The Daring Fireball Linked List

The Apple Watch Got Marco Arment Hooked on Mechanical Watches 

Marco Arment:

A big part of that joy, for me, is that this isn’t like anything else in my life, and the difference is refreshing.

Most of my work and hobbies involve technologically cutting-edge digital electronics reliant on complex, inconsistent software, with a typical lifetime of a few years at most. Almost everything else I use and make is effectively disposable.

This is a huge part of the appeal of mechanical watches for me. No electricity. Just mechanics. They’re tangible in a way that software never can be.

For similar reasons, I still read most books on paper.

Igloo 

My thanks to Igloo for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like. It can help your company or team share information and collaborate in one unified space — from any device.

Igloo knows love doesn’t happen overnight, so they’ll let you try Igloo free of charge — forever.

‘Error 53’ 

Christina Warren, writing for Mashable:

What is Error 53? Well, it basically turns your iPhone into a brick. Why? Well it all ties into the Touch ID sensor on your phone. […]

The problem occurs when an unauthorized repair center replaces a home button. At first, the phone might work — with everything, including Touch ID, seeming perfectly fine.

But as soon as you go to update to a newer version of iOS (or you attempt to restore your phone from a backup), the software checks to make sure the Touch ID sensor matches the rest of the hardware. If it finds that there isn’t a match, your phone is basically bricked.

It seems very reasonable to me that iOS should check for a trusted Touch ID sensor. But, if the sensor can’t be trusted, clearly the whole phone should not be bricked — it should simply disable Touch ID and Apple Pay. And, obviously, it should inform the user why. Putting up an alert that just says “Error 53” is almost comically bad.

Microsoft, Nokia, and the Burning Platform 

Evan Blass, writing for VentureBeat:

When Microsoft acquired Nokia’s Devices and Services division in late 2013 and began integrating the storied Lumia brand into its offerings, it was hailed by Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer as “a bold step into the future — a win-win for employees, shareholders, and consumers of both companies.” Since then, Microsoft has folded much of its $7.5 billion acquisition into other divisions of the company, laid off thousands of former Nokia employees, slashed its output of smartphones per year, and eventually wrote off the entire purchase in a $7.6 billion impairment charge. Fast forward to early 2016, when we will soon see a quiet launch of what’s widely believed to be the final Microsoft Lumia-branded handset, the Lumia 650.

The most amazing part of this whole saga is that Nokia was worth only $7.5 billion in 2013. In 2000, they had a market cap of $245 billion.

Spencer Hall: ‘I Won the Super Bowl in a McLaren 570S’ 

Nice take on what it’s like to drive a $190,000 sports car.

Update on That Atlanta House Where Dozens of Missing Phones Think They Are 

Kashmir Hill, following up on this story from a few weeks ago:

Maynor thinks it’s possible that an app seeking to better locate a phone might take the IP-based location and then look next to a mapping database of wireless devices it knows in the area; with little to choose from there, it may be locking onto Lee and Saba’s router as the closest to the IP-chosen location and then pinpoint them as the exact location of the phone.

But he’s still uncertain. Maynor says he feels like Sherlock Holmes trying to solve this tech mystery.

“These are theories and I am trying to prove them. It’s like that Conan Doyle quote, ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth,’” said Maynor. “But I’m still not satisfied. I want to find more of a smoking gun. We need to know what app people are using to find their phones and then look at what databases they’re relying on for location.”

Completely tangential sidenote: Longtime DF readers will recall Dave Maynor’s name.

Fred Wilson Criticizes Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for Waiting to IPO 

Biz Carson, writing for Business Insider:

“I agree with Bill Gurley on this. Man up! Woman up! Fucking do it! Don’t be chicken!” Wilson ranted, referring to another outspoken VC.

One company in Wilson’s crosshairs is Uber, the ride-hailing company valued at more than $62 billion in the private market. Its CEO, Travis Kalanick, does not appear to be in any hurry to take the company public. Kalanick sees an Uber IPO as being a few years off still, and has compared its situation to being like an eighth-grader while people are telling them to go to the prom.

Wilson, who isn’t an investor in the company, doesn’t buy it. “He’s wimping out. That should be a publicly traded company,” Wilson said.

A VC upset that a company is not going public, thus preventing other VCs from reaping huge profits? Shocker.

Tim Cook Holds Company-Wide Town Hall 

Mark Gurman, 9to5Mac:

In the days following Apple’s record Q1 earnings announcements, Apple CEO Tim Cook and other top Apple executives held a Town Hall meeting at the Infinite Loop headquarters in Cupertino to reveal new announcements and take attendee questions.

Multiple sources in attendance at the event said that Cook as well as newly appointed Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams each spoke and made announcements and teases related to new employee benefits, future iPad growth, Apple Watch sales, future retail stores in China, Apple Campus 2, and the future product pipeline. […]

Lots of interesting tidbits, including the fact that Apple Watch sold better in its first holiday quarter than the original iPhone did in 2007.

He also touched upon the new Cupertino Apple Campus 2, noting that Apple employees will likely first begin moving into the new campus by the end of January 2017. He emphasized how important the new theater will be in giving Apple flexibility to hold larger events on its own campus versus relying on places in San Fransisco or San Jose. Cook reportedly called the new campus a “gift” to the future of Apple employees.

It occurs to me that next month’s Apple Event might be the last one ever held in the small theater on Apple’s existing campus.

Louis C.K. on Why He Charged $5 for the First Episode of ‘Horace and Pete’ 

Louis C.K.:

So why the dirty fuckballs did I charge you five dollars for Horace and Pete, where most TV shows you buy online are 3 dollars or less? Well, the dirty unmovable fact is that this show is fucking expensive.

The standup specials are much more containable. It’s one guy on a stage in a theater and in most cases, the cost of the tickets that the live audience paid, was enough to finance the filming.

But Horace and Pete is a full on TV production with four broadcast cameras, two beautiful sets and a state of the art control room and a very talented and skilled crew and a hall-of-fame cast. Every second the cameras are rolling, money is shooting out of my asshole like your mother’s worst diarrhea. (Yes there are less upsetting metaphors I could be using but I just think that one is the sharpest and most concise). Basically this is a hand-made, one guy paid for it version of a thing that is usually made by a giant corporation.

I watched the first episode. It’s a really unusual show. On the surface level, it feels very familiar, with a cast of well-known actors and a very traditional old-school multi-camera look and feel. Horace and Pete looks like an old CBS show, in particular, to my eyes.

But what the characters do and say, and what is going on in their lives, is nothing at all like traditional TV. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition — familiar comfort-food in terms of how it looks, but unconventional in terms of what is actually going on.

In just two words: “dystopic Cheers”.

Amazon’s Retail Store Plans Go Beyond Books 

Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:

Amazon will indeed open up more bookstores, but it also plans to eventually unveil other types of retail stores in addition to bookstores, according to two sources familiar with the plans. It’s not yet clear what those stores will sell or how they will be formatted, but the retail team’s mission is to reimagine what shopping in a physical store would be like if you merged the best of physical retail with the best of Amazon.

So they’ll start with books, then expand to other products. Sounds familiar.

Yours Truly on Josh Topolsky’s ‘Tomorrow’ Podcast 

What I like about doing podcasts with Josh is that we disagree on so much — it’s fun, and he always makes me think.

Music Memos Is a Songwriter’s Best Friend 

Dave Wiskus, writing for iMore:

If Voice Memos are Post-Its — a quick and dirty tool to make sure I didn’t forget an idea — then Music Memos is a sketchbook. This is where I start the songwriting process, and every part of the app is designed to help facilitate the process and, most shockingly of all, guide me to the next step in fleshing the song out. […]

Music Memos has so many other tricks up its sleeves that I almost feel like someone at Apple has been reading my dream journal. An app for recording song ideas that uses a robust tagging system is something I’ve personally wanted to build for a long time, but throw in a guitar tuner, chord and tempo detection, exporting to GarageBand, and magical automatic backing instruments, and the dream becomes borderline pornographic.

I’m not a songwriter, so the app isn’t useful to me personally, but I’m really impressed by the design of this app. It is attractive, well-organized, simple, and thoughtful. And judging by Dave’s take (and Serenity Caldwell’s), it’s genuinely useful and solves a heretofore unsolved problem.

So all is not lost when it comes to Apple putting out high-quality apps.

Mossberg: Apple’s Apps Need Work 

Walt Mossberg:

But there’s more than just metal, glass, and silicon to these products. Apple’s built-in software is a huge part of the experience, and has been since the company introduced the first Mac in 1984. Whether it’s the operating systems or the core apps, a major aspect of what makes both users and reviewers value Apple products is software that melds power, reliability, and ease of use. “It just works!” was a favorite Steve Jobs phrase.

In the last couple of years, however, I’ve noticed a gradual degradation in the quality and reliability of Apple’s core apps, on both the mobile iOS operating system and its Mac OS X platform. It’s almost as if the tech giant has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to these core software products, while it pursues big new dreams, like smartwatches and cars.

In particular, Mossberg singles out iTunes (on the desktop), Mail, and iCloud sync issues.

Uber Rebrands 

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick:

Have you ever looked at someone’s hairstyle and thought “oh my, you peaked in the 1990s?” Well that’s a bit how I feel about Uber’s look today. It’s not just that we were young and in a hurry when we replaced our red magnet logo with today’s black badge four years ago. It’s that we were a fundamentally different company. […]

So today, we’re excited to roll out a new look and feel that celebrates our technology, as well as the cities we serve.

The new logo mark feels like a solid improvement over the old. It feels familiar, but sturdier. Everything else they’re doing with this refresh seems like a bunch of nonsense. I just don’t get it. I think it’s fine for a company as young as Uber to start over from scratch with their brand. It’s risky, because Uber is already pretty well known, but, if you decide you need a change, the sooner you do it the better. But their new brand doesn’t make for a cohesive whole. It doesn’t feel like a new version of the old Uber brand, and it gives me no sense of what the new Uber brand feels like.

I concur with Armin Vit (writing at Brand New):

The bigger issue with the redesign — far more troubling — than the logo redesign is the app icon. In this case the app icon gets more action than the logo itself. That’s the first interaction from most users. If I wasn’t a fan of the curl in the “U” of the old logo I was even less of a fan of the inward serifs of the old icon. But, hey, it was a “U” for Uber and it was shiny like the badge on the grill of a car. The new icon is completely unidentifiable in any way as Uber other than it saying “Uber” underneath. Let’s assume that it’s a matter of being used to poking on that icon for the last five or six years and that we just need to get used to poking at this new one but, even then, it seems like this is an icon for something else altogether. I don’t think there is enough strength in the bit as the principal (and literal) touchpoint. Having a separate icon for drivers that looks even less like anything doesn’t help the cause of establishing a consistent, recognizable mobile environment.

Update: Everyone I know thinks of Uber as the company whose app you use to hail a car to drive you somewhere. Uber has greater ambitions than that. That’s fine. But they created this new brand to fit with their ambitions, and as a result, it doesn’t fit with what everyone who uses them thinks of them right now. Compare and contrast to Amazon. Amazon has expanded to major new initiatives like developer web services and online streaming of video. But along the way they never broke the original brand that says “This is where you go to buy books”. This new Uber brand (and especially the app icon) does not say “This is what you use to hail a ride.”

Uber’s new icon looks like a logo for Cyberdyne Systems.

Draplin Design Co.: ‘Pretty Much Everything’ 

I got a sneak peek at this back in September, when I visited DDC’s Portland headquarters with a few friends. Chock full of great design work and hilarious prose. You should get this book.

Apple Press Event: March 15 

John Paczkowski, BuzzFeed:

Apple has finally set the date for its first big event of 2016: The Ides of March.

Sources in position to know tell BuzzFeed News the company has chosen March 15 as the date it will show off a handful of new products.

Among the devices Apple plans to unveil are the next generation version of the iPad Air and a new smaller iPhone. Approximately the same size as the iPhone 5s, this smaller iPhone will feature a 4-inch display and a faster chip. Also on board: Support for Apple Pay, the company’s mobile payment service. A selection of new Apple Watch bands is also expected.

Matthew Panzarino and Mark Gurman are both reporting the same date.

The Imperious Elon Musk 

Back in September, Stewart Alsop wrote a post on Medium telling Elon Musk “he should be ashamed of himself” because the launch event for the Tesla Model X started late and Alsop didn’t get to actually see a Model X.

In response, Musk has cancelled Alsop’s $130,000 order for a Model X. I love this guy. Sure, it seems a little childish, vindictive, and petty. But it’s fun to watch.

Reporting Scandal at The Intercept 

Betsy Reed, editor of The Intercept:

The Intercept recently discovered a pattern of deception in the actions of a staff member. The employee, Juan Thompson, was a staff reporter from November 2014 until last month. Thompson fabricated several quotes in his stories and created fake email accounts that he used to impersonate people, one of which was a Gmail account in my name.

An investigation into Thompson’s reporting turned up three instances in which quotes were attributed to people who said they had not been interviewed. In other instances, quotes were attributed to individuals we could not reach, who could not remember speaking with him, or whose identities could not be confirmed. In his reporting Thompson also used quotes that we cannot verify from unnamed people whom he claimed to have encountered at public events. Thompson went to great lengths to deceive his editors, creating an email account to impersonate a source and lying about his reporting methods.

This sort of scandal can sink a publication. Seems like The Intercept is handling this as best they can, by getting out in front of it.

But it gets even stranger: in an email sent to Gawker, Thompson says:

I’ve been undergoing radiation treatment for testicular cancer and, since I no longer have health insurance, I’ve been feverishly struggling and figuring out how to pay for my treatment. All of this, of course, has taken up my time and energy; except for the few moments I’ve spent searching for some relief.

With regards to verifying the comments, I’m in STL undergoing treatment, again, and not in NY, thus I lack access to my notebooks (which I took for most stories) to address these matters. Moreover, after finally looking over the notes sent to me, I must say this: I had a habit of writing drafts of stories, placing the names of ppl I wanted to get quotes from in there, and then going to fetch the quotes.

Dealing with a serial fabulist is so hard. Does he really have cancer? I hope not, and if he does, I of course wish him well. But what The Intercept is alleging goes far beyond getting the names wrong of sources he quoted — and being ill is no excuse for it.

MacRumors Scoop on iPhone 7 Design 

Eric Slivka, writing for MacRumors:

Apple’s iPhone 7 isn’t expected to launch until the usual September timeframe, but we’re starting to get our first hints of what we might be able to expect for the new device. According to a source who has provided reliable information in the past, the iPhone 7 body will appear very similar to the design used for the iPhone 6 and 6s, with two significant exceptions.

The first involves the rear camera, which protrudes slightly on the iPhone 6 and 6s. On the iPhone 7, the camera is said to sit flush with the rear casing, enabled by a thinner camera module. Recent rumors have indicated Apple is considering equipping the iPhone 7 Plus with a dual-lens rear camera, but the smaller iPhone 7 is expected to include a more traditional camera.

I hate that damn camera bump, so it’d be great to see it go. But man, I’m going to be disappointed if the 5.5-inch model gets the new two-lens camera and the 4.7-inch one does not.

LG’s First-Ever Super Bowl Ad 

As with many Super Bowl ads, I feel like they would’ve gotten more bang for their buck by just setting fire to a few million dollars in cash and putting the video on YouTube.

On Apple’s Share Price 

Kirk Burgess:

Fancy owning Apple Inc, the entire company, for no money down? Well if the current share price level doesn’t go any higher, in less than 8 years time someone will be able to pick up the company effectively for free.

Duke Unranked in Associated Press Top 25 for First Time in More Than Eight Years 

First Alphabet passes Apple as the most valuable company in the world, now this. Not a good day for Tim Cook.

Alphabet Passes Apple as World’s Most Valuable Company 

Jack Clark, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google reported profit and sales that topped estimates, lifted by robust sales of online ads and tighter cost controls, putting parent Alphabet Inc. on track to overtake Apple Inc. as the world’s most valuable company.

The results, reported for the first time under a new structure that separates Google’s main search and advertising operations from riskier investments, show that fourth-quarter revenue, excluding sales passed on to partners, rose 19 percent to $17.3 billion. That exceeded analysts’ average projection for $16.9 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Profit, before certain items, was $8.67 a share, beating the prediction for $8.08. […]

The shares of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet rose as much as 9.4 percent in extended trading. The stock advanced 1.2 percent to $770.77 at the close in New York, giving the company a market capitalization of $523.1 billion, compared with $534.7 billion for Apple.

I saw this coming a few weeks ago.

Update: To be clear, Alphabet’s closing price today left it around $11 billion behind Apple, but their stock is way up in after-hours trading (what Bloomberg calls “extended trading”).

The Talk Show: ‘Hopped Up on Holiday Juice’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Matthew Panzarino. Topics include Apple’s quarterly financial results, rumors of Apple working on VR handsets and “wireless” charging for iPhones, Bezos charts, and more.

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‘All Hail Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon”’ 

Cinephilia and Beyond goes deep on Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, one of my very favorites among favorites:

What is now considered one of Stanley Kubrick’s most accomplished films, as well as an example of innovative, audacious filmmaking at its best, was almost given birth to by accident. After Kubrick’s dream of making Napoleon crumbled into pieces, he used this studious research and shifted his ambitions and talent into William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1844 novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon. The story of an unscrupulous Irish scoundrel who marries into high society and advances in the aristocratic society of 18th century England proved an ideal ground for the master to exhibit his storytelling powers. With the significant help of his director of photography John Alcott, Kubrick created a cinematic world that could be most easily described as a moving 18th century painting. Giving its best to avoid using electric sources of artificial light, relying on the illuminating power of candles and natural lighting, investing enormous effort into costume design, Barry Lyndon looks genuine through and through. Moreover, it leaves the impression of actually being comprised of works of art taken down from the walls of some filthily rich British nobleman.

Includes links to the (very curiously formatted) screenplay, and American Cinematographer’s two March 1976 articles on John Alcott’s photography.

Meh.com 

My thanks to Meh.com — the people who created Woot, sold Woot to Amazon, abandoned Woot, and started again — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. If you liked Woot back when Woot was just one deal a day (and funny), you’ll like Meh.com.

Control Center 

Stephen Hackett, “The Case Against Control Center”:

I don’t think this has aged very well, unfortunately, and it’s mostly Control Center’s fault. In addition to it being confusing to have a hidden panel at the top of the screen, having one at the bottom too is a lot to handle for some users. But there’s a bigger problem in my mind: Control Center just does way too many things.

I love the top row and screen brightness settings, but as I get closer to the bottom of the screen, the usefulness of Control Center lessens. With the exception of maybe the flashlight button, I’d be fine if the bottom row went away, Calculator and that creepy new Night Mode button included.

I think Apple could simplify all of this by looking to Android’s Notifications Drawer, where all of this stuff is in one pull-down tray from the top of the screen. Pull down a little to see notifications; pull down further to reveal a set of utilities.

I couldn’t disagree more strenuously. Control Center is probably my single favorite system-level UI change to iOS ever. I kind of wish you could change the apps hard-coded at the bottom (I’d replace Calculator with PCalc, for example), but I use it all the time.

I think Notification Center and Today view could still use some improvement. But cramming Control Center into the same pull-down sheet would make things worse, not better. Putting the dynamic Notification Center at the top and the static Control Center at the bottom provides a consistent spatial familiarity. It makes these features feel like they’re part of the hardware. (And I think Android might have to make them both pull-down-from-the-top because Android phones have soft buttons at the bottom of the display.)

Loopback 1.0 

New audio app from Rogue Amoeba:

Suddenly, it’s easy to pass audio between applications on your Mac. Create virtual audio devices to take the sound from applications and audio input devices, then send it to audio processing applications. Loopback gives you the power of a high-end studio mixing board, right inside your computer.

This is the sort of app few people need, but for those who need it, it’s a godsend. I can see a lot of uses for this for screencasters and podcasters.

BBEdit 11.5 

Just 150 or so new features, changes, and bug fixes to my favorite app of all time. No big deal.

Maximum Wage 

Steven Johnson:

In other words, the tech sector doesn’t have to be the poster child of inequality’s abuses. It could actually be a role model. Take just one potential remedy as a thought experiment. Let’s say we decided as a society that no private company should have a pay ratio above 40:1. That would lead to a radical decrease in income inequality, and it wouldn’t involve a cent of additional taxes. Every private company would be allowed to keep the exact same portion of its income. The government wouldn’t be extracting money out of the private sector; it would just put some boundaries on the way the private sector distributes its money internally. Critics would scream that such a dramatic intervention would be terrible for business, but of course the one sector of the economy that has already voluntarily embraced this ratio turns out to have nurtured the most profitable corporations in the history of capitalism. This would no doubt be fiddling with the natural markets for wages, but we fiddle with these all the time, through progressive income taxes, earned income tax credits, subsidies, and tax incentives. We have a minimum wage. What if we had a maximum ratio?

Microsoft’s Devices: The Great, the Good, the Unfortunate, and the Invisible 

Paul Thurrott on Windows Phone:

It’s hard to feel good about Windows phone right now: Microsoft sold just 4.5 million Lumias in the most recent quarter, good for 1.1 percent of the smart phone market. And that’s down from 10.5 million in the same quarter a year ago. It’s even down from the previous (and non-holiday) quarter, which is … alarming, actually. This thing has fallen through the floor faster than anyone really imagined it would.

But it is worth reminding people that Microsoft is simply following through on its promised strategy of July 2015. Which was to reduce its exposure to per-unit losses (Microsoft, like Nokia, loses money on every Lumia) and keep Windows phone in market artificially, on life support, so that it could continue developing a cross platform Windows 10 and the universal apps platform. That is, Windows phone really is dead. But Microsoft will sell you one if you’re a fan.

Another sign that the platform is dead: I don’t see anyone complaining about the lack of apps and developer support any more. It’s just accepted that Windows Phone doesn’t have the apps that iOS and Android do.

iPhone 5se and Its Place in the Apple Universe 

Rene Ritchie, writing at iMore:

Instead of price-dropping the iPhone 6 or coming up with a variant of that platform, like an iPhone 6c, Apple would simply update the iPhone 5s. Even with a late 2015 A9 processor, iSight camera system, and NFC radio for Apple Pay, component costs could still be kept within Apple’s target range for price point and margins. That way, just like the iPod touch refresh last year, people who still want the iPhone 5s get it, but with specifications that deliver an updated, modern experience.

A new 4-inch iPhone with an A9 processor and Touch ID solves a few problems for Apple, in one swoop. It gives Apple a modern iPhone to sell to people who really do prefer the smaller size, and it gives them a low-end-of-the-lineup model that is technically relevant for another 18-24 months.

Weird Guardian Piece on Apple and Recruiting 

Nellie Bowles, writing for The Guardian:

When developer James Knight was on the job market recently, he considered applying to several of the big tech companies and immediately crossed Apple off his list.

“Apple’s culture is one that’s so negative, so strict, so harsh,” said Knight, a talented 27-year-old coder who left a job at Google for more lucrative freelance work. “At Apple, you’re gonna be working 60-80 hours a week and some VP will come yell at you at any moment? That’s a very hostile work environment.” […]

Knight says he and many of his friends value lifestyle over salary. “I’m the kind of person who likes to show up to work sometimes at 11, or maybe work from home one day. And Apple’s not the place you can do that,” Knight said. “Apple can move away from that culture but culture takes time. A lot of time. And stock prices drop hourly.”

I’ve been saying for a while now that recruiting and talent retention are the single biggest problem Apple faces. But my take on it is subtle. Apple is driven by A-team talent, and A-team talent is in high demand across the whole industry. And as Guy English has pointed out, it’s a lot less exciting to be working on the tenth-generation iPhone than the first-generation of something new. The other problem Apple faces is that it’s not just any A-team talent that Apple needs, Apple needs A-team talent that understands and appreciates Apple’s design-focused culture.

That said, this Guardian piece by Bowles seems to be trying to argue that Apple is having trouble hiring anyone, period. That sounds like nonsense to me. And this James Knight guy sounds more like someone who Apple wouldn’t want to hire in the first place than someone who Apple covets but can’t get.

Jim Henson’s Hilariously Violent Wilkins Coffee Commercials 

Open Culture:

Henson made 179 ten-second spots for Wilkins Coffee, a regional company with distribution in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. market, according to the Muppets Wiki: “The local stations only had ten seconds for station identification, so the Muppet commercials had to be lightning-fast–essentially, eight seconds for the commercial pitch and a two-second shot of the product.”

Within those eight seconds, a coffee enthusiast named Wilkins (who bears a resemblance to Kermit the Frog) manages to shoot, stab, bludgeon or otherwise do grave bodily harm to a coffee holdout named Wontkins. Henson provided the voices of both characters.

I laughed out loud at a bunch of these.

The Verge: ‘Windows Phone Is Dead’; Rest of the World: ‘Duh’ 

Tom Warren, The Verge:

With a lack of hardware, lack of sales, and less than 2 percent market share, it’s time to call it: Windows Phone is dead. Real Windows on phones might become a thing with Continuum eventually, but Windows Phone as we know it is done. It won’t stop Microsoft producing a few handsets every year as a vanity project, but for everyone else it’s the end of the line.

With a lack of hardware, lack of sales, and less than 2 percent market share, Windows Phone has never actually been alive. It’s never gotten off the ground.

Mossberg: ‘Twitter Has Become Secret-Handshake Software’ 

Walt Mossberg:

But, underneath all that, Twitter’s fundamental problem is this: it’s too hard to use.

To potential new users, it’s a real challenge to learn all of Twitter’s often arcane little features. And even for people who have been using the service multiple times daily for years, like me, it can be tricky to decide when to use which feature and in which situation. For instance, new users might be confused about what a retweet is, or the difference between that and a “quote tweet” (where you say more about something you’re reposting). And they surely might not understand the need to place a period before the handle of a user, when that handle is at the very start of a tweet you compose, yet not elsewhere in the tweet.

I do think Twitter has become far too complicated. The original appeal of Twitter was largely based on its simplicity. But I have argued for years that the fundamental problem is that Twitter is compared to Facebook, and it shouldn’t be. Facebook appeals to billions of people. “Most people”, it’s fair to say. Twitter appeals to hundreds of millions of people. That’s amazing, and there’s tremendous value in that — but it’s no Facebook. Cramming extra features into Twitter will never make it as popular as Facebook — it will only dilute what it is that makes Twitter as popular and useful as it is.

AlphaGo: Google Research Project Plays Top-Level Go 

Google researchers David Silver and Demis Hassabis:

So how strong is AlphaGo? To answer this question, we played a tournament between AlphaGo and the best of the rest - the top Go programs at the forefront of A.I. research. Using a single machine, AlphaGo won all but one of its 500 games against these programs. In fact, AlphaGo even beat those programs after giving them 4 free moves headstart at the beginning of each game. A high-performance version of AlphaGo, distributed across many machines, was even stronger.

It seemed that AlphaGo was ready for a greater challenge. So we invited the reigning 3-time European Go champion Fan Hui — an elite professional player who has devoted his life to Go since the age of 12 — to our London office for a challenge match. The match was played behind closed doors between October 5-9 last year. AlphaGo won by 5 games to 0 — the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player.

Swisher: ‘Twitter Is Close to Hiring Natalie Kerris, the Longtime and High-Profile Apple Communications Exec, to Run Its Communications Unit’ 

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Twitter is close to hiring Natalie Kerris, the longtime and high-profile Apple communications exec, to run its communications unit, a critically important job given the intense media and investor interest on the social communications company.

Kerris is well known in Silicon Valley for her job as one of the top public relations and communications staffers at Apple. She was in the running for the top job at the tech giant, which went to Steve Dowling, after the departure of Katie Cotton.

She also actually uses Twitter.

The 2015 Omni Group Report 

Ken Case:

At this time last year, we had four shipping apps on iPad — OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniPlan — but just one of those apps was available on iPhone. Apple had just shipped the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and with their larger screens we decided to bring all our apps to iPhone. And we did just that, shipping free universal updates to the iPad apps that made them also run on iPhone: first OmniGraffle on March 5, then OmniPlan on March 12, OmniOutliner on March 19, and finally OmniFocus on April 2. (OmniFocus was actually ready on April 1, but if we shipped it that day I worried that people might think the whole thing was an April Fools’ joke!)

Among long-time Mac developers, I think the Omni Group is doing as good a job as anyone at making iOS development a thriving part of their business.

Up next, some cool news for OmniOutliner:

For OmniOutliner, I’m very pleased to share that we have some major writing improvements on the way! On both Mac and iOS, we plan to support distraction-free full-screen editing, the ability to see your current word count, and support for directly editing Markdown documents.

The 2015 Panic Report 

Cabel Sasser:

iOS Revenue. I brought this up last year and we still haven’t licked it. We had a change of heart — well, an experimental change of heart — and reduced the price of our iOS apps in 2015 to normalize them at $9.99 or less, thinking that was the upper limit and/or sweet spot for iOS app pricing. But it didn’t have a meaningful impact on sales.

More and more I’m beginning to think we simply made the wrong type of apps for iOS — we made professional tools that aren’t really “in demand” on that platform — and that price isn’t our problem, but interest is.

So, once again, we will investigate raising our iOS app prices in 2016, with two hopes: that the awesome customers that love and need these apps understand the incredible amount of work that goes into them and that these people are also willing to pay more for a quality professional app (whereas, say, the casual gamer would not).

Next up: Firewatch, in just two weeks.

Perspective on Apple’s Financial Might 

Tom Gara on Twitter:

Apple lost more revenue to foreign exchange fluctuations in last quarter than *ALL* of Facebook’s quarterly revenue.

20 Years Ago Today, Sun Almost Bought Apple for $4 Billion 

Business Insider:

On January 26th, 1996, exactly 20 years ago to this day, early tech blog Suck.com reported that Sun Microsystems was in talks to buy up Apple, then worth $3.89 billion.

“Back in late 1995 early ‘96, when we were at our peak, we were literally hours away from buying Apple for about $5 to $6 a share,” former Sun President Ed Zander would later recall in 2011.

Today, Sun is out of business and Apple is the most profitable company in the world. Not sure where Michael Spindler is.

The Chickening 

Kottke:

It mostly defies description, so just watch the first minute or so (after which you won’t be able to resist the rest of it).

Tim Cook on Q1 2016 

Tim Cook on Apple’s record-breaking quarter:

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you very much for joining us. Today, we’re reporting Apple’s strongest financial results ever. We generated all-time record quarterly revenue of 75.9 billion dollars in the December quarter, in line with our expectations, and have 2 percent over last year’s blockbuster results.

This is a huge accomplishment for our company, especially given the turbulent world around us. In constant currency, our growth rate would have been 8 percent. Our record revenue and continued strong operating performance also led to an all-time record quarterly net income of 18.4 billion dollars. We sold 74.8 million iPhones in the December quarter, an all-time high. To put that volume into perspective, it’s an average of over 34,000 iPhones an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 13 straight weeks. It’s almost 50 percent more than our Q1 volume just two years ago, and more than four times our volume five years ago.

The big news, though, is that Apple’s forecast for this quarter has iPhone sales dipping year-over-year for the first time ever. Here’s why:

We see that Q2 is the toughest compare. We believe it’s the toughest compare because the year-ago quarter also had catchup in it from Q1; if you recall, we were heavily supply-constrained throughout the whole of Q1, and so some of that demand moved into Q2. Plus, we’re in an environment now that is dramatically different from a macroeconomic point of view than last Q2: from a currency point of view, from the level at which we’ve had to adjust pricing in several of these markets, and sort of the overall malaise in virtually every country in the world. It’s really all of those factors that play in there, and it’s difficult to sort out how much is due to which one.

Abe Vigoda, Still Alive in 1988 

“Dave, instead of a time killer, this one is more a public service tonight.”

Abe Vigoda Dies at 94 

Hillel Italie, reporting for the AP:

Character Abe Vigoda, whose leathery, sunken-eyed face made him ideal for playing the over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series “Barney Miller” and the doomed Mafia soldier in “The Godfather,” died Tuesday at age 94.

Vigoda’s daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told The Associated Press that Vigoda died Tuesday morning in his sleep at Fuchs’ home in Woodland Park, New Jersey. The cause of death was old age. “This man was never sick,” Fuchs said.

Tell Mike it was only business.

Disney World Opens New Ordeal Kingdom for Family Meltdowns 

The Onion:

Situated between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, the 350-acre property reportedly incorporates many of the most aggravating elements of Disney’s other parks and expands them into a creative and fully immersive world of irritation, which is said to include the longest lines in the entire resort, a convoluted layout that is only depicted in indecipherable cartoon maps that are not to scale, and 150 percent higher prices. According to park director Jacob Bartlett, Ordeal Kingdom’s specialized combination of features will ensure a slowly building resentment among visiting families, eventually resulting in a dramatic public outburst followed by a silent walk back to the car.

“We’ve considered every detail to ensure parents and their kids have the heated argument of a lifetime,” said Bartlett, explaining that the park was split into five themed “lands,” including Fatigue Island and Hunger Lagoon, each of which can be reached by Mickey’s Congestion Junction Railway. “Whether it’s the sheer distance between rides or the unspecified bathroom locations, every aspect of the experience is guaranteed to ratchet up the tension until you and your family are screaming at each other and saying you should never have come in the first place.”

DF RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

The RSS feed calendar has been sold out for months, but the next few weeks, including the current one, are open. If you’ve got a cool product or service you want to promote to the DF audience, get in touch and let’s make a deal.

Texas Grand Jury Clears Planned Parenthood, Indicts Pair Who Made Video 

Brian M. Rosenthal and Brian Rogers, reporting for the Houston Chronicle:

A Harris County grand jury investigating allegations that a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston illegally sold the tissue of aborted fetuses has cleared the organization of wrongdoing and instead indicted two anti-abortion activists behind the undercover videos that sparked the probe.

Secret videographers David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were both indicted on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second degree felony that carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden received an additional misdemeanor indictment under the law prohibiting the purchase and sale of human organs.

I’m celebrating this schadenfreude-tastic moment with a contribution to Planned Parenthood.

Microsoft’s Surface Tablets Takes a Hit During NFL Playoff Game 

Steven Musil, CNet:

Microsoft’s tablet seemed to suffer another public black eye Sunday as TV viewers of the AFC championship game Sunday between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots were told that the tablets on the Patriots’ sidelines had failed.

“They’re having some trouble with their Microsoft Surface tablets,” CBS’ sideline reporter Evan Washburn reported during the game. “On the last defensive possession the Patriots’ coaches did not have access to those tablets to show pictures to their players. NFL officials have been working at it. Some of those tablets are back in use, but not all of them. A lot of frustration that they didn’t have them on that last possession.”

The outage, which struck during the first half, was brief, and the Patriots’ tablets were soon restored to working order. A Microsoft spokesman blamed the problem on a network connectivity issue rather than a tablet malfunction.

No tablet is going to work if the network is down, but this shows the risks of paid product placement in a live arena.

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