The Deck, Adieu

When I started writing Daring Fireball in 2002, there really weren’t any established ways for a small independent website to generate money. I mean like literally nothing. I knew, though, that it was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to write. But I didn’t want to write books. I didn’t want to write for a newspaper or magazine or someone else’s website. I wanted to write Daring Fireball.

I plugged away, writing as much as I could, doing it as a hobby. And I just started trying ways to generate revenue, with one guiding rule: don’t do anything I’m not proud of. In 2003 I first announced publicly my intention to one day write Daring Fireball full-time, and began a brief experiment with Google AdSense. (Daring Fireball was literally one of the first sites on the web showing ads from Google). It didn’t work well financially, or look good. In June 2004 I started selling t-shirts and a $19/year membership system. That worked better.

A few months later, I started selling my own sponsorships:

Effective Tuesday evening, I abandoned Google’s AdSense program, in favor of selling my own sponsorships. If you’ll take a look at the bottom of my sidebar, you’ll see an ad from Daring Fireball’s first sponsor: Coudal Partners’ Jewelboxing.

Thus began the best business partnership of my life.

In early 2006, Jim Coudal started The Deck, with Jeffrey Zeldman and 37signals (now Basecamp). I joined in early February, making Daring Fireball the fourth site in the network. Andy Baio, Jason Kottke, and The Morning News joined soon thereafter. In March, we had a group dinner in Austin during SXSW. I remember a palpable sense of accomplishment. I remember thinking, This is going to work.

A month later I announced I was going full-time writing Daring Fireball. It worked.

Today, 11 years later, Jim announced that The Deck is shutting down: “Things change.”


It’s no coincidence that Jewelboxing was DF’s first sponsor. I devised my original sponsorship system — a set of principles more than a set of rules — through commiseration and collaboration with my friend Jim Coudal. We shared the same deep frustration: a sense that there had to be a way to do advertising on the web that didn’t suck — something that readers would not mind (and might actually enjoy), provided good results for the advertisers, and generated good money for the publisher.

Here are just a few of the things that make me proud to have been part of The Deck:

  • We never allowed animated ads. (Remember when that was the main problem with online ads?)
  • We never allowed user tracking or JavaScript payloads. The Deck respected your privacy (and your bandwidth).
  • We had great sponsors who made great products and services (and designed great looking ads).

Perhaps most importantly, we never showed more than one ad per page. From the beginning of web advertising, publishers have seemingly been in a race to cram as many ads per page as they can. In print magazines and newspapers, there are ads like that too, but they’re the low-rent pages in the back of the book. The real money in print comes from the prestigious ads that are exclusive. The back cover. The inside front cover spread. The full page opposite the table of contents. Exclusivity has tremendous value, and most web publishers still haven’t gotten that. And on the web, an ad doesn’t have to be big to be exclusive and to occupy valuable real estate.

I lost count long ago of the readers who wrote to me just to say that they whitelisted The Deck from their ad blockers. Not as a favor to me, but simply because they recognized that The Deck deserved not to be blocked. I love that.

I love The Deck.


I write for my pleasure, but publish for money.
—VLADIMIR NABOKOV

I’ve used that quote before when writing about the business side of Daring Fireball, but it’s a good enough quote to use at least once every decade.

As Jim wrote today, what ultimately did The Deck in is the shift in advertising dollars to social networks and the rise of mobile:

In 2014, display advertisers started concentrating on large, walled, social networks. The indie “blogosphere” was disappearing. Mobile impressions, which produce significantly fewer clicks and engagements, began to really dominate the market. Invasive user tracking (which we refused to do) and all that came with that became pervasive, and once again The Deck was back to being a pretty good business. By 2015, it was an OK business and, by the second half of 2016, the network was beginning to struggle again.

This graph showing Facebook’s revenue from 2007 through 2016 tells the story.

That said, Daring Fireball is doing fine. DF RSS feed sponsorships remain strong, and listenership and sponsorships for The Talk Show are growing. The Deck was only one leg among several on the DF revenue stool, and in recent years, it had become one of the shorter ones. I have not decided yet how or what to replace The Deck with. I feel certain of only one thing: things have changed, and it’s been too long since I experimented with new ideas. In terms of aggregate revenue, selling weekly RSS feed sponsorships is the best idea I’ve ever had — but it started as a lark, a last-ditch attempt to figure out a way to provide full-content RSS feeds to Google Reader users.1 It might be time to try a few larks again.

What hurts far more than the loss in revenue is the principle of the damn thing. The Deck did it right, and it worked for over a decade. I’m sure I would’ve gone full-time writing Daring Fireball sooner or later, but I couldn’t have done it when I did, in 2006, without The Deck.

I was chatting with Jim earlier this evening. Someone wrote to him to ask, “Why didn’t you sell the network instead of shutting it down?” Jim’s answer: “The Deck was built exclusively on close, personal relationships. I don’t think those are mine to sell.”

In 11 years, Jim and I never had anything more than a virtual handshake through Messages (née iChat) as a “contract”. They say don’t do business with friends. My experience says otherwise — if you have the right friends. 


  1. I told the whole story on how this came to be in my XOXO talk in 2014↩︎


Android Auto vs. Apple CarPlay Head-to-Head 

Everyone who works on CarPlay and Siri at Apple should be forced to watch this. Pretty much a shutout victory for Android Auto.

The 265 Members of Congress Who Sold You Out to ISPs, and How Much It Cost to Buy Them 

T.C. Sottek, reporting for The Verge:

Republicans in Congress just voted to reverse a landmark FCC privacy rule that opens the door for ISPs to sell customer data. Lawmakers provided no credible reason for this being in the interest of Americans, except for vague platitudes about “consumer choice” and “free markets,” as if consumers at the mercy of their local internet monopoly are craving to have their web history quietly sold to marketers and any other third party willing to pay.

The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.

So here is a list of the lawmakers who voted to betray you, and how much money they received from the telecom industry in their most recent election cycle.

Completely and utterly along party lines. Not one Democrat voted for this. “Congress” didn’t do this. Republicans in Congress did this.

There’s no argument that can be made in defense of this bill other than that the Republican party believes that increasing the profits of telecom companies is more important than protecting the privacy of people.

‘Things Change’ 

Jim Coudal breaks the news: The Deck network is shutting down.

I’ll have more to say later, but now, just one word: Thanks.

Nathan Peretic Called It, Too 

Nathan Peretic, one day after Zeldman’s post in February 2010:

The coup de grâce, history will note, was Apple’s release of the iPhone sans Flash. The mobile Internet became a force to reckon with overnight, single-handedly trashing Flash’s former claim of ubiquity. The iPhone has gashed a gigantic hole in the number of people browsing the Internet who don’t have Flash. The iPad is poised to increase that number.

This is an excellent summation of the logic that doomed Flash.

Before the iPhone and iPad, Flash was the easiest way to publish multimedia viewable by the largest audience. The percentage of web-viewing devices with Flash Player installed, right from the factory, was surely in the high 90s. In an ideal world, web publishers would have aggressively moved to HTML5 simply because it was a better — and open — technology. But that wasn’t enough of a motivation.

Almost every device could play Flash content. Many devices could not render HTML5 content, because they were junky PCs running Internet Explorer. Publishers went for the larger group, technology be damned.

Starting with the iPhone, there was no longer any way to publish multimedia in one format for “almost all” devices. You could stick with Flash and ignore mobile, or you could switch to HTML5 and leave legacy PCs running old browsers behind. The choice was easy.

Zeldman Called It 

Jeffrey Zeldman, back in February 2010 (two months before Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash”):

Flash won’t die tomorrow, but plug-in technology is on its way out.

Plug-in technology made sense when web browsing was the province of geeks. It was a brilliant solution to the question of how to extend the user experience beyond what HTML allowed. People who were used to extending their PC via third-party hardware, and jacking the capabilities of their operating system via third-party spell checkers, font managers, and more, intuitively grasped how to boost their browser’s prowess by downloading and updating plug-ins.

But tomorrow’s computing systems, heralded by the iPhone, are not for DIYers. You don’t add Default Folder or FontExplorer X Pro to your iPhone, you don’t choose your iPhone’s browser, and you don’t install plug-ins in your iPhone’s browser. This lack of extensibility may not please the Slashdot crowd but it’s the future of computing and browsing. The bulk of humanity doesn’t want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works.

If you had your eyes open, you could see that Flash was doomed as soon as it became clear that the iPhone had changed the world.


Sometimes It Really Is the Cover-Up

Brian Solomon, writing for Forbes about Uber’s South Korean “karaoke/escort bar” scandal:

If true, that incident would be bad enough, but it appears to have emerged solely due to Uber’s attempts to cover it up. According to Holzwarth, Emil Michael called her three weeks ago as the news about Uber’s workplace culture became a full-fledged scandal. Michael allegedly asked her not to speak to the press and to pretend the visit was simply to a regular karaoke bar. From The Information:

When Mr. Michael called, he told her that “things have been really rough out here,” referring to Uber’s issues. He then said, “Remember that night in Korea?” There are reporters, he said, who will try to “break the story and I just want to go over things with you. We just went to a karaoke bar and that’s all that happened, right?”

It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” is a cliché, but in this case it’s true. I didn’t emphasize that in my first post about this incident. Here’s what I think:

Personally, I think these establishments are morally repulsive.

I understand that Asian culture is different from U.S. culture, and I understand that part of Asian culture — certainly in South Korea — is “doing business” in such establishments. But The Information’s story doesn’t say the Uber execs were “doing business” with Koreans. They were a bunch of Americans out amongst themselves, so the cultural norms of South Korea aren’t relevant.

And, most importantly, the real issue here is Emil Michael asking Gabi Holzwarth to lie about the incident. That’s outrageous. It should be considered a firing offense even if you personally think these “karaoke/escort” joints are A-OK. In addition to being the wrong thing to do, morally, it was also incredibly stupid, because Holzwarth told The Information that the reason she came forward with the story is because she was so outraged (rightfully so) by Michael’s request that she lie about the incident:

“I’m not going to lie for them,” she said in an interview with The Information this week. In the interview, she described Mr. Kalanick as “part of a class of privileged men who have been taught they can do whatever they want, and now they can.”

She said she wouldn’t have considered speaking publicly had Mr. Michael not attempted to “silence” her.

I can see the argument for keeping a personally reprehensible executive who is doing amazing work. I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t, actually. I’m just saying I can see the logic. I can’t see the logic in keeping a personally reprehensible executive who would do something as stupid — not just wrong but stupid — as calling a former colleague and telling her to lie to the media if asked. 


What Killed Adobe Flash 

“Virgil”, responding to my piece the other day looking back at Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash” open letter:

Impossible to refute. There’s no doubt that this was the beginning of the end for Flash, right? Except that this is utterly wrong. I worked on Flash, and I worked on the thing that actually killed Flash. It is my strong belief, based on what I observed, that Steve Jobs’ letter had little impact in the final decision — it was really Adobe who decided to “kill” Flash. Yes, Flash was a bad rap for Adobe, and Steve’s letter didn’t help. But ultimately, what was probably decisive was the fact that developing Flash costed Adobe a ton of money — and the world changed in ways that made Adobe leadership believe this investment is no longer justified. As it is often the case — “follow the money”, they explain things better than any open letter — even one from a very influential person.

To be clear, I don’t think Jobs’s letter killed Flash. But I don’t think Adobe did either. Eventually Adobe accepted Flash’s demise. What killed Flash was Apple’s decision not to support it on iOS, combined with iOS’s immense popularity and the lucrative demographics of iOS users. If Jobs had never published “Thoughts on Flash”, Flash would still be dead. The letter explained the decision, but the decision that mattered was never to support it on iOS in the first place.

It’s possible that Flash would have died even if Apple had decided to allow it on iOS. Android tried that, and the results were abysmal. Web page scrolling stuttered, and video playback through Flash Player halved battery life compared to non-Flash playback. Android’s experiment with Flash Player ended quickly, and if Apple had gone down the same path, it likely would have ended quickly there too.

Flash was just a bad fit technically for mobile, and the rise of mobile was inevitable. But Apple was the first player to recognize that.

Attributing to Spite What Might Be Attributable to Corporate Lawyers 

Apple’s first post-acquisition update of the iOS automation app Workflow removed (among other things) support for the Google Chrome browser. Immediate reaction from the peanut gallery is that this was competitive spite on Apple’s part. Maybe! But maybe not — Marco Arment reports that he was asked a few weeks ago to sign a one-page contract to allow Workflow to interact with Overcast, and speculates quite reasonably that perhaps Google ignored or rejected the same request.

I wouldn’t bet against Chrome support returning to Workflow now that Google knows what’s going on.

Before and After Chuck Berry 

Great collection of audio clips from Guilbert Gates for The New York Times:

Chuck Berry himself would be the first to admit he didn’t invent rock ’n’ roll, but he came to define it in a series of iconic singles made between 1955 and 1959.

Mr. Berry wrote almost all his hits himself, and he drew from the music he loved — from the blues and boogie to country and Calypso. The result was a hybrid sound that, in 1955, was just beginning to be called “rock ’n’ roll.”

Here, an audio guide to just a few of his revolutionary songs: what came before, and what came after. Listen to the sound of rock ’n’ roll being made.

Perfect example too, of the Times embracing multimedia.

Netflix: The Monster That’s Eating Hollywood 

Joe Flint and Shalini Ramachandran, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

It is expanding into new genres such as children’s fare, reality TV and stand-up comedy specials — including a $40 million deal for two shows by Chris Rock. The shift has unnerved some TV networks that had become used to Netflix’s original content being focused on scripted dramas and sitcoms.

Netflix’s spending on original and acquired programming this year is expected to be more than $6 billion, up from $5 billion last year, more than double what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spends and five times as much as 21st Century Fox’s FX or CBS Corp.’s Showtime. It spent close to $10 million an episode on “The Crown,” a lavish period drama about a young Queen Elizabeth II.

Its shock-and-awe spending — combined with that of Amazon and other new players — is driving up costs industrywide and creating a scarcity of people and equipment.

TV network executives five years ago: This is great, we found someone willing to pay us for our back catalog of old crappy TV shows.

TV network executives today: Nobody could’ve seen this coming, this is terrible.

(We just watched Dave Chappelle’s two new stand-up specials for Netflix over the weekend. Fucking hilarious — highly recommended.)

iOS 10.3 Switches to the New APFS File System 

David Sparks:

When Apple first announced this new system, I expected it would be years before we saw it on iPhones. The iPhone is the lifeblood of Apple and changing filesystems can sometimes cause problems. Now here we are less than 12 months after announcement and Apple’s installing APFS across all iPhones and iPads.

Following my usual “fire, ready, aim” philosophy about these things, I already updated all of my iOS devices and while the update took a while (converting a file system is never a fast process), everything went just fine and devices are all working just like before. Indeed, I’m writing this post on my updated iPad Pro.

I upgraded my phone today, and it did seem to me that it took an unusual amount of time. Understandable, considering it was changing the file system. This is one of those things where if it all goes according to plan, normal people will have no idea it happened. But for us nerds, what Apple pulled off today seems almost impossible — tens of millions of devices are being upgraded to an altogether brand new file system, in place, silently. My sincere congratulations to Apple’s file system team on a job well done.

WWDC Registration Is Open 

Apple:

The opportunity to buy tickets to WWDC 2017 is offered by random selection. Register by Friday, March 31 at 10:00 a.m. PDT for your chance to join thousands of others coming together to change the world.

Also, save the date: the live episode of The Talk Show will be held Tuesday evening, June 6, in the gorgeous California Theatre right across the street from the McEnery Convention Center. I’ll post ticketing information soon.

Uber Executives’ Visit to Seoul ‘Escort Bar’ Resulted in HR Complaint 

Amir Efrati, reporting for The Information:

Ms. Holzwarth, who described the bar in vivid detail in an interview with The Information, said she and Mr. Kalanick left less than an hour after the men in Uber’s group picked some women to sit with. She doesn’t know what happened after she left.

Mr. Michael’s call prompted her to discuss her concerns with Uber’s top public relations executive Rachel Whetstone and Mr. Kalanick, among other people. She described and provided correspondence of those conversations for this story.

“I’m not going to lie for them,” she said in an interview with The Information this week. In the interview, she described Mr. Kalanick as “part of a class of privileged men who have been taught they can do whatever they want, and now they can.”

She said she wouldn’t have considered speaking publicly had Mr. Michael not attempted to “silence” her.

Sounds like this was less like a strip club and more like a brothel:

High-end escort-karaoke bars are fairly common in Seoul, often frequented by businessmen, who pick out women to drink with. Karaoke is typically a feature of the evening. The men can choose to have sex with the women as well. Prostitution is illegal in South Korea.

HealthFace for Apple Watch 

My thanks to Quentin Zervaas — remember Streaks? — for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote HealthFace. HealthFace goes deep on exposing health information as a complication on any Apple Watch face. Any data from HealthKit can be shown, and it’s easy to configure it to show different data on different watch faces — you can, say, show your sleep data on the Utility face and your blood pressure on Modular. The interface for configuring the complications is better than Apple’s.

If you have any interest in displaying your HealthKit data on your Apple Watch, HealthFace is the app for you. And it’s a great deal — a one-time purchase of just $1.99.

Black Screen on a Red iPhone 7 

I’m 100 percent convinced this looks better than the white bezel.

‘Hello, Bob’ 

Washington Post reporter Robert Costa:

President Trump called me on my cellphone Friday afternoon at 3:31 p.m. At first I thought it was a reader with a complaint since it was a blocked number.

Instead, it was the president calling from the Oval Office. His voice was even, his tone muted. He did not bury the lead.

“Hello, Bob,” Trump began. “So, we just pulled it.”

At a meta level, it’s fascinating to me that Trump made these phone calls personally. It reminds me of Steve Jobs’s phone call to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera back in 2008:

On Thursday afternoon, several hours after I’d gotten my final “Steve’s health is a private matter” — and much to my amazement — Mr. Jobs called me. “This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.” After that rather arresting opening, he went on to say that he would give me some details about his recent health problems, but only if I would agree to keep them off the record. I tried to argue him out of it, but he said he wouldn’t talk if I insisted on an on-the-record conversation. So I agreed.

‘Repeal and Replace’ Claim Chowder 

Philip Bump, reporting for The Washington Post:

“I never said I was going to repeal and replace in the first 61 days,” he said to Costa with a laugh — undercounting his time in office by a bit. When he offered a public statement a bit later, he’d figured out the proper number. […]

Trump is correct: At no point in time did he pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare in 61 or 64 days. Instead, he pledged to demand a repeal on Day One — even if it took a special session of Congress to make it happen. He pledged on several occasions to repeal it “immediately.” The message he conveyed to his voters was very much not that “this is something we will get to eventually” but that this was something that would come first on the agenda.

How Paul Ryan Played Donald Trump 

Ezra Klein, writing for Vox:

Donald Trump promised to be a different kind of president. He was a populist fighting on behalf of the “forgotten man,” taking on the GOP establishment, draining the Washington swamp, protecting Medicaid from cuts, vowing to cover everyone with health care and make the government pay for it. He was a pragmatic businessman who was going to make Washington work for you, the little guy, not the ideologues and special interests.

Instead, Trump has become a pitchman for Paul Ryan and his agenda. He’s spent the past week fighting for a health care bill he didn’t campaign on, didn’t draft, doesn’t understand, doesn’t like to talk about, and can’t defend. Rather than forcing the Republican establishment to come around to his principles, he’s come around to theirs — with disastrous results.

Here’s how Trump learned the news that the vote on the AHCA bill had been called off:

In the mid-afternoon, a beaming Mr. Trump climbed into the rig of a black tractor-trailer, which had been driven to the White House for an event with trucking industry executives, honking the horn and posing for a series of tough-guy photos — one with his fists held aloft, another staring straight ahead, hands gripping the large wheel, his face compressed into an excited scream.

At a meeting inside shortly afterward, Mr. Trump announced that he was pressed for time and needed to go make calls for more votes.

A reporter informed him that the vote had already been called off.

Here’s the “tough guy driving a truck” pose.

‘Pass the Heinz’ 

Brilliant. Heinz is actually running ads from Don Draper’s rejected ketchup campaign from Mad Men:

Fifty years ago, in the fictional world of Mad Men, Don Draper pitched a daring ad campaign to Heinz execs, for the brand’s ketchup, that proposed not showing the product at all. Instead, the ads would show close-ups of foods that go great with ketchup — french fries, a cheeseburger, a slice of steak — but without any ketchup in sight.

Don’s proposed tagline: “Pass the Heinz.”

They’re great ads, and this is a great gimmick.

(Via Kottke.)

FedEx Offers Customers $5 for the Inconvenience of Requiring Adobe Flash 

Ina Fried, writing for Axios:

Adobe Flash has been on the ropes since Steve Jobs went on his famous tirade 7 years ago, but that doesn’t mean some sites don’t still require it.

For its part, FedEx is apologizing to customers and offering $5 discount for the fact that printing labels online still requires the browser plug-in.

FedEx needs to get its shit together. This is pathetic.

Also, “tirade” is a terrible description of Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash”. The dictionary defines tirade as “a long, angry speech of criticism or accusation”. Go ahead and re-read Jobs’s essay. There’s not a single angry word in it. What made it so devastating is that it wasn’t angry. It was calm, cool, collected, and true.

If it had been an angry rant, it would have been easily dismissed without needing to be factually refuted — “That’s just Jobs being a prick again.” The fact that it wasn’t angry, and because it was all true, made it impossible to refute.

(Via Dave Pell’s NextDraft.)

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Has a Shitty Radar 

Kim Hart, Axios:

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin riled the tech community this morning when he told Axios’s Mike Allen that displacement of jobs by artificial intelligence and automation is “not even on my radar screen” because the technology is “50-100 more years” away. Mnuchin also said he is “not worried at all” about robots displacing humans in the near future. “In fact, I’m optimistic.”

Report issued today from PricewaterhouseCoopers:

Millions of workers around the world are at risk of losing their jobs to robots — but Americans should be particularly worried. 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years, according to a new report by PwC.

4-Year-Old Boy in U.K. Saved His Mother’s Life Using Siri 

From the 999 transcript:

Operator: Hello, this is the police. What is your emergency?

Roman: Hello, I’m Roman.

O: Where’s your mummy?

R: She’s at home.

O: Where are you?

R: At home as well.

O: Can you do me a favour? Can you go and get mummy?

R: We can’t, she’s dead.

O: You said mummy was there – what do you mean she’s dead?

R: It means that she’s closing her eyes and she’s not breathing.

Apple Acquires Workflow 

Whoa, huge news for iOS nerds. Matthew Panzarino has the scoop:

Workflow has been around for a couple of years and we’ve covered it and its updates. It shares some similarity with the service IFTTT, in that it allows people to group together a bunch of actions that can allow them to perform complicated tasks with one tap. It had built up a sizeable number of users and downloads over the past few years.

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today.

This certainly provides ammunition against the argument that Apple no longer cares about power users. For me this is Apple’s most intriguing and exciting acquisition in years.

Personally, Workflow never really clicked for me, but I’ve been meaning to give it another try. The problem for me isn’t Workflow itself, but iOS. MacOS, at a conceptual level, matches the way my brain works for nerdy custom automation stuff — I just get Unix shell scripting languages, AppleScript-able Mac apps, and NeXTstep’s brilliant system-wide Services menu. Doing things the iOS way via Workflow looks cool, but whenever it comes down to it, it always feels easier to me to just wait until I’m at a Mac and create it there.

But one of the things that has always impressed me, and which has paid off for them in the end, is that Workflow stayed true to the platform. Workflow was designed from the ground up as a true and native iOS service. It is one of the most iOS-y pieces of software ever created. They took the severe limits of inter-application communication on iOS and embraced them.

Gizmodo: ‘Samsung’s New iPad Pro Is Just Fantastic’ 

Alex Cranz, Gizmodo:

Coming a year after the launch of Apple’s first 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the new iteration from Samsung feels daring. While it has the same sleek lines, is just as light, and possesses the magnetic connection on one side for easy keyboard cover attachment, Samsung’s iPad Pro for 2017 is, inexplicably called the Galaxy Tab S3, and unlike previous iPads this one runs on Android.

Samsung is so stupid with their insistence on printing their ugly logo on the front face of any device where it’ll fit. You’re obviously supposed to use this tablet in landscape orientation any time it’s connected to the keyboard case, or any time you watch a video. For many users, that might be the majority of their time using the device. And when the device is in landscape, the logo is oriented wrong. That’s just plain stupid.

And look at their asymmetrical copy of the iPad’s Smart Connector. Says everything you need to know about Samsung’s care for the little details.

The Talk Show: ‘Hubbo Is in Decline’ 

New episode. Special guest Merlin Mann. Enjoy.

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Quick Thoughts on Today’s New Apple Stuff 
  • Product Red Special Edition iPhone 7 and 7 Plus: Looks cool. But I think I’d rather see it with a black face.

  • New 9.7-inch just-plain “iPad”: Looks like the supply chain rumor mill was almost entirely wrong about new iPads. No new iPad Pro hardware at all. Just a no-adjective 9.7-inch “iPad” to replace the iPad Air 2. It’s a nice update for the budget-conscious: the new iPad has a brighter screen and an A9 instead of an A8 chip, and costs $70 less. As predicted, Apple is clearly putting the “Air” brand out to pasture.

  • Clips: Looks cool, especially the part about dictating the titles verbally. But it doesn’t ship until April.

  • New Apple Watch Bands: None of these colors speak to me, personally, but I will say that comfort-wise, Apple’s nylon bands are my favorite.

  • Update: Also, the iPhone SE storage tiers have been bumped from 16/64 to 32/128 GB. That means Apple is no longer selling any 16 GB iPhones (or iPads for that matter).

(A thought about the missing updates to the iPad Pro lineup: it seems like the supply chain leaks are mostly related to displays. A 10.5-inch display would necessarily require a new hardware design, because that’s a new display size for iPads. But what if the next update to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro also sports a new smaller-bezel design? Same display size as the current big iPad Pro, but a smaller footprint? When Apple makes multiple sizes of the same device family, they generally look as similar as possible other than the difference in size. It would be weird if, later this year, Apple released two new iPad Pros, but only one of them sported a new edge-to-edge display.)

Disability in the Age of Trump 

Beautiful, moving comic by Amanda Scurti.

Guetzli: A New Open Source JPEG Encoder From Google 

Robert Obryk and Jyrki Alakuijala, of Google Research Europe:

At Google, we care about giving users the best possible online experience, both through our own services and products and by contributing new tools and industry standards for use by the online community. That’s why we’re excited to announce Guetzli, a new open source algorithm that creates high quality JPEG images with file sizes 35% smaller than currently available methods, enabling webmasters to create webpages that can load faster and use even less data.

Guetzli [guɛtsli] — cookie in Swiss German — is a JPEG encoder for digital images and web graphics that can enable faster online experiences by producing smaller JPEG files while still maintaining compatibility with existing browsers, image processing applications and the JPEG standard. […]

And while Guetzli produces smaller image file sizes without sacrificing quality, we additionally found that in experiments where compressed image file sizes are kept constant that human raters consistently preferred the images Guetzli produced over libjpeg images, even when the libjpeg files were the same size or even slightly larger. We think this makes the slower compression a worthy tradeoff.

They’re not exaggerating. I installed Guetzli (via Homebrew) and it produces JPEGs that are about one-third smaller and yet look the same to my eyes. It’s a significant breakthrough for such a venerable image format.

There is, of course, a catch. Image processing is really slow. It takes about 8 minutes for Guetzli to process a single iPhone camera image on my 5K iMac. That doesn’t mean Guetzli isn’t useful — it just isn’t useful in a user-facing context. If I ran a site that published photos, I’d hook it up in the background on the server hosting my images.

Charlie Warzel Profiles Techmeme’s Gabe Rivera 

Charlie Warzel, writing for BuzzFeed:

Techmeme, then, wields tremendous power over a tremendously powerful group of people. And as its founder, Rivera has been quietly defining Silicon Valley’s narrative for the industry’s power brokers for more than a decade. But Rivera is uncomfortable — or unwilling — to reckon with how his influence has affected one of the most important and powerful industries in the world. The result is that Rivera can cast himself both as a gimlet-eyed insider with a powerful readership and as a mostly anonymous entrepreneur running a niche link blog from the comfort of his home. It’s a convenient cognitive dissonance.

I visit Techmeme once or twice on typical workdays. But I find it essential when I’m on vacation or otherwise offline for large stretches of time — it’s a great way to quickly check whether anything happened I need to know about. Nothing else like it.

Pixure 2.2 and PanelKit 

Pixure is Louis D’hauwe’s excellent pixel art app for iPad and iPhone. It’s a terrific app. You might want to check out the latest version even if you aren’t interested in creating pixel art, though — it’s the first version using D’hauwe’s own open source PanelKit framework. PanelKit allows apps to turn popovers into draggable panels, and allows for them to be pinned into place as stay-open sidebars. It caught my eye a few weeks ago on Twitter, and now that I can play with it in an actual app, I’m even more impressed with the ingenuity.

Update: Reminds me of the tear-off menus in MacPaint, Hypercard, and NeXTstep.

Anthony Bourdain Does Not Want to Owe Anybody Even a Single Dollar 

Anthony Bourdain, on his approach to personal finance after having not filed taxes for 10 years and running up credit card debt that he ignored until he was 44:

That was really the first time I started thinking about saving money. About not finding myself in that terrifying space, that uncertainty that goes back to childhood. Will the car get fixed? Will we be able to pay for tuition? In very short order, I contacted the IRS and I paid what I owed. I paid American Express. Since that time, I am fanatical about not owing anybody any money. I hate it. I don’t want to carry a balance, ever. I have a mortgage, but I despise the idea. That was my biggest objection to buying property, though I wasn’t in the position to pay cash.

The reports of my net worth are about ten times overstated. I think the people who calculate these things assume that I live a lot more sensibly than I do. I mean, I don’t live recklessly — I have one car. But I don’t deprive myself simple pleasures. I’m not a haggler. There’s not enough time in the world. I tend to go for the quickest, easiest, what’s comfortable. I want it now. Time’s running out.

(Via Kottke.)

‘There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air’ 

Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker, reporting for The Washington Post:

But in Monday’s remarkable, marathon hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Comey said there was no such evidence. Trump’s claim, first made in a series of tweets on March 4 at a moment when associates said he was feeling under siege and stewing over the struggles of his young presidency, remains unfounded.

Comey did not stop there. He confirmed publicly that the FBI was investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and associates with Russia, part of an extraordinary effort by an adversary to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election in Trump’s favor.

Questions about Russia have hung over Trump for months, but the president always has dismissed them as “fake news.” That became much harder Monday after the FBI director proclaimed the Russia probe to be anything but fake.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said. “Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mind-boggling event.”

As is our current predicament.

Leaked Images of Samsung Galaxy S8 From Evan Blass 

Looks like Samsung is beating Apple to the “hardly any chin or forehead” punch. The top and bottom have bezels, but they’re so small Samsung couldn’t print their ugly logo on the front, finally moving past one of the worst aspects of every other Samsung phone to date.

Are they really going to call the bigger model the “Plus”? They’re really going to rip off Apple’s naming?


About That Purported 10.5-Inch iPad

Business Insider, back in November:

Apple is preparing new iPads for a launch in March, Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Christopher Hemmelgarn wrote in a note distributed to clients on Friday. The analysts cite supply chain sources spoken to during a trip to Asia.

“New iPads in March — Bezel-less [like the upcoming iPhone] — We expect the 9.7-inch to move to a low-cost model, a refresh of the 12.9-inch pro and a new 10.9-inch, which is likely the same physical size as the 9.7-inch but with a borderless screen,” the analysts wrote.

A March iPad launch lines up with predictions previously made by KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He predicted a 10.5-inch iPad next year, along with a low-cost 9.7-inch iPad.

Japanese website Mac Otakara, a month ago:

Last time, the Barclays analyst predicted the announcement of the addition of bezel less iPad Pro (10.5 inch) model in the next iPad Pro series at the end of March 2017.

Also, the shipping of the iPad Pro 2 (12.9-inch), iPad Pro 2 (9.7-inch), iPad Pro (7.9-inch) at the end of March, and the iPad Pro (10.5-inch) in May were also expected as a possibility.

New iPad Pro “2” models at the existing sizes make sense to me — iPads that look very similar (or even identical) to the existing 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros but with updated internals (A10X chips, better cameras, etc.). The 9.7-inch iPad Pro is a year old, and the 12.9-inch model is almost a year and a half old.

An updated iPad Mini would make sense too. Right now the high-end iPad Mini is the iPad Mini 4, with an A8 chip. In the past, Apple has generally updated the iPad Mini models with internals from the year-ago flagship 9.7-inch models. That would suggest a new Mini with an A9 chip and perhaps support for Apple Pencil. Maybe they’d call it “iPad Mini Pro”. Or maybe just “iPad Pro” — the 9.7- and 12.9-inch models don’t have different names. Or maybe nothing at all — it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple has no imminent updates for the iPad Mini.

What doesn’t make sense to me is a new 10.5-inch model. The idea makes sense — keeping the physical footprint of the current 9.7-inch models but reducing the bezels and putting in a bigger display. The ideal form factor for iPads and iPhones is just a screen, like the phones in Rian Johnson’s Looper — reducing the size of bezels and moving toward edge-to-edge displays is inevitable. Even the pixel density math works out for a 10.5-inch display.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the timing. I don’t see how an iPad with an exciting new design could debut alongside updated versions of the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPads. Who would buy the updated 9.7-inch iPad Pro with the traditional bezels if there’s a 10.5-inch model without bezels? No one.

The report from the Barclays analysts back in November tries to make sense of it thus: “We expect the 9.7-inch to move to a low-cost model”. The idea would be that the new design takes over as the high-end model with the standard footprint, and the 9.7-inch models with the old form factor move down the lineup to the mid-priced tier. But that doesn’t square with the rampant rumors that Apple is preparing an update to the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. If Apple were going to replace the bezeled 9.7-inch design with an edge-to-edge 10.5-inch design, they would just lower the price of the current iPad Pro, without changing the hardware. That’s what they’ve done every single time they’ve introduced new iPads in recent years — the new models keep the same prices as the old ones, and the old ones move down the lineup with lower prices.

That still doesn’t make sense to me though. Why would Apple update the standard-sized iPad Pro to a new edge-to-edge design but keep the existing design for the more expensive 12.9-inch iPad? The new 12.9-inch iPad Pro would look dated on day one. Mac Otakara’s speculation that the new 10.5-inch iPad might not ship until May (with the updated 9.7- and 12.9-inch models shipping in March) doesn’t help with the logic, either. If Apple announces all these new iPads at the same time, you have the same problems mentioned above. If they release the updated 9.7- and 12.9-inch models in March, but keep the new 10.5-inch model under wraps until May, anyone who buys one of the updated 9.7-inch models in the interim is going to be justifiably outraged.

Applying Occam’s razor to these rumors, I think the most likely explanation is that Apple is working on a new edge-to-edge design iPad with a 10.5-inch display, but that it’s a 2018 thing, not a 2017 thing. Or, at the very earliest, a late 2017 thing — something they could unveil in October. If that’s the case, almost everything makes sense:

  • Updated 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros debut later this month or early in April, possibly in low-key fashion.
  • New iPhones debut in September, including a much-speculated-upon new model with an all-new edge-to-edge design made possible in part by a flexible OLED display.
  • Next year’s new iPads inherit the edge-to-edge-display/reduced-bezels design language and OLED technology of the new iPhone. Among all the other aforementioned things that don’t make sense regarding the rumor that a 10.5-inch iPad is imminent is the idea that the new design language would debut on an iPad, not an iPhone.

[A brief interpolation regarding the rumors about a new iPhone with an exciting new edge-to-edge design debuting this September: There are also rumors about updated iPhones with the existing 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays. If all of this is true, then I would expect that the updates to the 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones will be rather pedestrian. The “S” models over the years have typically introduced major new component improvements. For the same reason that it makes no sense for Apple to introduce a flashy new edge-to-edge 10.5-inch iPad alongside major updates to the existing iPads, it would make no sense to introduce a flashy new edge-to-edge iPhone alongside major updates to the existing iPhones. If there is a flashy new edge-to-edge iPhone design, what would make sense for updated 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones would be something very much akin to the iPhone SE — minor component updates and a clear position in the product lineup at a tier beneath the new edge-to-edge flagship model. (I also find it interesting that there are only rumors of a single new iPhone with the new edge-to-edge display — if true, that says to me that Apple is going back to a “one size fits all” lineup at the flagship tier. They’ve had record-breaking success with the “two sizes” strategy, but it might make sense to go back to one size if they can fit a 5.x-inch display and a larger battery into a form factor roughly the size of the current 4.7-inch models.)

There’s one other way this rumor of both a new edge-to-edge design iPhone and updates to the existing 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhone makes sense to me: if (a) the new 4.7- and 5.5-inch models are traditional “S” updates, with significant component improvements and the same price points as the current iPhone 7 and 7 Plus; and (b) the iPhone with the new edge-to-edge design has a significantly higher price than the iPhone 7S and 7S Plus. And indeed, rumors suggest it might have a starting price of $1,000 or higher. On paper that sounds like something Apple might do — Tim Cook would love to see the iPhone’s average selling price go up. But in practice I see the same product marketing problems as with the idea that a new edge-to-edge iPad might debut alongside major updates to the existing iPad Pros. The new iPhone 7S and 7S Plus would look dated on day one. That’s not a problem if they’re slotted into a mid-level pricing tier, but it is if they’re priced at $800-900. Yes, Apple has done something like this with Apple Watch Edition, but the Edition watches only use different materials. The Edition models don’t make the regular Apple Watches look stale; the purported edge-to-edge iPhone would do just that to the existing models. End interpolation.]

There’s even some evidence for this schedule of events — updates to the existing 9.7- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models soon, radical new iPhone in September, and radical new iPad after that — in the rumors surrounding these new iPads. Back in August, MacRumors published the following excerpts from a report by Ming-Chi Kuo:

We expect three new iPads (12.9-inch iPad Pro 2, new size 10.5-inch iPad Pro and low-cost 9.7-inch iPad) to be launched in 2017, though this may not drive shipment growth amid structural headwinds; 2017F shipments to fall 10-20% YoY. If the iPad comes in a larger size, such as a 10.5-inch model, we believe it will be helpful to bid for tenders within the commercial and education markets. As a result, we expect Apple to launch a 10.5-inch iPad Pro in 2017. In addition, we estimate the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2 and 10.5-inch iPad Pro will adopt the A10X processor, with TSMC (2330 TT, NT$177.5, N) being the sole supplier using 10nm process technology. The low-cost 9.7-inch model may adopt the A9X processor, which is also exclusively supplied by TSMC. […]

Revolutionary iPad model likely to be introduced in 2018F at the earliest, with radical changes in form factor design and user behavior on adoption of flexible AMOLED panel. We believe iPad will follow in the footsteps of the iPhone by adopting AMOLED panel in 2018F at the earliest. If Apple can truly tap the potential of a flexible AMOLED panel, we believe the new iPad model will offer new selling points through radical form factor design and user behavior changes, which could benefit shipments.

It doesn’t make much sense to me that Apple would introduce a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro in 2017 and “radical changes in form factor design” in 2018. It would make a lot of sense if the 10.5-inch model is the “revolutionary” iPad scheduled for 2018.

Also, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro already sports the A9X chip. Again, it would both make sense and fit with the history of the iPad lineup if a new 9.7-inch iPad Pro “2” replaced the current iPad Pro “1” at the top of the lineup, and if the iPad Pro “1” replaced the iPad Air 2 as the lower-priced 9.7-inch model. 


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