Linked List: December 2016

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorships for Q1 2017 

Schedule is wide open at this moment, including next week. If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s savvy audience, get in touch.

Daring Fireball vs. Facebook 

John Scalzi, reviewing his 2016 web traffic stats:

As with last year, most people coming to the site came here by three ways: Google, Facebook and Twitter, those three arranged in descending order of importance. This is the Internet as it exists now, folks. The one individually-owned site that sent the most people here (Daring Fireball) sent maybe 1.5% of the traffic Facebook did over the year. Which, actually, is pretty impressive if think about relative sizes.

I feel good that DF ranked first among individually-owned sites, but it’s depressing that it ranked first with so little share.

Anil Dash’s Advice for Twitter 

Anil Dash makes many good points about Twitter, but this one is the best:

Your relationship with Wall Street investors (and, to some degree, with advertisers) is fundamentally broken because you’ve gotten trapped into using the wrong metrics to measure the success or progress of Twitter. New signups are flat, and they’re going to stay flat, and every desperate flailing attempt to change that just reminds engaged users that they’re not seeing any progress and they don’t believe you can ship features they care about. Meanwhile, do you know how many new video creators joined YouTube this quarter? Me neither! You know why? Because all the good videos are on YouTube! What percentage of people who visit YouTube each month are logged in? What percentage ever uploaded a video? Answer: Nobody gives a shit. Because YouTube inarguably drives culture, and people (and advertisers!) want to be part of that.

Similarly, when Trump destroys the planet with more rambling, incoherent abusive gibberish, nobody is going to ask, “Did he say it on Tumblr?” Because Twitter is the place that popular culture gets created and discussed! I’m not happy about the fact that Twitter helped Trump get elected, but it makes it damned obvious that investors watching your signup numbers have thoroughly missed the point. Change the metrics, change the story, take the reins and lead them into a better understanding of the world than whatever meager measurements they got obsessed with in 2009.

By measuring the wrong things, not only is Twitter not being rewarded for what it is doing well, but it’s also providing motivation to Twitter to allow bad behavior. I see porno spam all the time now on Twitter, and I’m certain it would be trivial — trivial — for Twitter to block it. But they don’t, and I can only surmise the reason why is that because they’re measuring “activity”, they see all activity as good activity.

From the DF Archive: ‘Short and Curlies’ 

Yours truly, back in 2003, arguing for proper typography on the web:

Cory Doctorow says he hates curly quotes in web content. While I agree with him that there’s a problem, I completely disagree about the solution.

Let’s be clear: I’m the author of SmartyPants, a plug-in for Movable Type (and soon, Blosxom) weblogs which automatically generates the typographically-correct punctuation Mr. Doctorow is complaining about, so I’m not exactly an unbiased observer — I’m partially responsible for the growing movement toward using proper punctuation on weblogs.

And I couldn’t be prouder.

Doctorow’s solution is for everyone to just stick with 7-bit ASCII characters. My solution is to fix or discard any retarded software that still insists on such restrictions. It’s 2003, right?

And here we are 14 years later, still arguing about this, and struggling with CMSes that don’t make it easy despite the fact that, algorithmically, it’s a solved problem.

(My 2003 self has successfully amused today’s self with the headline and sub-heads of this piece.)

Glenn Fleishman: ‘Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes?’ 

Glenn Fleishman, writing for The Atlantic:

Many aspects of website design have improved to the point that nuances and flourishes formerly reserved for the printed page are feasible and pleasing. But there’s a seemingly contrary motion afoot with quotation marks: At an increasing number of publications, they’ve been ironed straight. This may stem from a lack of awareness on the part of website designers or from the difficulty in a content-management system (CMS) getting the curl direction correct every time. It may also be that curly quotes’ time has come and gone.

Major periodicals have fallen prey, including those with a long and continuing print edition. Not long ago, Rolling Stone had straight quotes in its news-item previews, but educated them for features; the “smart” quotes later returned. Fast Company opts generally for all “dumb” quotes online, while the newborn digital publication The Outline recently mixed straight and typographic in the same line of text at its launch. Even the fine publication you’re currently reading has occasionally neglected to crook its pinky.

I solved this problem with SmartyPants back in November 2002, three months after starting Daring Fireball. The key appeal of SmartyPants is that you can keep your source prose in dumb ASCII — the transformation to proper typographic punctuation occurs in the output.

Unsurprisingly, the third post ever published on Daring Fireball was devoted to the topic. Over 26,000 posts later, I just fixed a few broken links in that post to point to versions of those pages cached by the amazing Internet Archive.

Many Americans — Especially but Not Exclusively Trump Voters — Believe Crazy, Wrong Things 

Catherine Rampell, writing for The Washington Post:

Many Americans believe a lot of dumb, crazy, destructive, provably wrong stuff. Lately this is especially (though not exclusively) true of Donald Trump voters, according to a new survey.

The survey, from The Economist/YouGov, was conducted in mid-December, and it finds that willingness to believe a given conspiracy theory is (surprise!) strongly related to whether that conspiracy theory supports one’s political preferences.

Speaking of Deepak Chopra and Bullshit 

While searching the DF archives prior to posting the previous two items on bullshit, I came across the single previous mention of Deepak Chopra — mocking his bullshit in Microsoft’s short-lived 2008 “I’m a PC” ad campaign. Perfect.

Why Bullshit Is No Laughing Matter 

Speaking of bullshit, this piece by Gordon Pennycook for Aeon is excellent:

To understand how we investigated bullshit empirically, consider the following examples:

The invisible is beyond new timelessness.

As you self-actualise, you will enter into infinite empathy that transcends understanding.

These statements are, definitively, bullshit. I can say this directly because they were generated using two websites: wisdomofchopra.com and the New Age Bullshit Generator. Both select buzzwords at random and use them to form sentences. They have no intended meaning and use vagueness to mask their vacuity. They are bullshit.

Across four studies and with more than 800 participants, we found that people consistently rate blatant bullshit such as this as at least somewhat profound. More importantly, this tendency — which we referred to as bullshit receptivity — was more common among people who performed worse on a variety of cognitive ability- and thinking-style tests, and who held religious and paranormal beliefs. Put differently, more logical, analytical and skeptical people were less likely to rate bullshit as profound, just as you might expect.

And an important conclusion:

Bullshit is much harder to detect when we want to agree with it. The first and most important step is to recognise the limits of our own cognition. We must be humble about our ability to justify our own beliefs. These are the keys to adopting a critical mindset — which is our only hope in a world so full of bullshit.

(Via Michael Lopp.)

Harry Frankfurt’s ‘On Bullshit’ 

I could have sworn I’ve linked to this book before, but apparently not. I’ve read it at least twice, and plan to read it once again over the holiday weekend:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, “we have no theory.”

Frankfurt, one of the world’s most influential moral philosophers, attempts to build such a theory here. With his characteristic combination of philosophical acuity, psychological insight, and wry humor, Frankfurt proceeds by exploring how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying. He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all.

Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner’s capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Essential reading in the era of Trump. Don’t think it’s silly because the word bullshit is in the title — it’s a magnificent, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book.

The Talk Show: ‘Surface Curious’ 

New episode of America’s favorite 3-star podcast, with special guest Rene Ritchie. Topics include Siri vs. Alexa, and whether Wynn Las Vegas’s announcement that they’re putting Amazon Echos into their 4,700+ guest rooms is a sign that Amazon is building a meaningful long-term lead in the nascent voice assistant market; Mark Gurman’s week-ago piece for Bloomberg, “How Apple Alienated Mac Loyalists”; Consumer Reports’s bizarre but widely-publicized battery test results for the new MacBook Pros; and a brief year in review look at our favorite new Apple products from 2016.

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‘No One Ever Went Broke Taking a Profit’ 

Andy Orin interview with Jason Fried, for Lifehacker’s “This Is How I Work” series:

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

I don’t track to-dos. I have a small handful of things I know I need to do every day. If I can’t keep them in my head, I have too many things to do. Every day is a blank slate for what I need to do. If something I was supposed to get done yesterday didn’t get done yesterday, it’s not automatically on my mind for today. Today’s mind is a clear mind, not yesterday’s remnants.

That wouldn’t work for me — I literally need to write down the stuff I want to do every day, or I’ll forget something — but I love the mindset.

This is good advice too:

I’m a one-computer guy — a 12-inch MacBook, so I can work from anywhere. Years ago I used multiple monitors and had multiple computers. Then I jettisoned multiple computers but kept the multiple monitor setup. And a few years ago I tossed out the second monitor and have been a single computer, single screen person since then. I go full screen on nearly every app. I also hide my dock. I don’t want anything pulling my attention away. When I’m curious I’ll look. Otherwise, I’m looking at what I want, not what someone else might want me to see.

I can’t stress this enough — protect your attention like you protect your friends, family, money, etc. It’s among the most valuable things you have.

Police Seek Amazon Echo Data in Arkansas Murder Case 

Engadget:

Amazon’s Echo devices and its virtual assistant are meant to help find answers by listening for your voice commands. However, police in Arkansas want to know if one of the gadgets overheard something that can help with a murder case. According to The Information, authorities in Bentonville issued a warrant for Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to James Andrew Bates. Bates is set to go to trial for first-degree murder for the death of Victor Collins next year.

Amazon declined to give police any of the information that the Echo logged on its servers, but it did hand over Bates’ account details and purchases. Police say they were able to pull data off of the speaker, but it’s unclear what info they were able to access. Due to the so-called always on nature of the connected device, the authorities are after any audio the speaker may have picked up that night. Sure, the Echo is activated by certain words, but it’s not uncommon for the IoT gadget to be alerted to listen by accident.

This was inevitable.

Carrie Fisher Roasting George Lucas in 2005 

Hilarious.

NYT: ‘For Fact-Checking Website Snopes, a Bigger Role Brings More Attacks’ 

It’s both amazing and a little sad that Snopes has had to evolve from what used to be a sort of goofy fact-checking site for settling online disputes and trivia questions into a national authority trying to keep the president-elect and his cabinet in check.

Carrie Fisher Dies at 60 

I know.

HandBrake 1.0.0 Released After 13 Years of Development 

Finally out of beta, just in time for the demise of the optical disc.

Backchannel: ‘Voice Is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It’ 

Jessi Hempel, in an oddly-certain (to me at least) piece for Backchannel:

Yet Amazon has a two-year jump on its competition, having first introduced the Echo speaker in November 2014. Sure, only five percent of American households have an Alexa-powered device right now. But, says longtime Forrester tech analyst James McQuivey, “Qualitatively, Amazon’s position is more secure than the numbers would indicate.” […]

Second, Alexa’s users are hooked on it. About a third of them turn to the tech three times or more every single day. “People are latching on to the idea that once it is in their home, they should use it,” says McQuivey. “It turns out having microphones in your environment is a lot more convenient than pulling out your phone.”

My devil’s advocate take:

  • Amazon never releases device sales figures, so that estimate of 5 percent of U.S. households is just that, an estimate.
  • Echo is still only officially available in the U.S.. Update: Whoops, it’s now also available in the U.K. and Germany. But still, very limited worldwide.
  • If it’s true that only “a third of them turn to the tech three times or more every single day”, that means two-thirds of Echo users use it fewer than three times a day. Some Echo users are clearly “hooked on it”, but the data Hempel herself is citing suggests that most Echo users are not hooked.

Again, that’s just my devil’s advocate argument. There are some actual factual signs that Amazon’s early lead in this market is meaningful. I just don’t see any such facts in Hempel’s piece here.

Wynn Las Vegas to Equip 4,748 Hotel Rooms With Amazon Echo 

John Cook, writing for GeekWire:

Alexa, open the curtains?

You may soon be able to ask that question when traveling to the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, which announced today that it will place Amazon’s Echo device — powered by the voice assistant Alexa — in all 4,748 hotel rooms. Wynn Resorts called it an “industry first,” and founder Steve Wynn seems extremely excited about the concept of allowing hotel guests to get basic information about their rooms and the hotel rather than calling the front desk.

“I have never, ever seen anything that was more intuitively dead-on to making the guest experience seamlessly delicious, effortlessly convenient, with the ability to talk to your room and say: ‘Alexa, I am here, open the curtains, lower the temperature, turn on the news.’ She becomes our butler at the service at each of our guests.”

There’s an argument that we’re still in the very early stages of voice-driven personal computing. That, for example, Apple is not too late in putting out an Echo-like dedicated appliance. But Amazon is running full steam ahead here. 5,000 hotel rooms here, 5,000 hotel rooms there, and all of a sudden Echo is the entrenched market leader.

Controlling the drapes, lights, and TV in a hotel room is a perfect example where voice control is the right interface. I’ve stayed at the Wynn, and their hardware interface for those things isn’t bad, but there’s only a controller on one side the bed. Voice works from anywhere in the room.

I am curious, though, how Wynn is going to handle the privacy issue. With good reason, hotel guests might not want an always-on recording device in their rooms.

Sidenote: Just me, or is Steve Wynn starting to dress like a Bond villain?

Apple’s AI Team Publishes First Research Paper 

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Earlier in December, Apple announced that it would begin allowing its artificial intelligence and machine learning researchers to publish and share their work in papers, slightly pulling back the curtain on the company’s famously secretive creation processes. Now, just a few weeks later, the first of those papers has been published, focusing on Apple’s work in the intelligent image recognition field.

The details of the paper don’t matter so much as that it was published, period. Apple’s previous refusal to allow researchers to publish was severely hindering the company’s ability to attract top AI researchers.

App Santa 2016: Great Apps, Up to 80 Percent Off for Christmas 

Great deals on some great apps. The promotion is only through the end of the day, today, however, so go buy them now.

StoryWorth 

My thanks to StoryWorth for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. The holidays are here — Christmas is just two days away — and StoryWorth is a terrific and meaningful gift idea. It’s a way to get to know family members better. Here’s how it works: Each week, StoryWorth will send them a new question. They answer it with a story, which gets shared with you. After a year, all of their stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book. It’s a great way to get to know your loved ones better.

StoryWorth is the rare gift that can be purchased at the very last minute, but is still truly personal and meaningful. Even better: StoryWorth is offering Daring Fireball readers $20 off, just by following this link to buy.

On North Carolina and Democracy 

Andrew Reynolds, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina:

In 2012 Elklit and I worked with Pippa Norris of Harvard University, who used the system as the cornerstone of the Electoral Integrity Project. Since then the EIP has measured 213 elections in 153 countries and is widely agreed to be the most accurate method for evaluating how free and fair and democratic elections are across time and place.

When we evolved the project I could never imagine that as we enter 2017, my state, North Carolina, would perform so badly on this, and other, measures that we are no longer considered to be a fully functioning democracy.

In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table — a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.

This is not left versus right. This is not politics as usual. This is not something both sides do. This is about a party — the Republican Party — that no longer believes in democracy.

Update: I do believe that what is going on in North Carolina is utterly anti-democratic, but the study cited here looks like complete garbage.

Uber Explains Why It Looks Like Its App Is Still Tracking Your Location, Long After Rides End 

Great story from Sarah Perez at TechCrunch, following up on my report that some DF readers reported Uber being listed as having checked their location long after they last used the app, even though Uber claims they’re only using the “Always” location privilege for “five minutes after the trip ends”:

However, Uber says the location tracking is not intentional behavior on the part of its app.

Uber investigated the issue today, at our request, and found the issue is related to the iOS Maps extension. This also explains why not everyone was seeing the problem.

Uber’s map extension feature was made available in September, and is based on Apple’s protocol for Map extensions. Other map extensions from Uber competitors would work the same way, then.

According to an Uber spokesperson: “For people who choose to integrate ride sharing apps with iOS Maps, location data must be shared in order for you to request a ride inside the Maps app. Map extensions are disabled by default and you can choose to turn them on in your iOS settings,” they said.

In other words, it’s not a bug, it’s feature. And it’s a feature of iOS.

I think this might explain it. I’m thinking Apple should change this so that these extensions only load when you tap the “Ride” tab in Maps. As it stands now, they load (and check your location) every time you enter the Maps app, period.

Rene Ritchie on Consumer Reports’s MacBook Pro Testing 

Rene Ritchie, responding to Consumer Reports’s scathing but incredibly inconsistent battery life tests on the new MacBook Pros:

If I were running the tests, that right there would be a red flag. A huge, glowing, neon red flag.

Those results make very little sense and I’d take apart my chain, link by link, until I found out what was going on. I’d check and re-check my tests, I’d watch the systems like a hawk, and I’d do everything possible to find what was causing the variance. I’d even — gasp — try testing different machines and something other than web pages to see if that revealed more information.

Inconsistent results from battery life tests, for responsible publications, aren’t a reason to rush out a headline in time for the holidays. They’re a reason to start questioning everything, and to diligently retrace every step along the way, until you can get repeatable, reputable results.

I do think Consumer Reports rushed this out. There’s a lot of “We have no idea what’s going on” here. But something is going on.

Anecdotally, reports from DF readers are all over the map. Many are complaining that battery life is poor — not based on the “time remaining” estimate that Apple removed from the battery menu item in 10.12.2, but on real-world usage. Some though, are getting excellent battery life (as I did in my review, mostly using a Core i5 13-inch model with Touch Bar). Others are claiming they were getting poor battery life but it has greatly improved after upgrading to MacOS 10.12.2.

A friend pointed out the other day that this is where we really miss the old magazine testing labs, like Macworld’s. They’d buy all the various hardware models, test them thoroughly (and document the exact nature of the tests), and copiously report the results. It was a very useful service, and they were trustworthy.

Update: Phil Schiller, tweeting a link to Ritchie’s story:

Working with CR to understand their battery tests. Results do not match our extensive lab tests or field data.

Matthew Panzarino, in a series of tweets about Consumer Reports’s results:

Apple hasn’t given me anything on this, but I’ve had folks in know tell me that big data scoop (all MBP users) is NOT showing these results.

Consumer Reports Slams New MacBook Pros 

Jerry Bellison, Consumer Reports:

Apple launched a new series of MacBook Pro laptops this fall, and Consumer Reports’ labs have just finished evaluating them. The laptops did very well in measures of display quality and performance, but in terms of battery life, we found that the models varied dramatically from one trial to another.

As a result, these laptops are the first MacBooks not to receive recommended ratings from Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports embarrassed itself during the iPhone 4 “antennagate” story, but they’ve long rated Apple’s notebooks highly.

For instance, in a series of three consecutive tests, the 13-inch model with the Touch Bar ran for 16 hours in the first trial, 12.75 hours in the second, and just 3.75 hours in the third. The 13-inch model without the Touch Bar worked for 19.5 hours in one trial but only 4.5 hours in the next. And the numbers for the 15-inch laptop ranged from 18.5 down to 8 hours.

That’s absolutely bonkers. You expect minor variance from one run to another, but not like this. Either something is seriously wrong with these new MacBook Pros, or something is seriously wrong with Consumer Reports’s testing (or both).

Once our official testing was done, we experimented by conducting the same battery tests using a Chrome browser, rather than Safari. For this exercise, we ran two trials on each of the laptops, and found battery life to be consistently high on all six runs. That’s not enough data for us to draw a conclusion, and in any case a test using Chrome wouldn’t affect our ratings, since we only use the default browser to calculate our scores for all laptops. But it’s something that a MacBook Pro owner might choose to try.

This is crazy too. Whatever the benefits of Chrome are, everyone knows it’s an energy hog. There is no way that using Chrome should result in better (and more consistent) battery life than Safari.

Pokémon Go Arrives on the Apple Watch 

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

Following an erroneous report claiming that Niantic’s plans to bring Pokémon Go to the Apple Watch were canceled, the company today put those rumors to rest with more than a mere statement: it has now launched the Apple Watch version of its popular game. The new smartwatch app lets you more easily play Pokémon without having to always pull out your phone. Instead, you can tap to find nearby Pokémon, collect items from PokéStops, and even log your gameplay as a “workout.”

That “erroneous report” is a real doozy. Chance Miller, writing for 9to5Mac just five days ago:

After rumors emerged claiming that Niantic had ceased development of Pokémon Go for Apple Watch, 9to5Mac has confirmed with a source with knowledge of the plans that the Apple Watch app has for now been shelved.

From the Department of ‘Headlines Matter’ 

Headline from The Verge: “Google Will Launch Two Flagship Smartwatches Early Next Year”. But from the story, by Dan Seifert:

The new models will not have Google or Pixel branding, but will be branded by the company that is manufacturing them. Chang says that Google collaborated with the manufacturer — which he wouldn’t name, but said has produced Android Wear devices in the past — on the hardware design and software integration for the watches. He likened the partnership to Google’s Nexus smartphone program in terms of collaboration and goals.

So if they’re not “Google” or “Pixel” watches, why does the headline say Google is launching them? (Answer: because that headline gets more clicks than one with “LG” or whoever it is who’s making these.)

And, conversely, if, as The Verge has claimed, Google is finally getting serious about hardware and “wants to be another Apple”, why don’t these smartwatches have Google or Pixel branding?

Trump Scrambling to Book Performers for Inauguration 

Itay Hod, reporting for TheWrap:

Donald Trump is so displeased with his team’s inability to lock in A-list talent for his inauguration events next month that he’s ordered a “Hail Mary” shakeup of his recruiters to try to book performers, a person familiar with the situation told TheWrap. […]

The Trump transition has been struggling for weeks to secure A-list talent for the inauguration celebration. The only person confirmed to perform at the event is Jackie Evancho, a 16-year-old former “America’s Got Talent” contestant. She is set to sing the national anthem before he takes the oath of office

You know this is killing him.

David Pogue’s AirPods Review: ‘You’re Worrying About the Wrong Thing’ 

David Pogue:

They stay in snugly when you’re dancing, bopping, shivering. They stay in under conditions when the wired EarPods would have fallen out. In other words, here’s what most people miss: The weight and tug of the earbud cord add to the falling-out problem, rather than solving it.

So if that’s what you’re worried about, forget it.

What you do have to worry about is dropping the AirPods. They’re tiny and shiny-slick; Apple may as well have covered them with Teflon. In the three months I’ve been testing them, I’ve dropped ‘em a few times onto the floor of the commuter train or the bowels of my airplane seat, simply in the process of transferring them between their two homes: the case and your earholes. (A replacement AirPod costs $70, although of course you could always just forage in couch cushions in public places.)

Totally agree about this. After three months, I’ve never once had one fall out (your ears may vary, of course), but I have dropped them a few times.

iTunes’s Top Five Best-Selling Holiday Movies of All Time 

Elf and Christmas Vacation are perennial favorites at our house (“Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol”) — but it feels downright criminal that Die Hard isn’t on this list.

Uber Location Tracking 

After writing about how you can verify that Uber is not tracking your location other than within five minutes of ending a ride, Daring Fireball readers on Twitter started sending me screenshots of their Location Services settings, showing that the Uber app is still checking for their location days or even weeks after they last used the app.

I’m not seeing this, and I don’t think most people are, but it’s not good.

What Super Mario Run Would Look Like as a Free-to-Play Game 

Spoiler: it would look like trash.

Nintendo Share Prices Decline in Reaction to ‘Super Mario Run’ Pricing 

Mitchel Broussard, writing for MacRumors:

Nintendo and developer DeNA’s shares have declined over the weekend in reaction to negative user reviews facing the new mobile game Super Mario Run, which currently averages a 2.5/5 star rating on the iOS App Store, based on around 54,000 user reviews. Shares in DeNA have gone down 14 percent since Super Mario Run launched on December 15, while Nintendo’s stock has fallen about 13 percent in the same time frame.

Although many of the top reviews for the game remark on Super Mario Run’s better qualities, the harshest criticism remains to be Nintendo’s decision to make the game free-to-download, but $10 to unlock all of its content. Users can play nearly all of World 1 for free, but gaining deeper access to the remaining five Worlds, along with Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder modes, requires the $10 fee.

I looked through the reviews on the App Store — the first 20 or so negative reviews were entirely about the price. It’s an embarrassment that a game this good, and this high profile, has such terrible reviews because it costs $10.

There are legitimate things to complain about, particularly the always-on-internet requirement, but if you look at the reviews, it’s all about the price.

Bloomberg on Apple’s Search for an OLED Display Provider 

Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano, reporting for Bloomberg:

Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung Electronics Co.’s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety of shapes and applications.

“OLEDs aren’t just for flat areas, but can be used on edges, so smartphone makers will challenge themselves by building displays with new shapes,” Tsugami said. “These qualities in OLED will give it an advantage.”

The machines that build OLED screens are almost all made by Canon Tokki, which was founded by the current CEO’s father in 1967 (tokki means “special equipment” in Japanese). The company doesn’t disclose production details and earnings figures. Its current annual output capacity is less than 10 units, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

To call Canon Tokki’s product a machine is something of an understatement. Each one is a vacuum production line 100 meters (328 feet) long. Glass panels, roughly the size of a large TV screen, are propelled by robotic arms through several chambers. Red, green and blue pixels are deposited on the surface by evaporating organic materials.

I see the appeal from Apple’s perspective in terms of OLED displays being thinner and flexible, but the thing about this story that has never sat right with me is that OLED displays reproduce colors poorly. Colors look terrible on my Google Pixel, and I don’t think they look good on Apple Watch, either. I’d hate to see a Pixel-caliber display on an iPhone.

Vesper Open Source 

Brent Simmons:

It’s presented as a historical artifact rather than as a living project. It’s definitely not an example of how to write apps these days — and it’s not even an example of how to write apps in 2013. […]

It was written while iOS 6 was current, and it still looks like an iOS 6 app under the hood. But, at the same time, we were anticipating iOS 7, and so Vesper was an art project — we wanted Vesper to join Letterpress and Twitterrific and a few others as one of the first Modernist apps.

But we hadn’t actually seen iOS 7, and so we invented Vesper’s look and feel from scratch, though with some idea of where the puck was heading. That — combined with wanting to use Ideal Sans everywhere, even in standard things like alerts — meant we had to do a ton of custom UI and animations.

It’s interesting to me that 2013 was about the last time you could plausibly think that that’s the right thing to do. It’s clearly too expensive now — and was too expensive then, too, but we hadn’t realized it yet.

The irony is that we thought Vesper was one of the first apps of a new era — the era that officially kicked-off with iOS 7 — but, in the end, it was one of the last apps of the era where it was not uncommon for developers to spend massive amounts of time in UI invention.

That last point is so true.

AirPods Versus Powerbeats3 – Apple’s New Wireless W1 Earphones Compared 

You can tell just from the photos that the AirPods are the better design. So much smaller and lighter.

Tim Cook on Why He Met With Donald Trump 

Tim Cook, from that same Apple Web Q&A:

There’s a large number of those issues, and the way that you advance them is to engage. Personally, I’ve never found being on the sideline a successful place to be. The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena. So whether it’s in this country, or the European Union, or in China or South America, we engage. And we engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree. I think it’s very important to do that because you don’t change things by just yelling. You change things by showing everyone why your way is the best. In many ways, it’s a debate of ideas.

We very much stand up for what we believe in. We think that’s a key part of what Apple is about. And we’ll continue to do so.

Tim Cook Assures Employees That It Is Committed to the Mac and That ‘Great Desktops’ Are Coming 

Tim Cook, in a Q&A on the company’s internal message board Apple Web, leaked to Matthew Panzarino:

The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.

The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

This doesn’t surprise me, but it’s good to hear it.

I’ll note that Cook only calls out the 5K iMac — no mention of the Mac Pro.

The Hazards of Going on Autopilot 

From a 2014 story by Maria Konnikova for The New Yorker (thanks to reader Dave Aton for the link):

But, as pilots were being freed of these responsibilities, they were becoming increasingly susceptible to boredom and complacency — problems that were all the more insidious for being difficult to identify and assess. As one pilot whom Wiener interviewed put it: “I know I’m not in the loop, but I’m not exactly out of the loop. It’s more like I’m flying alongside the loop.”

Here’s the PR statement issued by Uber after one of their self-driving cars was caught on video running a red light in San Francisco last week:

“This incident was due to human error. This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers,” spokesman Matt Wing said in a statement. “This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate.”

At first read, it sounds like Uber is saying there was a human driving the car. But if you parse it closely, it could also be the case that the car was in autonomous mode, and the “human error” was that the human behind the wheel didn’t notice the car was going to sail through a red light, and failed to manually activate the brake. I think that’s what happened — otherwise the statement wouldn’t be ambiguous.

As Craig Hockenberry and I discussed on the latest episode of The Talk Show, this sort of thing seems inevitable. How can a human being maintain moment’s-notice attention for hours on end while riding in an autonomous car that drives safely for days and days? I don’t think it’s feasible.

Padded Spaces 

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

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

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

The Talk Show: ‘Frolic’ 

Craig Hockenberry returns to the show with his gigantic fleshy palms. Topics include Donald Trump’s highly publicized meeting with a handful of U.S. tech company leaders (including Tim Cook), the release of Nintendo’s Super Mario Run for iPhone, Uber’s autonomous car that was caught cruising straight through a red light in San Francisco, and Craig’s excellent new book, Making Sense of Color Management.

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North Carolina Governor Signs Law Limiting Successor’s Power 

This is the stuff of tinpot dictatorships, not democracies.

NBC News: Obama Sat on Russian Election Hack Because He Thought Clinton Would Win Anyway 

NBC News:

The Obama administration didn’t respond more forcefully to Russian hacking before the presidential election because they didn’t want to appear to be interfering in the election and they thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win and a potential cyber war with Russia wasn’t worth it, multiple high-level government officials told NBC News.

“They thought she was going to win, so they were willing to kick the can down the road,” said one U.S official familiar with the level of Russian hacking.

The administration did take action in response to the hack prior to the election. In September, President Obama privately confronted Vladimir Putin about the hacks at the G-20 summit in China. He warned the Russian President of unspecified consequences if the hacks continued.

This is what I suspected, but it hurts to hear it. This is a profound stain on Obama’s legacy.

The Elephant in the Smartwatch Room 

Neil Cybart:

There have been only three legitimate players in the smartwatch industry.

  1. Apple
  2. Garmin
  3. Samsung

Combined, these three companies have represented 78 percent of smartwatch shipments over the past two years. Even more remarkable, no other company has come close to these three in terms of unit sales. Since the beginning of 2015, only seven companies have shipped more than 200,000 smartwatches in any given quarter. Out of those seven, one will soon be broken up in a fire sale (Pebble), another just announced it was getting out of smartwatches (Motorola), and two have shown little interest in releasing new smartwatches (Huawei and LG). This leaves Apple, Garmin, and Samsung.

Super Mario Run Is Out 

Nice FAQ by Jeffrey Parkin and Dave Tach at Polygon.

I played for a bit today. I’ve always been terrible at side-scrolling games, even back when I used to play a lot of games. I’m still bad. Super Mario Run is fun enough for me to have blown an hour or so on it, and I happily coughed up the $10 to unlock the whole game.

The first-run on-boarding process is clunky though. You have to pick your country, and the United States is way down at the bottom of a long alphabetically sorted list. I’d rather be asked to grant access to my location — my phone knows where I am. And there was some confusing shit about creating a Nintendo account.

Bottom-line:

  • The game looks and sounds and I think even feels like a real Mario game.
  • Nintendo and Apple are going to make a ton of money on this.
  • Now my thumb hurts.
Zinc 

Zinc is a terrific “watch later” video bookmarking service from Stunt Software. I’ve been using it for months and love it. It’s become part of my daily life.

You install a Safari extension (or a bookmarklet if you use Chrome or Firefox) on your Mac, and buy the app for your iPhone and Apple TV. It’s just $3 — cheap! Then whenever you encounter a web page with a video you want to watch later, you just click the button or bookmarklet, or, on your iPhone, tap the Zinc action in the sharing sheet. Boom: whatever videos are on the current web page are added to your queue. It always works with embedded video from YouTube and Vimeo, and works with many other embedded players as well.

Then, when you’re in the mood to watch videos, fire up the app on your iOS device or Apple TV, and there they are. I do most of my Zinc watching from the couch on Apple TV. Zinc’s a great example of a video-based indie app that’s perfect for Apple TV. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Apple TV app, I don’t think I’d use Zinc — it’s the lynchpin of its appeal for me.

Steve Wozniak, Fifth Grade Computer Teacher 

Syambra Moitozo, writing for Motherboard:

Thinking back to that class, I remember looking out the classroom window on our first day. It was raining and Steve walked across the playground wearing a red, white, and yellow umbrella hat — indicative of his love for quirky innovations. He walked in, took off his hat, and asked us to gather around. Then he pulled a floppy disk out of his pocket and proceeded to take it apart to show us what each piece did. In the back of the room were 30 brand new Apple Macintosh PowerBooks (1400c) on loan to us. He said that those who mastered the concepts would get to keep theirs at the end of the year.

Managed Apple IDs and the 5 GB iCloud Storage Limit 

Frustrating thread on Twitter from Fraser Speirs, who runs a 1:1 deployment of iPads in a secondary school in the U.K.:

Our new deployment has been running for about 18 weeks now and kids are starting to run out of iCloud space again on their new Apple IDs.

School Apple IDs still only get 5 GB free space…. Hard to believe this is an ongoing problem.

No idea how anyone is doing a serious Shared iPad deployment with this kind of limitation.

Especially in a world where iPads shoot 12MP/4K/60 FPS.

According to Speirs, they can’t even buy their way out of the problem, because you can’t buy more storage for managed Apple IDs.

This 5 GB tier is just untenable. I shot a 6-minute video last night at a school event, at 30 FPS and 1080p, and it was 750 MB.

Video Captures Uber Self-Driving Car Running Red Light in San Francisco 

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, reporting for the San Francisco Examiner:

The cab pulls up to a red light on Third Street in South of Market, by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A pack of cars flies through a yellow light, and one even drives through the first moment of a red light.

About three seconds after the light turned red, an Uber self-driving car can apparently be seen traveling through the red light at moderate speed as a pedestrian walks across the intersection on the right side of the intersection.

In its blog Wednesday, Uber wrote it launched self-driving vehicles in California without self-testing permits from the DMV because it has drivers in the vehicles. “We have looked at this issue carefully and we don’t believe we do (need permits),” Uber wrote.

Earlier Wednesday, a social media report spotted another self-driving vehicle running a red light near the Marina District.

Maybe they ought to look at the issue even more carefully. Uber’s institutional arrogance is astounding.

Twitter’s ‘Branded Emojis’ 

I wrote yesterday, with regard the Trump campaign’s spat with Twitter over what the New York Times described as “Twitter had killed a #CrookedHillary emoji”:

I can’t believe the Times didn’t put quotes around that hashtag. And whatever it is they’re talking about, a sticker or whatever, is not an emoji.

I stand by that — I think the word emoji should be used exclusively for the icons in the official Unicode spec. Something that is like an emoji but not in the spec is a sticker or an icon or whatever, but it’s not an emoji.

Obviously, others disagree, because Twitter is selling these hashtag icons as “Branded Emojis”. I think that’s a gross misuse of the word. (This is another one of those Twitter things about which I was unaware because they’re only visible in Twitter’s first-party clients, which I almost never use.)

Richard Sherman: ‘Why I Hate Thursday Night Football’ 

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, after comparing a regular week in the life of an NFL player to a week when they play on Thursday night:

Like I’ve said before, the NFL is a bottom-line business. As long as fans are tuning in and advertisers are paying to be featured on Thursday Night Football, it’s not going anywhere. So I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe the league should take away one preseason game and add a second bye week for each team, which would occur before its Thursday game. That way, at least teams would have a full week to recover and prepare. (Or we could get rid of the preseason altogether … but that’s another issue for another day.)

I guess this is what happens when you have people in suits who have never played the game at this level dictating the schedule. I’d like to put Roger Goodell in pads for a late game on a Sunday, in December, in Green Bay, on the frozen tundra — then see what time he gets to the office on Monday morning, knowing that he would have to suit up again on Thursday.

Then maybe he’d understand….

I’ve often thought that the abbreviated weeks for Thursday night games must make a big difference in how the players feel. Sherman confirms it. Interesting too to see an active player calling out Goodell by name.

Yahoo Says 1 Billion User Accounts Were Hacked Before Those 500 Million Accounts Were Hacked 

Vindu Goel and Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

Yahoo, already reeling from its September disclosure that 500 million user accounts had been hacked in 2014, disclosed Wednesday that a different attack in 2013 compromised more than 1 billion accounts.

No wonder Yahoo was in no rush to come clean about the 2014 hack — it was small potatoes by their standards.

Transcript of the Introductory Remarks at Trump’s Tech Exec Meeting 

At the start, everyone in attendance went around the table introducing themselves.

Tim Cook: “Tim Cook, very good to be here. And I look very forward to talking to the president-elect about the things that we can do to help you achieve some things you want.”

Two things. First: Cook is the only executive who didn’t say what company he worked for. Sort of like how the Apple stores just have the logo, and iPhones are the only phones (other than Google’s lookalike Pixels) that don’t have anything printed on the front — he didn’t have to.

Second: “some things you want”. That’s not an accident.

Larry Page: “Larry Page, Alphabet and Google, probably the youngest company here.”

Donald Trump: “Looks like the youngest person.” [Laughs]

Mr. Page: “Really excited to be here.”

Page was sitting right next to Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, which was founded in 2004 — six years after Google. I suppose “Alphabet” is technically the younger company, but come on — it’s just a new name, not a new company. (Update: Palantir (2004), Tesla (2003), and SpaceX (2002) were also all founded years after Google. If only there were some website where Larry Page could search for the founding years of companies, perhaps he wouldn’t have said something so goofily wrong.)

The Wall Street Journal also had this intriguing tidbit, which The New York Times (and a few other reports I’ve read) missed:

After Wednesday’s meeting, Mr. Cook of Apple and Mr. Musk of Tesla stayed at Trump Tower to meet privately with Mr. Trump.

The Journal also had a seating chart (reproduced, without permission but not behind a paywall, at 9to5Mac, along with a photo where Tim Cook looks absolutely delighted to be there).

Trump’s Meeting With Tech Executives 

David Streitfeld, reporting for the NYT:

Even after the press was ushered out, the meeting continued its genial way. Among the topics discussed, according to several corporate executives and a transition official briefed on the meeting, who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, were vocational education and the need for more of it, the promise and peril of trade with China and immigration (Mr. Trump wants “smart and talented people here”). The president-elect also asked the executives to see if they could not apply data analysis technology to detect and help get rid of government waste.

Vocational education is one of Tim Cook’s issues. He has often stated that vocational training, not wages, is the primary reason nearly all Apple products are assembled in China. Given the attendees at this meeting, I’m not even sure who else would have brought this up. Elon Musk, perhaps.

Some tech companies were also notable for their absence. Twitter, the president-elect’s medium of choice for communication, was not invited.

Twitter declined to comment on why it was not included. A campaign official complained last month in a Medium post that Twitter had killed a #CrookedHillary emoji. On Wednesday, Sean Spicer, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, said that Twitter had been left out of the meeting because of space considerations in a gathering that many other technology executives were “dying to get into.”

I can’t believe the Times didn’t put quotes around that hashtag. And whatever it is they’re talking about, a sticker or whatever, is not an emoji.

The meeting lasted more than 90 minutes, longer than expected. Mr. Trump was seated next to Peter Thiel, the tech investor who is a member of the president-elect’s transition team. In another sign of Mr. Trump mixing family, business and government hats, three of his adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — also attended.

So there wasn’t room for Jack Dorsey but there was room for three of his children. I’m not saying Dorsey should’ve gotten a seat, but if you’re not deeply bothered by the fact that Trump is treating the presidency of the United States as a family business, you’re not hooked up right.

An Oral History of the ‘Get a Mac’ Ad Campaign 

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Apple’s “Get a Mac” commercials, Campaign US put together an excellent oral history from the people who made them. Here’s a bit on Steve Jobs’s involvement, after the campaign had become a hit:

Jason Sperling: We wouldn’t go to Steve and say, “Here are the scripts we’re thinking of shooting.” We would tell him the topic we were thinking about, or find out what topic he was thinking about, and then we would develop based on that.

Danielle Kays: They wouldn’t directly reference Steve Jobs in our conversations. They might say, “Oh, he didn’t like that shade of blue on the shirt,” or, “He doesn’t like flowers on a woman’s shirt.” I was led to believe it could be that small a detail that a commercial wouldn’t air.

Phil Morrison (director): I might say, “Oh, what if we had this character wearing blank,” and they’d say, “Well, you know, we learned that Steve doesn’t really like it when characters wear blank.” That’s how I would learn of those notes.

Alicia Dotter (copywriter): You’d shoot 20 to get three. That was always a tough thing to do. Sometimes you get three and sometimes you wouldn’t get any. Sometimes they would just be like, “No. None of them.”

Phil Morrison: That’s never how it works on a commercial shoot. Usually if a spot doesn’t air, something went horribly wrong.

There’s also a podcast episode, with Justin Long and John Hodgman. (Overcast users: here’s a link to subscribe in Overcast. It’s tricky to get Soundcloud-hosted podcasts into a podcast player.)

Michael Tsai on the Battery Time Remaining Estimate 

Michael Tsai:

I tend to think that an inaccurate (but constantly updating) estimate is better than none. Otherwise, people will have to make their own estimates, which takes attention and is likely to be even less accurate. I never liked how the estimate claimed to be accurate down to the minute. I would like to see an estimate with fewer significant digits, both to hide the erratic changes and to avoid over-representing the accuracy.

My earlier “This is like being late for work and fixing it by breaking your watch” analogy was a little unfair. It’s more like having a watch that doesn’t keep accurate time and fixing the problem by no longer wearing any watch, rather than fixing or replacing the broken one. That’s not as funny though.

I know iOS has never had a time remaining estimate. That’s fine for iOS. I think it’s useful on MacBooks, especially just as a loose estimate.

(And the code that estimates battery life is definitely way off on the new MacBook Pros. With a 100 percent charge on the 13-inch MacBook Pro (with Touch Bar), MacOS 10.12.1 was estimating I only had 4:50 of battery life. I used the machine for web browsing, email, and Slack for 45 straight minutes, at a high display brightness, and the estimate was at 5:09.)

MacOS Sierra 10.12.2 Release Notes 

Joking about the removal of the “time remaining” estimate for the battery aside, there’s actually a lot of good stuff in this update. They’ve addressed a lot of the biggest complaints about Sierra in this update.

Remember the problem where people who turned on iCloud Desktop and Documents syncing thought their existing files in those folders disappeared? They didn’t, but it looked like they did. Now Sierra explains to you what’s going on.

Apple Fixes MacBook Pro Battery Life Issues by Removing ‘Time Remaining’ Estimate From the Battery Menu 

Jim Dalrymple, on the just-released MacOS 10.12.2 update:

However, to help users better determine the battery life, Apple has removed the “time remaining” indicator from the battery icon in the menu bar with the latest update. You can still see the image on the top of the screen, and you can see the percentage, but you will no longer be able to see how much time is remaining before your battery dies.

The reason for removing it is very simple: it wasn’t accurate.

Apple said the percentage is accurate, but because of the dynamic ways we use the computer, the time remaining indicator couldn’t accurately keep up with what users were doing. Everything we do on the MacBook affects battery life in different ways and not having an accurate indicator is confusing.

This is like being late for work and fixing it by breaking your watch.

Apple Delays Beats X Release Until February 

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

Apple is delaying the release of its Beat X wireless earbuds until February, a full five months after the company first announced them. Apple confirmed the timeline on its website listing for the $149.95 earbuds, but even with this update we still don’t have a specific release date. At least we know the Beats X will eventually be released?

We figured this delay was coming after retailer B&H Photo sent an email to customers that stated the earbuds wouldn’t be available for two to three months. Apple was originally targeting a “fall 2016” release for the Beats X.

The big on-ear Beats Solo3 wireless headphones shipped right on time and remain in stock. It makes sense that the small earphones — the AirPods and the BeatsX — were the ones where manufacturing/assembly problems cropped up.

AirPods Are Now Available, Backordered Into January Already 

Apple Newsroom:

Available today from Apple.com and will start delivering to customers and arriving at Apple Stores, Apple Authorized Resellers and select carriers next week.

AirPods will be shipping in limited quantities at launch and customers are encouraged to check online for updates on availability and estimated delivery dates. Stores will receive regular AirPod shipments.

They were briefly available with arrival dates before Christmas, but only briefly. As I type this, they’re at “4 weeks”. Better late than never, but it’s a huge miss for Apple not to have them in wide availability for the holidays. AirPods are the most natural sub-$200 gift in Apple’s entire product lineup, and they blew it.

“Stores will receive regular AirPod shipments” is interesting, though. Good way to drive foot traffic into the stores these last two weeks of the season.

Apple Activates iCloud.com Calendar Spam Reporting Feature 

AppleInsider:

Apple on Sunday instituted a new junk content reporting feature on its iCloud.com web portal, the first step in what appears to be an activation of countermeasures against iCloud Calendar spam invites users began to receive in volume last month.

A good first step, but the iCloud web interface is surely the least used client for iCloud calendaring. That said, after that burst of calendar spam around Thanksgiving, I haven’t seen any in the last week or two. So I’m hoping they now have some server-side filters that are keeping it from even appearing.

Uber’s Privacy Data Problems 

Scathing investigative report by Will Evans, writing for Reveal:

For anyone who’s snagged a ride with Uber, Ward Spangenberg has a warning: Your personal information is not safe.

Internal Uber employees helped ex-boyfriends stalk their ex-girlfriends and searched for the trip information of celebrities such as Beyoncé, the company’s former forensic investigator said.

“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,” Spangenberg wrote in a court declaration, signed in October under penalty of perjury.

After news broke two years ago that executives were using the company’s “God View” feature to track customers in real time without their permission, Uber insisted it had strict policies that prohibited employees from accessing users’ trip information with limited exceptions.

But five former Uber security professionals told Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting that the company continued to allow broad access even after those assurances.

They’re currently under investigation by the FTC:

The Federal Trade Commission, the consumer protection agency, is investigating Uber’s information security practices and recently deposed Sullivan, according to security sources.

iOS 10.2 Emoji Changelog 

Finally: 🥃.

Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Combined for 70 Percent of the Best TV Show Golden Globe Nominations 

Nathan McAlone, reporting for Business Insider:

The only network that beat the streaming giants in top TV show nominations this year was HBO, which got three nominations. Netflix and Amazon individually got as many nominations as all the broadcast networks combined, and more than the cable ones (minus HBO).

I despise awards like the Golden Globes. But I think the TV awards generally are more reflective of actual merit than the movie awards. (Seriously, don’t get me started on the Oscars.)

But in the big picture, these Golden Globe nominations have it right: the best TV shows are on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, and cable networks like AMC. Netflix and Amazon have no part in traditional cable TV, and the most traditional producers of TV content — the commercial broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox — produce almost nothing but garbage.

One can reasonably argue that the broadcast networks have always produced mostly garbage, but the real change is that the broadcast networks have completely missed the boat on the megamovie revolution — shows that “take television seriously as a medium”. That’s obviously true for dramas like Game of Thrones and Westworld, but I think it’s true for comedies, too. Consider the elimination of the laugh track.

Order Your DF T-Shirts Now 

The classic DF logo, printed on a ‘Tri-Black’ t-shirt.

If you were thinking about ordering a new DF t-shirt, now is the time to do it. We’re going to go to the print shop Tuesday, so at some point Monday, I’ll have to pull the plug on orders so that we have an accurate count.

I first started selling DF t-shirts all the way back in June 2004. Someday I should try to figure out how many total shirts I’ve sold over the years. It’s an amazing number. When I went full-time writing DF in 2006, t-shirt sales were literally how I got the business off the ground. If you’ve ever bought one, know that you have my sincere thanks.

The Talk Show: ‘Uncle Joe’s Bathtub Gin’ 

Glenn Fleishman returns to the show. Topics include indoor plumbing, a spoiler-free discussion about HBO’s excellent “Westworld”, our favorite beverages, Apple’s AirPods launch debacle, Apple TV single sign-on, and more.

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Eero Wi-Fi System 

My thanks to Eero for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Give your family (and your family’s devices) the gift of hyper-fast, whole-home Wi-Fi with the Eero Wi-Fi System. The world’s first — and best-selling — Wi-Fi system has just been updated with the next generation of mesh technology, Alexa Skills, and an app overhaul to help better optimize your network.

It’s so easy to set up. Each Eero device is the same. You hook one of them up to your cable modem. You spread the other ones around your house (they recommend one for every 1,000 square feet). Then they mesh together and form a single network with strong signal everywhere in your home. Eero is one of my favorite new products of 2016 — I’d say that even if they weren’t sponsoring DF.

Tim Cook Will Attend Trump’s Tech Summit Wednesday 

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are among the small group of top tech leaders who will attend a summit with President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation. […]

Those who will be attending (although most of the companies declined to comment to Recode) along with Page, Cook and Sandberg, include: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella; Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; Intel CEO Brian Krzanich; and Oracle CEO Safra Catz.

As Gabe Rivera notes, the invitation list seems to correspond to those companies with $100 billion market caps.

“I plan to tell the President-elect that we are with him and will help in any way we can,” said Catz in a statement. “If he can reform the tax code, reduce regulation and negotiate better trade deals, the U.S. technology industry will be stronger and more competitive than ever.”

“We are with him and will help in any way we can” sounds like “I’m ready to spit-shine his shoes” to my ears. I expect all of them to be polite — or perhaps better put, politic — in their public statements on the meeting, but there’s no need for these CEOs to fall in line.

I expect Tim Cook to handle himself just fine. I think he’ll leave Trump Tower with his dignity, integrity, and Apple Inc.’s interests under a Trump administration intact. (Getting a bill passed to repatriate foreign-held dollars at a reasonable tax rate could happen in the post-Trump political climate.) But, man, to be a fly on the wall in that room if Steve Jobs were still alive….

Derangement 

The entirety of the Trump transition team’s response to the extraordinary news that the CIA believes Russia interfered with the election with the intention of helping Trump win:

These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and “Make America Great Again.”

Put aside that every single word of that statement is false. (It was George W. Bush’s White House that claimed to be convinced that Iraq had WMDs, not CIA intelligence officers. The election was only a month ago — we’re still closer to election day than we are to Trump’s first day in office. Trump lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and his Electoral College win ranks 46th out of 58 in history.) Put aside that the statement doesn’t even claim the report is false — the implication is that it doesn’t matter whether or not Russia interfered in a U.S. election to help one side, when, clearly, anyone with an interest in ours being an honest democracy would call for a thorough and immediate investigation of these claims.

That’s a lot to put aside. But here’s the best part. One of the people who did claim in 2002 that Iraq had stockpiled hidden weapons of mass destruction was John R. Bolton, then Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Today comes news that Trump’s team is considering nominating Bolton to be Deputy Secretary of State.

So within the span of a breath, Trump’s team is claiming that the people who claimed Iraq had WMDs in 2002 have no credibility on matters of foreign intelligence, and are thinking about nominating one of them as second-in-command at the State Department.

Washington Post: ‘Secret CIA Assessment Says Russia Was Trying to Help Trump Win White House’ 

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller, reporting for The Washington Post:

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

No surprise to anyone who’s had their eyes open, but chilling nonetheless.

Good thread from Marc Ambinder on what this means:

I’m in favor of doing everything to get to the bottom of what they did. But can’t say more than their actions “may have helped” Trump win.

Also related: Trump’s purported leading candidate for Secretary of State, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, has close ties to Vladimir Putin:

Friends and associates said few U.S. citizens are closer to Mr. Putin than Mr. Tillerson, who has known Mr. Putin since he represented Exxon’s interests in Russia during the regime of Boris Yeltsin.

“He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger,” said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank where Mr. Tillerson is a board member.

In 2011, Mr. Tillerson struck a deal giving Exxon access to prized Arctic resources in Russia as well as allowing Russia’s state oil company, OAO Rosneft, to invest in Exxon concessions all over the world. The following year, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.

I’m so old I remember when the Republicans were the hardline party against Russia.

Only One Candidate in Louisiana’s Senate Runoff Embraces Climate Change Facts 

Megan Geuss, writing for Ars Technica:

On Saturday December 10, Louisiana residents will cast their final ballots for the last unclaimed Senate seat of the 2016 elections. […] Foster Campbell, the top remaining Democratic candidate, has been vocal about the fact that climate change could cause “irreversible damage” to Louisiana’s ample coastline. John Kennedy, the Republican candidate and current polling favorite, has largely avoided the subject. Kennedy told Louisiana-based paper The Advocate this fall that although he accepts the fact that global temperatures are rising, he does not think there is evidence to explain why this is happening.

As Ars has noted before, this is false. There is more than sufficient evidence to show that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming.

What’s surprising about Kennedy’s statement is that he’s running for a Senate position in Louisiana, one of the states most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Looks like a long shot for Campbell in the polls, but as we saw a month ago, long shots in the polls sometimes win. If you’re in Louisiana, vote. If you know someone in Louisiana, send them a reminder to vote.

Super Mario Run Needs a Constant Internet Connection to Run 

Brian Heater, writing for TechCrunch:

It a bit of news that will surely shift the value proposition of Mario’s long-awaited iPhone debut for legions of underground commuters, Shigeru Miyamoto confirmed this week that Super Mario Run will only work on a device with a constant internet connection.

The legendary game creator chalked up the decision to security concerns, fears that an offline mode would make the game unstable and open it up to piracy. Those worries are likely due in no small part to the fact that Nintendo simply isn’t accustomed to developing games for platforms it doesn’t have on lock-down.

“Unlike our dedicated game devices, the game is not releasing in a limited number of countries,” Miyamoto explained. “We’re launching in 150 countries and each of those countries has different network environments and things like that. So it was important for us to be able to have it secure for all users.”

Other than when I’m on a plane or riding a subway, my phone does have network access most of the time. But people on planes and subways do play games on their phone.

Update: Another big problem: kids with iPod Touches and old SIM-less iPhones. They’re often not on Wi-Fi.

WSJ Report on Apple’s Mysterious AirPods Delay 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:

The AirPod delay marks the first time Apple has postponed release of a product since its white iPhone 4 in 2010, Mr. Moorhead said. Then, Apple cited manufacturing challenges.

In the case of AirPods, the cause remains unclear. The earbuds contain a new chip that Apple developed. But the same chip is included in two models of headphones, which are available for sale, from Apple’s Beats unit.

A person familiar with the development of the AirPod said the trouble appears to stem from Apple’s effort to chart a new path for wireless headphones. In most other wireless headphones, only one earpiece receives a signal from the phone via wireless Bluetooth technology; it then transmits the signal to the other earpiece.

Apple has said AirPod earpieces each receive independent signals from an iPhone, Mac or other Apple device. But Apple must ensure that both earpieces receive audio at the same time to avoid distortion, the person familiar with their development said. That person said Apple also must resolve what happens when a user loses one of the earpieces or the battery dies.

The rest of the article is useless speculation. I’m not even sure that this one source — the “person familiar with the development of the AirPod” — is correct. My prototype AirPods have no trouble staying in sync. They’ve never once been out of sync, in fact. There have been a small handful of times when one of the two buds turns off, and audio only plays through one of them. But I’ve only seen that three or four times, tops, and in each case it was fixed by putting the AirPods back in the case for a second or two.

If Apple could mass produce AirPods that worked exactly like my review unit pair does, it would be great. Not perfect, but totally great. These AirPods are my favorite new Apple product in years — exactly as they are. It makes more sense to me that Apple has run into a manufacturing problem, not that they discovered a design defect after they were announced.

More difficult to manufacture at scale than expected” is also what I’ve heard through the grapevine, from a little birdie who knows someone on the AirPods engineering team. Things like what happens when you lose one or the battery dies — Apple solved those problems during development.

Update: After publishing this, I’ve heard from another little birdie who heard the same thing: unexpected manufacturing problem at scale.

John Markoff Retires From The New York Times 

John Markoff:

Yes, I’m retiring from the New York Times. This is obviously bittersweet, but it’s also very weird. Whenever I tell someone I’m leaving the paper they immediately say “congratulations.”

What the hell? Congratulate me for bailing on one of the best jobs in the world?

The simple fact is that I lasted longer than a lot of my friends. But until I changed my mind last summer and took the buyout, I was sure I was going to go out like those guys at the Examiner — the copy editors who worked at night in their t-shirts. And then keeled over on their CRTs and were taken out feet first.

But what the heck.

Nice introduction from Steven Levy, too.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve linked to Markoff quite a few times over the years.

Samsung Will Render the Note 7 Useless With Imminent Update 

Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

Samsung will render remaining Galaxy Note 7s in the United States useless and inoperable with its next and final update for the recalled smartphone. Today the company confirmed that it plans to release an update on December 19th — to be distributed across all major carriers within 30 days — that will “prevent US Galaxy Note 7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.”

Verizon, however, doesn’t agree with the timing:

Today, Samsung announced an update to the Galaxy Note7 that would stop the smartphone from charging, rendering it useless unless attached to a power charger. Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.

Why didn’t Verizon push Samsung to do this sooner?

Apple Analyst Gene Munster Leaving Piper to Start VC Firm 

Mark Gurman and Arie Shapira, reporting for Bloomberg;

Gene Munster, a 21-year veteran analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., is leaving the firm to co-found a venture capital firm focusing on virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Perfect time for Apple to release a TV set.

A Chat With Shigeru Miyamoto on the Eve of Super Mario Run 

Andrew Webster, writing for The Verge:

The experience of creating Super Mario Run hasn’t been exactly like the old days, however. As games have progressed from the NES to modern devices, the teams required to make them have similarly grown larger and more complex. Mobile, on the other hand, offers the potential for a small team to make a modest-sized game — though that wasn’t the case with Super Mario Run. In addition to its main “tour” mode, which closely resembles a typical Mario title, the game also features a competitive “toad rush” mode and a city-building mode that lets you build your own version of the Mushroom Kingdom. Each of these modes was developed by a separate team. “I was hoping that by developing for mobile things would get simpler,” Miyamoto says, “but they actually didn’t.”

Nintendo made a great commercial for Super Mario Run, too.

Trump’s Pick for Labor Secretary: Pro-Immigration Fast Food CEO Andrew Puzder 

Noam Scheiber and Maggie Haberman, reporting for the NYT:

President-elect Donald J. Trump is expected to name Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that operates the fast food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor, people close to the transition said on Thursday.

Mr. Puzder has spent his career in the private sector and has opposed efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.

The Times report focuses on the obvious stuff: his opposition to increasing the minimum wage, regulations that protect workers, etc. No surprise.

But here’s the fun part, as noted on Twitter by David Frum:

Let’s absorb the magnitude of the Puzder appointment. Trump’s signature issue was immigration restriction. Number 1.

He slammed hard the Bush family in general and Jeb Bush in particular as weak and low energy on immigration.

The Labor Department enforces immigration law in the workplace — the key way that immigration laws are enforced.

And the person Trump names to head Labor? Perhaps the most outspoken advocate of Bush-style immigration policy in US business community!

Trump’s biggest issue throughout the entire campaign was anti-immigration. Keeping immigrants out, and throwing the millions of undocumented immigrants currently here out of the country. His labor secretary is pro-immigration and views undocumented immigrants as future employees for his fast food restaurants and deserving of sympathy, not scorn. He supported President Obama’s 2013 immigration reform bill — and the only part of it he didn’t like was the increase in border security.

Try to wrap your head around just how much disdain Trump has for his own supporters — the “build the wall” crowd.

‘If the Pope’s Talking Poop, You Know We’re in Deep Doo-Doo’ 

Great segment from Stephen Colbert on conspiracy theorists and fake news.

Really Bad Chess 

I seldom play video games of any sort, but every once in a while, I find one that I can really get into. Really Bad Chess is one of those games. The basic premise sounds so simple, but in practice it is brilliant: it’s just like regular chess, but you start with random pieces. Except the pieces aren’t totally random — when you win, you start getting worse pieces to start; when you lose, you start getting better pieces. It’s a handicap system.

It’s engaging and a lot of fun. It’s a free download, and a one-time purchase of $3 to unlock the full game. You can also buy packs of 100 undos for $1 each.

See also: Jason Snell’s review, which prompted me to give it a try.

Daring Fireball T-Shirts Now Available 

The classic DF logo, printed on a ‘Tri-Black’ t-shirt.

On sale now through next week. U.S. orders will ship in time for Christmas.

Comfy and stylish.

Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Climate Change Denialist, to Lead E.P.A. 

Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton, reporting for the NYT:

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

Mr. Pruitt has been in lock step with those views.

Here’s a story from just two years ago, on how Pruitt served as a lackey for the fossil fuel industry while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma:

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

“Outstanding!” William F. Whitsitt, who at the time directed government relations at the company, said in a note to Mr. Pruitt’s office. The attorney general’s staff had taken Devon’s draft, copied it onto state government stationery with only a few word changes, and sent it to Washington with the attorney general’s signature. “The timing of the letter is great, given our meeting this Friday with both E.P.A. and the White House.”

Mr. Whitsitt then added, “Please pass along Devon’s thanks to Attorney General Pruitt.”

Inside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Brutal Antidrug Campaign 

New York Times photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who photographed 57 homicides in 35 days in the Philippines:

I have worked in 60 countries, covered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spent much of 2014 living inside West Africa’s Ebola zone, a place gripped by fear and death. What I experienced in the Philippines felt like a new level of ruthlessness: police officers’ summarily shooting anyone suspected of dealing or even using drugs, vigilantes’ taking seriously Mr. Duterte’s call to “slaughter them all.”

He said in October, “You can expect 20,000 or 30,000 more.”

On Saturday, Mr. Duterte said that, in a telephone call the day before, President-elect Donald J. Trump had endorsed the brutal antidrug campaign and invited him to visit New York and Washington. “He said that, well, we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way,” Mr. Duterte said in a summary of the call released by his office.

Beyond those killed in official drug operations, the Philippine National Police have counted more than 3,500 unsolved homicides since July 1, turning much of the country into a macabre house of mourning.

Gruesome images, but worth looking at to see just what Donald Trump endorses.

Pebble Is Shutting Down After Fitbit Acquisition 

Pebble:

  • Pebble is no longer promoting, manufacturing, or selling any devices.
  • Pebble devices will continue to work as normal. No immediate changes to the Pebble user experience will happen at this time.
  • Pebble functionality or service quality may be reduced in the future.

Rough ending.

I love the idea of a plucky startup creating their own hardware platform, but Pebble was a dud. The first model was, perhaps, a decent proof of concept. I couldn’t stand it, personally, but I know a few people who wore it. The best feature was getting notifications on your wrist, but I found the way it vibrated to be unpleasant. Their e-ink displays were great for battery life, but terrible in every other regard.

But their follow-up models just weren’t big enough improvements. The Pebble Steel was a complete waste of the company’s time — their problem was that their technology wasn’t good enough, not that they didn’t look enough like traditional watches.

Bluetooth 5 Spec Approved 

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget:

Bluetooth is about to become a lot less hassle-prone. The wireless standard’s Special Interest Group has officially adopted the Bluetooth 5 spec, clearing the way for device makers to use the much-improved technology in everything from phones to wearables to smart home equipment. This doesn’t mean that you’ll see it right away, of course. The group expects Bluetooth 5-equipped products to hit the market in the next 2 to 6 months, or right around when the next wave of smartphones is likely to arrive.

Yours truly, one year ago:

“Next year it will work great” should be the motto of Bluetooth.

That Viral Graph About Young People’s Declining Support for Democracy Is Very Misleading 

Remember the story last week in The New York Times, showing an alarming drop in support for democracy by young people around the world? I described the accompanying chart as “terrifying”. There’s good news — the Times’s chart was deliberately misleading, to greatly exaggerate the survey result. Erik Voeten, writing for The Washington Post, explains:

The data for the graph are from the fifth wave of the World Values Survey (WVS), which asked people to place themselves on a 10-point scale where 1 meant that living in a democracy is “not at all important” and 10 “absolutely important.”

So where does this graph go wrong? It plots the percentage of people who answer 10, and it treats everyone else the same. The graph treats the people who place themselves at 1 as having the same commitment to democracy as those who answer 9. In reality, almost no one (less than 1 percent) said that democracy is “not at all important.”

The graph below uses the exact same data, but it plots the average scores rather than the percentages who place themselves at the top end of the scale.

Voeten’s accurate chart does show a decline in the average support for democracy by age, but it’s subtle, not dramatic, and shows that young people still believe democracy is important. The New York Times should be ashamed of itself for its original chart.

‘Let’s Make the Facts Louder Than the Opinions’ 

Weather.com meteorologist Kait Parker has a message for Breitbart.

Google: ‘We’re Set to Reach 100% Renewable Energy’ 

Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president of technical infrastructure:

I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. […]

Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option. Electricity costs are one of the largest components of our operating expenses at our data centers, and having a long-term stable cost of renewable power provides protection against price swings in energy.

Interesting: Google’s renewable purchasing is overwhelmingly wind, not solar. Same for Microsoft. Amazon looks like about one-third solar, two-thirds wind. Apple is almost entirely solar.

Update: Interesting email from a longtime DF reader:

I work in renewable energy with corporations who are seeking to do exactly what Google is about to achieve.

The best reason to explain “Apple is almost entirely solar” has to do with renewable production — solar produces during the day and U.S. wind sites mostly at night. Since daytime hours align with higher power prices, Apple seems to have strategically gone for value with many, smaller solar projects, while Google and others have gone after fewer and larger wind deals.

SamMobile: ‘Galaxy S8 Is Not Going to Feature a 3.5mm Headphone Jack’ 

I love how the headline says that the phone “is not going to feature” a headphone jack, rather than saying that Samsung is going to remove it.

Anyway, this was utterly predictable by anyone who had their head out of their ass. As I wrote back in September, iPhone 7 reviews that obsessed over the removal of the headphone jack are “going to age about as well as a 2007 review of the original iPhone that devoted the same amount of attention to the lack of a hardware keyboard.”

Samsung won’t face anywhere near the amount of criticism Apple did, because Apple went first and took most of the arrows. Which, yes, took courage.

Gomix 

New build-your-own-web-app service from Fog Creek Software, debuting alongside the announcement of Anil Dash as CEO. Here’s how Anil describes it:

Many geeks of my cohort came of age building things on the desktop using HyperCard or Visual Basic, or by using View Source in their browser to tweak HTML pages that they uploaded to Geocities. The web’s gotten a lot more mature and a lot more powerful, but the immediacy of that kind of creation has been lost. Today, even if you’re a skilled developer, the starting point you’re working from is usually a pile of unassembled parts.

Gomix lets you start from a working app (or bot, or site, or whatever) and then remix it into exactly the app of your dreams. If you just want to change a button from blue to green, or add your logo, you can be running instantly. See a fun or smart Alexa skill or Slack bot? You can jump in, edit the responses to be the text you want, and have your own version running in just a few minutes.

Anil Dash Is the New CEO of Fog Creek Software 

Joel Spolsky:

Fog Creek is a weird company here, with unique values that you don’t find in a lot of other companies. That’s why we’re so successful, and that’s why we love working here. Some of the weird stuff we do is non-negotiable. We would never dream of having just any competent person from outside the company come in, let alone give them the CEO role, if we weren’t convinced that they were 100% fanatical and excited about Fog Creek Software’s unique operating system. We’ve been friends with Anil for so long that we’re confident that the combination of his talents and worldview with our quirky operating system will be a stellar combination. […]

What are you doing, Joel?

I’m the full-time CEO of Stack Overflow, which just hit 300 employees and really takes all my time now.

Tim Cook: Apple Watch Sales Set Record in Holiday Week 

Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:

Responding to an email from Reuters, Cook said the gadget’s sell-through — a measure of how many units are sold to consumers, rather than simply stocked on retailers’ shelves - reached a new high. […]

“Our data shows that Apple Watch is doing great and looks to be one of the most popular holiday gifts this year,” Cook wrote.

“Sales growth is off the charts. In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product’s history. And as we expected, we’re on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch,” he said.

This is in response to a widely-circulated report from IDC yesterday, claiming Apple Watch sales fell 71 percent in the third calendar quarter. IDC often pulls numbers out of its collective ass — they’re the outfit that claimed back in 2011 that Windows Phone would overtake the iPhone by 2015 — but these things could both be true. (Although it does look like IDC’s estimate is far short.)

Comparing Apple Watch sales in the third calendar quarter this year to last year is not meaningful. Last year the Apple Watch was still a brand-new product in July–September, drawing sales from early adopters. And remember that Apple Watch was extremely supply-constrained when it hit the market in May 2015. Many models were back-ordered for 6–8 weeks. This year, Apple Watch was a year-old product in those months, with many would-be purchasers correctly predicting that Apple would introduce new models in September.

Common sense suggests that the Apple Watch sales cycle is going to look a lot like the iPod’s — with truly humongous spikes in the holiday quarter. That’s when the new models come out, and it’s a natural gift.

Smartwatches in general might be suffering, but it’s looking more and more like Apple Watch is a hit.

The Wirecutter Lists Their Favorite USB-C Adapters, Cables, and Hubs 

Nick Guy:

After 10 hours of preliminary research, we tested more than 25 USB-C accessories to put together this guide to the best ways to connect peripherals and devices to a USB-C–equipped computer. It’s by no means exhaustive. USB-C can, in theory, replace every other port, and there are a seemingly infinite number of port combinations you might encounter. We focused on the most important tasks you’ll likely face, such as connecting older peripherals like hard drives and hooking up an external display.

Amazon Go – Retail Stores With No Checkouts 

Amazon:

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

I would love to shop in a store like this. Reminds me (and others) a lot of what makes Uber so appealing: a reduction in friction.

The Outline 

Joshua Topolsky, announcing the launch of The Outline, the new website for which he’s editor-in-chief:

Welcome to The Outline, a new kind of publication for a new kind of human.

OK.

I could have linked to all of these stories, but instead they’re bundled into this handy thing below. We call it a stack. Enjoy.

No.

‘It’s the Equivalent of Going Into a Library and Asking a Librarian About Judaism and Being Handed 10 Books of Hate’ 

Carole Cadwalladr, in an eye-opening piece for The Guardian, “Google, Democracy, and the Truth About Internet Search”:

Here’s what you don’t want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That’s all I did. I typed: “a-r-e”. And then “j-e-w-s”. Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: “are jews a race?”, “are jews white?”, “are jews christians?”, and finally, “are jews evil?”

Are Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.”

The top suggestion for a query starting with “are women” was “are women evil”, and the top suggested result displayed with a preview on the results page, beginning with “Every woman has some degree of prostitute in her. Every woman has a little evil in her.”

A few days later, I talk to Danny Sullivan, the founding editor of SearchEngineLand.com. He’s been recommended to me by several academics as one of the most knowledgeable experts on search. Am I just being naive, I ask him? Should I have known this was out there? “No, you’re not being naive,” he says. “This is awful. It’s horrible. It’s the equivalent of going into a library and asking a librarian about Judaism and being handed 10 books of hate. Google is doing a horrible, horrible job of delivering answers here. It can and should do better.”

He’s surprised too. “I thought they stopped offering autocomplete suggestions for religions in 2011.” And then he types “are women” into his own computer. “Good lord! That answer at the top. It’s a featured result. It’s called a “direct answer”. This is supposed to be indisputable. It’s Google’s highest endorsement.” That every women has some degree of prostitute in her? “Yes. This is Google’s algorithm going terribly wrong.”

Faruk Ateş, on Twitter:

Turns out, being a passive hands-off player in the world’s information means that people who put bigotry out there win simply for playing.

In other words, in the knowledge that bigoted, motivated people exist, inaction or indifference is an immoral and unethical decision.

I truly believe Google is staffed by great people who are not bigoted. But as a company, they treat bigotry as mere “opinion”, not as harm.

Prop ’n Go Tote 

My thanks to Padded Spaces for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. They’ve just released the new Prop ’n Go Tote, a convertible multi-angle lap desk and messenger bag. Made for every lap, it’s perfect for keeping gadgets at just the right angle. When it’s time to go, the hidable handle and shoulder strap transform Prop ’n Go Tote into a stylish, versatile messenger bag.

iBedside is an elegant bedside caddy for storing and charging iPad and iPhone. A magnetic shelf flips down with a flick, and three full-sized pockets store gadgets or gizmos. Clever cable management keeps everything tidy and charged. These are great holiday gifts.

Prop ’n Go and iBedside ship for free with Amazon Prime in the US, CA, and EU. Padded Spaces products are made in Seattle by crafters making honest wages.

Political Moneyball: America’s Unfair Elections and the Republicans’ Art of Winning Them 

Jason Kottke:

Nothing in politics gets my blood boiling faster than gerrymandering… it is so grossly and obviously unfair. I bet you don’t even need to guess which of the two US political parties has pushed unfair redistricting in recent years.

More than anything for me, this is the story of politics in America right now: a shrinking and increasingly extremist underdog party has punched above its weight over the past few election cycles by methodically exploiting the weaknesses in our current political system. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, the passing of voter ID laws, and spreading propaganda via conservative and social media channels has led to disproportionate Republican representation in many areas of the country which they then use to gerrymander and pass more restrictive voter ID laws. They’ve limited potential conservative third party candidates (like Trump!) by incorporating them and their views into the main party. I would not be surprised if Republican donors strategically support left-of-center third-party candidates as spoilers — it’s a good tactic, underhanded but effective. They increasingly ignore political norms and practices to stymie Democratic efforts, like the general inaction of the Republican-led Congress over the past few years and the Senate’s refusal to consider Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Don’t skip the two videos from CGP Grey — they’re excellent.

‘Designed by Apple in California’ Book Alongside Actual Products 

There aren’t many people other than Stephen Hackett who could have made this video.

Lenovo Moto Getting Out of the Smartwatch Game 

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge:

Lenovo Moto today confirmed that it will not be releasing a new smartwatch for the launch of Android Wear 2.0, due early next year. The company had earlier said it would not be releasing a new smartwatch in 2016, but it is now saying that it doesn’t plan to put out a new device timed to the arrival of Google’s newest wearable platform, either.

Shakil Barkat, head of global product development at Moto, said the company doesn’t “see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time,” though it may revisit the market in the future should technologies for the wrist improve. “Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year,” Barkat said, and indicated that smartwatches and other wearable devices will not be in Moto’s annual device roadmap.

I don’t think it’s what sunk their watches, but the flat-tire displays on their round faces were one of the worst designs in recent memory.

Chuck Wendig on White Resentment 

Loved this Twitter essay from Chuck Wendig. It starts with a bang, but turns into a thoughtful examination of white working class resentment:

It is ironic to tell entertainers to shut up about politics when we just elected a greasy reality show host to the highest fucking office.

“Apes shouldn’t have guns,” you bellow, as you load a revolver and hand it to a bigoted orangutan.

“Entertainers shouldn’t talk politics,” you bellow as you vote for a carnival barker con-man to wield the nuclear codes.

TechCrunch: ‘Fitbit Is Buying Troubled Smartwatch Maker Pebble for Around $40 Million’ 

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch:

A source close to the company told TechCrunch that watch maker Citizen was interested in purchasing Pebble for $740 million in 2015. This deal failed and before the launch of the Pebble 2 Intel made an offer for $70 million. The CEO, Eric Migicovsky refused both offers. Our source said that Fitbit is now paying between $34 and $40 million for the company and is “barely covering their debts.”

If Citizen was really willing to pay $740 million for Pebble, that’s incredible. They really dodged a bullet on that one.

The Talk Show: ‘Election Escape Key’ 

Joanna Stern returns to the show to talk about the new MacBook Pros (and their keyboards), stockpiling old MacBook Airs, dongles, Touch ID, SnapChat Spectacles, and more.

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