount of information that Facebook already holds on us. M probably will know you better than you mum.


  1. Cue the screams of horror from the privacy advocates. 

Comedy Actor Roundtable

August 25th, 2015

Comedy acting Emmy nominees Ricky Gervais (Derek), Don Cheadle (House of Lies) and Will Forte (The Last Man on Earth) join Fred Armisen (Portlandia) and Jordan Peele (Key & Peele), who write and produce their Emmy nominated shows, and actor Thomas Middleditch who stars in the Emmy nominated Silicon Valley for The Hollywood Reporter’s Comedy Actor Emmy Roundtable where the actors share how and when they discovered they were funny.

An absolute must watch. Actually, while you are there, you should check the entire new season of the THR’s Roundtables.

A Movie Review

August 24th, 2015

I’ve just seen an amazing movie.


A movie that I wouldn’t have probably seen if it was left by my choice. You can call it an accident if you wish. And sometimes life you give you the gift on an happy accident. This was one of those.


I will tell you the name of the movie, but not now. If I do you’ll probably stop reading here and go over to Google.


The movie itself is about many different things. It involves the lives and struggles of two American teenagers, struggling to find their place in their high school. For one it’s a life choice; for the other, it’s a choice made for her by her own life.


Of all the many things, to me the big takeaway is how two people are obliged to react to the impossible. How they are faced with choices and emotions too big for them. Emotions and feelings that no one should ever have to experience, let alone while being of their age.


The maturity and the reactions shown on screen by the actors were astoundingly good. You could actually feel those emotions transferring from them to you. Feeling part of the movie, of the story. All the crowd as one, reacting together to the inevitable, with hopes and fears and yes, maybe even a tear.


A big component of this movie, was its music. During every scene, from the most simple to the most dramatic, the music was always there underlying every single emotion, amplifying it to perfection. I caught myself many time during the movie asking how was it possible that those melodies were always 100% right. The closing credits gave me the answers: all the music (except for few commercial pieces) was written specifically for this movie by Brian Eno. That piece of credit made it all clear.


With his music you can feel an extra dimension. It’s not the gimmick of 3D computers. It’s an higher dimension, a real 4D experience if you wish. Characters on screen didn’t have to talk. Their faces, their looks were brought alive by the melody, sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter.


I could probably going on about this movie for a long while, but I may end up ruining the experience of seeing it and experience it first hand, which in this case is the only real way to really enjoying it.


So please, do yourself a favor and go see Me and Earl and the Dying Girl as soon as you can.


You will thank me later.