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The True Story of Audion

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As a long-time Mac nerd, I remember fondly the introduction of Audion, an early MP3 player application for the classic Mac OS (and later Mac OS X). It sounded good, it looked great, and the best part was that the application's developers (Panic Inc.) seemed to have a sense of humor. I remember one of my favorite features was a speed control feature that allowed you to "Chipmunk" any song at will. It was also the first time I saw album cover art stored in an MP3, which kinda blew my mind. (Hey, it was 2001, I was still young and impressionable.)

For several years, Audion was my MP3 player of choice -- all of this was before the iPod, when "MP3" was still a term that confounded your parents. (I remember when my brother showed me his little blue MP3 player one year at Christmas. I asked, "Who's gonna want one of those?" Sigh.) As iTunes and the iPod rose to dominate the Mac MP3 market, Panic discontinued Audion in late 2002.

But there's an amazing story behind Audion, and Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser lets us in on the whole thing. From its modest inception (as a replacement for the old Apple "CD Player" application) through rivalry with SoundJam and finally a meeting with Steve Jobs himself, the story is well worth a read, even for non-nerds. Be sure to click on the links embedded throughout -- Sasser includes lots of popup windows with concept art and other interesting bits and pieces. Here's a tiny sample:

I couldn't help myself. I'd always heard that Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, actually reads his e-mail. When you're a tiny independent Mac software developer, that's about as tempting a proposal as, say, a young surgeon being able to directly e-mail Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. Okay, so he's not the surgeon general anymore, but my point is that when you're down in the trenches — writing software for a platform you pretty much completely worship — well, it's pretty hard to resist e-mailing God if you know He checks his e-mail.

So e-mail I did. When Audion 1.0 came out on August 16th, 1999, I wrote an e-mail to Mr. Jobs a few days later. It was very quick, cordial, and to the point (my own bursting e-mail box has taught me to be succinct). It pitched Audion in a few short sentences, and encouraged him to download it. That was it.

Read what happened next in the exciting Audion saga. While you're at it, check out the many handy applications Panic still ships.

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Weather Watch
Make Alexa's Daily Weather Forecasts More Accurate
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Will you need an umbrella this afternoon? Will a fine day grow sweltering and require flip-flops? Your Amazon Echo Daily Briefing can answer these questions. But, as Taylor Martin at CNET explains, it can answer them better if you make a few quick changes to your account.

Meteorologists are scientists, not fortune-tellers. They analyze the data they have to assemble their best estimate of weather conditions over the next few hours, days, and weeks. These estimates can vary widely depending on the sources of the data and the variables included in the calculation. Some forecasters are just plain better than others.

One of the most popular is Dark Sky, an app that offers hyperlocal weather reports centered on a user’s exact whereabouts. Dark Sky uses its own proprietary weather service, which has been adapted for Alexa by a third-party function called Big Sky.

As CNET explains, this is how you add Big Sky capability to your Echo:

- Go to alexa.amazon.com or tap to open the Alexa app on iOS or Android.

- In the left menu, go to Skills.

- Search for Big Sky.

- Tap or click Enable Skill.

- To create a Big Sky account, select Create One.

- Select a username and password.

- Log in and enter your address.

- Decide how detailed you want your forecast to be.

- Select Fahrenheit or Celsius and click Submit.

To get your forecast for the day, head to your Echo and say "Alexa, open Big Sky." You can also ask Alexa to consult the app with specific questions. "Alexa, ask Big Sky: will it rain in the next six hours?" "Alexa, what’s the high temperature today?"

From there, you'll have to make your fashion and accessory choices yourself.

[h/t CNET]

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Food
Japan Is Getting Sushi Delivery Robots
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ZMP

Japan, home of robots that feed you tomatoes, check you into your hotel, and act as surrogate children, is about to get a sushi delivery bot.

In August, the Japanese robotics company ZMP and the food delivery service Ride On Express are due to launch CarriRo Delivery, an autonomous sushi delivery robot, according to Fast Company and RocketNews24.

The sushi will come from Ride On Express’s sushi restaurant Gin no Sara and be delivered in the red robot, which looks like a cross between an ice cream cart and one of London’s signature red buses. The CarriRo robot can deliver sushi for up to 60 people and is designed to navigate the city on its own with the help of cameras and sensors.

ZMP has aspirations for the robots outside the culinary sphere. The promotional video shows the robots navigating sidewalks to pick up prescription drugs, household supplies, and more, bringing them to people who order from an app on their phone. It has headlights, so it appears you can order at all hours of the day. The robot can run for up to eight hours at a time and can be controlled remotely.

For now, though, the laws governing autonomous robots roving around public sidewalks aren’t super clear, so the CarriRo’s sushi service is debuting on private land only. That means futuristic sushi parties will be confined to office parks and other areas where it won’t run afoul of the law. (It has a top speed of less than 4 mph, so it can’t exactly run away from the police.)

For select office workers, though, this will bring the convenience of conveyor belt sushi to a whole new level.

[h/t Fast Company]

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