Tina Fey on Donny Johnny and the Chinless Turds in Charlottesville 

Tina Fey’s segment on SNL’s Weekend Update this week was so good I’ve watched it three times already. It’s just amazing.

Yet, remarkably, it has drawn criticism from people on the left. Exhibits A, B, and C. If you’re claiming to be offended by Tina Fey’s segment this week, you’re either utterly humorless or willfully obtuse, and either way, you are part of the problem. The only people to be offended by this week are fucking Nazis, and Tina Fey just skewered them.

I remember being a kid learning that Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal was controversial in its time, because some sanctimonious shitheads thought Swift literally wanted people to eat Irish children. I just couldn’t believe there were people who were incapable of understanding satire. But here we are today, with people thinking Tina Fey literally wants us to stay home and eat cake. If that’s what you think, let me break it to you: your heart might be in the right place, but you’re an idiot.


Daring Fireball Turns 15

15 years ago this week, I started Daring Fireball with this piece on a then-new lineup of PowerMac G4’s. I groan at the use of “the Daring Fireball” in lieu of the first person, but otherwise it holds up pretty well stylistically.

A quick tally: to date I’ve written 1,173 full columns and 25,486 Linked List entries (including this one). Total word count, not including the entry titles:

  • Full columns: 1,048,662 original words (1,190,759 total words, including blockquotes).
  • Linked List entries: 952,854 original words (1,923,963 total words, including blockquotes).
  • Combined: 2,001,516 original words (3,114,722 total words, including blockquotes).

Not bad. 


Cops Can Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint, but Not Your Passcode 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Mashable back in 2014:

Cops can force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint — but they can’t force you to unlock it with your passcode, according to a judge in Virginia.

The decision, one of the first ones to deal with fingerprints and cellphones, confirms the fact that law enforcement agents can get access to a locked phone with legal means if they need to. At the same time a PIN or a password might enjoy more protection than a fingerprint.

This is why it’s so great that iOS 11’s new easily-invoked Emergency SOS mode requires you to enter your passcode after invoking it. When you’re entering customs or in a situation where you’re worried you’re about to be arrested, you can quickly disable Touch ID without even taking your phone out of your pocket.

Until iOS 11 ships, it’s worth remembering that you’ve always been able to require your iPhone’s passcode to unlock it by powering it off. A freshly powered-on iPhone always requires the passcode to unlock.

iOS 11’s SOS Feature Allows You to Temporarily Disable Touch ID and Require Passcode 

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors:

Emergency SOS is activated by pressing on the sleep/wake button of an iPhone five times in rapid succession. When the requisite number of presses is complete, it brings up a screen that offers buttons to power off the iPhone, bring up your Medical ID (if filled out) and make an emergency 911 call.

Along with these options, there’s also a cancel button. If you hit the sleep/wake button five times and then hit cancel, it disables Touch ID and requires a passcode before Touch ID can be re-enabled. Touch ID is also disabled if you actually make an emergency call.

This is a handy hidden feature because it allows Touch ID to be disabled discretely in situations where someone might be able to force a phone to be unlocked with a fingerprint, such as a robbery or an arrest. With Touch ID disabled in this way, there is no way to physically unlock an iPhone with a finger without the device’s passcode.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no real way to tell that Touch ID has been disabled in this manner.

This is a fantastic feature. In addition to being useful for anyone with Touch ID, it will also assuage concerns over coerced unlocking of your phone with a facial ID scanner (which is widely believed to be coming in the new high-end iPhone).

Once iOS 11 ships, spread the word about this to your friends and family.

Update: Some great details about how Apple has implemented this:

  • If you actually make an SOS phone call, iOS does not lock you out of using Touch ID. That is, if it’s an actual emergency, Apple doesn’t want to make it harder to unlock your phone.

  • There’s a bit of haptic feedback when this feature is invoked, so you can do this discreetly in your pocket and know you hit it.

  • In the current developer beta (beta 6), the display stays on indefinitely while in Emergency SOS mode. You have to tap the on-screen Cancel button to get the screen to turn off. In a future beta, hitting the power button one more time should darken the display again. That way, you can disable Touch ID and turn off the display without ever removing your iPhone from your pocket.

Vice News Tonight: ‘Charlottesville: Race and Terror’ 

Vice News:

Correspondent Elle Reeve goes behind the scenes with white nationalist leaders, the Charlottesville Police, and Black Lives Matter during the “Unite the Right” rally.

22 minutes, and worth every second. It really gives a sense of just how tense this weekend-long confrontation was, and how scary (and well-armed) these Nazi motherfuckers are. Reeve does a great job letting them speak for themselves.

Why Cloudflare Terminated Daily Stormer 

Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare:

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We’ve stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We’ve taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare’s services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we’ve felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.

Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous.

I’m a staunch First Amendment supporter. I believe these Nazi motherfuckers have a right to publish their garbage propaganda. But they don’t have a right to Cloudflare services. Prince’s thoughtful explanation makes clear that this was a last resort, and hopefully one-time exception, to their policy of not censoring sites over political content.

The internet really changes the way this works, though. In the print days, there was no equivalent of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. There are only a handful of very large companies that can defend against a DDoS attack, and Cloudflare is one of them. Now that Cloudflare has dropped them, their web site is unreachable.

Dilution of Whisky – The Molecular Perspective 

Interesting new paper published in Scientific Report by Björn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman:

Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste.

I loved this line:

Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

I got this via The Verge, who ran it with the headline “Here’s the Scientific Reason It’s Better to Drink Whiskey on the Rocks”. That headline surely turned heads (and generated clicks) because neat versus on-the-rocks is a polarizing debate, but it’s not supported by this paper. Karlsson and Friedman report only on the effects of adding water, not changing the temperature. That said, in yours truly’s humble opinion, almost all whisky tastes better with a large ice cube.

A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. Estimates That Google Is Paying Apple $3 Billion to Remain the Default Safari Search Engine 

Todd Haselton, writing for CNBC:

“Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1B in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3B,” Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. “Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple’s total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years.”

I would love to be a fly on the wall for those negotiations.

Sacconaghi said that Google might decide to back away from paying Apple any licensing fees if it feels confident enough that its search engine is so popular Apple won’t include any other option by default.

On the other hand, Sacconaghi said that Apple’s iOS devices contribute about 50 percent to Google’s mobile search revenue, which means Google might be too afraid to walk away from its licensing deal with Apple. In this case, it’s a win-win for Apple and Google.

If Apple was willing to dump Google Maps, they’d be willing to dump Google Search too. The differences between results from Google versus Bing or DuckDuckGo are way smaller than the differences between Google Maps and Apple Maps back in 2012. Apple is in a strong position in this relationship.

Tim Cook’s Email to Employees About Charlottesville 

Tim Cook:

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

This is where we’ve gotten to: Tim Cook felt the need to denounce Nazism — fucking Nazism — because the president of the United States won’t.

Josh Marshall: ‘The House Is on Fire’ 

Josh Marshall:

I confess I had a small degree of surprise that the events of the weekend — as horrifying and tragic as they are — have had quite the effect on people they seem to have had. This is not to diminish them. It is only to say that I do not think they should be so surprising. I don’t think they should amount to a revelation that shifts our basic understanding of things. We have if not a growing white supremacist movement in the US at least an increasingly vocal and emboldened one. They both made Trump possible and have in turn been energized and emboldened by his success. He reacts this way because he is one of them. He is driven by the same view of the world, the same animus and grievances. What we’ve seen over the last five days is sickening and awful. The house is on fire. But it was on fire a week ago. It’s been on fire since November. The truth is indeed unimaginable and terrifying. But we need to accept the full truth of it if we are going to be able to save our country.

Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost 

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times (emphasis added):

No word in the Trump lexicon is as tread-worn as “unprecedented.” But members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.

The President of the United States is an angry, resentful white supremacist. That’s been clear to me ever since he started campaigning. If any good comes of this terrible week, it’s that more and more people are now seeing it, and are outraged by it.

The Email Larry Page Should Have Written to James Damore 

The Economist, writing from the point of view of Larry Page:

Your interpretation is wrong. Your memo was a great example of what’s called “motivated reasoning” — seeking out only the information that supports what you already believe. It was derogatory to women in our industry and elsewhere. Despite your stated support for diversity and fairness, it demonstrated profound prejudice. Your chain of reasoning had so many missing links that it hardly mattered what your argument was based on. We try to hire people who are willing to follow where the facts lead, whatever their preconceptions. In your case we clearly made a mistake.

Really strong piece that crystallizes my thoughts on this matter.

WSJ: ‘Apple Readies $1 Billion War Chest for Hollywood Programming’ 

Tripp Mickle, reporting for The Wall Street Journal (alternate link that should route around the Journal’s paywall):

Apple Inc. has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to procure and produce original content over the next year, according to people familiar with the matter, as the iPhone maker shows how serious it is about making a splash in Hollywood.

Combined with the company’s marketing clout and global reach, the step immediately makes Apple a considerable competitor in a crowded market where both new and traditional media players are vying to acquire original shows. Apple’s budget is about half what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spent on content last year and on par with estimates of what Amazon.com Inc. spent in 2013, the year after it announced its move into original programming.

A friend of mine sent me this link, along with this quip: “Original content Apple is my least favorite Apple, but I can see why they are doing this.” I can’t put it better than that.

So far, Apple’s efforts at original content have been swings and misses. They really need to start making shows that are good. But would Apple ever make a show like Game of Thrones? That show is the current gold standard for original content, but I’m not sure Apple would want to put their brand on a show with so much graphic violence and sex. Disney has a squeaky-clean brand too, so it’s not like “family-friendly” and “high quality” are mutually exclusive.

If you ever watch baseball, sometimes the ceremonial first pitch is thrown by a talented athlete from another sport, but they’ve never played baseball, and the results are comically bad. That’s what it feels like watching Apple try to produce TV shows.

Spitball: I wonder if Apple should have bought Pixar?

Ming-Chi Kuo: ‘Apple Watch 3 to Come in LTE and Non-LTE Models, No Obvious Form Factor Change’ 

Zac Hall, writing for 9to5Mac:

Reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities has released a new forecast on the next generation Apple Watch. According to Kuo, the Apple Watch 3 will ship later this year with both LTE and non-LTE models offered. Kuo also expects the next Apple Watch will retain the same general design and not feature an obvious new form factor.

Kuo specifies that the Apple Watch will continue to ship in two size configurations: 38mm and 42mm cases.

KGI’s latest prediction comes 10 days after Bloomberg’s recent report which first mentioned the new Apple Watch with Intel modems for LTE connectivity. John Gruber at Daring Fireball later hinted that the new model would feature a new form factor, although he later backtracked on the timing of that claim.

I didn’t backtrack on the timing. I backtracked on the veracity of the source I heard this from. I wrote:

No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.

If Apple Watch 3 doesn’t look obviously new, I would say my source was wrong and probably lied to me. My source was talking about this year’s new watches, not next year’s. But it really was an unconfirmed little birdie.

It could also be that both my birdie and Kuo are correct: the phrase “will not feature an obvious new form factor” leaves a lot of wiggle room with the word “obvious”.

Chris Lattner Joins Google Brain 

Darrell Etherington, reporting for TechCrunch:

Chris Lattner, one of the key creators behind the Apple programming language Swift, is on the move again. After a short six-month stay at Tesla, which he joined last year from Apple to act as VP of Autopilot Software, Lattner announced on Twitter today that his next stop is Google Brain. […]

Google Brain is the search giant’s team focused on deep learning and artificial intelligence. It focused on helping to use AI across a range of products, tackling both research and product integration, working together with teams across Alphabet, including at DeepMind. Its ultimate stated motivation is to advance the field with open source projects, academic collaboration and publication.

A team that emphasizes open source projects sounds like a good fit for Lattner.

Blanche Blackwell, Ian Fleming’s Mistress and the Inspiration for Pussy Galore, Dies at 104 

Matt Schudel, reporting for The Washington Post:

Blanche Blackwell’s romantic life inspired one of Noël Coward’s plays about an upper-crust love triangle, and swashbuckling Hollywood star Errol Flynn wanted to marry her. She was a member of one of Jamaica’s richest families but was best known as the mistress and muse of Ian Fleming, the rakish author who was the creator of James Bond.

Mrs. Blackwell died Aug. 8 in London at 104. Her death was confirmed by Andrew Lycett, Fleming’s biographer.

What a life.

Squarespace 

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Try Squarespace for free. When you’re ready to subscribe, get 10 percent off at squarespace.com with offer code DARING17.

Pinned Tabs Are No Solution to the Lack of Favicons in Regular Safari Tabs 

Re: yesterday’s piece arguing that Safari should display favicons in its browser tabs, I’ve gotten dozens of emails and tweets pointing out that Safari does show favicons, albeit in monochrome, for pinned tabs.

First, so what? That’s great for pinned tabs but it’s not a solution in any way, shape, or form for regular tabs.

Second, they’re not even really favicons. They’re SVG files, not PNGs like real favicons. Even though SVG is an open format and Safari introduced this feature in 2015, no other browser in the world supports these images, so many websites don’t even have these graphics. Almost every website has a real favicon.

Miami Marlins Reportedly Sold to Derek Jeter Group 

Jack Baer, reporting for MLB.com:

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported — as did the Miami Herald earlier — that the Sherman-Jeter group won the bidding, with Sherman holding the controlling interest and plans for Jeter to be the team’s CEO.

Serious question for Yankees fans: does this preclude Jeter from playing on Old Timer’s Day? And can you even imagine what another Yankees-Marlins World Series would be like?

Google CEO Sundar Pichai Canceled an All-Hands Meeting About Gender Controversy Due to Employee Worries of Online Harassment 

Kara Swisher, reporting for Recode:

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has canceled the company’s much-anticipated meeting to talk about gender issues today. The move came after some of its employees expressed concern over online harassment they had begun to receive after their questions and names have been published outside the company on a variety of largely alt-right sites.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”

This controversy strikes me as the biggest challenge Google has faced under Pichai’s leadership. And the fact that the Page/Brin/Schmidt Alphabet triumvirate has remained silent makes me think Pichai truly is the leader of Google, not just in title but in terms of where the buck actually stops.

Medium’s Dickbar Gets the Clap 

Whether you think this feature is a good idea or not, why the fuck would they put this button on top of the text of the article you’re trying to read?

I’m starting to think Medium is just fucking with me at this point.


Safari Should Display Favicons in Its Tabs

Back in May I wrote a piece titled “Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac”. From my conclusion:

In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices.

I personally prefer Safari, but I can totally see why others — especially those who work on desktop machines or MacBooks that are usually plugged into power — prefer Chrome. DF readers agree. Looking at my web stats, over the last 30 days, 69 percent of Mac users visiting DF used Safari, but a sizable 28 percent used Chrome. (Firefox came in at 3 percent, and everything else was under 1 percent.)

As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better.

I got a ton of feedback on this piece — way more than typical for an article. One bit I heard from a few readers is that I gave Safari/WebKit short shrift on performance — the WebKit team cares deeply about performance and with regard to JavaScript in particular, WebKit is kicking ass.

But really, taken as a whole, the response to my piece was about one thing and one thing only: the fact that Safari does not show favicons on tabs and Chrome does. There are a huge number of Daring Fireball readers who use Chrome because it shows favicons on tabs and would switch to Safari if it did.

The reaction was so overwhelming I almost couldn’t believe it.

The gist of it is two-fold: (1) there are some people who strongly prefer to see favicons in tabs even when they don’t have a ton of tabs open, simply because they prefer identifying tabs graphically rather than by the text of the page title; and (2) for people who do have a ton of tabs open, favicons are the only way to identify tabs.

With many tabs open, there’s really nothing subjective about it: Chrome’s tabs are more usable because they show favicons. Here are two screenshot comparisons between Safari and Chrome from my 13-inch MacBook Pro. The first set shows 11 tabs: the TechMeme home page plus the first 10 stories linked today. The second set shows 17 tabs: the Daring Fireball homepage and the 16 items I’ve linked to so far this week.

This is not even close. Once Safari gets to a dozen or so tabs in a window, the left-most tabs are literally unidentifiable because they don’t even show a single character of the tab title. They’re just blank. I, as a decade-plus-long dedicated Safari user, am jealous of the usability and visual clarity of Chrome with a dozen or more tabs open. And I can see why dedicated Chrome users would consider Safari’s tab design a non-starter to switching.

I don’t know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari’s tabs, but I can only presume that it’s because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari’s toolbar area. I really can’t imagine what else it could be. I’m personally sympathetic to placing a high value on aesthetics even when it might come at a small cost to usability. But in this case, I think Safari’s tab design — even if you do think it’s aesthetically more appealing — comes at a large cost in usability and clarity. The balance between what looks best and what works best is way out of whack with Safari’s tabs.

And it’s highly debatable whether Safari’s existing no-favicon tabs actually do look better. The feedback I’ve heard from Chrome users who won’t even try Safari because it doesn’t show favicons isn’t just from developers — it’s from designers too. To me, the argument that Safari’s tab bar should remain text-only is like arguing that MacOS should change its Command-Tab switcher and Dock from showing icons to showing only the names of applications. The Mac has been famous ever since 1984 for placing more visual significance on icons than on names. The Mac attracts visual thinkers and its design encourages visual thinking. So I think Safari’s text-only tab bar isn’t just wrong in general, it’s particularly wrong on the Mac.1

I really can’t say this strongly enough: I think Safari’s lack of favicons in tabs, combined with its corresponding crumminess when displaying a dozen or more tabs in a window, is the single biggest reason why so many Mac users use Chrome.

You can even make an argument that adding favicons to Safari wouldn’t just make Safari better, but would make the entire MacOS system better, because Safari gets dramatically better battery life than Chrome. For MacBook users who spend much or most of their days in a web browser, it can mean the difference of 1-2 hours of battery life. This is actually a common refrain I heard from numerous readers back in May: that they wished they could switch from Chrome to Safari because they know Safari gets better battery life, but won’t because Safari — seemingly inexplicably — doesn’t show favicons in tabs.

Favicons wouldn’t even have to be displayed by default to solve the problem — Apple could just make it a preference setting, and power users would find it. The fact that it’s not even a preference, even though it may well be the single most-common feature request for Safari, seems downright spiteful. And not just mean-to-others spiteful, but cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face spiteful. It might sound silly if you’re not a heavy user of browser tabs, but I am convinced that the lack of favicons is holding back Safari’s market share. 


  1. And iPad, for that matter, which arguably places even more emphasis on icons over names than the Mac. ↩︎


Original Post From Consumer Reports Revoking Recommendations for Microsoft Surface Laptops and Tablets 

Here’s the actual post from Consumer Reports regarding Surface hardware reliability:

A number of survey respondents said they experienced problems with their devices during startup. A few commented that their machines froze or shut down unexpectedly, and several others told CR that the touch screens weren’t responsive enough.

The new studies of laptop and tablet reliability leverage data on 90,741 tablets and laptops that subscribers bought new between 2014 and the beginning of 2017. Predicted reliability is a projection of how new models from each brand will fare, based on data from models already in users’ hands.

Worth noting that I’m deeply skeptical of anything computer- or tech-related that comes out of Consumer Reports’s lab testing. I think they shamelessly sensationalized the iPhone 4 antennagate story (which they later backtracked from), and I think they embarrassed themselves with last year’s bizarre (and rushed) report claiming wildly erratic battery life on the new TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pros. (See footnote 2 here for my results trying to replicate CR’s test. Quite possibly my favorite footnote in DF history.)

I’m certainly not saying we should take it as gospel, but I don’t see anything fishy about this laptop reliability report. It does not smell like clickbait.

Inside Facebook’s Institutional Policy of Copying Competitors 

Betsy Morris and Deepa Seetharaman, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook uses an internal database to track rivals, including young startups performing unusually well, people familiar with the system say. The database stems from Facebook’s 2013 acquisition of a Tel Aviv-based startup, Onavo, which had built an app that secures users’ privacy by routing their traffic through private servers. The app gives Facebook an unusually detailed look at what users collectively do on their phones, these people say.

The tool shaped Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp and informed its live-video strategy, they say. Facebook used Onavo to build its early-bird tool that tips it off to promising services and that helped Facebook home in on Houseparty.

So Facebook is using a VPN app that is supposed to protect users’ privacy to violate their privacy by analyzing which apps they use.

Also worth noting: in the iOS App Store, Onavo’s owner is still listed as “Onavo, Inc.”, not “Facebook”. I suspect a large number of Onavo users have no idea the app is owned by Facebook (I for one had never heard of it before this Journal story), and might think differently about entrusting their privacy to it if they knew.

Ulysses Is Switching to Subscription Pricing 

Max Seelemann, development lead for Ulysses:

Before getting into details, though, you should know that this switch was neither a quick decision, nor did we take it easily. We have been talking about it for over 2 years now. We’ve had uncountable discussions, and the topic came up at least once every month — yet we always postponed a decision. The sheer complexity and far reach of this change were too intimidating. I am not exaggerating in saying that this was the hardest decision in our whole time as professional software developers. After all, we have a system which currently works — after 14 years we are still around, Ulysses is still “a thing”, it’s even going better than ever before, and there are no immediate signs which hint at a change coming soon.

So why bother at all then? Well, we need a good way forward before we run into trouble. We want to make sure the app will be around for years and years to come. We want to heavily invest in its development, and this requires the right setting for our team, our families and our users. Writers want to rely on a professional tool that is constantly evolving, and we want to keep delivering just that.

This is a really thoughtful article, and I fully support their decision. I think subscription pricing is an excellent option for truly professional apps like Ulysses, particularly ones that are cross platform (Mac and iOS).

Consumer Reports: Microsoft Surface Is Dead Last for Reliability in Tablets and Laptops 

Paul Thurrott:

According to a Consumer Reports survey of over 90,000 tablet and laptop owners, an estimated 25 percent of those with Microsoft Surface devices will experience “problems by the end of the second year of ownership.” This failure rate is the worst in the industry by far among mainstream PC makers, the publication says, and as a result, it is pulling its “recommended” designation for all Surface products.

Apple led the industry by a long shot. But that’s as it should be. Apple products tend to cost significantly more because they’re made better. Or put another way, Apple benefits greatly in a survey like this because they don’t make any low-end laptops. I’d love to see the results of a similar survey that only looked at laptops that cost $1000 or more. I think Apple would still come out on top, but I would also bet that the reliability of PCs in that price range is way higher than these results that include all machines sold.

But that’s why these results look particularly bad for Microsoft: the Surface lineup is priced and specced more like Apple’s lineup: $800 starting price for the tablet, $999 for Surface Laptop, and $1499 for Surface Book. My first thought when I looked at these reliability numbers is that it didn’t seem fair for Consumer Reports to single out Microsoft when they were just 1 point behind Toshiba and 3 behind Dell, but Toshiba and Dell sell millions of astoundingly low-priced craptops. Dell’s lineup starts at just $179.

Thurrott:

Microsoft had benefited from a curiously skewed series of positive editorial stories in mainstream publications because of its perceived innovation with PCs compared to Apple. I dispute that view, actually, and have wondered aloud how any PC maker could be called an innovator when they just released their first laptop in 2017.

The Verge, last week: “The Best Laptop You Can Buy Right Now (2017)”. Bonus points for the sub-head: “Get a laptop that’ll last.”

Unobstruct: The Anti-Dickbar Content Blocker for Safari on iOS 

Troy Gaul:

As had happened in the past, I became annoyed by the bar and floating button at the bottom of the Medium page, which on such a small screen used up a not-insignificant amount of the vertical space. John Gruber had recently written about this in his post Medium and the Scourge of Persistent Sharing Dickbars on Daring Fireball.

However, this time, something occurred to me: this was a Safari view, so what if I had a Safari Content Blocker app that removed these bars the same way ad-blocking apps remove ads from web pages?

I went to my computer, started a new Xcode project, and a little while later, I had a way to remove these from Medium’s pages on my iPhone and iPad for good.

So good, so simple. This is the best dollar you’ll spend this month. Just $1 and poof, dozens and dozens of dickbars will just disappear from your reading experience.

The Yankees Will Have Names on the Back of Their Jerseys for the First Time, as Part of a Dumb-Ass MLB Stunt 

This is a goddamn disgrace.

The Boss would not have stood for this.

‘I’m a Google Manufacturing Robot and I Believe Humans Are Biologically Unfit to Have Jobs in Tech’ 

Ben Kronengold, writing for McSweeney’s:

I, a manufacturing robot at Google Factory C4.7, value diversity and inclusion. I also do not deny that machines are sometimes given preference to humans in the workplace. All I’m suggesting in this document is that humans’ underrepresentation in tech is not due to discrimination. Rather, it is a result of biological differences. Specifically, humans have a biology.

Geraldine DeRuiter Tried Soylent 

Geraldine DeRuiter:

Last week, I decided to try Soylent.

For those unfamiliar with this “food” product, Soylent is a high-protein drink designed to appeal to lifehackers, dieters, and doomsday cult members who are maybe a little shy and don’t want to come out of their bunker for communal meals. It has an incredibly long shelf-life, and provides you nutrition without all the pesky side-effects that food usually has, like chewing, tasting like something, and being an excuse for human interaction.

As a bonus, it also apparently gives you raging diarrhea, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yeah, no thanks.

On the Numero 

Jonathan Hoefler:

Nº was the number sign before # became a number sign, and it refreshingly serves this one and only purpose. Compare the #, which when preceding a number is read as “number” (“#1 in my class”), but when following a number means “pound” or “pounds”. If you’re curious what the # symbol has to do with the abbreviation lbs., here’s one possible missing link. (“70# uncoated paper”), leading to printshop pile-ups like “#10 envelope, 24# bond.” To programmers, a # can mean either “ignore what follows” (as in a Python comment) or “use what follows” (when referencing a page fragment, or a Unicode value in HTML.) To a proofreader, a # means “insert space,” so in the middle of a numbered list, the notation “line #” does not mean “line number,” but rather “add a line space.” Because of #’s resemblance to the musical symbol for “sharp” (♯), it’s a frequent stand-in for the word “sharp,” and often the correct way of rendering a trademarked term such as The C# Programming Language. The # is rapidly assuming musical duties as well, especially in online databases, leading to catalog collisions like “Prelude & Fugue #13 in F#.” How fortunate a designer would be to have a numero symbol, with which to write “Prelude & Fugue Nº 13 in F#,” or “Nº 10 Envelope, 24# bond.”

Jason Snell on Editorial 

Jason Snell:

When I mention that I write a lot on the iPad these days, I’m often asked what iOS apps I’m using to write. The truth is, the story keeps shifting — I’ve never really settled on a single app, because none of them give me everything that I want.

These days I’m using Editorial most of the time. It’s got full Markdown support and syncs with Dropbox, but those features have basically become table stakes for iOS text editors. What has put Editorial over the top for me, at least for the moment, is its powerful set of user-creatable and shareable workflows. These powerful features can be assigned to keyboard shortcuts, which is huge for me since I write articles on my iPad Pro while attached to an external keyboard.

Amazon and Tencent Back Andy Rubin’s Essential 

Rolfe Winkler, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Essential Products Inc., the smartphone maker founded by the creator of Google’s Android mobile software, confirmed it has a new $300 million war chest as it prepares for the seemingly insurmountable task of taking on Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Inc.

The startup on Wednesday unveiled the large roster of investors taking a chance on it, including Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Amazon Inc.’s Alexa Fund. Essential also disclosed that Best Buy Co. stores and Amazon.com Inc. will be its retail launch partners in the U.S.

Curious if this explains the shipping delay on the first phone. Probably not.

I Don’t Think There’s Going to Be an ‘iPhone 7S’ 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

We’ve received a couple of photos from Apple tipster Sonny Dickson this morning that depict a dummy model for the ‘iPhone 7s Plus’, one of three new phones Apple is said to be launching this year. Although marketing branding is unknown, the ‘7s’ devices are expected to iterate on the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus chassis.

One distinction will be the introduction of glass backs (rather than aluminium), which this dummy model incorporates. It is believed that the phones will support inductive charging.

If these are legit, there’s no way Apple is going to call these devices “7S”. The S models have had minor cosmetic differences from the preceding year’s non-S iPhones, but these phones are sporting entire new designs.

I also think that the “7S” name would contribute to the notion that Apple’s “S” phones are only modest updates, when the truth is that the S phones tend to get the bigger technical improvements. I suspect Apple will use one of these sets of names:

  • iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8 Pro; or
  • iPhone, iPhone Plus, iPhone Pro

Either of these naming schemes would make all three new iPhones sound new.

Daring Fireball Display Ads for August and September 

This summer I started selling my own display ads on Daring Fireball. If you’re reading this on the website, you can see one of them right now over on the left. For now I’m limiting them to five spots per month, and I’ve still got one open for the remainder of August.

September is wide open, and is generally the highest-traffic month of the year on DF, because that’s the month when new iPhones tend to be announced. If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s smart and curious audience, get in touch.

Disney Is Pulling Its Movies From Netflix and Starting Its Own Streaming Service 

Michelle Castillo, reporting for CNBC:

CEO Bob Iger told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin Disney had a “good relationship” with Netflix, but decided to exercise an option to move its content off the platform. Movies to be removed include Disney as well as Pixar’s titles, according to Iger. Netflix said Disney movies will be available through the end of 2018 on its platform. Marvel TV shows will remain.

The new platform will be the home for all Disney movies going forward, starting with the 2019 theatrical slate which includes Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and the upcoming live-action The Lion King. It will also be making a “significant investment” in exclusive movies and television series for the new platform.

Part of me says “I’m surprised it took them this long”, and the other part says “How many different streaming services am I going to wind up paying for every month?”

David Letterman to Host Netflix Interview Series 

Cynthia Littleton, reporting for Variety:

“I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix,” Letterman said. “Here’s what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely.”

This is the best news I’ve seen all year.

The Talk Show: ‘Nancy Reagan Was Right’ 

Special guest Glenn Fleishman returns to the show. Topics include China forcing Apple to remove VPN apps from the Chinese App Store, Wi-Fi vs. LTE networking, the open workspaces in Apple Park, Glenn’s new letterpress project, the HomePod OS leak and iPhone D22, and more.

Sponsored by:

  • Eero: Finally, Wi-Fi that works. Use code thetalkshow for free overnight shipping.
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  • Fracture: Your photos printed directly on glass.
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Vic Gundotra Is Now an iPhone Proponent 

Vic Gundotra (yes, that Vic Gundotra):

Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don’t mind being a few years behind, buy an Android.

The cognitive dissonance of the Android fans in the comments on this post is something to behold.

DuckDuckGo 

My thanks to DuckDuckGo for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. DuckDuckGo is the search engine that doesn’t track you. DuckDuckGo and Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention together solve the top three private browsing misconceptions:

  • 41% of users believe private browsing prevents websites tracking them.
  • 39% of users believe private browsing prevents ads from tracking them.
  • 35% of users believe private browsing prevents a search engine from knowing their searches.

None of those things are true. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my primary web search engine since 2015, and I haven’t looked back.


Conjecture Regarding the Precise Details of the iPhone D22 Display Resolution

Thanks to last week’s inadvertent release of an unredacted build of HomePod’s version of iOS, we know some things that we didn’t know before. One of those things is that the new edge-to-edge iPhone is codenamed D22, and that the OS explicitly supports an iPhone display with hardware resolution of 2436 × 1125 pixels.

For reference, all 4.7-inch iPhones to date (6, 6S, and 7) have a display resolution of 1334 × 750, at 326 PPI. All Plus models to date have a display resolution of 1920 × 1080, at 401 PPI. Apple publishes these numbers on the iPhone tech specs comparison page.

Back in 2014, in the lead-up prior to the announcement of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I tried to guess the pixel dimensions of both phones:

But after giving it much thought, and a lot of tinkering in a spreadsheet, here is what I think Apple is going to do:

  • 4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x
  • 5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x

@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.

I could be wrong on either or both of these conjectured new iPhones. I derived these figures on my own, and I’ll explain my thought process below. No one who is truly “familiar with the situation” has told me a damn thing about either device. I have heard second- and third-hand stories, though, that lead me to think I’m right.

My guess about the 4.7-inch display was exactly correct. My guess about the 5.5-inch display was wrong, but my logic was right. All 5.5-inch iPhone Plus models have hardware 1920 × 1080 displays at 401 PPI, but at their default scaling (“Standard” as opposed to “Zoomed” in the Display section of Settings) they pretend to be 2208 × 1242 displays at 461 PPI, exactly as I predicted. (Actually, it’s better to think of it as 462 pixels per inch, because 462 is evenly divisible by 3, which is what you need to do convert pixels into points on an @3x retina display. So let’s use 462 henceforth. I should have thought of this back in 2014.)

iOS scales the user interface on the Plus models from the virtual resolution of 2208 × 1242 to the actual hardware resolution of 1920 × 1080 on the fly. The upside of this is that the display is less expensive and consumes less power. The downside is that the UI is not rendered pixel perfectly — the scaling uses anti-aliasing to fake it. But because the pixels are so very small, almost no one has sharp enough eyes to notice it, and because the physical resolution is so high (401 PPI), it looks sharper than the 4.7-inch displays which are running at their “true” resolution, with no scaling. But pixel-perfect “true” @3x would look even better.

Using similar logic, and considering all of the rumors and purported part leaks, I have a highly-educated guess as to the dimensions of the D22 display:

5.8 inches, 2436 × 1125, 462 PPI, true @3x retina with no scaling.

We’ve seen the numbers 2436 × 1125 before. Supply-chain rumor savant Ming-Chi Kuo suggested those numbers in a report back in February, which was summarized by both MacRumors and 9to5Mac. But what Kuo has predicted is different from what I’m suggesting. Kuo said the OLED display in this year’s new OLED iPhone will measure 5.8 inches diagonally and will have a total hardware resolution of 2800 × 1242. That’s corner to corner, the entire front face of the device, minus the bezels on the sides, top, and bottom. Within this 5.8-inch display, Kuo said there would be a 5.15-inch “display area” with resolution 2436 × 1125. The remaining area at the bottom of the display would be a “function area” (his term) where, presumably, a virtual home button would appear.

Here is the actual image from Kuo’s report, illustrating this.

I think Kuo has it wrong, and is conflating the pixel dimensions of two different iPhones. I think this year’s new flagship iPhone, D22, has a 5.8-inch 2436 × 1125 display. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kuo heard about a 2800 × 1242 display, too, but if so I think that phone is a Plus-sized version of this new form factor, with the same 462 PPI density and a size of around 6.6 inches diagonally. Such a display, with the reduced bezel design of D22, would be exactly as tall as an iPhone 7 Plus and slightly narrower. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a phone is in the pipeline for 2018.

From what I’ve seen, Kuo specified the size (5.8 inches) and the pixels (2800 × 1242), but he didn’t specify the PPI density. But given the size and the horizontal and vertical pixel counts, you can work out the PPI. Benjamin Mayo did so, and the result is 521 PPI.

A 521 PPI display doesn’t actually make sense though. I didn’t really think about this until today, but that number should have stuck out like a sore thumb back in February. Here’s the thing. It matters how big a point is, because it directly affects the real-world size of on-screen elements.

All non-Plus iPhones to date — every one of them from the original iPhone in 2007 through the iPhone 7 — has a display with 163 points per inch. In the pre-retina era, that meant 163 pixels per inch, too. Each pixel was a point, each point was a pixel. All @2x iPhone retina displays have 326 pixels per inch. Divide by 2 and you get 163 points per inch. That means that a 44-point touch target is exactly the same physical size on screen on all non-Plus iPhones. 16-point type renders at exactly the same size, and so on.

The 6/6S/7 Plus phones have a slightly lower points per inch density: take 462 (the number of pixels per inch in the scaled version of the UI), divide by 3 (because it’s an @3x retina display) and you get 154 points per inch. That’s OK, though, because fewer points per inch means that a, say, 44-point touch target will be slightly bigger on screen. 16-point type will render slightly larger, and so on. Larger tap targets are easier to hit, and larger type is easier to read. The iPhones Plus use most of their extra pixels (compared to their non-Plus siblings) to show more content on screen. But they also use them to make all content slightly larger.

A 521-PPI display doesn’t make sense because if you divide by 3 (because it’s @3x retina), you get around 174 points per inch. That’s not a huge difference, but everything would appear smaller on screen compared to an iPhone 7, and quite a bit smaller than on an iPhone 7 Plus. The only two natural pixel-per-inch densities for an @3x iPhone display are 462 PPI (154 × 3) and 489 PPI (163 × 3).

What about scaling?” you might be thinking. Couldn’t the resolution of the display be 521 PPI and Apple could make the points per inch work out by scaling the interface dynamically, like they do on the Plus models? They could, but that would be really dumb. For one thing, if it’s @3x, they’d have to scale the UI up, not down. They’d be using a smaller image to fill a bigger screen. With the Plus, they use a larger image to fill a smaller screen. Scaling down is a reasonable and interesting compromise. Scaling up would be stupid. Surely a 521-PPI display would cost more to manufacture than a 462-PPI display. So why would Apple pay more for a display and use scaling when they could pay less for a 462 PPI display on which they don’t have to do any scaling at all? It would cost less, look better, and be more efficient.


So we know that iOS 11 has support for a 2436 × 1125 iPhone display. We know that 462 PPI is the “natural” (no scaling) resolution for @3x retina on iPhone. We know that a 2436 × 1125 display with 462 PPI density would measure 5.8 inches diagonally. We know that all rumors to date about the D22 iPhone claim it has a 5.8-inch display. We know that a 5.8-inch display with a 2.17:1 aspect ratio (2436/1125), combined with 4-5mm bezels on all sides, would result in a phone whose footprint would be just slightly taller and wider than an iPhone 7. And we know that all rumors to date say that D22 is slightly bigger than an iPhone 7.

We also know that the same section of iOS 11 that specifies the 2436 × 1125 display does not mention anything about a 2800 × 1242 display. Further, that same section of iOS refers to the iPhone Plus as having a 1920 × 1080 display — this is part of the OS that deals with the actual hardware resolution of the displays, not the virtual scaled display size.

We also know that a 2800 × 1242 display would have a slightly different aspect ratio: 2.25:1. Stephen Troughton-Smith noted today with a mockup that a purported schematic of D22 made from precise blueprints, which was leaked on Twitter by Benjamin Geskin back in April of this year, shows a display that exactly matches the 2.17:1 aspect ratio of a 2436 × 1125 display. A 2800 × 1242 display doesn’t come close to fitting that schematic.

We know these things. All of these facts point to the same conclusion: D22’s display is 5.8 inches, 2436 × 1125, 462 PPI. The only reason to think otherwise is that Ming-Chi Kuo reported otherwise back in February. The simplest explanation is that Kuo got this wrong, and either he or his sources conflated the displays of two different iPhones.1 


  1. It also never made sense to me how Kuo would know about the precise dimensions of a single display that would be split into separate “display” and “function” areas. That’s something that would be handled by iOS in software, not something in the hardware. Kuo’s sources seem to be exclusively or almost exclusively in the Asian supply chain. I can’t recall him ever getting a major scoop related to software. My understanding is that Apple does not even send prerelease builds of iOS to China. Instead, Apple employees fly prototype iPhones from China back to the US for testing with development builds of iOS. ↩︎


Pilots Share Photos Between Planes via AirDrop at 35,000 Feet? 

If this is legit, this is amazing.

Update: Looks like it’s a hoax.

Bloomberg: Apple Plans to Release a Cellular-Capable Watch 

Mark Gurman, Scott Moritz, and Ian King, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is planning to release a version of its smartwatch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device’s reliance on the iPhone, people familiar with the matter said.

Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home.

Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation.

It’s hard to overstate just how big a deal this could be. No mention in Businessweek’s report, though, of the all-new form factor that I’ve heard is coming for this year’s new watches. That tidbit came from an unconfirmed little birdie, though, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it.