Linked List: January 2017

Rene Ritchie: ‘It’s Time to Admit Apple Watch Is a Success’ 

Rene Ritchie:

It could be that there is no real “Smartwatch market”, just an Apple Watch market. Much like there’s no real “tablet market”, just an iPad market. Since it’s such a new product category and most of the existing products are still bound to phones, it could also simply be too soon to tell.

I think we should stop talking about “smartwatches” and just consider Apple Watch a “watch”, period. In September, Apple claimed watch revenues second only to Rolex. How can it not be considered a hit at this point?

A Loose Theory on the Continuing Cooling of iPad Sales 

Marco Arment:

The quarterly results are in and Apple’s doing fine overall, but the iPad really isn’t, with another year-over-year decrease in sales.

Apple and commentators can keep saying the iPad is “the future of computing,” and it might still be. But we’re starting its seventh year in a few months, and sales peaked three years ago.

What if the iPad isn’t the future of computing?

What if, like so much in technology, it’s mostly just additive, rather than largely replacing PCs and Macs, and furthermore had a cooling-fad effect as initial enthusiasm wore off and customers came to this conclusion?

This is my loose theory on iPad sales:

The peak years (2013 and 2014) were inflated because it was an untapped market. Steve Jobs was right, there was room for a new device in between a phone and a laptop, and the iPad was and remains an excellent product in that space. But people don’t need to keep buying new iPads. I think the replacement cycle is clearly much more like that of laptops than that of phones. This was not obvious to me at the time, but it seems obvious now.

In short, in 2013 and 2014, there were a lot of people who wanted an iPad who didn’t own anything like an iPad. There aren’t as many people in the market for iPads today. For one thing, many of them already own an iPad that continues to satisfy their needs for the role it plays in their life.

The other factor is that the conceptual space between phones and laptops has shrunk. iPhones have gotten a lot bigger, and MacBooks have gotten thinner and lighter. With bigger iPhones and super-thin MacBooks, the iPad stands out less. That trend isn’t going to reverse.

And let’s put iPad sales in context: they’re shrinking, they’re less than one-fifth those of the iPhone, but they’re still 2.5 times the unit sales of the Mac.

Six Colors: Apple’s Record Quarter by the Numbers 

As usual, insanely fast turnaround on visualizing Apple’s quarterly results.

LG UltraFine 5K Display Can Become Unusable When Near a Wi-Fi Router 

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac:

The problem is UltraFine 5K Display becomes unusable when positioned within 6.6-feet of a router. I discovered this issue after purchasing my own UltraFine 5K Display last week and thinking something was defective with my hardware.

Right out of the box, UltraFine 5K Display was hardly usable as it would consistently disconnect and even freeze my MacBook Pro which made it unusable for work on Thursday and Friday. Connecting it to my MacBook Pro consistently resulted in needing to reboot my machine to continue working. […]

After testing UltraFine 5K Display in another room without issue, I contacted LG customer service and explained that my monitor works in one room but disconnected in another room without suggesting to support that the problem could be the router.

Support responded by recommending I use the monitor away from a router as they can cause performance issues with this monitor.

On last week’s episode of The Talk Show, I relayed a similar anecdote from a DF reader. This is not isolated, and having your Wi-Fi router near your desk is surely a common situation.

What makes this particularly frustrating is that it almost certainly would not be a problem if Apple had designed its own (first-party) display enclosure.

Apple’s Q1 2017 Results 

Back to growth:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2017 first quarter ended December 31, 2016. The Company posted all-time record quarterly revenue of $78.4 billion and all-time record quarterly earnings per diluted share of $3.36. These results compare to revenue of $75.9 billion and earnings per diluted share of $3.28 in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 64 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

Year-over-year unit sale changes, from Apple’s data summary:

  • iPhone up to 78.3 million from 74.8 million.
  • iPad down to 13.1 million from 16.1 million.
  • Mac up slightly, to 5.4 million from 5.3 million.
  • “Services” are up significantly, percentage-wise, to $7.2 billion in revenue, from $6.1 billion a year ago.

iPhone, Mac, and services are strong. iPad sales aren’t a disaster, but continue to slide. The year-over-year revenue numbers are telling (Q1 2017 / Q1 2016, in billions):

  • iPhone: $54.4 / $51.6
  • iPad: $5.5 / $7.1
  • Mac: $7.2 / $6.7
  • Services: $7.2 / 6.1

A year ago, iPad revenue was greater than that from Mac and services. Now, iPad has fallen behind both.

Windows 10 ‘Cloud’ 

Mary Jo Foley:

So what, exactly, is Windows Cloud? A version of Windows 10 streamed from Azure? Another new Windows 10 subscription plan, in the vein of Windows 10 Enterprise E3/E5? The dreaded (and still nonexistent) Windows 365?

None of the above, my sources say.

Windows 10 Cloud is a simplified version of Windows 10 that will be able to run only Unified Windows Platform (UWP) apps installed from the Windows Store, my contacts say. Think of it as being similar to the version of Windows 10 formerly known as Windows RT or the Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU.

Windows 10 Cloud is meant to help Microsoft in its ongoing campaign to attempt to thwart Chromebooks with a simpler, safer, cheaper version of Windows 10, my contacts say, though Microsoft is unlikely to position it that way (publicly).

For all of the success of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac in recent years, Chrome OS is more of a threat to Windows than anything the industry has ever seen. The low-end of the market has always been the main source of oxygen for Microsoft’s “Windows everywhere” strategy.

Super Mario Run: $53 Million in Revenue 

James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the company says the game has been downloaded more than 78 million times worldwide, with more than 5 percent of players paying to unlock its full content. (That’s $10 in the US.) It’s an impressive conversion rate in for mobile industry, especially considering the game’s high price. Titles that charge a dollar or two usually only achieve a conversion rate of less than 5 percent, a Tokyo-based games analyst told the WSJ.

So far, Nintendo says Super Mario Run has bought in revenue of ¥6 billion or around $53 million. It’s a decent achievement, but still doesn’t deliver the impact the company was looking for. Nintendo chief executive Tatsumi Kimishima said he’d hoped the conversion rate would be in the double digits.

Not a bad start.

Google’s Sergey Brin and Sundar Pichai Speak at Trump Immigration Ban Rally 

Matt Weinberger, writing for Business Insider:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai and cofounder Sergey Brin addressed crowds of employees rallying against President Trump’s immigration ban on Monday, as about 2,000 Google staffers in offices worldwide took to the streets with signs.

At least one hundred people outside Google’s downtown San Francisco offices took to the streets on Monday afternoon, carrying signs and chanting. “You build a wall, we’ll tear it down,” was one such chant.

Brin emigrated from the former Soviet Union as a child; his family sought to escape antisemitism. Pichai was born in India.

Donald Trump’s top advisor, Steve Bannon — who is credited with drafting the immigration ban — thinks it’s a problem that too many Silicon Valley CEOs “are from South Asia or from Asia”.

California and North Carolina Ban MacBook Pros With Touch Bar From Bar Exam 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

In California, the Committee of Bar Examiners has decided that the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar can’t be used at all on the February 2017 examination and sent out notices to test takers this morning.

The Committee of Bar Examiners has been advised that the MacBook Pro laptop with Touch Bar contains certain embedded features that makes it problematic for use during the upcoming February 2017 administration of the CBX. As a result, applicants will NOT be allowed to use the MacBook Pro laptop with Touch Bar during the February 2017 CBX.

My first thought when I read this was that I couldn’t see how the Touch Bar would make cheating any easier than software on your regular display. I’m not sure if the same software is used in all states, but here’s a description of the software used in Pennsylvania:

Bar exam applicants have the option to provide answers to the written (i.e., Performance Test and essay) portions of the PA bar examination using their own personal computer. This method of test taking is known as Computer Based Testing or CBT. The essay/PT questions are provided in booklet format (they do not appear on screen), while the responses may be entered via the applicant’s computer. Applicants must download and register a program known as SofTest, developed by ExamSoft Worldwide, Inc. (ExamSoft), in order to participate in CBT. The software prevents a test taker from accessing any program other than SofTest while it is running.

So I think what they need is for ExamSoft to update their Mac software to turn off typing suggestions in the touch bar while in use.

Theater Mode for Apple Watch in WatchOS 3.2 Beta 1 

It’s a little thing, but I do feel self-conscious when my Apple Watch lights up with a notification when I’m in a movie theater.

Smartling: Translate Mobile Apps in an Instant 

My thanks to Smartling for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their translation services for developers. App localization opens the door to global opportunities, but traditional techniques are failing publishers and users alike. Bound by rapid release cycles, sluggish translation turnarounds, and stubborn app store approval processes, developers have little hope of delivering a consistent user experience across multiple languages.

Smartling’s technology transforms this equation. Their Mobile Delivery Network instantly pushes your translated content to app users over-the-air. New language launches and linguistic updates can now be made independent of code releases and as frequently as you see fit. That gives users in every language access to the right content at the right time.

Check out Smartling’s website to learn more, and join companies like British Airways, Spotify, and GoPro that are already using Smartling.

Tim Cook on Immigration Executive Order: ‘It Is Not a Policy We Support’ 

Tim Cook, in a company-wide email:

I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.

There are employees at Apple who are directly affected by yesterday’s immigration order. Our HR, Legal and Security teams are in contact with them, and Apple will do everything we can to support them. We’re providing resources on AppleWeb for anyone with questions or concerns about immigration policies. And we have reached out to the White House to explain the negative effect on our coworkers and our company.

Good for him for stating his opposition, but it could have been stronger, and should have mentioned Trump by name. This ban hits particularly close to Apple’s heart: Steve Jobs was the biological son of a Syrian immigrant. Tim Cook should call that out, repeatedly.

The Tech Industry’s Responses to Trump’s Immigration Executive Orders, From Strongest to Weakest 

Aaron Levie, CEO of Box:

On every level — moral, humanitarian, economic, logical, etc. — this ban is wrong and is completely antithetical to the principles of America.

That’s a proper response.

Peter Thiel Is a Fucking Fool 

Peter Thiel, back in October, asked if he supported Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S./Mexican border and ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.:

I don’t support a religious test. I certainly don’t support the specific language Trump has used in every instance. But I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always is taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously but it always takes him literally. I think a lot of the voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally. So when they hear things like the Muslim comment or the wall comment, or things like that, the question is not are you going to build a wall like the Great Wall of China, or how exactly are you going to enforce these tests. What they hear is we’re going to have a saner, more sensible immigration policy. We’re going to try to figure out how do we strike the right balance between cost and benefits.

Wrong. Trump meant every fucking word of it. He literally wants to build a wall. He literally thinks he can stick Mexico with the bill for it. He literally just banned people from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the U.S., with a religious exception for Christians.

I heard this over and over during the election. Trump doesn’t really mean what he says. He meant every word of it, and everyone who thought we shouldn’t take him literally (and seriously) is a goddamn fool.

The Talk Show: ‘iPhone Is the New Hitler’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include the state of the Mac (and our shared belief that it’s death has been greatly exaggerated), the NFL playoffs, Chris Lattner leaving Apple for Tesla (and the general problem of talent retention), ruminating on the origins of the word “podcast”, and more.

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Hugo Barra Is Heading to Facebook to Lead Their VR/AR Efforts 

Mark Zuckerberg:

Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They’ll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I’m looking forward to having him on our team.

The National Park Service Refuses to Be Silenced 

Dana Hunter, writing for Scientific American on the National Park Service’s resistance against the Trump administration’s gag order:

Not long after Badlands was brought into line, anonymous employees of the NPS went rogue. They created the AltUSNatlParkService account and, after retweeting a particularly provocative image from the Badlands account along with some climate change data, announced their intent in no uncertain terms:

Mr Trump, you may have taken us down officially. But with scientific evidence & the Internet our message will get out.

These federal employees speaking out now understand that science is not subordinate to politics, that truth is essential, and transparency vital to a functioning democracy. They are risking their careers to ensure the public is kept informed. They’re exercising their free speech rights to ensure we know the truth.

I have never been prouder of our National Park Service than I am now.

How to Retract a Mistake 

A Reddit thread claimed that Apple was removing negative reviews of the new LG 5K display from the online Apple store. A slew of news sites jumped on the story. Turns out, Apple had not enabled reviews on these displays until today.

TidBITS publisher Adam Engst shows how to do a retraction right:

Hence, the claim on Reddit that Apple removed negative user reviews cannot be entirely true. For confirmation, and this is what we should have done before publishing, we looked in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which showed that from the time the LG UltraFine 5K Display page was first crawled on 5 November 2016 until now, there have never been any user reviews. In addition, we confirmed that other products in the Apple Store with user reviews do show those reviews in the Wayback Machine, so it’s not just an anomaly with the Apple Store site.

In other words, we should never have published that ExtraBITS link. We regret both the error and calling into question behavior on Apple’s part that never took place. It’s important that readers be able to trust that we can back up any criticisms that we make, and while we were certainly not alone among news outlets in publicizing that Reddit thread, we should have checked more carefully before believing it.

Mashable shows us how not to do it.

Dropcam Founder and Former Nest Executive Greg Duffy Joins Apple 

Duffy, you may recall, got a lot of attention last year when he excoriated Tony Fadell for what Duffy claimed was Fadell’s mismanagement of Dropcam post-acquisition.

Reed Albergotti got the scoop on Duffy’s hiring for The Information. From their paywalled story:

At first glance, Mr. Duffy seems like an unlikely candidate to become part of Apple’s vast corporate machinery. Even by Silicon Valley standards, where eccentricity is a virtue, Mr. Duffy is an individual. After leaving Nest, he embraced aeronautics with a passion, becoming an expert helicopter pilot, flying old fighter jets and taking a plane trip around the world, all the while considering his next startup idea.

People who know Mr. Duffy, but weren’t aware that he had joined Apple, expressed surprise. They had been sure Mr. Duffy would found a new company, aiming for his second blockbuster.

Must be an interesting gig.

Android Central on Trump’s ‘Old, Unsecured Android Phone’ 

Alex Dobie, writing for Android Central:

So there you go. Trump’s personal Android phone is more than likely a Samsung Galaxy S3, released in 2012, and which last received a software update in mid-2015, with firmware based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.

As noted in the intro, we don’t know for sure that Trump is still using this specific Galaxy S3. The two NYT reports conflict on whether he turned it in, or is still using it to fire out tweets from the White House. But if he is, and it’s the same consumer GS3 model he was apparently using as of February 2016, it’s safe to say it’s a good three years out of step with the latest Android security updates. Many Android security scares have come and gone since the GS3 got its last update in August of 2015.

It’s ridiculous if he’s actually still using that old phone. It’s a national security risk.

The Death Star and the Final Trench Run 

Todd Vaziri:

At the end of the original film, Rebel ships fly along the Death Star trench in an attempt to blow up the space station. Look at the photo of the Death Star at the top of this post: can you point to the trench that Luke and the Rebels flew down to fire upon the exhaust port that would ultimately destroy the space station?

Nearly everybody points at the equatorial trench of the Death Star. I asked dozens of die-hard fans, including many co-workers at Industrial Light & Magic, and nearly every single person pointed to the equatorial trench. If you asked me, I would also have said the equatorial trench.

You learn something every day.

Web Font News: Apple.com Is Switching From Myriad to San Francisco 

Apple’s transition from Myriad (Myriad Set, specifically) to San Francisco is nearing completion: this afternoon they switched the web font used for text on apple.com. Poking around with Safari’s web inspector, I see SF Pro Text, SF Pro Display, and something called SF Pro Icons.

Here’s what I wrote back in September, after the iPhone 7 introduction:

Apple is slowly but surely weaning itself off Apple Myriad. Everything this week was set in San Francisco. Apple’s Keynote slides were set in San Francisco, not Myriad, for the first time. The word “iPhone” on the back of the iPhones 7 is set in San Francisco now. This has been a gradual transition, and Myriad still appears some places, most notably as a web font on Apple’s website. It doesn’t work well alongside San Francisco.

When we look back decades from now, I think we’ll see Myriad as Apple’s Jobs-era typeface, and San Francisco as their Cook-era typeface. For this reason, even though I very much like San Francisco, I find it a little melancholy to watch their use of Myriad fade away.

Manton Reece’s Micro.blog Kickstarter Project 

Manton Reece is writing a book about microblogging, and starting a service called Micro.blog to support it:

Do you remember how the web used to work? How the web was supposed to work?

In the earlier days of the web, we always published to our own web site. If you weren’t happy with your web host, or they went out of business, you could move your files and your domain name, and nothing would break.

Today, most writing instead goes into a small number of centralized social networking sites, where you can’t move your content, advertisements and fake news are everywhere, and if one of these sites fails, your content disappears from the internet. Too many sites have gone away and taken our posts and photos with them.

I want to encourage more independent writing. To do that, we need better tools that embrace microblogs and the advantages of the open web. We need to learn from the success and user experience of social networking, but applied to the full scope of the web.

His Kickstarter project has hit its primary funding goal, but has one week remaining to hit its stretch goals. The big stretch goal is hitting a level where he can hire a community manager to help build a harassment-free community from the get-go. I’m a backer, and strongly encourage you to become one too.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Attends Trump’s Inauguration 

A terrific summary of the historic event.

What Else Is New in the First iOS 10.3 Beta 

From MacRumors’ rundown of new features:

When installing iOS 10.3, it will update the file system to Apple File System (APFS), so it’s important to make a backup before updating.

That’s a big one. I think like most people, I wasn’t expecting APFS to become the iOS file system until late this year, with iOS 11.

First iOS 10.3 Beta Adds AirPod Support to Find My iPhone 

Joanna Stern:

The most likely situation requires just the human ear — take it from someone who has repeatedly discovered an AirPod at the bottom of a purse pocket. Apple has added an alarm to help find earbuds in proximity. Tap “Play Sound” in the iOS app and the AirPod will start chirping. In the app, you can specify which AirPod you’d like to sound. Only problem? If the AirPod’s battery runs out, it’ll remain silent.

It will also track the last known location, and if you leave them at home, can use other devices within Bluetooth range to ping them. Good stuff.

Amazon Nabs Streaming’s First Best Picture Oscar Nomination With ‘Manchester by the Sea’ 

Natalie Jarvey, writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

Amazon has not only scored its first Oscar nominations with Manchester, it has also become the first streaming service to earn a best picture nod.

Manchester received six total nominations, including Kenneth Lonergan for directing and original screenplay, Casey Affleck for lead actor, Lucas Hedges for supporting actor, and Michelle Williams for supporting actress. The Salesman, Iran’s selection in the foreign-language film category — which Amazon is distributing in the United States — also received a nomination, bringing Amazon’s total nominations to seven.

Amazing success story for Amazon. There’s been a lot of talk over the last decade or so that Hollywood was wary of Apple doing to them what the entertainment industry thinks they did to the music industry. In the meantime, Netflix and Amazon are kicking their asses.

Former Apple UI Designer Bas Ording Now at Tesla 

Thom Holwerda, writing for OS News back in June 2014:

After about 15 years at the company as User Interface Designer, he left about a year ago for unknown reasons - until now. Speaking at a conference here in The Netherlands, and noted by Emerce (via Tweakers), Ording explains that he decided to leave Apple because he was fed up with having to appear in court.

“Because my name is listed on patents, I increasingly had to appear in court cases versus HTC and Samsung,” he said, “That started to annoy me. I spent more time in court than designing. Aside from that, I missed the interaction with Steve Jobs. We discussed matters every fourteen days.”

In March 2015, Ording joined Tesla as a user interface designer. I missed this back when it happened, but now it’s starting to look like part of a trend. Tesla seems to be poaching more good people from Apple than Apple is from Tesla.

Here’s a good 2014 piece by Luke Dormehl at Cult of Mac on Ording’s role in the creation of iOS’s text selection and copy-paste interface.

Designer Matt Casebolt Leaves Apple for Tesla 

In more two-week-old news, here’s Seth Weintraub, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Chris Lattner isn’t the only high profile Apple executive who departed for Tesla over the past month, rather than sticking around to work on Titan. 9to5mac has learned that Matt Casebolt, a high profile Senior Director of Design for Apple’s Mac lineup left the company last month for a role at Tesla as Sr. Director Engineering, Closures and Mechanisms. A job meant for a man named Casebolt …

Over the past two and a half years Casebolt led the development of the MacBook Pro with its standout and sometimes controversial Touch Bar feature. Before that, he led the team working on the iconic ‘trash can’ Mac Pro and was previously instrumental in the design of the first generations of MacBook Air. These are some of Apple’s most iconic Mac products over the past decade.

Xiaomi Stops Disclosing Phone Sales Figures 

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch two weeks ago:

Xiaomi has forgone its tradition of revealing how many smartphones it sold the previous year. The strategy yielded many headlines for the highly-regarded Chinese outfit, but today its CEO admitted that Xiaomi has been in transition after growing “too fast”.

The writing was on the cards, even as early as January 2016 when Xiaomi revealed it had sold “over 70 million” devices in 2015. An impressive number, for sure, given the backdrop of slowing smartphone sales worldwide, but it was short of the company’s public target of 80 million, which was reduced from an initial 100 million.

Which companies other than Apple still release their phone sales numbers? Samsung stopped way back in 2011, and as far as I can tell, never started again. Horace Dediu wrote in 2012 that most companies had stopped the practice, and makes the case that sales estimates from outside analysts aren’t accurate.

Speaking of Xiaomi, former Google executive Hugo Barra announced today that he’ll soon be stepping down as the Xiaomi executive in charge of international and English-language sales.

Samsung’s Illustrated Report on What Went Wrong With the Galaxy Note 7 

Spoiler: it was the batteries.

V for Wikipedia 

My thanks to Raureif for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote V for Wikipedia. V for Wikipedia is an opinionated iOS app with nit-picky typography hailed by no less than Erik Spiekermann as the “best on the small screen yet.” It is a gorgeous app, and it’s amazing to me personally how much better Wikipedia reads when it actually looks good.

V for Wikipedia’s design is more than just typography, though. The map visualization lets you explore nearby places — interesting both for your own neighborhood and anywhere you might travel. You can even find articles on your Apple Watch (which sounds crazy, but works great).

Download V for Wikipedia on the App Store. It’s a great app, well worth a couple of bucks.

‘American Carnage’ 

The Economist:

But there was nothing for those hoping to see a more pragmatic, moderate President Trump take office, or to hear him admit that the world is complex and less pliable than he pretended on the campaign trail. All populists are at heart conspiracy theorists, who pretend that easy solutions exist to society’s woes and have only not been tried to date because elites are wicked and deaf to the sturdy common-sense of decent, ordinary folk.

That was the Trump approach.

That’s Trumpism in a nut.

On the Inauguration of Donald Trump: Preserve, Protect, and Defend 

David Remnick, writing for The New Yorker:

The reason so many people are having fever dreams and waking up with a knot in the gut is not that they are political crybabies, not that a Republican defeated a Democrat. It’s not that an undifferentiated mass of “coastal élites” is incapable of recognizing that globalization, automation, and deindustrialization have left millions of people in reduced and uncertain circumstances. It is not that they “don’t get it.” It’s that they do.

Since Election Day, Trump has managed to squander good faith and guarded hope with flagrant displays of self-indulgent tweeting, chaotic administration, willful ignorance, and ethical sludge. Setting the tone for his Presidency, he refused, or was unable, to transcend the willful ugliness of his campaign. He goes on continuing to conceal his taxes, the summary of his professional life; he refuses to isolate himself from his businesses in a way that satisfies any known ethical standard; he rants on social media about every seeming offense that catches his eye; he sets off gratuitous diplomatic brushfires everywhere from Beijing to Berlin. (Everywhere, that is, except Moscow.)

Whatever he did to become popular enough to win the election, he’s squandered that too — even Fox News’s poll shows him to be staggeringly unpopular. The stands were nearly empty for today’s parade. Look at this. No one showed up. Crickets chirping.

It’s going to be a long four years, but take comfort in this: Trump is already deeply unpopular.

Paul Ryan: The Magazine 

Remember The Neu Jorker — Andrew Lipstein and James Folta’s cover-to-cover parody issue of The New Yorker? They’re back, with a Kickstarter to raise money for a new project: “Paul Ryan: The Unofficial Magazine of Paul Ryan”.

I’m in.

John McTiernan’s First Film in 14 Years: ‘The Red Dot’, a Short Promoting ‘Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands’ 

Watch the short first. It’s terrific. (Warning: violence.) Then follow the link and read Drew Taylor’s piece for Vulture:

McTiernan’s involvement in The Red Dot hasn’t been widely publicized (or even particularly acknowledged), which is a shame, especially considering it’s his first filmed project in a whopping 14 years. (His last movie was the rainy Rashomon-on-a-military base thriller Basic.) McTiernan’s inauspicious reemergence leads to a couple of bigger questions: Where, exactly, has he been? And what makes this ad so special?

To answer the first question, you have to go back to 2006, when Anthony Pellicano, a private eye with ties to some of the most powerful people in Hollywood, was arraigned on federal wiretapping charges. It was the conclusion of both a three-year investigation and Pellicano’s 30-day stint in prison for illegally keeping explosives in his West Hollywood office. The resulting trial would eventually embroil some of Hollywood’s biggest executives (Michael Ovitz and Brad Grey) and shiniest stars (Tom Cruise and Chris Rock). At the time, Vanity Fair described the scandal as Hollywood’s Watergate.

But only one member of the Hollywood elite would actually get sent to prison for to his relationship with the notoriously scuzzy Pellicano: John McTiernan.

This is an amazing story, and despite being a huge fan of McTiernan’s work, I had no idea about any of it until today.

Good to have McTiernan back.

Walt Mossberg: ‘Lousy Ads Are Ruining the Online Experience’ 

Walt Mossberg:

Last Saturday, as the New England Patriots were sloppily beating the Houston Texans 34–16 in a playoff game, I wanted to look at the highlight video of a play using the NFL app on my iPad. To watch that 14-second clip, I had to suffer through a 30-second ad for something so irrelevant to me that I can’t even recall what it was.

A preroll ad twice as long as the actual video clip is absurd.

Here’s Mossberg, on his experience after launching Recode:

About a week after our launch, I was seated at a dinner next to a major advertising executive. He complimented me on our new site’s quality and on that of a predecessor site we had created and run, AllThingsD.com. I asked him if that meant he’d be placing ads on our fledgling site. He said yes, he’d do that for a little while. And then, after the cookies he placed on Recode helped him to track our desirable audience around the web, his agency would begin removing the ads and placing them on cheaper sites our readers also happened to visit. In other words, our quality journalism was, to him, nothing more than a lead generator for target-rich readers, and would ultimately benefit sites that might care less about quality.

So backwards, so shortsighted. User tracking is a plague that benefits no one.

Apple Sues Qualcomm for $1 Billion 

Anita Balakrishnan, reporting for CNBC:

Apple is suing Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying Qualcomm has been “charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with.” The suit follows the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit against Qualcomm earlier this week over unfair patent licensing practices.

Shares of Qualcomm, which had been up 1 percent earlier in the day, were down nearly 2.5 percent by the closing bell.

Apple says that Qualcomm has taken “radical steps,” including “withholding nearly $1 billion in payments from Apple as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them.”

Apple added, “Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined.”

That answers my question the other day about who initiated the complaint against Qualcomm with the FTC.

Chris Lattner on ATP 

Now out of Apple and soon to be leading Tesla’s autopilot team, Chris Lattner was the guest on ATP this week. Outstanding interview.

Hunter S. Thompson’s Obituary for Richard Nixon 

Feels appropriate today:

Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.

The Team That Runs Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Page 

Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg on the team of writers and photographers that runs Mark Zuckerberg’s personal Facebook page:

Zuckerberg has help, lots of it. Typically, a handful of Facebook employees manage communications just for him, helping write his posts and speeches, while an additional dozen or so delete harassing comments and spam on his page, say two people familiar with the matter. Facebook also has professional photographers snap Zuckerberg, say, taking a run in Beijing or reading to his daughter. Among them is Charles Ommanney, known most recently for his work covering the refugee crisis for the Washington Post. Company spokeswoman Vanessa Chan says Facebook is an easy way for executives to connect with various audiences.

While plenty of chief executive officers have image managers, the scale of this team is something different. So is its conflation of Zuckerberg’s personal image with that of his company, the diaper-changing photos next to the user growth stats.

Matt Yglesias:

Key point here is that Mark Zuckerberg is much too smart to actually spend time on Facebook.

The Information: ‘Google to Expand Mid-Range “Android One” Program Into U.S.’ 

Amir Efrati, reporting for The Information (behind a paywall, alas — here’s The Verge’s regurgitated version if you don’t have a subscription)

For instance, Google recently expressed its displeasure with Huawei after the China-based smartphone giant said earlier this month it would offer Amazon’s Alexa “virtual assistant” on upcoming U.S. phones, according to a person briefed about the matter. (Google developed a rival virtual assistant that will be built into Android phones besides the Pixel later this year.) It’s likely that Huawei made the decision in order to be in Amazon’s good graces, given that Amazon is an important seller of Huawei phones to U.S. customers.

I think it’s more likely that Huawei went with Alexa instead of Google Assistant because Alexa is, you know, actually available to them, right now. Maybe Google shouldn’t be surprised that Android handset makers are looking to Amazon when Google keeps the best new features exclusive to its own Pixel phones. But what do I know?

Google already has lined up at least one phone maker to be a U.S. launch partner for Android One, said one of the people briefed on the program. The identity couldn’t be learned.

You have to love the passive voice. It’s not that Efrati couldn’t learn the identity — the identity couldn’t be learned. It’s unknowable!

Developing an App Facing an Inevitable Sherlocking 

David Smith:

This week I’ve been working on a big update to my Apple Watch sleep tracker, Sleep++. While I love the app, it is a bit funny to work on. I am pretty confident that somewhere deep within the Cupertino mothership, Apple is working on their own sleep tracking app for the Apple Watch. […]

In a weird way I’ve just come to peace with this reality and grown to understand that this isn’t something that I should really fear. While the indefinite nature of its arrival certainly gives me a bit of unease, once I accepted that it was inevitable things got much simpler.

Good attitude for a third-party developer.

I think sleep tracking is an inevitable feature for Apple Watch. I’ve been wearing a Series 2 to sleep lately, and I wake up with between 55-65 percent battery remaining. I can usually get to a full charge — or close enough, like say 98 percent — just by charging it while I shower and get dressed. In my use, Series 2 does not need to charge overnight. So it might as well track my sleeping. (My problem with wearing it overnight is that it gives me stand credit for most hours — I must toss and turn a lot while sleeping.)

Update: Numerous readers have written in to say that they’ve been wearing their Apple Watches to sleep for a while, and the problem where they’re getting credit for stand hours while sleeping has only started with WatchOS 3.1.1. So it seems likely it’s just a bug.

If Apple Gets Into AR or VR, It Should and Probably Will Be a New Platform 

Zach LeBar:

Here’s a crazy theory: what if Apple’s big AR play, is macOS-focused?

We know that Tim Cook has repeatedly talked about how AR is an interest of Apple’s. On analyst calls they often deflect attention from questions about VR towards AR. Up ‘til now, most have assumed this is because Apple is more interested in iOS-based applications of these technologies, and that they’re looking to differentiate themselves from their Android-based competitors who are already offering VR options. There have even been rumors from as recently as CES 2017 that talk about Carl Zeiss partnering with Apple on a set of AR glasses. The pundits are assuming it’s iPhone-related. But Scoble’s report doesn’t say one way or the other.

What if we’re all looking in the wrong direction? What if we’re blinded by iOS and missing what a tremendous play AR for macOS could be?

This isn’t how Apple typically approaches new human-computer interaction technologies. They don’t just retrofit their existing platform for the new technology. That’s what Microsoft does with Windows. The iPhone didn’t run the Mac OS. The underlying core OS, yes, but everything user-facing was done from scratch, specific to the nature of a touch screen. Apple creates new platforms for new interaction technologies.

I strongly suspect that’s what Apple would do for AR or VR. It could piggyback on the iPhone for network connectivity, as the Watch does, but it’d be its own software platform.

I suppose it’s possible that Apple could use AR just to impose a big virtual display in front of the user. That wouldn’t work at all with iOS’s touch-based paradigm. It could work with the Mac’s mouse pointer and keyboard paradigm. But it doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. I don’t think it would be better than a non-virtual big display on your desktop, and I don’t think toting around a bulky pair of goggles would be better than the built-in displays on MacBooks. It just seems incredibly short-sighted to treat AR or VR as an output for traditional desktop computing.

The Problem With AMP 

Kyle Schreiber:

The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page.

Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google’s news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google’s implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google’s implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn’t limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.

Back in October I asked why websites are publishing AMP pages. The lock-in aspect makes no sense to me. Why would I want to cede control over my pages to Google? AMP pages do load fast, but if publishers want their web pages to load fast, they can just engineer them to load fast. Best answers I got were that it wasn’t really strategic — publishers are going with AMP just because their SEO people are telling them to, because Google features AMP pages in search results. I suppose that is a strategy, but ceding control over your content to Google isn’t a good one in the long term.

As Schreiber points out, with things like Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, the canonical URL for each story remains on the publisher’s own website. With AMP, from the perspective of typical users, the canonical URL is on google.com.

Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview 

Google:

This document gives an overview of how security is designed into Google’s technical infrastructure. This global scale infrastructure is designed to provide security through the entire information processing lifecycle at Google. This infrastructure provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data with end user privacy safeguards, secure communications between services, secure and private communication with customers over the internet, and safe operation by administrators.

Quite a few interesting bits in this document, including this:

A Google data center consists of thousands of server machines connected to a local network. Both the server boards and the networking equipment are custom-designed by Google. We vet component vendors we work with and choose components with care, while working with vendors to audit and validate the security properties provided by the components. We also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level.

FTC Charges Qualcomm With Monopolizing Key Semiconductor Device Used in Cell Phones 

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission:

Extracted exclusivity from Apple in exchange for reduced patent royalties. Qualcomm precluded Apple from sourcing baseband processors from Qualcomm’s competitors from 2011 to 2016. Qualcomm recognized that any competitor that won Apple’s business would become stronger, and used exclusivity to prevent Apple from working with and improving the effectiveness of Qualcomm’s competitors.

I wonder who brought this complaint to the FTC — Apple, Qualcomm’s competitors, or both?

The Commission vote to file the complaint was 2-1. Commissioner Maureen K. Ohlhausen dissented and issued a statement. Both a public and sealed version of the complaint were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on January 17, 2017.

Ohlhausen’s dissent is quite brief, and worth a read.

The Pipe Dream of Ara 

How far out in the weeds was Google’s modular “Project Ara” phone concept before they finally pulled the plug on it? This far out, according to Harrison Weber’s report for VentureBeat:

Imagine the modules developers might dream up. There were the obvious ideas, like specialized cameras and high-end speakers. But modules could get stranger, wilder, too. One module idea, in particular, frequently derailed meetings inside ATAP’s walls, as studio leaders strained to picture a module gold rush akin to Apple’s App Store.

“One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone,” said the source. “It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae — some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we’d build a microscope with it. So you’d have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around.” Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create.

Crowdsourcing Is No Way to Design a Phone (Or Anything Else for That Matter) 

Ashley Carman, writing for The Verge:

ZTE’s crowdsourced phone has already had quite a journey. After the phone’s concept — an eye-tracking, self-adhesive device — was voted on by ZTE users, the phone was put on Kickstarter. Now ZTE is giving us a clearer idea of what to expect specs-wise. […]

Although it has the hardware specs down, ZTE told me at CES that they haven’t totally figured out the phone’s software, like how to get it to eye track. The company also didn’t divulge any details around the self-adhesive case, so we have no idea how the phone will stick to different surfaces. Still, Hawkeye costs $199 on Kickstarter if you feel like preordering and waiting for more details to trickle out. ZTE could use the help too; it has only raised $32,000 out of its $500,000 goal.

Good luck with that.

Samsung Heir Faces Arrest on Charges of Bribing South Korea’s President 

Choe Sang-Hun, reporting for the NYT:

The sprawling investigation into President Park Geun-hye of South Korea took a dramatic turn on Monday with word that prosecutors were seeking the arrest of the de facto head of Samsung, one of the world’s largest conglomerates, on charges that he bribed the president and her secretive confidante. […]

Mr. Lee is accused of instructing Samsung subsidiaries to make payments totaling 43 billion won ($36 million) to the family of Ms. Park’s confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and to two foundations that Ms. Choi controlled, in exchange for help from Ms. Park in facilitating a father-to-son transfer of ownership control of Samsung.

Shocking that something like this would happen to a company as morally scrupulous as Samsung. Shocking.

Apple Insider: ‘Safari Not Able to Play New 4K Videos From YouTube Homepage, Likely Due to VP9 Shift’ 

Mike Wuerthele, reporting for Apple Insider:

What appears to be Google’s shift to the VP9 codec for delivering 4K video on the YouTube homepage is preventing Safari users from watching videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution, but not from viewing webpage-embedded videos in the same resolution.

The shift appears to have taken place on Dec. 6, according to a Reddit thread delving into the issue. Google has been pushing the open and royalty-free VP9 codec as an alternative to the paid H.265 spec since 2014, but has never said that it would stop offering 4K video on the YouTube site in other formats, like the Apple-preferred H.264.

I’m curious what Google’s thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though.

Android’s Emoji Problem 

One practical side-effect of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Android phones are running old versions of the OS: they don’t have the latest emoji.

The Unsung iPhone Sine Qua Non 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

In retrospect, the ascendency of Smartphone 2.0 and the way it has shaped our culture seems obvious and natural. But the celebration and contemplation overlooks a crucial Sine Qua Non, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition: Unlocking the carriers’ grip on handset specifications, marketing, and content distribution.

More specifically, we owe Steve Jobs an enormous debt of gratitude for breaking the carriers’ backs (to avoid a more colorful phrase).

It wasn’t enough that it was revolutionary in both hardware and software. Apple needed something no major handset maker had ever gotten before, or has gotten since: total control.

A Russian Journalist on What to Expect Under Trump 

Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev, in the wake of Trump’s farcical press conference last week:

Given that Putin is probably a role model for Trump, it’s no surprise that he’s apparently taking a page from Putin’s playbook. I have some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re in this for at least another four years, and you’ll be dealing with things Russian journalists have endured for almost two decades now. I’m talking about Putin here, but see if you can apply any of the below to your own leader.

Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other.

Josh Marshall responds:

Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He’s told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won’t obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don’t surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.

Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card 

Jason Snell:

As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.

This survey is such a valuable service. The consensus scores feel like a very accurate assessment of Apple’s year.

Q1 DF RSS Feed Sponsorships 

The Q1 sponsorship schedule is pretty open, including a last-minute opening for this coming week. If you’ve got a product or service to promote to DF’s discerning audience, get in touch.

Bloomberg on Andy Rubin’s New Company, Essential 

Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:

Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. […]

While still in the prototyping stage, Rubin’s phone is aimed at the top of the market where Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Alphabet Inc.’s new Pixel reside. It’s expected to include high-end materials and the ability to gain new hardware features over time, the people said. Representatives for Rubin and Sprint declined to comment.

The problem with any sort of modular design where the goal is to “gain new hardware features over time” is that the most important hardware components in a phone are the display, camera, CPU, and GPU, and Apple updates the iPhone with industry-leading displays, cameras, CPUs, and GPUs every year.

At least one prototype of Rubin’s phone boasts a screen larger than the iPhone 7 Plus’s (5.5-inches) but has a smaller overall footprint because of the lack of bezels, one of the people said. The startup is experimenting with enabling the phone’s screen to sense different levels of pressure, similar to an iPhone, the person said. Rubin’s team is testing an industrial design with metal edges and a back made of ceramic, which is more difficult to manufacture than typical smartphone materials, two of the people said. […]

Rubin is aiming to put the phone on sale around the middle of this year for a price close to that of an iPhone 7 ($649), a person familiar with the matter said, adding that all of the plans are still in flux.

If it’s in the prototyping stage right now, in January, and they don’t know what materials they’re going to use or what size the display will be, what chance do they possibly have of putting a phone on sale in the “middle of this year”?

Also, no word on what OS they’re using. I’m guessing Android with customizations, but it’s curious the story doesn’t say.

Speedtest Desktop Apps for Mac and Windows 

My thanks to Ookla for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new native apps for Mac and Windows. I’ve been using their speedtest.net web service since forever to diagnose network problems and measure performance. They’ve had a native app for iOS for years, and it’s great too.

Now they have native desktop apps. Very simple, very obvious, and beautifully designed. Try them out today by downloading the Speedtest app from the Windows or Mac App Stores — free of charge. That’s it — excellent new native apps for network speed testing, totally free.

U.S. Appeals Court Allows Group to Sue Apple Over App Store ‘Monopoly’ 

Stephen Nellis and Dan Levine, reporting for Reuters:

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple Inc over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Thursday.

That sound you hear is thousands of indie iOS developers laughing at the notion of the App Store leading to “higher prices”.

Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.

A lower court sided with Apple, but Judge William A. Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple. […]

The courts have yet to address the substance of the iPhone users’ allegations; up this point, the wrangling has been over whether they have the right to sue Apple in the first place.

I think it’s fair to say that users buy apps from Apple, not from the developers, so the fact that they can sue Apple strikes me as the correct ruling. But I don’t see how Apple can be ruled to have a “monopoly” — everyone knows Android phones comprise a majority of the market. It’s fair to object to Apple’s tight control over iOS, but you can’t fairly call it a “monopoly”.

PodSearch 

David Smith:

I have a knack for remembering audio. I’m awful at remembering names and faces, but if I hear something I can often recall it later. This has manifested itself as a bit of a party trick for the podcasts I listen to, where I can quickly find the section of a show where a topic was discussed even years after I heard it. Fun, but not particularly useful.

This situation gave me the idea for a little side project, PodSearch, empowering the same quick podcast recall for anyone. The concept was simple. Take a few of my favorite podcasts and run them through automated speech-to-text and make the result searchable.

This is really amazing. I really ought to pay to get true transcripts for The Talk Show (including the back catalog of episodes), but this is a pretty good way to search my show for keywords.

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek 

Chris Lattner on Ted Kremenek, his replacement as project lead on Apple’s Swift team:

One thing that I don’t think is fully appreciated by the community: Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team. This is the time for me to graciously hand things over to folks who are far more qualified than me. Swift has an incredible future ahead of it, and I’m really thrilled to be small part of the force that helps guide its direction going forward.

Consumer Reports Now Recommends MacBook Pros 

Consumer Reports:

New Apple software fixes a battery issue found in CR tests. The software, now in beta, will be part of a broad update soon.

This makes it sound like CR found a problem with the batteries. They didn’t. They found a bug in a Safari developer mode. It’s a real bug, but it’s clear now that it didn’t justify the initial sensational “Wow, first ever Apple laptop not recommended by Consumer Reports!” report. There’s no way they would’ve published that rushed initial report for a laptop from any brand other than Apple. Clickbait, pure and simple.

‘This Is Why You Don’t Kiss the Ring’ 

Good piece by Hamilton Nolan, writing for The Concourse, on Trump’s press conference yesterday, which had the tone and substance of a professional wrestling promotion:

These things are not normal. These things are not okay. These are actions that flout well-established ethical and civil norms. Admittedly, there is something thrilling about watching him do this. What will he do next? It always keeps us tuning in, in the same way that a violent alcoholic father will always keep his children on his toes. But we should not fool ourselves about what is happening in front of our eyes. We are all coming to realize that our civil society institutions may not be strong enough to protect the flawed but fundamentally solid democracy that we thought we had. We are witnessing the rise to power of a leader who does not care about norms. Since these norms were created to prevent political, social, economic, and cultural disasters, we do not need to wonder how this will end. It will end poorly.

Matthew Yglesias: ‘Beyond Wild Allegations, What’s Clearly True About Trump and Russia Is Disturbing’ 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

Allegations now floating around range from the salacious (Russia has Trump sex tapes made at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow) to the serious (using intermediaries, Trump and Russia agreed to an explicit quid pro quo in which Russia would give him electoral help and in exchange he would shift US foreign policy). None of this is proven, and much of it is unprovable (if the FSB has a secret sex tape, how are we going to find it?) but the truth is that these kind of allegations, though difficult to resist, simply shouldn’t matter much compared to what’s in the public record.

Maureen Dowd Interviews Peter Thiel 

Maureen Dowd:

He recalls a story from his and Mr. Musk’s PayPal days, when Mr. Musk joined the engineering team’s poker game and bet everything on every hand, admitting only afterward that it was his first time playing poker. Then there was the time they were driving in Mr. Musk’s McLaren F1 car, “the fastest car in the world.” It hit an embankment, achieved liftoff, made a 360-degree horizontal turn, crashed and was destroyed.

“It was a miracle neither of us were hurt,” Mr. Thiel says. “I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, which is not advisable. Elon’s first comment was, ‘Wow, Peter, that was really intense.’ And then it was: ‘You know, I had read all these stories about people who made money and bought sports cars and crashed them. But I knew it would never happen to me, so I didn’t get any insurance.’ And then we hitchhiked the rest of the way to the meeting.”

Peter Thiel may well be smart, but he’s also dangerously foolish and solipsistic. You have to be a reckless fool to be that smart and get into any car without wearing a seatbelt, let alone a McLaren being driven by a daredevil like Musk.

On whether Thiel is concerned about Trump’s upcoming nominee (singular, I hope) for the Supreme Court:

“I don’t think these things will particularly change. It’s like, even if you appointed a whole series of conservative Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure that Roe v. Wade would get overturned, ever. I don’t know if people even care about the Supreme Court.”

Like I said: Peter Thiel may well be smart, but he’s also dangerously foolish and solipsistic.

The Math Behind a Theoretical 10.5-inch iPad 

Dan Provost:

The math works out perfectly. This new 10.5” iPad would have the exact same resolution as the 12.9” iPad Pro (2732 × 2048), but the same pixel density of the iPad mini (326 ppi instead of 264 ppi). Crunch the numbers, do a little Pythagorean Theorem, and you end up with a screen 10.5” diagonal (10.47” to be precise, but none of Apple’s stated screen sizes are exact). In terms of physcial dimensions, the width of this 10.5” screen would be exactly the same as the height of the iPad mini screen.

Can’t believe I didn’t think to do this again regarding this rumor. The math works out.

WSJ: ‘Apple Sets Its Sights on Hollywood With Plans for Original Content’ 

Ben Fritz, Tripp Mickle, and Hannah Karp, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. is planning to build a significant new business in original television shows and movies, according to people familiar with the matter, a move that could make it a bigger player in Hollywood and offset slowing sales of iPhones and iPads.

These people said the programming would be available to subscribers of Apple’s $10-a-month streaming-music service, which has struggled to catch up to the larger Spotify AB. Apple Music already includes a limited number of documentary-style segments on musicians, but nothing like the premium programming it is now seeking.

Interesting, but I don’t get why they’re framing this in the context of “offset[ting] slowing sales of iPhones and iPads”. I think Apple would be pursuing the exact same original content course regardless of whether iPhone and iPad sales were booming, stagnant, or falling. It’s just the obvious thing to do.

App Extensions Are Not a Replacement for User Automation 

Sal Soghoian, writing for MacStories (there’s a byline I never expected to write — it’s going to take a while to get used to Sal as a civilian):

Here’s a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that Apple decided to combine their engineering resources to form app teams that delivered both iOS and macOS versions of applications.

In such a scenario it may seem logical to retain application features common to both platforms and to remove those that were perceived to require extra resources. Certainly Automation would be something examined in that regard, and the idea might be posited that: “App Extensions are equivalent to, or could be a replacement for, User Automation in macOS.” And by User Automation, I’m referring to Apple Event scripting, Automator, Services, the UNIX command line utilities, etc.

Let’s examine the validity of that conjecture, beginning with overviews of App Extensions and User Automation.

It’s a great article, and I think Sal’s case is very strong. App extensions are great, but they’re no replacement for automation. His conclusion:

But let’s take a step back, and think about this topic differently. Why not have both?

Perhaps it is time for Apple and all of us to think of User Automation and App Extensions in terms of “AND” instead of “OR.” To embrace the development of a new cross-platform automation architecture, maybe called “AutomationKit,” that would incorporate the “everyman openness” of User Automation with the focused abilities of developer-created plugins. App Extensions could become the new macOS System Services, and Automator could save workflows as Extensions with access to the Share Menu and new “non-selection” extension points. And AutomationKit could even include an Apple Event bridge so that it would work with the existing macOS automation tools.

Must-read piece for anyone who cares about the Mac as a power user platform. I’m OK with the current situation, where the Mac has these automation capabilities and iOS does not. I’d prefer to see iOS gain serious automation capabilities — even if it’s an altogether new technology. But I’m dreadfully afraid of a future where MacOS is devolved to iOS’s state, with no supported automation technologies.

Chris Lattner Lands at Tesla 

Tesla:

We would like to welcome Chris Lattner, who will join Tesla as our Vice President of Autopilot Software. Chris’ reputation for engineering excellence is well known. He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple where he was primarily responsible for creating Swift, the programming language for building apps on Apple platforms and one of the fastest growing languages for doing so on Linux.

This is a “holy shit!” hiring by Tesla. A year or two ago it felt like Apple was gunning for Tesla’s lead in electric cars. Now, it feels like Apple is out of the car game, and Tesla is gunning for Apple’s lead in computing. You can’t overstate what a star Chris Lattner is.

Update: Lattner’s only public comment to date is retweeting this observation by Daniel Jalkut:

I hope folks will not overlook that amid all the drama of @clattner_llvm leaving Apple, @tkremenek remains a huge asset for them.

Apple Statement on Consumer Reports’ MacBook Pro Battery Testing 

From a statement Apple sent to TechCrunch:

We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results. We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test.

So there’s a bug in Safari when you disable the cache (Develop: Disable Caches — and the entire Develop menu is off by default). Disabling the cache should decrease battery life in a test like CR’s. And if there’s a bug, I can see why it might dramatically decrease battery life. But that still doesn’t explain how Consumer Reports’s testing showed results ranging from 3.75 hours (poor) to 19.5 hours (seemingly too good to be true).

I still think something was/is wrong with Consumer Reports’s testing (19.5 hours?) but I don’t think it’s fair to say that disabling the caches is unfair or a flawed method. And while the preference setting is obscure, I wouldn’t call it “hidden”. To me, hidden preferences are the ones you can only enable from calls to defaults in Terminal. You can turn the Develop menu on by clicking a visible checkbox in the “Advanced” tab of Safari’s preferences.

Chris Lattner Is Leaving Apple 

Chris Lattner, in an email on the Swift Evolution mailing list:

I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for Swift.org. This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and I want you all to know that I’m still completely committed to Swift. I plan to remain an active member of the Swift Core Team, as well as a contributor to the swift-evolution mailing list.

Sounds like an orderly, no-drama (and perhaps long-planned?) transition. Sure am curious what his “opportunity in another space” is, though.

Lattner is a really smart, very well-liked, and deeply respected guy. His leaving is a loss for Apple.

Swift really is Lattner’s baby — he developed the earliest versions of it by himself starting in 2010, before work expanded to a larger group in Apple’s Developer Tools group. (Swift wasn’t announced publicly until June 2014.) The Apple developer community is still in the middle of the transition to Swift. I’m a little surprised he’d leave in the midst of the upheaval. It’s a thriving language, but it is far from a completed project — neither the language itself nor the OS frameworks.

The Talk Show: ‘Now Banned in China’ 

Jim Dalrymple returns to the show for the first episode of 2017. Topics include New Year’s Eve, Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant, Apple’s aging AirPort and Mac Pro lineups, the future of desktop Macs, Apple Watch battery life, and rumors of upcoming new iPads.

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Yahoo Leftovers Will Be Called Altaba, Marissa Mayer Will Not Be on Board 

10 years ago, Yahoo was important enough to get its own on-stage segment during the iPhone announcement.

Merlin Mann Interviewing Jason Snell and Yours Truly From Macworld Expo 2007 

Five minute interview wherein Jason Snell very closely predicts the App Store. That whole Expo was so damn exciting. It’s an overused phrase, but that iPhone debut was an instance where it really did feel like we’d been given a very clear glimpse of the future.

Merlin’s audio for the file was hosted at Odeo (remember them?), but Jason has a copy hosted at The Incomparable.

The Thing About Trucks 

Rob Rhyne:

While Brooks and others are arguing that iPad will eventually replace the Mac, Gruber is arguing there will always be a need for macOS — specifically a desktop operating system. Despite what my aforementioned dalliance with iPad might suggest, I’m firmly in Gruber’s camp.

Here’s the thought experiment, which I used to inform my opinion: If you could take only one device with you, which one would you take? Ben Brooks or Federico Viticci would almost certainly choose an iPad.

However, I’d take a Mac. Exactly the 11-inch MacBook Air, which I’m using to write this article.

If I could only use one device, it’d be a 13-inch MacBook Pro. I bet a lot of people would pick an iPhone, though.

The Ten Year Anniversary of the Apple TV 

Ben Thompson:

There is, though, one more lesson, and that comes from the Apple TV: none of us ultimately know anything, including the late Steve Jobs. There’s no question that Jobs knew that Apple was on to something — he said so in the keynote, when he analogized the iPhone to the Mac and iPod. And yet, had he truly known that the iPhone would be exponentially more consequential than either, the Apple TV would have not made an appearance.

The truth is that dents in the universe are only observable after they have occurred; this is why their continued creation is best induced by the establishment of conditions in which risk-taking and experimentation are rewarded. The temptation is to adopt the mistaken mindset that all there is to be invented — and, more pertinently, to be adopted — already exists.

I like Apple TV a lot, and use it for just about all my TV watching other than sports, but it’s been a very different 10 years for Apple TV than it’s been for the iPhone.

Daring Fireball Live at Macworld Expo 2007 

Here’s a fun bit of history. Macworld magazine used to have a stage on the Macworld Expo show floor, and in 2007 I hosted a “Daring Fireball Live” show, with Panic cofounder Cabel Sasser as my guest. We went on stage at the end of the day on Tuesday, the day of the iPhone keynote. We weren’t even sure yet whether or not there was going to be an SDK for native apps.

This was so long ago, it was six months before the first run of The Talk Show started.

Update: Photo, courtesy Patrick Gibson.

How the World Reacted to the First iPhone 10 Years Ago 

The Telegraph has assembled a fine collection of vintage original iPhone claim chowder, including this gem from John Dvorak:

Now compare that effort and overlay the mobile handset business. This is not an emerging business. In fact it’s gone so far that it’s in the process of consolidation with probably two players dominating everything, Nokia and Motorola. […]

The problem here is that while Apple can play the fashion game as well as any company, there is no evidence that it can play it fast enough. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.

There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive.

Phil Schiller on the Original iPhone’s Launch 

Steven Levy, interviewing Phil Schiller on the tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction:

Schiller also cast light on why the iPhone shipped as a closed system. During the gestation period of the iPhone, Apple hosted a spirited internal debate. Some advocated that the device be an open system, like the Macintosh, and others advised a more closed system, like the iPod. The argument was put on hold when the engineers realized that even if the open-system adherents won the debate, it would be impossible to implement in time for the launch. Steve Jobs shut down the discussion, Schiller recalls. “He said ‘We don’t have to keep debating this because we can’t have [an open system] right now. Maybe we’ll change our mind afterwards, or maybe we won’t, but for now there isn’t one so let’s envision this world where we solve the problem with great built-in apps and a way for developers to make web apps.”

A few thoughts:

  • iOS is now older than Mac OS X was at the time the iPhone was unveiled.
  • This was the cell phone in my pocket as I sat in Moscone West, watching the keynote.
  • I just took my original iPhone out of the closet and charged it up. It’s thick and heavy, but overall feels tiny. It’s sized like a cell phone, not a pocket computer.
  • Interesting that Apple is choosing to mark the tenth anniversary now, on the occasion of its unveiling. Perhaps they’ll do something again on June 29, the day we all stood in line outside Apple and AT&T stores, waiting to buy one.
Ten Years Ago Today Steve Jobs Introduced the iPhone 

It was the Apple keynote we had always wanted: the announcement of a game-changing product that Apple had successfully kept secret until Steve Jobs took it out of his pocket. Rumors were rampant that Apple was making “a phone”, but no one outside the company had any idea what kind of phone.

Here’s video of the announcement. See you in an hour.

Aaptiv: On-Demand Audio Fitness 

My thanks to Aaptiv for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Aaptiv fuses the motivation and guidance of a personal trainer with real, exciting music playlists to create an on-demand audio fitness experience like no other. Aaptiv is the perfect way to give your gym membership a boost, take that hotel gym visit up a notch, or experience a boutique indoor cycling class wherever you are. From running to yoga to strength training, Aaptiv delivers on-demand audio fitness motivation and training straight to your ear — anywhere, anytime. Music and motivation — everything you need.

Even better: Daring Fireball readers can get a 30 day free trial using code “DARING” at signup. Free app, free trial.

Apple’s Annual SEC Filing Reveals Missed Revenue and Profit Targets 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for the WSJ:

On Friday, Apple said in a regulatory filing that annual sales of $215.6 billion were 3.7% below target, and its operating income of $60 billion came up 0.5% short for the fiscal year ended Sept. 24.

Mr. Cook’s total 2016 compensation dropped to $8.75 million for the year, down 15% from $10.3 million in the year earlier. The decline was tied to his cash bonus, which hinged on exceeding revenue and profit targets set by the board. His base salary rose 50% to $3 million.

Mr. Cook’s total compensation doesn’t reflect the mega-stock grant he received in 2011 when he took over as CEO, an award valued at the time at about $376 million.

Bullet vs. Glass 

I’d never heard of a Prince Rupert’s Drop before. Fascinating materials science.

LG Is Abandoning Its Modular Smartphone Idea 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

LG’s modular phone accessory strategy that served as the primary differentiator for last year’s G5 smartphone appears to be no more. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South Korean company is pivoting away from the plug-in “Friends” modules for the upcoming G6 device after lackluster sales for the G5.

Per The Wall Street Journal, an LG spokesperson commented that consumers aren’t interested in modular phones.

No shit.

Prototype Interface for an iPod-Based Apple Phone 

Interesting stuff, but I don’t think the idea here was to ship a device with a virtual click wheel occupying half of a touchscreen. I think this is more like an emulator, and if Apple had gone this route, the display on the actual device would have been small — only the white rectangular area at the top.

Dan Nainan, the 55-Year-Old ‘Millennial’ ‘Comedian’ 

Bizarre story from Ben Collins, writing for The Daily Beast:

Nainan was 36 in 2012 in The Wall Street Journal, but 31 in The New York Times in the same year. In 2006, he remembered when he got the bug to do comedy: In 1998, while he was working as a senior engineer at Intel. As a 17-year-old.

Then, there it is on paper: a Maryland traffic court case from last year. “Failure to display registration card upon demand by police officer.” Daniel Nainan of New York City. Date of birth: May 1961. […]

A Virginia speeding ticket in the database Lexis-Nexis says Nainan was pulled over for speeding in 1987. The ticket is so old that it’s not retrievable anywhere but on archived public-records searches. Fairfax County General District Court only retains records for resolved traffic cases for 10 years, according to both a FCGDC spokesperson and Virginia law.

Millennial Dan Nainan would’ve had to have been a 6-year-old with a speeding ticket.

So what, he’s lying about his age, right? Where his schtick angers me is that he’s claimed for years to have witnessed the World Trade Center towers collapse on 9/11, firsthand, and that that’s what prompted him to become a comedian.

The thing about pathological liars is that they don’t care about their web of lies adding up or making sense as a complete story. It’s simply about manufactured drama.

Vermont’s Maple Syrup Logo 

My first thought when I saw this was that it had to be fake, but apparently it’s real.

Intel’s Compute Card Is a PC That Can Fit in Your Wallet 

Would be cool to see Apple do something like this as a Mac Nano. You know, in the alternate universe where Apple seems to have any interest at all in desktop Macs.

Apple, The New York Times, and China 

Katie Benner and Sui-Lee Wee, reporting for The New York Times:

Apple, complying with what it said was a request from Chinese authorities, removed news apps created by The New York Times from its app store in China late last month.

The move limits access to one of the few remaining channels for readers in mainland China to read The Times without resorting to special software. The government began blocking The Times’s websites in 2012, after a series of articles on the wealth amassed by the family of Wen Jiabao, who was then prime minister, but it had struggled in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app.

Apple removed both the English-language and Chinese-language apps from the app store in China on Dec. 23. Apps from other international publications, including The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, were still available in the app store.

“For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,” Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman, said of the Times apps. “As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”

The Times’s headline reads “Apple Removes New York Times Apps From Its Store in China”. I think a more accurate headline would be something along the lines of “China Compels Apple to Remove New York Times Apps From Its Store in China”. I don’t think Apple had any choice here, other than pulling out of China.

And given that The Times’s website has been blocked in China since 2012, the closed, proprietary App Store has given Chinese readers four years of access to The Times that they couldn’t get over the open web. China’s authoritarian regime is the problem here, not Apple.

Ev Williams Announces Layoffs at Medium 

Ev Williams, announcing that Medium is laying off a third of its employees and somehow changing its approach to making money:

Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to. The vast majority of articles, videos, and other “content” we all consume on a daily basis is paid for — directly or indirectly — by corporations who are funding it in order to advance their goals. And it is measured, amplified, and rewarded based on its ability to do that. Period. As a result, we get…well, what we get. And it’s getting worse.

That’s a big part of why we are making this change today.

We decided we needed to take a different — and bolder — approach to this problem. We believe people who write and share ideas should be rewarded on their ability to enlighten and inform, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention. We believe there are millions of thinking people who want to deepen their understanding of the world and are dissatisfied with what they get from traditional news and their social feeds. We believe that a better system — one that serves people — is possible. In fact, it’s imperative.

Sounds good, but with no details as to what this “different — and bolder — approach” is, it’s hard to judge.

I also don’t think the problem is “ad-driven media on the internet” in general, but rather, the specific ways most ad-driven media on the internet work — and have worked, ever since the first banner ad in 1994. Measuring clicks and page views inevitably leads to clickbait. Instead, measure attention. There’s no way to cheat that other than by producing content that is worthy of attention.

Sidenote: Does anyone actually like those “highlights from other users” on Medium? I find them distracting and gross, and the more popular an article is, the more of them I see (and the more nonsensical some of them are).

Why Chris Adamson Bought a New Mac Pro Last Week 

Chris Adamson, “Capitulation”:

So, my last post was about my angst about replacing my 2008 Mac Pro tower, the best Mac I’ve ever owned. So what happened? Well, upon further reflection:

  • The idea of a 2012 Mac Pro, even the CPU-upgraded Ramjet aftermarket ones, fell off the radar because with Apple’s definition of obsolescence, that hardware will become unmaintainable as soon as 2018.

  • Similarly, someone pointed out that with the very idea of a third-party graphics card no longer in any of Apple’s shipping Macs, it could become difficult for the Hackintosh community to keep going. No idea if this is true, but it makes sense, I guess?

  • If I wanted a year-old iMac, or the new MacBook Pro, I could have bought either of those ages ago and wouldn’t be in this position.

  • Waiting isn’t really an option, with my 2008 machine not supported by Sierra.

I think my needs, for development and especially for video work (Motion and Wirecast, mainly) are best served by the Mac Pro. Even the pathetic, three-year-old Mac Pro, because what I want is lots of cores, silent operation, and expandability of RAM and storage, something the iMac and MacBook Pro can’t offer.

Given his situation and needs, I think he made a reasonable decision. But “capitulation” is exactly the right word.

Wesley Moore’s Search for an Alternative to MacOS 

Wesley Moore:

I deeply value the consistency, versatility, reliability and integration of Mac OS X and the excellent quality hardware it runs on. However the current state of the Mac has me considering whether it’s still the right platform for me.

He tried 13 different OSes.

Running each one I was looking for these attributes:

  • An integrated, consistent experience
  • Opinions and thoughtfulness:
    • One tool for each job.
    • A sensible/minimal selection of pre-installed applications.
  • Design:
    • Simple, easy to use/understand interface
    • Visually appealing and consistent
    • HiDPI support
  • Timely updates

His favorite was Elementary, which, at a glance, does seem to be the open source OS that most values good design. But I don’t see how most serious Mac users could switch to it happily. Moore might be able to do it because he’s a Ruby developer who works in vim.

The truth is, for most of us, there is no good alternative to MacOS. Nothing. And it took so long — not years but decades — for MacOS to get to where it is that I don’t think any other OS could ever catch up. That’s what’s driving the arguably paranoid fear that Apple is abandoning the Mac. It’s not so much the evidence (lack of updates to Mac Pro and Mac Mini, and concerns about software quality) as the high stakes: if the Mac goes away, the world will be left without a Mac-quality desktop OS.

AirPod Cases Disguised as Dental Floss Dispensers 

I can see the appeal as a gag (especially if you live in a multi-AirPod-user household), but I don’t see how this is an “anti-theft” strategy.

I think the fear that thieves will attempt to snatch the buds out of your ears is going to prove unfounded, but I at least see how it’s possible. But how would thieves even see your AirPods case? Only scenario I can think of is if you want to keep them on your desk at work and have untrustworthy colleagues. (I had a stack of CDs stolen from my desk at a temp job just after college — the CDs were worth more than I made from the gig.) But if you’re worried about your case being stolen, it’s a lot safer to keep it in your pocket than to keep it on your desk with a dental floss disguise.

How Donald Trump Tweets 

Interesting analysis of Trump’s tweet style from Evan “Nerdwriter” Puschak. In a nut, he uses speech-like language, not written language. Puschak puts it well: “Instead of asking us to read, he forces us to hear.”

It’s no secret I do not like the guy, but there’s no denying that his use of Twitter is masterly.

So Begins the Apple Watch Series 3 Rumor Chain 

Tim Hardwick, writing for MacRumors:

On Tuesday, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) claimed the next iteration of the wearable device will be manufactured by Taiwan-based Quanta, which was also responsible for the production of Apple’s first and second-generation smartwatch.

Citing market watchers with knowledge of Quanta’s plans, the paper said improving battery life is the manufacturer’s “main task”, but beside general performance improvements, the device’s other hardware would not see much change. Quanta declined to comment on the report, calling it “market speculation”.

I’ve been testing the Nike Plus Apple Watch, and it gets much better battery life than my original series Apple Watch. With WatchOS 3.1 it can go two days without a charge, even wearing it to sleep. If Series 3 improves battery life even further, it could turn Apple Watch into a “charge once or twice a week” device, which would be nice.

Update: Or even better, perhaps with increased battery life, Apple could give Series 3 an always-on display? That’s still my biggest gripe about Apple Watch.

With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Hobble Independent Ethics Office 

Eric Lipton, reporting for The New York Times:

House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate.

In its place, a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be set up within the House Ethics Committee, which before the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

A secret vote within the Republican caucus to effectively eliminate the office that investigates their own misconduct. This is an outrage.

Mr. Goodlatte defended the action in a statement issued Monday evening, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving lawmakers better protections against what some members have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Orwellian double-speak: strengthening an ethics office by stripping its independence. The Republicans — in the House at least — are dropping all pretense that they intend to govern with any integrity.

Update: 12 hours later:

House Republicans, facing a storm of bipartisan criticism, including from President-elect Donald J. Trump, moved early Tuesday afternoon to reverse their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. It was an embarrassing turnabout on the first day of business for the new Congress, a day when party leaders were hoping for a show of force to reverse policies of the Obama administration.

Trump, it should be noted, didn’t voice opposition to the plan, only the timing of it.

‘Growing a Different Apple’ 

Vindu Goel, writing for the NYT:

At Apple, Brian Latimer was in charge of protecting some of the company’s deepest secrets.

After an engineer accidentally left a test version of the iPhone 4 at a bar in 2010, Mr. Latimer set up a system to track, recover and destroy prototypes of coming products. Later, he taught overseas suppliers how to shield production lines and compartmentalize information to avoid leaks.

Under Apple’s “need to know” philosophy, he did not even have access to much of the information he helped to secure. And like all Apple employees, he was discouraged from talking about his job with co-workers.

His current employer, Pearl Automation, could not be more different.

Founded in 2014 by three former senior managers from Apple’s iPod and iPhone groups, Pearl has tried to replicate what its leaders view as the best parts of Apple’s culture, like its fanatical dedication to quality and beautiful design. But the founders also consciously rejected some of the less appealing aspects of life at Apple, like its legendary secrecy and top-down management style.

The start-up, which makes high-tech accessories for cars, holds weekly meetings with its entire staff. Managers brief them on coming products, company finances, technical problems, even the presentations made to the board.

As the article notes, you just don’t see as many startups from Apple employees as you do from other companies.

MacOS Sierra PDF Problems Get Worse in 10.12.2 

Adam Engst, writing for TidBITS:

It pains me to say this, speaking as the co-author of “Take Control of Preview”, but I have to recommend that Sierra users avoid using Preview to edit PDF documents until Apple fixes these bugs. If editing a PDF in Preview in unavoidable, be sure to work only on a copy of the file and retain the original in case editing introduces corruption of any sort. Smile’s PDFpen is the obvious alternative for PDF manipulation of all sorts (and for documentation, we have “Take Control of PDFpen 8” too), although Adobe’s Acrobat DC is also an option, albeit an expensive one.

What went wrong? Engst quotes developer Christian Grunenberg:

Apple wants to use a common foundation for both iOS and macOS. However, it was released way too early, and for the first time (at least in my experience) Apple deprecated several features without caring about compatibility. And to make things worse, lots of former features are now broken or not implemented at all, meaning that we had to add lots of workarounds or implement stuff on our own. And there’s still work left to be done.

In other words, parity with iOS took priority.

On the bright side, when this happened with the iWork suite, the Mac apps eventually gained back most of the functionality that was removed for parity with iOS. But it sure seems like Apple pulled the trigger on this at least a year before it was ready.

The Difference Between Google Assistant and Siri 

Matt Birchler:

The tech narrative is that Siri sucks and Google Assistant is the second coming. I have been using Siri for years, and have been going 100% in on Android over the last few weeks and have given Google Assistant a solid effort. My experience has been a little different than the popular narrative.

This matches my experience as well.

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