Archive for April 25, 2017

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

PhotoScan: Taking Glare-Free Pictures of Pictures

Google (via Hacker News):

When taking a single picture of a photo, determining which regions of the picture are the actual photo and which regions are glare is challenging to do automatically. Moreover, the glare may often saturate regions in the picture, rendering it impossible to see or recover the parts of the photo underneath it. But if we take several pictures of the photo while moving the camera, the position of the glare tends to change, covering different regions of the photo. In most cases we found that every pixel of the photo is likely not to be covered by glare in at least one of the pictures. While no single view may be glare-free, we can combine multiple pictures of the printed photo taken at different angles to remove the glare. The challenge is that the images need to be aligned very accurately in order to combine them properly, and this processing needs to run very quickly on the phone to provide a near instant experience.

Our technique is inspired by our earlier work published at SIGGRAPH 2015, which we dubbed “obstruction-free photography”. It uses similar principles to remove various types of obstructions from the field of view. However, the algorithm we originally proposed was based on a generative model where the motion and appearance of both the main scene and the obstruction layer are estimated. While that model is quite powerful and can remove a variety of obstructions, it is too computationally expensive to be run on smartphones. We therefore developed a simpler model that treats glare as an outlier, and only attempts to register the underlying, glare-free photo. While this model is simpler, the task is still quite challenging as the registration needs to be highly accurate and robust.

Previously: Google PhotoScan.

Controlling File Permissions in Shared Folders

Glenn Fleishman:

But despite all the control over who can do what, there’s shockingly no way to lock permissions for a given folder such that everything created in it, modified in it, or added to it inherits the permissions of the parent folder. That is, you’d expect you could say, “Shared Folder should always be reachable for everyone who has access to this system,” and yet there’s no simple way to ensure that.

Over at StackExchange, a contributor came up with a long command-line invocation you can use in Terminal to set a folder to keep permissions set correctly, but it only works when files are created in the folder—if you move a file or multiple items in, they don’t inherit the right permissions. If you’re comfortable with the Terminal, this will certainly reduce the problem but not get rid of it.

Apple does offer a $20 upgrade for macOS that lets you turn a Mac into a more full-featured server, including better controls for folder access.

This is one of the other things that Dropbox made easy.

How Apple Won Silicon

Rene Ritchie (via John Gruber):

The Apple A10 Fusion system-on-a-chip (SOC) in iPhone 7 mops the floor with both the Samsung Exynos 8895 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 found in the Galaxy S8 when it comes to single threaded operations.


Apple’s platform technologies team doesn’t have to worry about being hobbled or constrained in any way — all they have to do is run iOS and iOS apps faster than anything else on the planet. That’s their only customer.

It makes for an incredibly appealing work environment for legends of the industry and the best and brightest new minds, a startling number of whom have now found a home at Apple.


Conversely, Apple’s silicon team also doesn’t have to carry the baggage of competing vendors and devices. For example, Apple A10 doesn’t have to support Microsoft’s Direct X. It only and exactly has to support Apple’s specific technologies and implementations.

My iPhone SE, almost two-year-old technology, still feels pretty fast. The slowest parts for me are Touch ID and the cell network, neither of which is limited by the processor. So flip side of this story is that Apple will need more than faster processors now to entice people to upgrade their phones. Alas, on the Mac it’s the opposite story: I feel like I need more speed but that it’s simply not available.

Apple Cuts App and IAP Affiliate Commissions

John Voorhees (Hacker News, MacRumors):

Today, Apple announced that it is reducing the commissions it pays on apps and In-App Purchases from 7% to 2.5% effective May 1st. The iTunes Affiliate Program pays a commission from Apple’s portion of the sale of apps and other media when a purchase is made with a link that contains the affiliate credentials of a member of the program. Anyone can join, but the Affiliate Program is used heavily by websites that cover media sold by Apple and app developers.

Via John Gruber (tweet):

Everything about this strikes me as strange, including the mere one week notice and the severity of the cut. It’s not a small reduction — it’s effectively been cut by two thirds. Note too that Apple is only reducing the affiliate commission for apps and in-app purchases — movies, music, and books are all still at 7 percent.

Brett Terpstra:

I’m guessing some sites you read are going to be showing you a few more ads. Some may shut down completely. I won’t be one of them, but I’ll be going out to eat less often until I replace the revenue.

Michael Love:

If your goal is to get more people into your ecosystem then it’s kind of counterproductive to pay them less $ for linking to you.

If they’re dropping % simply to make a little bit more Services revenue we may truly be entering the no-more-free-soda-at-Microsoft phase.

It sure seems like a bean counter decision. Some are speculating that it will make sense in light of a forthcoming drastic reduction to Apple’s 30% cut from developers. But if that were the case, you’d think Apple would lead with the good news.

Update (2017-04-27): Dr. Drang:

But Apple’s not the only online seller to cut commissions. A couple of months ago Amazon changed its commission structure, and I was a little surprised when none of the stories about Apple’s cut mentioned that.

Update (2017-05-04): Chance Miller:

While some clarity from Apple would be nice, it seems like last month’s statement was largely misinterpreted and that app affiliate rates are staying at 7 percent, while in-app rates are dropping to 2.5 percent.

Update (2017-05-07): Ric Molina:

Because I never saw a clear mention of Mac Apps, I decided to contact the iTunes Affiliate team. Turns out, not only are Mac Apps not impacted. iOS Apps aren’t impacted either.

The change in affiliate commissions applies to in-app purchases only, at least according to their support team[…]

Update (2017-05-08): Apple (via John Voorhees):

We’d like to clarify some changes being made to the Affiliate Program. Commissions for all iOS in-app purchases will be reduced from 7% to 2.5% globally, and all other content types (including music, movies, books, paid iOS apps and TV) will remain at the current 7%.

This contradicts the plain wording of the original announcement (“commissions for all app and in-app content”), so either there was a drafting error or they are backtracking.