Switzerland Considers the Lobster 

Jason Kottke:

Come March 1, it will be illegal to throw a lobster into a pot of boiling water. Chefs and home cooks alike will need to quickly kill the lobster first and then cook it. […]

But really, this is just an excuse to revisit a sublime piece of journalism that David Foster Wallace wrote in 2004 for Gourmet magazine called Consider the Lobster (later collected in a book of the same name). In it, Wallace travels to the Maine Lobster Festival and comes away asking similar questions that the Swiss had in formulating their law.

The Hill: ‘Newt Gingrich Says Arming Teachers Only Long-Term Solution to School Shootings’ 

This is fucking insane:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Tuesday argued that the only long-term solution to school shootings is to train teachers and administrators in the use of guns.

Gingrich offered the remarks in an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“I think the only long-term solution, depending on the size of the school, is a minimum of six to eight teachers and administrators who are trained in the use of firearms and have conceal carry permits and are prepared to defend the kids,” said Gingrich, a Fox News contributor and former CNN “Crossfire” co-host.

It’s funny when an Onion story on five-blade razor cartridges becomes a real product just a few years later. It’s fucking insane when an Onion story on arming schoolteachers becomes a Republican talking point just a few years later.


iOS Messages and Smart Punctuation

iOS 11 finally added a long-awaited feature for those of us who care about typographic details: smart punctuation. You can turn this on in Settings → General → Keyboards. When enabled, quotes and apostrophes (like "this" and 'this') are automatically turned into their proper counterparts (like “this” and ‘this’), two hyphens in a row (--) are turned into a proper em-dash (—), etc.

I say “finally” because MacOS has had the feature in the standard text editing system for many years, and I can’t think of a good reason why it wasn’t in iOS years ago. I can say it’s not a difficult programming job to solve because I’ve solved it in the more difficult context of smartening punctuation in prose without messing up the necessary dumb quotes inside HTML tags.

In some recent update to iOS (I think 11.2.5, but it might have been an earlier 11.2.x update), smart punctuation stopped working in Messages — and as far as I can tell, only Messages. Why? My best guess: unintended consequences when sending SMS messages.

Here’s a thread on Apple’s help forum addressing the issue. SMS is such an old standard that it was designed with the ASCII character set in mind. An SMS message containing only ASCII characters can contain up to 160 characters. Include even just a single non-ASCII character, though — such as a curly quote or apostrophe, or an emoji — and the entire message must be encoded using a 16-bit alphabet, limiting the message to just 70 characters because the length of the message in bytes remains fixed by the protocol.1

In short: if you stick to dumb quotes, you can put 160 characters in an SMS message. Include just one smart/curly quote, and you only get 70 characters.

I don’t know for sure that this is why iOS 11’s smart punctuation feature no longer works in Messages, but it’s the only explanation that I can think of. (I’ve seen some speculation that this might be a machine learning bug, but machine learning bugs, like the infamous “I → weird-looking A” fiasco from a few months ago, aren’t limited to one app like Messages. And “Smart Punctuation” is a separate setting from “Predictive Text” in the Settings app — you can use either without the other.)

But if I’m right about why, then why does it apply to iMessage messages — a.k.a. blue-bubble messages — too? iMessage messages aren’t limited by the antiquated constraints of SMS in any other way, so why limit them typographically?

This is a story with a happy ending, because it looks like iOS 11.3 will fix this. After installing today’s new 11.3 developer beta on both an iPad and iPhone, smart punctuation is back when writing a (blue) iMessage, and is disabled only when writing a (green) SMS.2

Smart. 


  1. Technically, SMS messages use the GSM-7 text encoding, not ASCII. But like ASCII, GSM-7 is a 7-bit encoding limited to just 128 characters. ↩︎

  2. It still isn’t as smart as it could be. Consider the case of people who write in a language that requires 16-bit encoding, and thus are limited to 70 characters in all their SMS messages. Why disable smart punctuation for them? ↩︎︎


Microsoft’s Azure Services in China Are Contracted to a Chinese Company, Too 

Microsoft:

Microsoft Azure operated by 21Vianet (Azure China 21Vianet) is a physically separated instance of cloud services located in mainland China, independently operated and transacted by Shanghai Blue Cloud Technology Co., Ltd. (“21Vianet”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Beijing 21Vianet Broadband Data Center Co., Ltd.

The services are based on the same Azure, Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Power BI technologies that make up the Microsoft global cloud service with comparable service levels. Agreements and contracts for Microsoft Azure in China, where applicable, are signed between customers and 21Vianet.

Nikkei Asian Review’s Irresistible Verb 

Philip Elmer‑DeWitt:

But I know a dog whistle when I hear it, and in the Nikkei stories below the verb “to slash” — to cut with a violent sweeping motion — is code for Apple is doomed.

  • Jan. 29: Apple will slash its production target for the iPhone X
  • Feb. 16: OLED panel glut looms as Apple slashes iPhone X production
  • Feb. 20: Samsung to slash OLED panel output as iPhone X slumps

Here’s the thing about a verb like that: It’s almost irresistible. Here are a few reporters who couldn’t resist.

As Elmer-DeWitt points out, kudos to Jack Purcher at Patently Apple for pushing back on this.

Apple’s Upcoming Handover of Chinese iCloud Data to a State-Owned Company 

Lo Shih-hung, writing for The Hong Kong Free Press:

The US-based global tech giant Apple Inc. is set to hand over the operation of its iCloud data center in mainland China to a local corporation called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD) by February 28, 2018. When this transition happens, the local company will become responsible for handling the legal and financial relationship between Apple and China’s iCloud users. After the transition takes place, the role of Apple will restricted to an investment of US one billion dollars, for the construction of a data center in Guiyang, and for providing technical support to the center, in the interest of preserving data security. […]

Apple Inc. has not explained the real issue, which is that a state-owned big data company controlled by the Chinese government will have access to all the data of its iCloud service users in China. This will allow the capricious state apparatus to jump into the cloud and look into the data of Apple’s Chinese users.

I wish that Apple would provide a definitive list of all types of data that goes through iCloud, showing what is end-to-end encrypted (iMessage and FaceTime?) and what is not. This whole situation reeks to high hell, but I don’t know what Apple could do other than pull out of the Chinese market entirely.

Update: This Apple support document comes pretty close to what I’m asking for.

Meh.com: ‘Selling Shit You Don’t Want for So Cheap That You Buy It Anyway’ 

My thanks to Meh for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Here’s what they had to say in their promoted RSS feed entry earlier this week:

People ask what kinds of things we sell, and it’s hard to categorize — headphones, knives, pearl necklaces, pliers (just from the last few weeks) — but you know what it’s got in common? It’s dirt cheap. Cheaper than anywhere else, cheaper than it’s ever been, possibly cheaper than it’ll ever be. We hate hype and we hate marketing pitches, but that’s just literally the easiest way to explain what we sell.

I can’t say it any better than that.

The Talk Show: ‘The “Press Real Hard” Era’ 

Special guest Marco Arment returns to the show for a brief discussion. Topics include Apple’s OS development strategy, HomePod and Siri, the sad state of Apple TV apps, where to get a good cheesesteak, and more.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Twitter Abolishes Native Mac Client 

Twitter:

We’re focusing our efforts on a great Twitter experience that’s consistent across platforms. So, starting today the Twitter for Mac app will no longer be available for download, and in 30 days will no longer be supported.

For the full Twitter experience on Mac, visit Twitter on web.

It’s hard to overstate just how great a native Mac experience Twitter owned when they acqui-hired Tweetie and Loren Brichter. It was pure Twitter and pure forward-thinking Mac UI. Now, Mac users get the same first-party experience that everyone gets on any other platform.

Twitter dumped Tweetie’s codebase years ago, of course, and their Mac app has been garbage ever since they did. It’s all fine, really, so long as they continue to allow third-party clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific to exist. But this “Mac users should just use the website” attitude is exactly what I was talking about here as an existential threat to the future of the Mac.

People choose the Mac because they want the best experience — not the same experience they can get on a $200 Chromebook.

DFW: ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’ 

Worth a re-link. David Foster Wallace in 2006 on then-25-year-old Roger Federer:

The Moments are more intense if you’ve played enough tennis to understand the impossibility of what you just saw him do. We’ve all got our examples. Here is one. It’s the finals of the 2005 U.S. Open, Federer serving to Andre Agassi early in the fourth set. There’s a medium-long exchange of groundstrokes, one with the distinctive butterfly shape of today’s power-baseline game, Federer and Agassi yanking each other from side to side, each trying to set up the baseline winner…until suddenly Agassi hits a hard heavy cross-court backhand that pulls Federer way out wide to his ad (=left) side, and Federer gets to it but slices the stretch backhand short, a couple feet past the service line, which of course is the sort of thing Agassi dines out on, and as Federer’s scrambling to reverse and get back to center, Agassi’s moving in to take the short ball on the rise, and he smacks it hard right back into the same ad corner, trying to wrong-foot Federer, which in fact he does — Federer’s still near the corner but running toward the centerline, and the ball’s heading to a point behind him now, where he just was, and there’s no time to turn his body around, and Agassi’s following the shot in to the net at an angle from the backhand side…and what Federer now does is somehow instantly reverse thrust and sort of skip backward three or four steps, impossibly fast, to hit a forehand out of his backhand corner, all his weight moving backward, and the forehand is a topspin screamer down the line past Agassi at net, who lunges for it but the ball’s past him, and it flies straight down the sideline and lands exactly in the deuce corner of Agassi’s side, a winner — Federer’s still dancing backward as it lands. And there’s that familiar little second of shocked silence from the New York crowd before it erupts, and John McEnroe with his color man’s headset on TV says (mostly to himself, it sounds like), “How do you hit a winner from that position?” And he’s right: given Agassi’s position and world-class quickness, Federer had to send that ball down a two-inch pipe of space in order to pass him, which he did, moving backwards, with no setup time and none of his weight behind the shot. It was impossible. It was like something out of “The Matrix.” I don’t know what-all sounds were involved, but my spouse says she hurried in and there was popcorn all over the couch and I was down on one knee and my eyeballs looked like novelty-shop eyeballs.

Anyway, that’s one example of a Federer Moment, and that was merely on TV — and the truth is that TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love.

Oh how I wish Wallace were still alive to see Federer reclaim the world’s number one ranking at the heretofore unheard of age of 36.

Lauren Goode vs. Lauren Goode: iPhone X vs. Pixel 2 

Such a gimmicky gimmick, yes, but Lauren Goode does this so fucking well. I just love it. Technically it’s pretty darn good, but substantially it’s downright amazing: she makes wonderfully accurate cases for both phones.

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment 

Michael Waldman, writing for Politico in 2014:

From 1888, when law review articles first were indexed, through 1959, every single one on the Second Amendment concluded it did not guarantee an individual right to a gun. The first to argue otherwise, written by a William and Mary law student named Stuart R. Hays, appeared in 1960. He began by citing an article in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine and argued that the amendment enforced a “right of revolution,” of which the Southern states availed themselves during what the author called “The War Between the States.”

At first, only a few articles echoed that view. Then, starting in the late 1970s, a squad of attorneys and professors began to churn out law review submissions, dozens of them, at a prodigious rate. Funds — much of them from the NRA — flowed freely. An essay contest, grants to write book reviews, the creation of “Academics for the Second Amendment,” all followed. In 2003, the NRA Foundation provided $1 million to endow the Patrick Henry professorship in constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University Law School.

This fusillade of scholarship and pseudo-scholarship insisted that the traditional view — shared by courts and historians — was wrong. There had been a colossal constitutional mistake. Two centuries of legal consensus, they argued, must be overturned.

We don’t need to repeal the 2nd Amendment — although I think we should, insofar as it is inexplicably ambiguously written and punctuated — we just need to flip the Supreme Court to interpret it as it had been from 1789 through 2008.

‘Paul Ryan: No “Knee Jerk” Reactions on Guns. Ever.’ 

These mass shootings in the U.S. are like a perverse version of Groundhog Day. Republicans say the exact same things in response, every time, as though it’s the first time.

Democrats need to stop playing nice and start pounding home over and over that the Republicans are a party that is committed to accepting regular school shootings in the name of gun rights.

Every Member of Congress Who Took Money From the NRA and Tweeted ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Parkland 

103 Republicans, 1 Democrat.

It’s not “Congress” as a whole that refuses to take action.

(Also, it’s not a complete list. My own Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) has taken boatloads of money from pro-gun groups and tweeted this in response to yesterday’s massacre, which I think clearly counts as a “thoughts and prayers” tweet.)

Et Tu, Sonos? 

Mike Prospero, writing for Tom’s Guide:

When I got home, I saw a large white ring, a telltale indication that the HomePod’s silicone base had messed up the finish. But, as I was inspecting the damage, I noticed a series of smaller white marks near where the HomePod was sitting.

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too.

Strategy Analytics Claims Apple Took Over Half of Worldwide Phone Revenue Last Quarter 

Evan Niu, The Motley Fool:

Strategy Analytics executive director Neil Mawston points out that “Apple now accounts for more revenue than the rest of the entire global smartphone industry combined.” iPhone ASP is flirting with $800, while the broader industry’s ASP is approximately $300. This latter metric was up 18% year over year, as both Apple and Samsung saw success with their respective premium flagships. Samsung’s Note 8 and Galaxy S8 remain popular, but Samsung is also a large player in terms of unit volumes at the lower ends of the market. However, the South Korean conglomerate has seen its position in low-cost smartphones slip in large markets like China, leading to its ASP jumping 21% to $254.

Their numbers put iPhone revenue at 51 percent of the market, Samsung’s at 16, and Huawei’s at 7. You don’t hear much these days from the folks who thought the higher price of the iPhone X was a bad idea.

We’ve Reached the Point Where People Are Giving Up on Schools 

Actual headline in an op-ed from the Miami Herald today: “In the Wake of the Douglas High Massacre, Is Home Schooling a Better Option?” That’s how ridiculous our situation has become. People are starting to question whether the problem is with sending kids to school, not with pervasive access to military weapons.

‘No Way to Prevent This’, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens 

The Onion posts the same headline after every mass shooting in the U.S., and every time they do it, it’s more apt than ever.

That’s the shot. Here’s the chaser: “Gorilla Sales Skyrocket After Latest Gorilla Attack”.

‘The Gun Is Our Moloch’ 

Garry Wills, writing for The New York Review five years ago, after the Sandy Hook grade school massacre:

The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?

Its power to do good is matched by its incapacity to do anything wrong. It cannot kill. Thwarting the god is what kills. If it seems to kill, that is only because the god’s bottomless appetite for death has not been adequately fed. The answer to problems caused by guns is more guns, millions of guns, guns everywhere, carried openly, carried secretly, in bars, in churches, in offices, in government buildings. Only the lack of guns can be a curse, not their beneficent omnipresence.

Our gun laws are insane. We, collectively, have agreed that regular mass shootings, often at schools — schools! — are a reasonable price to pay as a nation for unfettered access to military-grade killing machines for anyone and everyone who wants one.

It’s sick. Everyone outside the U.S. knows this. A majority of Americans knows this and supports stricter gun control.

There are new gun laws being drafted. But you know what most of them are for? For making guns even easier to purchase legally, without background checks.

Facebook Now Spamming Users With Texts if They’ve Enabled Two-Factor Security 

Kate Conger, writing for Gizmodo:

I’ve been getting these text-spam messages since last summer, when I set up a new Facebook account and turned on two-factor authentication. I created the new profile with somewhat vague intentions of using it for professional purposes — I didn’t like the idea of messaging sources from my primary Facebook account, where they could flip through pictures of my high school prom or my young nephews. But I didn’t end up using the profile often, and I let it sit mostly abandoned for months at a time.

At first, I only got one or two texts from Facebook per month. But as my profile stagnated, I got more and more messages. In January, Facebook texted me six times — mostly with updates about what my ex was posting. This month, I’ve already gotten four texts from Facebook. One is about a post from a former intern; I don’t recognize the name of one of the other “friends” Facebook messaged me about.

This is nuts — how scummy does Facebook have to be to punish people who do the right thing by setting up two-factor security?


Sponsoring Daring Fireball, Early 2018 Edition

There’s a part of me that loathes posting self-promotional stuff here on Daring Fireball. There’s another part of me that wants to sell ads and keep this thing afloat, and knows that I sell more ads when I periodically mention that there are ads for sale.

Right now there are three ways to sponsor my work:

  1. Weekly sponsorships. I just updated the public-facing schedule, and there are a few openings in the coming weeks. And, this very week remains open (long story short: last-minute cancellation). Given that it’s already Wednesday, the remainder of this week could be yours for a substantial discount. Get in touch.

    These weekly sponsorships have been the number one source of revenue for Daring Fireball ever since I started selling them back in 2007. They’ve succeeded, I think, because they make everyone happy. They generate good money. There’s only one sponsor per week and the sponsors are always relevant to at least some sizable portion of the DF audience, so you, the reader, are never annoyed and hopefully often intrigued by them. And, from the sponsors’ perspective, they work. My favorite thing about them is how many sponsors return for subsequent weeks after seeing the results.

  2. Display ads. These are new — my little homegrown replacement for The Deck (R.I.P.). I’ve been selling these since last summer, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned them enough here. Right now I’m selling spots for March for $3,500. I don’t have a landing page to promote them, but if you’re interested, get in touch. (You can also buy both a weekly sponsorship and a display ad and get a discount.)

  3. Sponsoring The Talk Show. This is something I seldom mention here on Daring Fireball, but I think sponsoring The Talk Show would be a great opportunity for a lot of the same services and products that sponsor the website. I love the regular sponsors of the show — and the fact that so many of them return repeatedly speaks well to the results they see. But I would love to get some more variety into the list of sponsors for the show. I don’t sell these myself, but if you have a product or service you think would be of interest to The Talk Show’s audience, get in touch with Jessie Char at Neat.fm. We still have a few openings for the remainder of Q1, and first-time sponsors are eligible for a rate below the listed price of $4,000 per spot. 


Nick Heer: ‘Reports of Google’s Newfound Design Prowess Have Been Greatly Exaggerated’ 

Nick Heer on the new YouTube app for Apple TV:

None of these elements behaves as you might expect, primarily because the YouTube app doesn’t interpret swipes and scrolls like any other app. There’s no audible blip whenever you select something, and swiping around manages to be both sluggish and jerky.

The frustratingly slow scrolling is especially pronounced on the aforementioned horizontal navigation element because swiping just a little too far to the left will open the modal main menu panel that covers a third of the screen.

The slow scrolling is also apparent in the main menu panel. The scrolling “friction”, for lack of a better term, is such that swiping down just a little is unlikely to have any effect, and swiping down just a little bit more will move the selector down two menu items. It can be very difficult to get it to move one menu item at a time.

It’s a terrible, terrible Apple TV app. Much like Amazon’s new Prime Video app, it looks and feels like it was designed and implemented by people who’ve never even used an Apple TV.

Facebook Is Pushing Its Data-Tracking Onavo VPN Within Its Main Mobile App 

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

Onavo Protect, the VPN client from the data-security app maker acquired by Facebook back in 2013, has now popped up in the Facebook iOS app itself, under the banner “Protect” in the navigation menu. Clicking through on “Protect” will redirect Facebook users to the “Onavo Protect — VPN Security” app’s listing on the App Store.

This is spyware. If you use Onavo, Facebook can and will track you everywhere you go on the Internet.

Kottke on the State of Blogging 

Jason Kottke, in a fascinating interview with Laura Hazard Owen for the Nieman Journalism Lab:

Melancholy, I think, is the exact right word. Personally, I think I felt a lot worse about it maybe three, four years ago. I was like, crap, what am I going to do here? I can see where this is going, I can see that more and more people are going to go to Facebook, and to mobile, and to all of these social apps and stuff like that, and there’s going to be less and less of a space in there for blogs like mine. I can’t churn out 60 things a day and play that social game where you use the shotgun approach to spit stuff out there and see what sticks. I’ve got to do four, five, six things that are good, really good. Since then, though, I’ve sort of come to terms with that. I’m like: Okay, if I can just keep going it, just keep doing it, it will work itself out somehow. I don’t know why I think that, but I kind of do.

The membership thing was actually really helpful in that regard, because within a pretty short amount of time, there was a lot of signal that people really appreciate what it is I do, enough that they’re willing to pay for it. It was kind of like, holy shit, we’re all in this together. I knew before that there were people who really into the site and who really like it, and that’s always been great to know and to get that feedback in the inbox and via Twitter and stuff like that. But to actually have those people pony up some dough changed my whole mindset about how I feel about the site.

I have many thoughts on the rise and decline of blogging — many of them stirred up recently, with Dean Allen’s death. Dean’s passing felt like the punctuation mark ending an era. There are a lot of great blogs still going, but as old ones drop off, there aren’t many new ones taking their places. It ain’t like it used to be.

David Pogue Conducts Blind Test of HomePod Against Competitors 

David Pogue:

Of course, I knew what the results would be. I’d heard them myself in the Apple demo; I’d read the other reviews; and I’d done the dress rehearsal the night before. Every time, the HomePod won the match easily.

At the end of my own listening test, then, I handed out signs that said “A,” “B,” “C,” and “D,” and asked the panelists to hold up their winners’ signs on the count of three. I knew what they would say: “B,” “B,” “B,” “B,” and “B” (that was the HomePod’s letter).

That’s not what happened.

Interesting results. I wonder about Pogue’s claim that the curtain he hid the speakers behind didn’t affect the sound, though.

HomePod Can Damage Wood Furniture 

Jon Chase, in Wirecutter’s review of HomePod:

An unhappy discovery after we placed a HomePod on an oiled butcher-block countertop and later on a wooden side table was that it left a defined white ring in the surface. Other reviewers and owners (such as Pocket-lint, and folks on Twitter) have reported the same issue, which an Apple representative has confirmed. Apple says “the marks can improve over several days after the speaker is removed from the wood surface,” and if they don’t fade on their own, you can basically just go refinish the furniture — the exact advice Apple gave in an email to Wirecutter was to “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.” This really undermines the design aspect of the HomePod — especially if you were thinking of displaying it on some prized piece of furniture — and it will surely be a sore point for many potential buyers. In other testing, we have seen no visible damage when using it on glass, granite countertop, nice MDF, polyurethane-sealed wood, and cheap IKEA bookcases. We also tested the HomePod in the same place a Sonos One regularly lives — and the Sonos hasn’t caused damage in months of use.

I haven’t seen anything like this, but I haven’t placed a HomePod on stained wood, either. Anyone who runs into this should be outraged. I honestly don’t see how this could happen. Apple has been making products that go on shelves and tables for years — AirPort base stations, Apple TV, various docks — and I’ve never seen a report of damage to a surface. I guess the difference with HomePod is that the base factors into the acoustics, but still, this seems like an issue that should have been caught during the period where HomePod was being widely tested at home by many Apple employees.

Update: Federico Viticci:

Like many recent Apple PR debacles, this HomePod ring problem could have been easily avoided by simply… telling people beforehand.

Explain how things work. Even the obvious ones. Be proactive. Don’t wait until people discover issues to spin the narrative back in your control.

There Are No Competitive Smartwatch Chips From Qualcomm 

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

Ars Technica would like to wish a very special second birthday to the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC. While most flagship SoCs have a life cycle of about one year on the top of the market, over the weekend the Wear 2100 will celebrate two years as the least awful smartwatch SoC you can use in an Android Wear device. It’s positively ancient at this point.

Seriously though, Qualcomm has seemingly abandoned the smartwatch market. The Wear 2100 SoC was announced in February 2016, Qualcomm skipped out on an upgrade for February 2017, and it doesn’t seem like we’re getting a new smartwatch chip any time soon.

At this point, Apple and Samsung are the only two names in the game. And you don’t hear any stories about Samsung watches selling well, so I’m not sure how much in the game they are, either.

Claim Chowder on Yours Truly Regarding a June Claim Chowder Regarding Whether the HomePod Has a ‘Touchscreen’ 

Yours truly in June, after first seeing HomePod:

HomePod has a touchscreen on top.

Clearly, we now know that’s wrong. Paul Kafasis called me out on this during the most recent episode of The Talk Show, and it’s clear that I was wrong. It certainly is a touch panel, and it does light up and animate, but whatever you want call the part that lights up and animates, it’s not a screen in the sense of being a display that can render arbitrary pixels. The “+” and “-” buttons are hardware touch buttons, and the Siri animation is the only thing that can be shown in the middle.

Steven Sinofsky on Apple’s Software Problem 

Terrific Twitter thread by Steven Sinofsky:

What is lost in all of this recent discussion is the nuance between features, schedule, and quality. It is like having a discussion with a financial advisor over income, risk, and growth. You don’t just show up and say you want all three and get a “sure”.

And:

What happens to a growing project over time is that processes and approaches need to re-thought. It just means that how things once scaled — tools like deciding features, priorities, est. schedules, integration test, etc — are no longer scaling as well. That happens. […]

What I think it happening at Apple now is not more dramatic than that. What they had been doing got to a point where it needs an adjustment. Reality is that for many at Apple it feels dramatic b/c it might be first time they have gone through a substantial “systems” change.

Inside Apple’s HomePod Audio Lab 

Jim Dalrymple:

The noise and vibration lab was set up years ago to work on unwanted noise from Macs. At the time, this lab was very focused on fan and hard drive noise, but over the years it has expanded into electronic noise as well.

“Reducing fan and hard drive noise” is such a fun origin story for a lab that is more relevant to the company (and seemingly better-funded — see below for the insane specs for their newer anechoic chambers, which Apple claims were designed and built just for HomePod) today than ever. This is the same lab that tests and helps design the ever-improving speakers in iPhones and iPads — neither of which product has ever had a fan or hard drive.

The last chamber I saw was designed to listen specifically for electronic noise. For example, you don’t want HomePod to make any kind of noise when it’s plugged in, but not in use. If it was sitting on your night table, you wouldn’t want a hum or buzz coming from it.

Geaves said that the extent you have to isolate this chamber is even more important because you are listening for really small sounds.

The chamber itself sits on 28 tons of concrete. The panels are one foot thick which is another 27 tons of material, and there are 80 isolating mounts between the actual chamber and the concrete slab it sits on.

The chamber is designed to be -2 dBA, which is lower than the threshold of human hearing. This basically provides complete silence.

I was on the same tour of this lab that Dalrymple was, and at this moment Geaves had us remain silent for 10 seconds or so, just to appreciate what true silence sounds like. It was… unnerving.

Designing Farrago 

Neale Van Fleet on designing Rogue Amoeba’s new soundboard app Farrago:

Despite a key element of the app being up in the air, work was progressing in many other areas. Eventually, I knew we needed to figure out a way to solve the problem of how tiles would look. To break out of my rut, I decided to bring in outside viewpoints.

I reached out to my social network here in Montreal, and sought out the sort of people who might use a soundboard app — podcasters, radio folks, theatre techs, and more. I bribed several of them with free lunches, during which I showed them mockups and got their responses.

The feedback I got was immediate and consistent: Prospective users didn’t want to rely on a mouse or trackpad to play clips at all! They wanted to use their Mac’s physical keyboard to play sounds. Though I’d been focused on providing access to many controls right on the tile face, it turned out that mouse-based controls should be secondary.

I love looking at an app progress from a pencil sketch all the way through to the end result.

An Audiophile’s Review of HomePod 

Reddit user “WinterCharm”:

TL;DR: I am speechless. The HomePod actually sounds better than the KEF X300A. If you’re new to the Audiophile world, KEF is a very well respected and much loved speaker company. I actually deleted my very first measurements and re-checked everything because they were so good, I thought I’d made an error. Apple has managed to extract peak performance from a pint sized speaker, a feat that deserves a standing ovation. The HomePod is 100% an audiophile grade speaker.


The Threat to the Mac: The Growing Popularity of Non-Native Apps

Peter Ammon, former AppKit engineer at Apple, in a comment in a Hacker News thread regarding a report positing that the ability of Mac apps — even sandboxed ones — to capture screenshots of the entire screen is a security problem:

IMO the app sandbox was a grievous strategic mistake for the Mac. Cocoa-based Mac apps are rapidly being eaten by web apps and Electron pseudo-desktop apps. For Mac apps to survive, they must capitalize on their strengths: superior performance, better system integration, better dev experience, more features, and higher general quality.

But the app sandbox strikes at all of those. In return it offers security inferior to a web app, as this post illustrates. The price is far too high and the benefits too little.

IMO Apple should drop the Mac app sandbox altogether (though continue to sandbox system services, which is totally sensible, and maybe retain something geared towards browsers.) The code signing requirements and dev cert revocation, which has been successfully used to remotely disable malware, will be sufficient security: the Mac community is good at sussing out bad actors. But force Mac devs to castrate their apps even more, and there won’t be anything left to protect.

In a follow-up comment, Ammon enumerates why truly native Cocoa apps are both worth creating and better to use.

I’m with Ammon: I think the Mac’s (relatively) recent move to cryptographically signed applications — with certificates that can be revoked by Apple — has been a win all around for security. But I don’t think the Mac sandbox has. The sandboxed nature of all iOS apps works because that’s how iOS was designed from the ground up. That’s why iOS is a better platform than the Mac for non-expert users in most ways. But the Mac was not designed with sandboxing in mind, and in many ways sandboxing works against what keeps the Mac relevant alongside iOS. As I wrote seven years ago: “It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.”

The whole point of the Mac is to be a great platform for native Mac apps. Sandboxing doesn’t help Mac apps do more. If the Mac devolves into a platform where people just use web browsers and cross-platform Electron apps, it might as well not exist, because the only remaining thing that would distinguish it from other desktop OSes is iCloud integration.

Mac apps have been able to “see” the entire display ever since the Mac debuted. The Mac needs the power to allow the user to shoot themselves in the foot. Or perhaps better said, the Mac needs the power for apps to shoot the user in the foot. On the Mac, you need to trust any software you install, particularly from outside the App Store. A Mac where all apps are guaranteed “safe” is no longer a Mac. Further restricting sandboxed Mac apps would be solving a problem the platform doesn’t have. The real problems facing the Mac are the number of developers creating non-native “Mac” apps and the number of users who don’t have a problem with them. 


IDC: Apple Watch Outsold the Entire Swiss Watch Industry in Holiday Quarter 

Kif Leswing, writing for Business Insider:

The company best known for making iPhones outsold Rolex, Omega, and even Swatch last quarter — combined.

That’s according to Apple Watch sales estimates from industry researcher Canalys and IDC, and publicly released shipment statistics from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Canalys estimates that Apple sold 8 million Apple Watches in the last quarter of 2017.

This doesn’t really prove anything other than that Apple Watch is selling pretty well, but you can see that with your own eyes just by looking for them on people’s wrists out in the world. I see Apple Watches every day, worn by people from all walks of life. These stats from 2016 claim the average price of a Swiss watch was $739. Last fall Horace Dediu pegged the average selling price of an Apple Watch at $330, which sounds about right to my ears — most people buy the base aluminum models, and if they “upgrade”, it’s by buying an extra band or two.

Leswing:

Apple doesn’t reveal official sales figures for the Apple Watch, making comparisons like this one difficult.

Instead, it bundles Apple Watch sales into an “other products” category — which led some people, including yours truly, to brand the device a “flop,” as it seemed like Apple was glossing over lackluster sales.

And for awhile, especially in 2016, it did look like sales growth stalled. But based on data points provided by Apple officials on earnings call earlier this month, it’s possible for analysts to calculate a strong estimate of units and revenue.

I can get being bearish on Apple Watch sales back in 2015, when you just didn’t see many of them in the wild, and when Apple’s “Other” category didn’t seem to have a large bump. But the fact that Apple has reported Apple Watch sales in the “Other” category is something Tim Cook announced in September 2014, more than six months before the product went on sale, and he was very clear that the reason was the competitive value of the information. Apple could have sold 10 times more watches than expected and they still would have reported them under “Other”.

Mark Gurman on Apple’s OS Development Strategy 

Mark Gurman, in a solo-bylined piece for Bloomberg:

These features were delayed after Apple Inc. concluded it needed its own major upgrade in the way the company develops and introduces new products. Instead of keeping engineers on a relentless annual schedule and cramming features into a single update, Apple will start focusing on the next two years of updates for its iPhone and iPad operating system, according to people familiar with the change. The company will continue to update its software annually, but internally engineers will have more discretion to push back features that aren’t as polished to the following year.

This is the best story from Gurman in a while (see below), but I’m not so sure the above is a new strategy so much as a tacit admission of what’s actually been going on the last few years. Take iMessage in the Cloud — it was supposed to ship with iOS 11 (and I think MacOS 10.13) in the fall, but still hasn’t shipped. It’s in the iOS 11.3 beta, but even if 11.3 ships this month, it’ll be nearly 6 months late. It sounds to me like Apple is just being realistic, acknowledging that some projects can’t be finished in a year. I don’t expect any fewer new features than usual in the iOS 12 demo at WWDC — but perhaps more of them will actually ship in the fall, rather than being delayed until point updates (like iMessages in the Cloud, Apple Pay Cash, and AirPlay 2 last year — two of which still haven’t shipped).

[Update: What I mean by the above is that Apple always has more features in a new version of iOS or MacOS than they have time to demo on stage. They always have those slides with all the new stuff they didn’t have time to mention. I think they’ll still have 8-10 tentpole new features for iOS and MacOS to announce and demo at WWDC this year. From the outside, I don’t think it’ll seem like anything has changed from the last few years. But some of the features that in previous years might have been squeezed in with an aggressive schedule for inclusion this year are being postponed until next year.]

The other takeaway from Gurman’s report is that it sounds like Apple senior management is aware that they’ve taken a hit on public perception of Apple software quality in recent years.

But the feature-packed upgrades place huge demands on Apple’s beleaguered engineers.

It’s good to see beleaguered back in the Apple news story vernacular.

Some actual scoops about what is forthcoming:

Also in the works for this year: a redesigned version of Apple’s stock-tracking app and updated version of Do Not Disturb that will give users more options to automatically reject phone calls or silence notifications. Apple is also working to more deeply integrate Siri into the iPhone’s search view, redesign the interface used to import photos into an iPad on the go and make it possible for several people at once to play augmented reality games.

Oxford Comma Dispute Is Settled as Maine Drivers Get $5 Million 

Let this be a lesson to everyone who omits the serial comma.

Why Paper Jams Persist 

This feature by Joshua Rothman for The New Yorker is custom-made for the Daring Fireball audience:

Unsurprisingly, the engineers who specialize in paper jams see them differently. Engineers tend to work in narrow subspecialties, but solving a jam requires knowledge of physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, computer programming, and interface design. “It’s the ultimate challenge,” Ruiz said.

“I wouldn’t characterize it as annoying,” Vicki Warner, who leads a team of printer engineers at Xerox, said of discovering a new kind of paper jam. “I would characterize it as almost exciting.” When she graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology, in 2006, her friends took jobs in trendy fields, such as automotive design. During her interview at Xerox, however, another engineer showed her the inside of a printing press. All Xerox printers look basically the same: a million-dollar printing press is like an office copier, but twenty-four feet long and eight feet high. Warner watched as the heavy, pale-gray double doors swung open to reveal a steampunk wonderland of gears, wheels, conveyor belts, and circuit boards. As in an office copier, green plastic handles offer access to the “paper path” — the winding route, from “feeder” to “stacker,” along which sheets of paper are shocked and soaked, curled and decurled, vacuumed and superheated. “Printers are essentially paper torture chambers,” Warner said, smiling behind her glasses. “I thought, This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

The Talk Show: ‘Only Wireless. Less Smart Than an Echo. Lame.’ 

Special guest Paul Kafasis returns to the show. Topics include Apple’s new HomePod, Farrago (Rogue Amoeba’s new soundboard app for the Mac), the Philadelphia Eagles’ triumph over the “New England” Patriots in Super Bowl 52, and we stir up a controversy regarding a 10-year-old cocktail devised by the boys at You Look Nice Today.

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Apple Support: ‘How “Hey Siri” Works With Multiple Devices’ 

Apple Support:

When you say “Hey Siri” near multiple devices that support “Hey Siri,” the devices quickly communicate to each other using Bluetooth to determine which one should respond to the request. The device that heard you best or was recently raised will respond.

HomePod responds to most Siri requests, even if there are other devices that support “Hey Siri” nearby. If you want to use Siri on a specific device, raise to wake that device or press the button to use Siri, then make your request.

Works pretty well (and very quickly) in my experience.

NFL Team Logos, Drawn From Memory 

Branded in Memory:

Considering how important the NFL and its teams are to millions of people, we asked over 150 people to draw 12 of the most popular team logos from memory. With nothing to go off of but their own recollection, we wanted to know just how well these sports icons stand out in the mind of NFL fans and non-fans alike. Here’s what they showed us.

I love stuff like this. Via Paul Kafasis at One Foot Tsunami, who astutely points out a well-rendered, clearly knowledgeable, but totally wrong logo for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jason Kelce’s Speech From Today’s Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Victory Parade 

I’ve never seen a speech quite like it. (That’s a Mummers costume he’s wearing.)

‘Philly Special’ 

Peter King, writing for Sports Illustrated:

The Eagles are NFL champions for the first time in the Super Bowl era, for the first time since three weeks before the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. And it never would have happened without the head coach whom USA Today ranked seventh of seven new NFL coaching hires in January 2016.

“He’s got a big set of stones,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said, trying to find the words just before the clock struck 12 Sunday night.

The inside story of the play that defined last night’s game.

Instabug 

My thanks to Instabug for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their comprehensive bug reporting SDK for mobile apps. Instabug allows mobile developers and product managers to receive detailed bug reports and feedback from their testers and users.

With each report, Instabug attaches screenshots, screen recordings, device details and repro-steps in one organized dashboard. Also, Instabug integrates with tools like Slack, Jira, and GitHub to help your team focus on developing no