Linked List: March 2016

Reddit’s Warrant Canary Just Died 

Cory Doctorow, writing at BoingBoing:

In early 2015, Reddit published a transparency report that contained heading for National Security Requests, noting, “As of January 29, 2015, reddit has never received a National Security Letter, an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or any other classified request for user information.”

Five hours ago, Reddit published its 2015 edition, which contains no mention of classified requests for user information.

“Warrant canaries” are a response to the practice by governments of serving warrants on service providers that include gag orders forbidding the service from disclosing the warrant’s existence.

The idea of warrant canaries is ingenious — but when one works, it’s both terrifying and sad.

Joanna Stern on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro Smart Keyboard 

From Joanna Stern’s review of the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro and its related accessories:

Typing on the claustrophobic Smart Keyboard tailored to fit the 9.7-inch screen is like sitting in the middle airplane seat, elbows pulled together. (The 12.9-inch iPad Pro’s spaciousness allows for a much more comfortable keyboard.) Not only are the keys cramped, they aren’t backlit — a trait that’s more necessity than luxury if you have to work in dim locations. The screen only adjusts to a single angle, and good luck using it on your lap without it toppling over.

Jason Snell Reviews the Smart Keyboard for 9.7-Inch iPad Pro 

Jason Snell:

So what can I say? I really like the new, smaller Smart Keyboard for the new, smaller iPad Pro. It’s surprisingly easy to type on, even for someone who usually freaks out when presented with a keyboard that’s not a standard size. And it’s light enough to be your iPad’s everyday screen cover when you’re out and about.

Same for me. I type much better on it than I expected to.

Recode: Budget Trouble Ahead for Nest 

Mark Bergen, writing for Recode:

That budget was set for three years, according to multiple sources familiar with the deal. Unless Alphabet agrees to continue funding Nest, that budget runs out at the end of this year. Several sources said that initial budget was around $500 million annually.

To keep employees from leaving after the acquisition, Google created a vesting schedule that prevents Nest’s executives from cashing out their shares before a certain date — that date could come as soon as this year. In addition, according to sources, as part of the acquisition, Nest and Google agreed on a sales target for the company: $300 million annually.

Two years later, Nest still could not hit that target alone — it did it only after adding sales from Dropcam, which Nest acquired for $555 million six months after joining Google.

Keep in mind that Dropcam founder Greg Duffy wrote:

I can’t publish Dropcam’s revenue, but if you knew what percentage of all of Alphabet’s “other bets” revenue was brought in by the relatively tiny 100-person Dropcam team that Fadell derides, Nest itself would not look good in comparison.

The knives are coming out for Fadell. I’m curious if Fadell is using Alphabet’s PR team to help him manage this, or if he has his own PR team within Nest. Whoever it is, they’re not serving him well.

OS X to Be Rebranded ‘macOS’ at WWDC? 

Apple Insider:

Following the naming conventions of iOS, watchOS and tvOS, Apple’s Mac operating system could soon return to the name “macOS,” if code spotted in the latest release of El Capitan is to be believed.

I thought Phil Schiller sort of hinted at this last year when he was on my WWDC podcast. From iMore’s excellent transcript:

Gruber: watchOS, with a lower-case “w”. Are you trying to kill me?

Laughs.

Schiller: [laughs] It’s, um… I think it works really well. I think it’s nice, it’s ownable, it’s special…

I think, you’ll see. Give us time, we’ve been through many fun naming things. This is an easy one. There have been many fun naming things through the years — some very emotional, some very easy — and most of the time, when all’s said and done, you look back years later, people say “Yeah, you guys were right, it all made sense together.”

So I think we’re doing the right thing.

David Sparks on What’s New in Fantastical 2.2 

Great video documenting what’s new in one of my very favorite apps.

ACLU Map Documents the 63 Known Cases in Which Government Has Tried to Use All Writs Act to Overcome Encryption: 

Eliza Sweren-Becker, writing for the ACLU:

The FBI wants you to think that it will use the All Writs Act only in extraordinary cases to force tech companies to assist in the unlocking of phones. Turns out, these kinds of orders have actually become quite ordinary.

The Colbert Emoji 

Kinda weird to see the deliberations of the Unicode Consortium discussed on a late night talk show. Fun, though.

Introducing Safari Technology Preview 

Ricky Mondello, from Apple’s Safari team:

Starting today, there’s a new, convenient way to see what features and improvements are coming to Safari and other applications that use WebKit. Safari Technology Preview is a version of Safari for OS X, distributed by Apple, that includes a cutting-edge, in-development version of the WebKit browser engine. It’s a great way to test upcoming WebKit features and give feedback to the people building them when it’s most useful — early in development.

Safari Technology Preview is a standalone application that can be used side-by-side with Safari or other web browsers, making it easy to compare behaviors between them. Besides having the latest web features and bug fixes from WebKit, Safari Technology Preview includes the latest improvements to Web Inspector, which you can use to develop and debug your websites. Updates for Safari Technology Preview will be available every two weeks through the Updates pane of the Mac App Store.

Very cool. Once installed, updates will come every two weeks through the Mac App Store — but you have to initially install from the website download. And unlike Webkit nightly builds, Safari Technology Preview is signed by Apple, which allows it to work with iCloud features (bookmark and tab syncing, etc.).

SoundCloud Go and Artist Payments 

Dave Wiskus, on the fact that SoundCloud’s new $10/month streaming music service only pays artists who are in their invitation-only “Premier Partners” program:

You can slice it, package it, or spin it however you like, but the bare fact is that you’re making money off of songs you aren’t paying for. Worse, you’re doing it while perpetuating an air of exclusivity around the concept of making money. All while you’re pretending to be a friend to the little guy. There’s nothing artist-friendly about this approach.

But wait! There’s more!

Airplane Mode has a SoundCloud Pro account to get access to unlimited uploads and a few other features that make the service useful. This account costs us $15 per month. So not only are you getting our music for free and paying us nothing, we’re actually paying you to take it. What an excellent deal. For you.

MLB and Apple Announce Deal to Put iPads in the Dugout 

MLB:

Major League Baseball (MLB) today announced its latest technology collaboration with Apple to integrate powerful new on-field capabilities through the approved use of iPad Pro and a newly developed advance scouting, analytics and video app - MLB Dugout - during MLB games. The announcement, made by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., brings iPad Pro into all 30 Major League dugouts and bullpens and marks the first-ever on-field integration of next generation technology, putting advance scouting video and customizable reports at the fingertips of all managers, coaches and players.

Entering the 2016 MLB season, each iPad Pro has been customized for each Club and loaded with the MLB Dugout app, allowing every team’s manager, coaches and players to utilize their own proprietary and strategic statistical reports, data visualizations and advance scouting videos during every MLB game from dugouts and bullpens giving them easy access to valuable, actionable baseball insights. Clubs also will have the ability to include any of their own reports with data generated from last year’s first full season of Statcast tracking technology, bringing new stats for pitch tracking, hitting, baserunning and fielding, right on iPad Pro.

So the NFL has Surface, MLB has iPad.

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Since posting our original story, we have heard from a lot of readers that are affected by iOS 9 crashes or app hangs when tapping links, spanning multiple iOS versions (not just 9.3) and devices. In a statement, Apple has now confirmed that they are working on a fix for the problem, coming in a software update (presumably iOS 9.3.1).

The bug was triggered by third-party apps misusing the Universal Links feature in iOS 9 — it’s a coincidence that it seemingly affected many people only after they updated to iOS 9.3.

In the meantime, if you’ve been hit by this bug, Ben Collier has a step-by-step workaround guide. (It’s not simple.)

Dropcam Founder Greg Duffy Digs in Against Tony Fadell 

Greg Duffy, responding to Tony Fadell’s claim that “a lot of the [Dropcam] employees were not as good as we hoped”:

I can’t publish Dropcam’s revenue, but if you knew what percentage of all of Alphabet’s “other bets” revenue was brought in by the relatively tiny 100-person Dropcam team that Fadell derides, Nest itself would not look good in comparison. So, if Fadell wants to stick by his statement, I challenge him to release full financials (easy prediction: he won’t).

The ~50 Dropcam employees who resigned did so because they felt their ability to build great products being totally crushed. All of us have worked at big companies before, where it is harder to move fast. But this is something different, as evidenced by the continued lack of output from the currently 1200-person team and its virtually unlimited budget. According to LinkedIn, total attrition to date at Nest amounts to nearly 500 people, which suggests that we were not alone in our frustrations.

Brutal.

Apple Statement: ‘This Case Should Never Have Been Brought’ 

Finally, Apple and the FBI agree about something.

A Photo That Closes the Book on a Late Night Era 

Ian Crouch, writing for The New Yorker:

Of all the images and videos that have resurfaced in the days of mourning following the death of Garry Shandling, one particular photograph stands out for me. It was taken in 1988, on the set of the “Tonight Show,” during an episode marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of Johnny Carson’s run as host. It shows Carson during a bit with three of the recurring guest hosts on the show — Shandling, David Letterman, and Jay Leno — each of whom, by that point, had some designs on taking over for Carson when he finally came around on the idea of calling it quits. There is a lot of comedy firepower in that photo, and a lot of ego. Four famous white men onstage in tuxedos: it’s like a Hollywood version of one of those photographs from the early Soviet era that show political leaders in an uneasy alliance, before all the backstabbing, purges, and power grabs.

But what’s most striking about the image is how it captures, in the faces and manner of the four men, the precise nature of their comedic appeal.

It really is a remarkable photo. I changed my Twitter profile banner to this picture a few days ago.

Maciej Ceglowski’s Heroic and Lazy Stand Against IFTTT 

Pinboard creator Maciej Ceglowski:

Because many of you rely on IFTTT, and because this email makes it sound like I’m the asshole, I feel I should explain myself.

In a nutshell:

  1. IFTTT wants me to do their job for them for free

  2. They have really squirrely terms of service

Bending the Universe 

Marcin Wichary on the joy of writing a software hack as a teen:

There’s more to life than hacks, of course. Hacks are seductive, but they need to be exceptions, rather than norm. Many better engineers I’ve worked with taught me the value of hard, methodical work; writing code that’s simple to understand and easy to maintain, be it days or decades later.

But that first little assembly program put in my mind a very powerful notion: that there’s always a way out. Always a solution. That if you care enough, put in enough time, and take ownership of the messy consequences, you can sometimes bend — or, in my case un-bend — the rules of the universe.

Charlie Stross on Apple vs. the FBI 

Charlie Stross:

The FBI thought they were asking for a way to unlock a mobile phone, because the FBI is myopically focussed on past criminal investigations, not the future of the technology industry, and the FBI did not understand that they were actually asking for a way to tracelessly unlock and mess with every ATM and credit card on the planet circa 2030 (if not via Apple, then via the other phone OSs, once the festering security fleapit that is Android wakes up and smells the money).

If the FBI get what they want, then the back door will be installed and the next-generation payments infrastructure will be just as prone to fraud as the last-generation card infrastructure, with its card skimmers and identity theft.

And this is why Tim Cook is willing to go to the mattresses with the US department of justice over iOS security: if nobody trusts their iPhone, nobody will be willing to trust the next-generation Apple Bank, and Apple is going to lose their best option for securing their cash pile as it climbs towards the stratosphere.

The most interesting part of Stross’s piece is his argument that Apple needs to become a bank just to manage its massive, ever-growing reserve of cash. I think he’s too cynical in arguing that Apple Pay is Apple’s primary motivation behind its stance on encryption and privacy, though. It’s without question part of it, but I think Apple would have the same stance today even if Apple Pay didn’t exist. iMessage is designed around end-to-end encryption, for example, and it has nothing to do with Apple Pay.

Update: A few readers have pointed out that iMessage doesn’t have anything to do with Apple Pay yet, but could soon. Turning iMessage into a user-to-user payment system would be very cool, indeed. Another example: Apple is widely believed to be working on encrypted iCloud backups. I don’t think there’s any Apple Pay tie-in there. My point is that I think both of the following statements are true: Apple believes in strong encryption as a matter of principle; strong encryption is fundamental to Apple Pay’s success.

FBI Confirms Working Attack on San Bernardino iPhone, Requests Case Be Dropped (PDF) 

The Department of Justice has filed their status report:

The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple Inc. mandated by Court’s Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016.

Accordingly, the government hereby requests that the Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search dated February 16, 2016 be vacated.

A battle is over, but the war has only just begun.

The Talk Show: ‘Strict Robot Definer’ 

Blockbuster super-sized new episode of my podcast, with special guest Jason Snell. We take an in-depth look at last week’s Apple Event, and the two products that were introduced: the iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Other topics include the ongoing FBI/Apple encryption soap opera, what’s wrong with the Apple Watch — and our appreciation for the late great Garry Shandling.

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Glenn Fleishman: ‘The New Night Shift Feature Probably Won’t Help You Sleep Better’ 

Glenn Fleishman, writing at Macworld:

The Night Shift feature in iOS 9.3 lets you adjust the color temperature of the display, shifting away from blue spectrums of light, in the putative interest of improving sleep. But Apple makes no promises. On its website, Apple notes, “Many studies have shown that exposure to bright blue light in the evening can affect your circadian rhythms and make it harder to fall asleep.” In iOS, the feature is explained with “This may help you get a better night’s sleep.”

In fact, this feature likely will have little or no effect on most people. Apple hasn’t misrepresented any of the science, but clinical work done to date doesn’t point a finger right at mobile devices or even larger displays. Night Shift also can’t remove enough blue to make a difference if that color is the culprit. And blue light may not be the trigger it’s been identified as. While researchers haven’t tested the new feature yet, several factors add up to at best a placebo effect and a reminder to power yourself down.

I know people who enjoy Night Shift (and its Mac progenitor, F.lux) because they find it easier on their eyes at night. I think the stuff about getting a better night’s sleep is bunk, though. (And personally, I find the effect hideous — as though the display has been stained by years of exposure to nicotine.)

Garry Shandling’s Last Email to Amy Wallace 

Amy Wallace:

I will never forget calling my editor at GQ after spending my first four hours with Garry Shandling. I was sitting in my car outside Garry’s house in Mandeville Canyon. “I feel like I’m going to cry,” I said into the phone.

Great story.

Update: I hadn’t read Wallace’s profile of Shandling until now. It’s so good.

Bushel 

My thanks to Bushel for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Bushel is a simple-to-use cloud-based tool to manage the Apple devices in your workplace. With Bushel you can easily set up and protect all of the Apple devices that you distribute to your team. Provide access to company email accounts, automatically install work apps to every device in one fell swoop, and protect your team’s private data from company data. You can manage those Apple devices when you want, wherever you are. Bushel makes the complex simple.

Your first three devices are free forever, and each additional device is just $2 per month.

Dropcam Founder Greg Duffy Subtweets Tony Fadell 

Greg Duffy, after The Information’s scathing look inside Nest yesterday:

If you want to play emperor, make sure to wear real clothes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emperor%27s_New_Clothes

Zing.

Airfoil 5.0 

Nice update to Rogue Amoeba’s excellent “send audio from your Mac to other devices” app, Airfoil:

Perhaps the biggest change in Airfoil is that it now supports sending audio to Bluetooth devices. Airfoil has always been able to send audio to AirPlay outputs, like the Apple TV and AirPort Express. Now, it also works with the thousands of different Bluetooth speakers, headphones, and headsets available. With Airfoil 5, you can stream a single application’s audio to a Bluetooth device (or multiple Bluetooth devices!), and keep the rest of your audio on your Mac.

Check out Glenn Fleishman’s glowing 5-mouse review in Macworld.

Microsoft Disables Teen-Mimicking Chat Bot After It Started Posting Racist Tweets 

Alex Kantrowitz, writing for BuzzFeed:

In a matter of hours this week, Microsoft’s AI-powered chatbot, Tay, went from a jovial teen to a Holocaust-denying menace openly calling for a race war in ALL CAPS.

The bot’s sudden dark turn shocked many people, who rightfully wondered how Tay, imbued with the personality of a 19-year-old girl, could undergo such a transformation so quickly, and why Microsoft would release it into the wild without filters for hate speech.

Sources at Microsoft told BuzzFeed News that Tay was outfitted with some filters for vulgarity and the like. What the bot was not outfitted with were safeguards against those dark forces on the internet that would inevitably do their damnedest to corrupt her. That proved a critical oversight.

Not sure how Microsoft didn’t see this coming.

No Flipping: Remembering Garry Shandling 

Some great video clips in the Times’s obituary for Shandling, including his legendary first appearance on The Tonight Show, and his first guest-hosting stint.

Mac OS X Turns 15 

Stephen Hackett has a nice roundup of links to commemorate Mac OS X turning 15. I tend to think of Mac OS X as being “much” older than iOS, but iOS turns 9 in June. Not that much of a difference at this point — iOS is as mature now as Mac OS X was in 2010.

Apple’s First Foray Into Original TV Is a Series About Apps 

Emily Steel, reporting for the NYT:

Apple announced on Thursday that it was working with the entertainer Will.i.am and two veteran TV executives, Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, on a new show that will spotlight the app economy.

“One of the things with the app store that was always great about it was the great ideas that people had to build things and create things,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, said in an interview.

Details about the production are scant, and it was unclear how directly the show would promote or refer to Apple’s own app store. Executives declined to discuss specifics, such as financing, title, timeline, storylines, episode length or how people will watch the show.

If any developers hear from Apple about this, I’d be interested to know (on the Q.T., if necessary, which it probably will be).

Apple Downplaying the Apple Watch Edition in Both Online and Retail Stores 

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple has quietly revamped the Apple Watch section of its website, rendering the Edition almost invisible unless you specifically go looking for it. In addition, we’re hearing reports that Apple’s most expensive Watch is also being removed from some retail store displays. […]

The big tell, as noted by Lovejoy later in the article, is that the Edition didn’t see any new watch bands this week. It was always a bit of a lark, a whimsy the company granted to Jony Ive.

Garry Shandling on Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ 

Was great when it first aired, heartbreaking now. Even just the episode title — “It’s Great That Garry Shandling Is Still Alive”.

Garry Shandling Dies at 66 

Heartbreaking news:

Garry Shandling, a comedian who deftly walked a tightrope between comedic fiction and show-business reality on two cable sitcoms, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 66.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles police confirmed the death but did not give a cause. TMZ, the gossip website, reported that Mr. Shandling had had a heart attack.

Mr. Shandling, who began his comedy career as a writer and went on to become one of the most successful stand-up comics of the 1980s, was best known for “The Larry Sanders Show,” a dark look at life behind the scenes of a late-night talk show. It ran on HBO from 1992 to 1998.

“You may now flip.”

Adam Lashinsky Profiles Jeff Bezos for Fortune 

Great piece:

One reason Bezos can concentrate narrowly at Amazon is the length of tenure of his top lieutenants. Jeff Wilke, for example, joined Amazon in 1999, and today he runs Amazon’s consumer business, which he calls “Amazon Classic.” He says Amazon’s annual planning process — and the detailed narratives its managers prepare for them — allows Bezos to closely “audit” the company’s efforts. Otherwise, says Wilke, “I would say his style has gone from being more prescriptive to teaching and refining.” Jeff Blackburn, an 18-year Amazon veteran who runs the company’s M&A activities and content businesses, describes Bezos as consistent in his selection process. “He still works 65 hours a week. He’s still connected to the office and doesn’t travel very much. He dives in on the same issues now that he did many years ago.”

Lashinsky is one of the top writers in the racket. He’s really on fire lately.

The Information: ‘Inside Tony Fadell’s Struggle to Build Nest’ 

This story by Reed Albergotti for The Information is absolutely brutal. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an article quite like it, with on-the-record quotes documenting an utterly broken company culture. An extraordinary airing of a ton of dirty laundry. Exhibit A. Exhibit B, regarding the relationship between Tony Fadell and his Nest co-founder Matt Rogers:

Mr. Fadell attended Mr. Rogers’ wedding last year. Afterward, Mr. Fadell ordered Mr. Rogers to cancel his month-long honeymoon in June, Mr. Rogers confirmed. A spokeswoman for Nest said it was a critical time at the company: Nest was announcing a refresh of its entire product line. When Mr. Rogers refused, Mr. Fadell told him that if he went, he wouldn’t have a job when he came back. Mr. Rogers went anyway. Mr. Fadell did not follow up on his threat.

How exactly The Information got Fadell and Rogers to participate with this story boggles my mind. The backstory behind how this story came to be is probably just as interesting as the story itself — some real Machiavellian stuff.

(The Information is a paywall publication, but they now offer “sharing” links — hopefully mine will work for DF’s readership. The Information is well worth the subscription price, in my opinion.)

North Carolina’s Anti-Trans Law Is Downright Dangerous 

Zach Stafford, writing for The Guardian:

I’m not jumping to conclusions here. An analysis of data compiled by the National Transgender Discrimination Survey last month shows that when young people are denied access to a restroom that aligns with their gender identity, their rates of suicide go up.

Translation: not allowing trans youth to use a bathroom only perpetuates feelings of isolation or depression that lead 41% of transgender people to attempt kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared to the 4.6% in the general population.

How the iPad Pro Changed Zoe Olson’s Illustrating Career 

Fascinating look at the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (and Procreate) from an extraordinarily talented young illustrator.

Update: How does a 15-year old afford an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil? By saving her money from a year of babysitting work.

Macworld Podcast Episode 500 

Macworld:

The Macworld podcast celebrates its 500th episode! Yes, 500 years ago — we mean 11 years ago, this podcast started humbly as an experiment by a Macworld intern turned staffer recorded partly in a conference room with a nerdy guest named…Glenn Fleishman calling in remotely.

In this episode, after a welcome from one-time staffer Cyrus Farivar, Susie and Glenn talk with columnist and former editor Jason Snell about Apple’s introduction of the iPhone SE and Jason’s hands-on time with it. We also discuss the latest in the FBI/Apple case, the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and the iMessage security flaw patched this week.

Glenn takes a literal field trip this episode, too, to check in with a long-time contributor about his ruminations on the paucity of thoughtfulness among pundit: We chew the cud with the Macalope.

500 episodes is a remarkable achievement.

iMore Show Episode 500 

Rene Ritchie:

Rene, Serenity, and Georgia are joined by many friends and voices from the Apple community, Mobile Nations, and iMore, to celebrate the occasion of the 500th episode of our podcast.

500 episodes is a remarkable achievement. (And, yours truly was one of the special guests on this episode.)

BuzzFeed: ‘Questions Hang Over FBI After Apple Showdown Fizzles’ 

Hamza Shaban, summarizing the state of the Apple-FBI fight for BuzzFeed:

In an editorial Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal described the government’s clash with Apple as “reckless,” as the Justice Department “rushed to legal war with dubious theories,” and “fibbed” by stating that the San Bernardino case is all about one phone, even as law enforcement officials clamor for special access to encrypted devices in numerous cases across the country.

In a letter to the Journal, FBI Director James Comey said, “You are simply wrong to assert that the FBI and the Justice Department lied about our ability to access the San Bernardino killer’s phone.” Comey’s remarks echo those of DOJ officials from earlier this week, who stated that the worldwide publicity of the San Bernardino case prompted interested parties to contact the FBI and share methods to gain access to the iPhone. But all previous attempts have fallen short, until now. “Lots of folks came to us with ideas,” Comey said.

When the FBI lies it’s a “fib”. When you lie to the FBI it’s a “felony”. Good to see the Journal calling them out on it, though.

Walt Mossberg: ‘The iPhone 7 Had Better Be Spectacular’ 

Here’s the thing: read Mossberg’s wish list at the end of his column. Let’s say Apple ships an iPhone this fall that checks off every single item on his list. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for a thicker phone so as to provide longer battery life, but for the sake of argument, let’s just say they do.)

Would Mossberg deem such an iPhone “spectacular”? I doubt it.

Mossberg also wants a reduced forehead and chin on the front face. I don’t think that’s coming until 2018, when I suspect Apple will ship an iPhone with no forehead or chin, just edge-to-edge display with the camera, sensors, and home button embedded in the display. That’s quite a way out in the future.

The Information on Apple’s Data Center Plans 

Amir Efrati and Steve Nellis, reporting for The Information (behind a paywall; 9to5Mac has a summary post):

Apple is also working on projects to design its own servers. At least part of the driver for this is to ensure that the servers are secure. Apple has long suspected that servers it ordered from the traditional supply chain were intercepted during shipping, with additional chips and firmware added to them by unknown third parties in order to make them vulnerable to infiltration, according to a person familiar with the matter. At one point, Apple even assigned people to take photographs of motherboards and annotate the function of each chip, explaining why it was supposed to be there. Building its own servers with motherboards it designed would be the most surefire way for Apple to prevent unauthorized snooping via extra chips.

Cough, NSA, cough.

North Carolina House Passes Bill to Allow Anti-LGBT Discrimination 

Dominic Holden, reporting for BuzzFeed:

The North Carolina House voted 83-25 to pass a sweeping bill on Wednesday that would negate all local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances in the state and ban transgender people from certain restrooms.

Republican leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly had unveiled the legislation on Wednesday, and quickly began rushing the bill through a $42,000-a-day special legislative session fueled by rhetoric that portrayed transgender people as sex predators. Conservative lawmakers argued they are trying to protect privacy and promote safety in restrooms.

A lot of conservatives have some really weird hang-ups about public restrooms.

Pebble Layoffs 

Steve Kovach, writing for Tech Insider:

Pebble, the buzzy startup credited for being one of the first companies to launch a modern smartwatch, is laying off 40 employees this week, CEO Eric Migicovsky told Tech Insider in an interview. That’s about 25% of its total staff.

I still hope they make it, but its hard for a scrappy small company to compete against Apple, Samsung, LG, et al.

Kovach:

The Pebble layoffs come at a shaky time for the wearable technology market. FitBit, the leader in the wearable category, has seen its stock fall dramatically in recent months. Apple dropped the price of the Apple Watch by $50 to $299 on Monday, a sign that it’s not selling as well as hoped.

I do not assume that the $50 price cut for the Sport models is a sign it’s not selling as well as hoped. My guess is that it’s a sign that, one year in, they’re significantly cheaper for Apple to produce.

How Nike Lost Stephen Curry to Under Armour 

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, writing for ESPN:

Perhaps this is how Nike missed. Years of promoting Michael Jordan descendents made them oblivious to a player who shot the ball over that whole paradigm. It left them vulnerable to Kent Bazemore, and a company with less than 1 percent of the sneaker market. The next frontier of flight didn’t happen to be the next frontier of basketball. The next frontier happened to be Steph Curry, whose launches aren’t leaps, yet whose range commands a zeitgeist.

Nike could have re-signed Curry for just $4 million — a mistake that is now costing them billions.

Disney, Marvel Boycott Georgia Anti-Gay Bill 

Variety:

“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.

Good for them. The NFL is warning Georgia as well.

Matthew Panzarino Explains the New iPad Pro’s Embedded Apple SIM 

It’s a great feature, but carrier restrictions make the overall situation as clear as mud.

Inside Liam, Apple’s iPhone Recycling Robot 

Samantha Murphy Kelly, writing for Mashable:

Liam completes an iPhone disassembly process every 11 seconds, with dozens running through the system at all times. About 350 units are turned around each hour, equivalent to 1.2 million iPhones each year. Apple wouldn’t say when Liam started its work, but emphasized the project is still in the research and development stages.

I’ll bet Apple is also working on robots that assemble devices. That was the idea at NeXT — “the machine that builds the machines”. The scale just wasn’t there.

Apple’s ‘40 Years in 40 Seconds’ Video Annotated 

Stephen Hackett:

On today’s Upgrade, Jason Snell suggested that I should post annotations based on Apple’s “40 Years in 40 Seconds” video. So here we go.

Andy Grove Dies at 79 

A true giant of this industry. “Only the paranoid survive.”

FBI Asks to Delay Apple Trial 

T.C. Sottek, writing for The Verge:

The FBI just filed a motion to delay Tuesday’s hearing in the San Bernardino iPhone case, claiming that an “outside party” may be able to help it break into the phone without Apple’s help. The motion comes after weeks of escalation tension in the case with Apple, the FBI, and other stakeholders arguing the case in public before it reached courts.

“As the FBI continued to conduct its own research, and as a result of the worldwide publicity and attention on this case, others outside the US government have continued to contact the US government offering avenues of possible research,” the filing states.

I get the feeling the FBI concluded they were going to lose, so they’re not even going to test it. This really makes them look foolish.

Update: It’s canceled.

CBS News Poll: Americans Split on Unlocking San Bernardino Shooter’s iPhone 

CBS News:

In a CBS News/New York Times poll, 50 percent of the more than 1,000 people surveyed said Apple should unlock the phone, though nearly as many, 45 percent, think it should not.

The DOJ is touting this poll, but though they still have more people on their side of the argument, the gap has closed since the Pew poll a few weeks ago. I also once again question the specific wording of the question in the poll — this is not about simply “unlocking” the iPhone in question.

Also notable in these results:

More than eight in 10 Americans think it’s at least somewhat likely that if Apple creates a way to unlock the iPhone it will create a precedent for the future, and two-thirds think it’s at least somewhat likely it will make other iPhones more vulnerable to hackers.

Cloud Status App 

My thanks to Server Density for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new Cloud Status app. It’s a beautifully simple universal iOS app for developers. It monitors the status of top cloud service providers like AWS, Rackspace, Azure, Joyent, Google, and more, and alerts you with their latest status updates in real time. You pick the services you want alerts for, and that’s it.

They’re not even trying to sell you anything here — the app is completely free of charge. If you’re a developer using any of these services, check it out.

Florida Jury Hands Hulk Hogan a $115 Million Victory in the Gawker Sex Tape Trial 

Peter Kafka:

Round one in the Hulk Hogan/Gakwer sex tape trial goes to the wrestler: A Florida jury found decisively in his favor, and says the Web site owes him $115 million in damages.

Seems like a lot of people think Gawker can win this on appeal, but for now: whoa.

Update: Statement from Nick Denton.

Reuters: Senators Close to Finishing Encryption Penalties Legislation 

Reuters:

Technology companies could face civil penalties for refusing to comply with court orders to help investigators access encrypted data under draft legislation nearing completion in the U.S. Senate, sources familiar with continuing discussions told Reuters on Wednesday.

The long-awaited legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, may be introduced as soon as next week, one of the sources said.

It would expose companies like Apple Inc, which is fighting a magistrate judge’s order to unlock an iPhone connected to the mass-shooting in San Bernardino, California, to contempt of court proceedings and related penalties, the source said.

Effectively, this law would outlaw encryption in products and services made by U.S. companies.

Feinstein will be 85 when she’s up for re-election in two years, and has strongly hinted she’s not going to run again.

How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need? 

Marc Rayman, director and chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, explaining why NASA uses 3.141592653589793 (“only” 15 decimal places) for its most accurate calculations:

The most distant spacecraft from Earth is Voyager 1. It is about 12.5 billion miles away. Let’s say we have a circle with a radius of exactly that size (or 25 billion miles in diameter) and we want to calculate the circumference, which is pi times the radius times 2. Using pi rounded to the 15th decimal, as I gave above, that comes out to a little more than 78 billion miles. We don’t need to be concerned here with exactly what the value is (you can multiply it out if you like) but rather what the error in the value is by not using more digits of pi. In other words, by cutting pi off at the 15th decimal point, we would calculate a circumference for that circle that is very slightly off. It turns out that our calculated circumference of the 25 billion mile diameter circle would be wrong by 1.5 inches. Think about that. We have a circle more than 78 billion miles around, and our calculation of that distance would be off by perhaps less than the length of your little finger.

For a radius the size of the visible universe, you’d need only 39 or 40 decimal places to be accurate to within the size of a hydrogen atom. Fascinating. (Via Kottke.)

Apple Sees Weakness in FBI Hearing Request 

Martyn Williams, reporting for IDG:

On Wednesday evening, the FBI asked for an evidentiary hearing, which means the court will hear live testimony from expert witnesses from both sides. Apple agreed to the FBI’s request on Thursday.

Speaking on Friday with reporters, lawyers for Apple said the FBI’s request was a surprise, and they don’t understand why the government wants to present witnesses to the court.

If lawyers believe they have a strong legal case, they typically want to argue it without bothering with witnesses in these types of hearings, so the request may indicate that the FBI isn’t as comfortable as it was in relying solely on legal arguments, an Apple lawyer said.

This sounds right to me.

Firewatch: One Month Later 

Great post from Cabel Sasser.

I haven’t played a first-person game in years. I think the last one was Halo on the original Xbox back around 2000. But Firewatch intrigued me, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. It occupies a wonderful intersection between narrative cinema (thoughtful story, interesting characters, great actors, evocative beautiful visuals and sound design) and the immersive nature of playing, feeling like you are there.

My son — 12 years old, and inclined strongly toward frenetic shooting games like Destiny — very much enjoyed Firewatch too. He more or less played it straight through, driven to keep going in the same way one is with a good novel.

Toward the end of his life, Roger Ebert argued that “Video games can never be art”. I really wish he had lived to see Firewatch.

‘Open the Bomb Bay Doors, Please, Ken…’ 

Great post by Alec Nevala-Lee on Ken Adam and Stanley Kubrick:

As Adams says elsewhere:

[Kubrick] had this famous theory in those days that the director had the right to change his mind up until the moment the cameras started turning. But he changed his mind after the cameras were rolling! For me, it was enormously demanding, because until then I was basically a pretty organized person. But I wasn’t yet flexible enough to meet these sometimes impossible demands that he came up with. So I was going through an anxiety crisis. But at the same time I knew that every time he changed his mind, he came up with a brilliant idea. So I knew I had to meet his demands in some way, even if it seemed impossible from a practical point of view.

Which just serves as a reminder that for Kubrick, who is so often characterized as the most meticulous and obsessive of directors, an intense level of preparation existed primarily to enable those moments in which the plan could be thrown away — a point that even his admirers often overlook.

(Thanks to Kent M. Beeson.)

FBI Issues Warning: ‘Motor Vehicles Increasingly Vulnerable to Remote Exploits’ 

Rich, coming from the agency fighting tooth and nail against Apple to make phones less secure. Just wait until one of these computerized cars contains encrypted data the FBI wants for an investigation. (Via Jim Dalrymple.)

NYT: ‘Apple Encryption Engineers, if Ordered to Unlock iPhone, Might Resist’ 

John Markoff, Katie Benner, and Brian X. Chen, reporting for the NYT:

Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees.

Among those interviewed were Apple engineers who are involved in the development of mobile products and security, as well as former security engineers and executives.

Another topic that Glenn Fleishman and I discussed on the just-released new episode of The Talk Show. We came to the same conclusion: many, if not most, security engineers at Apple would quit rather than comply with this order — and they’d have no difficulty finding jobs elsewhere in the Valley in today’s market.

The Talk Show: ‘With Apologies to Hamilton’ 

Special guest Glenn Fleishman returns to the show to join me for an in-depth discussion of Apple’s legal fight with the DOJ and FBI over the iPhone and encryption, speculation on next week’s Apple event, and more.

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‘It Can Happen Here’ 

Theodore Gray:

Fear is the tool of choice for bringing a free people under the yoke. Fear is the great equalizer between the unlimited power of the people to act in their own interest, and the pitiful weakness of a would-be despot.

Do not give these people the tools that only fear can buy them.

Inside Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Fight With the FBI 

Lev Grossman, in a cover story for Time:

Inside Apple this idea is nicknamed, not affectionately, GovtOS. “We had long discussions about that internally, when they asked us,” Cook says. “Lots of people were involved. It wasn’t just me sitting in a room somewhere deciding that way, it was a labored decision. We thought about all the things you would think we would think about.” The decision, when it came, was no.

Cook actually thought that might be the end of it. It wasn’t: on Feb. 16 the FBI both escalated and went public, obtaining a court order from a federal judge that required Apple to create GovtOS under something called the All Writs Act. Cook took deep, Alabaman umbrage at the manner in which he learned about the court order, which was in the press: “If I’m working with you for several months on things, if I have a relationship with you, and I decide one day I’m going to sue you, I’m a country boy at the end of the day: I’m going to pick up the phone and tell you I’m going to sue you.”

See also: The full transcript of their interview.

‘The Apple Fight Is About All of Us’ 

Joint statement from the EFF, ACLU, and Access Now:

We call on the Obama Administration to heed the advice of neutral security experts, engineers, and even his own advisors who have affirmed the dangers inherent in the order issued to Apple. We urge them to reject the calls of those who seek to undermine our security, whether through backdoors into our software, master keys to unlock our digital data, or pressure on companies to downgrade our security.

Over 100,000 people have called for President Obama to stand up for security in our devices through savecrypto.org. It’s time for the President to be accountable to them, and to all of us.

One of the things Glenn Fleishman and I talk about on this week’s episode of my podcast is that there are no crypto or security experts on the DOJ’s side in the matter. None. I’m not saying there’s no one on the DOJ’s side — only that none of them are crypto or security experts.

Recode: Apple to Build Out Own Cloud Infrastructure 

Mark Bergen, reporting for Recode on reports that Apple is shifting some of its cloud infrastructure from AWS to Google:

Then there’s Apple’s next step. Morgan Stanley, in a note last month, laid out the tea leaves: Apple has announced three data centers opening soon and spent an estimated $1 billion last year on AWS. It’s a logical move for Apple if it wants more independence from its tech rivals. And it’s one Apple should make to store the growing media libraries from its mobile, TV and TBD products.

According to a source familiar with the matter, Apple already has a team working on this; it’s known internally as “McQueen,” as in Steve. It’s unclear if that project will materialize or when. But a source tells Re/code that the codename refers to Apple’s intent, sometime in the next few years, to break its reliance on all three outside cloud providers in favor of its own soup-to-nuts infrastructure.

This is more in line with Tim Cook’s longtime refrain, “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make.”

Arizona Diamondbacks Unveil Seven New Uniforms for 2016 

This is ridiculous. One uniform for home games, one for the road, and one cap — that’s all any team needs.

True story (you can ask my mom): my first spoken word was “cookie”, such a fan of Cookie Monster was I. I’ve never been one for moderation.

(Don’t miss the small-print gag at the very end.)

Susan Crawford: ‘The Law Is Clear: The FBI Cannot Make Apple Rewrite Its OS’ 

Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford, who served as Obama’s special assistant in 2009:

The president — our Law Professor in Chief — has to know the DOJ is on shaky ground. He’s probably got this rule of statutory construction rolling around in his mind as he watches college basketball this week: Specific statutes trump general ones. Generalia specialibus non derogant.

Nonetheless, the president has chosen his I Get Terrifying Briefings Every Day hat. It’s understandable. Who will blame him for protecting us? He’s worried about something awful happening. It’s just that increasingly hard-to-hear rule of law alarm bell going off again.

The DOJ is arguing that the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) should not apply, when clearly it should. And they’re arguing that the All Writs Act should apply, when clearly it shouldn’t. The more I read about it, the stronger Apple’s legal argument looks.

‘Dr. Strangelove’ Coming to Criterion Collection 

Sign me up.

Michael Mann Launches Book Imprint; ‘Heat’ Prequel Novel in Works 

Mike Fleming Jr., reporting for Deadline Hollywood:

Writer-director Michael Mann, long one of the most literate translators of words to the screen, has made a deal to launch Michael Mann Books. The imprint will generate a series of novels with a stable of writers and the properties will simultaneously be developed for film and television. Mann will look through his own long list of credits for ideas, and a big piece of news here is that high on the priority list is a prequel novel dealing with the principal characters of Heat, Mann’s seminal crime thriller. The prequel novel will cover the formative years of homicide detective Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro), Chris Shihirles (Val Kilmer), McCauley’s accomplice Nate (Jon Voight), and other characters so brilliantly layered in the 1995 film. Mann based that film on stories of a lot of real criminals and cops, and references to past experiences are peppered throughout the picture.

Sign me up.

Google Lands Apple as Cloud Services Customer 

Kevin McLaughlin and Joseph Tsidulko, reporting for CRN:

Alphabet’s Google has quietly scored a major coup in its campaign to become an enterprise cloud computing powerhouse, landing Apple as a customer for the Google Cloud Platform, multiple sources with knowledge of the matter told CRN this week.

Since inking the Google deal late last year, Apple has also significantly reduced its reliance on Amazon Web Services, whose infrastructure it uses to run parts of iCloud and other services, said the sources, who all requested anonymity to protect their relationships with the vendors.

Apple has not abandoned AWS entirely and remains a customer, the sources said.

Well, that’s interesting. (Via Ben Bajarin.)

Apple’s Final Brief Heading Into Federal Court 

Greg Kumparak and Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

During a call last week about the filing, Apple executives, including general counsel Bruce Sewell, spoke in a way that can be best characterized as surprised and outraged. The FBI’s tone shift from legal argument to character assassination in its filings had clearly taken Apple off guard.

The tone of today’s filing and subsequent call was much more cold and precise. Apple got some time to consider the best way to respond and went with dissecting the FBI’s technical arguments in a series of precise testimonies by its experts.

Where the FBI filing last week relied on invective, Apple’s this week relies on poking holes in critical sections of the FBI’s technical narrative.

TechCrunch has the full brief embedded at the bottom of the post. It’s worth reading — inevitably some of it is inside baseball legalese, but it seems clear to me that Apple’s lawyers have made a tremendous effort to make it as accessible as possible. On some points they simply tear apart the government’s factual errors.

See also: This roundup of Twitter commentary on today’s brief by Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing.

Steven Troughton-Smith’s WWDC Wish List 

Steven Troughton-Smith:

I don’t often do this, but this year I think it’s important; Apple is more open and receptive to feedback today than it ever has been. With iOS 9 and iPad Pro, iOS has made a tremendous leap in the past year on iPad. With that in mind, I wanted to note down all the things in my head that I really want to see the iOS computing platform grow to cover.

What follows is an unordered list of things I’d like to see from Apple over the next few years, starting with the easy and obvious things upfront.

Pretty solid list.

Apple Should Own the Term ‘Warrant Proof’ 

Jonathan Zdziarski:

We, as everyday Americans, should also encourage the idea of warrant proof places. The DOJ believes, quite erroneously, that the Fourth Amendment gives them the right to any evidence or information they desire with a warrant. The Bill of Rights did not grant rights to the government; it protected the rights of Americans from the overreach that was expected to come from government. Our most intimate thoughts, our private conversations, our ideas, our intent are all things our phone tracks. These are concepts that must remain private (if we choose to protect them) for any functioning free society. In today’s technological landscape, we are no longer giving up just our current or future activity under warrant, but for the first time in history, making potentially years of our life retroactively searchable by law enforcement. Things are recorded in ways today that no one would have imagined, even when CALEA was passed. The capability that DOJ is asserting is that our very lives and identities — going back across years — are subject to search. The Constitution never permitted this.

If you read the government’s brief from last week, every instance of the adjective “warrant-proof” could be replaced by the word “secure”.

The government is trying to claim that Apple designed recent iPhones specifically to stymie law enforcement investigations. The feds leading this charge clearly do not understand many of the technical issues, but on this point they are being willfully obtuse. Apple designed the iPhone to be secure, and as a natural consequence of that security, their protections are harder to breach for everyone, including law enforcement.

How Diffie-Hellman Public Key Cryptography Works 

A bit of history on public key cryptography, followed by a wonderfully cogent layperson’s explanation for how public key cryptography works. The analogy to mixing paint is so good.

Instagram to Switch to Algorithmic Feed Order 

Instagram:

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.

I trust Instagram to get this right.

Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford Reunite for Fifth Indiana Jones Movie 

Variety:

Director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford will make a fifth “Indiana Jones” film, to screen July 19, 2019, Disney announced Tuesday.

The release from the studio describes “a fifth epic adventure in the blockbuster series,” adding: “Steven Spielberg, who directed all four previous films, will helm the as-yet-untitled project with star Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. Franchise veterans Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.”

Somebody’s name is conspicuously absent from this announcement.

Update: I was referring to George Lucas — who co-created the franchise with Spielberg and wrote the stories for all the previous movies. The story I’ve heard is that part of Harrison Ford’s deal to do The Force Awakens was that they’d also do another Indiana Jones movie and this time do it right, with no involvement from Lucas. That Shia LaBeouf wasn’t coming back went without saying: neither Spielberg nor Ford liked him.

Gene Munster on Apple Car Pricing 

Apple Car Fans:

In terms of the most likely go to market price, Munster also has a strong opinion.

“If you look at the overall automotive industry Apple historically plays toward the high-end.” The price when Apple starts selling it in 2020 or 2021 will be “around $75,000.”

I think Apple Watch points the way to hypothetical Apple Car pricing, with two or three tiers with very different price points.

(Via Jalopnik, who missed a real opportunity with the image they chose to pointlessly illustrate their article. Clearly they should’ve used this.)

Objection: Apple Is Not a Monopoly 

The Macalope:

Turns out smartphone security is not the only thing people in Washington D.C. are willfully obtuse about. Writing for The Hill, Glenn B. Manishin says it’s “Time to prosecute Apple for monopolization.”

Sure. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

DOJ’s Clear Threat to Go After Apple’s Source Code 

Marcy Wheeler:

Through a variety of means, DOJ went well out of its way to introduce the specter of a demand for Apple’s source code into its response. They are clearly suggesting that if Apple refuses to write code that doesn’t exist, the government will happily take code that does.

Loretta Lynch claimed, under oath last week, that the government doesn’t want a back door into Apple products. That’s not what her lawyers have suggested in this brief. Not at all.

It’s a threat, pure and simple. Give us a way into iPhones or we will come after your source code.

Take a Stand Against the Obama/FBI Anti-Encryption Charm Offensive 

Daniel Eran Dilger, writing at Apple Insider:

There’s no “balance” possible in the debate on encryption. Either we have access to real encryption or we don’t. It very much is an issue of absolutes. Real encryption means that the data is absolutely scrambled, the same way that a paper shredder absolutely obliterates documents. If you have a route to defeat encryption on a device or between two devices, it’s a backdoor, whether the government wants to play a deceptive word game or not.

If the government obtains a warrant, that means its has the legal authority to seize evidence. It does not mean that the agencies involved have unbridled rights to conscript unrelated parties into working on their behalf to decipher, translate or recreate any bits of data that are discovered.

Good piece, with information on how to make your voice heard.

Richard Clarke on Encryption 

From an interview with NPR’s David Greene:

CLARKE: Well, I don’t think it’s a fierce debate. I think the Justice Department and the FBI are on their own here. You know, the secretary of defense has said how important encryption is when asked about this case. The National Security Agency director and three past National Security Agency directors, a former CIA director, a former Homeland Security secretary have all said that they’re much more sympathetic with Apple in this case. You really have to understand that the FBI director is exaggerating the need for this and is trying to build it up as an emotional case, organizing the families of the victims and all of that. And it’s Jim Comey and the attorney general is letting him get away with it.

GREENE: So if you were still inside the government right now as a counterterrorism official, could you have seen yourself being more sympathetic with the FBI in doing everything for you that it can to crack this case?

CLARKE: No, David. If I were in the job now, I would have simply told the FBI to call Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and NSA would have solved this problem for them. They’re not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent.

Bingo.

Dropbox’s Exodus From the Amazon Cloud 

Cade Metz, writing for Wired:

The whole process took two years. A project like this, needless to say, is a technical challenge. But it’s also a logistical challenge. Moving that much data across the Internet is one thing. Moving that many machines into data centers is another. And they had to do both, as Dropbox continued to serve hundreds of millions of people. “It’s like a moving car,” says Dan Williams, a former Facebook network engineer who oversaw much of the physical expansion, “and you want to be able to change a tire while still driving.” In other words, while making all these changes, Dropbox couldn’t very well shut itself down. It couldn’t tell the hundreds of millions of users who relied on Dropbox that their files were temporarily unavailable. Ironically, one of the best measures of success for this massive undertaking would be that users wouldn’t notice it had happened at all.

As Tim Cook says, “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products that we make.”

Parakeet Primaries 

256 exquisitely well-done and consistent stock icons for just $200, from the dynamic duo at Parakeet.

Why Are We Fighting the Crypto Wars Again? 

Steven Levy’s take on the Apple/FBI battle over encryption is simply fantastic. Spread this piece far and wide — Levy has a genuine gift for explaining the importance of strong encryption.

Squarespace 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. I’m sure you’ve heard of them — they make it easy to create, customize, and host a website. If you haven’t checked them out in a while, you should take another look. They just keep making their platform better and better.

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Lockpickers 3D-Printed TSA Master Luggage Keys From Leaked Photos 

Wired:

The TSA is learning a basic lesson of physical security in the age of 3-D printing: If you have sensitive keys — say, a set of master keys that can open locks you’ve asked millions of Americans to use — don’t post pictures of them on the Internet.

A group of lock-picking and security enthusiasts drove that lesson home Wednesday by publishing a set of CAD files to Github that anyone can use to 3-D print a precisely measured set of the TSA’s master keys for its “approved” locks — the ones the agency can open with its own keys during airport inspections. Within hours, at least one 3-D printer owner had already downloaded the files, printed one of the master keys, and published a video proving that it opened his TSA-approved luggage lock.

New York City’s $8 Master Key 

Susan Edelman, reporting for the New York Post back in September:

Master keys for every elevator in the city, major construction sites, subways and skyscrapers are being freely sold online, despite a city law that makes it illegal for unauthorized persons to possess them.

A New Jersey-based lock company is peddling an unlimited supply of New York City’s “1620” fire service keys on eBay at $15.50 for two.

Access to the Big Apple keys is sharply restricted. It’s unlawful for anyone other than firefighters, law-enforcement personnel, elevator contractors or inspectors and building owners to have them.

But a Post reporter bought two keys to the city with no questions asked from UltimateSecurityDevices.com, an online arm of Northeast Lock Corp. in Clifton, NJ.

This is, effectively, what the Department of Justice wants for the iPhone.

Florida Sheriff Threatens to Arrest ‘Rascal’ Tim Cook 

Fox 13 News in Florida:

In this Polk county case, the suspects don’t have iPhones. But Judd said, if it ever comes up in, he wouldn’t hesitate to arrest Cook himself.

“I can tell you, the first time we do have trouble getting into a cell phone, we’re going to seek a court order from Apple. And when they deny us, I’m going to go lock the CEO of Apple up,” he pledged. “I’ll lock the rascal up.”

Yes, that’s exactly how it works.

Update: Video footage of Sheriff “JW” Judd attempting to arrest another rascal.

Obama on FBI v. Apple, Encryption: ‘We Can’t Fetishize Our Phones Above Other Values’ 

Natt Garun, reporting on President Obama’s remarks on stage at SXSW:

“If it was technologically possible to make an impenetrable device where there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we disrupt a terrorist plot? How do we even do a simple thing like tax enforcement?” he posed. “If government can’t get in, then everyone’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket. There has to be some concession to get into that information somewhere.”

Obama is sadly on the wrong side on this one. (Not surprising, given his past remarks and the fact that the Department of Justice is part of the Executive Branch.)

Here’s the thing: it is technically possible to make an impenetrable device. I strongly suspect Apple will, this year or next, begin selling them. And law enforcement will have to catch and prosecute criminals the same way they always have: through the evidence they can legally obtain.

“Setting aside the specific case between the FBI and Apple, we’re gonna have to make some decisions about how we balance these respective risks,” POTUS concludes. “We can’t fetishize our phones above every other value. The dangers are real. This notion that sometimes our data is different and can be walled off from these other trade-offs is incorrect.”

I firmly believe Obama is advocating the wrong set of trade-offs. Our phones are either insecure, making life easier for law enforcement — or, our phones are secure, making life more difficult for law enforcement, rendering some potential evidence unobtainable. We don’t ban matches to prevent people from burning evidence. We don’t mandate weak locks to make it easier for the police to crack safes.

I keep thinking about a line from Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil: “A policeman’s job is only easy in a police state.

Indie Mac Apps Are the Better Economic Bet 

Brent Simmons, following up on Rene Ritchie’s aforelinked piece:

The Mac has for a long time been overlooked — first because Windows was so huge, and then web apps, and now iOS. For my entire career people have said that the Mac is a bad bet, that it’s dumb to write Mac apps.

In 2002, in Why I Develop for Mac OS X, I explained that I write Mac apps for emotional reasons.

Those emotional reasons still apply, and are enough, themselves, to keep me writing Mac apps. But my experience since then tells me that writing Mac apps is the best economic bet for indies. (Particularly if you sell the app yourself, so you can have a trial version and upgrade pricing.)

See also: Cabel Sasser on iOS vs. Mac revenue.

Wooden Toys in the Age of Plastic 

Rene Ritchie, “What No Indie Developer Wants to Hear About the App Store”:

When I was a child, all my favorite toys were wooden, painstakingly carved by artisans who ran the store near my home. I cherished them. Today those kinds of toys are all but gone, and that business model is no longer viable in the mass market.

In the age of Toys R Us and endless plastic of Lego and Hasbro, indie toy making has all but disappeared from the mainstream. So have many music and book shops in the face of Amazon and mom-and-pop shops in the shadow of Walmart.

Customers, by and large, decided we’d rather have an endless supply of cheap than we would a few precious pieces and the market has followed.

I recently spoke to some app developers — names many people would recognize — and this was the same realization they communicated to me. They didn’t want to speak on the record because they feared the community would have little sympathy for their views, but asked that I relate them.

To them, the mainstreaming of computing technology has led to a similar mainstreaming of apps. When only a few could afford Macs, software was held in high value and esteem. Now there are millions of apps on millions of phones and tablets made by millions of developers, accessibility is near-universal and scarcity is a thing of past.

The DOJ Threatens to Seize Apple’s Crown Jewels 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

Did you catch that? That’s a classic police threat: We can do this easy way or the hard way. Give us the little thing we’re asking for — a way to bypass your security software — or we’ll take whole thing: Your crown jewels and the royal seal too.

With Apple’s source code, the FBI could, in theory, create its own version of iOS with the security features stripped out. Stamped with Apple’s electronic signature, the Bureau’s versions of iOS could pass for the real thing.

Keep in mind that no one is saying that Apple has broken the law. The DOJ is attempting to intimidate them simply for making iPhones more secure.

March Madness 2016 Comes to Apple TV With Exclusive Split-Screen Feature 

From the press release for this year’s NCAA March Madness Live app:

Platform expansion – This year’s product will expand to 12 platforms — more than ever before –including desktop, Amazon Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV, iPhone, iPad, Android handset, Android tablet, Windows handset, Windows desktop, Apple TV, Apple Watch, Roku players and Roku TV models. Exclusively for NCAA March Madness Live, fans watching via Apple TV can enjoy two live games at once with the Split Screen feature.

That split screen feature should be great, especially during the first round when there are so many concurrent games. But is it exclusive for Apple TV for technical reasons, or because of a deal the NCAA worked out with Apple?

The R-Word 

Lindy West, in an op-ed for the NYT:

It’s an odd construction. Once you say, “He says what I’m afraid to say,” and point to a man who is essentially a 24/7 fire hose of unequivocal bigotry, you’ve said what you’re afraid to say, so how afraid could you have been in the first place? The phrase is a dodge, a way to acknowledge that you’re aware it’s a little naughty to be a misogynist xenophobe in 2016, while letting like-minded people know, with a conspiratorial wink, that you’re only pretending to care. It’s a wild grab for plausible deniability — how can I be a white supremacist when I’m just your nice grandpa? — an artifact of a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist.

That phrase at the end — that we have “a culture in which some people believe that it’s worse to be called racist than to be racist” — is something I started noticing years ago. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it, and it explains much about our current discourse on racism.

What’s happened is that all but a small fringe of American society has agreed that “racism”, in the abstract, is deeply wrong. But there are many people who agree that “racism” is deeply wrong who themselves hold racist views. One way they square this cognitive dissonance is by redefining “racism” as applying only to grossly overt racism — using racial slurs, refusing to hire people of color, belonging to whites-only clubs, etc.

It’s the difference between seeing racism as a problem on which we’ve made tremendous progress but still have far to go, versus seeing it as a problem which we have largely eliminated.

Adam and Kubrick 

2013 interview with Ken Adam on his decades-long relationship with Stanley Kubrick. On the Dr. Strangelove War Room set:

“We had big rows because on other films I’d been used to telling the director where to do his establishing shot from. But Stanley said the hell with you I’m not putting my camera there — and you’ll thank me in the end.”

The war room is an acknowledged classic of movie design and Sir Ken can’t resist quoting the biggest compliment he ever received.

“I was in the States giving a lecture to the Directors Guild when Steven Spielberg came up to me. He said ‘Ken, that War Room set for Strangelove is the best set you ever designed’. Five minutes later he came back and said ‘No it’s the best set that’s ever been designed’.”

On Kubrick’s uncredited contribution to Adam’s work on the Bond franchise:

In 1977, designing the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, Sir Ken had built a vast set at Pinewood studios. It included a supertanker which was proving hard to light.

“So I called Stanley up and asked him down to Pinewood to give me ideas. At first he said I was out of my mind but eventually he agreed to come on a Sunday when only security were around.

“He spent three or four hours with me telling me how he would light the stage. And of course the whole thing being in secret appealed to Stanley’s sense of drama. But I knew we would never work together again. And Stanley didn’t ask — he’d been so scared when he saw what happened to me half way through Barry Lyndon.”

Ken Adam, Movie Designer Extraordinaire, Dies at 95 

Kat Bauman, writing for Core 77:

Other cinema-shifting highlights from his bonkers Bond work include ejecting seats and rocket shoes, the introduction of the Aston Martin, a fantastic fictionalized Fort Knox, the volcano lair in You Only Live Twice, and a mind-bogglingly large soundstage for the tanker in The Spy Who Loved Me. But really, anywhere you look in a Bond film you’ll find traces of Adam’s innovation, drama, and fun.

Shortly after the release of Goldfinger, he was approached to work on another visual and cultural groundbreaker: Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 cult classic Doctor Strangelove. Adam’s version of the War Room in the film has influenced generations of audiences, artists and directors, and impacted the way the Cold War was seen around the world. There’s even a story that Ronald Reagan (Cold War noteworthy and cinephile that he was) wondered aloud where the War Room was located during his first elected tour of the White House.

What a career.

Bruce Sewell: ‘The Tone of the Brief Reads Like an Indictment’ 

Bruce Sewell, in an on-the-record conference call with reporters:

The tone of the brief reads like an indictment. We’ve all heard director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey’s own statement…that there are no demons here? We certainly wouldn’t conclude it from this brief. In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case. For the first time ever, we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case. […]

Look, we know there are great people in the DoJ and the FBI. We work shoulder to shoulder with them all the time. That’s why this cheap shot brief surprises us so much. We help when we’re asked to. We’re honest about what we can and can’t do. Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going to court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was on the call, and my impression is that Sewell and Apple are seething. I get the sense there’s an aspect of “Fool us once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Apple was surprised last month when the DOJ decided to fight this in public. But until today, the tone has been civil. Adversarial, clearly — there is no middle ground. But civil. Today, though, the DOJ made things nasty. I think Apple was genuinely surprised by the threatening tone and nature of today’s brief. The DoJ’s brief contains an outright threat to confiscate the source code to iOS. That’s insane.

Apple’s not going to be surprised again.

The Verge is hosting a copy of the DOJ’s brief. Worth reading.

NSA Data Will Soon Routinely Be Used for Domestic Policing That Has Nothing to Do With Terrorism 

Radley Balko, writing for The Washington Post:

On the one hand, I guess it’s better that this new data-sharing policy is acknowledged in the open instead of carried out surreptitiously. On the other hand, there’s something even more ominous about the fact that they no longer feel as though they need to hide it.

It’s all another sobering reminder that any powers we grant to the federal government for the purpose of national security will inevitably be used just about everywhere else. And extraordinary powers we grant government in wartime rarely go away once the war is over. And, of course, the nifty thing for government agencies about a “war on terrorism” is that it’s a war that will never formally end.

This is literally the plot from Spectre.

$20 ‘Blockhead’ Adapter Lets MacBook Charger Sit Flush Against Wall 

It’s an interesting idea, and I know a few spots in my house where this would come in useful. But I really wish the prongs folded up (like Apple’s do).

Eric Schmidt Spotted Snapping Pics With an Apple iPhone 

Apple Insider:

Former Google CEO and current Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was in South Korea for a press event this week, where he was spotted taking pictures of the event using an Apple iPhone instead of a Google Android handset. […]

While the sight of Schmidt using an iPhone, and not an Android device, may come as a surprise to some, it’s not entirely unexpected — Schmidt continued to use a BlackBerry well after the launch of Android, candidly admitting he preferred the handset’s physical keyboard.

Curious what the story is here.

Apple Event Officially Scheduled for Monday, March 21 

As expected, it’s a small event on Apple’s Infinite Loop campus in Cupertino. Could be the last-ever public event in their Town Hall theater.

Jeff Bezos Lifts Veil on His Rocket Company, Blue Origin 

Kenneth Chang, reporting for the NYT:

The headquarters of Blue Origin, the secretive rocket company in an industrial park here, is anonymous, with not even a sign at the road to announce the occupants.

On Tuesday, for the first time, Blue Origin, started by Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, opened its doors to reporters.

“Welcome to Blue,” Mr. Bezos said. “Thank you for coming.”

Interesting how Bezos is going head-to-head against Elon Musk and SpaceX.

Google’s DeepMind Defeats Legendary Go Player Lee Se-Dol in Historic Victory 

Sam Byford, reporting for The Verge from Korea:

Go is an ancient Chinese board game that has long been considered one of the great challenges faced by AI. While computer programs now best the world’s leading human players of games like checkers and chess, the high level of intuition and evaluation required by Go has made it tough for computers to crack. DeepMind’s AlphaGo program is the most advanced effort yet, using a complex system of deep neural networks and machine learning; it beat European champion Fan Hui last year, but Lee Se-dol is another proposition entirely.

“I don’t regret accepting this challenge,” said Lee. “I am in shock, I admit that, but what’s done is done. I enjoyed this game and look forward to the next. I think I failed on the opening layout so if I do a better job on the opening aspect I think I will be able to increase my probability of winning.” Lee was surprised both by how strong AlphaGo’s opening was, and by some unexpected moves.

Update: DeepMind won game 2 as well.

Forbes: ‘Amid Mounting Questions, Dropbox Tops 500 Million Users and Says Growth Continues Apace’ 

Miguel Helft, writing for Forbes:

As investor sentiment toward ”unicorns” has turned over the past few months, Dropbox has been besieged with questions about everything from its $10 billion valuation to the viability of its business.

On Monday, the company sought to rebut skeptics, saying its growth trajectory remains as strong as ever. Speaking at the FORBES CIO Summit in Half Moon Bay, Calif., Dennis Woodside, the chief operating officer, said Dropbox now has 500 million users, up from 400 million in June of last year.

“We are continuing the scaling of the business across both consumer and enterprise,” Woodside told FORBES in an interview.

I hope they’re doing well — to call Dropbox “essential” is an understatement.

Robert Palladino, Scribe Who Shaped Apple’s Fonts, Dies at 83 

The NYT:

To his students, he brought a world of genteel scholarship and quiet contemplation; a world whose modus operandi — by hand, with ink, on paper, parchment and vellum — was little changed for centuries; a world of classical music (an accomplished singer, he liked to ply his calligraphy to Beethoven), Gregorian chant and the Latin Mass, which he continued celebrating in discreet defiance long after Vatican II.

Into that world burst a young college dropout named Steve Jobs.

Amazon’s Story Time 

Josh Eidelson, writing for Bloomberg:

In an effort to discourage stealing, Amazon has put up flatscreen TVs that display examples of alleged on-the-job theft, say 11 of the company’s current and former warehouse workers and antitheft staff. The alleged offenders aren’t identified by name. Each is represented by a black silhouette stamped with the word “terminated” and accompanied by details such as when they stole, what they stole, how much it was worth, and how they got caught—changing an outbound package’s address, for example, or stuffing merchandise in their socks. Some of the silhouettes are marked “arrested.”

Not weird or Orwellian at all. No sir.

WSJ Editorial: ‘Apple Is Right on Encryption’ 

The Wall Street Journal:

We bow to no one in defense of antiterror programs whose political popularity waxes and wanes, especially on surveillance. But this case isn’t about “privacy”. This is about engineering security and its implications for the security of all Americans.

I disagree that it’s not about privacy, but they are exactly correct that it is about engineering security. Apple — and every other company in tech — should be working as hard as it can to make its entire systems as secure as possible, even if “as secure as possible” completely locks out everyone, including law enforcement.

Apple Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court in $450 Million E-Book Case 

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. must pay $450 million to end an antitrust suit after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to question a finding that the company orchestrated a scheme to raise the prices for electronic books.

The justices, without comment, turned away an appeal by Apple, leaving intact a federal appeals court ruling favoring the U.S. Justice Department and more than 30 states that sued.

The rebuff means Apple must comply with a settlement it reached with the states in 2014. The accord calls for Apple to pay $400 million to e-book consumers, $20 million to the states, and $30 million in legal fees.

Whenever someone says Apple does things only for the money, they should examine this case. This was always about the principle. They could have settled years ago, but they truly believe they got the shaft on this, and fought it until the end.

(I think they got the shaft.)

Chris ‘Moot’ Poole Joins Google 

Chris Poole, founder of 4chan:

I can’t wait to contribute my own experience from a dozen years of building online communities, and to begin the next chapter of my career at such an incredible company.

Of course the founder of 4chan wound up at Google.

Craig Federighi Op-Ed in The Washington Post 

To the point:

That’s why it’s so disappointing that the FBI, Justice Department and others in law enforcement are pressing us to turn back the clock to a less-secure time and less-secure technologies. They have suggested that the safeguards of iOS 7 were good enough and that we should simply go back to the security standards of 2013. But the security of iOS 7, while cutting-edge at the time, has since been breached by hackers. What’s worse, some of their methods have been productized and are now available for sale to attackers who are less skilled but often more malicious.

That’s really it.

San Bernardino DA Says Seized iPhone May Hold ‘Dormant Cyber Pathogen’ 

Ars Technica:

“The iPhone is a county owned telephone that may have connected to the San Bernardino County computer network. The seized iPhone may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino’s infrastructure,” according to a court filing (PDF) by Michael Ramos, the San Bernardino County district attorney.

Sounds to me like Ramos has watched Skyfall too many times.

Igloo, a Modern Intranet 

My thanks to Igloo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Collaboration can be incredibly fragmented today — files shared one way, messaging via various chat apps, email lists for groups, etc. It can be overwhelming.

That’s why you should try Igloo. It combines department spaces, team calendars, corporate file sharing, internal communications capabilities, social features, and more. It’s really easy both to use and to configure. Igloo is an intranet you’ll actually like. Try Igloo today, free of charge.

Apple Hosts Public Letter From San Bernardino Victim to Judge Sheri Pym (PDF) 

Salihin Kondoker:

When I first learned Apple was opposing the order I was frustrated that it would be yet another roadblock. But as I read more about their case, I have come to understand their fight is for something much bigger than one phone. They are worried that this software the government wants them to use will be used against millions of other innocent people. I share their fear.

I support Apple and the decision they have made. I don’t believe Tim Cook or any Apple employee believes in supporting terrorism any more than I do. I think the vicious attacks I’ve read in the media against one of America’s greatest companies are terrible.

The battle is being fought both in the courtroom, and in the court of public opinion. Support like this helps Apple with the latter — which in turn helps with the former.

Box Chief Information Security Officer’s Perspective on Apple and the FBI 

Joel de la Garza:

I’ve been working to help secure computer systems for the entirety of my professional career. It is incredibly difficult to build computer systems that are not vulnerable to attack. As we’ve seen, a number of companies and governments have had great difficulty protecting the front door of their computer systems. I’ve dedicated my career to making sure our systems are designed, built, and operated to the most secure standards. And even with that tremendous investment, bugs still happen. Due to the many layers of security controls built into our systems software bugs are usually not damaging or catastrophic in nature. But peeling away those layers of control to create a backdoor means that even the most basic security bug could potentially have a catastrophic effect. This reality is missing from our current debate about the FBI’s order to Apple in the San Bernardino tragedy.

@AppleSupport 

Neat: Apple has a new Twitter account for tips, tricks, and support. Right now they’re answering 3-4 questions per minute.

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee 

Four episodes in and I’m loving this show. The no-desk thing threw me off at first — the staging has a Tosh.0 vibe — but it works. The show has a fast pace and Bee jabs hard. A desk is leisurely, and Full Frontal is anything but.

The Talk Show: ‘Occupy Portland’ 

Special guest John Moltz returns to the show. Topics include the Apple/FBI encryption fight, Apple’s upcoming event and the products they’re expected to announce. And Campo Santo’s fantastic new video game Firewatch.

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Fiat Chrysler CEO: Apple Should Not Try Making a Car on Its Own 

Reuters:

Speaking to journalists at the Geneva auto show, Marchionne said there was sufficient capacity available among car makers to deal with Apple’s requirements and it would make more sense for them to partner with a car manufacturer rather than become an actor itself in such a “complex business”.

I can see it now: the Fiat Rokr.

“If they have any urges to make a car, I’d advise them to lie down and wait until the feeling passes,” Marchionne told journalists. “Illnesses like this come and go, you will recover from them, they’re not lethal.”

They’ve struggled for a few years here, figuring out how to make a decent car. Phone guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.

David Sparks on Apple Notes 

David Sparks:

Then I stated using Apple Notes and the strangest thing happened. I liked it. Not only is Apple Notes a contender, Apple has continued to refine the product. Just last week we got a new beta of an upcoming Mac OS X release that includes additional Apple Notes features. One of those new features is the ability to import Evernote and plain text files. It seemed to me like a perfect excuse to slurp in the rest of my nvALT database so I could really push the application’s limits. Now I’ve got 787 notes in my Apple Notes database. It’s growing daily.

So first this was all a big experiment to see what was wrong with Apple Notes and then I just started using the application. I didn’t admit to myself, or anyone else, that I become an Apple Notes user but apparently I have.

Now that its syncing is based on CloudKit instead of IMAP, and with the features that have been added in iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11, Apple Notes is a solid notes app. I echo Sparks on this complaint:

That doesn’t mean Apple Notes is without fault. I wrote before, and it still remains true, that the text size on the Mac version is just too small. They keep adding new features with the betas and it keeps amazing me that they don’t address this problem.

It’s almost mind boggling that you can’t change the default font size on the Mac. It’s not just a matter of preference, it’s a genuine accessibility problem. You can hit ⌘+ to increase the font size of the current note, but there’s no way to change the default for new notes. So if Helvetica 12 is too small for you to read, you’re stuck hitting ⌘+ for every single note.

Update: And why is it Helvetica instead of San Francisco? Does the Apple Notes Mac team live in a cave?

A Complete History of the Millennium Falcon 

Michael Heilemann, writing for his remarkable Kitbashed:

One of the things I find so interesting about Star Wars is how the creative process so clearly wasn’t locked from the beginning. It was a long and winding road, and throughout writing the essays for Kitbashed I’ve found that despite intense pressure there was always an energetic adventurousness with ideas which inevitably lead to some of the most iconic designs in film history.

The Falcon is a great example of that, specifically because the final design is so distinct. It makes it a much more enticing to try to decipher how it came about.

While I’ve been pursuing this subject for years, it wasn’t until I starting putting together this essay that I finally began to find some of the finer details of the Falcon’s creation.

The Millennium Falcon is my favorite thing in all of Star Wars — and it was almost something altogether different. The original design was a fine space ship, but it had none of the character the actual Falcon has.

Former Google CEO Schmidt to Head New Pentagon Innovation Board 

Andrea Shalal, reporting for Reuters:

Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive officer of Google, will head a new Pentagon advisory board aimed at bringing Silicon Valley innovation and best practices to the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday. Carter unveiled the new Defense Innovation Advisory Board with Schmidt during the annual RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco, saying it would give the Pentagon access to “the brightest technical minds focused on innovation.”

Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), the parent company of Google, said the board would help bridge what he called a clear gap between how the U.S. military and the technology industry operate.

Coming soon to a headline near you: Google to Become Major Defense Contractor.

A Procastinator on Doing a TED Talk About Procrastination 

Tim Urban:

All TED speakers do a fully mic’ed and dressed rehearsal on the real stage the weekend before the conference starts. Mine was three days before my talk — and it was pretty rough, confirming to me and everyone present that I was officially not a fraud when it came to my topic. The irony of a guy rehearsing his TED Talk about how he’s a bad procrastinator, and being clearly underprepared while doing so, was not lost on anyone.

This whole thing was white-knuckle reading for me.

‘Warrant-Proof Places’ 

From The Financial Times’s report on yesterday’s Apple/FBI hearing before Congress:

“Our job is simply to tell people there is a problem,” Mr Comey said. “If there are warrant-proof spaces in American life, what does that mean and what are the costs of that?” He added: “The tools we use to keep you safe are becoming less and less effective.”

There have always been “warrant-proof places” containing information inaccessible to law enforcement: our minds. I support the right to use unbreakable encryption for the same reason I support Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, especially the right to remain silent.

Motherboard: ‘The Apple-FBI Encryption Hearing Was Unexpectedly Hostile to the FBI Director’ 

Sarah Jeong, reporting for Motherboard:

A couple of representatives were openly hostile to Comey, but most launched passive aggressive, loaded questions at the FBI director. Even though the representatives (both Democrats and Republicans) were mostly polite, the tone of the the questioning was a huge departure from how the House Judiciary Committee typically addresses Comey.

“I would be deeply disappointed if it turns out the government is found to be exploiting a national tragedy to pursue a change in the law,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) told Comey. […] The questions got more hostile. Rep. Conyers asked Comey if the San Bernardino case was an “end-run around this committee” — a loaded question that Comey of course denied. […]

After that, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) opened his questioning by quoting the late Justice Antonin Scalia: “There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of all of us.” Issa’s questioning was overtly hostile in tone, delving deep into the technical details of the iPhone 5c. Comey was at loss, admitting, “I have not answered the questions you have asked me today and I am not entirely sure I understand the questions.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) then said to Comey, “As I was hearing your opening statement talking about a world where everything is private, it may be the alternative is a world where nothing is private. Because once you have holes in encryption, the question is not if but when those holes will be exploited.”

I’m actually not surprised at the hostility toward Comey. Democrats tend to support civil liberties against overreach from law enforcement, and Republicans — especially those in today’s House of Representatives — are extremely skeptical of an ever-more-powerful federal government. And both Republicans and Democrats yesterday seemed aware that the FBI’s use of the All Writs Act is, as Conyers put it, “an end-run around” Congress.

If there’s one thing that can unite both parties in today’s polarized Congress, it is the protection of congressional authority. The idea that the Department of Justice (which is part of the Executive Branch) and the Judicial Branch could dictate the terms of this debate is not going to fly.

Update: To be clear, there was also hostility toward Apple. That was expected by everyone. Some congresspeople are card-carrying members of the Golden Key Wizard Society.

February 2016 Was Very Warm 

Eric Holthaus, writing for Slate:

Keep in mind that it took from the dawn of the industrial age until last October to reach the first 1.0 degree Celsius, and we’ve come as much as an extra 0.4 degrees further in just the last five months. Even accounting for the margin of error associated with these preliminary datasets, that means it’s virtually certain that February handily beat the record set just last month for the most anomalously warm month ever recorded. That’s stunning.

February is typically brutally cold here in Philadelphia. It’s the month when I question why the hell I live here. This year, we had eight days with a high temperature in the 60s, and another four in the 50s. There were only four days where the temperature didn’t rise above freezing.

Silvia Killingsworth Takes Over The Awl 

The Awl:

We’re thrilled to announce that Silvia Killingsworth will be joining us here in April. Silvia is currently the Managing Editor of the New Yorker, where she has spent the last seven years managing the workflow of the magazine. (You may also know her from the web’s greatest food vertical, De Gustibus.) Silvia’s breadth of experience and wealth of ideas and just genuine enthusiasm (an emotion you may have noticed as being in short supply over the last, say, seven years here) about things make her the clear and obvious choice to head The Awl as it evolves into its next stage of life.

Great hire. Go Awl.

Update: And in more media industry news, Nick Bilton has left The New York Times to become a special correspondent for Vanity Fair. Another great hire.

The Q4 2015 Smartphone Scorecard: Apple Gazes Down at the Rat Trap 

Smart piece from Charles Arthur on the state of the handset industry.

Steve Ballmer Dunks During Clippers Halftime Show 

Not sure about the Clips’ new mascot, though.

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