The Marc Newson Hourglass for Hodinkee 

Watch the video and read this. I’ll update this post with my comments later today.

Update: OK, so my take on this is going to upset many of you. I first saw this last night via this tweet from Marco Arment, and I read through the replies and every single one of them was mocking either the entire premise of an exquisite hourglass or at the very least the price.

I think this looks beautiful, and I don’t think there’s anything crazy about it costing $12,000. I’m not buying one. But all sorts of pieces of art cost tens of thousands of dollars, and I say this is most definitely art. Newson’s previous hourglass design, for Ikepod, ranged from $13,000–40,000.

I do find it odd that every unit is numbered “1/100” rather than giving each piece a unique number from 1–100. And Hodinkee isn’t doing themselves any favors with some of the precious bits of copywriting (e.g. “approximately 1,249,996 little spheres” is not an approximation). But if you don’t see anything ludicrous about a mechanical watch costing in excess of $10,000 (or $100,000, or more) why is there something ludicrous about a $12,000 hourglass?

The world is full of cheaply-made mass-produced crap. Why not celebrate the creation of something genuinely beautiful?

‘Spectre’ Trailer Re-Cut to With Roger Moore as Bond 

This is so well done it gave me goosebumps. Makes me think the franchise could use some Moore-like suaveness when they recast the role post-Craig.

‘Moonraker’ — The Insane Attempt to Turn James Bond Into ‘Star Wars’ in 1979 

James Whitbrook, writing for io9:

Moonraker might not be the best Bond movie — it might not even be the best of Moore’s time with the Bond mantle. But all these years later, its goofy charm perhaps best represents the joyful camp that Moore brought to his role as 007, something we will always remember now that he’s gone.

Over the years, my youthful resistance to campiness has faded, and my esteem for Moonraker has grown.

From the Annals of Anal 

The New York Daily News:

At approximately 6:30 a.m. Monday, a car crash involving two pickup trucks sent one of the vehicles inside the AnalTech building of Newark, Del., leaving a giant hole. The truck damaged the facility’s laboratory and caused an odor to emanate from the cavity, WDEL reports.

Regarding the company name:

In an email sent to the Houston Chronicle, a spokesperson revealed, “In 1964, the company paid a marketing firm to come up with a different name. They said, ‘Well, you guys do Analytical Technology — why don’t you put the two words together and call it ‘AnalTech!’”

However, the spokesperson admitted that “AnalTech faces certain challenges because of the ‘juvenile’ humor that has developed in the past few decades and current web filters that may block the company name” and has considered rebranding as a result.

I don’t see anything “juvenile” about this humor. Good butt jokes are funny to all ages.

(Via Paul Kafasis.)

Safari vs. Chrome on the Mac

Eric Petitt, writing for The Official Unofficial Firefox Blog yesterday:

I head up Firefox marketing, but I use Chrome every day. Works fine. Easy to use. Like most of us who spend too much time in front of a laptop, I have two browsers open; Firefox for work, Chrome for play, customized settings for each. There are multiple things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I‘m OK with Chrome. I just don’t like only being on Chrome. […]

But talking to friends, it sounds more and more like living on Chrome has started to feel like their only option. Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad. And unfortunately, too many people think Firefox isn’t a modern alternative.

In an update posted today, he walked that back:

In my original post I made a personal dig about Edge, IE and Safari: “Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad.” I’ve since deleted that sentence.

It’s true, I personally don’t like those products, they just don’t work for me. But that was probably a bit too flip. And, if it wasn’t obvious that those were my personal opinions as a user, not those of the good folks at Firefox and Mozilla, then please accept my apology.

It’s easy when making an aside — and it’s clear that the central premise of this piece is about positioning Chrome as the Goliath to Firefox’s David, so references to Safari and IE are clearly asides — to conflate “I don’t like X” with “X is bad”. So I say we let it slide.1

But I’ve been meaning to write about Safari vs. Chrome for a while, and Petitt’s jab, even retracted, makes for a good excuse.

I think Safari is a terrific browser. It remains the one and only browser for the Mac that behaves like a native Mac app through and through. It may not be the fastest browser but it is fast. And its energy performance puts Chrome to shame. If you use a Mac laptop, using Chrome instead of Safari can cost you an hour or more of battery life per day.2

But Chrome is a terrific browser, too. It’s clearly the second-most-Mac-like browser for MacOS. It almost inarguably has the widest and deepest extension ecosystem. It has good web developer tools, and Chrome adopts new web development technologies faster than Safari does.

But Safari’s extension model is more privacy-conscious. For many people on MacOS, the decision between Safari and Chrome probably comes down which ecosystem you’re more invested in — iCloud or Google — for things like tab, bookmark, and history syncing. Me, personally, I’d feel lost without the ability to send tabs between my Macs and iPhone via Continuity.

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.)3

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. 

  1. What really struck me about Petitt’s piece wasn’t the unfounded (to my eyes) dismissal of Safari, but rather his admission that he uses “Firefox for work, Chrome for play”. I really doubt the marketing managers for Chrome or Safari spend their days with a rival browser open for “play”, and even if they did, I expect they’d have the common sense not to admit so publicly, and especially not in the opening paragraph of a piece arguing that their own browser is a viable alternative to the rival one. ↩︎

  2. Back in December, when Consumer Reports rushed out their sensational report claiming bizarrely erratic battery life on the then-new MacBook Pros (which was eventually determined to be caused by a bug in Safari that Apple soon fixed), I decided to try to loosely replicate their test on the MacBook Pro review units I had from Apple. Consumer Reports doesn’t reveal the exact details of their testing, but they do describe it in general. They set the laptop brightness to a certain brightness value, then load a list of web pages repeatedly until the battery runs out. Presumably they automate this with a script of some sort, but they don’t say.

    That’s pretty easy to replicate in AppleScript. I used that day’s leading stories on TechMeme as my source for URLs to load — 26 URLs total. When a page loads, my script waits 5 seconds, and then scrolls down (simulating the Page Down key), waits another 5 seconds and pages down again, and then waits another 5 seconds before paging down one last time. This is a simple simulation of a person actually reading a web page. While running through the list of URLs, my script leaves each URL open in a tab. At the end of the list, it closes all tabs and then starts all over again. Each time through the loop the elapsed time and remaining battery life are logged to a file. (I also logged results as updates via messages sent to myself via iMessage, so I could monitor the progress of the hours-long test runs from my phone. No apps were running during the tests other than Safari, Script Editor, Finder, and Messages.)

    I set the display brightness at exactly 68.75 percent for each test (11/16 clicks on the brightness meter when using the function key buttons to adjust), a value I chose arbitrarily as a reasonable balance for someone running on battery power.

    Averaged (and rounded) across several runs, I got the following results:

    • 15-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar: 6h:50m
    • 13-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar: 5h:30m
    • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2014): 5h:10m
    • 11-inch MacBook Air (2011): 2h:15m

    I no longer had a new 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar (a.k.a. the “MacBook Esc”) — I’d sent it back to Apple. I included my own personal 2014 13-inch MacBook Pro and my old 2011 MacBook Air just as points of reference. I think the Air did poorly just because it was so old and so well-used. It still has its original battery.

    I saw no erratic fluctuations in battery life across runs of the test. I procrastinated on publishing the results, though, and within a few weeks the whole thing was written off with a “never mind!” when Apple fixed the bug in Safari that was causing Consumer Reports’s erratic results.

    Anyway, the whole point of including these results in this footnote is that I also ran the exact same test with Chrome on the 13-inch MacBook Pro With Touch Bar. The average result: 3h:40m. That’s 1h:50m difference. On the exact same machine running the exact same test with the exact same list of URLs, the battery lasted almost exactly 1.5 times as long using Safari than Chrome.

    My test was in no way meant to simulate real-world usage. You’d have to be fueled up on some serious stimulants to read a new web page every 15 seconds non-stop for hours on end. But the results were striking. If you place a high priority on your MacBook’s battery life, you should use Safari instead of Chrome.

    If you’re interested, I’ve posted my battery testing scripts for Safari and Chrome↩︎︎

  3. If anyone has a good source for browser usage by MacOS users from a general purpose website like The New York Times or CNN, let me know. I honestly don’t know whether to expect that the split among DF readers is biased in favor of Safari because DF readers are more likely to care about the advantages of a native app, or biased in favor of Chrome because so many of you are web developers or even just nerdy enough to install a third-party browser in the first place. Wikimedia used to publish stats like that, but alas, ceased in 2015↩︎︎

Meeting Roger Moore 

Amazing story from Marc Haynes about meeting Roger Moore as a 7-year-old in 1983.

(This tweet I’m linking to has screenshots of Haynes’s post on Facebook; here’s the same story in text copied and pasted into a forum, without attribution. Have I ever complained about how much I dislike Facebook?)

Implementing JSON Feed 

Dr. Drang, after adding JSON Feed support for both his blog publishing engine and his homegrown feed reader:

JSON Feed, for all its advantages, may be a flash in the pan. Not only do bloggers and publishing platforms have to adopt it, so do the major aggregator/reader services like Feedly and Digg and the analytics services like FeedPress and FeedBurner. But even if JSON Feed doesn’t take off, the time I spent adding it to my blog and aggregator was so short I won’t regret it.

Again I say: easier to generate, easier to parse.

Update: Rob Wells on adding JSON feed to his site:

I think this is what all the people complaining on the Hacker News thread missed. Working in JSON is comfortable and familiar — the tools are good and you get told when something goes wrong. Working with XML can be unclear and a bit of a pain, and creating an invalid document is a risk.

So my super-duper advanced JSON Feed implementation is… constructing a dict, adding things to it and passing it off to the JSON module that I use all the time. Taken care of.

I do something similar to what Wells and Drang do. DF’s RSS and Atom XML feeds are generated via templates: skeleton XML documents with tokens and loop constructs where the actual content gets filled in. But for JSON Feed I just build a Perl data structure that maps exactly to the JSON Feed spec, and just call a single function from the standard JSON module and it gets printed. That’s it. A template would add complexity.

Feedbin, Too 

Ben Ubois, announcing support for JSON Feed in Feedbin:

One of the criticisms I’ve seen of JSON Feed is that there’s no incentive for feed readers to support JSON Feed. This is not true. One of the largest-by-volume support questions I get is along the lines of “Why does this random feed not work?” And, 95% of the time, it’s because the feed is broken in some subtle way. JSON Feed will help alleviate these problems, because it’s easier to get right.

I also want JSON Feed to succeed because I remember how daunting RSS/Atom parsing were when building Feedbin. If JSON Feed was the dominant format back then, it would have been a non-issue.

Easier to generate and easier to parse — that’s the whole point of JSON Feed in a nut.

NewsBlur Now Supports JSON Feed 

Samuel Clay, founder of NewsBlur:

Starting today, NewsBlur now officially supports the new JSON Feed spec. And there’s nothing extra you have to do. This means if a website syndicates their stories with the easy-to-write and easy-to-read JSON format, you can read it on NewsBlur. It should make no difference to you, since you’re reading the end product. But to website developers everywhere, supporting JSON Feeds is so much easier than supporting XML-based RSS/Atom.

According to Clay, there are 15,000 NewsBlur users who subscribe to Daring Fireball. It’s very cool to see a feed reader that popular adopt JSON Feed so quickly.

The DF RSS feed isn’t going anywhere, so if you’re already subscribed to it, there’s no need to switch. But JSON Feed’s spec makes it possible for me to specify both a url that points to the post on Daring Fireball (i.e. the permalink) and an external_url that points to the article I’m linking to. The way I’ve dealt with that in the RSS (technically Atom, but that’s sort of beside the point) is a bit of a hack that’s caused problems with numerous feed readers over the years.

Roger Moore’s Recipe for a Perfect Martini 

Worth a re-link today: Roger Moore, two years ago, writing for The Guardian:

The sad fact is that I know exactly how to make a dry martini but I can’t drink them because, two years ago, I discovered I was diabetic. I prefer one with gin, but James Bond liked a vodka martini, “shaken not stirred” — which I never said, by the way. That was Sean Connery, remember him?

The worst martini I’ve ever had was in a club in New Zealand, where the barman poured juice from a bottle of olives into the vodka. That’s called a dirty martini and it is a dirty, filthy, rotten martini, and should not be drunk by anybody except condemned prisoners.

My dry martinis taste amazing and the day they tell me I’ve got 24 hours to live I am going to have six. Here’s how I make them.

I hope he had all six yesterday.

‘The Spy Who Loved Me’

Chris Murphy, writing for CNN back in 2013 on the “greatest James Bond scene of all time”:

Despite this wealth of choice, a series of Bond experts, and one of the film’s legendary producers, are in no doubt as to which scene should be anointed the best ever.

And given the recurring role that skiing has played throughout the life of Bond, it should comes as no surprise our panel’s chosen encounter occurs on the slopes. “I would argue the most iconic sequence is in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, when Bond shot straight off the edge of a cliff at Baffin Island in Canada,” Ajay Chowdhury, editor of the James Bond International Fan Club, told CNN.

“We saw him fall and fall, and when the Union Jack parachute opened up and the theme tune kicked in, the world cheered.

“That was Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee Year in 1977 and I think to this day it was (famous Bond producer) Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli’s favorite ever scene in a Bond movie.

“When everything cleared it was him, on his own against the world. You play that sequence around the world and it is James Bond. And he did it on skis.”

That opening scene in The Spy Who Loved Me is also the one where Bond is wearing a digital Seiko watch that can receive secure text messages from MI6 — at the time, sheer fantasy; today, a feature many of you reading this now have on your own watch. (Albeit without the ticker tape.)

I don’t know if it’s the single best Bond scene of all time, but it’s up there, and it’s almost certainly the best Bond stunt of all time — stuntman Rick Sylvester actually skied off that cliff and parachuted to safety. I just love how the fall takes place in silence.

Without hesitation I would put The Spy Who Loved Me at the top of my list of Roger Moore’s Bond films. It has everything: the aforementioned great opening, an iconic car (the submarine-convertible white Lotus Esprit1), a great villian (Jaws), and a perfect theme song (Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”). Bernard Lee was still in the role as M. And at the center of it all, Roger Moore at his cool, suave, and assured best.

Moore was quite self-aware of what he brought to the role. His take, in a 2014 interview with NPR, is exactly right:

I look like a comedic lover, and Sean [Connery] in particular, and Daniel Craig now, they are killers. They look like killers. I wouldn’t like to meet Daniel Craig on a dark night if I’d said anything bad about him.

Moore’s Bond had fun doing his job. 

Roger Moore Dies at 89 

A terrific and much-loved actor, but also by all accounts a good man.

“Who’s your favorite James Bond?” is a fun game to play, because there’s no wrong answer. I have at least two friends who swear their answer is Lazenby. But one thing I would argue is undeniable about Moore’s run as Bond is that he was the perfect Bond for the 70s. He didn’t just keep the franchise going, he helped adapt it to the times. Sean Connery made Bond a sensation. Roger Moore turned it into a cinematic and pop-cultural institution.

Spotlight Performance Problems on iOS 

Nick Heer:

I’ve generally had pretty good luck with Spotlight on iOS, but I’ve long noticed that results are delayed or nonexistent after not using it for a little while, particularly if I haven’t rebooted my phone recently. I thought I was losing my head a little bit, until I found a tip on Twitter from Anand Iyer :

Settings > General > Spotlight Search > toggle Slack off

A week or so ago I ran into this, where Spotlight was running so slowly on my iPhone that it was unusable. Restarting my phone fixed the problem, but I’ll bet it was this Slack problem.

Update: Sounds like there might widespread problems with Spotlight indexing on iOS 10, because a bunch of readers have written to say they have the same problem but don’t even have Slack installed.

Update 2: Several readers are saying this was a bug in iOS 10.3.1 but has been fixed in last week’s 10.3.2 update.

How Anker Is Beating Apple and Samsung at Their Own Accessory Game 

Nice profile of Anker by Nick Statt for The Verge:

So in airports, the back of cabs, and on city streets we’re plugging into lithium-ion slabs in our pockets and bags to stay connected. The market for portable battery packs generated $360 million in the 12 months ending in March, 2017 in the US alone. The brands behind these packs are largely anonymous — Kmashi, Jackery, and iMuto — and they often stay that way.

Except Anker. The steady rise of the company’s profile is proof that it’s possible to meet one very specific consumer need and ride that wave as it continues to ripple out to other markets. A majority of Anker’s sales come from cables and wall chargers, and it’s now moving into the smart home and auto market — anywhere a plug and a cable can solve a problem.

It’s always satisfying to see a company thrive by focusing on making great products.

‘On Margins’ 

New podcast from the inimitable Craig Mod about the art of making books. The first episode is an interview with Jan Chipchase:

Researcher and author Jan Chipchase has a new book — “The Field Study Handbook.” We discuss how he came to produce this 500+ page magnum opus — a distillation of his life’s work — and why he is self publishing.

Boring Google 

Ben Thompson, in praise of Google’s “boring” I/O keynote:

Google Assistant has a long ways to go, but there is a clear picture of what success will look like: Google Photos. Launched only two years ago, Pichai bragged that Photos now has over 500 million active users who upload 1.2 billion photos a day. This is a spectacular number for one very simple reason: Google Photos is not the default photo app for Android or iOS. Rather, Google has earned all of those photos simply by being better than the defaults, and the basis of that superiority is Google’s machine learning.

Moreover, much like search, Photos gets better the more data it gets, creating a virtuous cycle: more photos means more data which means a better experience which means more users which means more photos. It is already hard to see other photo applications catching up.

Google Photos is Google at its best. Their visual recognition is clearly the best in the world right now, and Thompson makes a good point that the “virtuous circle” makes it difficult for anyone to catch up.

In addition to being a great product, technically, Google Photos also launched with a terrific ad campaign.

Every Color of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore From 1979–2001 

Owen Philips, writing for The Awl:

Fortunately, Tim Lybarger, a 40 year-old high school counselor from just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, wondered the same thing a few years ago. Back in 2011, on his blog devoted to all things Mister Rogers,, Lybarger recorded the color of every sweater Rogers wore in each episode between 1979 and 2001. “When I realized such a resource didn’t exist,” Lybarger told me over email, “I just felt like somebody needed to do it…might as well be me.”

The chart below uses the data Lybarger meticulously collected to show how Rogers’ preferences for the color of his cardigan changed over time.

When I was a kid I simply loved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Via Kottke, of course.)

Scrolling Is Going to Change in Mobile Safari 

Here’s an interesting exchange in a Hacker News discussion about my criticism of AMP over the weekend. Malte Ubl, creator and tech lead of Google AMP:

With respect to scrolling: We (AMP team) filed a bug with Apple about that (we didn’t implement scrolling ourselves, just use a div with overflow). We asked to make the scroll inertia for that case the same as the normal scrolling.

Apple’s response was (surprisingly) to make the default scrolling like the overflow scrolling. So, with the next Safari release all pages will scroll like AMP pages. Hope Gruber is happy then :)

“Om2”, who seemingly works on WebKit for Apple added:

In current iOS Safari, webpage scrolling is inconsistent from all other scrolling on the system. This was an intentional decision made long ago. In addition, overflow areas are consistent with the rest of the system, and thus inconsistent with top-level webpage scrolling. This is semi-accidental. In reviewing scroll rates, we concluded that the original reason was no longer a good tradeoff. Thus this change, which removed all the inconsistencies:

Having all scrolling be consistent feels good once you get used to it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good idea for Google’s hosted AMP pages to use overflow scroll all along. The inconsistency definitely did feel weird. And the way they do scrolling prevents Safari from auto-hiding its top and bottom bars. I believe all the desired scroll effects could have been achieved without the use of overflow scroll.

That’s a pretty big change, but I’ll bet Om2 is right that it soon feels normal. Web views have had different scrolling inertia than other scrolling views ever since the original iPhone. (My beef with scrolling in AMP is not that AMP’s fast scrolling is bad and Mobile Safari’s current slower scrolling is good, but rather that scrolling in AMP pages should not feel totally different than regular web pages. And I forgot to complain about the fact that AMP’s weird implementation also breaks Mobile Safari’s ability to hide the bottom and top browser chrome toolbars. Update: One more complaint: AMP breaks Safari’s Reader mode.)

News Explorer 1.6 Supports JSON Feed 

First native app I’ve seen with support for JSON Feed. Pretty interesting take on a modern Mac feed reader, including nice support for using the keyboard arrow keys to move around the UI.

‘Becoming Bond’ 

New documentary from Hulu on George Lazenby, who played James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and then turned down an offer for a six-picture contract. Watched it over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.


My thanks to Stashword for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Stashword is simple but feature-rich password manager for iOS and the web. In addition to passwords, Stashword can securely save notes, financial information, and more. You can even scan and save documents like your drivers license, insurance documentation, and passport.

Stashword is free to try for 15 days. Paid membership enables you to synchronize across all your devices and their website. As a special offer for Daring Fireball readers, through May 25 annual membership is just $7.99, which is 20 percent off the regular price.

MacStories’s iOS 11 iPad Wishes and Concept Video 

Federico Viticci:

I’ve been thinking about some of these ideas since iOS 9 (you can see a thread between my iOS 10 concept and this year’s version), while others would be a natural evolution for iOS on the iPad. Once again, Sam was able to visualize everything with a fantastic concept that, I believe, captures the iPad’s big-picture potential more accurately than last year.

Below, you’ll find our iOS 11 for iPad concept video, followed by an analysis of my iPad wishes with static mockups. I focused on foundational changes to the iPad’s software — tentpole features that would affect the entire OS and app ecosystem.

This isn’t a prediction of what Apple will announce at WWDC; it’s my vision for what the future of the iPad should be.

Viticci and Beckett put months of work into this, and it shows. Some of the ideas they present: system-wide drag-and-drop, a Finder app, a redesigned App Store, and much more.

The best part of this feature isn’t any specific idea, but rather Viticci’s profound enthusiasm for the iPad as a platform.

10-Year-Old Open Letter Calling for Apple to Make Glucose Monitors 

Amy Tenderich, 10 years ago, in an open letter to Steve Jobs:

If insulin pumps or continuous monitors had the form of an iPod Nano, people wouldn’t have to wonder why we wear our “pagers” to our own weddings, or puzzle over that strange bulge under our clothes. If these devices wouldn’t start suddenly and incessantly beeping, strangers wouldn’t lecture us to turn off our “cell phones” at the movie theater.

In short, medical device manufacturers are stuck in a bygone era; they continue to design these products in an engineering-driven, physician-centered bubble. They have not yet grasped the concept that medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in addition to keeping us alive.

(Follow-up here in 2010.)

This was incredibly prescient, given the rumors that Apple is working on continuous non-invasive glucose monitoring for Apple Watch. Jobs didn’t live to see it, but I think it’s exactly the sort of thing he would be pushing for if he were still alive.

From chapter 37 of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs:

Even when he was barely conscious, his strong personality came through. At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. The doctors looked at Powell, puzzled. She was finally able to distract him so they could put on the mask. He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex. He suggested ways it could be designed more simply. “He was very attuned to every nuance of the environment and objects around him, and that drained him,” Powell recalled.

Scott Gilbertson: ‘Kill Google AMP Before It Kills the Web’ 

Scott Gilbertson, writing for The Register:

Quite a few high-profile web developers have this year weighted in with criticism and some, following a Google conference dedicated to AMP, have cautioned users about diving in with both feet.

These, in my view, don’t go far enough in stating the problem and I feel this needs to be said very clearly: Google’s AMP is bad — bad in a potentially web-destroying way. Google AMP is bad news for how the web is built, it’s bad news for publishers of credible online content, and it’s bad news for consumers of that content. Google AMP is only good for one party: Google. Google, and possibly, purveyors of fake news.

It’s time for developers to wake up and, as Jason Scott once said of Facebook, stop: “Shoveling down the shit sherbet” Google is now serving with AMP.

I’m on the record as being strongly opposed to AMP simply on the grounds of publication independence. I’d stand by that even if the implementation were great. But the implementation is not great — it’s terrible. Yes, AMP pages load fast, but you don’t need AMP for fast-loading web pages. If you are a publisher and your web pages don’t load fast, the sane solution is to fix your fucking website so that pages load fast, not to throw your hands up in the air and implement AMP.

But other than loading fast, AMP sucks. It implements its own scrolling behavior on iOS, which feels unnatural, and even worse, it breaks the decade-old system-wide iOS behavior of being able to tap the status bar to scroll to the top of any scrollable view. AMP also completely breaks Safari’s ability to search for text on a page (via the “Find on Page” action in the sharing sheet). Google has no respect for the platform. If I had my way, Mobile Safari would refuse to render AMP pages. It’s a deliberate effort by Google to break the open web.

Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Flooded After Permafrost Melts 

Damian Carrington, reporting for The Guardian:

It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The big takeaway from this should be that climate change truly is a threat to civilization. But, I have to say, that melting permafrost wasn’t taken into consideration during the design of this vault seems like a glaring oversight.

Update: Looks like The Guardian might have shamelessly sensationalized this story. Mary Beth Griggs, reporting for Popular Science:

“If there was a worst case scenario where there was so much water, or the pumping systems failed, that it made its way uphill to the seed vault, then it would encounter minus 18 [degrees celsius] and freeze again. Then there’s another barrier [the ice] for entry into the seed vault,” Fowler says. In other words, any water that floods into the tunnel has to make it 100 meters downhill, then back uphill, then overwhelm the pumping systems, and then manage not to freeze at well-below-freezing temperatures. Otherwise, there’s no way liquid is getting into the seed bank — so the seeds are probably safe. […]

Still worried? Maybe this will help you exhale: “We did this calculation; if all the ice in the world melted — Greenland, Arctic, Antarctic, everything — and then we had the world’s largest recorded tsunami right in front of the seed vault. So, very high sea levels and the worlds largest Tsunami. What would happen to the seed vault?” Fowler says. “We found that the seed vault was somewhere between a five and seven story building above that point. It might not help the road leading up to the seed vault, but the seeds themselves would be OK.”

Sounds like the vault itself is designed to survive a climate apocalypse — it’s just the entry that isn’t.

‘It’s Borderline Stupid How Easy It Was’ 

Niclas Darville, on creating a JSON Feed template for Jekyll:

It literally took me longer to write this blog post than the JSON feed code, because I couldn’t get Jekyll to escape the Liquid code example.

On Twitter, Darville wrote:

One of the best things about @jsonfeed is how well it works as a Hello World kind of programming exercise.

Sure beats to-do lists.

Jason McIntosh described adding JSON Feed support to his home-grown blog engine as a “blowing-off-steam project”.

These reactions are exactly what I mean about JSON Feed being fun. There’s a time and place for specs that are drop-dead serious, but I think it’s often overlooked just how important fun can be in having a new spec gain traction.

Headline of the Week 

Actual headline in the staid New York Times: “Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation”.

Requiring Facebook 

Jason Ditzian, writing for The Bold Italic on what happened when the car sharing service he’d been using for 10 years was acquired:

However, City CarShare was recently bought by a corporation, Getaround. And Getaround built its platform on top of Facebook. So when I went to migrate my account over to them, I found that there’s literally no way to do it as a non-Facebook user. If I want to share cars with my fellow city dwellers, I’m compelled to strike a Faustian bargain.

To access the services of Getaround, one must authenticate their identity through Facebook. […]

I know that for you Facebook-having people, this is no big deal. You have resigned yourself to the idea of Facebook owning your data. But if you don’t, haven’t and/or won’t resign to this fate, you might end up left, like me, in a peculiar situation: the price of “sharing” a car equals money plus forking over a huge trove of personal data. Personal information is supplanting money as a form of currency.

There’s clearly a problem here, but I don’t think it’s Facebook’s fault. I think the problem is that Getaround sucks.

FCC Votes to Begin Dismantling Net Neutrality 

Karl Bode, writing for TechDirt:

Surprising absolutely nobody, the FCC today voted 2-1 along strict party lines to begin dismantling net neutrality protections for consumers. The move comes despite the fact that the vast majority of non-bot comments filed with the FCC support keeping the rules intact. And while FCC boss Ajit Pai has breathlessly insisted he intended to listen to the concerns of all parties involved, there has been zero indication that this was a serious commitment as he begins dismantling all manner of broadband consumer protections, not just net neutrality.

As you might have expected, the FCC was quick to release a statement claiming that gutting the popular consumer protections would usher forth a magical age of connectivity, investment, and innovation.

(Via Nick Heer.)

‘You Know My Name’ 

One of my very favorite songs from Chris Cornell — the opening credits theme to Casino Royale. A great song that just fits the movie so damn well.

Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Dead at 52 

The New York Times:

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, died on Wednesday night in Detroit hours after the band had performed there. He was 52.

The death was a suicide by hanging, the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement released on Thursday afternoon. It said a full autopsy had not yet been completed.



There’s a cool command-line JSON processor called jq — easily installed on a Mac via download or Homebrew, and even more easily tinkered with using the online playground. Here’s how easy jq makes it to get, say, a list of the titles from DF’s JSON feed:

curl -s | jq '.items[].title'
The World’s First JSON Feed Viewer 

Maxime Vaillancourt:

Here’s a tiny proof of concept for a @jsonfeed viewer, built in an hour:

One of the things I love about JSON Feed is that it’s fun. JSON is so simple, and so well-supported by almost all programming languages, that you can build something interesting in just a few minutes, and something useful in an hour. There was a comment on the Hacker News thread about JSON Feed that I loved:

It is very likely than I am an idiot, but I’ve always found parsing XML too hard, specially compared to JSON which is almost too easy.

“Almost too easy” are three words no one has ever said about XML.

Apple Is Testing an Apple Watch Glucose Monitor 

Christina Farr, reporting for CNBC:

Tim Cook has been spotted at the Apple campus test-driving a device that tracks blood sugar, which was connected to his Apple Watch.

A source said that Cook was wearing a prototype glucose-tracker on the Apple Watch, which points to future applications that would make the device a “must have” for millions of people with diabetes — or at risk for the disease.

As CNBC reported last month, Apple has a team in Palo Alto working on the “holy grail” for diabetes: Non-invasive and continuous glucose monitoring. The current glucose trackers on the market rely on tiny sensors penetrating the skin. Sources said the company is already conducting feasibility trials in the Bay Area.

Non-invasive continuous glucose monitoring would be a life-changer for anyone with diabetes. But I can’t even imagine how life-changing this will be for kids with diabetes and their parents.

CMD-D: Masters of Automation Conference 

This sounds very cool: a one-day conference in August devoted to Mac and iOS scripting and automation, hosted by Paul Kent, Naomi Pearce, and Sal Soghoian.

Final Cut Pro X and Closed Captions 

Kevin Hamm:

Captions can be just text at timecode, which is simple. In their most complex, they are styled, located text at timecode. That’s it. Nothing more. I work in text and titles and timecode every day in every video I do, so there is no reason that this simple function isn’t baked in at this point. Words at timecode. That’s all it is.

That Apple is making their systems and products accessible is great. Xcode grants programmers the ability to build accessible apps, and has from the beginning, which is even better as it makes a massive part of the ecosystem accessible.

That Final Cut Pro hasn’t ever and still doesn’t create closed captions is a smudge on that image.

It seems bonkers to me that Final Cut Pro X doesn’t have support for closed captions. Coming from Apple, you’d think it would have excellent support for them. How does Apple create closed captions for their own videos?

Source Code for Panic Apps Stolen By Malware Thieves 

Steven Frank:

Last week, for about three days, the macOS video transcoding app HandBrake was compromised. One of the two download servers for HandBrake was serving up a special malware-infested version of the app, that, when launched, would essentially give hackers remote control of your computer.

In a case of extraordinarily bad luck, even for a guy that has a lot of bad computer luck, I happened to download HandBrake in that three day window, and my work Mac got pwned.

Long story short, somebody, somewhere, now has quite a bit of source code to several of our apps.

This is one hell of a story and quite a shock, but the crew at Panic kept their heads together and did the right thing: they’ve opened up completely and honestly, refused to deal with the blackmailer, and I think they are correctly unworried about their source code being leaked publicly.

Dave Itzkoff Profiles Jimmy Fallon for The New York Times 

Fascinating behind-the-scenes look at The Tonight Show, including a look inside Fallon’s briefcase (he’s got a Nintendo Switch in there).

Announcing JSON Feed 

Brent Simmons and Manton Reece:

We — Manton Reece and Brent Simmons — have noticed that JSON has become the developers’ choice for APIs, and that developers will often go out of their way to avoid XML. JSON is simpler to read and write, and it’s less prone to bugs.

So we developed JSON Feed, a format similar to RSS and Atom but in JSON. It reflects the lessons learned from our years of work reading and publishing feeds.

I think this is a great idea, and a good spec. I even like the style in which the spec is written: for real humans (much like the RSS spec). If you want to see a real-life example, Daring Fireball has a JSON Feed. I’ve got a good feeling about this project — the same sort of feeling I had about Markdown back in the day.

New Apple Videos Highlight Real-World Accessibility 

Nice piece for Mashable by Katie Dupere on a bunch of new videos in Apple’s YouTube channel, highlighting real-world usage of iOS and MacOS accessibility features. People who can’t move, people who can’t talk, people who can’t see or hear — doing amazing things. Apple’s commitment to accessibility is one of my very favorite things about the company. It’s not just the right thing to do for people who truly need these features — it makes the products better for everyone.

Update: Jim Dalrymple has all 7 videos collected on one page.

Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars 

Mike Isaac, writing for The New York Times:

Waymo, the self-driving car unit that operates under Google’s parent company, has signed a deal with the ride-hailing start-up Lyft, according to two people familiar with the agreement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The deal calls for the companies to work together to bring autonomous vehicle technology into the mainstream through pilot projects and product development efforts, these people said.

The deal was confirmed by Lyft and Waymo.

Who knows, maybe Google would have made this same deal with Lyft even in the alternate universe where Uber didn’t steal Google’s tech. But it sure looks like Uber has made a powerful enemy.

Long Live MP3 

Marco Arment:

Until a few weeks ago, there had never been an audio format that was small enough to be practical, widely supported, and had no patent restrictions, forcing difficult choices and needless friction upon the computing world. Now, at least for audio, that friction has officially ended. There’s finally a great choice without asterisks.

MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free.

I wasn’t paying attention last week when Gizmodo, Engadget, and NPR got hoodwinked into writing “MP3 Is Dead” stories by an announcement from Fraunhofer pushing people to switch from the now-open MP3 to the still-patent-encumbered AAC.

On Twitter, Marco pointed to this 10-year-old piece from yours truly, describing the then-pipe-dream of Ogg Vorbis:

The ideal scenario would be for a genuinely open and free file format such as Ogg Vorbis to supplant MP3 as the de facto world standard. No patents, no licensing fees, a documented file format, open source libraries for encoding and decoding. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards, however. In the real world, major corporations only seem comfortable with multimedia formats backed by other large corporations.

Now that the MP3 patents have expired, the situation is even better, because MP3 has been so thoroughly vetted, patent-wise. Idealism seldom wins out in these format battles. But time always wins.

Dropping Tech Giants

Great interactive feature by Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times:

Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.

But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?

Great question. I love thought exercises.

My order (from first dropped to last):

  1. Facebook. I love Instagram, but could live without it. I don’t use anything else Facebook offers.

  2. Microsoft. The only Microsoft product I use regularly is Skype, for podcasting, and I suspect I could find another solution. (If I couldn’t, I might have to rethink my answer here.)

  3. Amazon. I buy stuff from Amazon almost every week. I just counted — 11 orders so far in 2017. My wife buys stuff from Amazon even more frequently. But just about anything we buy at Amazon, we could buy elsewhere. It’d be painful to replace, but not irreplaceable. There are a couple of shows exclusive to Amazon Prime that I enjoy, but none that I love.

  4. Alphabet. I already use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, so giving up Google search would be frustrating at times, but not a deal breaker. I use a few email accounts backed by Gmail, but I actually dislike Gmail, and have been procrastinating on moving all my mail to FastMail for years. I despise Google Docs. I don’t use any Android devices other than as a curiosity. I greatly prefer Safari over Chrome. YouTube, however, is irreplaceable, and so essential that it pretty much singlehandedly catapults Alphabet to #4 in my list.

  5. Apple. I mean, come on. If not for Apple I’d be stuck using computers I don’t like and a phone that I consider a distant second-best. With all the other companies on the list, what I’d miss most are certain of their services — Instagram, Skype, Amazon’s store, YouTube — but Apple is the only company in the world whose hardware I consider irreplaceable. And you need the hardware to make best use of the services from any other companies. And that doesn’t even touch upon Apple’s crown jewels: the MacOS and iOS software platforms.