Linked List: February 2013

Did You Know Apple Pre-Announced Its iPad Sales? 

Matthew Panzarino:

That’s great. Only one problem: Apple never announced any such plans of any sort. I’m sure that Apple planned to sell a certain amount of both models, but it never reveals those estimates publicly. In fact, it has become even more conservative in its forecast reporting in an endeavor to halt projection inflation.

DisplaySearch estimated those numbers from what it saw as a shift in a specific split of component orders. In fact, these estimates based on a single component (TFT LCDs).

Much of the news media is afflicted with a collective mental disorder in which any estimate (read: guess), if it comes from someone whose job title is “analyst”, somehow becomes a fact.

Calculator Construction Set 

Randomly thought of this anecdote from Andy Hertzfeld’s amazing Folklore.org today. Such a great story. (If you’ve never read Folklore.org, prepare to lose a few hours. Or, better yet, buy the book.)

CGI Audrey Hepburn Stars in Candy Bar Commercial 

Technically impressive, but how can you write about this without mentioning how revolting the entire concept is? What is wrong with the heirs to Hepburn’s estate that they’d sell her out like this? Audrey Hepburn was one of the great talents in cinema history, and they’ve turned her into Ronald McDonald, an animated cartoon peddling junk food.

Groupon Shitcans CEO 

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason, in a letter to employees:

After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding — I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.

Crummy CEO, but not a bullshitter.

The Fate of Google Glass 

Joel Hladecek:

Wearing Google Glass made users feel like they didn’t have to connect with the actual humans around them. “I’m elsewhere — even though I appear to be staring right at you.” Frankly the people who wore Google Glass were afraid of the people around them. And Glass gave them a strange transparent hiding place. A self-centered context for suffering through normal moments of uncomfortable close proximity. Does it matter that everyone around you is more uncomfortable for it?

At least with a hand-held phone there was no charade. The very presence of the device in hand, head down, was a clear flag alerting bystanders to the momentary disconnect. “At the moment, I’m not paying attention to you.”

Strident, but I don’t think he’s far off the mark.

U.K. Judge Who Ruled Against Apple Now Hired by Samsung 

“Lack of integrity”, indeed.

Charlie Kindel: ‘Why Nobody Can Copy Apple’ 

What I like about his simple theory is that it also explains why NeXT never caught on, yet the same technology led by the same team resulted in such tremendous success at Apple.

Update: Kindel has a good follow-up, too.

Passbook Mobile Ticketing Expanding to 13 MLB Ballparks This Season 

Erica Ogg:

Right now, he said, iOS users account for 70 percent of the free version of At Bat. But that’s “shrinking every day” as Android has grown — he says thanks to Samsung’s good mobile hardware and its growing cool factor, as well as the Google Play store being better curated by Google.

However, when it comes to users that pay for At Bat — which is $20 per season — 85 percent are still iOS. But that’s changing too, he said. “Slowly.”

Gun Whisky Cologne Cigar Beard 

Codename for the upcoming less-emasculating version of Android.

Vigil 

Simple, stylish, useful website-monitoring app for the iPhone. I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and the service paid for itself when it pinged me at 1am because DF was down.

How to Enable Pinch-to-Zoom on the Chromebook Pixel 

Why is this not on by default?

‘His Dick Falls Off, That’s How He Mates’ 

Scientifically accurate Spider-Man.

iCloud and That Sinking Feeling 

From the new Nice Mohawk company blog, a look at the state of iCloud data syncing. In short: syncing documents works well, but syncing Core Data doesn’t, and sharing is non-existent — neither between users nor between apps.

If Marissa Mayer Were a Man 

Kathleen Schmidt:

Over the last several days, there has been an internet furor over Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s edict to employees that they can no longer work remotely (read: from home, from Starbucks…). Almost all of womankind took to tweeting, blogging, and writing opinion pieces about what a horrible policy Mayer was instituting and how she was setting women back instead of being a working mother/CEO to whom we could relate. I, too, am guilty of going on the defensive about Mayer’s decision. But then I thought: If Marissa Mayer were a man, would there be the same outrage?

No. Or at the very least, there’d be no one questioning or even mentioning the parenthood of a male CEO who made the same decision.

Sergey Brin, With a Computer Strapped to His Head, Covering One of His Eyes, Tells TED Audience Smartphones Are ‘Emasculating’ 

Casey Newton, reporting for CNet:

Speaking at the TED Conference today in Long Beach, Calif., Brin told the audience that smartphones are “emasculating.” “You’re standing around and just rubbing this featureless piece of glass,” he said.

Look at the fucking picture of him up there. We’re taking advice on cool from this guy? Seriously?

I can see the argument that dicking around with our phones in public is not cool, that we should pay more attention to our companions and surroundings, and less to our computer displays. Strapping a computer display to your face is not the answer.

Yahoo and Remote Work 

Richard Branson, on Marissa Mayer’s elimination of work-from-home at Yahoo:

Perplexed by Yahoo! stopping remote working. Give people the freedom of where to work and they will excel.

I’ve worked remotely. I know some very successful companies where most, sometimes all, employees work remotely. If I were going to start a new company today, it’d be a small team, all remote. But what works for small teams doesn’t necessarily work for large companies. It may well be that Mayer’s policy change will not help Yahoo, but Branson’s statement is clearly wrong: Yahoo employees have been allowed to work remotely, and they have not excelled.

Yahoo needs a kick in the ass. Mayer is not merely trying to keep Yahoo limping along; she’s trying to lead Yahoo to kick some ass. Same old, same old isn’t going to get them there.

Samsung Wallet 

Dan Seifert, The Verge:

The company showed off a few features of the new app during its developer keynote, and it’s quite clear that Samsung took its design inspiration for Wallet from Apple’s Passbook (even down to the icon that Samsung used).

Looks like someone fixed their copy-and-paste function.

When we asked why Samsung did not include NFC tap-to-pay features in Wallet, the company said that retailers prefer barcodes over NFC because they don’t have to install any new infrastructure to support it.

Shocker.

Dozens of Big U.S. Companies to Back Gay Marriage 

Roger Parloff, reporting for Fortune:

On Thursday, dozens of American corporations, including Apple, Alcoa, Facebook, eBay, Intel, and Morgan Stanley will submit an amicus brief in the landmark Hollingsworth v. Perry case broadly arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that laws banning same-sex marriages, like California’s ballot initiative Proposition 8, are unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses.

Good.

Marco Arment on MacBooks With Cellular Networking 

Marco Arment:

To start, Apple could just put cellular-connection detection and responsible-usage logic into iTunes and Software Update. That would be sufficient to launch with new 4G MacBook models at WWDC, then they could have a session on the new API and start enforcing responsible practices in the Mac App Store. Along with maybe working something out with Netflix, they’ll have addressed the biggest accidental bandwidth hogs that most people will face.

Kickstarter Campaign to Open Source LiveCode 

LiveCode has a long and varied history as an alternative/successor to HyperCard. The company behind it, RunRev, started this Kickstarter project to fund development to (a) improve it; and (b) open source it. There’s one day left in the campaign and they just hit their funding goal tonight, but they have a few stretch goals that are within reach that promise even more.

I’m always skeptical about cross-platform app toolkits, but LiveCode’s emphasis on education — learning to program — is an interesting twist. I’m in.

Another Way of Looking at It 

Amir Efrati, reporting for the Wall Street Journal on those numbers from Good Technology regarding mobile device activations in large corporations, paragraphs one and two:

There are signs that Apple’s grip on tablets has been weakened among consumers, who are buying more devices made by Samsung and Amazon. Now the trend is trickling into the business market.

That’s according to new data from Good Technology, one of the biggest mobile device managers, known as MDMs, that give tools to corporate IT managers to oversee employee devices.

Stop reading there and what is the reader to think, other than “more bad news for Apple”? Two paragraphs later, we get the actual numbers:

Out of all of the tablets that installed Good’s management software during 2012, Android’s share grew from 2.7% in the first quarter to 6.8% by the fourth quarter, with the iPad grabbing nearly the entire rest of the market.

“We’re seeing some glimmers of Android tablet adoption,” said John Herrema, an executive at Good Technology.

And then only at the bottom of the article do we see that, according to Good, iOS is actually doing better than Android year-over-year:

Overall, Apple’s iPad and iPhone devices made up 77% of new devices using Good Technology software last year, up from 71% in 2011, with Android-powered devices making up much of the rest.

The headline for Efrati’s story? “Report: Android Tablets Gain on iPads in Business Market”.

Chromebook Pixel and Multitouch 

Google’s marketing page for the Chromebook Pixel mentions multitouch and pinch-to-zoom, but their documentation page only mentions single-finger taps and scrolling.

Update: Multitouch does work in Maps for pinch-to-zoom, report a few readers who have the Pixel. But it doesn’t work system-wide, and doesn’t allow for zooming web pages. It’s something individual apps need to support explicitly, hence my initial confusion.

Popular Android Twitter Client Hits Token Limit 

Chris Welch:

And now there’s another problem: breaking the token barrier means new downloads are as good as useless, but Vergès can’t deliver future updates to Falcon Pro if it’s no longer in Google Play. As such, he’s decided the best course of action is to hike Falcon Pro’s price into the stratosphere: it’s currently listed at $132.13 on Google Play.

Way to go, Twitter.

Post-PC Devices in the Enterprise 

Lots of variety in Good Technology’s list of the top mobile devices activated in large corporations — some are iPhones, some are iPads.

Obsolete, Eh? 

Brooke Crothers, reviewing the Chromebook Pixel for CNet:

Thank you, Google. For obsoleting my MacBook.

Glad we’re not jumping to hyperbolic conclusions.

Question: What two killer hardware features are missing on MacBooks? My answer: a touch screen and 4G. What a coincidence. Just what Google is offering on the Chromebook Pixel. And in a package that comes close to matching the MacBook’s aesthetics.

Don’t get me started on the pointlessness of a touchscreen on a MacBook. But cellular networking — that, I agree, does feel missing at this point. I make do with hotspot tethering, but the fact that my iPad has cellular networking built-in (and shares the same Verizon account as my iPhone) makes it feel like my MacBook should have it too.

I’m not sure why Apple hasn’t offered it as an option yet, but my guess is that it’s because Mac OS X isn’t designed to behave differently while on different types of networks. With cellular networking, for example, you wouldn’t want iTunes to download new episodes of TV episodes or even podcasts in the background — a single episode could eat up your entire monthly bandwidth allotment.

Using the Microsoft Surface Pro for Drawing 

Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade:

Sketching with the Stylus in Sketchbook was awesome. It’s important to note that you can lay your hand on the screen while you draw without messing up your work. There was no brush lag at all and the pressure sensitivity worked perfectly. The stylus itself felt exactly like drawing on my Cintiq except that the Surface screen is smooth whereas the Cintiq screen has a bit of texture to it.

How ironic would it be if the iPad becomes the dominant mass market computer and the Surface becomes the one for artists?

‘If You See the Computer They Blew It’ 

Andre Torrez:

The difference is, of course, I can put the phone in my pocket the second you start talking to me. It is not part of our conversation and there is no screen alerting me to a new message or enticing me with some video. Putting the phone in my pocket is a way to say, “Okay it’s just you and me talking now.” But wearing that computer on your face is a reminder that, well, you have a damn computer on your face.

Josh Topolsky on Google Glass 

In case you missed it Friday, Josh Topolsky got a hands-on demo with Google Glass. Definitely an interesting write-up.

I still don’t see the market for this as a product. It’s cool technology, but to me it doesn’t even look close to being a complete consumer product. This is to heads-up-displays as Jeff Han’s 2006 TED demo was to multitouch: a demo of cool technology, not a cool product.

And the idea that people will wear things like this everywhere (as opposed to special specific scenarios, such as workers in an environment where their hands are otherwise occupied, like, say, surgeons) strikes me as creepy as hell.

‘Do You Think You’re Going to Give This Part to Somebody Else? I’m Going to Blow You Motherfuckers Away.’ 

Terrific retrospective on Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction by Mark Seal for Vanity Fair. (Via Steve Delahoyde at Coudal.)

The Wu of Maker’s Mark 

Speaking of whiskies, Matthew Rowley has a good take on Maker’s Mark’s recent “we’re going to water down our bourbon / wait, wait, no we’re not” about-face.

Reinventing a Great Scotch Distillery 

Kelefa Sanneh on the resurrection of the Bruichladdich whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Islay:

Scotland is the undisputed whisky capital of the world, producing nearly two-thirds of the global supply, and Islay is the highly disputed capital of Scottish whisky. The island has thirty-five hundred residents and eight working distilleries; there is surely no place that produces more great whisky per capita, and possibly no place that produces more great whisky, full stop. To rebuild Bruichladdich, Reynier recruited a native Ileach: Jim McEwan, a whisky celebrity who had spent his career at Bowmore, a venerable distillery that faces Bruichladdich from across a coastal inlet. Bowmore makes whisky that bears smoky traces of burning peat, which was once Islay’s main fuel source and is now the signature flavor of Islay whisky. The island’s best-known distillery is probably Laphroaig, whose flagship dram is pungently smoky and startlingly medicinal, with a flavor that is sometimes compared to TCP, a European antiseptic. In reasonable doses and proper circumstances, Laphroaig can be delicious, but its popularity is a mixed blessing for the industry, because whisky neophytes who try Laphroaig and hate it may never return.

Bruichladdich is nearly smoke-free, which is a big reason that Reynier fell for it.

It’s a great story and sounded like great whisky, so I had to try it. I was right — it’s damn good.

‘If You’re Going to Strike Early, You Must Strike Hard’ 

Matt Drance on Sony’s vaporous PlayStation 4 announcement.

A Summer With Stanley Kubrick 

Tim Deegan, who worked as Stanley Kubrick’s summer intern in 1968:

What was revelatory to me was not so much his meticulous process and attention to even the smallest details, but his absolute power. I was being paid by the studio to work for him as an auditor to uncover their deficiency and tell him.

Firefox 22 Will Block Third-Party Cookies by Default 

Megan Geuss, reporting for Ars Technica:

Blocking third-party cookies would not be new or unheard of among browsers; Apple’s Safari already rejects cookies from third parties. In a blog post on Friday, Mayer called the Firefox patch “a slightly relaxed version of the Safari policy.” Chrome allows all cookies, and Internet Explorer blocks some third-party cookies, although not all.

For some reason I don’t expect Chrome to get on board with this.

(Ed Bott has a good story on this change, too, but I don’t understand his headline: “Firefox Raises the Online Privacy Bar With New Cookie Policy”. In what way has Mozilla “raised the bar” if they’re only now matching the default cookie privacy Safari users have enjoyed for 10 years?)

The Magazine: Now With Full-Article Sharing, Web Subscriptions 

Marco Arment:

Since The Magazine had no ads, and people could only subscribe in the app, I figured there was no reason to show full article text on the site — it could only lose money and dilute the value of subscribing.

That was the biggest mistake I’ve made with The Magazine to date.

Strong ideas, loosely held. That’s the path to success.

Chromebooks and Battery Life 

Good point from Alex Chitu at the (unaffiliated with Google) Google Operating System blog:

It’s not clear why the latest Chromebooks no longer have a great battery life, but the new batteries are obviously cheaper and lighter. Google’s Chromebook features page no longer mentions the word “battery”, even if this was one of the main selling points for the first Chromebooks.

This was posted before Google announced their own $1299 Chromebook Pixel hardware, but even that doesn’t fare well. Google claims “up to 5 hours of active use”; both the 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro With Retina Display promise “Up to 7 hours wireless web”.

Battery life is one reason why I remain a deep skeptic of Chrome OS. Post-PC devices should get better battery life, not worse.

James Bond Lego Kit Concepts 

Great concept work by Jeff Chapman. Next we need a Little Nelly kit from You Only Live Twice. (Thanks to Kevin Miller.)

‘Denied Permission for an Emergency Landing at Clavius’ 

The newest episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Jim Coudal. We discuss Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (and the new 70mm print we saw screened in Chicago last week), The Deck network and the state of online advertising, and the just-completed Webstock conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

Brought to you by two excellent sponsors:

  • Squarespace — everything you need to build exceptional websites.
  • Everpix — a smart photo platform that helps you make sense of your growing photo collection.
Everpix 

My thanks to Everpix for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Everpix is a smart photo platform that helps you make sense of your growing photo collection. It’s an ambitious endeavor: think of it as a cloud-based alternative to iPhoto for organizing and storing your entire photo library. It’s designed with modern photography in mind: the assumption is that we all have thousands of photos (the average Everpix user has more than 10,000), are adding hundreds more each month, and that few of us ever take time to organize our new photos.

Everpix does the organizing for you, based on dates and on very clever semantic analysis of the content of your photos. It’s impressive technology. They have terrific iPad and iPhone apps for viewing and browsing your library, and Mac and and Windows apps for syncing your photos from your computer to their cloud. You can keep using apps like iPhoto, Lightroom, or Aperture for importing from your camera and making editing adjustments.

Everpix is not a social network like Flickr or Instagram, it’s your personal photo library, stored in the cloud, accessible via really well-designed native client apps for iOS. The apps are free, as is the 30-day free trial to start. After that, subscriptions are easy: $5/month, or $40/year. (What a novel business model: charging money.) I’m loving it, and very impressed. I highly encourage everyone to give the free trial a go. Bottom line: Everpix is what iPhoto/iCloud photo syncing should be.

(Sidenote: Among their investors: Bertrand Serlet and Picasa co-founder Michael Herf.)

Zendesk Security Breach Affects Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest 

Credit to Zendesk for the plainspoken headline on their announcement: “We’ve Been Hacked”.

The Rise and Fall of A-Rod 

Great piece by Joe Posnanski for NBC Sports:

Everyone talked about his joy for the game, his deference to teammates, his innocence. “On July 27,” Gerry Callahan wrote that year in a Sports Illustrated story called “The Fairest of Them All,” “Alex Rodriguez will turn 21, making him old enough to have a beer with his Seattle Mariners teammates. He says he’s not interested. ‘Can’t stand the taste,’ he says. Rodriguez has always felt more at home among milk drinkers.”

Update: Fixed link to non-mobile URL.

Conditions 

Attractive ultra-simple new weather app for the iPhone, by Jake Marsh.

Those Rumored Google Stores 

MG Siegler:

With the news today about the Chromebook Pixel, the pieces are all starting to come together. Google says it’s selling that product through the Google Play online store and through Best Buy’s and Currys PC World’s websites. (And they’ll be available to use, but not buy, inside some Best Buys and Currys.) That won’t be good enough.

Google has been attempting to sell various Nexus products through their online stores for years now. The results have ranged from some success (Nexus 4) to fail (Nexus One) to major fail (Nexus Q). The Best Buy results seem mixed as well. While Chromebooks are finally seeing some traction, it’s still minimal despite the reach of Best Buy.

What Google needs for these products is what Apple needed a decade ago: their own stores that they’re in complete control of to showcase their products.

The one that most demands a retail presence is Google Glass. The bottom line: a physical presence makes a lot of sense when you’re trying to sell physical products.

Palm OS as a Precursor to iOS 

I was a big a fan of Palm OS back in the day (I carried a Handspring Visor for a year or two), so I certainly didn’t mean to imply here that the iPhone was the first device to use a home screen that was just a grid of app icons. (Palm wasn’t first, either.) I’d still argue that the iOS “system” interface is simpler — fewer hardware buttons, for example — but the fact that Palm had something so brilliantly simple so long ago shows just how badly they bungled their evolution.

Google Announces Chromebook Pixel 

$1299 for a laptop that only runs Chrome, with janky touchscreen scrolling. Great idea. I bet it outsells the Nexus Q.

Discovery 

Today’s front page at Coudal.com.

Jony Ive on Blue Peter 

Charming.

Galaxy S3 Bug Results in Crashing When Text Is Copied 

First reported to Samsung back in October, still a problem. You’d think if anyone would have a Copy function that worked perfectly, it’d be Samsung. (Via Terence Eden.)

Sony Holds PlayStation 4 Press Event, Doesn’t Show PlayStation 4 

What was the bigger shit show: Sony holding a long press event for a device they didn’t show and wouldn’t give a shipping date or price for? Or the gadget blogs that devoted hours of coverage to this?

Claim Chowder: ‘iPhone Dead in Water’ 

Henry Blodget, back in April 2011, declaring the iPhone “dead in the water”:

Importantly, it’s not a question of which platform is “better.” (This is irrelevant.) It’s a question of which platform everyone else uses. And increasingly, in the smartphone market, barring a radical change in trend, that’s Android.

So that’s why Android’s gains matter. And, yes, Apple fans should be scared to death about them.

Strategy Analytics, earlier today:

The data show that Apple’s iPhone 5 overtook Samsung’s Galaxy S3 by some 12 million units in the last quarter of 2012 to become the world’s bestselling smartphone.

That’s not terribly surprising. What is surprising is that according to Strategy Analytics the iPhone 4S — discounted by Apple when the new model came out — also overtook the Galaxy S3.

‘I Don’t Really Know How to Write This Letter’ 

Letters of Note:

After adapting Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange for the big screen, Kubrick brought Burgess on-board to write a Beethoven-inspired Napoleon novel on which his epic could be based.

In June of 1972, Burgess supplied the filmmaker with the first half of his manuscript; Kubrick rejected it by way of the following letter, thus ending the collaboration.

Android First 

ShiftyJelly, on launching version 4.0 of their podcasting app for Android first:

Pocket Casts on Android has outsold the iOS version historically at about 5:1. That means for every 1 iOS version we’ve sold, 5 were sold on Android. The Android version also costs $1 more, so we’re making more per transaction as well. The reasons for this are a blog post on their own, but it’s a fact.

On Android there is no native podcasting solution, and we see a massive potential to fill that space. There are other apps out there, but we feel we have what it takes to become the dominant podcasting app on that platform.

Makes sense, given that they’re making significantly more money from the Android version. That’s not a story you hear often, though. (Via Benedikt Winkelmayer.)

Google Releases New Preview of Glass 

I don’t get the appeal of this other than as a network-connected head-mounted camera, which I personally have no need for. If you have a phone in your pocket, why wear this? And it doesn’t seem to replace the need to carry a phone. Whole thing still seems very vaporous to me. (And count me in with David Chartier regarding the pricing and availability.)

iPhoneDevSDK Admins Didn’t Know Site Was Booby-Trapped 

Jacqui Cheng:

iPhoneDevSDK — the site apparently responsible for the hacks at Facebook, Apple, and Twitter — says it was not aware it was being used to attack visitors until it read press reports this week. In a news post (do not click if you’re wary of security breaches) on Wednesday, site admins said they had no knowledge of the breach and were not contacted by any of the affected companies. Though, iPhoneDevSDK is now working with Facebook’s security team in order to share information about what happened.

Headline of the Day 

Ars Technica: “Two-Year-Old Phone Receives 15-Month-Old Software Update”.

OAuth and Changing Your Twitter Password 

Brent Simmons:

When Twitter was recently hacked, I was among those who got an email saying I was affected. So I changed my password.

But here’s what I’ve noticed: changing my password does not cause any of the Twitter clients on my iPhone to ask me again for authentication. They just keep working normally. […]

I understand that OAuth is a security win in some ways. But implementors should, I think, be mindful of what normal people expect — which is that changing your password locks out every app until you re-authenticate.

Innovation Through Simplicity 

“iHKDesign” ably responds to this jacktastic CNN piece by Steve Kovach, arguing that Samsung is “out-innovating” Apple. This bit (from Kovach) caught my eye:

Based on all this evidence, Apple feels behind. Take a look at its newest fourth-generation iPad. It has a killer processor and other great hardware features, but the operating system doesn’t take advantage of any of that. The home screen is still just a grid of static icons that launch apps.

Kovach’s whole piece is inane, but the above criticism — that iOS’s home screen is behind because it’s “just a grid of static icons” — is one I’ve seen from other, more reasonable critics. Such a mindset completely ignores simplicity and obviousness as benefits. The utter simplicity and obviousness of the iOS “system”, from a user’s standpoint, is arguably the primary reason iPhones and iPads are so popular. Is such simplicity for everyone? No. Is it suitable for all computers? No. But it is both comforting and comfortable for everyone who’s spent the last two decades more confused than not by their computers.

The utter simplicity of the iOS home screen is Apple’s innovation. It’s the simplest, most obvious “system” ever designed. It is a false and foolish but widespread misconception that “innovation” goes only in the direction of additional complexity.

Removing Duplicates From the Finder’s ‘Open With’ Menu 

Nice tip from Dr. Drang.

Google’s War Against Account Hijackers 

Google security engineer Mike Hearn:

With stolen passwords in hand, attackers attempt to break into accounts across the web and across many different services. We’ve seen a single attacker using stolen passwords to attempt to break into a million different Google accounts every single day, for weeks at a time. A different gang attempted sign-ins at a rate of more than 100 accounts per second. Other services are often more vulnerable to this type of attack, but when someone tries to log into your Google Account, our security system does more than just check that a password is correct.

If a sign-in is deemed suspicious or risky for some reason — maybe it’s coming from a country oceans away from your last sign-in — we ask some simple questions about your account. For example, we may ask for the phone number associated with your account, or for the answer to your security question. These questions are normally hard for a hijacker to solve, but are easy for the real owner. Using security measures like these, we’ve dramatically reduced the number of compromised accounts by 99.7 percent since the peak of these hijacking attempts in 2011.

iPhoneDevSDK 

Mike Isaac has identified the site responsible for the recent spate of hacking exploits against Apple, Facebook, and Twitter:

The site is called iPhonedevSdk, according to sources close to the Facebook hacking investigation. After Facebook employees visited the mobile development site in recent weeks, malicious code injected into the HTML of the site used an exploit in Oracle’s Java plugin to infect employee laptops, as the company divulged last Friday. […]

Of note: Do not visit this site, as it may continue to be compromised. While it’s potentially risky to publicize the web site, AllThingsD is providing the name to inform readers, mobile developers and organizations interested in mobile development in order to keep them from becoming infected.

The site has a Twitter account, but hasn’t posted since June.

Gender Divide in Tablet Size 

Darren Murph, writing from the AllThingsD Dive Into Media conference:

Kafka then asked about the subscription split, and where the iPad fit into that mix. Carey’s response? “The iPad is the dominant player, because the volume is there. What Barnes & Noble and Amazon figured out early was the 7-inch screen. Our men’s products did well on the 10-inch iPad, but our women’s products did not. But, they did really well on the 7-inch units — something that you can easily slip into your purse. We saw the 7-inch devices having more traction with women, while the larger 10-inch devices had more traction with men. We’re really happy that Apple introduced the iPad mini, and we’re awaiting the most recent numbers on how our publications are doing on that.” When Kafka specifically asked about Android traction, Carey added: “Google Play isn’t the biggest storefront at this point, but we want to work with everyone.”

New York City MTA Graphic Standards Manual 

Joe Clark:

This style manual, written by Massimo Vignelli and Bob Noorda for Unimark, is the sword in the stone of transit wayfinding manuals.

Brilliant.

Andrew Kim’s Sony RX1 Review 

Another good review.

Reuters: Apple Hit by Hackers Who Targeted Facebook Last Week 

Jim Finkle and Joseph Menn:

Apple, which is working with law enforcement to track down the hackers, told Reuters that only a small number of its employees’ Macintosh computers were breached, but “there was no evidence that any data left Apple.”

The iPhone and iPad maker said it would release a software tool later on Tuesday to protect customers against the malicious software used in the attacks.

The recent Java exploit is the root of these recent attacks.

Update: A bit more detail, in a statement Apple provided to Jim Dalrymple at The Loop.

HTC One’s Camera 

Alexandra Chang, writing for Wired Gadget Lab:

The most exciting is “Zoe” mode (from which the camera gets its name). Zoe lets you take full-resolution videos while simultaneously taking full-resolution still photos in burst mode. Shoot a video and the camera is taking photos for you. […]

This is by far the most useful addition to a smartphone camera. You can return to a video and literally scroll through the images, select one and save it to your camera roll or share it. Instead of pulling a low-res screenshot, you can pull a full-res photo of the exact moment you want.

Sounds like a great feature. Interesting too, that HTC has gone with fewer but bigger pixels on the camera sensor — this almost certainly makes for better images, but at the expense of a lower megapixel count.

Sounds Familiar 

Dan Seifert of The Verge, on HTC’s new flagship One phone (sporting a 4.7-inch 1920 × 1080 display with a remarkable 468 pixels-per-inch density):

But instead of having a soft-touch plastic body, the One features an all aluminum design that is not unlike the iPhone 5 […]

But how do the antennas work if the casing is aluminum? Matt Brian at The Next Web writes:

Developing the One, HTC has opted for an all metal unibody chassis that measures 9mm at its thickest point. Not only does it feel sturdy in the hand, the company says it has been able to use 12 years of R&D to incorporate all its antennae into the metal, using a complex system of patented technologies to automatically utilise antennae not obscured by your hand when you use it.

Back to The Verge:

Oddly enough, HTC felt that the three capacitive buttons that it used on its 2012 Android phones were one too many, and it has pared it down to just two for the One (one on each side of the HTC logo below the display). The button that got the axe is the multitasking key, which HTC believes is not used by most Android customers. We tend to disagree on how important the dedicated multitasking key is (as would most of our readers, we imagine), but HTC has now buried the function behind a double-tap of the home key. Similarly hidden is Google Now, which requires you to long press on the home button.

Aluminum casing with antennas integrated in the exterior? Long press the home button to get a voice-driven interface, double-tap the home button to bring up the multitasking switcher? Can’t quite put my finger on where I’ve seen these things before.

Unit 61398: The Computer-Hacking Division of China’s Military 

The NYT reports:

An unusually detailed 60-page study, to be released Tuesday by Mandiant, an American computer security firm, tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups — known to many of its victims in the United States as “Comment Crew” or “Shanghai Group” — to the doorstep of the military unit’s headquarters. The firm was not able to place the hackers inside the 12-story building, but makes a case there is no other plausible explanation for why so many attacks come out of one comparatively small area.

“Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398,” said Kevin Mandia, the founder and chief executive of Mandiant, in an interview last week, “or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighborhood.”

Samsung SodaStream Refrigerator 

First time I’ve ever been excited about a new product from Samsung.

James Duncan Davidson Reviews the Sony RX1 Camera 

James Duncan Davidson:

The Sony RX1 is as expensive as a full-frame SLR, yet small enough to fit in a jacket pocket or a smallish bag or purse with ease. It pairs one of the best full-frame sensors made to date with an amazing lens that has few peers, yet carries a commodity Cyber-shot label. From more than a few feet away, it looks fairly ordinary. Maybe even quaint. Close-up and in hand, however, the fit and finish is exquisite. It’s a study in juxtapositions.

I got to use one for an hour or so last month; it’s a remarkable camera.

Google Reportedly Planning Retail Stores 

Nice scoop by Seth Weintraub:

An extremely reliable source has confirmed to us that Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas.

The mission of the stores is to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers.

The WSJ backed up the story yesterday.

NYT Public Editor on That Tesla Story 

Margaret Sullivan:

My own findings are not dissimilar to the reader I quote above, although I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it.

Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially.

Why Don Melton Retired From Apple 

Don Melton:

The truth is I was done.

I accomplished far more there than I expected. And I had no dreams of greater power and glory, if such a thing were available to me. When I looked inside myself, I didn’t see ambition or even drive to continue. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe I was just tired.

And when you’re responsible for so many people, you owe them more than that. Better to step aside and let others have their turn. So I did.

Reminds me of Dean Smith’s explanation for retiring as coach of the men’s basketball team at North Carolina:

He had come to believe so after a former North Carolina player and assistant under Smith, Larry Brown, brought his Philadelphia 76ers to Chapel Hill for training camp in the first week of October. The old coach, 66 now, measured himself against this younger one and found himself wanting. “Watching Larry out on the court, I said to myself, I used to be like that,” Smith said. “If I can’t give this team that kind of enthusiasm, I should get out.”

Adam Rifkin: ‘Tumblr Is Not What You Think’ 

Adam Rifkin:

Tumblr provides its users with the oldest privacy-control strategy on the Internet: security through obscurity and multiple pseudonymity. Its users prefer a coarse-grained scheme they can easily understand over a sophisticated fine-grained privacy control — such as Facebook provides — that requires a lot of time and patience. To quote Sweet Brown, Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Tumblr proves that the issue is less about public vs. private and more about whether you are findable and identifiable by people who actually know you in real life.

123D Creature 

Cool 3D modeling app for the iPad from Autodesk.

Bing’s Real Problem 

Matt Yglesias, on Microsoft’s “Scroogled” anti-Google ad campaign:

The problem with Microsoft’s online service offerings isn’t that their TV campaigns are lame. It’s not even that the products are bad. But they’re not wildly better than Google’s search and email and so forth. Most people are just incredibly lazy. It’s easy to forget, but it took Google Search and Gmail a remarkably long time to rise to dominance during a period when they wiped the floor with the competition on the merits. Now Google has that change-aversion and laziness working in its favor. To beat them, you have to crush them on quality. And Microsoft’s not doing that. No ad campaign can overcome the basic reality of human inertia.

That’s the core problem with a lot of Microsoft’s products, like Windows Phone and Surface. They’re good products, but there’s no holy shit! in them. When you’re an upstart in any market, you need a disruptive product. That’s what happened with the iPhone and iPad for Apple, and with web search and Gmail for Google.

‘That Beautiful Thing’ 

Mike Sielski, reporting for the WSJ:

One year from today, the Mets will add to their payroll a 47-year-old, past-his-prime power hitter who has a reputation as a malcontent — a player who has been retired from professional baseball for nine years and won’t play another game again.

Nevertheless, starting on July 1, 2011, Bobby Bonilla will remain on the franchise’s payroll for 25 years, collecting an annual salary of $1,193,248.20. Those are the terms the Mets agreed to Jan. 3, 2000, when they bought out the final year of Mr. Bonilla’s contract.

“That beautiful thing,” he said here Monday.

Nice work if you can get it.

Baseball Card Vandals 

Spring training has started.

Tower 

My thanks to Fournova for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Tower, their powerful easy-to-use Git client for the Mac. Git is an amazing version control system, but using it from the command line is not for everyone. Tower makes it easy, without sacrificing power.

Download the free trial and see for yourself. Even better, Tower is currently on sale for 25 percent off the regular price.

Who Are Apple’s Suppliers? 

Most are in Asia, unsurprisingly, but not all are in China.

The iPhone Plus DPI Argument 

Marco Arment:

I don’t think they need to wait until they can go to “4X” Retina density (in fact, I question whether that will ever be worth the battery cost), I don’t think they’ll care if it’s not exactly 720P, and they sure won’t give a damn that some Android phones shipped with higher-DPI screens and got worse GPU performance and worse battery life as a result.

I agree with every word of this one. The same people arguing that Apple “can’t” release a mere 264 PPI iPhone in a market with 300+ PPI Android phones (and the 326 iPhone 5 and 4(S)) are the same people who, last year, argued that Apple “couldn’t” ship a 163 PPI iPad Mini in a market with the 200-something PPI Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.

‘A Simple Little Browser’ 

From a 2003 CNet story, just after Apple’s release of first version of Safari:

Specifically, [Opera CEO Jon von] Tetzchner said that he had asked Apple whether it would be willing to license Opera either to replace KHTML, or to supplement the current Safari version, which Apple said is a stripped-down affair with a minimalist interface and limited feature set.

“We have contacted Apple and asked them if they want a third-party browser, and we’ll see what the answer is,” Tetzchner said. “They could say we want to use Opera as the core engine. If they want KHTML as a simple little browser, and also something more advanced, we would be happy to provide it. Obviously, if we don’t get any positive signs from Apple, then we have to think about it.”

I guess they’ve thought about it.

Anyway, called it.

Must Have Touched a Nerve 

Daniel Glazman:

I just read Daring Fireball’s short so-called « analysis » of the Opera switch to WebKit. Even I perfectly know that guy is almost only an Apple PR guy, I’m again surprised by his limited ability to analyse a situation. The only question that is worth it is the following one: whatever is the strategic rationale that led to that choice, it’s obvious Opera had the choice between open-sourcing Presto to build a larger community around it and ditching it in favor of an already open-sourced rendering engine. So why did they choose the latter?

Here’s my piece he’s referring to. Not sure how a single word of it is about Apple at all. Anyway, open-sourcing Presto wouldn’t have solved any of Opera’s problems. Gecko has been open source all along and it too has fallen far behind WebKit. It’s pretty clear why Opera chose to switch to WebKit: WebKit is better, especially on mobile devices, and its lead is growing.

(Also, anyone else get the feeling the Mozilla guys wouldn’t be so worried about a browser engine monoculture if Gecko had won the war?)

Update: Glazman also writes:

And in terms of WebKit better than Presto, well, Opera has always been a better player with respect to standards than Apple.

In which case, Opera’s involvement with WebKit should help make WebKit even more standards-compliant. I fail to see a problem here.

Posterous Shitting Down in April 

Sorry, I meant shutting down.

iPhone Lock Screen Can Be Bypassed With New iOS 6.1 Trick 

Seems odd how many times iOS has had lock screen bypass bugs.

Tesla Motors Disputes New York Times Review of Model S 

I’ve waited to comment on this until Tesla presented their evidence; now they have and it seems rather devastating to the credibility of John Broder’s review in The Times. Broder responds here, though, with a compelling rejoinder that he was following the advice of Tesla employees.

Seems like the core problem wasn’t with the car, but with the advice Broder was given by Tesla.

HBO Go Adds AirPlay Support 

This race between Netflix and HBO to become more like the other tightens.

Designing the Packaging-Free Future 

Wired:

Designer Aaron Mickelson wants to solve the problem of excess packaging, by creating products that have no packaging at all.

Some very clever ideas here. Trash bags packaged in a trash bag is simply brilliant.

No Plan B 

Reuters:

“We’re very focused on continuing the success we have with PCs and taking that to tablets and phones,” Microsoft’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein said at the annual Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco, which was webcast.

Given Microsoft’s lack of success so far, he was asked if there was an alternative strategy or ‘Plan B’ in reserve.

“It’s less ‘Plan B’ than how you execute on the current plan,” said Klein. “We aim to evolve this generation of Windows to make sure we have the right set of experiences at the right price points for all customers.”

An interesting thought: what does Microsoft look like 10 years from now if Windows Phone never gains traction?

Opera to Switch to WebKit 

Opera press release:

To provide a leading browser on Android and iOS, this year Opera will make a gradual transition to the WebKit engine, as well as Chromium, for most of its upcoming versions of browsers for smartphones and computers.

“The WebKit engine is already very good, and we aim to take part in making it even better. It supports the standards we care about, and it has the performance we need,” says CTO of Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie. “It makes more sense to have our experts working with the open source communities to further improve WebKit and Chromium, rather than developing our own rendering engine further. Opera will contribute to the WebKit and Chromium projects, and we have already submitted our first set of patches: to improve multi-column layout.”

Robert O’Callahan from Mozilla sees this as a “sad day for the web”, but I think it’s more like a sad day for Mozilla. The simple truth is that WebKit is a better engine than Opera’s own Presto, and this move should make Opera’s browsers — particularly the mobile ones — better.

HP to Adopt Android for Upcoming Mobile Devices 

Taylor Wimberly, writing for ReadWrite:

Having failed to carve out a place for itself in the post-PC era, Hewlett-Packard is now taking drastic measures — by adopting Google’s Android operating system to run a series of upcoming mobile devices.

It’s a bit of a Hail Mary pass for HP, which has fallen years behind its rivals in the mobile space. It’s also a big win for Google, which adds another powerful partner to the Android ecosystem.

And a loss for Microsoft. This might add some context to Microsoft’s recent investment in Dell — HP seemingly doesn’t see a future in Windows or Windows Phone.

Google Play Sends App Buyers’ Personal Details to Developers 

Liam Tung, writing for ZDNet:

Without asking permission, Google sends developers the personal details of everyone who buys their app from Google Play.

According to Australian developer Dan Nolan, Google sends him the name, suburb and email address of consumers that his app  — enough to “track down and harass users who left negative reviews”. 

I wonder which side of the “creepy line” this falls on.

Xbox and Indie Developers 

Nat Brown, project leader of the original Xbox team at Microsoft:

My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.

His argument: Xbox needs an iOS-like indie developer system.

‘Abysmal’ 

Peter Ha, reviewing the just-released Mophie Helium battery case for iPhone 5:

There’s no getting around the iPhone 5’s abysmal battery life. It’s by far the least desirable feature.

Abysmal compared to what? Other phones? Nope. Abysmal compared to the sort of multi-day battery life we all crave? Sure. But people in hell want ice water, too.

Tim Cook at Goldman Sachs Conference 

Tim Cook:

Over the long-term all phones will be smartphones and there are a lot more people in the world than 1.4 billion. And people like to upgrade regularly. This is an enormous market to get to.

We’ve sold 500 million as of the end of last year, but over 40% of that happened last year. So there’s incredible momentum. And we’ve built a great ecosystem that is also fueling a developer industry… we’ve now paid out over $8 billion to them. Innovation has all moved to tablets and smartphones, so there’s so much momentum. When you look at what we’re doing in China, it’s impressive. There are also areas where we’re not doing as well, and we view those as opportunities. When I string all of these things together, I see a wide open field.

$8 billion paid to developers through the App Store is a new figure — up one billion in just the last month alone. That implies aggregate App Store revenue of $11.5 billion, with Apple’s 30 percent rake amounting to $3.5 billion.

Android First? 

Two years later, still waiting for this to happen. (Cf. today’s piece on Nike’s FuelBand app.)

Nike Has No Plans to Release FuelBand Android App 

They’re “focused on iOS and web.”

Counting Stool Legs 

Horace Dediu:

Indeed, if seen in isolation, iTunes + Accessories combined is a bigger business in terms of revenues than any of the other phone vendors except Samsung.

And Apple doesn’t even make their own cases for the iPhone 5. (But I bet they sell a ton of iPad Smart Covers.)

Almond+ 

My thanks to Securifi for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote the Kickstarter project for Almond+, the follow-up to their popular and highly-regarded Almond Wi-Fi router. Almond is the top-rated router on Amazon (number two is Apple’s Airport Extreme), and Almond+ looks to be a better product in every way.

Almond+ offers a touchscreen UI for configuration — no need for a Mac or PC for setting it up or making changes — easy home automation, fast gigabit ethernet speeds, powerful signal range, and all the latest Wi-Fi standards. It’s a really nice hardware design too, suitable both for mounting on a wall or being placed on a table or shelf. All this for just $99 — reserve yours on Kickstarter today.

Surface Pro 128 GB Immediately Sells Out 

Paul Thurrott:

Based on the many emails I’ve received, it paid to shop early online. I heard from several readers who purchased the 128 GB version of the Surface Pro from Microsoft’s online store just after midnight ET and were able to complete the sale. But those who woke up and tried to purchase one at a normal hour were thwarted: The Surface Pro 128 GB is now listed as “out of stock” at the Microsoft Store and Staples. At the time of this writing, Best Buy reports having them for sale, but readers who attempted this purchase tell me this isn’t the case.

Those who show up at Microsoft retail store locations are reporting “Apple-like” lines.

Maybe they should have gone 128/256 instead of 64/128 — seems like people are willing to pay for the extra storage on the Pro, and it would have helped differentiate the Pro from the Surface RT. (Would love to see some photographs of those “Apple-like lines”, though.)

Update: Virtual Pants:

My local (Northern Virginia) Microsoft store sold out in 15 minutes, which means there wasn’t much to sell. The local Best Buy sold out too, but only received one unit. The local Staples received and sold a whopping two units. Selling out on launch day doesn’t mean very much when there isn’t anything to sell in the first place.

It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft announces opening weekend sales numbers in a few days.

Tesla Model S vs. the East Coast 

John M. Broder, test-driving a Model S on the east coast in winter:

I began following Tesla’s range-maximization guidelines, which meant dispensing with such battery-draining amenities as warming the cabin and keeping up with traffic. I turned the climate control to low — the temperature was still in the 30s — and planted myself in the far right lane with the cruise control set at 54 miles per hour (the speed limit is 65). Buicks and 18-wheelers flew past, their drivers staring at the nail-polish-red wondercar with California dealer plates.

Nearing New York, I made the first of several calls to Tesla officials about my creeping range anxiety. The woman who had delivered the car told me to turn off the cruise control; company executives later told me that advice was wrong. All the while, my feet were freezing and my knuckles were turning white.

The Porsche 911: An Ode to Iteration 

50 years of iterative refinement.

John E. Karlin, Designer of the 20th Century Telephone, Dies at 94 

Margalit Fox, writing for the NYT:

And when, not long afterward, the dial gave way to push buttons, new questions arose: round buttons, or square? How big should they be? Most crucially, how should they be arrayed? In a circle? A rectangle? An arc?

For decades after World War II, these questions were studied by a group of social scientists and engineers in New Jersey led by one man, a Bell Labs industrial psychologist named John E. Karlin.

Love the bit about the white dots on rotary phones.

Apple’s Biggest Problem: Retention of Talent 

Dan Frommer tweeted:

This is not at all a scientific study, but most of the Apple employees I follow on Twitter have quit within the last ~9 months. Huh.

Methinks Guy English’s #3 problem that Apple faces should have been #1:

If there’s a problem for Apple it’s that they’ve already invented the future. It’s a done deal. The best and brightest engineers and product managers may move on to other ventures. Less likely to succeed, of course, but that’s less of an issue for them given the rainfall of AAPL gains. We’ll have to see what happens.

To be clear, this is not an exodus. Far from it. But it’s a continuous challenge for the company to retain the enormous number of talented people it employs.

Let’s Make Mistakes 

No new episode of The Talk Show this week, but to fill the void, may I suggest the latest episode of Mike Monteiro and Leah Reich’s Let’s Make Mistakes, with special guests John Moltz (my wife) and Amy Gruber (my other wife). You can also catch Amy guesting on the latest episode of Dave Wiskus’s Unprofessional, which was recorded live on stage during Macworld Expo last week.

Click to Flash in Chrome 

Another good tip for minimizing Flash but keeping it around for when you really do need it.

Trailer for ‘Room 237’ 

Not sure how the trailer for a documentary about The Shining could be any better than this. (If you’ve never seen the trailer for The Shining, watch that first.)

Flickr’s Comeback 

Mat Honan:

Thanks to bureaucracy and inaction, Flickr missed out on the mobile and social revolutions that have defined the last five years. Meanwhile, Instagram became the billion-dollar photo-sharing service and Facebook became, well, a company that could afford to buy a billion-dollar photo-sharing service. […] Flickr could have been Yahoo’s Instagram, or maybe even Facebook. Instead, it became its Friendster — a reminder of a bygone era and what could have been but never was.

But something funny happened.

Webstock 2013 

A week from now, I’ll be speaking at Webstock 2013, in beautiful Wellington New Zealand. I spoke there two years ago, and I don’t hesitate to call it the best conference I’ve ever attended. Everything about it was great: city, venue, speakers, attendees, hosts. This year’s lineup of speakers is crazy good: Jim Coudal, Michael Lopp, Mike Monteiro, Bruce Sterling, just to name a few.

There’s a handful of seats still available for the conference (as well as for some of the workshops earlier in the week); if you can swing it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Adobe Issues Emergency Flash Update for Attacks on Windows, Mac Users 

Dan Goodin:

Adobe Systems has released a patch for two Flash player vulnerabilities that are being actively exploited online to surreptitiously install malware, one in attacks that target users of Apple’s Macintosh platform.

If you somehow think you need Flash Player on your Mac, you have to update. But consider that you probably don’t. I wrote “Going Flash-Free on Mac OS X, and How to Cheat When You Need It” back in November 2010, and have been using that strategy ever since. A few years down the road now, I encounter fewer and fewer “only works with Flash” online videos.

Mailbox 

So the big new app of the day, deservedly so, is Orchestra’s Mailbox. It’s an email client, currently iPhone-only and limited to Gmail accounts. It’s a well done, good-looking app with some innovative ideas. Because of those ideas, though, using Mailbox requires granting Orchestra access to your email account — the app talks to Orchestra’s server, and Orchestra’s server talks to Gmail. So, clearly, there are some trust/security implications to consider. But that’s how they can do push notifications, for example. That server-side component, however, has forced them to roll out access to the app slowly. Sign up now, you’ll get access later, as they slowly grow their user base. As of today the list is hundreds of thousands of users long.

I’m a lucky bastard and have had access to the beta for a few months. The bottom line for me is that it’s an app I greatly admire, but won’t use personally. For one thing, it’s too Gmail centric. But I can see how a lot of people will really like it, especially people who primarily use email through one main Gmail account.

Lex Friedman has an effusive review at Macworld; he’s sold on it. (I was probably never in the target audience for Mailbox — personally, I really like iOS’s built-in Mail app.)

Ed Bott on Surface Pro and MacBook Air Storage Space 

Ed Bott:

Microsoft has been pummeled by critics this week over supposedly inadequate storage space in its new Surface Pro. But those criticisms are horribly flawed. Big surprise: when you do the disk space math, Surface Pro and MacBook Air are practically twins.

Good piece. I sort of can’t believe Apple is still selling the Air in a 64 GB configuration. The truth is that the Surface Pro is a MacBook Air competitor with some iPad/tablet-like features. But when people look at it, they see an iPad competitor with some PC-like features. Hence the mockery regarding how much storage space the OS consumes on the Surface Pro.

The 2013 Sony World Photography Awards 

Make your browser window big.

What Happens If You Count Tablets as PCs? 

You get Apple as the world’s number one PC maker.

(We have to take these numbers as ballpark estimates, of course, because companies like Samsung and Amazon do not report sales numbers. Analysts have to estimate them. This report is from Canalys, and they peg Amazon’s Kindle tablet sales at 4.6 million for last quarter. But here’s a report from IDC covering the exact same quarter, claiming 6.0 million tablets for Amazon. A million or two tablets here or there isn’t that big a deal to Apple, because they’re selling around 20 million iPads per quarter, but it’s a significant difference for companies like Samsung or Amazon, who are (seemingly) selling single-digit millions per quarter. But, no matter how loose these estimates are, if tablets are counted as PCs, there is no debate that Apple is number one by a long shot.)

Pickpocket Extraordinaire Apollo Robbins on The Today Show 

I can’t get enough of this guy.

Language Log: ‘The Cyberpragmatics of Bounding Asterisks’ 

Ben Zimmer at Language Log takes my piece on bounding asterisks and runs with it, brilliantly:

Now let’s skip ahead to Internet usage. Gruber characterized the use of bounding asterisks in online communication as a form of emphasis, but pragmatically it’s a bit more complex than that. True, bounding asterisks can emphasize a word or words in plain-text messages where italics and bolding are unavailable, but the legacy of the comic strips points in another direction — the use of bounding asterisks to signal non-verbal noises or actions as a kind of self-describing stage direction. […]

What’s fascinating about these asterisked stage directions is that they have moved well beyond the onomatopoetic coughs, gulps, and sighs of the comic strips into more complex actions stated in the third person, such as *jumps up and down*.

So there’s nearly century-old precedent in comics for asterisk-like symbols to denote onomatopoetic expressions — sigh, cough, gasp, etc. — but this usage never made its way into print typography until after it became commonplace online. But where it’s used in print is not as a Markdown-like alternative to italics in general, but specifically as an alternative to italics to denote stage-like actions on the part of the writer. (Yes, Pogue’s *cough*s made it into today’s print edition of The Times.)

This trend suggests that type designers should perhaps stop creating asterisks that appear quasi-superscripted, as though presumed for use to denote a footnote. Asterisks should be bigger and sit on the baseline — like other common punctuation characters (@, #, %, &) — to better work with this bracketing style.

Update: Some readers are arguing that even in this usage, asterisks should remain superscript-y, to make them more like quotation marks. I can see that argument, but to my mind this asterisk usage functions more like parenthetical brackets than quote marks. (For another, not all languages use English-style quotation punctuation. In European languages that use «guillemets», a baseline-sitting asterisk would seem natural.)

Android Fragmentation as a Security Problem 

Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

In late October, researchers at North Carolina State University alerted Google to a security flaw that could let scam artists send phony text messages to Android phones — a practice called “smishing” that can ensnare consumers in fraud.

Google’s security officials replied in minutes, confirming the flaw and promising to correct it. Within days they had incorporated a fix into the latest version of the Android operating system, Jelly Bean 4.2, and made available a security update for earlier versions.

But for most Android phones, the fix never arrived. For many, it never will.

Handset Profit Share: 72 Percent for Apple, 29 for Samsung, Zilch for the Rest 

Rather astounding numbers from Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley:

Apple took home 72% of the profits with only 21.7% of unit sales (up from 15.4% in Q3).

Samsung’s 29% of the profits came from 28.9% of unit sales (down from 32.3% in Q3).

The press and investor community have been hammering for the last few months on the idea that Apple is in trouble because the iPhone is under increasing pressure from Samsung. They’re right about one thing: Samsung is doing well. But Samsung isn’t hurting Apple; what they’re doing is destroying all of the also-rans. Apple lives in the high-profit premium range of the market; that’s why their profit share so greatly exceeds their unit sale market share. This is the fallacy of the Church of Market Share — all unit sales are not created equal.

Samsung plays the game the traditional way, where its profit share is very much aligned with its unit sale market share — 29 percent of the units sold, 29 percent of the profits. But what Samsung has done is suck up all the oxygen in the market underneath Apple. But I would bet that the symmetry between Samsung’s market and profit shares is misleading — my guess is that Samsung makes the majority of its profits from a minority of its unit sales, the high-end Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note, etc.

Update: Lots of readers on Twitter are confused by the fact that 72 + 29 = 101. These are rounded numbers; I presume Walkley’s numbers came to around 71.5 for Apple and 28.5 for Samsung. Update 2: Or perhaps Apple and Samsung do, combined, account for more than 100 percent of the industry’s profits, because the rest, combined, are in the hole?

The Verge: ‘Microsoft’s New Xbox Will Include Improved Siri-Like Speech Recognition’ 

I’ll bet headlines like this drive speech recognition experts — whose work predates Siri by decades — batty. But it speaks to the power of Siri’s brand.

British House of Commons Approves Gay Marriage 

There’s no reason for the U.S. to fall behind in this race.

‘Real’ Software 

David Pogue, in his (quite positive) review of the Surface Pro:

Everybody knows what a tablet is, right? It’s a black touch-screen slab, like an iPad or an Android tablet. It doesn’t run real Windows or Mac software — it runs much simpler apps. It’s not a real computer.

That’s the same shortsighted opinion that command-line DOS advocates had of the Mac in the ’80s. Anyone who thinks OS X and Windows PCs are “real” computers and that the iPad (and Android tablets) are anything less just isn’t getting it. There are many valid ways to fill in the blank in “The iPad doesn’t run ____ software”, but “real” isn’t one.

Will Ferrell’s Super Bowl Ad for Old Milwaukee 

Hard to believe this only ran in three cities. Easily the best commercial I’ve seen this year.

Vine Now Rated 17+ 

I don’t understand this piece by Mike Isaac and John Paczkowski, “Nudged by Apple, Twitter’s Porn Saga Ends in a Raw Deal for Vine”:

That gnarly porno found on Vine was all too easily surfaced in the app, due in part to the nature of the service itself. Search a hashtag keyword for sex, penis or what have you, and you’ll be taken straight to the hardcore stuff. That’s not as easy to find in, say, YouTube, which has a more mature engine for filtering out objectionable content. Or even Tumblr (though Tumblr is also rated 17+ in the App Store).

The prudish Apple can deal with the fact that yes, we are human, and yes, we watch porn (lots of it). And to some degree, it will always exist across the Internet. It’s a fact of life. But what Apple can’t deal with is said porn front and center, easily discoverable for any and all to see. It’s why SnapChat has a 12+ rating, and why Vine doesn’t.

In other words, think of yourself as a teenager to Apple’s repressed mother — you hide your porn under your mattress. You don’t leave it out on the coffee table.

I don’t understand how Apple is being prudish or giving Vine a “raw deal” here. If pornographic content is easy to find on Vine — and Isaac and Paczkowski agree that it is — how is 17+ not the appropriate rating? If Apple removed Vine from the App Store, pending some sort of de-porn-ification on Vine’s back end (no pun intended), I could see that being called a “raw deal”, or prudishness/censorship on Apple’s part.

An adult rating for adult content. How is that not exactly how it should be?

Margin Call 

Horace Dediu, on Apple’s drop in margin last quarter:

Relative to adjusted 4th quarter 2011 Sales increased by 27% while Cost of Sales increased by 30.5%. Margins shrank in late 2012 because the products were more expensive to make.

It’s simple arithmetic.

We can at a glance see that the cost of sales increased as a proportion of sales. Therefore the margin decreased as a percent of sales. The cause is higher costs, not lower pricing.

Or lower demand, which many people apparently still think is Apple’s problem.

Canada Drops the Penny 

There’s no reason for the U.S. to fall behind in this race.

Apple Is… 

Alex Gollner examines the nine different ways Apple has described itself in its press releases since 1995. The biggest change, no surprise, is from biz-dev bullshit to plain English, four days before Steve Jobs became CEO in September 1997. Also interesting: as the company has gotten bigger, its description of itself has gotten simpler.

How We’ll Know When Google Play Really Has Caught Up to the iOS App Store 

Erica Ogg:

Where is Android’s Angry Birds? Or its Instagram?

Yes, obviously the game and the photo app are both on Android now. But where’s Android’s killer, break-out (non-Google, for obvious reasons) app that explodes on the platform and leaves iOS users clamoring for it? Vine, for instance, is the buzzy mobile app of the moment, and as is par for the course for these things, it’s iOS only.

Yours truly, back in November 2010: “Where Are the Android Killer Apps?” Still waiting.

Simple Bracket 

Kickstarter campaign by Studio Neat (of Glif and Cosmonaut fame) to launch a gorgeous March Madness bracket management iPhone app. You owe it to yourself to watch the video through to the end.

Should Apple Follow Netflix’s Lead and Produce Its Own Movies and Shows? 

Bryan M. Wolfe, writing for AppAdvice:

Going forward, Apple could learn a lot from Netflix. With all the talk of a rumored Apple television, perhaps Apple should consider getting into the television production business, or at least partnering with someone else. After all, it is in Apple’s DNA to control all aspects of whatever they produce.

Just imagine the excitement were Apple to release an actual television that came with original programming. I bet that it would be huge, for example, if Apple would work with Disney’s Pixar to create original children’s programming only available on Apple devices.

Not an outlandish idea. But Apple makes its money selling hardware and building platforms. Why should Apple compete with HBO and Netflix when, as it stands now, they can provide access on their platforms to both HBO and Netflix? Apple’s interests are aligned differently than Netflix’s.

The converse of this is why Netflix abandoned its plans to build its own set top hardware box, instead spun it off to Roku.

Update: It also occurs to me that hypothetical Apple-produced content would likely be rated no older than PG. You’re not going to see House of Cards from Apple.

Starfish 

Lex Friedman and his fellow Macworld staffers poke holes in a scammy exhibitor at Macworld/iWorld. Crazy story.

HP Issues Statement on Dell’s Leveraged Buyout Plan 

Official statement from HP:

Dell has a very tough road ahead. The company faces an extended period of uncertainty and transition that will not be good for its customers. And with a significant debt load, Dell’s ability to invest in new products and services will be extremely limited. Leveraged buyouts tend to leave existing customers and innovation at the curb. We believe Dell’s customers will now be eager to explore alternatives, and HP plans to take full advantage of that opportunity.

No love lost between these two, that’s for sure.

Instagram Feed Now Available on the Web 

Not bad at all. But I’m surprised they didn’t do a proper iPad app first. Now they’re in the weird position where, for iPad users, Instagram looks and works better on the web than it does in the Instagram app.

That Dell Quote 

Carl Franzen, writing for TPM:

Back in 1997, when Dell was still reporting major growth (despite not selling PCs through retail channels at the time), Dell’s CEO was asked about what a then-struggling Apple, Inc. should do to right itself. As Dell told an audience at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando, Florida (in words immortalized by CNET):

“What would I do? I’d shut it [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Asked about Dell’s comments 16 years later in the context of Dell’s privatization effort, a Dell spokesperson gave TPM the following statement:

“That comment has been taken out of context and is not relevant.”

By which they mean, “We need a drink.”

Why Michael Dell Took Dell Private 

Ashlee Vance, writing for Businessweek:

The worst-case scenario for Michael Dell would have occurred if an activist shareholder had gotten into the mix. Dell would have faced the prospect of being kicked out of the company that bears his name. I’m certain this is why Dell went private. Dell, Silver Lake, and Microsoft get a company that pumps out enough cash to keep all parties happy, while Michael Dell shields himself from being berated by analysts, investors, and the media. Best of all, he gets to keep his company.

I’m curious to see how Microsoft’s $2 billion investment in this deal will play out with all the other Windows OEMs. It’s one thing for them to get into bed with Nokia, in a market where Microsoft was floundering, but another for them to get into bed with a particular PC maker.

Google Trends: Droid vs. Galaxy 

Re: my offhand remark yesterday that Verizon seemingly isn’t pushing its Droid brand as hard as it was a few years ago, this Benedict Evans tweet got me poking around Google Trends. Decidedly non-scientific, but the trend lines jibe with my hunch: Galaxy interest is going up, Droid interest down.

I linked to a U.S.-only chart, because Verizon is a U.S. carrier. Here are the numbers worldwide (which suggests the hottest spots for Galaxy interest are Indonesia and India), and for comparison, a U.S. chart and worldwide chart that include the terms “iPhone” and “iPad”.

Twitter Wasn’t Mentioned in 50 Percent of Super Bowl Ads – Hashtags Were 

Bobby Grasberger, regarding Matt McGee’s methodology for counting Twitter references in Super Bowl commercials:

All 26 of his “Twitter mentions” included hashtags. But many of the hashtags were platform agnostic: not accompanied by a Twitter logo.

In fact, by my count only 3/26 of the hashtags were accompanied by a Twitter logo. That means the other 88% (23/26) could just as easily be credited to Instagram, Google+ or, most appropriately, all three major hashtag-supporting platforms.

Fascinating, really, that when it comes to punctuation-character-prefixed social media network jargon, “#SloganHere” hashtags are now seemingly far more common in advertising than “@CompanyName” account names. I do think the fact that they work across both Twitter and Instagram is a factor here.

Update: Great point by Matthew Hunt:

The interesting part to me is hashtag = “you should talk about us”, vs. old “go here to see what we have to say”.

Something Has Clearly Gone Wrong 

Strategy Analytics report on U.S. phone market share:

According to our Wireless Device Strategies (WDS) service, mobile phone shipments grew 4 percent annually to reach 52 million units in the United States during the fourth quarter of 2012. Apple became the number one mobile phone vendor for the first time ever, capturing a record 34 percent market share.

That’s not number one “smartphone” vendor. That’s number one phone vendor, period. According to NPD, one of three phones shipped in the U.S. last quarter was an iPhone. NPD puts Apple at number one in the U.S. in “smartphone” sales, although Samsung has tightened that race. But keep in mind that Samsung’s line of “smartphone” includes a lot of low-end junk, not just high-end Galaxy and Note units.

In terms of usage, Net Marketshare still has iOS with a massive mobile web browser share lead over Android. None of these numbers square with the “something has clearly gone wrong at Apple” belief.

Nokia Reviews the Nokia Lumia 620 

They like it.

Designers Running Amok 

Henry Blodget:

Specifically, Kedrosky thinks that, in the power-vacuum following Steve Jobs’ death, the design team, led by Jony Ive, have been given too much latitude — such that Apple is now designing products that it is not capable of manufacturing as smoothly and quickly as it needs to to meet demand.

Yeah, it’s not like Apple ever had problems meeting demand with new products when Steve Jobs was in charge. The white iPhone 4 came out right on schedule.

Update: Let’s get serious for a second. Here’s the final paragraph from Blodget:

In any case, something has clearly gone wrong at Apple. And this is an interesting theory about what that is.

That pretty much summarizes what’s driving the current wave of Apple jackassery: start with the “fact” that something has gone wrong with Apple, then speculate about just what that is. Apple has real problems, isn’t perfect, and faces numerous serious competitors — but it, like every company, has always had problems, has never been perfect, and has faced serious competitors. The error in this line of thinking is that something has “gone wrong” for Apple in the last year or two. The truth is, most things have gone exactly right for Apple for the last 10 years.

Something has clearly gone wrong, but it’s with the perception of Apple, not with Apple itself.

Twitter Mentioned in 50 Percent of Super Bowl Commercials 

Matt McGee, writing for Marketing Land:

According to my count, Twitter was mentioned in 26 of 52 national TV commercials — that’s 50 percent of the spots that aired during CBS’ game coverage. Facebook was mentioned in only four of those commercials — about eight percent. Google+, which is reportedly the No. 2 social network in the world, wasn’t mentioned at all.

This is a huge change from last year’s Super Bowl, when Twitter and Facebook both tied with only eight mentions out of a total of 59 counted national commercials.

Twitter’s rise as a mainstream mass market platform is rather staggering. It doesn’t get any more mass market than being mentioned in 50 percent of Super Bowl commercials. But why the drop for Facebook? My guess: marketers are no longer hedging their bets, and have decided that Twitter is the network they should put their weight behind. Also: Twitter has hashtags, Facebook doesn’t, and “#SomeMessageHere” is how a lot of these pointers to Twitter are being made.

Technical Analysis of the First Untethered Jailbreak Exploit for iOS 6 

Putting the politics of jailbreaking aside, I don’t see how anyone can deny the cleverness of what the jailbreak developers accomplish.

Galaxy Versus Android at the Super Bowl 

Benedict Evans:

Third, and most interesting to me, though, is the fact that Samsung really doesn’t talk about Android at all in its marketing — which now has a $14bn run-rate budget (around 13-14× Apple). A lot of Samsung marketing for Android devices doesn’t even mention Android.

Just me, or do we not see as much Droid advertising from Verizon any more, either?

More on a 5-Inch iPhone and Scaling the Interface 

Rene Ritchie:

If you think of the iPad mini as a tablet that’s using phone density, then the big iPhone is just a phone using tablet density. You have phone interface at high density, phone interface at less-high density, tablet interface at high density, tablet interface at less-high density.

Then, just like there’s an 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air, and a 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro, there’s a 4- and 5-inch iPhone, and a 7.9 and 9.7-inch iPad.

Exactly what I’m thinking.

Apple TV and iPhone Displays 

This piece by Jason Paul Richmond for The Tech Block, speculating on how Apple might do a bigger iPhone, is pretty good overall, but this bit stuck out to me (emphasis added):

Boosting the pixel density at a given size means boosting the resolution, which poses problems. Some believe that Apple should just adopt the industry standard 1080p. I don’t think that would be a bad idea per se, especially if the Apple TV could run apps, but it can make things even more complicated for developers — complications that have the potential of devaluing iOS’s greatest asset, the quality of third-party software.

I’ve seen similar sentiments before, that a 1920 × 1080 iPhone could be a boon to turning Apple TV into an app platform, because that’s the resolution of most modern HD TV sets. This makes no sense.

No app designed for a handheld touchscreen could work well on a non-touch TV screen. It’s absurd. I’d love to see Apple TV gain an App Store and third-party apps. I think it’s something Apple would do, and might be working on. But such apps would be their own new thing. They would not be iPad or iPhone apps. That TV displays are 1920 × 1080 has no bearing whatsoever on whether Apple would ever make a 1920 × 1080 iPhone. None.

‘Velocity Hotels’ 

This week’s episode of The Talk Show, featuring special guest stars Paul Kafasis and Scott Simpson. We talk about last week’s Macworld/iWorld conference and expo, and some big ideas that are going to reinvent the hotel industry.

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Bill Barnwell Analyzes the Super Bowl 

You want to nerd out on the intricacies of yesterday’s game? Here you go.

Monoprice Expands Beyond Cables 

John Herrman, writing for BuzzFeed:

Monoprice had dabbled in headphones and speakers before, but this was something different. At CES, the company announced a high-end LCD monitor, specced to compete with $1,000 models from the likes of Dell and Apple but priced at below $400. It would carry the Monoprice brand, like everything else the company sells. And it would be targeted at the same savvy, know-it-all nerds who had been recommending cheap Monoprice cables on forums and blogs for years. The company also launched a GoPro-style action cam for about $90. Almost overnight, Monoprice willed a consumer electronics brand into existence.

Via Peter Cohen.

Harold Ramis Gets the Last Laugh 

Harold Ramis, in an interview with Brett Martin for GQ:

When we were writing Animal House, we assumed it would be the most successful comedy ever. Our generation had broken into television with SNL, and this was going to be the first “new” Hollywood comedy. It was our attempt to capture those years, right up to November 1963, when there was a feeling that the kids were taking over the country for the first time. In our minds, the end of that movie — the parade, all that euphoria — takes place the day before Kennedy was shot. Because the day after, none of that mattered anymore.

‘No Chance’ 

Maybe the greatest claim chowder quote of all time, and they chose a perfect photo to go along with it.

Squarespace 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Squarespace is a terrific website publishing platform.

They do a lot of things to make professional web design easy and accessible to anyone. Choose from a bunch of great templates, add your own images and content, connect to your social media accounts, and your new website can be up and running in just minutes, with a responsive design that looks great on everything from an iPhone to your desktop.

Squarespace provides everything you need: cloud hosting, real-time stats and analytics, a free domain name, and 24/7 customer support. Easy, fast, fun. Get started today with a free trial at Squarespace.com.

CBS Bans SodaStream Ad From Super Bowl 

Will Burns, writing for Forbes:

CBS banned SodaStream’s Super Bowl spot because, apparently, it was too much of a direct hit to two of its biggest sponsors, Coke and Pepsi.

Please pause and read that sentence again.

Eric Schmidt on China as a Competitor 

Tom Gara, with excerpts from Eric Schmidt’s new book:

“The disparity between American and Chinese firms and their tactics will put both the government and the companies of the United States as a distinct disadvantage,” because “the United States will not take the same path of digital corporate espionage, as its laws are much stricter (and better enforced) and because illicit competition violates the American sense of fair play,” they claim.

“This is a difference in values as much as a legal one.”

I’m curious where he sees South Korea on this scale.

‘iPhone Plus’ Speculation 

This is exactly how I think Apple would do a bigger-screen iPhone.

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