GigaOM today published a lengthy piece on the state of the solar and fuel cell farm installations that Apple has been building in North Carolina in recent years.
After a visit to the 100-acre, 20 megawatt (MW) solar farm, 10MW fuel cell farm, and another 20 MW solar panel farm situated close to Apple’s North Carolina iCloud data center, the report gives a pretty in-depth look into Apple’s operations, from how its fuel cells work right down to the sheep that eat the grass on its solar farm:
The solar farm across from the data center has over 50,000 panels on 100 acres, and it took about a year to build the entire thing….Each solar panel on Apple’s farms has a microcontroller on its back, and the panels are attached to long, large trackers (the steel poles in the picture). During the day, the computers automatically and gradually tilt the solar panels so that the face of the panels follow the sun throughout the day. The above picture was taken in the late morning, so by the end of the day, the panels will have completely rotated to face where I was standing. The trackers used are single-axis trackers, which basically means they are less complex and less expensive than more precise dual-axis trackers.
You can see in the above picture that the grass is neatly maintained. Apple manages the grass under the panels in a variety of ways, but one of those is a little more unusual. Apple works with a company that ropes in sheep that eat the grass on a portion of the solar farm; when the sheep finish grazing on one spot, they’re moved to the next.
The site decided to take a look into Apple’s decision to take renewable energy into its own hands just as North Carolina utility Duke Energy is requesting that the state allow it to sell clean energy to large corporate customers. Google is one of the large companies interested in purchasing clean energy from the utility, but the hundreds of millions Apple has invested into its own renewable energy efforts have so far made it self-sufficient. The report notes Apple’s two solar farms, along with its fuel cell farm, are producing more than it needs to power its data center by around 10MW:
Apple’s second 20 MW solar panel farm, which is about 15 miles away from the data center near the town of Conover, North Carolina, is also up and running. All told, the three facilities are creating 50 MW of power, which is about 10 MW more than what Apple’s data center uses. Because of state laws, the energy is being pumped into the power grid, and Apple then uses the energy it needs from the grid. But this setup also means Apple doesn’t need large batteries, or other forms of energy storage, to keep the power going when the sun goes down and its solar panels stop producing electricity.
The full feature on GigaOM is worth checking out if you’re interested in Apple’s renewable energy projects.
Back at Apple’s October 22nd iPad Air event, the company also unveiled an update to its iWork for iCloud online productivity suite beta that included new real-time collaboration features, easier sharing, and more. The ability to collaborate went live initially, but today Apple is rolling a handful of other new features to the Pages, Numbers, and Keynote iWork for iCloud apps.
New features going live today include a new list to view all collaborators currently working on a project, as well as “cursors and selections” for each person editing a document, presentation, or spreadsheet. Apple also notes that you can now “Instantly jump to a collaborator’s cursor by clicking their name in the collaborator list.”
In addition, all apps today receive new folders to organize files, the ability to print from the Tools menu, and the Keynote app gets right-click to skip slides.
You can check out the new features in the Numbers, Pages, and Keynote app on iCloud.com now. Full list of what’s new below:
What’s included in the update?
Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for iCloud beta:
Numbers for iCloud beta:
Keynote for iCloud beta:
Today, the team behind Pixelmator has released the latest version of their app, version 3.0 FX. As before, the app is available on the Mac App Store for $29.99. The update brings a slew of changes to the already popular image editor, especially considering version 2.2 was only released a few weeks ago. 9to5Mac has had access to a preview copy of the update for a few days … so read on for a full walkthrough of the changes.
The headline feature for Pixelmator 3.0 is the addition of layer styles. Layer styles apply effects such as strokes, fills, shadows and reflections to the entire layer in very few clicks. More importantly, these changes are non-destructive — they affect the layer, not the canvas pixels themselves. This means layer effects can be undone and manipulated without changing the underlying image data. In fact, layer styles can even be copied to the clipboard and duplicated across layers.
Styling options are exposed through a new pane in the app, the Styles pane. The new pane is integrated really well with the rest of the app, with the same look and feel you find in other parts of Pixelmator. If a layer has a style applied, a small ‘fx’ icon is shown next to the preview. It doesn’t feel like the view has been ‘tacked on’.
Shadows (both the normal and inset type) are limited to solid colors only, but fills and strokes can be colors or gradients. The reflection setting is probably the only option that feels somewhat rushed because it isn’t flexible. Customization options such as distance or angle are not available and are sorely needed. The absence of more granularity here make it useless for most projects.
Pixelmator exposes a handful of preset layer styles at the bottom of the pane. The presets have a good variety to them and will probably come in handy at some point. As you would expect, this swatch can be added to, allowing you to store your own custom styles for future use. Like shapes, layer styles can also be imported from external sources if desired.
Aside from layer styles, Pixelmator 3.0 brings a brand new array of warping tools. These are officially referred to as “Liquify Tools” in the app. The new tools now accompany Smudge in the tools palette. A drop-down enables switching between Smudge and the new warping tools, namely: Warp, Bump, Pinch and Twirl.
Each effect is pretty self-explanatory once you increase the diameter size of the brush. Warp pushes pixels around the canvas, Bump gradually enlarges at the center of the brush, Pinch stretches and Twirl — well — twirls the image a la a Photo Booth.
In the press release, the team describe the Liquify Tools as effects that “are incredibly fun to play with, whether you want to subtly improve your photos or artistically distort them”. Clearly, these are meant as more of a novelty attraction than serious editing features, but they can have productive uses. In the screenshot at the top of the article, the warp tool has turned a bland photo of a flower into a very stylized (but professional) image.
I had a play with these tools to see if I could achieve similar results and determine if this feature was more than just a gimmick. I took an image of my friend’s cat and used a mixture of the warp and pinch tools to touch it up.
It’s tempting to go overboard, but small tweaks are where these Liquify tools have value. In my example, I attempted to de-emphasize the face structure and highlight the piercing eye without making it look artificial.
Finally, I used layer styles to add a thin black border to frame the shot. I think the result was decent for something that only took about fifteen minutes of work.
Below the surface, for version 3.0, the developers have revamped the image engine. The team has combined all of OS X’s technology stack, such as Core Image and OpenCL, which results in a very performant application. In my use, on a retina Macbook Pro, Pixelmator was incredibly fast and efficient. Rendering is very fast and the application UI is equally responsive. Pixelmator claims an overall performance improvement between 1.4x and 2.0x compared to the previous version.
In addition, Pixelmator 3.0 is specially optimized to take advantage of the new Mac Pro’s dual workstation GPUs. The power of the Mac Pro’s internals means that the developers have been able to bring 16-bit color channel image support to the app for the first time. With 3.0, Pixelmator is also a good Mavericks citizen, respecting system App Nap notifications and utilizing Compressed Memory to maximize the efficiency and power usage of the app.
As always, 3.0 is a free update for current users of the app. Pixelmator is available exclusively on the Mac App Store for $29.99 and requires Mac OS X Lion or later.
On the ‘Built-in Apps’ page in the iPhone 5s and 5c section of Apple’s website, although the actual app screenshots look the same, Apple is using new (flatter) iOS icons for the iLife and iWork suites to match the style of iOS 7. The iPhoto and GarageBand icons are identical to the ones that were leaked last week in the iCloud Storage preferences.
However, this is the first time the new iOS 7 style iMovie, Pages, Numbers and Keynote icons have been seen. Although iMovie looks relatively similar to its skeuomorphic counterpart, the other icons look drastically different featuring bright gradients and white icon masks.
Moreover, the same page reveals that GarageBand will also be going free in the near future.
GarageBand is free on the App Store for all iOS 7 compatible devices; additional GarageBand instruments and sounds are available with an in-app purchase. iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are free on the App Store for qualifying iOS 7 compatible devices activated on or after September 1, 2013. See http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/ for iOS 7 compatible devices. Downloading apps requires an Apple ID.
It seemed odd that GarageBand was left out of the free software bundle last month. Obviously, Apple is looking to rectify this by moving to a freemium model with the app; offering the core functionality for free but making In App Purchases available for extra instruments and sounds.
Also, the website copy reveals new tidbits about the upcoming additions to the suite.
It’s everything you love about viewing, editing, and sharing photos — with the power and simplicity of Multi-Touch. You can quickly organize and compare photos. Brush adjustments onto an image with your finger. Apply professional-quality effects in a single tap. And create beautiful photo books, prints, slideshows, and web journals to share with family and friends.
As a replacement for the now-defunct Cards app, in line with our report from this morning about printing integration into iPhoto, Apple will integrate photo book creation and print features directly into iPhoto for iOS. This will offer a more streamlined experience for users, as only one app (which customers are encouraged to download the first time they open the App Store on their new device) deals with photo management, photo editing and printing.
The copy also talks about a new feature for the iMovie app called iMovie Theater.
Quickly and easily turn your home videos into beautiful HD movies and Hollywood-style trailers with stunning graphics and cinematic soundtracks. Tap Share to have your instant world premiere on YouTube, Facebook, or Vimeo. And with the new iMovie Theater, screen them all on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac — even on your HDTV via Apple TV. It’s like having your own personal theater, everywhere you go.
Apple is expected to show off its newly-redesigned versions of iLife and iWork on Tuesday, at its media event.
AOL has informed applicable users that it will be dropping support for accessing email from Apple’s iCloud service from its recently launched Alto webmail client. Alto is a web-based mail client that intelligently sorts and integrates email from services such as iCloud Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL. AOL has informed iCloud users who have logged into Alto that support for iCloud will be dropped on December 2nd:
Thanks for using Alto to read and send mail from your @iCloud, @me or @mac account. We’ve been honored to host those accounts and get great, positive feedback on the experience from users like you. But we’re sad to say that Alto will no longer support iCloud accounts as of December 2, 2013. We sincerely regret the frustration this will cause.
iCloud accounts will automatically be disabled in Alto on that date, but users can begin the process early by removing iCloud accounts from Alto manually. All iCloud accounts, no matter if the domain is @icloud.com, @me.com, or @mac.com will no longer be supported. AOL has not shared why it is dropping support for Apple’s email service, and AOL does not appear to be dropping support for any other provider.
Full email below:
Hey there, Thanks for using Alto to read and send mail from your @iCloud, @me or @mac account. We’ve been honored to host those accounts and get great, positive feedback on the experience from users like you. But we’re sad to say that Alto will no longer support iCloud accounts as of December 2, 2013. We sincerely regret the frustration this will cause. You can close your account now by clicking the Plus sign (+) on the left of your Alto inbox, then clicking the iCloud account name and the Close Alto Account button at the bottom of the column that opens. Or you can simply wait and do nothing and you will automatically lose access on December 2nd. We would love to continue giving you Alto’s great view of your non-iCloud email accounts. Any other supported IMAP-accessible email will continue to work, including Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail and others. If you already added other accounts to this one, you can sign into Alto with one of those and re-add the other(s) to it. Unfortunately any stacks you might have created will have to be rebuilt. Again – we are very sorry for this inconvenience! If you have any questions, please reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, The Alto Team
Around midnight UK time, my iPhone 5, along with thousands of other iOS 7-running devices which hadn’t updated from their dev betas, randomly crashed. An error message of “could not activate iPhone” appeared, and prompted users to sign in with their iCloud details. Unfortunately this did not solve the issue, with Apple’s activation server being “temporarily unavailable.”
Fortunately, a fix is available – such as the one detailed at iPhoneHacks. The executive summary is to make sure you’re running iTunes 11.1, manually download the latest 7.0.2 version of iOS , connect the device to your Mac, click on the device in iTunes and then hold down the option key when clicking the Check for Update button to select the downloaded file. See the detailed instructions and links to the files for each device here.
Since more than a year ago, Germans have not had access to push notifications for iCloud Mail services following a dispute between Apple and Motorola in the country that forced Apple to disable the feature. Now, as noted by German Apple blog iPhone-ticker.de, Apple has now confirmed that push notifications services have been switched back on in the country. The news comes following Apple’s success in getting the original injunction lifted after posting $132 million bond, according to FossPatents:
After the Federal Patent Court’s preliminary ruling, Apple filed with the Karlsruhe-based appeals court a motion to stay enforcement against Google’s will. In early September, the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court granted it. I published my own (obviously unofficial) English translation of the order. The order revealed that Apple had to post a 100 million euro ($132 million) bond to get the injunction actually lifted. The paperwork for all of this apparently took a few weeks and presumably Apple’s technical staff conducted some internal tests before finally reactivating the push notification feature for end users — which it did today.
After issuing two reminders to former MobileMe customers that they would lose their free iCloud upgrade from 5GB to 25GB, Apple today reduced the storage limits as planned. Customers who have more than 5GB, and who haven’t bought a paid storage plan, will find that iCloud is no longer working.
If you exceed your storage plan on September 30, 2013, iCloud Backup, Documents in the Cloud, and iCloud Mail will temporarily stop working. To continue using these iCloud features without interruption, reduce the amount of iCloud storage you are using or purchase a storage plan by September 30, 2013.
As we’ve previously advised, much of the iCloud storage is usually taken up by iCloud Backups which can be deleted through System Preferences > iCloud > Manage. Those who need more than the free 5GB offered by iCloud can also use Dropbox to store photos and files.