5 Things - Week Ending 11/30/12

This is the 31st post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

More and more, we can get computers to do things for us by talking to them. A computer can call your mother when you tell it to, find you a pizza place when you ask for one, or write out an email that you dictate. Sometimes the computer gets it wrong, but a lot of the time it gets it right, which is amazing when you think about what a computer has to do to turn human speech into written words: turn tiny changes in air pressure into language. Computer speech recognition is very complicated and has a long history of development, but here, condensed for you, are the 7 basic things a computer has to do to understand speech.

Isn't it amazing some of the things that computers can do? If you would like to know how computers recognize human speech this article is worth the five minutes it will take to read.

How to Save Your Phone When It Falls in the Toilet

People drop their phones in the toilet much more often than you would think. I recall numerous people coming into the Apple Store during my time there with water damaged iPhones.

If you drop your phone in the toilet do the following:

  1. Snatch the phone out of the toilet fast.
  2. Wipe the phone down with a paper towel.
  3. Don't take the battery out of an iPhone. Remove batteries from phones with removeable batteries.
  4. Put phone into a bag of uncooked rice.
  5. Wait 24 hours before removing the phone and turning it back on.

Ignore the advice about sticking a piece of white paper over the water sensor to avoid detection of water damage. That is not cool.

The iPhone 5 Damage Report: Two Months Later

Sam Biddle:

Every iPhone has accumulated wear and tear over the years. Nothing looks like new after it’s out in the world day after day—not smartphones, not iPods, not humans. And if you live in constant fear of scratching your devices, you’re probably going to have an extremely anxious and unhappy existence. S*** happens, and things fall on the ground. You can’t let worrying about a thing stop you from enjoying the thing.

This article shows pictures of two different iPhones. The first has been "naked" without any case. The second has been sealed up in a case since the moment it was purchased. The iPhone 5 without the case has numerous nicks and dings. This is inevitable with any piece of technology that you don't purchase a case for.

Right now, I have a small scratch on my iPhone 4S and numerous scratches on my iPad. I don't have a case on the iPhone 4S and I use the Smart Cover on my iPad.

At the end of the day, technology is meant to be used and is not a fine piece of art meant to be displayed in a museum. I wouldn't spend too much time or money trying to protect a device that won't be worth very much in a couple years.

Pentagon: A Human Will Always Decide When a Robot Kills You

Spencer Ackerman:

The Pentagon wants to make perfectly clear that every time one of its flying robots releases its lethal payload, it’s the result of a decision made by an accountable human being in a lawful chain of command. Human rights groups and nervous citizens fear that technological advances in autonomy will slowly lead to the day when robots make that critical decision for themselves. But according to a new policy directive issued by a top Pentagon official, there shall be no SkyNet, thank you very much.

I guess I can rest easy knowing that some rogue drone won't kill me while in the middle of the night while I sleep.


Fantastical has replaced Calendars by Readdle on my iPhone's Home Screen. I love the Day Ticker at the top of the screen as well as the natural language parsing when setting up a new event. Get it at the introductory price of $1.99 before it goes up to the normal price of $3.99.