Why Majd Taby Hates Chrome and Continues to Use It ★
Nice nitpicky UI critique of Chrome for Mac by Majd Taby, along with praise for what Chrome gets right.
Florian Mueller on Lodsys’s Suit Against Seven App Developers in Eastern Texas ★
For the app developers who have been sued, this is now a very
critical situation. As I explained in my Lodsys FAQ, patent
litigation in the United States is extremely costly. The most
important thing for those app developers is to clarify with Apple
— and to the extent that Android apps are involved, with Google
— whether they will be held harmless and receive blanket coverage
including possible damage awards.
MG Siegler on Twitter’s imminent but as-yet-unannounced photo-hosting service:
We’ve heard from multiple sources that Twitter is likely to have
a big-time partner for such a service: Apple. Specifically,
we’re hearing that Apple’s new iOS 5 will come with an option
to share images to Twitter baked into the OS. This would be
similar to the way you can currently share videos on YouTube with
one click in iOS. Obviously, a user would have to enable this
feature by logging in with their Twitter credentials in iOS. There
would then be a “Send to Twitter” option for pictures stored
on your device.
So close to the bigger story, but yet so far. Imagine what else the system could provide if your Twitter account was a system-level service.
Zaky: Apple’s Cash to Exceed $300 Billion by 2015 ★
If it then carried that 2013 0.00% growth rate into 2014, the
company would have $230 billion in cash or just about $250 in cash
per share. 2015 it would have $300 billion in cash or $330 in cash
per share. Again, that assumes 0.00% growth for 2013, 2014, and
2015. So if Apple grows 0.00%, then by 2015, it will have more
cash per share than the stock is trading at today.
Lodsys Responds to Apple, Files Lawsuits Against App Developers ★
These motherfuckers — or is it motherfucker, singular? — aren’t going to quit. Details on the Lodsys “blog”.
Security Update 2011-003 Addresses Mac Defender Malware ★
The OSX.MacDefender.A definition has been added to the malware
check within File Quarantine. […]
The system will check daily for updates to the File Quarantine
malware definition list. An opt-out capability is provided via the
“Automatically update safe downloads list” checkbox in Security
1966 Prediction of the Home Computer ★
“What the wife selects on her console will be paid for by the husband at his counterpart console.”
(Via Jim Coudal.)
Federal Government Loosens Its Grip on the BlackBerry ★
Michael S. Rosenwald, reporting for The Washington Post:
Kundra, the U.S. top information officer, said, “The line
between work and home in terms of technology is beginning to
blur.” Asked what he typically hears from workers about
government- or corporate-provided technology, Kundra said,
“It’s not a question of whether they don’t like it. They
Kundra’s answer to the issue of people using unauthorized
devices is simple: Give them what they want. Like many federal
workers, he carries two devices — a BlackBerry (for work stuff)
and an iPhone (for personal stuff). And like many people, Kundra
says he wants to be a “one-device guy.” He recently began
pondering a radical idea with federal agencies: Let workers use
whatever mobile device they want, apply strict security settings,
and have the government pay a stipend for service.
WHO: Cell Phone Use ‘Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans’ ★
I think it’s quite possible that this issue could be the single greatest long-term threat to Apple. I’d hate to see today’s handset makers turn into yesterday’s tobacco companies.
Update: To be clear, the WHO is more or less saying that a link can’t be ruled out. And on the flip side, University of Maryland physics professor Bob Park:
All cancers are caused by mutant strands of DNA. Electromagnetic
radiation can’t create mutant strands of DNA unless the frequency
is at or higher than the blue limit of the visible spectrum the
near-ultraviolet. The frequency of cell phone radiation is about 1
million times too low.
More from Park here on the question of cell phones causing cancer.
Apple Announces iWork for iPhone and iPod Touch ★
Apple today announced that its groundbreaking iWork productivity
apps, Keynote, Pages and Numbers, are now available for iPhone and
iPod touch, as well as iPad.
Guess the keynote is full.
Skype Installs EasyBits Go CrapWare on Windows Without Users’ Prior Knowledge ★
This morning I was notified that Skype needed third-party access
to an executable called easybitsgo.exe, and I was quite suspicious
because I knew I had not installed in applications recently and
saw no other dialog boxes with information about this app. I did a
virus scan immediately thinking my system may have been
over-ridden with malware similar to those fake anti-virus apps.
It turns out the program is legit and was actually installed via
Skype itself. After doing a quick check, it seems the EasyBits
company produces a number of game apps and is supported by many
major brands including HP, Dell, Acer and Skype among others,
however I did not give a care since I was not interested in having
such program installed on my machine. Finally, after checking the
Skype forums, it turns out many users reported a similar
8.5 billion dollars.
Joe Clark on E-Book Typography ★
This year-old Joe Clark piece for A List Apart pairs well with this weekend’s link to Paul Luna on e-book typography. Don’t miss Clark’s sidebar with illustrated examples.
(While I’m at it, I’ll sneak in a link to Clark’s scathing response to Ben Yagoda’s piece in Slate on “logical punctuation”. This strikes me as cranky even by Clark’s standards, and is more about Slate’s appalling typesetting than about where periods and commas should be placed in relation to quotation marks.)
Michael Mulvey on the use of “pad” in tablet product names.
It’s About the Hashbangs ★
Dan Webb makes a strong case against hashbang (“#!”) URLs.
Asus Unveils ‘Padfone’ ★
(Don’t miss the decals on their spokesmodel.)
Apple Announces WWDC 2011 Keynote ★
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives will kick off
the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with
a keynote address on Monday, June 6 at 10:00 a.m. At the keynote,
Apple will unveil its next generation software - Lion, the eighth
major release of Mac OS X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s
advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad, iPhone and
iPod touch; and iCloud, Apple’s upcoming cloud services
Unusual for Apple to spell out in advance what a keynote will cover, and particularly to reveal a new product name. (This press release is Apple’s first acknowledgement of the name “iCloud”.) Why? I think to continue setting expectations that there will be no new hardware products announced.
Sparrow 1.2 ★
My thanks to Sparrow for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Sparrow is the first truly new attempt at a desktop Mac email client to ship in a long time. It’s elegant and fast, and improving quickly. Version 1.2, which shipped just this week, adds:
- Unified Inbox
- Facebook profiles picture integration
- Rich text signatures
- Gravatar support
- Translation in 8 languages
Check it out and see for yourself. Sparrow is available right now on the Mac App Store for just $9.99.
The Talk Show, Episode 44 ★
Everyone wants to know, “Where’s the James Bond stuff in this week’s episode?” Look, we’re going to talk about A View to a Kill, but next week, not this week. Can’t tell you why, but if I could, I’d explain that it’s all Dan’s fault. But I can’t.
This week’s topics do include the new Barnes & Noble Nook and text editor fonts for programmers. (Hello, ladies.) Brought to you by two fine sponsors: Harvest and Sound Studio 4.
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore Shows Off Windows Phone Mango ★
Citi Analyst Claims HTC Pays Microsoft $5 Per Android Phone ★
Microsoft gets $5 for every HTC phone running Android, according
to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, who released a big report on
Microsoft this morning. Microsoft is getting that money thanks to
a patent settlement with HTC over intellectual property
Microsoft is suing other Android phone makers, and it’s looking
for $7.50 to $12.50 per device, says Pritchard.
Horace Dediu took this, did the math based on how many Android phones HTC has sold, and figured out that Microsoft has made five times more money from Android than from Windows Phone 7.
The Asymco Unweighted Global Mobile Phone Vendor Share Index ★
I’ve gone over this many times. What matters when talking about market share in the mobile phone market? Share of all phones? Share of smartphones? Revenue? Profit? I love this idea from Horace Dediu, that creates an index using all four criteria.
PayPal Files Lawsuit Over Google Wallet ★
We spend a lot of time and energy creating the things that make
PayPal unique and a preferred way to pay for almost 100 million
people around the world. We treat PayPal’s “secrets”
seriously, and take it personally when someone else doesn’t. So
we made a decision today. We filed a lawsuit against Google and
two former colleagues who now work there, Osama Bedier and
Something Newsworthy at WWDC Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Hardware ★
A source tells us that Apple’s UK iPhone PR team is approaching
journalists from major publications to fly out to the event in San
Francisco next month. The obvious conclusion would be that Apple
is announcing a new iPhone. Or rather, an updated model.
My spidey sense says it’s true that Apple PR is spreading word that it’ll be worth it for journalists to attend the WWDC keynote. Something is up. I truly have no idea what, though. And I think it’s far from an “obvious conclusion” that the only such announcement could be a new iPhone. Again — Apple spread word just two months ago that WWDC wasn’t going to be used to introduce new hardware. It’s possible, of course, that they did that as deliberate misdirection, but in my experience Apple doesn’t work that way.
Simplest explanation: Apple thinks the new stuff in iOS 5 is so good it’s newsworthy on its own.
Google Wallet ★
Ambitious NFC-based plan to replace just about anything in your wallet — credit cards, drivers license, retailer discount cards — with digital versions stored on your Android phone. But even by Google’s standards, this announcement seems very early. It’s “coming soon” to two cities (New York and San Francisco), on one phone (Nexus S 4G) on one carrier (Sprint).
I can’t help but wonder whether Google wanted to announce this ahead of any possible NFC-related announcement from Apple at WWDC. Everyone knows Apple is working on this stuff, but I have no idea whether they’re ready to announce anything. But, presuming that Apple is working with some of the same retailers and banks, Google might know.
But, Apple clearly spread word back in March that there wouldn’t be any new hardware coming at WWDC, and Apple would need to announce a new NFC-capable iPhone in order to announce an NFC payment service. So maybe Google is way out in front of Apple on this.
Ryan Block: ‘It’s Time for Bill Gates to Come Back to Microsoft’ ★
I’ve long seen it as a foregone conclusion that Ballmer isn’t the
guy to be running what was until quite recently the world’s
preeminent technology company. I don’t think many would shed a
tear if Microsoft’s board put to an end what I like to call
Ballmer’s “reign of error”, but the more pressing question is: who
should replace him?
I think we all know damn well who — but I’m not so sure he’s
“Who should — or even could — succeed Ballmer?” is indeed a good question. Most of the internal candidates have been run out of the company recently: Ray Ozzie, Robbie Bach, J Allard. I don’t think Microsoft would hire an outsider — if Ballmer does leave, they’ll play it as a planned transition, not a shitcanning.
Sure would be dramatic for Gates to return. I don’t think he wants the gig, though.
This Is a First-Launch Experience of a Popular Highly-Rated Camera App on Android ★
I’ve long been opposed to Yes/No buttons in dialog boxes — button names should be verbs, and can always be better than Yes/No. But this one takes the cake, because it’s a negation.
Urban Outfitters Rips Off Another Indie Artist ★
Amazon Launches ‘Mac Downloads’ Store ★
Have to say, I didn’t see this coming. Notable among the titles Amazon has but Apple’s Mac App Store does not is Microsoft Office.
Interesting too, in the context of Apple’s legal pursuit of a trademark for the term “app store”, is that Amazon went with “downloads store” rather than the closed-up “appstore” they use for their Android store.
NYSE Claims Trademark Infringement Over Images of Its Stock Exchange Floor ★
The New York Stock Exchange now claims that you have to get their
permission (express or implicit) before you use images connected
to the New York Stock Exchange. So if you find a wire photo of the
trading floor and use it to illustrate a story on Wall Street,
you’re violating the NYSE’s trademark because they’ve trademarked
the trading floor itself.
We found this out yesterday when we got a cease and desist letter
from the NYSE based on an article published at TPM back in
Man, talk about bullshit trademark harassment.
Amazon Tries Lady Gaga at $.99 Again ★
Earlier this week, Amazon started selling digital copies of
Lady Gaga’s Born this Way album for a likely loss leading
price of $.99.
Before and After: Joplin, Missouri ★
Dell XPS 15z ★
Looks like something I’ve seen before, but I can’t quite place it.
MacBooks Top All Consumer Reports Laptop Categories ★
If you were wondering how good Apple’s MacBook line of portable
computers are, the answer is simple — they are the top computer
in every category on Consumer Reports.
Yeah, but those Consumer Reports guys are biased in favor of Apple.
Apple: How to Avoid or Remove Mac Defender Malware ★
Like I said, measure twice, cut once.
FDX Reader ★
Niche app for reading Final Draft .fdx screenplay files on the iPad. I’ll bet everyone in Hollywood has a copy of this on their iPad by next week. Really well-done, great attention to detail, and John August — the screenwriter who had the idea for the app — has even put together a downright Lisagorian intro video.
Tall and Narrow ★
Tim Bray on tablet orientation:
As in, portrait not landscape. It’s the way to go. Which is
to say, tablets should be held with the short bits at the top
I agree. For everything except watching video and playing certain games, I prefer to hold my iPad in portrait orientation. One of the things I find curious about Android tablets and the BlackBerry PlayBook is that they’ve all chosen to go 16:9. To me, 16:9 tablets only look right when held in landscape — they look too skinny when held in portrait. Considering all the things they copy from Apple, it seems weird not to copy the iPad’s 4:3 aspect ratio. 16:9 is ideal for video, but 4:3 is a good trade-off for a device intended to be used in portrait much of the time.
Update: Lots of feedback from iPad users who strongly prefer landscape. OK, so let me try again: 4:3 is a good balance for a device that’s meant to be used in either orientation.
Oooooohhhhhhh Yeah ★
Perfect column by Bill Simmons on Randy “Macho Man” Savage:
We look back at the eighties ironically now — everything is much
funnier now then it was then, whether it’s outfits, haircuts,
movie plots, political incorrectness or even a sweeping lack of
self-awareness. Savage tapped into those faults better than
anyone. He was the eighties, for better and worse.
Ballmer’s Latest Acquisition ★
Jean-Louis Gassée makes the case that Microsoft should have acquired Nokia instead of Skype.
Kobo eReader Touch Edition ★
I missed this yesterday, but Kobo unveiled a soon-to-ship $129 touchscreen e-ink reader, too. The video sure makes it look like touch-response latency is pretty poor, though, for things like dragging to scroll around a PDF.
Barnes & Noble’s New Nook: First E-Reader With a Black-and-White E-Ink Touchscreen ★
Barnes & Noble beats Amazon to the e-ink touchscreen punch. I have to say, this looks like a much better device than the Kindle 3. The keyboard and pagination buttons on the Kindle are junky, and the keyboard is a waste of space. Touchscreen is the way to go.
Also: this new Nook is built on top of Android, but that’s just an implementation detail. The entire user experience is from Barnes & Noble. $139, ships June 10.
Update: Apparently Sony has had touchscreen e-ink readers for a while now. So this Nook won’t be the first one, but it might be the first good one.
Full Text of Apple Legal’s Letter to Lodsys ★
Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell:
Therefore, Apple requests that Lodsys immediately withdraw all
notice letters sent to Apple App Makers and cease its false
assertions that the App Makers’ use of licensed Apple
products and services in any way constitute infringement of any
Apple Says Developers Are Licensed for Lodsys Patents ★
Jim Dalrymple reports:
In a letter sent to Lodsys on Monday, Apple asked that the company
withdraw letters sent to app developers demanding they license the
“Apple is undisputedly licensed to these patents and the App
Makers are protected by that license,” wrote Bruce Sewell, Apple
Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
No equivocation there.
Craig Hockenberry on the Lodsys Patent Threat ★
In and of itself, paying half of a percent of our App Store sales
to Lodsys isn’t going to put us out of business. The fear we
have is that this is the first step on a very slippery slope.
He titled his piece “Predators”, but I’d say parasites is the better description.
‘The Zune Strategy’ ★
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, discussing his company’s quarterly results:
Our flagship, Sales Cloud, continued to crush the competition in
the quarter. Microsoft’s desperate strategy of underfunding,
pricing with undifferentiated and highly proprietary products
basically has had the same impact on our business as the Windows
tablet and Zune did against the iPad and iPod. We call Microsoft’s
strategy, “the Zune strategy”.
It’s the concept that they can take a proprietary,
undifferentiated offering at a lower price and somehow make an
impact on a high-value, highly differentiated product that’s loved
by customers. Microsoft has not changed our exceptional win rates
or affected our average selling price with this Zune strategy.
Spot-on critique of everything wrong at Microsoft.
‘The Grapes of Wrath’, Classix Comix Edition ★
“Not a substitute for reading the text or for classroom discussion of the text.”
Giving 110 Percent ★
Matt Warman, reporting for The Telegraph:
HP will emulate its PC market success in the tablet world when it
launches the Touchpad over the summer, the company’s European
head Eric Cador has claimed.
Speaking at a press conference in Cannes, Mr Cador said that “In
the PC world, with fewer ways of differentiating HP’s products
from our competitors, we became number one; in the tablet world
we’re going to become better than number one. We call it number
Just plain number one would do just fine. And until they actually ship, under-promising and over-delivering would be a better strategy. (Or, is “number one plus” just a euphemism for “number two”?)
Charlie Miller on Mac Defender ★
Brian X. Chen:
Should Mac customers install anti-virus software by default like
most Windows customers do? Charlie Miller, a security researcher
who has repeatedly won the annual Pwn2Own hacking contest by
hacking Macs and iPhones, told Wired.com he doesn’t think so.
Miller noted that Microsoft recently pointed out that 1 in 14
downloads on Windows are malicious. And the fact that there is
just one piece of Mac malware being widely discussed illustrates
how rare malware still is on the Mac platform, he said.
Speaking of Charlie Miller, don’t forget his advice on web browser security.
Android Market’s New Movie Rental Service Blocked From Rooted Devices ★
I’m not sure why anyone is surprised by this, but Jerry Hildenbrand of Android Central is:
So now people who root their phones, whether to get rid of the
crap “open” that’s forced down their throats, or to have a current
version of Android, are punished and lumped in with folks who
steal movies. Nice move, Google. That makes me want to buy more of
your products and use more of your services, so I can be treated
like a criminal just because I’m smart enough to get rid of
CityID, or want a safe version of Android on my phone.
Remember The Milk for iPad ★
My thanks to Remember The Milk for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their free iOS app, recently updated with a gesture-rich interface for the iPad inspired by Twitter’s. The app has a bunch of great features, not the least of which is online syncing with Remember The Milk’s website.
The app is free, with a slew of extra goodies for users with Pro accounts. Check out Remember The Milk for iPad on the App Store.
Last Chance to Order for This Batch of DF T-Shirts ★
Today’s the last day I’m taking orders for this round of DF T-shirts, including the popular new gray-on-black jobby:
They won’t be available again until the end of the year. Thanks to everyone who’s ordered already.
WSJ: Google Was Warned on Rogue Drug Ads ★
Thomas Catan and Amir Efrati, reporting for the WSJ:
Google Inc. was warned repeatedly by a group of state
regulators and industry watchdogs that many of the online
drugstores advertising on its network were violating U.S. laws,
according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Wall
Street Journal. […]
As part of the criminal investigation, undercover agents for the
Food and Drug Administration contacted Google posing as
representatives from rogue Internet pharmacies, according to
people familiar with the matter.
Hall of Fame Claim Chowder ★
Arne Alsin for The Street, back in October 2001:
To survive, Apple has to convince Windows users to migrate to the
Mac platform. But since Apple is not competitive on either price
or applications, there is no compelling reason for users to
switch. The game is effectively over. Dell, IBM and Hewlett
Packard have a stranglehold on the PC industry that is secure,
with Dell’s build-to-order model the clear winner over the long
Apple’s story now is fodder for business historians — don’t make
it fodder for your portfolio.
Best part: his disclaimer says he was, at the time of writing, long on Circuit City.
Ars Technica Investigates the State of Malware on the Mac ★
Excellent reporting from Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica, with interviews from 14 Mac support specialists. The bottom line: there’s an uptick because of Mac Defender, but it’s far from an epidemic. They have a screenshot from an internal Apple memo instructing AppleCare and Genius Bar representatives not to attempt to remove Mac Defender from affected machines, nor to confirm or deny that it’s been installed.
This paragraph, however, quoting an anonymous Genius Bar rep named “Lenny”, is bizarre (bold emphasis mine):
Lenny went on. “This always sparks a debate at the bar on whether
antivirus software is necessary on the Mac. This is difficult, as
the store sells several antivirus products implying that Apple
supports the idea, but as many customers point out, the sales guys
aren’t shy in making the claims for Mac OS X’s security.
Internally, Apple’s [IT] department mandates the use of Norton
Antivirus on company machines.”
This may be true for any Apple-owned machines running Windows, but it is not true for machines running any version of Mac OS X. I asked several Apple engineers whether any antivirus software was mandated or even recommended for Mac OS X, internally. All said no. Said one, “You couldn’t get me to install Norton on OS X if you slipped me the date rape drug.”
Update: Two updates from Cheng on the “Norton mandate” point suggest that Norton Antivirus has long been part of Apple’s default software image for in-store demo machines, but that not all stores keep it installed.
EFF: Apple Should Stand Up and Defend Its Developers ★
Julie Samuels, for the EFF:
We hope that going forward companies like Apple will do what’s
right and stand up for their developers and help teach the patent
trolls a lesson.
The Talk Show, Episode 43 ★
Topics on the show this week: Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, the HP Veer and WebOS, and the underestimated competitive value of Apple’s retail stores. Brought to you by Rackspace and Shopify.
Shifting Sand ★
Microsoft slips to third in the list of highest market caps in the tech industry — behind, of all companies, IBM.
Hype 1.0 ★
Brand-new keyframe-based animation and interactive content creation tool for Mac OS X — with pure HTML5 output. Fire up their gallery of examples on your iPad or iPhone and get a glimpse of the future.
Macho Man Randy Savage Dies in Car Accident ★
One of the greats.
Here’s his classic match against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at Wrestlemania III in 1987.
‘And That’s How the Look of the Droogs Came; Because I Had My Cricket Stuff in the Back of My Car.’ ★
Hunter Daniels talks to Malcolm McDowell and Leon Vitali on the 40th anniversary of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
High School Fuckup Now in Charge of Checking Airport Luggage for Explosives ★
According to airport sources, Tibbets, who once tried to punch his
11th-grade English teacher, was given the bag-searching job in
December after TSA personnel deemed him the sharpest man on the
metal detector team.
‘I Don’t Take a Piss Without Getting Paid for It’ ★
Harlan Ellison, on getting paid. (Via Coudal.)
Kindle Claim Chowder for Yours Truly ★
Me, back in November 2007:
After chewing it over all day, I’ve concluded that Amazon’s
Kindle is going to flop. Or at least I hope it does.
What it comes down to is that when you purchase books in
Kindle’s e-book format, they’re wrapped in DRM and are in a
format that no other software can read. There are no provisions
for sharing books even with other Kindle owners, let alone with
They’ve added some sharing features, but right now it looks like the future of e-books involves proprietary DRM. One thing I did not foresee was Amazon expanding the “Kindle” to be a software platform across numerous hardware devices, like the iPad and iPhone.
And, truth be told, I buy a lot of Kindle books.
Dan Frakes on TapeDeck 1.4 ★
Nice review of a great app.
Lawsuit Claims AT&T Overcharges iPhone Data Users Up to 300% ★
One lawyer compared the AT&T charges to a rigged gas pump where
you pay for a gallon of gas and only get 9/10 of a gallon.
AT&T says the charges are “without merit” and says customers
misunderstand how data is charged.
It’s true. Every month my iPhone bill from AT&T contains dozens of small charges I don’t understand.
Amazon Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Print Books ★
By July 2010, Kindle book sales had surpassed hardcover book
sales, and six months later, Kindle books overtook paperback books
to become the most popular format on Amazon.com. Today, less than
four years after introducing Kindle books, Amazon.com customers
are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books —
hardcover and paperback — combined.
Man Eats 25,000th Big Mac ★
Dan Gorske has eaten 25,000 Big Macs over 39 years — close to two per day, every day. My first thought when I heard about him was that he must be either an idiot or an asshole. But now I think not. I think maybe he’s a lucky man — someone who found the perfect food to suit his taste, an obsessive who never tires of it, and it happens to be cheap and readily available almost everywhere in the world.
Markdown Is the New Word 5.1 ★
All you need is a good text editor. Really. That’s all.
The Life of a TV Weatherman ★
Philly TV weatherman John Bolaris took a vacation to Miami Beach last year:
It was days before Bolaris figured out that the women had slipped
him a roofie, the infamous date-rape drug. “Then I woke up in a
taxi. My shirt was stained with red wine, and I had this huge
painting of a woman’s head.”
He tracked down Marina and Anna, who said he had bid for the
painting at the fundraiser. They met him at his hotel - ostensibly
to return his sunglasses, which they had taken by accident - and
promised to straighten the whole thing out, if only Bolaris would
share a cab with them to the Caviar Bar, where one of the women
said she left her purse. Bolaris obliged. Then he was drugged
again, according to the FBI.
“They got me twice,” he said. “I couldn’t put anything together. I
had no idea what happened.”
A few days later, Bolaris said, he got a phone call from American
Express. The company asked about the $43,000 he had just spent on
booze and caviar in South Beach.
Anyway, WWDC starts two weeks from Monday.
Keys to the Cloud Castle ★
Terrific piece on Dropbox security and privacy by Glenn Fleishman for The Economist.
Why Isn’t Google Chrome a Part of Android? ★
During a panel with a bunch of engineers on the Chrome team, it
was one of the first questions asked. The response? “It’s not
something we’re talking about right now.” Ouch.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” the engineer
Another team member, probably realizing those answers sounded both
cryptic and harsh, chimed in. “The important thing at the end of
the day is to make browsers better. While it’s not strictly
Chrome, we share a lot of code with the Android team. We’ll
share more over time.” Okay, that’s better. Still, a bit odd.
Like I wrote after Google I/O’s day two keynote, “Chrome feels like Google’s natural platform — all web, only the web. Android feels like an independent Google subsidiary.” Think about it that way and the inherent conflict between Chrome OS and Android starts to seem merely curious, not problematic.
Daring Fireball T-Shirts Now Available ★
In case you missed the announcement last week, DF t-shirts are now available.
I don’t keep a large number of shirts in stock — what I do is take orders for a week or so, and then do a print run just to cover the number of shirts that were ordered. I’ll keep the shirts on sale through the end of this week, but come Friday, the order form will come down. In other words, if you want one, order now.
New in this round of shirts: a black tee with gray logo. All orders will ship at the end of May or first week of June.
Who Is Acorn For? ★
Acorn isn’t Photoshop. I have no desire to turn Acorn into any
sort of Photoshop clone. Acorn opens up PSD files, borrows many
keyboard shortcuts and ideas from Photoshop (just as Photoshop
borrowed from MacPaint), but Photoshop is not Acorn’s future.
This upsets some people. I know this because I get the angry
emails. This makes some people very happy. I know, because I get
the love letters.
Steven Wittens rethinks the Unix terminal interface and interaction model. Ambitious, to say the least.
Q: Will Twitter’s own applications also go through the OAuth web
A: We’re taking this step to give more clarity and control to
users about the access a third-party application has to their
account. The way users interact with Twitter’s clients is not
expected to change.
Ed Bott on the ‘Mac Defender’ Trojan Horse Scam ★
Bott quotes an anonymous AppleCare support rep that the Mac Defender scam is a growing problem, and here links to a bunch of threads on Apple’s support forum from affected users. Trojans aren’t a new problem on Mac OS X — trick a user into installing an app with admin privileges and the game’s over. Mac Defender isn’t an indication that Mac users need anti-malware software — in fact, the reason it appears to be succeeding is that it preys on uninformed users’ belief that they might need anti-malware software.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s take it as a given that this sort of thing is becoming more common. What can Apple do? Think about it. (My guess: think about why the iPhone and iPad, despite being far more popular than the Mac, have no trojan horses.)
How Does a Socialist Public Servant Pay for $3,000-a-Night Hotel Suites and First-Class Flights? ★
Annie Lowrey reports for Slate on Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lavish lifestyle.
Update: The WSJ reports that Strauss-Kahn paid only $800 a night for the hotel suite, despite its $3,000/night posted rate.
Facebook Awarded Patents for Tagging in Photos ★
Kim-Mai Cutler, Inside Facebook:
Tagging was arguably the feature that made Facebook the biggest
photo site in the world and seeded the idea for creating the
Now the company has finally won a patent for it.
More bad patent news.
Google Rolling Out Server-Side Fix to Android Authentication Flaw ★
Today we’re starting to roll out a fix which addresses a potential
security flaw that could, under certain circumstances, allow a
third party access to data available in calendar and contacts.
This fix requires no action from users and will roll out globally
over the next few days.
It hadn’t occurred to me that they could fix this server-side. This means users won’t have to wait for any sort of software update on their devices, and takes all the piss and vinegar out of my snark yesterday.
Guests Say Goodbye as Sahara Goes Dark ★
Nice bit of writing by John Katsilometes in Vegas to mark the closing of the Sahara.
Don’t miss the archive photo gallery.
The Most Important Page on Flickr ★
Timoni West, on the shortcomings of Flickr’s UI for showing you new photos from your friends:
And remember, these are just the biggest problems. The page
fails on a fundamental level—it’s supposed to be where you
find out what’s happened on Flickr while you were away. The
current design, unfortunately, encourages random clicking, not
I agree with Buzz Andersen: this is why I’m using Flickr less over time.
Finder Complaint No. 4,256 ★
Preston de Guise is annoyed, rightly, that the Finder calls his iDisk volume “iDisk” in the source list sidebar, but names the volume by his MobileMe account name on the desktop (and in the Finder’s top-level “Computer” view).
Audience Chip Responsible for iPhone 4’s Noise Cancellation ★
Nice detective work from iFixit and Chipworks.
Looks a lot like the native Twitter iOS app, but in practice falls far short. Scrolling is not quite right, and many of the animations flicker. I know of at least seven native iPhone apps that offer a far superior experience (Tweetbot, Twitter, Twitterrific, Weet, Tweetlogix, Osfoora, and Echofon, roughly in order of my personal preference). But this might be better than any native Android Twitter client I’ve seen.
(Alas, this new interface doesn’t seem to be available on WebOS. Not sure why.)
Interactive Exploration of a Dynamical System ★
Speaking of data visualization, this video shows some amazing work by Bret Victor for exploring systems of differential equations. Much more along the same lines on Victor’s “Kill Math” website. (Via Mike Matas.)
HP Beats Estimates but Reports Weak Consumer PC Sales ★
HP beats estimates but reports weak consumer PC sales. Leo
Apotheker, who took over as chief executive in October after
former boss Mark Hurd was fired in an ethics scandal, said, “The
steepness of our Q2 decline (in consumer PC sales) is greater than
He said HP saw uneven consumer performance across its product
categories during the quarter and continued softness in consumer
PCs across all geographies. That makes you wonder if strong sales
of iPads and other tablets are hurting HP. HP’s personal systems
group sales fell 5 percent, while consumer PC sales fell 23
The stock took a beating on this news.
As for where HP is headed with PCs, PCWorld reports:
Hewlett-Packard considered using Intel’s Thunderbolt interconnect
in new desktop PCs announced Monday, but is sticking with USB 3.0
because of wider support, a company official said.
“We did look at [Thunderbolt]. We’re still looking into it.
Haven’t found a value proposition yet,” said Xavier Lauwaert,
worldwide marketing manager for desktops at HP.
Which means they’re betting against Apple.
‘Above All Else, Always Show Comparisons’ ★
Joshua Yaffa profiles Edward Tufte for Washington Monthly:
Edward Tufte occupies a revered and solitary place in the world of
graphic design. Over the last three decades, he has become a kind
of oracle in the growing field of data visualization—the
practice of taking the sprawling, messy universe of information
that makes up the quantitative backbone of everyday life and
turning it into an understandable story. His four books on the
subject have sold almost two million copies, and in his crusade
against euphemism and gloss, he casts a shadow over the world of
graphs and charts similar to the specter of George Orwell over
essay and argument.
Dropbox Changes Description of How Files Are Encrypted ★
Ryan Singel, reporting for Wired’s Threat Level on an FTC complaint against Dropbox by Christopher Soghoian (yes, him again):
Up until April 13, the site promised this:
Dropbox employees aren’t able to access user files, and when
troubleshooting an account, they only have access to file metadata
(filenames, file sizes, etc. not the file contents).
Now the site says:
Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files
you store in your Dropbox account, and are only permitted to view
file metadata (e.g., file names and locations).
This won’t keep me from using Dropbox, but there’s a big difference between Dropbox’s original and current descriptions regarding how their encryption works.
Fantastical 1.0 ★
New $15 (introductory price through June 1) calendaring app for the Mac, from Flexibits. I’ve been beta-testing it for a few months, and I’m impressed. Fantastical’s primary innovation is its natural language parser for event creation — you type something like “Yanks-Rays tonight at 6:40” and Fantastical not only parses that into a new event, but, using some very clever animation and design work, shows you what it thinks you mean before you hit return to actually create the new event. Watch their screencast to see what I mean.
Four years ago I wrote a piece called “Deal With It”, about how some UIs feel like going uphill and some feel like going downhill. An uphill UI feels like you’re fighting against the app; a downhill UI makes it feel like the app is helping you along. The example I chose to illustrate my point was event creation in iCal (uphill, and steep) vs. 37signals’s Backpack (downhill). Fantastical is an even better downhill UI for event creation.
One more point: Fantastical also provides a terrific list of events coming soon on your schedule. It’s now my primary calendaring app.
FOSS Patents: What App Developers Need to Know About Lodsys and the In-App Upgrade Button Patent Problem ★
Outstanding analysis by Florian Mueller. Must-read if you’re at all interested in this Lodsys patent claim on in-app purchases.
The War on Drugs v. the Constitution ★
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a lonely 8-1 dissent:
How “secure” do our homes remain if police, armed with no
warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds
indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for
evidence of unlawful activity?
As Scott Lemieux writes, “The War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs, however, is where the Bill of Rights goes to die.” (Via Kevin Drum.)
Android Leaking Authentication Tokens in Clear Text ★
Bastian Könings, Jens Nickels, and Florian Schaub, security researchers at the University of Ulm:
We tested this attack with Android versions 2.1 (Nexus One), 2.2
(HTC Desire, Nexus One), 2.2.1 (HTC Incredible S), 2.3.3 (Nexus
One), 2.3.4 (HTC Desire, Nexus One), and 3.0 (Motorola XOOM) and
with the native Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Gallery apps
(or respective synchronization services).
Until Android 2.3.3 the Calendar and Contacts apps transmit any
request in the clear via http and are therefore vulnerable to the
authToken attack. This affects 99.7% of all Android smartphones
(stats from 2nd of May 2011). Since Android 2.3 the Gallery app
provides Picasa Web Albums synchronization which is also not
Since Android 2.3.4, the Calendar and Contacts apps are using a
secure https connection. However, the Picasa synchronization is
still using http and thus is still vulnerable.
Our sniffed authTokens were valid for several days (14 days for a
sniffed Calendar authToken), which enables adversaries to
comfortably capture and make use of tokens at different times and
I’m sure most Android handsets will be updated to version 2.3.4 or later very soon, so no worries.
Shine 1.0 ★
Simple, fast, good-looking weather app for the iPhone by AppThat. I’m trying Shine out on my first home screen, replacing Apple’s built-in Weather app. 99 cents (cheap!) on the App Store.
How Good Is Google’s Instant Mix? ★
Paul Lamere tests the algorithmic playlist generators from iTunes, Echo Nest, and the new Google Music. I like his metric, the “WTF Test”:
Evaluating playlists is hard. However, there is something that we
can do that is fairly easy to give us an idea of how well a
playlisting engine works compared to others. I call it the WTF
test. It is really quite simple. You generate a playlist, and just
count the number of head-scratchers in the list. If you look at a
song in a playlist and say to yourself ‘How the heck did this
song get in this playlist’ you bump the counter for the
playlist. The higher the WTF count the worse the playlist. As a
first order quality metric, I really like the WTF Test. It is easy
to apply, and focuses on a critical aspect of playlist quality. If
a playlist is filled with jarring transitions, leaving the
listener with iPod whiplash as they are jerked through songs of
vastly different styles, it is a bad playlist.
Spoiler: Google’s Instant Mix did terribly on these tests. I’ll play devil’s advocate and say that maybe this is the sort of thing that needs more time and more users to get the algorithm and song database tuned.
Dr. Drang’s TextExpander Sparktweet Snippet ★
Whether you think sparktweets are a good idea or not, this is worth reading just to get your head wrapped around the cool things you can do with text-filtering scripts and TextExpander. Shame about the baseline rendering problems with certain of these glyphs, though.
Cringely on Microsoft’s Purchase of Skype ★
Microsoft bought Skype to keep Google from buying Skype.
Notice I didn’t mention Apple. In terms of being the baddest
MoFo in the market Apple has no peer, but Apple is following its
own very different course. Apple isn’t the next Microsoft, you
see. Apple is not the next anything because the role it aspires to
transcends anything imaginable by Microsoft, ever. Google is the
next Microsoft, so Google is seen by Ballmer as the immediate
threat — the one he has a hope in hell of actually doing
This is Cringely at his best. I think he’s nailed something true: Ballmer doesn’t now and never has understood Apple. He doesn’t understand what Apple does, what it aspires to, or what consumers see that’s so appealing about Apple’s products. But he understands Google, including the ways that Google’s products threaten Microsoft’s.
Remember when Ballmer made a fool of himself in 2007 by laughing about the iPhone’s prospects? That’s because he didn’t get it. It wasn’t just bluster or spin — I think he truly believed that “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” I don’t recall him ever exhibiting a similar blind spot regarding Google. That’s not to say he knows what to do about Google, just that he at least understands it.
iPhone’s Share of the Entire Mobile Phone Market in Q1 ★
Horace Dediu crunches the numbers, and concludes that the iPhone accounts for 5 percent of handset units sold, 20 percent of the industry revenue, and 55 percent of the profits.
NBA Team President Rick Welts Comes Out as Gay ★
Dan Barry, for the NYT:
“This is one of the last industries where the subject is off
limits,” said Mr. Welts, who stands now as a true rarity, a man
prominently employed in professional men’s team sports, willing
to declare his homosexuality. “Nobody’s comfortable in
engaging in a conversation.”
How long, I wonder, until the first active player comes out?
Lodsys Patent Troll Mark Small Sets Up Blog to Explain Himself ★
He claims Lodsys is asking for 0.575 percent of in-app purchasing revenue, and that Apple (along with Microsoft and Google) have already licensed the patent in question, but that their license doesn’t extend to third-party developers. We’ll see whether this pans out. (Via Lex Friedman at Macworld.)
Instapaper-Like Feature Coming to Safari and iOS 5? ★
If it’s called “Reading List” and syncs URLs between devices, that’s my guess as to what it is. More here from MacRumors, and Marco Arment’s thoughts on it.
Now Available in Black ★
VMware Fusion 3 ★
My thanks to VMware for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. VMware Fusion 3 is the best way to run Windows on a Mac without rebooting. Highlights of version 3.1 include:
It’s the first virtualization software that supports the full Windows 7 experience, including Windows Aero and Flip 3D.
Launch Windows apps from an applications menu even when VMware isn’t already running.
Run Windows apps alongside your Mac apps.
A PC migration assistant to move stuff from your PC to your Mac.
If you use a Mac but need Windows, you’re nuts if you don’t check out VMWare Fusion.
Delivereads: Curated Content for Your Kindle ★
New from Internet superhero Dave Pell, Delivereads:
Get great articles delivered to your Kindle without any extra effort.
I’ve been beta-testing the service, and it’s great. Easy to set up, and the pace of delivery is perfect — occasional, but regular.
The Rise of Apple, RIM, and HTC Among Phone-Makers ★
Another great piece by Horace Dediu:
If you look at the league table, RIM, HTC and Apple were at the
bottom three years ago and now they are either in the top or the
middle. RIM in particular deserves credit for reaching the fourth
spot and staying there. HTC also has shown a late surge to fifth
passing LG, Motorola and Sony Ericsson in the process.
Combined, these vendors went from taking in about one dollar in 20
(6%) in Q2 2007 to nearly half the money (46%) in Q1 2011.
This chart, in particular, I find interesting.
Marco Arment on the New iMacs’ Reliance Upon Apple-Branded Hard Drives ★
I agree with Marco on this. OWC’s reporting on the technical aspects is interesting, and I can see how a company like OWC wants iMacs to have user-replaceable commodity hard drives, and I can see how technical-minded users would want the same thing, but that’s not what the iMac is.
Update: Think of it this way. The new iMacs’ hard drives are like the batteries in iPods and iPhones. Traditionally user-serviceable, and user-serviceable in most products in the same category. But if Apple thinks the advantages of a proprietary non-user-serviceable part outweigh the disadvantages, they’re going to do it. It’s that simple. People should know this before buying a new iMac. But it’s silly and fruitless to complain that Apple is somehow acting out of spite.
PCalc 2.4 for iOS ★
Long-time Mac developer James Thomson, developer of DragThing and PCalc, is one of the indies who’s been threatened by this in-app purchasing patent litigation. This patent thing is a shit deal for guys like James. He’s just one guy, designing and programming apps, supporting his customers. Lodsys is a company whose business is litigating patent lawsuits and extorting licensing fees. No matter what you think of their patent, on its merits, this sort of notice is a frightening and disheartening thing for a small business to receive.
I’ve known James for many years, and he’s a great guy with a ton of friends in the Mac and iOS developer community. And I’ve raved about PCalc many times before — it’s my favorite calculator app for iOS, hands-down. Let’s turn a bad day into a good one for him with a lot of sales of PCalc (and downloads of the free PCalc Lite, which also was updated today.)
Mat Honan on Lodsys ★
So what is Lodsys, and what’s its game? It appears to simply be
in the business of licensing patents which it purchased from
We were unable to reach Lodsys, but reached Abelow by phone. He
noted he had sold his patents years ago, and was unaware of this
morning’s news. But that he isn’t completely surprised. “Those
patents are from the 1990s,” he said. “It isn’t surprising that
methods of communicating with a server would become more useful
over time. As a result they have become increasingly valuable.”
(Abelow did not know the exact patent off the top of his head, but
the patent in question appears to be number 7222078, based on
So it would appear that the object of our scorn is Mark Small (as per the Lodsys website), not Abelow.
Lodsys, LLC ★
Love the inspirational quotes from Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.
Rock and a Hard Place ★
Interesting analysis by Adam Engst regarding Lodsys’s threatened patent litigation against App Store developers:
So what it comes down to is that Thomson, McCarron, and other iOS
developers are being threatened by Lodsys for using Apple
intellectual property under license from Apple, in such a fashion
that they cannot even settle without violating the iOS Developer
Program License Agreement. They can’t legally agree that
Apple’s In App Purchase API violates Lodsys’s patents, and no
matter what, there’s no way Apple would give permission for such
a settlement due to the chilling effect it would have on iOS
development in general.
Patent Troll Lodsys Threatens Small Indie iOS Developers Over In-App Purchasing ★
Here’s what Computer LogicX developer Rob Gloess told MacRumors, regarding a threatened patent lawsuit they received from a company named Lodsys:
Our app, Mix & Mash, has the common model of a limited free, lite,
version and a full version that contains all the features. We were
told that the button that users click on to upgrade the app, or
rather link to the full version on the app store was in breach of
US patent no 7222078, we couldn’t believe it, the upgrade
More coverage here, at GigaOm. This is extortion, pure and simple. These jerks at Lodsys are going after small developers — in some cases, one-man operations — because they know how expensive and time-consuming it would be to fight this legally.
‘Microsoft Needs a Swift Kick in the Ass.’ ★
Ben Brooks makes the case that Microsoft should fire Steve Ballmer.
I agree — and even talked about this a few days ago on this week’s The Talk Show — but I don’t think it’s going to happen. My guess is that it’s a pride thing. Gates controls the board, and Ballmer is Gates’s man. Acknowledging that Ballmer is a failure as CEO would amount to a tacit acknowledgement that Gates has failed as well. And so a once great company withers on the vine, milking (admittedly massive) profits from the same two products as they did a decade ago: Windows and Office.
The ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Jokes Continue to Write Themselves ★
Thomas Catan and Amir Efrati, reporting for the WSJ:
Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation
into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by
accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws,
according to people familiar with the matter.
The Internet company disclosed in a cryptic regulatory filing
earlier this week that it was setting aside $500 million to
potentially resolve a case with the Justice Department. A payment
of that size would be among the highest penalties paid by
companies in disputes with the U.S. government.
Google gave few details in its filing about the probe, saying only
that it involved “the use of Google advertising by certain
Here’s another weird thing about their SEC filing: Google is applying the $500 million charge not to this quarter, but to the quarter that ended back on March 31, which they reported a month ago.
Fun With Charts: Making the Rich Look Collectively Poor ★
Same data, two different ways of presenting it, two different stories.
Update: To be clear, I don’t think either of these charts are an effective way to convey this information, although I do think the WSJ’s original version is particularly contorted, so as to make it seems as though the wealthy don’t earn that much collectively. Here’s another take on the same data, same basic chart format, from Gregg Hilferding. None of these charts are wrong or dishonest — they accurately show the data they claim to. What’s interesting here, to me, is thinking about how these different versions can make the same data look very different.
Netflix App Released for Android, Limited to Five Specific Handsets ★
Mike Isaac, Wired Epicenter:
As of today, four HTC model phones (the Incredible, EVO 4G, G2,
Nexus One) and the Samsung Nexus S are the only devices capable of
running the app.
Anyone have a reasonable estimate of what percentage of Android handsets in use those five models account for?
If You Bundle It, You Own It ★
Gregg Keizer, Computerworld:
Several Google security engineers have countered claims that a
French security company found a vulnerability in Chrome that could
let attackers hijack Windows PCs running the company’s browser.
Instead, those engineers said the bug Vupen exploited to hack
Chrome was in Adobe’s Flash, which Google has bundled with the
browser for over a year.
The bug may not be in Google’s code, but so long as Chrome includes Flash as a bundled (and enabled by default) component, Flash is a part of Chrome. (Via Slashdot, and headline quip from commenter “manonthemoon”.)
Frank Sinatra Slang ★
This list is a gas:
Rain — As in “I think it’s going to rain” indicating that it is
time to leave a dull gathering or party.
Ring-a-ding — A term of approval for a beautiful girl, viz “What
a ring-a-ding broad!”
(Via big-leaguer Paul Ford.)
How Google Controls Android: Digging Deep Into the Skyhook Filings ★
Extraordinary reporting by Nilay Patel on the contents of 750 pages of documentation and email unsealed by the court in Skyhook Wireless’s lawsuit against Google.
Here’s the biggie: in order for a specific device to get a
license for the apps, it must pass the Android Compatibility Test
Suite and meet the Android Compatibility Definition. How Google
exactly determines what passes the test is really the core issue
in this case — Skyhook claims Google uses the threat of
incompatibility to act anti-competitively.
Interestingly, the license allows Google to change the applicable
Compatibility Test Suite and Android Compatibility Definition at
will up until the time a device is certified for launch… by
passing the CTS. So basically there’s nothing keeping Google
from changing the CTS or ACD any way it wants in order to keep a
particular device off the market.
Grab a beverage, kick back, and read the whole thing. It’s worth it.
Blogging Worst Practices: Obscuring the Source Link ★
Jason Snell points to this Engadget post, which is entirely based on this source material from Consumer Reports, but which Engadget only links to at the very end, using black text with no underline, obscuring that it’s even a link unless you hover over the text. Dirtbag move.
Update:: They’ve changed the link color.
Facebook Busted in Clumsy Smear Attempt on Google ★
For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon
Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top
public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers,
urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading
people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential
blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could
place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The
Huffington Post. […]
But who was the mysterious unnamed client? While fingers pointed
at Apple and Microsoft, The Daily Beast discovered that it’s a
company nobody suspected — Facebook.
Not sure why no one would suspect Facebook. This seems utterly in character for Facebook.
(Side note: You may recall the blogger in question, Chris Soghoian, from when he was linked here at DF back in 2006 for his clever airport boarding pass security hack. And he’s the nephew of AppleScript godfather Sal Soghoian.)
37signals Interviews Newsvine’s Mike Davidson ★
Inside the news business:
It’s tough to tell what things would be like if we hadn’t
sold. It’s really, really hard to make a living in the general
online news business without massive scale. Even at 4 or 5 million
users, that’s not massive scale. Msnbc.com is highly profitable
at 40 or 50 million uniques, but if you cut that in half, they
probably wouldn’t be profitable at all. So for a startup in a
low margin business, you have to decide eventually whether you
want to go it alone or have a partner.
How Bin Laden Emailed Without Being Detected ★
Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, reporting for the AP:
Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no
phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on
his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a
thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a
trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.
At that location, the courier would plug the memory drive into a
computer, copy bin Laden’s message into an email and send it.
Reversing the process, the courier would copy any incoming email
to the flash drive and return to the compound, where bin Laden
would read his messages offline.
The Talk Show, Episode 42 ★
This week on the only podcast dedicated to organic insect repellants, Dan Benjamin and I discuss the iOS e-book market (and those iFlow guys making a stink about it), Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, the news from Google I/O, and the second-best James Bond movie released in 1983, Octopussy.
Brought to you by two excellent sponsors: OmniFocus and FreshBooks.
Apple Needs to Press Play on Game Center ★
Dan Moren on Game Center:
Online play is all about socializing, and that’s an area where
Apple hasn’t exactly torn up the playing field. Adding friends
on Game Center is easy enough, but what if some of my friends know
other people I’d like to be friends with? Why can’t I browse
their list of friends?
On this point, though:
Yet it’s frustrating to find that if I jump from playing The
Incident on my iPad to playing it on my iPhone, I’m at a
completely different place in the game. This is one place where
Apple could jump ahead of its competition, by providing an API to
allow games to sync their states wirelessly, tied to their Game
I’d argue (and have argued) that cloud storage and syncing for data ought to be something available to all iOS apps — not just games.
What Could You Buy for $8.5 Billion? ★
For just $7.5 billion, you could have bought Apple — in January 2004. That leaves $1 billion to create your time machine.
Sure, sparktweets are an interesting visual hack that will draw
eyeballs to your update, floating aimlessly in the stream of other
tweets. But as a device to share information, they’re hardly
worth the Unicode they’re printed on.
What Ever Happened to Apple Making FaceTime an ‘Open Industry Standard’? ★
Make no doubt about it, Apple very clearly said they were going to
do this. Steve Jobs himself said so at WWDC 2010, around 1:36:45
on the video:
Now FaceTime is based on a lot of open standards: H.264 video, AAC
audio, and a bunch of alphabet soup acronyms. And we’re going to
take it all away. We’re going to the standards bodies, starting
tomorrow, and we’re going to make FaceTime an open industry
“Starting tomorrow”? Nearly a year later, there’s no
indication this process has started. […]
For what it’s worth, the story I’ve heard is that the FaceTime team at Apple first heard about making it an open standard live during the WWDC keynote itself. So when Jobs said “starting tomorrow”, he meant it literally.
Adam Lashinsky on How Apple Works ★
Highly-promoted feature for Fortune by Adam Lashinsky. Includes some intriguing information about “Apple University”, which started when Apple hired famed Yale business professor Joel Podolny back in 2008.
The text of the article is not available on the website; you can either pay $4.99 to buy the current issue of Fortune in their iPad app, or, buy the article by itself as a Kindle single for just $0.99. It’s worth a buck.
Chromebook Subscription Pricing ★
Could be a big deal for the enterprise market. Certainly isn’t cheap, though — at $28/month for 36 months, it’ll cost more than double the retail price. (The subscription pricing includes service and support, though. It’s an enterprise thing, not a consumer thing.)
Measuring iPhone Progress ★
The one to watch is the iPhone’s share of all phones, not just smartphones. Soon enough all phones will be what we today call smartphones. As Horace Dediu shows, the trend line for the iPhone’s share of all phones is increasing.
Why Publishers Are Finally Saying Yes to Apple ★
Jeff Bercovici on Apple’s opt-in policy for sharing personal subscriber information to publishers:
Initially, publishers were worried, reasonably enough, that users
would overwhelmingly say no. But they don’t. In fact, about 50
percent opt in.
Mark Edmiston, founder of the tablet magazine studio Nomad
Editions, first heard that figure from other publishers, so he ran
it by Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of internet services. Cue
confirmed it. “So, all the sudden, what was an insurmountable
obstacle no longer is,” says Edmiston.
Four Months After Approving NBC Buyout, FCC Commissioner Becomes Comcast Lobbyist ★
Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the two Republican Commissioners at
the Federal Communications Commission, plans to step down — and
right into a top lobbying job at Comcast-NBC.
The news, reported this afternoon by the Wall Street Journal, The
Hill, and Politico, comes after the hugely controversial merger of
Comcast and NBC earlier this year. At the time, Baker objected to
FCC attempts to impose conditions on the deal and argued that the
“complex and significant transaction” could “bring exciting
benefits to consumers that outweigh potential harms.”
Four months after approving the massive transaction, Attwell Baker
will take a top DC lobbying job for the new Comcast-NBC entity,
according to reports.
Outrageous and shameful.
Clever use of Unicode.
Angry Birds for Chrome ★
Largely built, including animation, using HTML5 and actual open web standards, but still dependent upon Flash Player.
Putting the Danger Hardware Team Back Together Again ★
Seth Weintraub, on former hardware designers from Danger joining Google:
Within the last 12 months, Britt and Hershenson quietly joined
Google to run a new wing within Android called Android Hardware.
They tell me they spend their days building things that will turn
into reference designs for Android peripherals. Android Hardware
is exploring everything from home automation to exercise gaming
and robotics. While there are no immediate plans to build
Google-branded Android hardware accessories, Brit indicated that
he would love to see Google introduce some of its own Android
peripherals in the long term. The folks in Cupertino have to be
I’d think the “folks” at HTC, Motorola, and Samsung are the ones who better pay attention.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says ★
The Galactic Empire Times:
In a late-night appearance in the East Room of the Imperial
Palace, Lord Vader declared that “justice has been done” as he
disclosed that agents of the Imperial Army and stormtroopers of
the 501st Legion had finally cornered Kenobi, one of the leaders
of the Jedi rebellion, who had eluded the Empire for nearly two
Google I/O 2011 Live Stream of the Day Two Keynote ★
Yesterday was Android, today is Chrome.
Maybe Apple has some big WebKit-related news planned for WWDC (WebKit 2?), but my impression is that Google has clearly taken the lead in WebKit development.
Update: My other broad impression is that Chrome feels so much more Google-y than Android. Chrome feels like Google’s natural platform — all web, only the web. Android feels like an independent Google subsidiary.
Richard Gaywood on Apple’s Handling of the Open Source iOS WebKit Source Code ★
I think it’s interesting that Google can choose to withhold
BSD-licensed Android source code and be widely pilloried in the
tech press, whilst Apple has been quietly failing to meet the
spirit and possibly the letter of its GPL obligations on iOS
releases for years without anyone raising a stink about it.
That’s easily explained. The way Apple is treating the LGPL WebKit source may well be worse than Google’s withholding of the Android 3.0 source, insofar as Apple seems to be clearly violating the requirements of the license, whereas Google is only violating, let’s call it, say, the spirit of openness. But Google brags, often and repeatedly, about how open it is. And specifically with regard to Android, they attribute the success of the platform to its inherent openness. “Open” is to Android as “magic” is to iOS. So when Google does something that is quite obviously not open — such as, say, withholding the source code to Android 3.0 — it strikes many of us as hypocritical. Whereas no one is the least bit surprised when Apple does something “not open”. Google hypocrisy is interesting; Apple secrecy, not so much.
Conversely, a crummy UI or experience in a new Apple product is more interesting than a crummy UI/experience in a Google product. Apple un-magic is interesting.
Portal 2 Authoring Tools ★
The Portal 2 Authoring Tools include versions of the same tools we
used to make Portal 2. They’ll allow you to create your own
singleplayer and co-op maps, new character skins, 3D models, sound
effects, and music.
Alas, Windows only, though.
Google Music Beta First Look ★
Matthew Lynley calls it “miserable”:
I’ve spent the past few hours trying to navigate my way through
Music Beta and ended up finding new frustrations at nearly every
turn. Music Beta in its current form is far from what we’d
expect from a Google product — it’s a web of confusing
programs without a lot of instruction as to how to actually get to
the music you want to hear.
Google Music Beta to Be Unveiled Tomorrow ★
Greg Sandoval, reporting for CNet:
“We’re launching a beta service called Music Beta by Google that
lets users upload their personal music libraries to their own
account on Google’s servers,” Levine told CNET. Users can “access
those libraries anytime or anywhere from web connected devices”.
Why start talking to the press about this before the keynote address?
Levine said that Android owners will be able to access their
libraries when offline as well.
While the service is still in beta, users will be able to join by
invitation only. Initially, to access the service, users will
require a browser that supports Flash — that means no Apple
devices — or on any Android device that’s version 2.2 or higher,
Levine said. Currently the service will start off in the United
States only and will be free.
Presumably, where by “no Apple devices”, he meant “no iOS devices”. But still, the future of online music is Flash? And still no music store?
WSJ: ‘Microsoft Nears $7 Billion-Plus Deal for Skype’ ★
Anupreeta Das and Nick Wingfield, reporting for the WSJ:
At a value over $7 billion, the Skype deal would rank at or near
the top of the biggest acquisitions in the 36-year history of
Microsoft, a company that traditionally has shied away from large
deals. In 2007, Microsoft paid approximately $6 billion to acquire
online advertising firm aQuantive Inc. Many current and former
Microsoft executives believe Microsoft significantly overpaid for
that deal. But they are also relieved that Microsoft gave up on an
unsolicited $48 billion offer for Yahoo Inc. nearly three years
ago. Yahoo is valued at half that sum today.
Skype for $7B sounds nutty to me. Skype loses money. Everyone agreed Skype wasn’t worth much after eBay took a bath on it a few years ago, at a far lower price than this. What’s changed?
Codifying How Apple Works ★
Apple University was first mentioned in 2008 when Joel Podolny was
hired from running Yale Management School to join Apple in
creating this new “University”. […] But nothing was heard
about Apple University again. Until yesterday.
According to the article in Fortune and some additional details
from another source, Joel Podolny has been building an
understanding of how Apple is run. He’s then been asked to
codify this understanding into a curriculum that can be taught to
Peter Kafka on Condé Nast’s Subscription Deal for the iPad ★
Seems like a good deal for both.
Joining the Club ★
John Lettice, writing for The Register back in 1999:
Further evidence of deterioration of relations between Apple and Microsoft emerged in court yesterday, as Paul Maritz was confronted with a February 1998 email saying that “MacOffice is the perfect club to use on them [Apple]”. Maritz had been on the CC list for this message, sent by Don Bradford to Ben Waldman (head of Microsoft’s Mac development team), but yesterday told the court that he didn’t know what Bradford meant by this, and no, he hadn’t asked him.
Don’t be evil.
How Osama Bin Laden Changed America ★
Speaking of The New Yorker, David Remnick’s piece this week on Bin Laden is the best take I’ve seen.
The New Yorker Adds Subscription Support to Its iPad App ★
At last. My print subscription runs through next year, but I suspect I’ll go digital-only when it expires. More coverage here from Jim Romenesko.
Where Are They Now? Products Announced During Past Google I/O Keynotes ★
The keynotes at Google I/O — Google’s developer conference —
are always filled with such promise. Google TV, Google Wave, music
in the cloud! But the products themselves haven’t always gone on
to meet expectations. With Google I/O 2011 beginning on Tuesday,
here’s a look back at what’s happened with past keynote
The one big hit: Android. The others: not so good.
I’m curious to see whether tomorrow’s keynote has the same confrontational tone regarding Apple as last year’s.
The Sophie Choice ★
Steven Levy on Google’s “Dear Sophie” TV spot.
Update: Fireballed; cached here.
Dribbble is a website where designers can posts “shots”:
Shots are small screenshots (400×300 pixels max) from players to
show what they are working on. Some have called Dribbble “Twitter
for creatives.” Shots are to Dribbble as tweets are to Twitter.
Such a great idea, so well done. My only problem with Dribbble is how much time I can lose to it. Even better: come next month, Dribbble is joining The Deck.
‘We’re Using Compatibility as a Club to Make Them Do Things We Want.’ ★
Steve Lohr, reporting for the NYT:
A stack of internal e-mail messages from Google, which a
Massachusetts state court made public last week, provide a glimpse
into the competitive tactics and decision-making inside a business
that is crucial to the company’s growth — its Android software
for smartphones. […]
Android phones must adhere to a “compatibility” standard
determined by Google. In an e-mail on Aug. 6, 2010, Dan Morrill, a
manager in the Android group, noted in passing that it was obvious
to the phone makers that “we are using compatibility as a club
to make them do things we want.”
See, but it’s an open club.
Verbs — IM App for iPhone ★
Instant messaging app for iPhone with support for Google Talk, AIM, and MobileMe. So much better than AOL’s official AIM client it isn’t even funny. $2.99 cheap.
(My only gripe: I wish the text input field grew vertically as you type longer messages, as in Apple’s Messages app.)
Skype 5 for Mac Security Vulnerability ★
A new version of Skype 5 closes the vulnerability, and Skype 2.8 (with its simpler, superior interface) was unaffected all along.
My thanks to Koku for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Koku is a personal finance app for Mac OS X that lets you track all your financial accounts in one place. Koku looks great and has a slew of features that make it easy to import data and track new transactions, including support for Direct Connect.
Try the free demo version, and use coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL” to save $10 off the regular price of $29.99.
Philip Greenspun Reviews the BlackBerry PlayBook ★
“Not useful as a computer; too light to serve as a doorstop.”
Some Days, My Job Feels So Easy, as the Jokes Just Write Themselves ★
Ian Paul, PCWorld:
The first thing that came to mind when I heard that Apple may seed
OS X 10.7 Lion via the Mac App Store to all users running Snow
Leopard: Windows Vista.
The new Apple OS is due out this summer, but the idea of upgrading
purely through a digital download does not appeal to me and I
think it spells trouble for Apple. Just as Windows users found
going from XP to Vista, an upgrade to Lion may be more of a hassle
than it’s worth.
(Via Jason Snell.)
‘It Just Looks Thicker’ ★
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m not on enough podcasts. Well, you’re in luck, because I was a guest on MacBreak Weekly a few days ago, with Andy Ihnatko, Adam Engst, and Chris Breen.
Apple Hasn’t Yet Released the LGPL WebKit Source Code for iOS 4.3 ★
iOS 4.3.0 was released on March 10, 4.3.1 on March 25, 4.3.2 on
April 14 and 4.3.3 on May 4. For all of those releases, no source
code has been published. […]
I think it is time that Apple gets their act together and becomes
more straight-forward with LGPL compliance. It is not acceptable
to delay the source code release for 8 weeks after shipping a LGPL
‘If You See a Stylus, They Blew It’ ★
The distinguishing feature of the $499 HTC Flyer — HTC’s first Android tablet — is that it has a stylus. Which stylus is not included and costs $80. Good luck with that.
When the Boy Cries Wolf ★
In the story of the Boy That Cried Wolf the village ultimately
paid the price for not being vigilant. The interpretation has
always been to take it as a parable to improve personal behaviour
but what I enjoy most about that tale is that it works both ways
— there are two parties at fault: the attention seeker and those
who took the cognitive shortcut of disregarding what the attention
seeker was saying because they’d been wrong in the past.
The Talk Show, Episode 41 ★
Topics on this week’s “show” include curse words, the White House situation room, the thickness of the white iPhone 4, and Apple’s purportedly imminent “iCloud”. Brought to you by two fine sponsors: Webtrends Analytics 10, and MailChimp.
Osama Bin Laden, Pot Smoker? ★
The Daily Mail:
High-strength marijuana plants have been found just yards from the
luxury home of slain terror chief Osama Bin Laden.
Drank a lot of Coke and Pepsi, apparently, too.
‘Gentlemen, You Can’t Fight in Here! This Is the War Room!’ ★
Historic photo from the White House, posted to Flickr:
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with
members of the national security team, receive an update on the
mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White
House, May 1, 2011.
Worth a Re-Link: Michael Mace on What’s Really Wrong With RIM ★
Michael Mace, back in October:
I looked at everything from videogame companies to the early PC
pioneers (companies like Commodore and Atari), and I found an
interesting pattern in their financial results. The early symptoms
of decline in a computing platform were very subtle, and easy for
a business executive to rationalize away. By the time the symptoms
became obvious, it was usually too late to do anything about them.
The symptoms to watch closely are small declines in two metrics:
the rate of growth of sales, and gross profit per unit sold (gross
margins). Here’s why.
I thought this was a compelling and cogent case against RIM when I linked to it in December. Now, almost five months later, it’s looking more and more like Mace was correct.
Consumer Reports: White iPhone 4 Is Not Thicker Than the Black One ★
Speaking of Consumer Reports:
Recently an avalanche of news and tech sites reported that the
white iPhone 4 was thicker than the black iPhone, even showing
side-by-side photos claiming it was 2mm thicker than the black
But when we compared a white iPhone 4 with a black iPhone 4 in our
Yonkers, NY, lab using high-quality calipers, we found they were
both the same thickness (0.37 inches). This supports Apple’s
assertion that the devices are the same size.
Kudos to Dr. Drang, for one, for being skeptical of the “white iPhone is thicker” claims right from the start.
TomTom Sold User Data to Police, Motorists Then Targeted With Speed Traps ★
Following reports that TomTom had sold traffic data collected from
GPS device users to police who then used it to determine locations
for speed traps, the company has issued a statement and video in
an effort to appease angry customers.
Apple, as Always, Is Doomed ★
Jean-Louis Gassée on the meme that Android is doing/will do to iOS what Windows did to the Mac.
Update: On first read, I thought Gassée was too kind to the “Apple is losing this war” pundits Henry Blodget, Fred Wilson, and Dan Lyons. Upon a re-read of Gassée’s closing, though, I see that he did something cunning and subtle. Well-played.
The Emperor’s New Network Effects ★
Smart piece by Greg Cox:
So I think there are three potential outcomes in the mobile
handset industry that are worth contemplating:
Android dominance implies a future where the industry is
horizontal, with an OS vendor creating a dominant application
platform with its associated network effects (demand side
economies of scale).
iOS dominance implies a future where Apple enjoys the demand
side economies of scale associated with a dominant application
platform, and the supply side economies of scale associated
with being the leading handset manufacturer.
iPhone leadership implies a future where the dominant player
is a vertically integrated handset manufacturer that enjoys
supply side economies of scale in manufacturing and marketing.
Count me in with Cox: #3 seems to be where we’re heading, but most analysts seem unwilling to consider any outcome other than #1 or #2.
Apple’s Share of the Profits in the Handset Industry: 50 Percent ★
According to an analysis by Canaccord Genuity’s T. Michael
Walkley, Apple captured “a remarkable 50% value share of estimated
Q1/11 handset industry operating profits among the top 8 OEMs with
only 4.9% global handset unit market share.”
iPhone is dead in the water.
Benjamin Jackson on ‘Our Choice’ ★
Good review of Al Gore’s Our Choice app-book from a design perspective.
Today’s Front Pages ★
Headlines from around the world, after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Update: More front pages here, and the next day here.