The Daring Fireball Linked List

More Amazing Xiaomi/Apple Design Coincidences 

Posit: Xioami (a.k.a. “Mi”) poses a serious threat to Samsung because:

  1. Xiaomi is more shamelessly willingly to blatantly copy Apple, down to as many details as they’re able.

  2. They’re better at it. Xiaomi copies with some degree of taste; Samsung has no taste.

  3. Xiaomi operates only in countries with weak IP laws and culture, further enabling and protecting them re: points 1 and 2. (This third point was first brought to my attention by Ben Thompson, when he was my guest on The Talk Show a few weeks ago.)

Apple Q3 2014 Results 

The most interesting numbers to me: iPad sales were down about 9 percent year-over-year, but Mac sales were up about 18 percent.

OS X Yosemite Public Beta Arrives Thursday 

Jason Snell:

On Thursday, fall will come early for hundreds of thousands of Mac users when Apple releases its first public beta of OS X Yosemite. The public-beta program, announced during Apple’s annual developer conference in June, lets regular users download and test pre-release versions of OS X. Apple says the first million users to sign up at the OS X Beta Program website will be able to test Yosemite before the OS is released to the general public in the fall. […]

When Yosemite is finished, users will be upgraded to the final version automatically, also via the Software Update feature within the App Store app.

Just as a reminder, OS X Yosemite is still software that is under development, so apps and services may not work as expected some (or all) of the time. It’s always wise to back up your Mac before installing, and you should seriously consider installing Yosemite on a Mac that you don’t use for day-to-day operations just in case something goes wrong.

Good advice. Judging by the developer betas, Yosemite is in good shape for a beta, but that is not the same thing as being in good shape for production use.

Making It Easy 

Remember that phone call last week, where Veronica Belmont and Ryan Block simply could not get a Comcast “Retention professional” to cancel their account? Consumerist obtained an internal memo from Comcast COO Dave Watson, which reads in part (emphasis mine):

That said, it was painful to listen to this call, and I am not surprised that we have been criticized for it. Respecting our customers is fundamental, and we fell short in this instance. I know these Retention calls are tough, and I have tremendous admiration for our Retention professionals, who make it easy for customers to choose to stay with Comcast.

That is literally just another way of saying that their job is to make it difficult to leave Comcast. It’s somehow more obnoxious though, that he phrases it so euphemistically.

The History of Autocorrect 

Gideon Lewis-Kraus, writing for Wired Gadget Lab:

On idiom, some of its calls seemed fairly clear-cut: gorilla warfare became guerrilla warfare, for example, even though a wildlife biologist might find that an inconvenient assumption. But some of the calls were quite tricky, and one of the trickiest involved the issue of obscenity. On one hand, Word didn’t want to seem priggish; on the other, it couldn’t very well go around recommending the correct spelling of mothrefukcer. Microsoft was sensitive to these issues. The solution lay in expanding one of spell-check’s most special lists, bearing the understated title: “Words which should neither be flagged nor suggested.”

Mi 3 Product Page Rips Off Aperture Icon 

Scroll down on the Mi 3 “features” page and you’ll see this image, named “detail-camera.jpg”. (Cached version, for when Mi pulls the original.) Take a good look at the camera in that image, then look at the app icon for the current version of Aperture. (Cached.) It’s a simple copy-paste-skew job of the lens, and not a very good one. Two panels down on the page, they use it again, horizontally flipped. (Shockingly, they cropped out the “Designed by Apple in California”.)

Now re-read this.

Digital Tattoo for Moto X 

Is this a joke? This is a joke, right?

Hello? What.

Microsoft Misses on Earnings Due to Nokia 

I don’t think anyone should be surprised by this — if the Nokia acquisition is going to work out well, it’s going to take a while. Still looking like a very big “if”, though.

Mi Too 

Vlad Savov, The Verge:

Barra is only a year into his job as leader of Mi’s internationalization efforts, but he’s already “sick and tired” of hearing his company derided as an Apple copycat. He sees Mi as “an incredibly innovative company” that never stops trying to improve and refine its designs, and the allegations of it copying Apple are “sweeping sensationalist statements because they have nothing better to talk about.”

This was apparently said with a straight face by an executive from the company that put up this slide at the end of a product introduction event today.

Speaking of Beautiful Dented and Scratched Machines 

Everyone is calling this “the new X-Wing”, but I’m not sure the wings open into an X. Looks cool though, and it’s great to see them going back to practical special effects.

Update: It’s definitely an X-Wing. Here’s a tweet illustrating how the S-foils open. Even better, this new X-Wing hews closely to Ralph McQuarrie’s original design. Awesome.

Matthew Panzarino on the ‘Stickers’ Ad 

Matthew Panzarino:

Bangs and dents mean these things get used. It emphasizes the reliability of the MacBook Air by showing that some of them have scuffs and scrapes. It’s rare in that it shows Apple products in a non-retail-box condition. The only recent personalization example I can find is iPhones in cases, which are shown in its ‘Powerful’ ads — but those don’t show any actual ‘damage’. The way Apple products look after customization and ‘real world’ use isn’t often represented in Apple ads. As Jeff Carlson points out, these are likely someone’s real machines.

Scrollbar History 

Speaking of the old six-color Apple logo, some interesting UI design history from Jack Wellborn at Worms and Viruses:

While watching the video, I couldn’t help but notice two snippets at the 7:36 mark from 1982 about scroll bars. First, an Apple engineer shows how scrolling works in the Lisa, followed immediately by a similar demo from Xerox. This juxtaposition immediately struck me as interesting because Apple detractors are quick to reference Xerox Parc when dismissing the graphical interface innovations of the Lisa and Macintosh. While there is no denying Xerox’s influence, these two snippets perfectly illustrate massive amounts of design and refinement championed by Apple during that era. Read for yourself.

People who think UI design is easy might think the differences here are trivial; those who know that UI design is difficult know otherwise.

New MacBook Air Commercial: ‘Stickers’ 

Fun commercial, but the thing that really grabbed my attention is that this is the first time in recent memory — a decade? maybe longer? — that Apple has used their classic six-color logo, even if only briefly. Nice to see it.

People have been decorating their laptops with stickers and decals ever since they became consumer products. (You didn’t see many stickers on them when they cost $5,000.) And I don’t think we need to commission a demographic survey to state that younger people are more likely to do this than older people. It’s no coincidence this spot is debuting in back-to-school season.

In the old days Apple didn’t have to worry about conformance. Just owning a Mac made you stand out from the crowd. But what happens now, when everyone you know has a MacBook, and every MacBook looks the same? Something like this commercial is what happens. It’s all of a piece, along with Apple’s Beats acquisition and the market for iPhone cases: self-expression.

‘Count to Ten When a Plane Goes Down’ 

John C. Beck:

Just a little under 31 years ago, I played a key role in a conspiracy theory that grew up around a passenger plane downed by a Russian missile. Trust me, I did not mean to be involved. 

Great story.

Podcast Players: The New UI Design Playground 

Nice post from Supertop, the duo behind the excellent Castro:

By making Overcast free with in app purchase, Marco has lowered the barrier to trying a third party app. From our perspective, a user trying any third party app is good for all third party apps. If a user is persuaded to download one alternative they should be more likely to consider others in the future, especially given the variety of apps that are available. Marco referred to this diversity in his Macstories interview:

With a podcast app […] there are tons of big and small design and priority decisions that each developer makes along the way. These decisions add up to radically different apps — I can’t point to any two podcast apps in the store today that are very similar to each other in actual use.

I encourage you to try Overcast. In fact, if you really love podcasts, I encourage you to try all the others too. If you spend hours listening to podcasts every week, it’s going to be worth your while to find the app that suits you best.

Back in 2009 I wrote a piece titled “Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground”:

There are several factors that make Twitter a nearly ideal playground for UI design. The obvious ones are the growing popularity of the service itself and the relatively small scope of a Twitter client. Twitter is such a simple service overall, but look at a few screenshots of these apps, especially the recent ones, and you will see some very different UI designs, not only in terms of visual style but in terms of layout, structure, and flow. I’m not saying it’s easy to write a good Twitter client. In fact, that’s the point — that it is not easy to write a good client for something as small in scope as Twitter hints at just how hard it is to write a good app for anything, let alone something truly complex.

Less obvious is the fact that different people seek very different things from a Twitter client. TweetDeck, for example, is clearly about showing more at once. Tweetie is about showing less. That I prefer apps like Tweetie and Twitterrific doesn’t mean I think they’re better. There is so much variety because various clients are trying to do very different things. Asking for the “best Twitter client” is like asking for the “best shirt”.

I think the same is true of podcast players today.

Mocast 1.0 

New $2.99 iPhone podcast player by Frank Krueger. By bizarre coincidence, it launched the same day as Overcast, so it might have gotten lost in the Overcast shuffle. It’s a different take. Krueger writes:

I wrote Mocast because I was unhappy with the iOS podcast app selection. While there are almost as many iPhone podcast players as there are weather apps, I find that they all have two fatal flaws.

First, they take downloads way too seriously. Most UIs differentiate downloaded vs. not downloaded episodes and bifurcate their interface along those lines. This is silly to us podcastistas who aren’t the greatest at planning ahead.

Second, they take new episodes too seriously. Whole apps seem built with only new episodes in mind as they hide away the back catalog. I don’t know why this is. My favorite podcast, The Incomparable has an amazingly rich back catalog of episodes that I love to listen to. It’s nice when a new episode arrives but there’s no need over-emphasize them at the cost of the full catalog.

Interesting technical note, too:

As with all my apps, I wrote Mocast in C# using Xamarin.iOS. She came out to be about 8,000 LOC with about 60% of that code lying in the UI layer.

George Orwell: ‘Politics and the English Language’ 

One more follow-up regarding the connection between clear thinking and clear writing: Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English Language:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

I’ve read this essay numerous times, and it never gets old.

‘Mission Statement’ 

As if right on cue given my aside last week on Satya Nadella’s business-jargon-laden company-wide memo, here’s a new song (and cool video) from Weird Al Yankovic.

(Another new song from Yankovic, “Word Crimes”, is also apt.)

The Talk Show: ‘Cat Pictures’ 

New double-sided LP episode of The Talk Show, with special guest Marco Arment. (You can get through the whole thing in a hour if you’re using Smart Speed in Overcast.)

DF RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

Speaking of DF RSS feed sponsors, the next few weeks are open on the schedule. Get in touch if you have a cool product or service you want to promote to DF’s discerning audience.

Update, Sunday evening: This coming week is still open. If you can pull the trigger quickly, let’s make a deal.

Faded — Simply Beautiful Mobile Photography 

My thanks to Vintage Noir for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Faded, their excellent all-in-one photo app for the iPhone. Faded includes gorgeous film-inspired effects and some of the most powerful iPhone editing tools currently available. Easy enough for amateurs, with simple but truly beautiful one-tap filters; powerful enough for serious photographers with detailed editing controls.

I know there’s a ton of photo apps for the iPhone, but Faded really does stand out. It’s been featured by Apple on the App Store as a “Best New App”, and Dan Rubin listed it in his list of ten best iPhone photo apps for The Guardian a few weeks ago.

Check out their website to see it in action, and download the app for just $0.99 — one buck! — on the App Store.

‘Looks by Dr. Dre’ 

Khoi Vinh:

If you take a look at Beats’ headphones product catalog, it looks a lot closer to, say, the Nixon watches catalog than any catalog of technology products. Beats’ headphones, like Nixon’s watches, are oriented such that the primary selection criteria are looks and style; you’ve got to wade through those before you decide which model you want. By contrast, on Apple’s site, you’ve got to choose your model before you can choose your style — or, put another way, you choose what you want it do, first, and then you get to choose what you want it to look like.

These differences reflect fundamentally distinct ways of thinking about products, or more importantly, fundamentally distinct ways of thinking about what customers want.

Taligent and the Ignominious History of Apple/IBM Alliances 

It somehow slipped my mind yesterday, but Bill Campbell’s departure made me recall Taligent, the ill-fated “universal operating system” boldly promised and jointly developed by Apple and IBM back in the early 1990s. (Campbell had nothing to do with it; he re-joined Apple as a board member in 1997 after the NeXT reunification. Taligent was one of several pie-in-the-sky fiascos that left Apple in such desperate straits that they had to buy NeXT.) Wikipedia:

Pink was then spun off from Apple as a joint project known as Taligent. The original Apple team was expanded with the addition of a very small number of IBM engineers, as well as a new CEO from IBM, Joe Guglielmi (apparently to the distaste of many of the Apple people).

“In 1992, the earth shook: IBM and Apple clasped hands and pronounced themselves allies. From this union sprang Taligent, a small Cupertino, California, company that’s now developing nothing less than a universal operating system.” —Macworld, 1994

During its first year, IBM persuaded Taligent to replace its internally developed object-oriented microkernel, called Opus, with the microkernel that IBM was using as the base for IBM’s Workplace OS. The change in underlying technology had both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, Pink would become a personality on top of the IBM Workplace OS. This would create easy migration paths between OS/2, AIX, Mac OS, and Pink by allowing any combination of operating system personalities to run simultaneously on a single computer. On the negative side, this created issues over how to integrate Taligent’s object-oriented device-driver model with Workplace OS’s procedural device-driver model.

The “positive side” was a total pipe dream.

The other previous Apple/IBM collaboration that springs to mind is the PowerPC platform. That was no fiasco, and even saw some good years, but ultimately ended badly. Just two years after Apple’s grand announcement of the G5 CPU, Apple announced it was switching to Intel processors.

Tim Cook Tells WSJ He Does 80 Percent of His Work on iPad 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, reporting yesterday on the Apple/IBM team-up:

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook says he does 80% of the work of running the world’s most valuable company on an iPad.

“There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be like that,” Mr. Cook said in an interview, explaining why Apple struck a partnership with International Business Machines Corp. to develop applications catered to big businesses, or enterprises. “Imagine enterprise apps being as simple as the consumer apps that we’ve all gotten used to. That’s the way it should be.”

I’m sure “80 percent” is a rough guess, perhaps even somewhat exaggerated in the iPad’s favor, but there’s a dogfooding aspect to Tim Cook being a heavy iPad user who uses it for actual work.

Here’s my question (prompted by this thread on Twitter): Does IBM CEO Ginni Rometty use an iPhone? I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker if she doesn’t, but I do think it matters if she does — it’s an “actions speak louder than words” thing. Commitment and vision start at the top.

Update: Perfect counterexample: Google chairman (and long-time CEO) Eric Schmidt admitting to still using a BlackBerry — a BlackBerry! — last year.

Update 2: Horace Dediu: “I received confirmation that she uses iPhone, iPad and Mac and has for several years.” So there we go: the CEO of IBM apparently uses iOS devices and a Mac.

Sue Wagner Joins Apple’s Board; Bill Campbell Retires 

Apple PR:

“Sue is a pioneer in the financial industry and we are excited to welcome her to Apple’s board of directors,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We believe her strong experience, especially in M&A and building a global business across both developed and emerging markets, will be extremely valuable as Apple continues to grow around the world.”

“We conducted an exhaustive search for someone who would further strengthen our board’s breadth of talent and background, and we are delighted to have identified such an outstanding individual,” said Art Levinson, Apple’s chairman. “I’m confident that Sue is going to make an important and positive impact on our company.”

Makes me wonder if the Beats deal is the start of a trend toward larger acquisitions by Apple.

Bill Campbell’s relationship with Apple dates back to 1983, when he joined the company as vice president of Marketing. Next to Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula, Campbell is the longest-serving board member in the company’s history.

“Bill’s contributions to Apple are immeasurable and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. On behalf of the board and the entire company, I want to thank him for being a leader, a mentor and a friend,” said Cook. “When Bill joined Apple’s board, the company was on the brink of collapse. He not only helped Apple survive, but he’s led us to a level of success that was simply unimaginable back in 1997.”

Apple share prices hovered around $0.80 (split-adjusted) in August 1997, when Campbell joined the board. They closed today at $93. Not a bad run for a board member.

Trip ‘Claim’ Chowdhry Prediction of the Week 

Famed analyst Trip Chowdhry, two days ago:

IBM is only 2 days away from their earnings announcement, while AAPL is only 1.5 weeks away from their earnings announcement. The timing of this announcement makes us feel that IBM will very likely miss their revenue expectations and probably Apple may also miss their revenue expectations.

IBM’s actual results, today:

International Business Machines reported a second quarter boost in net income and revenue that topped Wall Street forecasts.

IBM reported non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $4.32 off revenue of $24.4 billion. Both numbers beat analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

(Thanks to Brian Resac. Also, no surprise that Trip Chowdhry thinks Apple is going to report a miss this quarter: he’s on the record as predicting that they’re going “to disappear” because they didn’t release a wristwatch last month.)

‘Hello There’ 

Amir Mizroch, writing for the WSJ:

While layoffs at Microsoft were expected for some time, the size of the job cuts announced Thursday took some by surprise. Another surprise: the salutation of an email to all staff from Microsoft Executive Vice President Stephen Elop, outlining the rationale for the cuts.

“Hello There,” started Elop’s email to employees.

Hello there? Critics on social media seized on the opening as tone deaf.

Anyone else feel like maybe Stephen Elop should be one of the 18,000 layoffs?

Blogger Fined by French Court Because Negative Restaurant Review Was Too Prominent in Google 

Greg Sterling, writing for Search Engine Land:

Doudet could appeal the decision but has decided not to because she did “not want to relive weeks of anguish,” according to the BBC.

There are two contexts in which this story can be analyzed: 1) the futility of trying to use the courts to attack or quash negative reviews and 2) European courts’ increasingly bold attempts to blunt the impact of or censor specific search results that are perceived to cause harm (whether or not the information at issue is truthful or factual).

On the first point the restaurant has gained much more unwanted attention for itself through the action and subsequent coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised now if it went out of business. However, the food and service appear to be mediocre; so perhaps it’s inevitable anyway.

To my American ears, this sounds absolutely crazy.

Mini-Microsoft: ‘Cut Once, Cut Deep, Cut Quickly’ 

Mini-Microsoft on today’s Microsoft layoff announcement:

That’s why I hope that Cut Quickly happens. Without it, we’re back to our first layoff experience. If anything broke the back of this blog, it was the first big Microsoft layoff back in 2009. How? How could the realization of a step towards Mini-Microsoft do that? Because it was implemented so poorly, with constant worries and concerns and doubts about engaging in new ideas due to expectations those would be the easiest to trim during ongoing cut-backs. When was it over? When was the “all clear” signal given?

So if this truly drags on for a year: we need a new leader. This needs to be wrapped up by the end of July. 2014.

Charity: Waterworld 

Mike Monteiro:

Did you know that almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water? Every day, 5,000 kids die from water-related illnesses before they reach their fifth birthday. Which is bullshit. There are simple solutions like drilled wells, spring protections and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world.

And the good people at charity: water are helping to make those solutions happen.

He’s trying to raise $10,000 for a truly great cause. I’m in.

The Last Hurrah for ‘At the Movies’ 

Great piece by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky for The A.V. Club on co-hosting the final run of At the Movies, including an astute analysis of what made Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert so good at it.

Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs, Including 12,500 From Nokia 

Satya Nadella, in a company-wide memo (emphasis mine):

Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory workers. […]

Our workforce reductions are mainly driven by two outcomes: work simplification as well as Nokia Devices and Services integration synergies and strategic alignment. […]

We will realize the synergies to which we committed when we announced the acquisition last September. […]

Seems like a lot of “synergies”. This style of communication is like reading a foreign language to me — I don’t understand what most of it means.

Update: Classic 30 Rock sketch on “synergy”. (Via Pavan Rajam.)

Making Sense of Apple and IBM 

John Moltz:

An Apple and IBM partnership makes sense in the same way Apple selling its products through Walmart makes sense. Apple defended selling through Walmart by saying “Their stores are where ours aren’t.” The kinds of large enterprises where IBM has a presence are the places where Apple has the least penetration.

Overcast 1.0 

Marco Arment’s new podcast player for iPhone. Free to try, $4.99 to unlock all features. I’ve been using it for months in beta, and it’s really good. Looks great too, with Matthew Butterick’s Concourse as the custom UI font. See also:

There are a bunch of existing podcast players for iOS, many of them quite popular. But like Marco, I was never quite satisfied with how any of them worked. Podcasts are a simple medium, but creating a good player is surprisingly difficult. (That’s usually the story for any type of app.)

Tim Cook and IBM CEO Ginny Rometty on Their Enterprise Partnership 

Arik Hesseldahl, interviewing Cook and Rometty in Cupertino:

“If you were building a puzzle, they would fit nicely together with no overlap,” Cook said of the relationship. “We do not compete on anything. And when you do that you end up with something better than either of you could produce yourself.”

Calling Apple the “gold standard for consumers,” Rometty said the team-up will allow the two giants to address significant opportunities facing large businesses. “We will get to remake professions and unlock value that companies don’t yet have,” she said. “We’re addressing serious issues that before this had been inhibiting deployment of wireless in the enterprise.”

I’ve been trying to understand why Apple is treating this as such a big deal, and I’ve come away with two things:

  1. iOS devices are being used in 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies, but Cook’s comments suggest strongly that Apple could be selling a lot more of them. That the threshold for being counted as part of that 98 percent is low, and now that Apple has a foot in the door, they trust IBM to open the floodgates. The first step was getting iOS into a large percentage of big corporations; the next step is getting a higher percentage of the mobile devices in those companies to be iOS devices.

  2. It’s easy to focus on the iPhone, because the iPhone accounts for over half of Apple’s revenue and profit. But if this IBM/enterprise initiative works out, I suspect it will be at least as much about the iPad. iPhones will come along for the ride, but the shift could be about enterprises switching from Windows PCs to iPads — not for every employees, and maybe not even for most. But it’s about finding those places where a touchscreen tablet is a better form factor than a clamshell notebook.

Ryan Block and Veronica Belmont Attempt to Cancel Comcast Internet Service 

Truly Comcastic customer service. Almost surreal.

Update: Today’s daily cartoon at The New Yorker is apt.

Apple and IBM Announce Enterprise Partnership 

I’d be more excited about this if they’d included this photo in the press release.

Update: Leave it to Darth.

‘Now Batting for the Yankees, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.’ 

This whole spot from Nike is just terrific, but opening it with Bob Sheppard’s player intro for Jeter is just perfect. Nice tribute site here, too.

Always Take the Cosine 

John Moltz on analyst projections for “iWatch” sales.

Decoded 

Greg Cox:

I was very excited when I read Satya Nadella’s recent public email message about his direction for Microsoft. I left the company in early 2010, frustrated with its direction. The email seemed to confirm what I had hoped about his appointment as CEO.

Then I saw Jean-Louis Gassée’s critique of the message and realized that I had read Satya’s words through Microsoft goggles. Having lived the internal corporate process that takes a few strong, simple ideas and makes them into thousands of words of compromised language, I had subconsciously decoded his message.

Microsoft’s New CEO Needs an Editor 

Jean-Louis Gassée:

Tortured statements from CEOs, politicians, coworkers, spouses, or suppliers, in no hierarchical order, mean one thing: I have something to hide, but I want to be able to say I told you the facts.

Manything 

My thanks to Manything for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Manything is a free app that turns your iPad, iPod Touch, or old iPhone into a cloud-enabled video monitoring camera.

Manything offers continuous cloud recording and instant setup. You can watch live streams remotely and have motion-activated alerts, with advanced motion detection thresholds and zones. They’ve even added IFTTT integration, which allows you to trigger recording automatically when you leave home and a whole lot more.

Manything is a really clever way to repurpose an old iOS device (or even a new one, like the updated $199 iPod Touch that now has dual cameras). Watch the video on their website to learn more, or just go ahead and download the free app from the App Store to see for yourself.

The Talk Show: ‘Free Alcoholic Beverages’ 

The week’s episode of my podcast, with special guest Ben Thompson. Topics include Samsung, Xiaomi, wearables, and more.

More Regarding National Federation of the Blind and Apple 

Mark A. Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind:

I thought the chatter around the resolution would fade away until some media reports made inaccurate assertions about the resolution, its content, and what actions the NFB will take to carry it out. Many of these inaccurate assertions have been fueled by a provocative and poorly reported article from the Reuters news service, linked here only for reference. […]

Let me start by laying out some background for the resolution. In the wake of its commitment to making iTunes and iTunes U accessible to blind users, Apple has gone far beyond the scope of that original agreement and made the vast majority of its products accessible to the blind. It has done so by incorporating VoiceOver, a powerful screen reader, into the majority of its products, including its Mac computers, the Apple iPhone and iPad, and Apple TV. The native apps on these devices are accessible, and Apple has set forth developer guidelines that allow third-party apps to be made accessible. Many of the 1.2 million (and counting) apps available in the iOS app store have a high degree of accessibility for blind users. Many more, however, are not. In addition, a recurring problem is that when apps are updated to new versions, blind users find that accessibility has been compromised, either deliberately or accidentally. With no way to revert to a previous version of the app, the blind user must simply hope that the developer rectifies the problem quickly. No one seriously disputes that these problems cause blind iPhone users a great deal of frustration, and that they sometimes result in real threats to a blind person’s education, productivity, or employment. Smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices are increasingly replacing desktop computers in educational and employment settings, making access to apps intended for such devices not merely convenient but often essential.

Swift Blog 

More signs that Apple is loosening up: they’ve started a blog for Swift and they’ve made the Xcode 6 beta a free download for anyone — no paid developer account required.

Pinboard Turns Five 

Maciej Ceglowski:

Perspective does not make you immune to burnout. It just makes burnout less scary. I’ve gone through a few episodes since starting Pinboard, and I’m sure there will be more to come. People have been very understanding about my occasional need to flee the Internet. I find that the longer I run the site, the more resistant I become to the idea of ever giving it up, even if I need to take the occasional break. It is pleasant to work on something that people draw benefit from. It is especially pleasant to work on something lasting. And I enjoy the looking-glass aspect of our industry, where running a mildly profitable small business makes me a crazy maverick not afraid to break all the rules.

Android, iOS, and Accessibility 

Chris Hofstader, back in September:

If a blind person, like me for instance, wants what Apple is selling, he can purchase an iOS device and find that, out-of-the-box, there are zero accessibility failures. A blind person who purchases an iOS device, can make his own decisions as to which features he wants to use as Apple provides accessibility to 100% of the features available to people who do not self identify as having a disability.

After posting the article yesterday, I received a lot of tweets and a couple of emails from blind Android enthusiasts. These people told me all of the cool things they can do with their Android devices, including launching accessibility out-of-the-box on some android units, something I had thought impossible when I wrote the article yesterday. If a blind person, let’s say me, wants what Google is selling, he will get a subset of the features available to our sighted friends. To me, if the OS vendor does not make 100% of its features accessible in the same way that Apple has with iOS 7, it may be usable but it’s not accessible. At the same time, I completely reject Google for having the hubris to decide what blind people do and do not want.

According to Reuters, Apple is the one “feeling the most heat” from accessibility advocates.

The Power of Selective Quoting 

Christina Farr, reporting for Reuters, “Advocates for Blind, Deaf Want More From Apple”, the gist of which is that the National Federation of the Blind is considering litigation to force Apple to require all apps in the App Store to be fully accessible:

Still, advocates of the disabled want the problem solved by the company at the center of the app world — Apple. Rival Google Inc, whose Android operating system drives more phones than Apple, is also under pressure, but as the creator of the modern smartphone and a long-time champion for the blind, Apple is feeling the most heat.

A few things in this article stuck out to me as oddly slanted. First, in what world does the above paragraph make sense? Why should Apple be “feeling more heat” than Google on the accessibility front? Where does the article state that iOS is far ahead of Android in terms of out-of-the-box accessibility for the vision impaired? (It doesn’t.)

Then there’s this quote from Tim Cook:

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook in a 2013 speech at Auburn University described people with disabilities “in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged.” He said, “They’re frequently left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others.”

That sounds odd. Jim Dalrymple transcribed the full quote from Cook’s speech (video), emphasis mine:

“People with disabilities often find themselves in a struggle to have their human dignity acknowledged, they frequently are left in the shadows of technological advancements that are a source of empowerment and attainment for others, but Apple’s engineers push back against this unacceptable reality, they go to extraordinary lengths to make our products accessible to people with various disabilities from blindness and deafness to various muscular disorders.”

Reuters’s truncation completely changes the meaning of Cook’s words.

‘Speaking Up Every. Fucking. Time.’ 

Elizabeth Spiers profiles (sort of) Shanley Kane, founder/editor of Model View Culture.

Joanna Stern Reviews the LG and Samsung Android Wear Watches 

Joanna Stern:

I just wish the software were as smart about notifications. Android Wear is designed to transmit all your phone’s notifications to your watch. For someone like me, who gets a lot of mail, tweets and Facebook comments, that’s a lot of wrist buzzing.

When it comes to this topic, there are two types of people, Google’s director of Android engineering, David Singleton, told me. There are those who “love to have exactly the same content on their phone and watch because it gives them the comfort that they don’t need to pull out their phones,” he said. Then there are those, including me, who want a watch to report just what’s important.

For that second user, there’s simply not enough customization yet. Either I get buzzed every time someone emails me, or I don’t get any email alerts at all. Sure, the watch helps me look at my phone less, but I’d prefer a middle ground, where my wrist vibrates only when my editor or fiancée emails me.

There’s clearly a lot of potential with Google Now and wearable devices. That plays to Google’s strengths in voice input and ambient knowledge. But the notification system and overall UI navigation seems like a half-baked mess, and the hardware is clunky and needs daily charging. These strike me as devices that have been rushed to market.

(Don’t miss the video, which includes footage of Stern trying to wear the Galaxy Gear to her best friend’s wedding.)

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