Bloomberg: ‘Apple’s 5G IPhone Delay Stings as Next-Gen Devices Hit Shelves’ 

What a facile, bullshit article from Bloomberg. Where is the proof that the lack of 5G is “stinging” Apple in any way? By all reports, iPhone 11 sales are up over last year, not down. 5G is a niche technology this year, and the only phones that support it are niche phones. What Bloomberg doesn’t even mention is that Apple does not make niche phones. If they went the Samsung route they’d sell an “iPhone 11 Pro 5G” for $1,600 in addition to all the existing iPhone 11 models, just to check the “We sell a 5G phone” box.

Apple doesn’t do that.

And even if Apple could have made all 2019 iPhone 11 models 5G, there’s no way carriers would have let them, because there’s no way nascent 5G networks are ready for that many phones. Consumer-wise, I don’t know anyone who thinks “LTE isn’t fast enough for me” is a top 10 problem to solve for any phone. 5G hype is from the carriers (looking to charge more), for the carriers. Yes, we’ll all be on 5G networks within a few years, but anyone who argues that Apple has a 5G problem today, with its current iPhone lineup, is either full of shit or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Wireless Pixel Buds: $180 and Not Coming Until Spring 2020 

Nilay Patel:

I just spent a few minutes with the new Google Pixel Buds hardware — the $179 truly wireless earbuds aren’t shipping until Spring 2020, and the units at Google’s fall hardware event aren’t actually turned on and working. So there’s no way to tell how they’ll actually sound, and how Google’s various software tricks work in practice.

Not shipping for six months is one thing; not even having usable prototypes now is another. They must have felt like they had to show them anyway — Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are already in the game.

Apple isn’t usually first in a product category, but AirPods established a template all the other tech giants (other than Facebook, so far) are following.

The Verge’s First Look at Pixel 4 and 4 XL 

Dieter Bohn:

The other feature this local model enables is a new app: Recorder. It’s a voice recorder, but it also does real-time transcription right there as it records without needing to send anything to the internet. In a couple of tests, I found it to be much more accurate than the other real-time transcription app I’ve used, Otter. You can also do searches for anything in those transcripts later.

There’s a lot more that’s new, of course, but instant accurate transcripts in the voice recorder app is a killer feature. It’s all done on-device too.

‘How Safe Is Apple’s Safe Browsing?’ 

Matthew Green, writing at Cryptographic Engineering:

When Apple wants to advertise a major privacy feature, they’re damned good at it. As an example: this past summer the company announced the release of the privacy-preserving “Find My” feature at WWDC, to widespread acclaim. They’ve also been happy to claim credit for their work on encryption, including technology such as iCloud Keychain.

But lately there’s been a troubling silence out of Cupertino, mostly related to the company’s interactions with China. Two years ago, the company moved much of iCloud server infrastructure into mainland China, for default use by Chinese users. It seems that Apple had no choice in this, since the move was mandated by Chinese law. But their silence was deafening. Did the move involve transferring key servers for end-to-end encryption? Would non-Chinese users be affected? Reporters had to drag the answers out of the company, and we still don’t know many of them.

In the Safe Browsing change we have another example of Apple making significant modifications to its privacy infrastructure, largely without publicity or announcement. We have learn about this stuff from the fine print. This approach to privacy issues does users around the world a disservice.

If Apple needs to do things differently in China to comply with Chinese law, they need to explain exactly what they’re doing and why. Otherwise people are going to assume the worst. “Trust us” is not good enough. If they’re embarrassed to explain in detail what they’re doing to comply with Chinese law, then they shouldn’t be doing it.

Trust but Verify, ‘Safari Fraudulent Website Warning’ Edition 

Via Dino Dai Zovi, a user on Hacker News disassembled the code for Safari’s Fraudulent Website Warning feature and verified that it only uses Tencent (instead of Google) if the region code is set to mainland China.

Safari’s Fraudulent Website Warning Feature Only Uses Tencent in Mainland China 

Apple, in a statement to iMore:

Apple protects user privacy and safeguards your data with Safari Fraudulent Website Warning, a security feature that flags websites known to be malicious in nature. When the feature is enabled, Safari checks the website URL against lists of known websites and displays a warning if the URL the user is visiting is suspected of fraudulent conduct like phishing. To accomplish this task, Safari receives a list of websites known to be malicious from Google, and for devices with their region code set to mainland China, it receives a list from Tencent. The actual URL of a website you visit is never shared with a safe browsing provider and the feature can be turned off.

After quoting Apple’s statement, Rene Ritchie has more details on how the feature works, including the fact that the URLs you visit aren’t sent to Google (or Tencent) — hashed prefixes of the URLs are sent. This became a story over the weekend when a story by Tom Parker at Reclaim the Net ran under the alarming headline “Apple Safari Browser Sends Some User IP Addresses to Chinese Conglomerate Tencent by Default”.

My assumption was that Apple was only using Tencent in mainland China, where Google services are banned. Apple’s statement today makes it clear that that is true. But Apple brought this mini-controversy upon itself, because Apple’s own description of the feature doesn’t specify when the Fraudulent Website Warning feature uses Google and when it uses Tencent. Apple’s description simply says:

Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent. These safe browsing providers may also log your IP address.

NYT: ‘Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast.’ 

David Sanger, writing for The New York Times:

President Trump’s acquiescence to Turkey’s move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week’s time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border, and given an unanticipated victory to four American adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for American allies and interests. How this decision happened — springing from an “off-script moment” with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the generous description of a senior American diplomat — likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.

But this much already is clear: Mr. Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America’s longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.

I’m starting to think this guy is a terrible president.

Kolide 

My thanks to Kolide for again sponsoring Daring Fireball. Kolide is a new Slack app that messages employees when their Mac, Windows, or Linux device is not compliant with security best-practices or policy. If your team uses Slack, you should look at Kolide.

With this app, Kolide will notify users or groups when a device is out of compliance along with clear instructions about what is wrong, and step by step instructions to remediate the issue themselves. They can even confirm in real-time that they resolved the problem with an interactive button inside the Slack message!

Unlike most endpoint security solutions, Kolide was designed with user privacy in mind. Your users will know what data is collected about their device, who can see that data, and can even view the full source code of the agent that is run on the device.

Kolide is already used by hundreds of fast growing companies who want to level-up their device security without locking down their devices. Try Kolide’s new product for free for 30 days for your entire fleet.

BuzzFeed: ‘Apple Told Some Apple TV+ Show Developers Not to Anger China’ 

Alex Kantrowitz and John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

In early 2018 as development on Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company’s leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to remain in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country.

Judd Apatow:

Hey and don’t mention that Turkey is bad. We sell a lot of watches there. And don’t mention Saudi Arabia murdering journalists — they love the iMac and don’t mention Russia — big iPad market.

Apple’s far from alone here. Making big-budget movies and TV shows China-friendly is de rigueur in Hollywood today, and Apple TV+ is now a player in Hollywood. But how is this not a victory for the stifling of free speech?

Apple Needs China 

Peter Kafka, writing at Recode:

Unlike tech companies that haven’t broken into the country or only do minor business in it, Apple is now so deep in China that leaving it could be catastrophic. Even if the company was willing to forgo the $44 billion a year in sales it makes in China, it can’t leave the deep network of suppliers and assemblers that build hundreds of millions of iPhones every year.

Earlier this year, in response to the escalating US-China trade war, Apple floated the idea that it could move some of its production outside of China to hedge its bets. But it was only willing to suggest that it would move a third of production.

So even if Apple decided to make the wrenching decision to get out of China today, it couldn’t. It is stuck there, for better and for worse.

What’s New in iOS 13.2 Beta 2: Siri Privacy and Video Settings in the Camera App 

Two features stand out to me (I’m already running the 13.2 betas on my daily use iPhone — feel like I have nothing to lose on this front given the de facto beta-y state of 13.1.2):

  • 13.2b2 introduces two important Siri privacy features. First, you can opt in and out of “Improve Siri & Dictation” in Settings → Privacy → Analytics & Improvements. Second, you can delete your Siri and dictation history in Settings → Siri & Search. In a briefing with Apple, I was told that even if you opt in to “Improve Siri & Dictation”, no one at Apple will ever review a Siri interaction until 24 hours have passed. So if you ever do say anything to Siri you don’t want reviewed, you have a full day to delete your history. Also, I was told that Siri interactions will henceforth only be reviewed by Apple employees — no more contractors. All told, these changes are a solid response to the Siri “grading” controversy.

  • The camera app now lets you change the frame rate (24/30/60 FPS) and resolution (720p, 1080p (HD), 4K) right in the viewfinder when you’re in video mode. Previously these could only be changed by going to Settings → Camera — a real pain in the ass when you’re ready to shoot a fleeting moment. But I find this interface a bit fiddly at the moment, because there’s no feedback on tap down. It’s hard to tell even that these are two separate buttons — one for the frame rate and one for the resolution. I’d rather have the whole thing be one button that opens a picker like the iPhone 11 zoom wheel.

Ming-Chi Kuo Expects Apple to Launch AR Glasses in Second Quarter of 2020 

We know for a fact, with ARKit, that Apple has a strong interest in augmented reality. We also know that phones and tablets are not ideal AR devices. They’re not bad, but they’re not ideal. So you don’t need a weatherman to tell you the wind is blowing toward Apple working on AR-dedicated hardware — glasses or goggles or something. Now we have Kuo saying it’s coming in the first half of 2020. That’s pretty close.

But if true, no one thus far seems to have any idea what exactly Apple has in mind. Are they glasses you’re supposed to wear all the time, like you do with Apple Watch? That doesn’t sound right to me. The glasshole problems all persist. If there’s a camera, it’s creepy and rude to wear them all the time. Do they make you look weird? Eyeglasses are a huge personal statement — far more so than a watch. If they all look like “Apple Glasses”, there’s going to be a huge resistance to wearing the same glasses as everyone else. And if it’s something else entirely — a product you don’t wear all day like a watch — when do you wear them and what are they meant for? Perhaps they’re more like AirPods, in terms of being situational. All unanswered questions.

BuzzFeed News: ‘Disgraced Google Exec Andy Rubin Quietly Left His Venture Firm Earlier This Year’ 

Ryan Mac, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Rubin’s departure from Playground was also accompanied by a payout, with a source familiar placing the amount at more than $9 million. Documents related to his exit, which were seen by some investors and the company’s leadership, but not all of Playground’s staff, were reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

“Effective May 31, 2019, Playground Global ended our business relationship with Andy Rubin,” read one internal document. “While Andy is still a good friend of Playground, he no longer has any economic interest in or any ongoing roles at Playground Global or the related funds.”

“Quietly” is overused, especially in headlines, but here’s a case where something really was done quietly. Rubin founded the firm and its own staff wasn’t aware he left?

Rubin, however, is still using Playground’s money to build Essential. The two are heavily linked, with Playground investing in both of Essential’s fundraising rounds that have raised a collective $330 million and the two companies sharing the same address, according to their websites.

That’s quite a racket Rubin has going here.

It’s not clear why Rubin, Playground’s founder and figurehead, departed the venture firm, but the nimbus of persistently negative publicity around him may have played a role.

Yeah, maybe that’s it.


Gurman on Catalyst’s Shaky Debut

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg1:

But the first iteration, which appears to still be quite raw and in a number of ways frustrating to developers, risks upsetting users who may have to pay again when they download the Mac version of an iPad app they’ve already bought.

I get this, and Gurman has reported previously that one goal of the Marzipan/Catalyst project is to have universal apps that work across iOS/iPadOS/MacOS, the way that the exact same app can work on both iOS and iPadOS today. But Catalyst is a developer technology. Users have no idea what it is and shouldn’t need to. “You have to pay for iPad and Mac versions separately” doesn’t seem like a big deal to me because it’s been that way all along, regardless of Catalyst.

Worse, the expectation that you should pay only once for both iPad and Mac versions of an app makes it hard for developers of commercial software to justify doing a Mac app, period. The rest of Gurman’s article is about how much work it takes to create a good Mac app even with Catalyst.

Developers have found several problems with Apple’s tools for bringing iPad apps over to Mac computers. Some features that only make sense on iPad touchscreens, such as scrollable lists that help users select dates and times on calendars, are showing up on the Mac, where the input paradigm is still built around a keyboard and mouse or trackpad.

Troughton-Smith said Mac versions of some apps can’t hide the mouse cursor while video is playing. He’s also found problems with video recording and two-finger scrolling in some cases, along with issues with using the keyboard and full-screen mode in video games. Thomson, the PCalc developer, said some older Mac computers struggle to handle Catalyst apps that use another Apple system called SceneKit for 3-D gaming and animations.

Other than that, how do you like the APIs, Mrs. Lincoln?

Two anticipated Catalyst apps, featured on Apple’s website since June, were abruptly removed this week: the video-playing and comic-book-browsing DC Universe and the car-racing game Asphalt 9. Gameloft, which makes the racing game, said on Tuesday that the title has been “slightly delayed” in order to “polish the experience” and that it will launch later this year.

At WWDC in early June — four months ago — Apple showcased the catalyzed Asphalt 9 port on stage, with the following quote from Gameloft: “We had Asphalt 9: Legends for Mac running on the first day. It looks stunning and runs super fast using Metal on powerful Mac hardware.”

Maybe it’s not so easy, and maybe Catalyst is not good for games.

One last tidbit from Gurman:

However, Netflix Inc., the largest U.S. video-streaming service with the second most popular free iPad app, said on Tuesday that it won’t be taking part.

That’s all Gurman says about Netflix. No quote, no link to a Netflix statement. There have been no rumblings about a native Mac app — and word on the street has suggested it is not in the works — but Gurman reports this as categorical.

It’s a shame, because there are two features a native Netflix Mac app could deliver that you can’t get through their website using a Mac: downloads for offline viewing (essential for air travel) and 4K video. 4K might eventually get support from WebKit, but there’s no way Netflix could ever allow offline downloads from the website. I’m not sure what Netflix’s calculus is here, but the simple truth is that if Netflix wanted a native Mac app they would have made one long ago. 


MacOS Tip of the Year: Turn Off Spotlight Suggestions in Look Up 

Craig Mod:

Do you three-finger-tap to get definitions in macOS? Does it drive you bonkers that the lookup overlay tries to access Wikipedia and other random non-dictionary things?

Sysprefs → Spotlight → [uncheck] Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Look up

Enjoy blazing fast definitions.

What a fantastic tip, if, like me, you only ever use this feature to get Dictionary lookups. I didn’t realize how slow this feature sometimes gets until I turned this off. Now it’s always instantaneous, as it should be. Remember: fast software is the best software.

(Remember too that in addition to the three-finger tap, you can use the right-click contextual menu to look up the current text selection, and ⌃⌘D to look up whatever word is adjacent to the insertion point (while editing) or under the mouse pointer (while reading a web page or PDF). These shortcuts work system wide on MacOS.)

Crazy Apple Rumors Site: ‘Apple Revokes Panic Developer License’ 

John Moltz, at the rejuvenated Crazy Apple Rumors Site:

“Untitled Goose Game represents a clear and present threat to Chinese sovereignty,” said Yang Cheung, a spokesperson for the Chinese government.

Gesturing to a video of Untitled Goose Game gameplay, Cheung explained. “The goose is a lawless force of rampant anti-nationalism. It encourages violence against the state and disrespects authority.”

NYT: ‘China Blows Whistle on Nationalistic Protests Against the NBA’ 

Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernández, reporting for The New York Times from Beijing:

After three days of fanning nationalistic outrage, the Chinese government abruptly moved on Thursday to tamp down public anger at the N.B.A. as concerns spread in Beijing that the rhetoric was damaging China’s interests and image around the world.

You don’t say.

Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong.

Pretty sure there wouldn’t be as many “Free Hong Kong” signs at NBA games — or any at all — if the Chinese government had simply let this slide.

Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok Writes Open Letter to Tim Cook 

Charles Mok:

As a long-time user of Apple products and services, I highly appreciate that Apple has been championing freedom of expression as one of the corporation’s tenets. I sincerely hope Apple will choose to support its users and stop banning HKmap.live simply out of political reason or succumbing to China’s influence like other American companies appear to be doing.

We Hongkongers will definitely look closely at whether Apple chooses to uphold its commitment to free expression and other basic human rights, or become an accomplice for Chinese censorship and oppression.

As quoted in Tim Cook’s own Twitter bio:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Tim Cook’s Company-Wide Memo on HKmap.live Doesn’t Add Up 

I’ve seen a copy of Cook’s company-wide memo, and the copy reproduced here is accurate. Maciej Ceglowski — who has been in Hong Kong for weeks — responds:

The first allegation is that “the app was being used maliciously to target individual officers for violence”. This makes no sense at all. The app does not show the locations of individual officers at all. It shows general concentrations of police units, with a significant lag.

As the developer and @charlesmok, a Hong Kong legislator, have pointed out, the app aggregates reports from Telegram, Facebook and other sources. It beggars belief that a campaign to target individual officers would use a world-readable crowdsourcing format like this.

Moreover, what are these incidents where protesters have targeted individual police for a premeditated attack? Can Mr. Cook point to a single example? Can anyone? […]

So not only is there no evidence for this claim, but it goes against the documentary record of 18 weeks of protests, and is not even possible given the technical constraints of the app (which tracks groups of police).

The second, related allegation is that the app helps “victimize individuals and property where no police are present”. Again, does Mr. Cook have any evidence for this claim? The app does not show an absence of police, it shows concentrations of police, tear gas, riot flags etc.

So, three questions, no answers:

  • When was HKmap.live “used maliciously to target individual officers for violence”?
  • When was it used to “victimize individuals and property where no police are present”?
  • What local laws in Hong Kong does it violate?

I can’t recall an Apple memo or statement that crumbles so quickly under scrutiny. For a company that usually measures umpteen times before cutting anything, it’s both sad and startling.

Hong Kong Officials on Why HKmap.live Should Be Removed From App Store: Ask Apple 

Transcript from journalist Tim McLaughlin:

Reporter: Two questions about the HKmap.live app. Which local laws the HKmap.live app violates and why should Apple remove HKmap.live when apps which allow users to track the location of police checkpoints remain in the app store? Thank you. […]

Chief Secretary for the Administration Matthew Cheung: I suppose the Police have already explained the reasons for it, okay? And, we have nothing further to add.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan: Indeed the taking down of the app from the Apple store is the decision made by the operating company — Apple. So, if you want to know the reason for them to take down the app, maybe you can approach Apple and the Apple store.

Complete non-answers to both questions.

(One sidenote I confirmed with Apple: While they pulled HKmap.live from the App Store, anyone who already has it installed still has the app. No more software updates, but copy of the app they have installed still works.)

Apple Removes HKmap.live From App Store 

Jack Nicas, reporting for The New York Times:

A day earlier, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial that accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in Hong Kong. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the article, which was written under a pseudonym, “Calming the Waves.”

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” Apple said in a statement late Wednesday. “This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

I still haven’t seen which local laws it violates, other than the unwritten law of pissing off Beijing.

Capitulation is a bad look for Apple.

HKmap remains available on the web, and on the Google Play Store.

Apple Removes Quartz News App in China Over Hong Kong Coverage 

Nick Statt, reporting for The Verge

News organization Quartz tells The Verge that Apple has removed its mobile app from the Chinese version of its App Store after complaints from the Chinese government. According to Quartz, this is due to the publication’s ongoing coverage of the Hong Kong protests, and the company says its entire website has also been blocked from being accessed in mainland China.

The publication says it received a notice from Apple that the app “includes content that is illegal in China.”

The law’s the law. You want to do business in China, you obey the law.

The question is: Why do business in China if this is the type of shit they pull? No one is alleging that anything Quartz has reported on the Hong Kong protests is false. It’s just unflattering to the Chinese regime.

‘The Making of Operator 41’ 

Looks like a very cool game for Apple Arcade — a sneak-around puzzle game with a Cold War era spy motif. Looks cool, great music.

Amazingly, developer Spruce Campbell is 14 years old.

Bloomberg: ‘Trump Urged Tillerson to Help Giuliani Client Facing DOJ Charges’ 

Nick Wadhams, Saleha Mohsin, Stephanie Baker, and Jennifer Jacobs, reporting for Bloomberg*:

President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office.

Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request.

Tillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal. Neither episode has been previously reported, and all of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the conversations.

Josh Marshall: “Expect a wave of time travel whistleblowers.”

* Bloomberg, of course, is the publication that published “The Big Hack” in October 2018 — a sensational story alleging that data centers of Apple, Amazon, and dozens of other companies were compromised by China’s intelligence services. The story presented no confirmable evidence at all, was vehemently denied by all companies involved, has not been confirmed by a single other publication (despite much effort to do so), and has been largely discredited by one of Bloomberg’s own sources. By all appearances “The Big Hack” was complete bullshit. Yet Bloomberg has issued no correction or retraction, and seemingly hopes we’ll all just forget about it. I say we do not just forget about it. Bloomberg’s institutional credibility is severely damaged, and everything they publish should be treated with skepticism until they retract the story or provide evidence that it was true.

Blizzard Sets Off Backlash for Penalizing Hong Kong Gamer Who Expressed Support for Protesters 

Daniel Victor, reporting for The New York Times:

Activision Blizzard became the latest American company to find itself caught between its business interests in China and the values of its core customers after it suspended an e-sports player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests during a live broadcast.

The decision to suspend Chung Ng Wai, a professional Hearthstone player in Hong Kong, for a year, while forcing him to forfeit a reported $10,000 in prize money, prompted a backlash in the United States similar to the public relations debacle the N.B.A. has faced this week. Gamers posted angrily on social media and in forums, while politicians saw it as another troubling sign of China’s chilling clampdown on speech worldwide.

“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in China must either self censor or face dismissal and suspensions,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, wrote on Twitter. “China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, concurred, saying on Twitter that Activision Blizzard showed “it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party.”

No partisan divide on this issue.

Fox News Poll: 51 Percent of Voters Want Trump Impeached and Removed From Office 

Dana Blanton, reporting for Fox News:

A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don’t remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment.

Now Fox News is getting in on the fake news racket. You really can’t trust anyone other than Breitbart these days.

On the Disposability of AirPods 

Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post:

If your AirPods are out of warranty, Apple will replace them for $49 per stick — so in reality, $98 total. A replacement for the charging case, which doesn’t wear out as quickly, is also $49. The key phrase to say is “battery service.” (Apple is providing additional training to customer service representatives on that point, but if you still have trouble, show them this link — or this column.)

When you think about it, it is rather ridiculous that once the batteries in AirPods die, they’re disposable. Paul Kafasis and I talked about this back in March on my podcast.

But what’s the alternative? Fowler holds up Samsung’s Galaxy Buds:

Sealing up electronics with glue instead of screws and latches can help make devices lighter and more resistant to moisture and dust. But great ear buds — even ones tiny enough to sit in your ears — don’t have to be impenetrable. iFixit found a way to pop open Samsung’s $129 Galaxy Buds, so replacement batteries can slip in kind of like on a watch. Samsung doesn’t officially offer this repair option, but iFixit sells a pair of replacement batteries for $29.

They’ll sell you the batteries (although at this writing iFixit’s website claims to be sold out), but good luck installing them. iFixit does not have a repair guide for the Galaxy Buds, and the teardown video they do have is expressly labeled “not a repair guide”. There’s a reason why Samsung doesn’t offer a repair option. As for being “great ear buds” — reviewers disagree.

AirPods’s disposability is a problem, and it runs counter to Apple’s staunch pro-environmental messaging, but it’s a problem shared by every set of ear buds in the category. Keep in mind too, that a solution to this problem needs to account for weight, waterproofing, appearance, comfort, and cost. It’s a hard problem to solve, obviously. I’d be happy with next-generation AirPods that solve nothing but this problem.

Why the HKmap.live App Is Important to Hongkongers 

Maciej Ceglowski, tweeting from Hong Kong:

Tear gas in Hong Kong used to be unheard of. Now I’ve seen HK cops fire tear gas because they were taunted and someone got them good with a zinger. The use of this substance has become absolutely routine, and it can be deployed without warning in densely populated neighborhoods.

A point that needs reiterating is that the @hkmaplive app doesn’t contravene any Hong Kong law that I am aware of. This app helps answer questions like “Will I get shot with a bean bag round if I come out of this MTR station, because the police raised a colored flag I can’t see?”

‘ESPN Forbids Discussion of Chinese Politics When Discussing Daryl Morey’s Tweet About Chinese Politics’ 

One of those cases where the headline — from a piece by Laura Wagner for Deadspin — says it all.

ESPN, of course, is owned by Disney. Disney, of course, now owns most of Hollywood.

Apple Under Fire From Chinese State Media Over HKmap.live App 

Owen Churchill, writing for the English-language South China Morning Post:

Chinese state media on Tuesday accused Apple Inc of protecting “rioters” in Hong Kong and enabling illegal behaviour, after the US-based technology giant listed on its app store an application that tracks police activity in the city. […]

The app relies on crowdsourced information to track the location of police presence in the city, alerting users to police vehicles, armed officers and incidents in which people have been injured. The app — a website version is also active — displays hotspots on a map of the city that is continuously updated as users report incidents.

“By allowing its platform to clear the way for an app that incites illegal behaviour, [does Apple] not worry about damaging its reputation and hurting the feelings of consumers?” said a bellicose commentary published on the app of People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece. […]

Such delicate feelings.

The piece made no mention of the fact that the app is also available to Android users via the Google Play store.

For what it’s worth, Google’s services are blocked in China, but they do have business there. Nothing on the scale that Apple does, though.

Sixers Fans Ejected From Exhibition Game in Philadelphia After Supporting Hong Kong 

Avi Wolfman-Arent, reporting for WHYY:

Seeking to bring attention to the issue, Wachs and a companion purchased seats behind the bench of the Chinese team and wore face masks — which have been banned at ongoing protests in Hong Kong. They held up a pair of signs. One read, “Free Hong Kong” and the other, “Free HK.”

“We sat in our seats silently and just held up the signs,” he said. About five minutes into the game, Wachs said, security confiscated the “Free Hong Kong” sign and asked what the second sign meant.

“And I said HK stood for [former Phillies announcer] Harry Kalas,” Wachs said.

“He said, ‘Isn’t Harry Kalas dead?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, free Harry Kalas.’ And he said, ‘Why would you free Harry Kalas?’ And I said, ‘Hey, I just wanna free Harry Kalas.’ And he said, ‘OK.’”

About ten minutes later, Wachs recalled, security returned to take the “Free HK” poster.

This would be funny if it weren’t so utterly symbolic of the NBA’s capitulation to China. In the very city where the First Amendment was drafted and ratified — fans got ejected from a basketball game for the message “Free Hong Kong”, rooting for a team named for the year America declared its own freedom.

It’d be a real shame if NBA fans around the country — especially here in Philadelphia — brought more “Free Hong Kong” signs to NBA games.

‘The China Cultural Clash’ 

Speaking of Ben Thompson, his column this week at Stratechery is so good:

“It” refers to the current imbroglio surrounding Daryl Morey, the General Manager for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the latter’s dealings with China. The tweet, a reference to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” (a rather frequent occurrence). The Global Times, a Chinese government-run English-language newspaper, stated in an editorial:

Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA team the Houston Rockets, has obviously gotten himself into trouble. He tweeted a photo saying “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” on Saturday while accompanying his team in Tokyo. The tweet soon set the team’s Chinese fans ablaze. It can be imagined how Morey’s tweet made them disappointed and furious. Shortly afterward, CCTV sports channel and Tencent sports channel both announced they would suspend broadcasting Rockets’ games. Some of the team’s Chinese sponsors and business partners also started to suspend cooperation with the Rockets.

There’s one rather glaring hole in this story of immediate outrage from Chinese fans over Morey’s tweet: Twitter is banned in China.

(This whole NBA/China story broke over the weekend, after Ben and I had recorded the new episode of my podcast — otherwise we’d have spent an hour on it, I’m sure.)

The gist of it is that 25 years ago, when the West opened trade relations with China, we expected our foundational values like freedom of speech, personal liberty, and democracy to spread to China.

Instead, the opposite is happening. China maintains strict control over what its people see on the Internet — the Great Firewall works. They ban our social networks where free speech reigns, but we accept and use their social networks, like TikTok, where content contrary to the Chinese Community Party line is suppressed.

Worse, multinational mega corporations like Apple and Disney are put in a bind — they must choose between speaking up for values such as the right to privacy and freedom of speech, or making money in the Chinese market. The Chinese government portrays its citizenry as having such oh-so-delicate sensibilities, that they simply can’t bear to hear an opinion with which they disagree — expressed on a social network banned in China.

This, one can rightly argue, is what we should expect, if we’re looking for leadership from for-profit corporations on this front. But in the meantime, we’re stuck with a president who promised Xi Jinping he’d remain quiet on the Hong Kong protests in exchange for a trade deal, despite protestors’ pleas for our support.

Drexel to Pay Back $190,000 Former Professor Used for Strip Clubs, Other Purchases Over 10 Years 

CNN:

A former Drexel University professor used almost $190,000 in federal grants at gentlemen’s clubs and toward other improper purchases, according to a news release Tuesday from the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Drexel, in Philadelphia, has agreed to pay the amount to resolve potential false claims liability, according to the US Attorney’s Office.

Chikaodinaka D. Nwankpa made improper charges for items such as “personal iTunes purchases and for ‘goods and services’ provided by Cheerleaders, Club Risque and Tacony Club.” The purchases totaling $189,062 were made between July 2007 and April 2017, prosecutors said.

Always good to see my alma mater in the news.

The Talk Show: ‘Thompson’s Razor’ 

Special guest Ben Thompson returns to the show. Topics include the latest Surface hardware announcements from Microsoft, the state of the iPhone, and bulk purchases of charcoal.

Somehow, we managed to avoid talking about any sports at all.

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Andy Rubin Teases Long, Skinny Form Factor for New Essential Phone 

The phone’s form factor and UI are certainly interesting.

Rubin, of course, left Google ignominiously but with a $90 million payout that prompted thousands of Google employees to walk out. Good to see Rubin hasn’t let that get him down.

Catalyst’s Glaring Shortcomings 

Speaking of James Thomson, he’s written a short piece on his experience porting his Dice by PCalc app from iOS to Mac using Catalyst:

Some user interface elements like the spinning carousel pickers felt especially out-of-place, and unintuitive — you can’t click and drag on them to change the value, you have to use a scroll wheel/gesture.

The nearest equivalent on the Mac would be something like a popup menu button. But there’s no popup menu button on iOS, so I have resorted to writing my own — and that is one of the classic blunders.

It’s the kind of thing that Apple should supply as standard, but I get the feeling they just ran out of time. The OS releases don’t seem to have gone very smoothly in general, from my outside perspective.

I don’t buy the “ran out of time” excuse. Catalyst has had this particular problem — touch-based spinners in place of pop-up menus — since 10.14 Mojave last year. It’s madness. Has there ever been a GUI toolkit for any mouse-pointer-based platform that didn’t offer pop-up menus as a standard control? Mac, Windows, Motif, Amiga, all the various toolkits for Unix X11 systems — they all had pop-up menus. Catalyst is the only GUI toolkit in history that doesn’t have them. Catalyst remains woefully incomplete and woefully under-documented. (No share sheets? I get it, it would be a lot of work on Apple’s part to bridge iOS’s robust share sheets with MacOS’s rather anemic ones — but that’s Apple’s job.)

The Mac version of Dice looks like a great Mac app for dice-rolling. But it’s absurd that Thomson had to write his own pop-up menu controls to do it.

DragThing Officially End-of-Lifed 

TLA Systems:

DragThing is written using the 32-bit Carbon APIs that Apple have now removed in macOS 10.15 Catalina. It will no longer run if you update to Catalina, and there are no plans to make a new version that will.

We are sorry to say, DragThing has launched its last app.

64-bit support would require completely rewriting the code from the ground up, a process which would take us at least a year to complete, with no guarantees we could re-implement all the existing functionality, or how much of a future it would have if we did.

James Thomson:

Updated the DragThing website with a very definitive final statement on Catalina. Goodbye, old friend.

Rich Siegel:

Pour one out for DragThing, which has had a great run.

DragThing’s heyday was back in the classic Mac OS era, but it was a very credible utility in the early days of Mac OS X as well. It was the Dock before Mac OS had a built-in dock. And TLA founder James Thomson actually worked for Apple and helped create the Dock — it’s a complicated story.

DragThing hasn’t been updated in years — it wasn’t even updated to support retina displays. It was felled not by the transition from classic Mac OS to OS X but by the gradual sunsetting of Carbon APIs. But it’s the sort of app that is going to make some users sad that MacOS 10.15 Catalina has dropped 32-bit app legacy support.

I haven’t used DragThing in many many years, but for a long time it was essential to my workflow, and I firmly believe it was a much better launcher than Apple’s own system Dock ever has been. DragThing had features — like the ability to create custom palettes that only appeared in a certain app — that I don’t know how one would replicate today.

BBEdit 13 

Another great update to my favorite app for the last 27 years. I still have the receipt for my student-discount purchase of BBEdit 2.5 — the first commercial release — in 1993.

Tentpole new features include Pattern Playgrounds (a great way to learn regular expressions — “grep patterns” in BBEdit parlance — and to craft complex ones), a Grep Cheatsheet, and some great improvements to Dark Mode support and text color schemes. The full release notes, as always, set the bar for completeness, clarity, and concision.

For the last few years, BBEdit has offered two modes: free and premium. The free mode is incredibly useful for many users, and completely obviates BBEdit’s retired sibling TextWrangler. If you’re still using TextWrangler, run, don’t walk, to upgrade to BBEdit 13 in free mode (and enjoy the 30-day free trial of the premium features).

See also:

Apple Delays iCloud Drive File Sharing Until ‘Next Spring’ 

Killian Bell, writing for Cult of Mac:

Apple’s All Features webpage for macOS, which lists everything that’s new in Catalina, stated earlier this week that iCloud Drive file sharing would launch before the end of this year.

The page has been updated following the public rollout of macOS Catalina on Monday, however. File sharing will now be available in spring of next year.

Disappointing to a lot of us who are looking to move away from Dropbox.

NBA Commissioner Defends Freedom of Speech as Chinese Companies Cut Ties 

Sopan Deb, reporting for The New York Times:

In its statement, the broadcaster, China Central Television, chided Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, for expressing support for the free speech rights of Daryl Morey. Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager, posted a supportive message about protests in Hong Kong on Friday night that drew an angry response from Chinese officials and set off debate about how corporations should balance their public images with their eagerness to do business in China.

“We voice our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Adam Silver offering as an excuse the right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in its statement announcing the cancellation of the N.B.A. broadcasts. “We believe that no comments challenging national sovereignty and social stability fall within the scope of freedom of expression.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s response was heartening:

Silver issued a new written statement on Tuesday morning which said in part: “It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the N.B.A. to adjudicate those differences.”

It continued, “However, the N.B.A. will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”

Silver was more blunt during his news conference: “We will protect our employees’ freedom of speech.”

More of this, please.

MacOS 10.15 Catalina and the 32-Bit App Reckoning 

Jim Dalrymple, writing at The Loop:

For those that have been following along, 64-bit is not that new. Apple has been talking to developers about the 64-bit transition for several years. Chances are your apps have already been updated to take advantage of the architecture.

However, if your apps haven’t been updated, they won’t run on the new operating system. You should be aware of that before you upgrade.

In typical Apple fashion, the company has made it easy to find out if you’ll have a problem with your apps. In your current macOS, you can go to About this Mac > System Report > Applications and get a list of all applications and whether they are 64-bit or not.

If you decide not to do that and try to install macOS Catalina, the installer will post a warning that some of your apps are not compatible with the new operating system. It will also give you a list of these apps. You can decide to stop the install process and contact the developers about updates or continue, knowing those apps won’t work.

I don’t have any remaining apps of consequence that are 32-bit only, but it’s certainly worth checking before you upgrade.


Correction: Regarding an Erroneous Allegation in ‘Richard Stallman’s Disgrace’

When I wrote “Richard Stallman’s Disgrace”, I included the following anecdote from a 2011 email from a DF reader:

I worked 10 years ago at VA Linux which had Richard Stallman on its board of directors. You might have heard that Stallman applied his open source ideas to his publicly open marriage as well. The problem was that he was more than open. He made overt sexual advances to women at work. One young woman who worked next to me was so upset from his multiple advances that she took it to senior management. She was able to deal with the problem without taking the issue outside the company. I don’t know the details, but she was given advanced warning anytime Stallman was headed over so that she could leave. He was a creep and women at the company knew to stay away.

And he smelled horrible.

Zed Shaw, among several people on Twitter, realized this rang untrue in several regards:

This sexual harassment report about Richard Stallman is actually about Eric S. Raymond:

  1. Stallman never worked for VA Linux, ESR did.
  2. Stallman has never been married, ESR was.
  3. Stallman would not run an “open source” marriage, ESR did famously.

I believe what happened is people constantly refer to the two men with acronyms “RMS” and “ESR”. The reporter then misidentified one “TLA Old Nerd” for another “TLA Old Nerd” and for nearly a decade has been telling people Stallman harassed her when it was Eric S. Raymond.

As soon as I read this, I was nearly certain my email correspondent had made exactly this mistake, conflating Stallman with Raymond, and that I had passed the error along. I sincerely and deeply regret the error. I should have known Stallman would never have worked with VA Linux (he’d have insisted upon it being named “VA GNU/Linux”, and likely would have had no interest in what was a very commercial enterprise no matter what its name) and also should have remembered that Stallman was never married.

I conferred with my source for the anecdote, and he confirmed it, sending the following by email:

OMG, I was referring to the guy on our board, so it must have been Eric Raymond. I’m so sorry. I did conflate them. I guess I assumed there were not two creepy guys talking about free and open software.

I’m positive it was Eric Raymond. In retrospect, I don’t know for sure if he smelled or if the woman I worked with and who was propositioned by him merely found him disgusting.

To be clear, my source is a man, and it was he who conflated Raymond (“ESR”) with Stallman (“RMS”). His former colleague at VA Linux, the woman who was propositioned by Raymond, surely remembers it clearly.

I have updated the original article to remove the anecdote quoted above, and to point to this correction. My source for the anecdote made an honest error — as Shaw suggests conflating two well-known “TLA Old Nerds”. It was my fault and mine alone for publishing it. Again, I regret the mistake, and apologize for it. 


Apple and Hong Kong

Kieren McCarthy, writing for The Register:

“Your app contains content — or facilitates, enables, and encourages an activity — that is not legal … specifically, the app allowed users to evade law enforcement,” the American tech giant told makers of the HKmap Live on Tuesday before pulling it.

The makers, and many others, have taken exception to that argument, by pointing out that the app only allows people to note locations - as many countless thousands of other apps do - and so under the same logic, apps such as driving app Waze should also be banned.

Maciej Ceglowski:

To deny the people of Hong Kong one of the few tools that defends them against police aggression is such a craven act that I can’t even put it into words. Is Apple going to side with “law enforcement” in every dictatorship on the planet? Is coddling China worth that much to them?

On behalf of tech people in America, I would like to apologize to the people of Hong Kong for this humiliating display by our biggest tech company. These are not the fundamental American values you have in mind when you wave our flag at your protests, and we must do better.

Hanlon’s Razor — “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” — has never applied to anything more aptly than App Store rejections (although “incompetence” might be a better word than “stupidity”). So I think there’s a good chance that there’s nothing to this other than a bad decision on the part of a rank-and-file App Store reviewer. The HK Map developers think the same thing. (And to be clear, this is a new app that was rejected, it’s not an app that Apple pulled from the App Store. Also, the good news for iPhone-owning Hongkongers is that HK Maps has a good mobile web app.)

But here’s the thing. What’s going on in Hong Kong is important. A small liberal democracy is standing up to a gargantuan authoritarian communist dictatorship with a superpower-grade military force.

Apple is reliant on China in two ways: they manufacture most of their products there, and the Chinese market is roughly equal to all of Europe as Apple’s second biggest for sales. If Apple wants to avoid any suspicion that the company is kowtowing to China, they need to avoid any inadvertent screw-ups in a case like this. Everything related to the App Store approval process that might be perceived as kowtowing to China should receive the utmost scrutiny.

This one doesn’t pass the test.

Update: Good news: the developer of HKmap reports that Apple has approved the app, and it’s now propagating through the App Store. The developer is also asking for donations to defray hosting costs, which, for anonymity, can only be sent via Bitcoin. (An easy, trustworthy way to buy and send Bitcoin is with Square’s Cash app.)