The Daring Fireball Linked List

The Inside Story of Matt Taibbi’s Departure From First Look Media 

This is a shame, because I was really looking forward to Taibbi’s Racket, which he envisioned as a modern-day Spy magazine. But it’s no wonder Taibbi bristled under these First Look guys:

Taibbi and other journalists who came to First Look believed they were joining a free-wheeling, autonomous, and unstructured institution. What they found instead was a confounding array of rules, structures, and systems imposed by Omidyar and other First Look managers on matters both trivial — which computer program to use to internally communicate, mandatory regular company-wide meetings, mandated use of a “responsibility assignment matrix” called a “RASCI,” popular in business-school circles for managing projects — as well as more substantive issues.

The lack of autonomous budgets, for instance, meant that in many cases Omidyar was personally signing off on — and occasionally objecting to — employee expense reports for taxi rides and office supplies. Both Cook, The Intercept’s editor-in-chief, and Taibbi chafed at what they regarded as onerous intrusions into their hiring authority.

You start talking about “mandatory responsibility assignment matrixes” and I start counting my lucky stars that I don’t have to deal with shit like that.

Tim Cook: ‘I’m Proud to Be Gay’ 

Tim Cook, writing in Businessweek:

We’ll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, would do the same. And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up.

When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.

So great.

‘Still’ 

Sephko on Google conquering the world.

Assessing the Damage Caused by Credit Card Rewards 

Ron Lieber, writing for the NYT back in 2010:

Life might be simpler and more efficient if retailers could levy a surcharge that covers their costs to accept cards and let consumers figure out whether to pay it. But the card companies don’t allow that, and Congress hasn’t yet forced their hand, though this is now how things work in Australia (where some retailers charge excessive fees, alas).

So what’s an American consumer to do in the meantime? For help answering that, I turned to Dave Hanson. Mr. Hanson, a Spokane, Wash., resident, is one of the savviest card users I know. He also happens to have studied philosophy in graduate school at the University of Chicago and taught applied ethics at Gonzaga University.

He’s not cutting up his cards just yet. “The marginal effect of my individual use of plastic simply won’t impact the larger outcome,” he said. “The assumption that we ought to act in a way that we wish all of us would act ignores the fact that there is no mechanism by which we can ensure that we will all act that way. And we won’t.”

The only practical solution would be for Congress to mandate lower transaction fees. I fail to see how this either should or could be Apple’s problem to solve.

Yahoo Finance: ‘Apple Pay Sides With Credit Card Industry Over Consumer Interests’ 

Aaron Pressman, writing for Yahoo Finance:

Apple has regularly delighted its customers with cool products on its way to becoming the most valuable company in the United States. But it hasn’t always stood up for its customers’ best economic interests.

Take the case of Apple Pay. Apple partnered with the three major credit card networks, Visa, Mastercard and American Express and the big bank card issuers such as JP Morgan Chase. That is likely a smart move from a business perspective, because so many Apple customers are frequent credit card users and prior mobile payment services have had trouble gaining much traction.

But the partnership decision also meant Apple was taking sides in a long running war between the credit card industry on one side and retailers and consumer advocates on the other.

Retailers typically pay 2% or more on every credit card purchase, costs that cut into their margins and raise prices for all shoppers.

First, the headline. I think it’s clear that Apple Pay is siding with the credit companies and banks — but they’re not pitted against consumers, they’re pitted against retailers. It’s retailers who want to reduce the use of credit cards (and the resulting fees). Not consumers. Any consumer who doesn’t want to use a credit card can simply not use a credit card. (They can still use Apple Pay with debit cards.) Apple Pay is only allowing us to more easily and securely use the credit/debit cards we already have. For consumers, nothing is worse post-Apple Pay (transaction fees are not higher — the banks pay Apple’s 0.15 percent cut), and much is better (security, privacy, and convenience).

I understand the argument that the 2-3 percent processing fees that retailers pay for credit cards are ultimately passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, but for consumers that can be offset by cash back and reward programs from their card providers.

I don’t understand how this article amounts to anything more than “Apple should have used magic” hand-waving. What could Apple have done differently that would have actually worked, without involving credit card processors? Remember, Apple Pay doesn’t require retailers to install Apple Pay-specific POS terminal hardware. It famously works with the standard NFC hardware that’s been out for years. Building atop the existing credit card infrastructure is fundamental to people’s willingness to try Apple Pay and to retailers’ ability to accept it. Pressman is implicitly arguing that Apple should have somehow reinvented the entire retail electronic payments industry, without the help of the banks or credit card companies, and presumably with the cooperation of retailers. But we see with CurrentC/MCX the sort of things the retailers would have demanded of Apple in such a hypothetical systems.

Update: Another point. Who is to say that Apple Pay won’t add additional non-credit-card payment options going forward? This is just the start. But the start needs to be something that gets the whole thing off the ground.

Towards an Ideal OpenType User Interface 

Kris Sowersby:

I like InDesign. I think it’s a good application. However, as a maker and seller of fonts, it pains me that a poor interface hinders and obfuscates the OpenType features I build into my fonts. I am certain all other type foundries feel the same. I would love InDesign — and all OpenType-savvy apps — to honour and respect the work we put into our fonts. This also means respecting the user, whether she be a student or professional.

Gerry Leonidas says “prototyping the proposed interface will need to be done in an app-agnostic way, and from a document designer perspective.” He’s absolutely right. My proposals are therefore not limited to InDesign. Anyone is free to steal these ideas!

Much of what he’s proposing is very similar to the typography palette built into Mac OS X’s text system. What I find absurd is that you can use many of these features in TextEdit (Apple’s free text editor), but not in Pages (Apple’s purportedly professional word processor). They worked up through Pages ’09, but were sacrificed in the name of iOS and web app compatibility.

Anita Sarkeesian on Video Games’ Great Future 

Anita Sarkeesian, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

Those who police the borders of our hobby, the ones who try to shame and threaten women like me into silence, have already lost. The new reality is that video games are maturing, evolving and becoming more diverse.

Those of us who critique the industry are simply saying that games matter. We know games can tell different, broader stories, be quirky and emotional, and give us more ways to win and have fun.

As others have recently suggested, the term “gamer” is no longer useful as an identity because games are for everyone. These days, even my mom spends an inordinate amount of time gaming on her iPad. So I’ll take a cue from my younger self and say I don’t care about being a “gamer,” but I sure do love video games.

Exactly right. The dead-enders are lashing out, in brutally ugly ways, because they’ve already lost. But they haven’t even lost their games — all they’ve lost is their de facto position as the only sort of game players who mattered.

72 Hours of Gamergate on Twitter 

Andy Baio, writing for The Message on Medium:

Anyone who’s mentioned the #Gamergate hashtag in a critical light knows the feeling: a swarm of seemingly random, largely-anonymous people descending to comment and criticize.

I’ve been using Twitter for eight years, but I’ve never seen behavior quite like this. This swarming behavior is so prevalent, it got a new nickname — “sea lioning,” inspired by David Malki’s Wondermark comic.

I wanted to understand #Gamergate, how its proponents and critics behaved and the composition of both audiences.

So I wrote a little Python script with the Twython wrapper for the Twitter streaming API, and started capturing every single tweet that mentioned the #Gamergate and #NotYourShield hashtags from October 21–23.

Three days later, I was sitting on 316,669 tweets, along with a bunch of metadata for trying to understand the composition of both sides of the #Gamergate movement.

Fascinating research.

The FTC Is Suing AT&T for Throttling Its Unlimited Data Customers 

Brian Fung and Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

Federal officials on Tuesday sued AT&T, the nation’s second-largest cellular carrier, for allegedly deceiving millions of customers by selling them “unlimited” data plans that the company later aggressively controlled by slowing Internet speeds when customers surfed the Web too much.

The Federal Trade Commission said the practice, called “throttling” and used by AT&T since 2011, resulted in slower speeds for customers on at least 25 million occasions — in some cases cutting user Internet speeds by 90 percent, to the point where they resembled dial-up services of old. The 3.5 million affected customers experienced these slowdowns an average of 12 days each month, said the FTC, which received thousands of complaints about the practice.

Insert non-sarcastic finally here.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” said John Bergmayer, a senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge, an advocacy group based in Washington. “They’re not allowed to promise one thing and deliver another… Unlimited is not unlimited when you put limits on it.”

In-Depth Look at CurrentC and the Personal Data They Want to Collect 

Nick Arnott, investigating for iMore:

On launch, the app immediately does a few things. First, it starts sending pings to https://my.currentc.com/mobile/pinggateway every two seconds or so. No interesting data is sent in the requests and blocking them seems to have no impact on the app. Next, a deviceState request goes out. In the request are your device type (iPhone or iPad) and a unique device identifier. This identifier is stored in the device keychain so even if you delete the app and re-install, it persists, allowing CurrentC to track users across app installs. The third and last request seen on launch is a call to Localytics. Localytics is a mobile analytics company and is used in countless other apps. As with the many other apps using Localytics, this call seems to include a variety of analytics information: not surprising for many apps, and not surprising for CurrentC (though it probably should be for an app seeking to handle payments and personal data).

Looks like an awful lot of personal information going over the wire.

How Apple Pay Really Works 

Kirk Lennon:

One of the objections I’ve seen to Apple Pay is “How is it faster/easier than just sliding my card?” The truth is, it isn’t always. It’s rarely going to take longer than sliding a card, but it’s not always going to radically faster either. However, it is much, much more secure. Merchants simply can’t be trusted with your card number, and the only real solution is to never give it to them. Apple Pay solves that, and it does so in a way that embraces industry standards and is easy and maybe even a little bit fun.

Good explanation of how Apple Pay works, and why it’s far more secure than swiping your actual card.

‘Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay in the End’ 

Matthew Mombrea, writing for IT World:

What it boils down to is the fact that one technology is designed for the users (Apple) and the other is designed for the merchants (CurrentC). Normally I’d say that the product with the most user appeal will win but the power and size behind the CurrentC group is too big to ignore.

Noted for future claim chowder.

Charles Duhigg’s 2012 Report on Target’s Customer Data Collection 

Worth a revisit — Charles Duhigg’s 2012 report on Target’s customer data collection:

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that?” […]

The desire to collect information on customers is not new for Target or any other large retailer, of course. For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can.”

Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own.

This is what retailers like Target want to preserve, or even improve upon, with CurrentC. And this is exactly the sort of thing that Apple Pay, with its per-purchase unique tokens — is designed to prevent.

Tim Cook: Apple Pay Is Already the Leader in Contactless Payments 

Nathan Ingraham, reporting from the WSJD Live event:

It’s only been a week since Apple Pay made its debut, but apparently the launch has been successful thus far. Speaking at the WSJD Live event, hosted by The Wall Street Journal, Cook said that Apple is already the leader in “contactless” payments, “more than the total of all the other guys.” Within 72 hours, Apple apparently activated one million cards, and we presume it’s only gone up significantly since then.

One week, and Apple is already the market leader — using the same systems that Google Wallet and whatever else is out there have been using for years. And in retail locations (as opposed to within apps) it only works with one-month-old iPhone 6 devices.

I’ve seen people arguing that Apple hasn’t really brought much to the table here, that Apple Pay is nearly the same as Google Wallet except for Touch ID. I think it’s nonsense to dismiss the importance of Touch ID (and the secure element that goes along with it) to the success of Apple Pay. But even if we concede for the sake of argument that there’s nothing technologically novel involved with Apple Pay, the company still deserves enormous credit for making a breakthrough.

It’s just marketing, and Apple’s ability to let their users know about new features like Apple Pay, and their ability to partner with a bunch of nationwide chains right off the bat. There’s no “just” about any of that. Getting users to know about new features is not easy. Getting partners on board is not easy. Selling tens of millions of brand-new phones in the first month is not easy.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. These NFC terminals have been in stores for years, and never became popular. Then Apple Pay went live one week ago, and the iPhone is already the market leader.

A Detailed Look at the CurrentC App Interface 

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch:

Thanks to research shared with TechCrunch by Stanford student and developer sleuth Andrew Aude, we have more details on MCX’s plan and a closer look at the CurrentC app.

The reviews of the app on the App Store are a hoot. And because these retailers are shutting off NFC terminals completely to block Apple Pay, the whole thing has united Android and iOS users on Reddit.

Wells Fargo Offering Customers $20 to Try Apple Pay 

Eric Slivka, writing for MacRumors:

In an effort to encourage users to adopt Apple Pay, Wells Fargo has just launched a program offering credits of up to $20 just for trying out the service. Wells Fargo credit card users can receive one-time $20 credits, while debit and prepaid card users can receive $10 credits simply by using their iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to complete an Apple Pay purchase on their cards through November 30.

That’s how much the banks like Apple Pay. They’re giving you money just to try it.

‘As Long as Visa Suffers’ 

Ron Shevlin, writing last month for Snarketing 2.0 on CurrentC:

Furthermore, let’s review again the impetus behind the MCX consortium. If merchants simply needed a place to push out more coupons and drive more business, they could have partnered with Google or Apple. But they didn’t. They set up their own payment processing capabilities, because the real impetus here is avoiding interchange fees.

Interchange fees vary greatly, of course, but it’s fair to estimate that, at a transaction level, the fee ranges from 1% to 5% of the transaction value.

That’s why CurrentC doesn’t work with Visa/Mastercard/Amex. The retailers are trying to create a system that cuts the card networks — and their transaction fees — out of the equation. The problem with that is that, as Tim Cook emphasized in the Apple Pay introduction, people like their credit cards. Credit cards are a lucrative business and a highly competitive market.

Retailers want to cut credit cards out of the equation; consumers don’t. For that reason alone, I see CurrentC as doomed.

Shevlin closes with this anecdote:

At last year’s BAI Retail Delivery conference, I hosted a meeting of CMOs from large FIs, which featured Lee Scott, the former CEO of Walmart (who is a member of MCX). I asked Mr. Scott why, in the face of so many failed consortia before it, would MCX succeed?

He said: “I don’t know that it will, and I don’t care. As long as Visa suffers.”

Apple Pay and Accessibility 

Steven Aquino:

But more than that, Apple Pay has the potential to be such an asset to the disabled. In my case, as someone with low vision and (mild) cerebral palsy, no longer do I have to fumble around my wallet trying to find my credit card or struggle with swiping my card into the terminal. All I do is pull my phone out of my pocket, rest my thumb on the home button, and I’m done. No eye strain, no dexterity issues, nothing. Just tag and go.

Apple Pay doesn’t need a special mode for accessibility. It’s just so simple and easy that the regular mode is highly accessible. And the things that make it accessible are the same things that make it so quick and convenient for those without accessibility needs. That’s good design.

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Pixate is an amazing design tool for mobile developers. Pixate enables you to visually prototype mobile apps that run natively on iOS and Android. Here’s a comment from an actual Pixate user: “Designing with Pixate is like using the original iPhone for the very first time.” Pixate sounds like magic, but it’s real. If you design or develop mobile apps, take a few minutes and watch the demo at the website and see for yourself.

Getting an iPad Air 2 on Verizon 

Sam Davies, after having to go to a Verizon retail store to get a SIM for his new iPad Air 2:

Verizon is throwing money away by trying to take control back from Apple. People who don’t follow this stuff are never going to do what I did. They’re going to buy an iPad Air 2 and just choose service from one of the providers on the Apple SIM. Even if they know to go to the Verizon store, they might be turned away by an uninformed clerk.

Verizon is trying to get people to buy tablets from them. Verizon wants to change tablet buying from “buy anywhere” to “buy from your carrier’s store”.

I was under the impression that when you bought an iPad Air 2 from Apple online, you could specify whether you wanted an Apple SIM (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile) or Verizon, but no, you can’t. When you order online you only get an Apple SIM, and if you want to use it on Verizon you have to go to either an Apple or Verizon retail store.

I think Davies is right: this is a mistake on Verizon’s part.

Layer Tennis: DKNG vs. DDL 

I’m in the commentator booth for today’s Layer Tennis match, a tag-team match between Dan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman of DKNG Studios in Los Angeles, and Billy Baumann and Graham Erwin from Delicious Design League in Chicago. Check out the poster design work these guys do — amazing work from both sides.

Get your beverages ready and prepare to get nothing done for the rest of the day. Match starts in about an hour, 2 pm Chicago time.

Update: Just finished. Great match — terrific artwork and a lot of laughs.

AT&T Locks Apple SIM to Their Network 

Apple support document:

Using Apple SIM, you can choose from different cellular carriers and their various programs. The data plans vary by carrier. For instance, in the United States, you can choose a domestic plan from either Sprint or T-Mobile and also pick an alternate plan from the other carrier as needed. When you choose AT&T on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, AT&T dedicates Apple SIM to their network only.

If your Apple SIM becomes dedicated to a specific network and you want to choose from other carrier programs, you can purchase a new Apple SIM from an Apple Retail store.

Sprint and T-Mobile leave the SIM alone.

Markua 

Leanpub:

Markua is a superset of almost all of Markdown that has a strictly defined mapping to book and documentation concepts and that generates PDF, EPUB, MOBI and HTML.

I love these “start with Markdown and build something new on top of it” projects.

‘Backtrace’, Debut Album From James Dempsey and The Breakpoints, Debuts at Number Five on Billboard Comedy Chart 

Dave Mark, writing for The Loop:

James Dempsey is just a regular guy, a Mac and iOS developer who worked at Apple for about 15 years, toiling away on OS X releases Leopard through Lion, the Cocoa frameworks team, and Aperture.

Dempsey is also a songwriter, writing songs with a focus on development, with titles such as Model View Controller and Gonna Needa Pasteboard. Back in 2001, James got the chance to perform a song at WWDC that was received well enough that a yearly tradition was born. His band, James Dempsey and the Breakpoints has been spooning out these developer novelty songs ever since.

“Do what you love” is always good advice. What do you get when you love making music and Cocoa programming? You get this. So great to see it doing well.

Khoi Vinh on Yosemite’s Look and Feel 

Khoi Vinh:

This is true with Yosemite, too. Spend just a bit of time with it, and you can almost picture the iterations to come, when future releases will have fully worked out the visual language and the gestalt of the interface will have cohered to a more advanced state. OS X Balboa and OS X Palisades are going to look great.

In the meantime, though, I find Yosemite lacking in polish, full of awkward decisions and unresolved tensions.

This is probably my favorite Yosemite review that I’ve seen, or at least the one that comes closest to my own thoughts on Yosemite’s visual design. It’s a great start, but it can improve in so many ways.

Regarding contrast, Khoi writes:

My biggest complaint, personally, is that this fresh coat of paint does a poor job on visual contrast. Interface elements are often so light in color and/or so close to one another in color that they “bleed” into each other all the time. The effect is a blown-out look, as if a novice photographer stepped up the exposure on her camera well beyond advisability.

I spent yesterday with “Increase contrast” turned on (System Prefs: Accessibility: Display). It’s a really interesting look — like a modern-day descendant of the original Mac UI from Systems 1-6.

Porno From Apple 

Carl Smith:

It turns out Apple thought the best way to tell us our app could be used to surf porn was to surf for porn using our app. Then send us some pictures and say take a look at these! Except they said, “Please see the attached screenshot for more information.” So with no warning…

CLICK — Well hello there handsome! […]

Apple sent us pornography without trying to mask it and with no warning of what we were going to see. This means they exposed employees of my company to things Apple themselves said was objectionable. How is this acceptable?

Crazy. I can’t help but suspect that this was the result of a mistaken App Store reviewer, not company policy. A mistake, not a policy. But still: crazy, right?

That said, I think Smith could have toned down the get-me-to-the-fainting-couch histrionics.

BBEdit 11 

Solid update to my favorite app of all time. Markdown? Created in BBEdit. My articles on Daring Fireball? The long ones have all been written in BBEdit. Some really nice improvements to syntax coloring in 11.0, and the new “Extract” feature in the Find dialog is a “Where’ve you been all my life?” addition.

As Rich Siegel spoke about at Çingleton a few weekends ago, BBEdit 11 is no longer sold through the Mac App Store. Old-school download only.

(And of course, as usual, the full release notes set the gold standard for detail.)

The Ethics of The Guardian’s Whisper Bombshell 

Ryan Chittum, writing for Columbia Journalism Review:

What The Guardian did was entirely ethical. Whisper told its reporters highly newsworthy facts about its own service. The information was all on the record. The Guardian reported it. It would have been a journalistic lapse for the paper not to have told readers what it had learned.

In fact, even had the sessions been off the record, or as Primack asserts, implicitly private, The Guardian would have had to give serious consideration to burning its sources if it couldn’t otherwise confirm the information. I’d argue that the right of the public to know that it is being gravely misled clearly outweighs the agreement by the paper not to publish that information.

The Difference 30 Years Makes 

Kent Akgungor:

80 of the original Macintosh displays fit within a single Retina 5K display.

Gmail Inbox 

Google at its best: a thorough reimagining of what email should be (along with some imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery inspiration from Mailbox). There’s a lock-in element here, because this takes Gmail even further — a lot further — from the concepts of standard IMAP, but how can you improve email in big ways without changing email in big ways?

Interesting too, that it requires a beta invitation and an altogether new app, separate from the regular Gmail app.

World Series Ballparks Are the First Pro Sports Venues to Support Apple Pay 

For the record, I’m rooting for Kansas City.

The Ikealook Hotel 

Speaking of Kubrick, Ikea has a little fun for Halloween.

BFI Releases New Trailer for ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Well done. I’m curious, though, whether they needed the Kubrick estate’s permission to cut this. (Someone should have flagged those botched small caps on the quote attributions.) Also: Why is this film being re-released in cinemas in the UK but not here in the US?

Siri, a ‘Sidekick’ for the Autistic 

Wonderful story by Judith Newman, on her 13-year-old autistic son’s relationship with Siri:

It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.

Don’t miss this one.

Some Research on iOS’s Mysterious Storage-Consuming ‘Other’ 

Kevin Hamm:

Many people have had problems updating their iOS device to iOS 8 because they don’t have enough space. The weird thing is that many of us have plenty of space, except there’s a mysterious padding of yellow marked “Other” that is, well, unknown.

This has been going on for quite a while, and after some prodding from Wave and Gruber, I figured it was time to do some research. So, in pictures, here’s what I found.

Update: Fireballed; cached at fireballed.org.

How to Stop Mac, iPhone, iPad From Ringing for Phone Calls 

It’s a cool feature if you want it, but I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be turning it off.

Another Day, Another Writer Who Should No Longer be Allowed to Use the Word ‘Finally’ 

Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider:

With today’s release of iOS 8.1, Apple finally activated SMS text forwarding from iPhone to OS X Yosemite, allowing users to send, read and reply to messages directly from their Mac.

Yosemite came out four days earlier. Four days.

Macminicolo Blog: A Look at the 2014 Mac Mini 

Brian Stucki, founder of Macminicolo:

We’ve been working extensively with Mac minis for nearly 10 years. (Yes, we’re nearing the tenth anniversary for the more-popular-than-you-think Mac. They are great servers, come and try one.) When a new machine gets released, we often get asked for feedback and any opinions on the new hardware. So below are ten things we noticed about the new Mac mini.

‘The Story Line’ 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

A year ago, the story line around Apple Inc. was that its formidable growth had petered out and Samsung Electronics Co. was eating its lunch. What a difference a year makes.

Driven by booming sales of its new bigger-screen iPhones, Apple on Monday said its quarterly profit rose 13%, and it predicted record holiday sales in the current three-month period.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s approach of offering smartphones at all sizes and prices in every market is struggling amid a wave of Chinese manufacturers with low-cost offerings.

I like the way Wakabayashi poses this. That was “the story line”. It wasn’t the actual truth, it turns out, it was just the story line. But whose story? Well, it was the story put forth repeatedly by, to name just one example, The Wall Street Journal itself, repeatedly. Samsung is beating Apple is a narrative that the WSJ drove. Here’s a perfect example from January 2013 (“Has Apple Lost Its Cool to Samsung?”):

Samsung’s surge in smartphones has caused more than just consumers to switch away from Apple. Some app developers have said they are now focusing more attention on Samsung devices.

Ken Yarmosh, chief executive of Savvy Apps in Washington, D.C., said his company began by making apps for Apple’s iOS operating system but lately has been focusing on Android as Samsung devices have become more prevalent, especially among his own company’s testing devices.

“There was a major flip — it was Apple, then if you have money build for Android,” Mr. Yarmosh said. “Now it’s Android first, or Android only.”

So it’s not that the WSJ was wrong. It’s the story that was wrong. Even though the WSJ wrote and drove the story. Got it.

Yosemite, Spotlight, and Privacy 

Russell Brandom, writing for The Verge, responding to a mostly-wrong piece in The Washington Post on Yosemite Spotlight and privacy:

But on closer inspection, many of the claims are less damning than they seem. There’s already a public privacy policy for the new feature, as well as a more technical look at the protections in the most recent iOS security report. That document breaks down five different kinds of information transmitted in a search: the approximate location, the device type, the client app (either Spotlight or Safari), the device’s language settings and the previous three apps called up by the user. More importantly, all that information is grouped under an ephemeral session ID which automatically resets every 15 minutes, making it extremely difficult to trace a string of searches back to a specific user. That also makes the data significantly less useful to marketers, since it can’t track behavior over any meaningful length of time. And most importantly, the data is transmitted over an HTTPS connection, so it can’t be intercepted in transit.

I’m not sure how anyone would think these suggestions would work if information weren’t being sent back to Apple. The only thing Apple could do differently is make this another one of the you-have-to-explicitly-opt-in stages when you first upgrade to Yosemite or create an account on a new Mac. But there are a lot of those on-boarding screens already — to Apple’s credit! — and in this case, even if you are using the feature, Apple has seemingly gone out of their way to protect your privacy.

This Is Tim: Apple’s CEO Answers the Analysts 

Jason Snell, now at Six Colors:

Then comes the question-and-answer session, which while hardly extemporaneous — you get the sense that most of the questions have been anticipated and talking points formulated — lets Apple CEO Tim Cook provide a level of detail into how Apple’s business is shaping up that can be illuminating.

And so, presented with minimal editing, here’s a transcript of how Cook answered the analysts on Monday.

Apple to Require 64-Bit Support and iOS 8 SDK for iOS Apps Starting in February 

Apple Developer news:

Starting February 1, 2015, new iOS apps uploaded to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK, included in Xcode 6 or later.

Keep up, or get out.

Tim Cook, in His Own Words, on the iPad’s Future 

Dan Frommer:

Apple’s iPad business was the lone drag in its otherwise strong earnings report today. iPad sales last quarter dropped 13% from the previous year, to 12.3 million, their third straight quarter of decline. The iPad, which once looked like it could become an iPhone-sized pillar for Apple, represented just 13% of the company’s sales last quarter.

It would be better for Apple if the iPad were more like the iPhone, with continuing year-after-year sales growth. Only a fool would argue otherwise. And until about two years ago, it seemed like that might be the case.

Ends up, no, the iPad isn’t the iPhone, and in a broader sense, the tablet market isn’t like the phone market. It’s more like the PC market. It would have been truly extraordinary if, with the iPad, Apple had managed to build another iPhone-sized business. But it’s still pretty extraordinary that, if you treat the iPad as a PC (and the average selling price supports that), Apple has become the largest PC maker in the world in terms of unit sales.

‘Finally’ 

Jason Parker and Nate Ralph, writing for CNet (emphasis added):

With the launch of iOS 8.1 today, Apple has finally launched Apple Pay, the new NFC payment system that lets you make purchases using an iOS device.

These guys should have their CNet CMS accounts flagged, such that they’re no longer allowed to submit copy including the word “finally”.

Apple Q4 2014 Quarterly Results 

Apple PR:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter ended September 27, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $42.1 billion and quarterly net profit of $8.5 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $37.5 billion and net profit of $7.5 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 38 percent compared to 37 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue. […]

“Our fiscal 2014 was one for the record books, including the biggest iPhone launch ever with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With amazing innovations in our new iPhones, iPads and Macs, as well as iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, we are heading into the holidays with Apple’s strongest product lineup ever. We are also incredibly excited about Apple Watch and other great products and services in the pipeline for 2015.”

This is the first time I can recall that Apple’s press release for its quarterly results doesn’t include unit sales by product line — the total number of iPhones, iPads, Macs, and iPods sold. It’s listed in the “Data Summary” PDF, but not in the press release.

Year over year, iPhone sales were up (39M from 34M), iPad sales down (12M from 14M), and Mac sales had the biggest percentage change of all, up 21 percent (5.5M from 4.5M).

Update: Looks like they stopped including unit sales numbers in the press release earlier this year. Not sure why I didn’t notice then.

Paul Krugman: ‘Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not OK’ 

Paul Krugman:

So far Amazon has not tried to exploit consumers. In fact, it has systematically kept prices low, to reinforce its dominance. What it has done, instead, is use its market power to put a squeeze on publishers, in effect driving down the prices it pays for books — hence the fight with Hachette. In economics jargon, Amazon is not, at least so far, acting like a monopolist, a dominant seller with the power to raise prices. Instead, it is acting as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down.

And on that front its power is really immense — in fact, even greater than the market share numbers indicate. Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you’ve heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it’s a topic of conversation, because it’s made the best-seller list. And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

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On Yosemite’s New Window Title Bar Style 

Jason Snell:

In Yosemite, there’s a new style. You see it in Safari and Contacts and Maps, to name three prominent examples. To save space, Apple has collapsed the two rows together into one. In Safari, the “stoplight” buttons are right next to the forward and back buttons, on the same level as the URL/search bar and all the rest of the toolbar items. This has the effect of reducing the height of the chrome on a Safari window, while also reducing the open space left to actually click on and move the window around the screen.

We can argue about whether or not this collapsed toolbar/title bar thing is a good idea. What bugs me is not that it exists, but that it only exists in a few of Apple’s apps. In Mail and Preview and TextEdit and even the new iWork apps, the old style prevails. The inconsistency rankles. If Apple thinks the tool/title bar is the future, why do many of its apps not follow the format?

I think the reason Apple’s not using this style in most apps is because most apps have so many toolbar buttons that there’d be very little space left for clicking to drag the window around. And without window titles, it’d be hard to tell which window is which. Safari gets away with this because the URL field acts like a de facto window title. (And given the way that so many websites junk up their <title> tags with SEO-ish cruft, the domain name/url is often better than the actual “title” for the page — and the actual titles appear on your tabs anyway.)

That’s Apple 

Matthew Palmer:

But look behind the exploded iMac. Behind the new ‘TCON’ there’s a girl holding her father’s hand. Not brought to the centre of the frame, not inflated to be the story of the video, just a consequence of this device being in their home. That’s incredible storytelling.

That’s Apple.

You either think things like this matter in product marketing, or you don’t. If you do, you’re a lot more likely to appreciate the details in Apple’s actual products themselves.

I also think it’s worth pointing out how good the special effects are in these videos. I was kind of blown away by the shot where the camera moves and zooms in on individual pixels. Impressive CGI work.

‘You’re My Favorite Client’ 

Speaking of Mike Monteiro and excellent writing, he’s got a new book. I read it this week, and it’s just great, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another book on this topic: a book for clients and employers on how to hire and work with designers. If I were still doing freelance design work, I’d give a copy of this book to every client I worked with. Highly recommended.

See Also: This interview with Mike by Khoi Vinh:

This book has a very unorthodox tone — the second line is an expletive! Why did you take this tack?

It’s not an unorthodox tone for me. I write like I talk. And I’ve generally always had better results being myself when I write and when I speak and when I deal with clients. Obviously, I read the room and know how much to pull back. I wouldn’t curse in front of your mom, for instance.

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