Linked List: April 2015

Phone Sales in China 

While on the subject of charting sales trends, here’s an interesting one from Ben Bajarin on smartphone sales share in China. A lot of movement just in the last year alone.

Kieran Healy, following up on Dr. Drang’s post on the iPad’s sales slump:

Dr Drang put up a characteristically sharp post looking at sales trends in Apple Macs, iPhones, and iPads. He used moving averages to show long-term sales trends effectively, and he made a convincing argument that iPad sales are in decline. I ended up grabbing the sales data myself from barefigur.es and more or less copying him. Instead of a moving average, here’s a plot of the trends showing the individual sales figures with a LOESS smoother fitted to them.

Truly fascinating visualizations of Apple’s sales trends for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Moving Averages and the iPad 

Loved this post from Dr. Drang, on how to accurately visualize the declining trend in iPad sales:

There are myriad other ways to smooth a graph without switching to cumulative figures. One of the simplest is the moving average. In this technique, instead of plotting the raw data, you plot the average of a few data points in the neighborhood of each time value.

For many data sets, the best size of this neighborhood is not obvious. With Apple’s sales figures, though, I think it’s clear that the best choice is to average over four quarters: the quarter that you’re plotting and the three previous. This smooths over the seasonal jumpiness while not including so much past data as to ignore real trends.

As for why iPad sales have hit this slump, I really liked this explanation from one of Drang’s readers:

Ben Packard, in an email, suggests my reason for dismissing the durability explanation for the iPad sales decline is weak. The Mac, he says, has been around long enough for there to be substantial numbers of owners at every stage of ownership, but far more iPad users are still on their first iPad. Whatever the long term replacement cycle of iPads turns out to be, we’re still in the first one, too early for variations in when people bought their most recent iPad to have evened out.

Wrist Tattoos Interfere With Apple Watch Sensors 

Serenity Caldwell, writing for iMore:

Recently, we’ve been hearing reports from Twitter and Reddit that the Apple Watch’s plethysmograph sensor plays not-so-nicely with wrist or arm sleeve tattoos. The ink pigmentation interferes with the sensor’s ability to read your heart rate — and with it, the Watch’s ability to assess whether or not it’s maintaining skin contact. […]

For those wondering: natural skin pigmentation doesn’t block light the same way artificial ink pigment or even scar tissue does, so you shouldn’t run into a problem if your skin is naturally darker.

Windows 10 to Run Recompiled Android and iOS Apps 

Tom Warren, reporting from Microsoft’s Build conference for The Verge:

The idea is simple, get apps on Windows 10 without the need for developers to rebuild them fully for Windows. While it sounds simple, the actual process will be a little more complicated than just pushing a few buttons to recompile apps.

Only the problem is simple: Windows Phone doesn’t have enough apps, and doesn’t have any developer momentum. It’s a third platform in a two-platform world.

The solution sounds complicated. Games are one thing — cross-compilation and shared code bases work fine for many games. But for actual apps, running apps designed for platform A on platform B never looks or feels right, even if technically it “works”. Running apps from platforms A and B on platform C? Yikes.

During Microsoft’s planning for bringing iOS and Android apps to Windows, Myerson admits it wasn’t always an obvious choice to have both. “At times we’ve thought, let’s just do iOS,” Myerson explains. “But when we think of Windows we really think of everyone on the planet. There’s countries where iOS devices aren’t available.”

You can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time — but Microsoft remains constitutionally drawn to the pipe dream of pleasing all of the people all of the time.

More From Quartz on iPhone and iPad Aggregate Sales Since Launch 

Dan Frommer:

Now five years old, Apple’s iPad tablet is still the company’s fastest-selling product line of all time. But not for long. As iPad demand has slowed, its cumulative sales curve is likely to fall behind the iPhone’s within the next six months.

The iPad, launched in early 2010, set records as the fastest Apple product to hit 10 million shipments (during its first year); 100 million (third year); and 250 million (fifth year). But its trajectory has flattened. Shipments last quarter, which Apple revealed yesterday, fell 23% year-over-year to 12.6 million.

I think the iPad is sort of like a young phenom in sports. It came on so fast, so strong, that many keen observers — including me — expected it to eclipse the iPhone.

That isn’t panning out. But I think we, collectively, are now judging the iPad’s actual sales and success not for what they are but for what we expected they were going to be. It’s a good, popular, much-used family of products that continues to sell really well. Not iPhone-well, but well. Being only the second-fastest-selling product in Apple history, instead of the first, is nothing to sneeze at.

Secret Shutting Down 

Brendan Klinkenberg, reporting for BuzzFeed:

In a post on Medium, founder David Byttow addressed and expanded upon the decision to shut down Secret. “Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company,” Byttow writes, “so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.”

In the post, Byttow announced that Secret will be returning the “significant” amount of invested capital still in the company’s possession to its investors. Secret had reportedly raised more than $37 million, at a valuation of over $100 million.

$100 million valuation. Here’s a secret for you: anyone who invested in Secret is a dope.

Best line in this whole saga is the closing sentence of Mike Isaac’s report for the NYT:

Mr. Byttow’s once-prized red Ferrari is also gone, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

‘I Screwed Up The Academy Awards, and I Couldn’t Be More Proud’ 

Great link re: the previous item: David Letterman guesting on the final episode of The Jon Stewart Show on MTV back in 1995. (Thanks to Orion Woody.)

David Letterman Reflects on 33 Years in Late-Night Television 

Fantastic, candid interview with Letterman by Dave Itzkoff for the NYT:

Q: Did you have any involvement in choosing Stephen Colbert as your successor?

A: No. Not my show. When we sign off, we’re out of business with CBS. I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice. And then Stephen. And then I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on. Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.

Q: But you were not consulted?

A: [shakes head no] Mm-mmm.

Q: Did that bother you?

A: Yeah, I guess so. Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: “You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?” But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, O.K., this is what comes when you make this decision.

Stewart was always my pick, too.

Regarding Recode’s Report That ‘No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers’ 

Strange piece reported by Dawn Chmielewski for Recode, on the faulty taptic engines plaguing Apple Watch production, starting with the headline: “No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers”:

Apple identified a flaw in a critical component of its Apple Watch before any of them were shipped to consumers, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

This certainly makes it sound as though Chmielewski has her own sources for this story, and isn’t just repeating what the WSJ reported earlier today.

The part, known as the taptic engine, produces a subtle tap on the wrist to alert the wearer of an incoming message or other notification. Quality assurance testing revealed that some of these components supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings in Shenzhen, China, would break over time, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But now she’s attributing it to the Journal. This strikes me as vague sourcing — does Chmielewski have her own “people familiar with the matter” or is she only re-reporting from the WSJ? (Update: I think what happened — think — is that after the WSJ story broke, Apple contacted Chmielewski, Moorhead (see below) and the WSJ itself (see “Update 1”, below) to emphasize, off the record, that the problem was identified before the defective taptic engines were shipped to customers. But the sourcing on this story doesn’t make clear what’s coming from the WSJ’s original report and what’s coming from these new sources “familiar with the matter”.)

Apple has shifted production to a second supplier, Japan’s Nidec, which didn’t experience this problem, according to the Journal.

“I believe no faulty Apple Watches were shipped to consumers,” said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy. “I don’t think this is damaging at all.”

As I experienced firsthand, and as I’ve heard from at least one DF reader (whom I know and trust), some watches shipped to consumers do have faulting taptic engines. That doesn’t mean it’s a widespread problem, of course. When you make millions of anything, there are surely all sorts of rare problems that crop up. And for all I know, the failed taptic engine in my first review unit might have been from Nidec, not AAC Technologies.

What struck me about this quote, and Recode’s decision to base their headline on it, is how would Patrick Moorhead — an independent “technology analyst” — know whether any of the faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers? Is he just speculating based on the fact that there aren’t widespread complaints? If he really is in a position to know this information, should Recode explain how he knows it?

I don’t know how anyone outside Apple would know whether faulty or possibly faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers. But signs suggest that some of them — even if just a handful — did ship.

Update 1: The WSJ’s report breaking this story has been updated with a new third paragraph, which wasn’t there in earlier revisions:

Apple doesn’t plan a recall, because there’s no indication that Apple shipped any watches with the defective part to customers.

Apple Details How It Rebuilt Siri on Apache Mesos 

Yet another sign of a more open Apple — Siri engineers spoke in public about the third-generation (and as I noted a few months ago, much improved) back-end for Siri. Some notes from Derrick Harris, writing for the Mesosphere blog:

  • Apple’s custom Mesos scheduler is called J.A.R.V.I.S., which is short for Just A Rather Very Intelligent Scheduler. It’s named after Tony Stark’s intelligent computer assistant in the Iron Man movies (and technically, I’m told, his human butler in the old comic books). […]

  • Siri’s Mesos backend represents its third generation, and a move away from “traditional” infrastructure. Apple’s work with Mesos and J.A.R.V.I.S. predates the open-sourcing of Marathon (by Mesosphere) and Apache Aurora (by Twitter) in 2013.

  • Not only has Mesos helped make Siri scalable and available on the infrastructure front, it has also improved latency on the app itself.

It really does show, and it matters. Siri’s performance and reliability are essential to the Apple Watch experience.

On Baltimore’s No-Crowd Baseball Game This Afternoon 

Paul Kafasis on the decision to play today’s Orioles-White Sox game in Baltimore in an empty Camden Yards:

Holding a sporting event in the middle of a rioting city is fraught enough, but at least a claim could be made of doing it for the fans desiring a dose of normality. Playing to an empty stadium, however, will only alienate the public further. If a city isn’t safe enough to host a baseball game in front of a crowd, it shouldn’t host a baseball game at all.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” has become a household phrase, but we, as a country, sure don’t act like it. If you want to restore normalcy, act normal. I watched some of today’s game on TV, and there were no signs at all that they couldn’t have played the game normally. Fans stood on the street and watched the game in peace.

Moving the game to the afternoon made sense. Playing without any fans in the park was a mistake.

WSJ: ‘Apple Watch: Faulty Taptic Engine Slows Roll Out’ 

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Lorraine Luk, reporting for the WSJ:

A key component of the Apple Watch made by one of two suppliers was found to be defective, prompting Apple Inc. to limit the availability of the highly anticipated new product, according to people familiar with the matter.

The part involved is the so-called taptic engine, designed by Apple to produce the sensation of being tapped on the wrist. After mass production began in February, reliability testing revealed that some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings Inc., of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time, the people familiar with the matter said. One of those people said Apple scrapped some completed watches as a result.

Taptic engines produced by a second supplier, Japan’s Nidec Corp., didn’t experience the same problem, the people said. Apple has moved nearly all of its production of the component to Nidec, these people said, but it may take time for Nidec to increase its production.

Recall that my first review unit had a bum taptic engine — it worked when I first started using it, but struck me as weak. By the end of the first day it wasn’t working at all, and Apple supplied me with a second watch the next day. I’ve also heard from at least one DF reader whose Apple Watch Sport had a non-functioning taptic engine (he got it replaced at his local Apple Store). So some of these have made it out of the factories and into the wild. But it certainly doesn’t seem to be a rampant problem in the field.

The closing paragraph of the Journal’s story is a bizarre jab:

The shortages highlight the potential downside of Apple’s lean supply chain. Apple can produce massive quantities of products with little waste and excess supply, but it can experience shortages when a problem arises with a key part.

As a friend quipped to me by text, “So the potential downside of the most successful manufacturing system in history is that when they run out of parts they can’t make stuff.” The potential downside isn’t with Apple’s supply chain — it’s with Apple’s use of brand-new never-before-manufactured-at-scale components. It’s the inherent risk of any groundbreaking new product. What in the world is the Journal suggesting Apple should do differently?

Update: The WSJ report now contains a new third paragraph, which wasn’t there when it was first reported:

Apple doesn’t plan a recall, because there’s no indication that Apple shipped any watches with the defective part to customers.

CST-01: $1M Kickstarter With Nothing to Show 

Sage Lazzaro, writing for The New York Observer:

In January of 2013, a company called Central Standard Time launched a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign for CST-01, a sleek and minimal stainless steel wristwatch that is only 0.80 mm thick, making it the thinnest watch ever made. The watch (note: not a smartwatch) was an instant hit, and by campaign’s end, the creators had rounded up over $1 million in funding and more than 7,500 ecstatic backers.

It’s now been more than two years since the watches should’ve shipped, but backers are confused, skeptical, furious and above all, watch-less. Even the earliest supporters haven’t received theirs, yet the money is supposedly gone, and with it, the faith of the once incredibly loyal backers.

The world’s thinnest watch: so thin it doesn’t exist.

Crowdfunded products are gambles, especially hardware ones. My wife backed this gadget on Indiegogo to the tune of $450. It was originally supposed to ship a year ago, and so far she hasn’t gotten anything.

Heather Armstrong Moves on From Dooce 

Heather Armstrong, announcing that she’s no longer writing Dooce.com full-time, and is moving on to speaking and consulting:

But what makes this livelihood glaringly different are not only the constant creative strains of churning out new and entertaining content — content we cannot delegate to anyone else because our audiences read our stories for our particular voice and perspective — but also the security systems we’ve had to set up as an increasingly more diverse group of people throw rocks at our houses with the intention of causing damage: passersby, rubbernecks, stalkers, even journalists. We have separate security systems for those who take every word and decision we share and deliberately misinterpret it, disfigure it to the point of it being wholly unrecognizable, and then broadcast to us and to their own audiences that they have diagnosed us with a personality disorder.

“Living online” for us looks completely different now than it did when we all set out to build this community, and the emotional and physical toll of it is rapidly becoming a health hazard.

Jason Kottke:

Two or three years ago, I thought I would do my site professionally for the rest of my life, or at least a good long while. The way things are going, in another year or two, I’m not sure that’s even going to be an option. The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly.

Quartz Charts Apple’s Second Quarter Results 

Lots of interesting visualizations. The one that struck me was the last one, showing that the iPad remains ahead of the iPhone in terms of cumulative sales since launch. Apple has sold more iPads in its first 57 months than they sold iPhones in its first 57 months. The gap is narrowing, however.

This Is Tim: Six Colors’s Transcript of Tim Cook’s Remarks on the Analyst Call 

Fast-typing Jason Snell has a transcript of Tim Cook’s remarks. Regarding the company’s projection that Apple Watch will have lower margins than the company’s average next quarter:

In the first quarter of any kind of product, you would always have learning and these sorts of things. We’ve had this with every product we’ve ever done. And so again, we’re not guiding to what it will be over time, we’re talking about what it is now. I would keep in mind that the functionality of the product that we’re making is absolutely incredible, the power of it. And I’d also say, generally there’s cost breakdowns that come out around our products that are much different than the reality. I’ve never seen one that is anywhere close to being accurate. And so if that’s the basis of your comment, I’d really dig on the data if I were you.

Countdown to iSuppli projection that Apple Watch Sport costs the company $67 in three, two, one…

Regarding iPad sales:

When you look at the underlying data, it makes you feel a lot better than the sales do. Things like first-time buyer rates, the latest numbers from the U.S. are like around 40 percent, and when you look at China they’re almost 70 percent. These numbers are not numbers you would get if the market were saturated, so I continue to believe — even though I’ve seen different people write that — I think that theory is not correct. We also see usage numbers that are off the charts, so far above competition, it’s not even in the same planet. And we see customer satisfaction at or near 100 percent. So these kind of numbers, along with intent-to-buy numbers, everything looks fantastic. So my belief is that as the inventory plays out, as we make some continued investments in our product pipeline which we’re doing, that we’ve already had planned and have had planned for some time… I think still, I believe the iPad is an extremely good business over the long term. When precisely it begins to grow again I wouldn’t want to predict, but I strongly believe that it will.

My reading on this: lots of people are still buying their first iPad — 40 percent of sales in the U.S., a remarkable 70 percent in China. So the market for “tablets” is not saturated. Usage numbers and customer satisfaction are high too, so it’s not that people who bought iPads previously aren’t happy with them. The problem, thus, is that older iPads continue to work just fine. People don’t replace them every two or three years like they do with their phones.

Apple Reports Record Second Quarter Results 

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 second quarter ended March 28, 2015. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $58 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $1.66 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 40.8 percent compared to 39.3 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 69 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

The growth was fueled by record second quarter sales of iPhone and Mac and all-time record performance of the App Store.

If there’s a dark cloud in the numbers, it’s the iPad. Sales dropped precipitously year-over-year, from 16.3 million in Q2 2014 to 12.6 million this quarter.

But overall, Apple’s growth continues to amaze. They’re the largest company in the world by market cap, but are reporting double-digit growth. For context, five years ago Steve Jobs noted, with considerable pride, that Apple had become a $50 billion company in annual revenue. Today, they’re a $50 billion company in quarterly revenue, and are easily on pace to book $50 billion in annual profit this financial year.

The Difference Between Apple and Samsung Industrial Design 

Rene Ritchie:

But when I looked at the picture of Samsung’s product, it wasn’t the sticker that bothered me so much. That, I assume, can be peeled off. It was something else I saw that bothered me, and something I can now never un-see.

It’s the lack of basic alignment.

Apple’s Antitrust Lord 

WSJ editorial excoriating Michael Bromwich, the “outside monitor” appointed by Judge Denise Cote:

To take one example of this feather-bedding, for Feb. 17 Mr. Bromwich charged Apple with a block-billing entry that included “review relevant media articles.” The same day we published an editorial, “All Along the Apple Watchtower,” as well as excerpts from a related appeals-court hearing. When Apple flagged the expense, Mr. Bromwich replied, “We do not charge the time for reading the newspaper except when the WSJ editorials focus specifically on our work.”

We hope we provide value for money, but it’s flattering to be read at Mr. Bromwich’s hourly rate of $1,100, $1,025 for Mr. Nigro, and a 15% “administrative fee” for his consulting firm. The larger conflict of interest inherent in this revenue stream raises questions about the impartiality required of Mr. Bromwich as an officer of the court. He even suggests in his report he may require more than the two-year term that expires in October.

Consumer Reports’s Initial Apple Watch Test Results 

Impressive scratch-resistance results, especially for the sapphire crystal on the steel Apple Watch. Water resistance was as good as promised, and the heart rate monitor was as accurate as their highest-rated dedicated chest-strap monitor.

More details here.

Conversation With a Tech Support Scammer 

Lenny Zeltser:

When investigating an incident that involved domain redirection and a suspected tech support scam, I recorded my interactions with the individual posing as a help desk technician and researched the background of this scheme. It was an educational exchange, to say the least. Here’s what I learned about this person’s and his employer’s techniques and objectives.

Fascinating story. That they offer a “senior citizen discount” gives you a clue as to their target audience. (Via InfoSec Taylor Swift.)

Apple Collecting Red Cross Donations via iTunes for Nepal Earthquake Relief 

This is a good way to help the people of Nepal — 100 percent of the money collected goes to the Red Cross, and because it’s through iTunes, you can do it with just a few clicks from your Mac or iOS device. If you haven’t chipped in already, take a few moments and do it now.

Update: Another convenient way to help: Square is collecting money for UNICEF relief efforts.

Todoist 

My thanks to Todoist for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Todoist is a task manager that tracks everything you need to do and achieve your most important goals in less time, with less work.

Todoist has exclusive features like natural language date parsing, productivity-tracking, sub-tasks, labels and filters, location-aware alerts, project sharing and more. Todoist is the ultimate to-do list for power users. Available on 15 different platforms (including Mac and iOS), Todoist will help you stay organized and productive anywhere, on all your devices. And it’s completely free to get started.

Google Engineer Dies on Mt. Everest 

Conor Dougherty, reporting for the NYT:

On Saturday, Dan Fredinburg was at a base camp on Mount Everest when a powerful earthquake in Nepal set off an avalanche. Mr. Fredinburg was killed, Google said in a statement posted on its website.

“Sadly, we lost one of our own in this tragedy,” the statement said. “Dan Fredinburg, a longtime member of the Privacy organization in Mountain View, was in Nepal with three other Googlers, hiking Mount Everest. He has passed away. The other three Googlers with him are safe, and we are working to get them home quickly.”

Shortly before, an Instagram post on Mr. Fredinburg’s account went up: “This is Dan’s little sister Megan,” the message began. “I regret to inform all who loved him that during the avalanche on Everest early this morning our Dan suffered from a major head injury and didn’t make it.”

Kind of surreal perusing his Instagram account — he was posting from the expedition.

White House Email System Was Compromised by Russians 

Michael S. Schmidt and David E. Sanger, reporting for the NYT:

Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

In 2009 it seemed forward-thinking that the president carried a BlackBerry. Now, it feels preposterously behind the times.

28 Apple Watch Tips and Tricks 

Good collection from Serenity Caldwell. Clearing all notifications with a force tap is a great feature — and something that’s sorely missing on iOS and OS X.

Suzy Menkes Interviews Jony Ive and Marc Newson at Condé Nast Luxury Conference in Florence 

Suzy Menkes: “There’s no doubt that you are now producing things that may be more desirable than traditional luxury to consumers, particularly the younger consumers, don’t you think?”

Jony Ive: “I don’t know — we’ll see!” Smiles while audience laughs. “We’ll see.”

(Via Abdel Ibrahim.)

Once Comcast’s Deal Shifted to a Focus on Broadband, Its Ambitions Were Sunk 

Jonathan Mahler, reporting for the NYT on how Comcast’s close ties to the Obama administration didn’t help it get approval for acquiring Time Warner Cable:

But now the $45 billion Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger is dead. Comcast is folding, in anticipation of regulators rejecting the deal.

The news, which broke on Thursday afternoon, was certainly dramatic. But the air of inevitability that once hung over the deal had been dissipating for months, as the debate over net neutrality — in short, the question of whether Internet providers should be allowed to charge content providers for speedier service — played out in Washington. And a merger that had at first seemed to be primarily about cable television turned into something much different.

Three New Apple Watch Commercials 

All three are good, hit the right tone. They’re humane — emotional, not technical. My favorite is “Us”. That’s the one I’d put in heaviest rotation on TV.

My wife’s watch arrived a few hours ago. After setting it up and playing with the communication features, she said something to the effect of, “I saw people asking you whether Apple gave you two of these, so you could test these features. They should have — this is way more fun.”

Note too: in the context of these ads, the Edition models are simply peers to the Sport and steel ones.

Apple Watch Waterproof Test 

Impressive results from FoneFox in Australia: they had it submerged in a pool for 15 minutes and it came out no worse for the wear.

Jackson Arn on Steven Soderbergh’s Re-Cut of ‘2001’ 

Good piece by Jackson Arn for Film Comment:

These kinds of complaints are inevitable, but Soderbergh rises above them with his bold reimagining of Kubrick’s work. The new center of gravity in 2001.5, uniting the visceral and the coldly Kubrickian, is HAL — the sentient computer whose fate is to be perfectly objective and yet hopelessly subjective (indeed, in the Discovery One section, Soderbergh preserves all of the computer’s-eye-view shots, reminding me that HAL sees the world through the same wide-angle lens through which we view Alex’s depravity in A Clockwork Orange). In Kubrick’s original, HAL’s presence feels like a fascinating but nonessential step in man’s journey from ape to star child. Watching the new cut, one gets the idea that this movie was about HAL all along.

Largely in agreement with my tweet-length review of Soderbergh’s cut back in January.

(Thanks to Dave Nanian.)

Twitterrific for Apple Watch 

Ged Maheux, The Iconfactory:

The Twitterrific watch app displays a list of your most recent 25 replies, mentions, direct messages, favs, RT’s and new followers right on your wrist. This helps you focus on the part of Twitter that’s most important to you and frees you from information overload common when viewing your entire timeline. Simply tap any item in the list to view its details and respond in a number of ways. Favorite a reply or mention, give a new friend a follow back and even reply to mentions and direct messages using Apple Watch’s dictation feature. It’s just that simple.

Twitterrific for Apple Watch is a lot more interesting to me than the official Twitter client. Twitter’s watch app only shows two things: your regular timeline and a list of top-trending global hashtags. Neither of those things is useful or appropriate in the context of a watch. Twitterrific, on the other hand, focuses on the sort of things you’d actually want to be notified about: your mentions and DMs.

Apple Watch and Durability: How Tough Are Apple’s Finishes? 

Greg Koenig — author of that terrific “How Apple Makes the Watch” piece a few weeks ago — writing today for iMore:

The best way to answer such questions is to wait and see how the first wave of watches do in the hands of real people. Yet it’s not unreasonable for potential early adopters to want at least some idea before they buy. Lucky for us, Apple is using materials and techniques that have been standard for wristwatches going back a few decades, so we can make some educated, experience-driven assumptions about how the watch variants will fare on our wrists soon.

App Store for Apple Watch Is Live 

Jim Dalrymple:

You can now see what apps are available for the Apple Watch, even if you don’t have one of the devices. Just open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone, which comes with the latest iOS update, and you can browse the available apps.

Certainly interesting that there are already a few thousands of these. But it’s worth noting that none of these are actually apps that run on the watch itself. They’re extensions that run on your iPhone and display on your watch over Bluetooth.

Shawn King Needs Some Help 

My friend Shawn King — longtime Mac/Apple writer/broadcaster and host of Your Mac Life for 21 years — has hit a run of bad luck. He’s developed “advanced periodontal disease”, and needs extensive oral surgery. That’s bad enough, but even worse: he can’t afford it.

So he’s started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help with the expenses. I know just how stressful it is to deal with serious health issues, even when you have insurance to cover the costs. It’s hard to imagine how much worse it must feel when you don’t. I know Shawn well enough to know just how hard it must have been for him to ask for help like this. But I’m glad he did, and I’m happy to help him.

Shawn is a good guy in a bad spot. Do me a favor. Read his story, think about what it would be like to be in his place, and if you can, pitch in a few bucks to help. It would mean a lot to me for the Daring Fireball community to add a nice bump to his campaign.

Galaxy S6 Unboxing 

Clever video from Samsung. (Via Abdel Ibrahim.)

Apple Watch User Guide 

Boy, I really could have used this a month ago. Apple Watch is remarkably deep for a 1.0 product. One example that I couldn’t figure out on my own — how to discern “turn left” from “turn right” based on the haptic feedback when getting walking or driving directions:

After you tap Start and head off on your first leg, Apple Watch uses taps to let you know when to turn. A steady series of 12 taps means turn right at the intersection you’re approaching; three pairs of two taps means turn left. Not sure what your destination looks like? You’ll feel a vibration when you’re on the last leg, and again when you arrive.

Right is a steady series; left is a set of three series. I can’t say I feel stupid for not figuring that out on my own.

Great design on this guide, too.

Randy Ubillos Retires From Apple 

Announced on Twitter:

After an amazing 20 years working on Apple products, today is my last day. I look forward to retirement and the adventures ahead. :-)

Old-school emoticon instead of an emoji.

Among Ubillos’s numerous accomplishments at Apple, he led the teams behind iMovie and Final Cut.

Natalie Kerris, Veteran Apple PR Director, Announces Retirement 

Interesting sign of the times: she announced it on Twitter.

Reporting at Recode, Dawn Chmielewski presents Kerris’s decision as a result of Steve Dowling being named Katie Cotton’s successor:

Kerris sought to succeed longtime Apple PR head Katie Cotton, who retired last year. Corporate public relations chief Steve Dowling was formally named vice president of communications last week after a period of serving in the role on an interim basis.

The timing is certainly suggestive — Dowling’s promotion was made official a week ago.


Apple Posts Final Three Guided Tours for Watch 

Apple Pay, Activity, and Workout.

MLB Won’t Ban Fans From Using Periscope Inside Ballparks 

MacTrast:

In an on-air interview with CNBC earlier this month, Bowman said The Wall Street Journal was wrong when it suggested the league would actively work to prevent fans from streaming the games live to their followers.

“I don’t know how The Wall Street Journal got that story. I’ve been dealing with them for 30 years. They just got it flat out wrong. That’s called an error,” he told CNBC. “I spoke to the reporter. I have no idea how that conclusion got reached.”

I periscoped a few times from Yankee Stadium during the epic 7-hour 19-inning game against the Red Sox two weeks ago. It was fun. It’s absolutely no replacement for a legitimate telecast of the game, though, so I’m glad MLB is not treating it as a problem.

Cameron Moll on Proxima Nova 

Cameron Moll:

A brief visual history of Mark Simonson’s iconic typeface, a few of his thoughts, and my encounters with it along the way.

As Cameron recalls, we chose Proxima Nova as the original identity typeface for Joyent back in 2005. To me, it felt perfect for the Joyent brand: a balanced combination of friendly and serious.

Unicode Symbol as Text or Emoji 

Helpful post from Matias Singers on how the new skin tone variant emoji work, as well as how to force certain Unicode glyphs to render as text instead of emoji — a problem I ran into here on DF recently, when iOS 8.3 started rendering my footnote return markers as “↩️” instead of “↩︎”.

Skipping the Web 

Eugene Wei:

People often write of countries like India or Africa bypassing landlines or PCs to skip ahead to technologies like wireless or smartphones, but I haven’t heard of countries treating the web as one of those intermediate technologies to be hopped over.

Having spent lots of time working out of China, I see the sense in it. Internet connection speeds are really slow there, and loading the web can be painful. Even with an upgraded pipe into the building, when I worked out of Hulu’s Beijing office, I found myself browsing the web a lot less simply out of impatience.

The web is great. I love the web. I continue to publish my life’s work on the web. But what the web is great for is only what it was designed for: publishing HTML pages. For everything else, the web is a kludge, and native apps provide a superior experience.

How WWDC Became the Heart of the Apple World’s Calendar 

Jason Snell, writing for iMore:

If you had told me in the mid-90s that Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference would end up becoming the social event of the season, I would have laughed long and loud. And yet this highly technical convention has, unconventionally, become the beating heart at the center of the Apple universe’s year.

Marques Brownlee Reviews the Samsung Galaxy S6 

Great perspective on the state of the art in the Android world.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Patents 

Great segment on patents and patent trolls.

Apple.com Through the Years 

Amazingly thorough Flickr album of Apple.com screenshots, by Florian Innocente.

(Thanks to Phil Dokas. “Holy shit”, indeed.)

Distillery Workers Arrested in Theft of Pappy Van Winkle 

The AP reports:

Prosecutors say the scheme led by rogue distillery workers lasted for years and involved tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of whiskey but began to unravel when whiskey barrels were discovered behind a Franklin County shed.

The theft targeted the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries, they said, and included some of the most prestigious brands in the business, including pricey Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. It had been going on since 2008 or 2009, officials said.

Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Cleveland said last week the case involves “more than I could imagine one person drinking in a lifetime.”

I don’t know, I can imagine quite a bit.

Twitter Begins Identifying Abusive/Harassing Tweets Algorithmically 

Shreyas Doshi, Twitter’s director of product management:

Second, we have begun to test a product feature to help us identify suspected abusive Tweets and limit their reach. This feature takes into account a wide range of signals and context that frequently correlates with abuse including the age of the account itself, and the similarity of a Tweet to other content that our safety team has in the past independently determined to be abusive. It will not affect your ability to see content that you’ve explicitly sought out, such as Tweets from accounts you follow, but instead is designed to help us limit the potential harm of abusive content.

Something about Twitter brings out the absolute worst in some people. There’s a pattern to it, though, which has long made me suspect it could be addressed at least partially through spam-filter-like algorithms. Good changes to their policies on harassment too.

Robert Rietti, James Bond Voiceover Artist, Dies at 92 

The Hollywood Reporter:

Rietti also provided the voice of the cold-blooded, eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo (portrayed onscreen by Adolfo Celi, who spoke with a thick Italian accent) in Thunderball (1965), and he spoke as the cat-loving evil genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld (this time played by Englishman John Hollis) in another Bond film, For Your Eyes Only (1981).

“In nearly every Bond picture, there’s been a foreign villain, and in almost every case, they’ve used my voice,” he once said.

It was Rietti whom audiences heard out of the mouth of British Intelligence chief John Strangways (Tim Moxon), who is killed near the start of the first Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No. Rietti is then heard a couple of minutes later, replacing the voice of another character at a card table.

His Bond work also includes dubbing as Japanese secret service agent Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba) in You Only Live Twice (1967), donating several voices to Casino Royale (1967) and appearing onscreen in Never Say Never Again (1983).

Never heard of Rietti before, and no idea the voices for all those characters were done by the same actor.

Update: German voice actress Nikki van der Zyl did the same thing for a bunch of the women characters in the early Bond films. (Via Reginald Braithwaite.)

The First Apple Homepage 

Kevin Fox:

But that was 1997. What did Apple.com look like at the very birth of the World-Wide Web? Say around 1992?

I’m a digital pack-rat, and I’ve been on the Internet a long time. I remember a very different, more playful Apple.com homepage. I remembered a page that was more Fractal Design Painter and less grids and columns. I remember taking a screenshot of that page because I liked the look of it. But where would it be today?

I remember the one from 1997, but I don’t remember this original one. Might have been gone by the time I got around to using the web — I was more of a gopher/usenet guy back then.

Developers on Their ‘Biggest WatchKit Mistakes’ 

Speaking of Apple Watch developers, Realm has assembled some interesting lessons learned from WatchKit developers. E.g. this design lesson from Neil Kimmett:

The biggest mistake we made with our WatchKit app was including lots of padding around text elements. When designing for desktop and for mobile, we’re used to nice big margins between the edges of our screens and any text written on those screens. However, in WatchKit, if you use a black background, the frame of the watch acts as a natural margin for your content. So butt that text right up against the edge of the screen! It’ll look strange in the simulator, but natural on the device. It has the added benefit of giving you a bit more screen real estate to play with — a very limited resource on the Watch!

Apple Offers Some Developers Opportunity to Place Expedited Order for Apple Watch Sport 

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

Apple is sending out emails to developers, offering them a chance to purchase an Apple Watch Sport for delivery by April 28th. It’s doing this to encourage them to test and develop for the Watch, according to the text of an email sent to developers and shared with us.

The email, pictured below, says that Apple wants to give developers the opportunity to test WatchKit apps on Apple Watch as soon as it’s available. It offers the ability to purchase one Apple Watch Sport with the 42mm silver casing and a blue sport band. The Watch is guaranteed to ship by April 28 at 2015, which is probably the biggest draw as if developers hadn’t pre-ordered already then they were looking at June or July delivery times.

The same model — Sport with blue band — doesn’t ship until “June” for regular orders through their online store.

Also noteworthy, given Panzarino’s good sources:

It’s likely that several million (I’m hearing more than estimates I’ve seen out there so far) Apple Watch units have been sold already — and that more have been ordered than previously reported.

(By “ordered”, he means ordered by Apple from its supply chain.)

The Tullock Paradox 

Re: the previous post on relatively low sums of money going a long way in political lobbying, DF reader Jerry Brito pointed me to the Tullock Paradox:

The term Tullock paradox refers to the apparent paradox first observed by the public choice economist Gordon Tullock on the low costs of rent-seeking relative to the gains from rent-seeking. The paradox is basically that rent-seekers seeking political favors can usually bribe politicians to give them the favors at a cost much lower than the value of the favor to the rent-seeker. For instance, a rent seeker who hopes to gain a billion dollars from a particular political policy may need to bribe politicians only to the tune of ten million dollars, which is about 1% of the gain to the rent-seeker.

See also: Tyler Cowen has been writing about the Tullock Paradox for years at Marginal Revolution.

Report: Google Is Fifth-Biggest Spender in U.S. Lobbying 

Hamza Shaban, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Google ranked fifth in the amount spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2015 among all organizations that lobbied Congress and federal agencies, according to an analysis by MapLight. The search giant spent $5,470,000; for context, that is more than four times the amount that Apple spent, and nearly $1 million more than Comcast did.

While the amount itself may be eye-opening, it’s little surprise that Google has stepped up its lobbying efforts given the regulatory pressures it has faced. While the Federal Trade Commission ended its antitrust investigation into Google in 2013, FTC staffers did conclude that the company “used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals,” the Wall Street Journal found through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Looking at these numbers, what strikes me is how low these sums are. $5.5 million is almost nothing to Google. Nothing. They reported $14 billion in profit last year. That means they spent 0.04 percent of their profit on lobbying here in the U.S. The scale is just whacked: a few million dollars means nothing to big companies like Comcast, Apple, and Google, but it means a lot in terms of political influence.

Beyoncé Sporting Apple Watch Edition With Gold Link Bracelet 

There’s some chirping on Twitter that she’s wearing it upside down, but I doubt it. The orientation settings let you wear it with the crown on either side.

How Apple Watch Measures Your Heart Rate 

Apple:

The heart rate sensor in Apple Watch uses what is known as photoplethysmography. This technology, while difficult to pronounce, is based on a very simple fact: Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist at any given moment. When your heart beats, the blood flow in your wrist — and the green light absorption — is greater. Between beats, it’s less. By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute — your heart rate.

Matthew McConaughey Watches the New Star Wars Trailer 

Pretty much how I felt, too.

Regarding Chrome’s Power Efficiency on OS X 

Vlad Savov, writing for The Verge:

While reviewing the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, I ran the usual Verge battery test on Apple’s new machine. With the screen set to 65 percent brightness, it cycles through a series of websites until the laptop’s battery gives out. The native Safari made the new Retina machine look good: 13 hours and 18 minutes. Google’s Chrome, on the other hand, forced the laptop to tap out at 9 hours and 45 minutes.

Later:

Apple and Google must both bear a portion of the blame for this ongoing calamity. The MacBook maker has a vested interest in promoting Safari as the most efficient, fluid, and pleasing web experience on its platform. Safari will always have the advantage of being optimized for the latest OS X release ahead of any other browser, which means its lead in efficiency will never be completely eradicated. But three and a half hours? That’s the sort of gap that Google should be able to close — if it makes optimization its priority.

I don’t see how this is Apple’s fault or responsibility in the least regard. Are there accusations that Safari is using private APIs unavailable to Chrome that allow for this efficiency? It seems to me like the usual result of a cross-platform app (Chrome) vs. a platform-optimized one (Safari).

Update: Many readers have emailed to suggest that Chrome’s energy consumption problems might be due to its built-in support for Flash Player. I’m sure that doesn’t help, but it’s almost certainly not the only difference between Chrome and Safari. Comparing Chrome to Safari in Activity Monitor’s “Energy” tab is a real eye-opener.

Heretofore-Unseen Sport Band Colors for Apple Watch Edition 

Bright red, dark blue, canary yellow, and a range of skin-tone sport bands, revealed at a Design Week event in Milan, Italy. There’s no way to tell from the photo whether the strap pins are gold or stainless steel — if they’re gold, that would suggest these colors are exclusive to the Edition models, but British cyclist/rugby player Will Carling tweeted a photo of the red strap paired with a stainless steel Apple Watch.

Rock On: A SongPop Adventure 

My thanks to Rock On — A SongPop Adventure for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Rock On is an iOS music trivia game that takes the proven formula of the hit game SongPop in a bold new direction. Listen to clips and guess the band in more than 80 levels spread across many rock genres. Rock On has beautiful graphics, great music, and even allows you to compare your progress and high scores against your friends.

Rock On — A SongPop Adventure is available exclusively on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. (And, on a technical note, it’s written using Swift.) It’s a free download.

Apple Watch: An Overnight Multi-Billion Dollar Business 

Intriguing piece by analyst Carl Howe on Apple Watch:

I think I’ll save that analysis for another posting, but my belief is that the Apple Watch product line will become Apple’s most profitable product line ever, with gross margins exceeding 60 percent. Why? Because the core electronics modules in the expensive models are the same ones used in the Sport models, and they just don’t cost that much. And while adding Gold cases and designer bands add cost to the bill of materials, the costs are small compared to the price premiums paid for these products. Unlike in the consumer electronics business, I see no pressure for prices to fall and if anything manufacturing costs will, resulting in a very profitable business.

I think he’s made some smart guesses as to the product mix between Sport/Watch/Edition, but if I had to adjust his numbers at all, I’d move the number of Edition models Apple will sell slightly up. In Howe’s estimate, Sport is outselling Edition by about 45-to-1. But if it’s more like 30-to-1, the Edition line would account for as much or more total revenue, and certainly more profit. I’m guessing at an average selling price of around $400 for Sport (more 42 mm than 38 mm, plus lots of extra bands). But let’s say it’s as high as $425. At that ASP, 30 unit sales equals $12,750 in revenue. Given the prices of the Edition line (42 mm with Sport band costs $12,000; the ones with leather straps are $15-17,000), I’d imagine the ASP for Edition will be at least $12,750.

Angela Ahrendts: No Apple Watches for Sale in Retail Until June 

Angela Ahrendts, in a memo to retail store staff obtained by iGen:

Many of you have been getting questions asking if we will have the watch available in stores on April 24 for walk-in purchases. As we announced last week, due to high global interest combined with our initial supply, we are only taking orders online right now. I’ll have more updates as we get closer to in-store availability, but we expect this to continue through the month of May. It has not been an easy decision, and I want to share with you the thinking behind it. […]

Given the high interest and initial supply at launch, we will be able to get customers the model they want earlier and faster by taking orders online.

I know this is a different experience for our customers, and a change for you as well. Are we going to launch every product this way from now on? No. We all love those blockbuster Apple product launch days — and there will be many more to come.

Seems like a lot of people are blaming Ahrendts for this, but it seems pretty clear they just don’t have the supply at this point.

Scott Forstall Surfaces: Co-Producing Broadway Play 

Scott Forstall, on Twitter:

I’m thrilled to be co-producing the Broadway musical Fun Home funhomebroadway.com. Bravo to the phenomenal team!

Siracusa Hangs It Up 

John Siracusa:

Those who listen to the ATP, the weekly podcast I host with Marco Arment and Casey Liss, know that I’ve been contemplating hanging up my OS X reviewer’s hat for some time now. Producing thousands of words (and hundreds of screenshots) about each major release of OS X was my first real claim to fame on the Internet. The prospect of stopping has made me reconsider my public identity and sense of self. Who am I if I’m not “that guy who writes those OS X reviews”? But when I finally decided, the relief I felt let me know I’d made the right choice.

His collected reviews to date constitute a remarkable body of work. They’re not articles — they’re effectively books, each one written to John’s own impeccably high standards for thoroughness, accuracy, and writing quality. Writing a good book every year, about a moving target, on a tight deadline — that is tough.

But I’m going to miss it. A new release of OS X isn’t going to feel the same without a Siracusa review to go with it.

The Talk Show: ‘Browser Pooped on the Wee-Wee Pad’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest Joanna Stern. We talk about (what else?) Apple Watch and the new MacBook.

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Apple Watch Accessibility 

Nice to see Apple Watch ship with solid accessibility support right from the get-go.

See also: New guided tours for the Phone, Siri, Maps, and Music apps for Apple Watch.

Little Kids Choose Between iPhone and Galaxy S6 

Not sure whether this speaks more to Apple’s design prowess or brand standing.

EU Accuses Google Shopping of Search ‘Abuse’ 

BBC News:

The European Union has filed a complaint against Google over its alleged anti-competitive behaviour. The competition commissioner said she had issued a “statement of objections”, stating that the firm’s promotion of its own shopping links amounted to an abuse of its dominance in search. […]

Google accounts for more than a 90% of EU-based web searches.

I think Google’s going to lose this and be fined, but the fine will be a relative pittance. What I’m curious about is why Google’s web search share is so much higher in Europe than in the U.S. Better support for languages other than English?

Karl Lagerfeld’s Apple Watch Has a Gold Link Bracelet 

Called it. This is the first time we’ve ever seen such a thing, but I don’t think it’s one-of-a-kind. They’ll sell this eventually, and it’ll cost $30-40K.

p.s. Lagerfeld hasn’t even set this one up yet — the screen that’s shown here is the setup screen for pairing with your iPhone. You point your iPhone’s camera at your watch on this screen and it figures out which way it’s oriented, and boom, they’re paired.

p.p.s. Even just a few years ago I would not have expected I’d ever create a “Karl Lagerfeld” tag here on DF.

p.p.p.s. They’re not exposed publicly, but I’ve been tagging every entry on DF since I started writing it back in 2002.

Andy Hertzfeld on ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ 

Also at Medium’s Backchannel, Andy Hertzfeld has an interesting take on Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs:

There have been dozens of books already written about Steve Jobs, including Walter Isaacson’s best-selling, magisterial biography, which is based on over 40 exclusive interviews with the man himself. Becoming Steve Jobs distinguishes itself by emphasizing a narrative of growth and change, depicting “the evolution of a reckless upstart into a visionary leader.” Unfortunately, the authors attempt to bolster their case by exaggerating flaws and missteps in the first half of Steve’s career while diminishing them after his return to Apple in 1997.

I was surprised and chagrined by the negative tone pervading the description of Steve’s first tenure at Apple, which is somehow both a “management mess” and the fastest growing company ever. Mike Markkula is an early mentor “for better or worse.” When Steve, inspired by his visit to Xerox PARC, decides to attempt to bring the graphical user interface to the masses, he has to “deliver on this promise within the gnawing confines of Apple.”

I didn’t take Schlender and Tetzeli’s take on early Apple as overly negative. To my reading, their take on early Apple described what is patently obvious in hindsight: a company with remarkable, genius product teams, but an executive leadership team that did not and perhaps could not create a sustainable culture. Early Apple was a company with sporadic hits interspersed with years-long dry patches. The first good CEO Apple ever had was Steve Jobs 2.0 in 1997.

Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley — available free of charge on the web, but well-worth buying in print — is my favorite book on Apple ever written, by the way.

Steven Levy: ‘What the Apple Watch Means for the Age of Notifications’ 

Steven Levy, writing for Medium’s Backchannel:

We aren’t at that level of desperation yet with online notifications. But the Age of Notifications is about to face its biggest mess yet, as alerts move from phone screens to watch faces. Notifications are just about the entire point of a smart watch — you’re not going to be reading books, watching movies or doing spreadsheets on them.

I disagree, strongly, that “notifications are just about the entire point of a smart watch” — or at least for Apple Watch. There’s a reason why Apple didn’t mention notifications prominently at either of their Apple Watch events. Take another look at Apple’s Watch pages on their website, and see how much attention is paid to notifications.

But, notifications are without question one of many important features. And if you feel like your watch is more annoying than helpful, you’re not going to wear that watch. One of the most important pieces on Apple Watch in the last few weeks was Jeremy Keith’s, which wasn’t about the Apple Watch itself but rather about being ruthlessly parsimonious with regard to allowing apps to send you notifications in the first place.

Back to Levy:

So what’s the solution? We need a great artificial intelligence effort to comb through our information, assess the urgency and relevance, and use a deep knowledge of who we are and what we think is important to deliver the right notifications at the right time. As time goes on, we will trust such a system to effectively filter all our information and dole it out just as needed.

I think he’s on to something here: some sort of AI for filtering notification does seem useful. I can imagine helping it by being able to give (a) a thumbs-down to a notification that went through to your watch that you didn’t want to see there; and (b) a thumbs-up to a notification on your phone or PC that wasn’t filtered through to your more personal devices but which you wish had been.

But: this sounds too much like spam filtering to me. True spam is unasked-for. Notifications are all things for which you explicitly opted in, and can opt out of at any moment.

Horace Dediu: ‘The Watch’ 

Horace Dediu:

Realizing that on the iPhone the “phone” is but an app — one which I find populated with FaceTime calls rather than cellular calls and whose messaging history is filled with iMessage threads rather than SMS — I consider it safe to say what the iPhone is today not as much a phone as a very personal computer. And so the question is whether the Watch will quickly leave behind its timekeeping anchor and move into being something completely different.

I had the chance to use the Watch for a few days and can say that timekeeping is probably as insignificant to its essence as it’s possible to be. It feels like a watch in the physical sense, looking good in the process (as the iPhone physically felt like a phone, also without being hard on the eyes)

However it does not feel like a watch conceptually.

Great piece, and I think Horace is onto something important. But I subtly disagree. The more I live with Apple Watch, the more I think it is just a watch. Pre-iPhone, a “phone” was something we used for voice calls and text messaging. Post-iPhone, a “phone” now means a networked personal computer in your pocket or purse.

If you think of a “watch” as purely a device for telling the time of day, then Apple Watch is not just a watch. But if you think of a “watch” as a wrist-worn glance-able display of status information (including, perhaps prominently, perhaps not, the time of day), and as a signifier of your personal taste and style, then Apple Watch is very much a watch. The difference is that it’s a watch imagined from the ground up for the modern era of ubiquitous wireless networking and powerful minuscule computers.

Microsoft + iPhone 

Paul Thurrott:

And if you are a Microsoft guy, there are good reasons to choose iPhone over Android … and even over Windows Phone. Microsoft mobile apps generally appear on iPhone before they do so elsewhere, and certain Microsoft mobile apps are only available on iPhone, at least for now. In several cases, you will see finished Microsoft apps appear on iPhone, whereas Android receives a rougher preview release instead. In many ways, iPhone — or iOS more generally — is the place to be if you’re interested in Microsoft’s mobile solutions.

Good rundown of Microsoft’s wide and deep lineup of iOS apps.

One Company’s New Minimum Wage: $70,000 a Year 

Patricia Cohen, reporting for the NYT:

The idea began percolating, said Dan Price, the founder of Gravity Payments, after he read an article on happiness. It showed that, for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.

His idea bubbled into reality on Monday afternoon, when Mr. Price surprised his 120-person staff by announcing that he planned over the next three years to raise the salary of even the lowest-paid clerk, customer service representative and salesman to a minimum of $70,000.

“Is anyone else freaking out right now?” Mr. Price asked after the clapping and whooping died down into a few moments of stunned silence. “I’m kind of freaking out.”

WWDC 2015: June 8-12, Moscone West 

I usually don’t play the “let’s read into the design of the Apple event announcement” game, but damned if the center of this doesn’t look like an Apple TV. And the slogan — “The Epicenter of Change” — would fit with an expanded HomeKit role for Apple TV.

Typographically, most of this is set in Myriad, Apple’s longstanding branding typeface, but the “WWDC 15” appears to be set in San Francisco.

Update: For attendees, it’s a lottery again (and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future — the last time they simply sold passes they sold out in one minute). Interesting, but not surprising: to apply for a student scholarship, you have to submit an app that is at least partially written using Swift.

Update 2, 30 April 2015: As noted by sharp-eyed Kevin Clark, Apple has updated the logo such that “WWDC 15” is now set in Myriad, too. Details. For reference, here’s the original logo set in San Francisco, and here’s the current one set in Myriad.

I Say To-Mah-To 

Om Malik feels differently:

What blew me away was the exceptional attention to the details. The way you could slide on and off the bands from the watch was smooth and slick. There wasn’t a need for any special tools — a tiny bit of pressure does the job of sliding the bands on and off. The sliding has the smoothness of silk Then there is the quality of the leather. Just as Hermes’ leather has a unique feel to it, I bet you that soon we will talk about the Apple feel when it comes to mass-produced leather products. I touched some leather bands and was extremely blown away — thin, supple and yet you could feel that the leather could take the abuse of running with the watch, the sweat and the dirt. It was sublime. And there are magnets that allow one to clasp and unclasp the bands. It might not mean anything to many, but for me these details are enough to overlook the software shortcomings that have started cropping up in Apple products.

Functionality aside, I think one of the biggest innovations in Apple Watch is the band-swapping mechanism. It took me a few tries to get the hang of it, but once I did, I was convinced it was as easy to do as Apple says. There’s never been a watch with this sort of feature. People are going to find it fun to swap bands, and Apple is going to make a tidy sum selling them.

Some Say To-May-To 

Mike Rundle is not impressed by Apple Watch. He thinks it’s too small:

I was shocked at how small and slight the Apple Watch felt on my wrist. I’m a larger guy (6' and built like a linebacker who retired and got a little fat) and when I tried the 42mm Apple Watch Sport on, I thought it was the 38mm. I thought it was tiny and there was some mistake. It is the smallest watch that’s ever been on my wrist.

And he doesn’t like the leather bands:

I’ll just get right to it: Apple’s leather bands feel terrible. They feel like fake leather. You know how chicken nuggets are made out of that heavily processed pink chicken sludge? That’s what I think Apple does to make their leather bands. They start with real leather from some fancy tannery and then grind and engineer and twist and mold that original, nice leather into something that only has a passing resemblance to leather in the finished product.

I’ve heard this from a few others, particularly regarding the Leather Loop — that it feels not like a leather watch strap but like a magnetic metal watch strap with a thin layer of leather wrapping it. I haven’t spent significant time with any of the leather bands, but I did get to examine the Leather Loop on Nilay Patel’s watch, and my impression was positive.

Black Is the New Black 

One more thing about those Apple Watch estimates from Slice Intelligence: if they’re accurate, they suggest Apple screwed up the color choices for the Sport collection. According to Slice, a whopping 64 percent of Sport purchases were for the space gray model with black band, 22 percent for white, and a mere 6/4/4 for blue/green/pink respectively. If this is even close to the true mix, Apple probably should have left the blue/green/pink bands as accessories only, and added a black-strap-on-silver-sport-watch choice.

Market Research Firm Estimates Apple Watch Orders on First Day 

I would take these numbers with an enormous grain of salt, given the methodology: Slice Intelligence is an opt-in service that reads your email and gleans receipts from your inbox. I really have no idea what type of person would opt into such a service, but of their 2 million customers, 9,080 bought one or more Apple Watches on the first day, and they extrapolated from this:

Despite ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans, Slice Intelligence estimates that 957,000 people in the U.S. pre-ordered an Apple Watch on Friday, the first day the watch was available for sale. According to ereceipt [sic] data from a panel of two million online shoppers, each Apple Watch buyer ordered an average of 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Those ordering an Apple Watch Sport spent $382.83 per watch and those ordering the Apple Watch spent $707.04.

Apple has not announced any numbers regarding pre-orders, and I don’t think they’re going to — they announced months ago that they will not be breaking out watch revenue numbers or unit sales in financial reports, for competitive reasons. So we’re left with conjecture like this report from Slice Intelligence.

I’ve seen this report linked all over the news today, and many of the headlines state something to the effect that Apple sold “one million” watches. First, it’s just wrong to take these estimates as fact — any credible headline needs to emphasize that these figures are estimates. Second, I can’t find any record of Slice Intelligence having made similar estimates of Apple product sales in that past — estimates that we could double check against what Apple eventually reported.

But third, “one million pre-orders” is not what Slice even claims. They’re saying “957,000 people in the U.S. pre-ordered an Apple Watch on Friday” and that each ordered an average of 1.3 watches. That’s 1.25 million watches — and it’s only for the U.S. Apple Watch went on sale in nine countries last week, all of them major markets. So even if you believe Slice’s estimates are accurate, they imply that customers around the world ordered millions of Apple Watches, plural, on the first day.

Google Fiber Announces Upcoming Service in Charlotte; Time Warner Cable Makes Speeds Six Times Faster 

Jon Brodkin, reporting for Ars Technica:

With Google Fiber preparing an expansion into Charlotte, North Carolina, incumbent cable operator Time Warner Cable is trying to hold onto customers by dramatically increasing Internet speeds at no extra charge.

“The Internet transformation will begin this summer and will include speed increases on TWC residential Internet plans at no additional cost, with customers experiencing increases up to six times faster, depending on their current level of Internet service,” Time Warner Cable announced last week. “For example, customers who subscribe to Standard, formerly up to 15Mbps, will now receive up to 50Mbps, customers who subscribe to Extreme, formerly up to 30Mbps, will now receive up to 200Mbps; and customers who subscribe to Ultimate, formerly up to 50Mbps, will receive up to 300Mbps, at no extra charge.” […]

Last year in Austin, Texas, Time Warner Cable upgraded its 100Mbps Internet plan to 300Mbps after Google decided to offer service there.

Funny what even just the announcement of competition will do.

Apple Seeds First iOS 8.4 Beta to Developers With New Music App 

Interesting; I probably would have bet that 8.3 was the last update to iOS 8 before Apple went full steam ahead on iOS 9. Perhaps a (welcome) sign that they’re moving away from monolithic “here’s all the new stuff all at once” annual updates.

EFF Busts Podcasting Patent, Invalidating Key Claims at Patent Office 

The EFF:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated key claims in the so-called “podcasting patent” today after a petition for review from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) — a decision that significantly curtails the ability of a patent troll to threaten podcasters big and small.

“We’re grateful for all the support of our challenge to this patent. Today is a big victory for the podcasting community” said EFF Staff Attorney Daniel Nazer, who also holds the Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents. “We’re glad the Patent Office recognized what we all knew: ‘podcasting’ had been around for many years and this company does not own it.”

This one is near and dear to my heart — I’ll celebrate by making another contribution to the EFF. (And how great is it that there exists a “Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents”?)

PencilCase by Robots and Pencils 

My thanks to Robots and Pencils for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote PencilCase, an iOS app-making tool that doesn’t require any coding. It’s like HyperCard, reimagined for the modern world. With PencilCase you can create a native app easily: just import your design, then start adding complex animations, transitions, and interactions using the built-in tools. You can:

  • Animate anything using the physics tool or timeline.
  • Create complex behaviors using the intuitive “Whens and Thens” system.
  • Incorporate 3D models as easily as adding an image.

With one-tap publishing, your app can be instantly distributed to PencilCase: Player or exported as an Xcode project and submitted directly to the App Store.

PencilCase is free to try. Start making your own app today.

Apple Watch Sold Out in Less Than 6 Hours, All Models Now Shipping in ‘June’ 

I ordered last night the minute the store went live. The Apple Store app worked great for me — tap a collection, tap the model you want, Apple Pay, thumb on Touch ID, done.

As for the sellout and shipping dates now being in June, I get the feeling supply is low and demand is high.

Apple Rescinds Policy on Hiring Felons for Construction Work 

The San Jose Mercury News has a full story on this, but here’s the full statement Apple is sending out to the press:

“We believe in opportunity for everyone, and Apple has never had a blanket ban on hiring people with felony convictions. It recently came to our attention that, as part of a background check process unique to the Apple Campus 2 construction project, a few applicants were turned away because they had been convicted of a felony within the past seven years. We recognize that this may have excluded some people who deserve a second chance. We have now removed that restriction and instructed our contractors on the project to evaluate all applicants equally, on a case by case basis, as we would for any role at Apple.”

This sounds exactly as it should be.

List of Apple Stores That Will Carry the Apple Watch Edition at Launch 

Includes my local store here in Philly.

Bani McSpedden on Apple Watch 

Bani McSpedden is the watch editor of the Australian Financial Review — he’s a watch guy. I really enjoyed his video review.

Fight 215: Stop the Patriot Act’s Mass Surveillance 

Speaking of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and the campaign not to renew it, the EFF has put together a great little website explaining what’s going on, why it’s a problem, and most importantly, what we can do about it as citizens. They have a compelling, succinct video from Kirby Ferguson too. I strongly support this campaign, and urge you to spread the word about it, and call your congressperson.

I hate making phone calls, but I’m making this one.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: Government Surveillance 

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver devoted last week’s episode to U.S. government surveillance programs, including an interview with Edward Snowden in Moscow. It’s been widely linked, so I’ll bet you’ve already heard about it. It’s really good. Yes, it’s funny — but it’s also truly excellent journalism, and they’ve figured out a way to frame the issue that resonates with regular people. If you haven’t watched it yet, make time for it. You won’t regret it.

It’s important not only because civil liberties are important, but because the law that enables these programs — section 215 of the Patriot Act — is up for renewal this year, and it’s urgent that we press lawmakers not to.

Jason Snell Reviews the New MacBook 

Jason Snell:

Using a computer that feels like it fell through a time warp from the future is fun, but if that computer drops through the wormhole without any compatible accessories then there’s going to be some aggravation, too.

The new MacBook is one of those Apple products. It feels like it came from the future, and didn’t bring its ecosystem with it.

Like Dalrymple, Snell was thrown off by the new arrow key layout:

The Esc key has been elongated and the function keys narrowed, which didn’t really bother me. However, the redesign of the arrow keys really shook me–the up and down arrows are still half-height, but the left and right arrows are now full sized. It turns out that I used the gaps above the left and right arrow keys on prior keyboards to orient by feel, so I knew which arrow key was which. On the MacBook’s keyboard, there’s no longer a gap–and I kept having to look down to make sure I was tapping the up arrow key.

See also, his “reviewer’s notebook” over at Six Colors:

If you don’t type a whole lot, or very fast, you may not care about the substantially reduced key travel. And you can get used to it. But it’s just a tiny step up from typing on flat touchscreen glass. I managed to score almost 120 words per minute on TypeRacer on the MacBook keyboard, but I didn’t enjoy it. If you’re someone who notices when a keyboard feels different or weird, you will notice this keyboard. If you’ve never really understood why people write about keyboards, you probably won’t care — but why are you even reading this section?

Samsung Facing Supply Shortages for Curved-Screen Galaxy S6 Edge 

Min-Jeong Lee, reporting for the WSJ:

J.K. Shin, the mobile chief, said that while the company’s Galaxy S6 Edge smartphone has garnered strong demand, the screens are difficult to make.

“We’re working hard to resolve the difficulty in supply,” he said at a media event in Seoul ahead of the flagship phone’s global launch on Friday. He added that the supply issue could persist “for a while.”

My guess is this is why they released both the regular S6 and the S6 Edge — they knew they couldn’t produce sufficient quantities of this display. If it’s in short supply alongside the regular S6, it would have been impossible to release as the only design for the S6.

Joanna Stern Reviews the New MacBook 

Joanna Stern, writing for the WSJ:

It’s nearly impossible not to be seduced by this MacBook’s beauty, its dazzling screen and perfect trackpad. But don’t give in. Like the original MacBook Air, introduced in 2008, there are too many key compromises — in battery life, speed and port access — for the early-adopter price.

I expect the new MacBook to follow the same path as the Air. Over the next few years, it will improve, and become an affordable, indispensable tool for life in the future. But here, now, in the present day, there are more practical slim, everyday laptop choices.

Again, today, I think the new MacBook is an alternative to an iPad, not a replacement for the MacBook Airs. It’ll definitely replace the Airs in a few short years, but not today.

LinkedIn Buys Lynda.com for $1.5 Billion 

Natalie Gagliordi, reporting for ZDNet:

The social network for professionals is buying lynda.com in a cash and stock deal valued at approximately $1.5 billion.

Founded in 1995, lynda.com is a subscription-based online learning portal, where members can focus on a range business and technology skill sets. The website also offers a premium subscription for members in corporate, government and educational organizations.

Executives for both companies called the merger a “kind of fit that benefits everyone.”

Interesting acquisition. They had some integration with each other already — LinkedIn users could get their profiles updated with courses they completed through Lynda.com. But another angle is that Lynda.com has a lot of site-license deals with universities — this could help funnel students into LinkedIn as they enter the job market. (Maybe that was happening anyway? It’s been a long time since I last looked for a job.)

Jim Dalrymple Reviews the New 12-Inch MacBook 

Jim Dalrymple, on a subject near and dear to my heart, the feel of the new keyboard:

When you first start using the keyboard, you may get the feeling that you didn’t actually hit the key, but you really did. This is what will take some getting used to — I am typing very quickly with the MacBook now, but it took a day or two in order for my mind to trust my fingers were hitting all the keys.

The arrow keys took the most time to get used to. Surprising, I know. However, I use the up and down arrow keys a lot to navigate email messages and RSS feeds and those keys are quite close together — in fact, they are the only two keys on the keyboard that are so close together. It’s like the person that designed the keyboard doesn’t use those two keys and put them together like that because it looked better. At any rate, those keys are just taking a bit longer for me to use without error. I hope for a change in the future.

The difference between the new arrow key layout and the old one is that the left and right keys are now full height, but the up/down ones are still half-height.

Overall, it sounds like the machine you think it is: an iPad-esque device for people who would rather use OS X with a laptop form factor than iOS on a tablet as their portable. People who want this thing to have more ports and better performance aren’t looking at it for what it is — they’re looking at it for what they want it to be.

Amazon Files First-Ever Suit Over Fake Product Reviews 

Todd Bishop, reporting for GeekWire:

Amazon has filed suit against the alleged operator of several sites that offer Amazon sellers the ability to purchase fake 4- and 5-star customer reviews of their products.

The suit, the first of its kind from the Seattle company, was filed in King County Superior Court against a California man, Jay Gentile, identified in Amazon’s filings as the operator of sites including buyazonreviews.com, buyamazonreviews.com, bayreviews.net and buyreviewsnow.com. The site also targets unidentified “John Does” also believed to be involved in the scheme.

Good for Amazon; I hope they win. But I worry that this is just a game of whack-a-mole — there are so many scammers out there doing this for product reviews and the App Store.

Jeff Carlson Reviews Photos for Mac 

Jeff Carlson, writing for Macworld:

Photos is a big step up for iPhoto users, with better speed and editing tools. Power users of Aperture will probably want to stay with Aperture or switch to another pro-level app like Lightroom.

Popcorn Time for iOS, Doesn’t Require Jailbreak 

Mic Wright, writing for The Next Web:

While Popcorn Time has been available on Android for some time, it’s now arrived on iOS with an installer that can put the app on non-jailbroken devices. It’s likely that it uses a test key from an enterprise device to achieve that.

If that’s the case, the key could be revoked by Apple, right?

We’ve chosen not to link to the Popcorn Time for iOS installer in this story. It’s only available for Windows currently but the developers say an OS X version will arrive in the next few weeks.

That it’s Windows-only for now is the most surprising thing in this story. You don’t see that much these days. Perhaps this simply says something about the seedy nature of the pirated content community.

iMore’s Guide to Photos for Mac 

Comprehensive.

And don’t miss the companion piece, iMore’s equally comprehensive guide to the just-out-of-beta iCloud Photos Library. Read these and you should be all set.

iOS 8.3 

Josh Centers at TidBITS has a nice rundown of what’s new.

OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 With New Photos for OS X App 

It’s been a long transition, but starting today, Apple’s photo management circle is complete. Software is never finished, of course, but what I’m saying is that they now have a complete story for how photos should sync between all of your devices. Back in the day, iPhoto was a revelation — prior to that, we were managing digital photos manually, using folders in the Finder. But they really did need to start over to move the Mac’s photo app from being local storage-centric to cloud-centric.

White South Carolina Police Officer Shoots Fleeing Black Man in Back 

The NYT:

A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled.

The Times has the video, and it is disturbing. Slager shoots Scott in the back as he’s fleeing, then plants some sort of evidence on Scott’s body — apparently his service taser, to create false evidence that they were struggling over the weapon when he shot him — in plain sight of another officer on the scene.

They even lied about performing CPR on Scott as he bled to death:

Police reports say that officers performed CPR and delivered first aid to Mr. Scott. The video shows that for several minutes after the shooting, Mr. Scott remained face down with his hands cuffed behind his back. A second officer arrives, puts on blue medical gloves and attends to Mr. Scott, but is not shown performing CPR. As sirens wail in the background, a third officer later arrives, apparently with a medical kit, but is also not seen performing CPR.

Update: Here’s how the story was being reported before the video surfaced.

‘Finally’ of the Week 

Brian Barrett, writing for Wired, “Cheap USB-C Cables for Your MacBook Are Finally Here”:

When Apple announced its slender, pixel-packed new MacBook last month, it ushered in the era of USB-C, the next-generation port that handles all your charging and connectivity needs. The only problem? Affordable USB-C cables hadn’t yet been ushered in along with it.

I know the standards for putting finally in a headline are pretty low at most publications, but how can this warrant one when the new MacBook doesn’t ship until Friday? You can’t even pre-order one yet. Who exactly does the “your” in the headline apply to?

Duncan Robson: Supercuts 

I love the recursive nature of his Patreon pitch video. For just $1 a pop, I’m in. Let’s pile it on. (Via Andy Baio, of course.)

TripAdvisor, Booking.com Reviews Start Appearing in Apple Maps 

Chris Barylick, writing for O’Grady’s PowerPage:

Apple Maps is starting to get some neat stuff put in.

Since the launch of the app back in 2012, Yelp has served as the sole partner for integrating customer reviews of businesses and other points of interest. Recently, Apple’s Maps app has begun including reviews from TripAdvisor and Booking.com on select hotel listings.

A fundamental difference between Apple and Google is that Apple is willing to make partnerships for things like this. Google, like Microsoft of yore, wants to do everything itself. The question is, which leads to a better experience? Google’s approach to services — owning and controlling everything — is a lot like Apple’s approach to devices.

Controlling Notifications 

Jeremy Keith:

The only time my phone is allowed to ask for my attention is for phone calls, SMS, or FaceTime (all rare occurrences). I initiate every other interaction — Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, the web. My phone is a tool that I control, not the other way around.

I’m not as extreme as Keith, but this has long been my approach to notification overload: turn notifications off.

‘I Think That’s the Shit’ 

Nicole LaPorte goes behind-the-scenes with HBO CEO Richard Plepler in a feature story for Fast Company:

By the time of Murdoch’s bid, Plepler says, he had already called up his old friend Jimmy Iovine to help him execute a pivot. Plepler had done PR for Iovine years earlier, at Warner Music. Iovine had sold Beats, the headphone business he owned with Dr. Dre, to Apple in May, for $3 billion. Plepler asked if Iovine thought Apple would be interested in being the lead distributor of HBO Now. Iovine didn’t hesitate: “I think that’s the shit,” he said.

Plepler also reached out to Time Warner board member Paul Wachter, who worked on the Apple-Beats deal in his day job as an investment banker. Wachter connected him with Apple’s digital media chief, Eddy Cue, who came to New York for a meeting in Plepler’s office. Plepler explained that he needed a distributor, and that HBO Now would be ready by the spring (when Game of Thrones’ season 5 would bow). Cue tells me that he wanted to do the deal with HBO “the next day.”

Ralph McQuarrie and James Bond 

Holy crap: a 1986 Ralph McQuarrie rendering for a planned Universal Studios stunt show spectacular. (Thanks to Cabel Sasser.)

Highball 1.0 

New free iOS cocktail app from the clever fellows at Studio Neat. Their novel idea: shareable recipe cards, like this one from yours truly (riffing off Jim Coudal’s canonical Perfect Martini). They might have actually found a good use for QR codes.

More on Apple’s Construction Hiring 

Wendy Lee, in a follow-up report for the San Francisco Chronicle:

A person familiar with the policy said construction workers with felony convictions within the last seven years are not permitted on the site, while those with earlier felony convictions could find work building the campus. People with “felony charges pending court disposition” are evaluated on a case by case basis, said the source.

“Evaluated on a case by case basis” is very different from the blanket ban Lee reported over the weekend.

In a separate op-ed piece, Debra J. Saunders reiterates the same policy:

Apple would not respond on the record, but someone familiar with the matter said the Apple policy affects only ex-offenders convicted of felonies in the past seven years. The person said that the corporation reviews pending charges and does not automatically discharge those facing prosecution, and that the policy exists to promote quality and safety. […]

Apple has not alleged that any of the fewer than five workers let go were not pulling their weight on the job.

I’m not sure where her “fewer than five workers” figure comes from — if they can be that specific, why not an exact number? But if I had to guess, I’d say “fewer than five” means “three or four”. Here’s my question that the Chronicle has not addressed: do other companies of similar stature to Apple — Google, Intel, Facebook, etc. — have similar hiring policies for construction work?

Update: Email from DF reader “CT”:

I work in the public service and when dealing in statistics we say either 0 or fewer than 5.

Giving a specific number lower than 5 risks identifying individuals. If only one person had to leave the Apple site, and they say “one worker”, their fellow workers could conclude that they have a felony conviction. From a privacy perspective it is better to keep it ambiguous than to risk identifying an individual.

Star Wars Digital Movie Collection Coming April 10 

Good news, but we’re still stuck with the Special Edition cuts.

‘Welcome to Macintosh’ 

Concise, tightly-edited, informative, and fun new podcast by young Mr. Mark Bramhill. Three episodes so far — go ahead and listen to them all. So good.

Rolling Stone UVA Rape Story Retraction: A Case Study in Failed Journalism 

Jonathan Mahler, writing for the NYT: 

Now that the facts have been laid bare, “A Rape on Campus,” published in November, joins America’s rogues’ gallery of journalism scandals. For ease of reference, the scandals can be divided into three general categories (excluding the recent phenomenon of television figures telling tall-tale war stories).

The first two are straightforward. There is pure fabrication, for which high-profile culprits include Jayson Blair (The New York Times), Stephen Glass (The New Republic) and, going back a little further, Janet Cooke (The Washington Post). And there is the act of plagiarism (culprits too numerous to list).

“A Rape on Campus” falls into a third category: lack of skepticism.

Iran and the Obama Doctrine 

Barack Obama, in an interview with Thomas Friedman:

“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” the president said. “You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us. … You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.”

I love this. The central failing of the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed U.S. politics is that we don’t try anything. Try something new, see if it works, and if it doesn’t, change it again.

Report Claims Samsung Paid Hundreds of ‘Fans’ to Attend Galaxy S6 Launch in China 

WantChinaTimes:

South Korean smartphone giant Samsung paid people to pretend to be its fans at a press conference for its products’ release on Friday, reports Shanghai-based news outlet the Paper.

A person specializing in recruiting these “fans” said he brought over 100 people to the event. They and the other groups of people brought by other recruiters reached 400 to 500 in total. These hired “fans” amounted to around half of the 1,000 people at the event, according to the Paper. […]

The recruiters told them to tell reporters they were at the event because they are Samsung’s fans or interested in the smartphone brand’s new model the S6, said the paper. Over half of the people taking photos of Samsung’s latest model the S6 and the S6 Edge were using iPhones.

Update: Samsung’s official blog has issued a denial:

Samsung investigated a media report on April 3 that claimed people were temporarily hired and paid to attend the Galaxy S6 launching event in Shanghai, China and later found that the story was totally groundless and bogus.

The news article contended that part-timers, acting as “fanboys”of Samsung smartphones, participated in the launching event. However, our findings have indicated that under no circumstances has anyone been hired or given money to attend the event.

The Future of Apple Watch and Apps 

Also from Abdel Ibrahim, an interesting take on Apple Watch not having a primarily app-centric interaction model:

From the Watch Face, you are able to see your Glances and notifications. In order to see apps, you have to engage the Digital Crown. This makes it seem pretty obvious that Apple has purposely designed apps not to be front and center like they are on iPhone. Instead, Apple Watch apps are mere repositories where stored information can be pushed to the user in the form of Glances and via Notification Center.

This may sound a little weird, and I think to some of us it is. We’re used to apps being the focal point. But on Apple Watch, on initial waking, they’re not.

‘Apparently None of You Guys Realize How Bad of an Idea a Touchscreen Is on a Phone’ 

Abdel Ibrahim, cherry-picking from Engadget commenters pooh-poohing the original iPhone keynote in 2007:

Apparently none of you guys realize how bad of an idea a touch-screen is on a phone. I foresee some pretty obvious and pretty major problems here.

I’ll be keeping my Samsung A707, thanks. It’s smaller, it’s got a protected screen, and it’s got proper buttons. And it’s got all the same features otherwise. (Oh, but it doesn’t run a bloatware OS that was never designed for a phone.)

Color me massively disappointed.

The Samsung A707 was a real beauty.

Felons Barred From Constructing Apple’s Campus 

Wendy Lee, reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Several construction workers who were hired to build the exterior of Apple’s new campus in Cupertino were ordered to leave the site in January due to prior felony convictions, several union officials and workers told The Chronicle. The ban is unusual for construction work, a field in which employers typically do not perform criminal background checks. […]

Banning felons could bring about legal ramifications for Apple, said Lisa Klerman, a law professor at the University of Southern California. “If they are just disqualifying people with felony convictions with no connection to the job, they could be challenged legally,” Klerman said.

I know nothing about the labor laws surrounding this, but could not the explanation for why this is “unusual” simply be that it’s more expensive to conduct background checks for every worker?

Update:

For work on the Apple site, anyone with a felony conviction or facing felony charges “does not meet owner standards,” according to documents from construction companies acquired by The Chronicle.

The “facing felony charges” prohibition is worth noting. Whatever your stance on the prohibition against those convicted of a felony within the last seven years, not hiring those merely facing charges seems blatantly contrary to our tradition of “innocent until proven guilty”.

I’m also curious whether these policies actually are “unusual for construction work” — especially for large companies. On Twitter, Greg Koenig says Intel has the same policy for its D1X chip fab in Oregon.

Igloo 

My thanks to Igloo for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Here’s the thing: most “intranets” suck. They’re ugly, cluttered, and render poorly on mobile devices.

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Sound too good to be true? Sign up now and try Igloo yourself — it’s totally free of charge for up to 10 users.

‘Blade Runner Reality’ on Instagram 

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”

(Via Christopher Curley at the AV Club.)

Joanna Stern’s Galaxy S6 Review 

Joanna Stern, for the WSJ:

Since the dawn of the smartphone wars, there have been basic truths about Samsungs: They’re made of flimsy plastic, their cameras can’t keep up with the iPhone’s, and their modified Android software is ugly and intolerably cluttered.

With the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, which arrive at U.S. carriers on April 10, none of that is true anymore. I am not afraid to say it: I love Samsung’s new phones, maybe even more than my own iPhone 6. Like a child who just found out that Santa isn’t real, I have spent the past week questioning everything I know.

A rave review for everything but Samsung’s software:

Samsung even tidied up many of its ugly app icons. Still, from the app tray to the pull-down notification menu, the styling of the operating system isn’t nearly as polished as stock Android 5.0. On top of that, Samsung’s keyboard seemed to hate my fingers, constantly inserting typos. A phone this beautiful deserves equally beautiful software.

The Galaxy S6 — like the iPhone 3GS lookalikes from 2010 — proves that it’s easier to create Apple-reminiscent hardware than software. Skin-deep software styling is one thing — just look at the Galaxy S6’s keyboard — but copying the whole experience is a nearly Sisyphean task that Samsung clearly isn’t up to.

The Talk Show: ‘Turd on the Front Porch’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns, with the intention of not talking about Apple Watch — and so of course we spend two hours talking about Apple Watch. Other topics include the launch of Jay Z’s streaming music service Tidal, audience ceilings faced by different types of dedicated TV devices, and Meerkat-vs.-Periscope and the nascent revolution of ubiquitous live-streaming video. We make some NCAA men’s basketball Final Four picks, too.

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Bloomberg: ‘Samsung Said to Win Apple A9 Chip Orders for Next IPhone’ 

Jungah Lee and Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Samsung Electronics Co. will manufacture the main chip in Apple Inc.’s next iPhone model, regaining a customer previously lost to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Samsung will start making Apple A9 processor chips at its Giheung plant in South Korea, the people said, asking not to be identified because the contract hasn’t been discussed publicly.

The industry’s strangest arch-rivalry/partnership continues.

Apple Watch Guided Tours 

These are the sort of things I expected to see at Apple’s March 9 event. I’m not saying they should have shown these then, or demoed these things on stage — I’m just saying I expected them. I think strategically, Apple decided to hold these back and release them now — one week ahead of pre-orders — to build publicity and interest to a fever pitch.

Apple Asks TV Networks to Supply Their Own Streams for Apple TV Service 

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

TV sources say Apple executive Eddy Cue, who heads up the company’s media efforts and is leading negotiations for the new streaming service, has told them that Apple feels it should concentrate on what it’s best at — creating consumer hardware and software — and leave other tasks, like streaming infrastructure, for people who specialize in it.

An alternative theory, suggested by someone involved in the discussions: Apple thinks that if programmers are responsible for handling their own streams, Internet providers like Comcast and Verizon, who sell their own bundles of video programming, will be less likely to penalize Apple’s service.

I’m not surprised that Apple is allowing networks to provide their own streams if they choose to. Many of them are great at it — MLB Advanced Media (which is providing the backend for HBO Now, among many other networks) and Netflix come to mind. But I’m a little surprised they aren’t offering to host the streams for smaller outfits, startup-sized “networks” — it’d be a way to make content exclusive to Apple’s devices without Apple actually producing its own content.

Positing That Tesla Is a Battery Company 

Jeremy Welch:

Tesla Motors started as a Car company, but they should now be considered to be a Battery company for three key reasons:

  1. Tesla leadership has expertise in batteries and energy systems.
  2. Batteries are the most important component of an electric vehicle (EV).
  3. Tesla can enter other markets with the battery tech they developed while building EVs.

I’m always a little wary of any such “__ isn’t what you think it is” arguments, but, it’s interesting to note that the company is named after an energy pioneer, not a car pioneer.

Adobe Slate 

New iPad app from Adobe that lets you combine words and images into beautiful stories. Maybe sort of the modern-day equivalent of desktop publishing?

Galaxy S6 Edge Fares Worse Than iPhone 6 Plus Under Bend Pressure 

Stephen Hall, writing for 9to5Google on the results of a bend test conducted by SquareTrade:

The iPhone 6 Plus bends under about 110 pounds of pressure, and reached “catastrophic failure” at 179 pounds. The Galaxy S6 edge reached its bending point at the same amount of pressure as Apple’s phone, but didn’t fare nearly as well overall. The S6 screen cracked at this same bending point pressure, and saw its complete destruction at a lesser 149 pounds.

Good times, Samsung, good times. And I’m sure every publication that reported on the iPhone 6 “bendgate” will devote similar attention to this.

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Kick Off at Midnight Pacific Time 

Going to be a late night here on the U.S. east coast.

Update: To be clear, that’s 12:01a PT, Friday 10 April. In other words, late Thursday night/very very early Friday morning. I didn’t specify the day because I’m well aware of it, but I should have.

New York Times Story Asks: ‘Should Grown Men Use Emoji?’ 

Matt Haber, writing for the NYT:

Given their resemblance to the stickers that adorn the notebooks of schoolgirls, not to mention their widespread adoption as the lingua franca of tweens and teens everywhere, some people wonder whether grown men should be using them at all.

Where is that “Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended” emoji when we need it?

Dieter Bohn’s Galaxy S6 Review for The Verge 

Dieter Bohn calls it the best phone Samsung’s ever made, and probably the best Android phone on the market today:

There’s probably no greater source of complaints with Android phones than their cameras. Samsung has always managed to float above the sea of Android photographic disappointment, but never really soared. With the S6 and its optically stabilized, 16-megapixel sensor, it’s really starting to fly.

I really am curious to see if the S6 reverses Samsung’s recent slide.

‘An Odd Air of Familiarity’ 

Chris Velazco, reviewing the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge for Engadget (bold emphasis added):

And no, your eyes don’t deceive you: The Galaxy S6 looks (and feels) an awful lot like an iPhone. From those rounded sides to the chrome-rimmed, fingerprint-sensing Home button to placement of the volume buttons on the left edge and the power button on the right, there’s an odd air of familiarity surrounding the thing. (A brief aside: One of Samsung’s spokespeople picked up my iPhone 6 during our hands-on time in February and it seemed to take him a few moments to realize what he was actually holding.) Flame wars on the matter are already starting to brew, but I’m not too concerned; Samsung’s end result is lovely, and that’s all most people will care about.

Really interested to see how the S6 fares. Also interested to see how much Samsung’s next watch looks like an Apple Watch.

A Tale of Two Wearables 

MG Siegler:

A lot of people don’t seem to understand the point of the Apple Watch. Why do you need one when you already have your phone on you? Privacy concerns, location tracking, etc.

With the MagicBand, many of those weaknesses are perceived as strengths.

Napkin 1.5 

Great update to one of my favorite new Mac apps in recent years. Check out the video for a concise tour.

Pizza at Weddings 

Melissa McEwan:

So, one of the common responses I’m seeing — mostly on Twitter, although it came up in comments here, too — to the Indiana pizza place refusing service is: “Har har who even has pizza at a wedding?”

Poor people. That’s who has pizza at a wedding. […]

It’s not unusual around here to see weddings, or funerals, catered by a pizza place. Pizza is all that many people can afford.

Point taken. All the more reason, though, to oppose these laws that open the doors to discrimination.

A Complete Guide to the Lenses Used by Stanley Kubrick 

Fascinating 12-minute video narrated by Joe Dunton. If you care about your work, you care about your tools.

Update: Another video, specifically on Kubrick’s use of the Mitchell BNC camera and that amazing f/0.7 Zeiss lens on Barry Lyndon. I love the story at the beginning about how he got Warner Brothers to just give him the BNC cameras.

The Economist on Microsoft 

The Economist:

“What are you on? The ‘fuck Windows’ strategy?” Back in the late 1990s, when Bill Gates was still Microsoft’s boss, any employee who had the temerity to suggest something that could possibly weaken the firm’s flagship operating system was sure to earn his wrath. Even after Steve Ballmer took over from Mr Gates in 2000, that remained the incontestable law at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, in Washington state. Everything Microsoft did had to strengthen Windows, to make it ever more crushingly dominant. Many of the company’s best innovations were killed because of this “strategy tax”, as it was known internally.

Today the rules are different in Redmond. The new boss who took over last year, Satya Nadella (pictured, centre, with Mr Gates to the left and Mr Ballmer on the right), recoils when he hears the term “strategy tax” and says he now tells his staff simply to “build stuff that people like”.

Sounds like just what Microsoft needs. Then this:

Yet Mr Nadella’s biggest achievement so far is that he has given Microsoft a coherent purpose in life, as it enters its fifth decade. He sums it up in two mottos. One is “mobile first, cloud first”: since these are where the growth is going to come from, all new products need to be developed for them.

At first I wanted to quip that they can’t both be first. But maybe they can. They’re not in conflict, and they’re potentially complementary. The idea is, everything Microsoft does should be of primary relevance to mobile (devices being used) and the cloud (for storage and incoming data). That strikes me as a good focus for Microsoft.

That’s a Big ‘If’ 

Alyssa Marino, reporting for Indiana’s ABC 57 News:

A small-town pizza shop is saying they agree with Governor Pence and the signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The O’Connor family, who owns Memories Pizza, says they have a right to believe in their religion and protect those ideals.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” says Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza.

I don’t mean to make light of a serious issue, because if there are bigots like this who own a pizza joint, there are bigots like this who own a florist shop or catering business. But. Just how many gay couples are coming in asking to have a pizza party wedding? I’m guessing this is not an actual problem for Memories Pizza.

And what the hell kind of a name for a pizza joint is “Memories Pizza”? What kind of memories are they talking about? Memories of when they lived in a city where you could actually get good pizza?

(Their Yelp page is something.)

Update: People do have pizza served at their weddings.

Amazon Dash Replenishment Service 

The other (and perhaps more interesting side) of yesterday’s Dash Button announcement is the back-end that makes it work:

Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) enables connected devices to order physical goods from Amazon when supplies are running low — like a coffee maker that orders more coffee beans. By using DRS, device makers are able to leverage Amazon’s authentication and payment systems, customer service, and fulfillment network — giving their customers access to Amazon’s low prices, great selection, and reliable delivery.

Amazon Dash Button 

Feels like Amazon meets Philip K. Dick: free little logo-branded dinguses Amazon will give you to stick around your house, and click when you need to re-order more of whatever it’s for. A Bounty paper towel button in your kitchen, a Tide detergent button in your laundry room, Gatorade and Izze soda buttons on your fridge — you get the idea. I’m not sure whether this is genius, or the stupidest thing Amazon has tried yet.

Update: A bunch of people are convinced this is a prank for Internet Jackass Day, but Amazon confirmed to The New York Times that it’s a real product.

Verizon Wireless Customers Can Now Opt Out of ‘Supercookies’ 

Brian X. Chen, reporting for the NYT:

“As the mobile advertising ecosystem evolves, and our advertising business grows, delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus,” Ms. Lewis said. “As a reminder, we never share information with third parties that identifies our customers as part of our advertising programs.”

Translation from corporate jargon to plain English: We were forced to do this because of public scrutiny.

To disable the header tracking, users can opt out of the program called Relevant Mobile Advertising. When that happens, Verizon stops inserting the header, according to the company. Users can unsubscribe from the program on Verizon’s website or by calling 1-866-211-0874.

If you’re a Verizon customer, opt out. Three of the four lines on my family account already were, but the fourth one wasn’t.