Meh-y Christmas 

My friends at Meh sponsored this week’s DF RSS feed, for the third straight week. Just like the last two weeks, they didn’t play it straight — their sponsored RSS entry purposefully misspelled “html” in their URL, sending visitors to their 404 page. It’s a pretty fun 404 page, though, so I don’t blame them.

Anyway, Meh is a fun and funny daily deal site, and you really should check them out.

The Talk Show: ‘2014 Year in Review’ 

Special guest Rene Ritchie joins me for a year-end wrap-up of 2014’s Apple-related news.

Brought to you by three excellent sponsors:

  • Backblaze: Unlimited, unthrottled, onilne backup for Mac.
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  • Online video training and tutorials. Use this link for a 7-day free trial.
Old Fashioned 101 

Great little single-page* website by Martin Doudoroff on the Old Fashioned:

Circa 1800, the Cocktail was a “hair of the dog” morning drink that tamed spirits with water, sugar and bitters (patent medicine). The late 19th Century expanded the use of the word “cocktail” to encompass just about any mixed drink. Since then, the Old Fashioned — literally, the old-fashioned way of making a cocktail — has been our contemporary expression of the original drink.

During the 20th Century, various bad ideas encrusted the Old Fashioned. Here we will strip off those barnacles to expose the amazingly simple and sublime drink beneath.

* Technically, there’s a page 2, which is worth reading as well.

IBM Design Language 

Words I never expected to write: Elegant, thoughtful, design guidelines and examples from IBM.

Here’s a story by Larry Dignan back in March on IBM “betting on design”. I’m starting to believe it.

Horace Dediu Calls Apple/IBM Enterprise Partnership Biggest News of 2014 

Horace Dediu:

The recent apps release showed just how transformative this relationship could be. We were witnesses to apps which appeared to be designed for users[!] They were not designed for committees that prepare checklists of requirements.

We must applaud IBM for having the courage to resist the featuritis which plagues enterprise software design. This resistance requires saying No to those who specify and are thus authorized to purchase software and hardware. IBM has had to essentially say no to those who buy and yes to those who are paid to use. The quality of the experience is evident at first sight. The number of user actions, the number of screens to wade through have been ruthlessly culled. These are concepts and ideas which now permeate app design best practices. Yet they are practices which still elude the spec-driven enterprise software wastelands.

From the DF Archive: Merry 

As true today as when I wrote it three years ago.

How Steven Levy Became an Unwilling Conscript in the War on Christmas 

Steven Levy:

All I know is that at some more recent point  — probably at the tail end of last season — I started getting emails from grateful readers of something I never wrote, and when I Google my name and “War on Christmas,” weird things show up. And that the email chain is unbroken. Probably as you read this some number of people are clicking on it and vowing to pass it on to their friends.

Samsung Shutters Flagship London Store Amid Falling Sales 

Has Apple ever shuttered a retail store? To my knowledge, no. They’ve replaced older stores with newer ones in the same mall, or in another spot a few blocks away, but I don’t think they’ve ever had to close one for lack of business.

iTunes and ‘The Interview’ 

Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, reporting for the NYT:

A new facet of Sony’s discussions with theater owners is any simultaneous video-on-demand effort. Studios typically give theaters an exclusive monthslong window to play new movies. Most theaters, worried about the impact on ticket sales, remain adamant about refusing to open their doors to any film that is showing or about to show through other channels.

It remained unclear, however, whether any on-demand service would take “The Interview.” According to people briefed on the matter, Sony had in recent days asked the White House for help in lining up a single technology partner — Apple, which operates iTunes — but the tech company was not interested, at least not on a speedy time table. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

“At least not on a speedy time table” is pretty open-ended. Could mean that Apple cowardly didn’t want to carry The Interview first. But it could also simply mean that Sony was asking for a quick turnaround that Apple wasn’t willing to meet, especially over the holidays, when many employees are on vacation. (Note, for example, that iTunes Connect is “unavailable until December 29”.) I don’t think it’s safe to say, based on this Times report alone, that Apple flat out “refused to release The Interview”, as some publications are.

That said, Google Play, YouTube, and Xbox Video are all carrying The Interview today, which makes iTunes’s absence conspicuous. Kudos to Google and Microsoft.

Update: Interesting observation by Paul Grave: “To me it’s weirder that The Interview is available to watch on Xbox One and not Sony’s own PS3 or PS4.”

iTunes Special: All 23 EON Production James Bond Films for Just $99 

Would make for quite a holiday movie binge.

‘Room to Spare’ 

According to ThinkUp, this was my most popular tweet of 2014.

iTunes Tumblr 

New Tumblr site from Apple. Very Tumblr-y.

Apple Pushes First Ever Automated Security Update to Mac Users 


When Apple has released previous security patches, it has done so through its regular software update system, which typically requires user intervention.

The company decided to deliver the NTP bug fixes with its technology for automatically pushing out security updates, which Apple introduced two years ago but had never previously used, because it wanted to protect customers as quickly as possible due to the severity of the vulnerabilities, Evans said.

“The update is seamless,” he said. “It doesn’t even require a restart.”

Apple does not know of any cases where vulnerable Mac computers were targeted by hackers looking to exploit the bugs, he added.

This would have raised an uproar a decade ago, but times have changed. Worked seamlessly from what I’ve seen.

Bruce Schneier on Whether North Korea Is Actually Behind the Sony Hack 

Bruce Schneier:

I am deeply skeptical of the FBI’s announcement on Friday that North Korea was behind last month’s Sony hack. The agency’s evidence is tenuous, and I have a hard time believing it. But I also have trouble believing that the U.S. government would make the accusation this formally if officials didn’t believe it.

Sony Changes Mind, Will Release ‘The Interview’ Theatrically 

Dave McNary, reporting for Variety:

“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” the statement said. “As the President made clear, we’re a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film and we welcome that outcome.”

The statement came a few hours after the studio reversed its Dec. 17 announcement to withdraw “The Interview” and opted instead for a limited release to independent theaters — and four days after the president said Sony had “made a mistake” by pulling the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire out of theaters.

Hyperlapse’s Best Feature: Real-Time Image Stabilization 

Ross Miller, writing for The Verge (I’ve had this tab open in the background since October):

Hyperlapse, Instagram’s standalone video app that debuted this past August, is touted for its ability to make dead simple time lapses. But if you really want to enjoy the best feature of Hyperlapse, don’t speed up the footage. The result is some of the smoothest video we’ve seen from a phone — the kind of stuff that could otherwise take thousands of dollars in professional equipment to achieve comparable results. Student art films will never be the same again.

It really does work amazingly. You lose resolution and wider field of view, but the stabilization is terrific.

An Oral History of ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ 

I love these oral histories — so many great stories and details. Christmas Vacation is on our family’s annual must-watch list for the holidays.

VHX Loyalty Bundle 

Great indie documentary bundle:

Three awesome documentaries, one fantastic bundle: This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, Indie Game The Movie, and Rewind This!

New fans get all three films for just $15. There’s no DRM and they’re yours to play anywhere, anytime, on any device.

But what if you’re an old fan? Typically, existing fans get left out in the cold by bundle promotions. We don’t like that. We don’t think you should made to regret purchasing early, so we’re making the entire bundle available for free to existing fans. If you’ve already bought one of these films on the VHX platform, just click the button at the bottom of this page, enter the email you used for your purchase, and the bundle is yours at no charge.

Last Week’s E-Book Antitrust Appeal Hearing Went Well for Apple 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, writing for Fortune:

At times Judge Jacobs came close to suggesting that the government had prosecuted the wrong company. At the very least, he said, a horizontal initiative “used to break the hold of a monopolist” ought not be found to be illegal per se. He likened any collusive conduct on the publishers’ part to “mice getting together to go put a bell on the cat.”

More laughter. More trouble for the government’s cause.

Two of the three judges on the appeal seemed to agree with what I’ve been arguing all along: (a) the agency model — where publishers set prices and Apple takes 30 percent — is not price-fixing; and (b) Amazon, with its monopoly share (80-90 percent) of e-book sales and predatory pricing scheme, is the company the DOJ should be investigating.

Speaking of David Carr 

I really enjoyed this profile of Carr by James Bradshaw for The Globe and Mail. I’ve spoken with Carr a few times when he was working on pieces about Apple, and he is truly one of the greats. It’s always very clear when I speak with him that he is not just looking for quotes to fit a narrative he’s already decided upon (which is exactly what happens when you speak to most reporters). Instead, Carr probes. And he listens. He’s searching for the narrative, not looking for quotes that fit his preconceived narrative.

David Carr on the Slippery Slope of Sony’s Cowardice 

David Carr, writing for the NYT:

It was a remarkable and disorienting turn of events: a tiny, failing state that lacks the wherewithal to feed its own people was deciding which movies we can and cannot see, while the industry it had attacked watched silently from the sidelines, and the president of the United States felt compelled to step into an international confrontation catalyzed by a lowbrow comedy. […]

The threats and subsequent cancellation will become a nightmare with a very long tail. Now that cultural discourse has become the subject of online blackmail, it is hard to imagine where it will end. Documentaries, which have become increasingly important sources of news and information, could suddenly be in jeopardy. And if you’ve been watching the current season of “Homeland” on Showtime, you know that Pakistan’s more sinister operations have been on wide view.


The format for DF RSS feed sponsorships has remained unchanged since they debuted back in 2007. There are three fields: a title (usually the name of the product or service being promoted), a URL for the main link, and a description of 100 words or fewer. The sponsors write these entries, not me. (They are subject to my approval, though.) Then at the end of the week, I write the thank-you posts (such as the one you’re reading now) using a mix of my own words and thoughts, and the main talking points the sponsor is trying to hit.

The gang at Meh, who once again sponsored this week’s feed, have turned this into a sort of RSS-based form of performance art. Last week they made ASCII art of a table being overturned.

This week, they used a title of “…” (just an ellipsis, nothing else) and a URL of “about:blank”. For the body of their entry, they added at least some context:

In this week before Christmas we thought it’d be nice to take our Daring Fireball sponsorship and not pitch you on anything. Enjoy the holidays. Meh.

No link on the word “Meh”, either, so if you weren’t familiar with them, it might still be confusing. But it was confusing as hell in the @daringfireball Twitter stream, where these entries go in with just the title and URL. Here’s the resulting tweet, in its entirety:

[Sponsor] …: http://about:blank

This, in turn, led many readers to assume that there was either some sort of technical snafu on my end, or that the sponsorship had gone unsold. Not the case. I find Meh’s strategy with these spots utterly fascinating — so I thank them both for sponsoring the site and for injecting a big dose of creativity into a format where I had never even considered the possibility of such.

The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic 

Astute observation by Brian Feldman:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image.

The Police Are the People 

I think Dave Winer is onto something big here:

This is a huge disconnect, and we let it happen. The problem isn’t with the NYPD, the problem is with the blanket total support we give our military when it fights in Afghanistan and Iraq. The price of placing zero value on the lives of the people of these countries is that our lives in turn become worthless. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. There are dozens of adages and fables that explain this phenomenon. The lives of the people of the foreign countries are worth exactly as much as ours. We overlooked the behavior of American soldiers in these countries. Now the cops want to know why we treat them differently.

And they’re right to ask. Why? If the army can arbitrarily kill thousands in Iraq, why can’t they kill a few people in Staten Island, Missouri, or Ohio? You “support the troops” why don’t you support us, they ask.

Bryan Irace: ‘We Need a “Safari View Controller” ’ 

Great suggestion from Bryan Irace:

It’d be wonderful if Apple provided a “Safari view controller” that developers could present directly from within their applications. This controller would run out of process and work almost exactly like MFMailComposeViewController and MFMessageComposeViewController already do for composing emails and text messages respectively. The app would provide the controller with a URL (and optionally, a tint color), but otherwise what the user does in it would remain secure and isolated from any third-party code, yet fully integrated with and Safari controllers presented by other applications.

iOS 8 share and action extensions are further proof that Apple thinks being able to display view controllers from one application inside of another strikes a great balance of security and user experience. Why not let us do the same with Safari as well?

Jason Snell on Mailbox 

Jason Snell, writing for The Sweet Setup:

Because Apple makes it, Mail is for everybody. But it’s not for everybody. Apple designed it to serve the masses, and if you want more–or less–from your email client, Apple Mail may not suit you. Maybe its old-school approach to mail, lifted from classic mail clients like Eudora and NeXTMail, just doesn’t fit the modern emailer. Maybe you want deep links to productivity apps on your Mac that Mail just won’t provide. Or maybe you’re just tired of being in a dysfunctional relationship with Mail.

All told, we looked at nine different challengers to Mail, each of which brings its own clever spin on how to process or display email. The best of the bunch is Mailbox, which simplifies mail into a set of tasks, allows you to defer messages until a later time, makes filing messages simple, takes advantage of trackpad gestures, and works with an excellent iOS app counterpart.

I tried Mailbox when it first came out, but it didn’t stick. I’m thinking maybe I should give it another shot, now that there’s a Mac counterpart. As Snell points out, it’s one of those apps where you kind of have to go all-in with it.

Peter Singer on Sony’s Reaction to North Korea Hack 

Peter W. Singer, in an interview with Motherboard’s Jason Koebler:

​Now we get to the part that moves from jokes and silliness to serious, which is: This is not just now a case study in how not to react to cyber threats and a case study in how to not defend your networks, it’s now also a case study in how not to respond to terrorism threats.

We have just communicated to any would-be attacker that we will do whatever they want.

It is mind boggling to me, particularly when you compare it to real things that have actually happened. Someone killed 12 people and shot another 70 people at the opening night of Batman: The Dark Knight. They kept that movie in the theaters. You issue an anonymous cyber threat that you did not have the capability to carry out? We pulled a movie from 18,000 theaters.

This, in a world where “Keep Calm and Carry On” has become an overused meme.

L.A. Weekly: ‘Sony Pulling “The Interview” Is the End of Free Speech in Hollywood’ 

Amy Nicholson, writing for LA Weekly:

Sony’s official announcement that the studio will no longer release Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s North Korean comedy The Interview closed with the line, “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

So what’s it like when they don’t?

Yahoo’s Decline

From a New York Times Magazine excerpt of Nicholas Carlson’s upcoming book, Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo:

In many ways, Yahoo’s decline from a $128 billion company to one worth virtually nothing is entirely natural. Yahoo grew into a colossus by solving a problem that no longer exists. And while Yahoo’s products have undeniably improved, and its culture has become more innovative, it’s unlikely that Mayer can reverse an inevitability unless she creates the next iPod. All breakthrough companies, after all, will eventually plateau and then decline. U.S. Steel was the first billion-dollar company in 1901, but it was worth about the same in 1991. Kodak, which once employed nearly 80,000 people, now has a market value below $1 billion. Packard and Hudson ruled the roads for more than 40 years before disappearing. These companies matured and receded over the course of generations, in some cases even a century. Yahoo went through the process in 20 years. In the technology industry, things move fast.

Carlson’s take is pretty brutal, and paints a bleak picture for Yahoo’s prospects as an independent company. (Activist investors are pushing for a merger with AOL.) And it doesn’t seem like Mayer is going to get much more time.

I would argue that Yahoo lost its way early. Yahoo was an amazing, awesome resource when it first appeared, as a directory to cool websites. Arguably, the directory to cool websites. It was hard to find the good stuff on the early web, and Yahoo created a map. Their whole reason for being was to serve as a starting point that sent you elsewhere.

Then came portals. The portal strategy was the opposite of the directory strategy — it was about keeping people on Yahoo’s site, instead of sending them elsewhere. It was lucrative for a while, but ran its course. And it turned out that the web quickly became too large, far too large, for a human-curated directory to map more than a fraction of it. The only way to index the web was algorithmically, as a search engine. And one search engine stood head and shoulders above all others: Google.

Yahoo reportedly had an opportunity to buy Google in 2002 for $5 billion. Yahoo, under the leadership of CEO Terry Semel, declined. And that was the end of Yahoo.1 We all know hindsight is 20/20. There are all sorts of acquisitions that could have been made. But I would argue that acquiring Google in 2002 (if not earlier) was something Yahoo absolutely should have known they needed to do. The portal strategy had played itself out. All they were left with was their original purpose, serving as a starting page for finding what you were looking for on the web.

Buying Google in 2002, at whatever cost, was the only way for Yahoo to return to those roots. Google wasn’t just something shiny and new — it was the best solution to date (even now) to the problem Yahoo was originally created to solve. In a broad sense, buying Google would have been to Yahoo what buying NeXT was to Apple in 1997: an acquisition that returned the parent company to its roots, with superior industry-leading technology and outstanding talent.2

In short, Yahoo’s early 2000s leadership had no understanding whatsoever why Yahoo had gotten popular and profitable in the first place. That serving as the leading homepage for the entire web was important and profitable, and that the only way to maintain that leadership was to acquire Google.

Google, on the other hand, learned an important lesson from Yahoo. The basic gist of portals never really died: Google has gone on to build all sorts of properties like Gmail, Google News, Maps, and Google Plus, all of which are designed to keep users on Google-owned sites. But Google never conflated these things with web search. The home page remains to this day as spartan as when it first appeared, and they fully understand that the point of it is to send users to other sites.

Yahoo’s loss of focus on indexing the web was a mistake in the late ’90s. They had a chance to completely correct that mistake by acquiring Google in the early 00’s. They blew that chance, and it’s been all downhill for them ever since. 

  1. You could argue that the mistake wasn’t declining to acquire Google, but rather the earlier decision to hire Semel as CEO and an executive staff with a Hollywood/media company background. Two sides of the same bad coin, I say. 

  2. Among the many problems with this analogy: Apple and NeXT needed each other. Both companies were deeply adrift in 1996. NeXT had talent and great software, but their prospects were even bleaker than Apple’s. Google, obviously, did not need Yahoo, and in fact was almost certainly better served by staying independent and declining any offers to acquire it. 

U.S. Links North Korea to Sony Hacking 

David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

American intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached just as Sony on Wednesday canceled its release of the comedy, which is based on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign. Sony’s decision to cancel release of “The Interview” amounted to a capitulation to the threats sent out by hackers this week that they would launch attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie was released.

It seems very wrong to me to capitulate to the demands of terrorists and not release the movie on schedule, but ultimately it wasn’t Sony’s call, it was made by the theater chains.

App Store Search Results: As Bad as Ever 

Marco Arment:

Ged Maheux searched the App Store for “Twitter” and found Twitter clients ranked horribly below a bunch of spam and garbage apps, most having little to nothing to do with Twitter.

You can see similar ranking problems with almost any common search term. I searched earlier today for an iPad Instagram client — the iPad App Store search list for “Instagram” is just as spammy and unhelpful as this. I was only able to find what I was actually looking for by searching Google and asking people on Twitter.

It has always been the case that a Google web search for “whatever iPhone app” provides far superior results to searching the App Store for “whatever”. Sometimes the difference is as vast as perfect (Google’s results) and useless (the App Store’s), as we can see searching for “Twitter iPhone client” in Google and “Twitter” on the App Store.

That this is still the case in 2014 is a worrisome sign.

Apple Found Not Guilty in DRM Class Action Lawsuit 

Fast Company:

Apple’s lawyers pointed out in their closing statements that the plaintiffs had no actual customers complaining about their user experience, and two plaintiffs originally named in the suit were taken off after lawyers found they had never actually purchased iPods during the named time period.

The whole case was nonsense anyway, but this just shows how slapdash the whole suit was. The lawyers behind it were in such a rush to get their hands on a settlement from Apple that they didn’t even bother to vet their plaintiffs.

Apple Halts Sales in Russia as Ruble Craters 

USA Today:

Apple confirmed Tuesday it has halted online sales in Russia after the ruble plummeted to an all-time low against the dollar. And more tech companies could follow its lead, analysts say.

“Due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble, our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement. “We apologize to customers for any inconvenience.” ​

Eric Schmidt Mistakenly Claims That Chrome’s Incognito Mode Can Foil Government Snooping 

The Daily Dot:

“If you’re concerned, for whatever reason, you do not wish to be tracked by federal and state authorities, my strong recommendation is to use incognito mode, and that’s what people do,” Schmidt explained.

So what’s the problem here? Incognito mode is designed for — and serves — a completely different kind of privacy protection than the one Schmidt implied.

People make mistakes all the time. But shouldn’t Eric Schmidt be an expert on this? The intersection of privacy, government snooping, and Google’s flagship product?

Tortured Logic

Adam Goldman and Peyton Craighill, writing for The Washington Post, “New Poll Finds Majority of Americans Think Torture Was Justified After 9/11 Attacks”:

A majority of Americans think that the harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were justified, even as about half of the public says the treatment amounted to torture, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By a margin of almost 2 to 1 — 59 percent to 31 percent — those interviewed said that they support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying that they produced valuable intelligence.

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

I find this disappointing, but not the least bit surprising. This cartoon by Jen Sorensen explains the hypocritical nature of U.S. support for torture. There are many Americans who see the United States’s role as the leading nation of the western world as entitling us to do things we’d never tolerate if done by others. What I would prefer would be to see the United States lead by example — to be the last nation to torture prisoners.

When the Senate report was first released last week, a host on Fox News, Andrea Tantaros, had an on-air reaction that many found comically absurd:

“The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome,” she said. “We’ve closed the book on it, and we’ve stopped doing it. And the reason they want to have this discussion is not to show how awesome we are. This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we’re not awesome.”

“They apologized for this country, they don’t like this country, they want us to look bad. And all this does is have our enemies laughing at us, that we are having this debate again,” Tantaros continued.

I don’t think there’s anything funny about it. I think Tantaros perfectly explained why so many Americans think they support torture: if you start with the assumption that the U.S. is morally good, then whatever our government did must have been morally justified. That’s the thinking. Alas, that’s backwards. Our morality is based on our actions, not the other way around.

On the one side: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. On the other: Do unto others before they do unto you. Only one of those mindsets is “good”. 

Torture and the Truth 

Jane Mayer, writing in The New Yorker:

It’s hard to describe it as a positive development when a branch of the federal government releases a four-hundred-and-ninety-nine-page report that explains, in meticulous detail, how unthinkable cruelty became official U.S. policy. But last Tuesday, in releasing the long-awaited Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation-and-detention program, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chairman, proved that Congress can still perform its most basic Madisonian function of providing a check on executive-branch abuse, and that is reason for gratitude.

The Q.A. Mindset 

Michael Lopp:

My first job in technology was a QA internship. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I tested the first release of Paradox for Windows at Borland.

As an intern, I started by following someone else’s QA test plan — dutifully checking each test off the list. After a few weeks, I knew my particular area inside and out. A new build would show up, which I’d install via 3.5-inch floppies, and in ten minutes of usage, I’d have a sense — is this a good or bad build?

In QA, there is a distinct moment. It comes once you’re deeply familiar with your product or product area; it comes when you’re lost in your testing, and it comes in an instant. You find a problem, and because of your strong context about your product, you definitely know: Something is seriously wrong here.

A good QA engineer is worth their weight in gold.

How Circa Asks Users to Review Their App 

Matt Galligan:

The trouble with the pop up approach is that the app was inevitably interrupting the user’s experience. A method that’s more integral into the experience is the next step — we call this the integrated rating.

For Circa we decided to place an integrated rating in the middle of our list of news stories. That way, someone could scroll right past it without having to interact with it, as opposed to a pop up which requires interaction.

Apple: ‘The Song’ 

Nice sequel to last year’s holiday TV spot from Apple. Note how small a role Apple kit plays in the whole piece. It’s about people, family, and love — not gadgets.

Mat Honan on The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism 

Almost heartbreaking that we never got to see The Racket come to be. Sounds like it would have been great.

Sound Designer Ben Burtt Deconstructs the Millennium Falcon’s Hyperdrive Malfunction 

I remember as a kid seeing a behind-the-scenes TV special that explained where a slew of the sound effects from Star Wars came from. Love this stuff.

‘Stephen Colbert Is Dead. Long Live Stephen Colbert.’ 

Nice piece by Will Leitch on the end of The Colbert Report, and along with it, Colbert’s blowhard politico persona. Part of what makes his upcoming role as the new host of The Late Show — as himself rather than the character — so intriguing is that we don’t really know what we’re going to get yet.

Mozilla, Way Late to the Game, Finally Decides to Bring Firefox to iOS

Mozilla’s then-CEO Gary Kovacs in April 2013:

One of the most interesting things he spoke about today was why Firefox has not been released on iOS while Google has offered its Chrome browser on iOS for some time. He confirmed earlier reports that Apple was blocking its submission due to Mozilla wanting to use a different web engine.

“iOS has a policy, generally speaking, where you have to use their web engine,” Kovacs said. “Our web engine is different. … I would love to see far more energy behind iOS. We refuse to make the policy switch.”

Mozilla VP Jonathan Nightingale, earlier this week:

We need to be where our users are so we’re going to get Firefox on iOS.

(Via Engadget.)

That it took them until 2014 to bend to practicality — iOS has been growing in popularity worldwide ever since it debuted, and Apple was never going to allow them to use their own rendering engine in an iOS app — epitomizes everything wrong with Mozilla as an organization. I’m all for idealism, but Mozilla has been idealistic to a fault. (Exhibit A: their stance against H.264 video.)

To once again quote the great poet-philosopher Kenny Rogers, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” Their refusal to create an iOS version of Firefox unless they could use their own rendering engine was a losing hand. They’ve now spent close to a decade bleeding relevance in the only part of the market that is growing: mobile. Compare and contrast with Google’s iOS version of Chrome.

Practicality wins. I’ve long suspected that Mozilla’s leadership didn’t understand why Firefox beat IE. It wasn’t because Firefox was idealistically superior — open source, free of charge, superior support for open standards — but because it was just plain better to use.

What Nightingale tweeted is exactly right. They need to be where their users are. But their users have been on iOS for seven years. Better late than never, I say — and it’s worth noting that Chrome for iOS has only been out for two years. But there’s no logical reason why it should have taken Mozilla this long to make this decision. 

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