We all know the rule for “a” versus “an.” If the next word starts
with a vowel sound, we use a consonant. If the next word stars
with a consonant sound, we use “an.”
So the sentence “I read a Guardian article” is straightforward.
But what about on Twitter? Any time you mention someone in a
sentence, you use their handle. Which means every name on Twitter
starts with @, a vowel sound. Do we count it? We tried to figure
that out this morning.
I say no — even if you’d say the “at” aloud verbally, in writing you should choose a/an based on the first letter in the Twitter handle, not the @ character. Tricky question though.
That means Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to see shows that
have already run on HBO, like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.” And
they can also watch older seasons of some shows that are still on
the air, like “Girls,” three years after they air.
It’s the first time HBO has offered access to its catalog via a
streaming video service that’s not its own HBO Go. And it gives
Amazon an important bragging right/differentiation point as it
tries to gain ground on rival Netflix.
People familiar with the deal say HBO did not shop the catalog to
Netflix or other potential Amazon rivals.
In short: you still need HBO Go to watch new shows, and the only way to get HBO Go is to pay for HBO with your cable service. But Fire TV is getting HBO Go, too, “targeting a launch by year-end”.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark, on the newest member of baseball’s 500 Homers Club:
So the moral of this story remains the same: Lots of men have hit
baseballs over many, many fences. Only the greatest hitters who
ever lived have been the all-around offensive forces that Pujols
has been. And that’s a fact. […]
But suppose we take all those other numbers out of this and focus
just on batting average — which isn’t a measure of power at all
but merely of a man’s ability to hit baseballs where nobody with a
glove is standing.
At .321, Pujols has the fourth-highest average in the entire 500
Homer Club — trailing only those same three men from the previous
list: Williams (.344), Ruth (.342) and Foxx (.325).
Join the OS X Beta Seed Program and help make OS X even better.
Install the latest pre-release software, try it out, and submit
Previously, you had to be a registered developer to get access to OS beta seeds.
Update: I was wrong. The Apple Seed Program for non-developers isn’t new — it’s been around as long as Mac OS X has. What’s new is that it’s now open for anyone to join. Until now, it was by invitation only.
Speaking of Greg Christie, I neglected to link to this fascinating piece by Daisuke Wakabayashi for the WSJ last month. It’s a very rare behind-the-scenes look at Apple’s design process. My favorite tidbit: they simulated the iPhone’s performance by using a then-years-old G3 Mac to run the software while it was in development.
Apple made Christie available to Steve Henn of NPR’s All Things Considered, too. To me, that Apple chose Christie for these profiles is a telling sign that his upcoming retirement from Apple is on nothing but the best of terms. The intention was to let Christie — who is extremely well-liked personally and highly-regarded for his work within the company — go out on top, with well-earned credit where credit is due.
Beats CEO Ian Rogers says the decision to sell within the Apple
app was fairly straightforward: More than half of Beats users use
iPhones, and it’s very hard to get an iOS user to subscribe if you
don’t sell in-app.
Two other music subscription services — Rhapsody and Rdio — have
also agreed to sell subscriptions within Apple’s app, though Rdio
raised the price for in-app subscriptions from $10 a month to
$15 a month to accommodate Apple’s tariff.
But Spotify, which is much larger than all three of the services,
hasn’t made the move. Spotify does have a free, ad-supported tier
available on its mobile app.
So Apple is making money on music subscriptions even though iTunes itself doesn’t (yet?) offer them.
Jean-Louis Gassée, on the widespread expectation that year-over-year iPad sales have leveled off:
Despite the inspiring ads, Apple’s hopes for the iPad overshot
what the product can actually deliver. Although there’s a large
numbers of iPad-only users, there’s also a substantial population
of dual-use customers for whom both tablets and conventional PCs
are now part of daily life.
I see the lull in iPad sales as a coming down to reality after
unrealistic expectations, a realization that iPads aren’t as ready
to replace PCs as many initially hoped.
In short, Gassée is arguing that tablet sales have hit a wall, and that the iPad needs to grow more Mac-like capabilities for advanced tasks.
Posit: slow iPad sales are worse news for the PC market: implies
phones can take the greater share of PC use cases.
I find that compelling. We might have overestimated the eventual role of tablets and underestimated the role of phones — and the whole argument is further muddled by the industry-wide move toward 5-inch-ish phone displays.
Eric Perlberg has a chart shown at Photokina 2014, showing the rapid decline of standalone point-shoot-cameras. No surprise, of course: mobile devices equipped with cameras have taken over (and revolutionized) the casual photography market.
Square recorded a loss of roughly $100 million in 2013, broader
than its loss in 2012, according to two people familiar with
The five-year-old company paid out roughly $110 million more in
cash last year than it took in, according to two people familiar
with the matter. Over the past three years, the startup has
consumed more than half of the roughly $340 million it has raised
from at least four rounds of equity financing since 2009, two
people familiar with the company’s performance said.
Duplo starts in a similar way as Pages: A designer creates a set
of layouts. From this set, Pages selects the layout that best fits
the desired content. However, while Pages looks at about 20
candidate layouts, Duplo looks at anywhere between 2000 to 6000
candidates, searching for the best layout to fit the content.
Zachary Crockett, writing for Priceonomics, on Alan Adler, inventor of (among other things) the Aerobie flying disc and the AeroPress coffee maker:
Adler says the mainstream toy industry has a tendency to push out
new products every three years. “Parker Brothers, for instance,
has a quota of ten new toys every year at the NY Toy Fair,” he
tells us. Aerobie finds this practice counter-intuitive, and goes
against the grain:
“A lot of companies feel the need to release new products; they’ll
release products that never really deserved to be sold! They’re
just not that good. We don’t look at it that way: we only release
products that we think are innovative and offer excellent play
value. Companies often spoil products by revising them in an
effort to make them new.”
Conversely, Aerobie has stuck with a relatively small list of
products (18, over a 30 year business), and has never had to
discontinue a product (this is a routine practice at major toy
Nike is gearing up to shutter its wearable-hardware efforts, and
the sportswear company this week fired the majority of the team
responsible for the development of its FuelBand fitness tracker, a
person familiar with the matter told CNET. […]
There’s increasing competition in the market for wrist-worn
fitness trackers, and Nike’s digital app ecosystem, Nike+, has
grown less reliant on wearables as smartphone sensors have
improved. In other words, it makes less and less sense for Nike to
stay in the hardware race when its physical wearables are not
bottom-line needle movers, especially as companies like Apple and
Google prepare to join the fray.
Interesting, particularly when you consider that Tim Cook sits on the Nike board — and that he wears a FuelBand.
My thanks to JetPens, one of my favorite companies in the world, for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. JetPens offers an incredible selection of the best pens, pencils, and office toys from around the world. A few of their latest items:
Fonts are great, but using them well can be hard. Volumes have
been written about typography, yet every good designer will say
there are no rules; there is no magic formula for success.
Typography simply takes practice. Typography is a practice.
So today, we’re launching a new website: Typekit Practice, a place
where novices and experts alike can hone their typographic skills.
We hope it will help students learn, help teachers teach, and help
professionals stay sharp.
The company is planning to unveil a song-discovery feature in an
update of its iOS mobile software that will let users identify a
song and its artist using an iPhone or iPad, said two people with
knowledge of the product, who asked not to be identified because
the feature isn’t public. Apple is working with Shazam
Entertainment Ltd., whose technology can quickly spot what’s
playing by collecting sound from a phone’s microphone and matching
it against a song database. […]
Among the ways it can be used will be through Apple’s
voice-activated search feature, Siri. An iPhone user will be able
to say something like “what song is playing,” to find out the
tune’s details, one person said.
Sounds like a great feature. (Why not just acquire Shazam, though?)
It has been nearly a year since the first iOS 7 beta, and
something about tint color still bugs me. In fact it bothered me
enough at the time of the early betas that a filed a bug on it
with Apple, something I very rarely do. The problem isn’t so much
in the concept of tint color, which I like; having a consistent
color for buttons and links, especially now that buttons are so
understated, makes a lot of sense. The problem is the
implementation in apps that use tint color anytime they want to
highlight something, whether it is tappable or not.
Too many buttons that don’t look like buttons — that’s my single biggest gripe about iOS 7.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
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
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
The Daring Fireball Linked List is a daily list of interesting links
and brief commentary, updated frequently but not frenetically. Call it
a “link log”, or “linkblog”, or just “a good way to dick around on the
Internet for a few minutes a day”.