Thursday, 13 August 2020
You’ll forgive the pun, but Epic Games revealed an epic update to Fortnite for iOS today:
Today, we’re also introducing a new way to pay on iOS and
Android: Epic direct payment. When you choose to use Epic direct
payments, you save up to 20% as Epic passes along payment
processing savings to you.
What costs $10 through an App Store payment costs only $8 direct from Epic. (That’s not really passing the entirety of the savings to the user — Epic nets $7 from a $10 App Store in-app purchase, but minus credit card fees nets about $7.75 from an $8 direct payment. But, from a user’s perspective, it’s a 20 percent discount.)
Epic shipped this feature via an update that was delivered entirely through the Fortnite app itself, not through a new version of the app submitted through the App Store. And yes, this entire gambit is every bit as against the rules of the App Store as you think it is. Epic did this without any permission from Apple and without giving Apple any notice.
The only question was what Apple would do. If Apple decided to play on Easy mode, their move might have been to keep Fortnite in the App Store but stop accepting updates to the app. (But again, Fortnite shipped this particular feature without submitting a new version of the app itself.) Playing on Medium difficulty, which is what Apple chose, meant removing Fortnite — an immensely popular game — from the App Store.1
Here’s Apple’s statement, in its entirety, which they sent to multiple publications (including Daring Fireball) hours after Epic’s opening gambit:
Today, Epic Games took the unfortunate step of violating the App
Store guidelines that are applied equally to every developer and
designed to keep the store safe for our users. As a result their
Fortnite app has been removed from the store. Epic enabled a
feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple,
and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store
guidelines regarding in-app payments that apply to every developer
who sells digital goods or services.
Epic has had apps on the App Store for a decade, and have
benefited from the App Store ecosystem — including it’s [sic]
tools, testing, and distribution that Apple provides to all
developers. Epic agreed to the App Store terms and guidelines
freely and we’re glad they’ve built such a successful business on
the App Store. The fact that their business interests now lead
them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact
that these guidelines create a level playing field for all
developers and make the store safe for all users. We will make
every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they
can return Fortnite to the App Store.
It was very clear this morning that Epic knew exactly what it was doing, and how Apple was likely to respond. In very short order after Apple pulled Fortnite from the App Store, Epic filed a lawsuit, which opens guns-a-blazing:
In 1984, the fledgling Apple computer company released the
Macintosh — the first mass-market, consumer-friendly home
computer. The product launch was announced with a breathtaking
advertisement evoking George Orwell’s 1984 that cast Apple as a
beneficial, revolutionary force breaking IBM’s monopoly over the
computing technology market. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs introduced
the first showing of the 1984 advertisement by explaining, “it
appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope
to offer IBM a run for its money…. Will Big Blue dominate
the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was
George Orwell right about 1984?”
Fast forward to 2020, and Apple has become what it once railed
against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block
competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more
powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the
monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion,
Apple’s size and reach far exceeds that of any technology
monopolist in history.
Epic’s filing wastes little time. By page 5 it reaches the point where they accuse Apple of “illegal restraints” that keep Epic from providing its own competing iOS app store:
Epic — and Fortnite’s users — are directly harmed by Apple’s
anti-competitive conduct. But for Apple’s illegal restraints,
Epic would provide a competing app store on iOS devices, which
would allow iOS users to download apps in an innovative, curated
store and would provide users the choice to use Epic’s or another
third-party’s in-app payment processing tool.
It’s unclear, of course, what Epic actually hopes to get from Apple, either voluntarily or forced by the courts, but they’re asking for the whole shebang: they’re claiming it is illegal for iOS not to be as open to native third-party software as the Mac.
Epic also had a new commercial queued up that makes their argument much more artfully — it’s a strident parody of Apple’s iconic “1984” spot, with the obvious but still clever title Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite. You really have to see it — Fortnite has a fun strong brand and they poured that into this. It closes with this title card:
Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation,
Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight
to stop 2020 from becoming “1984”.
There’s a preaching-to-the-choir aspect to Epic’s entire campaign, though. Both the ad and the legal filing seem directed toward an audience that enjoys decals of Calvin pissing on the Apple logo. The ad is in some ways a deft parody, and it is very saucy, but one thing it is not is funny.
Epic, in a very savvy way, is waging this war as much or more in the court of public opinion as they are in any court of law. And, ultimately, Apple stands to lose more in brand equity than in dollars, no matter how this turns out. ★
Tripp Mickle Profiles Tim Cook, Without Any Access, for the WSJ ★
Tripp Mickle wrote a long feature for The Wall Street Journal, “How Tim Cook Made Apple His Own” (News+ link):
After Steve Jobs’s death, Silicon Valley anticipated Apple Inc.’s
business would falter. Wall Street fretted about the road ahead.
And loyal customers agonized about the future of a beloved product
Today, Apple shares are at record highs. The company’s market
valuation is $1.9 trillion — bigger than the GDP of Canada,
Russia or Spain. And Apple, now the world’s largest company,
continues to dominate the smartphone market.
That’s a good and mostly fair lede. But I don’t think it’s fair at all to say that “loyal customers agonized about the future”. Where’s the evidence of that? I’d say the group that’s missing after Silicon Valley (which believes strongly, justifiably in most cases, in the importance of founders) and Wall Street is business reporters. It wasn’t so much investors as the business media who predicted “can’t innovate without Steve Jobs” doom for Apple.
The feature is largely fair though, and it does read like Mickle tried very hard to get people who know Cook to talk about him. But, well, very few of them did, and those who did don’t seem to know him all that well:
Mr. Cook is described by colleagues and acquaintances as a humble
workaholic with a singular commitment to Apple. Longtime
colleagues seldom socialized with him, and assistants said he kept
his calendar clear of personal events.
Around Thanksgiving two years ago, guests saw him dining by
himself at the secluded Amangiri Hotel near Zion National Park.
When a guest later bumped into him, he said he came to the hotel
to recharge after a hectic fall punctuated by the rollout of
Apple’s latest iPhone. “They have the best masseuses in the world
here,” he said, the guest recalls.
Here Mickle’s source is a random guest who recognized Cook at a hotel.
It’s sort of inside baseball, but this paragraph is my favorite from the whole piece:
Apple declined to make Mr. Cook or any of its executives
available. Instead, the company helped arrange calls with four
people it said could speak to areas of importance to Mr. Cook such
as environmentalism, education and health. None of the four said
they knew him well. One had never met him, another met him only in
passing, a third spent half an hour with him and a fourth spent a
few hours with him.
I mean just savor the passive-aggressive fuck you/fuck you too back-and-forth of Apple making available four useless sources to Mickle, and Mickle pointing out in the article just how useless the four sources Apple made available were.
But this one weird paragraph actually says a lot about the difference between Steve Jobs’s Apple and Cook’s. Jobs wouldn’t have participated in a profile like this, either, but I think Apple’s response would have been nothing more than the two-letter word “no”. With Cook, Apple still didn’t make him available, still didn’t make anyone who works at Apple available, and still didn’t make anyone who actually knows Cook available. But they offered Mickle and the Journal something rather than just telling him to go pound sand.
Though current and former employees say Mr. Cook has created a
more relaxed workplace than Mr. Jobs, he has been similarly
demanding and detail oriented. He once got irritated that the
company mistakenly shipped 25 computers to South Korea instead of
Japan, said a former colleague, adding that it seemed like a minor
misstep for a company shipping nearly 200 million iPhones
annually. “We’re losing our commitment to excellence,” Mr. Cook
said, this person recalls.
25 computers mistakenly shipped to Korea would not make my list of signs that Apple is losing its commitment to excellence, but this anecdote actually buoys me.
Apple Signs Martin Scorsese to First-Look Film and TV Deal ★
Justin Kroll and Mike Fleming Jr., reporting for Deadline:
Two and one-half months after it stepped up to become the
producers of Killers of the Flower Moon, Apple has inked a
first-look deal with its director, Martin Scorsese. The master
filmmaker will base his Sikelia Productions banner at Apple in a
multi-year deal for film and television projects Scorsese will
produce and direct for Apple TV +.
The relationship kicks off with Killers of the Flower Moon, the
Eric Roth-scripted adaptation of the David Grann non-fiction book
which will star Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro will star in.
Apple won an auction with the $180 million+ film originally
optioned by Paramount came back on the market. Deadline revealed
on May 27 that Apple won a deal that has Paramount releasing the
The way to apply Apple’s “the best, not the most” mantra to Hollywood would be signing more deals like this. Apple TV+ will never have the most exclusive movies and TV shows, but it can have a large share of the best ones.
Mozilla Lays Off 250 Employees, About One-Third of Its Workforce ★
Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for ZDNet Zero Day:
Furthermore, Mozilla’s contract with Google to include Google as
the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later
this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal
has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla’s
revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past
I think that’s basically the whole story right there. Firefox was very popular, and Google paid Mozilla a small fortune to make Google search the default in Firefox because it was so popular. But then came Chrome. Why should Google fund Mozilla when Chrome is about 10 times more popular than Firefox, other than out of the goodness of its corporate heart?
It is a very good thing for the world and the web that a truly independent browser exists from a privacy-minded company, but there’s not much of a business model for it unless it’s popular enough to get the dominant search engine to pay for placement.
“We must learn and expand different ways to support ourselves and
build a business that isn’t what we see today.”
This most likely includes a bigger focus on Mozilla’s VPN
offering, which Mozilla formally launched last month.
Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps are one of today’s biggest
money-makers in tech, and Mozilla, despite arriving late to the
party, is set to become one of the biggest players on the market,
primarily due to its reputation as a privacy-first organization
and civil and privacy rights advocate.
I have no idea if a VPN offering can even come close to making up for the money Mozilla was earning from Google for default search placement, but it’s a great idea. If you’re going to use a VPN, you want to use one from a company you can trust, and Mozilla has a fortune of well-earned trust in the bank.
Monday, 10 August 2020
Speaking of podcasts, another month, another new album cover for Dithering, the new thrice-weekly podcast with me and Ben Thompson.
One reason Ben and I make for a good team, I think, is that even when we agree on something, we often see the issue from very different perspectives. But we don’t always agree, and to date, never less so than regarding this controversy over Apple’s ban on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass streaming service from the App Store. We’ve had some crackerjack episodes these last few days — but our arguments are constructive, not destructive. What makes for an invigorating disagreement is the shared belief that you can only have confidence that your opinion is correct if you’re willing to honestly contemplate that you might be wrong. We’ve got that.
More good news, too, for the Dithering curious. The obvious downside to a paid subscription podcast ($5/month — cheap!) is that some prospective listeners naturally want to know what the show is like before paying. We’ve been thinking about this since we initially conceived of the show, and last week launched our solution: Dithering Preview, a free podcast with the best clips from each month’s episodes.
You should be able to find it just by searching for “Dithering Preview” in your favorite podcast player, or use one of the handy shortcuts below:
If you’ve been on the fence, give an episode or two of Dithering Preview a listen, and you’ll get an honest taste of what the show is like. For those of you who’ve already subscribed, I thank you kindly for listening, and for helping to spread the word about the show. ★
SoundSource 5 ★
So let’s just get this out of the way: Rogue Amoeba was last week’s sponsor here at DF but the sponsorship was for Loopback, for which I just posted my end-of-the-week thank-you. But this week they also released a major update to another of their excellent Mac audio utilities, SoundSource, and it’s well worth your attention.
SoundSource is on my short list of Mac utilities that I don’t know what I’d do without. It’s the system-wide audio menu item that ought to be built into MacOS. It gives you instant volume control to every output and input device connected to your Mac, and per-application controls for controlling audio input and output. When I wrote about SoundSource 4 last year, I noted the interface:
SoundSource is also a great example of a distinctive, branded UI
that still looks and feels in every way like a standard Mac app.
SoundSource 5 is a solid upgrade on functional grounds alone — just the audio features that are its reason for being. But the UI changes and tweaks in version 5 are delightful, and too long to list here. (E.g. the pin icon animation, and the gear menu animation.) The UI is so good that I encourage anyone who appreciates great UI design to download the demo and explore, examine, and think about the interface details of this app even if you have no interest in its features.
It’s both great UI design in the abstract, and a hall-of-fame caliber example of a Mac-assed Mac app in particular.
My thanks to Rogue Amoeba for sponsoring DF last week to promote Loopback, their amazing Mac audio utility that makes it easy to move audio between applications. Stuck on Zoom calls? Pipe in music and sound effects, or enhance your microphone. Podcasters, merge your mic with other audio sources, then pass it all on to remote guests. Loopback makes seemingly impossible audio routing a breeze.
With virtual audio devices that are usable anywhere on MacOS, Loopback can route audio between software applications and hardware devices alike. The intuitive wire-based interface gives you the power of a high-end studio mixing board, all with no cables required. For studio techs, live streamers, and so many others, Loopback is essential.
Download the free trial, then use coupon code LOOPFIRE to save $20 when you purchase by August 15. $20 discount, just for DF readers.
Gurman Story on Apple’s App Store Ban on Game Streaming Services From Back in March ★
Mark Gurman tweeted a reminder of this story he reported back in March:
Cloud gaming services, where users stream games live over the
internet, are growing in popularity, especially as faster
fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless networks proliferate. The new
offerings from Microsoft, Nvidia and Google are cloud
streaming-based, while Apple Arcade is not. Those other services
are found on the Android operating system, which powers 2.5
billion devices worldwide. Among the popular games found there,
and missing from iOS, are Red Dead Redemption 2, Gears of War 5
and Destiny 2.
Asked about the challenge of reaching iPhone and iPad users with
the chipmaker’s GeForce Now service, an Nvidia spokesperson said:
Bloomberg got the same boilerplate statement from Apple then that Business Insider got last week about Xbox Game Pass.
Apple Is Fighting Trademark for Prepear’s Pear-Shaped Logo ★
Apple, in its legal filing:
Consumers encountering Applicant’s Mark are likely to associate
the mark with Apple. Applicant’s Mark consists of a minimalistic
fruit design with a right-angled leaf, which readily calls to mind
Apple’s famous Apple Logo and creates a similar commercial
impression, as shown in the following side-by-side comparison.
Here’s the comparison. I could actually see this being a reasonable objection if Prepear were selling computers or phones or watches. But they’re a recipe app. Their logo clearly looks like a pear, not an apple, and their pear does not even look like an Apple-logo-like pear.
Back in the old days Apple didn’t even pursue legal action against the Banana Junior series of personal computers, and their logo was a six-color banana.
Friday, 7 August 2020
Ben Gilbert, reporting yesterday for Business Insider (italic emphasis added):
This September, Microsoft plans to launch a major coup in the
video game business: The world’s first game streaming service with
a built-in library, Netflix-style. For $15 a month, you’ll be able
to stream over 100 games to smartphones and tablets — but it
won’t be available on Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone and iPad.
The reason, an Apple spokesperson said on Thursday, is because
Apple isn’t able to review each game that’s available through
Following hot on the heels of the controversy over Basecamp’s Hey app, and Tim Cook being called to testify at an antitrust Congressional hearing regarding App Store policies, and given the high profile of Xbox Game Pass, it’s no surprise that this has gotten a lot of attention, almost all of it focused on taking the italicized paragraph from Business Insider at its word. But that’s Ben Gilbert’s interpretation, not a quote from Apple. Gilbert’s interpretation is not an unfair or sensationalized take on Apple’s statement, but it’s adding a “because” that Apple did not state. That entire sentence is not a paraphrase of something Apple said.
Here is Apple’s statement to Business Insider, apparently in its entirety. Apple seemingly sent this statement only to Business Insider, which itself is a bit unusual:
The App Store was created to be a safe and trusted place for
customers to discover and download apps, and a great business
opportunity for all developers. Before they go on our store, all
apps are reviewed against the same set of guidelines that are
intended to protect customers and provide a fair and level playing
field to developers.
Our customers enjoy great apps and games from millions of
developers, and gaming services can absolutely launch on the App
Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable
to all developers, including submitting games individually for
review, and appearing in charts and search. In addition to the App
Store, developers can choose to reach all iPhone and iPad users
over the web through Safari and other browsers on the App Store.
Running this statement through my Applespeak-to-English decoder ring, what I hear is not that they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass because they can’t review each game separately. What I hear is that game streaming services are not allowed in the iOS App Store. Period, full stop. I don’t even think this has anything to do with whether Microsoft offers in-app subscriptions, or whether those subscriptions get a discount from the standard 70/30 split for the first year. I think Apple’s stance is that game streaming services like Microsoft’s xCloud project are simply verboten.1
App Store guideline 4.2.7, “Remote Desktop Clients”, seemingly makes this clear, too — it’s a written rule, not an unwritten one. This rule is why Steam Link is in the App Store and Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia are not:
(a) The app must only connect to a user-owned host device that is
a personal computer or dedicated game console owned by the
user, and both the host device and client must be connected on
a local and LAN-based network.
It’s like this: Business Insider asked Apple why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass. Apple didn’t say why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass, and instead gave a non-answer answer by describing what they do allow:
… gaming services can absolutely launch on the App
Store as long as they follow the same set of guidelines applicable
to all developers, including submitting games individually for
review, and appearing in charts and search.
Submitting games individually and appearing in charts and search — presumably App Store charts and search — is just an obfuscated way of saying that native iOS game apps are allowed in the iOS App Store. Well, duh. Everyone is distracted by the interpretation that Apple won’t allow Xbox Game Pass because they can’t review each game. It is a nonsensical justification, no doubt about that. But the comparison to Netflix or Spotify is beside the point. Of course Apple doesn’t and can’t review every movie on Netflix or every song on Spotify. But if you think about it, they could review every game on Xbox Game Pass. Even if it’s 100 games, they could look at them all. I’m sure they could find quite a few volunteers among the App Store reviewer corps to spend the time to play these games thoroughly.
The point is that streaming video and music services are allowed in the App Store; streaming software (games or otherwise) is not, unless it works over the web. Apple just doesn’t want to say that. Here, in my opinion, is how this conversation is best decoded:
Business Insider: Why are game streaming services like Xbox Game Pass not allowed in the App Store?
Apple: Native iPhone games are allowed in the App Store. Native iPhone games are good because we review them individually, and they appear in App Store charts and search results.
It’s a perfect example of the difference between bullshit and a lie. Every word in Apple’s statement is true, but not a word of it answers why they won’t allow Xbox Game Pass or any other cloud game streaming service.
Apple would have been much better off saying nothing at all than offering this bullshit non-answer answer, that in fact was so easily and reasonably misconstrued. And, purely as a guess on my part, I think Apple realized this, which is why they didn’t send this statement to any other outlet and haven’t added a word of clarification since. ★
‘Judges Holding Hearings Over Zoom Need to Get a Clue’ ★
Predictably, the Zoom hearing for the 17-year-old alleged Twitter
hacker in Fla. was bombed multiple times, with the final bombing
of a pornhub clip ending the zoom portion of the proceedings.
Your honor, I’d like to submit a Motion to Deez.
The Etymology of ‘Cherry-Pick’ ★
I wound up looking into the etymology of “cherry-pick” while writing this post earlier today, and I’m simply astounded by this note from Merriam-Webster:
The first known use of cherry-pick was in 1965.
I’m shocked that cherry-pick is so recent. I figured it was not just old but maybe really old, centuries old. Is this right?
Update 1: The Online Etymology Dictionary pegs cherry-pick’s origin as 1959 — a little earlier, but not much.
Update 2: Anu Garg, founder and writer of the excellent Wordsmith and its A.Word.A.Day newsletter, pegged cherry-pick’s earliest documented use as 1966.
Update 3: The other OED has an instance of “cherry-picker” as a railroad industry term for a switchman from 1940, which usage explains why the idiom is about cherries — the switch lights were red.
Pour One Out for Toshiba ★
Simon Sharwood, writing for The Register:
Toshiba has finally and formally exited the laptop business.
Toshiba has made laptops since 1985 and claims to have been the
first to make a mass-market computer in the now-familiar clamshell
form factor. By the 1990s the company was producing solid
workhorses in the Satellite range and started to make meaningful
stretches of mobile work possible with the small, thin and light
Those products saw Toshiba lead the world for laptop market share
through the late 1990s and retain that position for much of the
2000s. Even as the PC market consolidated in that decade, Toshiba
was often ranked among the top five of all PC vendors despite only
ever dabbling in desktops.
If you go back far enough, Toshiba’s early-era laptops were truly groundbreaking.
Facebook Fired an Employee Who Collected Evidence of Right-Wing Pages Getting Preferential Treatment ★
Craig Silverman and Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Individuals that spoke out about the apparent special treatment of
right-wing pages have also faced consequences. In one case, a
senior Facebook engineer collected multiple instances of
conservative figures receiving unique help from Facebook
employees, including those on the policy team, to remove
fact-checks on their content. His July post was removed because it
violated the company’s “respectful communication policy.” After
the engineer’s post was removed, the related internal “tasks” he’d
cited as examples of the alleged special treatment were made
private and inaccessible to employees, according to a Workplace
post from another employee. […]
The engineer joined the company in 2016 and most recently worked
on Instagram. He left the company on Wednesday. One employee on an
internal thread seen by BuzzFeed News said that they received
permission from the engineer to say that the dismissal “was not
News of his firing caused some Facebook employees to say that they
now fear speaking critically about the company in internal
discussions. One person said they were deleting old posts and
comments, while another said this was “hardly the first time the
respectful workplace guidelines have been used to snipe a
prominent critic of company policies/ethics.”
“[He] was a conscience of this company, and a tireless voice for
us doing the right thing,” said another employee.
Having a conscience does seem like a mismatch for working at Facebook.
This is really an astonishing story, and it’s effectively buried a few hundred words into what’s really a separate but also alarming story about Facebook employees asking Zuckerberg what Facebook is going to do if Trump uses the platform to dispute the election results.
Purported Bug in Instagram’s Hashtags Has Been Favoring Donald Trump ★
Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Earlier this week, a search on Instagram for #JoeBiden would have
surfaced nearly 390,000 posts tagged with the former vice
president’s name along with related hashtags selected by the
platform’s algorithm. Users searching Instagram for #JoeBiden
might also see results for #joebiden2020, as well as pro-Trump
hashtags like #trump2020landslide and #democratsdestroyamerica.
A similar search for #DonaldTrump on the platform, however,
provided a totally different experience. Besides showing 7 million
posts tagged with the president’s name, Instagram did not present
any related hashtags that would have pushed users toward different
content or promoted alternative viewpoints.
Maybe it was an honest bug, maybe not. But Facebook’s institutional credibility is so low it’s hard to take them at their word. And then there’s this response from Instagram’s official comms team, on Twitter:
This isn’t about politics. Tens of thousands of hashtags were
affected, and your story cherry-picked a handful of those
thousands to fit a sensational narrative. The bug was also not
partisan, as you note #democrats was impacted.
Via Parker Molloy, who notes that this combative tone — expressly impugning Mac’s integrity — is not how Facebook/Instagram has ever responded to accusations of bias against Republicans.
Whatever you think about the purported bug — and as skeptical as I am about Facebook, I actually think there’s a good chance it really was just a bug — this response from their comms teams is the real eye-opener.
Update: Also note that Instagram accuses Mac of “cherry-picking” for singling out the Biden/Trump differences. They know those are the only two candidates. How can it be “cherry picking” to compare how Instagram is treating the only two major presidential candidates? What the hell kind of bushel only has two cherries to choose from? And you can’t argue that it was about cherry-picking hashtags, not candidates, when the core hashtags in question were “#JoeBiden” and “#DonaldTrump”.
BuzzFeed News Talks to Students and Staff at a Georgia High School Reopening Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak ★
Molly Hensley-Clancy and Caroline O’Donovan, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Behind a viral photo of a crowded hallway at a high school in
Georgia, a potentially dire situation is brewing. Students,
teachers, and parents fear the Paulding County school’s rushed
reopening plans may be spiraling out of control just two days
after students — who said they were told they could face
expulsion for remaining home — returned to class despite reports
of positive coronavirus cases among students and staff. […]
Despite recommendations from CDC health officials, the
district has called mask-wearing a “personal choice” and said
that social distancing “will not be possible to enforce” in “most
cases.” While the school provided teachers with face shields and
masks and encouraged staff and students to wear them, they are
not required and not all teachers have chosen to use them. One
North Paulding teacher resigned last month over concerns about
School or death cult, you make the call.
On Wednesday, the school addressed the controversy that had
swirled around the viral photograph via an intercom announcement
from North Paulding High School principal Gabe Carmona. In it,
according to two people familiar with the situation, he stated
that any student found criticizing the school on social media
could face disciplinary consequences.
Well, that will certainly keep everyone healthy, and will teach the kids an important lesson on their First Amendment rights at the same time.
Facebook Removes a Coronavirus Disinformation Post From Trump for the First Time; Twitter Temporarily Bans ‘Team Trump’ Account for Same ★
Heather Kelly, reporting for The Washington Post:
Team Trump’s tweet of a video clip from a Fox News interview — in
which President Trump said that children are “almost immune” from
COVID-19 — violates the site’s rules against misinformation, the
company said. Twitter hid the post and said the account will not
be able to tweet again until he deletes it, although it can appeal
Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley said the tweet “is in violation of
the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner
will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”
Facebook on Wednesday said it removed President Trump’s post of a
video clip from a Fox News interview in which he said that
children are “almost immune” from COVID-19, marking the company’s
increasingly tough stance on political speech amid heightened
Worth emphasizing that this was the “Team Trump” campaign account, not Trump’s personal account, but still. It is bad enough that we’re caught in a nationwide quagmire over whether Facebook and Twitter should allow the president of the United States to shitpost lies, period. But lies that are resulting in schools opening to comply with Trump’s fantasy that schools should open in areas where COVID-19 transmission is out of control are so far over the line, you can’t even see the line from there.
Does Google Remember Wear OS? ★
Jules Wang, writing for Android Police, “Wear OS Will Lose Google Play Music Months Before a YouTube Music App Exists”:
Google Play Music is being phased out in favor of YouTube
Music starting next month. That change already exacerbates the
need for the latter to achieve a desirable feature parity with its
predecessor, but it also now presents a challenging chasm for Wear
OS users who will lose access to Play Music without a robust
YouTube Music experience.
A new Wear OS help page tells users that they won’t be able to
download or even use Google Play Music “in the next couple of
weeks.” And until a proper YouTube Music experience appears “in
the coming months,” that means they’ll have to resort to other
apps in order to download and play local files.
Remember my theory that Google has grown bored with Android and doesn’t really care about it? That’s me talking about phones, which, in general, Google does care about insofar as they know that billions of people spend hours per day every day using them. With wearables Google never even cared in the first place, except for making goofy demo concepts like Google Glass. The customers who bought Wear OS devices care about them; the company that designed them clearly does not. If they cared, how could it be that you can’t listen to Google’s music platform on Google’s wearable platform?
Is Apple Watch a new and exciting product in 2020? No. It’s now mature and established. But Apple is as invested in it as ever, working as hard as ever on the software and — I’ll bet we’ll see in a month or two — the hardware.
I thought things were bad in the PC era when the choice was between just two major platforms, only one of which (the Mac) was designed with any taste. But at least Windows was (and remains) made by a company that, however lacking in taste, cares deeply about the platform and is invested in its success. Android is like Windows except Google isn’t even all that invested in it, and when it comes to Android running on anything other than a phone, they clearly don’t even care.
This sucks as someone who cares about the Apple ecosystem, because there’s no competitive pressure on Apple at all for anything other than phones. When is the last time anyone credibly pointed to a Wear OS watch and said “Boy, there’s a product that actually gives Apple Watch a run for its money”?
Beirut Explosion: ‘I Was Bloodied and Dazed. Beirut Strangers Treated Me Like a Friend.’ ★
New York Times correspondent Vivian Yee, from Beirut:
I was just about to look at a video a friend had sent me on
Tuesday afternoon — “the port seems to be burning,” she said — when my whole building shook. Uneasily, naïvely, I ran to the
window, then back to my desk to check for news.
Then came a much bigger boom, and the sound itself seemed to
splinter. There was shattered glass flying everywhere. Not
thinking but moving, I ducked under my desk.
When the world stopped cracking open, I couldn’t see at first
because of the blood running down my face.
A remarkable tale of kindness and humanity amidst chaos, confusion, and suffering — all the more incredible that Yee wrote it within hours.
More photos from the Times here, and Apple News has a good roundup of reports, photos, and firsthand videos from the explosion.
Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships ★
August is sold out on the DF weekly sponsorship schedule, but September is mostly open. (October too, if you’re planning ahead.)
One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.
So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor.
OWC Memory Upgrades for 27-Inch iMacs ★
I noted this morning regarding the updated 27-inch iMac that the high end RAM configurations are pricey — $1,000 for 64 GB and $2,600 for 128 GB. You can get the same DDR4 memory upgrades from OWC for $300 and $600, respectively, and the new 27-inch iMac still has user-accessible RAM, so it doesn’t take particularly expert skill to install.
Craig Mod’s ‘Kissa by Kissa’ ★
Kissa by Kissa: How to Walk Japan (Book One) is a book about
walking 1,000+km of the countryside of Japan along the ancient
Nakasendō highway, the culture of toast (toast!), and
mid-twentieth century Japanese cafés called kissaten.
Looks gorgeous — wonderful typography and photography, expertly printed and bound. A genuine artifact.
Also, that bastard Mod went so far as to build and release as open source what he’s calling Craigstarter, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding tool for Shopify. Just bought my copy and the whole process was smooth.
The Demo to End All Demos ★
“One small step for a man, and one giant leap for wireless networking.”
Fantastic backstory on this stunt on ATP last March (28:00).
Phil Schiller Takes Title of ‘Apple Fellow’ ★
Apple today announced that Phil Schiller will become an Apple
Fellow, continuing a storied career that began at Apple in 1987.
In this role, which reports to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Schiller will
continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events. Greg (Joz)
Joswiak, a longtime leader within the Product Marketing
organization, will join the executive team as senior vice
president of Worldwide Marketing. […]
“It has been a dream come true for me to work at Apple, on so many
products I love, with all of these great friends — Steve, Tim,
and so many more,” said Schiller. “I first started at Apple when I
was 27, this year I turned 60 and it is time for some planned
changes in my life. I’ll keep working here as long as they will
have me, I bleed six colors, but I also want to make some time in
the years ahead for my family, friends, and a few personal
projects I care deeply about.”
Schiller hasn’t just been at Apple a long time — he’s held the position atop product marketing for, well, as long as I can remember. Product development, advertising, packaging, messaging, comms, keynotes — you name it, if it was public-facing, Schiller has been in the middle of it.
Best way I can put it is that Schiller is the most Apple-y of all Apple executives.
Jason Snell’s ‘20 Macs for 2020’ Project ★
Speaking of Jason Snell:
With this year marking the turn of decades (in some particularly
disastrous ways, as it turns out), I decided to construct a list
of the 20 most notable Macs in history. Over the next 20 weeks,
I’ll post essays, podcasts, and videos about each of them,
counting down to number one.
Now, note my choice of words there: notable. I’m not saying these
are my favorite Macs — a bunch of them I only knew in passing and
never used myself. I’m not saying these are the best Macs ever — a difficult thing to measure, since (with a few obvious
exceptions) the best Macs made are the most recent ones, otherwise
we’d all still be using G3 iMacs.
My ranking system is, to be blunt, arbitrary. I tried to make a
list of notable Macs that I felt reflected Mac history over the
last 36 years. I wanted to choose Macs that were popular,
revolutionary, weird, or had an interesting story to tell. If I
have learned anything from Joe Posnanski’s brilliant Baseball 100
project, one of the most popular things about this series
will be arguments about my terrible rankings and my unforgivable
I was not just happy but downright delighted to speak with Jason about a few of these Macs. And, yes, I’m outraged over at least one omission.
Is Today the Last Hurrah for Intel-Based iMacs? ★
Jason Snell on today’s 27-inch iMac update:
As for the future, is this the last Intel Mac we’ll see? There’s
no way to tell, though reading between the lines, it wouldn’t be
surprising if there were some more Intel-based Mac releases as
Apple progresses through its two-year-long processor transition.
But I’d wager good money that the next time we see an iMac update,
there won’t be an Intel processor at its heart. And perhaps it
will look appreciably different, too.
Seems like a good bet to me that today’s update is the last round of Intel-based iMacs. What else might get an Intel speed bump before Apple Silicon-based Macs start debuting at the end of the year? Maybe the Mac Mini? Speed bumps for the Mac Pro and iMac Pro?
NYT: ‘When COVID Subsided, Israel Reopened Its Schools. It Didn’t Go Well.’ ★
Isabel Kershner and Pam Belluck, reporting for The New York Times:
Confident it had beaten the coronavirus and desperate to reboot a
devastated economy, the Israeli government invited the entire
student body back in late May.
Within days, infections were reported at a Jerusalem high school,
which quickly mushroomed into the largest outbreak in a single
school in Israel, possibly the world. The virus rippled out to the
students’ homes and then to other schools and neighborhoods,
ultimately infecting hundreds of students, teachers and relatives.
Other outbreaks forced hundreds of schools to close. Across the
country, tens of thousands of students and teachers were
Israel’s advice for other countries?
“They definitely should not do what we have done,” said Eli
Waxman, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science and
chairman of the team advising Israel’s National Security Council
on the pandemic. “It was a major failure.”
That’s Israel’s experience reopening schools after getting infections under control. Here in the U.S. COVID new infections remain out of control already, with nearly all schools closed for summer.
Apple Updates 27-Inch iMac ★
Apple today announced a major update to its 27-inch iMac. By far
the most powerful and capable iMac ever, it features faster Intel
processors up to 10 cores, double the memory capacity,
next-generation AMD graphics, superfast SSDs across the line with
four times the storage capacity, a new nano-texture glass option
for an even more stunning Retina 5K display, a 1080p FaceTime HD
camera, higher fidelity speakers, and studio-quality mics.
A summary of what’s new:
- New Intel CPUs and AMD graphic cards
- SSDs across the line, including options for 4 TB and 8 TB
- Nano-texture display finish, like the Pro Display XDR ($500)
- RAM options up to 128 GB (base configuration is still 8 GB; the high-end 64 and 128 GB options cost $1,000 and $2,600 more, respectively)
- 1080p FaceTime camera with better low-light performance, and a “studio quality” microphone array like the current MacBook Pros
The 21-inch iMac has not been updated, although the base model configurations now have SSDs instead of Fusion Drives. There remains a 1 TB Fusion Drive build-to-order configuration for the 21-inch iMac, which I believe is now the last spinning hard disk Apple sells.
The iMac Pro has not been updated either, although the $5,000 base model is now the 10-core Xeon W configuration, and the old 8-core base model is gone.
I Call Bullshit on Apple Being Interested in Acquiring TikTok ★
Dan Primack, on Twitter:
As we report in Axios Pro Rata today, Apple has expressed serious
interest in buying TikTok.
That’s not what Primack reported! Primack reported that sources outside Apple claim Apple expressed interest in TikTok, not that Apple actually has expressed interest. The claim that Apple actually has expressed interest exists only in this tweet. The difference is significant if the sources in question were full of shit, which I think they were.
From Axios’s Pro Rata newsletter, which has already been walked back with a pretty clear statement from Apple:
That’s because Microsoft isn’t the only party kicking TikTok’s
tires, as Trump also said yesterday.
Multiple sources tell me that Apple has expressed interest, albeit
no sources inside of Apple, and that at least one other strategic
has expressed interest. Yes, it would be an unusual deal for
Apple, given that TikTok is a cross-platform app, and a bigger
political headache than Tim Cook may want (both here and in
China). But if anyone has the cash on hand…
[Update: An Apple spokesperson tells Axios that there are no
discussions about buying TikTok and the company isn’t
Here’s an Axios article published an hour ago with the same content as the newsletter, but with Apple’s blanket denial simply standing next to Primack’s unnamed sources (multiple!) claiming that they are. Either Primack’s sources lied to him and he ran it, or Apple is lying. There’s no middle ground.
“Albeit” is doing a lot of work in the phrase “albeit no sources inside of Apple”. Who would know outside of Apple? TikTok, presumably, and … the Trump administration? Primack couldn’t possibly have taken the word of anyone in the Trump administration at face value, right? So my best guess is that TikTok sources are making this up to drive the asking price higher.
It is extremely conspicuous that Apple flatly denied any interest. They will no-comment almost anything.
Nathan J. Robinson: ‘The Truth Is Paywalled but the Lies Are Free’ ★
Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson:
Paywalls are justified, even though they are annoying. It costs
money to produce good writing, to run a website, to license
photographs. A lot of money, if you want quality. Asking people
for a fee to access content is therefore very reasonable. You
don’t expect to get a print subscription to the newspaper
gratis, why would a website be different? I try not to grumble
about having to pay for online content, because I run a magazine
and I know how difficult it is to pay writers what they deserve.
But let us also notice something: the New York Times, the New
Yorker, the Washington Post, the New Republic, New York, Harper’s,
the New York Review of Books, the Financial Times, and the London
Times all have paywalls. Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Wire, the
Federalist, the Washington Examiner, InfoWars: free! You want
“Portland Protesters Burn Bibles, American Flags In The
Streets,” “The Moral Case Against Mask Mandates And Other
COVID Restrictions,” or an article suggesting the National
Institutes of Health has admitted 5G phones cause coronavirus — they’re yours. You want the detailed Times reports on
neo-Nazis infiltrating German institutions, the reasons
contact tracing is failing in U.S. states, or the Trump
administration’s undercutting of the USPS’s effectiveness — well, if you’ve clicked around the website a bit you’ll run
straight into the paywall. This doesn’t mean the paywall shouldn’t
be there. But it does mean that it costs time and money to access
a lot of true and important information, while a lot of bullshit
is completely free.
Major American Companies With a Consumer Internet Presence in China ★
Liza Lin, Jing Yang, and Eva Xiao, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:
President Trump’s remark over the weekend that he was weighing an
outright ban of TikTok in the U.S. sparked nationalist sentiments
in China, where the Global Times, a Communist Party tabloid,
derided the situation as “the hunting and looting of TikTok by the
U.S. government in conjunction with U.S. high-tech companies.”
On Chinese social media, users likewise expressed outrage. Many on
the Twitter -like Weibo platform accused the Trump administration
of pandering to voters by stemming the rise of TikTok — and by
On Douyin, Bytedance’s domestic analogue to TikTok, where videos
commenting on a possible U.S. ban circulated widely, one popular
comment suggested Huawei be allowed to buy Apple Inc.’s China
“Be allowed to buy” is some euphemism for a forced sale. But if China decides to retaliate — and why wouldn’t they? — what company might they target other than Apple? Facebook and Google are already banned in China. Amazon has AWS, which has a fair-sized presence there, but AWS is sort of the anti-TikTok in terms of being consumer-facing. Microsoft would be the obvious tit-for-tat target. But does Microsoft have a neatly bundled consumer presence in China?
If I were the dictator of China, and I was angry about the Trump administration forcing a proud Chinese company like ByteDance to divest itself of TikTok, and I was looking for a way to show that China cannot be pushed around by the U.S., I’d look at iCloud and the App Store, and humiliating the biggest company in the world.
But AAPL shares are trading at an all-time high so I’m sure all is good and Apple has nothing to worry about with a rapidly escalating trade war with China and a cornered-rat deranged narcissist steering the U.S.