Lens Blur in the New Google Camera App 

Carlos Hernández, writing for the Google Research blog:

Shallow depth of field makes the object of interest “pop” by bringing the foreground into focus and de-emphasizing the background. Achieving this optical effect has traditionally required a big lens and aperture, and therefore hasn’t been possible using the camera on your mobile phone or tablet.

That all changes with Lens Blur, a new mode in the Google Camera app. It lets you take a photo with a shallow depth of field using just your Android phone or tablet. Unlike a regular photo, Lens Blur lets you change the point or level of focus after the photo is taken. You can choose to make any object come into focus simply by tapping on it in the image.

Interesting idea. Like filters, it’s another way to use software cleverness to work around the physical limitations of the small cameras in mobile devices.

Misunderstanding Innovation 

Horace Dediu:

But there is another form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth.

This is a step toward understanding why so many people get Apple so very wrong. If you don’t understand what innovation really is, you’re not going to understand an innovative company.

Bloomberg: How Americans Die 

Both the data itself and the visualizations of it are fascinating.

On Yahoo’s Chances of Replacing Google as the Default Web Search on iOS 

Danny Sullivan, on a Kara Swisher report that Marissa Mayer is trying to get Yahoo to replace Google as iOS’s default for web search:

The biggest challenge Yahoo has is that it lacks any solid search technology. Sure, Yahoo has some for very specialized things. But the core technology to sift through billions of pages across the web and ferret out relevant results? Yahoo gave all that up as part of its deal with Microsoft years ago. […]

Some might think that Yahoo doesn’t need to do as big a job as Google or Bing does. Maybe it just needs to focus on answering popular questions. That, however, overlooks the fact that if Yahoo can’t answer virtually every question tossed at it, consumers will get frustrated. For all the talk about mobile search, contextual search, popular answers, predictive search, local listings, it’s web search that remains the core foundation that everything is built off of. If you don’t have that foundation, everything can topple over.

As Sullivan points out, after the maps switch, Apple is probably more gun-shy about dropping Google as the default web search provider than they otherwise would have been.

What’s New in Tumult Hype 2.5 

Speaking of great updates to my favorite Mac apps, the latest version of the amazing Tumult Hype — a professional HTML5 animation tool — has a slew of new features, including support for responsive design. Hard to believe this app costs only $30.

Screens 3.0 for Mac 

Sweet update to the Mac version of my favorite VNC client. If you ever have the need to control a Mac remotely, you should check out Screens.

Brent Simmons on Build 2014 

Brent Simmons:

While seeing iOS devices on a big screen in Moscone West was normal to us, we knew you’d never see Apple feature Android or Windows Mobile devices in their keynotes.

Nor should they. That’s not a criticism — that’s just not Apple’s thing. It’s the new Microsoft’s thing to be cosmopolitan.

I talked to a number of Microsoft employees — on the Azure side — and got the same sense from all of them. They’re excited. They know they’re underdogs; they know that Amazon Web Services is dominant.

They also know that the kind of dominance Microsoft once had — where just about everything that computed ran Windows — is gone and will never come back.

Could just be my skewed perspective, but one thing I didn’t see much of at Build were references to Android. Like Brent notes, there were many references to iPhone and iPad development, including demos during the keynote (not to mention Q Branch’s brief moment in the spotlight). But Android, not so much.

Microsoft has in no way given up on Windows Phone or the tablet market. But the change I detect is a narrowing of their focus. They now (correctly, I say) view Android/Google as their competition, rather than “everyone”. And there’s a decided “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thing going on with iOS/Apple too. I hope Apple sees the same thing.

Justin Williams on Build 2014 

I’m a few weeks late linking to this, but I didn’t want to let it slide. Long-time iOS developer Justin Williams, on attending Microsoft’s Build developer conference:

One of the biggest differences I noticed between an event like Build and WWDC was in the subtle messaging. Both Apple and Microsoft are massive companies that make billions of dollars and answer to their shareholders. Both companies also offer development platforms for third-parties to integrate with.

What’s different though is that it feels like Microsoft is more interested in working with us as a partner whereas Apple has always given off a vibe of just sort of dealing with us because they have to. Maybe that’s a little sour grapes, but as a developer it was a nice change.

The differences from WWDC — especially since both were held in the same venue, Moscone West — were fascinating to me. Little things, like the keynote hall being arranged sideways (wide, rather than deep), to big things, like a press room that was open all conference long. At WWDC, press passes are good only for the Monday morning keynote; at Build, invited press can stay all conference long and attend sessions.

It’s not so much that Microsoft is friendlier, but rather that Apple is distant — cooler, in several senses of the word.

‘It’s a 0.1 Update That Feels Like a 2.0 Update’ 

Peter Bright reviews Windows Phone 8.1 for Ars Technica:

Windows Phone 8.1, therefore, has a lot of work to do. It needs to take further steps along the path toward Microsoft’s vision of a unified operating system. It needs to work better on a wider range of hardware to both strengthen its position at the low end and give it a chance of making inroads at the high end. It needs to also offer features: it needs to do things to get people talking about the platform while attracting both users and developers.

Remarkably, Windows Phone 8.1 delivers on all fronts.

When a Committee Builds a Smartphone 

David Pogue reviews the Samsung Galaxy S5:

What is gunking up your screens is Samsung’s usual not-fully-thought-through assemblage of app flotsam. Why do you need one app for Gmail and another for other kinds of email accounts? Why do you need two photo apps — one from Samsung, one from Google? Two Settings apps? Two text-messaging apps? Two video players?

This is the dark side of the Android experience: One company makes the hardware, another makes the software. Now they’re becoming rivals, and we can already see who the loser will be: you.

My favorite part is the “one-handed mode”. And what’s the deal with all those inscrutable icons in the status bar?

‘The Pinnacle of Fitness Failure: Samsung’s Gear Fit Activity Tracker’ 

DC Rainmaker:

This is a product I wanted to love, but ultimately, it just ended up being a huge disappointment. Hopefully Samsung can iterate quickly on the software, and move the platform forward to something that someone might actually want to buy. In the meantime, mine is going into my desk drawer.

What happens when Samsung doesn’t have a market leader to copy.

Siri Honors Jackie Robinson 

Classy.

Samsung Launches Website Highlighting ‘Meaningful’ Design 

You can’t make this stuff up.

Apple, Samsung, and Intel 

Matt Richman argues that Intel is a natural fit to manufacture ARM CPUs for Apple:

This arrangement would benefit both companies in a number of ways. Apple would no longer depend upon Samsung, its biggest competitor, to produce the chips at the heart of its most successful products. (This is analogous to America asking China to build its most advanced missiles and hoping the country won’t use any of the top-secret technology it learns about for its own benefit when it’s clearly in China’s best interest to do so.) And because Intel has manufacturing capabilities that other companies don’t, Apple might well be able to create better chips than it would be able to if it were to continue using Samsung as its chip manufacturer. Finally, the company would have peace of mind knowing that its chip producer doesn’t stand to gain anything from a processor shortfall, as Samsung does. Even if the factory were to cost $5 billion — and it wouldn’t — it’d be worth it. Steve Jobs said Apple’s cash hoard is for “big, bold” “strategic opportunities”. This move exemplifies that thinking.

Chris Ware on Apple 

Speaking of Chris Ware, I’m deeply intrigued by his thoughts on Apple, from a 2012 interview with Christopher Irving for Graphic NYC:

“I really admire Apple’s design, and feel that the general idea and driving principle behind it almost since their inception is to make information tactile. They’re finally getting to this point now where one can manipulate information with the hands and the body. As designers, they’re also so sensitive in ways that I don’t think any other computer makers understand, as their chief designer knows it has to do with very measured, combined subtleties of tactility and weight and gesture and materials. In a way, they’re almost a nineteenth century company, more sensitive to the world of nature than to technology, or at least respectful of it. I can certainly see reading comics electronically, with the possibilities for inter-penetrability of story and image, but I think comics will have to develop into something completely different before that happens.”

(Thanks to DF reader Logan York.)

BGR on Amazon’s Upcoming Smartphone 

Zach Epstein:

The most novel aspect of Amazon’s upcoming smartphone is its 3D software interface and the hardware mechanism that enables it.

Our sources state that the new Amazon phone includes a total of six cameras.

Can’t wait to see this 3D stuff. In the meantime, though, I can’t help but think of this.


The Nocera Chronicles

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera (of “and I think you’re a slime bucket” Steve Jobs phone call fame) devoted his weekend column to Apple. He describes a company already in decline, several times citing Yukari Iwatani Kane’s widely-panned Haunted Empire:

The only real way to stave off further decline is to come out with a product that establishes a whole new category — the way the iPad did in 2010. But that seems unlikely. “Outside the echo chamber of Apple’s headquarters, the notion of the company’s exceptionalism has been shattered,” Kane writes.

That’s the extent of Nocera’s argument that iPad-like new products from Apple “seem unlikely”: Yukari Kane’s having written so in her book. Really.

As I’ve written repeatedly, these Apple bears who believe Steve Jobs was indispensable may well be right. We don’t know yet. Only time will tell. But (again, as I’ve written repeatedly) the evidence so far doesn’t back that theory up, and the “new category” breakthrough products were in fact few and far between under Steve Jobs, too, and often dismissed by critics upon their unveiling. In between those rare new products, the company’s life blood has always been incremental improvements to existing products.

Nocera:

Which brings me back to the litigation with Samsung — the company that is coming to market with products that are every bit as good as Apple’s, and at a lower price to boot. This never-ending litigation is yet another sign that Apple is becoming a spent force. Suing each other “is not what innovative companies do,” said Robin Feldman, a patent law expert at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

I’d argue with both aspects of the “products that are every bit as good as Apple’s, and at a lower price to boot” clause (unlocked 16 GB Galaxy S5’s cost over $700 on Amazon; unlocked 16 GB iPhone 5S’s cost $649), but let’s leave that aside. The primary thrust of the “Haunted Empire” theory on Apple is that Steve Jobs was indispensable, and that the company entered an inevitable decline as soon as he left. But Steve Jobs is the man who told his own biographer:

Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products — Android, Google Docs — are shit.

Much like how Kane, in her piece back in February for The New Yorker’s website, tried to have it both ways regarding Scott Forstall — arguing that Apple Maps was “a fiasco” in the very next paragraph after arguing that Tim Cook should not have fired Forstall, the executive who was responsible for Apple Maps in iOS 6 — Nocera here has painted Apple into a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t scenario. He spends most of his column arguing that Apple is screwed because they’re lost without Jobs. But now he’s saying they’re screwed because they’re doing exactly what Jobs expressly told his biographer he wanted to do: fight Android handset makers — and by proxy, Google — tooth and nail in court.

Suing each other ‘is not what innovative companies do’”, Nocera quotes a patent law expert. But Apple sued, and threatened to sue, companies all the time while Steve Jobs was CEO. Jobs joked about having patented every aspect of the iPhone on stage during its unveiling. Under Jobs, Apple sued and eventually put out of business an Apple rumor site run by a teenager.

I think there’s nothing Apple could have done in the last three years that would have kept Nocera from writing this column. Likewise with Kane and her book. The company is lost without Steve Jobs and nothing will convince them otherwise.


My gut feeling is that 2014 is going to play out poorly for the “Haunted Empire” crowd. If Tim Cook is willing to tell The Wall Street Journal, “We’re really working on some really great stuff. I think no one reasonable would say they’re not a new category,” I’ll take his word for it.

I have no knowledge regarding what products Cook was referring to. But if history repeats itself, the odds are good that the announcement of these new products — along with annual new versions of iPhones and iPads and MacBooks — will do nothing to quell the doomed-without-Jobs critics.

The iPad was “just a big iPhone” when it was unveiled in 2010; today it’s hailed as Apple’s last great new product. My guess is we’ll see the same reaction to whatever Apple releases this year. It takes years for even the most amazing of new products — the iPhone, for example — to prove themselves on the market. It’s a long game.

Even then — come, say, 2017, when Apple is reaping billions in profits from some product first introduced this year — the doomed-without-Jobs crowd could (and I bet will) just argue that the product succeeded only because it had been conceived while Steve Jobs was alive. It’ll never stop. 


‘Heads or Tails’ 

Beautiful comic by the incomparable Chris Ware.

‘How Much for the Drums?’ 

Dave Shumka:

Ever since I made this video of David Letterman talking to drummers, I’ve wondered if he’s actually seen it. I recently asked one of his writers, Bill Scheft, on Twitter. According to Scheft, not only has Letterman watched it, but “he loved it as he loved few things.” I realize that it just seems like I’m bragging on the internet, but that’s about the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

With all the news surrounding Letterman’s retirement, it feels like a fine time to revisit the video.

Dieter Bohn of The Verge Profiles Project Ara, Google’s Modular Phone Project 

I remain highly skeptical that a modular design can compete in a product category where size, weight, and battery life are at such a premium. Even if they can bring something to market, why would any normal person be interested in a phone like this?

Jason Snell on Apple and Wearables 

Jason Snell:

Unfortunately, I fear that tech-industry observers have completely lost their perspective. As Rene has written, no matter how big the wearables market gets, it’s still not going to touch the smartphone market.

IDC reported that in 2013, one billion smartphones were shipped, up 38 percent from the previous year. That’s a fast-growing market worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Meanwhile, on Thursday IDC predicted that the wearables market will reach 112 million units in 2018.

In other words, in four years the wearables market might grow to be one-tenth the size of today’s smartphone market — in units shipped. Presumably the average selling price of wearable items will be a fraction of that of smartphones, meaning the dollar value of the wearables market is even more minuscule compared to the smartphone market.

The pricing issue is a big one: carrier-subsidized pricing blinds many people to the fact that iPhones really sell for $700-800 a pop. Some analyst predicted last week that Apple will sell watches “priced at several thousand dollars”. Maybe they will, but if they do, they sure as shit aren’t going to sell as many of them as they do iPhones.

It feels a lot more likely to me that any new wearable devices from Apple will be priced more along the line of iPods: in the $100-400 range. Maybe a little higher at the outset, coming down over time. (I wouldn’t even be surprised if they use the iPod brand for them.)


No One Said Following Is Easy

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode on the ongoing Apple-Samsung court case, “Top Android Executive Says Google Didn’t Copy Apple’s iPhone”:

Lockheimer testified that Android, too, was the product of long hours and hard work.

“The hours were pretty grueling,” Lockheimer said, speaking of the early days of Android as the operating system was being developed in 2006 and 2007. “They continue to be grueling, by the way. … We work really hard.”

Later in the article:

One thing that was not initially contemplated for the first Android device — at least initially — was any sort of touchscreen.

Weird use of initially in that sentence. As shown below, touchscreens probably were “contemplated” for the first Android devices (they expressly mentioned the potential to support them eventually) but they were explicitly rejected in the specification for Android 1.0.

“Touchscreens will not be supported,” Google said in a 2006 specification for Android devices. “The product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption. However, there is nothing fundamental in the products [sic] architecture that prevents the support of touch screens [sic] in the future.”

Obviously, Google later changed course and a touchscreen became mandatory. Lockheimer said the vision evolved as the company learned what it heard screen manufacturers tell it what was coming down the pipeline.

This testimony defies credulity. Consider the timeline. As Daniel Dilger documents in a report today for AppleInsider looking at Android design documents entered as evidence in the trial, in August 2006, the draft Android 1.0 design document mandated up/down/left/right/select hardware buttons and explicitly stated that touchscreens would not be supported. Then, the very next revision of the specification, in April 2007 — a draft described as a “major update” — multitouch touchscreens became mandatory. In August 2006 Android was planned as a BlackBerry/Windows Mobile style hardware-button platform with no initial support for touchscreens. In April 2007 it became a platform where multitouch touchscreens were mandatory. The only way one could believe that this change was driven by what Google heard from screen manufacturers is if what the screen manufacturers told Google was, “Holy shit, what are we going to do about the iPhone?”


But what caught my attention is the “hard work” angle in Lockheimer’s testimony. Long hours of hard work don’t disprove that Android copied the iPhone. In fact, copying the iPhone would imply more work. They effectively designed the Android platform twice: first as a BlackBerry/Windows Mobile style hardware button platform, and then as an iPhone-style touchscreen platform.

The word copying is pejorative, so let’s just call it following. Of course Android followed the iPhone’s lead. But what else was Google to do? It took genius to conceive and create the original iPhone. But once it was revealed — and especially once it hit the market — anyone with a lick of sense could see that this was how all such devices should work. If Google had stuck to its original design for Android, it wouldn’t have succeeded in a post-iPhone world — it would have been Windows Mobile without the existing market share.

The first successful implementation of a radical idea is usually and correctly lauded as the innovator. The second is derided as an imitator. But by the time you get to the third and fourth, the idea becomes a category.

It was inevitable that competitors would follow the iPhone’s lead, and it was inevitable that Apple would feel wronged when it happened. What I wonder about is whether it was inevitable that Apple would sue. Are they pursuing Samsung in court because Samsung is so clearly their most successful rival in the handset industry, or is it because Samsung so clearly copied — not merely followed but gratuitously copied — so much from Apple? I suspect it’s both — that it was the combination of Samsung’s blatant copying and mimicry of the iPhone’s trade dress, combined with their success, that has compelled Apple to fight them tooth-and-nail in court.1

I suspect Apple’s goal is not so much about procuring redress for Samsung’s past actions, but rather to send a message. I doubt Apple will be awarded enough money from this Samsung lawsuit to have made the effort worthwhile directly. But indirectly, if the message gets through to competitors that Apple is willing to pursue lawsuits like this with a seemingly irrational fervor, and it makes them (the competitors) gun-shy to copy future Apple products, to follow Apple too closely — it may not be so irrational after all.2 


  1. They’ve sued other companies, too — most notably HTC. But nothing with the fervor and high stakes of this Samsung lawsuit. 

  2. I also believe that Apple’s executives — Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Eddy Cue, all of them — truly believe that suing Samsung, fighting the case until the bitter end, is the morally right thing to do. Remember what Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson about his willingness to spend “every penny” of Apple’s cash and “go thermonuclear war on this”. I believe Apple’s current leadership feels exactly the same way. The fact that this is not entirely rational, that it’s driven in part by emotion, anger, and a sense of justice, serves Apple’s interests by disincentivizing would-be future copiers. A crazy opponent is a dangerous opponent. 


Igloo 

My thanks to Igloo — “the intranet you’ll actually like” — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. This week Igloo introduced four new templates to help start your next intranet project. You can start with:

  • an app-based social intranet;
  • a corporate intranet;
  • a customer community;
  • or a partner portal

Igloo’s new templates share a unified visual language, but your Igloo can be fully designed to match your brand and the way your business is structured. All Igloo templates feature responsive design, so they looks great on any device — desktop, tablet, or phone. Igloo built its own public-facing website using the Igloo platform.

You can start using Igloo instantly and, amazingly, Igloo is free of charge for up to ten people.

Researcher Proves Heartbleed Bug Exposes Private SSL Keys 

Josh Ong, reporting for The Next Web:

Fedor Indutny, a core member of the node.js team, has proved that it is in fact possible for an attacker to sniff out the private SSL keys from a server left exposed by the Heartbleed bug. The proof came in response to a challenge from CloudFlare that called on the security community to grab the keys from a demo server.

‘Brightest Flashlight’ Android App Disclosed Location of 50 Million People, but FTC Imposes No Fine 

Jeff John Roberts, writing for GigaOm:

Even judging by the low standards of creepy data-mining apps, “Brightest Flashlight” did something pretty egregious. The free app, which was installed by at least 50 million Android users, transmitted users’ real-time locations to ad networks and other third parties. It was, in other words, a stalking device disguised as a flashlight.

Cocoa for Web Services 

Brent Simmons:

The cloud is more than just a file system. It’s data plus code.

Amazon Buys ComiXology 

Jason Snell, writing for TechHive:

Comic fans may groan about the sale — it’s always sad when a plucky, groundbreaking start-up is bought out by a corporate giant — but Amazon’s track record with purchases is actually pretty good. The company has bought Zappos, Goodreads, Woot, and Audible, all of which continue to operate more or less as they did before, rather than being integrated into Amazon.com.

Atelier Playing Cards 

Sweet typography-centric playing card design by Robert Padbury. The Kickstarter project is just a few days old, but already fully-funded. I say we all pile on and make this project a big hit. (Bonus: the t-shirts are being printed by my pal Brian Jaramillo, who’s handled all DF t-shirts for many years.)

Friday Afternoon Taste of My Own Claim Chowder 

Yours truly, three years ago:

Second, how is Flipboard an example of a web app? It’s a native iOS app in the App Store. It uses HTML5 and web content views, sure, but it’s still a native iPad app.

As I wrote in my headline this week, I’ve rethought what it means to be a web app. Flipboard is a great example of a native app that is all about the web.

Samsung Misled Investors About 2011 Galaxy Tab Sales 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

This week we learned, thanks to a February 2012 internal Samsung document marked “top secret” and unearthed by Apple as part of its ongoing patent infringement proceedings, that we were right and those more credulous news outlets were wrong.

When Strategy Analytics was telling the world that Samsung sold 2 million Galaxy Tabs in six weeks, the truth was that it took Samsung all of 2011 to sell half that many.

Shocker. But as Elmer-DeWitt points out, the blame doesn’t lie solely with Samsung or even Strategy Analytics — it lies also with the news outlets that gleefully passed along the report as fact. The reason: they wanted it to be true. iPad Continues to Dominate Tablet Sales is a boring story.

Bloomberg: NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years 

And now, some bad (but unsurprising) Heartbleed news, reported by Michael Riley for Bloomberg:

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

For what it’s worth, the NSA Public Affairs Office tweeted a denial:

Statement: NSA was not aware of the recently identified Heartbleed vulnerability until it was made public.

Update: Full statement from the NSA here. Doesn’t seem to leave any wiggle room.

Escape From XP  

Yet another sign that Microsoft has turned a corner.

‘Steve Expected Excellence. Which Is Why He So Often Got It.’ 

Wonderful remembrance of Steve Jobs from Don Melton

So Steve started the rehearsal, going through slides on the “Switcher” ad campaign and then the Apple Stores.

At the end of the retail update, he was supposed to conclude with something like “1.4 million visitors in the month of December alone,” but he added, “so to all of you in the press who doubted us…”

And then clicked to reveal his special slide — poster art I’m sure everyone has seen before — a 1940’s-style rendering of a grinning man holding a big mug of coffee next to his face with this text alongside like a world balloon:

“How about a nice cup of shut the fuck up.”

And then the best part — the part we didn’t know was coming — Steve paused, turned to his V.P. of Marketing and deadpanned, “What do you think, Phil? Too much?”

Can You Get Private SSL Keys Exploiting Heartbleed? 

Some potentially good news on the OppenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability front, from CloudFlare:

While the vulnerability seems likely to put private key data at risk, to date there have been no verified reports of actual private keys being exposed. At CloudFlare, we received early warning of the Heartbleed vulnerability and patched our systems 12 days ago. We’ve spent much of the time running extensive tests to figure out what can be exposed via Heartbleed and, specifically, to understand if private SSL key data was at risk.

Here’s the good news: after extensive testing on our software stack, we have been unable to successfully use Heartbleed on a vulnerable server to retrieve any private key data. Note that is not the same as saying it is impossible to use Heartbleed to get private keys. We do not yet feel comfortable saying that. However, if it is possible, it is at a minimum very hard. And, we have reason to believe based on the data structures used by OpenSSL and the modified version of NGINX that we use, that it may in fact be impossible.

And now, back to changing passwords on a slew of my accounts around the web.

Update: Sadly, the answer is yes, the vulnerability does put private key data at risk.

Scaling the Facebook Data Warehouse to 300 PB 

Pamela Vagata and Kevin Wilfong, writing for the Facebook Engineering Blog:

At Facebook, we have unique storage scalability challenges when it comes to our data warehouse. Our warehouse stores upwards of 300 PB of Hive data, with an incoming daily rate of about 600 TB. In the last year, the warehouse has seen a 3x growth in the amount of data stored. Given this growth trajectory, storage efficiency is and will continue to be a focus for our warehouse infrastructure.

600 TB of incoming data per day is mind-blowing. I can’t fathom it. And it’s great that they’re sharing this information. There can’t be that many entities dealing with this scale of data storage, and the others likely aren’t sharing what they’ve learned. This is the cutting edge of computer science.

Meet the Bag Man 

Eye-opening feature by Steven Godfrey for SBNation on the stream of money paid to college football recruits and players:

Remember, your job as a bag man isn’t to hide the benefit. It’s to hide the proof. In a region as passionate about college football as the American South, there’s no real moral outrage when new cars or clothes or jobs for relatives appear.

“We can only get away with whatever’s considered reasonable by the majority of the folks in our society. That’s why it’s different in the SEC. Maybe that’s why we’re able to be more active in what we do. Because no one ever looks at the car or the jewelry and says, ‘How did you get that, poor football player?’ They say, ‘How did they get you that and not get caught, poor football player?’”

Font War: Inside the Design World’s $20 Million Divorce 

Joshua Brustein, reporting for Businessweek on the Jonathan Hoefler/Tobias Frere-Jones breakup:

Several designers I spoke with said they were under the impression that Hoefler was almost exclusively focused on managing the business in recent years, leaving design to Frere-Jones. This makes it easy to cast Hoefler in the role of the villain exploiting the work of a naïve genius. But Hoefler and Frere-Jones’s relationship was more complicated than that, says Mike Essl, who teaches design at Cooper Union. Hoefler had all of Frere-Jones’s design chops, but also had the ability to propel Frere-Jones to prominence in a way he couldn’t have done on his own. Business partnerships rarely last forever, says Essl, and when they end, it’s often ugly. “Van Halen isn’t going to be Van Halen forever,” he says. “Someone is going to leave.”

Wiretap Proponent Condoleezza Rice Joins Dropbox’s Board 

Brian Feldman, writing for The Wire:

Tucked away near the end of a Businessweek article on the startup is news of Rice taking a fourth seat on the board:

The former secretary of state’s consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates, has been advising the startup on management issues for the last year. Now she’ll help the company think about such matters as international expansion and privacy, an issue that dogs every cloud company in the age of Edward Snowden and the NSA.

You know, privacy and the NSA. The same NSA that, as Ars Technica points out, Rice herself authorized to wiretap UN officials and other domestic targets without warrants. She definitely seems like the right person to help craft Dropbox’s privacy policies.

Strikes me as an oddly tone-deaf move for Dropbox, in the post-Snowden world. Is not warrantless government eavesdropping the single biggest concern people have regarding Dropbox?

Acorn on Sale for $15 

Flying Meat’s Acorn — a wonderful Mac image editor that normally costs $50 — is on sale for just $15. That’s a steal.

Mobile Apps or Mobile Web? 

Pater Kafka, writing for Recode:

Here’s an argument for counting them as “both, sometimes”: Quantcast, the Web measurement/ad company, says nearly a quarter of mobile Web views may be coming from in-app browsers running on Facebook or Twitter. That is: People who click on links and open up stories are in apps and on the Web, at the same time.

Why Stephen Colbert Is the Perfect David Letterman Replacement 

Tim Goodman, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Yes, fans of Colbert “in character” will miss his show, but the truth is that the format, despite being an excellent vehicle that launched Colbert to stardom, was far too limiting for Colbert’s talent. He’s absolutely going to blossom with this new freedom. From his time on Strangers With Candy to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, he’s shown his comedic talent in various forms with an improve performer’s fluidity. Those are traits that will make him instantly watchable doing his own taped (and live) skits on The Late Show, plus they will serve him well behind the desk doing interviews.

Stephen Colbert to Succeed Letterman on ‘Late Show’ 

Dave Itzkoff, reporting for the NYT:

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Mr. Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

He added: “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”

Great choice. Should keep Late Show the funniest of the late night shows.


Rethinking What We Mean by ‘Mobile Web’

Chris Dixon, in a piece titled “The Decline of the Mobile Web”, citing stats from ComScore and Flurry:

People are spending more time on mobile vs desktop. And more of their mobile time using apps, not the web.

This is a worrisome trend for the web. Mobile is the future. What wins mobile, wins the Internet. Right now, apps are winning and the web is losing.

I think Dixon has it all wrong. We shouldn’t think of the “web” as only what renders inside a web browser. The web is HTTP, and the open Internet. What exactly are people doing with these mobile apps? Largely, using the same services, which, on the desktop, they use in a web browser. Plus, on mobile, the difference between “apps” and “the web” is easily conflated. When I’m using Tweetbot, for example, much of my time in the app is spent reading web pages rendered in a web browser. Surely that’s true of mobile Facebook users, as well. What should that count as, “app” or “web”?

I publish a website, but tens of thousands of my most loyal readers consume it using RSS apps. What should they count as, “app” or “web”?

I say: who cares? It’s all the web.

We shouldn’t think of “the web” as only what renders in web browsers. We should think of the web as anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS. Apps and websites are peers, not competitors. They’re all just clients to the same services.

Consider Facebook, the single biggest winner in Flurry’s “time spent” statistics. On the desktop, all Facebook usage takes place in browser windows. On mobile, most of it takes place in a native app. Same with YouTube and Twitter: on the desktop, they’re in the browser; on mobile, they’re in apps. It’s not about the politics of open-vs.-closed platforms. It’s simply about providing the best possible experience for users.

We should celebrate, not bemoan, that the web has diversified beyond the confines of browser tabs and the limits of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Let websites, rendered in browsers, be good at what they’re good at. (And websites are perfect for so many things.) But let native apps be good at what they’re good at, too. Like water flowing downhill, users gravitate to the best experiences. Saying that we’re worse off for the popularity of native mobile apps is like saying water should run uphill.

The single biggest slice in Flurry’s statistics is “gaming”, at 32 percent. Does anyone really think that mobile games would be better off written to run in web browser tabs? Lamenting today the falling share of time people spend in web browsers at the expense of mobile apps is no different from those who a decade ago lamented the falling share of time spent reading paper newspapers and magazines at the expense of websites.

It’s possible that the word “web” is too tightly associated with HTML/CSS/JavaScript content rendered in web browsers — that if I want to make a semantic argument, I should be saying it’s the internet that matters, not the web. But I like calling it the web, even as it expands outside the confines of HTML/CSS/JavaScript. The web has always been a nebulous concept, but at its center is the idea that everything can be linked. So when I open Tweetbot on my iPhone and tap a link that opens within the app as a web page, and from that web page tap a link that opens a video in the YouTube app — that to me feels very webby.

Dixon concludes:

Apps are heavily controlled by the dominant app stores owners, Apple and Google. Google and Apple control what apps are allowed to exist, how apps are built, what apps get promoted, and charge a 30% tax on revenues.

Most worrisome: they reject entire classes of apps without stated reasons or allowing for recourse (e.g. Apple has rejected all apps related to Bitcoin). The open architecture of the web led to an incredible era of experimentation. Many startups are controversial when they are first founded. What if AOL or some other central gatekeeper had controlled the web, and developers had to ask permission to create Google, YouTube, eBay, Paypal, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Sadly, this is where we’re headed on mobile.

Yes, Apple and Google (and Amazon, and Microsoft) control their respective app stores. But the difference from Dixon’s AOL analogy is that they don’t control the internet — and they don’t control each other. Apple doesn’t want cool new apps launching Android-only, and it surely bothers Google that so many cool new apps launch iOS-first. Apple’s stance on Bitcoin hasn’t exactly kept Bitcoin from growing explosively. App Stores are walled gardens, but the apps themselves are just clients to the open web/internet.1

The new mobile app-centric order hasn’t been a problem for Instagram, WhatsApp, Vine, Secret, or dozens of other new companies. In fact, I don’t think many of them would have even existed in a world still centered on HTML/CSS/JavaScript rendered in a browser. Instagram needed the camera, and thrived by providing scrolling performance unmatched by anything I’ve ever seen in a mobile web browser — even today, let alone when Instagram debuted in 2010. How could messaging apps like WhatsApp and Line even exist in a browser-only world?

The rise of mobile apps hasn’t taken anything away from the wide open world of web browsers and cross-platform HTML/CSS/JavaScript — other than supremacy. I think that bothers some, who saw the HTML/CSS/JavaScript browser-centric web’s decade-ago supremacy as the end point, the ultimate triumph of a truly open platform, rather than what it really was: just another milestone along the way of an industry that is always in flux, ever ebbing and flowing.

What we’ve gained, though, is a wide range of interaction capabilities that never could have existed in a web browser-centric world. That to me is cause for celebration. 


  1. Note too, for example, that Twitter itself has imposed far more limitations on mobile Twitter client apps than any app store has. Or consider the spat between Google and Microsoft regarding Microsoft’s YouTube app for Windows Phone. The jostling for control is not limited to the app stores themselves. 


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