Linked List: December 2014

The Talk Show: ‘George Lucas Called’ 

New episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Jason Snell. Topics include Jason’s first three months writing (and podcasting) as an indie at his new Six Colors; a look back at his 20-year career at MacUser and soon thereafter Macworld; tricky edge cases when booking sponsorships, and the whole situation with separating advertising sales from editorial integrity when you’re running a one-person publication; the Sony/North Korea hacking and The Interview, and iTunes’s slightly belated release thereof; and we pour one out for good old Movable Type.

Brought to you by three great sponsors:

  • Hover: The world’s best domain registrar. Use coupon code “bourbon” and save 10 percent on any order.
  • Backblaze: Unlimited, unthrottled, online backup for Mac.
  • Squarespace 7: Start here. Go anywhere. Use code “jg” and save 10 percent.
Algebra 

Michael Cieply, reporting for the NYT:

“The Interview” generated roughly $15 million in online sales and rentals during its first four days of availability, Sony Pictures said on Sunday.

Sony did not say how much of that total represented $6 digital rentals versus $15 sales. The studio said there were about two million transactions over all.

This, from a newspaper that two years ago ran an Op-Ed headlined “Is Algebra Necessary?” Apparently, algebra is necessary for New York Times reporters and editors, because if they had a basic grasp of it, they’d understand that Sony revealed the exact split between $6 rentals and $15 sales: 1.67 million rentals ($10 million), 0.33 million sales ($5 million).

Credit to Dan Meyer for making this connection.

Analyst Says Android Hardware Profits Tanked in 2014 

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

While Android continued to gain market share in the global smartphone market, it saw a significant drop on another key metric: Profits.

Analyst Chetan Sharma estimates that global profits in the Android hardware market for 2014 were down by half from the prior year — the first year that there has been any significant drop.

Vintage 2011 claim chowder from Henry Blodget: “Android Is Destroying Everyone, Especially RIM — iPhone Dead In Water”.

The Future of Cocoa 

Mattt Thompson:

Having Objective-C and Swift code interoperate in a meaningful way from launch was a strategic — and arguably necessary — decision. Allowing the more adventurous engineers within a team a low-risk way to introduce Swift into existing code bases has been crucial to the wide adoption the new language has already seen. But for all of the effort that’s been put into source mapping and API auditing, there’s an argument to be made that Cocoa has become something of a liability.

What if we were to build a new Foundation from the Swift Standard Library? What would we do differently, and how could we learn from the mistakes of our past?

This may seem an odd thesis for NSHipster, a site founded upon a great deal of affection for Objective-C and Cocoa, but it’s one worth exploring.

His title — “The Death of Cocoa” — is provocative to be sure, but he’s talking about the long, long term.

Leaked Image of Xiaomi’s First Laptop Is a Shocker 

One of the keyboard buttons is orange, see, so it’s original.

Update: Maybe it’s a hoax?

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

The 2015 sponsorship schedule is pretty open at the moment. Get in touch if you have a cool product or service you want to promote to DF’s discerning audience. Check out the list of previous sponsors, and look at how many have returned for repeat sponsorships.

In fact, this current week — the one starting today — remains open. If you can pull the trigger quickly, let’s make a deal.
Headline of the Week 

BGR: “Apple Finally Decides to Stand Up to Sony Hackers, Releases ‘The Interview’ on iTunes”.

Yes, finally.

(What I’ve heard: iTunes Store content — apps, movies, music, everything — gets locked down days before Christmas and doesn’t get unlocked until iTunes Connect opens back up a few days before the new year. Part of this is to let content propagate through Akamai and whatever other CDNs Apple uses around the world, and part of this is to allow iTunes employees to take the week off and relax. Yes, Apple could have gotten The Interview on iTunes on short notice, but it would have been non-trivial and simply wasn’t deemed worth the effort.)

A Dozen Things Tren Griffin Learned From Steve Jobs About Business 

From a collection of great Steve Jobs quotes, collected and commented on by Tren Griffin:

“The difference between the best worker on computer hardware and the average may be 2 to 1, if you’re lucky. With automobiles, maybe 2 to 1. But in software, it’s at least 25 to 1. The difference between the average programmer and a great one is at least that. The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world. And when you’re in a field where the dynamic range is 25 to 1, boy, does it pay off.”

Update: DF reader Scott Manders emailed with a trenchant observation:

The most striking thing to me about the linked article is how the tortured Microsoftian doublespeak in the author’s comments dilutes away the purity and simplicity of the wisdom conveyed in Job’s words. In a way it’s a perfectly encapsulated example of the differences between Apple and Microsoft. All you have to do is read the article to understand the most important differences between the two companies.

I.e., one thing Griffin seemingly didn’t learn from Steve Jobs is how to write/speak with plain, clear, crisp words.

Meh-y Christmas 

My friends at Meh sponsored this week’s DF RSS feed, for the third straight week. Just like the last two weeks, they didn’t play it straight — their sponsored RSS entry purposefully misspelled “html” in their URL, sending visitors to their 404 page. It’s a pretty fun 404 page, though, so I don’t blame them.

Anyway, Meh is a fun and funny daily deal site, and you really should check them out.

The Talk Show: ‘2014 Year in Review’ 

Special guest Rene Ritchie joins me for a year-end wrap-up of 2014’s Apple-related news.

Brought to you by three excellent sponsors:

  • Backblaze: Unlimited, unthrottled, online backup for Mac.
  • Hover: The world’s best domain registrar. Use coupon code “scotch” and save 10 percent on any order.
  • lynda.com: Online video training and tutorials. Use this link for a 7-day free trial.
Old Fashioned 101 

Great little single-page* website by Martin Doudoroff on the Old Fashioned:

Circa 1800, the Cocktail was a “hair of the dog” morning drink that tamed spirits with water, sugar and bitters (patent medicine). The late 19th Century expanded the use of the word “cocktail” to encompass just about any mixed drink. Since then, the Old Fashioned — literally, the old-fashioned way of making a cocktail — has been our contemporary expression of the original drink.

During the 20th Century, various bad ideas encrusted the Old Fashioned. Here we will strip off those barnacles to expose the amazingly simple and sublime drink beneath.

* Technically, there’s a page 2, which is worth reading as well.

IBM Design Language 

Words I never expected to write: Elegant, thoughtful, design guidelines and examples from IBM.

Here’s a story by Larry Dignan back in March on IBM “betting on design”. I’m starting to believe it.

Horace Dediu Calls Apple/IBM Enterprise Partnership Biggest News of 2014 

Horace Dediu:

The recent apps release showed just how transformative this relationship could be. We were witnesses to apps which appeared to be designed for users[!] They were not designed for committees that prepare checklists of requirements.

We must applaud IBM for having the courage to resist the featuritis which plagues enterprise software design. This resistance requires saying No to those who specify and are thus authorized to purchase software and hardware. IBM has had to essentially say no to those who buy and yes to those who are paid to use. The quality of the experience is evident at first sight. The number of user actions, the number of screens to wade through have been ruthlessly culled. These are concepts and ideas which now permeate app design best practices. Yet they are practices which still elude the spec-driven enterprise software wastelands.

From the DF Archive: Merry 

As true today as when I wrote it three years ago.

How Steven Levy Became an Unwilling Conscript in the War on Christmas 

Steven Levy:

All I know is that at some more recent point  — probably at the tail end of last season — I started getting emails from grateful readers of something I never wrote, and when I Google my name and “War on Christmas,” weird things show up. And that the email chain is unbroken. Probably as you read this some number of people are clicking on it and vowing to pass it on to their friends.

Samsung Shutters Flagship London Store Amid Falling Sales 

Has Apple ever shuttered a retail store? To my knowledge, no. They’ve replaced older stores with newer ones in the same mall, or in another spot a few blocks away, but I don’t think they’ve ever had to close one for lack of business.

iTunes and ‘The Interview’ 

Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, reporting for the NYT:

A new facet of Sony’s discussions with theater owners is any simultaneous video-on-demand effort. Studios typically give theaters an exclusive monthslong window to play new movies. Most theaters, worried about the impact on ticket sales, remain adamant about refusing to open their doors to any film that is showing or about to show through other channels.

It remained unclear, however, whether any on-demand service would take “The Interview.” According to people briefed on the matter, Sony had in recent days asked the White House for help in lining up a single technology partner — Apple, which operates iTunes — but the tech company was not interested, at least not on a speedy time table. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

“At least not on a speedy time table” is pretty open-ended. Could mean that Apple cowardly didn’t want to carry The Interview first. But it could also simply mean that Sony was asking for a quick turnaround that Apple wasn’t willing to meet, especially over the holidays, when many employees are on vacation. (Note, for example, that iTunes Connect is “unavailable until December 29”.) I don’t think it’s safe to say, based on this Times report alone, that Apple flat out “refused to release The Interview”, as some publications are.

That said, Google Play, YouTube, and Xbox Video are all carrying The Interview today, which makes iTunes’s absence conspicuous. Kudos to Google and Microsoft.

Update: Interesting observation by Paul Grave: “To me it’s weirder that The Interview is available to watch on Xbox One and not Sony’s own PS3 or PS4.”

iTunes Special: All 23 EON Production James Bond Films for Just $99 

Would make for quite a holiday movie binge.

‘Room to Spare’ 

According to ThinkUp, this was my most popular tweet of 2014.

iTunes Tumblr 

New Tumblr site from Apple. Very Tumblr-y.

Apple Pushes First Ever Automated Security Update to Mac Users 

Reuters:

When Apple has released previous security patches, it has done so through its regular software update system, which typically requires user intervention.

The company decided to deliver the NTP bug fixes with its technology for automatically pushing out security updates, which Apple introduced two years ago but had never previously used, because it wanted to protect customers as quickly as possible due to the severity of the vulnerabilities, Evans said.

“The update is seamless,” he said. “It doesn’t even require a restart.”

Apple does not know of any cases where vulnerable Mac computers were targeted by hackers looking to exploit the bugs, he added.

This would have raised an uproar a decade ago, but times have changed. Worked seamlessly from what I’ve seen.

Bruce Schneier on Whether North Korea Is Actually Behind the Sony Hack 

Bruce Schneier:

I am deeply skeptical of the FBI’s announcement on Friday that North Korea was behind last month’s Sony hack. The agency’s evidence is tenuous, and I have a hard time believing it. But I also have trouble believing that the U.S. government would make the accusation this formally if officials didn’t believe it.

Sony Changes Mind, Will Release ‘The Interview’ Theatrically 

Dave McNary, reporting for Variety:

“The president applauds Sony’s decision to authorize screenings of the film,” the statement said. “As the President made clear, we’re a country that believes in free speech and the right of artistic expression. The decision made by Sony and participating theaters allows people to make their own choices about the film and we welcome that outcome.”

The statement came a few hours after the studio reversed its Dec. 17 announcement to withdraw “The Interview” and opted instead for a limited release to independent theaters — and four days after the president said Sony had “made a mistake” by pulling the Seth Rogen-James Franco satire out of theaters.

Hyperlapse’s Best Feature: Real-Time Image Stabilization 

Ross Miller, writing for The Verge (I’ve had this tab open in the background since October):

Hyperlapse, Instagram’s standalone video app that debuted this past August, is touted for its ability to make dead simple time lapses. But if you really want to enjoy the best feature of Hyperlapse, don’t speed up the footage. The result is some of the smoothest video we’ve seen from a phone — the kind of stuff that could otherwise take thousands of dollars in professional equipment to achieve comparable results. Student art films will never be the same again.

It really does work amazingly. You lose resolution and wider field of view, but the stabilization is terrific.

An Oral History of ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ 

I love these oral histories — so many great stories and details. Christmas Vacation is on our family’s annual must-watch list for the holidays.

VHX Loyalty Bundle 

Great indie documentary bundle:

Three awesome documentaries, one fantastic bundle: This is Not a Conspiracy Theory, Indie Game The Movie, and Rewind This!

New fans get all three films for just $15. There’s no DRM and they’re yours to play anywhere, anytime, on any device.

But what if you’re an old fan? Typically, existing fans get left out in the cold by bundle promotions. We don’t like that. We don’t think you should made to regret purchasing early, so we’re making the entire bundle available for free to existing fans. If you’ve already bought one of these films on the VHX platform, just click the button at the bottom of this page, enter the email you used for your purchase, and the bundle is yours at no charge.

Last Week’s E-Book Antitrust Appeal Hearing Went Well for Apple 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt, writing for Fortune:

At times Judge Jacobs came close to suggesting that the government had prosecuted the wrong company. At the very least, he said, a horizontal initiative “used to break the hold of a monopolist” ought not be found to be illegal per se. He likened any collusive conduct on the publishers’ part to “mice getting together to go put a bell on the cat.”

More laughter. More trouble for the government’s cause.

Two of the three judges on the appeal seemed to agree with what I’ve been arguing all along: (a) the agency model — where publishers set prices and Apple takes 30 percent — is not price-fixing; and (b) Amazon, with its monopoly share (80-90 percent) of e-book sales and predatory pricing scheme, is the company the DOJ should be investigating.

Speaking of David Carr 

I really enjoyed this profile of Carr by James Bradshaw for The Globe and Mail. I’ve spoken with Carr a few times when he was working on pieces about Apple, and he is truly one of the greats. It’s always very clear when I speak with him that he is not just looking for quotes to fit a narrative he’s already decided upon (which is exactly what happens when you speak to most reporters). Instead, Carr probes. And he listens. He’s searching for the narrative, not looking for quotes that fit his preconceived narrative.

David Carr on the Slippery Slope of Sony’s Cowardice 

David Carr, writing for the NYT:

It was a remarkable and disorienting turn of events: a tiny, failing state that lacks the wherewithal to feed its own people was deciding which movies we can and cannot see, while the industry it had attacked watched silently from the sidelines, and the president of the United States felt compelled to step into an international confrontation catalyzed by a lowbrow comedy. […]

The threats and subsequent cancellation will become a nightmare with a very long tail. Now that cultural discourse has become the subject of online blackmail, it is hard to imagine where it will end. Documentaries, which have become increasingly important sources of news and information, could suddenly be in jeopardy. And if you’ve been watching the current season of “Homeland” on Showtime, you know that Pakistan’s more sinister operations have been on wide view.

Meh 

The format for DF RSS feed sponsorships has remained unchanged since they debuted back in 2007. There are three fields: a title (usually the name of the product or service being promoted), a URL for the main link, and a description of 100 words or fewer. The sponsors write these entries, not me. (They are subject to my approval, though.) Then at the end of the week, I write the thank-you posts (such as the one you’re reading now) using a mix of my own words and thoughts, and the main talking points the sponsor is trying to hit.

The gang at Meh, who once again sponsored this week’s feed, have turned this into a sort of RSS-based form of performance art. Last week they made ASCII art of a table being overturned.

This week, they used a title of “…” (just an ellipsis, nothing else) and a URL of “about:blank”. For the body of their entry, they added at least some context:

In this week before Christmas we thought it’d be nice to take our Daring Fireball sponsorship and not pitch you on anything. Enjoy the holidays. Meh.

No link on the word “Meh”, either, so if you weren’t familiar with them, it might still be confusing. But it was confusing as hell in the @daringfireball Twitter stream, where these entries go in with just the title and URL. Here’s the resulting tweet, in its entirety:

[Sponsor] …: http://about:blank

This, in turn, led many readers to assume that there was either some sort of technical snafu on my end, or that the sponsorship had gone unsold. Not the case. I find Meh’s strategy with these spots utterly fascinating — so I thank them both for sponsoring the site and for injecting a big dose of creativity into a format where I had never even considered the possibility of such.

The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic 

Astute observation by Brian Feldman:

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image.

The Police Are the People 

I think Dave Winer is onto something big here:

This is a huge disconnect, and we let it happen. The problem isn’t with the NYPD, the problem is with the blanket total support we give our military when it fights in Afghanistan and Iraq. The price of placing zero value on the lives of the people of these countries is that our lives in turn become worthless. What goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. There are dozens of adages and fables that explain this phenomenon. The lives of the people of the foreign countries are worth exactly as much as ours. We overlooked the behavior of American soldiers in these countries. Now the cops want to know why we treat them differently.

And they’re right to ask. Why? If the army can arbitrarily kill thousands in Iraq, why can’t they kill a few people in Staten Island, Missouri, or Ohio? You “support the troops” why don’t you support us, they ask.

Bryan Irace: ‘We Need a “Safari View Controller” ’ 

Great suggestion from Bryan Irace:

It’d be wonderful if Apple provided a “Safari view controller” that developers could present directly from within their applications. This controller would run out of process and work almost exactly like MFMailComposeViewController and MFMessageComposeViewController already do for composing emails and text messages respectively. The app would provide the controller with a URL (and optionally, a tint color), but otherwise what the user does in it would remain secure and isolated from any third-party code, yet fully integrated with Safari.app and Safari controllers presented by other applications.

iOS 8 share and action extensions are further proof that Apple thinks being able to display view controllers from one application inside of another strikes a great balance of security and user experience. Why not let us do the same with Safari as well?

Jason Snell on Mailbox 

Jason Snell, writing for The Sweet Setup:

Because Apple makes it, Mail is for everybody. But it’s not for everybody. Apple designed it to serve the masses, and if you want more–or less–from your email client, Apple Mail may not suit you. Maybe its old-school approach to mail, lifted from classic mail clients like Eudora and NeXTMail, just doesn’t fit the modern emailer. Maybe you want deep links to productivity apps on your Mac that Mail just won’t provide. Or maybe you’re just tired of being in a dysfunctional relationship with Mail.

All told, we looked at nine different challengers to Mail, each of which brings its own clever spin on how to process or display email. The best of the bunch is Mailbox, which simplifies mail into a set of tasks, allows you to defer messages until a later time, makes filing messages simple, takes advantage of trackpad gestures, and works with an excellent iOS app counterpart.

I tried Mailbox when it first came out, but it didn’t stick. I’m thinking maybe I should give it another shot, now that there’s a Mac counterpart. As Snell points out, it’s one of those apps where you kind of have to go all-in with it.

Peter Singer on Sony’s Reaction to North Korea Hack 

Peter W. Singer, in an interview with Motherboard’s Jason Koebler:

​Now we get to the part that moves from jokes and silliness to serious, which is: This is not just now a case study in how not to react to cyber threats and a case study in how to not defend your networks, it’s now also a case study in how not to respond to terrorism threats.

We have just communicated to any would-be attacker that we will do whatever they want.

It is mind boggling to me, particularly when you compare it to real things that have actually happened. Someone killed 12 people and shot another 70 people at the opening night of Batman: The Dark Knight. They kept that movie in the theaters. You issue an anonymous cyber threat that you did not have the capability to carry out? We pulled a movie from 18,000 theaters.

This, in a world where “Keep Calm and Carry On” has become an overused meme.

L.A. Weekly: ‘Sony Pulling “The Interview” Is the End of Free Speech in Hollywood’ 

Amy Nicholson, writing for LA Weekly:

Sony’s official announcement that the studio will no longer release Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s North Korean comedy The Interview closed with the line, “We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression.”

So what’s it like when they don’t?

U.S. Links North Korea to Sony Hacking 

David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

American intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean government was “centrally involved” in the recent attacks on Sony Pictures’s computers, a determination reached just as Sony on Wednesday canceled its release of the comedy, which is based on a plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Senior administration officials, who would not speak on the record about the intelligence findings, said the White House was still debating whether to publicly accuse North Korea of what amounts to a cyberterrorism campaign. Sony’s decision to cancel release of “The Interview” amounted to a capitulation to the threats sent out by hackers this week that they would launch attacks, perhaps on theaters themselves, if the movie was released.

It seems very wrong to me to capitulate to the demands of terrorists and not release the movie on schedule, but ultimately it wasn’t Sony’s call, it was made by the theater chains.

Marco Arment:

Ged Maheux searched the App Store for “Twitter” and found Twitter clients ranked horribly below a bunch of spam and garbage apps, most having little to nothing to do with Twitter.

You can see similar ranking problems with almost any common search term. I searched earlier today for an iPad Instagram client — the iPad App Store search list for “Instagram” is just as spammy and unhelpful as this. I was only able to find what I was actually looking for by searching Google and asking people on Twitter.

It has always been the case that a Google web search for “whatever iPhone app” provides far superior results to searching the App Store for “whatever”. Sometimes the difference is as vast as perfect (Google’s results) and useless (the App Store’s), as we can see searching for “Twitter iPhone client” in Google and “Twitter” on the App Store.

That this is still the case in 2014 is a worrisome sign.

Apple Found Not Guilty in DRM Class Action Lawsuit 

Fast Company:

Apple’s lawyers pointed out in their closing statements that the plaintiffs had no actual customers complaining about their user experience, and two plaintiffs originally named in the suit were taken off after lawyers found they had never actually purchased iPods during the named time period.

The whole case was nonsense anyway, but this just shows how slapdash the whole suit was. The lawyers behind it were in such a rush to get their hands on a settlement from Apple that they didn’t even bother to vet their plaintiffs.

Apple Halts Sales in Russia as Ruble Craters 

USA Today:

Apple confirmed Tuesday it has halted online sales in Russia after the ruble plummeted to an all-time low against the dollar. And more tech companies could follow its lead, analysts say.

“Due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble, our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement. “We apologize to customers for any inconvenience.” ​

Eric Schmidt Mistakenly Claims That Chrome’s Incognito Mode Can Foil Government Snooping 

The Daily Dot:

“If you’re concerned, for whatever reason, you do not wish to be tracked by federal and state authorities, my strong recommendation is to use incognito mode, and that’s what people do,” Schmidt explained.

So what’s the problem here? Incognito mode is designed for — and serves — a completely different kind of privacy protection than the one Schmidt implied.

People make mistakes all the time. But shouldn’t Eric Schmidt be an expert on this? The intersection of privacy, government snooping, and Google’s flagship product?

Torture and the Truth 

Jane Mayer, writing in The New Yorker:

It’s hard to describe it as a positive development when a branch of the federal government releases a four-hundred-and-ninety-nine-page report that explains, in meticulous detail, how unthinkable cruelty became official U.S. policy. But last Tuesday, in releasing the long-awaited Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation-and-detention program, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee chairman, proved that Congress can still perform its most basic Madisonian function of providing a check on executive-branch abuse, and that is reason for gratitude.

The Q.A. Mindset 

Michael Lopp:

My first job in technology was a QA internship. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years, I tested the first release of Paradox for Windows at Borland.

As an intern, I started by following someone else’s QA test plan — dutifully checking each test off the list. After a few weeks, I knew my particular area inside and out. A new build would show up, which I’d install via 3.5-inch floppies, and in ten minutes of usage, I’d have a sense — is this a good or bad build?

In QA, there is a distinct moment. It comes once you’re deeply familiar with your product or product area; it comes when you’re lost in your testing, and it comes in an instant. You find a problem, and because of your strong context about your product, you definitely know: Something is seriously wrong here.

A good QA engineer is worth their weight in gold.

How Circa Asks Users to Review Their App 

Matt Galligan:

The trouble with the pop up approach is that the app was inevitably interrupting the user’s experience. A method that’s more integral into the experience is the next step — we call this the integrated rating.

For Circa we decided to place an integrated rating in the middle of our list of news stories. That way, someone could scroll right past it without having to interact with it, as opposed to a pop up which requires interaction.

Apple: ‘The Song’ 

Nice sequel to last year’s holiday TV spot from Apple. Note how small a role Apple kit plays in the whole piece. It’s about people, family, and love — not gadgets.

Mat Honan on The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism 

Almost heartbreaking that we never got to see The Racket come to be. Sounds like it would have been great.

Sound Designer Ben Burtt Deconstructs the Millennium Falcon’s Hyperdrive Malfunction 

I remember as a kid seeing a behind-the-scenes TV special that explained where a slew of the sound effects from Star Wars came from. Love this stuff.

‘Stephen Colbert Is Dead. Long Live Stephen Colbert.’ 

Nice piece by Will Leitch on the end of The Colbert Report, and along with it, Colbert’s blowhard politico persona. Part of what makes his upcoming role as the new host of The Late Show — as himself rather than the character — so intriguing is that we don’t really know what we’re going to get yet.

Andy Borowitz: ‘Dick Cheney Calls for International Ban on Torture Reports’ 

Nailed it.

Meh.com 

This week’s DF RSS feed sponsor was Meh.com, a classic daily deal site. Here’s the title they chose for their sponsored entry in the RSS feed earlier in the week:

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━uozɐɯɐ━┻

It makes perfect sense if you know the backstory of their founders. Check them out for some cool stuff.

Last Call for DF T-Shirts 

Last call for this round of DF T-shirts. Order now, or you’ll be shirtless.

Update: The shirt store is now closed. Thanks to everyone who ordered; we’ll start printing tomorrow.

‘Holiday Johns’ 

I made a special guest appearance on Turning This Car Around, with my pals John Moltz and Jon Armstrong (listed in order of who spells their first name the better way).

The Financial Times Person of the Year: Tim Cook 

Tim Bradshaw and Richard Waters, writing for the FT:

More than an hour into Apple’s annual shareholder meeting in February, Tim Cook had patiently fielded questions ranging from its plans for the television market to what he thought of Google Glass. But when one audience member tried to push Apple’s chief executive on the profitability of Apple’s various environmental initiatives, such as its solar-powered data centre, Mr Cook snapped.

“We do things for other reasons than a profit motive, we do things because they are right and just,” Mr Cook growled. Whether in human rights, renewable energy or accessibility for people with special needs, “I don’t think about the bloody ROI,” Mr Cook said, in the same stern, uncompromising tone that Apple employees hope they never have to hear. “Just to be very straightforward with you, if that’s a hard line for you … then you should get out of the stock.”

That’s the lead of their article, and I think it’s a great choice — the most telling impromptu public moment of Tim Cook’s year.

Top 10 Things to Love About Letterman’s Top Ten Lists 

Great piece by Ben Blatt for Slate:

In May, when Letterman steps down and hand the reigns of the Late Show to Stephen Colbert, the Top Ten List will likely retire with him. Before Letterman counts down for the last time, I wanted to commemorate one of the longest running comedy routines in late-night history by trying to learn more about its inner workings: how it’s crafted, how it comments on our culture and politics, and how it’s evolved since the mid-1980s. How do Letterman’s writers start a list, and how do they end one? What kind of jokes work best in the Top Ten format? What kind of jokes don’t work at all? Which political figures have found their way onto the list most often? And what’s with all the Regis references?

To answer these questions, I performed a statistical analysis of every Top Ten List ever read on the air by Letterman.

The Wrist Business 

Joe Cieplinski, on why he’s decided against developing WatchKit extensions:

  • Third, I’m talking about right now. Does it make sense to build a Watch app today, given what we know and what we have at our disposal? All of this could change in a few months, years, etc. What I want to know is what I should be doing right now to benefit my bottom line.

Me, I find it difficult to imagine what it’s like to actually wear and use an Apple Watch. If I designed software for it now, I expect that after the watches come out and I actually use one, I’d want to redesign/rewrite whatever I’d already done. I’m sure there will be some cool third-party extensions available on day one, but I don’t think developers will lose anything in the long run by taking a wait-and-see stance at this point.

App Store Rejection of the Week: ‘Papers Please’ 

Phill Cameron, writing for Gamasutra:

Papers Please launched last year to both critical and commercial success, and placed you in the role of a border inspector working for a totalitarian regime. The demands on exactly what is required for entry into your country grow over the course of the game, until you implement a full body scanner to check for explosives and contraband.

It’s this scanner that Apple has deemed to be “pornographic content,” according to Lucas Pope, the games developer.

So here’s an App Store rejection that many disagree with, but which is easy to understand from Apple’s perspective. Apple tends to err on the side of running the App Store with Disney-esque family values. The company places inordinate value in its family-friendly reputation.

But:

  • Pornography usually involves nudity, but nudity is frequently not pornographic. Pornography is famously difficult to define, but I think one aspect almost everyone would agree with is that pornography is intended to create sexual arousal. I haven’t played Papers Please, but by all accounts, it’s a serious game attempting to create a dystopian police state. The nudity seems to be oppressive and invasive, not pornographic.

  • This case highlights the way Apple holds games (and apps in general) to a different standard than other iTunes content. Movies, music, and books are not held to the same PG-13-ish standards that apps are. I can buy A Clockwork Orange from iTunes, but if I made a game that showed the exact same things that are depicted in that film, it’d have little chance of being approved. Conversely, an R-rated movie version of Papers Please could depict this scene without a hitch when it comes to iTunes.

Update, 13 December: Developer Lucas Pope says Apple has asked him to resubmit the app with the nudity intact.

Transmit for iOS Update Restores ‘Send To’ Feature 

Good news:

After a considerate conversation with Apple, Transmit iOS 1.1.2 has been released with restored “Send To” functionality.

While the process feels less-than-perfect, this resolution is a nice reminder that, just as we thought, there are good people at Apple who will push hard to do the right thing. We hope you enjoy Transmit iOS 1.1.2.

I was optimistic that this would happen, because it just didn’t make any sense to me why they weren’t allowing this. With many controversial App Store rejections, you may not agree with Apple’s rationale, but you can at least understand it. This one just didn’t make sense.

Tools and Toys’s Favorite Camera Accessories 

Speaking of photography, Tools and Toys has put together a solid list of accessories.

Ken Rockwell Reviews the Fujifilm X100T 

Ken Rockwell:

The Fuji X100T is the world’s best digital camera because no other camera has its ability to capture great photos perfectly in any light, all usually on the very first shot. It’s also the world’s quietest camera, with a completely silent electronic shutter. […]

The X100T has an astonishing combined optical and electronic finder that allows perfect viewing of anything in any light. A lever push selects each one, and even shooting with the optical finder the just-shot image can pop up for review! New in the X100T is the ability to use the optical finder and have an electronic inset at the bottom right to magnify a focus area. No other brand of camera can do any of this.

The X100T is a mechanical jewel, made at least as well as a $7,000 LEICA M240, with all-metal dials, lenses and top and bottom covers.

I own and adore the year-old X100S. The T update brings face detection, Wi-Fi, the silent electronic shutter, and a few other improvements, but not enough for me to consider upgrading. This is a great camera.

Rockwell writes:

Just like the older versions, ergonomics are superb. The X100T is designed for photographers, not computer programmers. The X100T has all the dials and controls we need right at our fingertips, not buried behind a function button.

The menu/settings system could use a thorough redesign, but in terms of shooting controls — having aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation as analog dials is just wonderful. It feels like a camera. And image quality is excellent. It’s a little too big to fit in a pocket, but it’s way smaller and lighter than my Canon SLR. I already have a good camera in my pocket; the X100 series hits a sweet spot for me, between image quality, photographic control, and weight. $1300 isn’t cheap, but in my opinion there aren’t many cameras left that (a) cost a lot less than that; and (b) are good enough to justify carrying them around instead of just shooting everything with your iPhone.

How Overcast Asks for Reviews 

Marco Arment:

My strategy to get good App Store reviews is simple:

  1. Make an app good enough for some people to love it. By nature, you’ll lose some people along the way, but that’s OK: an app that strives to satisfy as many people as possible will usually only get people to kinda like it, not love it.
  2. Accumulate a huge surplus of goodwill from those customers with a combination of step 1, usefulness, delight, and adding more functionality over time.
  3. Make it easy to rate the app with a button that’s never annoying or in the way, like in the Settings screen.

Maybe it’s just me, but in the past year, I’ve seen fewer apps interrupting me with an alert asking to rate the app. (When I do see such a prompt, I still do what I recommended last year: I give it a review with a low star rating.)

I’m also seeing more and more apps asking, in an earnest and honest way, for reviews in their App Store update notes. That’s a great practice, and I often do just that to reward them.

HockeyApp Acquired by Microsoft 

I didn’t see this one coming. From the HockeyApp team blog:

We want to be very clear about the most important thing: we remain dedicated to our mission of making the best mobile app development feedback and testing distribution platform in the world. Your HockeyApp apps and accounts will continue to work and the team has not stopped working on advancing the platform. Throughout the next few months, we’ll reveal more about our plans with Microsoft.

HockeyApp is the leading rival to TestFlight, which Apple acquired last year and began officially supporting within Xcode a few months ago. I’ve always liked HockeyApp — it’s what we use for beta distributions at Q Branch.

Very curious to see what comes of this.

If You Enable iCloud’s Two-Factor Authentication, Do Not Lose Your Recovery Key 

Harrowing tale from Owen Williams at The Next Web: his iCloud account was locked because someone seemingly had attempted to hack into it. But he couldn’t unlock it without his recovery key (which he couldn’t find), even though he still knew his account password and had access to his second “trusted device”, his iPhone.

I think he’s way too harsh on Apple’s policies here, though. Even the headline of the piece seems off to me: “The Dark Side of Apple’s Two-Factor Authentication”. The lesson here is that if you enable two-factor authentication, you might need to access your recovery key even if you haven’t forgotten your password or lost your trusted device. Apple should make that clear.

The lesson is decidedly not that Apple should allow you to talk your way back into accessing your account over the phone, which seems to be what Williams wanted. That’s exactly how Mat Honan’s account got hijacked two years ago.

The Talk Show Bond Anthology 

Back in 2011, Dan Benjamin and I reviewed the then 23 James Bond movies made to date (including the non-EON production Never Say Never Again). David Smith has collected those segments into a standalone feed so you don’t have to hunt for individual movies, and don’t have to scan each episode trying to find where the Bond discussion starts. This is so great.

‘They’re starving for material. Starving.’ 

From a fascinating 1997 interview with Paul Thomas Anderson by Roger Ebert:

Q. Los Angeles is filled with people who want to direct films. They’re always asking, “How do I get started? What do I do?” You have somehow managed to negotiate a path to that point. What do you tell people who want to be directors?

A. That there is nothing else I can do, and nothing else I will do. “No” is not an option. I have to do this or I will die. I only get to direct because I can write - that’s the key. The scary thing is, if you can write, you hold a lot of cards. They’re starving for material. Starving.

Instagram Hits 300 Million Monthly Users, Surpassing Twitter 

Perhaps it’s as simple as photos being more appealing to a broader audience than tweets. But I say part of Instagram’s success is that their interface is simpler, and the rules for what you see in your feed are like what Twitter’s used to be: a simple chronological list of posts from the people you choose to follow. Insert your own “Correlation is not causation” disclaimer here, but it seems to me that Twitter’s slowing growth corresponds pretty closely to its complexity increasing over the past few years.

Put another way: Instagram is clearly run by people who get what it is that makes Instagram a cool thing. Twitter seems run by people who just don’t get Twitter.

Apple and IBM Deliver First Wave of IBM MobileFirst for iOS Apps 

This press release from Apple is rather dry — full of blustery enterprise-ese that has a sedative effect on me. But I’m glad I stuck with it to the end, where they have links to both IBM’s and Apple’s galleries of these apps. These don’t look like “enterprise” apps. They look like regular apps — really good ones, the sort of apps Apple would choose to feature in the App Store. This was a huge question I had about this deal. Great design is fundamental to what sets iOS apart, and what has enabled iOS to lead the post-PC disruption of the entire consumer computing industry. Would great UI design play a part in this IBM/Apple enterprise endeavor? Looks to me like the answer is yes.

(Interesting color palette on that insurance retention app — looks like something I’ve seen before, can’t quite put my finger on it.)

President Obama Writes His First Line of Javascript for Hour of Code 

Obama writing JavaScript is a gimmick, yes, but I like the idea of making basic programming skills a fundamental aspect of education, right up there with reading, writing, math, and history. It’s fundamentally just logic, and better logic skills are useful universally.

(Apple’s iTunes team has put together a good list of apps, books, and podcasts to promote Hour of Code, including The Talk Show.)

Grantland’s Oral History of ‘Boogie Nights’ 

Fantastic look back at the making of one of my favorite movies ever. Here’s just one tidbit from postproduction supervisor Mark Graziano, regarding the spectacular opening shot/scene:

I remember that shot because I’m a Scorsese fan and I love that shot in Goodfellas where he goes into the Copa. And here’s Paul basically … he never said so, but the way I read it was he’s trying to one-up that Goodfellas tracking shot. And he did.

The whole movie owed a creative debt to Goodfellas to my eyes. Goodfellas created a mold for this sort of sprawling, years-long period-piece ensemble saga. The flow, the pace — the genius use of pop music to establish the era.

On HBO’s Existing Apple TV App 

Greg Sandoval, writing for The Verge back in June 2013:

Getting HBO Go on the Apple TV might have taken longer had HBO not begun to boost the number of engineers working at the company’s new development center in Seattle. Apple TV was the first app that HBO created completely in-house, said [HBO CTO Otto] Berkes, a former Microsoft executive who started at HBO two years ago. Prior to Apple TV, HBO teamed with third parties on its apps, but “this was 100 percent created by our software and design staff,” Berkes said. “It marks a turning point. I would say we’re two times faster than just a year ago, and that will increase over time.”

Earlier today: “HBO CTO Otto Berkes Resigns After Network Enlists MLB to Build OTT Platform”:

“Recently HBO’s management decided to partner with a third party to assist HBO in bringing our OTT service to market in 2015,” Berkes wrote. “This is a change in direction from what I planned with HBO and the approach will not utilize my overall capabilities. Therefore, I feel that this is the right time for me to move on from HBO so that I am able to fully pursue my passion building world-class technology teams, products and businesses.”

Major Update to YouTube App for Apple TV 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode:

The world’s biggest video service has refreshed its app for Apple’s TV streaming box. The update means YouTube on Apple TV will look similar to YouTube on Xbox and other devices, both in terms of appearance and content.

The most consequential change is that YouTube videos on Apple TV will run with ads. Which also means that all of the videos that run on YouTube (most notably music videos) will now run on YouTube’s Apple TV app.

It also (probably) means that Google’s team doesn’t think Apple is planning a significant overhaul of Apple TV anytime soon, since it (probably) wouldn’t spend the time on an app refresh if it thought the device was going to change radically in the near future.

Kafka makes it sound like the apps for Apple TV are written by the third party companies, like with App Store apps for iOS. I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, and that the YouTube “app” for today’s Apple TV is like the YouTube app for the original iPhone: written by Apple, but designed through some sort of partnership with Google. Surely, for example, it’s Google that wanted ads to play. But I really doubt they wrote the code for the app. Apple TV (as we know it) has tons of third-party content, but no third-party software.

Has anyone ever written about the dynamics between Apple and the partner “channels” they have for Apple TV, and how those apps get written and updated?

Update: I had forgotten about this year-old piece by Jordan Kahn for 9to5Mac, with behind-the-scenes information on the development of the then-new Bloomberg channel:

While Apple’s SDK allowed them to build the app and interface and does include general guidelines and suggestions for video, the backend powering the video experience is completely built and maintained by Bloomberg. Apple actually has very little input in the development process after handing over the SDK, which is a good indication the development process could be transitioned into a more open tool for all developers. You might have noticed that the recently released apps on Apple TV all seem to have a similar design, although slightly different when it comes to certain features and layouts. That’s because Apple provides several templates that XML developers can choose from and customize in a variety of ways. Apple has also been working on improving the templates for Apple TV apps in recent months. Its newer Apple TV apps use navigation with tabs along the top of the screen, rather than the older apps that use a list on the right of the screen when first launching the app. Using Apple’s XML templates and guidelines, Bloomberg built the app using its own server side (Java, Tomcat).

Do they actually get to write Objective-C code, though?

Update 2: From what I’m hearing, no, it’s not compiled Objective-C code, it’s JavaScript.

Fortune: HBO to Outsource Streaming Tech From MLB Advanced Media 

Erin Griffith, reporting for Fortune:

Moving HBO’s new streaming service to an external platform is a blow to Otto Berkes, the chief technology officer of HBO. Since becoming HBO’s CTO in 2012, Berkes has brought in a number of his ex-colleagues from Microsoft and set up a large office in Seattle with 55 engineers, laying off a number of longtime employees in New York. The Seattle office, which is rumored to cost HBO as much as $100 million per year, has been the source of internal squabbling at the company. Insiders accused Berkes of building “a Napoleonic empire” within HBO.

From a recent Glassdoor review:

The once great group, now called Digital Products, has been in decline since about 2012. Change had been desperately needed, but change we got is toxic and lacking unity, direction and clarity. Culture is now unfriendly and full of back stabbing done with a smile.

Earlier this year, HBO Go suffered several embarrassing outages during episodes of Game of Thrones and True Detective. According to sources, Berkes had known about a “memory leak” for nine months but decided it was a “non-issue.” That leak eventually led to the HBO Go outages. Internally, some accused Berkes of using the outages as a way to ask for more money to invest in his Seattle engineering team. He got the investment, but HBO executives have not been pleased with what he’s delivered.

Pitch: an HBO series about an HBO-like premium cable channel going through the rough transition to the post-cable streaming world.

Daring Fireball T-Shirts 

Almost sort of kind of just in time for the holidays: a new printing run of DF t-shirts. We’ll take orders through the end of this week, print them early next week, and start shipping them around December 19. U.S. domestic orders should arrive before Christmas; international orders, alas, won’t.

J.J. Abrams on the Magic of Mystery 

2009 essay for Wired magazine by J.J. Abrams:

Spoilers give fans the answers they want, the resolution they crave. As an avid fan of movies and TV myself, I completely understand the desire to find out behind-the-scenes details in a nanosecond. Which, given technology, is often how long it takes — to the frustration of the storytellers. Efforts to gather this intel and the attempts to plug leaks create an ongoing battle between filmmakers and the very fans they are dying to entertain and impress. But the real damage isn’t so much that the secret gets out. It’s that the experience is destroyed. The illusion is diminished. Which may not matter to some. But then what’s the point of actually seeing that movie or episode? How does knowing the twist before you walk into the theater — or what that island is really about before you watch the finale — make for a richer viewing experience? It’s telling that the very term itself — spoiler — has become synonymous with “cool info you can get before the other guy.” What no one remembers is that it literally means “to damage irreparably; to ruin.” Spoilers make no bones about destroying the intended experience — and somehow that has become, for many, the preferred choice.

Space Age 

Speaking of Panic employees and cool new apps, I’ve been digging this whimsical exploration game from Big Bucket (Matt Comi and Neven Mrgan) — with an entire soundtrack by Cabel Sasser. Pure fun.

Transmit iOS and iCloud Drive 

Panic got a baffling App Store decree from Apple:

Also, at Apple’s request, we had to remove the ability to “Send” files to other services, including iCloud Drive.

In short, we’re told that while Transmit iOS can download content from iCloud Drive, we cannot upload content to iCloud Drive unless the content was created in the app itself. Apple says this use would violate 2.23 — “Apps must follow the iOS Data Storage Guidelines or they will be rejected” — but oddly that page says nothing about iCloud Drive or appropriate uses for iCloud Drive.

I thought the whole point of iCloud Drive, and iOS 8’s new sharing sheet for storage services like Box and Dropbox, was to allow users to do exactly what Transmit enabled. To say that those “iOS Data Storage Guidelines” do not explain this limitation is an understatement — they have nothing to do with iCloud Drive.

If iCloud Drive were an iOS-only technology, this might make some sort of sense. But given that iCloud Drive on OS X allows you unfettered freedom to put whatever file you want wherever you want it, this doesn’t make any sense at all.

(Even without this feature, Transmit for iOS is a fantastic app. The whole crew at Panic is on an amazing roll recently, including a major re-write of their iOS SSH client Prompt and a huge free update to Coda.)

Padded Spaces 

My thanks to Padded Spaces for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their clever device accessories.

iBedside is an elegant bedside pouch for storing and charging your iPad and iPhone overnight. Prop ’n Go is a comfortable stand for iPads and MacBooks with 14 easily adjustable angles. Wrapped in cozy memory foam, Prop ’n Go is perfect for keeping gadgets at just the right angle while lounging on the couch or laying in bed.

Both iBedside and Prop ’n Go are in-stock and shipping for free worldwide via Amazon US, CA, and EU, and — hint, hint — make for great holiday gifts.

Amazon Elements: Amazon Unveils Its Own Diapers and Baby Wipes 

Jason Del Ray, reporting for Recode:

Called Amazon Elements, the line of diapers and baby wipes will only be available to customers who belong to the Amazon Prime membership program, adding another item to the growing list of membership perks. By working directly with a manufacturer, Amazon will be able to price the brand aggressively, with a 40-count package of diapers starting at $7.99. That works out to about 19 cents a diaper, compared to competitor prices that mostly range from 24 cents to 34 cents.

As a result, some people will view the launch as a shot across the bow at the big diaper brands, Huggies and Pampers, that sell their products on Amazon. Sellers on Amazon already gripe that Amazon sells the same products as they do. Now it is building a direct relationship with a supplier that allows it to undercut some of its own partners in a more significant way.

“Some people”? Who doesn’t think this is a “shot across the bow at the big diaper brands”?

Harvey Dent’s Phone 

Sounds crazy, but I’d love to try this thing.

The Talk Show: ‘Maybe You Don’t Take an Apprentice’ 

New episode of my podcast, with special guest Dave Wiskus. Topics include the new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and just-announced title and cast for the 24th EON Productions Bond movie, Spectre. Other items include the untapped potential of podcasting and YouTubing, cutting babies in half, turtle copulation, and kangaroo genitalia.

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‘To This Day I’ll Go Stay at the Bottom of the Org Chart, Be an Engineer, Because That’s Where I Want to Be’ 

Nice short film profile of Steve Wozniak by Bloomberg.

Smells Like Vectory 

This afternoon is the Layer Tennis Season 4 Championship: Kelli Anderson vs. James White. Yours truly will be doing match commentary. From my intro:

Here’s the thing: Layer Tennis is grueling. It’s really hard to come up with clever ideas on the spot — and not just once, but five times over the course of an afternoon. Then players have to implement each idea in just 15 minutes. But they don’t really have 15 minutes, because they squander some chunk of their allotted time for each volley willing the clever idea into existence. And no matter how crummy the idea, no matter how rushed the execution, when the time comes — and it comes quickly — the result goes public, for the world to see.

In the midst of a match, watching the players grind it out, I sometimes wonder why anyone is willing to play this game.

But then I peruse the archives. The sweet, wonderful Layer Tennis archives. Good Layer Tennis matches can be beautiful, funny, surprising, poignant. The great ones are art. That is why we play.

Wrap up your workweek and grab some tasty beverages.

‘Do They Still Exist?’ 

Reuters, reporting on Steve Jobs’s 2011 deposition in this DRM class-action lawsuit over iTunes music:

During his 2011 deposition, Jobs displayed some of the edge he was known for, according to a transcript filed in court. Asked if he was familiar with Real Networks, Jobs replied: “Do they still exist?”

WSJ: ‘Apple Deleted Rivals’ Songs from Users’ iPods’ 

This strikes me as a terribly misinformed article. This had nothing to do with rival music stores’ music files, and everything to do with rival music stores’ DRM. The plaintiffs in this class action suit are, from what I’ve read, deliberately blurring the lines to conflate the two.

Apple:

  • Only ever supported one DRM format: FairPlay. They never licensed FairPlay to other device makers or music stores, and never supported any other DRM format in iTunes or on iPods.
  • Always supported non-DRM music — in MP3 and AAC formats — on both iTunes and iPods.
  • Included DRM on iTunes Music Store tracks at the insistence of the record labels. As famously made clear in Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Music” open letter in 2007, Apple wanted to sell DRM-free music tracks, and, once the record labels allowed them to, they did just that.

The thing with Real Networks is that they backwards-engineered FairPlay in 2004, and Apple responded by closing the loopholes Real exploited. If Real had sold DRM-free MP3 files, Apple wouldn’t have done anything. Amazon’s music store has always sold music in plain no-DRM MP3 format, and those files have always worked perfectly with iTunes and iPods.

Bond 24 Title Revealed: ‘Spectre’ 

Great title, fits right in with the way Skyfall ended with Ralph Fiennes taking the helm of MI6 as a Bernard Lee-esque M. Nice car, too.

CarPlay and Android Auto Comparison 

Interesting differences in design. Android Auto is more like a tablet interface; CarPlay is more simplistic — almost more like Apple Watch than an iPhone or iPad.

Neither of these seems appealing to me, though, at least on this Hyundai. The lag is just atrocious.

Update: Polarized feedback on Twitter. Some are arguing that Apple’s CarPlay looks like a “kid’s toy”. Others are arguing that Android Auto is too busy to be suitable for use while driving. My favorite was this one, from Neil Anthony Jones:

@daringfireball Android Auto looks like the thing you do while your Googlecar drives you to your destination

Eddy Cue Talks to Fortune as Apple Appeals E-Book Price-Fixing Judgment 

Roger Parloff has an excellent overview of the Apple price-fixing case, including an exclusive interview with Eddy Cue. Here’s the nut of it:

In truth, though, anyone complaining about Amazon has a tough row to hoe. Since the 1970s a broad consensus has emerged that the only proper purpose of the antitrust laws is to protect consumers, and low prices are presumed to be the consumer’s highest priority. Under that regimen, gigantic discounters like Amazon seem to be golden.

This case may mark the high-water mark in that worldview, with regulators rushing to the rescue of a near monopolist against the alleged depredations of a new entrant.

The key question is who needs antitrust protection here. The DOJ chose to “protect” e-book buying consumers from higher retail prices. Apple’s argument is that it’s the publishers who needed protection from Amazon. Parloff makes clear that the publishers had no negotiating leverage with Amazon until after the iBooks Store was announced.

One thing that seems clear to me: Apple’s executive team believes that they’re in the right here:

Many are surprised Apple didn’t settle long ago. The case seems to be more about reputation than money. (Under a conditional settlement worked out in June, if Apple loses the appeal, it will pay $450 million in damages and attorney fees. If it wins, it pays nothing.)

“We feel we have to fight for the truth,” says Cue. “Luckily, Tim feels exactly like I do,” he continues, referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook, “which is: You have to fight for your principles no matter what. Because it’s just not right.”

Joanna Stern on the $200 HP Stream 11 

Joanna Stern:

The HP Stream 11 runs a full version of Windows 8.1 yet costs only $200. But wait, there’s more: It also comes with a free year of Office 365 and 1 terabyte of Microsoft OneDrive cloud storage — a $70 value. Buyers even get a $25 gift certificate for the Microsoft Windows Store. Do the math and this laptop costs $105.

It really does sound like one of those too-good-to-be-true, TV-shopping network deals, minus, of course, the “four easy installments” plan and “Call right now!” instructions. But this isn’t even a holiday special or a clearance deal. It’s Microsoft’s new strategy to try to destroy Google’s low-cost, cloud-based Chromebooks.

So are Chromebooks gaining traction because they’re so cheap? Or is it because in some contexts people want simple devices running Chrome OS? I suspect it’s a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B — and so something like this HP Stream 11 isn’t going have much of an effect on Chromebooks.

At what point would it be feasible for Microsoft to give away cheap laptops for “free” in exchange for a two-year Office 365 subscription?

Typeset in the Future: ‘Alien’ 

Dave Addey on the typography (and iconography) of Ridley Scott’s Alien. So fucking great.

How Speakers Make Sound 

Fascinating visual explanation by Jacob O’Neil at Animagraffs. Be careful, you can lose an hour or so on this site, easily. (Via Shawn King.)

Assassin’s Creed’s Paris vs. Paris 2014 

Impressive realism.

IDC: Chromebooks Overtook iPads in Q3 Sales to U.S. Schools 

Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Google:

According to the latest data from IDC, Google, for the first time ever, has overtaken Apple in United States schools. The research firm claims that Google shipped 715,000 Chromebooks to schools in the third quarter, while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools. Chromebooks as a whole now account for a quarter of the educational market.

IDC says that the lower-cost of Chromebooks when compared to iPads is a huge factor for school districts. Chromebooks start at $199, while last year’s iPad Air, with educational discounts applied, costs $379. The research firm also says that many school corporations prefer the full keyboard found on Chromebooks instead of the touchscreen found on iPads. Some schools that use iPads, however, supply students with a keyboard case as well, but that only further increases the cost of iPads compared to Chromebooks. IT departments also tend to favor Chromebooks because they are simpler to manage when compared to iPads.

Interesting trend. Makes me wonder whether there are any other markets than education where Chromebooks are gaining traction.

WSJ Reports That Intel Will Supply Chips for Next-Gen Google Glass 

Alistair Barr and Don Clark, reporting for the WSJ:

Intel Corp. will supply the electronic brains for a new version of Google Inc.’s Glass device expected next year, people familiar with the matter said, part of a push by the semiconductor giant into wearable technology. An Intel chip will replace a processor from Texas Instruments Inc. included in the first version of Glass, the people said.

Intel plans to promote Glass to companies such as hospital networks and manufacturers, while developing new workplace uses for the device, according to one of the people.

Just the thing Google Glass needs to jump-start sales: blue “Intel Inside” decals on the frames.

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