Linked List: March 2014

AnandTech: Apple’s Cyclone Microarchitecture Detailed 

Anand Lal Shimpi:

Looking at Cyclone makes one thing very clear: the rest of the players in the ultra mobile CPU space didn’t aim high enough. I wonder what happens next round.

On the Cultural Differences Between the U.S. and Japan Regarding Baseball 

Great feature by Tom Verducci for Sports Illustrated on Masahiro Tanaka, a 25-year-old pitcher the Yankees signed from Japan:

In Japan, a new baseball is a thing of beauty, honoring the country’s regard for packaging aesthetics as well as the sport. Each ball is wrapped in a shiny square of silver foil, which preserves the leather’s tackiness. Unlike major league baseballs, which need to be rubbed with a special mud to be deemed game-ready, a Japanese baseball is used immediately after it is unpackaged. It is a man-made pearl. Its built-in tackiness plays to the high art of pitching — the veneration of touch, feel and spin and those who master the craft.

In the U.S., we now take it easy on young pitching arms, severely limiting the pitch counts and innings. In Japan, they throw long and hard:

The innings and pitches just kept piling up. In one stretch of five starts in 2009, at age 20, Tanaka threw 124, 137, 142, 125 and 137 pitches. Angels ace Jered Weaver hasn’t thrown 124 pitches in a game that many times in his entire eight-year career, covering 231 starts. Two years later, in just the second week of spring training, Tanaka threw 520 pitches over five throwing sessions that spanned seven days, capped by a 207-pitch bullpen only two days after a 120-pitch session.

Explained Tanaka after his 207-pitch marathon, “I wanted to find out if I could keep pitching using the [right] form despite throwing a lot of pitches. I wanted to throw a session where I was tired from the start.” […]

By the time Tanaka put himself up for auction in Beverly Hills, he’d thrown 1,315 total innings through age 24, a workload unheard of in the majors for any young pitcher over the past 40 years. The last player to be worked that hard that young was Frank Tanana, who debuted in 1973 at age 19 and whose shoulder was shot by the time he was 25.

AnyFont: $2 iOS App Lets You Install System-Wide Fonts 

Erica Sadun, writing for TUAW:

AnyFont (US$1.99) enables you to add custom True Type and Open Type fonts to your iOS device for use in any application. When I first heard about this app, I was curious. How could an app like this “break sandboxing,” the security feature that keeps each app separate and safe?

Clever workaround to a frustrating limitation of iOS, but I can’t help but suspect that Apple is not going to allow this for long. If they wanted to allow the installation of additional fonts (and I dearly hope they do so in iOS 8), the feature would be built into the system.

Update: Lots of feedback from readers arguing that this is a totally legit, if obtuse to the layperson, feature of iOS 7 — and that Apple thus likely has no objection to AnyFont. Reminds of the days of Font/DA Mover.

The Day Microsoft Gave Up World Domination and Settled for Relevance 

Nice piece by Jesper:

This is all marketing speak, of course. But when Satya Nadella says that what’s important for Microsoft, what Microsoft should do is be there for people across all platforms, what sticks in my mind is not that they’re not on all platforms, but that both of the two other people who’ve ever sat in his chair have been adamant that they would own all those platforms.

Put another way: They have to let go of this notion that for Microsoft to win, Apple has to lose.

Igloo 

My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Igloo bills itself as “an intranet you’ll actually like”, which is a perfect description. Igloo offers blogs, calendars, file sharing, forums, microblogs (think: private Twitter), and wikis. Everything you’d want. It’s all modern (including responsive design for mobile devices), and all configurable.

If your company has a legacy intranet or a customer community built on SharePoint, you should give Igloo a try. This report from Igloo outlines the five main areas SharePoint falls short and how Igloo does it better. Best of all, Igloo is free to use with up to ten people — free! — so you can start building your own Igloo today with no obligation or hassle.

‘This Is a Generic Brand Video’ 

Pitch perfect.

Google Mandates ‘Powered by Android’ Branding on New Devices 

Russell Holly, writing for Geek.com:

HTC and Samsung have something new popping up on their smartphones every time you boot them up, and apparently the feature was mandated by Google.

Android is not a household brand. Google is but, despite having a significant portion of the global marketshare, their smartphone OS is not. And as long as hardware manufacturers are allowed to design their own user interfaces for Android, it’s going to be very difficult for the average consumer to look at a Nexus 5, an HTC One M8, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 and know that they are all running the exact same operating system. Google is hoping to change that, and one method the company has started to use is mandating that the phrase “Powered by Android” be present during the boot animation on new phones.

Yet another sign that Google’s relationship with Android OEMs is growing ever more adversarial. The handset makers do not want this — or at least the major ones like Samsung and HTC do not. Samsung and HTC want to promote their own brands, not “Android”. (If they wanted to promote Android, they’d have done so before Google mandated it.)

And this is quite different from the Windows and “Intel Inside” stickers that most PCs have shipped with for years — PC OEMs get paid for those promotions.

Roku CEO Claims Apple TV Is a Money-Loser 

Joan E. Solsman, reporting for CNet:

“Apple TV is essentially an accessory for the iPad. They lose money, which is unusual for Apple,” he said Thursday, speaking at the Recode conference here. “If you’re losing money, why would you want to sell more?”

He characterized his comments about Apple TV as speculative.

Always fun to read speculation from outsiders regarding Apple and profits.

Three Mozilla Board Members Resign Over Choice of New CEO 

Alistair Barr, reporting for the WSJ:

Three Mozilla board members resigned over the choice of Brendan Eich, a Mozilla co-founder, as the new CEO. Gary Kovacs, a former Mozilla CEO who runs online security company AVG Technologies; John Lilly, another former Mozilla CEO now a partner at venture-capital firm Greylock Partners; and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education startup Shmoop, left the board last week.

The departures leave three people on the Mozilla board: co-founder Mitchell Baker; Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and Katharina Borchert, chief executive of German news site Spiegel Online.

Two thoughts:

  1. If there were six board members, and three of them were so staunchly opposed to naming Eich as CEO that they resigned afterward, how exactly did the math on that vote work?

  2. An ugly transition like this is as sure a sign as any that Mozilla is in the midst of institutional collapse. They have one successful project: Firefox for Windows. That’s a relic of a bygone era. All the growth in the industry is in mobile, and Mozilla browsers have, effectively, zero share of the mobile market.

And this doesn’t even get into the fact that the Mozilla rank-and-file are opposed to Eich on the grounds that he was a financial supporter of California’s Proposition 8, a ballot initiative to prohibit gay marriage.

Microsoft Changes Policy on Inspecting Customer Email 

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel:

Last Thursday, news coverage focused on a case in 2012 in which our investigators accessed the Hotmail content of a user who was trafficking in stolen Microsoft source code. Over the past week, we’ve had the opportunity to reflect further on this issue, and as a result of conversations we’ve had internally and with advocacy groups and other experts, we’ve decided to take an additional step and make an important change to our privacy practices.

Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required.

Seems like exactly the right way to handle this. And, credit to Microsoft for acting on this in a matter of days.

‘Mark Zuckerberg, the Warren Buffett of Technology?’ 

Felix Salmon, on Facebook’s acquisition spree:

Zuckerberg knows how short-lived products can be, on the internet: he knows that if he wants to build a company which will last decades, it’s going to have to outlast Facebook as we currently conceive it. The trick is to use Facebook’s current awesome profitability and size to acquire a portfolio of companies; as one becomes passé, the next will take over. Probably none of them will ever be as big and dominant as Facebook is today, but that’s OK: together, they can be huge.

The difference I see: Warren Buffet buys companies with a track record of profitability.

Microsoft Office for iPad 

Ed Bott:

Make no mistake about it: These three apps are feature-rich, powerful tools for creating and editing Office documents. They look and act like their Office 2013 counterparts on Windows. And although these iPad apps obviously can’t replicate every feature of the full desktop programs, they deliver an impressive subset of those features. Anyone who was expecting Office Lite or a rehash of the underwhelming Office for iPhone will be pleasantly surprised.

Twitter Adds Support for Multiple Photos Per Tweet 

They seem to be trying to out-Instagram Instagram.

Update: Looks like these features aren’t coming to third-party clients, though, so they might as well not exist as far as I’m concerned. I won’t see them.

Google General Counsel Denies Mike Arrington’s Charge That They Read Gmail to Root Out Leaks 

Mike Arrington:

A few years ago, I’m nearly certain that Google accessed my Gmail account after I broke a major story about Google. A couple of weeks after the story broke my source, a Google employee, approached me at a party in person in a very inebriated state and said that they (I’m being gender neutral here) had been asked by Google if they were the source. The source denied it, but was then shown an email that proved that they were the source.

The source had corresponded with me from a non Google email account, so the only way Google saw it was by accessing my Gmail account.

Liz Gannes, reporting for Recode:

Google denies that charge.

“Mike makes a serious allegation here — that Google opened email messages in his Gmail account to investigate a leak,” Kent Walker, Google general counsel, said in a statement. “While our terms of service might legally permit such access, we have never done this and it’s hard for me to imagine circumstances where we would investigate a leak in that way.”

Given that Arrington doesn’t claim to have evidence, I doubt this will go anywhere. But it’s interesting that Google saw fit to respond to the allegation.

Recode: ‘Symantec Fires CEO Steve Bennett; Shares Fall’ 

In other news, it turns out Symantec is still in business.

‘Facebook Creeps Me Out’ 

Minecraft creator Markus Persson on Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus.

Facebook to Acquire Oculus for $2B 

Is there anyone who’s not for sale?

Filed for Future Claim Chowder 

Molly Wood, writing for the NYT:

I predict Android Wear will jump-start the wearables industry in a meaningful way, and quickly.

I’ll take that bet.

Android Malware 

Gordon Kelly, writing for Forbes:

If you want to stay safe on Android there’s the solution: stick to buying apps on the Play Store and every one in 1000 apps you buy may have had malware for a brief period.

Good news.

Strangely F-Secure didn’t reveal figures for Amazon’s Apps for Android store, but other third party Android stores didn’t fare so well. Mumayi, AnZhi, Baidu, eoeMarket and liqucn were found to have 6%, 5%, 8%, 7% and 8% malware penetration respectively and an appalling 33% of apps were infected in Android159. Repacked or faked games were the big target and since it isn’t difficult to taint an app with malware the message is simple: steer clear of third party app stores that don’t have the resources to effectively scan and police their libraries.

Open always wins.

How Clones, Fear, Sanitization, and Free-to-Play Soured Apple’s iOS Gaming Revolution 

Edge:

But crucially – at least for the people who have seen iOS platforms become integral parts of their gaming lives – it feels like the potential we saw in Apple’s devices to become a disruptive force has dissipated. Where we once saw a promising new marketplace of fresh ideas, unrestricted creativity, and daring new ways to play, the App Store of 2014 is swamped with cash-guzzling junk, shameless knockoffs and predictable sequels. Games worth discovering still exist, but they mostly dwell on the fringes and in the shadows, while endless horror stories suggest that paid-for games are simply no longer profitable and are dying out. What happened to the iOS gaming revolution?

The HTC One M8 

Joanna Stern:

Down but not out, HTC is back this year with a new and improved model. That’s right, the best phone of last year is even better, by many counts. But will anybody care?

Speaking of Podcasts 

This week’s episode of Jeffrey Zeldman’s The Big Web Show, with guest Anil Dash, is a good one.

‘Here’s a Frickin’ Pipe Dream’ 

Special guest Craig Hockenberry joins me on this week’s episode of The Talk Show to discuss wearable devices in general, smart watches in particular, and orange juice.

Brought to you by:

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Trump Nails It 

My understanding is, indeed, Tim Cook lies awake most nights worrying about what Donald Trump thinks about the iPhone.

Field Notes Brand 

It’s my pleasure to thank Field Notes Brand for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their new seasonal release for spring is the Shelterwood Edition. We all know that paper is made from wood; these memo books are made of wood. They feature covers made from American Cherry and no two are the same. They’ve made a gorgeous short film showing how they’re made — every step of the way from uncut logs to finished notebooks.

The Shelterwood Edition is available right now in 3-Packs and as part of a year-long subscription. Sign up for a subscription today and get the Shelterwood Edition right now and the next 3 seasonal editions as they’re released. Use the coupon code “FIREBALL” and the Field Notes crew will jam-pack your first shipment with extra stuff. Lots of extra stuff.

Quite simply, Field Notes are the best notebooks in the world. I never leave the house without one in my pocket.

On Rotation 

John August, on adding landscape support to his iPhone app Weekend Read:

Ultimately, every choice comes with a cost. Adding landscape to the iPhone isn’t impossible, but it means not doing something else, and right now the many “something elses” are worth a lot more.

For a lot of apps, adding landscape support almost doubles the design work. (But I realize many people type better in landscape; it’s on our radar for Vesper, at least for editing.)

‘Apple After Jobs: Pretty Much the Same as Ever’ 

Farhad Manjoo nails Haunted Empire.

Scoble Is Concerned About Google Glass 

Robert Scoble:

Larry Page is on stage at TED right now. I’m at home watching.

He is not wearing Google Glass.

Scoble, Scoble, Scoble. Glass is so 2012. It’s all about Android Wear watches in 2014.

Google’s Dominance of the Mobile Ad Market Is Slipping 

WSJ Digits (curiously un-bylined):

The global market for mobile ad dollars more than doubled in 2013 to $17.96 billion and it is on pace to hit $31.45 billion in 2014, according to data from eMarketer that was compiled by Statista.

Google’s share fell below 50% in 2013 and is projected to slip further, the data show. Facebook, on the other hand, ramped up quickly last year and its share is expected to top 20% in 2014.

It’s not just that Google’s share keeps falling — it’s that the overall mobile advertising marketing is growing so fast. Financially, Google is still geared for a world where the majority of online use is on PCs.

Google Announces ‘Android Wear’ 

I’ve been thinking about this for days, and I just can’t get past the fact that they don’t explain how these watches have always-on color displays and reasonable battery life. Maybe I’m too skeptical, or too biased against Google and this sort of “we’ll do the OS, a bunch of OEMs will make various devices” model — but I just don’t believe this is anywhere near ready to ship as a practical product.

I’m reminded of this.

Update: Apparently the watch display is not always on. It goes off, and uses motion/gyro sensors to turn on when you move your wrist (and, I presume, turns on when you receive a new notification). We shall see how well that works. Even so I remain skeptical regarding battery life.

Google Under Fire for Data-Mining Student Email Messages 

Benjamin Herold, reporting for Education Week:

As part of a potentially explosive lawsuit making its way through federal court, giant online-services provider Google has acknowledged scanning the contents of millions of email messages sent and received by student users of the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools.

In the suit, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company also faces accusations from plaintiffs that it went further, crossing a “creepy line” by using information gleaned from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of Apps for Education users that could be used for such purposes as targeted advertising.

Shocker.

How Microsoft Tracked Down Trade Secret Leaking Employee 

Ed Bott:

Four days later, on September 7, 2012, the FBI says Microsoft acted:

The source indicated that the blogger contacted the source using a Microsoft Hotmail e-mail address that TWCI had previously connected to the blogger. After confirmation that the data was Microsoft’s proprietary trade secret, on September 7, 2012 Microsoft’s Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger’s Hotmail account. [emphasis added]

Those email messages in turn led to instant messaging conversations and links to files shared on SkyDrive. Every piece of data was stored on Microsoft servers using an account allegedly linked to Kibkalo.

Microsoft is taking a serious PR hit on the privacy implications of this. They’ve been telling us for years that they don’t read our email (unlike Google), but now it turns out they do, if they think we’re using it to leak Windows source code.

They nailed a guy who was flat-out stealing from them. I’m not even saying they were wrong to do it — I’m simply questioning whether it was worth it.

Some Classic Claim Chowdhry 

So much to choose from, but here’s a good one from 2009:

Investors should not think the upcoming version of iPhone 3 is going to be as successful as iPhone 2.0 because it will have solid competition from Palm Pre, developed by ex-Apple designer Jon Rubinstein.

Palm Pre has a superior operating system than iPhone. It runs on a better network — Sprint CDMA — versus iPhone which runs on GSM.

60 Days 

Cadie Thompson, writing for CNBC, “Time Is Ticking for Apple to Announce an iWatch, Say Analysts”

Apple needs an iWatch sooner rather than later, or the company will risk losing its innovative edge to rivals, analysts say.

“They only have 60 days left to either come up with something or they will disappear,” said Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research. “It will take years for Apple’s $130 billion in cash to vanish, but it will become an irrelevant company … it will become a zombie, if they don’t come up with an iWatch.”

I’m guessing the ellipsis denotes when he paused for another line of coke.

Wearing Apple 

Great piece by Craig Hockenberry, thinking about Apple and wearable devices:

Given everything presented above, it’s pretty clear to me that a “smartwatch” isn’t in Apple’s immediate future. But they’re clearly interested in wearable technology. So what are the alternatives for a product that could be released this year?

The first step is to start looking at things from Apple’s point-of-view. I ask myself, “What problems can a wearable device solve?”

As I think about answers to that question, it leads me to the conclusion that Jony Ive and crew aren’t looking solely at the wrist. Wearable technology could take cues from other kinds of jewelry: rings and necklaces, for example.

Don’t read this and think, Apple’s making a ring. Read it and think, What if they’re making something that is not a “watch”?

Elon Musk: To the People of New Jersey 

Elon Musk:

On Tuesday, under pressure from the New Jersey auto dealer lobby to protect its monopoly, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, composed of political appointees of the Governor, ended your right to purchase vehicles at a manufacturer store within the state. Governor Christie had promised that this would be put to a vote of the elected state legislature, which is the appropriate way to change the law. When it became apparent to the auto dealer lobby that this approach would not succeed, they cut a backroom deal with the Governor to circumvent the legislative process and pass a regulation that is fundamentally contrary to the intent of the law.

Cogent and persuasive.

The response from New Jersey auto dealers? Makes them sound like characters from The Sopranos:

“This Musk guy, he wants all the profits for himself,” says Tom Dougherty, a 25-year veteran of the business who now works in sales at the BMW dealership in upscale Princeton, New Jersey. “They wanted to go direct, which means no sales force. That’s cutting out a lot of people. No way that’s gonna fly.”

Project Morpheus: Sony’s Prototype VR Headset for PlayStation 4 

Sam Byford, The Verge:

The VR system is currently codenamed Project Morpheus, and will work with PlayStation 4. While still in prototype form, Yoshida says that Morpheus is the “culmination of our work over the last three years to realize our vision of VR for games, and to push the boundaries of play.” The headset uses a 1080p LCD, offers a 90-degree field of view, and will integrate with the PlayStation Camera for tracking and PlayStation Move for motion control. It connects via HDMI and USB; while the current prototype uses a 5-meter cable, Sony would like to make it wireless. The company says the headset doesn’t put weight on your nose or cheeks, and its design allows for airflow without the lenses fogging up.

The race is on — there’s strong consensus that VR headsets are the future of gaming.

Jony Ive Interview With John Arlidge 

John Arlidge scored a rare interview with Jony Ive for the (London) Sunday Times Magazine; Time has a U.S. reprint. There are several illuminating remarks from Ive; he may be publicity-shy, but when he talks, he thinks. He does not phone it in. There’s a great anecdote about what it was like traveling with Steve Jobs, but I’d be remiss not to quote the following:

If that were true, if Apple could no longer make stuff that shreds, not pushes, the envelope, would Ive give up? “Yes. I’d stop. I’d make things for myself, for my friends at home instead. The bar needs to be high.” But, he adds: “I don’t think that will happen. We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed. When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in future, we’re not even close to any kind of limit. It’s still so, so new.”

Occam’s Razor suggests it’s no coincidence that a lengthy, rare interview with Jony Ive appears just before Haunted Empire hits shelves. This is Ive’s way of saying Kane’s book is nonsense. He knows what’s coming.

Must Have Touched Something, That’s for Sure 

Recode has a response from Yukari Iwatani Kane regarding Tim Cook’s calling Haunted Empire “nonsense”:

“For Tim Cook to have such strong feelings about the book, it must have touched a nerve,” Kane said. “Even I was surprised by my conclusions, so I understand the sentiment. I’m happy to speak with him or anyone at Apple in public or private. My hope in writing this book was to be thought-provoking and to start a conversation which I’m glad it has.”

Somehow I doubt she was surprised by her conclusions. As for why Cook saw fit to comment, sure, it could be because her book hit painfully close to home. Or, it could be that it truly is nonsense. Reviews thus far clearly suggest the latter.

‘There Were Some Interesting Bits’ 

Seth Weintraub, reviewing Haunted Empire:

The book concludes exactly how it has been prepared to conclude (sorry, no surprise ending). Apple is in a free fall (increasing sales numbers notwithstanding). Employees are leaving for Google and other Valley startups as soon as their stocks vest, if they can wait that long. Behind the scenes, morale is low and people are scrambling to find that lost sense of purpose. There is no room to believe that Apple could, in fact, have “its most innovative years in front of it”, to use Steve Jobs’s resignation words.

All of that said, I didn’t hate this book like a lot of other Apple reviewers did. I believe it is good for folks like us who often bathe ourselves in pro-Apple news and opinion to get an alternate reality that perhaps the mainstream sees more often in the 24-hour news/entertainment cycle. There were some interesting bits and, if nothing else, Kane’s view of Apple is somehow both cautionary and entertaining.

Weintraub’s is the least negative review I’ve seen — the only one that isn’t downright scathing.

Rene Ritchie: ‘This Is a Bad Book’ 

Rene Ritchie on Haunted Empire:

To be clear, my opinion is both objective and subjective. I freely admit I dislike some works that are genius and absolutely love some that are trashy as hell. That isn’t the case here. This isn’t a great book I simply didn’t like. This is a bad book.

I was sent an advanced review copy a week ago and it was arduous to get through it. I don’t have anything against the premise, gloomy as it may be. No one can deny how important Steve Jobs was to Apple and the hole his death left in the company and everyone who worked with him. There’s certainly a case to be made that Apple post-Steve Jobs is no longer the company that shook the world with Mac and iPod + iTunes and iPhone. There is a case to be made that Apple is doomed. Kane just fails to make it. Worse, she doesn’t even try.

Looking forward to reading my copy.

Rumor Monger 

Harry Chesley, who worked in Apple’s Advanced Technology Group during the Jobs-in-exile years:

Rumor Monger was conceived as an experiment in distributed, light-weight communication, what today we would call peer-to-peer instant messaging with broadcast. The program sat in the background, continually exchanging messages with other machines. The user could, at any time, bring it to the front and enter a new message, which would then be distributed to every other instance of the program within the company-wide local area network. As an afterthought, I added the option to send messages anonymously. This was done sort of on principle, more than because I thought anyone would actually use it. The test population was Apple Computer employees.

To my surprise, Rumor Monger rapidly became very popular within the company. And even more to my surprise, 99% of all messages sent were sent anonymously. This changed it from an experiment in technology into an experiment in sociology.

Interesting precursor to Secret and its ilk — from 1990.

Jason Snell on ‘Haunted Empire’ 

Jason Snell:

If Yukari Iwatani Kane’s Haunted Empire teaches us anything, it’s that a dogged newspaper reporter who wants to write a book about Apple needs a narrative hook to hang the story on. In Kane’s case it’s right there in the title: Apple is an empire that’s haunted by its fallen emperor, Steve Jobs, an organization that just can’t make up for his loss and is falling apart right before our eyes.

The book pounds that premise endlessly, wrapping up numerous chapters by describing photos of “the emperor” looking down on his former subjects at Cupertino. No, seriously. Apple’s foundation, she writes at one point, is “a cult built around a dead man.” When Apple Geniuses knock on your door and offer you literature describing how AppleCare can guarantee eternal life, you’ll have to admit she’s right.

Tim Cook Issues Statement on ‘Haunted Empire’ 

Tim Cook:

This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I’ve read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company.

Tell us what you really think, Tim.

Horace Dediu Illustrates Apple and Samsung’s Domination of the Handset Industry 

Jaw dropping graphs, and this insightful conclusion:

To earn profit is hard, to do so in an outsized way is very hard and to do so with consistency shows a defensibility of market access that is rarest of all. The only cases where this typical is in a monopoly or protected market situation (aka cronyism.) Apple’s lack of market monopoly coupled with a (near-) monopoly in profits can only be explained by disproportionate value creation.

The mystery then is how is it possible to build a monopoly in value creation.

Apple Replaces iPad 2 With iPad 4 at Same Price 

Interesting mid-generation lineup move. $399 buys you a lot more iPad today than it did yesterday — retina display, A6X chip, better cameras, Siri, and more. This leaves the $299 iPad Mini as the last remaining non-retina iPad.

In other news: Apple today released an 8 GB iPhone 5C in a few non-U.S. countries. Not sure what the point of this is, given that it’s only about 8-9 percent cheaper than the 16 GB model.

Úll 2014 

Great lineup of speakers — including, once again, yours truly — and an intriguing venue in Kilkenny, Ireland from April 28–30. The first Úll was great; the second was even better; I can’t wait to see what’s in store this year. They just opened up a new round of tickets — if you’re interested (and you should be), act fast.

More on Android and SD Cards 

Jerry Hildenbrand, writing for Android Central:

It’s simple, really. Prior to Android 4.4 KitKat, applications — provided they had permission to access the SD card — could read and write to any area on removable storage, including the system folders like DCIM, Alarms, etc. That has all changed, and now third-party applications — as in ones you download from Google Play or elsewhere — can only write to files and folders that they have created or have taken ownership of.

This keeps things “tidy.” Apps aren’t dumping files everywhere on the card — something we’ve all encountered — and instead have one central location to put all their files. There also are some serious security concerns that were addressed by not letting an app write files just anywhere.

I’d venture to say this change is a lot more about security than it is “tidiness”.

Worth noting: 97.5 percent of active Google Play Android devices are using Android 4.3 or older.

Update: Also worth noting: with the READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission, apps on KitKat can still read the entirety of the SD card.

Reading the WhatsApp Message History on Android 

Ingrid Lunden, writing for AOL/TechCrunch:

WhatsApp — the popular messaging app with 465 million users acquired by Facebook for $19 billion last month — came under fire earlier this week after tech consultant Bas Bosschert published a blog post explaining how malicious developers can access your messages via the microSD card, and the post went viral (yes, we wrote about it, too).

Now, WhatsApp has responded — perhaps unsurprisingly, to refute the weight of the information. A spokesperson tells us the reports “have not painted an accurate picture and are overstated.” He also notes that the latest version in Google Play was updated with further security protection.

The original blog post (and follow-up) make for an interesting read. The gist of it, as I understand it, is that if WhatsApp is configured to store your message history on your phone, it uses the SD card (or, on devices without an SD card, the general file system). Any other app with access privileges to the file system can then read WhatsApp’s history database. The file is encrypted, but this Python script will decrypt it.

That any app with SD card access privileges can read anything on the SD card is not a bug — that’s how Android is designed to work. Android is more like Mac OS X or Windows in this regard than iOS (on iOS, all file storage is sandboxed, and apps can only read and write to their own sandbox). It seems like a problem, though, that WhatsApp’s encryption has been cracked.

Mac apps worked liked this for decades — all apps had complete access to any file owned by the current user. Today, apps from the Mac App Store are sandboxed by default, as a defense against just this sort of thing. But apps from outside the Mac App Store still have read/write access to your entire home folder.

Speaking of Sonos 

Todd Bishop, writing for GeekWire:

Marc Whitten, the longtime Xbox Live leader who has worked most recently as Xbox chief product officer, is leaving Microsoft to join Sonos as chief product officer.

‘Available for Android Today and iOS This Spring’ 

Only fair to point out when an app does ship Android-first — in this case, Sonos.

Update: Ah, this explains it: it’s a public beta, and public betas can’t be distributed on the iTunes App Store. Funny that The Verge doesn’t mention that.

Wall Street’s Valuation of Yahoo’s Core Business 

Matthew Klein, writing for Bloomberg View:

Alibaba is valued at about $153 billion, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. Yahoo itself is worth about $39 billion as of this writing and this includes its ownership of about 24 percent of Alibaba. If you subtract that out you are left with a company that’s worth just a little more than $2 billion — less than AOL Inc., Groupon Inc., or Zynga Inc.

Yahoo also has a 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, a publicly traded company now valued at about $32.3 billion. Subtract out Yahoo’s stake and this means that investors seem to value Yahoo’s own business at less than nothing — not what you would expect from a profitable enterprise.

I’d say this is more damning of Wall Street than Yahoo.

Dorian Nakamoto ‘Unconditionally Denies’ Involvement With Bitcoin 

Michael Hiltzik, reporting for the LA Times:

It’s still possible, very marginally, that Newsweek is correct in fingering Dorian S. Nakamoto as the mysterious inventor of bitcoin. But it’s hard to imagine a more thorough and detailed denial than the one the 64-year-old Temple City man issued late Sunday through a Los Angeles lawyer.

Either he’s lying, or Newsweek screwed up big-time.

The United States and United Kingdom Join Reporters Without Borders’ ‘Enemies of the Internet’ Index 

Shameful.

Why ‘Veronica Mars’ Embraced UltraViolet and Angered Fans 

Moisés Chiullan, writing for TechHive:

The experience of signing up for UltraViolet is completely unlike signing up for an AppleID or Amazon account.

First, you have to sign up for an UltraViolet account at UVVU.com, a logical, easy-to-remember (not really) acronym for a service that legally can’t live on an individual studio or recognized brand’s website.

Second, you need to sign up for an UltraViolet-backed service like Flixster, formerly owned by Fox and now owned by Veronica Mars distributor Warner Bros. When forced to use UltraViolet, I prefer Vudu, even though it’s owned by Walmart. Other options include CinemaNow (Best Buy) and Target Ticket (Target).

And possibly third, you may find that the service that you chose is “already linked to an UltraViolet account.” You may have signed up in the past and forgot about it, back when the service in question was owned by a different company or went by another name or identity. (Flixster, for example, snagged its first big wave of users as a Facebook app.) Or you might have tried to redeem a digital copy of a disc from a studio that doesn’t give you the option of redeeming via iTunes or Amazon.

What a mess. This turd of a system has no chance of long-term success with a process like this.

Christina Warren, on Twitter:

This whole Veronica Mars redemption BS really is a reminder that as much as I love the idea of UltraViolet, it has an awful implementation.

Ideas are nearly worthless; implementations mean everything.

‘It’s Time for Us to Start Making the News a Little Nerdier’ 

Nate Silver’s ambitious re-imagined and vastly expanded FiveThirtyEight has launched.

‘We Used to Finger Each Other’ 

Special guest star Brent Simmons joins yours truly on this week’s episode of The Talk Show to discuss: the past and future of Apple programming languages; how to make coffee and popcorn (albeit not together); whether links should be underlined on web pages; and Brent’s new podcast (co-hosted by Chris Parrish), The Record.

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Speaking of DF RSS Feed Sponsors 

There are a couple of near-term availabilities on the DF sponsorship schedule, including the week starting tomorrow. If you have a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s audience of tech and design enthusiasts, get in touch.

Booking.com Is Looking for Highly Skilled iOS Developers 

My thanks to Booking.com for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They’re looking to hire talented iOS developers to help them make the best travel app in the world and join their mobile team in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Interested? Apply today.

How the Tablet Made an Ass of the PC 

John Kirk, writing for Techpinions:

Suspend belief for a moment and imagine that the PC is an Elephant and that the Tablet is an Ass. (That wasn’t so hard, now was it?) Imagine further that you lived in a land where the only pack animals were Elephants.

If you only have one tool, then that is the tool that you will use for most every task. If you only have one pack animal, i.e., the Elephant, then that is the pack animal that you will use for most every task. (Similarly, if you only have one type of computer, i.e., the PC, then that is the computer that you will use for most every computing task.)

It’s exactly like the command-line vs. GUI arguments from the late ’80s and early ’90s. People today forget that that was a thing. But I remember when just about every single thread on Usenet — not just on tech groups, but on any group: sports, movies, politics, whatever — eventually devolved into an argument about whether GUIs were a fad and/or just for dummies who couldn’t figure out how to drive a computer using DOS or a UNIX shell.

Post-PC devices have already secured victory. It’s just a matter of waiting for the endgame to run its course. And then we’ll collectively forget the argument ever happened.

Mark Zuckerberg: ‘The U.S. Government Should Be the Champion for the Internet, Not a Threat’ 

Mark Zuckerberg:

This is why I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.

The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.

Exactly.

(Also, note the attribution: “Via Paper”. Did he write that whole thing on his iPhone?)

Interviewly 

Brilliant idea:

Interviews with interesting people, pulled from Reddit, organized, and made prettier.

(Via Kottke.)

Measles Outbreak in New York City 

Tara Culp Ressler, writing for Think Progress:

Federal health officials have already been able to connect the dots here. Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report warning that anti-vaccine beliefs have fueled a rise in measles cases. Researchers noted that 2013 saw the highest number of measles cases in nearly two decades, and 80 percent of those cases occurred among unvaccinated people — most of whom cited “philosophical differences” with the MMR vaccine.

Is this anti-vaccination movement just a U.S. thing, or is it spreading in other countries too?

Update: Reader responses make clear that this is not just a U.S. thing; it’s a problem in a slew of first-world countries today.

K-Cup Coffee Prices 

Tonx co-founder Tony Konecny:

The popularity of capsule coffee systems like K-Cups and Nespresso is a marketing marvel. GMCR estimates that around 13% of all U.S. households have one of their devices. But the real money comes from not from the razors but the blades. Ounce for ounce, consumers are generally paying anywhere from $35–60 a pound for the ground coffee inside these capsules. Lock-in is lucrative.

That’s an insane price for mass-produced quality coffee. The appeal of these machines escapes me — I wouldn’t want one even if the coffee prices were roughly in line with regular market prices. But at these prices it just seems nutty. Is it because they can brew just one cup at a time?

Update: Full disclosure: Tonx has been a recurring DF sponsor, but my interest here is in what people see in these pod brewers.

The Auteur Theory 

Justin Williams, reflecting on True Detective:

As I read up on the show I learned that the entire eight episode season was written by a sole writer (show creator Nic Pizzolatto) and directed by a single director (Cary Fukunaga). Traditionally TV shows are helmed by a cast of behind the scenes folks who take turns at writing and directing different episodes. With True Detective, a true auteur theory was allowed to play out on screen.

One writer. One director. Eight hours of the best television I’ve seen in a long time.

The best creative works, whether they be TV shows, books, or apps, are the products of focus and vision.

The Setup: John McAfee 

I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say this is one you don’t want to miss.

Businessweek: ‘How Target Blew It’ 

Epic, feature-length cover story for Businessweek:

In testimony before Congress, Target has said that it was only after the U.S. Department of Justice notified the retailer about the breach in mid-December that company investigators went back to figure out what happened. What it hasn’t publicly revealed: Poring over computer logs, Target found FireEye’s alerts from Nov. 30 and more from Dec. 2, when hackers installed yet another version of the malware. Not only should those alarms have been impossible to miss, they went off early enough that the hackers hadn’t begun transmitting the stolen card data out of Target’s network. Had the company’s security team responded when it was supposed to, the theft that has since engulfed Target, touched as many as one in three American consumers, and led to an international manhunt for the hackers never would have happened at all.

It occurs to me that a similar breach is surely one of the biggest risks facing Apple today. Nobody has been trusted with more credit card numbers than Apple, and there’s no company whose shortcomings garner more press attention.

‘Mad Men’ Final Season Artwork by Milton Glaser 

Randy Kennedy, writing last week for the NYT:

On a recent morning in a townhouse office on East 32nd Street in Manhattan, reality was treading closely, and somewhat strangely, in fiction’s footsteps. The client sitting in the conference room, waiting for his real-life ad man, was the show’s creator, Matthew Weiner. And the ad man was not just another bright, creative type from the art department. It was Milton Glaser, who — probably more than any graphic designer of his generation — forged the sophisticated, exuberant advertising look of the late 1960s, the time “Mad Men” is now traversing, and whose work to publicize the show’s new season will begin appearing next week on buses and billboards around the country.

I feel like I should have guessed in advance that they’d turn to Glaser for the final season’s art. That Glaser is still working is obviously due in part to his longevity (he’s 84 years old), but it also goes to show that Mad Men’s timeframe, though it can feel like ancient history, isn’t really all that long ago.

Measuring Attention Instead of Clicks or Pageviews 

Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, writing for Time:

Chartbeat looked at deep user behavior across 2 billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found that most people who click don’t read. In fact, a stunning 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. The stats get a little better if you filter purely for article pages, but even then one in every three visitors spend less than 15 seconds reading articles they land on. The media world is currently in a frenzy about click fraud, they should be even more worried about the large percentage of the audience who aren’t reading what they think they’re reading.

The data gets even more interesting when you dig in a little. Editors pride themselves on knowing exactly what topics can consistently get someone to click through and read an article. They are the evergreen pageview boosters that editors can pull out at the end of the quarter to make their traffic goals. But by assuming all traffic is created equal, editors are missing an opportunity to build a real audience for their content.

Solid piece, and I’m largely in agreement with his main point: measuring advertising value by counting clicks and pageviews has led the entire web astray. But as the CEO of a data analytics company, I think Haile is naturally biased towards advanced analytics as the way out of this mess. It’s hard to measure quality — but that’s what ought to be valued.

Apple TV 6.1 Update Adds Support for AirPlay Discovery Over Bluetooth 

Nice find by Derick Okihara, writing for AFP548:

In addition to bonjour negotiation for AirPlay, iOS 7.1 devices will also look for AirPlay sources over bluetooth when doing it’s scan! This means you do NOT need bonjour to AirPlay.

AirPlay is one of the best parts of the modern Apple ecosystem — a complex system neatly wrapped in a simple “it just works” interface.

Improving the State of 4K Display Support Under OS X 

Anand Lal Shimpi, writing for AnandTech:

In my Mac Pro review I lamented the state of 4K display support under OS X 10.9.0. In my conclusion I wrote: “4K display compatibility under OS X is still a bit like the wild west at this point”. Compatibility was pretty much only guaranteed with the ASUS/Sharp 4K displays if you cared about having a refresh rate higher than 30Hz. Even if you had the right monitor, the only really usable resolution was 3840 × 2160 - which ends up making text and UI elements a bit too small for some users. Absent were the wonderful scaling resolutions that Apple introduced with its MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Well it looks like that won’t be the case for long, last night I got reports (thanks Mike!) that the latest developer build of OS X 10.9.3 includes expanded support for 4K displays, 4K/60Hz support for rMBPs and scaled resolutions below 4K.

Best news I’ve heard all day. (Via Marco Arment.)

Newsweek on the Sad State of U.S. Broadband 

David Cay Johnston, writing for Newsweek:

After making a big, bold promise to wire every corner of America, the telecom giants are running away from their vow to provide nationwide broadband service by 2020. For almost 20 years, AT&T, Verizon and the other big players have collected hundreds of billions of dollars through rate increases and surcharges to finance that ambitious plan, but after wiring the high-density big cities, they now say it’s too expensive to connect the rest of the country. But they’d like to keep all that money they banked for the project.

This is sanctioned corruption, pure and simple.

‘Raging Against Hacks’ 

Matthew Shaer, writing for New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer:

But despite his newfound personal courtesy, none of Taibbi’s anger at the “toothlessness” of the media has dissipated. “I think it’s a lost art in this country — developing that narrative voice where readers connect with you as a human being,” he says, harpooning a stray piece of scrambled egg. “They want to see how you react individually to things. And if you think something is outrageous, and you write about it in a tone without outrage, then that’s just deception, you know?”

‘You Have to Understand How People Use Technology to Give Your Readers Context.’ 

Charles Arthur reviews Yukari Iwatani Kane’s Haunted Empire:

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs is a terrific book title.

Pity the book doesn’t live up to it. Or, indeed, provide us with any clear indication of whether the company best known for its iPhones and iPads (let’s call it an “empire” for convenience) is indeed haunted.

File this one under “scathing”.

‘Staircases to Nowhere’ 

Mike Bracken, writing for Movies.com:

Staircases to Nowhere originally began its life as an 18-minute short film — culled from interviews that were part of The Elstree Project, an oral history of the movie studios at Elstree and Borehamwood in England. Response was so overwhelmingly positive that the project was expanded — and the full-length Staircases to Nowhere is now the only modern documentary about The Shining to be endorsed by Warner Bros. and the Kubrick Estate.

Bitcoin ATMs 

Adrianne Jeffries, reporting for The Verge:

The ATM experience is far from seamless, however. To use it, you must submit your phone number, a PIN, a government ID, a palm vein scan, and let it take your photo.

Is this a joke?

‘Heart of a Gambler’ 

On this week’s episode of The Talk Show, special guest Glenn Fleishman joins me to discuss Bitcoin — how it works, the problems it solves, where it’s going, and more. Also, Apple’s “goto fail” security bug, and some Jeopardy and Blackjack game theory.

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Candy Crush IPO 

James Surowiecki, writing for The New Yorker:

The I.P.O. is no surprise, given King’s domination of the booming mobile-game business, but it’s likely to end badly, because King is part of a venerable tradition: the one-hit wonder. Like Coleco, with Cabbage Patch Kids, or Ty, Inc., with Beanie Babies, King’s business is dependent on its one star product; although the company has more than a hundred titles, almost eighty per cent of its revenue comes from Candy Crush. King has done a great job of making money from the game, and of keeping it fresh, but Candy Crush is still a fad, and, like all fads, it will fade. Indeed, as King’s filing makes clear, the number of people who pay for the game has already begun to taper off, as have sales and profits. […]

The company Harmonix, which launched Guitar Hero and Rock Band, games that in their day were as huge as Candy Crush, ended up being sold, after a few years, for fifty bucks and a pile of debt.

iOS 7.1 Lands With CarPlay, Improved Fingerprint Scanner 

Also, it crashes less. I knew it was going to ship one of these days.

Mozilla: ‘Transitioning Persona to Community Ownership’ 

“Transitioning to Community Ownership” is Mozilla-speak for “It’s dead, Jim.”

Pixate Freestyle 

My thanks to Pixate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Freestyle — their simple, powerful tool that lets you define a native mobile app’s look and feel using CSS. It couldn’t be simpler — style your mobile apps like you would a web page, but it’s 100 percent native. It’s not a web view. Pixate Freestyle is free and open source, and works with iOS and Android.

iTunes Festival App Updated; Runs on iOS 7.0.x 

You win some, you lose some. (I still think iOS 7.1 is imminent, but was wrong that the new Festival app would require it.)

Newsweek Reporter Identifies Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto 

Leah McGrath Goodman, reporting for Newsweek:

He stands not with defiance, but with the slackness of a person who has waged battle for a long time and now faces a grave loss.

Two police officers from the Temple City, Calif., sheriff’s department flank him, looking puzzled. “So, what is it you want to ask this man about?” one of them asks me. “He thinks if he talks to you he’s going to get into trouble.”

“I don’t think he’s in any trouble,” I say. “I would like to ask him about Bitcoin. This man is Satoshi Nakamoto.”

“What?” The police officer balks. “This is the guy who created Bitcoin? It looks like he’s living a pretty humble life.”

Contrary to most speculation, “Satoshi Nakamoto” is not a pseudonym. That’s his real name.

Where Apple Design Is Headed in 2014 

Dave Wiskus, writing for Macworld:

As it stands now, iOS 7 is a series of solvable problems. The things you could label as deficiencies are mostly a result of that swinging pendulum — an overcorrection of skeuomorphism. So what comes next is most likely balance and refinement. Buttons might not need to look like they’re being physically pressed if you tap them, but some feedback is useful. Text-label buttons (such as Send in Messages) don’t need to be visually heavy, but it’s generally better to give users a sense of tap target size.

What this piece made clear for me is that (a) something similar is going to happen to Mac OS X, almost certainly this year; but (b) there’s no way to look at iOS 7 and predict what a corresponding refresh for Mac OS X will look like. Maybe the only things I’ll predict are lots of white backgrounds, and Helvetica Neue as the system font.

Two Economists File Pro-Apple Brief in E-Book Antitrust Case 

From the amicus brief filed by Caltech’s Bradford Cornell and NYU’s Janusz Ordover:

The provisions of the agreements at issue — agency, ‘most-favored-nation’ (MFN) clauses, and price caps—can be instrumental in facilitating new entry, particularly into markets with an entrenched, dominant firm. In this case, the District Court disregarded economic evidence and reasoning that these provisions served Apple’s independent business interest in entering the e-book market, where Amazon was a near-monopolist. The District Court also ignored economic evidence and reasoning suggesting that Apple’s entry into e-book retailing, and not the MFNs, allowed the Publisher Defendants to persuade Amazon to switch from a wholesale to an agency business model.

The District Court also erred in equating price increases for some e-books with harm to competition. Apple’s entry into the e-book retail market dramatically increased competition by diminishing Amazon’s power as a retail monopolist (and its ability to pursue a “loss-leader” strategy that inefficiently priced e-books below their acquisition cost). That increased competition gave publishers more bargaining power, thereby bringing ebook pricing closer to competitive levels. These errors threaten to chill competition by discouraging the use of common vertical contracting techniques that are often essential to facilitating the expensive and risky investments needed for entry into highly concentrated markets. Our antitrust laws should encourage, not penalize, vertical contracting arrangements that facilitate entry and enhance competition.

Putt-Putt Perfection 

“Everybody has their one thing that they’re good at, and if you ever find it, you want to stick with it.” —Rick Baird

Great short film from Grantland.

Typography as Art 

Clever idea for a mural by Dave Heinzel.

Prompting for App Reviews 

Dan Counsell:

There’s nothing wrong in asking for a review, but remember you want to give your users a great experience. You should focus on making your app delightful, not annoying. Pick your moment carefully and you’ll find users are more than happy to leave you a great review.

I’ve put together a basic set of rules I think anyone involved with making apps should follow. It’s nothing fancy, and by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good start:

  1. Don’t ask at launch. Seriously, never do this.
  2. Choose the perfect moment, after a positive interaction is best.
  3. Try not to interrupt the users workflow, don’t be annoying.
  4. Only ask once. If they’ve said no, never ask again.
  5. Ask passively if possible, place it in the app settings or updates notes.

Solid advice.

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel 

“A Tediously Accurate Map of the Solar System”, by Josh Worth. Great fun. (Via Laughing Squid.)

Fifteen Years of the Salto Mortale 

Kenneth Tynan’s classic 1978 profile of Johnny Carson for The New Yorker:

“Johnny Carson on TV,” one of his colleagues confided to me, “is the visible eighth of an iceberg called Johnny Carson.” The remark took me back to something that Carson said of himself ten years ago, when, in the course of a question-and-answer session with viewers, he was asked, “What made you a star?” He replied, “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled.” Meeting him tête-à-tête is, as we shall see later, a curious experience. In 1966, writing for Look, Betty Rollin described Carson off camera as “testy, defensive, preoccupied, withdrawn, and wondrously inept and uncomfortable with people.” Nowadays, his off-camera manner is friendly and impeccably diplomatic. Even so, you get the impression that you are addressing an elaborately wired security system. If the conversation edges toward areas in which he feels ill at ease or unwilling to commit himself, burglar alarms are triggered off, defensive reflexes rise around him like an invisible stockade, and you hear the distant baying of guard dogs.

‘It’s the Software, Dummy’ 

Dan Moren, writing for Macworld:

Most people probably don’t ever think about the software in their car. And with good reason, too, since most automakers aren’t exactly consumed with a passion for developing software. Even in the cases where car companies do want to pimp the software features, the spotlight’s always going to be on the newest model — they don’t have too much interest in continuing to update the software on older models, especially when it comes to adding new features.

Sound familiar? Because to me it’s reminiscent of the state of the cell phone market prior to about, oh, 2007.

I like the analogy. But is CarPlay the iPhone in 2007, or the Rokr in 2005? From what I’ve seen today:

Update: I guess Eddy Cue drives a Ferrari?

Critical Crypto Bug Leaves Linux, Hundreds of Apps Open to Eavesdropping 

Dan Goodin, reporting for Ars Technica:

The bug is the result of commands in a section of the GnuTLS code that verify the authenticity of TLS certificates, which are often known simply as X509 certificates. The coding error, which may have been present in the code since 2005, causes critical verification checks to be terminated, drawing ironic parallels to the extremely critical “goto fail” flaw that for months put users of Apple’s iOS and OS X operating systems at risk of surreptitious eavesdropping attacks. Apple developers have since patched the bug. […]

Matt Green, a Johns Hopkins University professor specializing in cryptography, characterized the vulnerability this way: “It looks pretty terrible.”

Coincidence?

Karelia Acquires Potion Factory 

Interesting indie Mac developer news:

Today is an exciting day for us at Karelia Software because we are finally announcing that Andy Kim — and his company Potion Factory, and its wonderful apps — are now part of Karelia. […]

We have been big fans of The Hit List, Potion’s flagship app, for a while now. We’ve looked around, and we’ve never found a better designed app to handle personal task management than The Hit List, perfectly balanced between power and ease-of-use. We use it every day. And we wanted to keep improving it, but also bring to it a bigger marketing force and level of support than Andy was able to, so that it can reach a bigger audience. You can learn more about The Hit List here on our site.

Christopher Soghoian to Interview Edward Snowden at SXSW 

Speaking of SXSW, big news from Hugh Forrest:

On Monday, March 10 at 11:00 am, join us for a conversation between Edward Snowden and Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union. The conversation will be focused on the impact of the NSA’s spying efforts on the technology community, and the ways in which technology can help to protect us from mass surveillance. Hear directly from Snowden about his beliefs on what the tech community can and must do to secure the private data of the billions of people who rely on the tools and services that we build.

iOS 7.1 and the iTunes Festival at SXSW 

Apple’s first iTunes Festival in the U.S. starts a week from today at SXSW in Austin. Apple is going to stream the performances to iOS devices using an app, but I’ve heard from a little birdie that the app requires iOS 7.1 (which explains why the app isn’t out yet). That means iOS 7.1 should ship any day now.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer to Retire at the End of September 

Apple PR:

“Peter has served as our CFO for the past decade as Apple’s annual revenue grew from $8 billion to $171 billion and our global footprint expanded dramatically. His guidance, leadership and expertise have been instrumental to Apple’s success, not only as our CFO but also in many areas beyond finance, as he frequently took on additional activities to assist across the company. His contributions and integrity as our CFO create a new benchmark for public company CFOs,” said Tim Cook, Apple CEO. “Peter is also a dear friend I always knew I could count on. Although I am sad to see him leave, I am happy he is taking time for himself and his family. As all of us who know him would have expected, he has created a professional succession plan to ensure Apple doesn’t miss a beat.”

On the surface, sounds like a man who’s ready to cash out. He took the helm as CFO after Fred Anderson took the hit for the stock options backdating scandal retired in 2004, but he’s been at Apple for 18 years — predating the NeXT reunification. He’s only 51, but that’s a long run.

But it’s only fair to recall MG Siegler’s observation back in April when Microsoft CFO Peter Klein retired:

Who is best positioned to know that winter is coming?

The CFO.

Like Oppenheimer, Klein’s stated reason for retiring was to spend more time with his family. By December, Klein must have had enough time with his family, because he took the CFO gig at William Morris. Oppenheimer yesterday took a board seat at Goldman Sachs, but my hunch is he really is just retiring. I doubt we’ll see him take a CFO gig at another company. We’ll see.

Correction, 7p: I scrambled the timeline of the Anderson-Oppenheimer succession. Anderson retired in 2004, on good terms with the company. The options backdating scandal didn’t occur until 2007 (although Anderson and then-chief counsel Nancy Heinen did take the fall for it.)

WhatsApp Is Different 

Om Malik:

These charts show that not only Whatsapp different, but it is exceptional and did well to capture the moment (i.e., rise of the mobile broadband) near perfectly. They are not just exceptional, they are a standout with highest rate of growth and getting to that point the fastest.

Some eye-opening numbers.

(And to think I was worried about seeing less of Om’s byline.)

iCloud Keychain Security Details 

Rich Mogull, writing for TidBITS:

For the first time, we have extensive details on iCloud security. For security professionals like myself, this is like waking up and finding a pot of gold sitting on my keyboard. Along with some of the most impressive security I’ve ever seen, Apple has provided a way to make it impossible for agencies like the NSA to obtain your iCloud Keychain passwords.

The paper is incredibly dense, even getting to the level of detail of which flavor of particular encryption algorithms are used in which security controls. I will likely be digesting it for months, but one particular section contained an important nugget that explains why the NSA can’t snoop on your iCloud Keychain passwords.

Lukas Mathis on Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface 

Lukas Mathis:

A few months ago, I gave away my iPad, and replaced it with, of all things, a Microsoft Surface Pro 2.

Thoughtful and comprehensive review and analysis.

New Samsung Chromebooks Sport Faux Leather Finish, Including Fake Stitching 

Again I say, perfect for people with no taste.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and iPhone Engineer Discuss Battery Technology 

Speaking of Tesla, Apple, and their shared interest of battery technology.

Masters of Their Own Destiny 

Great piece for Fast Company by Om Malik:

The strategy today is simple: In order to move fast, build what you can’t buy or risk losing control of your fate and becoming the next Palm, Motorola, or HTC. And if, in the process, you disrupt an Oracle or a Qualcomm? So be it.

The Apple-Tesla Connection 

Fun back-of-the-envelope calculation from Jean-Louis Gassée:

It’s a rough estimate, but close enough for today’s purpose: Apple and Tesla need about the same tonnage of batteries this year.

Only ’90s Web Developers Remember This 

Zach Holman:

1 × 1.gif should have won a fucking Grammy. Or a Pulitzer. Or Most Improved, Third Grade Gym Class or something. It’s the most important achievement in computer science since the linked list. It’s not the future we deserved, but it’s the future we needed (until the box model fucked it all up).

Nice trip down Memory Lane. For me, it was always “spacer.gif”. (Via Khoi Vinh.)

The Philadelphia Accent Fades Out 

Great piece by Daniel Nester for the NYT:

The Philadelphia regional accent remains arguably the most distinctive, and least imitable, accent in North America. Let’s not argue about this. Ask anyone to do a Lawn Guyland accent or a charming Southern drawl and that person will approximate it. Same goes for a Texas twang or New Orleans yat, a Valley Girl totally omigod. Philly-South Jersey patois is a bit harder: No vowel escapes diphthongery, no hard consonant is safe from a mid-palate dent. Extra syllables pile up so as to avoid inconvenient tongue contact or mouth closure. If you forget to listen closely, the Philadelphia, or Filelfia, accent may sound like mumbled Mandarin without the tonal shifts.

The Very, Very Thin Wedge of Climate Change Denial 

Phil Plait, writing for Slate:

Here’s the thing: If you listen to Fox News, or right-wing radio, or read the denier blogs, you’d have to think climate scientists were complete idiots to miss how fake global warming is. Yet despite this incredibly obvious hoax, no one ever publishes evidence exposing it. Mind you, scientists are a contrary lot. If there were solid evidence that global warming didn’t exist, or that CO2 emissions weren’t the culprit, there would be papers in the journals about it. Lots of them.

I base this on my own experience with contrary data in astronomy. In 1998, two teams of researchers found evidence that the expansion of the Universe was not slowing down, as expected, but actually speeding up. This idea is as crazy as holding a ball in your hand, letting go, and having it fall up, accelerating wildly into the sky. Yet those papers got published. They inspired lively discussion (to say the least) and motivated further observations. Careful, meticulous work was done to eliminate errors and confounding factors, until it became very clear that we were seeing an overturning of the previous paradigm. It took years, but now astronomers accept that the Universal expansion is accelerating and that dark energy is the culprit.

iOS CarPlay 

Apple’s “iOS integrated with your car” initiative now has a name. Press release here.

The risk seems clear: Apple isn’t building the hardware in the cars. Color me skeptical that this is going to work smoothly. Also, no third-party app support — yet. Update: Actually, there are a handful of third-party apps — Beats Radio, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Stitcher — but those are hand-picked partners. What I’m saying is there’s no way yet for any app in the App Store to present a CarPlay-specific interface.

‘Libido of a Salesman’ 

Yours truly was a guest on the latest episode of the talented Moisés Chiullan’s Electric Shadow podcast, along with my friends Adam Lisagor and Guy English. Topics include the blurring lines between marketing and entertainment, the death of “what’s on” content, and the Jackass crew’s Oscar-nominated masterpiece, Bad Grandpa.

Picturelife 

My thanks to Picturelife for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Picturelife is an online platform for photos and video. It starts with seamless backup and deep integration with Aperture and iPhoto — or, just point Picturelife at any folder on your Mac and it’ll sync the photos and videos it contains. Picturelife secures your photos and lets you access them wherever you are — from the web, or their iPhone app.

It’s more than just storage, though. Picturelife has great features: search, versioning, advanced de-duplication, similar shot stacks, importers for Flickr and Instagram, and robust private sharing.

Plans start at just $5, but they have a special offer for Daring Fireball readers: just use this link and you’ll save 20 percent off any plan, for life. I’ve been using Picturelife for a few months, and it’s a great service I’m happy to recommend.

WSJ Runs Excerpt From ‘Haunted Empire’ 

More telling than the excerpt itself, which I found pretty much empty (Tim Cook is a demanding boss, intensely private, and a frugal spender), is the video interview with Kane:

Daisuke Wakabayashi: The one big question that hangs over Apple, anyone who follows Apple, is, have they lost their touch? Is Apple still king of the hill? After two years, what’s your conclusion?

Yukari Iwatani Kane: I think the answer is obvious to me. The answer has got to be yes. This is a company who had revolved around Steve Jobs for so long, I mean that was something that Jobs himself went out of his way to make sure of. And the people there are conditioned to operate, to play off of his strengths and weaknesses. And so now you’ve got this completely opposite guy in Tim Cook, who is I think brilliant in many ways, but in different ways. But so they’re going through some growing pains in that. […]

Wakabayashi: A normal great company, but maybe no longer an iconic company?

Kane: Right.

Everything Bill Drenttel Knew About Business in One Minute 

Great advice.

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