The Mueller Report 

We’ve all been bombarded by news alerts on Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel report today. I’ve spent most of my day reading it. I strongly suggest all of you do the same.

Yes, it’s effectively a book, and not a short one, but it is incredibly well written and structured. That’s not a surprise to me — we knew Mueller hired a team of excellent attorneys, and good lawyers are good writers. But the information density is very high — no summary or simple list of highlights can do it justice. It is 400+ pages not because it is padded with extraneous details or legal jargon, but because it contains 400+ pages of evidence and narrative. It reads almost like a novel.

And like any good novel, it begins with a bracing opening line:

The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.

‘15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook’ 

Hard to summarize this massive Wired cover story by Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein other than that Facebook is a terrible company run by terrible people, particularly Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. We all have a lot of reading on our hands with today’s release of Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel report, but this one is worth queuing up and setting time aside for. A few highlights:

In addition to general mendacity and capriciousness, Facebook decisions are often inept:

To define trustworthiness, the company was testing how people responded to surveys about their impressions of different publishers. To define news, the engineers pulled a classification system left over from a previous project — one that pegged the category as stories involving “politics, crime, or tragedy.”

That particular choice, which meant the algorithm would be less kind to all kinds of other news — from health and science to technology and sports — wasn’t something Facebook execs discussed with media leaders in Davos. And though it went through reviews with senior managers, not everyone at the company knew about it either. When one Facebook executive learned about it recently in a briefing with a lower- level engineer, they say they “nearly fell on the fucking floor.”

Zuckerberg was jealous of Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom:

Systrom’s glowing press coverage didn’t help. In 2014, according to someone directly involved, Zuckerberg ordered that no other executives should sit for magazine profiles without his or Sandberg’s approval. Some people involved remember this as a move to make it harder for rivals to find employees to poach; others remember it as a direct effort to contain Systrom.

And vindictiveness:

At Wired, the month after an image of a bruised Zuckerberg appeared on the cover, the numbers were even more stark. One day, traffic from Facebook suddenly dropped by 90 percent, and for four weeks it stayed there. After protestations, emails, and a raised eyebrow or two about the coincidence, Facebook finally got to the bottom of it. An ad run by a liquor advertiser, targeted at Wired readers, had been mistakenly categorized as engagement bait by the platform. In response, the algorithm had let all the air out of Wired’s tires. The publication could post whatever it wanted, but few would read it. Once the error was identified, traffic soared back. It was a reminder that journalists are just sharecroppers on Facebook’s giant farm. And sometimes conditions on the farm can change without warning.

Who believes this was a coincidence? Anyone?

‘Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.’ 

Mike Spies, reporting for The New Yorker:

The N.R.A. and Ackerman have become so intertwined that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Top officials and staff move freely between the two organizations; Oliver North, the former Iran-Contra operative, who now serves as the N.R.A.’s president, is paid roughly a million dollars a year through Ackerman, according to two N.R.A. sources. But this relationship, which in many ways has built the contemporary N.R.A., seems also to be largely responsible for the N.R.A.’s dire financial state. According to interviews and to documents that I obtained — federal tax forms, charity records, contracts, corporate filings, and internal communications — a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements. Memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object. “Management has subordinated its judgment to the vendors,” the documents allege. “Trust in the top has eroded.”

Couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

Amazon and Google Both Launch Ad-Based ‘Free’ Music Tiers 

Amazon:

And so, beginning today, customers in the U.S. who do not yet have a Prime membership or a subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited will now be able to listen to an ad-supported selection of top playlists and stations for free with Amazon Music on compatible Alexa-enabled devices.

Google:

Listening to music on your Google Home speaker right out-of-the-box seems too good to be true, right? It’s not! Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers (or other Google Assistant-powered speakers).

Seems like the exact same thing from both companies: free streaming, but only using their respective smart speakers (so not on phones or computers), and with ads. Will be interesting to see just how many ads that is.

Facebook Says It ‘Unintentionally Uploaded’ 1.5 Million People’s Email Contacts Without Their Consent 

Rob Price, reporting for Business Insider:

Facebook harvested the email contacts of 1.5 million users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

Since May 2016, the social-networking company has collected the contact lists of 1.5 million users new to the social network, Business Insider can reveal. The Silicon Valley company said the contact data was “unintentionally uploaded to Facebook,” and it is now deleting them.

Again I will say what few in the media seem willing to: Facebook is a criminal enterprise.

And, as per my previous item, is anyone willing to bet that the actual number is a lot higher than 1.5 million?

Facebook Updates Month-Old Post, Now Admits Millions, Not Thousands, of Instagram Passwords Were Stored in Plain Text 

Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode:

On the same morning Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference finally became public, Facebook dropped some troubling news: Millions of Instagram users’ passwords were accidentally stored unencrypted on Facebook’s servers, which means Facebook employees could access them.

Facebook first announced late last month that it had stored hundreds of millions of user passwords unencrypted on its servers, a massive security problem. At the time, it said that “tens of thousands” of Instagram passwords were also stored in this way.

On Thursday morning, Facebook updated its blog to say that, actually, “millions” of Instagram users, not “tens of thousands,” were impacted:

Since this post was published, we discovered additional logs of Instagram passwords being stored in a readable format. We now estimate that this issue impacted millions of Instagram users. We will be notifying these users as we did the others. Our investigation has determined that these stored passwords were not internally abused or improperly accessed.

Me, a year ago, regarding Facebook’s initial public estimate of the number of accounts harvested by Cambridge Analytica:

Do you want to bet it’s actually a lot more than 87 million, and they’ll announce that bigger number in a few weeks? The drip-drip-drip PR strategy is an old trick, and Facebook utilizes it every time they have bad news involving a number of users. First they announce a low number, then a higher number, and then an even higher number. Notice that their mistakes always — always — start low and then go high. They never once announce that their original number was too high.

The fact that they announced this update number the same day the Mueller report was released is not a coincidence. PR is PR and every company looks to put bad news in as good a light as possible. But most companies don’t outright lie the way Facebook continuously does. They completely lack credibility at this point.

Flagship 5th Avenue Apple Store Battling Bed Bugs 

Not a great week for Apple, really.

Pete for America’s Design Toolkit 

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign for the Democratic nomination in 2020 has gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks. I’m not yet picking a favorite in the race, but he’s certainly a compelling candidate, and an openly gay major party candidate is a first worth celebrating.

What I seek to direct your attention to today, however, is unrelated to politics or policy. It’s this branding site put together by his campaign. This is strong identity work. Just check out these per-state graphics, each of them hand-lettered with full credit given to the artists. This work is distinctive, attractive, and strikes me as pitch-perfect for Buttigieg’s personality and tone. It fits, which is a very hard thing to get right.

‘Don’t Buy a 5G Smartphone’ 

This piece by Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica was published in December, but I think accurately captures the state of 5G for 2019:

For 5G mmWave in 2019, we’re going to get thicker, hotter, more complicated phones that use more energy and cost more money. With no commercial devices to look at, the exact extent of all of these downgrades is still up in the air, but it’s undeniable that first-gen 5G hardware is going to be inferior to more mature 4G designs. With 5G networks only in their infancy and a supposed $200-$300 premium for 5G-compatible phones, this really doesn’t seem worth it for consumers.

Amadeo’s illustration showing how many extra chips a 5G phone needs today is a real eye opener. Qualcomm is motivated to move things forward as fast as they can, but this makes me think we might not see good 5G phones until 2021.

Samsung Galaxy Fold Is the Homer Simpson Car 

Points to Patrick Thornton for calling this back in February:

Some people are calling this ambitious. That’s only something that someone who has never built products would say. The correct term for the Galaxy Fold is prototype.

Galaxy Fold Doesn’t Fold So Good 

Dieter Bohn’s review unit broke after just two days:

It’s a distressing thing to discover just two days after receiving my review unit. More distressing is that the bulge eventually pressed sharply enough into the screen to break it. You can see the telltale lines of a broken OLED converging on the spot where the bulge is.

Seems like a widespread problem. Steve Kovach’s unit broke after one day, and so did Mark Gurman’s. Gurman says it comes with a screen protector that he peeled off but apparently wasn’t supposed to. Looks like the sort of thing you’re supposed to peel off.

Marques Brownlee peeled his off too and the screen broke. Now I’m starting to wonder if anyone’s review unit has not broken.

The Galaxy Fold didn’t look like a real product when Samsung announced it, and it looks less like a real product now that it’s in reviewers’ hands. This thing is supposed to ship in a week, starting at $1,980. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that’s not going to happen.


Why Apple Settled With Qualcomm

Steve Kovach, writing for CNBC:

Its surprise settlement with Qualcomm Tuesday over a years-long patent spat means it’s now in a position to keep pace with its competitors to bring a 5G-ready iPhone to market as soon as this year.

There’s no way there’s going to be a 5G iPhone this year. There’s no way there ever was going to be a 5G iPhone this year — even in a world where Apple and Qualcomm had never gotten into a dispute. It’s too early. The carrier networks aren’t ready, and the chips aren’t efficient enough. And Apple doesn’t make boutique iPhones — they’re not going to do a 5G iPhone that is intended to sell in limited quantities just to say they have a 5G phone. (Samsung, I’m looking at you.)

Apple was “late” to 4G (starting with the iPhone 5) and they were arguably even late to 3G — the original iPhone only supported EDGE. They’ll ship 5G iPhones when they can produce them in best-selling quantities, and when they meet Apple’s expectations for efficiency and genuine usefulness on actual 5G networks.

But we don’t live in a hypothetical world where Apple and Qualcomm did not have a years-long legal fight that led to Apple relying on Intel as its exclusive provider for cellular modems in the 2018 iPhones. We live in a world where Apple did rely exclusively on Intel, and where we know Apple’s Plan A for a 5G iPhone was also reliant on Intel. I think it’s pretty clear what happened here:

  • Intel’s 5G modem efforts were so behind schedule that it looked increasingly likely, if not certain, that Apple wouldn’t be able to use them for 5G iPhones in 2020. Forget about 2019 — I think Apple determined that even 2020 was increasingly in doubt if they sourced 5G modems from Intel.

  • It’s clear to everyone that cellular modems are a key component in mobile devices.1 Apple’s legal/licensing squabble with Qualcomm and Intel’s technical failure shows that these chips are too important for Apple to rely on a third party — especially now that Qualcomm effectively has a monopoly on 5G chips. Fast Company has reported that Apple has a “team of between 1,000 and 1,200 engineers working on the modem chips for future iPhones” — but that team’s work is obviously not going to be ready for a few years, at best. (If Apple’s own in-house modems were going to be ready by 2020 they wouldn’t have cut this licensing agreement with Qualcomm. Update: Good point from Benjamin Mayo — even if Apple’s in-house modem chips were going to be ready soon, Apple would still need to work out a licensing deal for Qualcomm’s patents on such chips.)

  • So Intel failed, and Apple’s in-house team is years away. That left two options: settling with Qualcomm or heading into 2021 and perhaps beyond without 5G iPhones and iPads. Settling with Qualcomm was bitter medicine, but not having 5G devices until 2021 would be untenable.

Again, I don’t think there was ever any plan for 5G iPhones in 2019 — even if Intel had succeeded beyond Apple’s wildest dreams. In fact, I would bet that this year’s new iPhone models will rely exclusively on Intel 4G modems, like last year’s iPhone XS and XR models did. Mid-April is not just too late in the cycle to switch to Qualcomm 5G chips — I think it’s months too late to even go back to a mix of 4G/LTE chips from both Qualcomm and Intel. There are tweaks that Apple can make to new iPhone designs this late in the cycle, but changing cellular modems is more than a tweak. I suspect the only way Apple could add Qualcomm modems into the mix for 2019 is if they’d been secretly planning for this possibility for months.

The 4G/LTE timeline is instructive. Android handset makers started shipping (or at least announcing) 4G phones in early 2011. E.g. Samsung’s Galaxy S 4G LTE, which shipped on Verizon in May 2011. That year Apple shipped the iPhone 4S in October, with no support for LTE. Apple’s first iPhone with LTE was the iPhone 5, in September 2012.

And lo, here we are in early 2019 and Samsung and Verizon are on the cusp of releasing their first 5G device. It seems fair to say that 2019 is for 5G what 2011 was for LTE, and that makes 2020 look like the right first year to expect Apple’s first 5G iPhones. And current 5G technology is so bad, maybe 2021 is the right first year. Apple’s goal shouldn’t be to ship one of the first 5G phones — it should be to ship one of the first good 5G phones.

When2 new iPhones ship without 5G networking this fall, there will be headlines galore suggesting that Apple is late to the 5G game. But that was also the case in 2011 with LTE. But if 2020 were to come and go and iPhones still lacked 5G, they really would be late. Now is the time that fundamental early decisions for those 2020 iPhones need to be made, and it seems painfully clear that Apple determined they could not count on Intel. 


  1. Just for kicks, imagine where Apple would be if they had never succeeded in developing their own in-house CPUs and systems-on-a-chip. Qualcomm would have them over a barrel. ↩︎︎

  2. I should cover my ass and say “if” not “when” here, but I’ll be genuinely flabbergasted if there are 5G iPhones this year. Again, I don’t think it would have happened even if Qualcomm and Apple were best corporate buddies. iPhones have a multi-year development pipeline. ↩︎


9to5Mac: ‘Apple Revamping Find My Friends and Find My iPhone in Unified App’ 

Guilherme Rambo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Apple also wants users to be able to track any item — not just their Apple devices — using this new unified app. The company is working on a new hardware product, known only as “B389” by the people involved in its development.

This new product will be a tag that can be attached to any item — similar to other products like Tile. The tag will be paired to a user’s iCloud account by proximity to an iPhone, like AirPods. Users will be able to receive notifications when their device gets too far away from the tag, preventing them from forgetting the item the tag is attached to. Certain locations can be added to a list of ignored locations, so that the item can be left at those locations without the user being notified. The location of a tag can also be shared with friends or family.

Combining Find My Friends with Find My iPhone (really, Find My Devices) and adding support for Tile-like trackers sounds like a great idea.

Rambo is absolutely on fire lately with these leaks from Apple. Would love to know the backstory on how he’s scoring them.

Intel to Exit 5G Smartphone Modem Business 

Intel news release:

Intel Corporation today announced its intention to exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices. Intel will also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business.

This is, to say the least, rather shocking. It seems extraordinarily unlikely to be a coincidence that the announcement came the same day Apple and Qualcomm settled their lawsuit. A big factor in the high-stakes nature of the Apple-Qualcomm fight is that Apple’s reliance on Intel for 5G modems was looking like a serious problem. So my question is: did Apple settle with Qualcomm because Intel warned them they were getting out of the 5G modem business, leaving Apple with no other option? Or did Intel get out of the 5G modem business because Apple settled with Qualcomm?

My initial guess is it’s the former: Intel decided to get out of this market, and Apple got squeezed.

Ben Bajarin:

Now don’t be surprised if Apple buys some of, or all of, Intel’s modem business IP.

I predicted this years ago so fingers crossed my crystal ball was clear :)

That would fit with the Cook Doctrine of “owning and controlling the primary technologies behind the products [Apple] makes”.

Leakapalooza 

Guilherme Rambo, writing at 9to5Mac, has a veritable mountain of leaks regarding iOS 13 and MacOS 10.15. A few that caught my eye:

Another thing many iOS users complain about is the lack of a standard undo system, which on the iPhone and iPad currently requires physically shaking the device.

With iOS 13, Apple is introducing a new standard undo gesture for text input on the iPad. The gesture starts as a three-finger tap on the keyboard area, sliding left and right allows the user to undo and redo actions interactively.

This is interesting, and I’ve been on Apple’s case about Undo on iOS for a long time. But for text input, there’s already a standard interface on iPad — the little Undo and Redo buttons at the top left of the keyboard. A three-finger gesture doesn’t seem like an improvement.

Font management is getting a major upgrade on iOS 13. It will not be necessary to install a profile to get new fonts into the system anymore. Instead there will be a new font management panel in Settings. A new standard font picker component will be available for developers and the system will notify the user when they open a document that has missing fonts.

A true “finally” for this one. I know none of this is “easy”, and that fonts in particular are tricky security-wise, because they’re software. But man, it’s a little crazy that iPad has been around for nine years and Apple is only getting to “easy font installation” now. I’m tempted to make a Font/DA Mover joke.

Qualcomm and Apple Agree to Drop All Litigation 

Apple Newsroom:

Qualcomm and Apple today announced an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm. The companies also have reached a six-year license agreement, effective as of April 1, 2019, including a two-year option to extend, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

“The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm” is my favorite sentence so far this week.

Here’s more from The New York Times:

The provisions of the deal announced on Tuesday suggest at least a partial victory for Qualcomm’s patent-driven business model, which has also attracted harsh scrutiny from regulators like the Federal Trade Commission in a separate case awaiting a federal judge’s ruling. Qualcomm’s shares, which have been hurt by the two-year dispute with Apple, jumped 23 percent on word of the settlement.

In agreeing to settle the case, Apple tacitly acknowledged it was able to live with Qualcomm’s business model — assuming the price of Qualcomm’s royalties is more to Apple’s liking. The parties disclosed no financial details, but a slide they distributed Tuesday said the deal “reflects value and strength of Qualcomm’s intellectual property.”

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. For many people, I.T. is a task and not a career. It’s time to get your nights and weekends back. Finally.

Jamf Now is a simple, cloud-based solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure company email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. No credit card required. Each additional device starts at just $2 per month.

Neue Haas Grotesk, the Other New ‘Helvetica’ 

Following Monotype’s marketing, yesterday I described Helvetica Now as “the first new version of Helvetica since Helvetica Neue 35 years ago”. As a few type-minded readers pointed out, this ignores Christian Schwartz’s 2010 Neue Haas Grotesk, which is a modernized Helvetica in everything but name:

The digital version of Helvetica that everyone knows and uses today is quite different from the typeface’s pre-digital design from 1957. Originally released as Neue Haas Grotesk, many of the features that made it a Modernist favorite have been lost in translation over the years from one typesetting technology to the next.

Type designer Christian Schwartz has newly restored the original Neue Haas Grotesk in digital form — bringing back features like optical size variations, properly corrected obliques, alternate glyphs, refined spacing, and more.

Many similarities to Helvetica Now, including separate text and display versions, and alternate glyphs such as a straight-legged ‘R’.

Jackassery Never Goes Out of Style 

Daniel Newman, writing for MarketWatch, with “7 reasons investors should worry” about Apple:

3. Apple has an identity crisis. When Apple was a challenger brand, it disrupted. It innovated. It had to “think different” and be a rebel. The moment Apple became the incumbent, it lost its identity, its sense of purpose and its vision. That’s why Apple is trying to be everything now: a credit-card company, another Netflix, the Reader’s Digest of news (leading HSBC to downgrade the stock), maybe an AR company, maybe a car company… Worst of all, Apple keeps looking to the past for ideas instead of the future. Steve Jobs had vision. Tim Cook has spreadsheets. Spreadsheets don’t make great Apple products. Vision does.

I read this piece a few hours ago and decided to ignore it. But this one paragraph kept gnawing at me. In one paragraph Newman argues that during Apple’s good old days, it disrupted and innovated. And then one sentence later he’s arguing that the company is lost because it’s entering the fields of AR and cars. And how are AR and autonomous vehicles “the past”? It’s one thing to contradict oneself paragraphs apart, but it takes quite a mind to contradict oneself so completely in a single short paragraph.

In for a penny, in for a pound, so let’s look at Newman’s next “reason” too:

4. Apple keeps missing the boat on innovation. Steve Jobs was a market-creator. His model was to build entirely new markets out of new product categories with potential. Apple’s success was predicated on a mix of calculated risk and impeccable timing. Today, Apple no longer seems able or willing to create new markets in which to grow. It should have been the smart home company, not Amazon or Google. It should already be the Mixed Reality (XR) company, but for all the rumors, Apple has yet to produce a revolutionary XR product leaving the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, and Magic Leap to lead in this category.

To write this paragraph, Newman had to ignore Apple Watch, which is now a bigger business than the iPod ever was — and is still growing. AirPods are another ignored hit. With the “mixed reality” stuff I guess he’s talking about headsets, which, yes, Apple doesn’t make. But it’s not like Microsoft’s or Facebook’s VR headsets are hit products. And I guarantee there are more people using AR thanks to ARKit on iOS than on all other platforms combined.

And Magic Leap? Really?

CoreAnimation Bug in MacOS 10.14.4 

Ken Case, writing on The Omni Blog:

It’s incredibly rare for us to have to do this, but I need to let our Mac customers know that the 10.14.4 version of Mojave which shipped a few weeks ago (on March 25, 2019) has a drawing bug which makes windows with large CoreAnimation layers fail to draw. In particular, OmniOutliner and OmniPlan customers have been telling us that since upgrading to 10.14.4, they will open some documents and end up seeing… nothing. Perhaps some empty borders around the window. (Or if another window is dragged over the space where that window should be drawing, they’ll see a trail of its old pixels.) This is most likely to affect customers who are using older hardware, but it also affects large documents on newer hardware.

We’re working with Apple to get this resolved as soon as possible, but for now it appears there’s nothing we can do to resolve this on our own.

Bugs happen, but with all the ongoing consternation regarding Apple’s (and particularly the Mac’s) software quality, it’s a little worrisome to see this in a .4 release. A .4 release of the OS should be peak stability.

And the big problem for Omni Group customers hit by this is that there is no easy way to revert from 10.14.4 to 10.14.3, and Apple has encouraged users to turn on auto-updates to new OS releases.

‘Foxconn Says Empty Buildings in Wisconsin Are Not Empty’ 

Nilay Patel, on Foxconn’s response to The Verge’s investigation into their Wisconsin scam:

Today, Foxconn responded to that piece by… announcing another innovation center in Wisconsin, this one in Madison, the state’s capital. The building, which currently houses a bank, actually sits directly across the street from the Capitol building, and it will continue to house the bank because Foxconn did not announce when it would be moving in.

Here are some other things Foxconn did not announce: how much it had paid for the building, how many floors of the building it would occupy, how many people would work there, or what those people would be doing.

It did announce that it would be rebranding the building “Foxconn Place Madison,” however.

It’s like Foxconn is a stage magician, and Wisconsin paid $4.5 billion to see an elephant disappear from the stage. But two years later, there still is no elephant, it seems ever more clear that they never had any intention of even showing an elephant, let alone making it disappear, and now that people are calling them on it, they’re like, “We are definitely going to make an elephant disappear from this stage, but hey — how about a card trick?”

The Verge Digs Into Foxconn’s Wisconsin Con Job 

In-depth investigation by Josh Dzieza for The Verge:

The secrecy and vagueness are frustrating to critics. How do you prove that Foxconn won’t build an enormous LCD factory during an industry glut or create a research campus larger than MIT in rural Wisconsin other than by pointing out that experts — and even, occasionally, Foxconn executives — say it makes no sense?

State House Minority Leader Gordon Hintz recently appointed himself to the board of WEDC, and Foxconn’s continued promises of 13,000 jobs make him palpably furious. Speaking in slow, measured tones in his Madison office as he packed for a trip, he said the state needs to “right-size” the project to something realistic, likely a few hundred research jobs, and that Foxconn needs to be honest about its plans. “For something that had a 25-year payback, building a factory because the president wants you to for reasons that have nothing to do with market viability is insane.”

Hintz believes Foxconn is trying to slow-walk the project until 2020, continuing to use it to win Trump’s goodwill in the trade war and waiting to see who’s elected.

Foxconn scammed Republican officials, pure and simple — local, state, and federal. The LCD factory that President Trump declared “the eighth wonder of the world” still doesn’t exist and likely never will. It’s a scam Foxconn has played around the globe.

Previously at DF:

Julian Assange, Houseguest From Hell 

BBC News:

More details emerged later, when Foreign Minister José Valencia told Congress that Assange had been using a mobile phone not registered with the embassy, repeatedly insulted the mission’s workers - reportedly calling them US spies - and damaged the facilities by riding his skateboard and playing football, despite being told not to do so.

Cleaning staff, Mr Valencia said, had described “improper hygienic conduct” throughout Assange’s stay, an issue that a lawyer had attributed to “stomach problems”. One unnamed senior Ecuadorean official told AP news agency that other issues included “weeks without a shower” and a “dental problem born of poor hygiene”.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo then complained that Assange had been allowed to do things like “put faeces on the walls of the embassy and other behaviours of that nature”.

Sounds like a lovely fellow.


Disney+ Details: $7/Month, No Commercials, Tons of Old and New Content

Peter Kafka, writing at Recode:

Disney+ will launch in the U.S. on November 12, for $7 a month. It will have a very large library of old Disney movies and TV shows — crucially, including titles from its Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars catalog — along with new movies and series made exclusively for the streaming service. It won’t have any ads. And it will allow subscribers to download all of that stuff, and watch it offline, whenever they want.

For comparison: A standard Netflix subscription now costs $13 a month.

I don’t think it’s either/or — I’ll certainly cough up $70/year in addition to whatever it is I’m paying for Netflix, and I’m sure tens of millions of others will too. But for the cost-conscious or simply those with a low threshold of subscription fatigue, $7/month for Disney+ looks like a much better deal than $13/month for Netflix. For those with young kids, it looks even better. In terms of depth of content, remember that Disney recently acquired 21st Century Fox — Disney+ will be the only streaming service with The Simpsons, to name just one Fox franchise now under the Disney umbrella.

$7 is really quite a deal — both by Netflix’s current prices and Disney’s own. $7 is about what it costs for a small box of popcorn and a bottle of water at Disney World.

Kafka again:

Disney’s event still left several unknowns, some of which won’t get answered anytime soon: For instance, does Disney plan on distributing its service via big internet platforms like Amazon and Apple, who are now officially frenemies with the media giant?

I’ll eat my hat if Disney+ isn’t available for Apple TV and iOS devices. The only question is whether they’ll work out a deal with Apple to allow sign-ups on the device, or if, like Netflix now, you’ll have to sign up on the web before using the service’s apps on Apple devices.

Keep in mind that Disney CEO Bob Iger sits on Apple’s board. So did Eric Schmidt, of course — before Android. I don’t see this like that. Disney+ is central to Disney’s future. Apple TV+ is not central to Apple. I know Apple News+ and Apple Music are both $10/month, and Apple Arcade might cost $10/month, but I don’t think Apple expects to charge $10/month just for Apple TV+. I continue to think Apple TV+ will be something they add on for “free” when you pay for some sort of bundle with other Apple subscriptions — or maybe it will cost $10/month if it’s the only thing you subscribe to from Apple, but they know that most people will get it as a “free” bonus.

(And, in case you missed it, Peter Kafka was my guest on the most recent episode of The Talk Show — very timely, even though we recorded a week ago.) 


Helvetica Now 

Monotype has released the first new version of Helvetica since Helvetica Neue 35 years ago:

Helvetica Now is a new chapter in the story of perhaps the best-known typeface of all time. Available in three optical sizes — Micro, Text, and Display — every character in Helvetica Now has been redrawn and refit; with a variety of useful alternates added. It has everything we love about Helvetica and everything we need for typography today. This is not a revival. This is not a restoration.

This is a statement.

It’s good, I think. A lot of what they’ve done for the alternative glyphs — like the straight-legged ‘R’ and rounded-dotted ‘i’ and ‘j’ — remind me more than a little of Apple’s San Francisco. I’m not saying Monotype drew inspiration from San Francisco — only that I think both type families are skating to where the puck is going for modern sans serifs. All of Helvetica Now still feels like Helvetica to me, which is exactly as it should be.

$299 for the entire family of 48 fonts, and through May 24, it’s available for just $149. An insta-buy for yours truly.

See also: William Joel’s interview at The Verge with Monotype type director Charles Nix.

Old Hoss Radbourn: 59 or 60 Wins? 

Alex Bonilla, writing at the Sports Reference Blog:

Keen-eyed Baseball-Reference users have written us asking about an update made to the statistics of Hall of Fame pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn. In the past, we had displayed Radbourn with 59 wins in his 1884 season with Providence. However, in a recent update, Radbourn has been bumped up to 60 wins.

Before we delve into what the correct number is, let’s zoom out a bit, first.

Radbourn — whom all baseball fans should follow — reacting to the news:

Pleased to become the only hurler to win games in the 19th and 21st centuries.

‘Apple and the Craftsmen’ 

Martin Feld, writing at Lounge Ruminator:

It is the fourth point above — star power — that brings me to the second reason that Apple chose to host the event:

because it could.

Apple not only wanted to show how its work with various creatives and firms fits into the current culture of tech, it wanted to show that it is a cultural institution in its own right. I believe that this is what many tech writers and commentators missed during this event, with their typical focus on Apple as a product company. Apple is broader and more multifaceted now than it ever has been before and it has enormous brand power.

I think he’s onto something with this point.

How to Tip 

Alan Sytsma, writing for Grub Steet:

For 14 months, this CNBC story on tipping has been lying dormant, just waiting for the Internet Outrage Machine to find it. This week, it was found, and yet another tipping debate — if that’s what you want to call it — exploded. The whole thing was exactly as dumb as you’d expect. Tipping is very easy, but for anyone who still doesn’t get it, Grub Street has assembled this helpful FAQ.

Do I have to tip?
Yes.

It’s so complicated.
It’s not. When you eat and drink at a restaurant or bar or café or whatever, where servers accept tips, you will leave a tip, and that tip will be 20 percent of the total bill, including tax and whatever you’ve spent on alcohol.

This is how I’ve tipped my whole life: 20 percent on the final bill, tax included. That’s it. For outstanding service, or if you receive complimentary dishes or drinks, you tip on top of that. Don’t give me any Mr. Pink shit — this is how the system works, and if you tip less than 20 percent on your final bill you’re stiffing your server.

If I have it with me, I tip in cash.

This whole thing is U.S.-centric, of course, but let me add that while I understand how strange U.S. tipping culture must seem to someone from another country, it’s not complicated, and in my experience, typical service in U.S. restaurants is far better than in other countries. Fundamentally I think the basic idea works, insofar as it incentivizes superior service.

Butt-Head Astronomer 

Speaking of early 90’s Apple code names, it’s always fun to revisit the story of Carl Sagan and the Power Mac 7100.

WALT — Crude 1993 Apple Prototype of a Mac-Based Desktop Phone 

Sonny Dickson has a video of a strange 1993 Apple prototype in action:

Manufactured largely from PowerBook 100 parts, all framed with a specialized version of Mac OS Classic that is customized with WALT bootup text and specific WALT related language. […]

The way I’ve come to think about the W.A.L.T. is as a classic Mac blended with a Newton and a desk phone — it features a full array of the typical interface ports of its time, featuring SCSI, VGA out, and external audio. What’s even more interesting is that it ran HyperCard instead of Apple’s better known Finder interface.

In spirit it’s certainly more Newton-like than Mac-like, but technologically it’s clearly just a PowerBook 100 running a customized version of System 6 and the software is all just HyperCard.

Assuming the 1993 date for this prototype is correct, it’s a sign of Apple’s early 90’s dysfunction that this turd was produced and shown in public, given that the actual Newton shipped in 1993. It feels like something someone in the Mac division ordered up to show that the Newton shouldn’t even be made because the Mac could do everything the Newton could do. But it obviously couldn’t. Everything is painfully slow on this WALT prototype, and stylus input is a joke — the stylus is just directing the Mac’s mouse pointer around the screen, slowly. (System 7 shipped in 1991, so it’s also telling that this prototype purportedly from 1993 was running System 6 — System 6 was a bit closer to the metal and thus faster.) The whole UI seems crude compared to the Newton’s elegance.

Still — fascinating that something like this can still boot and run. And I presume from the Orlando-area map on the startup screen that the name “WALT” was homage to Walt Disney, and that “Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone” was just a (terrible) backronym.

Poorly Researched Men’s Fiction 

Evan Allgood, writing at McSweeney’s:

The deers, famously self-assured creatures, didn’t budge. They were awake now, munching happily on some squirrels they’d killed for food, the carnivores. But now they were the squirrels in this equation, which felt somehow ironic. I reached for that old liquid courage — a dented flask full of industrial-strength Jeff Daniels. Then I lined up those deers, took a breath, and pushed the trigger. There was no kickback.

Guilherme Rambo: ‘MacOS 10.15 to Include Standalone Media Apps, Splitting iTunes’ 

Guilherme Rambo, writing at 9to5Mac:

The new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps will be made using Marzipan, Apple’s new technology designed to facilitate the porting of iPad apps to the Mac without too many code changes. It’s not clear whether the redesigned Apple Books app will also be made using the technology, but given that the redesign came to iOS first and its usage for the other apps, it’s likely that this new Books app will also be using UIKit.

Nothing surprising here, but it leaves the $64,000 question unanswered: will these apps be more like dumbed-down iPad apps on the Mac, or more like smartened-up Mac apps on the iPad? Dumbed-down iPad apps on the Mac is, if anything, a generous description of the News, Stocks, Home, and Voice Recorder apps we got with 10.14.

With the standalone versions of Apple’s media apps coming to the Mac, it’s natural to ask: what about iTunes in macOS 10.15? According to sources, the next major version of macOS will still include the iTunes app. Since Apple doesn’t have a new solution for manually syncing devices such as old iPods and iPhones with the Mac, it’s natural to keep iTunes around a little longer.

Makes sense. Let the new apps serve as front-ends to Apple’s media services, and let iTunes stay as a media player for audio and video files on your Mac.

Event Horizon Telescope Captures First-Ever Black Hole Image 

Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, reporting for The Washington Post:

“You’re basically looking at a supermassive black hole that’s almost the size of our solar system,” or 38 billion kilometers in diameter, said Sera Markoff, an astrophysicist at the University of Amsterdam.

The image shows the boundary between light and dark around a black hole, called the event horizon — the point of no return, where the gravity of the black hole becomes so extreme that nothing that enters can ever escape. At the center of the black hole, time and space become so curved upon themselves that the laws of physics break down completely.

‘Commander in Cheat’ 

The Guardian has an excerpt from Rick Reilly’s new book, Commander in Cheat:

Somebody should write that the way Trump cheats at golf, lies about his courses, and stiffs his golf contractors isn’t that far from how he cheats on his wives, lies about his misdeeds, and stiffs the world on agreements America has already made on everything from Iran to climate change.

“Golf is like bicycle shorts,” I once wrote. “It reveals a lot about a man.”

You could write a book about what Trump’s golf reveals about him.

Here it is.

My copy arrived a few days ago.

Steven Troughton-Smith Thinks iTunes Breakup is Nigh 

Steven Troughton-Smith, on Twitter:

I am now fairly confident based on evidence I don’t wish to make public at this point that Apple is planning new (likely UIKit) Music, Podcasts, perhaps even Books, apps for macOS, to join the new TV app. I expect the four to be the next wave of Marzipan apps. Grain of salt, etc.

And yes, this means the much-discussed and long-awaited break up of iTunes. Finally!

Makes a lot of sense — we’ve all been waiting for the breakup of the monolithic iTunes app on Mac for years. In theory, what makes sense are separate apps for Music, Podcasts, and TV — and Apple has already announced that a new Apple TV app for Mac is coming this fall, presumably with MacOS 10.15. It also makes sense that these apps would be created using the upcoming fully-fledged UIKit for Mac stuff. (What we’ve been calling Marzipan for the last year is just one part of a much bigger story.) If Troughton-Smith is correct, we might even get betas of these apps in the 10.15 betas this summer.

Apple Drops $99 Data Migration Fee for New Macs and Repairs 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

Apple has dropped the $99 fee that it previously charged for migrating data from an old Mac to a newly purchased machine. TidBITS reader and TekBasics consultant David Price wrote to tell us that he has generally advised clients to pay Apple to migrate data to newly purchased Macs, but when he accompanied his brother-in-law to pick up a freshly migrated iMac last week, Apple informed him that there was no charge for the service.

I contacted an Apple Store Operations Specialist, who confirmed the policy change.

I had no idea they previously charged for this.

Scheme to Swap Fake iPhones Adds Up to $900,000 Loss for Apple 

Rick Rojas, reporting for The New York Times:

The con was simple: Send a fake iPhone to Apple claiming that the device would not turn on and that it was under warranty, and not long after, a genuine replacement arrived in the mail. It was a scheme that federal prosecutors said two college students in Oregon repeated on such a scale that it amounted to nearly $900,000 in losses for Apple as they sent in hundreds of counterfeit phones. […]

Records provided to investigators by Apple allowed them to connect Mr. Jiang to 3,069 iPhone warranty claims through his name and his email, mailing and IP addresses. All of them indicated “No Power/Wired Charging Issues” as the reason for the claim.

More than 1,500 of the claims were rejected, but nearly just as many were approved, with a new phone sent out. An Apple representative told an investigator, according to court records, that a key element of the scheme’s success was that the phones were inoperable, which meant the replacement process would begin before technicians could figure out they were counterfeit.

I don’t know how long these guys thought they’d get away with this, but I’d have guessed they’d have been flagged a lot sooner than 1,500 replaced iPhones and 3,000 attempts at the scam.

Ming-Chi Kuo: Mini-LED 31.6-inch Apple Display by Q3 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

TF Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo has released a report which lays out Apple’s product interest in mini-LED technology. Kuo says that Apple will launch a 31.6-inch (6K resolution) external display in the second or third quarter of 2019 and feature a mini-LED backlight.

This would be the standalone Pro display to go along with the new Mac Pro. If it’s on pace to ship in Q3 then it’s almost certainly going to be unveiled at WWDC in June.

StackSocial’s Epic Mac Bundle 

My thanks to StackSocial for sponsoring this week at DF to promote their Epic Mac Bundle. It’s really an extraordinary deal — eight great Mac apps, including the award-winning apps Fantastical 2 ($49.99) and PDF Expert ($79.99), plus top-rated apps like Flux 7 ($99), Pagico 8 ($50), iStat Menus 6 ($15), and three more. The entire bundle is valued at $478.71 separately, but StackSocial has it for just $29.99.

If you just want one of these apps, like say Fantastical or PDF Expert, you’ll save money buying this bundle — and you’ll get all the other apps too.

Plus, DF readers can save an extra 20% with code “DARING20” at checkout. Act now — the bundle ends April 10.

Netflix Confirms It Killed AirPlay Support 

Sean Hollister, reporting for The Verge:

Netflix confirmed to The Verge that it pulled the wireless casting feature this past week, due to what it’s calling a “technical limitation.” But it’s not the kind of technical limitation you’d think.

You see, Apple recently partnered with most of the major TV brands to allow AirPlay 2 to send shows directly to their 2019 TV sets with a firmware update later this year, but a Netflix spokesperson tells me AirPlay 2 doesn’t have digital identifiers to let Netflix tell those TVs apart — and so the company can’t certify its users are getting the best Netflix experience when casting to those new sets.

So now, it’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater and pulling the plug on AirPlay, period. “We can’t distinguish which device is which, we can’t actually certify the devices… so we’ve had to just shut down support for it,” a Netflix spokesperson says.

I don’t really blame them for calling it a “technical limitation”, but it’s a bit frustrating that they’re throwing out something that already works and has worked for years. And it makes it sound like it’s something they can’t do, rather than the truth, which is that they’ve chosen not to.

The Design of Apple Card 

Arun Venkatesan:

As is expected from Apple, the card is unlike any other. At a close glance, the minutest details set it apart from the rest. Of course, the physical card hasn’t been released yet, but we can learn a lot from what Apple has shown in promotional material.

An obsessive dive into the details of Apple Card’s physical card.

The Talk Show: ‘Equally Confused’ 

Special guest Peter Kafka — executive editor at Recode and longtime reporter in the fields of media and technology — joins the show to discuss the announcements at last week’s “Show Time” event: Apple News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV Channels and TV+.

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Bad UI: MacOS 10.14’s Software Update Release Notes

I’m far from the first person to notice this. It’s such bad design it’s obvious to anyone trying to read the release notes of a MacOS Mojave 10.14 update:

Screenshot of the software update release notes in System Preferences in MacOS 10.14.

The release notes for the 10.14.4 update are quite long, as you can see from the relative size of the scroll. That’s good — there’s a lot new in this update and the release notes should mention everything new or different. But the sheet containing the release notes can’t be resized. You see about 9 lines of text at a time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Worse, the text can’t be selected, so you can’t even copy and paste it into TextEdit or some other app to read it comfortably. They even have URLs at the bottom of the note, pointing to support pages on apple.com which contain even more details about the update — but the URLs aren’t clickable. Can’t copy them, can’t click them — the only way to actually open these URLs is to retype them manually.

It was a good idea to move system software updates out of the App Store app and (back1) into a System Prefs panel. System software updates aren’t from the App Store, and System Prefs is — duh — the correct place to manage the system. But everything about the presentation of release notes in this sheet is obviously bad. Macs have displays ranging from large to giant, but these release notes are displayed in a fixed-size pane that shows less text than an iPhone SE. Seriously. The rigidity and clear lack of thoughtfulness makes it feel like a dialog box from some other operating system, like an old version of Windows. If this sheet were part of a student’s assignment in an intro to Mac programming class, a good teacher would send it back and explain how to make a sheet resizable, how to make text selectable (and thus copy-able), and how to make URLs clickable.

But this isn’t a student assignment. It’s MacOS system software. 


  1. Which is where Software Update properly resided in Mac OS X 10.0 through 10.7, before moving to the App Store app in 10.8↩︎