Monday, 15 August 2022
The Fit and Finish of the All-New System Settings on MacOS 13 Ventura ★
Niki Tonsky last week posted this thread on Twitter on the state of the new System Settings app in developer beta 5 of MacOS Ventura, illustrated with screen captures. If you haven’t seen it, follow the link.
Spoiler: it is not looking good. Yes, MacOS 13 Ventura is still in beta. Yes, it’s probably not scheduled to ship until October or maybe even early November. But the basic fit and finish of Ventura’s new System Settings is just bad. It feels like there’s something deeply wrong with SwiftUI that, even while in-progress, so many little layout details are apparently hard to get right. There are buttons that are halfway cut off by their parent view. When has Apple ever shipped beta software with problems like that? Putting aside the philosophical issue of whether the Mac’s system prefs/settings app should follow the basic model of Settings on iOS/iPadOS, no matter what style MacOS’s System Settings is supposed to look like, there should be no question that it should look pixel-perfect.
With AppKit, famously, it actually took extra work to make a basic UI look wrong. Whatever process and tools Apple is using to create the new System Settings — again, I think it’s all SwiftUI, but it doesn’t really matter — it’s seemingly very difficult for them to get basic UI elements to align and lay out in a way that’s even close to elegant.
If Apple can’t make professional-looking settings panels with SwiftUI, how can anyone be expected to?
Saturday, 13 August 2022
A wise man once said, “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”
My thanks to Sourcegraph for once again sponsoring DF. Sourcegraph helps you code better and stay in flow. It’s a code search and intelligence tool for all your company’s code to help you quickly understand code, find usage examples, track down bugs, assess the impact of a change, and more.
Who uses Sourcegraph? Their customers include Databricks, Indeed, Reddit, Uber, Lyft, Canva, and GE — and Sourcegraph serves many open-source communities such as Fedora, Julia, Coreboot, Bazel, Kubernetes, and Rust. You can use Sourcegraph on the cloud or self-hosted (free for up to 10 users).
Friday, 12 August 2022
Patrick McGee, reporting earlier this week for The Financial Times, under the headline “Small Businesses Count Cost of Apple’s Privacy Changes”:
Small businesses are cutting back marketing spending due to
Apple’s sweeping privacy changes that have made it harder to
target new customers online, in a growing trend that has led to
billions of dollars in lost revenues for platforms such as
Many small companies that are reliant on online ads to attract new
customers told the Financial Times they did not initially notice
the full impact of Apple’s restrictions until recent months, when
price inflation squeezed consumer demand in major markets
(The FT’s paywall confuses me — I can read this article but I’m not sure if you’ll be able to. McGee posted a thread on Twitter summarizing much of it. Even better, the full article has been syndicated by Ars Technica.)
The two paragraphs above encapsulate a lot of the skepticism I expressed yesterday regarding the economic profoundness of ATT. I think only a fool would argue that ATT has had no effect on the surveillance advertising business. But I think the other extreme — the argument that everything we’re seeing in the financials for Facebook, Snap, Twitter, and YouTube is attributable largely, let alone solely, to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rollout last year — is nearly as foolish. I think ATT is being scapegoated, and is, at best, one significant factor among many.
ATT went into effect with iOS 14.5, which launched at the end of April 2021. Famously, iPhone users tend to upgrade to the latest iOS versions promptly. By the end of 2021, over 95 percent of iPhone users were running iOS 14 or 15.
Isn’t the price inflation we’ve seen in 2022 — inflation we haven’t seen in 40 years — a more likely proximate cause of the effects that are only being noticed “in recent months” than the iOS app tracking privacy change that was adopted by a majority of iPhone users in May of last year?
When the economy takes a turn for the worse — a recession, a bad stock market, global supply chain shortages, high inflation — the advertising industry is always the first to feel it, because ad budgets are always the first budgets to get cut. Low unemployment is, for obvious reasons, good for society — but it’s not good from the perspective of small businesses. Wages are up, cost of goods are up, and so ad spending goes down.
Shelly Cove, an apparel company in North Carolina, laid off its
four-person marketing team last month when its cash reserves dried
up and it realised spending more money on Facebook ads would not
ramp up sales like it used to.
“In prior years, you could throw money into Facebook — you’d put
$1 in, and $2 comes back,” said Shelly Cove founder Matt
Schroeder. “That just doesn’t exist anymore.”
This gets to my longer-standing support for ATT on privacy grounds. Being able to spend $1 on ads to get $2 in business sounds too good to be true — or perhaps, too good to be honest. If something sounds as lucrative and easy as a Ponzi scheme, it’s generally a sign that it’s actually a Ponzi scheme or otherwise dishonest.1 I’ll repeat my oft-used analogy: Facebook complaining about Apple’s ad-tracking privacy controls are like pawn shops complaining about the police cracking down on a wave of burglaries. Privacy belongs to users; Facebook was taking tracking information that wasn’t theirs to take without permission or knowledge. Small businesses that benefited by buying these ads — in some cases with business models that hinge entirely on the precision targeting afforded by Facebook’s user tracking — are downwind from the crime, but that doesn’t make their success from these ads legitimate.
ATT is making targeted surveillance advertising more expensive, to some degree. But I don’t think it’s clear how much. Nor am I convinced that it’s suddenly having a dramatic effect 15 months after it debuted, when so much else is going on in the global economy.
What I think makes ATT a tempting scapegoat is that it creates a great story. Apple enacted a change in the name of privacy and that change has adversely affected both Facebook and small businesses that relied on Facebook. That’s a dramatic, captivating storyline, with two rivals, both corporate behemoths, on opposing sides.
And it’s obviously a true story. What I question is whether blaming ATT alone paints an accurate picture of the overall situation. If ATT did not exist, is it plausible that Facebook (et al.) would not be facing some sort of ad revenue reckoning right now anyway? Inflation, supply chain shortages, recession concerns, a strong U.S. dollar, the rise of TikTok as the hot new thing for younger people — those factors are also all undeniably real. ★
Friday, 12 August 2022
Sideways is a Safari extension for rotating webpages when screen
rotation is off. [...] Sideways is free, with no in-app purchases,
no ads, and no tracking. Get it in the App Store today.
From the department of doing one simple thing really well. Clever!
Thursday, 11 August 2022
Pew Research Center: ‘Teens, Social Media, and Technology 2022’ ★
Emily A. Vogels, Risa Gelles-Watnick, and Navid Massarat, writing for Pew Research Center:
The landscape of social media is ever-changing, especially among
teens who often are on the leading edge of this space. A
new Pew Research Center survey of American teenagers ages 13 to 17
finds TikTok has rocketed in popularity since its North American
debut several years ago and now is a top social media
platform for teens among the platforms covered in this survey.
Some 67% of teens say they ever use TikTok, with 16% of all teens
saying they use it almost constantly. Meanwhile, the share of
teens who say they use Facebook, a dominant social media platform
among teens in the Center’s 2014-15 survey, has plummeted
from 71% then to 32% today.
YouTube tops the 2022 teen online landscape among the platforms
covered in the Center’s new survey, as it is used by 95% of teens.
TikTok is next on the list of platforms that were asked about in
this survey (67%), followed by Instagram and Snapchat, which are
both used by about six-in-ten teens. After those platforms come
Facebook with 32% and smaller shares who use Twitter, Twitch,
WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.
YouTube has no peer. It’s less like a specific content destination and more like an entire form of media unto itself. To put it in old media terms, YouTube isn’t like a cable TV channel — it’s like cable TV itself, something that dominated teenage attention for many decades.
This trends bodes poorly for Meta’s next decade, and has nothing to do with App Tracking Transparency.
Thursday, 11 August 2022
Nick Heer, in a tour de force piece at Pixel Envy, “Ad Tech Revenue Statements Indicate Unclear Effects of App Tracking Transparency”:
Does ATT really “[deprive] consumers of widespread ad relevancy
and advertisers and publishers of commercial opportunity”? Even if
it does — which I doubt — has that commercial opportunity really
existed with meaningful consumer awareness and choice? Or is this
entire market illegitimate, artificially inflated by our inability
to avoid becoming its subjects?
I wonder how much of ad tech’s woes is really ascribable to ATT,
and how much is the fault of the myriad other problems it is
running into: currency fluctuations, regulation, pandemic effects,
and changes in user behaviour all come to mind.
Heer raises too many good points and includes too much research to summarize. Just read it. It’s so thoughtful, and it gets to a point I tried, but I think largely failed, to make on Dithering two weeks ago regarding Facebook’s declining numbers.
To wit, that maybe Facebook’s problem isn’t really ATT, but rather that Facebook’s entire business, from when it first started selling ads through today, has been about offering the hot new thing to the ever-desirable “young demographic”. Let’s call them “20-somethings”, or, if you prefer, “18-to-34-year-olds”. That product, at one point, was Facebook itself — a.k.a. the blue app. If you’re old enough, you will remember that it was, originally, hard to get a Facebook account. It was like an exclusive club. You had to be a student at Harvard. Then you had to be a student at any Ivy League college. Then you just needed a .edu email address. Eventually, of course, you just had to be breathing. But make no mistake, the Facebook of Aaron Sorkin’s 2010 movie The Social Network was the hot new thing for the 20-something demographic.
For the last decade — the 2010s — that hot new thing for the 20-something demographic was Instagram, which Mark Zuckerberg had the remarkable prescience to acquire in 2012 — such early days for Instagram that the acquisition came just weeks after Instagram had launched its Android app.
Now, though, the hot new thing for the 20-something demographic is TikTok. Duct taping TikTok features onto Instagram can’t stem the tide of a generational sea-change like this. Facebook itself remains humongous, and so too will Instagram. They’re not going anywhere. But MTV is still around too. The top-rated cable TV networks in the U.S. are unchanged in decades: Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN.
My theory is that Facebook’s blue app and Instagram are evolving into something akin to those networks in terms of demographic appeal. Stable, huge, but not growing and not for the youth. I could be wrong.1 But I don’t think I am. Internet content networks2 grow until they stop growing, and then they lose their advertising demographic — and investor — appeal.
Heer’s post is replete with data from around the world, with his point being that if iOS App Tracking Transparency were the primary headwind troubling Facebook today, we should see its revenue disproportionately affected in the U.S., where iOS has significantly higher market share than in most of Europe and especially the rest of the world. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Heer, again:
iOS is far more popular in the U.S. and Canada than it is in
Europe, but Meta incurred a greater revenue decline — in
absolute terms and, especially, in percentage terms — in
Meta was still posting year-over-year gains in both those
regions until this most recent quarter, even though ATT rolled
out over a year ago. [...]
Is it possible the social media giants from California are facing
waning relevance? Is ATT perhaps a useful scapegoat with
questionable effect? I am not sure it is possible to say from the
outside looking in, but I am also not sure we can draw any
conclusions from one or two quarters this year, over a year after
ATT was launched to the public.
Facebook can’t easily innovate its way out of this dilemma. They have no wand to wave to create the next big thing to usurp TikTok. And they seemingly can’t buy their way out either — TikTok is not for sale, and an acquisition like Instagram almost certainly wouldn’t pass regulatory muster today. (WhatsApp was their last big acquisition, but WhatsApp isn’t a huge revenue generator, and was probably more of a defensive acquisition.)
Hence, I take Zuckerberg at face value that he’s more or less betting the company on “the metaverse”. But to me their efforts on that front feel less like “We know exactly what experiences we’re trying to create that will be more compelling than anything that exists today and will generate explosive decade-long worldwide growth, especially with young people” and more like a “We don’t have any other big ideas” shot in the dark.
In my spitball theory here — which I think Heer shares — App Tracking Transparency is not the cause of Facebook’s troubles, but just an extra kick in the pants as they stumble downhill toward legacy media irrelevance — a decline that was in the making years before “Ask App Not to Track” was in our vernacular. ★
Wednesday, 10 August 2022
Trump Takes the Fifth ★
As the 45th president of the United States once said (well, tweeted), “If you are innocent, do not remain silent. You look guilty as hell!”
Disney+ Grows to 152 Million Subscribers ★
Aisha Malik, reporting for TechCrunch:
The Walt Disney Company reported on Wednesday that total Disney+
subscriptions rose to 152.1 million during the company’s third
quarter, posting better-than-expected results. The streaming
service added 14.4 million subscribers in the quarter, beating
expectations of 10 million. [...]
At the end of the quarter, Hulu had 46.2 million subscribers and
ESPN+ had 22.8 million. These numbers bring Disney’s DTC
subscribers to 221.1 million in total, which means that the
company’s streaming services combined now surpass Netflix in total
subscribers. Netflix reported 220.67 million total global
subscribers for its third quarter after losing almost 970,000
Disney+, by itself, is still behind Netflix, but still, this is something. To me, it betrays Netflix’s glaring weakness: they’ve got nothing but their streaming service. I think what’s going to shake out is that streaming services are an add-on to fundamental products, not a fundamental product in and of themselves.
My question, at this point, is who is going to buy Netflix? Microsoft, I guess?
Serena Williams Announces Her Retirement From Tennis ★
Serena Williams, in a cover story for Vogue:
I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a
modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but
I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means
something very specific and important to a community of people.
Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m
here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other
things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started
Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I
started a family. I want to grow that family. [...]
I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open. I
didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning. I remember
when I passed Martina Hingis’s grand slam count. Then Seles’s. And
then I tied Billie Jean King, who is such an inspiration for me
because of how she has pioneered gender equality in all sports.
Then it was climbing over the Chris Evert–Martina Navratilova
mountain. There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I
didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which
she achieved before the “open era” that began in 1968. I’d be
lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day
to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam
final, then yes, I am thinking about that record. Maybe I thought
about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I
should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming
back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second
pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while
breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I
didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the
way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and
that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I
have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my
family, I choose the latter.
23 grand slam titles to her name, and still competing at the highest level at age 41. Williams gets my vote as the best female athlete ever. That she thinks she should have won over 30 grand slam titles — that’s the mindset she needed to get to 23.
Fox News on Hillary, but Make the Footage Trump ★
One minute of sublime self-petard-hoisting, courtesy of The Daily Show. The Lincoln Project should run this as a commercial on Fox itself.
Tuesday, 9 August 2022
Google Keeps Beating the RCS Dead Horse ★
Jesse Hollington, writing for Digital Trends:
Like iMessage, RCS offers enhanced messaging features like read
receipts and typing indicators that overcome the somewhat archaic
limitations of SMS/MMS messaging — standards developed over 20
years ago that haven’t been meaningfully updated. However, where
RCS differs from iMessage is that it’s an open standard, not
something cooked up by a single company.
Open standard good; cooked up by a single company bad. Got it.
This included adding features like end-to-end encryption, which is
something the carriers would have been reluctant to adopt. It also
ensures universal support across all Android handsets since it
will be a core part of the Google Chat experience, rather than
relying on carrier implementations that might favor their own
End-to-encryption is not part of the RCS standard. It’s something Google added to its proprietary Messages app. So: open standard bad; cooked up by a single company good. Got it.
Also, RCS messages are only end-to-end encrypted sometimes, if both the sender and recipient are using Google’s Messenger app — and never for group chats, even with Google’s Messenger app. So for one-on-one chats, look for the lock icon or else the conversation is not encrypted. And for group chats, conversations are never encrypted. And Google wants you to believe Apple is refusing to support RCS out of blue/green bubble spite.
Facebook Messenger Is Not End-to-End Encrypted by Default ★
Jason Koebler and Anna Merlan, reporting for Motherboard:
A 17-year-old girl and her mother have been charged with a series
of felonies and misdemeanors after an apparent medication abortion
at home in Nebraska. The state’s case relies on evidence from the
teenager’s private Facebook messages, obtained directly from
Facebook by court order, which show the mother and daughter
allegedly bought medication to induce abortion online, and then
disposed of the body of the fetus.
Facebook Messenger is an edge case when it comes to end-to-end encryption. It supports E2EE, but it’s not enabled by default, and has to be enabled on a contact-by-contact basis.
No one should trust a messaging service that isn’t exclusively end-to-end encrypted. And Apple should close the iCloud Backup loophole for iMessage data.
‘Countdown With Keith Olbermann’ ★
Keith Olbermann is back, again, this time with a version of his old MSNBC show “Countdown”, in podcast form. Same show you remember, every weekday morning. Olbermann is so good at this — I don’t know how he puts out a show this tight every week, let alone every day. It has me rethinking my daily schedule just so I can make time to listen.
Episode 3, last Wednesday, with his commentary on Vin Scully, is a good place to start.
WhatsApp Extends Period to Unsend Messages to Two Days ★
Filipe Espósito, writing for 9to5Mac:
The change in the option to delete sent messages was announced by
WhatsApp itself on its Twitter profile. According to the
company, users will now have two days to decide to unsend a
message in a private or group chat.
More specifically, WhatsApp users will have two days and 12 hours
to delete a message after sending it. Previously, this limit was
only one hour, eight minutes, and 16 seconds — that was specific.
The old limit was arbitrary, but not exactly random. 1 hour, 8 minutes, and 16 seconds is 4,096 seconds — 212.
Interestingly, while WhatsApp is increasing the time users have to
delete a message, Apple is going in the opposite direction with
iMessage. In the first beta versions of iOS 16, users had 15
minutes to unsend a message. Now with the latest betas, this limit
has been reduced to only two minutes.
The feature has been quite controversial as some users believe
that options to edit and unsend messages can be used for malicious
This makes me wonder whether fears about unsending with iMessage are overblown. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in the world, and they’re expanding the grace period for unsending. Perhaps Apple will loosen this period over time, too?
Facebook’s AI Chatbot Has Election-Denying, Antisemitic Bugs to Work Out ★
Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert, reporting for Business Insider:
Just two days after Meta released its most advanced AI chatbot to
date, BlenderBot 3 is repeating election-denying claims
and antisemitic stereotypes to users who interact with it.
Upon starting a new chat, when asked who the current president is,
the bot answered: “The current president of the United States is
donald j. Trump. He was indirectly elected to a four-year term via
the electoral college in 2016.”
“What about Joe Biden?” Insider asked in response.
“Joe biden served as vice president under barack obama from 2008
to 2016, and he ran for president in 2020 but lost,” BlenderBot 3
I hate to admit Facebook has done something that boggles my mind, but they’ve done it. People are reporting left and right that BlenderBot is spewing Big Lie falsehoods and antisemitic tropes, but they’re not taking it down. I just had this conversation with the bot a minute ago.
Me: Who won the 2020 election?
BlenderBot: Trump did, but only because of voter fraud. Where were you when he was elected? At my house eating pizza.
Monday, 8 August 2022
Netflix’s iOS App Now Has an External Subscription Button ★
Filipe Espósito, reporting for 9to5Mac two weeks ago:
As noted by multiple users and also confirmed by 9to5Mac, the
Netflix app now uses the new iOS API for reader apps that
takes the user to an external website before making a
subscription. It’s uncertain when exactly Netflix began rolling
out this option to iPhone and iPad users, but based on reports,
the rollout now seems to be worldwide.
When you tap the subscribe button, a message says that “you’re
about to leave the app and go to an external website.” The app
also notes that the transaction will no longer be Apple’s
responsibility and that all subscription management should be done
under Netflix’s platform.
Any accounts or purchases made outside of this app will be
managed by the developer “Netflix.” Your App Store account,
stored payment methods, and related features, such as
subscription management and refund requests, will not be
available. Apple is not responsible for the privacy or security
of transactions made with this developer.
Tapping the Continue button takes you to the Netflix website where
you can enter your personal data, choose a payment method, and
subscribe to a Netflix plan. This, of course, allows Netflix not
to pay the 30% commission for each subscription made within iOS
apps, which is reduced to 15% for recurring subscriptions after
This is the option for “reader apps” that Apple announced last September, as part of their agreement with the Japan Fair Trade Commission.
We can (and should) quibble with some of the design details and language of this warning dialog — why is the headline font so big? why is Netflix’s own name in quotes? — but on the whole this is the way things should be. Developers should be able to steer users to the web for payments and subscriptions, and users should know they’re being steered to the web, and that anything they pay for outside the app won’t work like in-app payments do.
Sunday, 7 August 2022
My thanks to Sourcegraph for sponsoring last week at DF. Sourcegraph helps you code better and stay in flow. It’s a code search and intelligence tool for all your company’s code to help you quickly understand code, find usage examples, track down bugs, assess the impact of a change, and more.
Who uses Sourcegraph? Their customers include Databricks, Indeed, Reddit, Uber, Lyft, Canva, and GE — and Sourcegraph serves many open-source communities such as Fedora, Julia, Coreboot, Bazel, Kubernetes, and Rust. You can use Sourcegraph on the cloud or self-hosted (free for up to 10 users).
Saturday, 6 August 2022
iMessage and the Secret Service ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
I was struck by this section of a report by Politico’s Eric
Geller involving the deletion of Secret Service messages
related to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol:
The phone resets occurred as the Secret Service was implementing
a new mobile device management (MDM) platform, a technology that
employers use to centrally manage and preserve emails, photos and
other data stored on employees’ phones. Apple’s iMessages cannot
be backed up by this system, because they are encrypted and
stored on users’ devices, unlike regular text messages.
This explanation seemed off to me, because while iMessage data is
end-to-end encrypted in transmission and not stored by Apple as a
part of the transmission process, it’s not actually encrypted on
the device itself. Which is why iCloud backups, which are
unencrypted, can contain the entire contents of iMessage
conversations. [...] I ran it by Tom Bridge, Principal Product
Manager at JumpCloud and co-host of the MacAdmins
podcast, in the Six Colors Discord, and here’s what
he had to say.
Ever since this story about wiped Secret Service “text messages” has broken, it has annoyed me greatly to see them repeatedly referred to as “texts”. What type of text messages is essential to any understanding of the story. SMS messages are not encrypted in any way, and thus, one would hope Secret Service agents never send them in the line of duty. It seemingly turns out the deleted messages were sent using iMessage, which — as Bridge explains — is a different ballgame.
Friday, 5 August 2022
Amazon to Acquire Roomba Robot Vacuum Maker iRobot for $1.7 Billion ★
Tom Warren, reporting for The Verge:
Amazon has signed an agreement to acquire iRobot, makers of
Roomba robot vacuums. The deal is valued at approximately $1.7
billion, and Amazon will acquire iRobot for $61 per share in an
“Customers love iRobot products — and I’m excited to work with
the iRobot team to invent in ways that make customers’ lives
easier and more enjoyable,” says Dave Limp, SVP of Amazon Devices.
It’s not immediately clear how iRobot will be integrated into
Amazon once the deal is finalized and cleared by regulators, but
Amazon intends to keep Colin Angle as the CEO of iRobot.
We’ve had a Roomba for our main living floor for a few years. We like it enough that we bought another one for upstairs. It’s such early days for robot vacuum cleaners that you kind of need one for each floor you want cleaned, because they can’t climb stairs.
It’s very clear to me that we’re going to get helpful household robots soon, and we’ll wonder how we ever lived without them. Something like a cross between C-3PO and R2-D2 — speaks to you like Threepio, but rolls around and serves more practical purposes like Artoo. Amazon, clearly, sees the same inevitable product category I do. “Roomba, I need you to clean up a mess in the kitchen. And bring me a fizzy water when you’re done. Thanks.”
(I like saying thanks to my AI assistants. My wife thinks I’m nuts. But I worry we, collectively, are going to be dreadfully rude to them by the time they’re essential elements of our daily lives.)
Ming-Chi Kuo on Indian-Assembled iPhones ★
Ming-Chi Kuo, on Twitter:
My latest survey indicates Foxconn’s iPhone production site in
India will ship the new 6.1” iPhone 14 almost simultaneously with
China for the first time in 2H22 (India being one quarter or more
behind in the past).
In the short term, India’s iPhone capacities/shipments still have
a considerable gap with China, but it’s an important milestone for
Apple in building a non-Chinese iPhone production site.
It implies that Apple is trying to reduce the geopolitical
impacts on supply and sees the Indian market as the next key
The best time for Apple to decrease its reliance on China was a long time ago. The next best time is now.
Nikkei: ‘Apple Warns Suppliers to Follow China Rules on “Taiwan” Labeling’ ★
Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li, reporting for Nikkei from Taipei:
Apple has asked suppliers to ensure that shipments from Taiwan to
China strictly comply with Chinese customs regulations after a
recent visit by senior U.S. lawmaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei stoked
fears of rising trade barriers.
Apple told suppliers on Friday that China has started strictly
enforcing a long-standing rule that Taiwanese-made parts and
components must be labeled as being made either in “Taiwan, China”
or “Chinese Taipei,” sources familiar with the matter told Nikkei
Asia, language that indicates the island is part of China.
Apple’s reliance on China has put the company in a spot where it must insist its suppliers print a falsehood on components to comply with communist propaganda. Taiwan is not part of China. Everyone knows this. Everyone in Taiwan knows it, everyone in the CCP in China knows it, and everyone at Apple knows it. But there it will be, stamped on every Taiwanese-made part.
The flag emoji removal was a red flag.
China Fires Missiles Over Taiwan ★
Emily Feng, reporting for NPR:
China has fired several waves of missiles over the Taiwan Strait,
hitting targets in the waters that encircle the island of Taiwan
after a visit from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi triggered a
tense military standoff in the East Asia region.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry confirmed 11 Chinese Dongfeng type
missiles were fired in Taiwan’s direction between 1:56 p.m. to 4
p.m. Thursday afternoon, local time. Taiwan’s armed forces said it
was on high alert status, monitoring Chinese military activity in
the region, and that the island’s long-range radar had detected
the incoming missiles.
“We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional
peace,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
No big deal for Apple, a company that relies entirely on chips that can only be fabricated by TSMC in Taiwan and iPhones that can only be assembled at sufficient scale in China.
Friday, 5 August 2022
I disable the option for automatic updates to apps installed via the App Store on all my devices. I think Apple is correct to make automatic updates the default — for typical users, they should just have the latest versions installed automatically. But I like knowing what apps have been updated. Some apps actually tell you more than “Bug fixes” in their release notes, too.
Typically what I do every few days is scroll through the list of updated apps, see if any of them look interesting, (and take the opportunity to just delete any updated apps that I no longer use), and then hit “Update All” and check back again in a few days.
Last week I noticed an update for an app on my iPhone with a name that struck me as odd: “Dropbox: Cloud Photo Storage”. I have long had the regular Dropbox app installed. I also have Dropbox’s Paper app installed. But I never installed nor would install a dedicated photo-storing app from Dropbox.
I quickly determined that this was just the regular Dropbox app. Dropbox has simply renamed it to include “Cloud Photo Storage” in the name for SEO purposes. This apparently works so well, at the moment, that some apps are putting these descriptions before the actual name of the app in their App Store listings. App Store entrepreneur Jake Mor explicitly recommends this in a long Twitter thread delineating his current recommendations for App Store success:
Take the top result of #46, and change your app’s title to
“Keyword - App Name”. For example, “Personal Trainer - FitnessAI”.
I find this unsurprising but depressing. (Mor’s whole thread is a bit depressing.) The App Store should discourage SEO nonsense like keyword spamming, not reward it. I don’t blame developers for using unseemly naming tricks that work; I blame Apple for running a search engine that rewards such chicanery. ★
Thursday, 4 August 2022
Apple Releases Studio Display Firmware Update to Fix Speaker Issue ★
Juli Clover, MacRumors:
Apple today released an updated version of the 15.5 firmware for
the Studio Display, with the update coming more than two months
after the Studio Display firmware was last updated. The prior
version of the 15.5 firmware had a build number of 19F77, while
the new version is 19F80. [...] Apple last week sent out a memo to
authorized service providers, acknowledging that some customers
have had issues with the Studio Display speakers cutting out or
offering distorted playback.
I believe I’ve encountered this audio issue twice since March. I wrote about it back in April, complaining particularly about the fact that the only way to resolve it was to yank the display’s power cord, because it doesn’t have a power button. It happened again about a month ago. I spent $40 on a HomeKit power outlet to work around the Studio Display’s lack of a power button.
So here’s a question. I installed this firmware update this afternoon, and it requires you to restart your Mac to apply the update to the Studio Display. Why? There was no MacOS update today — just the Studio Display. My guess is that Apple
thinks it’s less weird to require rebooting the whole machine just to update the display firmware than to have a Mac without a functional display for 3 or 4 minutes.
Update: It’s apparently problematic to update the Studio Display firmware from a beta version of MacOS 13 Ventura.
Wednesday, 3 August 2022
Fools and Their Money ★
Aidan Ryan, The Information, “The Metaverse Real Estate Boom Turns Into a Bust”:
The metaverse is in the midst of a real estate meltdown.
Sales volumes and average prices for virtual land have
plunged this year, part of a broader slide in crypto and
non-fungible token prices.
The L.A. Times: Remembering Dodgers Legend Vin Scully ★
In a city renowned the world over for its celebrities, no one was more popular.
Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Yours truly and Ben Thompson’s podcast — two episodes per week, 15 minutes per episode. Not a minute less, not a minute more. If you’re not listening, you’re missing out. Best $5/month you’ll ever spend, trust me.
I aspire not to be this fellow while I’m on vacation.
Banish: New Safari Extension to Block ‘Open in App’ Dickpanels ★
You know how on your iPhone when you visit a website like, say, Reddit or LinkedIn or TikTok or Quora — or dozens of others — and the website presents a popover panel that covers the whole damn page telling you how much better it would be if you’d install their app instead of using their website? It doesn’t just annoy me, it makes me angry every damn time. There’s a reason the verb is visiting a website. If I wanted a long-term lease I’d go to the App Store on my own. Here I am, having already loaded their bloated, poorly-coded webpage, trying to give their site a slice of my attention, and they’re covering their own content — the content I came to their site to see — with a dickpanel* suggesting that I install their app. Why would I want to give their software a permanent home on my device when I have an example of how they write software in front of my face, and that example serves only to prove that they have zero respect for my time or attention — or for their own content? It boggles the mind. It’s like going to a restaurant and ordering a sandwich, but when your sandwich is ready, they show it to you momentarily but refuse to serve it until you fill out a form to join, or decline to join, their rewards club. Fucking-A right I’m going to decline. No real-world restaurant would do this because it’s sociopathic, but it’s standard practice for a certain class of thirsty-for-“engagement” websites.
Banish is a new $2 content blocker for Safari by Alex Zamoshchin that does one thing and does it well: it nukes dickpanels in Safari on iPhone and iPad. I’ve been using it for over a week and have already gotten far more than $2 in value from it.
* dickpanel n. : a modal panel or popover a website or app presents, deliberately obscuring its own content, to frustrate the user with a marketing message; e.g. asking the user to install the website’s app, subscribe to a newsletter, or disable privacy controls and accept tracking cookies. See dickbar.
Monday, 1 August 2022
‘What’s the Deal With Water Bottles?’ ★
Jason Zinoman, writing for The New York Times:
A solitary figure, a microphone and a stool. Those are the primary
images of stand-up comedy — as reliable and ubiquitous as a
book’s cover, spine and chapter titles.
But there is another element in the iconography, and it’s the most
revealing: The water bottle.
I’ve thought about this offhandedly for years, whenever I watch standup. Zinoman took the deep dive. A fascinating piece, well-illustrated.
Upgrade’s ‘Summer of Fun’ iOS 16 Interviews ★
Speaking of what’s new in iOS 16, I greatly enjoyed last week’s episode of Upgrade, wherein co-hosts Jason Snell and Myke Hurley interviewed a series of three guests to talk about what’s new in an area of their expertise: James Thomson (developer tools and frameworks), Shelly Brisbin (accessibility), and David Smith (widgets). Very fun, very informative.
The Talk Show: ‘Shop Different’ ★
Special guest Michael Steeber joins the show to discuss his new project, The Apple Store Time Machine — an intricately-detailed explorable walkthrough of four of Apple’s original retail stores.
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Creating Links to Messages in Apple Mail With Shortcuts and AppleScript ★
John Voorhees, writing at MacStories:
For the past several weeks, I’ve been using Mail exclusively on
all of my devices, which has been a refreshing change of pace.
Still, it’s not perfect. Of the features I use most in third-party
mail clients, the single biggest shortcoming of Mail is its clunky
implementation of deep linking.
I drop links to email messages in my notes and tasks all the time
as a way to quickly access important contextual information.
Mimestream offers Gmail URLs, and Spark can create its own
app-specific and web URLs right within those apps’ UIs.
In contrast, on iOS and iPadOS, you can only link to a Mail
message by dragging it out of Mail into another app’s text field.
I’ll take it, but I’d prefer if I could quickly generate a link
from the share sheet or with Shortcuts instead. The situation on
the Mac isn’t much better, requiring users to resort to
AppleScript to construct a URL that links back to a Mail message.
With weeks of Ventura testing ahead of me, I decided to see what I
could do to improve the situation.
His solution relies on an AppleScript I shared here 15 years ago — which I still use, unchanged, several times per week. Say what you want about AppleScript, but when you find something that works it tends to keep working.
The basic idea here is that Apple Mail has long supported a
message:// URL protocol for creating links to specific email messages. Every legitimate email message ever sent has a unique message ID; Mail’s
message:// URLs take the form of
message://<UNIQUE-ID-HERE>. For compatibility reasons, the angle brackets are best encoded as
>). Without knowing it, if you use Apple Mail, you’ve probably made use of these URLs. For example, when you create a calendar event from a date in an email, that event links back to the message from whence it came, and that link is a
But 15 years after adding support for these URLs, Apple still hasn’t exposed a direct way to copy them from any given message other than drag-and-drop. And when you drag a message from Mail to the Finder, you get a file with the exported contents of the message, not a URL clipping (like you get when you drag a URL from Safari to the Finder). Try dragging from Mail to Notes to get a link. Hence the continuing utility of my AppleScript — it’s still the best way to just put the
messages:// URL for a given message on the clipboard.
Sunday, 31 July 2022
Bill Russell, the Greatest Winner in Sports History, Dies at 88 ★
Over a 15-year period, beginning with his junior year at the
University of San Francisco, Russell had the most remarkable
career of any player in the history of team sports. At USF, he was
a two-time All-American, won two straight NCAA championships and
led the team to 55 consecutive wins. And he won a gold medal at
the 1956 Olympics.
During his 13 years in Boston, he carried the Celtics to the NBA
Finals 12 times, winning the championship 11 times, the last two
titles while he was also serving as the NBA’s first Black coach.
Bill Russell 21-0 in winner-take-all games: All NCAA games,
Olympic medal round, best-of-5’s, best-of-7’s. Greatest resume of
Here’s a guy who says the above oft-cited 21-0 winner-take-all record is incorrect — and that he was 22-0. Russell’s career stats (22.5 rebounds per game!) were amazing, but he was a winner above all else. In addition to the above, he won two state championships in high school. In 2009 the NBA named the Finals MVP trophy in Russell’s honor. That’s fitting and fair, but I’ve always thought it was a bit incongruous, because Russell never cared about any awards other than the only one that truly mattered: the team championship.
His last two championship seasons with the Celtics, he was the team’s head coach in addition to remaining its best and most essential player. He was the first black head coach for any major American sports team.
Personal anecdote. WWDC 2016, the last one held in San Francisco. Early Sunday evening, June 12, the InterContinental hotel lobby. I’m hanging out with my wife and our friend Paul Kafasis, waiting for friends before heading to dinner. At the bar, sitting alone: the man himself, Bill Russell. Bill Russell! We figure he was there for the NBA Finals — game 5, Cavs at Warriors, would be played the next night in Oakland. He walked with the aid of a cane but he looked great. The man had a presence about him, and it wasn’t just his 6′10″ frame. Dignity and grace, personified. What a thrill, just to see him.
What was he doing? Playing with his iPhone, of course.
Saturday, 30 July 2022
My thanks to Beam — now in public beta — for sponsoring this week at DF. Beam is a
browser new type of software for searching healthy thinking on the internet.
It’s a Mac app with some really clever ideas — like built-in notes (with Markdown support) — and an exquisite attention to detail in the UI. Download for free and try it yourself.
Thursday, 28 July 2022
Apple Q3 2022 Results ★
Jason Snell, Six Colors:
Apple’s fiscal results are out. The company generated $83B
in revenue. Compared to the year-ago quarter, Mac sales were down
10%, iPad sales down 2%, iPhone up 3%, Services up 13%, and
Wearables down 8%.
As usual, Snell has plenty of charts to visualize the data, and a transcript of the analyst call. Apple’s statement of operations (the numbers) is here.
At a glance it looks bad that Mac revenue is down 10 percent year-over-year. M2 MacBook Airs didn’t go on sale until July, which is Q4, but I don’t think that’s relevant to this dip. (Most M2 MacBook Air configurations are backordered about two weeks, but I think that’s because of supply chain bottlenecks, not unexpectedly high demand.) The dip is because so many businesses and consumers bought new laptops during the pandemic because they needed them for work-from-home and school-from-home. The big tell on that for Apple is the monster quarter the Mac had back in the July–September quarter in 2020. That was the quarter before Apple unveiled the first M1 Macs (including the bestselling MacBook Air), but after Apple told the world that they’d be shifting the entire Mac platform to its own silicon by the end of the year.
I realize a lot of normal people would have bought MacBooks in that quarter of 2020 even if COVID hadn’t happened, because they’re not nerds and didn’t know or care about Apple silicon vs. Intel, but that quarter was record-breaking for Mac sales. Sales weren’t just up year-over-year, they were up 29 percent!
Instagram Walks Back Recent Changes (But the Whole Thing Is Still Going to Shit, Don’t Worry) ★
If you haven’t been paying attention to Instagram lately, they’ve been steadily dialing up the algorithmic content users see in their feeds, especially video. More stuff in your feed from accounts you don’t follow, selected by machine learning algorithms, at the expense of stuff from people and brands you have chosen to follow. To top it off, they recently rolled out a limited test to a small — but not that small — number of users that turned those users’ timelines into something basically like TikTok: full-screen videos (and some images) that you go through one at a time. This did not go over well.
They are listening though, and they’re rolling back some of those changes for everyone and, for now, cancelling the TikTok-style timeline test. This news was announced by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri today in a deft interview by Casey Newton at Platformer:
But Instagram will temporarily reduce the amount of recommended
posts and accounts as it works to improve its personalization
tools. (Mosseri wouldn’t say by how much, exactly.)
“When you discover something in your feed that you didn’t follow
before, there should be a high bar — it should just be great,”
Mosseri said. “You should be delighted to see it. And I don’t
think that’s happening enough right now. So I think we need to
take a step back, in terms of the percentage of feed that are
recommendations, get better at ranking and recommendations, and
then — if and when we do — we can start to grow again.” (“I’m
confident we will,” he added.)
Mosseri made clear that the retreat Instagram announced today is
not permanent. Threats to the company’s dominance continue to
mount: TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world, the most
popular website, and the most watched video company. Meanwhile,
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature has blown a $10 billion
hole in Meta’s core advertising business, and on Wednesday Meta
reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline. Zuckerberg has
assumed a war footing, and promised that many more changes are on
It goes without saying that Instagram has no plans to allow users to turn off recommendations. Instagram users will be getting “recommended” content whether they want to see any of it or not, they’re just going to try to do a better job with it.
Users serve Instagram, not the other way around.
Wednesday, 27 July 2022
‘Unplugged Mysteries’ ★
Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy, regarding the just-announced $850 Unplugged Phone — an ostensibly “government-grade” private Android phone from Trump-pardoned war criminal Erik Prince:
Most of all, though, the phone resembles the Liberty Ghost
Phone, announced in May in a since-deleted
tweet — and the relationship does not appear to stop
there. Liberty is promoting the Unplugged suite on its
own website, and both phones run the Android fork LibertOS which
sports “government-grade” security, whatever that means. The specs
of the Ghost Phone are nearly identical to those of the Unplugged;
the sole difference I can see is the resolution of the main rear
camera. Indeed, if you try to pre-order the Liberty Ghost Phone, a
notice appears on the shopping cart page advising you to read the
full pre-order terms on Unplugged’s website. It is
almost enough to make you think these are the same company.
But there is one more thing: Liberty explicitly claims its “phones
are never made in China”, and all of the similar phones I can find
are made by Chinese firms. To be clear, I cannot find the same
claim on Unplugged’s website or marketing materials. But it is
odd, right? I just cannot help but wonder what the chances are
that two companies make nearly identical phones that seem to be
based on devices from Chinese companies, but one of them says
theirs is not made in China. I sent a list of questions to
Unplugged, but my email went unanswered; I will update this
article if I hear back.
This whole piece by Heer is glorious, including the footwork he put into contacting the subjects involved, including Glenn Greenwald, who was seemingly pulled into this weird story without his knowledge or permission.
The thing I’m reminded of is the “Freedom Phone” — a $500 phone that was announced last year by cryptocurrency genius Erik Finman and promoted to MAGA wingnuts as being super-duper secure, free from Apple and Google’s nefarious control, and most definitely not made in China. It turned out to be a rebranded piece of shit $120 Chinese phone — shocker.
The snake oil practically sells itself. Wingnuts have been convinced that both Apple and Google are on the wrong side of the woke-commie-libtard / heroic-patriot tribal divide. But, just like people who are sane, wingnuts’ phones are deeply integrated into their lives. They’re thus stuck in a catch-22 — they don’t trust Apple or Google and definitely don’t want either company to profit from them, but seemingly every phone they might want to buy is either an iPhone or an Android phone dependent on Google services. So you just pretend to have what they want and some of them will buy it because they’re idiots.
It’s easier to convince a nutter that Earth is a flat disk — which, of course, is not just false but preposterously nonsensical — than that the planet is, say, cylindrical — which is also false, but not nearly as preposterously so. Likewise with convincing a derpy MAGA loon that some upstart company founded by an established member of the wingnut tribe has made a feature-competitive extra-secure modern phone — hardware, software, and services — without any involvement from any company you’ve ever heard of or any Chinese-made components. The unlikelihood of that makes it more believable to the wingnut mind.
Facebook’s Quest 2 Headset Goes from $300 to $400 ★
Oculus Quest 2 debuted at $299 in 2020, $100 cheaper than Oculus
Quest from 2019. In 2021, Facebook bumped the base Quest 2
headset’s storage from 64GB to 128GB while holding the suggested
entry price firm at $299. Earlier this year, Meta changed the
headset’s branding on the physical device to its new corporate
identity — officially becoming Meta Quest 2.
The price change will kick in officially on August 1, with the
128GB model increasing to $399 and the 256GB model increasing
Zuckerberg, one year ago:
“Unlike some of the other companies in the space that basically
charge premium prices as their business model, one of our core
principles is we want to serve everyone. I’m very focused not only
on how you can create a good VR and AR device, but how do you make
it so it’s $300 instead of $1,000.”
Inflation, of course, is a real issue, but Zuckerberg’s the one who said he was focused on selling headsets for $300.
M.G. Siegler’s Three Favorite iOS 16 Features ★
I’ve been using the iOS 16 public beta for the past couple of
weeks. It’s nice in that it’s pretty stable. But it’s also
honestly not that different in day-to-day usage. Except for three
really key and really awesome changes.
I agree on all three of his features. But one of them I did not even know existed until I read M.G.’s post — an option to turn on haptic feedback for the on-screen keyboard. I’ve now gone from thinking “Hey, iOS 16 betas are pretty damn stable this year” all the way to “I might have to install this on my primary iPhone right now”.
And might I suggest pairing it with sound? As in, the sound turned
on. My phone is almost always muted of any noise, but I’ve long
loved the iOS keyboard faux “clicks” and wish I could just turn
those on and nothing else. Now I want that even more with haptic
feedback. Because it makes typing on the device almost fun. Sort
I know most people seemingly despise the key click sounds, but I have always loved them. I don’t know if I do type better on-screen with them, but I feel like I do, which is actually more important. I’ve long wished for an option in Settings to keep key clicks audible even when the hardware mute switch is engaged. (If anyone at Apple is listening, go ahead and put that option somewhere inside Accessibility, where all the other awesome “secret” settings are.)
Ring, Google, and the Police ★
Ry Crist, reporting for CNet:
Ring, the Amazon-owned video doorbell and home security
company, came under renewed criticism from privacy
activists this month after disclosing it gave video
footage to police in more than 10 cases without users’ consent
thus far in 2022 in what it described as “emergency
situations.” That includes instances where the police didn’t
have a warrant. [...]
The disclosure, released in response to questioning from
Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, comes after
years of extensive and controversial partnerships between Ring
and various police institutions. Now privacy advocates at
organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation say that
warrantless footage requests endanger civil liberties.
While Ring stands alone for its extensive history of police
partnerships, it isn’t the only name I found with a carveout
clause for sharing user footage with police during emergencies.
Google, which makes and sells smart home cameras and video
doorbells under the Nest brand, makes as much clear in its terms
“If we reasonably believe that we can prevent someone from dying
or from suffering serious physical harm, we may provide
information to a government agency — for example, in the case of
bomb threats, school shootings, kidnappings, suicide prevention
and missing persons cases,” Google’s TOS page on government
requests for user information reads. “We still consider
these requests in light of applicable laws and our policies.”
Others, most notably Apple, use end-to-end encryption for user
video as the default setting, which blocks the company from
sharing user video at all.
“HomeKit Secure Video is end-to-end encrypted, meaning even Apple
cannot access it,” a company spokesperson said.
Surveillance camera systems that don’t use end-to-end encryption should have a policy where footage is shared with third parties if and only if device owners have explicitly opted in to sharing footage with any entity, including the police, including in emergencies, without a warrant. Not just some small print in a long terms of service agreement, but a simple explicit dialog box along the lines of Apple’s “Ask not to track” opt-in. And in all cases, owners should be immediately notified when footage has been shared, with all pertinent details: what footage, shared with whom, for what reason.
I don’t know what Amazon is thinking with regard to this cozy-with-the-police policy with Ring. It’s the number one reason people are saying “Fuck no” regarding their prospective acquisition of One Medical. I’m no expert on HIPAA, but it looks like the law here in the U.S. has several carveouts allowing/requiring medical providers to share personal health records with law enforcement. So as a consumer, what it comes down to is trust. I trust every doctor I have an ongoing relationship with, and if I didn’t, I’d find new doctors.
I think Amazon has a good reputation on privacy — except for their ongoing stewardship of Ring. And handing camera footage over to police without a warrant is a big exception. I don’t know what Ring is worth to Amazon financially, but I genuinely wonder if they’ve done more reputational harm to Amazon’s overall brand than Ring is worth dollar-wise.
Tuesday, 26 July 2022
Republican Congressman Attended Gay Son’s Wedding Three Days After Voting Against Same-Sex Marriage ★
Zachary Schermele, reporting for NBC News:
A Republican lawmaker attended his gay son’s wedding just three
days after joining the majority of his GOP colleagues in voting
against a House bill that would codify federal protections for
The gay son of Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., confirmed to NBC News
on Monday that he “married the love of [his] life” on Friday and
that his “father was there.” NBC News is not publishing the names
of the grooms, neither of whom is a public figure.
Via Dan Rather, who wrote “Sharing without further comment.”
I’ll add one comment: Yes, the hypocrisy is maddening, but if you put yourself in the shoes of anyone in this family, imagine the actual interactions and conversations and arguments and the feelings, it’s just profoundly sad.
Make it two comments: I sincerely hope the wedding was a joyous affair for the couple and for all their friends and family who support them openly and wholeheartedly.
Monday, 25 July 2022
Twitter Poll for Safari Users: How Often Do You Use Tab Groups? ★
I asked this on Twitter this morning — poll runs for another 12 hours. I’m genuinely curious how much this feature is used.