Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Attends Trump’s Inauguration 

“If a Walmart could vomit, this is what would come out.”

What Else Is New in the First iOS 10.3 Beta 

From MacRumors’ rundown of new features:

When installing iOS 10.3, it will update the file system to Apple File System (APFS), so it’s important to make a backup before updating.

That’s a big one. I think like most people, I wasn’t expecting APFS to become the iOS file system until late this year, with iOS 11.

On the Likelihood of Losing Your AirPods

Geoffrey Fowler on Twitter, linking to Joanna Stern’s piece on the new “Find My AirPods” feature in the first iOS 10.3 beta:

This was a no-brainer: Apple’s now got a tool to help locate their tiny $160 wireless earbuds you’re destined to lose.

I’ve seen this “destined to lose” argument in a lot of reviews of the AirPods. Like: “Pros: Good sound, great battery life, easy pairing. Cons: Expensive, easily lost.

And because they’re small, they certainly could be easily lost. But that’s true of all small things. You can easily lose a $100 casino chip. You can easily lose expensive jewelry. It happens. But it’s not that common, because you know these things are valuable. It’s human nature to be more careful with valuable items. If AirPods cost $29 and were included in the box with iPhones, they’d be lost more frequently than they are as a $159 standalone product. (Let alone a $159 product that is still backordered by six weeks.)

I’ve been wearing AirPods almost daily since mid-September, and I’ve only ever had two close calls.

Once, I went for a jog and stopped at the post office to pick up a package they were holding for me. I left the post office, walked to the corner, and as I was about to resume my jog, I realized I only had one AirPod in my ears. I went back into the post office and found the missing AirPod on the counter where I picked up (and signed for) the package. I had taken it out to pause playback and talk to the clerk. Because I didn’t have pockets, I had put it down on the counter.

The second close call was a very cold night just a few weeks ago. I wore a hoodie to cover my head and ears while walking through the city. I pulled the hoodie off a few doors down from my destination, and when I did, it must have popped my right AirPod out. I didn’t notice at the moment, though, because I had already paused playback and my ears were so cold (despite the hoodie) that I didn’t feel it come out. I backtracked and spotted it on the sidewalk, about 20 feet away. The danger wasn’t really that I’d lose it, but that someone else would step on it before I got to it.

The habit I’ve gotten into is taking my case with me everywhere I go wearing AirPods. Whenever I take one or both of them out, I put them into the case. I try never to set them down or put them loose into a pocket. The buds are either in the case, in my ears, or in my fingers.

In short, the best way not to lose them is to treat them as easily lost, valuable objects. I’ve misplaced my AirPods in my house far more often than I’ve come close to actually losing them — that’s the feature I’m looking forward to with AirPods support in Find My iPhone. 

First iOS 10.3 Beta Adds AirPod Support to Find My iPhone 

Joanna Stern:

The most likely situation requires just the human ear — take it from someone who has repeatedly discovered an AirPod at the bottom of a purse pocket. Apple has added an alarm to help find earbuds in proximity. Tap “Play Sound” in the iOS app and the AirPod will start chirping. In the app, you can specify which AirPod you’d like to sound. Only problem? If the AirPod’s battery runs out, it’ll remain silent.

It will also track the last known location, and if you leave them at home, can use other devices within Bluetooth range to ping them. Good stuff.

Amazon Nabs Streaming’s First Best Picture Oscar Nomination With ‘Manchester by the Sea’ 

Natalie Jarvey, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Amazon has not only scored its first Oscar nominations with Manchester, it has also become the first streaming service to earn a best picture nod.

Manchester received six total nominations, including Kenneth Lonergan for directing and original screenplay, Casey Affleck for lead actor, Lucas Hedges for supporting actor, and Michelle Williams for supporting actress. The Salesman, Iran’s selection in the foreign-language film category — which Amazon is distributing in the United States — also received a nomination, bringing Amazon’s total nominations to seven.

Amazing success story for Amazon. There’s been a lot of talk over the last decade or so that Hollywood was wary of Apple doing to them what the entertainment industry thinks they did to the music industry. In the meantime, Netflix and Amazon are kicking their asses.

Former Apple UI Designer Bas Ording Now at Tesla 

Thom Holwerda, writing for OS News back in June 2014:

After about 15 years at the company as User Interface Designer, he left about a year ago for unknown reasons - until now. Speaking at a conference here in The Netherlands, and noted by Emerce (via Tweakers), Ording explains that he decided to leave Apple because he was fed up with having to appear in court.

“Because my name is listed on patents, I increasingly had to appear in court cases versus HTC and Samsung,” he said, “That started to annoy me. I spent more time in court than designing. Aside from that, I missed the interaction with Steve Jobs. We discussed matters every fourteen days.”

In March 2015, Ording joined Tesla as a user interface designer. I missed this back when it happened, but now it’s starting to look like part of a trend. Tesla seems to be poaching more good people from Apple than Apple is from Tesla.

Here’s a good 2014 piece by Luke Dormehl at Cult of Mac on Ording’s role in the creation of iOS’s text selection and copy-paste interface.

Designer Matt Casebolt Leaves Apple for Tesla 

In more two-week-old news, here’s Seth Weintraub, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Chris Lattner isn’t the only high profile Apple executive who departed for Tesla over the past month, rather than sticking around to work on Titan. 9to5mac has learned that Matt Casebolt, a high profile Senior Director of Design for Apple’s Mac lineup left the company last month for a role at Tesla as Sr. Director Engineering, Closures and Mechanisms. A job meant for a man named Casebolt …

Over the past two and a half years Casebolt led the development of the MacBook Pro with its standout and sometimes controversial Touch Bar feature. Before that, he led the team working on the iconic ‘trash can’ Mac Pro and was previously instrumental in the design of the first generations of MacBook Air. These are some of Apple’s most iconic Mac products over the past decade.

Xiaomi Stops Disclosing Phone Sales Figures 

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch two weeks ago:

Xiaomi has forgone its tradition of revealing how many smartphones it sold the previous year. The strategy yielded many headlines for the highly-regarded Chinese outfit, but today its CEO admitted that Xiaomi has been in transition after growing “too fast”.

The writing was on the cards, even as early as January 2016 when Xiaomi revealed it had sold “over 70 million” devices in 2015. An impressive number, for sure, given the backdrop of slowing smartphone sales worldwide, but it was short of the company’s public target of 80 million, which was reduced from an initial 100 million.

Which companies other than Apple still release their phone sales numbers? Samsung stopped way back in 2011, and as far as I can tell, never started again. Horace Dediu wrote in 2012 that most companies had stopped the practice, and makes the case that sales estimates from outside analysts aren’t accurate.

Speaking of Xiaomi, former Google executive Hugo Barra announced today that he’ll soon be stepping down as the Xiaomi executive in charge of international and English-language sales.

Samsung’s Illustrated Report on What Went Wrong With the Galaxy Note 7 

Spoiler: it was the batteries.

V for Wikipedia 

My thanks to Raureif for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote V for Wikipedia. V for Wikipedia is an opinionated iOS app with nit-picky typography hailed by no less than Erik Spiekermann as the “best on the small screen yet.” It is a gorgeous app, and it’s amazing to me personally how much better Wikipedia reads when it actually looks good.

V for Wikipedia’s design is more than just typography, though. The map visualization lets you explore nearby places — interesting both for your own neighborhood and anywhere you might travel. You can even find articles on your Apple Watch (which sounds crazy, but works great).

Download V for Wikipedia on the App Store. It’s a great app, well worth a couple of bucks.

‘American Carnage’ 

The Economist:

But there was nothing for those hoping to see a more pragmatic, moderate President Trump take office, or to hear him admit that the world is complex and less pliable than he pretended on the campaign trail. All populists are at heart conspiracy theorists, who pretend that easy solutions exist to society’s woes and have only not been tried to date because elites are wicked and deaf to the sturdy common-sense of decent, ordinary folk.

That was the Trump approach.

That’s Trumpism in a nut.

On the Inauguration of Donald Trump: Preserve, Protect, and Defend 

David Remnick, writing for The New Yorker:

The reason so many people are having fever dreams and waking up with a knot in the gut is not that they are political crybabies, not that a Republican defeated a Democrat. It’s not that an undifferentiated mass of “coastal élites” is incapable of recognizing that globalization, automation, and deindustrialization have left millions of people in reduced and uncertain circumstances. It is not that they “don’t get it.” It’s that they do.

Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge. Setting the tone for his Presidency, he refused, or was unable, to transcend the willful ugliness of his campaign. He goes on continuing to conceal his taxes, the summary of his professional life; he refuses to isolate himself from his businesses in a way that satisfies any known ethical standard; he rants on social media about every seeming offense that catches his eye; he sets off gratuitous diplomatic brushfires everywhere from Beijing to Berlin. (Everywhere, that is, except Moscow.)

Whatever he did to become popular enough to win the election, he’s squandered that too — even Fox News’s poll shows him to be staggeringly unpopular. The stands were nearly empty for today’s parade. Look at this. No one showed up. Crickets chirping.

It’s going to be a long four years, but take comfort in this: Trump is already deeply unpopular.

Paul Ryan: The Magazine 

Remember The Neu Jorker — Andrew Lipstein and James Folta’s cover-to-cover parody issue of The New Yorker? They’re back, with a Kickstarter to raise money for a new project: “Paul Ryan: The Unofficial Magazine of Paul Ryan”.

I’m in.

John McTiernan’s First Film in 14 Years: ‘The Red Dot’, a Short Promoting ‘Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ 

Watch the short first. It’s terrific. (Warning: violence.) Then follow the link and read Drew Taylor’s piece for Vulture:

McTiernan’s involvement in The Red Dot hasn’t been widely publicized (or even particularly acknowledged), which is a shame, especially considering it’s his first filmed project in a whopping 14 years. (His last movie was the rainy Rashomon-on-a-military base thriller Basic.) McTiernan’s inauspicious reemergence leads to a couple of bigger questions: Where, exactly, has he been? And what makes this ad so special?

To answer the first question, you have to go back to 2006, when Anthony Pellicano, a private eye with ties to some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, was arraigned on federal wiretapping charges. It was the conclusion of both a three-year investigation and Pellicano’s 30-day stint in prison for illegally keeping explosives in his West Hollywood office. The resulting trial would eventually embroil some of Hollywood’s biggest executives (Michael Ovitz and Brad Grey) and shiniest stars (Tom Cruise and Chris Rock). At the time, Vanity Fair described the scandal as Hollywood’s Watergate.

But only one member of the Hollywood elite would actually get sent to prison for to his relationship with the notoriously scuzzy Pellicano: John McTiernan.

This is an amazing story, and despite being a huge fan of McTiernan’s work, I had no idea about any of it until today.

Good to have McTiernan back.

Walt Mossberg: ‘Lousy Ads Are Ruining the Online Experience’ 

Walt Mossberg:

Last Saturday, as the New England Patriots were sloppily beating the Houston Texans 34–16 in a playoff game, I wanted to look at the highlight video of a play using the NFL app on my iPad. To watch that 14-second clip, I had to suffer through a 30-second ad for something so irrelevant to me that I can’t even recall what it was.

A preroll ad twice as long as the actual video clip is absurd.

Here’s Mossberg, on his experience after launching Recode:

About a week after our launch, I was seated at a dinner next to a major advertising executive. He complimented me on our new site’s quality and on that of a predecessor site we had created and run, I asked him if that meant he’d be placing ads on our fledgling site. He said yes, he’d do that for a little while. And then, after the cookies he placed on Recode helped him to track our desirable audience around the web, his agency would begin removing the ads and placing them on cheaper sites our readers also happened to visit. In other words, our quality journalism was, to him, nothing more than a lead generator for target-rich readers, and would ultimately benefit sites that might care less about quality.

So backwards, so shortsighted. User tracking is a plague that benefits no one.

Apple Sues Qualcomm for $1 Billion 

Anita Balakrishnan, reporting for CNBC:

Apple is suing Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying Qualcomm has been “charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with.” The suit follows the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against Qualcomm earlier this week over unfair patent licensing practices.

Shares of Qualcomm, which had been up 1 percent earlier in the day, were were down nearly 2.5 percent by the closing bell.

Apple says that Qualcomm has taken “radical steps,” including “withholding nearly $1 billion in payments from Apple as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them.”

Apple added, “Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined.”

That answers my question the other day about who initiated the complaint against Qualcomm with the FTC.

Apple’s Continuing Need for Worthy Rivals

Chris Matyszczyk, writing for CNet:

Research consultancy Brand Keys has just released its 2017 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. This seeks to find the “category drivers that engage customers, engender loyalty and drive real profits.” It’s based on the views and emotions of 49,168 consumers aged between 16 and 65.

And when he looks at the results, I fear we may see Tim Cook dancing on the tables at some local Cupertino hostelry.

When it comes to the smartphone category, the top driver is Apple. In tablets, it’s Apple. In laptop computers, it’s Apple. Yes, this despite the launch of the somewhat deflating MacBook Pro.

What about online music? Goodness me, it isn’t Spotify. It’s Apple Music.

Even in the headphones product category, Apple-owned Beats ties with LG as the category driver.

Take these results with a grain of salt, considering that Brand Keys is the same outfit that published a piece titled “Apple iPhone 7 Sucks (When It Comes Building Loyalty)” on September 19.

But with the possible exception of music, isn’t it inarguable that Apple leads in all these categories? Who else even could be named the customer loyalty or brand leader in tablets or laptops? No one. You can make the case for Samsung in phones, but I think most observers would agree that they’ve always been Pepsi to the iPhone’s Coke, and their position is shakier than ever in the wake of the Note 7 fiasco.

I think one reason there’s so much consternation today about the state of Apple is simply the fear that their clear leadership in these categories could or already has led to complacency. I wrote nine years ago that it would be better for Apple if they had more competition from design- and innovation-focused competitors, and I think that remains true today. That’s why I consider Tesla one of Apple’s handful of serious rivals, even though they don’t yet (and perhaps never will) compete with Apple directly, other than through the recruiting of talent

Chris Lattner on ATP 

Now out of Apple and soon to be leading Tesla’s autopilot team, Chris Lattner was the guest on ATP this week. Outstanding interview.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Obituary for Richard Nixon 

Feels appropriate today:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

The Team That Runs Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Page 

Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg on the team of writers and photographers that runs Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page:

Zuckerberg has help, lots of it. Typically, a handful of Facebook employees manage communications just for him, helping write his posts and speeches, while an additional dozen or so delete harassing comments and spam on his page, say two people familiar with the matter. Facebook also has professional photographers snap Zuckerberg, say, taking a run in Beijing or reading to his daughter. Among them is Charles Ommanney, known most recently for his work covering the refugee crisis for the Washington Post. Company spokeswoman Vanessa Chan says Facebook is an easy way for executives to connect with various audiences.

While plenty of chief executive officers have image managers, the scale of this team is something different. So is its conflation of Zuckerberg’s personal image with that of his company, the diaper-changing photos next to the user growth stats.

Matt Yglesias:

Key point here is that Mark Zuckerberg is much too smart to actually spend time on Facebook.

The Information: ‘Google to Expand Mid-Range “Android One” Program Into U.S.’ 

Amir Efrati, reporting for The Information (behind a paywall, alas — here’s The Verge’s regurgitated version if you don’t have a subscription)

For instance, Google recently expressed its displeasure with Huawei after the China-based smartphone giant said earlier this month it would offer Amazon’s Alexa “virtual assistant” on upcoming U.S. phones, according to a person briefed about the matter. (Google developed a rival virtual assistant that will be built into Android phones besides the Pixel later this year.) It’s likely that Huawei made the decision in order to be in Amazon’s good graces, given that Amazon is an important seller of Huawei phones to U.S. customers.

I think it’s more likely that Huawei went with Alexa instead of Google Assistant because Alexa is, you know, actually available to them, right now. Maybe Google shouldn’t be surprised that Android handset makers are looking to Amazon when Google keeps the best new features exclusive to its own Pixel phones. But what do I know?

Google already has lined up at least one phone maker to be a U.S. launch partner for Android One, said one of the people briefed on the program. The identity couldn’t be learned.

You have to love the passive voice. It’s not that Efrati couldn’t learn the identity — the identity couldn’t be learned. It’s unknowable!

Developing an App Facing an Inevitable Sherlocking 

David Smith:

This week I’ve been working on a big update to my Apple Watch sleep tracker, Sleep++. While I love the app, it is a bit funny to work on. I am pretty confident that somewhere deep within the Cupertino mothership, Apple is working on their own sleep tracking app for the Apple Watch. […]

In a weird way I’ve just come to peace with this reality and grown to understand that this isn’t something that I should really fear. While the indefinite nature of its arrival certainly gives me a bit of unease, once I accepted that it was inevitable things got much simpler.

Good attitude for a third-party developer.

I think sleep tracking is an inevitable feature for Apple Watch. I’ve been wearing a Series 2 to sleep lately, and I wake up with between 55-65 percent battery remaining. I can usually get to a full charge — or close enough, like say 98 percent — just by charging it while I shower and get dressed. In my use, Series 2 does not need to charge overnight. So it might as well track my sleeping. (My problem with wearing it overnight is that it gives me stand credit for most hours — I must toss and turn a lot while sleeping.)

Update: Numerous readers have written in to say that they’ve been wearing their Apple Watches to sleep for a while, and the problem where they’re getting credit for stand hours while sleeping has only started with WatchOS 3.1.1. So it seems likely it’s just a bug.

If Apple Gets Into AR or VR, It Should and Probably Will Be a New Platform 

Zach LeBar:

Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is macOS-focused?

We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report doesn’t say one way or the other.

What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS could be?

This isn’t how Apple typically approaches new human-computer interaction technologies. They don’t just retrofit their existing platform for the new technology. That’s what Microsoft does with Windows. The iPhone didn’t run the Mac OS. The underlying core OS, yes, but everything user-facing was done from scratch, specific to the nature of a touch screen. Apple creates new platforms for new interaction technologies.

I strongly suspect that’s what Apple would do for AR or VR. It could piggyback on the iPhone for network connectivity, as the Watch does, but it’d be its own software platform.

I suppose it’s possible that Apple could use AR just to impose a big virtual display in front of the user. That wouldn’t work at all with iOS’s touch-based paradigm. It could work with the Mac’s mouse pointer and keyboard paradigm. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I don’t think it would be better than a non-virtual big display on your desktop, and I don’t think toting around a bulky pair of goggles would be better than the built-in displays on MacBooks. It just seems incredibly short-sighted to treat AR or VR as an output for traditional desktop computing.

The Problem With AMP 

Kyle Schreiber:

The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page.

Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google’s news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google’s implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google’s implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn’t limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.

Back in October I asked why websites are publishing AMP pages. The lock-in aspect makes no sense to me. Why would I want to cede control over my pages to Google? AMP pages do load fast, but if publishers want their web pages to load fast, they can just engineer them to load fast. Best answers I got were that it wasn’t really strategic — publishers are going with AMP just because their SEO people are telling them to, because Google features AMP pages in search results. I suppose that is a strategy, but ceding control over your content to Google isn’t a good one in the long term.

As Schreiber points out, with things like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, the canonical URL for each story remains on the publisher’s own website. With AMP, from the perspective of typical users, the canonical URL is on

Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview 


This document gives an overview of how security is designed into Google’s technical infrastructure. This global scale infrastructure is designed to provide security through the entire information processing lifecycle at Google. This infrastructure provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data with end user privacy safeguards, secure communications between services, secure and private communication with customers over the internet, and safe operation by administrators.

Quite a few interesting bits in this document, including this:

A Google data center consists of thousands of server machines connected to a local network. Both the server boards and the networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. We vet component vendors we work with and choose components with care, while working with vendors to audit and validate the security properties provided by the components. We also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.

FTC Charges Qualcomm With Monopolizing Key Semiconductor Device Used in Cell Phones 

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

Extracted exclusivity from Apple in exchange for reduced patent royalties. Qualcomm precluded Apple from sourcing baseband processors from Qualcomm’s competitors from 2011 to 2016. Qualcomm recognized that any competitor that won Apple’s business would become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm’s competitors.

I wonder who brought this complaint to the FTC — Apple, Qualcomm’s competitors, or both?

The Commission vote to file the complaint was 2-1. Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen dissented and issued a statement. Both a public and sealed version of the complaint were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on January 17, 2017.

Ohlhausen’s dissent is quite brief, and worth a read.

The Pipe Dream of Ara 

How far out in the weeds was Google’s modular “Project Ara” phone concept before they finally pulled the plug on it? This far out, according to Harrison Weber’s report for VentureBeat:

Imagine the modules developers might dream up. There were the obvious ideas, like specialized cameras and high-end speakers. But modules could get stranger, wilder, too. One module idea, in particular, frequently derailed meetings inside ATAP’s walls, as studio leaders strained to picture a module gold rush akin to Apple’s App Store.

“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create.

Crowdsourcing Is No Way to Design a Phone (Or Anything Else for That Matter) 

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

ZTE’s crowdsourced phone has already had quite a journey. After the phone’s concept — an eye-tracking, self-adhesive device — was voted on by ZTE users, the phone was put on Kickstarter. Now ZTE is giving us a clearer idea of what to expect specs-wise. […]

Although it has the hardware specs down, ZTE told me at CES that they haven’t totally figured out the phone’s software, like how to get it to eye track. The company also didn’t divulge any details around the self-adhesive case, so we have no idea how the phone will stick to different surfaces. Still, Hawkeye costs $199 on Kickstarter if you feel like preordering and waiting for more details to trickle out. ZTE could use the help too; it has only raised $32,000 out of its $500,000 goal.

Good luck with that.

Samsung Heir Faces Arrest on Charges of Bribing South Korea’s President 

Choe Sang-Hun, reporting for the NYT:

The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. […]

Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung.

Shocking that something like this would happen to a company as morally scrupulous as Samsung. Shocking.

Apple Insider: ‘Safari Not Able to Play New 4K Videos From YouTube Homepage, Likely Due to VP9 Shift’ 

Mike Wuerthele, reporting for Apple Insider:

What appears to be Google’s shift to the VP9 codec for delivering 4K video on the YouTube homepage is preventing Safari users from watching videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution, but not from viewing webpage-embedded videos in the same resolution.

The shift appears to have taken place on Dec. 6, according to a Reddit thread delving into the issue. Google has been pushing the open and royalty-free VP9 codec as an alternative to the paid H.265 spec since 2014, but has never said that it would stop offering 4K video on the YouTube site in other formats, like the Apple-preferred H.264.

I’m curious what Google’s thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though.

Android’s Emoji Problem 

One practical side-effect of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Android phones are running old versions of the OS: they don’t have the latest emoji.

The Unsung iPhone Sine Qua Non 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

In retrospect, the ascendency of Smartphone 2.0 and the way it has shaped our culture seems obvious and natural. But the celebration and contemplation overlooks a crucial Sine Qua Non, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition: Unlocking the carriers’ grip on handset specifications, marketing, and content distribution.

More specifically, we owe Steve Jobs an enormous debt of gratitude for breaking the carriers’ backs (to avoid a more colorful phrase).

It wasn’t enough that it was revolutionary in both hardware and software. Apple needed something no major handset maker had ever gotten before, or has gotten since: total control.

A Russian Journalist on What to Expect Under Trump 

Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, in the wake of Trump’s farcical press conference last week:

Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other.

Josh Marshall responds:

Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.

Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card 

Jason Snell:

As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.

This survey is such a valuable service. The consensus scores feel like a very accurate assessment of Apple’s year.

Q1 DF RSS Feed Sponsorships 

The Q1 sponsorship schedule is pretty open, including a last-minute opening for this coming week. If you’ve got a product or service to promote to DF’s discerning audience, get in touch.

Bloomberg on Andy Rubin’s New Company, Essential 

Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:

Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. […]

While still in the prototyping stage, Rubin’s phone is aimed at the top of the market where Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Alphabet Inc.’s new Pixel reside. It’s expected to include high-end materials and the ability to gain new hardware features over time, the people said. Representatives for Rubin and Sprint declined to comment.

The problem with any sort of modular design where the goal is to “gain new hardware features over time” is that the most important hardware components in a phone are the display, camera, CPU, and GPU, and Apple updates the iPhone with industry-leading displays, cameras, CPUs, and GPUs every year.

At least one prototype of Rubin’s phone boasts a screen larger than the iPhone 7 Plus’s (5.5-inches) but has a smaller overall footprint because of the lack of bezels, one of the people said. The startup is experimenting with enabling the phone’s screen to sense different levels of pressure, similar to an iPhone, the person said. Rubin’s team is testing an industrial design with metal edges and a back made of ceramic, which is more difficult to manufacture than typical smartphone materials, two of the people said. […]

Rubin is aiming to put the phone on sale around the middle of this year for a price close to that of an iPhone 7 ($649), a person familiar with the matter said, adding that all of the plans are still in flux.

If it’s in the prototyping stage right now, in January, and they don’t know what materials they’re going to use or what size the display will be, what chance do they possibly have of putting a phone on sale in the “middle of this year”?

Also, no word on what OS they’re using. I’m guessing Android with customizations, but it’s curious the story doesn’t say.

Speedtest Desktop Apps for Mac and Windows 

My thanks to Ookla for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new native apps for Mac and Windows. I’ve been using their web service since forever to diagnose network problems and measure performance. They’ve had a native app for iOS for years, and it’s great too.

Now they have native desktop apps. Very simple, very obvious, and beautifully designed. Try them out today by downloading the Speedtest app from the Windows or Mac App Stores — free of charge. That’s it — excellent new native apps for network speed testing, totally free.

U.S. Appeals Court Allows Group to Sue Apple Over App Store ‘Monopoly’ 

Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

That sound you hear is thousands of indie iOS developers laughing at the notion of the App Store leading to “higher prices”.

Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.

A lower court sided with Apple, but Judge William A. Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple. […]

The courts have yet to address the substance of the iPhone users’ allegations; up this point, the wrangling has been over whether they have the right to sue Apple in the first place.

I think it’s fair to say that users buy apps from Apple, not from the developers, so the fact that they can sue Apple strikes me as the correct ruling. But I don’t see how Apple can be ruled to have a “monopoly” — everyone knows Android phones comprise a majority of the market. It’s fair to object to Apple’s tight control over iOS, but you can’t fairly call it a “monopoly”.


David Smith:

I have a knack for remembering audio. I’m awful at remembering names and faces, but if I hear something I can often recall it later. This has manifested itself as a bit of a party trick for the podcasts I listen to, where I can quickly find the section of a show where a topic was discussed even years after I heard it. Fun, but not particularly useful.

This situation gave me the idea for a little side project, PodSearch, empowering the same quick podcast recall for anyone. The concept was simple. Take a few of my favorite podcasts and run them through automated speech-to-text and make the result searchable.

This is really amazing. I really ought to pay to get true transcripts for The Talk Show (including the back catalog of episodes), but this is a pretty good way to search my show for keywords.

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek 

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek, his replacement as project lead on Apple’s Swift team:

One thing that I don’t think is fully appreciated by the community: Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team. This is the time for me to graciously hand things over to folks who are far more qualified than me. Swift has an incredible future ahead of it, and I’m really thrilled to be small part of the force that helps guide its direction going forward.

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros 

Consumer Reports:

New Apple software fixes a battery issue found in CR tests. The software, now in beta, will be part of a broad update soon.

This makes it sound like CR found a problem with the batteries. They didn’t. They found a bug in a Safari developer mode. It’s a real bug, but it’s clear now that it didn’t justify the initial sensational “Wow, first ever Apple laptop not recommended by Consumer Reports!” report. There’s no way they would’ve published that rushed initial report for a laptop from any brand other than Apple. Clickbait, pure and simple.

‘This Is Why You Don’t Kiss the Ring’ 

Good piece by Hamilton Nolan, writing for The Concourse, on Trump’s press conference yesterday, which had the tone and substance of a professional wrestling promotion:

These things are not normal. These things are not okay. These are actions that flout well-established ethical and civil norms. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about watching him do this. What will he do next? It always keeps us tuning in, in the same way that a violent alcoholic father will always keep his children on his toes. But we should not fool ourselves about what is happening in front of our eyes. We are all coming to realize that our civil society institutions may not be strong enough to protect the flawed but fundamentally solid democracy that we thought we had. We are witnessing the rise to power of a leader who does not care about norms. Since these norms were created to prevent political, social, economic, and cultural disasters, we do not need to wonder how this will end. It will end poorly.

The Right Way to Pop Your AirPods Out of the Case

Hey, I made a YouTube video:


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