Jonathan Kim on Alex Gibney’s ‘Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine’ 

Jonathan Kim calls it “an Apple-hater’s manifesto”:

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and the man credited with bringing both personal computers and advanced mobile electronics to the masses, died on October 5, 2011. But the battle to define both the man and his legacy is being waged right now in the form of several books and high-profile films, the latest of which is the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man In the Machine, from Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, a man I’ve interviewed in the past and whose work I greatly respect.

That’s why it really bums me out that The Man In the Machine makes little attempt to portray someone who was, by most accounts, a complex, iconic, but all-too-flawed man who, over the course of his career, could be both inventor and thief, monk and businessman, brat and sage, tyrant and beloved leader, and managed to use those conflicting traits to both change the world and create the most valuable, influential, and admired company on the planet. Instead, The Man In the Machine is focused largely on the thesis that Jobs was always and only a jerk, that people who enjoy Apple products and admire Jobs are idiots and cult members, and that the computer revolution that was born of Jobs’ vision must inevitably contain the same ugly darkness Gibney feels is Jobs’ defining trait, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Sounds like the film equivalent of Yukari Iwatani Kane’s book Haunted Empire — an attempt to fit the facts to a preconceived narrative, rather than craft a narrative from the actual facts.

Two Kinds of People 

Beautiful, clever blog by João Rocha. From the about page: “There are only 2 kinds of people in this world, those that find this blog hilarious and those that have no sense of humor whatsoever.”

How to Get a New Finder Window the Size You Want 

Glenn Fleishman, writing last month for Macworld:

In Yosemite, I tested one suggestion after I was unable to set a window’s default opening behavior. I created a model window, closed it, and then closed all windows (Command-Option-W, Option plus close button, or hold down Option while selecting File and choose Close All Windows). Then I held down Option and right-clicked the Finder icon in the Dock and selected Relaunch.

Voila! After that point, whenever I resized a Finder window, all subsequent windows would open in the same dimensions, offset slightly in location, including the width of the sidebar. I tried this in the current public El Capitan beta, but had zero luck. Perhaps it will be fixed by release.

It’s a little depressing that all these years later, the OS X Finder is still so bafflingly flaky at stuff like remembering windows sizes and positions.

Apple and the TV Market 

Well-researched, insightful piece by Pavan Rajam:

There is clearly a viable market for streaming media players like Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. However, the bigger opportunity is breaking into the market for Pay TV set top boxes, which today are less compelling products but retain access to the content consumers want. The only way any tech company will be able to pull that off is by having a TV Service to accompany their hardware. Of the companies with streaming media products on the market, only one is rumored to be working on such a service.

Unlike its competitors, Apple is playing the long game in the TV market. Apple TV’s long term goal is not about beating Amazon, Google, or Roku in the streaming media player market, it’s about redefining the TV market by building a true smart TV platform.

‘Death to Bullshit’ 

Brad Frost:

We’re bombarded by more information than ever before. With the rise of all this information comes a rise of the amount of bullshit we’re exposed to. Death to Bullshit is a rallying cry to rid the world of bullshit and demand experiences that respect people and their time.

There’s a blog listing examples of bullshit. (I would argue that there’s a wee bit of bullshit on the no-bullshit version of the blog: all of the links are Tumblr redirects, so you can’t see the URLs where they lead. It almost feels wrong to complain about that, because I am so totally on board with the fight against bullshit, but I really do think URL redirects — particularly ones that completely obscure the destination — are bullshit.)

Who Is NetNewsWire 4? 

Jesper:

Because the answer to “who is NetNewsWire for?” used to be “people who want to use an RSS reader that’s stable, full featured, regularly updated and fast to use”. And that’s not the case any longer. For example, NetNewsWire 4.1 could just be the reimplementation of the back/forward buttons for article item selection, such that if I went to an item and then went to another item and since the first one now was marked as read, I have to hunt to find my way back to it, I could just press the back button, and I would happily buy two extra licenses just for giving me some of the sophistication back.

“Who is this for?” is an essential question when you’re designing any app.

RSS Readers 

Dan Moren, writing about NetNewsWire 4 at Six Colors:

Of course, the real question is whether an RSS reader is still software that people get worked up about. With the demise of longtime RSS staple Google Reader and the incursion of social networks and alternative news reading apps like Flipboard, Nuzzel, and soon Apple News, an RSS reader seems decidedly last decade. It’s a challenging environment into which to drop a new product — even one with as respected a brand as NetNewsWire.

RSS readers exploded in popularity a decade ago, and Dan is right that their use has died down dramatically. But I think “RSS is dead” is the new “email is dead”. And I know from my server stats that an awful lot of people still read Daring Fireball in an RSS reader — many of them using NetNewsWire. For me, as a news junkie, an RSS reader is something to get worked up about.

Brent Simmons:

There are plenty of software categories that are hot when they’re new, and then they settle down. RSS as a format remains huge (ask your local podcaster) — and RSS readers have become a type of productivity software that some people like and some people don’t. Simple as that.

NetNewsWire 4.0 

Black Pixel has finally shipped NetNewsWire 4.0 for Mac — and an all-new iOS app, and a new sync service. The apps are solid, and so far the syncing is working flawlessly and quickly for me.

But, I have some concerns. First, I think the prices are too low: $10 for the Mac app; $4 for the iPhone app; and the syncing service is free. I don’t see how that’s sustainable.

Second, Black Pixel has simplified so much, they’ve removed a lot of what made NetNewsWire NetNewsWire. Let Apple News and Flipboard be the simple news readers — I think the opportunity in today’s world for a non-free Mac RSS reader is at the high-end.

Michael Tsai:

It still has the “lite” feature set, nothing like my beloved NetNewsWire 3. There are no smart folders. There’s no meaningful AppleScript support. It doesn’t support the system share menu.

One can argue that most people don’t use smart folders, and few people script apps with AppleScript — but that’s exactly why there’s an opportunity for a paid app that does support such things. This is why BBEdit has so many esoteric features. This is why apps from Omni and Panic have esoteric features, and in Omni’s case lots of customization options.

Peter Kafka: Apple Discussed Podcast Deal With Bill Simmons 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:

And more recently, Apple showed interest in signing up former ESPN star Bill Simmons to an exclusive audio podcast deal. Apple media boss Eddy Cue discussed the idea a couple of times with Simmons this summer, say people familiar with the talks, who say that they were preliminary at best.

In July, Simmons ended up signing a “major exclusive multi-year, multi-platform agreement” with HBO; an HBO rep says that deal includes a podcast that should debut in October. It’s reasonable to assume that those podcasts will be available on Apple’s iTunes platform, as well as other outlets.

Interesting idea, but I wonder how the exclusivity would have worked? Would listeners have to use Apple’s Podcast app? Would they use DRM on the audio? If they didn’t, what would keep people from listening to the show using non-Apple devices? Podcasts have always been like websites — something anyone can consume using any app on any device. The complete opposite of “exclusive”.

SiriusXM has exclusive audio shows (most famously, Howard Stern), but to listen to them on your phone, you have to use their app, and their app is absolutely terrible. Update: Maybe that’s what Apple was thinking with Simmons — it wouldn’t be a “podcast” really, but a show you can listen to on Apple Music?

A Ruling for Tom Brady Ignores the Biggest Question 

William C. Rhoden, writing for the NYT:

The ruling clearly is a victory for the New England Patriots, for Brady, for the N.F.L. Players Association and for critics who argue Goodell has too often acted arbitrarily and hypocritically and even hamhandedly in administering discipline. But the decision did not address — because it was not asked to — the more important issue of sportsmanship that was at the heart of the suspension, and of what Brady knew about a supposed plan to deflate the footballs he used in last seasons A.F.C. championship game.

What a weird saga this whole deflate-gate thing is. Feels more like a storyline from pro wrestling than from a real sport.

Samsung’s Tizen-Based Gear S2 

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge after some hands-on time with Samsung’s upcoming new watch:

The impressive things with the Gear S2 don’t end with its new design: Samsung’s actually figured out a really smart interaction model for smartwatches that I’m shocked no one else has done yet. There’s the touchscreen, yes, just like most other smartwatches, and the Gear S2 has a couple buttons on its side for home and back. But its real trick is in the rotating bezel, which lets you quickly and easily scroll through lists, apps, watch faces, and whatever else you might be looking at on the screen. It’s more predictable and intuitive than the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown and is a joy to use.

It does seem clever, and it’s a design that embraces the circular watch face.

The S2’s screen is colorful, sharp, and bright, and looked great in the few minutes I got to spend with the watch. It has an always on ambient mode — like many Android Wear watches — that makes it easy to quickly check the time. But this isn’t an Android Wear watch: it’s running Samsung’s proprietary Tizen platform. In the past, that was a huge red warning flag, but Samsung’s cleaned up its act, and the software on the Gear S2 is fast and intuitive. There are lots of different watch faces to choose from, including new “dynamic” faces that can update with various bits of information, and you can see all of your phone’s notifications and reply to incoming messages with canned responses, emoji, or text dictated by voice.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Using Tizen is huge. It separates Samsung from everyone using Android Wear, and gives them what Apple has: complete control over everything. I’d still bet against them switching to Tizen on the phones — even if they can pull it off technically, it’d be so hard for them to get iOS/Android levels of third-party developer support.

  • They’ve gotten the size down to something reasonable. I still think these look like men’s watches though, both because of their size and their design cues.

  • From what I’ve seen in the videos and photos, it looks like Samsung is using black backgrounds for most of the UI, like Apple Watch does. Android Wear’s use of white and primary-colored backgrounds just doesn’t look good on a watch.

Variety: Apple Exploring Original Programming 

Andrew Wallenstein, writing for Variety:

The moment the media and technology industries have been expecting for years may finally be arriving: Apple is exploring getting into the original programming business.

Sources indicate the Cupertino, Calif., colossus has held preliminary conversations in recent weeks with executives in Hollywood to suss out their interest in spearheading efforts to produce entertainment content. The unit putting out the feelers reports into Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s point man on all content-related matters, from its negotiations with programmers for Apple TV to its recent faceoff with Taylor Swift.

On the one hand, everyone else is doing it, so why not Apple? On the other hand, Apple makes devices where Netflix and HBO provide content/apps. If Apple starts competing against Netflix and HBO in content production, do they risk spoiling those partnerships?

Here’s a what-if: What if Apple had bought Pixar instead of Disney?

Alliance for Open Media 

Frederic Lardinois, reporting for TechCrunch:

Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix today announced that they have formed a new open source alliance — the Alliance for Open Media — with the goal of developing the next generation of royalty-free video formats, codecs and other related technologies.

It’s not often we see these rival companies come together to build a new technology together, but the members argue that this kind of alliance is necessary to create a new interoperable video standard that will work across vendors and platforms. While it goes unmentioned in the announcement, it’s also clear that none of the members involved in this alliance want to have to pay royalties to the likes of MPEG LA.

There seems to be a conspicuous absence from the list of companies involved.

Mark Gurman on Apple TV 4 Hardware 

Mark Gurman, writing at 9to5Mac:

The current Apple TV design, first released in late 2010, has 8GB of internal storage for caching media, and the fourth-generation boxes in testing surprisingly range from 8 GB to 16 GB of storage. We are told that Apple has considered two pricing strategies: the simultaneous release of a $149 base model with 8 GB of storage alongside a $199 16 GB model, or the release of the 16 GB Apple TV alone at $149. In either case, Apple will offer a $149 Apple TV.

While the new Apple TV will include an App Store for deep support for gaming, sources say that the limited storage offered by 8 GB and 16 GB flash memory is appropriate for the new model, as all content outside of applications will be streamed directly from the Internet.

It seems silly to have two pricing tiers separated only by 8 GB of storage. Seems a lot simpler to just go with one model with 16 GB of storage and be done with it. Keep it simple.

Curious too what Apple is going to do with the existing Apple TV? If the new model is as much improved as we’re all speculating — with a better controller and an actual App Store — I would think Apple would replace the current Apple TV with the new one. But the current model costs only $69. If they replace it in the lineup, and if Gurman is right about the new model starting at $149, it would mean the price of Apple TV would more than double. Even if you disregard the price drop from back in March, the price would still be going from $99 to $149. I can’t recall that ever happening before. But, it really does sound like the new Apple TV will be an unprecedented upgrade.

And for as much as we think we know about the new Apple TV, Apple has successfully kept a lot of it under wraps. We have a basic description of the remote control, but we don’t know how you’re going to move around the UI, or what the software interface actually looks like. I’m pretty excited about that.

The William T. Sherman of Crazy 

Josh Marshall:

But the speed issue is an entirely separate advantage, one Trump is dominating first because he’s been playing this game for decades but especially because he’s adept at social media and is palpably going by gut and operating on his own without the complex messaging operations that cling on to every other candidate. News organizations and media figures can always move faster than candidates because they have to hold press conferences and prep for them or send out press releases which by definition need to go through the media itself. Twitter has the added advantage of allowing him to flick the news cycle without showing his face or getting questions in response. But the whole picture brings home just how much the modern campaign is built around risk aversion, protecting the candidate from him or herself.

When you see tweets like these you are absolutely certain Donald Trump wrote them himself. It’s definitely him, as clear as a tweet from Chuck Grassley could only possibly be from the senator himself.

The same thought has struck me regarding Trump’s tweets. They’re so in his voice — it couldn’t be more clear that he writes them himself, just winging them from his phone. (It looks like they’re all sent from Twitter for Android.)

Google’s New Logo 

Google:

Today we’re introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens.

Their old logo was goofy. This new one is simply garbage. Just right for a company with no taste.

iMore’s Apple Watch Survey 

Some fascinating numbers. Just one example: stand alerts:

  • 25% stand up every time they get an alert.
  • 46% stand up most of the time.
  • 15% stand up some of the time or less.
  • 14% turn them off.
  • 1% leave them on but ignore them.
Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorships 

DF’s RSS feed sponsorships are sold out through the end of October, with one exception: next week. If you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s audience, get in touch.

Update: This week’s spot has been sold, but a few spots later in the year remain open. My thanks to everyone who inquired about this week’s spot.

Mapbox Mobile 

My thanks to Mapbox for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Mapbox Mobile for iOS, their newest open source SDK for adding maps and location to any app. Mapbox comes with beautiful, pixel-perfect vector maps in a variety of styles: detailed streets for navigating cities, terrain for adventuring, and satellite imagery for seeing the world up close.

Mapbox’s analytics dashboard provides a continuously updated view of the map usage in your app, from places where your app is popular to average daily users. Mapbox’s Cocoa API works just like Apple’s MapKit — just swap out MKMapView for MGLMapView. Their “First Steps With the Mapbox iOS SDK” guide shows just how easy it is to switch. Start developing with Mapbox Mobile for free today.

The Talk Show: ‘90 Minutes or Bust’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include: our top complaints about Apple Watch, Apple making a car, the New York Times’s profile of Amazon’s work culture, and more.

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Reading the Apple Event Tea Leaves With Actual Witches 

Katie Notopoulos, writing for BuzzFeed:

When Apple sends out invitations to its events, like the one coming up on Sept. 9, the tech press loves to try to “read the tea leaves” in a search for clues as to what will be announced. But what the hell do a bunch of tech bloggers know about divination? In order to find out what’s really going to happen at the Sept. 9 Apple event, you need someone who can actually read tea leaves. Professional journalists are useless at this. So I asked professional psychics.

Probably more accurate.

Apple Is About to Lay Down Its TV Cards 

Matthew Panzarino:

Some very smart people I’ve been talking to suggest that, by building a platform, Apple is generating leverage that it can use to great effect in these negotiations. A mid-market breakout box offering is one thing, but a huge, rumbling platform with an upward trajectory of living-room dominating apps and third-party content is another beast. If, obviously if, Apple is successful with the Apple TV, it could be in a position to dominate content in a way that no other “smart” TV platform has before it.

If Apple did indeed “delay” the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.

This, my friends, is the most-informed, best-written piece on Apple TV that you will find before September 9.

Apple Sends Invitations for Wednesday, 9 September Special Event 

Jim Dalrymple:

Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a special event to be held on September 9, 2015. The event will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco at 10:00 am.

That’s a big venue. Kudos to Andrew Dudley at Hoodline for deducing the venue earlier this week.

Swift as a First Language 

Aaron Block wants to (eventually — perhaps soon) use Swift to teach introductory computer science:

For those who haven’t used Java or Python before, those two languages are at one end of the “memory management continuum.” In these languages, you never explicitly delete a memory reference. Java and Python run “garbage collection” routines that remove memory when they are no longer necessary. On the other end, C and C++ require developers to explicitly destroy memory allocations. Swift uses a technique called Automatic Reference Counting (ARC) that lives in the middle. Under ARC, developers do not explicitly destroy objects but instead must correctly organize their memory references and classify them as “strong”, “weak”, or “unowned” so that they can be automatically destroyed without needing to run an additional memory management process. While ARC doesn’t require developers to directly manage memory, it helps students learn how to organize memory and think about how objects are stored in memory without harassing them about the details. (Students should still learn explicit memory management, just not in their first year.)

My beef with Java as a learning language is that it’s so verbose and ungainly. Python is a much better choice. Why not use a language that can be fun and elegant?

(I’m glad I went through college before Java became entrenched as a teaching language. Drexel’s introductory computer science courses in the early ’90s taught Pascal — a language that, now that it’s fallen out of favor, no longer gets the credit it deserves.)

Harvard Business Review vs. Charmin 

The headline of this Harvard Business Review article sure caught my eye: “How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse”. You can save a lot of time and angst by just scrolling to the bottom and reading the bios of the piece’s authors:

Youngjin Yoo is the Harry A. Cochran Professor in Management Information Systems and the founding director of the Center for Design+Innovation at Temple University. He is also an overseas advisory fellow of the Samsung Economic Research Institute and consults for Samsung Electronics.

Kyungmook Kim is a principal designer at Samsung Electronics’ Corporate Design Center.

In next month’s issue: “How Comcast Became a Paragon of Friendly, Responsive Customer Service and Fair Competitive Practices”, by Comcast chief lobbyist David Cohen.

Prepaying for Gogo In-Flight Wi-Fi 

Brian X. Chen has a piece on Gogo, too:

Another way to get a cheaper rate for Gogo is ordering the service before boarding the plane. People can buy an all-day pass to use Wi-Fi on any Gogo-equipped flight for $16, while frequent travelers can purchase a monthly subscription for $50.

These solutions are small comfort to Ms. Lu. “How am I going to remember for a 6 a.m. flight, of all the things I have to do, to log on at 4 a.m. and prepay for my Wi-Fi?” she said. “Are you kidding me?”

That makes for a compelling conclusion to his column, but it’s terrible advice and a gross disservice to his readers. I have a lot of problems with Gogo’s pricing and service quality, but this isn’t one. You don’t have to prepay for a $16 day pass on the same day as your flight. You can do it today, and redeem it a month from now. It’s like a voucher in your Gogo account.

IDC Estimates Apple Shipped 3.6 Million Watches Last Quarter 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge (my apologies to those of you on mobile devices):

With only a single product to its name, Apple has already taken the number two spot in the global wearables market, according to market analysts IDC. The agency’s quarterly wearable report claims that Apple shipped a total of 3.6 million units in the second quarter of 2015, putting it just behind market leader Fitbit, shipping 4.4 million devices. These figures are only estimates of course, but if they’re close to the truth then it’s a sizable achievement for Apple. Not only is the Apple Watch the company’s debut product in the market, but it’s also so much more expensive than the competition.

Imagine how much better Apple Watch would be doing if it weren’t flopping.

Alongside Apple and Fitbit, the other big players in the market are Xiaomi (which launched its aggressively priced $13 fitness tracker last July), Garmin (which has focused on sophisticated fitness-trackers), and Samsung (which is set to unveil its redesigned Gear S2 soon). IDC’s analysts, though, say that the industry’s focus is mainly on Apple to see where the company will go next.

According to IDC, Samsung’s unit sale numbers dropped from the same quarter in 2014, from 800,000 to 600,000.

Businessweek: ‘Why Gogo’s Infuriatingly Expensive, Slow Internet Still Owns the Skies’ 

Sam Grobart, writing for Businessweek:

Gogo differs from Uber in another way. While the taxi app’s surge prices tamp down demand, thus preventing the service from becoming overloaded, they also encourage idle drivers to hit the streets and increase capacity. When Gogo charges more, capacity doesn’t improve. “They’re participating in something we like to call ‘incremental value capture’ without also offering a better service,” says Frances Frei, a professor at Harvard Business School. “If I’m going to raise your rates, I also have to give you a better value proposition.”

I was on an American flight recently (SFO-PHL, flying home from WWDC) where the only Gogo option for a flight pass was to sign up for a $50 monthly subscription. The only other option was an exorbitant hourly rate. The solution, I learned, is to purchase a day pass from Gogo before you’re on the plane.

Swatch CEO: ‘Apple Watch Is an Interesting Toy’ 

Samuel Gibbs, reporting for The Guardian:

Nick Hayek Jr. said that later this year Swatch will sell smartwatches that last nine months per battery. The company launched its first smartwatch in 2003 in partnership with Microsoft, and have sold connected watches since 1996.

In an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, Hayek Jr. said: “The Apple watch is an interesting toy, but not a revolution.”

Sounds familiar.

How Many Women Actually Used Ashley Madison? 

Interesting analysis of the Ashley Madison data dump by Annalee Newitz, writing for Gizmodo:

What I discovered was that the world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn’t a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn’t even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it’s like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.

Those millions of Ashley Madison men were paying to hook up with women who appeared to have created profiles and then simply disappeared. Were they cobbled together by bots and bored admins, or just user debris? Whatever the answer, the more I examined those 5.5 million female profiles, the more obvious it became that none of them had ever talked to men on the site, or even used the site at all after creating a profile. Actually, scratch that. As I’ll explain below, there’s a good chance that about 12,000 of the profiles out of millions belonged to actual, real women who were active users of Ashley Madison.

Sounds about right.

Acorn 5.0 

We’re blessed these days with a plethora of outstanding image editing Mac apps from indie developers. The one I depend on most, and have for years, is Flying Meat’s Acorn. (Flying Meat is a two-person company: Gus and Kirstin Mueller.) Version 5 is a great upgrade with all sorts of new features, but my favorite thing from the release notes is this:

We fixed hundreds of minor bugs and annoyances. Little things that built up over the years that very few people ever encountered, like “the shortcut key for zooming in doesn’t work when the keyboard layout is set to Dvorak - Qwerty ⌘”. So we fixed pretty much all of those. It took months and months of work, it was super boring and mind numbing and it was really hard to justify, and it made Acorn 5 super late. But we did it anyway, because something in us felt that software quality has been going downhill in general, and we sure as heck weren’t going to let that happen to Acorn. So we took a long break from adding features and just fixed stuff.

That sense of craftsmanship truly shows in the app. For a limited time, Acorn 5 is available for just $25, an absolute steal. Just buy it.

AT&T Says Injecting Ads Into Airport Wi-Fi Was a Now-Ended Test 

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

AT&T said on Wednesday it has ended an experiment that had the company serving ads to those using its free Wi-Fi at two Washington, D.C.-area airports.

“We trialed an advertising program for a limited time in two airports (Dulles and Reagan National) and the trial has ended,” AT&T told Re/code in a statement. “The trial was part of an ongoing effort to explore alternate ways to deliver a free Wi-Fi service that is safe, secure and fast.”

AT&T came under fire this week after computer scientist Jonathan Mayer blogged about his experience encountering the ads while browsing the Web at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C.

JavaScript injection in all HTTP traffic is unsafe, insecure, by definition slows down page loading. The only thing they were testing is whether they could get away with it without a public outcry.

Google Identifies Hiring Prospects Via Search Queries 

Max Rosett:

I was in the midst of a career transition. I had spent three years working as a management consultant and then at a startup, but I wanted to become a computer engineer. I was earning a Master’s in computer science through Georgia Tech’s online program. I knew that I was slowly developing the skills that I would need in an engineering role, but I still lacked the confidence to apply for a full-time software role.

One morning, while working on a project, I Googled “python lambda function list comprehension.” The familiar blue links appeared, and I started to look for the most relevant one.

But then something unusual happened.

The search results split and folded back to reveal a box that said “You’re speaking our language. Up for a challenge?”

Like much of what Google does, this is both incredibly clever and incredibly creepy.

It makes me wonder how much Google knows and tracks about queries from programmers at competing companies. Do companies like Apple have policies or recommended practices regarding what employees do with Google services?

AT&T Hotspots: Now With Advertising Injection 

Jonathan Mayer, investigating how AT&T’s “free” Wi-Fi at Dulles International Airport injects ads into all non-HTTPS web pages:

AT&T has an (understandable) incentive to seek consumer-side income from its free wifi service, but this model of advertising injection is particularly unsavory. Among other drawbacks: It exposes much of the user’s browsing activity to an undisclosed and untrusted business. It clutters the user’s web browsing experience. It tarnishes carefully crafted online brands and content, especially because the ads are not clearly marked as part of the hotspot service. And it introduces security and breakage risks, since website developers generally don’t plan for extra scripts and layout elements.

It’s dishonest and dangerous.

Felix Salmon on How Well UberX Pays 

Spoiler: nowhere near as well as Uber would have you believe.

In Conversation With Quentin Tarantino 

Great Lane Brown interview with Quentin Tarantino for New York Magazine:

Q: Who do you see as your competition right now? Are you competitive with someone like Paul Thomas Anderson?

A: No. It’s a friendly thing. This might come across as egotistical, but I don’t really feel in competition with anybody anymore. I’m in competition with myself. David O. Russell can have the biggest hit of the year, and that doesn’t take anything away from me. I couldn’t have been happier that Rick Linklater was at the Oscars this year.

The last time that I felt competitive was when I was doing Kill Bill and my competition was The Matrix Reloaded. That was the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. I saw Matrix Reloaded at the Chinese Theatre the day it opened, and I walked out of the cinema singing that Jay Z song: “S-dot-Carter / Y’all must try harder / Competition is nada.” I was like, Bring it the fuck on. I was worried about that? Ho-ly shit.

‘All Websites Look the Same’ 

Have you noticed a certain sameness to website design in recent years? Dave Ellis captures it brilliantly.

How Lobbying Works 

Dylan Matthews, writing for Vox on a Senate bill passed at the behest of H&R Block lobbyists, that significantly increases the complexity of the tax forms for lower income Americans:

Think about what tax breaks are being targeted here. These are all refundable credits, which, with the exception of the college credit, overwhelmingly help low-income and working-class people. H&R Block is not pushing to make the mortgage interest deduction more complicated, or to make the charitable deduction more confusing. Tax breaks that mostly help rich people go untouched. H&R Block knows that rich people already use TurboTax or hire accountants; because it wants new business, it has decided to prey upon the poor.

In a better world, companies like H&R Block wouldn’t exist, because the IRS would fill out returns itself. But if H&R Block must exist, the least it can do is not try to actively harm poor people. Sadly, even that appears to be asking too much.

Virginia TV Reporter and Photographer Shot to Death by Madman During Seemingly Innocuous Live Broadcast 

Another fine day for America’s “well regulated militia”.

On Comparing Samsung’s S-Pen Design Flaw to the iPhone 4 Antenna 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge on the growing controversy over the new Galaxy Note S-Pen slot:

It’s a big problem that can result from a very small mistake. Samsung has now issued a response, and well, the answer is that you should read and adhere to the manual.

“We highly recommend our Galaxy Note 5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S pen in the other way around.”

With the iPhone 4, the joke was “You’re holding it wrong.” With the Note 5, it’s apparently “You’re sliding it in wrong.” Either way, it’s not very funny.

I’ve seen a lot of people make this comparison, but it’s specious. If you held your GSM iPhone 4 “wrong”, it didn’t break your phone. If you put the stylus in the Note 5 wrong, it breaks the phone.


‘It May Seem Silly’

Jon Evans, in a piece for AOL/TechCrunch headlined “Don’t Be Apple”:

There is so much to admire about Apple. They make superb, beautiful products. Their amazing comeback story is unparalleled in corporate history. […] So why do I think they represent so much of what’s wrong with the tech world? It’s because they have, I think, an almost Shakespearean tragic flaw: their obsession with centralized corporate control of the devices they sell. […]

What could go wrong? Well, let’s get dystopically speculative for a moment. Can you remember some of the most hyperbolic overreactions to the fall of the World Trade Center, and how they were welcomed by large swathes of the American public? Can you imagine a future in which, following a similar tragedy, Apple rolls over and becomes a de facto arm of surveillance states? I sure can — and Apple’s centralized-command-and-control ecosystem would make it worryingly easy to turn every iOS device into an eye and ear of the panopticon, more or less overnight.

At which point we’d be forced to continue using these spyware Apple products because… ? And engineers at Apple would continue working for the company rather than resigning en masse because… ? And Apple would suffer no bad publicity for its cowardice because… ? Because: Tim Cook could surely flip a switch that would enable this surveillance without anyone noticing.

This advice is madness. Evans is recommending against using a platform that is secure and private today, from a company with a consistent decades-long track record in this regard, because in the future they might turn coat and become an accomplice of government mass surveillance, even though, if that came to pass, we could and would all just abandon the use of Apple products.

You can aim similar criticisms at Android, too, but they would miss the mark. Love it or hate it, Android is not near [sic] as centralized as iOS, and Google is not nearly as controlling as Apple. It’s open-source, and major organizations can — and do — fork it to create their own independent versions.

Parts of Android are indeed open source — “except for all the good parts”.

Apple fights an ongoing war with iOS jailbreakers, claiming that their work is “potentially catastrophic”; Google makes it especially easy to root Nexus devices. […]

Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld last month, “Hacking Team Hack Reveals Why You Shouldn’t Jailbreak Your iPhone”:

A massive breach in the private data of a firm that sells software to governments to spy on communications shows that jailbroken iPhones are vulnerable. […]

Two security outfits — the commercial Kaspersky Lab in Russia and academic Citizen Lab in Canada — first revealed in June 2014 that they had discovered and decoded Hacking Team’s smartphone-cracking software. The reports at that time indicated that only jailbroken iOS devices could be hijacked, but that malware could be installed on an iOS device when connected to a computer that was confirmed as trusted, and which had been compromised.

That external analysis has now been complemented by the Hacking Team’s internal documents. One price list shows a €50,000 ($56,000) price tag on an iOS snooping module with the note, “Prerequisite: the iOS device must be jailbroken.”

Apple works to close jailbreaking exploits because they are potentially catastrophic.

Back to Evans:

It may seem silly to criticize a fantastic company that makes superb products and delights its users on the basis of an abstract philosophical dispute.

Even the most jacktastic article usually has one true sentence.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that over the next year this dispute will grow more and more concrete. Maybe, as this contrast heightens, Apple will see the light; maybe instead of fighting jailbreakers, they will offer jailbreaking and sideloading as an option for power users out of the box, just as Android does. That alone would be a huge seismic shift.

But I’m not holding my breath. And until and unless that happens, I find it hard to recommend the iOS ecosystem in good conscience, despite its power and beauty, because Apple refuses to return any of the trust it demands from its users.

So let’s get this straight: Jon Evans is deeply concerned about a hypothetical dystopic fantasy scenario where Apple turns a 180, abandons all of the privacy principles the company has adhered to for decades and has prominently promoted as a competitive advantage, and begins cooperating with the U.S. government to surveil iOS users. To alleviate his concerns, Evans wants Apple to stop its efforts to close jailbreaking exploits, and in the meantime, he can’t “recommend the iOS ecosystem in good conscience”. This, despite the fact that in the actual world, today, we know for a fact from the Hacking Team data breach that various governments around the world — including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey — have been sold software that allows them to snoop on iOS devices, but only if the devices have been jailbroken.

I’m sure iOS users want Apple to get right on this. 


‘Which Is the Most Important Device You Use to Connect to the Internet?’

On Twitter, Benedict Evans points to fascinating polling data indicating that the answers to this question1 are changing dramatically. In 2013, just two years ago, the results were:

  1. Laptop 46%
  2. Desktop 28%
  3. Smartphone 15%
  4. Tablet 8%

In 2015, the results were:

  1. Smartphone 33%
  2. Laptop 30%
  3. Tablet 19%
  4. Desktop 14%

Assuming the polling is valid, this suggests we’ve already passed the inflection point where most people consider their mobile devices (phone and tablet) central to their use of the internet.

I don’t think the chart in Evans’s tweet indicates these trends well. (The chart wasn’t his creation.) I would prefer something like (spends 15 minutes dicking around in Numbers…) this:

Line chart showing the perceived importance of phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops from 2013-2015.

Also interesting is to compare “mobile” (phone and tablet) versus “PC” (laptop and desktop):

Line chart showing the perceived importance of mobile devices versus PCs from 2013-2015.

My “mobile” and “PC” groupings aren’t entirely rigorous, because I’m conflating physical form factors with operating systems. For Apple products, that distinction is clear — their phones and tablets run iOS; their laptops and desktops run Mac OS X. And Android, as a consumer platform, runs almost solely on phones and tablets. But Microsoft’s Surface devices are tablets that run Windows, and Chromebooks are laptops that run what I would consider a mobile OS.2 But the overwhelming popularity of iOS and Android compared to Surface and Chromebooks is such that I think it’s a useful and fair comparison.

The bottom line: the post-PC world is here. 


  1. It occurs to me that, personally, I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. A Mac and an iPhone both feel indispensable to me. If I really had to make do with just one, I suppose I’d pick a MacBook, but that’s not the question that was asked. In terms of my actual usage, my iPhone might be “the most important device I use to connect to the internet”. ↩︎

  2. It’s probably wrong to say Chrome is a “mobile” OS, but it certainly isn’t a traditional PC platform. What I’m interested in is the post-PC disruption of the industry, and Chromebooks are clearly a part of that, even if they’re instantiated in a very traditional laptop form factor. ↩︎︎


Safari Content Blocker, Before and After

Dean Murphy wrote an iOS 9 Safari Content Blocker, and tested it against iMore:

With no content blocked, there are 38 third party scripts (scripts not hosted on the host domain) running when the homepage is opened, which takes a total of 11 seconds. Some of these scripts are hosted by companies I know, Google, Amazon, Twitter and lots from companies I don’t know. Most of which I assume are used to display adverts or track my activity, as the network activity was still active after a minute of leaving the page dormant. I decided to turn them all off all third party scripts and see what would happen.

After turning off all third party scripts, the homepage took 2 seconds to load, down from 11 seconds. Also, the network activity stopped as soon as the page loaded so it should be less strain on the battery.

I love iMore. I think they’re the best staff covering Apple today, and their content is great. But count me in with Nick Heer — their website is shit-ass. Rene Ritchie’s response acknowledges the problem, but a web page like that — Rene’s 537-word all-text response — should not weigh 14 MB.1

It’s not just the download size, long initial page load time, and the ads that cover valuable screen real estate as fixed elements. The fact that these JavaScript trackers hit the network for a full-minute after the page has completely loaded is downright criminal. Advertising should have minimal effect on page load times and device battery life. Advertising should be respectful of the user’s time, attention, and battery life. The industry has gluttonously gone the other way. iMore is not the exception — they’re the norm. 10+ MB page sizes, minute-long network access, third-party networks tracking you across unrelated websites — those things are all par for the course today, even when serving pages to mobile devices. Even on a site like iMore, staffed by good people who truly have deep respect for their readers.

With Safari Content Blockers, Apple is poised to allow users to fight back. Apple has zeroed in on what we need: not a way to block ads per se, but a way to block obnoxious JavaScript code. A reckoning is coming. 


  1. This very article on Daring Fireball, the one whose footnote you’re reading right now, weighs between 125–175 KB — *kilobytes* — depending on the random ad from The Deck being served. ↩︎


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