‘App: The Human Story’ — Kickstarter Final Stretch ★
Speaking of Jed Hurt and Jake Schumacher and their documentary, their Kickstarter campaign is coming down the wire. They’re close to their funding goal, with just under three days to go as I type this.
I can’t say enough about how good this movie looks so far, what a pleasure it was to participate in it, and how glad I am that they’re making it. As Craig Hockenberry wrote:
By funding this project, you’re also giving your future self a
rare gift. […] You’re going to look back at this time in your
career fondly and wish you remembered more about it.”
It just feels like something that was meant to be. If you haven’t backed it yet, I really hope you do. If you’ve already backed it, consider increasing your pledge by a few bucks. They’ve added a few new reward tiers, so it’s worth taking another look. (Among the additional rewards are “cast commentary tracks”, of which I’ll be contributing one.) Or, just tell a few friends about the project and spread the word on Twitter.
Video: The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2014 ★
This is a fun story.
I thought last year’s live episode of The Talk Show From WWDC went really well and was a lot of fun. My only regret was that we hadn’t recorded video of the show, only audio. So this year we planned to record video. The venue, Mezzanine, has a built-in video system so that whatever is on stage is visible via closed circuit TV to attendees enjoying the show from upstairs on the, uh, mezzanine. I figured worst case, we could just tap into that feed and record it.
Ends up whatever system they have doesn’t support that. The technical details don’t matter, the gist of it is that with just two hours or so before the show was set to start, we had no way to record video of it. Damn.
Except: there were two guys waiting outside the door to Mezzanine all afternoon, Jed Hurt and Jake Schumacher. They had started work on their documentary App: The Human Story, and were hoping to meet me to see if I’d be interested in participating. They’d flown to San Francisco for the week to conduct a bunch of interviews with subjects who’d be in town for WWDC.
I invited them in, and we started talking. I noticed they had a lot of video gear with them. Lightbulb.
I told them I had a crazy proposition, something to the effect of, “I know this equipment you’re lugging around is intended for recording well-lit one-on-one interviews — not a live stage show in a dark theater — but would you guys give it a go anyway?” They jumped at the chance, and this is the result.
Is it the best recording of a live stage show I’ve ever seen? No. Is it the best recording of a live stage show that was filmed by two people who were only asked if they could do it about two hours before the show started? Quite possibly. I think it turned out great, and it gets better and better as the show goes on.
The Talk Show: ‘Jamming More RAM in for Free’ ★
Special guest John Moltz joins me on this week’s episode of The Talk Show.
New Daring Fireball T-Shirts ★
Available only for the next week or so: Daring Fireball t-shirts, including two designs by the amazing Jon Contino. Last year was the first time these two prints were available, but this time we’re putting the baseball-themed one on the same athletic gray tri-blend shirt that we used for the “Est. 2002” design last time. As a long-time proponent of all-cotton t-shirts, I was skeptical of tri-blend, but damn if they aren’t comfortable. I got a slew of emails after the last run that these are the most comfortable shirts readers have ever worn.
(The classic design remains on an all-cotton shirt, of course. Tradition dictates.)
My thanks to TopBrewer for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Designed in Denmark, TopBrewer is a revolutionary coffee system that dispenses espresso, coffee, cappuccino, latte, sparkling water, cold and hot filtered water, and other drinks on demand with just a tap on your iPhone or iPad. (Good coffee and fizzy water is just about all I need to work each day, and TopBrewer covers both.)
After their sponsored entry ran in the feed earlier this week, I heard from a few little birdies who work at places with a TopBrewer installed, and they called it “amazing”.
With a fully integrated under-counter design, all you’ll see is the graceful sweep of the beautiful, above-counter swan neck, stainless steel tap. And the TopBrewer’s commercial-grade components are perfect for home installations as well as small offices and commercial settings. It’s the perfect marriage of beautiful design, exquisite coffee, and the iOS user experience.
Continuity and Gratification ★
Mark Sigal on Apple’s Q3 results:
While others may see a company that can’t possibly keep selling
more devices, quarter after quarter after quarter, I see a company
that has continually avoided the gratification of going for market
share and sales at all costs (i.e., at the price of margins,
profits and cash flow).
This is no small task when one considers that investors, the media
and virtually every pundit in the blogosphere is not so adept at
Number Games ★
Which brings me to Chromecast. All Google will say is they’ve
sold “millions” of the $35, (presumably) break-even device.
But recently they announced 400 million “sessions”. Sounds
impressive! A recent headline states “Chromecast turns one: why
this small streaming stick became such a big deal” and the
subheads are “So cheap, and so different”, “400 million cast
sessions”, “Competitors are getting the streaming stick
fever”, and “Why Chromecast continues to be disruptive”.
So kudos to Google for an enormous number, and for getting great
press from it. But, wait. We’re actually going to record
“uses” of products now? Well, sure. Because it makes the
number look bigger.
Bezos Alarms Amazon Investors With Spending Pace as Loss Widens ★
Jeff Bezos is testing the patience of investors after Amazon.com
Inc. missed analysts’ estimates for a second straight quarter,
sending the shares tumbling 11 percent.
The world’s largest online retailer yesterday reported a
second-quarter loss of $126 million, more than double what was
predicted, even as sales climbed 23 percent to $19.3 billion.
Expenses jumped 24 percent to $19.4 billion. […]
The loss in the latest period was the biggest since the third
quarter of 2012, when Amazon posted a $274 million loss. Looking
ahead, Amazon projected sales of $19.7 billion to $21.5 billion
for the current quarter. Operating losses are projected to be $810
million to $410 million, Amazon said.
You can’t dig forever.
Another Xiaomi Shocker ★
Here’s a beautiful photograph of a young girl by Javi Inchusta Gonzalez, posted to Flickr. Note that it was taken with a Nikon D700 SLR, and that its licensing is set to “Copyright, All Rights Reserved”.
Now go back to our old friend, the Xiaomi Mi 3 “Features” page. Scroll down to where they show the Android photo gallery app, and look at the first image, labeled as a shot from the device’s camera roll. (Screenshot.)
I wouldn’t be surprised if most or even all the example photos in their gallery are similar ripoffs. (Hat tip.)
Update: Another. And three more. They even stole one from National Geographic. Like I said, they’re probably all rip-offs, and all misrepresentations of the Mi 3’s actual camera.
Putting IBM MobileFirst in (Apple’s Enterprise) Context ★
Andrew Laurence, writing for TidBITS:
Since the iPhone, Apple has developed a subtle enterprise
strategy, so subtle that many pundits miss it. Instead of pursuing
business sales directly, Apple has quietly worked to remove
barriers that might impede usage of its products, including in
enterprises. This approach enables Apple to pursue design and user
experience while also making its devices more useful to business
and fitting enterprise concerns better.
The Secret of Minecraft ★
There are dangerous creatures lurking in this world, including but
not limited to giant spiders and skeleton archers. But they only
venture out at night, and they can be deterred by walls. The sun
(a bright cube) sets fast, so your first task is always the same:
Build a shelter.
The genius of Minecraft is that the game does not specify how this
It’s almost impossible to overstate just how big a deal Minecraft is for my son and his friends.
Farhad Manjoo on Amazon’s Fire Phone ★
Other instances of Dynamic Perspective are downright annoying.
Take Auto Scroll, which moves the text on your screen as you tilt
the phone back and forth. Because Auto Scroll calibrates its
scrolling speed according to how you’re holding the device when
you first load up an article, your brain will struggle to find a
set rule about how much to tilt to get the right speed. Often
I’d scroll too fast or too slow.
Worse, if you put your phone down on a table while you’re in
the middle of an article, the scrolling goes haywire and you
lose your place. The best thing about Auto Scroll is that you
can turn it off.
If Mayday is the phone’s best feature, they have a problem.
More Amazing Xiaomi/Apple Design Coincidences ★
Posit: Xiaomi (a.k.a. “Mi”) poses a serious threat to Samsung because:
Xiaomi is more shameless, more willing to blatantly copy Apple down to as many details as they’re able.
They’re better at it. Xiaomi copies with some degree of taste; Samsung has no taste.
Xiaomi operates only in countries with weak IP culture and laws, further enabling and protecting them re: points 1 and 2. (This third point was first brought to my attention by Ben Thompson, when he was my guest on The Talk Show a few weeks ago.)
Apple Q3 2014 Results ★
The most interesting numbers to me: iPad sales were down about 9 percent year-over-year, but Mac sales were up about 18 percent.
OS X Yosemite Public Beta Arrives Thursday ★
On Thursday, fall will come early for hundreds of thousands of
Mac users when Apple releases its first public beta of OS X
Yosemite. The public-beta program, announced during Apple’s
annual developer conference in June, lets regular users download
and test pre-release versions of OS X. Apple says the first
million users to sign up at the OS X Beta Program website will be
able to test Yosemite before the OS is released to the general
public in the fall. […]
When Yosemite is finished, users will be upgraded to the final
version automatically, also via the Software Update feature within
the App Store app.
Just as a reminder, OS X Yosemite is still software that is under
development, so apps and services may not work as expected some
(or all) of the time. It’s always wise to back up your Mac before
installing, and you should seriously consider installing Yosemite
on a Mac that you don’t use for day-to-day operations just in case
something goes wrong.
Good advice. Judging by the developer betas, Yosemite is in good shape for a beta, but that is not the same thing as being in good shape for production use.
Making It Easy ★
Remember that phone call last week, where Veronica Belmont and Ryan Block simply could not get a Comcast “Retention professional” to cancel their account? Consumerist obtained an internal memo from Comcast COO Dave Watson, which reads in part (emphasis mine):
That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not
surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our
customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I
know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous
admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for
customers to choose to stay with Comcast.
That is literally just another way of saying that their job is to make it difficult to leave Comcast. It’s somehow more obnoxious though, that he phrases it so euphemistically.
The History of Autocorrect ★
Gideon Lewis-Kraus, writing for Wired Gadget Lab:
On idiom, some of its calls seemed fairly clear-cut: gorilla warfare became guerrilla warfare, for example, even though a wildlife biologist might find that an inconvenient assumption. But some of the calls were quite tricky, and one of the trickiest involved the issue of obscenity. On one hand, Word didn’t want to seem priggish; on the other, it couldn’t very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer. Microsoft was sensitive to these issues. The solution lay in expanding one of spell-check’s most special lists, bearing the understated title: “Words which should neither be flagged nor suggested.”
Mi 3 Product Page Rips Off Aperture Icon ★
Scroll down on the Mi 3 “features” page and you’ll see this image, named “detail-camera.jpg”. (Cached version, for when Mi pulls the original.) Take a good look at the camera in that image, then look at the app icon for the current version of Aperture. (Cached.) It’s a simple copy-paste-skew job of the lens, and not a very good one. Two panels down on the page, they use it again, horizontally flipped. (Shockingly, they cropped out the “Designed by Apple in California”.)
Now re-read this.
Digital Tattoo for Moto X ★
Is this a joke? This is a joke, right?
Microsoft Misses on Earnings Due to Nokia ★
I don’t think anyone should be surprised by this — if the Nokia acquisition is going to work out well, it’s going to take a while. Still looking like a very big “if”, though.
Mi Too ★
Vlad Savov, The Verge:
Barra is only a year into his job as leader of Mi’s
internationalization efforts, but he’s already “sick and tired” of
hearing his company derided as an Apple copycat. He sees Mi as “an
incredibly innovative company” that never stops trying to improve
and refine its designs, and the allegations of it copying Apple
are “sweeping sensationalist statements because they have nothing
better to talk about.”
This was apparently said with a straight face by an executive from the company that put up this slide at the end of a product introduction event today.
Speaking of Beautiful Dented and Scratched Machines ★
Everyone is calling this “the new X-Wing”, but I’m not sure the wings open into an X. Looks cool though, and it’s great to see them going back to practical special effects.
Update: It’s definitely an X-Wing. Here’s a tweet illustrating how the S-foils open. Even better, this new X-Wing hews closely to Ralph McQuarrie’s original design. Awesome.
Matthew Panzarino on the ‘Stickers’ Ad ★
Bangs and dents mean these things get used. It emphasizes the
reliability of the MacBook Air by showing that some of them have
scuffs and scrapes. It’s rare in that it shows Apple products in a
non-retail-box condition. The only recent personalization example
I can find is iPhones in cases, which are shown in its ‘Powerful’
ads — but those don’t show any actual ‘damage’. The way Apple
products look after customization and ‘real world’ use isn’t often
represented in Apple ads. As Jeff Carlson points out, these are
likely someone’s real machines.
Scrollbar History ★
Speaking of the old six-color Apple logo, some interesting UI design history from Jack Wellborn at Worms and Viruses:
While watching the video, I couldn’t help but notice two snippets
at the 7:36 mark from 1982 about scroll bars. First, an Apple
engineer shows how scrolling works in the Lisa, followed
immediately by a similar demo from Xerox. This juxtaposition
immediately struck me as interesting because Apple detractors are
quick to reference Xerox Parc when dismissing the graphical
interface innovations of the Lisa and Macintosh. While there is no
denying Xerox’s influence, these two snippets perfectly illustrate
massive amounts of design and refinement championed by Apple
during that era. Read for yourself.
People who think UI design is easy might think the differences here are trivial; those who know that UI design is difficult know otherwise.
New MacBook Air Commercial: ‘Stickers’ ★
Fun commercial, but the thing that really grabbed my attention is that this is the first time in recent memory — a decade? maybe longer? — that Apple has used their classic six-color logo, even if only briefly. Nice to see it.
People have been decorating their laptops with stickers and decals ever since they became consumer products. (You didn’t see many stickers on them when they cost $5,000.) And I don’t think we need to commission a demographic survey to state that younger people are more likely to do this than older people. It’s no coincidence this spot is debuting in back-to-school season.
In the old days Apple didn’t have to worry about conformance. Just owning a Mac made you stand out from the crowd. But what happens now, when everyone you know has a MacBook, and every MacBook looks the same? Something like this commercial is what happens. It’s all of a piece, along with Apple’s Beats acquisition and the market for iPhone cases: self-expression.
‘Count to Ten When a Plane Goes Down’ ★
John C. Beck:
Just a little under 31 years ago, I played a key role in a conspiracy theory that grew up around a passenger plane downed by a Russian missile. Trust me, I did not mean to be involved.
Podcast Players: The New UI Design Playground ★
Nice post from Supertop, the duo behind the excellent Castro:
By making Overcast free with in app purchase, Marco has lowered
the barrier to trying a third party app. From our perspective, a
user trying any third party app is good for all third party apps.
If a user is persuaded to download one alternative they should be
more likely to consider others in the future, especially given the
variety of apps that are available. Marco referred to this
diversity in his Macstories interview:
With a podcast app […] there are tons of big and small design and
priority decisions that each developer makes along the way. These
decisions add up to radically different apps — I can’t point to
any two podcast apps in the store today that are very similar to
each other in actual use.
I encourage you to try Overcast. In fact, if you really love
podcasts, I encourage you to try all the others too. If you spend
hours listening to podcasts every week, it’s going to be worth
your while to find the app that suits you best.
Back in 2009 I wrote a piece titled “Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground”:
There are several factors that make Twitter a nearly ideal
playground for UI design. The obvious ones are the growing
popularity of the service itself and the relatively small scope of
a Twitter client. Twitter is such a simple service overall, but
look at a few screenshots of these apps, especially the recent
ones, and you will see some very different UI designs, not only in
terms of visual style but in terms of layout, structure, and flow.
I’m not saying it’s easy to write a good Twitter client. In fact,
that’s the point — that it is not easy to write a good client for
something as small in scope as Twitter hints at just how hard it
is to write a good app for anything, let alone something truly
Less obvious is the fact that different people seek very different
things from a Twitter client. TweetDeck, for example, is clearly
about showing more at once. Tweetie is about showing less. That I
prefer apps like Tweetie and Twitterrific doesn’t mean I think
they’re better. There is so much variety because various clients
are trying to do very different things. Asking for the “best
Twitter client” is like asking for the “best shirt”.
I think the same is true of podcast players today.
Mocast 1.0 ★
New $2.99 iPhone podcast player by Frank Krueger. By bizarre coincidence, it launched the same day as Overcast, so it might have gotten lost in the Overcast shuffle. It’s a different take. Krueger writes:
I wrote Mocast because I was unhappy with the iOS podcast app
selection. While there are almost as many iPhone podcast
players as there are weather apps, I find that they all have
two fatal flaws.
First, they take downloads way too seriously. Most UIs
differentiate downloaded vs. not downloaded episodes and bifurcate
their interface along those lines. This is silly to us
podcastistas who aren’t the greatest at planning ahead.
Second, they take new episodes too seriously. Whole apps seem
built with only new episodes in mind as they hide away the back
catalog. I don’t know why this is. My favorite podcast, The
Incomparable has an amazingly rich back catalog of episodes that
I love to listen to. It’s nice when a new episode arrives but
there’s no need over-emphasize them at the cost of the full
Interesting technical note, too:
As with all my apps, I wrote Mocast in C# using Xamarin.iOS. She
came out to be about 8,000 LOC with about 60% of that code lying
in the UI layer.
George Orwell: ‘Politics and the English Language’ ★
One more follow-up regarding the connection between clear thinking and clear writing: Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask
himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say?
What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it
clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he
will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not
obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply
throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come
crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even
think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need
they will perform the important service of partially concealing
your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the
special connection between politics and the debasement of
language becomes clear.
I’ve read this essay numerous times, and it never gets old.
‘Mission Statement’ ★
As if right on cue given my aside last week on Satya Nadella’s business-jargon-laden company-wide memo, here’s a new song (and cool video) from Weird Al Yankovic.
(Another new song from Yankovic, “Word Crimes”, is also apt.)
Taligent and the Ignominious History of Apple/IBM Alliances ★
It somehow slipped my mind yesterday, but Bill Campbell’s departure made me recall Taligent, the ill-fated “universal operating system” boldly promised and jointly developed by Apple and IBM back in the early 1990s. (Campbell had nothing to do with it; he re-joined Apple as a board member in 1997 after the NeXT reunification. Taligent was one of several pie-in-the-sky fiascos that left Apple in such desperate straits that they had to buy NeXT.) Wikipedia:
Pink was then spun off from Apple as a joint project known as
Taligent. The original Apple team was expanded with the addition
of a very small number of IBM engineers, as well as a new CEO from
IBM, Joe Guglielmi (apparently to the distaste of many of the
“In 1992, the earth shook: IBM and Apple clasped hands and
pronounced themselves allies. From this union sprang Taligent, a
small Cupertino, California, company that’s now developing nothing
less than a universal operating system.” —Macworld, 1994
During its first year, IBM persuaded Taligent to replace its
internally developed object-oriented microkernel, called Opus,
with the microkernel that IBM was using as the base for IBM’s
Workplace OS. The change in underlying technology had both
positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, Pink would
become a personality on top of the IBM Workplace OS. This would
create easy migration paths between OS/2, AIX, Mac OS, and Pink
by allowing any combination of operating system personalities to
run simultaneously on a single computer. On the negative side,
this created issues over how to integrate Taligent’s
object-oriented device-driver model with Workplace OS’s
procedural device-driver model.
The “positive side” was a total pipe dream.
The other previous Apple/IBM collaboration that springs to mind is the PowerPC platform. That was no fiasco, and even saw some good years, but ultimately ended badly. Just two years after Apple’s grand announcement of the G5 CPU, Apple announced it was switching to Intel processors.
Tim Cook Tells WSJ He Does 80 Percent of His Work on iPad ★
Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting yesterday on the Apple/IBM team-up:
Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook says he does 80% of the work
of running the world’s most valuable company on an iPad.
“There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be like that,” Mr. Cook
said in an interview, explaining why Apple struck a partnership
with International Business Machines Corp. to develop
applications catered to big businesses, or enterprises. “Imagine
enterprise apps being as simple as the consumer apps that we’ve
all gotten used to. That’s the way it should be.”
I’m sure “80 percent” is a rough guess, perhaps even somewhat exaggerated in the iPad’s favor, but there’s a dogfooding aspect to Tim Cook being a heavy iPad user who uses it for actual work.
Here’s my question (prompted by this thread on Twitter): Does IBM CEO Ginni Rometty use an iPhone? I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker if she doesn’t, but I do think it matters if she does — it’s an “actions speak louder than words” thing. Commitment and vision start at the top.
Update: Perfect counterexample: Google chairman (and long-time CEO) Eric Schmidt admitting to still using a BlackBerry — a BlackBerry! — last year.
Update 2: Horace Dediu: “I received confirmation that she uses iPhone, iPad and Mac and has for several years.” So there we go: the CEO of IBM apparently uses iOS devices and a Mac.
Sue Wagner Joins Apple’s Board; Bill Campbell Retires ★
“Sue is a pioneer in the financial industry and we are excited to
welcome her to Apple’s board of directors,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s
CEO. “We believe her strong experience, especially in M&A and
building a global business across both developed and emerging
markets, will be extremely valuable as Apple continues to grow
around the world.”
“We conducted an exhaustive search for someone who would further
strengthen our board’s breadth of talent and background, and we
are delighted to have identified such an outstanding individual,”
said Art Levinson, Apple’s chairman. “I’m confident that Sue is
going to make an important and positive impact on our company.”
Makes me wonder if the Beats deal is the start of a trend toward larger acquisitions by Apple.
Bill Campbell’s relationship with Apple dates back to 1983, when
he joined the company as vice president of Marketing. Next to
Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula, Campbell is the
longest-serving board member in the company’s history.
“Bill’s contributions to Apple are immeasurable and we owe him a
huge debt of gratitude. On behalf of the board and the entire
company, I want to thank him for being a leader, a mentor and a
friend,” said Cook. “When Bill joined Apple’s board, the company
was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive,
but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable
back in 1997.”
Apple share prices hovered around $0.80 (split-adjusted) in August 1997, when Campbell joined the board. They closed today at $93. Not a bad run for a board member.
Trip ‘Claim’ Chowdhry Prediction of the Week ★
Famed analyst Trip Chowdhry, two days ago:
IBM is only 2 days away from their earnings announcement, while
AAPL is only 1.5 weeks away from their earnings announcement. The
timing of this announcement makes us feel that IBM will very
likely miss their revenue expectations and probably Apple may also
miss their revenue expectations.
IBM’s actual results, today:
International Business Machines reported a second quarter boost in
net income and revenue that topped Wall Street forecasts.
IBM reported non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $4.32 off
revenue of $24.4 billion. Both numbers beat analyst estimates
compiled by Bloomberg.
(Thanks to Brian Resac. Also, no surprise that Trip Chowdhry thinks Apple is going to report a miss this quarter: he’s on the record as predicting that they’re going “to disappear” because they didn’t release a wristwatch last month.)
‘Hello There’ ★
Amir Mizroch, writing for the WSJ:
While layoffs at Microsoft were expected for some time, the size
of the job cuts announced Thursday took some by surprise. Another
surprise: the salutation of an email to all staff from Microsoft
Executive Vice President Stephen Elop, outlining the rationale for
“Hello There,” started Elop’s email to employees.
Hello there? Critics on social media seized on the opening as
Anyone else feel like maybe Stephen Elop should be one of the 18,000 layoffs?
Blogger Fined by French Court Because Negative Restaurant Review Was Too Prominent in Google ★
Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land:
Doudet could appeal the decision but has decided not to
because she did “not want to relive weeks of anguish,”
according to the BBC.
There are two contexts in which this story can be analyzed: 1) the
futility of trying to use the courts to attack or quash negative
reviews and 2) European courts’ increasingly bold attempts to
blunt the impact of or censor specific search results that are
perceived to cause harm (whether or not the information at issue
is truthful or factual).
On the first point the restaurant has gained much more unwanted
attention for itself through the action and subsequent coverage.
I wouldn’t be surprised now if it went out of business. However,
the food and service appear to be mediocre; so perhaps it’s
To my American ears, this sounds absolutely crazy.
Mini-Microsoft: ‘Cut Once, Cut Deep, Cut Quickly’ ★
Mini-Microsoft on today’s Microsoft layoff announcement:
That’s why I hope that Cut Quickly happens. Without it, we’re
back to our first layoff experience. If anything broke the back
of this blog, it was the first big Microsoft layoff back in
2009. How? How could the realization of a step towards
Mini-Microsoft do that? Because it was implemented so poorly,
with constant worries and concerns and doubts about engaging in
new ideas due to expectations those would be the easiest to trim
during ongoing cut-backs. When was it over? When was the “all
clear” signal given?
So if this truly drags on for a year: we need a new leader. This
needs to be wrapped up by the end of July. 2014.
Charity: Waterworld ★
Did you know that almost a billion people on the planet don’t have
access to clean drinking water? Every day, 5,000 kids die from
water-related illnesses before they reach their fifth birthday.
Which is bullshit. There are simple solutions like drilled wells,
spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean
water to communities around the world.
And the good people at charity: water are helping to make those
He’s trying to raise $10,000 for a truly great cause. I’m in.
The Last Hurrah for ‘At the Movies’ ★
Great piece by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for The A.V. Club on co-hosting the final run of At the Movies, including an astute analysis of what made Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert so good at it.
Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs, Including 12,500 From Nokia ★
Satya Nadella, in a company-wide memo (emphasis mine):
Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic
alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account
for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory
Our workforce reductions are mainly driven by two outcomes: work
simplification as well as Nokia Devices and Services integration
synergies and strategic alignment. […]
We will realize the synergies to which we committed when we
announced the acquisition last September. […]
Seems like a lot of “synergies”. This style of communication is like reading a foreign language to me — I don’t understand what most of it means.
Update: Classic 30 Rock sketch on “synergy”. (Via Pavan Rajam.)
Pinboard Turns Five ★
Perspective does not make you immune to burnout. It just makes burnout less scary. I’ve gone through a few episodes since starting Pinboard, and I’m sure there will be more to come. People have been very understanding about my occasional need to flee the Internet. I find that the longer I run the site, the more resistant I become to the idea of ever giving it up, even if I need to take the occasional break. It is pleasant to work on something that people draw benefit from. It is especially pleasant to work on something lasting. And I enjoy the looking-glass aspect of our industry, where running a mildly profitable small business makes me a crazy maverick not afraid to break all the rules.
Android, iOS, and Accessibility ★
Chris Hofstader, back in September:
If a blind person, like me for instance, wants what Apple is
selling, he can purchase an iOS device and find that,
out-of-the-box, there are zero accessibility failures. A blind
person who purchases an iOS device, can make his own decisions as
to which features he wants to use as Apple provides accessibility
to 100% of the features available to people who do not self
identify as having a disability.
After posting the article yesterday, I received a lot of tweets
and a couple of emails from blind Android enthusiasts. These
people told me all of the cool things they can do with their
Android devices, including launching accessibility out-of-the-box
on some android units, something I had thought impossible when I
wrote the article yesterday. If a blind person, let’s say me,
wants what Google is selling, he will get a subset of the features
available to our sighted friends. To me, if the OS vendor does not
make 100% of its features accessible in the same way that Apple
has with iOS 7, it may be usable but it’s not accessible. At the
same time, I completely reject Google for having the hubris to
decide what blind people do and do not want.
According to Reuters, Apple is the one “feeling the most heat” from accessibility advocates.
The Power of Selective Quoting ★
Christina Farr, reporting for Reuters, “Advocates for Blind, Deaf Want More From Apple”, the gist of which is that the National Federation of the Blind is considering litigation to force Apple to require all apps in the App Store to be fully accessible:
Still, advocates of the disabled want the problem solved by the
company at the center of the app world — Apple. Rival Google
Inc, whose Android operating system drives more phones than
Apple, is also under pressure, but as the creator of the modern
smartphone and a long-time champion for the blind, Apple is
feeling the most heat.
A few things in this article stuck out to me as oddly slanted. First, in what world does the above paragraph make sense? Why should Apple be “feeling more heat” than Google on the accessibility front? Where does the article state that iOS is far ahead of Android in terms of out-of-the-box accessibility for the vision impaired? (It doesn’t.)
Then there’s this quote from Tim Cook:
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a 2013 speech at Auburn
University described people with disabilities “in a struggle to
have their human dignity acknowledged.” He said, “They’re
frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that
are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.”
That sounds odd. Jim Dalrymple transcribed the full quote from Cook’s speech (video), emphasis mine:
“People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to
have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in
the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of
empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple’s engineers
push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to
extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people
with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various
Reuters’s truncation completely changes the meaning of Cook’s words.
‘Speaking Up Every. Fucking. Time.’ ★
Elizabeth Spiers profiles (sort of) Shanley Kane, founder/editor of Model View Culture.
Apple Hires Sales Executive From Tag Heuer ★
Vanessa Friedman, reporting for the NYT:
Just as the couture shows really get underway in Paris, an
executive from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, a.k.a. the
biggest French luxury group (and, for that matter, the biggest
luxury group in the world), has been lured away from the fashion
capital to the technology capital of Silicon Valley. Patrick
Pruniaux, until last week sales vice president for Tag Heuer, one
of LVMH’s most successful watch brands, is this week joining Apple
in an unspecified role. […]
Certainly Mr. Pruniaux’s appointment solidifies the theory that
Apple is looking to the luxury market for strategic and aesthetic
know-how. He becomes the third luxury executive to jump sectors
since last year, after Paul Deneve of YSL and Angela Ahrendts of
Burberry (now Apple’s head of retail and online stores).
I’d include Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre in that group — not because I think Beats is a “luxury” brand, but because I don’t think luxury is the right word to explain these hires. It’s about taste, style, and branding. In one word: fashion.
The iPhone is nothing like Vertu, and whatever new products Apple is coming out with won’t be either. (Beats isn’t like Vertu either — I see people wearing Beats on the street every day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone using a Vertu phone.)
Lettersapp.com Domain Name Auction for App Camp for Girls ★
A good domain name (R.I.P.) and a great cause.
Smart Devices/Dumb Cloud vs. Dumb Devices/Smart Cloud ★
I’ve said before that Apple’s approach is about a dumb cloud
enabling rich apps while Google’s is about devices as dumb glass
that are endpoints of cloud services. That’s going to lead to
rather different experiences, and to ever more complex discussions
within companies as to what sort of features they create across
the two platforms and where they place their priorities. It also
changes somewhat the character of the narrative that the generic
shift of computing from local devices to the cloud is a structural
problem for Apple, since what we mean, exactly, when we say
‘cloud’ on smartphones needs to be unpicked rather more.
Nailed it. My only quibble is that Evans addresses the future of smartphones specifically, whereas I think this applies to all computing devices, regardless of size.
Ben Thompson: ‘Smartphone Truths and Samsung’s Inevitable Decline’ ★
Great piece by Ben Thompson:
Ultimately, though, Samsung’s fundamental problem is that they
have no software-based differentiation, which means in the long
run all they can do is compete on price. Perhaps they should ask
HP or Dell how that goes.
Actually, it’s even worse than that. Samsung does offer its own software: TouchWiz, etc. But the overwhelming consensus from reviewers is that Samsung’s add-ons to Android make the system worse, not better. Samsung sees the need for software differentiation, but to date they’ve proven incapable of doing it well.
In fact, it turns out that smartphones really are just like PCs:
it’s the hardware maker with its own operating system that is
dominating profits, while everyone else eats themselves alive to
the benefit of their software master.
Relevant piece from the DF archive, circa 2009: “Herd Mentality”.
Bloomberg: ‘Samsung Sees Phone Rebound After Earnings Miss Estimates’ ★
That’s the current headline from Bloomberg. Look at the URL slug to see the original: “Samsung Profit Misses Estimates as Cheap Phones Struggle”.
Tim Cook Damned if He Does, Damned if He Doesn’t ★
From a mostly pointless Daisuke Wakabayashi piece on Tim Cook in today’s WSJ:
Mr. Cook has pledged that Apple will enter a new product category
later this year. People familiar with the company’s plans say
that Apple is working on a smartwatch with advanced sensors to
track a user’s fitness and health. Apple is expected to introduce
the new device, as well as a larger iPhone, in the fall, these
One challenge facing Mr. Cook is what Wall Street calls the law of
large numbers: even a successful new product may barely move the
needle for Apple, which generated $171 billion in revenue in the
fiscal year ended last September. A flop could underscore that
Apple’s product heydays are tied to the late Mr. Jobs. […]
Mr. Jobs’s repudiations bruised feelings while making sure the
company stayed focused on a few projects. Under Mr. Cook, current
and former employees say Apple may be spreading itself too thin,
pursuing too many ideas and compromising the “laser focus” that
Mr. Jobs used to create the iMac, iPhone and iPad.
Last year Apple desperately needed new products and Tim Cook was failing as CEO because Apple wasn’t delivering them. Now that they seem poised to deliver new products, Cook is “spreading the company too thin” and even a successful product won’t affect the bottom line so why even bother, right?
Look for that refrain to be repeated; it seems to be the new Apple narrative.
Marques Brownlee: ‘This Is the Sapphire Crystal Display From the iPhone 6’ ★
Purported iPhone 6 component leak shows incredible scratch resistance and durability.
Update, 8 July 2014: Question that occurred to me about this today: This certainly looks like an iPhone component (if it’s not, it’s a preposterously elaborate hoax) — but how do we know this is sapphire, not Gorilla Glass? Gorilla Glass is scratch resistant and surprisingly flexible too (see 0:22 in this video).
New TSA Restrictions on Uncharged Devices on International Flights ★
The Transportation Security Administration will not allow
cellphones or other electronic devices on U.S.-bound planes at
some overseas airports if the devices are not charged up, the
agency said on Sunday.
The new measure is part of the TSA’s effort announced last week to
boost security amid concerns that Yemen-based al Qaeda in the
Arabian Peninsula and the Islamist Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s
affiliate in Syria, are plotting to blow up an airliner, U.S.
Shouldn’t that second paragraph be unnecessary? Isn’t the entire point of the TSA that we assume there are people trying to blow up commercial airliners? And the airport is a common place for travelers to have their phones run out of power.
And isn’t the whole notion predicated on the assumption that a would-be terrorist couldn’t just pack the explosives into a laptop or other device that can still turn on the display?
The Paradox of Civilization ★
Alan Jacobs quotes a beautiful, thought-provoking passage from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques. (Via Nicholas Carr.)
Recode: Google to Expand Shopping Express ★
Jason Del Ray, reporting for Recode:
Though Google over the years had experimented with letting
consumers buy goods with the help of services such as Google
Wallet and Google Checkout, it accelerated this strategy in 2013
with Shopping Express. The service lets shoppers buy things from
local retail stores through Google, which then delivers them to
consumers from the physical retail store on the same or next day.
A source familiar with the company’s plans says senior Google
execs have set aside as much as $500 million to expand the service
nationwide. Google declined to comment on the size of the
investment but made no secret of its ambition.
The most striking thing about Google to me is that they’re taking on almost every single consumer-focused major company in tech. Every one. Android against iOS. Chrome and Docs against Windows and Office. Google Plus against Facebook. Google has no allies or partners for anything other than the manufacturing of Android and Chrome OS devices, but even there, they have a contentious relationship with Samsung, the one hardware company that’s making any actual money from Android.
Grand ambition or hubris? — that’s the question.
‘Maybe Smartness Isn’t Enough’ ★
But I think Impostor Syndrome is valuable. The people with
Impostor Syndrome are the people who aren’t sure that a
logical proof of their smartness is sufficient. They’re looking
around them and finding something wrong, an intuitive sense that
around here, logic does not always agree with reality, and the
obviously right solution does not lead to obviously happy
customers, and it’s unsettling because maybe smartness isn’t
enough, and maybe if we don’t feel like we know what we’re
doing, it’s because we don’t.
Impostor Syndrome is that voice inside you saying that not
everything is as it seems, and it could all be lost in a
moment. The people with the problem are the people who can’t
hear that voice.
I think this piece explains a lot.
xScope 4.0 ★
Ton of new features in this major update to The Iconfactory’s excellent Mac utility for “measuring, inspecting, and testing on-screen graphics and layouts”. Indispensable.
The Dark Side of .io ★
David Meyer, writing for GigaOm:
The .io country code top-level domain is pretty popular right now,
particularly among tech startups that want to take advantage of
the snappy input/output reference and the relative availability of
names — Fusion.io, Wise.io and Import.io are just a few examples.
But who benefits from the sale of .io domains? Sadly, not the
people who ultimately should.
While .tv brings in millions of dollars each year for the tiny
South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, and .me benefits
Montenegro, the people of the British Indian Ocean Territory, or
the Chagos Islands, have no such luck. Indeed, profits from the
sale of each .io domain flow to the very force that expelled the
Chagossian or Ilois people from their equatorial land just a
generation or two ago: the British government.
‘Lionel Messi Is Impossible’ ★
That’s the actual headline for this piece by Benjamin Morris for FiveThirtyEight. I saw it yesterday on Twitter, and skipped it, because of the hyperbolic absurdity. Lionel Messi is not impossible; he exists. I’d have clicked if the headline had even been something like “Lionel Messi Is Seemingly Impossible”.
I read it today, though, after Kottke linked it. Kottke I trust. But if he hadn’t linked it, I wouldn’t have read it, because when I saw it yesterday, I figured it was a bullshit article because of its headline. And I’m glad I read it, because it’s a fascinating and extraordinarily well-researched piece on the man who is very clearly the best soccer player in the world today.
There’s a boy-who-cried-wolf aspect to the modern art of click-bait headline writing. There are certain patterns that emerge, which I’m sure are statistically shown to work. For example, listicles typically no longer use round numbers like 5, 10, 15, 20 — instead, you see things like “17 Gay Celebs Who Pretend to Be Straight on TV” and “17 Facts That Will Forever Change the Way You Look at These Famous People”. (I didn’t make those up, I saw both of those today in the scammy Taboola links beneath an article on TPM.) I’m sure these tricks work, that there’s all sorts of analytics data that shows it — but no trick works forever. People inevitably catch on.
Apple Patent Application for Intelligent Location-Based Security ★
I typically don’t pay much attention to patent applications, and my advice has long been that we should not assume that everything Apple tries to patent will eventually come to market as shipping features. Apple, like most major tech companies, patents anything patentable. Apple decidedly does not ship everything shippable.
But this one is worthy of an exception. Location-based security for iOS has long been a hobby horse of mine. This patent describes a system that sounds exactly like what I’ve longed for: the ability to have my iOS devices turn on without a passcode while inside my home, but require a passcode or TouchID anywhere else.
Update: “Personal Unlocking”, a new feature coming in Android L, enables this same sort of thing.
75th Anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Retirement Speech ★
75 years ago, Lou Gehrig — a man who played in 2,130 consecutive games, won six World Series titles, batted a career .340/.447/.632 (and batted .361/.477/.731 in his 34 World Series games) — was only 36 years old and dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
He stood in front of over 61,000 fans in Yankee Stadium and delivered this speech.
From the DF Archive: ‘Why Windows 8 Is Fundamentally Flawed as a Response to the iPad’ ★
Yours truly, three years ago:
Apple’s radical notion is that touchscreen personal computers
should make severely different tradeoffs than traditional
computers — and that you can’t design one system that does it
all. Windows 8 is trying to have it all, and I don’t think that
can be done. You can’t make something conceptually lightweight if
it’s carrying 25 years of Windows baggage.
I hate* to say I told you so.
* Where by “hate” I mean “do so very much love”.
Windows ‘Threshold’ to Refocus on Desktop Users ★
I know we’ve been over this again and again, but in addition to
the conceptual flaw of trying to make one operating system for
desktop and mobile, there’s a marketing problem as well. Apple was
able to make iOS palatable to its existing customers (as well as
others) by detaching it from OS X. If Apple had also forced its
desktop operating system clients to a Springboard UI, everyone
would still be on Tiger.
‘This Isn’t Just Adding Insult to Injury; It’s Adding Injury to Injury’ ★
Nick Summers, writing for Businessweek on Whitney Wolfe’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Tinder:
This conduct would be abhorrent directed at anyone. What gives
these allegations even greater sting is Wolfe’s contention that
she was not just any employee but a Tinder co-founder — and was
stripped of the designation as a result of the treatment she
endured. This isn’t just adding insult to injury; it’s adding
injury to injury, since a co-founder of a hot startup can be
expected to attract better career opportunities than someone who
was a mere early employee.
Was Whitney Wolfe a co-founder of Tinder? I think the answer
exposes a different, quieter, but no less punishing form of the
sexism that is pervasive in the startup world.
None of the many men I spoke to had mentioned her name. In my
notes is a single reference to “Whitney” — from a preliminary
phone call with Rosette Pambakian, Tinder’s PR rep, who described
her as one of five company co-founders. (Take note, Wolfe and IAC
Don’t miss the second and third pages of Summers’s story, which contain screenshots of blatantly racist and sexist posts from Justin Mateen’s now-private Instagram account.
Update: Look at the timeline, and consider just how long this situation was tolerated within Tinder. Tinder is not unique.
Tinder Co-Founder Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit ★
Mary Emily O’Hara, reporting for Vice News:
At one point, Whitney Wolfe was promoted as Tinder’s “inventor”
and co-founder in fashion magazines like Harper’s Bazaar. She
named the app, and her marketing savvy was often cited as the
reason it found an audience among young women. Her role in the
company was widely touted as an exception to male-dominated
According to the lawsuit, [Justin] Mateen told Wolfe, who was 24 years old
at the time, that “he was taking away her ‘Co-Founder’ title
because having a young female co-founder ‘makes the company seem
like a joke’ and ‘devalues’ the company.” Mateen had also been
designated a co-founder of the company despite joining after the
fact, and argued that Wolfe’s title undermined him.
The suit says that Mateen spewed constant invective at Wolfe,
often in front of colleagues, calling her (among other things)
“disgusting,” a “desperate loser,” a “slut,” and a “whore.” It
includes damning text messages from Mateen that further berated
her. When Wolfe complained to Sean Rad, Tinder’s CEO, her concerns
were ignored. She alleges that Rad eventually forced her out of
the company because of the abusive situation with Mateen.
Read the original complaint filed by Wolfe’s attorney.
Apple Launches $49 Mac Pro Security Lock Adapter ★
New product categories in 2014: done.
Death Near for Plasma TVs ★
The death of plasma is an incredible success story for LCD
technology, but it’s also a sad reminder that disruption doesn’t
always meant the best products win: no LCD TV has ever looked as
good as the best plasma TVs. Just go down the list: Pioneer’s Kuro
plasmas were so amazing that CNET still uses them as a review
reference years after they were discontinued in 2008. Pioneer
couldn’t make any money and sold the Kuro technology to Panasonic,
whose high-end plasmas were widely considered the best until late
last year, when the company stopped making them in favor of LCDs.
(The remaining stock is in high demand; used 55-inch sets are
selling for $3,000 and up on Amazon six months later.)
Sad news for anyone who cares about image quality. I’ve got a Pioneer from 2008, and love it. I’m generally appalled when I see LCD TVs, and never impressed.