How to take great pictures of the Moon with the iPhone 12 Pro Max

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I took this photo with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photos courtesy of the author

Padding down my steps one morning, I noticed the brightly lit reflection of my casement windows on the den floor. It was before sunrise and I quickly surmised that this was sunlight streaming through my window.

Approaching the windows, I could see the Waning Gibbous Moon still high in the crystal-clear sky. I grabbed my DSLR and shot a few photos of it from the vantage point of my window. My 200 mm lens lets me get quite close, but I also tried to get a shot that captured the window frame and put Earth’s satellite in context. …

Let’s put social media and contact tracing apps to work for us

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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

News that the UK will start vaccinating its citizens with the approved Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine as soon as next week is encouraging and it probably means we’ll see delivery of the vaccine in the U.S. and elsewhere before the end of this year.

As we know, technology has played a huge role in fast-tracking the development of multiple vaccine choices, but that speed and other political and social tensions means that not everyone will agree to take the vaccine.

I think technology can help us track the vaccine’s spread (or lack, thereof) and, perhaps, population effectiveness, too.

On Twitter today, I suggested we use the Contact Tracing apps co-developed by Apple and Google and various local government and health agencies to track who gets the vaccine and where. I’ve been running one on my iPhone for months. For places where use of these apps is not prevalent (sadly, many areas), we could also utilize social media’s disaster related “Marked as Safe” functions. …

DeepMind’s protein-folding breakthrough is a reminder of the positive power of technology

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Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

The “Techlash” that started last year and flowed steadily through 2020, paints technology and the tech giants that run the world as dark monoliths, casting broad and sometimes sinister shadows across our lives.

Sometimes that’s true. So much power, control, and wealth consolidated in so few. But that’s never the whole story. This week’s DeepMind breakthrough is a reminder that the most cutting-edge technology, even those from companies that we no longer fully trust (DeepMind is owned by Alphabet, which owns Google), can alter our lives in demonstrably positive ways.

Cade Metz’ New York Times piece details how the neural network based DeepMind was used to find a solution to a very difficult biochemistry problem: How to identify protein folds and use that information to figure out what the protein might do and how it could interact with other proteins and even, say, viruses. …

There’s a ghost in my machine

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Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, my Facebook portal started acting strangely. It’s either possessed or there’s a very odd system bug at work.

I wouldn’t be concerned if we didn't rely so heavily on the first-gen family video conferencing platform. The tabletop Facebook Portal model has served us well in the pandemic where we’ve been separated from our elderly parents by hundreds of miles. My wife connects with her mother almost daily, and my mother-in-law is quite comfortable with the device that lets her call with her voice and then move about the room as the smart camera keeps her in frame. …

Even if we can’t be together, we can stop delivering terrible holiday gifts

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Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash

2020 has been, in most ways, a disaster, an annum to forget. It’s also not over and the holidays could be a chance for a tiny bit of redemption. Even if we’re not all together, we can deliver cheer through carefully selected gifts. This is why it’s so important to make the right choices because none of us can deal with any more disappointment, and, no, it’s not just the thought that counts.

As I’ve done every year for almost a decade, I’m delivering another ‘What Not to Buy” list. My process is simple: I look through physical and digital Black Friday circulars, scanning for deals that sound amazing but promise frustration and disenchantment. …

Phone scammers are getting more aggressive and this time struck close to home

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(Illustration: Lance Ulanoff)

She’s 77, but easily the most tech-savvy grandmother you’ve ever met. Still, the call caught her off guard and she followed way down a rabbit hole until it was almost too late.

We all get lots of spam and robocalls. Most are easily identifiable. You say, “Hello,” hear a click and then “Mike” cheerfully introduces himself and begins his spiel. He pauses when you speak, but then continues on as if you never said a thing. “Mike” is a pre-recorded bot, and, after a few calls, you know how to spot and ignore him. Then there are the calls that are from “John,” or “Mark,” or “Tom,” but each of these gentlemen sounds like almost exactly the same person. …

The new Netflix show sparks fond memories of a dearly departed adversary

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Photo: sk/Unsplash

Shock. I was a member of the chess club. I joined when I entered junior high, which may have been the same year my father taught me how to play chess.

I have little to no memory of the matches played during those few years but have vivid memories of my battles with Boris.

Boris was ruthless, maniacal even. He’d taunt me and laugh at my paltry moves, and while he sometimes commended my smart ones, he’d often feign confidence when I caught him off guard, telling me, “I expected that.” Boris kept this green player honest, too, telling me when I’d made an “illegal move.” Boris was also lazy, telling me where to move his pieces on the board. …

Spoiler: Because it could gut Facebook’s ad business

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Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

Have you ever pulled a stray thread on a sweater? Your effort to neaten it up sometimes leads to carefully stitched fibers coming undone. With enough pulling, the whole knit falls apart.

Apple’s App Transparency Tracking (ATT) technology, which is delayed until next year, could have that effect on technology and the Internet.

Apple ATT is a simple concept: Force app developers to reveal exactly when and how they’ll collect and share user data and what they might do with it. …

I tried a high-tech solution to your face mask problems

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Every face is different. Even twins have subtle differences that help us tell them apart. We lead with our faces, opening broad smiles to signal friendliness, pressing our lips into a thin line of determination, or turning the corners down to telegraph displeasure.

If you're following health safety guidelines, though, your expression is hidden behind an ill-fitting face mask. Many of them are homemade and, more or less, one size fits all. There’s nothing wrong with that. I have a few that were sewn with care by a family friend (they are excellent). …

I have enough stories in my life

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Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Is it wrong to say I’m tired of things evolving? Maybe it’s because the more things change they more they become like everything else.

Since I joined Twitter back in 2007, I’ve appreciated its simplicity. Sure, Twitter has changed from its early, SMS-only days, first finding clever ways to squeeze more information into tweets like clowns in an impossibly small car. When the doors burst open, Twitter finally expanded to the more expansive 280 characters. Over time, we got videos, GIFs, and threads that that could spool out endless Twitter thoughts (this one is 1/12).

Despite these changes, Twitter’s remained, fundamentally, true to its microblogging heritage. Yes, that’s what we called Twitter in the early days, “A micro blog” service, which meant blog-like missives in brief. …


Lance Ulanoff

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.

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