Linked List: October 2016

Apples vs. Oranges – Thick, Heavy Oranges 

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews on Ubuntu PC-maker System76 seeing a surge of traffic after last week’s MacBook Pro announcements:

Alternatively, I headed to System76 and configured its 15-inch Oryx Pro (you can do so here). I closely matched the MacBook Pro specs, with a Quad-core Sklyake i7 and NVMe 256GB SSD. Instead of 16 GB of RAM as found on the Apple, I configured with 32 GB (you can go up to 64 GB if needed). By default, it comes with a 6 GB Nvidia GTX 1060. The price? Less than $2,000! In other words, the System76 machine with much better specs is less expensive than Apple’s.

Obviously we aren’t comparing apples to apples (pun intended). If you absolutely need macOS for certain software or licenses, an Ubuntu machine will not meet your needs. Also, the System76 machine does not have Apple’s revolutionary Touch Bar.

Still, the Oryx Pro can be configured with specs far beyond the MacBook Pro, and at a very competitive price — it is not hard to see why System76 saw a huge jump in traffic following the Apple Keynote. It is worth noting that both the Oryx Pro and MacBook Pro can run Windows too.

There is a catch. The 15-inch Oryx Pro is 1-inch thick and weighs 5.5 pounds. The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is 0.6 inches thick and weighs 4 pounds. I’m not slamming the Oryx here — there are plenty of performance-hungry Mac users who wish that Apple made a MacBook this thick and heavy if it meant they could install up to 64 GB of RAM and had all the ports they wanted built-in. (I will add that the Oryx is ugly as sin, and doesn’t have a retina-resolution display. Here I am slamming it.)

But the price you pay for the MacBook Pro isn’t about the sum of the components. It’s about getting them into that sleek, lightweight form factor, too. In a word, Apple is optimizing the MacBook lineup for niceness. That’s frustrating — in some cases, downright angering — for people who want a notebook optimized for performance.

Translation From Apple Lingo to English of Tim Cook’s Year-Ago ‘Why Would You Buy a PC Anymore?’ Comment 

This year-ago quote from Tim Cook in an interview with The Telegraph, in the wake of the launch of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, is getting a lot of circulation this week:

“I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC anymore? No really, why would you buy one?”, asks Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who has just flown into Britain for the launch of the iPad Pro. […]

“Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones,” Cook argues in his distinctly Southern accent (he was born in Alabama).

People are pointing to this as proof that Tim Cook doesn’t care about the Mac, because he thinks everybody should just switch to an iPad Pro. But here’s the thing, in Apple lingo, the Mac is not a “PC”. A “PC” is a personal computer that runs Windows or Linux or whatever. I’m not splitting hairs here — this is how people inside Apple talk. It’s right there in the opening lines of the years-long “Get a Mac” ad campaign (66 ads!) — “I’m a Mac…”, “… and I’m a PC.”

The second paragraph above shows the difference. In the first paragraph, Cook is questioning why anyone would buy a (Windows/Linux) PC. In the second, he’s saying many people don’t even need a notebook or desktop, period, implicitly including Mac notebooks and desktops. This is true for many people, probably even true for “many, many” people, as Cook says. But even “many, many” is not “most”.

You can argue the sorry state of the Mac hardware lineup is proof that Cook doesn’t properly value the Mac. If this goes on much longer, it’s an unavoidable conclusion. You can also argue, quite possibly correctly, that Cook is too bullish on the iPad. But Cook’s “Why would you buy a PC anymore?” question is only a slam against computers other than Apple’s.

Note too: Tim Cook has an iMac on his desk.

Who’s to Blame for the 16 GB RAM Limit on the New MacBook Pros: Apple or Intel? 

“Exploding_m1”, in a thread on Reddit:

The true reason behind the lack of 32 GB or DDR4 is Intel. Skylake does not support LPDDR4 (LP for low power) RAM. Kabylake is set to include support, but only for the U category of chips. So no LPDDR4 support for mobile until 2018 I think.

One example is the Dell XPS 13. On the Dell XPS 13 version, you cannot go for 32 GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the 15 inches does give you that option, but you have to sacrifice battery life for it.

From what Apple told me last week, I believe this is true. You can certainly argue with the design of the new MacBook Pros — and many are. The argument against this design is that it’s backwards — that for MacBooks targeting pro users, Apple should start with high performance specs and then build a machine that supports things like 32 GB of RAM. If they had done that, they’d have wound up with thicker, heavier designs. Many actual pro users would be delighted by that.

Apple simply places a higher priority on thinness and lightness than performance-hungry pro users do. Apple is more willing to compromise on performance than on thinness and lightness and battery life. Intel just doesn’t make the chips that Apple needs.

This is why Apple designs its own chips for iOS. You don’t see people complaining that the iPhone or iPad Pro are underpowered. In fact, they’re faster than their competition. (The iPhone 7 has a single-core Geekbench 4 score that is double that of the Google Pixel.) With iPhones and iPads, Apple makes them ever thinner and lighter and yet they still offer industry-leading performance. We’ve all been speculating for years that Apple might start designing its own chips for Macs. At this point it looks like they have to do it. If anything, these new MacBook Pros were overdue — they arrived late and Intel still doesn’t have the chips Apple really needs.

Intel is designing its chips for an industry that does not share Apple’s obsession with thinness and lightness.

Michael Tsai’s Roundup of Commentary on the New MacBook Pros and the State of the Mac 

Dozens and dozens of links here. Rather astounding how much backlash last week’s event has generated. I can’t recall an Apple event that generated such a negative reaction from hard-core Mac users. I’m working on a longer piece with my full thoughts on what’s going on, but for now, Tsai’s list of links is must-read stuff.

Pearl RearVision 

My thanks to Pearl for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Upgrade your car with Pearl RearVision, the wireless backup camera and alert system that works with your smartphone. Developed by former Apple engineers, it installs on your car in minutes with no costly professionals or dealers required. It’s very clever — it’s just a simple license plate frame. It communicates wirelessly and gets power from solar charging.

See around corners with the two HD cameras which also provide super-wide views of what’s behind you, and the ability to pan 180 degrees in any direction. RearVision also features obstacle detection, giving you visual and audible alerts before your parallel parking job turns into an insurance claim.

Pearl is offering free two-day shipping for a limited time, so order now at pearlauto.com.

The Touch Bar T1 Chipset Contains an ARM CPU and Secure Enclave 

Matthew Panzarino, again:

When will Apple ship a MacBook with an ARM processor? This is a question that has been top of mind for observers of the company ever since it started designing and building its own chips from the ground up.

The answer to that question is now, sort of. Apple’s new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models come equipped with a Touch Bar — that bar and the accompanying Touch ID sensor are powered by both the Intel processor at the core of the laptop and an Apple designed T1 chip.

The T1 consists of the processor in the Apple Watch’s S2 and the Secure Enclave.

This is an oversimplification, but effectively the Touch Bar is an iOS device — a little computer in a big computer.

Why Apple’s MacBook Touch Bar Was the Right Thing to Do 

Matthew Panzarino:

People love a Greek tragedy. Icarus has flown too close to the sun and tumbled to Earth. Apple has forgotten its core users and been eclipsed by Microsoft. The Touch Bar is a compromise between adding a touch screen on a MacBook and ignoring touch entirely.

These narratives are easy to sketch because they sell better to readers than moderated, honest inspection of sentiment and behavior. If you have heroes and villains, then everything is a zero-sum game and nothing that competitors do can exist on their own merits.

The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is the right thing to do because people don’t use touch screen laptops like they do tablets.

Some people are adamant in their belief that MacBooks should and/or will eventually have touch screens, but I remain convinced that they should not and never will. Ergonomically, a vertical (or nearly vertical) display is not comfortable for touch. And even more important, MacOS was designed for a mouse pointer. That’s fundamentally different from touch. MacOS is no better suited to touch than iOS is suited to support for a mouse or trackpad pointer. (I’d even argue that touch support on the Mac would be even clunkier than mouse support on iOS.)

The Touch Bar is not the answer to “How do we bring touchscreens to the Mac?”, because that question is not actually a problem. The Touch Bar is the answer to “These keyboard F-keys are cryptic and inflexible — what can we replace them with that’s better?” That’s an actual problem.

I tried out a Surface Studio in Microsoft’s San Francisco store (in the Westfield Mall) yesterday evening. It’s an interesting machine, as well-built as promised. And I do think it might prove useful and very popular with people who draw professionally. Most people don’t draw professionally, though. And using a pen or fingers on a mouse pointer-based OS remains as clunky as ever. Also, for what it’s worth, drawing latency on the Studio is OK, but not as good as on an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. And there’s noticeable parallax between the glass surface and the actual pixels of the display.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race 

Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., reporting for ProPublica:

The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)

When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Very surprising that a company that claims “diversity” justifies keeping prominent Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel on its board of directors would have a blatantly racist advertising policy.

Update: Their filter lets you screen out Asian-Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanics, but it doesn’t let you screen out white people? How did anyone at Facebook think this was a good idea?

Why Isn’t Netflix Part of Apple’s New TV App? 

Pavan Rajam:

As for why Netflix is opting out of this app, I have 2 theories:

  • Netflix views usage data as highly confidential, proprietary information. They don’t even share this data with their show creators, so there’s no way in hell they would share this data with a partner who, it could be argued, is trying to disintermediate them.

  • Netflix also doesn’t need help curating and personalizing their content library, they are already the best in the industry. Almost all of the other video apps need all the help they can get.

I suspect this is exactly right. Netflix doesn’t need Apple’s TV app to surface/suggest their content, and they almost certainly don’t want to share usage data with Apple.

Update: I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple and Netflix get this worked out. Netflix gave a statement to Wired saying they’re “evaluating the opportunity”:

Netflix comes as a bit of a surprise, though, as it’s long been a stalwart of streaming boxes, and was previously a participant in Apple TV’s universal search feature. The service didn’t appear in Apple’s presentation today, though, and the company has confirmed that it won’t be involved, at least at launch. “I can confirm we are not participating and evaluating the opportunity,” says Netflix spokesperson Smita Saran.

Developer Documentation for Touch Bar 

The Human Interface Guidelines are an interesting read.

In person, the Touch Bar looks and feels great. I’m unusually excited about this.

The Talk Show: ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma Multitasking’ 

Special guest John Moltz returns to the show. Topics include what we expect from tomorrow’s Apple Event for new Mac hardware, and my impressions of the Google Pixel phone after a week using one.

This week’s show introduces chapter marks for subject matter. If you use a podcast player that supports them, such as Overcast, let me know what you think.

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Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik: Hands-On With the Surface Studio 

Penny Arcade illustrator Mike Krahulik:

If you have not heard already, Microsoft just announced a new device called the Surface Studio. It’s essentially a Surface computer for your desktop. From what I understand, you can go to any Microsoft store today and actually play with one. It’s a big beautiful screen on this slick armature that lets you adjust it from a normal monitor to something more like a drafting table for drawing on. I get questions about Surface devices and drawing all the time and I am sure this one will be no different. In fact I can already see tweets coming in asking what I think. So If you’re curious what I think about the Surface Studio, you are in luck, because I have been drawing on one for the last week.

In short: he loves it.

I’m not sure how useful the horizontal mode will be for people who aren’t illustrators, but for illustrators, it sure does seem like a groundbreaking form factor.

Microsoft Surface Studio 

Microsoft’s big news today: a 28-inch all-in-one iMac-like PC that folds down into a drafting-table-like mode for drawing on it like a tablet. Also, a new peripheral, the Surface Dial. Very cool looking stuff. Priced at $3000-4200, and not shipping until mid-December.

It certainly comes at an interesting time. Apple is set to release new Mac hardware tomorrow, but even so, creative professionals are feeling largely ignored by Apple. And now Microsoft is targeting them specifically.

Apple Delays AirPods Rollout Past October 

Matthew Panzarino:

“The early response to AirPods has been incredible. We don’t believe in shipping a product before it’s ready, and we need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers,” an Apple spokesperson said to TechCrunch.

Apple did not say whether hardware or software updates are what is at the heart of the delay so I couldn’t conjecture which. My experiences with the AirPods have been very positive this far but the pre production units that were given out to press are not without their foibles and bugs. I have seen a variety of small software/hardware interaction issues that have caused some frustration — but have taken them in stride because they are not final products.

Same experience here. The pre-production ones I have have had a few glitches, but even so, I love them.

Google Cans ‘CEO’ of Google Access, Halts Expansion of Google Fiber 

Kara Swisher, writing for Recode:

Executive changes are coming to Google Access, including the departure of CEO Craig Barratt, according to sources. The company is holding a town hall-style meeting sometime soon to announce these potential changes, these sources say.

Update: The company confirmed in a blog post Barratt is leaving, and the company will halt its rollout of Fiber to new cities. The company also plans layoffs in those areas.

Barratt will stay on as an adviser to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, but it’s clear this is a setback for its broadband ambitions. The company also did not name a new CEO to replace Barratt.

Why does Google humiliate departing executives by forcing them write upbeat blog posts telling us how great shit sandwiches taste? It’s clear that Barratt was fired and Google is stating publicly that they’re canceling previously-announced plans for expansion, but the headline on Barratt’s blog post is “Advancing Our Amazing Bet”. Barratt writes:

As for me personally, it’s been quite a journey over the past few years, taking a broad-based set of projects and initiatives and growing a focused business that is on a strong trajectory. And I’ve decided this is the right juncture to step aside from my CEO role. Larry has asked me to continue as an advisor, so I’ll still be around.

I’m sure he’ll be hanging around doing important work for Google with his fellow advisor Tony Fadell. Maybe Barratt will get Andy Rubin’s old desk in the advisor suite.

Google: ‘Our Assistant Will Trigger the Next Era of AI’ 

Steven Levy:

That process, unrolling over the next two years, is The Transition. When millions of people begin conversing with Google, through the Assistant, the seas of difficulty suddenly part. (With Google Home, conversing is the only way you will get any use out of it  —  there’s no keyboard.) “You can start doing machine learning on that,” Pereira says. “You can move much faster; you can accelerate the process of getting deeper and broader in understanding. This 2016-to-2017 Transition is going to move us from systems that are explicitly taught to ones that implicitly learn.” Think of it as a mini-Singularity.

Maybe this is exactly right. We shall see. But I am always skeptical of any technology that is promoted for how good it is going to be rather than for how good it is right now.

Six Colors’ Coverage of Apple’s Q4 Results and Analyst Call 

Charts and graphs, and snap coverage of Apple’s analyst conference call.

Apple Q4 2016 Results 

Pretty much in line with expectations.

Images of New MacBook Pro With Magic Toolbar Leaked in MacOS Sierra 10.12.1 

Something something doubling down on secrecy.

Noteworthy: there is no hardware Esc key.

iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait Mode in Real Life 

Nice collection of iPhone 7 Plus portrait mode photos submitted by iMore readers.

HomeKit’s Stringent Security Requirements 

Here’s a report by Aaron Tilley for Forbes, from July of last year:

It’s been more than a year since Apple announced HomeKit, its system for connecting smart home devices through iOS. And as with all things Apple, expectations are high. Maybe too high.

So far, only five companies have launched HomeKit-certified smart home devices. What’s the hold up? Apple has thrown a plethora of challenges at hardware makers, and some developers say one of the biggest is complying with Apple’s strict security requirements on Bluetooth low energy devices.

Apple allows for either WiFi or Bluetooth low energy (LE)-enabled devices to get certified as a HomeKit accessory. Apple is requiring device makers using both WiFi and Bluetooth LE to use complicated encryption with 3072-bit keys, as well as the super secure Curve25519, which is an elliptic curve used for digital signatures and exchanging encrypted keys.

“These security protocols are bleeding edge,” said Diogo Monica, a security lead at Docker and an IEEE security expert.

This story makes more sense today, given all the recent outages and attacks based on exploits of insecure “internet of things” devices.

Messaging Systems That Support Both E2E Encryption and Multiple Devices 

On Twitter, Robin Malhotra made an observation that I’d never really considered, nor recall anyone else observing, but which seems to me a very big deal: that iMessage is the only major messaging service that supports both end-to-end encryption and multiple devices. Even Google’s brand-new Allo does not support multiple devices (and only uses encryption for “incognito” chats).

Multi-device support is essential to my use of iMessage.

Update: Wire is another chat service that supports multiple devices and uses end-to-end encryption everywhere.

Brian Moore on iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode 

Brian Moore:

Portrait Mode is definitely not perfect! Straight lines and crisp edges in the foreground are Portrait Mode’s greatest difficulty. But, on the flip side, the effect is applied quickly, and seems to focus on exactly the plane I want it at. Plus, its “stepping” between objects in the foreground and background is really impressive. People have asked me what camera I used to take these photos, which is I’d call a good sign. I like how they look, and this is a camera I can keep in my pocket all day as I walk all over a beautiful country. That’s a win for me.

Some terrific examples — both good and bad. When it works well, it’s the colors as much as the depth effect that make these look like they were shot on film.

Clarity 

Robert Scoble:

The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er, Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen (I have several sources confirming this). You pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it. […]

The clear iPhone will put holograms on top of the real world like Microsoft HoloLens does.

Take a look at iFixit’s teardown of an iPhone 7. Just look at the battery alone. The only way I can see that a 2017 iPhone could be transparent would be if Apple invents a time machine that allows them to borrow technology from 2035 or so.

IBM: Macs Are Less Expensive Than PCs 

Jeni Asaba, writing for Jamf:

In 2015, IBM let their employees decide — Windows or Mac. “The goal was to deliver a great employee choice program and strive to achieve the best Mac program,” Previn said. An emerging favorite meant the deployment of 30,000 Macs over the course of the year. But that number has grown. With more employees choosing Mac than ever before, the company now has 90,000 deployed (with only five admins supporting them), making it the largest Mac deployment on earth.

But isn’t it expensive, and doesn’t it overload IT? No. IBM found that not only do PCs drive twice the amount of support calls, they’re also three times more expensive. That’s right, depending on the model, IBM is saving anywhere from $273 - $543 per Mac compared to a PC, over a four-year lifespan. “And this reflects the best pricing we’ve ever gotten from Microsoft,” Previn said. Multiply that number by the 100,000+ Macs IBM expects to have deployed by the end of the year, and we’re talking some serious savings.

IBM as the world’s largest Mac installation is such a great story.

Qualcomm vs. Intel iPhone 7 Cellular Modems 

Cellular Insights:

In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem. We are not sure what was the main reason behind Apple’s decision to source two different modem suppliers for the newest iPhone. Considering that the iPhone with the Qualcomm modem is being sold in China, Japan and in the United States only, we can not imagine that modem performance was a deciding factor. When all said and done, the iPhone 7 Plus is a beautifully designed smartphone, with arguably the best-in-class camera and system performance. It’s also the best iPhone ever. We hope that next year’s iPhone delivers best-in-class LTE performance.

In the U.S., you get the Qualcomm modem if you order an iPhone for use on Verizon or Sprint, and the Intel modem for AT&T and T-Mobile. That’s because Intel’s modem doesn’t support CDMA, which Verizon and Sprint still use.

Update: Color me a little skeptical that this disparity is evident in real-world use. Shouldn’t we be hearing more complaints about LTE performance on these iPhones?

The 20 CDs Curated by Steve Jobs and the Original iPod Team 

Nobuyuki “Nobi” Hayashi, recalling the introduction of the original iPod 15 years ago this week:

Steve Jobs insisted that Apple has no intention of stealing away the sales of the music industry; remember this was way before iTunes Music Store. What Apple did to keep its word is buying same number of 20 CDs sets and gave it along with the iPod prototypes to the journalists.

It has been 15 years since then, and I thought I have lost them. But recently, as I was moving to a new house, I have found that set (shrink wrapped).

Below you will find the list of those 20 CDs which was carefully selected by Steve Jobs and the original iPod team (lead by Stan Ng). Enjoy!

That was a year before I started writing Daring Fireball.

Google Assistant vs. Siri Head-to-Head 

Marques Brownlee pits Google Assistant (on a new Pixel) against Siri (on a new iPhone 7). Siri does quite well.

Seth Godin on the State of Apple’s Software 

Seth Godin:

Over the last five years, Apple has lost the thread and chosen to become a hardware company again. Despite their huge profits and large staff, we’re confronted with (a partial list):

  • Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and because it’s free, no competitors.
  • Keynote, a presentation program that hasn’t been improved in years.
  • iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty.
  • iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon.
  • No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc. Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade ago, but they’ve stopped. Think about how many leaps forward Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software over the last few decades. But it requires a significant commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the status quo and creating something new.

This doesn’t resonate for me. I think it’s the same basic gut feeling that drove Marco Arment’s widely-read “Apple Has Lost the Functional High Ground” essay two years ago. Marco’s piece was more about bugs and quality, and Seth’s is more about creativity, but underlying it all, I think, is the vague sense that all software is shitty.

And it is! Here’s Dave Winer from all the way back in 1995:

An old software slogan at Living Videotext: “We Make Shitty Software… With Bugs!” It makes me laugh! We never ran this slogan in an ad. People wouldn’t understand. But it’s the truth. We make shitty software. And so do you!

Software is a process, it’s never finished, it’s always evolving. That’s its nature. We know our software sucks. But it’s shipping! Next time we’ll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that’s perfect is one you’re dreaming about. Real software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use. But it’s a process. We’ll make it less shitty. Just watch!

Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don’t lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can’t even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable — there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It’s unsettling.

I do think Apple could be doing better with software, but I don’t think the problem has anything to do with the company being institutionally focused on hardware. And I think it’s easy to discount the great new software Apple has created in the last five years: iMessage and FaceTime, to name two that fit squarely in Godin’s list of areas where Apple has made “no significant steps forward”.

Om Malik: ‘Good Design — Inside and Out’ 

Om Malik, writing last week for The New Yorker:

When I asked John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, why, then, people have turned on the design of the iPhone 7, he pointed out that perhaps these critics “seem to believe that there’s some as yet unimaginable transcendence that can happen in a small, palm-shaped, rectangular device.” Maeda said that he spent time with designers at Sony and felt their frustration designing a television set “because all you can really do is design the rectangle that the TV sits within.… Everything else around that screen really doesn’t matter.” The same problem holds for the iPhone. All that matters is the screen — its size, brightness, and resolution. “Now that we have all those dimensions sated, it’s basically the challenge of designing a TV set all over again,” he added.

The New York Times Is Buying the Wirecutter for More Than $30 Million 

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old online consumer guide. The Times will pay more than $30 million, including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media’s Gizmodo, founded The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company’s growth. […]

Both sites make their money via affiliate links, which generate revenue when consumers click on them and make purchases via e-commerce sites like Amazon.

Sounds like a good deal for everyone involved. Lam’s success is well-deserved.

Squarespace Domains 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. As some of you might know, Squarespace recently launched its own domains product. It’s called Squarespace Domains, and it turns the ugliest aspects of buying domains into a simple, modern experience. It’s also the first registrar to offer transparent pricing, flat rates, and free WHOIS privacy. Even better, if you’re not ready to build your website quite yet, Squarespace will park your domain with a beautiful, ad-free landing page. Register your domain. Use offer code DARING to save 10 percent.

Hacked Cameras and DVRs Powered Today’s Massive Internet Outage 

Brian Krebs:

A massive and sustained Internet attack that has caused outages and network congestion today for a large number of Web sites was launched with the help of hacked “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices, such as CCTV video cameras and digital video recorders, new data suggests. […]

According to researchers at security firm Flashpoint, today’s attack was launched at least in part by a Mirai-based botnet. Allison Nixon, director of research at Flashpoint, said the botnet used in today’s ongoing attack is built on the backs of hacked IoT devices — mainly compromised digital video recorders (DVRs) and IP cameras made by a Chinese hi-tech company called XiongMai Technologies. The components that XiongMai makes are sold downstream to vendors who then use it in their own products.

“It’s remarkable that virtually an entire company’s product line has just been turned into a botnet that is now attacking the United States,” Nixon said, noting that Flashpoint hasn’t ruled out the possibility of multiple botnets being involved in the attack on Dyn.

Microsoft’s Stock Hits an All-Time High 

Dan Frommer:

Microsoft’s stock price reached an all-time high today, beating a previous record set in 1999 (!) in the heat of the dot-com bubble. Shares opened this morning at $60.31 — up 5 percent from yesterday’s close — and reached $60.45 in morning trading before settling.

Why is Microsoft setting share-price records in 2016?

Most importantly, investors seem to think its transformation under CEO Satya Nadella — from a company that sells Windows and Office licenses (often on discs and in cardboard boxes) to a company that sells access to software and services in the cloud — is working.

Pretty good start for Satya Nadella.

Rank and File Wells Fargo Employees on the Pressure to Rip Off Customers to Meet Sales Quotas 

Stacy Cowley, reporting for the NYT:

The scandal at Wells Fargo over the creation of unauthorized accounts shook its customers’ faith in the bank, but it took an even sharper toll on the company’s workers. A number of them say they faced a stark choice: Create new accounts by any means possible, or risk being fired for falling short of their sales goals.

Angie Payden, who worked for Wells Fargo as a banker from 2011-2014:

I started to have extreme physical stress-related symptoms as well as random panic attacks. At some point during that summer, the stress was so intense that I could no longer handle the pressure. On the banker’s desk, in the bathroom, behind the teller line and in the vault, the store kept bottles of hand sanitizer.

One morning, before meeting with a customer, in which I knew I was going to have to sell unneeded services, I had a severe panic attack. I went to the bathroom and took a drink of some hand sanitizer.

This immediately reduced my anxiety. From that point, I began drinking the hand sanitizer all over the bank.

Why Do Websites Publish AMP Pages? 

Can someone explain to me why a website would publish AMP versions of their articles? They do load fast, which is a terrific user experience, but as far as I can see, sites that publish AMP pages are effectively ceding control over their content to Google.

Here’s an example I ran into today. I wanted to read Ron Amadeo’s review of the Google Pixel at Ars Technica. From my (new) Google Pixel, I searched for “ars pixel preview”. The first search result was the AMP version of his review. Same thing on my iPhone.

If I tap the result, I get the AMP version of the Ars article, served from Google’s domain. So far, I get it. But the kicker is that I don’t see any way to get from the AMP page Google is serving to the canonical version of the article on Ars’s website. Even if I share the article, what gets shared is the google.com URL (https://www.google.com/amp/arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/10/google-pixel-review-bland-pricey-but-still-best-android-phone/). On desktop browsers, these URLs do get redirected to Ars’s website. But on mobile they don’t. Share from one mobile device to another and nobody ever leaves google.com. Why would any website turn their entire mobile audience — a majority share of their total audience, for many sites today — over to Google?

It makes no sense to me.

Update: “Request Desktop Site” in both Mobile Safari and Chrome will switch you to the actual website. Good to know, I still say AMP traps mobile users onto google.com.

Pushback on Those Tesla Model S Sales Figures 

Doug DeMuro makes a strong case that the Tesla Model S is a mid-size luxury sedan, not a full-size:

So the Model S is sized like a midsize luxury sedan, and it’s priced like one, too. Why doesn’t anyone call the Model S a midsize luxury sedan?

Simple: because Tesla doesn’t want them to.

Tesla has fought incredibly hard for media sources to consider the Model S a full-size luxury sedan, for one simple reason: Its sales numbers aren’t as impressive if you compare it to more accurate rivals. As I mentioned above, Tesla sold 9,156 units of the Model S during the last quarter. In the same time period, Mercedes-Benz sold 14,672 units of the E-Class. Meanwhile, the 5 Series sold 7,430 units of an aging model nearing replacement. When a redesigned 5 Series last debuted, as it will again in the next few months, it wasn’t uncommon to see sales totals well in excess of 5,000 per month — or 15,000 per quarter. Even the Hyundai Genesis is nipping at the Model S’s heels, earning around 2,500 sales per month through 2016.

Google Has Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking 

Julia Angwin, reporting for ProPublica:

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand — literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools. […]

The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on the keywords they used in their Gmail. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct.

My question is simple. Why is Google doing this? To make even more money? Or because they need to do this to keep making the same amount of money? Either way it’s gross.

BuzzFeed News: ‘Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False and Misleading Information at an Alarming Rate’ 

BuzzFeed News:

However, during the time period analyzed, we found that right-wing pages were more prone to sharing false or misleading information than left-wing pages. Mainstream pages did not share any completely false information, but did publish a small number of posts that included unverified claims. (More on that below.)

We rated 86 out of a total 666 right-wing Facebook posts as mostly false, for a percentage of 13%. Another 167 posts (25%) were rated as a mixture of true and false. Viewed separately or together (38%), this is an alarmingly high percentage.

Left-wing pages did not earn as many “mostly false” or “mixture of true and false” ratings, but they did share false and misleading content. We identified 22 mostly false posts out of a total of 471 from these pages, which means that just under 5% of left-wing posts were untrue. We rated close to 14% of these posts (68) a mixture of true and false. Taken together, nearly a fifth of all left-wing posts we analyzed were either partially or mostly false.

Christopher Mims:

I once wrote a column arguing Facebook probably hasn’t led to more partisanship. I now think that’s completely wrong.

I now think Facebook is contributing to the decline of western civilization. By helping spread misinformation.

We replaced civil society w/ self-selecting, self-reinforcing loops of affinity feeding our brains w/ social validation of dangerous untruth.

Samsung Issues Takedown on Video of Grand Theft Auto 5 Mod Turning Galaxy Note 7 Into a Bomb 

Mike Masnick, writing for Techdirt:

What it is not, however, is copyright infringement. I don’t care how you slice or dice it. It’s not copyright infringement. Samsung may be embarrassed by its exploding devices, and it may not like people making fun of them or turning them into weapons in video games, but that doesn’t matter. There’s no copyright infringement against Samsung’s copyrights in doing that. And it’s flat out ridiculous that Samsung appears to have made a copyright claim over such a video. Hopefully whoever put up the video challenges this and YouTube comes to its senses…

This is only going to bring more attention to the GTA mod.

Nintendo Switch 

Teaser video for Nintendo’s upcoming new gaming platform. Seems intriguing — connected to your TV it works like a traditional console, but you can undock it to use it as a portable.

Undocked, it’s more like a tablet than a phone, size-wise, which sounds right to me. In the same way that phones have completely supplanted pocket-sized point-and-shoot cameras, phones completely own the pocket-sized space for gaming. The Switch is the equivalent of a DSLR for gaming.

Greg Koenig: ‘Why Your Next iPhone Won’t Be Ceramic’ 

Greg Koenig on why the ceramic Apple Watch Edition does not presage a ceramic iPhone:

All of this circles us back to that little booklet that shipped with the ceramic Watch Edition. I think it is a safe bet to say that if Apple was about to leverage a whole new process for the efficient manufacturing of precision ceramics for next year’s iPhone, this new Watch model would be a test balloon for at least some of those techniques. Now, it is important to note that Apple has always skillfully knife edged their marketing discussion about manufacturing by being both hyper honest in their descriptions, while being quite vague about the nitty gritty details. So if we can all agree their materials are honest, let me be very plain - there is nothing revolutionary or new about how Apple is making the ceramic Edition watch.

The process they describe is meticulously executed, and because of the nature of the design — wherein ceramics are mimicking the engineering layout of far more easily produced materials - probably the most laboriously produced ceramic watch on the market. In fact, if we scale the numbers used in the booklet up to iPhone size devices and cycle times, Apple would need 2 football field’s worth of kiln space for each ceramic iPhone to sinter for the requisite 36 hours. For the 2 hours of hard ceramic machining to finish the case details, Apple would need to go from 20,000 CNC machines, to 250,000. They would need another 200,000 employees to perform the 2 hours of hand polishing to “bring out the strength and luster.”

Fantastic article.

As Koenig emphasizes, at peak production Apple is manufacturing one million iPhones per day. If and when Apple switches from aluminum to a new material for iPhone bodies, it’ll have to be a material with which they can achieve the same scale.

Grading on a Curve, Google Pixel Edition 

Rene Ritchie:

So, everyone who’d been criticizing Apple and iPhone design immediately called Google out for aping it?

Not so much.

Well, at least they called Google and Pixel out for the same things they called Apple and iPhone out for?

Again, not so much.

Surely they drew the line at Google’s 2016 flagship missing optical image stabilization — not just in the regular-size, but in the Plus XL model as well — stereo speakers, and water resistance — things that were pointed to last year as indicators Apple was falling behind?

Turns out, not deal-breakers either.

As I wrote last month, when the first non-blurry images of the Pixel leaked.

Apple Sues Mobile Star for Selling Counterfeit Power Adapters and Charging Cables Through Amazon 

Patently Apple, quoting from a lawsuit filed by Apple yesterday:

Apple purchased the power products identified below (ASIN B012YEWP2K) from Amazon.com and determined that they were counterfeit. Apple was informed by Amazon.com, and upon that basis is informed and believes, that Mobile Star was the source of those particular counterfeit power products purchased by Apple.

Consumers, relying on Amazon.com’s reputation, have no reason to suspect the power products they purchased from Amazon.com are anything but genuine. This is particularly true where, as here, the products are sold directly “by Amazon.com” as genuine Apple products using Apple’s own product marketing images. Consumers are likewise unaware that the counterfeit Apple products that Amazon.com sourced from Mobile Star have not been safety certified or properly constructed, lack adequate insulation and/or have inadequate spacing between low voltage and high voltage circuits, and pose a significant risk of overheating, fire, and electrical shock. Indeed, consumer reviews of counterfeit Apple power adapters purchased from Amazon.com and from the above ASIN report that the counterfeit products overheat, smolder, and in some cases catch fire.

As for the products sold by third parties, and “fulfilled by Amazon”:

Apple makes great efforts to combat the distribution and sale of counterfeit Apple products bearing its trademarks. Despite Apple’s efforts, fake Apple products continue to flood Amazon.com. Each month, Apple identifies and reports many thousands of listings for counterfeit and infringing Apple products to Amazon.com under its notice and takedown procedures. Over the last nine months, Apple, as part of its ongoing brand protection efforts, has purchased well over 100 iPhone devices, Apple power products, and Lightning cables sold as genuine by sellers on Amazon.com and delivered through Amazon’s “Fulfillment by Amazon” program. Apple’s internal examination and testing for these products revealed almost 90% of these products are counterfeit.

I can certainly see why Apple is suing Mobile Star (hopefully right out of business), but why not sue Amazon too? This is shameful. I’ve known for a while never to trust anything merely “fulfilled by Amazon”, but I’m actually surprised that even the “Apple” branded chargers sold directly by Amazon are dangerous counterfeits as well.

Darrell Etherington’s Google Pixel Camera Review 

Darrell Etherington, testing the Pixel camera side-by-side with the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7:

Outdoors, you can see that while all three are very capable cameras, there are some differences that might sway personal opinion regarding which is “best.” The iPhone 7 Plus delivers more vibrant colors, with brighter defaults for light areas in both HDR and standard modes (it produces both in your gallery by default depending on the scene, so that’s how I shot and presented them here). […]

Indoors, the differences between the three cameras are more pronounced, especially in very low light. Here, the Galaxy S7 appears to have the edge when it comes to color balance, as well as noise and even possibly detail. The iPhone 7 Plus does appear to be more accurate in terms of its color capture, but it’s still tough to pick an outright favorite. The Pixel XL, to its credit, does very well in the portrait under adequate, but not bright, indoor lighting.

Ultimately, numbered ratings from third-party analyst sites aside, this is a race so close that it’s impossible to call, except by personal preference. Each of these smartphone cameras excels in some regard, but the best end result is in the eye of the beholder since none exhibits any serious flaws.

I agree with his assessment based on his examples. The Pixel’s electronic image stabilization for video is very well done, but it’s clearly not as good as optical image stabilization.

Brian X. Chen’s Google Pixel Review 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

The absence of a major competing Android device works out especially well for Google because the Pixel is, relatively speaking, mediocre. It is slower than Apple’s iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, Samsung’s smaller flagship phone. Photos shot with Pixel’s camera don’t look as good as the iPhone’s. And Google’s built-in artificially intelligent virtual assistant, called Assistant, is still fairly dumb.

Chen’s Pixel review is the least enthusiastic I’ve seen. His comments on the camera — he labels it “mediocre” — are out of line with most reviews. I’m not saying he’s wrong, just that his take is quite different.

CNet Compares Google Pixel and iPhone 7 Plus Cameras 

Vanessa Hand Orellana:

If you tend to shoot portraits and that’s what matters to you most, the iPhone 7 Plus is an obvious choice. Portrait mode is dSLR-esque, and we only expect it to improve by the time it gets a public release.

But if brighter colors, sharper detail throughout the backgrounds of photos and capable low-light photography is more important, it’s the Pixel. I have to admit, I initially thought Google over-promised on its new flagship — especially after those disappointing Nexus cameras — but I was wrong. It’s a new chapter for Google phones and this one earned its name.

I agree with her assessment based on most of the examples shown. I was especially impressed with the Pixel’s image from the low-light environment in the wine cellar. However, they shot both on tripods. I would’ve liked to see examples from the same environment while handheld — the iPhone 7 Plus’s optical image stabilization should make a big difference while handheld, but no difference at all on a tripod.

Why don’t any of these Pixel-vs.-iPhone camera comparisons mention wide color capture?

Bloomberg: ‘Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image’ 

Alex Sherman, Chris Palmeri, and Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg:

Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.

Because I love Twitter as a service, I want to see the company thrive, but there’s no denying that there’s some justice to the fact that their longstanding inability and/or refusal to deal with trolls and harassment is sinking the company.

Salesforce.com Inc. also decided against a Twitter bid, as did Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

No one wants Twitter at this price.

Michael Nunez’s Google Pixel Review 

Michael Nunez, writing for Gizmodo:

As a lifelong Android user, I couldn’t wait to try the Pixel. It’s different than other Android phones, because it’s the first handset centered around the company’s artificial intelligence — the same omnipotent intelligence that’s vacuuming up information about you every time you use a service like Gmail, Google Maps, or Google Calendar. The “Google brain” learns your habits over time, and can help you find important information faster. The problem is that Google’s AI is too stupid to be meaningfully helpful at this stage. […]

I was particularly disappointed with Google Assistant because it’s such a promising concept. Google is moving attention away from the search bar more than ever. Instead, the company wants you to “Google” by using the messaging app Allo or voice search in Google Assistant. Ultimately, the Pixel and Pixel XL are gateways for feeding the Google brain more information about yourself. As Google’s AI gets smarter, the Assistant will become more helpful. While some people might find this creepy, I think the idea is exciting, and it’s a letdown that the tech isn’t there yet. In fairness nobody has it, and Google’s is better than what’s offered by competitors like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. The point is that as a whole, smartphone assistants aren’t smart enough to be defining features. They’re gimmicks, and Google unwisely decided to build a phone around one.

Recode: Apple Plans to Launch New Macs at an October 27 Event 

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

Apple is planning to introduce new Macs at an Oct. 27 event, sources confirmed to Recode. […] The Mac event is expected to take place at or near Apple’s Cupertino campus rather than in San Francisco, where the company held many recent events, including the iPhone 7 announcement.

One last hurrah for Infinite Loop’s Town Hall, I bet.

Dieter Bohn’s Google Pixel Review 

Dieter Bohn:

Even though there’s ostensibly One Google Brain behind all of it, the different lobes don’t always seem to be talking to each other. That confusion extends to the various ways that Google exists on the Pixel itself. You can only speak to the Assistant, for example, not type at it. Except that you can type at it in Allo, Google’s chat app. You can also tap the Google search button on the home screen to type queries, but that’s not technically the Assistant. Oh, and Google Now, the predictive information stream, still sits to the left of your main home screen.

That’s four different ways to talk to Google on this phone, not counting apps like Maps and Gmail. And each one has a slightly different interface and provides slightly different results. For example, the Assistant can’t recognize songs yet, but asking the exact same question with the Google search button works fine.

To be very clear: the Google Assistant is absolutely the smartest of the assistant bunch, but it’s not yet in a class of its own.

Bohn calls the Pixels a “home run”, and also has very good words regarding the camera. I quoted the above passage, though, because it suggests some rough edges regarding what is supposed to be the Pixel’s standout feature.

Walt Mossberg’s Google Pixel Review 

Walt Mossberg:

After testing the historic phone since last week, I can say that the Pixel is very, very good. In its first try, Google has landed itself in the same class as Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S7 (that company’s non-exploding model). Like those formidable competitors, it’s comfortable and practical; fast and fluid; takes very good pictures; and is connected to a strong ecosystem.

The Pixel is easily the best Android phone I’ve ever tested, and seems to hail from a different planet than the chunky, clumsy and pokey 2008 G1 which introduced Android to the world.

Another positive Pixel review, another wisecrack about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.

Joanna Stern’s Google Pixel Review 

Joanna Stern:

Android people, please step forward. Good news! Your next phone-buying decision just got a heck of a lot easier. The Google Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy. The other leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion.

iPhone people, it’s your turn. Ask yourself: Why do I have an iPhone? Is it because of its software, services and privacy policies? Or is it because it’s a very good phone for things like Google Maps, Gmail, Spotify and Facebook Messenger? If you’ve answered yes to the latter, the Pixel may be for you, too.

On the cameras:

The best camera is the one you have with you. In most situations, I’d rather have the Pixel camera. […]

The iPhone 7 Plus with its second lens does beat the Pixel camera. Not only does the iPhone 7 Plus optically magnify shots 2X, but it uses the dual-lens setup to gauge depth for a lens blur effect. The Pixel has a similar effect, but it looks pretty fake.

Her comparison shots are pretty compelling. The Pixel camera definitely seems pretty good.

NYT Chief Counsel David McCraw on the Response to His Letter to Trump’s Lawyers 

David McCraw:

I heard from students I had taught 30 years ago when I was a college professor, former colleagues, law school classmates I hadn’t seen in two decades, my brother’s high school girlfriend, a person who says we met at a wedding 10 years ago, my ex-wife. (Mr. Trump’s attorneys, as is often the way with lawyer letters, have not written back yet.)

One person took issue with my comma usage. Somebody suggested I be disbarred. I was made aware of a raging online debate set off by the letter over whether there should be two spaces or one after a period. […]

But my favorite email was the one that ended: “As my sister put it, ‘I’ve never wanted to hang a paragraph from a lawyer on my fridge before.’ ”

Samsung Is Setting Up Airport Kiosks to Replace Galaxy Note 7 Phones 

Sergio Quintana, reporting for ABC 7 in San Francisco:

Samsung representatives are standing by at SFO in case people bring their potentially dangerous Galaxy Note7’s to the airport. SFO says Samsung reps are now located in front of security checkpoints. Customers can go there to swap out their recalled phones or get a refund.

Seems like Samsung is finally getting on top of this fiasco, putting customers first, not their own PR.

Bill Belichick: ‘I’m Done With the Tablets’ 

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on why he’s giving up on the NFL’s Microsoft Surface tablets and going back to paper. “Long answer to a short question, sorry.”

Apple’s deal to put iPads in MLB dugouts seems to be going better than Microsoft’s deal to put Surfaces on NFL sidelines. (One major difference: MLB’s dugout iPads are offline-only — teams can load them up with whatever information they want before the game starts, but during the games, they’re completely offline.)

‘Never Happened’ 

Eight-minute short film by Mark Slutsky. Don’t even read the description, just set aside eight minutes in a dark room with a big screen. Trust me.

Gizmodo: ‘Horror Stories From the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Flight Ban’ 

Story from a Gizmodo reader:

At the security checkpoint as a husband/partner was saying goodbye to his wife/partner, she gave her phone to him because she thought she couldn’t take it on the plane. It was a Galaxy S5 or S6, I couldn’t really tell, but definitely not a Note. So lots of confusion. Finally, we are putting a lot of faith in flight attendants who don’t know the difference between a laptop and a tablet let alone a nuanced issue like what’s happening with the Note. I wouldn’t be surprised if we lose access to our cell phones pre-take off again as a result of Samsung’s fuckup.

Saturday Night Live had a joke this weekend about “Samsung Galaxy 7’s” — without the “Note”. It’s really easy to be confused by this. I really do worry that this fuckup is going to lead to all devices being banned from use on flights.

Update: Worse for Samsung would be a ban on all “Samsung” or even just “Galaxy” phones. Here’s a recording of a Lufthansa pilot forbidding the use of all “Galaxy S7” phones.

Bloomberg: ‘How Apple Scaled Back Its Titanic Plan to Take on Detroit’ 

Mark Gurman and Alex Webb, writing for Bloomberg:

By the end of 2015, the project was blighted by internal strife. Managers battled about the project’s direction, according to people with knowledge of the operations. “It was an incredible failure of leadership,” one of the people said. In early 2016, project head Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Motor Co. engineer and early iPod designer, left Titan. Zadesky, who remains at Apple, declined to comment.

Zadesky handed the reins to his boss, Dan Riccio, adding to responsibilities that already included engineering annual iPhone, iPad, and Mac refreshes. Bob Mansfield, a highly regarded manager who helped develop the original iPad, returned in April from a part-time role at Apple to lead the team.

About a month later, Mansfield took the stage in a Silicon Valley auditorium packed with hundreds of Titan employees to announce the strategy shift, according to people who attended the meeting. Mansfield explained that he had examined the project and determined that Apple should move from building an outright competitor to Tesla Motors Inc. to an underlying self-driving platform.

Making a platform that Apple would, I can only suppose, license to actual car makers doesn’t sound anything like Apple at all. I’m not disputing Gurman and Webb’s reporting, I’m just pointing out that if true, it’s the most un-Apple-like project in the company’s history.

There are ways to square this story with Apple’s traditional integrated approach. Perhaps they’re thinking, Do the software first, see if we can do something worth making, and if so, buy a car company. But even that doesn’t sound like Apple.

Marco Arment:

Even if only the big-picture story is correct and every detail is wrong, Project Titan makes no sense to me now.

The Talk Show: ‘Kicking Dirt on Them While They’re on Fire’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include voice control with AirPods, how to get your entire music library onto an iPhone while using iCloud Music Library, Apple Watch durability, the Dash/App Store controversy, the disappointing and frustrating state of Siri and voice-driven AI assistants, Google’s new Pixel phones and the strategy behind them, Snap’s (née Snapchat) Spectacles (and why they’re nothing like Google’s ill-fated Glass), and more.

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Peter Thiel to Donate $1.25 Million in Support of Donald Trump 

David Streitfeld, reporting for the NYT:

Peter Thiel, true to his reputation as the most contrarian soul in Silicon Valley, is doubling down on Donald J. Trump.

The only prominent supporter of the Republican candidate in the high-tech community, Mr. Thiel is making his first donation in support of Mr. Trump’s election. He will give $1.25 million through a combination of super PAC donations and funds given directly to the campaign, a person close to the investor said on Saturday.

Politics aside, this seems like a bad investment at this point.

Mod Turns Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Into a Weapon in Grand Theft Auto 5 

You can’t buy product placement like this.

SQLPro – Database Management Apps for Mac 

My thanks to Hankinsoft Development for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote SQLPro. SQLPro offers easy to use, feature-rich database clients for Microsoft SQL Server, Postgres, MySQL, Oracle, and SQLite databases. These are true native Mac apps — way faster, and way nicer than anything based on Java. SQLPro is great for creating new databases, editing schema, browsing and searching data in existing databases, and much more.

If you’re a developer looking for a native SQL management app, check out their website for more information, and download a seven-day free trial. When you’re ready to buy, use coupon code GRUBER to save 20 percent.

How the Cleveland Indians Got Their Name 

Joe Posnanski:

When I was a kid, it was an accepted fact that the Cleveland Indians were named to honor a Native American player named Louis Sockalexis.

When I was older, it was an accepted fact that the Cleveland Indians DID NOT name the team for Sockalexis, and that whole story was an invention to cover up for the nickname’s racist origins.

And, as I wrote in the even longer piece, neither one is quite fact. The truth is not exactly in the middle either; it sort of floats from side to side like a balloon dancing in the wind.

The New York Times’s General Counsel Responds to Donald Trump’s Threat of a Lawsuit 

Bracing.

Tesla Increases Its Lead on the U.S. Luxury Sedan Market, Beating Mercedes, BMW, and Audi 

Fred Lambert:

Tesla shocked the industry earlier this year when it confirmed having delivered 25,202 Model S sedans in the U.S. in 2015, which gave the company a 25% market share in the premium sedan market. For the first time, Tesla had surpassed market leaders like BMW and Mercedes. Furthermore, every single other large luxury sedan has seen its sales decrease during the same period.

Now the electric automaker is increasing its lead on the US luxury sedan market to such a point that the Model S is now twice as popular as the Mercedes S-Class or the BMW 7-Series. Tesla is literally selling more all-electric sedans in the US than Mercedes and BMW are selling S-Class and 7-Series combined.

I’m surprised at how few of these cars are sold overall, but it’s amazing that Tesla has already taken a commanding lead.

Verizon Says Its Pixel Phones Will Get Updates at the Same Time as Google’s 

Ron Amadeo:

A Verizon spokesperson has reached out to Ars with the following corrections about its version of the Pixel:

“First and foremost, all operating system and security updates to the Pixel devices will happen in partnership with Google. In other words, when Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates). Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google.

Also, the Verizon version of the Google Pixel is carrier unlocked, so you can use it where ever you like. Finally, we have three apps pre-installed on the phone Go90, My Verizon (which is your account management tool) and Verizon Messages (your messaging app). As you noted, all three can easily be uninstalled by the user.”

Assuming this pans out, it’s the closest anyone has gotten to Apple’s total control over the software on its phones. The only difference: the (removable) pre-installed Verizon crapware apps.

Rene Ritchie: ‘Solving for Dash’ 

Rene Ritchie:

You’ll be able to hear a deeper discussion on this between Michael Gartenberg, Serenity Caldwell, special guest James Thomson, and myself on the Apple Talk podcast very soon, but here’s the consensus: Restore the developer account associated with Dash and put Dash back on the App Store. Leave the linked account banned. Monitor Dash going forward the way any other app has been monitored. And that’s it.

I think Apple already threw him his lifeline and he decided to tie it around his neck. Apple offered to do just what Rene is asking them to do, and in return only wanted Popescu to explain the circumstances that led Apple to reasonably (and perhaps correctly) assume both accounts were his.

Update: Dash developer Bogdan Popescu has given his “full story” in a statement to iMore, blaming his mother for the App Store fraud.

Samsung’s Explosion-Proof Note 7 Return Packaging 

Here’s a clever design that Samsung didn’t copy from Apple.

‘Packed It With So Much Innovation’ 

The concluding paragraphs of Brian X. Chen and Choe Sang-Hun’s report for The New York Times on how Samsung came to the decision to completely abort the Galaxy Note 7:

“It was too quick to blame the batteries; I think there was nothing wrong with them or that they were not the main problem,” said Park Chul-wan, former director of the Center for Advanced Batteries at the Korea Electronics Technology Institute, who said he reviewed the regulatory agency’s documents.

It did not help that the hundreds of Samsung testers trying to pinpoint the problem could not easily communicate with one another: Fearing lawsuits and subpoenas, Samsung told employees involved in the testing to keep communications about the tests offline — meaning no emails were allowed, according to the person briefed on the process.

Mr. Park said he had talked with some Samsung engineers but none seemed to know what happened, nor were they able to replicate the problem. Replication would have been quick and easy if the problem was with the chip board and designs, he said.

“The problem seems to be far more complex,” Mr. Park said in a phone interview. “The Note 7 had more features and was more complex than any other phone manufactured. In a race to surpass iPhone, Samsung seems to have packed it with so much innovation it became uncontrollable.”

“Packed it with so much innovation it became uncontrollable” is a very odd quote to include. This sounds more like a statement from Samsung PR than from an objective outsider. And you would think that a company-wide edict to keep all communication about the investigation offline would merit more than a passing reference.

The Gender Divide 

Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight:

But it seems fair to say that, if Trump loses the election, it will be because women voted against him. I took a look at how men and women split their votes four years ago, according to polls conducted in November 2012. On average, Mitt Romney led President Obama by 7 percentage points among men, about the same as Trump’s 5-point lead among men now. But Romney held his own among women, losing them by 8 points, whereas they’re going against Trump by 15 points.

That’s the difference between a close election — as you’ll remember, those national polls in late 2012 showed the race neck-and-neck — and one that’s starting to look like a blowout.

Includes rather stark maps showing what the Electoral College would be like if only women voted (massive Clinton landslide) or if only men voted (solid win for Trump).

John Scalzi: ‘Trump, the GOP, and the Fall’ 

John Scalzi:

But note well: Donald Trump is not a black swan, an unforeseen event erupting upon an unsuspecting Republican Party. He is the end result of conscious and deliberate choices by the GOP, going back decades, to demonize its opponents, to polarize and obstruct, to pursue policies that enfeeble the political weal and to yoke the bigot and the ignorant to their wagon and to drive them by dangling carrots that they only ever intended to feed to the rich. Trump’s road to the candidacy was laid down and paved by the Southern Strategy, by Lee Atwater and Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove, by Fox News and the Tea Party, and by the smirking cynicism of three generations of GOP operatives, who have been fracking the white middle and working classes for years, crushing their fortunes with their social and economic policies, never imagining it would cause an earthquake. […]

But they don’t control Trump, which they are currently learning to their great misery. And the reason the GOP doesn’t control Trump is that they no longer control their base. The GOP trained their base election cycle after election cycle to be disdainful of government and to mistrust authority, which ultimately is an odd thing for a political party whose very rationale for existence is rooted in the concept of governmental authority to do. The GOP created a monster, but the monster isn’t Trump. The monster is the GOP’s base. Trump is the guy who stole their monster from them, for his own purposes.

Remember that a year ago, no one in the Republican establishment thought Trump had a chance of winning the primary — and then he wound up winning it rather easily. His path to the Republican nomination was actually easier than Hillary Clinton’s.

Democracy is entirely based on political compromises. The Trumplican base sees any sort of compromise as a betrayal.

See also: Scalzi’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, every single word of which I agree with.

Samsung to Permanently Discontinue Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone 

The Wall Street Journal:

Samsung Electronics Co. said on Tuesday that it is discontinuing its embattled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, pulling the plug on a product whose botched recall has brought headaches to consumers and damaged the Samsung brand.

Samsung said in a filing with South Korean regulators that it would permanently cease production and sales of the device, following a string of reported incidents in which supposedly safe replacements of the smartphone overheated and in some cases caught fire.

“Taking our customer’s safety as our highest priority, we have decided to halt sales and production of the Galaxy Note 7,” the company said.

Horace Dediu:

Hmm. I wonder if we will soon see a quarter when one phone maker captures 100% of the profit in the industry.

Samsung Says It Is ‘Adjusting’ Note 7 Supply Due to Fire Reports 

CNBC:

Samsung Electronics said on Monday it is adjusting shipment volumes for Galaxy Note 7 smartphones due to reports of some of the devices catching fire. Samsung, in a statement, said the adjustments were being made in order to conduct in-depth inspections and to improve quality control. The firm did not elaborate further.

Where by “adjusting shipment volumes” they mean “ceasing production”.

Tito 

My thanks to Tito for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Tito is the best ticketing system I’ve ever seen. I’ve used it as an attendee, registering for conferences that use Tito, and I’ve used it as an event host, for my live episodes of The Talk Show.

Tito supports Apple Pay and Apple Wallet, and they’re about to ship a brand new iOS check-in app. Everything about it is really well designed.

To say thanks to everyone who has supported them in the last few years, they’re giving away €200 in Tito credit to all customers, old and new. No questions asked, this week only. Just use coupon code GRUBER.

Microsoft to Hold Windows 10 Event on October 26 in New York 

Paul Thurrott:

As expected, Microsoft will hold a major press conference on October 26, 2016 in New York City. And while details are vague at this point, it’s fair to say that the rumors we’ve heard so far are almost certainly correct.

I’ve received an email invitation to the event, but its a bit vague. So here’s what I’ve heard from my sources.

That’s one day before Apple’s event to announce new MacBooks on Thursday 27 October — if Apple moved its earnings from the 27th to the 25th to make room for an event.

After Samsung Galaxy Southwest Airlines Incident, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile Now Offer Exchange Options for Galaxy Note 7 Replacement Models 

At this point Samsung ought to just recall them all and scrap the product. Who can trust one if even the replacements are dangerous fire hazards?

U.S. Court Reinstates Apple $120 Million Patent Win Over Samsung 

Reuters:

The court said that there was substantial evidence for the jury verdict related to Samsung’s infringement of Apple patents on its slide-to-unlock and autocorrect features, as well as quick links, which automatically turn information like addresses and phone numbers into links.

Friday’s decision was made by the full slate of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. In an 8-3 ruling, the judges said that a previous panel of the same court should not have overturned the verdict last February.

This case is so old, even Apple isn’t using slide-to-unlock anymore.

The Value of Twitter 

Dave Winer:

When people say Twitter, the company, is a lost cause they are out of their minds or don’t understand systems. Twitter works. There’s a company behind it that makes it work. The service has a lot of value, not just as servers, but that it’s all together in one place. If that were to break it could never be replaced. Look at the void left after Napster’s demise for a clue. Set us back 20-30 years.

Exactly.

Bruce Schneier: ‘We Need to Save the Internet From the Internet of Things’ 

Bruce Schneier, writing for Motherboard:

What was new about the Krebs attack was both the massive scale and the particular devices the attackers recruited. Instead of using traditional computers for their botnet, they used CCTV cameras, digital video recorders, home routers, and other embedded computers attached to the internet as part of the Internet of Things.

Much has been written about how the IoT is wildly insecure. In fact, the software used to attack Krebs was simple and amateurish. What this attack demonstrates is that the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can’t get fixed on its own.

Schneier’s reasoning for calling for government intervention is simple: The market won’t fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares.

Inside Apple’s Lightning Audio Adapter 

Jeff Suovanen, with some gorgeous X-ray photography of Apple’s headphone jack dongle:

But it appears Apple’s engineers did their job, and this tiny adapter performs better than most people expected or even thought possible.

Why did they do it? Was it worth it? Will other manufacturers copy it?

If you have to ask “Why did they do it?”, you just don’t get Apple.

The Talk Show: ‘A Murder of Eeros’ 

New episode of America’s favorite 3-star podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Matthew Panzarino. Topics include Google’s “Made by Google” hardware announcements (the Pixel phones, Google Wi-Fi routers, their Amazon Echo competitor Google Home), mobile photography, Samsung’s acquisition of Viv, and more.

Apple Pulls Bizarre ‘Orchard’ Web Page Promoting Entry Level Marketing Jobs 

Last night a web page at apple.com/the-orchard/ appeared. It is now gone. The entirety of the page was this image — text rendered in a PNG like a web page in 1996. A couple of glaringly obvious problems with this:

  • Using a big long PNG image as a web page is ridiculous.
  • The image only looked “right” when viewed on an iPhone. On larger displays it looked terrible.
  • The text of the web page reads like ad agency hot air. It’s bullshit.
  • That crude “O” with a leaf on the top to make it look like the Apple logo. What the holy hell was that? Who thought that was OK?

Something weird happened here.

Samsung Acquires Viv, a Next-Gen AI Assistant Built by Creators of Apple’s Siri 

Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:

Samsung has agreed to acquire Viv, an AI and assistant system co-founded by Dag Kittlaus, Adam Cheyer and Chris Brigham — who created Siri, which was acquired by Apple in 2010. The three left Apple in the years after the acquisition and founded Viv in 2012. Pricing information was not available, but we’ll check around.

Viv has been billed as a more extensible, powerful version of Siri.

Viv will continue to operate as an independent company that will provide serves to Samsung and its platforms.

Huge score for Samsung. Does anyone disagree that AI assistant technology is table stakes for the next decade?

Tim Culpan: ‘HTC, You Loser’ 

Tim Culpan, in his column for Bloomberg:

Google, of Android operating system fame, released its first Pixel smartphones Tuesday to replace its Nexus lineup. HTC has been selected to assemble the device, becoming for Google what Foxconn is to Apple. “Google has done the design work and a lot of the engineering,” the Mountain View-based company’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh told Bloomberg News.

Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. After spending years building its design and engineering chops, HTC has been demoted to water boy. Supplying Google with smartphones isn’t a victory — it’s an embarrassing end to HTC’s decade-long campaign to break out of that contract-manufacturing business and stand on its own two feet.

Android Police: ‘Huawei Passed on Chance to Produce Pixel Phones, U.S. Division Badly Struggling’ 

David Ruddock, writing for Android Police:

Fast-forward shortly after the Nexus 5X and 6P launched, and Google began talks with Huawei to produce its 2016 smartphone portfolio - allegedly up to three phones, not just the two we ended up with. It’s unclear if they would have been branded Pixel, Nexus, or both (e.g., two Pixels and a cheaper Nexus). Google, though, set a hard rule for the partnership: Huawei would be relegated to a manufacturing role, producing phones with Google branding. The Huawei logo and name would be featured nowhere on the devices’ exteriors or in their marketing, much like the Pixel phones built by HTC that we’ll see unveiled tomorrow. According to our source, word spread inside Huawei quickly that global CEO Richard Yu himself ended negotiations with Google right then and there. Huawei was off the table for the new smartphones. Google’s “plan B” — HTC — ended up winning the contract.

It speaks to how far HTC has fallen that they’re now accepting a position akin to that of Foxconn — simply a manufacturer.

Replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phone Catches Fire on Southwest Plane 

Jordan Golson, reporting for The Verge:

More worryingly, the phone in question was a replacement Galaxy Note 7, one that was deemed to be safe by Samsung. The Verge spoke to Brian Green, owner of the Note 7, on the phone earlier today and he confirmed that he had picked up the new phone at an AT&T store on September 21st. A photograph of the box shows the black square symbol that indicates a replacement Note 7 and Green said it had a green battery icon.

Green said that he had powered down the phone as requested by the flight crew and put it in his pocket when it began smoking. He dropped it on the floor of the plane and a “thick grey-green angry smoke” was pouring out of the device. Green’s colleague went back onto the plane to retrieve some personal belongings and said that the phone had burned through the carpet and scorched the subfloor of the plane.

The last line of the article is a real kicker.

‘First’ 

Mark Gurman, in a profile of Google’s new Pixel phones published just before Google’s event started today:

Google is embarking on a wholesale revamp of its mobile phone strategy, debuting a pair of slick and powerful handsets that for the first time will go head-to-head with Apple Inc.’s iconic iPhone.

The first clause is true: the Pixels do mark a “wholesale revamp” of Google’s mobile phone strategy. The second clause is nonsense: Google has been going head-to-head against the iPhone ever since the first Android phone debuted. You can’t say the Nexus phones don’t count just because they never succeeded.

Google then-VP of engineering Vic Gundotra devoted his 2010 I/O keynote to ripping into the iPhone and iPad, pedal to the metal on “open beats closed” and how an ecosystem of over 60 different Android devices (a drop in the pond compared to today) was winning, saving the world from a future where “one man, one company, one device” controls mobile. (Gundotra tossed in “one carrier”, which was true at the time, but looks foolish in hindsight.) He even compared the iPhone to Orwell’s 1984. Really.

The only thing Orwellian here is Google’s attempt to flush down the memory hole their previous attempts to go head-to-head against the iPhone. Watch the first 10 minutes of Gundotra’s 2010 keynote — the whole thing is about beating the iPhone.

(Gundotra went heavy on the Flash Player thing, too. It occurs to me that many executives who were willing to bet publicly on Flash Player for mobile circa 2010 are no longer around. A notable exception: Kevin Lynch.)

Twelve South Sells Out of Candle That Smells Like a New Mac 

Two thoughts:

  • I have no idea if this candle actually smells like a new Mac, but I do know that Apple really does care about what its products smell like when they’re unboxed. Every sense counts: sight, touch, smell, sound. (Maybe not taste, but still.) They actually do concern themselves with the aroma of the materials they use in their packaging. High-end retailers create branded scents for the air in their stores too — I’ll bet Apple does.

  • Nobody makes a candle that smells like Google search.

Washington Post Feature on Cobalt Mining in the Congo 

Terrific feature by The Washington Post on the treacherous small-scale mining for cobalt — an essential component of lithium-ion batteries — in the Congo. Here’s a bit on Apple’s role:

Apple, in response to questions from The Post, acknowledged that this cobalt has made its way into its batteries. The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant said that an estimated 20 percent of the cobalt it uses comes from Huayou Cobalt. Paula Pyers, a senior director at Apple in charge of supply-chain social responsibility, said the company plans to increase scrutiny of how all its cobalt is obtained. Pyers also said Apple is committed to working with Huayou Cobalt to clean up the supply chain and to addressing the underlying issues, such as extreme poverty, that result in harsh work conditions and child labor.

The whole story is fascinating and incredibly well-reported and illustrated. But you must watch the video shot by a creuseur (French for “digger”) descending into one of the mines. It’s so clearly dangerous and profoundly claustrophobic, I found it hard to breathe while watching.

Nick Bilton on Twitter as an Acquisition 

Nick Bilton, writing for The Hive:

What happens next to Twitter is anyone’s guess. But I do know that, for the first time, Twitter now has a Plan B. A few months ago, while reporting a feature story about the future on the company for Vanity Fair, I asked a number of executives what might happen if Dorsey, who seemed like a Hail Mary option, couldn’t turn Twitter around. What was Plan B, I asked them? “There is no Plan B,” I was told. “This is it.”

I admired their fortitude, but there was no denying that an acquisition had to be the next option on the table. And one executive humored me in a guessing game about who the dream buyer might be. But after I ticked off all the usual suspects — Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft — that tried to buy Twitter years ago, in one way or another, I was met with the same resounding answer: “no.”

“Then who?” I asked this executive.

To which the executive replied, elusively, “It’s a small world after all.”

The Microsoft Band Is Dead 

Chris Welch, writing for The Verge:

In a statement earlier this month, Microsoft insisted that it remains “deeply committed to supporting our customers and exploring the wearables space.” (HoloLens is technically a wearable, after all.) At the time, Microsoft also noted that the Band 2 was still actively being sold — but that’s no longer the case as of today. The Band’s software development kit, which allowed apps to be created for the device, has also been removed. Also in September, the company renamed its smartphone health app to Microsoft Band; that software remains available for existing users.

Honestly, I’d pretty much forgotten that the Band even existed. I think it was obviously a hobby for Microsoft, not a major initiative, but still, this is what a flop looks like.

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