Forbes: Peter Thiel Has Been Secretly Funding Hulk Hogan’s Lawsuit Against Gawker ★
Ryan Mac and Matt Drange, reporting for Forbes (sorry for linking to Forbes — I think this is the first time I’ve done so since they started attempting to block visitors using content blockers — but this is their scoop):
Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of
Facebook, has been secretly covering the expenses for
Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker
Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed
to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner
at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases
Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker.
Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los
Angeles-based lawyer. […]
Money may not have been the main motivation in the first place.
Thiel, who is gay, has made no secret of his distaste for Gawker,
which attempted to out him in late 2007 before he was open about
his sexuality. In 2009, Thiel told PEHub that now-defunct Silicon
Valley-focused publication Valleywag, which was owned by Gawker,
had the “psychology of a terrorist.”
“Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda,” Thiel
said at the time.
A storyline right out of pro wrestling.
(Interesting perhaps only to me: I already had tags in my CMS for “Gawker” and “Hulk Hogan”, but not for “Peter Thiel”. Apparently this September 2014 post was the only time I’ve even mentioned Peter Thiel on Daring Fireball.)
‘Scotch Trooper’ ★
Very fun Instagram account.
The Information: Apple Developing Siri API and Echo-Like Device ★
Amir Efrati, writing for The Information (paywall, alas):
Apple is upping its game in the field of intelligent assistants.
After years of internal debate and discussion about how to do so,
the company is preparing to open up Siri to apps made by others.
And it is working on an Amazon Echo-like device with a speaker and
microphone that people can use to turn on music, get news
headlines or set a timer.
Opening up its Siri voice assistant to outside app developers is
the more immediate step. Apple is preparing to release a software
developer kit, or SDK, for app developers who want their apps to
be accessible through Siri, according to a person with direct
knowledge of the effort. […]
Apple hopes to make the Siri SDK available in time for its annual
conference for developers in June.
Will be interesting to see how this API works. Will the Siri extensions be packaged within existing iOS (and Mac?) apps? As for the Echo competitor — I hope they call it the Hi-Fi.
Hazel 4.0 ★
Speaking of Paul Kim, he just released version 4.0 of his excellent Mac utility, Hazel. If you’ve wanted an app to automatically clean up the files on your desktop and Downloads folder, that’s Hazel. Hazel does a lot more than that, but that’s the basic gist. You set up the rules you want and it just works. (If you want to know just how much more Hazel offers, David Sparks just released a two-and-a-half hour Hazel Video Field Guide that will teach you just about everything.)
Michael Tsai’s Dynamic Swift Roundup ★
One more item regarding Swift and dynamism — Michael Tsai’s excellent roundup of links on the subject, including this Hacker News thread.
On Dynamism ★
One thing many people seem to overlook about the dynamism of
Objective-C is that it enabled NeXT (and Apple) to provide better
GUI tools. Using dynamism, they were able to make GUI building
declarative in nature. Connect this to that. Call this method. All
stored in a file that was (and still is) data, not code.
Competitors at the time (and today) resorted to code generation
which is fragile and, ironically, unsafe. Yes, you could have a
more declarative file format, but implementing that in using a
static language required a lot of hard-coding and switch
statements. Not the elegance that many people claim to be moving
I’m not saying that a language has to be purely dynamic but it
shouldn’t be purely static either. It think it’s spurious not to
credit a level of dynamism for the quality of apps on Apple
platforms over the years, and to be pedantic, the NeXT ones as
well — many of which were considered the best on any platform at
the time. To deny that, I feel, shows a lack of understanding of
what has made the platform great all these years.
Objective-C is a very dynamic language. Swift (for now at least) is not. There are arguments on both sides, and I find the whole thing fascinating. But what I’ve noticed is that those arguing most strenuously against dynamism (or if you prefer, in favor of Swift’s relatively strict type safety) are doing so in the name of idealism. That rigorous type safety is correct almost in a moral sense (or, if you prefer, that the sort of bugs you can write with Objective-C’s dynamic features are immoral, that a modern language should prevent you from writing them in the first place).
Those arguing in favor of dynamism — and keep in mind Kim’s utterly even-handed stance quoted above — are doing so from an utterly practical perspective. We have 25 years of evidence that Objective-C and the NeXTStep/Cocoa/Cocoa Touch frameworks allow for the creation of the best apps in the world — and that they allow smaller teams to accomplish more, faster. (Exhibit A: Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web singlehandedly on a NeXT system in 1991.)
I can’t prove that dynamic nature of Objective-C and the frameworks has been essential to the success of the Mac and iOS for app development. But a lot of people who’ve spent years — or decades — creating those apps sure think so. I tend to side with pragmatism over idealism.
Why Big Apps Aren’t Moving to Swift (Yet) ★
I strongly believe Swift is the future of iOS development. It’s
only a matter of when, and the blocker is the breakneck speed it
evolves. For smaller apps, Swift is good enough. For big apps,
it’s at least a year away. […]
If you’re working in a smaller app, stop reading. The benefits of
Swift 3.0 probably outweigh the risks. If you’re curious about the
challenges of large companies, large codebases, and complex
dependencies, this post should explain why big projects are
In the run-up to WWDC (and in the wake of this announcement from Chris Lattner a week ago, that certain features slated for the upcoming Swift 3.0 have been postponed) I’ve seen a slew of great pieces on Swift and dynamic programming. Sandofsky provides a good layman’s overview of why it’s not yet practical — arguments over dynamism aside — for big apps to move to Swift.
Kirk McElhearn on iTunes 12.4 ★
Kirk McElhearn, writing at Macworld:
Apple has thankfully merged the two different types of contextual
menus, in most locations. Instead of one menu displaying when you
click the “…” button, and another when you right-click an item,
the menus are the same, and work in the same way. I never
understood why Apple wanted these two menus to be different, but
it’s good that they’ve realized how confusing they were.
Unfortunately, there are some locations where the “new”
contextual menu exists; click the “…” button next to an artist or
album name, and the new menu is still there. There’s also a new
Song menu in the menu bar, which reproduces the menu items from
the contextual menu.
When you’re watching a movie, the Song menu changes to Movie; watch a TV show and it changes to “TV Show”. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but I’ll be damned if I can recall another app that did something like this with the name of a menu.
See also: McElhearn’s follow-up with additional observations.
Marco Arment on Apple and AI ★
A thoughtful piece by Marco Arment over the weekend, which spawned much discussion:
Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on
advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping
that these will become the next thing that our devices are for.
If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for
Today, Apple’s being led properly day-to-day and doing very well
overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritize those big-data
AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as
BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they’re able to do,
despite being very good at it, won’t be enough anymore, and they
won’t be able to catch up.
Here’s how Craig Mod put it:
When the interface becomes invisible and data based, Apple dies.
That sounds right to me. But I’m not sure I accept the premise that the rise of AI assistants will decrease in any way our desire for devices with screens. iPhone and Android doomed BlackBerry because people stopped buying BlackBerries. Even if we accept the premise that Google Assistant is going to be a big deal that Apple won’t be able to compete with, I’m not sure how that decreases demand for the devices Apple already makes.
I keep thinking back to the original iPhone introduction in 2007, when Steve Jobs touted their partnership with Google. Watch from around the 50 minute mark. Eric Schmidt even jokes that their partnership was sort of like a merger without actually merging — with Apple doing what Apple does best, and Google doing what Google does best. I don’t know if that was ever tenable in the long run, but it’s interesting to wonder where they’d be today if they had made it work.
Google’s Encryption Choices With Allo ★
Hamza Shaban, writing for BuzzFeed:
Google’s “smart” replies and virtual assistant improve with use,
“learning” by analyzing conversations and context. But this kind
of fine-tuned processing requires a record or “memory” of chats
that take place in the normal settings. Similar to Google’s web
browser, Chrome, which includes its own incognito mode, the normal
settings offer a more intuitive experience to consumers, Google
said. The option to turn on incognito mode in Allo and enable
end-to-end encryption offers additional security, but with the
choice to revert back to the fuller version, Google added.
But others are concerned with the broader ramifications of Allo’s
design. “Google has given the FBI exactly what the agency has been
calling for,” Christopher Soghoian, the ACLU’s principal
technologist, told BuzzFeed News.
A live Google bot inside a chat stream is an interesting feature, and it can’t be done with end-to-end encryption. But this means law enforcement can require Google to hand over transcripts, and effectively wiretap your “normal” Allo chats. That’s a tradeoff many people will be willing to make. My beef is with using the words “normal” and “incognito”. Perhaps I’m spoiled by iMessage, but to me a “normal” chat is one with end-to-end encryption and no AI bot. Allo’s “normal” chats are the ones that are abnormal.
And “incognito” is absolutely the wrong word for Allo’s private chats. The word incognito means “having one’s true identity concealed”. That’s not what happens with Allo’s private chats. You’re still identified by your phone number. They should call this “private”, not “incognito”.
Project Ara, Now Less Ambitious, Still a Dumb Idea ★
Remember Project Ara, Google’s modular phone project? Headline of David Pierce’s piece for Wired: “Project Ara Lives: Google’s Modular Phone Is Ready for You Now”.
After years of failed demos, public sputters, and worrisome
silence, Ara works. About 30 people within ATAP are using Ara as
their primary phone. Camargo actually has the luxury of worrying
about things like aesthetics, rather than whether it’ll turn on.
“Please pay no attention to how it looks,” he tells me, flipping
the blocky smartphone over in his hands, “because it’s a
prototype.” It’s not a concept, not an idea, not a YouTube video.
It’s a prototype. Developer kits for Ara will be shipping later
this year, and a consumer version is coming in 2017.
In what universe does this qualify as “ready for us now”? It’s not ready at all, and nothing in this story makes it sound like a good idea. It’s nonsense.
Update: I’ve been asked why I think Ara is a dumb idea. Here’s what I wrote two years ago:
How does this have any more mass market appeal than building one’s
own PC? And with mobile devices, size and weight matter more than
ever, and reductions in size and weight can only come through
The Verge’s Overview of the Google I/O 2016 Keynote ★
I watched most of the keynote and came away very impressed. My short take:
Under the new Alphabet organization and Sundar Pichai’s leadership, Google has focused itself on the things Google is actually good at, and which people will actually want to use. No more pie-in-the-sky stuff like Google Glass. Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right. This might be like Steve Jobs’s 2007 claim that the iPhone was “5 years” ahead of anyone else.
Pichai’s example of a query Google Assistant can handle but which “other assistants” cannot was asking “What is Draymond Green’s jersey number?” I tried that query in the Google app on my iPhone. Got the right answer: 23. I tried with Alexa on my Echo, and got the response “Hmm. I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” I tried with Siri, and I got this.
Update: Wow. Dozens of DF readers have replied that Siri correctly answers that same question when they ask: exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 on Twitter, and more via email. And lo, when I ask “What is Steph Curry’s jersey number?”, Siri nails it. But I’ve tried at least 20 times, on multiple iOS devices, with “Draymond Green” and Siri gets it wrong each time, usually sending me to that same dry cleaner in New Jersey, sometimes suggesting a Bing web search. I can’t get it to work even when I say “What’s the jersey number for Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors?” Maybe it’s my Philly accent. I tried with Derek Jeter (retired), Larry Bird (long retired), and Tony Romo (2017 Super Bowl champ-to-be) and Siri correctly answered all three — quickly.
Judge on Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee List Has Mocked Trump on Twitter ★
I really liked this one.
iTunes 12.4 Brings Back the Sidebar ★
Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:
The key improvement here is the removal of the drop-down menu on
the righthand side of the screen, which previously held all of the
options that are now exposed in the lefthand menu. That’s a real
help, but the lefthand menu doesn’t take over everything. You’ll
still have to search through those top tabs to find major
features, like Apple Music and the App Store. (There is, by the
way, no one tab that says “Apple Music” — it’s actually a
combination of the For You, New, Radio, and Connect tabs.)
Bringing back the sidebar is an improvement, but the fundamental problem remains: there’s no visual hierarchy to iTunes’s multitude of sections and features. Mail, for example, has a clear hierarchy: accounts → mailboxes → messages → message details. I’m not saying iTunes could or should copy Mail’s design, but it ought to be just as clear as Mail in terms of knowing where you are, or where to find something.
MacRumors on Siri for Mac ★
Juli Clover, MacRumors:
In the menu bar, there’s a simple Siri black and white icon that
features the word “Siri” surrounded by a box, while the full dock
icon is more colorful and features a colorful Siri waveform in the
style of other built-in app icons. Clicking on either of the icons
brings up a Siri waveform to give users a visual cue that the
virtual assistant is listening for commands, much like on iOS
devices when the Home button is held down.
Why would Siri need both a menu bar item and an icon in the Dock?
NYT: Google to Introduce Voice-Activated Home Device Tomorrow at I/O ★
David Streitfeld, reporting for the NYT from San Francisco, on the eve of Google I/O:
Google will introduce its much-anticipated entry into the
voice-activated home device market on Wednesday, according to
people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Named Google Home, the device is a virtual agent that answers
simple questions and carries out basic tasks. It is to be
announced at Google’s annual developers’ conference in
Google Home will come to market in the fall — a long time away,
given the speed of technology, but Google needed to plant a stake
in the ground now. The device will compete with Amazon’s Echo,
which was introduced less than two years ago.
Google has the speech recognition and back-end performance down. But is this going to be a Google-branded device, or a platform for OEMs like Android? The Times’s report makes it sound like a Google-branded device — none of which have done well. Update: I forgot about Chromecast, which is doing well. And Google Home might be the same sort of “just plug it in” low-cost device.
Amazon has already sold an estimated three million units.
Estimated by whom? How?
Intel Culture Just Ate 12,000 Jobs ★
But Intel had a justification, a story that it kept telling the
world and, more perniciously, itself:
‘Just you wait. Yes, today’s x86 are too big, consume too much
power, and cost more than our ARM competitors, but tomorrow…
Tomorrow, our proven manufacturing technology will nullify ARM’s
advantage and bring the full computing power and immense software
heritage of the x86 to emerging mobile applications.’
Year after year (after year), Intel has repeated the promise.
There are some variations in the story, such as the prospect of
the 3D transistor, but mobile device manufacturers don’t seem to
Marvel Product Placement Run Amok: Tony Stark Using a Vivo Phone ★
Dave Gonzales, writing for Geek:
Called a “Futurist” by Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye in the film, Stark
is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s genius on the forefront of
speculative technology. If Banner knows human mutation, Stark
knows the machines. That’s why it’s so shocking to see Tony using
a Vivo cell phone in Civil War, a cell phone that would
absolutely be condemned by the US government if it were being used
like it is in the film. It makes absolutely no thematic sense
within the context of the film, but there’s a big reason why
Marvel would endanger the theme of its most popular on-screen
Tony Stark using a Vivo phone is another of Marvel Studios’
ongoing attempts to make more money in the Chinese box office,
which — for better or worse — has become noticeable to the
American and English audiences.
Vivo doesn’t even sell phones in the U.S. They’re a mid-market Chinese brand. It’s not just gratuitous product placement — it’s simply incompatible with Tony Stark’s character. No phone would satisfy Tony Stark but his own, from Stark Industries. Stark’s phone in Iron Man 2 had subtle LG branding (bad enough), but also a prominent “Stark Industries” label on screen. But Vivo? If Marvel wants to sell out to the highest bidder for the other Avengers’ phones, that’s one thing. But not Stark.
See also: Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes’s ultimately futile resistance against James Bond using a Sony or Samsung phone, on the grounds that “Bond only uses the ‘best’, and in their minds, the Sony phone is not the ‘best’.”
(This post is proof that I’m concerned only with truly important matters in life.)
TSA Is Falling Apart ★
Alan Levin, reporting for Bloomberg:
Reports filed over the time it took U.S. Transportation Security
Administration to screen passengers grew more than 10-fold, to 513
this past March from 48 in March 2015. Concern about lack of
courtesy by TSA screeners increased more than three-fold, to 1,012
in March from 294 a year ago. […]
The TSA is trying to get 500 new airport screeners through
training and onto the job by the end of June as a growth in
travelers has led to longer lines at airports. Almost 6,800 people
traveling on American Airlines missed flights in March due to
delays at TSA checkpoints, airline spokesman Casey Norton said in
an interview earlier this month.
Almost 7,000 people in a single month, just on American. That’s unacceptable. TSA has never been competent at conducting airport screening — but this year the whole thing is collapsing upon itself.
AnandTech Reviews the iPhone SE ★
Speaking of the iPhone SE and the complete dearth of similarly-sized Android phones:
As I said earlier in the review, Android manufacturers have
essentially given up on making small smartphones, and most of them
haven’t actually made a top tier smartphone at the 4-inch size in
about four years. By 2012 things had moved to 4.5 inches or more,
with Samsung also introducing the original 5.3-inch Galaxy Note
near the end of 2011. Today’s idea of a compact Android phone is
something like the Xperia Z5 compact, where the screen has a size
of 4.6 inches, which is just a bit smaller than the screen on the
iPhone 6s. Getting an even smaller screen means moving to truly
low end smartphones like the Moto E, and at that point you’re
discussing two entirely different parts of the market.
Even when you consider the smallest high-end devices from the
Android manufacturers, it’s not hard to see that the iPhone SE
comes out on top. Apple’s A9 SoC is still one of the fastest chips
you’ll find in a smartphone, and it goes without saying that the
Snapdragon 810 SoC in a smartphone like the Xperia Z5 Compact
really isn’t comparable in the slightest. Based on my experience,
the camera is also unmatched at this size and price. It’s
certainly a step behind the best Android phones and the iPhone 6s
Plus, but bringing the sensor from the iPhone 6s to the SE allows
for some really great photos, and the best 4K recording video
you’ll get on a phone.
The results of their battery life test are simply astounding. The iPhone SE beat the iPhone 6S by nearly two hours: 9.27 vs 7.45. Goes to show just how much more power larger displays consume.
The Tiny Hands Review of the iPhone SE ★
Nice piece by Adrianne Jeffries for Motherboard, on the history of phone sizes:
For the past three weeks, I’ve been using an iPhone SE.
I’m an Android user. I like my widgets and my Google apps, and I
always felt the iPhone was too fancy and breakable for me. This
was my first experience using an iPhone as my everyday device.
The phone, which has the same processor as the iPhone 6s, is
certainly fast. The camera is crisp and good in low light. The
battery has remarkable stamina.
The iPhone SE is also cheaper than other iPhones, starting at $399
as compared to $649 for the 6s.
But there’s really only one thing that would make me break for an
The iPhone SE’s popularity clearly suggests that a significant number of people prefer a smaller phone. But so why aren’t there any top-tier Android phones with 4-inch displays? I’m genuinely confounded by that.
Jason Snell Reviews the 2016 MacBook ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
What’s less reasonable is transmuting last year’s fair criticism
into outrage that Apple hasn’t given the MacBook an immediate
rethink. Given the lead time it takes to redesign hardware, the
cramped space inside the MacBook shell, and Apple’s track record
in keeping product designs around for at least two years, changing
the MacBook design now would have been tantamount to Apple
admitting that the statement it was making with the MacBook was
While I’m sure that Apple has heard the criticism and possibly
even agreed with some of it, do I think that Apple regrets the
overall statement that the MacBook makes? Not on your life. The
MacBook is inhabiting the role that the MacBook Air used to fill
in Apple’s product line — it’s the future, the cutting edge, a
product that seems outlandish today but will appear commonplace
tomorrow. (I’ll remind you that the MacBook Air also debuted as an
impractical low-powered laptop with a single USB port — and it
was nearly three years before Apple redesigned the Air
I’m also not entirely sure why Apple would regret it. Does every
computer need to offer every feature to appeal to every user? We
heap our expectation and desire on every new Apple product, and
the MacBook’s design pushes back. It is unabashedly a product that
is not created to check all the boxes. In fact, it checks some you
didn’t know existed and ignores the existence of ones you
The outrage is coming from people who want Apple to update the MacBook Airs with retina displays. That’s not going to happen. The Airs are now Apple’s low-priced models. The Pros will get thinner (and thus more Air-like) and the new MacBook will get faster (and thus more Air-like). But the MacBook Air as we know it serves only one purpose: to hit the $899/999 price points.
MacRumors: ‘iOS 9.3.2 Bricking Some 9.7-Inch iPad Pro Devices With “Error 56” Message’ ★
Juli Clover, writing at MacRumors:
While not all 9.7-inch iPad Pro users have reported problems,
there have been a number of reports on the MacRumors forums and on
social networks, suggesting the problem is widespread. Attempting
to restore through iTunes doesn’t appear to resolve the issue.
From MacRumors user NewtypeCJ:
Mine is bricked. Says it needs to be plugged into iTunes, won’t
restore or update, just a big loop. Fantastic. :/
Proceed with caution, if you’ve got a 9.7-inch iPad Pro that hasn’t yet been updated to iOS 9.3.2. I have a friend whose company tried upgrading two 9.7-inch iPad Pros to iOS 9.3.2, and both of them hit this error. (They understandably left their third one running 9.3.1.) I know a bunch of people have updated their iPad Pros successfully, so it’s not universal, but it still seems dangerously common.
‘I Love “Barry Lyndon”, Because There Is No Swearing, It’s Very Nice, Picturesque’ ★
Vice has a nice interview with Emilio D’Alessandro, Stanley Kubrick’s personal assistant for three decades:
Why are people so fascinated by Kubrick?
People who had never met him would always be terrified before
meeting him. But he was so private, so he fed off this mystery. He
would make me say that I do work for him, never that I work with
him. People would ask and I would have to lie! But as I worked for
this company for so long, I would see people go in scared but come
out smiling. People just did not know him. They did so much to
make him feel like somebody who never wanted to meet people, but
it’s not true at all.
Were you a big fan of his films prior to working with him on A
I didn’t have any interest in film, I was just interested in
racing. After about two months of working for his company, I still
didn’t know who Stanley Kubrick was. When [we were finally
introduced], I saw this person who looked like Fidel Castro and
didn’t realize who he was. I thought, “Oh dear, here we go.” I
expected him to smell like perfume or be more put together. When
he came towards me and introduced himself as Stanley Kubrick, I
D’Alessandro has a new book out, Stanley Kubrick and Me: Thirty Years at His Side. Just ordered my copy.
Monday, 16 May 2016
From a statement released by Brian Mooney, CEO of MCX, the consortium behind the long-overdue mobile payments app CurrentC:
Utilizing unique feedback from the marketplace and our Columbus
pilot, MCX has made a decision to concentrate more heavily in the
immediate term on other aspects of our business including working
with financial institutions, like our partnership with Chase, to
enable and scale mobile payment solutions.
CurrentC is a complete and utter failure.
As part of this transition, MCX will postpone a nationwide rollout
of its CurrentC application.
CurrentC’s nationwide rollout is never going to happen.
As MCX has said many times, the mobile payments space is just
beginning to take shape — it is early in a long game. MCX’s
owner-members remain committed to our future.
We’re falling further behind every day. MCX’s owner-members are giving up on this misguided endeavor.
As a result, MCX will need fewer resources. This change has
resulted in staff reduction of approximately 30 employees.
We were forced to lay off 30 employees. Everyone remaining should start polishing their résumés.
These are very tough decisions, but necessary steps.
We had no choice.
For those employees leaving us, we want to thank our
colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the
last several years.
We want to thank our departing colleagues for their hard work and dedication to MCX over the last several years, and wish them well in their future endeavors. Christ, I can’t even manage a straightforward “thank you”, can I? ★
ProPublica: ‘How Typography Can Save Your Life’ ★
Speaking of typography and settings blocks of text in all-caps, Lena Groeger wrote a good piece for ProPublica:
Of course, if you’re trying to make something hard to read, then
all caps is the perfect choice. Companies that set safety warnings
in all caps may, intentionally or not, veil important information
Here’s a version of the Surgeon General’s Warning that appears in
Edward Tufte’s masterpiece Visual Explanations. The warning
appears on a cigarette billboard and has been artfully concocted
in ALL CAPS, underlined, and surrounded by a dark black border.
Glenn Fleishman on the Typographic History of Using All-Caps to Denote Shouting ★
Glenn Fleishman, writing at Meh:
Previous articles on this subject — such as this previously
definitive short at the New Republic — trace the explicit
association of capitals with yelling (as opposed to mere emphasis)
to 1984, with inferences a few decades before that.
I’m here to BLOW THIS OUT OF THE WATER, with a series of citations
that date back to 1856. People have been uppercase shouting
intentionally for a century more than recollected. And, as with so
many things, longtime Internet users want to claim credit, when
they really just passed on and more broadly popularized an
Bloomberg: ‘Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit’ ★
Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg:
Twitter Inc. is making a major shift in how it counts characters
in Tweets, giving users more freedom to compose longer messages.
The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links
as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a
person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the
next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because
the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23
characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The
company declined to comment.
It’s 2016 and this is big news.
Siri Creator Dag Kittlaus Shows Off First Public Demo of Viv, ‘The Intelligent Interface for Everything’ ★
Impressive demo. I’m not sure what the path to ubiquity is for Viv, though, unless they get acquired by a company that makes ubiquitous hardware. Siri started as an app too, but in practice these AI assistants need to be system-level features.
Philadelphia 76ers Are First NBA Team to Announce Jersey Advertising Deal ★
Advertising is like sand — eventually it spreads everywhere. It’ll be interesting to see which, if any, NBA teams decline to do this. I think it looks tawdry. I feel the same way about selling naming rights to stadiums and arenas. Easier to say as a fan than a team owner, though.
Interesting too that the Sixers are partnering with StubHub as their “Official Ticketing Partner” rather than fighting against StubHub, like the Yankees.
Berkshire Hathaway Bought $1B in Apple Stock ★
Erik Holm and Anupreeta Das, reporting for the WSJ:
Berkshire Hathaway‘s new investment in Apple was selected by one
of Warren Buffett‘s stockpicking lieutenants, not by the “Oracle
of Omaha” himself.
Berkshire revealed an Apple stake worth nearly $1 billion early
Monday, as part of Berkshire’s quarterly disclosure of its stock
holdings. Mr. Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and chief executive,
confirmed in an email that he was not the one who added the shares
to Berkshire’s massive equity portfolio.
Mr. Buffett is famously averse to investing in tech companies, and
has specifically ruled out investing in Apple before. But in
recent years, he has added two former hedge-fund managers, Todd
Combs and Ted Weschler, to Berkshire’s investing team. They’ve
shown a willingness to wade into corners of the market that Mr.
Buffett himself won’t touch, including the tech sector.
Apple has long struck me as the sort of company Berkshire likes to invest in. A renowned brand, loyal customers, large profits, and a good, stable executive team that is focused on the long run. They’re obviously in technology, but Apple is nothing like a typical tech company.
Blue Bottle Coffee ★
My thanks to Blue Bottle Coffee for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. If you’re anything like me, your day starts with coffee (and if you’re really like me, that continues straight through the afternoon). It’s worth it to make it good. Blue Bottle Coffee is excellent — and when you sign up for a subscription, you’ll get a steady supply delivered straight to your door.
To find the best coffee for their subscription service and network of cafes, Blue Bottle visits farms around the world, roasts the beans to order, and ships them to you within 24 hours of roasting. They always offer a selection of single origins, with early access to select coffees for members. You choose the frequency of deliveries, type of coffee, and quantity, so you never have to worry about getting more than you need, or worse, running out mid-week.
I’ve been a paying subscriber for over three years now, and I truly could not be happier to recommend them. Delicious coffee, interesting variety, amazing convenience. Visit Blue Bottle Coffee and you can start with a free trial.
Apple Confirms Reports of Potential Bug in iTunes; Safeguard Patch Expected Next Week ★
Official statement from Apple on the “iTunes deleting your music” bug:
In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that
music files saved on their computer were removed without their
permission. We’re taking these reports seriously as we know how
important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on
identifying the cause. We have not been able to reproduce this
issue, however, we’re releasing an update to iTunes early next
week which includes additional safeguards. If a user experiences
this issue they should contact AppleCare.
That sounds a little weird — not sure how they can safeguard against a bug if they can’t reproduce it.
I read it as “we’re still not convinced it isn’t user error, but
we’ll make the dialog boxes less terrible.”
Donald Trump Masqueraded as Publicist to Brag About Himself ★
Marc Fisher and Will Hobson, reporting for The Washington Post:
The voice is instantly familiar; the tone, confident, even cocky;
the cadence, distinctly Trumpian. The man on the phone vigorously
defending Donald Trump says he’s a media spokesman named John
Miller, but then he says, “I’m sort of new here,” and “I’m
somebody that he knows and I think somebody that he trusts and
likes” and even “I’m going to do this a little, part-time, and
then, yeah, go on with my life.”
A recording obtained by The Washington Post captures what New York
reporters and editors who covered Trump’s early career experienced
in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s: calls from Trump’s Manhattan office
that resulted in conversations with “John Miller” or “John Barron”
— public-relations men who sound precisely like Trump himself —
who indeed are Trump, masquerading as an unusually helpful and
boastful advocate for himself, according to the journalists and
several of Trump’s top aides.
You really have to listen to the recording to believe it. (And be sure to read the update at the bottom of the article, where Trump hangs up the phone on the Post reporters.)
Philly Police Admit They Disguised a Surveillance Truck as a Google Streetview Car ★
Dustin Slaughter, reporting for Motherboard:
The Philadelphia Police Department admitted today that a
mysterious unmarked license plate surveillance truck disguised as
a Google Maps vehicle, which Motherboard first reported on this
morning, is its own. […]
“It’s certainly concerning if the city of Philadelphia is running
mass surveillance and going out of its way to mislead people,”
said Dave Maass, a former journalist and researcher at the
nonprofit advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. […] “If
I were Google, I would be seriously rankled over the use of their
logo to hide surveillance,” he said.
Thursday, 12 May 2016
Rajan Patel, lead engineer for Google’s new iOS keyboard:
Say you’re texting with a friend about tomorrow’s lunch plans.
They ask you for the address. Until now it’s worked like this: You
leave your texting app. Open Search. Find the restaurant. Copy the
address. Switch back to your texts. Paste the address into a
message. And finally, hit send.
Searching and sending stuff on your phone shouldn’t be that
difficult. With Gboard, you can search and send all kinds of
things — restaurant info, flight times, news articles — right
from your keyboard. Anything you’d search on Google, you can
search with Gboard. Results appear as cards with the key
information front and center, such as the phone number, ratings
and hours. With one tap, you can send it to your friend and you
keep the conversation going.
My first thought, of course, was “Sounds like a privacy disaster — Google will see and log everything people type with this keyboard.”
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. During setup, Gboard displays this simple privacy statement, regarding its need for you to grant it “full access”, including networking:
This lets you use Google Search in your keyboard. Your searches
are sent to Google, but nothing else you type is.
Here’s what Google says in the app’s description in the App Store:
We know the things you type on your phone are personal, so we’ve
designed Gboard to keep your private information private.
What Gboard sends to Google:
- When you do a search, Gboard sends your query to Google’s web
servers so Google can process your query and send you search
- Gboard also sends anonymous statistics to Google to help us
diagnose problems when the app crashes and to let us know which
features are used most often.
What Gboard doesn’t send to Google:
- Everything else. Gboard will remember words you type to help you
with spelling or to predict searches you might be interested in,
but this data is stored only on your device. This data is not
accessible by Google or by any apps other than Gboard.
Whether this is Google’s own magnanimous decision, a technical limitation in iOS, or a policy decision enforced by App Store review, I don’t know.
Gboard is iOS-only for now, but Android users seem to want it.
Design-wise Gboard is a little weird. All of Google’s recent iOS apps use Google’s Material Design visual language, including the Roboto font. Their iOS apps look and work a lot more like Android apps than iOS apps. Gboard, however, was visually designed to mimic the standard iOS keyboard very closely. Gboard sports slightly different colors and changes a few key placements,1 but is clearly designed to look like the familiar system keyboard — I’ll bet many users will think Gboard is only adding a search bar above the system keyboard. (Third-party keyboards in iOS can’t merely modify the system keyboard — they must reimplement just about everything from scratch.2)
But Gboard uses Roboto instead of SF. The differences between Roboto and San Francisco are sometimes subtle, but to my eyes it just makes it look out of place on iOS 9. Also, they chose too thin a weight of Roboto — I can barely see the period on their “.” key. I think the whole Material Design thing feels terribly out of place on iOS. I’m glad they didn’t do it with Gboard, but they should have gone the whole way and used San Francisco for the typeface, too.
Gboard has some interesting emoji features. First, rather than make you switch to a different keyboard, it has its own dedicated emoji layout built in, including search. Mac OS’s “Emoji and Symbols” picker has long allowed for search; it’s long struck me as a little curious that iOS’s standard emoji keyboard does not. Second, Gboard’s predictive text feature will suggest emoji in addition to actual words. Type “dinner” and the first predictive suggestion is “🍴”; type “basketball” and you get “🏀”. That’s clever.
Update: Federico Viticci: “There must be people at Google who really don’t get the iPad. Gboard is very good on the iPhone; the layout is atrocious on the iPad Pro.” I didn’t even think to try it on an iPad — for some reason I’ve got it in my head that third-party keyboards are an iPhone-only thing on iOS.
Update 2: Rajan Patel, on Twitter, regarding this article:
@daringfireball It was our magnanimous decision, we should go all
the way w/ design, and we will polish iPad.
Update 3: Another cool feature. You know how you can move the insertion point by 3D pressing on the iPhone 6S keyboard? Gboard lets you move the insertion point by sliding across the space bar. ★
Wednesday, 11 May 2016
Ian Spalter, head of design at Instagram:
The question then became, how far do we go? If you abstract too
much, the glyph doesn’t feel tied to the history and soul of
Instagram. If you make it too literal, it’s hard to justify
changing from what we currently have.
After a lot of refinement, we landed on a glyph that still
suggests a camera, but also sets the groundwork for years to come.
Instagram seems like a “measure twice, cut once” sort of company. Deliberative, almost to a fault. Even if you disagree with the direction in which they’ve taken their brand today, do not think for a second that they did this on a whim. They stuck with the old skeuomorphic camera icon for years after everyone else went flat. Now they’ve gone with something very different, and very abstract. I like the idea, but I’m not sure I care for the rainbow gradient they arrived at. The combination of a white device against a colorful gradient background reminds me quite a bit of some iPod ads from a decade ago. The colors they chose don’t look connected to the colors of the old icon’s rainbow. In short, it looks and feels like an altogether new brand for Instagram, not an update or refresh of their old brand — and I’m not convinced that was the right move. Even something as simple as keeping the “leather” on the top half of the camera, as proposed here by Ian Storm Taylor, would have preserved more of the original brand.
The changes within the app, I definitely like. Spalter describes the changes thusly:
While the icon is a colorful doorway into the Instagram app, once
inside the app, we believe the color should come directly from the
community’s photos and videos. We stripped the color and noise
from surfaces where people’s content should take center stage, and
boosted color on other surfaces like sign up flows and home
As with the icon, it’s a polarizing change. It’s severely black and white. Given that we spend more time in the app rather than looking at its home screen icon, I’m a little surprised they didn’t go with one of the black-and-white icon designs they considered, to make the icon match the UI.
Some reactions from around the web:
Founder Kevin Systrom’s post announcing the new look has over 700 comments. To my eyes, most of them are negative. But that’s always the case with radical icon changes. Some people will genuinely dislike any new icon; it’s the change itself they dislike — the loss of something familiar. If you allowed users to vote on it, no popular app would ever get a new icon.
Tim Nudd, writing for Adweek: “Instagram’s New Logo Is a Travesty. Can We Change It Back? Please?”.
Eli Schiff: “This is an abomination.”
Great tweet from Michael Bierut, back in September:
Most people comment on logo launches as if they’re judging a
diving competition when they should be judging a swimming
Remember that with logos there is: 1) How you first feel about it,
2) How it settles in, and 3) How it ages.
(And the first is the least important if you are talking about a
Armin Vit, writing at Brand New, has an astute take (as usual):
I doubt anyone will be making cakes and cookies in the shape
of the new Instagram logo and that’s the biggest problem the new
logo faces: it’s not the old logo. The ensuing shitstorm on the
internet today will be epic. About 75% of the negative reaction
will be simply to the fact that it has changed and the other 25%
will be to the not-quite-fact that there is a generic aesthetic to
the new icon where it could be a “camera” icon for the upcoming
smart microwave from Apple or whatever other user interface you
would imagine. This is not to say it’s a bad-looking icon, no… as
far as camera icons go, this is quite lovely and has the minimal
amount of elements necessary to be recognized as a camera BUT not
the minimal amount of elements necessary to be recognized as
From Fast Company’s interview with Ian Spalter:
One of the biggest questions now is how users will react. Spalter,
when asked if he’s ready for the vitriol that can attend the
redesign of such a familiar icon, laughs “Maybe I’ll take a
vacation,” he says. “In a bunker.” ★