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The Last VCR Will Be Produced This Month ★
Ananya Bhattacharya, writing for Quartz:
Japan’s Funai Electronics, which makes its own electronics, in
addition to supplying companies like Sanyo, will produce the last
batch of VCR units by July 30, Nikkei reported (link in Japanese).
The company cites difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as
one of the reasons for halting production.
It can take a surprisingly long time for a technology to go from obsolete to truly dead.
Part Two of Elon Musk’s Master Plan for Tesla ★
So, in short, Master Plan, Part Deux is:
- Create stunning solar roofs with seamlessly integrated battery
- Expand the electric vehicle product line to address all major
- Develop a self-driving capability that is 10X safer than manual
via massive fleet learning
- Enable your car to make money for you when you aren’t using it
Cogent read. Musk is a remarkably clear thinker. He’s often compared to Steve Jobs, and rightly so in many ways, but they sure aren’t alike in terms of revealing plans for the future.
Stephen Colbert’s Killer Week ★
Some great stuff this week broadcasting live, after each night of the Republican National Convention. Jon Stewart’s desk piece last night was vintage Stewart, and Laura Benanti’s impression as Melania Trump was great. And we saw the return of Colbert’s conservative pundit alter ego.
Nintendo’s Stock Has Doubled in Value Since Pokemon Go’s Release ★
Yet another sign that the market, collectively, acts impetuously, but amazing nonetheless.
Birkenstock Quits Amazon After Counterfeit Surge ★
Ari Levy, reporting for CNBC:
Plagued by counterfeits and unauthorized selling on the online
shopping site, the sandals company will no longer supply products
to Amazon in the U.S. starting Jan. 1. Additionally, Birkenstock
won’t authorize third-party merchants to sell on the site,
according to a letter the company sent to several thousand retail
partners on July 5.
The memo, from Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan, was obtained
confidentially by CNBC.com.
“The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an ‘open market,’
creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business
practices which we believe jeopardize our brand,” Kahan wrote from
the company’s U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. “Policing
this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has
Amazon has a real problem on its hands.
iOS Gets Thicker ★
Luke Wroblewski posted an interesting side-by-side comparison of the Today view, Control Center, and standard sharing sheets in iOS 7 and the iOS 10 public beta. Much less transparency, more solid shapes in place of outlines, and more use of color. Wroblewski attributes this to Jony Ive’s “receding presence” at Apple. I do not agree. I think these changes were inevitable, no matter Ive’s day-to-day involvement with UI details. iOS 7 went to an extreme (remember the crazily thin weights of Helvetica Neue in the betas that summer?). A gradual thickening and increase in UI affordances (more buttons that look like buttons, card-like things that look more like cards; more discernible on and off states) seemed like the obvious course.
For what it’s worth, I really like the UI changes in iOS 10, on both the iPhone and iPad. This is the sort of thing that takes years of refinement to achieve. It wasn’t feasible for a 9-month project like the iOS 7 redesign to debut with this level of refinement.
Amazon’s Fraudulent Seller Problem ★
Remember last week’s link about Chinese counterfeits polluting Amazon’s inventory? They have another problem: outright fraud. Emily Heller:
Tried to buy a doormat and here’s what arrived: a piece of foam
with a photo of the thing I wanted printed on it.
Here’s an even more ridiculous example.
XKCD: Free Speech ★
Good bookmark for those who persist in arguing that Twitter booting harassers from their service is an abridgment of “free speech”.
I will add: Expressing controversial or even unpopular opinions is one thing, and Twitter should remain open to that. Harassment is something else entirely, and Twitter should have zero tolerance for it. Empathetic human beings can tell the difference. Bullies, on the other hand, conflate the two. Milo Yiannopoulos getting kicked off Twitter had nothing to do with his conservative politics and everything to do with his leading a hate mob of racist misogynists.
I understand the concern that if Twitter starts suspending accounts for one thing (harassment), they might start suspending accounts for the other (expressing controversial opinions). That’s why Twitter’s solution needs to involve actual human beings. Rational people should have tolerance for ideas that offend them. No one should be asked to tolerate personal abuse.
‘The Internet Is Turning Us All Into Sociopaths’ ★
Archived 2012 piece from the now-defunct The Kernel:
What’s disturbing about this new trend, in which commenters are
posting what would previously have been left anonymously, is that
these trolls seem not to mind that their real names, and sometimes
even their occupations, appear clamped to their vile words. It’s
as if a psychological norm is being established whereby comments
left online are part of a video game and not real life. It’s as if
we’ve all forgotten that there’s a real person on the other end,
reading and being hurt by our vitriol. That’s as close to the
definition of sociopath as one needs to get for an armchair
diagnosis, though of course many other typical sociopathic traits
are also being encouraged by social media.
Well-said. But the kicker is the byline.
(Via Charles Arthur.)
Dollar Shave Club: ‘Our Blades Are Fucking Great’ ★
I’d seen this before and remember liking it, but Ben Thompson implored readers to re-watch it in his aforelinked piece on Dollar Shave Club’s $1 billion acquisition by Unilever, and I have to concur with his assessment: it’s one of the best product introduction videos of all time. 90 seconds long and not a word or moment is wasted.
Dollar Shave Club and the Disruption of Everything ★
Probably the most important fact when it comes to analyzing
Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club is the $1 billion
price: in the world of consumer packaged goods (CPG) it is
shockingly low. After all, only eleven years ago Procter & Gamble
(P&G) bought Gillette, the market leader in shaving,for a
staggering $57 billion.
To be sure Gillette is still dominant — the brand controls 70
percent of the global blades and razors market — but there is
little question that Dollar Shave Club is a much better deal, in
every sense of the word. Understanding why Dollar Shave Club was
cheap means understanding why its blades are cheap, and
understanding that means understanding just how precarious the
position of P&G specifically and incumbents generally is in the
emerging Internet economy.
Fantastic piece — Thompson makes a strong case that the seemingly unrelated creation of Amazon Web Services and YouTube a decade ago created the opportunity for Dollar Shave Club to disrupt a titan like Gillette.
Exploring the App Store’s Top Grossing Chart ★
Fascinating analysis and data visualizations by Graham Spencer, writing for MacStories:
One of the most striking things you’ll notice when browsing the
Top 200 Grossing apps is that they are virtually all offered as
free downloads. In my survey, just three apps were paid apps
upfront; Minecraft (#33, $6.99), Grindr (#95, $0.99), and Facetune
(#183, $3.99). The other 197 apps were free to download.
I knew intuitively that most top-grossing apps were free downloads with in-app purchases, but I wasn’t expecting the results to be so overwhelming.
(Also: What a remarkable game Minecraft is. Its staying power is amazing, and it is standing in lone opposition to the IAP-ification of mobile games.)
‘See if You Can’t Leave Me About a Good Inch From Where the Zipper Ends … Right on Back to My Bunghole’ ★
Worth a re-link, for the sake of some politics we can all agree on: Lyndon Johnson ordering pants.
Twitter Permanently Suspends Milo Yiannopoulos ★
Charlie Warzel, reporting for BuzzFeed:
Twitter has banned one of its most notoriously contentious voices.
On Tuesday evening, the microblogging service permanently
suspended the account of conservative commentator Milo
Yiannopoulos, a day after he incited his followers to bombard
Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones with racist and demeaning
“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on
Twitter,” a company spokesperson said in a statement provided to
BuzzFeed News. “But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted
abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the
targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
This is being framed by Yiannopoulos’s supporters as suppression of free speech. These people are very confused about free speech. It’s simple: Yiannopoulos has the right to say and write whatever he wants. But Twitter is not a public resource. In the same way that a coffee shop or restaurant should never allow someone (let alone a mob of people) to harass other patrons, Twitter should not allow it on their service.
So kudos to Twitter for standing up to this troll. But it shouldn’t take a celebrity to drive Twitter to action. Twitter needs to systematically boot harassers at every level.
Joanna Stern on Amazon’s $50 Blu R1 HD Phone ★
Joanna Stern, writing for the WSJ:
In life, you get what you pay for.*
*Exceptions: Costco wine, $1 New York City pizza and the Blu R1 HD
smartphone, now sold by Amazon for $50. In those cases, the
quality of the product far exceeds your low expectations.
Yes, you read that right, there’s an Android 6.0 smartphone that
costs less than family dinner at the Olive Garden. It’s cheap, but
it’s not, you know, cheap.
There’s a reason for that. Even though Amazon sells the R1 HD for
as little as $50, on the open market it starts at $100. Why the
discount? Ads. Sorry, “special offers.” Which are ads.
This is a much more Amazon-like phone than the Fire Phone was, and I suspect, more likely to be a success.
Drudge Report: Roger Ailes Leaves Fox News With $40M Parachute Amid Harassment Probe ★
Katherine Krueger, writing for TPM:
The conservative link aggregator site Drudge Report reported
Tuesday afternoon that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes was leaving his
post as an investigation into Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of
employees is underway.
While the site’s signature blaring siren landing page featured the
breaking headline, no source was immediately provided.
It would be hard to overstate the influence Ailes held over modern political discourse here in the U.S. Fox News changed the country, and Ailes was Fox News.
As for Drudge’s source — it has to be Rupert Murdoch, or one of his sons.
Update: 21st Century Fox statement on Twitter:
21CF statement: Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. The only
agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.
But The New York Times reports that his tenure is all but over.
The Safe Haven of False Equivalence ★
Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, writing for Vox:
In April 2012, we created a major stir in the political world with
a long piece in the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section called,
“Let’s Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.” It was
adapted from our book published days later, It’s Even Worse Than
It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the
New Politics of Extremism, and this was our money quote:
The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier in American
politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited
social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise;
unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and
science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political
As scholars who had worked for more than four decades with
lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, we faced a ton of scorn from
sitting Republican lawmakers and outside observers for making this
argument — and denial from most of the mainstream media. For
reporters, professional norms and concerns about accusations of
partisan bias dictated that the parties be treated equally,
whatever the underlying reality. The safe haven of false
equivalence led the press to ignore one of the most consequential
developments in contemporary American politics: the radicalization
of the Republican Party.
Particularly apt after the opening night of the Republican convention, which saw multiple speakers calling for the opposing party’s candidate to be “locked up”, Russian-style, and an opening benediction — a prayer — that described the opposing party as “enemies”.
‘The Secret History of Mac Gaming’ ★
Richard Moss is raising funds to publish what sounds like an amazing and beautiful book, on the history of Mac gaming. Just the list of interviews brings back a flood of memories. The book is at 61 percent of its funding goal as I type this — I’d love to see the DF audience push it over the top.
Update: Now fully-funded. Great news. Can’t wait to read this book.
Trump’s Ghostwriter Speaks ★
Jane Mayer, writing for The New Yorker:
And so Schwartz had returned for more, this time to conduct an
interview for Playboy. But to his frustration Trump kept making
cryptic, monosyllabic statements. “He mysteriously wouldn’t answer
my questions,” Schwartz said. After twenty minutes, he said, Trump
explained that he didn’t want to reveal anything new about himself
— he had just signed a lucrative book deal and needed to save his
“What kind of book?” Schwartz said.
“My autobiography,” Trump replied.
“You’re only thirty-eight — you don’t have one yet!”
“Yeah, I know,” Trump said.
“If I were you,” Schwartz recalls telling him, “I’d write a book
called ‘The Art of the Deal.’ That’s something people would be
“You’re right,” Trump agreed. “Do you want to write it?”
U.S. Army Special Operations Switching From Android to iPhone ★
Matthew Cox, reporting for DoD Buzz:
The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone
Tactical Assault Kit — special-operations-forces version Army’s
Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to
an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The
iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.
The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be
restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android
is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned
aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.
When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed,
the Android smart phone will freeze up and fail to refresh
properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes
valuable minutes, the source said.
“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The
graphics are clear, unbelievable.”
Apple couldn’t write a better story themselves.
GlaxoSmithKline to Use ResearchKit for Clinical Research ★
Caroline Chen and Alex Webb, reporting for Bloomberg:
GlaxoSmithKline Plc has started a rheumatoid arthritis study using
Apple Inc.’s ResearchKit, marking the first time a drugmaker has
used the health system for the iPhone to conduct clinical
Glaxo wants to record the mobility of 300 participants over three
months and will also ask the patients to input both physical and
emotional symptoms, such as pain and mood. The app Glaxo created
from ResearchKit comes with a guided wrist exercise that uses the
phone’s sensors to record motion, giving the drugmaker a
standardized measurement across all users. The company will use
the results to help design better clinical trials.
I’m curious if they’ll supply participants with loaner iPhones. Or will they only choose participants who already have iPhones?
Update: A little birdie involved with this project says that for this survey, it’s a bring-your-own device situation, and they’re only recruiting participants who can run the app on their own iPhones.
SoftBank Group Nears Deal to Buy ARM Holdings ★
Leslie Picker, reporting for the NYT:
SoftBank is nearing a deal to acquire ARM Holdings, the British
semiconductor company, said two people briefed on the matter who
asked not to be named discussing private information. […]
ARM, which designs chips and parts of chips, had a market
capitalization of about $22 billion as of Friday’s close. ARM
would be one of SoftBank’s largest acquisitions ever.
CNBC tweeted the price: “more than $32 billion”.
Apple Begins Rolling Out iTunes Match With Audio Fingerprint to Apple Music Subscribers ★
This is, in fact, the same version of iTunes Match that iTunes
users could pay for as a separate subscription since Apple began
offering it years ago. I am one of those users. However, all
subscribers to Apple Music will get the new version of iTunes
Match at no extra cost. This update also means that all Matched
songs will download DRM-free.
If you are a current iTunes Match subscriber and subscribe to
Apple Music, you can let your Match subscription lapse when it
comes up for renewal and still receive the same benefits. If you
don’t subscribe to Apple Music and still want the benefits of
iTunes Match, hold on to your subscription.
I’m sure there are reasons for the way things are, but from the outside, combining iTunes Match and Apple Music should have been there from day one. It would have made transitioning so much easier and more compelling.