Linked List: December 2010

Hunter Research and Technology 

My thanks to Hunter Research and Technology, maker of fine iOS and Mac apps, for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their apps include Theodolite, a top-selling multi-function augmented reality app with optical compass, two-axis inclinometer, and rangefinder; Wx for iPad, a fast, clean, and functional weather app with data from the US National Weather Service; and Cover Match, a new memory game that will let you rediscover album cover art in a whole new way. See all of their apps and read about their contract development services at hrtapps.com.

Crotchety Old Power Users 

Chris Clark:

In a nutshell, Facebook is better than email unless you’re some kind of email expert. And for email’s successor to support all the expert features of email, none of its myriad problems would be solved.

More Than One Way to Skin a Cat 

Tim Bray’s “Year’s End View of the Mobile Market” is a great read. I like that he’s an Android guy, I’m an iPhone guy, but yet we’re largely in agreement about where things are heading. I do disagree with one of his points, though:

Apple will totally do a 7” device. Anyone who’s spent quality time reading books or playing games on the Galaxy Tab knows; there’s a great big hole in the ecosystem that needs something bigger than a handset but that still fits in one hand and you can use for four hours in a row sitting up. This argument is over.

There are all sorts of reasons why Apple probably doesn’t want to release a 7-inch iPad. But I say take a step back, and think only about the problem. The problem is that it’s nice, for certain tasks, to be able to hold a tablet in one hand, but you can’t do that with the current iPad. I think Bray’s mistake is assuming that using a 7-inch display is the only way to solve that problem.

Update: Of course, the simpler answer is that Bray may be wrong about the balance of the trade-off between screen size and device weight.

1969 Chupa Chups Logo 

Designed by Salvador Dalí. (Via Cabel Sasser.

iTunes Store Slowdowns With Google DNS 

Joe Maller:

Last night we tried to rent an iTunes movie on our newish Apple TV. Instead of starting right away, the Apple TV said it would be 2+ hours before we could start watching. I’ve got a healthy 15-20Mb/s connection and a clean wire to the Apple TV, so this shouldn’t be happening.

A little bit of research turned up a surprising fix: Don’t use Google DNS.

I had the same thing happen last week. Horrendously slow downloads on my Apple TV, despite a fine network connection. Switching from Google DNS to my default DNS servers (Comcast) fixed it.

Interview With Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio 

From the makers of Angry Birds:

That doesn’t mean that model is superior, it’s just important to understand that Apple is Apple and Google is Google. Different. And developers need to understand that. Different business models for different ecosystems.

‘Like an Army of 41 Shades of Blue’ 

Kontra on Google and its Android strategy. Must-read.

People Who Touch Your Junk 

Venn diagram of the day.

My Favorite New Weblog of 2010: Asymco 

Speaking of Horace Dediu, I want to take a moment and congratulate him for a terrific debut year with his Asymco weblog. Just terrific analysis. He uses the data the right way: he draws conclusions from data, rather than choosing data to fit his preconceptions. He’s hung a shingle and is available for speaking and consulting engagements.

The Parable of the PDA 

Horace Dediu on why today’s leading smartphone platforms didn’t come from existing phone makers:

The problem is that the vendors that lost this game failed because they listened to their customers. Like with PDAs or with the original mobile phones or first generation of PCs, early adopters are not the audience that should be consulted on how to improve the product.

Exactly. Great piece. Spot-on conclusion.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics 

Cédric Beust thinks I skewed those Facebook mobile app client usage numbers in Apple’s favor:

Also worth pointing out, perhaps, that while Facebook’s Android app is growing fast, it isn’t catching up to the iPhone app. The Facebook for iPhone app gained about 4.5 million users for the month, going from 53 to 57.5 million users. The Facebook for Android app gained about 4.25 million users, going from 17 to 21 million users.

Another way of looking at it is that the Android app gained 23% while the iPhone app increased only 7.5%. In other words, Android is growing three times as fast as the iPhone.

I don’t think these numbers mean much, to be honest, but isn’t it funny that whenever there are two ways of looking at statistics, Gruber will always pick the one that shows Apple in a more favorable light?

He also quips:

There is no native iPad app for Facebook, so maybe the difference is just the iPod Touch?

Wait… an application available on only one flavor of iOS? I thought there was no fragmentation on iOS?

To clarify, what I meant is that Facebook’s official iOS app isn’t iPad-optimized. It’s an iPhone app. It runs just fine on the iPad, but do people use it there? I almost never run non-iPad-optimized apps on my iPad. I’m guessing most people who use Facebook from an iPad use the website or a third-party client like Friendly. But the numbers we’re talking about are for the official Facebook app in particular. (Mark Zuckerberg has claimed the iPad “isn’t mobile”, thus Facebook isn’t interested in creating a native iPad version of their app.)

One more interesting observation regarding these numbers. Google recently announced that they’re up to 300,000 Android activations per day. That’s about 9 million per month. Assuming all these numbers are accurate, that means almost half the people who buy a new Android phone install and use the Facebook app. That’s rather remarkable.

Contract Goblins 

Jonathan Dobres on replacing a damaged cell phone:

The toilets in my apartment spontaneously overflowed, and then I got an iPhone. That’s the short version of the story, but really, the long version is funnier.

Worst Headline of the Day 

Ars Technica headline: “Apple: we’ll sell 21 million iPhones in first quarter of 2011”.

An accurate headline, given the article’s sources: “DigiTimes: Apple will sell 21 million iPhones in first quarter of 2011”. Considering DigiTimes’s shaky track record regarding Apple rumors, there’s a big difference.

Update: The headline has been updated to “Apple rumor: we’ll sell 21 million iPhones in first quarter of 2011”. But who is the “we”?

Tapulous: Christmas iPhone App Download Traffic Is Double Last Year’s 

Dan Frommer:

TTR4 has been the #1 free app for several days, and is cranking in the downloads. Tapulous tells us that peak Christmas downloads reached 45,000 per hour, and that holiday download traffic is twice the levels of last year. (It also boasts that TTR4 is the #1 app in 37 countries, so that gives you an idea of what it’s like to truly be at the peak of downloads and activations.)

Father Creates iPad App to Help Disabled Son ‘Speak’ 

Tom Breen reports:

Victor has a rare genetic disorder that delays development of a number of skills, including speech. To help him and others with disabilities, his father, Paul, and some of his students at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem have created an application for the iPhone and iPad that turns their touch screens into communications tools.

Facebook for iPhone Usage Statistics (Requires Flash Player) 

Looks like a nice Christmas for Apple: a million new Facebook for iPhone users in a single day. Here’s the corresponding chart for Facebook for Android. Android’s slope is impressive, but shows no spike for Christmas. I think the difference here is the iPad and iPod Touch.

Update 1: There is no native iPad app for Facebook, so maybe the difference is just the iPod Touch?

Update 2: Also worth pointing out, perhaps, that while Facebook’s Android app is growing fast, it isn’t catching up to the iPhone app. The Facebook for iPhone app gained about 4.5 million users for the month, going from 53 to 57.5 million users. The Facebook for Android app gained about 4.25 million users, going from 17 to 21 million users.

Amazon: Third-Gen Kindle Is Their Best-Selling Product of All Time 

Amazon PR:

“We’re grateful to the millions of customers who have made the all-new Kindle the bestselling product in the history of Amazon — surpassing Harry Potter 7,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO. “We’re seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet. Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies, and web browsing and their Kindles for reading sessions. They report preferring Kindle for reading because it weighs less, eliminates battery anxiety with its month-long battery life, and has the advanced paper-like Pearl e-ink display that reduces eye-strain, doesn’t interfere with sleep patterns at bedtime, and works outside in direct sunlight, an important consideration especially for vacation reading. Kindle’s $139 price point is a key factor — it’s low enough that people don’t have to choose.”

Short version: Lots of people are buying both Kindles and iPads. (I own both and I’m glad I do.)

Another great stat: on their peak day this year (Monday, November 29), Amazon sold 158 items per second.

Samsung Hub: Samsung Galaxy Player to Be Announced at CES 

Samsung Hub:

Samsung has announced a new Android-based Galaxy Player that will be showcased next week at the CES 2011. Samsung says the new music player takes inspiration from its successful Galaxy S phone and is spec’d similarly sans the cellular connectivity.

The 9.9mm thick Galaxy Player (YP-GB1) runs on Android 2.2 Froyo OS and features a 1GHz CPU, 4-inch Super Clear LCD screen supporting up to WVGA resolution (800×480), T-DMB, SoundAlive audio enhancing technology, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, 3.2MP rear camera with front facing camera for video calling, GPS, HD video playback, microSD card slot, Android Market and Samsung Apps access and a 1200mAh removable battery.

The first true Android-based iPod Touch competitor. Wonder what the price will be.

The Most Reliable (and Unreliable) Hosted Blogging Services 

Spoiler: Tumblr is unreliable.

Banks and WikiLeaks 

NYT Editorial:

The fact of the matter is that banks are not like any other business. They run the payments system. That is one of the main reasons that governments protect them from failure with explicit and implicit guarantees. This makes them look not too unlike other public utilities. A telecommunications company, for example, may not refuse phone or broadband service to an organization it dislikes, arguing that it amounts to risky business.

I agree with the editorial. But, alas, the telecom companies would love the discretion to do just that. That’s part of the net neutrality debate.

TLAF Holiday Bundle 

Great year-end sale from this week’s DF RSS feed sponsor, The Little App Factory: The Holiday Bundle — the entire suite of Mac apps from TLAF, including the new iRip 2.0 and Grappler. Even better: Daring Fireball readers can use the coupon code “DARINGFIREHOLIDAY” to save an extra $10 off the already-discounted price of the bundle. It’s a great deal on some great apps.

Perfect Remixed 

When my friend Jim Coudal makes a change to his perfect martini recipe, you should take note. Don’t ruin Christmas with too-sweet vermouth.

The Greatest Letter Ever Printed on NFL Team Letterhead 

I don’t want to spoil a damn thing about this. Just read.

The Talk Show, Episode 22 

My favorite segment in this week’s show is when Dan and I talk about where Microsoft went wrong — when they stopped thinking ahead, about “Microsoft software everywhere”, and instead they started thinking defensively, about “Windows everywhere”. Brought to you by MailChimp.

Two-Stop Home Button 

Aza Raskin:

Camera shutter buttons have a two-stop action. Half-press them to lock focus and aperture settings, fully press them to take the picture. There’s a delightful tactile indent at the half-way mark so that your fingers know what’s going on. Let’s borrow this two-stop action for the home button. Press half-way to go to the app’s main screen, all the way to go to the phone’s main screen. If you need to fully escape mash the button. If you just want to head back to the main-screen of the app, tap lightly. You can easily convert a light-press into a heavy-press mid-action. It’s as naturally a mapping as you are going to get.

That’s a clever idea. And he’s right, that the two-stop shutter button on cameras is a terrific design. (I think the only companies that care as much as Apple does about the feel of buttons are the top camera makers. I love the feel of the shutter buttons on both my Canon 5D and Ricoh GR-D.)

But I think he’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist:

If you sit and watch people use an iPhone there’s a mistake made often and reliably: They hit the home button when they mean to just go back to the app’s main screen.

I don’t see people doing this. The half-press on a camera shutter serves an essential purpose. Creating a “half-press to go back to the current app’s root level” iOS home button would serve a purpose, but I don’t think it’d be worth the cost in additional complexity. How many people don’t understand the two-stop shutters on their cameras? (My guess: lots.) Plus, it would create a small exception to one of the key design tenets of iOS: when you’re in an app, everything you can do in that app is done on-screen.

Update: Lots of email and tweets from DF readers who say the problem does exist — that they frequently press the home button when they want to get back the root level of the current app. I still don’t think Raskin’s two-state home button is a good solution, but it’s worth pointing out that this does seem to be a problem for some people.

Minimalist Effect in the Maximalist Market 

Interesting design exercise from Antrepo. (Via Scott Beale.)

Indie iPhone Holiday Sale 

Six great iPhone games, all on sale for just 99 cents each. Even better, one-third of the profits are going to the Child’s Play charity.

DF RSS Feed Sponsorship 

The weekly RSS feed sponsorships here are usually sold out a month or two in advance, sometimes more. But for the first time a while, there’s a short-term availability — next week’s spot is still open. If you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball’s audience of smart, good-looking readers, get in touch. Might be a good week to promote apps to people who’ve just opened brand-new Christmas gift iPads and iPhones.

Update: Sold.

‘I Am Rich’ Returns 

Remember “I Am Rich”, the $999 iPhone app that served no purpose other than as a statement that the purchaser could afford such an app? It’s back, but this time for Windows Phone 7, and the price has been cut to just $499.

Comments Posted to the ‘We Won’t Fly’ Blog From a Homeland Security Department IP Address 

Rude, confrontational, and poorly spelled and punctuated. Shocking.

Comic Sans Criminal 

Lovely little website by Matt Dempsey.

Word 2011’s New Find/Replace Feature 

Pierre Igot:

The applications that use a search-field-based approach, with or without a sidebar, are applications that are for reading/browsing purposes mainly, and not for writing: Preview, Safari, iTunes, Mail’s main Viewer window, etc. So why did Microsoft choose to copy that UI instead of sticking with the dialog-box-based approach that appears to be the preferable option for writing tools?

The generous answer would be to say that Microsoft is trying to innovate and bring to writing tools the simplicity/intuitiveness of the search UI used for reading/browsing tools.

The less generous answer would be to say that Microsoft simply didn’t really think the whole thing through.

WTF 

You can’t make this shit up:

The CIA has launched a taskforce to assess the impact of 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables. Its name? WikiLeaks Task Force, or WTF for short.

This Is How You Deal With Design Ripoffs 

Just call them out. Update: Page was fireballed, but works now (thanks to the Fireballed.org cache).

This Has Got to Be a Mistake 

Don Clark and Nick Wingfield, reporting for the WSJ on the same Windows-for-ARM-at-CES rumor as Bloomberg:

The company next month plans to demonstrate a new version of its widely used Windows operating system that targets low-power devices and adds support for chips based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC as well as the x86 chip technology offered by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., these people said. Microsoft will discuss the software at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, though it isn’t expected to be available for two years, they added.

Two years? Not for an all-new next-generation OS, but simply a version of Windows that runs on ARM CPUs? That must be a mistake. Right?

Bloomberg: ‘Microsoft Is Said to Announce Version of Windows for ARM Chips at CES Show’ 

Ian King and Dina Bass, reporting for Bloomberg:

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, will announce a version of its Windows computer operating system that runs on ARM Holdings Plc technology for the first time, said two people familiar with Microsoft’s plans.

The new product will debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Microsoft’s plans are confidential. The software would be tailored for battery-powered devices, such as tablet computers and other handhelds, the people said.

The operating system would give Microsoft another way to attack the market for tablets and phones, where it’s lost ground to Apple Inc. and Google Inc. ARM chips — made by Qualcomm Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. — are used in most smartphones, as well as Apple’s best-selling iPad.

So the problem is Intel, not Windows or Microsoft’s institutional lack of design taste.

FCC: We Didn’t Impose Stricter Net Neutrality Regulations on Wireless Because Android Is Open 

FCC statement:

Further, we recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android. In addition, we anticipate soon seeing the effects on the market of the openness conditions we imposed on mobile providers that operate on upper 700 MHz C-Block spectrum, which includes Verizon Wireless, one of the largest mobile wireless carriers in the U.S.

In light of these considerations, we conclude it is appropriate to take measured steps at this time to protect the openness of the Internet when accessed through mobile broadband.

WTF? As Nilay Patel writes:

[I]t doesn’t matter how open your OS is when you’re stuck with a filtered and throttled connection, and it’s a pretty huge stretch to think Android’s openness (however you want to define it) has anything to do with network access itself.

Steve Wozniak to the FCC: Keep the Internet Free 

Woz:

We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.

Maybe the best piece I’ve read about what’s at stake.

Out on the Ice 

Great writing and reporting by Mary Rogan for GQ:

Brian Burke isn’t just a legend of the NHL. He’s a fists-up, knock-your-teeth-out gladiator. But when his hockey-loving son came out of the closet and died soon after, he was thrust into a strange new role: advocate for gays in a macho sports culture. He’s no cheerleader — he looks like he hates every minute of it — but locker-room homophobia may have finally met its match.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming. (Via Jim Coudal.)

Clayton Morris: HP to Unveil WebOS PalmPad Tablets at CES 

Clayton Morris, Fox News:

FoxNews.com has obtained spec sheets for HP’s forthcoming PalmPad tablet this week from a trusted source. […] HP will introduce three models of the PalmPad at CES, with minor hardware differences distinguishing them. All three will run a new iteration of the WebOS operating system, version 2.5.1; they’re collectively a spin-off of the never-released HP Slate.

At last year’s CES, it was an HP Slate that Ballmer held up as Microsoft’s flagship new product of the year.

Update: Engadget is skeptical, both of the purported timing (CES, in just two weeks) and Morris’s claim that the device will have the same form factor as the previously announced slate.

Matt Drance on iAd and the Web 

Matt Drance on why iAd is a web-based (rather than Cocoa-based) technology:

Why can’t the ad downloads be bundles of native code, instead of HTML/CSS/JavaScript? Isn’t native code faster? Can’t the native SDK do more than HTML5? For starters, third-party iOS apps are currently unable to load external native libraries on-the-fly. This technical restriction would have to be lifted in some fashion for native iAds to be a reality. This would be not just a huge policy reversal, but a security and stability headache as well: errant or rampant web code is generally less dangerous than errant or rampant native code. WebKit is already on every iOS device, with zero system changes. It’s not worth the trouble.

Why Net Neutrality Matters 

Ryan Singel at Wired Epicenter, reporting on an idea presented to mobile carriers to charge money for each service you use:

The companies, Allot Communications and Openet — suppliers to large wireless companies including AT&T and Verizon — showed off a new product in a web seminar Tuesday, which included a PowerPoint presentation (1.5 MB PDF) that was sent to Wired by a trusted source.

The idea? Make it possible for your wireless provider to monitor everything you do online and charge you extra for using Facebook, Skype or Netflix. For instance, in the seventh slide of the above PowerPoint, a Vodafone user would be charged two cents per MB for using Facebook, three euros a month to use Skype and $0.50 monthly for a speed-limited version of YouTube. But traffic to Vodafone’s services would be free, allowing the mobile carrier to create video services that could undercut NetFlix on price.

Jon Gotow on Apple’s Replacing the Mac OS X Software Directory With the Mac App Store 

You know Apple’s Mac OS X Software directory: it’s where you go when you choose “Mac OS X Software…” from the Apple menu in Mac OS X. It’s a huge driver of traffic for indie Mac developers — a prominent listing in this directory is a big deal, sales-wise. Unsurprisingly, this directory is going away when the Mac App Store launches in January. The problem for some developers is that not all software currently listed in the directory can be submitted to the new Mac App Store — the App Store’s policies are far more restrictive.

Here’s St. Clair Software’s Jon Gotow’s take:

In your letter, you say “the Mac App Store will be the best destination for users to discover, purchase, and download your apps,” but that doesn’t apply to my two best-selling applications, nor to those of many other developers. The guidelines put in place for the Mac App Store disqualify Default Folder X and App Tamer from inclusion in the App Store, despite their popularity and utility. I’m left to reinvent my products and company (again) as they don’t fit Apple’s vision of what a Mac application should be. There are numerous developers in my position. We make useful — some would say essential — products that users will now have a more difficult time finding as Apple drives customers and market focus to the Mac App Store.

For better or worse, the Mac App Store is going to change the entire ecosystem for Mac software. (Via Glenn Fleishman.)

Instagram Hits One Million Users in First Ten Weeks 

Off the top of my head, I’d say Instagram is my favorite new app of 2010.

Update: As a point of reference, it took Twitter two years to get to one million users.

Depends What You Mean By ‘Sold’, I Guess 

Mary Jo Foley:

On December 21, in an article on its Web site for the press, Microsoft officials said that its phone partners have sold “over 1.5 million phones in the first six weeks” they were available.

Update: This number represents sales of Windows Phone 7 phones from phone makers to carriers. It is not the number of phones sold to customers by the carriers.

Obama FCC Caves on Net Neutrality 

Tim Karr:

It’s not the FCC chairman’s job to seek consensus among the corporations that he was put into office to regulate. His duty is to protect Internet users.

Obama has been a terrible disappointment on net neutrality.

Macworld’s 2010 App Gems Awards 

Macworld’s list of the best iOS apps from 2010. A great list.

Daniel Ellsberg Signs Deal to Write Memoir on U.S. Nuclear War Strategy 

Dan Duray, for The New York Observer:

Tentatively titled The American Doomsday Machine, Mr. Ellsberg’s latest book concerns “the approved US nuclear strategy calculated to kill 600,000,000 people,” as Publisher’s Marketplace put it.

“One of his first jobs [at the DoD] was studying command and control of nuclear weapons — in fact he drafted the operational plan for nuclear war in 1961,” Bloomsbury Publisher and Editorial Director Peter Ginna told The Observer in an email. “As he said to me on the phone, when he saw Dr. Strangelove with a colleague, they agreed ‘It’s a documentary.’”

Matt Gemmell on Accessibility for iPhone and iPad Apps 

Must-read for developers. Both a good high-level overview of what accessibility really means and who it helps, and a technical overview of how iOS developers can take advantage of it. iOS is simply leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in accessibility.

WSJ Investigation on iPhone and Android App Privacy 

The WSJ:

An examination of 101 popular smartphone “apps” — games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones — showed that 56 transmitted the phone’s unique device ID to other companies without users’ awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone’s location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

This includes at least one iOS app, “Pumpkin Maker”, that shared location data without the prompt asking the user for permission to use their location.

Among all apps tested, the most widely shared detail was the unique ID number assigned to every phone. It is effectively a “supercookie,” says Vishal Gurbuxani, co-founder of Mobclix Inc., an exchange for mobile advertisers.

On iPhones, this number is the “UDID,” or Unique Device Identifier. Android IDs go by other names. These IDs are set by phone makers, carriers or makers of the operating system, and typically can’t be blocked or deleted.

“The great thing about mobile is you can’t clear a UDID like you can a cookie,” says Meghan O’Holleran of Traffic Marketplace, an Internet ad network that is expanding into mobile apps. “That’s how we track everything.”

Yeah, that’s just great. The bottom line: with free ad-driven apps, you’re what’s being sold.

BusyToDo 1.0 

BusyMac’s first iOS app:

BusyToDo is a simple, elegant To Do list manager for iOS that syncs tasks with iCal and BusyCal wirelessly through MobileMe. All you need is a MobileMe account. Syncing is automatic and happens in real-time as you make changes on your Mac or iOS device.

Nice, simple app.

Airfoil 4.0 

Rogue Amoeba:

Airfoil transmits any audio playing on your Mac to a host of networked audio devices, all in sync. You can stream to iPhones, iPads, or iPods Touch, to other computers, and of course to Apple TVs and AirPort Expresses. Airfoil for Mac aims to give you your audio — everywhere.

New Apple TV Sales to Top One Million This Week 

Apple:

Apple today announced that it expects sales of its new Apple TV to top one million units later this week. […] iTunes users are now renting and purchasing over 400,000 TV episodes and over 150,000 movies per day.

Not bad for a hobby.

Warner Bros Responds 

Warner Bros:

The additional footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey has always existed in the Warner vaults. When Kubrick trimmed the 17 minutes from 2001 after the NY premiere, he made it clear the shortened version was his final edit. The film is as he wanted it to be presented and preserved and Warner Home Video has no plans to expand or revise Mr. Kubrick’s vision.

Hallelujah.

Update: More good news, from Jim Coudal:

In other news, Penguin Classics has decided not to publish all the commas removed from Humboldt’s Gift by Mr. Bellow while he was originally revising the manuscript.

Motorola Hypes CES Android Tablet Announcement 

The iPad is just a “giant iPhone”.

Kod 

Upcoming soon-to-hit-beta Mac OS X text editor by Rasmus Andersson. Novelties include: Chrome-style tabs, integrated scripting environment based on Node.js, and “styling of the editor (not only the syntax highlighting) through regular CSS 3”. I don’t often link to software that hasn’t shipped yet, but this one caught my eye.

Gorgeous Map of the Facebook World 

Great data visualization from Paul Butler at Facebook.

Olly Moss’s Star Wars Posters 

Perfect, all three of them.

Regarding Those Cut Scenes From ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

A slew of DF readers have sent me links to reports about Warner Brothers having discovered 17 minutes of “lost” footage from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’d like to see the footage, sure, but not spliced back into the film as some sort of “extended cut”. It was Kubrick himself who cut these scenes from the film, not the studio. We already have the director’s cut of 2001.

Sony Claims to Be Optimistic About Google TV 

Hiroko Tabuchi, reporting from Tokyo for the NYT:

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Monday, Hiroshi Yoshioka, Sony’s executive deputy president and head of Sony’s TV business, said sales of the Google TVs were “in line with expectations.“ He declined to give specific numbers. […]

Mr. Yoshioka agreed that initial reviews of the TV were mixed. “Some reviews have been good, some have been bad,” he said. “It might take a little longer for users to really start having fun” with Google TVs, he said.

Just takes a few months to figure out the remote, perhaps.

Google TV Is in Trouble 

Ashlee Vance and Claire Cain Miller, reporting for the NYT:

The Consumer Electronics Show next month in Las Vegas was meant to be the great coming-out party for Google’s new software for televisions, which adds Web video and other computer smarts to TV sets. Although Google already has a deal with Sony for its Internet TVs, other television makers — Toshiba, LG Electronics and Sharp — were prepared to flaunt their versions of the systems.

But Google has asked the TV makers to delay their introductions, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, so that it can refine the software, which has received a lukewarm reception. The late request caught some of the manufacturers off guard.

A Holiday Message From Ricky Gervais: ‘Why I’m an Atheist’ 

Ricky Gervais:

But living an honest life — for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

Joel Henderson Reviews the Nexus S 

He doesn’t like it:

Slow UI: the graphics are jittery and staccato as if the graphics chip can’t keep up with scrolling. To my eye, the jitter is on par with the Galaxy S; it’s noticibly slower than an iPhone 4. Edit: other people are reporting this too, and the issue seems to be that the Nexus S is not utilising a dedicated graphics chip, and instead trying to do all the graphics on the main CPU. Source.

Mat Honan Reviews the Nexus S 

He likes it:

So how does all that work? Let’s start with the Hummingbird processor: It’s fast. Really fast. Apps fire seeming instantly, everything loads well, and we never had an issue with it hanging or stalling to process something. Yet, it does this without being a battery hog. We were very pleased with the performance and power tradeoff.

Paul Buchheit: The Cloud OS 

Paul Buchheit expands upon his prediction of doom for Chrome OS:

I actually like the idea of ChromeOS, so why did I predict its demise? The answer is that we already have millions of devices that almost meet the same ideal, and they are running iOS and Android. In the 1.5 years since ChromeOS was announced, Apple launched the iPad, which quickly became one of the fastest selling new devices ever. Google will necessarily respond by building Android tablets, which means Android will be running on larger, more powerful devices. All of the benefits of ChromeOS (security, instant-on, etc) should apply to Android as well, and I expect that any new Chrome features (mostly under the umbrella of HTML5, but perhaps Native Client as well) will also be added to the Android browser, since platforms succeed by being as large as possible. 

24 Hours 

Andre Torrez:

Someone on Twitter suggested that a group of engineers should get together on a weekend and build a Delicious clone. In anticipation of this mystery group of people sitting down and doing this, I thought I’d make a quick todo list for them.

Cash Cow Disease 

Interesting argument from Ron Burk:

Cash cow disease arises when a public company has a small number of products that generate the lion’s share of profits, but lacks the discipline to return those profits to the shareholders. The disease can progress for years or even decades, simply because the cash cow products produce enough massive revenues to distract shareholders from the smaller (but still massive) amounts of waste.

For example, with Microsoft, Windows and Office carry the company, roughly speaking, allowing the company to lose billions (that’s with a ‘b’) on failed projects without incurring any serious backlash from stockholders. Without cash cows, Microsoft could not have launched a new cellphone, then canceled it a few weeks later, all while pouring more money into yet another generation of cellphone. […]

Meanwhile, at Google, the cash cow is search-driven advertising. That allows the company to encourage engineers to waste 20% of their time on “projects”, like Google Wave.

He’s not arguing that companies should stick to one thing. He’s arguing that each new product or service should be expected to pull its own weight. (Thanks to DF reader Tim Ambler.)

Sourcebits 

My thanks to Sourcebits for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Sourcebits is a contract developer specializing in iPhone, iPad, mobile, Mac, and web software. Their iPhone apps have been downloaded over 4.5 million times from the App Store, and they have a growing list of Android and BlackBerry apps, too. If you’re looking for software development services, check out Sourcebits’s website for examples of their work — for the iPhone, the iPad, Android, and more.

The Des Moines Register’s Bob Feller Tribute Page 

Terrific list of links to Feller stories and footage around the web. Among numerous gems I found via this page, this piece by Frank Deford in 2005 for Sports Illustrated:

Ted Williams once said, “Three days before he pitched I would start thinking about Robert Feller, Bob Feller. I’d sit in my room thinking about him all the time. God, I loved it…. Allie Reynolds of the Yankees was tough, and I might think about him for 24 hours before a game, but Robert Feller: I’d think about him for three days.”

And this piece from Jayson Stark, putting Feller’s career in perspective:

Imagine this kid, at 17 years old, pitching an exhibition game in 1936 against a Cardinals team still rolling out most of the lineup that had won the World Series in 1934 — and striking out EIGHT of the nine hitters he faced. Imagine this kid, a few weeks later, making the first start of his big-league career, and whiffing 15 St. Louis Browns. Imagine him, three weeks after that, ripping off 17 K’s against the Athletics — the biggest strikeout game in American League history at the time. Now imagine him, just a couple of weeks later, heading back home to Iowa — so he could ride the SCHOOL BUS with his sister and finish high school. All true. It all happened. In real life. He was the LeBron James of his era — except with a 12-to-6 curve instead of a learning curve.

And this touching tribute by Joe Posnanski:

The tape recorder was off and my notebook was put away and so I cannot write here what he said word for word. But I remember the important part. He told me that I was lucky, that what you need to succeed in this world is a father who believes in you. And he told me that his father believed in him. Funny thing, though, he said Bill Feller never once said, “Bob, someday you’re going to pitch in the big leagues.” No, there were no words. There are some things that cannot be said with words. There was only those sweaty Iowa afternoons and those chilly Iowa evenings, and the sun setting, and a baseball going back and forth. Everything he needed to know about life was in that back-and-forth.

Bill Feller died in 1943, while his son Bob was at war. He had seen his son become the best pitcher in baseball.

RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie on Their Competitive Position 

Jim Balsillie:

I think the PlayBook redefines what a tablet should do. I think we’ve articulated some elements of it, and I think this idea of a proprietary SDK and unnecessary apps — though there’s a huge role for apps — I think is going to shift in the market, and I think it’s going to shift very, very quickly. And I think there’s going to be a strong appetite for web fidelity and tool familiarity. And I think there’s going to be a rapid desire for high performance. And I think we’re way ahead on that. And I think CIO friendliness, we’re way ahead on that.

They can keep saying they’re “ahead” of the iPad, but, uh, they haven’t shipped anything yet. It’s that simple.

The Most-Read Man in the World 

Nice profile of type designer Matthew Carter by Glenn Fleishman.

What’s Next for Delicious? 

The actual blog is slammed, so here it is from Google’s cache:

Is Delicious being shut down? And should I be worried about my data?

No, we are not shutting down Delicious. While we have determined that there is not a strategic fit at Yahoo!, we believe there is a ideal home for Delicious outside of the company where it can be resourced to the level where it can be competitive.

What is Yahoo! going to do with Delicious?

We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious and we believe there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users. We’re in the process of exploring a variety of options and talking to companies right now. And we’ll share our plans with you as soon as we can.

Note that Yahoo does not dispute that the entire Delicious team has been fired, though. What kind of sense does this make? We’d like to sell the service, find it a new home, and to help, we’ve fired the entire product team, effective immediately.

‘The City’ 

Wonderfully detailed, evocative miniature dioramas by artist Lori Nix.

The Championship 

Speaking of Jim Coudal and Jeffrey Zeldman, this season’s Layer Tennis Championship is this afternoon. Mig Reyes faces Noper, with Z in the booth.

Pay No Attention to the Numbers Behind the Curtain 

The Star, on RIM’s latest quarterly results:

But subscriber growth was weaker than expected, coming in at 5.1 million new users, consistent with the company’s guidance but below the analyst forecast for 5.2 million. RIM said it shipped 14.2 million BlackBerries in the quarter, up 40 per cent from a year earlier. The result brings its base of subscribers to 55 million.

RIM says it will no longer report subscriber growth in future quarters.

Recall Michael Mace’s critique of RIM from earlier this week. Subscriber growth is a key metric.

Word Lens 

This seems impossible — an augmented reality app for the iPhone that translates words on-the-fly. Mind-bending — as though near-future time travelers started sending us apps instead of terminators.

The app is free, and there are separate English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionaries available as $5 in-app purchases.

The Talk Show, Episode 21 

Another week, another show. Pretty good, I think. Topics include my impressions of the Nexus S I’m testing, the iPhone-ification of smartphone form factors, and Chrome OS. Brought to you by two fine sponsors: GitHub and Harvest.

Speaking of Dan Benjamin co-hosted podcasts, this week’s Big Web Show is a humdinger, with Dan and Zeldman talking to Jim Coudal.

Joanna Stern Gives Up on BlackBerry 

Avowed BlackBerry fan Joanna Stern gives up, buys a Droid:

It was all a bit hard to decipher, but the strategy seems to be: keep the current smartphone platform in the market at the moment, build out QNX on the PlayBook for a Q1 2011 release, work to bring the OS down to dual-core smartphones once the power consumption is right, and then finally enter the high-end smartphone game for real — a timeframe that seems to stretch out at least a year if not more. That strategy might makes sense on a few levels, but Apple, Google, Microsoft and Palm aren’t going to sit still while RIM gets to work, and I need a phone now.

This really gets to the heart of what’s wrong with RIM. They seem primarily focused on catching up to the iPad, when they still haven’t caught up to the iPhone.

Ninjas Unbox a Nexus S 

Requires Flash, but it’s worth it.

Apple Updates iBooks 

The new hyphenation feature improves the word spacing, noticeably, particularly if you have “full justification” turned on, which most do, since it’s the default. The new support for illustrated books is iBooks’s best competitive angle against the Kindle.

The Daily Patdown 

“Your daily dose of security theater.”

Now’s Probably a Good Time to Link to Pinboard Again 

I’ve previously linked to and recommended Pinboard, Maciej Ceglowski’s “antisocial” bookmarking service. It’s not a copy of Delicious, but rather more like a re-imagining of Delicious. If you use Delicious and regret its apparently imminent demise, Pinboard is probably what you want. Delicious-like features and interface (including a clone of its API), and Delicious importing. And, the sooner you sign up for Pinboard, the less you pay.

Update on the TikTok and LunaTik iPod Nano Watch Kit Kickstarter Project 

Fascinating video from Scott Wilson, showing the manufacturing process in China. Watching that silicone get dyed is hypnotic. There are still a few hours to get in on the Kickstarter project, by the way. They’ve raised just under $900,000.

Yahoo to Close Del.icio.us 

Other properties are being closed or “merged”, too, including Upcoming. The whole Delicious team was fired yesterday, according to a friend who works at Yahoo.

It’s almost hard to remember now, but just a few short years ago, Yahoo was the place for hot startups to find a home.

InMobi: iPhone OS Dominates European Mobile Ad Market 

Robin Wauters:

Research from mobile ad network provider InMobi has found that iPhone OS currently dominates the European mobile ad market with a 31.9% share, while Nokia’s share has slide to 19.7%, putting it in second place.

Android OS, meanwhile, is making its way after a slow start in these parts: the platform has gained +9.5 share points between July 2010 and October 2010, growing to a 12.9% share.

One big difference between Europe and the U.S.: the iPhone is available on multiple carriers throughout Europe. (Via Alex Vega.)

Mac App Store to Open on January 6 

Just as Jim Dalrymple reported.

The Line at Best Buy to Buy the Nexus S 

Captured by Julie Johnston.

Mick 

Good profile of Mick Jagger by Zoe Heller for the NYT’s T Magazine:

The rise of illegal file sharing and the correspondingly steep worldwide decline in CD sales have made these tough times for record companies and recording artists alike. But the Rolling Stones continue to do very nicely, thank you. This is partly because what remains of the market for CDs is dominated by baby boomers — the Stones’ demographic — and partly because Jagger, together with his recently retired financial adviser, Prince Rupert Loewenstein, has been exceptionally wily about exploiting other revenue streams. “There was a window in the 120 years of the record business where performers made loads and loads of money out of records,” Jagger says. “But it was a very small window — say, 15 years between 1975 and 1990.” Touring is now the most lucrative part of the band’s business.

‘I Wanted to Join the Fight Against Hitler’ 

Bob Feller, four years ago, on why he joined the Navy to fight in World War II:

A lot of folks say that had I not missed those almost four seasons to World War II — during what was probably my physical prime — I might have had 370 or even 400 wins. But I have no regrets. None at all. I did what any American could and should do: serve his country in its time of need. The world’s time of need.

I knew then, and I know today, that winning World War II was the most important thing to happen to this country in the last 100 years. I’m just glad I was a part of it.

Bob Feller, Dead at 92 

The New York Times:

Joining the Cleveland Indians in 1936, Feller became baseball’s biggest draw since Babe Ruth, throwing pitches that batters could barely see — fastballs approaching 100 miles an hour and curveballs and sinkers that fooled the sharpest eyes. He was Rapid Robert in the sports pages. As Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez was said to have remarked after three Feller pitches blew by him, “That last one sounded a little low.”

When I was around 10 or so, I went to see the local minor league team play. Feller was there at the concourse, in a kiosk, signing autographs and selling photographs and other memorabilia. All I saw was an old man I’d never heard of. My dad took me aside and filled me in. “John, that’s Bob Feller. He threw three no-hitters and could throw the ball 100 miles per hour. He might be the best there ever was.”

So we got in line (it wasn’t long), and Feller signed the ball I’d taken with me to the game. And he was just great. He asked about my little league team, he talked to my dad about the great Indians teams in the late ’40s. There was a palpable sense that Feller simply loved baseball.

Thomas Hawk’s Open Letter to Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz 

Thomas Hawk:

I dispute both your grades of B- and “pass.” I’d give you a fail for your first two years. A failure to grow the stock price. A failure to inspire the troops. A failure to innovate. I wouldn’t care so much except for the fact that you currently own what is one of the most important and significant cultural treasures of our lifetime. Flickr. And Flickr holds so much promise and so much could be done to innovate there and it just doesn’t feel like you give a damn.

Layoffs at Yahoo 

Carol Bartz’s memo announcing a new round of layoffs at Yahoo.

Richard Stallman on Chrome OS 

Charles Arthur for The Guardian:

But Stallman is unimpressed. “I think that marketers like “cloud computing” because it is devoid of substantive meaning. The term’s meaning is not substance, it’s an attitude: ‘Let any Tom, Dick and Harry hold your data, let any Tom, Dick and Harry do your computing for you (and control it).’ Perhaps the term ‘careless computing’ would suit it better.”

He sees a creeping problem: “I suppose many people will continue moving towards careless computing, because there’s a sucker born every minute. The US government may try to encourage people to place their data where the US government can seize it without showing them a search warrant, rather than in their own property. However, as long as enough of us continue keeping our data under our own control, we can still do so. And we had better do so, or the option may disappear.”

A Bayesian Take on Julian Assange 

Speaking of the WikiLeaks saga, Nate Silver has a good piece about the unusual circumstances of Julian Assange’s incarceration in the U.K.:

The handling of the case has been highly irregular from the start, in ways that would seem to make clear that the motivation for bringing the charges is political.

The Inhumane Conditions of Bradley Manning’s Detention 

Glenn Greenwald:

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions.  For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). […]

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado:  all without so much as having been convicted of anything.  And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

What’s Wrong With OpenID? 

Scathing critique of OpenID by Yishan Wong:

The short answer is that OpenID is the worst possible “solution” I have ever seen in my entire life to a problem that most people don’t really have. That’s what’s “wrong” with it.

(Via Marco Arment.)

Chrome OS and IT Platform Longevity 

So, re: the previous item about Chrome OS not appealing to me, personally, in the least — that clearly doesn’t mean it doesn’t appeal to anyone. Obviously, it does. But how many? On our podcast, Dan Benjamin and I have talked about it being targeted at the corporate enterprise market. I opened a new bank account a few weeks ago, and I noticed that the guy from the bank did so using a web browser on a PC running an old version of Windows. Presumably, running a web browser that accesses an intranet web app is the sole purpose of that computer. Are not such machines prime candidates to be replaced by cheaper, easier-to-maintain Chrome OS machines?

In theory, yes. But Marco Arment raises some interesting points regarding the profound conservatism of corporate IT:

In the context of replacing business software platforms, longevity is a major requirement. For Chrome OS to be considered by any reasonably large business, their IT decision-makers are going to want to know that Chrome OS is going to be around and supported by Google many years from now. Support means, at least, that compatible hardware must be available, software licensing must continue, and security issues must be patched.

And any reasonably competent IT executive can plainly see that Google, for all of their algorithmic might, isn’t known for product longevity.

Gmail Creator Paul Buchheit Predicts: ‘ChromeOS Will Be Killed Next Year (or “Merged” With Android)’ 

Here’s what he wrote on FriendFeed:

ChromeOS has no purpose that isn’t better served by Android (perhaps with a few mods to support a non-touch display).

I was thinking, “is this too obvious to even state?”, but then I see people taking ChromeOS seriously, and Google is even shipping devices for some reason.

I’ve had this thought ever since Chrome OS was announced. The logic is: if everything in Chrome OS is a WebKit browser view, and Android has a good WebKit browser, then isn’t Android capable of everything Chrome OS is, but with the added goodness of native apps? I’m not saying that’s right. And these Cr-48 prototypes seem to be getting decent reviews.

I’m just saying, if I quit every app on my MacBook other than Chrome and ran it full-screen, I’d be miserable.

Art Is Anything You Can Get Away With 

During a Layer Tennis match between Scott Thomas and Mark Weaver back in September, I, commentating on this volley, suggested that Marshall McLuhan would have enjoyed Layer Tennis.

Scott Boms was intrigued, so he asked his father-in-law, Eric McLuhan — Marshall McLuhan’s son and frequent collaborator. This made my day.

Smartphone Browser Landscape 

Comprehensive overview by Peter-Paul Koch.

How Many iPhones Will Verizon Sell in 2011? 

Dan Frommer guesses 10 million:

How did we figure that?

AT&T activated about 14 million new iPhones over the past four quarters on a subscriber base that’s now a little more than 90 million. (Of those activations, about 10 million were by existing AT&T subscribers.)

Verizon’s subscriber base is also about 90 million, and we don’t expect iPhone adoption to be wildly different on Verizon than it has been on AT&T. Maybe somewhat less, because Verizon folks already have high-end Android phones, but not much less.

See, I’d say more. If AT&T can sell 14 million iPhones in four quarters (selling to a base of subscribers who’ve had the iPhone available to them since 2007) why wouldn’t Verizon (selling to a base of subscribers who’ve been starved of the iPhone) be able to sell more? I expect Verizon to sell more iPhones than AT&T does.

The EFF:

In a landmark decision issued today in the criminal appeal of U.S. v. Warshak, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the government must have a search warrant before it can secretly seize and search emails stored by email service providers. Closely tracking arguments made by EFF in its amicus brief, the court found that email users have the same reasonable expectation of privacy in their stored email as they do in their phone calls and postal mail.

Great news. I’m donating to the EFF to celebrate.

Restore Gmail Contacts 

Google engineer Amanda Camp:

We’ve added a new feature to Google Contacts that allows you to revert your contact list and undo any mistakes made up to 30 days in the past. Let’s say you accidentally deleted a bunch of contacts or wiped the contact data from your Gmail account by mistake while syncing to another device. Visit Gmail’s Contacts section, select “Restore contacts” in the “More actions” menu, and choose the time you would like to revert to.

What a great feature — takes all the risk out of syncing. MobileMe should have something like this.

Update: Time Machine works for MobileMe users who wish to restore contact data from a sync disaster (and in fact, the Time Machine interface is integrated into Address Book), but only from your Mac, and only if you have Time Machine configured. I wonder how many Mac users have Time Machine running, and I wonder how many MobileMe users there are who don’t even use a Mac.

Engadget’s Nexus S Review 

Google kindly sent me a Nexus S, including service from T-Mobile, to use for a few weeks for review purposes. I’ve been using it as my main phone since it arrived on Friday. I put off reading Joshua Topolsky’s review of it at Engadget until today so that I could form my own thoughts about it. I plan to write about it in detail eventually, but in short, I agree with Topolsky’s review almost completely. It’s a good device, the best Android phone I’ve seen, and a very solid year-over-year improvement over the Nexus One, both in terms of hardware and software.

But some things are maddening. Yes, Topolsky’s review is largely positive, and I’m going to pull out one tidbit here that’s negative. But it’s a perfect example of the sort of “death by a thousand paper cuts” aspect of Android’s user experience. Topolsky writes:

Well, let’s be clear — Google still has major issues with text selection and editing on Android devices. The first striking problem is that there is not a consistent method of selecting text on the device. None. At all. In the browser, you long press on text to bring up your anchors, then drag and tap the center of your selection — boom, copied text. In text editing fields, however, in order to select a word you must long press on the word, wait for a contextual menu to pop up, and then select “select word” — a completely counterintuitive process. In the message app you can long press to select only the entire message, and in Google Reader? You can’t select any text at all. Even worse, Gmail has a different method for selecting text from an email you’re reading, and it’s far more obnoxious than any of the others. There, selecting text goes from being mildly annoying to downright silly. Want to grab some text out of an email? Here’s your process: hit the menu key, hit “more,” hit “select text,” and then finally drag your anchors out. Funnily enough, a little cursor appears when you start selecting — a holdover from Linux? To have this many options and discrepancies over something as simple as copy and paste should be embarrassing to Google. What it mostly is, however, is a pain to the end user.

And I think about the iPhone, which didn’t get text selection and copy-and-paste until version 3.0, two years after it debuted. It’s hard to get these things right.

Microsoft to Announce New ‘Slates’ Targeting iPad 

Nick Bilton:

Next month, at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft will give it another try, presenting a slew of new slates that it hopes will offer some competition to the Apple iPad, which has quickly become the leader in this market.

So it’s going to be an annual thing, then.

Horace Dediu on Verizon’s Smartphone Business 

Horace Dediu:

ITG Investment Research analyst Matthew Goodman is forecasting monthly sales record for all of Verizon’s devices “based largely on our proprietary daily point-of-sale data from thousands of independent wireless retailers across the US.” […]

So, if the data is accurate, here is what I conclude:

Verizon has three strikes against them:

  1. The iPhone has stolen their growth
  2. They are facing the prospect of a single OS platform supplier
  3. Android is not competitive vs. iOS

The whole thing hinges on the “if the data is accurate” clause, as Dediu emphasizes. But if the data is good, Dediu makes a strong case that Verizon needs the iPhone more than Apple needs Verizon.

Andy Ihnatko on the Chrome Cr-48 Notebook 

Andy Ihnatko:

All in all, it’s been an interesting and enlightening first day. Honestly, I was expecting a Chrome OS notebook to involve more sacrifice and annoyance than what I’m experiencing. I don’t think I’d call this an ideal way to get through an afternoon’s labors but facts are facts: whether writing a column, editing some photos, listening to streaming music, watching a YouTube video, or packaging everything together and sending it off to the Sun-Times, there was nothing I couldn’t do with the Cr-48 and Chrome OS. So far, I’ve been able to think of it as Just Another Notebook.

The Indie Mac Gift Pack 

Six great Mac apps, $272 at their regular prices, bundled together for just $60: Delicious Library, Acorn, MarsEdit, Radioshift, SousChef, and Sound Studio 4.

Update: Was fireballed; now back up.

Screens 1.0 — VNC Client for iPad and iPhone 

New $15 universal iOS VNC client from Edovia, with a free Mac component called Screens Connect to make it easy to connect to your Mac from remote networks. I’ve been using beta versions, and it’s just terrific — it looks better and works better than anything else I’ve tried, and I’ve paid for several VNC clients for iPad and iPhone (including iTeleport).

Access your Mac from anywhere using any iOS device. It’s that simple. Great, great software.

The Assassination of Yogi Bear by the Coward Boo-Boo 

Seems like the sort of YouTube clip that won’t be around for long; watch it while you can. (Via John August.)

Update: It’s all original footage, created by animator Edmund Earle. Here’s the backstory on the spoof.

Google Updates Android Market Client 

Improved layout, with an intended focus on improving the discoverability of apps in the market. They’ve also increased the maximum size of an app from 25 MB to 50 MB. Rolling out to Android users over the next two weeks. Android Central posted a video showing the new Android Market app in action.

Even 50 MB is not enough for many games, though. So what Android game developers need to do, for games bigger than 50 MB, is create the game as a smaller-than-50-MB shell that, once launched, downloads the rest of the game data from the developer’s own server. This is one of many things that makes game development better on iOS. See these comments from Id Software’s John Carmack last month in an interview with Ars Technica. (Id’s Rage HD is a 1.4 GB download.)

The Real Lessons of Gawker’s Security Mess 

Detailed analysis of the Gawker fiasco by Daniel Kennedy:

On November 11, Nick Denton received a notice that he had set up a new username and password at Gawker chat rooms. Because he knew he did not request this, and also had been told by someone else that he had been logged into Campfire (but also knew he had not), he asked members of his team to investigate. He did not however bother to change any of his other accounts that used the same password as his Campfire account.

iOS 4.2 Fonts 

Nice resource from Michael Critz: a listing of the installed fonts on the iPhone and iPad variants of iOS 4.2. (I wish Apple would just include the iPad’s extra fonts on the iPhone — particularly Gill Sans, Hoefler Text, and Didot.)

Amazon Has Sold ‘Millions’ of New Kindles This Quarter 

Amazon:

Thanks to you, in just the first 73 days of this holiday quarter, we’ve already sold millions of our all-new Kindles with the latest E Ink Pearl display. In fact, in the last 73 days, readers have purchased more Kindles than we sold during all of 2009. We’re grateful for and energized by the overwhelming customer response.

That’s at least two million, perhaps much higher. Pretty good, I’d say.

Gawker Hacked; Comment Account Database Compromised 

If you’ve ever created a commenting account on a Gawker Media website — Gawker, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, etc. — it’s probably compromised. That’s a real problem for anyone who uses the same password across multiple websites. There’s already evidence that people who use the same password for Twitter that they used for their Gawker account have had their Twitter accounts compromised.

Michael Mace on What’s Wrong With RIM 

I can’t recommend this piece by Michael Mace strongly enough. It’s a detailed, cogent analysis of what’s wrong with RIM, based on a close reading of the details of their financial disclosures. It’s a strong case for how a company with growing revenue and growing profits could in fact be in big trouble. One small example:

Five years ago, RIM was getting .7 new subscribers for every BlackBerry sold. In other words, most of its sales were to new users. Today, RIM is getting .37 more subscribers per BlackBerry sold, and that figure is at an all-time low. To put it another way, RIM now has to sell more than two and a half devices to get one more subscriber. Either RIM is selling most of its units to its installed base, or it is having to bring in a lot of new customers to replace those who are leaving for other devices. My guess is it’s a mix of both.

Must-read.

Angry Birds Developer Rovio Building Its Own Billing System 

Ryan Kim, for GigaOm:

Rovio is taking its success with mobile game Angry Birds — 50 million downloads and counting — and using it to launch a new in-app purchase, carrier-billing payment system. The mobile developer said it’s launching Bad Piggy Bank early next year with Finnish carrier Elisa, allowing users to upgrade to an ad-free version of Angry Birds or buy Angry Birds’ first virtual good — the Mighty Eagle character — with one tap.

They Don’t Make Them Like Richard Nixon Any More 

From a new batch of Nixon White House tapes:

“The Jews have certain traits. The Irish have certain — for example, the Irish can’t drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I’ve known gets mean when he drinks. Particularly the real Irish.”

Djay for iPad 

My thanks to Algoriddim for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Djay, their excellent DJ mixing app for the iPad.

One of the running bits here at DF is the thing where I link to people using their iPads for creative endeavors, and I say they must not have gotten the memo that the iPad is only for consumption, not creation. Whenever I do that, I inevitably get a few emails saying, OK, sure, you can be creative on the iPad, but it’s still a consumption device at heart. I think it’s true that there are certain tasks for which Mac/Windows-style computers are going to remain superior tools. But there are other areas where multitouch displays are inherently better. This app, Djay, is one of those. I’m not an actual DJ, but even just kicking the tires with this app, I can see how it isn’t just better because of multitouch — it depends on multitouch. It’s also a perfect of example of appropriate skeuomorphic design.

Check out the teaser video on their website and you’ll see what I mean.

Angry Birds on Android Projected to Generate $1 Million Per Month in Advertising 

Somehow I missed this piece at TechCrunch when it was published last week. I added it to my big piece yesterday, but I did so about an hour or so after originally publishing it — so if you read it early on, you might have missed it.

This doesn’t prove anything about the Android Market in general, but it certainly suggests that megahit games can generate iOS-style revenue purely through ads.

BlackBerry’s Rapidly Declining Share of Verizon Smartphone Sales 

The chart is rather striking.

How Many Verizon iPhones Will Apple Sell Next Year? 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt on analyst estimates for Verizon iPhone sales, if we’re all right that a deal is imminent:

Reid is even more conservative. He’s only raising his 2011 iPhone sales estimates to 63.3 million from 62.5 million, or 800,000 units.

That’s it? 800,000 measly iPhones? For reasons known only to themselves, analysts who have been breathlessly anticipating a Verizon iPhone are now busy lowering expectations.

That’s crazy. If Verizon gets the iPhone next year, they’ll sell a million on the first day.

Update, 27 January 2011: Ends up that Reid had previously included a Verizon iPhone in his 2011 forecast. But, in his initial forecast, he used a March ship date. The 800K adjustment is from Reid switching to a February ship date. I.e., he’s guessing Verizon will sell 800,000 iPhones in February alone, not 2011 as a whole. Not crazy at all.

If the Slipper Fits 

I’ll be in the commentary booth for tomorrow afternoon’s Layer Tennis 2010 Playoffs semifinal match between Noper and Greg Hubacek. Here’s my match preview.

Kottke will be in the booth for the other semifinal, between Mark Weaver and Mig Reaves.

Apple Names Flipboard ‘iPad App of the Year’ 

Jay Yarow:

Apple is highlighting all the most popular apps from 2010 in iTunes right now. Osmos is another app that gets a big shout out, named “iPad game of the year.” Hipstamatic is app of the year for iPhone, and Plants vs. Zombies is game of the year for iPhone.

The Talk Show, Episode 20: ‘Galaxy Dingus’ 

If you like podcasts, you might like mine and Dan Benjamin’s. If you don’t like podcasts, shame on you. Brought to you this week by two fine sponsors: An Event Apart (the conference for people who make websites) and Campaign Monitor (email marketing software for designers).

BlackBerry PlayBook Hands-on Video Demo 

Nice scoop for Boy Genius Report. Interesting use of swipes on the bevel surrounding the display. Swiping up from the bottom is how you switch between running apps. Swiping down from the top shows a toolbar in some apps.

TweetDeck’s Max Howell on Developing for iOS and Android 

A different perspective than Whereoscope’s:

Android Police: Do you like developing for iPhone or Android better, and why?

Max Howell: iPhone honestly. The development tools for Android are raw and relatively unloved which can lead to frustration. Debug cycles on Android take half a minute at least. On iPhone you can be testing new code in seconds. And it takes less effort to make beautiful software on iPhone, and ultimately all that matters is: is my software gorgeous? Does it feel amazing to use? Because if it doesn’t your app will not take off.

We had to work harder to make our app look great and feel great on Android. It’s worth it though, and ultimately is achievable. Google could make it easier, currently the UI tools in the API feel like the wrong level of abstraction.

Good, thoughtful interview overall. He mentions that Android fragmentation has not been a problem for TweetDeck. In contradiction to Whereoscope, though, Howell describes Android’s developer documentation as “poor”.

300K 

Andy Rubin, on Twitter:

There are over 300,000 Android phones activated each day.

That’s over 9 million per month.

Pre-Installed Android Apps 

Whitson Gordon for Lifehacker, “How to Speed Up Your Old or Sluggish Android Device”:

If something is constantly running in the background, it may be causing some of the performance hits on your device. Unless it’s something you can’t live without (and are thus willing to live with any slowness it might cause), uninstall it and find an alternative.

Note that some of the worst offenders in this category are apps that come pre-installed on your phone. Unfortunately, you need to be rooted to uninstall these, but we’ll talk about that in a bit.

Andy Rubin, two days ago at D: Dive Into Mobile:

Walt: I notice more and more they are taking on the personality of the carrier, not Google, not the handset maker. There are lots of what I would call craplets. Verizon, for example, swapped out Google for Bing. Is there a danger it is being taken over?

Rubin: That’s the nature of open. That’s actually a feature of Android.

Jim Dalrymple: Mac App Store Launching in January 

Jim Dalrymple:

Reports earlier this week claimed Apple would launch the Mac App Store on December 13, ahead of the holiday shopping season. However, according to my sources, Apple will launch the store in the new year.

While a specific date was not given for the official opening of the store by my sources, Apple will meet the 90-day deadline given during its October “Back to the Mac” media event.

How the iPad Is Influencing Web Apps 

Christina Warren:

Google’s official line might be that Android is for tablets and Chrome OS is for netbooks, but in practice, it looks like more and more web developers are designing their web apps with the tablet form factor and features, like multi-touch, in mind.

She’s got a slew of examples of Chrome web apps whose design is based on their corresponding iPad app.

Android vs. iOS: A Developer’s Perspective 

From one of the developers of Whereoscope, a previously iOS-only location-tracking app for parents, a very favorable look at Android development:

Somewhere inside Apple, there’s a guy who is receiving untold, nay, unspeakable pleasures by inflicting on the development community a kind of suffering that is as acute as it is pointless. That pain comes in the form of a series of hoops that one is forced to jump through in order to turn your phone into a development handset. There’s provisioning profiles, ad-hoc builds, certificates, and countless screens that I clicked through, not really caring what they did, because they brought me closer to being able to run my code on my phone. On Android, you check one option in preferences. That’s it.

Garbage collection (Android has it, iOS doesn’t) is his biggest gripe.

MarketWatch Names Steve Jobs ‘CEO of the Decade’, Asks Rob Enderle for Quotes 

MarketWatch:

Adds Enderle: “He is not somebody [who] any one of us would want watching our kids, but, in terms of running the company, he’s excellent.”

What the fuck does that mean?

European Phone Carriers Ask Apple and Google to Help Pay for Additional Network Data Usage 

Bloomberg:

Google Inc., Apple Inc., and Facebook Inc. need to pitch in to help pay for the billions of dollars of network investments needed for their bandwidth-hogging services, European phone operators say.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

ThinkGeek’s ‘2001’ Monolith Action Figure 

No longer a joke.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Taps New Partner in ‘War on Terror’: Walmart 

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is starting to look like a documentary.

RIM Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis at Dive Into Mobile 

Mike Lazaridis:

We’re all using Flash on our PCs. We’re all using Flash on our Macs. Why wouldn’t we expect Flash to run our tablet.

So by that logic, Flash will be around forever.

Whole interview seems like a train wreck:

Kara: So you’re saying that the strategy of Google and Apple — making the phone with video and audio, that’s not the right direction?

Mike: We’re going to see different categories. You’re going to see smartphones taking on multicore processing, you’re going to see powerful tablets…

He isn’t making any sense at all. Quite literally, we don’t know what Mike is talking about right now.

‘You’re Either With Us, or You’re With WikiLeaks’ 

(That’s the actual headline in The Washington Post, by the way). Marc Thiessen:

Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really? In the past year, the Iranian nuclear system has been crippled by a computer worm called “Stuxnet,” which has attacked Iran’s industrial systems and the personal computers of Iranian nuclear scientists. To this day, no one has traced the origin of the worm. Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks’s ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

Maybe we could have a curse or magic spell put on them, too. (Via Mat Honan.)

Tumblr Backup App for Mac 

Probably some renewed interest in this today.

Crankshaft 

Another big performance improvement to V8, Chrome’s JavaScript engine.

‘The Easiest Way to Download Android Games’ 

Lewis Dorigo on Gameloft’s Android games:

Not only do you need to provide them with the make and model of your device, but you also need to provide them with your phone number so they can send you an SMS with a link to download the game. They’re claiming that this is the easiest way to download their games?

Engadget’s Live Coverage of Google’s Chrome Event 

The Chrome App Store has a very original design: the best-selling lists are on the left instead of the right.

As Chrome evolves from a browser for Mac and Windows to its own OS, and Android expands from phones to tablets, Chrome OS and Android seem like competing platforms from rival companies.

Update: Seems like a big deal. Google really sees Chrome OS as a major play — and I can see how it might eat up a big chunk of the low-end PC notebook market. Maybe Chrome OS will do to Windows what Firefox (and, later, Chrome) did to IE? But why announce this so early? Actually shipping products based on Chrome OS are now pushed back to “mid 2011”. Seven, eight months from now? With no idea of actual pricing or performance, who knows whether it’ll actually be any good?

Update 2: The obvious answer occurred to me over dinner. Chrome OS was supposed to ship in 2010. They’re obviously way behind schedule. They wanted to show something.

This Is Where It Leads 

Senator Joe Lieberman to Fox News:

“To me the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the justice department.”

Instagraphy 

Speaking of Instagram, Tuhin Kumar has a nice piece about its appeal:

For any app, the first and most important question to ask is “what problem does it solve”. The how comes later. Instagram solves the problem of sharing our moments effortlessly with the world and in a way that makes us look creative.

In short, what Twitter is to text, Instagram is to photography. I love it. And it’s rather amazing that it’s grown so fast with nothing other than an iOS client. Not only are there no clients for any other devices (yet), but you can’t even use it via the web.

Not a Joke 

The U.S. State Department:

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.

Senator Dianne Feinstein Calls for Julian Assange to Be Prosecuted Under the Espionage Act 

The argument against Assange and WikiLeaks seems to be coalescing around the notion that the more horrendous the truth, the more essential it is for the public to remain unaware of it. Like many others, I’m unconvinced of the merits of WikiLeaks’s diplomatic cable dump, but on the whole, I support WikiLeaks.

The bottom line is that I think we’re better off knowing too much of the truth than too little.

Tumblr Scaling 

Network-wide, they’re now serving 3 billion page views a month, and growing fast.

Julian Assange’s Op-Ed in The Australian 

Julian Assange:

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government”. The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Information Wants to Be Expensive 

The lesser-quoted flip side of Stewart Brand’s observation:

Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine — too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, ‘intellectual property’, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.

Andy Rubin Demos Prototype Motorola Android 3.0 Tablet 

Note, per yesterday’s discussion of the varying layouts of the hardware buttons on current Android handsets, that this tablet has no buttons on the front face. Even the home button is on-screen.

Intriguing demo overall, though.

Niall Harbison: ‘Why Google Should Buy Instagram’ 

Niall Harbison has a terrible idea:

Instagram is growing at a furious rate. It’s not just the numbers below which show how fast it is growing but all the key early adopters are on there. For want of a better word it is the “cool” place to share photos online now. It feels like something that has legs and will continue growing and not disappear as a fad because the product is so good and people just love using it.

His last section heading is “Even Google Couldn’t Mess This One Up”. I beg to differ. You can’t buy cool.

Google’s Ad for the Nexus S 

Good catch by Jay Yarow:

As part of the hoopla for the new phone, Google produced a new ad which is slightly disorienting to watch. It’s someone looking at their phone walking around.

Funny enough, this is almost the exact opposite pitch that Microsoft is making with Windows Phone 7.

It really is the opposite message.

Information Wants to Be Free 

Nelson Minar:

The phrase is a simple observation, like saying “a compass wants to point north”. Information intrinsically has a tendency to spread. Controlling information, bottling it up and keeping it limited, is difficult. There’s a bit of a poetic turn in saying “wants”, since of course information has no agency. The underlying truth is really a statement about human nature; people tend to share information.

Coincidence, I’m Sure 

Brad W. Allen compares the websites for the Nexus S and the iPhone 4.

Don Meredith, Dead at 72 

A good quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys and a great TV broadcaster:

“I always thought of Don Meredith as Dean Martin,” said the NFL Network’s Joe Theismann, who worked in the booth with Meredith for Super Bowl XIX. “I always pictured him with a highball in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and just cruisin’ along. And, oh by the way, we get to share a little slice of his life with him.”

Monday Night Football was never the same without him and Cosell.

Analysing a Touch-to-Desktop UI Port Using Fitts’s Law 

Daniel Kennett interrupts the lauding of the Reeder for Mac public beta to point out the ways that it seems optimized for a touchscreen, rather than a mouse pointer.

Update: No one, including Kennett, is saying that Reeder for Mac is a bad app. Nor is anyone saying that typical users know what Fitts’s Law is. Of course they don’t. Just like typical bicycle riders don’t understand the physics behind how a bike works. That doesn’t mean that proper gear design doesn’t make the bike more comfortable to ride. Same with Fitts’s Law. Some of the UI elements in Reeder could be a bit easier to hit, which make the app feel even better.

Android Hardware Button Order 

The four hardware buttons — back, menu, search, home — are in different orders on different phones. The Nexus S buttons are in a different order than other Samsung Galaxy S phones — and in a different order than the Nexus One.

This is the sort of thing that epitomizes the difference between iOS and Android. Design is about making decisions. Those who prefer Android, I’m sure, don’t see this as a big deal at alllet “the market” determine in what order these buttons should be. Those who prefer iOS find it appallingGoogle should have done the work at the outset of determining the one true order for these buttons.

Update: Andrew Wood has an illustration of the differences among Android handsets.

Consumer Reports Trashes AT&T 

Dead last among U.S. carriers, with bad marks for everything from voice quality and data networking, to customer service.

What’s New in Android 2.3 

Keyboard improvements (including multitouch chording), text selection improvements, a better built-in process manager, and more. A bunch of developer-level improvements for games and audio apps, too.

Google eBooks 

Google’s foray into e-book reading and selling. They speak of “openness”, but what they mean by that, so far as I can tell, is that they’ve built Google Books client apps for a bunch of platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, and the web, and that all clients sync bookmark data via the cloud. It’s not “open” in the sense that e-books from publishers like O’Reilly and Pragmatic Programmers are, where you can download no-DRM files and read them in the client software of your choice. (Not that Google has a choice in this — surely the publishers insist on the DRM, and I’ll bet Google would sell truly open e-books for popular titles if they could.)

The iPad app seems OK. But you can’t select text, so there’s no copying and no dictionary lookups.

Nexus S, and Android 2.3 

New king of the Android hill: a pure “Google experience” (i.e. nothing added or changed by the carrier or Samsung) successor to the Nexus One; will ship with the brand-new Android 2.3 release. Looks good. The curved screen is interesting.

Android 2.3 looks like a nice upgrade. They finally added a UI for text selection that doesn’t require a cursor-placement trackpad or rollerball. It’s meant for T-Mobile’s 3G network, alas, so if you use it on AT&T, you’re stuck with EDGE, just like with the Nexus One. $529 unlocked, $199 with a two-year T-Mobile contract.

Update: One interesting detail: the Nexus S has 16 GB of built-in storage space, and no SD-card expansion.

‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ Promotional Photos 

Gorgeous. (Via Jim Coudal, who picked a beauty to put atop coudal.com.)

Great set at the same site for The Shining, too. This is probably my favorite shot from any Kubrick film.

MetaFilter Thread on Stacey Armato’s ‘TSA Revenge Screening’ 

I thought this comment was particularly good:

The thing is, as presented, [Armato is] trying to follow their procedure. The agents clearly don’t want to be bothered do so. It doesn’t matter why she want what she wants, policy has been decided at senior levels in the TSA and it is not the job of the operational folks who run the screen checkpoints to alter or adapt it or do what ever they feel like. It’s their job, and only their job, to follow procedure.

The good functioning of government depends on this. If you’re a public servant who can’t follow rules, you shouldn’t be a public servant. Letting agents get away with arbitrary, ad hoc “policies” is the start of a slippery downward slope that leads to corruption and compromising the security they’re trying to ensure.

Most TSA agents do their jobs professionally, sure. But anyone who travels regularly knows there are a lot of bad ones. I’m not surprised at all by Armato’s story.

TSA Agents Harass and Threaten Mother, Force Her to Miss Flight 

Stacey Armato:

TSA rules allow for alternate screening (no x-ray) for breast milk and I almost never had a problem… until the week before this screening. I was held for 30 minutes that week while the TSA manager called to find out the rules. I was told to “pump and dump,” and asked why the milk wasn’t clear, also asked where my baby was and if it was really milk (uh traveling, working mom pumping doesn’t usually have the baby with her).

After begging him to figure it out, they finally let me through. I called and complained to TSA and was instructed to travel with the TSA breast milk rules printed out and present them whenever there is a problem.

A week later, she traveled through the same airport and this time, the TSA agents recognized her and retaliated, detaining her in a special screening area for an hour, purposefully making her miss her flight unless she relented and allowed her milk to be X-rayed. She showed them the printed TSA regulations allowing alternative screening for breast milk and they told her those rules don’t apply.

And she got the security tape to prove her story. Minus, curiously, 20 minutes of footage.

The Luma Loop and LoopIt Camera Sling 

I loved my original Luma Loop, but the new model is even better. The shoulder pad is more comfortable, and the new steel attachment mechanism is way smaller and more secure. It’s this simple: I carry my DSLR with me way more often than I did before I had a Luma Loop.

Also new: the LoopIt, a sibling sling for smaller cameras.

Tumblr Down for 13 Hours and Counting 

Kind of amazing (and thus, today, frustrating) how many of my favorite sites are on Tumblr. Not sure what Tumblr thinks “shortly” means, but it must be something different than what I think it means.

Shop Vac 

Jarrett Heather’s “kinetic typography” music video for Jonathan Coulton’s “Shop Vac”.

MyNetDiary 

My thanks to MyNetDiary for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. MyNetDiary is a food diary and calorie counter app, with clients for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android. It’s also an online service, with both free and paid memberships. Their iOS apps are in the App Store bestseller list for Health and Fitness, and the iPad app was picked by Apple as a staff favorite.

You can sign up for free, or save 50 percent on the first month of a “Maximum” membership using the coupon code “DFBALL”.

FTC Is in Talks With Adobe Regarding Hard-to-Remove Flash Cookies 

I know an easy way to eliminate Flash cookies.

Layer Tennis Playoffs 

Lots of great Layer Tennis action today. (I’ll be in the commentary booth next week for the semifinals.)

All Good Things Must Come to an End 

My back-page column in the new issue of Macworld, on the future of the Mac.

Making the Leap to SSD on a MacBook 

Remiel:

It used to take 28 seconds for my 13-inch MacBook Pro to load the folders on my desktop after I logged in. Now it takes five seconds. […]

There’s lots of geek-centric commentary out there about whether the time is right yet for SSD (it is), and which of the many available drives on the market will actually give you the benefits the technology promises.

This post is intended for the pseudo-technical, “I’m sold; what do I do?” crowd that doesn’t care about the nuances, and just wants to get cracking with a credit card and a screwdriver.

One More Samsung Galaxy Tab Review 

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten:

So does Android suck?

No, not really. But using it on the Tab makes it very clear that this is an OS developed for mobile phones, and not tablets. Some people say that Google will launch a dedicated OS for tablets soon so you shouldn’t judge it based on the current version of its OS. That might all be true and fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Tab is on sale NOW with the Android version that is out now. You can’t review a gadget based on some features it might or might not get in the future. And right now, the combination of the Tab and Android sucks.

WikiLeaks’s New Server Home: Bahnhof AB 

Speaking of James Bond, WikiLeaks’s website is now hosted by Bahnhof AB, located in a positively Blofeldian nuclear bomb-proof Cold War-era facility carved out of a mountain in Sweden.

Update: Great slideshow from TPM of photos from inside the facility.

Google Maps and Label Readability 

Interesting design analysis by Justin O’Beirne, regarding why city labels are more legible and easier to scan on Google Maps than on Bing or Yahoo Maps.

The Talk Show, Episode 19 

Topics this week include the varying appeal of smartphones by gender, Irvin Kershner, and the James Bond movies. One tidbit from this week’s show that’s gained some traction: I call Angry Birds today’s Pac-Man — a game that’s become a pop cultural phenomenon. Jared Newman at Technologizer and Dan Frommer at Alley Insider both took that analogy and ran with it.

Brought to you by two fine sponsors: Rackspace and MailChimp.

Mobile OS Usage Splits the World 

It’s rather amazing how wildly these numbers vary by continent. iOS is absolutely crushing it in Australia and New Zealand. BlackBerry, once a North American phenomenon, now does well in Europe and Asia, too. Symbian remains the worldwide leader, but only because it dominates in Asia, Africa, and South America.

Tablets 

Paul Graham, on what to collectively call iPhones, iPads, and Android touchscreen devices:

After a few seconds it struck me that what we’ll end up calling these things is tablets. The only reason we even consider calling them “mobile devices” is that the iPhone preceded the iPad. If the iPad had come first, we wouldn’t think of the iPhone as a phone; we’d think of it as a tablet small enough to hold up to your ear.

The iPhone isn’t so much a phone as a replacement for a phone.

Graham’s piece reminds me of what I consider the central hook to a great app for these tablets: that it should seem, when you’re using it, that the entire device was meant for it. E.g., a good chess game for the iPhone should make the iPhone itself feel like a chess playing device. When you’re in Mobile Safari, it feels like you’re holding a dedicated web browsing device. Only when you’re in the Phone app does the iPhone feel like a phone.

‘Inevitable’, Eh? 

Jenny Williams, reporting for Computer Weekly:

HTC has spoken out against internet reports that claim HTC HD7 handsets suffer from antenna ‘death grip’ problems, similar to those experienced by Apple’s iPhone 4 users. […]

In a statement, a HTC spokesman said, “Quality in industrial design is of key importance to HTC. To ensure the best possible signal strength, antennas are placed in the area least likely to be covered by a person’s face or hands while the phone is in use. However, it is inevitable that a phone’s signal strength will weaken a little when covered in its entirety by a user’s palm or fingers. “

From The Wall Street Journal, back on July 19:

Taiwan-based HTC said Monday that reception problems aren’t common on smartphones and Apple should address the problem on its own rather than blame competitors.

“The reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones,” HTC Chief Financial Officer Hui-Meng Cheng said. “[Apple] apparently didn’t give operators enough time to test the phone.”

Amazon Responds 

Amazon Web Services makes a strong argument that government pressure had nothing to do with their decision to boot WikiLeaks, but rather clear violations of their terms of service:

AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy.

Fair enough. But so would AWS likewise refuse to provide hosting to The New York Times or The Guardian? Will Amazon refuse to sell books containing text from these leaked diplomatic cables?

RIM Buys UI Design Firm TAT 

With purchases like this, and last year’s purchase of QNX (the OS RIM is using to power the PlayBook, and, presumably, future phones), RIM seems to have an accurate self-assessment. They know where they’re weak. Rather than go into denial regarding their weaknesses, they’re trying to fix them.

More on Joe Lieberman’s Censorship Campaign Against WikiLeaks 

Glenn Greenwald:

I just spoke with the creator of the “visualizations”: a British freelance journalist named James Ball. The only thing these “visualizations” are were charts summarizing the material released by WikiLeaks (for instance, the charts counted the documents which originated from each country, the number of documents by year, and the like). These charts contained no classified information whatsoever, and disclosed nothing about the content of the cables. It was the completely innocuous work of a freelance journalist to inform the public about the categories of documents released. Those charts were then linked to from the WikiLeaks site, but hosted separately by Tableau.

As Jeffrey Goldberg asks, why doesn’t Lieberman go after The New York Times, too?

Maybe We Should Start Burning Books, Too 

Tableau Software:

Wednesday afternoon, Tableau Software removed data visualizations published by WikiLeaks to Tableau Public. We understand this is a sensitive issue and want to assure the public and our users that this was not an easy decision, nor one that we took lightly. […]

Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website.

WikiLeaks has never been found guilty of violating a single U.S. law. As Glenn Greenwald writes, Lieberman, using his position as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, is pressuring hosts to drop WikiLeaks content on the premise that they’re aiding terrorists. It’s abusive coercion. I’d love to hear from a U.S.-based hosting provider that has told him to go stuff it.

Andy Baio’s WikiLeaks Cablegate Roundup 

Comprehensive list of links.

Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Living, Boy 

Ask and ye shall receive: a Safari extension from Troy Gaul to put the Outlaw Josey Wales on Wikipedia.

Using Google Voice on the iPhone 

Nathan Peretic has written the best piece I’ve seen on what it’s like to use Google Voice on an iPhone. He nails the pros (free texting, great call screening features), and he nails the cons (“like living in a tiny Android bubble in an iPhone world”).

Ben the Bodyguard 

Killer HTML5 teaser site for an upcoming iPhone app. Just scroll.

Chrome Passes Firefox as Top Browser Among TechCrunch Readers 

This is a golden age for web browsers — healthy competition with four major players and several notable minor players.

Russia to Host World Cup in 2018; Qatar in 2022 

MSNBC:

The tournament would be held when temperatures in Qatar typically exceed 48 degrees C (118 degrees F). FIFA highlighted the potential risk posed by the heat.

Sounds delightful, as do Qatar’s oppressive Sharia laws:

The laws of Qatar tolerate alcohol to a certain extent. However, the few bars and nightclubs in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels and clubs. […] Under Qatar’s Sharia, it is illegal to show alcohol or be drunk in public.

How Our ‘Security’ Obsession Costs Us 

Powerful piece by Tom Engelhardt connecting U.S. security theatrics with our unending wars in the Middle East:

Of course, the U.S. national security state has quite a different formula for engendering safety in America: fight the Afghan war until hell freezes over; keep the odd base or two in Iraq; dig into the Persian Gulf region; send U.S. Special Operations troops into any country where a terrorist might possibly lurk; and make sure the drones aren’t far behind. In other words, reinforce our war state by ensuring that we’re eternally in a state of war, and then scare the hell out of Americans by repeatedly insisting that we’re in imminent danger, that shoe, underwear, and someday butt bombers will destroy our country, our lives, and our civilization. Insist that a single percent of risk is 1 percent too much when it comes to terror and American lives, and then demand that those who feel otherwise be dealt with punitively, if they won’t shut up.

It’s a ‘Game’ 

Daniel Tencer, reporting for Raw Story:

Ken Wooden, founder of Child Lures Prevention, says the TSA’s recommendation that children be told the pat-down is a “game” is potentially putting children in danger. Telling a child that they are engaging in a game is “one of the most common ways” that sexual predators use to convince children to engage in inappropriate contact, Wooden told Raw Story.

Why are they screening young children at all?

The Inevitable Decline Due to Clutter 

Seth Godin:

Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn’t free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.

Logitech Revue With Google TV Commercial 

Not sure it does a damn thing to sell the gadget, but it’s a fun commercial. (Via Lessien.)

Please Read: A Personal Appeal From the Outlaw Josey Wales 

I would pay to put this on Wikipedia.

Update: Safari extension from Troy Gaul.

Missing the Point of WikiLeaks 

Will Wilkinson:

With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personnel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.  

Yet the debate over WikiLeaks has proceeded as if the matter might conclude with the eradication of these kinds of data dumps — as if this is a temporary glitch in the system that can be fixed; as if this is a nuisance that can be made to go away with the application of sufficient government gusto.

How Joe Lieberman Got Amazon to Drop Wikileaks 

I have mixed feelings about WikiLeaks, overall — at least regarding their latest drop of U.S. diplomatic material. But Amazon’s cutting them off from their web hosting at the behest of Senator Joe Lieberman seems wrong to me. It’s very unclear, for one thing, whether WikiLeaks’s publishing of this material is against U.S. law. Amazon should comply with the law, not the demands of a politician. And it’s futile, anyway — the WikiLeaks website is already back up.

‘Project’, New iPad Magazine 

New iPad-only magazine from Richard Branson’s Virgin Publishing. Interesting, but given that it’s iPad-only, I expected better on-screen typography and navigation.

Update: After spending more time with the premiere issue, I’m pretty sure they’re using the same InDesign-based Adobe production tools that Wired and other Condé Nast magazines are using. But why? The appeal of these tools for print magazines is that they hook into their current production workflows. But I doubt that’s optimal for a new digital-only magazine like Project. Again, the typography (and type rendering) are poor in Project. And I find the navigation to be frustrating. You swipe left-right to page between different articles, and up-down to “scroll” between the pages of a multipage article. But frequently — not just in Project but also in other iPad magazines using this format, like Wired — I find myself on page N (where N is greater than 1) of an article, and accidentally going left or right when I wanted to go down to the next page of the current article. Then, when I go back to the article I never meant to leave, I’m back on the first page of that article, not the page I was reading when I inadvertently swiped to a different article. I find it to be a frustrating reading experience.

Old Navy Now Using Apple’s iPod Touch-Based Point-of-Sale System 

9to5 Mac confirms that Gap is “piloting Apple’s iPod based POS system at a few” Old Navy stores.

Nielsen Survey on the U.S. Smartphone Market 

Two things stick out to me. One, by gender, there’s a big gap for Android with men and women: 32.6 percent of men say Android is the OS for their next smartphone purchase, versus only 22.8 percent of women. With the iPhone, the numbers are close: 28.6 for men, 30.9 for women. And the numbers are even closer for BlackBerry — Android is the only one of the big three U.S. mobile OSes with a big gender gap. I wonder how much of that is due specifically to Verizon’s Terminator-esque branding for “Droid”.

The other thing that sticks out is the difference between the results from current featurephone (i.e. dumb phone) owners and existing smartphone owners. The iPhone jumps from 25 to 35 percent, BlackBerry from 11 to 15 percent, and Android gets the same number from both (28 percent).

Modern Espionage and Sabotage 

Riveting story by Ed Barnes on Stuxnet, the extraordinarily clever and complicated Windows virus that apparently successfully targeted Iran’s nuclear program. He gets the definition of “zero day exploit” very much wrong, but it’s a great story. This has the NSA written all over it.

‘I, Reader’ 

Lovely piece by Alexander Chee on books and reading.

The Insanity Virus 

Douglas Fox, writing for Discover:

Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Wrong, says a growing group of psychiatrists. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

Same for multiple sclerosis. Fascinating and compelling theory.

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