In our latest ExtraBITS roundup, Apple CEO Tim Cook makes a political statement in the Washington Post, Pixar releases RenderMan for free, Apple Store employees prepare to offer fashion advice, a Mac Plus gets on the Web, and Amazon reveals future updates for the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.
Tim Cook Speaks Out Against “Religious Freedom” Laws -- Apple has come a long way from Steve Jobs’s open letters about DRM, Flash, and the firm’s environmental efforts. In a Washington Post op-ed, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticizes state laws that he says “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors,” such as Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some say opens the door to discrimination against LGBT individuals. Invoking his childhood in the South during the civil rights movement, Cook moves from noting that “America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business,” to the more humanistic “This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings.”
Pixar Releases RenderMan Free for Non-Commercial Use -- Pixar has released its RenderMan 3D-rendering tool for free, as long as you use it for non-commercial purposes. It’s not a standalone solution, since it requires something like Autodesk’s Maya or The Foundry’s Katana to create the actual 3D models. But this move should excite any student of the 3D arts, given that RenderMan was used to create visual effects for The Lord of the Rings series, the Star Wars prequels, Titanic, and of course, Pixar’s own animated films.
Apple Store Sales Line: “The white strap looks great on you!” -- Over at 9to5Mac, Mark Gurman has a fascinating article about how Apple is training Apple Store employees to provide personal fashion and styling advice to customers in conjunction with the upcoming launch of the Apple Watch. It’s worth a read for insight into the psychology of fashion sales, and to compare to how you’re treated if you go to check out Apple’s new wearable. The real question is if Apple will require that employees’ monochromatic t-shirts color-coordinate with their Apple Watch bands.
Connecting a 1986 Mac Plus to the Modern Web -- The Mac Plus debuted years before the World Wide Web, but that didn’t stop developer Jeff Keacher from figuring out how to get his 1986-era Mac online. Using MacTCP, MacWeb, a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, and a custom proxy server, Keacher was able to connect his Mac Plus to the modern Web. It works about as well as you might expect — Web pages can take minutes to load — but it was clearly a lovely puzzle to solve.
New Features Coming for Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick -- In the wake of new Apple TV rumors, Amazon has announced upcoming feature changes for its Fire TV lineup. In coming weeks, the Fire TV will be updated to support USB storage devices and Bluetooth headphones. Both the original Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick will soon be able to connect to hotel Wi-Fi hotspots, and browse and search Prime Music Playlists. They’ll also offer new shortcuts for sleep and for display mirroring, plus a new PIN entry screen that hides the selected numbers.