Linked List: August 2013

Shutterstock 

My thanks to Shutterstock for again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. Shutterstock has a library of over 27 million stock photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos. The size and breadth of their collection is just amazing. I’ve been playing a game by myself, trying to search for something they don’t have an image for, and it’s nearly impossible. And they add over 10,000 images every day, from photographers around the world.

Shutterstock’s artwork is available by subscription and a la carte, and visitors can browse the entire collection for free. They even have a terrific free app for the iPhone and iPad.

Steve Ballmer and the Innovator’s Curse 

Horace Dediu:

Microsoft ascended because it disrupted an incumbent (or two) and is descending because it’s being disrupted by an entrant (or two). The Innovator’s Dilemma is very clear on the causes of failure: To succeed with a new business model, Microsoft would have had to destroy (by competition) its core business. Doing that would, of course, have gotten Ballmer fired even faster.

I strongly disagree with Dediu on this one. Vehemently.

Look no further than mobile. Microsoft correctly saw that mobile was important to the industry. They saw this early — “Pocket PC” devices first appeared in 2000, and by 2003 they had “Windows Mobile”. They blew it. They had a market lead at some point, but during a time when the handheld market was tiny. The technology wasn’t there yet to make mobile computing desirable to the mass market. By the time the technology was there, when Apple unveiled the iPhone in 2007, Microsoft was not only caught flatfooted, but Ballmer himself seemed incapable of recognizing just how remarkable the iPhone was.

Microsoft, in theory, could have produced the iPhone first — not the actual iPhone, of course, but the game-changing device that set the stage for the future where mobile is the primary computing platform for most people, most of the time. That wouldn’t have disrupted Microsoft’s lucrative existing businesses — or at least not immediately. And if anything, it might have helped shore up Microsoft’s Office business for another generation.

Chris Kohler on the Nintendo 2DS: Price Is Always the Problem 

Chris Kohler, writing for Wired’s Game Life:

If current 3DS owners look at the 2DS and think “Wow, that thing is dumb and I don’t want it,” I don’t think Nintendo much cares about that. The point is getting a different group of people into the DS ecosystem. Nintendo could drop the 3DS price by a few dollars, but it’s a much better idea to redesign the whole thing and ditch the elements that keep the price high and the margin low.

Good piece, but it only justifies the 2DS as a stopgap. Nintendo’s problem is not about where the proverbial puck is at this moment; it’s where the puck is going to be in the next few years.

BlackBerry Is a Failed State 

John Herrman, writing for BuzzFeed:

At the time of writing, the primary storefront of App World is overgrown and infested with low-quality products and bad omens. Among the most popular is Windows Live Messenger, an app for service that was formally discontinued by Microsoft some time ago; expensive third-party apps for Google Maps, a free service; “Cute Fancy Themes for BBM”; Followgram, which is an Instagram viewer that can’t post pictures; and 4G Signal Booster Advanced, a paid app which almost certainly cannot accomplish what it claims. Only the biggest of the big names are here, and not even all of them.

The most popular free pastime in BlackBerria appears to be a derivative game called “Candy Blast.” The most popular paid game is “Candy World 2,” followed closely by “Revenge of the Pigs,” a crude clone of an otherwise unattainable cultural import. This matches the last and most fatal of the signs of a failed state: an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

How the Fuck Did the Q10 Ship? 

Usage diary from a long-time BlackBerry user suffering with a new Q10.

(Another question: Why weren’t the gadget site reviews of the Z10 and Q10 more scathing?)

WSJ: Sales of BlackBerry’s Q10 Keyboard Phone Fall Flat 

Will Connors and Thomas Gryta, reporting for the WSJ:

Chris Jourdan, who owns and operates 16 Wireless Zone stores in the Midwestern U.S. that sell Verizon Wireless products, said customers didn’t show up for the Q10 as expected. His stores only ordered a few of the devices per location and “the handful that sold were returned.”

“We saw virtually no demand for the Q10 and eventually returned most to our equipment vendor,” he said.

In another indication the new BlackBerry devices aren’t selling well, used phone dealers aren’t reporting the flood of old BlackBerrys that typically comes when updated devices are released. Jeff Trachsel, chief marketing officer at NextWorth, which buys used electronics, said both the all touch-screen Z10 and Q10 launches were “nonevents” from a trade-in perspective.

This is no surprise. I actually have a borrowed Z10 (the one with no keyboard). It’s a crummy product.

Hardware-wise, it’s pretty nice. Good screen, good build quality, good size (a little bigger than the iPhone 5, nowhere near as big as those Android monsters). The soft-touch back is both pleasant and useful — it makes the thing less slippery.

Software-wise, it’s a disaster. Remember the half-finished but in fact secretly fully-operational Death Star in Return of the Jedi? Well, the BlackBerry 10 software works like the second Death Star looked — a half-baked mess.

Microsoft’s Stack Ranking and Its Poisonous Effect on the Company’s Culture 

David Auerbach, writing for Slate:

Following Friday’s news of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s imminent retirement, postmortems of his lackluster 13-year reign have pointed to stack ranking — which, to be entirely fair, predated him — as both a cause and a symptom of the corporation’s decline. As a software developer and later development lead at Microsoft between 1998–2003, I had to evaluate others and be evaluated myself under this system. And I can say that yes, stack ranking is as toxic for innovation and integrity and morale as media reports made it out to be, and then some.

In a good culture, A players want to be surrounded by other A players. In stack ranking, A players want to be surrounded by B players.

No Excuse 

Timothy Lee, writing for the Washington Post, “Microsoft’s Decline Wasn’t Steve Ballmer’s Fault”:

But Ballmer’s larger problem is that throughout his 13-year tenure, he was swimming against some very powerful economic currents. His company’s fate was inextricably tied to the success of the PC, and the PC’s fortune peaked with the Nasdaq around 2000. The emergence of interactive Web applications around 2004 began to turn PCs into interchangeable commodities. Then Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad three years later, kicking off a tablet computing boom that left the PC in the dust.

These developments were a classic example of what Clay Christensen called disruptive innovation: cheap, simple innovations that gradually displace a more complex and expensive incumbent technology. History suggests that firms rarely survive when their core product is undermined by a disruptive technology.

Seems to me Lee is in fact arguing that Microsoft’s decline was exactly Ballmer’s fault. His refusal to allow any other projects within Microsoft to disrupt Windows or Office made it inevitable that such disruptions would come from other companies. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma was itself disruptive to standard business practices, but it came out in 1997. Did Ballmer not read it? Did he think Microsoft was somehow immune?

No one is arguing that Ballmer does not deserve credit for leading Microsoft to huge profits. That’s undeniable. But their weakened position today, more legacy company than technical innovator, is entirely his fault.

Keith Olbermann Talks About His Dad, Satchel Paige, Martin Luther King Jr., and Racism 

Such a great story. Good having Olbermann back on TV.

Rob Enderle: ‘Why Steve Ballmer’s Early Retirement Is My Own Greatest Failure’ 

That headline is no joke. That’s really the headline and premise of this, perhaps Rob Enderle’s nuttiest column ever. A few excerpts:

My last in person meeting with Steve Ballmer was in 2002. I remember it more distinctly because I had just thrown my back out and was in extreme pain. However, I was also the Senior Fellow for Forrester, which had just acquired Giga, and not only was I the most senior analyst in the room, I was also known to know Steve personally and was expected to guide the meeting. I’d opened with some banter, which Steve shut down immediately and, unlike in our prior conversations, he was combative, angry and polarizing. I was personally embarrassed. His behavior reflected on my own performance adversely, and it was clear he wasn’t there to listen to but to tell us the way things were.

I’ve heard from a few people that this is Enderle’s modus operandi for any meeting — he just starts talking as soon as he enters the room and never shuts up.

‘Good Luck With That’ 

Garrett Murray on the 2DS. The biggest WTF aspect is the price — it’s only $40 cheaper than the regular 3DS.

Nintendo 2DS 

Nintendo:

The new Nintendo 2DS system gives you all the features of the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL, minus 3D viewing. And the price makes the world of Nintendo games even more accessible.

It’s $129. I say they should just give in and start making iOS games. They’re not going to win this battle.

Update: “Isn’t this like telling Apple to give up on hardware and license Mac OS to other PC makers?” numerous readers have asked. Maybe a little, but it’s a bad comparison. The main thing is it never seemed to me — never — that Apple was incapable of producing excellent industry-leading hardware. They just needed focus and better execution. Nintendo, to me, looks incapable of producing handheld hardware that can compete with the iPhone or iPod Touch. I think they’re out of the game and might never get back into it. If they can do it, great — where by “do it” I mean produce a device that’s a better buy for $250 or so than an iPod Touch. But I don’t think they can do it. And if they can’t do it, their next best bet is to expand to making iOS games. I’m not saying drop the DS line and jump to iOS in one fell swoop. But a couple of $9.99 iPhone/iPad games to test the water wouldn’t hurt.

HTC Developing China-Focused Mobile Operating System 

Eva Dou, reporting for the WSJ:

HTC Corp. is developing a mobile-software system specifically for Chinese consumers, people familiar with the project said, part of a big bet that the smartphone maker hopes will help revive sliding sales.

Development of the smartphone operating system — slated to be introduced by year-end — is being closely monitored by HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang, the people said. The software involves close integration with Chinese apps such as the Twitter-like microblog Weibo, they said.

I’d be curious to hear just what is actually better about this system than Android. The article offers no such details, other than a Chinese government concern that the nation’s mobile user base is too dependent upon Android.

Jeff Atwood-Designed CODE Mechanical Keyboard 

Very cool that Atwood would undertake such an endeavor, but I can’t help but suspect it’d sell better with a Mac layout than a Windows one. I’m tempted to try one, but for $150 I don’t want Windows-style modifier key caps.

Update: Ends up you can order OS-specific meta keys for an extra $6, and apparently they’re easy to pop on yourself. I’d get one, but now it’s sold out.

Measles Outbreak in Texas Linked to Anti-Vaccination Church 

Liz Szabo, reporting for USA Today:

All of the school-age children infected in the Eagle Mountain outbreak were home-schooled, health officials say. Texas requires children be vaccinated before attending school.

In an Aug. 15 statement, Eagle Mountain’s pastor, Terri Pearsons, said she still has some reservations about vaccines. “The concerns we have had are primarily with very young children who have family history of autism and with bundling too many immunizations at one time,” she said.

Tell me again how there’s no link between religious zealotry and dangerous anti-scientific views.

ReadQuick Now Universal 

Back in January I linked to a new iPad app called ReadQuick, a read-later app with an innovative presentation: one word at a time, streaming at whatever speed you find comfortable. Like I wrote then, I don’t use it personally, because I read just fine the traditional way. But a lot of people don’t, and I find it fascinating that many people read better this way. I got a bunch of emails from readers back in January thanking me for linking to ReadQuick, because it works so well for their reading style.

Anyway, now it’s a universal binary with native iPhone support too. (Maybe it should have been iPhone-first? With this flash-card style presentation, ReadQuick might work better on iPhone than iPad.)

Blind Browser 

Nifty idea from Charlie Deets: a browser for web designers working on retina displays, to test how sites look on non-retina displays.

Syrian Electronic Army Hacks DNS and Whois Entries of Twitter and the New York Times 

Ken Yeung, reporting for The Next Web:

At approximately 3pm PST, the Syrian Electronic Army seemingly hacked into Twitter, Huffington Post UK and NY Times’ registry accounts and altered contact details, and more significantly, DNS records. Modifying DNS records of a domain will allow SEA to redirect visitors to any site of their choosing.

Ask Ayn Rand 

John Hodgman, writing for The New Yorker:

After a couple of appearances on the interview program “Donahue,” in 1979 and 1980, the author and philosopher Ayn Rand enjoyed something of a renaissance in popular culture, including a week as a panelist on “Match Game” and a guest appearance on “Fantasy Island” as the Spirit of Capitalism. In 1980, two years before her death, she was offered a short column in “Parade.” Here are some excerpts.

300 Days With the iPad Mini 

Dan Frommer:

The major difference between the iPad mini and my original iPad, purchased in 2010: I’m still actually using this one every day, almost a year after I bought it.

‘It Was Neither Planned Nor as Smooth as Portrayed’ 

Kara Swisher:

Interestingly, Ballmer actually indicated that he had planned on staying in his letter about his impending departure, noting: “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most.”

That sentence spurred much chatter inside the company, including the persistent rumor that Gates had dropped the bomb on Ballmer. That sentiment was further underscored when Ballmer’s letter contained no reference or thanks to Gates, with whom he has been tightly tethered over the last several decades. Its absence has been much discussed internally at Microsoft, where it has been seen as an unusual slight and a sign of a rift.

With no named successor and a late-August Friday announcement, it didn’t seem smooth at all. They sacked him, pure and simple.

U.S. Government Report: 0.7 Percent of Mobile Malware Affects iOS; Android Accounts for 79 Percent 

I guess open does beat closed.

Mary Jo Foley Interviews Steve Ballmer 

A few readers complained Friday about my presumption that Ballmer’s “retirement” was imposed by Microsoft’s board — i.e. that this was just a graceful way to shitcan him. I can’t say I know for certain that he was forced out, but come on. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Read this interview and it’s just obvious. He’s half pissed off and half trying to save face.

Google Blocks Chromecast App That Allowed You to Stream Your Own Videos, AirPlay-Style 

So this is weird. Back when Chromecast was announced, I wrote that it doesn’t do something that Google made it seem like it did — stream video directly from your phone (or tablet) like AirPlay. But then it ends up it was capable of something like AirPlay, but it required a third-party app, so I linked to it.

But now Google has removed the API that made this possible. I don’t get it. I mean, no one loves to make “open always wins” jokes at Google’s expense like I do — I really enjoy pointing out the instances where Google, the self-professed corporate king of openness really isn’t open at all. But here I just don’t get it. Why block this? What am I missing?

Update: The consensus is that the app was using private APIs; it’s not so much that the app has been banned but that, as I speculated weeks ago, there is no supported way to make this work at present. Utterly reasonable behavior from Google, but, well, not exactly “open”.

Krugman on Microsoft and Apple 

There’s much to quibble about in this Krugman post, but I’ll keep it short:

The Microsoft story is familiar. Back in the 80s, Microsoft and Apple both had operating systems to sell; Apple’s was clearly better. But Apple misunderstood the nature of the market: it said, “We have a better system, so we’re going to make it available only on our own beautiful machines, and charge premium prices.” Meanwhile Microsoft licensed its system to lots of people making cheap machines — and established a commanding position through network externalities. People used Windows because other people used Windows — there was more software available, corporate tech departments were prepared to provide support, etc.

Two things.

First, when we talk about the ’80s and ’90s and Apple, we’re talking about the Mac. And though the Mac suffered mightily in the late ’90s, dropping so low that it almost brought the entire company down, today, the Mac makes Apple the world’s most profitable PC maker. Even if you don’t count the iPad as a “PC”, no one makes more money selling personal computers than Apple. In the long run, Apple’s strategy paid off.

Second, Krugman is right about the fundamental difference between Windows’s success and iOS’s. The beauty of the Windows hegemony is that it wasn’t the best, and didn’t have to be the best. Once their OS monopoly was established, they just had to show up. Apple’s success today is predicated on iOS being the best. They have to stay at the top of the game, both design- and quality-wise, to maintain their success. That’s riskier.

Om Malik on Yahoo 

Om Malik:

And forget the products — so far Yahoo has been unable to attract top quality talent to the company. Not one 20-something I have talked to in the past six months has wistfully talked about working for Yahoo. And even those who have joined Yahoo from Google are joining the company thanks to mega-million dollar contracts, not because they want to work there. When Yahoo becomes the desired job-spot for a fresh, new tech tinkerer — that will be the time I will lighten up on Yahoo.

Shutterstock 

My thanks to Shutterstock for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Shutterstock has over 27 million stock photos, illustrations, vectors, and videos. It’s incredible, and growing by 10,000 images every day. Shutterstock’s entire library of royalty-free images are available by subscription and a la carte.

Visitors can browse the entire library for free, and Shutterstock has a great app for iPhone and the iPad.

‘LOVEINT’ 

The biggest problem with the NSA scandal is the lack of accountability.

Why Steve Ballmer Should Have Been Shitcanned No Later Than 2009 

Another one on Ballmer from the archive:

The damning thing isn’t that Apple got there first; it’s that even after Apple revealed it, that Ballmer didn’t get it, that he didn’t see instantly that Apple had unveiled something amazing and transformative. All Ballmer could see was the near future, the next few months where the iPhone was indeed too expensive and where typing on a touchscreen was a novelty.

From the DF Archive: Memoranda 

2008 piece comparing and contrasting two company-wide memos, one from Steve Jobs, one from Steve Ballmer:

Apple employees may not always — or even often — agree with Jobs, but they do believe him. Apple tends to do and achieve exactly what Jobs says they will. (His declaration in January 2007 that Apple would be selling 10 million iPhone per year by 2008, for example.)

Ballmer’s promises, in contrast, defy belief, at least regarding where Microsoft stands against Apple in terms of “end-to-end experience” and against Google in terms of search and online advertising. He’s either ignorant or lying — neither of which is inspiring to the rank-and-file engineers.

Microsoft Forces Steve Ballmer to Resign 

Officially he’s “retiring within the next 12 months”, but that’s just framing to allow Ballmer and Microsoft itself to save some face. This is the axe, and it was long overdue. Ballmer has been a successful steward growing profits from the franchises he inherited from the Gates era — Windows and Office. But he’s been an abject failure at developing anything new. Under his watch Windows has been supplanted by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Mobile is the industry’s growth area, and Microsoft is barely a player.

Here’s the hitch though: Ballmer has chased all potential successors out of the company — Ray Ozzie, Robbie Bach, J Allard, and most recently, Steven Sinofsky.

Google Designing Its Own Self-Driving Car 

Amir Efrati:

Google Inc., which has been working on software to help major automakers build self-driving cars, also is quietly going around them by designing and developing a full-fledged self-driving car, according to people familiar with the matter.

They’ve got to be eyeing Tesla, right?

Why We Should Care About Ichiro’s 4,000th Pro Hit 

Can’t wait to see him win an improbable World Series title in two months.

Glassboard Seeks New Home 

Brent Simmons:

I don’t have any business relationship with Glassboard (or with NewsGator or Sepia Labs), and so the only benefit I get from helping find Glassboard a new home is the selfish one: I use Glassboard every day and want to keep using it. (Q Branch uses it; my podcast uses it; my family uses it; the Seattle Xcoders group uses it.)

The problem of persistent, private, and trustworthy group sharing is still an open problem. Glassboard represents a couple years of work by a six-person team, and it’s a great start. I believe that it can be very successful, given the right home, given resources and commitment.

Great opportunity here for someone; Glassboard is a great product.

Reuters Piece on Tim Cook and Employee Retention 

Poornima Gupta and Peter Henderson, reporting for Reuters, on retention problems:

Some Silicon Valley recruiters and former Apple employees at rival companies say they are seeing more Apple resumes than ever before, especially from hardware engineers, though the depth and breadth of any brain-drain remains difficult to quantify, especially given the recent expansion in staff numbers.

“I am being inundated by LinkedIn messages and emails both by people who I never imagined would leave Apple and by people who have been at Apple for a year, and who joined expecting something different than what they encountered,” said one recruiter with ties to Apple.

Still, the Cook regime is also seen as kinder and gentler, and that’s been a welcome change for many.

“It is not as crazy as it used to be. It is not as draconian,” said Beth Fox, a recruiting consultant and former Apple employee, adding that the people she knows are staying put. “They like Tim. They tend to err on the optimistic side.”

So engineers are leaving in droves because Apple is a nicer place to work now?

No doubt about it, retention is a key concern for Apple, but they do not have a retention problem. I’d wager Apple has a higher retention rate than any of its Valley competitors. There may well be more Apple resumes in circulation than ever before, but there are more Apple employees than ever before — Apple has never been bigger than it is now, and Apple employees have never been in higher demand.

Still, employees report some grumbling, and Apple seems to have taken note, conducting a survey of morale in the critical hardware engineering unit earlier this year.

“As our business continues to grow and face new challenges, it becomes increasingly important to get feedback about your perceptions and experiences working in hardware engineering,” Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, wrote to his team in February in an email seen by Reuters.

Apple does these surveys among employees every two or three years, and has done so throughout the modern era. I don’t think the survey cited above was in response to a rise in discontent.

Poll: Louisiana GOPers Unsure if Katrina Response Was Obama’s Fault 

Another classic from The Onion.

Wait, what?

A Very Mild Defense of In-App Purchases 

Great piece by John Moltz:

I come not to praise in-app purchases but to not bury them.

The Suits of James Bond 

Matt Spaiser, aptly chronicling the sartorial details of the James Bond franchise. So great.

International Climate Panel Cites Near Certainty on Warming 

Justin Gillis, reporting for the NYT:

An international panel of scientists has found with near certainty that human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of recent decades, and warns that sea levels could conceivably rise by more than three feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace.

See also: Chris Mooney at Mother Jones on five of the “holy crap” details of the report.

Tumult Hype 2.0 and Hype Reflect for iOS 

Amazing graphical HTML5 animation builder, now with a helper app for previewing on iOS devices.

Ad Age: Big Marketers Sign Up for Apple’s iTunes Radio 

John McDermott, Ad Age:

iTunes Radio, Apple’s answer to Pandora, is set to debut next month with a handful of high-profile brand partners including McDonald’s, Nissan, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble and possibly one or two more brands, according to people familiar with the negotiations. […]

Of course, consumers can choose to have no ads at all. iTunes Radio will be a free, ad-supported service to the public, but Apple will be offering an ad-free option to anyone who purchases iTunes Match, a cloud-based music storage feature that allows users to access their libraries on any Internet-connected Apple device.

Best reason yet to sign up for iTunes Match.

How Steve Jobs Got AT&T to Share Revenue 

Peter Cohan, Forbes:

When he worked at telecommunications consulting firm, Adventis, Raj Aggarwal met with Apple’s Steve Jobs twice a week for several months. In an August 15 interview, Aggarwal explained how Steve Jobs persuaded AT&T’s Cingular Wireless to provide service for the iPhone with an unprecedented revenue sharing agreement. […]

Aggarwal was impressed by the way Jobs was willing to take a risk to realize his vision. “In one meeting in the conference room with Jobs, he was annoyed that AT&T was spending too much time worrying about the risks of the deal. So he said, ‘You know what we should do to stop them from complaining? We should write AT&T a check for $1 billion and if the deal doesn’t work out, they can keep the money. Let’s give them the $1 billion [Apple had $5 billion in cash at the time] and shut them the hell up,’” Aggarwal recounted.

Apple Developer Center Outage Fixed ‘Remote Code Execution’ Flaw 

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

While security researcher Ibrahim Balic speculated that he might have been behind the security breach, it is now clear that the issue he reported was unrelated to the major flaw that caused the downtime. Apple credits Ibrahim with reporting a separate iAd Workbench vulnerability on July 22. The vulnerability allowed Balic to obtain both names and Apple IDs of users.

It was a separate “remote code execution” vulnerability that prompted Apple to take the whole thing down.

Cringely on the Ashton Kutcher ‘Jobs’ Movie 

Cringely:

For years there was this running joke that Steve had changed, that he was no longer that guy who made us all uncomfortable. Then an hour or a day later he’d do something that would show he hadn’t really changed at all. And yet at some point Steve did change. It was subtle but real and it set the tone for the last 15 years of his life — the most productive 15 years of his life or that of any American executive.

This film misses all of that.

Special for the ‘Apple Would Never Make a Gold-Toned iPhone If Steve Jobs Were Still Alive’ Crowd 

Yeah, would never happen.

Nilay Patel Reviews the New $599 TiVo Roamio Pro 

I’m glad TiVo is still around — we’ve been TiVo users since around 1999. But a $600 box in 2013 that still has non-HD user interface screens? Come on.

Type Hunting 

Great collection of vintage type. (Via Kontra.)

U.K. Government Raids Guardian Office to Destroy Hard Drives 

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger:

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes — and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

Butterick’s Practical Typography 

New web-based book by Matthew Butterick. From his opening chapter:

This is a bold claim, but I stand behind it: if you learn and follow these five typography rules, you will be a better typographer than 95% of professional writers and 70% of professional designers. (The rest of this book will raise you to the 99th percentile in both categories.)

All it takes is ten minutes — five minutes to read these rules once, then five minutes to read them again.

Go Home, Samsung, You’re Drunk 

Samsung to introduce 6.3-inch Galaxy Mega phone in US next month.

‘Why We Talk in Tongues’ 

Hard to believe The New York Times ran this piece of claptrap on their op-ed page. “We” don’t speak in tongues; religious nutjobs do, and they do it because they believe in superstitious nonsense. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that there is a high correlation between tongue-speakers and climate change deniers and creationist “science” school curriculum pushers — people who are doing real and genuine harm to our society and the planet.

Update: As a perusal of my (and @daringfireball’s) Twitter replies will show, this post was, I suppose unsurprisingly, controversial. One word I’ve seen from those whom I presume to be Pentecostals or other evangelical Christians is “hate” — examples here, here, here, here, here, here. A lack of respect is not hatred; I do not respect superstitious nonsense. But this framing — equating lack of respect with hatred — is what keeps many from criticizing nonsensical religious views.

Bloomberg: ‘Samsung Said to Introduce Watch-Like Phone Next Month’ 

Jungah Lee, reporting for Reuters:

Samsung Electronics Co. will introduce a wristwatch-like device named the Galaxy Gear next month that can make phone calls, surf the Web and handle e-mails, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The Galaxy Gear will be powered by Google Inc.’s Android operating system and go on sale this year to beat a potentially competing product from Apple Inc., the people said. The device will be unveiled Sept. 4, two days before the IFA consumer electronics show begins in Berlin, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the plans are private.

A “watch-like phone” might be interesting, and for once, worthy of the “smart” moniker. Devices like the Pebble, which must be tethered to an actual smartphone for any sort of connectivity, aren’t smart at all; they’re just modern (and ultra portable) dumb terminals.

Still though, if Samsung’s wearable is a phone, presumably the screen would be relatively small. Is this something you’re intended to replace your current phone with? If not, how do you pay for service? If it’s a true phone, it must have its own phone number, right? I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up with without anything to copy.

Update: The Verge reports that the Gear “is not a phone”; it’s just a Bluetooth accessory that connects to a phone.

‘Amazon First Citywide Change Bank’ 

Speaking of MG Siegler, he’s my guest on the new episode of my podcast, The Talk Show. Topics include Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and what Apple might have planned for this fall.

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Goldfinger: The Next iPhone 

MG Siegler:

Yes, there will be a gold iPhone.

That’s the latest I’m hearing from multiple sources after several weeks of rumors and possible component leaks suggesting the same thing. At first, I couldn’t believe Apple would break from the tradition of offering the simple choice: black and white (or “slate” and “silver” if you prefer for the iPhone 5) for their flagship device. Gold simply seemed too gaudy, perhaps even tacky. But a few compelling arguments countered my disbelief. And now, upon checking, sure enough, there will be gold.

The Gold iPhone 5S 

Rene Ritchie:

So, technologically, it wouldn’t be hard for Apple to make a gold iPhone. But commercially, what would be the motivation?

Given how popular gold is as an aftermarket option for color-treatments, and how many gold cases there are — including but certainly not limited to the Asian markets — it could simply be the decision to offer supply where there’s demand.

Can’t say I’m a fan of gold, but it’s clear many people are.

Why We Want TV to Be Disrupted So Badly 

Ben Bajarin, writing for Time Techland:

Those who have the most to lose when TV gets disrupted need not fear piracy; they should fear the SDK. When developers can take advantage of a platform, the possibilities are endless.

Which is why Apple should be seen as the frontrunner. It’s exactly what happened to the mobile phone industry.

Jeff Bezos, Unexpected Newspaper Owner  

David Streitfeld and Christine Haughney, writing for the NYT:

“Every story you ever see about Amazon, it has that sentence: ‘An Amazon spokesman declined to comment,’ “ Mr. Marcus said.

Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman, declined to comment.

Apple Touting New Mac Pro in Movie Theater Teaser 

Impressive marketing move for a product that is by all means truly “pro”.

iDraw 

My thanks to Indeeo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote iDraw, their amazing vector illustration app for Mac OS X. iDraw is lightweight, modern, and fast. It can import and edit a variety of formats — including PDF, SVG, EPS, and AI files — and the latest update adds the ability to import and export Photoshop PSD files. Unlike many other apps which import PSD files, iDraw can also import the vector paths from Shape Layers and import Layer Styles as editable drop shadows, glows, etc. rather than simple flat rasterized layers. One use case for this: interface and web designers can import resources from sites like 365psd or Designmoo directly into iDraw. iDraw is my new go-to vector editing app.

If that’s not enough, there’s also an iPad version of iDraw, and documents can be shared between Mac and iPad using iCloud. Buy iDraw today on the Mac App Store for just $24.99.

The Shining and the Steadicam 

David Konow, writing for Tested:

When Brown showed Kubrick that the Steadicam could shoot at a lens height from eighteen inches to waist-high, Kubrick was thrilled because much of the film revolved around a kid’s point of view. To film little Danny riding his Big Wheel through the halls, Brown rode on a wheelchair that Kubrick used for A Clockwork Orange.

Brown used the wheelchair because “in a number of instances it was the only way to get the lens right down to floor level.” Brown tried to follow Danny on foot, and got tired after three minutes. “I never even tried running after the kid, that would’ve been a joke,” Brown says. “A kid on a Big Wheel can go about seventy miles an hour.”

Halo and Gears of War Writer Joins Amazon Games Studios 

Jeffrey Matulef, reporting for Eurogamer:

Sci-fi author and former writer and story consultant for Microsoft Game Studios, Eric Nylund, has joined up with Amazon Game Studios as its new director of narrative design.

Interesting.

Microsoft on Google’s Blocking of Their YouTube App 

David Howard, corporate attorney for Microsoft:

We think it’s clear that Google just doesn’t want Windows Phone users to have the same experience as Android and Apple users, and that their objections are nothing other than excuses. Nonetheless, we are committed to giving our users the experience they deserve, and are happy to work with Google to solve any legitimate concerns they may have. In the meantime, we once again request that Google stop blocking our YouTube app.

Open always wins.

Yojimbo 4.0 

Major update to one of my all-time favorite Mac apps. Restores proper syncing (via a $3/month service) and includes retina-caliber assets. I’ve been beta-testing it for a while, and the sync service is just terrific.

Apple Acquires Second-Screen TV Startup Matcha.tv 

Is that a banana in Gene Munster’s pocket?

‘Maybe Even a Young Marlon Brando’ 

The Onion: “Man Taking Photo With iPad Oblivious to How Badass He Looks”.

Baseball Looks to Expand Video Review in 2014 

Kathy Willens, reporting for the AP:

Managers will be allowed one challenge over the first six innings of games and two after the seventh inning. Calls that are challenged will be reviewed by a crew in M.L.B. headquarters in New York City, which will make the final ruling.

Great news for the game.

Twenty Hurt at LG Event as Promotional Stunt Goes Wrong 

BBC News:

LG released 100 helium balloons, each with a free smartphone voucher, at the so-called G in the Cloud event, which took place in an outdoor park in the South Korean capital city. The phones, which sell for KRW 950,000 in South Korea ($851; £550), would be given to people in possession of the voucher, the company said.

Customers arrived with BB guns to shoot down the balloons and surged forward when they were released.

Google Again Blocks Microsoft’s YouTube Windows Phone App 

Why doesn’t Google just make their own official YouTube app for Windows Phone? I don’t see Google’s angle here. Something about ads and tracking cookies?

‘Happy Bennigan’s to You’ 

This week’s guest on Dave Wiskus and Lex Friedman’s Unprofessional: yours truly. The topic: chain restaurants.

Customer Acquisition and the Entry Level iPhone 

Another great piece of analysis on the purportedly imminent lower-priced iPhone, this one from Ben Bajarin:

The fallacy those who think price is all that matters fall into is believing that all consumers value the same thing. It is incorrect to believe that its hard to compete with free. It is easy, all you do is create a better product, experience, or solution, and market it to those who will value it. […]

Interesting point here, too:

As much as Apple will benefit from getting new customers with an entry level iPhone that benefits their ecosystem so will Google. We know Google makes more on iOS than Android and interestingly an entry level iPhone will likely help Google’s bottom line as well.

The Difference Between iOS and Android Developers and Why It’s Not Just a Numbers Game 

Rene Ritchie:

The Mac, though its market share was never large, especially when compared to the well over 90% marketshare of Microsoft Windows-based PCs, had always attracted an incredibly talented, incredibly dedicated group of developers who cared deeply about things like design and user experience. OS X enjoyed not only the traditional Mac OS community, but the NeXT one as well. That talent share always felt disproportionate to the market share. Massively. And a lot of those developers, and new developers influenced by them, not only wanted iPhones and iPads, but wanted to create software for them.

The numbers game matters, but it’s just one factor among many.

Steve Cheney: ‘On the Future of iOS and Android’ 

Great post on the competitive landscape from Steve Cheney:

It’s not even funny how bad fragmentation will hurt Android and Google in location based sharing and payments apps, short range sharing, and the type of things developers build on top of iBeacon (e.g. payments). Fragmentation doesn’t matter as much when you are the only one person affected, people deal with it. But when your Android phone won’t communicate with others or at POS terminals (tablets / iPads) it will be tough to rationalize. Bluetooth LE in Android is happening now, but fragmentation is a deal killer for devs, and this ensures that state of the art apps around local discovery / wireless will rarely support Android. It’s already happening — Tile has raised about $3M from 50K backers and there will be no Android support (these are tagging devices running Bluetooth LE that help you find lost keys etc).

Don’t Say ‘Cheap’ 

Worst part is, you just know on day one, after it’s announced and it isn’t priced at $99, the usual clowns will say the iPhone 5C is doomed and Apple out of touch because “Hey, that’s not cheap!

How the iPhone and Bad Decisions Killed BlackBerry 

Vauhini Vara, writing for The New Yorker:

Shares in the Canadian maker of BlackBerry smartphones peaked in August of 2007, at two hundred and thirty-six dollars. In retrospect, the company was facing an inflection point and was completely unaware. Seven months earlier, in January, Apple had introduced the iPhone at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Executives at BlackBerry, then called Research in Motion, decided to let Apple focus on the general-use smartphone market, while it would continue selling BlackBerry products to business and government customers that bought the devices for employees. “In terms of a sort of a sea change for BlackBerry,” the company’s co-C.E.O Jim Balsillie said at the time, referring to the iPhone’s impact on the industry, “I would think that’s overstating it.”

I hate to toot my own horn, but I called it back in 2008, while BlackBerry’s (née RIM’s) share price was still over $150, and where by “hate” I mean “smugly enjoy”.

The Meanings of Apple-y-ness 

Horace Dediu nails it. I think I’d only add one item to his list: Build for our customers the devices and software that we ourselves would want to use; assume our users have the same high standards and discerning taste that we do.

Defending iOS With Cheaper iPhones 

Smart analysis from Ben Evans:

If total Android engagement moves decisively above iOS, the fact that iOS will remain big will be beside the point – it will move from first to first-equal and then perhaps second place on the roadmap. And given the sales trajectories, that could start to happen in 2014. If you have 5-6x the users and a quarter of the engagement, you’re still a more attractive market.

Panic + Imagineering at D23 

Cabel Sasser:

The Panic Art Department recently helped design the Walt Disney Imagineering pavilion for Disney’s huge D23 conference. As theme park nerds, we jumped at the chance help frame 20,000 square feet of the awesome creativity and engineering that inspires us.

WebKit: Improved Support for High-Resolution Displays With the ‘srcset’ Image Attribute 

Dean Jackson, WebKit:

WebKit now supports the srcset attribute on image (img) elements (official specification from the W3C). This allows you, the developer, to specify higher-quality images for your users who have high-resolution displays, without penalizing the users who don’t. Importantly, it also provides a graceful fallback for browsers that don’t yet support the feature.

Just what the doctor ordered. Nice work.

The Meanings of Googliness 

Jens O. Meiert, with an insider’s perspective on Google’s company culture. You’re either going to think, Wow, sounds like a great place to work, or, Wow, what a pile of horseshit.

Smartphone Mojo 

Kevin Drum:

Until now, one of Apple’s big advantages in the market has been the depth and quality of its app ecosystem. But as its market share keeps decreasing, that will go away. Developers will write apps for Android first, and then port their code over to iOS later. All the newest and coolest stuff will be available on Android phones first, and as that happens the all-important teen demo will slip away.

Drum is wrong here in all sorts of ways, but I think he’s neatly summarized the bear perspective on the iPhone’s future. The fundamental error in this line of thinking is the assumption that all smartphone users are created equal. They’re not. iPhone users are significantly different demographically. Android vs. iOS isn’t like Playstation vs. Xbox.

iOS can continue to thrive with significantly fewer users than Android if it can continue to attract significantly better users than Android.

If I’m wrong and Drum is correct, why hasn’t it happened yet? iOS has never been the smartphone market share leader; it was behind Symbian and BlackBerry in its early years, and Android surpassed all of them years ago.

BlackBerry: Company Is Looking for ‘Possible Transactions’ 

This is the part of the toilet flush where the bowl’s not quite empty, but what’s left is swirling around real fast.

SmugMug 

My thanks to SmugMug for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their slogan is “stunning photo websites”, and they mean it. They have dozens of page designs to choose from, all of them mobile-friendly, all of them exquisite. Even their sign-up process is design-focused. If you care about photography and design, you’re nuts if you don’t check out SmugMug.

Great plans (including commerce features for professionals), no ads, unlimited photo uploads, 1080p video, 24/7 support and help, detailed stats and analytics — SmugMug offers all of that and more.

RealNetworks Posts $18.5M Loss, Glaser Still ‘Very Confident’ in Turnaround 

Just adorable that these guys are still around.

Apple’s Tim Cook, Tech Executives Meet With Barack Obama to Talk Surveillance 

Oh, to have been a fly on that wall.

Asus Reports Disappointing VivoTab RT Sales, Stops Making RT Tablets 

Shocker.

Every Second on the Internet 

Busy.

New Nexus 7 Plagued by GPS Glitch 

Lance Whitney, reporting for CNet:

The GPS signal works for a certain amount of time, anywhere from 2 to 30 minutes, and then it simply conks out, leaving the user without a connection. The Nexus then tries to hunt for a signal without any success. Rebooting the tablet seems to restore GPS, but then the pattern repeats itself with the signal again dying out after several minutes.

Reuters: BlackBerry Open to Going Private 

Reuters:

BlackBerry Ltd is warming up to the possibility of going private, as the smartphone maker battles to revive its fortunes, several sources familiar with the situation said.

Chief Executive Thorsten Heins and the company’s board is increasingly coming around to the idea that taking BlackBerry private would give them breathing room to fix its problems out of the public eye, the sources said.

“There is a change of tone on the board,” one of the sources said on Thursday.

Mr. Heins, Carl Icahn on line 3.

Regular People Have No Idea How to Manage Photos on Their iPhone 

Bradley Chambers:

Also, photo stream needs to be reversed. Apple should store all photos/video taken with your iPhone and just store the most recent 1000 (or 30 days) locally on the device.

Yes.

Iwata: Nintendo Games on Rival Platforms Would Only Be a Short-Term Fix 

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata:

“What I believe is that Nintendo is a very unique company, because it does its business by designing and introducing people to hardware and software — by integrating them, we can be unique. And because we have hardware and software developers in the same building, they stimulate each other.”

Sounds like another company.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

The next few weeks are open on the DF RSS feed sponsorship calendar. If you have a product or service that you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball’s audience of smart, good-looking readers, please do get in touch.

Update: Down to just one open week through the end of September.

Update 2: And sold. Next open week is at the start of October.

Restoring Orson Welles’s ‘Too Much Johnson’ 

Short video of Eastman House film preservationists regarding the restoration of Orson Welles’s 1938 film Too Much Johnson — which for decades was thought to be utterly lost. Tremendously exciting find for movie lovers.

Update: More information in Eastman House’s press release.

Acer to Expand Android, Chromebook Offerings 

Eva Dou and Aries Poon, reporting for the WSJ:

Taiwanese personal computer maker Acer Inc. said it plans to offer fewer Microsoft Inc. products and more Chromebooks and Android-based mobile devices, after it posted a surprise second-quarter loss on lower sales and rising expenses.

“We are trying to grow our non-Windows business as soon as possible,” President Jim Wang told investors in a conference call. “Android is very popular in smartphones and dominant in tablets… I also see a new market there for Chromebooks.”

Speaking of red flags, there’s one for Microsoft — partners trying to move away from Windows “as soon as possible”. The collapse of Windows is going to happen faster than you think.

T-Mobile Gained Nearly 700,000 Postpaid Customers Last Quarter 

WSJ Digits:

It was first time in more than four years that T-Mobile hadn’t lost so-called postpaid customers.

Wow. I wonder how they turned it around?

The fourth-largest U.S. carrier had long been a source of customers for its rivals, but has become a more formidable competitor after landing the iPhone in April, investing in a new high-speed network and rolling out plans that don’t tie subscribers to contracts.

I’ll bet it was the high-speed network and the new plans.

Apple Still Sells More Computers Than Anybody Else, but Lenovo Is Closing In 

Matt Rosoff, CITEworld, on what happens to PC market share numbers if you count tablets as PCs:

Apple sells more client computing devices than any other hardware vendor. That’s been the case, on and off, since early 2012. (It’s still true if you include smartphones, which I did not in this chart.)

The more interesting note is that Lenovo has surpassed HP as number two. It’s not only the top PC maker in the world, but it also fits in at number four in pure tablet sales, according to IDC — that’s new since last quarter, when it was not in the top five.

Also interesting is the mix of tablets-to-PCs for HP and Dell. Huge red flag.

Amazon Founder Says He Clicked on Washington Post by Mistake 

Andy Borowitz:

“I guess I was just kind of browsing through their website and not paying close attention to what I was doing,” he said. “No way did I intend to buy anything.”

Mr. Bezos said he had been oblivious to his online shopping error until earlier today, when he saw an unusual charge for two hundred and fifty million dollars on his American Express statement.

Amazon’s Profits 

Great piece by Benedict Evans:

Equally, the problem with saying ‘we can’t tell from outside how Amazon is really doing, but it will become profitable, just wait and see’ is that you could be waiting for ever without ever knowing if you’re wrong.

Like I said, Amazon’s massive profitability is like a will-o’-the-wisp.

The Numbers Game 

Fan-made response to Microsoft’s campaign of Surface/iPad comparison commercials. It’s a silly thing for me to flag, but I think this guy has it all wrong. His response is all about the iPad’s quantitative advantages — that it outsells the Surface, has more apps in its app store, has more peripherals (cases/covers/keyboards) available, and so forth.

As I’ve argued before, this is the wrong mindset. The point is to buy the best stuff. I use the iPad because I think it’s the best tablet, not because it’s the best-selling tablet. I prefer the iOS App Store not because it has the most apps, but because it has the best apps. Breadth matters — an app store with only a handful of titles, all of them high quality, would be a failure — but depth matters more. Otherwise we’d all be using Windows.

Update: As Michael Mulvey points out, the actual spots from Microsoft’s campaign don’t even need to be parodied.

Google Maps Mobile Apps, Now With Ads 

Finally, some good news for Apple Maps.

Lavabit, Email Service Edward Snowden Reportedly Used, Abruptly Shuts Down 

Ladar Levison, owner/operator:

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. […]

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Deeply concerning, to say the least.

One Small Win Against Lodsys, One of Nathan Myhrvold’s Patent Troll Shell Companies 

Todd Moore:

Lodsys has dismissed the patent infringement lawsuit it filed against my company TMSOFT. The dismissal is with prejudice which means they can never sue my company again for infringing its patents. I did not have to pay any money to Lodsys or sign a license agreement. I also did not sign a confidentially agreement so I’m free to talk about this matter.

What was the secret to Moore’s successful defense? $200,000 in pro-bono expert legal counsel.

Via Marco Arment, who writes:

This isn’t a “victory” against Lodsys that’s meaningful to anyone else, because it’s not repeatable. The defendant says himself that he was only able to settle this suit because two patent lawyers donated nearly $200,000 worth of their time to fight pro bono on his behalf, and that figure could have easily surpassed $1 million if it went to trial. Patent trolls usually sue small companies that can’t afford to defend themselves, so as long as defending against a patent suit is this expensive, the extortion scheme will continue to work.

Publishers Object to U.S. Remedy in Apple E-Book Case 

These wimps rolled right over when the DOJ came knocking; pretty rich for them to object now.

‘Gold-Plated USB Cables’ 

Fresh off the presses: a brand-new episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring very special guest Marco Arment. Topics include Jeff Bezos’s purchase of The Washington Post, working environments for programmers and web workers, how one person’s “disruption” is another’s “predatory pricing”, in-app game purchases as the modern equivalent of coin-op arcade games, and why the hell anyone would step foot in a Best Buy nowadays.

Brought to you by three excellent sponsors:

An Event Apart: The design conference for people who make websites.

Pixate: Dynamically style your native mobile apps with CSS — for free.

Ting: A no-BS mobile service that makes sense.

Ubuntu Smartphone Looks Unlikely to Reach Crowdfunding Goal 

I think their only chance to make this happen is, and always was, if Mark Shuttleworth steps in and ponies up the dough on his own. People who use and know Ubuntu skew towards not paying for things. People who pay for things don’t know Ubuntu.

Study Claims Apple Does Worse With First-Time Smartphone Buyers 

Ina Fried:

“Previous smartphone owners buy Apple iPhones much more than first-time owners,” according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. “Almost 50 percent of previous owners buy an iPhone, while under one-third of first-time owners buy an iPhone.”

Samsung does roughly equally well among new and repeat smartphone buyers, while Korean rival LG tends to do far better among first-timers, likely due to its lower prices and strong representation in the prepaid arena.

This bodes well for Apple in the long-term, given that soon, almost all smartphone buyers will be previous smartphone owners.

Horace Dediu on the Premise that Amazon Is the ‘Anti-Apple’ 

Horace Dediu:

At an even deeper level, Apple and Amazon are much more alike than they are different. They are both hired for similar jobs (convenience, ease of use and a controlled, predictable environment for average users interacting with technology). They both focus on delighting customers and controlling all the variables which come into contact with that delight. They both have long-term views and are driven by vision rather than competition.

Where they differ is in others’ perception of sustainability. Whereas Apple is perpetually given an expected lifespan of less than a decade, Amazon is expected to have an indefinite lifespan. This is because Amazon is seen as having no competition and Apple is seen as having infinite competition.

Splendid piece.

John Carmack Joins Oculus as CTO 

Whoa, huge score. Not sure there’s anyone on the planet who’d be a bigger hire for Oculus.

MG Siegler on Jeff Bezos’s Strategy With Amazon 

MG Siegler:

The goal is actually to not make a huge profit too early, and Bezos manages it perfectly. You want to avoid showing your cards too early as you continue to lay the groundwork for an ever-larger business. Occasionally, you’ll have to show those cards and win a hand to prove that you can. But the rest of the time you call and fold, as you await the monster to take the entire pot.

Great piece. I’ve harped on Amazon’s seemingly eternal lack of profitability as much as anyone, but when you think about it and study their business, it’s not that they can’t turn a profit. They’re not burning through money like they were in the go-go ’90s. They simply choose not to turn a profit, and instead invest everything in operations and low prices.

The key to Bezos’s genius, though, is in how he’s set the expectations from Amazon’s investors. They’re seemingly all on board with this strategy, and, in return, this permission to run at break-even has made Amazon impossible for need-to-turn-a-profit businesses to compete with. That’s what makes Amazon “the anti-Apple”, as MG writes. Apple is a formidable competitor because it’s so massively profitable; Amazon is a formidable competitor because it has permission — even encouragement — from its investors to run the operation at break-even.

Update: My succinct theory: Bezos’s plan is to forever keep profits just on the horizon, like a will-o’-the-wisp.

McDonald’s Suggested Budget for Employees Shows Just How Impossible It Is to Get by on Minimum Wage 

Robyn Pennacchia, writing at Death and Taxes:

And what do you get for working 74 hours a week? Well, you don’t get heat, clearly. There’s a big ol’ zero next to the heat in that chart. In my building– we have separate checks for gas and electric– that would mean that not only do you not get to heat and cool your home, but also that you do not get to heat your water, or cook on your stove, if you have a gas stove (I do).

Also noticeably absent in this budget? Food. And gas. There’s a line for a car payment, but not for gas. Which is suspect, because if you’re working two jobs it’s possible you will pay more for your gas than you’d be paying for your car. Also… health insurance for $20 a month? […]

There are people who comfort themselves by telling themselves that poor people are only poor because poor people are lazy. Pretty sure someone who works 74 hours a week isn’t lazy.

(Via Sarah Pavis, who is guest posting for Kottke this week, and killing it.)

Famous Guns 

Nice collection by Federico Mauro. (If I could add just one, it’d be Boba Fett’s.)

Developer Support for iOS 7 

Craig Hockenberry conducted a little survey:

An overwhelming number of developers are updating apps for iOS 7. Of 575 valid responses, 545 developers indicated that they were working on an update for iOS 7. That’s an adoption rate of 95%!

52 percent of those are going iOS 7-only. I’m not surprised; the changes are so deep, it’d be hard to support both 6 and 7 with a cohesive UI. And there’s so much good stuff — like Text Kit — that is only going to be available in 7.

Engadget’s Moto X Review 

Joseph Volpe:

The Moto X exudes no tech halo like the Galaxy S 4 or the HTC One because it is the sum of averages. Here’s how I see it: You know those people who own iPhones, but don’t know which model number they own and also refer to all Android phones as Droids? This phone is for them.

How the ITC Forced a Veto in the Samsung-Apple Patent Case 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, summarizing ITC commissioner Dean Pinkert’s dissent in favor of Apple in the Samsung patent spat that culminated in Obama’s veto:

  • That the only time Samsung made such an offer — in oral discussions in December 2012 — it came with strings attached to which Apple could not agree.

  • What those strings were are blacked out in the document, but Pinkert adds in the next sentence: “it is neither fair nor non-discriminatory for the holder of the FRAND-encumbered patent to require licenses to non-FRAND-encumberd patents as a condition for licensing its patent” (emphasis his).

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Samsung had refused to license its standard-essential patents (SEPs) unless Apple offered its non-essential iPhone patents — the company’s crown jewels — in return.

Frankly, I’m shocked that a company as scrupulous as Samsung would resort to this sort of extortion.

Remembering the Apple Newton’s Prophetic Failure and Lasting Impact 

Mat Honan, writing for Wired:

In product lore, high profile gadgets that get killed are often more interesting than the ones that succeed. The Kin, the HP TouchPad, and the Edsel are all case studies in failure — albeit for different reasons. Yet in the history of those killings, nothing compared to the Apple Newton MessagePad. The Newton wasn’t just killed, it was violently murdered, dragged into a closet by its hair and kicked to death in its youth by one of technology’s great men. And yet it was a remarkable device, one whose influence is still with us today. The Ur tablet. The first computer designed to free us utterly from the desktop.

LG Is Looking to Buy Some Coverage for Its New Phone 

John Biggs, writing for TechCrunch:

As the trend towards the convergence of journalism and marketing marches ever onward today we celebrate LG’s efforts to buy press for their new phone, the LG G2. We received this email this morning from a member of the Burson Marsteller team in Korea. I’ve left out her name because clearly she’s new over there. It proposes that, in exchange for an unspecified amount of money, we do either an in-depth review of a specific feature of the phone (battery or the display, naturally), or a wild and crazy 1:1 comparison against many devices, including a “torching test.” They’ll even pay for multiple reviews of the phone!

Shocker.

Stanley Kubrick, Cinephile 

Speaking of Kubrick, Nick Wrigley interviewed his brother-in-law and long-time producing partner Jan Harlan to assemble this list of films Kubrick admired. Some great movies on this list, no surprise, but also some curious omissions — nothing from Scorsese, nothing from Hitchcock, nothing from Malick.

The interview with Harlan is terrific, too. E.g.: Back in 1970, Kubrick considered Woody Allen to play the lead in what eventually became Eyes Wide Shut.

‘Kubrick Collection’ Zeiss f/0.7 Digital Movie Camera Rigs Now Available to Rent 

Be sure to watch the short documentary on Kubrick’s camera rig to use this lens back in 1975 to shoot Barry Lyndon.

Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post for $250 Million 

Paul Farhi, reporting for the Post:

The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days.

I did not see that coming. Here’s Bezos’s letter to Post employees.

Alex Rodriguez Suspended Through 2014 Season 

Sad day for baseball and for Yankee fans. The timing is almost bizarre though — tonight will be A-Rod’s first game in the lineup all season — and word is he’s going to appeal the suspension and might play the remainder of the season.

12 other players around the league received 50-game suspensions; Rodriguez is the only player who is appealing. A-Rod fighting this until the bitter end makes a certain sick sense. If he is truly innocent and the victim of an elaborate conspiracy by MLB and/or the Yankees (fat chance), fighting the charge is the right thing to do. And if he’s guilty (sure looks like it) and accepted the ban, a suspension through the end of 2014 might effectively end his career. He’ll turn 40 during the 2015 season. Whatever games he can play during this appeals process may well be the only MLB games he’ll ever get to play again.

Notable: MLB has not made public the actual evidence against Rodriguez (nor any of the other suspended players), nor has Rodriguez failed a drug test.

Update: Front page of today’s New York Post.

Worst Idea So Far This Week, But the Week Is Young 

Hunter Walk, apparently in all seriousness:

I’d love to watch Pacific Rim in a theater with a bit more light, wifi, electricity outlets and a second screen experience. Don’t tell me I’d miss major plot points while scrolling on my ipad [sic] — it’s a movie about robots vs monsters. I can follow along just fine.

(Via Jay Yarow.)

‘Louse Got Your Tongue?’ 

My favorite episode so far of Just the Tip. “That Amy, she’s just too damn sensible.”

Obama Administration Vetoes ITC Ban on Apple Products 

So how does one square this with the notion that Washington — including, if not especially the Obama administration — is putting the screws to Apple to punish them for their meager spending on lobbying and campaign contributions?

My cynical take: the e-books case pits two American companies against each other, Amazon and Apple. The DOJ has sided strongly with Amazon, a company decidedly in the Obama administration’s good graces. This ITC dispute, on the other hand, pits Apple against Samsung. A U.S. company that plays ball will be favored over another that doesn’t play ball, but even one that doesn’t play is preferable to a South Korean company, especially one like Samsung with a long history of cheating and playing dirty.

Washington doesn’t want to see Apple fail; they want Apple to continue making massive profits. They just want a bigger slice of those juicy profits kicked back.

Washington vs. Apple 

Steve Friess, Politico:

The company marches to its own iTunes, spending little on lobbying, rarely joining trade associations and, in a pattern that’s become more pronounced this summer, refusing to negotiate or settle in many lawsuits.

Experts say Apple’s tried-and-true approach is starting to backfire, as the company has already taken at least one big hit in a high-profile e-books trial. A recent landmark D.C. appearance by CEO Tim Cook may reflect a new reality for Apple: that direct engagement with lawmakers, regulators and rivals is more effective than trying to remain above it all.

In other words, word on the street in Washington is that it’s a shakedown, pure and simple. The smart move for Apple would be to just pay up, but that’s sad.

Update: Do I believe this? Let’s file my take under “Wait and see”. But it’s worth noting that this piece is from Politico, a DC insider site (if not the DC insider site) — not an Apple site.

Less Brightly, Indeed 

Ian Sherr and Joanne Lublin, reporting for the WSJ, “Apple Stores Glow Less Brightly”:

To be sure, Apple Store sales continue to be the envy of other retailers. It raked in $5,971 per square foot in 2012, up 17% from the $5,098 per square foot the year before, according to retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners. By comparison, Tiffany & Co. had sales of $3,453 per square foot in 2012, and popular yoga-clothes retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. pulled in $2,464 per square foot last year. However, even Apple’s metrics in this arena have begun to fall, Customer Growth Partners says. So far this fiscal year, sales per square foot have fallen to $4,542, down 4.5% from $4,754 the same time a year earlier.

So the gist of this story is that Apple Stores, despite remaining the most profitable per square foot in the world, by a long shot, are faltering due to a lack of leadership and Apple needs to change them somehow.

Is not the simpler explanation for the 5 percent drop in sales last quarter, from the year ago quarter, that last year Apple had debuted the first retina iPads in this quarter, and this year they haven’t had a major new product introduction in nine months?

Is Supporting Android Actually More Work for a Developer Than Supporting iOS? 

Russell Ivanovic, a developer at Shifty Jelly, argues that the answer is no:

Sorry to disappoint you John, but a talented Android developer works at roughly the same speed as a talented iOS one. They make the same apps, of the same complexity, in the same amount of time. Sure there are differences in platforms and API. Some things are quicker to do on iOS, others on Android. Long story short, there’s not a lot of difference when it comes to development time.

Like the very analysts he mocks, Gruber is trying to fit a story to his pre-existing narrative. Does the BBC story offer a reason as to why the team is 3x bigger? Nope. Does it suggest any sort of causality? None. It’s a casually mentioned fact about an app which is currently being developed. It could be that the team is bigger because the app is playing catch up to the iOS one that came out first. It could be bigger because some of the iOS team is helping out. It could be bigger because the BBC is using developers who are less familiar with Android. It could be that the iOS team used to be the same size or bigger, but was ramped down after the first version of the app was completed.

Or, perhaps it could be that the BBC has been very public over the last few years about the problems they’ve had supporting Android. Like this, earlier this year:

But as I said, this is not my job, so I asked Daniel Danker, the BBC’s head of iPlayer, apps and all that stuff, to explain. […]

“If you look at the amount of energy we spend on Apple, it pales in comparison to what we spend on Android. […]

“People write to us saying just that, why bother supporting older devices, why don’t you just start with - and then they insert whichever model of phone they have. But more than a quarter of our requests to iPlayer come from devices running Gingerbread. And the number one device contacting us is still the Samsung Galaxy S2, which can’t handle advanced video.”

See also this gem.

Maybe the BBC iPlayer Android team is comprised of a bunch of dopes. Maybe the problems the BBC faces are specific to the domain of streaming video. But the bottom line is that the BBC’s Android team is three times bigger than their iOS team, and yet their Android app lags behind in features, because they’re finding it harder to develop for Android because of hardware and software fragmentation. And they’re not alone.

SmugMug 

My thanks to SmugMug for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their all-new photo websites. Stunning designs, cutting edge features, super easy to use, and above all, a focus on great photography. Check out their website and you’ll see what I mean. Even the signup process is design-focused. So great.

‘Going to a Wal-Mart and Calling for More of the Kinds of Jobs It Offers’ 

Week-old news, but it captures the “competitive” book market the DOJ has seen fit to protect:

Another possible reason for Amazon’s boldness is its apparently cozy relationship with the Obama administration — whose Justice Department pursued the agency model case, which mainly benefited Amazon. This relationship will be highlighted this coming Tuesday, when the president will give another major speech on the economy and aiding the middle class at, of all places, the Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn. This is roughly equivalent of going to a Wal-Mart and calling for more of the kinds of jobs it offers.

DOJ Calls for Apple to Terminate Existing Publisher Deals, Allow Rival Bookstores to Sell Books Within Their iOS Apps 

Amazon must be loving this.

PR Agency Caught Bribing StackOverflow Users to Say Good Things About Samsung 

Shocking that a company as scrupulous as Samsung would stoop to this.

Retina vs. Battery Life 

Katherine Boehret, reviewing the new Nexus 7:

Another drawback: In my test, the new Nexus 7’s battery life was underwhelming. Compared with the same battery test of the iPad Mini and first Nexus 7, it fell short at just six hours; the others clocked in at 10 hours and 27 minutes and 10 hours and 44 minutes, respectively. Google claims the battery life can last over nine hours, but the company tests it in Airplane mode (Internet connection off), with screen brightness set to 44% while playing video. I keep Wi-Fi on in the background and screen brightness at 75% while playing video.

This is the main reason I’ve been so skeptical about the iPad Mini going retina this year. I don’t think Apple would accept a severe drop in battery life like Google has. Nor do I think they’d make the Mini thicker and heavier to pack a bigger battery inside, like they did with the iPad 3 — its size and weight are too central to the iPad Mini’s purpose. But then what? Another year at 1024 × 768? That feels off too — the current Mini already sticks out as Apple’s only non-retina iOS device.

We demand magic — a retina iPad Mini with no decrease in battery life, but no increase in thickness, weight, or price. And they need to produce at least 20 million of them by Christmas. Something has to give.

WSJ: ‘Apple’s Next iPad Mini Will Likely Have “Retina” Display From Samsung’ 

Lorraine Luk, reporting for the WSJ (behind the paywall, alas):

Apple routinely tests various designs and has been known to make changes late in the design process, so it isn’t clear whether the proposed new product will make its way to market. However, an iPad Mini with a retina display appears more likely, particularly after Google Inc. released its latest Nexus 7 tablet last week with a high-resolution screen.

Great news, if true, but I’m not sure why there’s so much hedging in the above paragraph. I don’t know whether this year’s Mini is retina or not, but either way, at this point, the decision has been made.

Advertise on The Deck 

The Deck Network is the best ad network on the web. They’re booking ad schedules now for the remainder of 2013, and at the moment, still have a couple ad slots open in August. Talk to Jim Coudal for more information, and get a nice price if you can pull the trigger quick.

The Verge on the Moto X 

David Pierce:

Wicks and his team ended up choosing a 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display, with whites that look a little pink when examined closely and the same motion-blur problems that plague every similar panel. Compared to the the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, both of which have 1080p screens, it’s a mid-range panel, but Wicks says it doesn’t matter. “We could go and make a higher-resolution screen,” Wicks says, “but it would just suck battery and nobody would know the difference.”

AMOLED = gross. My hunch is that this phone will be another dud.

The Inside Story of the Moto X 

Steven Levy:

Finally, we have the answer. The Moto X, announced today, marks the arrival, finally, of the Google Phone.

The Moto X is the first in a series of hardware products that Google hopes will supercharge the mother company’s software and services. A svelte slab with smooth curves at its edge, purpose-built to fit in the palm of your hand. It is designed for mass appeal, not just a slice of the population like Star Wars fans. It has its share of features that distinguish it from the pack, particularly in a period where some of the market leaders are reloading their innovation guns. These include persistent notifications, user-customizable design components, instant photo-capture, and hands-free authentication.

Will be fascinating to see how this phone does, and, if it succeeds, who it takes share from.

“We don’t monetize the things we create,” Android creator Andy Rubin once told me. “We monetize users.”

That’s our Google. But it’s not Motorola; Motorola sells phones for a profit. Or at least they did.

(And man, nobody has access to Google like Steven Levy does. I dare say no writer today has access to a major tech company like Levy does with Google. And he deserves it; great piece.)

Android 4.3 Update Fixes Laggy Performance on Nexus 7 Tablets 

Brian Klug, AnandTech:

One of the common complaints late in the life of the original Nexus 7 was slow storage I/O performance, leading to an inconsistent user experience. After a fresh flash, the Nexus 7 was speedy and performant, but after months of installing applications and using the tablet, things began slowing down. This was a friction point that many hoped would be fixed in the new Nexus 7 (2013) model, which it was. There’s even more to the story though, it turns out Google has fixed that storage I/O aging problem on all Nexus devices with the Android 4.3 update.

Here’s a fun game: Search the web for articles about this fix, and try to find one that includes the word “finally” in the headline. Now imagine the headlines if the iPad Mini had shipped with a crippling I/O bug that Apple didn’t fix for a year.

Instagram Deleting Photos Uploaded Using Private APIs 

Including those uploaded from the leading (but unofficial) client for Windows Phone. I sympathize with Windows Phone users, but this is what you get when you rely on private APIs.

Chartbuilder 

David Yanofsky, writing at Nieman Journalism Lab:

Today Quartz is open-sourcing the code behind Chartbuilder, the application we use to make most of our charts. Along with the underlying charting library — called Gneisschart — the tool has given everyone in our worldwide newsroom 24-hour access to simple charts at graphics-desk quality. It has helped all of our reporters and editors become more responsible for their own content and less dependent on others with specialized graphics skills.

Very cool.

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