‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: What It Means, and How It Was Made 

Nice piece by Dan Chiasson for The New Yorker “on the tedium and the triumph of 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Kubrick brought to his vision of the future the studiousness you would expect from a history film. 2001 is, in part, a fastidious period piece about a period that had yet to happen. Kubrick had seen exhibits at the 1964 World’s Fair, and pored over a magazine article titled “Home of the Future.” The lead production designer on the film, Tony Masters, noticed that the world of 2001 eventually became a distinct time and place, with the kind of coherent aesthetic that would merit a sweeping historical label, like “Georgian” or “Victorian.” “We designed a way to live,” he recalled, “down to the last knife and fork.” (The Arne Jacobsen flatware, designed in 1957, was made famous by its use in the film, and is still in production.) By rendering a not-too-distant future, Kubrick set himself up for a test: thirty-three years later, his audiences would still be around to grade his predictions. Part of his genius was that he understood how to rig the results. Many elements from his set designs were contributions from major brands — Whirlpool, Macy’s, DuPont, Parker Pens, Nikon — which quickly cashed in on their big-screen exposure. If 2001 the year looked like 2001 the movie, it was partly because the film’s imaginary design trends were made real.

CNN: YouTube Ran Ads From Hundreds of Mainstream Brands on Extremist Channels 

Paul P. Murphy, Kaya Yurieff, and Gianluca Mezzofiore, reporting for CNN:

Ads from over 300 companies and organizations — including tech giants, major retailers, newspapers and government agencies — ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda, a CNN investigation has found.

Companies such as Adidas, Amazon, Cisco, Facebook, Hershey, Hilton, LinkedIn, Mozilla, Netflix, Nordstrom and Under Armour may have unknowingly helped finance some of these channels via the advertisements they paid for on Google-owned YouTube.

US tax dollars may have gone to the channels, too. Ads from five US government agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and Centers for Disease Control, appeared on the channels.

Facebook is getting a lot of attention lately, but it’s starting to feel like YouTube is losing its credibility too.

Amazon and Best Buy Team Up to Sell Smart TVs 

David Pierce:

Rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Best Buy Co. are joining forces to sell television sets powered by Amazon’s Fire TV operating system.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly revealed the partnership on Tuesday at a Best Buy store in Bellevue, Wash. The companies will sell 11 models, starting this summer with TVs by Toshiba and Best Buy house brand Insignia. Best Buy will feature the Amazon-powered TVs in its stores and on its website and become the exclusive merchant of these TVs on Amazon.com.

“What we’re doing is so deeply integrated,” Mr. Bezos said, acknowledging the fact that his company and Best Buy are often considered rivals. “It’s only possible because we trust each other.”

I don’t know if Best Buy should trust Amazon or not, but I do know I wish Apple would get it together and make some TVs with Apple TV built-in.

Pew: Majority of U.S. Teens Worry About School Shootings 

Nikki Graf, writing for Pew Research Center:

In the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a majority of American teens say they are very or somewhat worried about the possibility of a shooting happening at their school — and most parents of teens share that concern, according to new Pew Research Center surveys of teens ages 13 to 17 and parents with children in the same age range.

Meanwhile, when it comes to what can be done to prevent this kind of violence, far more teens view proposals focused on mental illness, assault-style weapon bans and the use of metal detectors in schools as potentially effective than say the same about allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns in schools.

It is absolutely shameful that we as a country have let it get to the point where a majority of teenagers are worried about a shooting at their school. When I was in high school 30 years ago, the notion that there even could be a shooting at my school never crossed my mind.

Barack Obama on the Parkland Students 

Barack Obama, writing for Time magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2018” on Parkland, Florida students Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma González, and Alex Wind:

America’s response to mass shootings has long followed a predictable pattern. We mourn. Offer thoughts and prayers. Speculate about the motives. And then — even as no developed country endures a homicide rate like ours, a difference explained largely by pervasive accessibility to guns; even as the majority of gun owners support commonsense reforms — the political debate spirals into acrimony and paralysis.

This time, something different is happening. This time, our children are calling us to account.

The Parkland, Fla., students don’t have the kind of lobbyists or big budgets for attack ads that their opponents do. Most of them can’t even vote yet.

But they have the power so often inherent in youth: to see the world anew; to reject the old constraints, outdated conventions and cowardice too often dressed up as wisdom.

The power to insist that America can be better.

He has such a distinct writing style — I can hear his voice as I read his words.

A Flaw-by-Flaw Guide to Facebook’s New GDPR Privacy Changes 

Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch:

Facebook is about to start pushing European users to speed through giving consent for its new GDPR privacy law compliance changes. It will ask people to review how Facebook applies data from the web to target them with ads, and surface the sensitive profile info they share. Facebook will also allow European and Canadian users to turn on facial recognition after six years of the feature being blocked there. But with a design that encourages rapidly hitting the “Agree” button, a lack of granular controls, a laughably cheatable parental consent request for teens and an aesthetic overhaul of Download Your Information that doesn’t make it any easier to switch social networks, Facebook shows it’s still hungry for your data.

A good example of the dark patterns they’re employing:

But the fact that the button to reject the new Terms of Service isn’t even a button, it’s a tiny “see your options” hyperlink, shows how badly Facebook wants to avoid you closing your account. When Facebook’s product designer for the GDPR flow was asked if she thought this hyperlink was the best way to present the alternative to the big “I Accept” button, she disingenuously said yes, eliciting scoffs from the room of reporters. It seems obvious that Facebook is trying to minimize the visibility of the path to account deletion rather than making it an obvious course of action if you don’t agree to its terms.

Not only is it a tiny hyperlink instead of a button, the link is just a few pixels above the big “I ACCEPT” button.

How Jason Snell Writes on iPad 

I asked, Jason answered:

A reader on Twitter suggested I buy this iPad stand on Amazon, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s surprisingly sturdy. The base that approximates the foot of an iMac is metal, not plastic. A hinge lets me pivot the iPad up and down and likewise doesn’t feel cheap. And the clip mechanism — the stand comes with clips for large and small iPads — is strong enough to hold my iPad without any worry of it sliding out. Best of all, the thing rotates, so I can use my iPad in portrait (for more words on the screen) or landscape (for use with Split View) as I see fit.

The stand is only $40, so I ordered one yesterday. I also ordered a Matias Laptop Pro, a Bluetooth mechanical keyboard that Snell — who’s in even deeper than I am with a mechanical keyboard collection — says feels and sounds quite a bit like an Apple Extended Keyboard II.

Reuters: Facebook to Put 1.5 Billion Users Out of Reach of New EU Privacy Law 

David Ingram, reporting for Reuters:

If a new European law restricting what companies can do with people’s online data went into effect tomorrow, almost 1.9 billion Facebook Inc users around the world would be protected by it. The online social network is making changes that ensure the number will be much smaller.

Facebook members outside the United States and Canada, whether they know it or not, are currently governed by terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland.

Next month, Facebook is planning to make that the case for only European users, meaning 1.5 billion members in Africa, Asia, Australia and Latin America will not fall under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect on May 25.

This sounds like bullshit to me, if they plan to continue funneling the revenue they generate from those users through their Irish subsidiary.

Daring Fireball Sponsorship Openings 

The next few weeks — including this current one — are open on the DF sponsorship calendar. Get in touch if you have a product or service to promote to DF’s savvy audience.

The display ads — where it says “Your Ad Here” over there on the left — have openings too. If you jump on this week’s opening or next week’s, I’ll throw in the display ad for the remainder of April as a bonus.

Jeff Bezos Releases Non-Bezos Number: 100 Million Prime Subscribers 

Jeff Bezos, in his annual Amazon shareholder letter:

13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100 million paid Prime members globally. In 2017 Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items.

The Menu Bar 

Jack Wellborn:

The menu bar has been, and in my opinion remains, the best mechanism for providing familiarity, discoverability, and progressive disclosure in user interfaces on any platform. Even beyond the Mac, anyone who has clicked on a File menu in one platform has a pretty good shot at guessing where a Save command might be when provided a File menu somewhere else. Likewise and also regardless of operating system, someone presented with an entirely new application can safely open and explore menus to try and locate features they might need. Never pivoted data before, but need to for the first time? Hey look, there’s a menu in the bar called Data! Finally, let’s say that same seemingly one-time operation becomes a regular course of action that is needed multiple times a day. The best menu bars provide an equivalent keyboard shortcut right next to the command so, for example, anyone can discover how to save using command — s without having to be told.

So then why are menu bars fading out of more modern UX conventions?

Such a great piece. The menu bar, in my opinion, is the single biggest reason why Mac apps can grow to a greater manageable complexity than iOS apps. I’m not saying iOS should get a menu bar — I’m saying this is why it makes sense for Apple to maintain its dual platform strategy. The Mac’s menu bar — and the many dozens of commands it allows an app to offer in an organized, out-of-your-way-until-you-want-to-see-it system-wide standard interface — epitomizes my argument from when the iPad first shipped: It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.

A Tale of Two QuickTimes 

Dan Moren, writing for Six Colors:

Among the casualties of the impending transition to 64-bit apps is one long-lasting oddity: QuickTime 7 Pro.

What makes this app so unusual are a few factors. For one thing, it’s one of Apple’s own apps. For another, it was first released in 2005, making it almost 13 years old, though it hasn’t seen an update in about 8 years.

But despite its age and the fact that the writing was on the wall for QuickTime 7, news that it wouldn’t see an update when macOS makes the jump to all-64-bit-all-the-time sparked some cries of frustration from users, including both myself and Jason, who have carved out a place in their workflows — and their hearts — for this little anachronism.

The biggest reason that people are up in arms about the death of QuickTime 7 Pro is that its successor, QuickTime Player X, never quite filled its shoes when it came to features.

I still use QuickTime 7 Pro, too — I have it set as my default app to open any video file. When I checked my list of installed apps looking for any remaining 32-bit hold-outs, none of the apps I use regularly are 32-bit. But I spotted several irregularly used apps that are.

This was not the case with iOS’s deprecation of 32-bit apps. With iOS, the only apps I lost use of were a few old games (including Apple’s own Texas Hold ’Em game, which was really rather fun). With the Mac, I’ll be losing a few useful apps. But that was true of the PowerPC to Intel transition, and the Motorola 68K to PowerPC transition. I vaguely recall some software that ran under System 6 but broke under System 7 in 1991. This is the price we pay for a platform that remains both relevant and (at least compared to Windows) low-cruft.

What makes QuickTime 7 Pro particularly irksome, as Moren points out, is that it’s Apple’s own software and Apple has resolutely refused to address QuickTime X’s deficiencies for over a decade, so nobody expects to ever see a full replacement for QuickTime Pro. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for a third-party app to take up the mantle — but if that hasn’t happened in the last decade, I’m not too hopeful about it happening now.


Design Plagiarism

In response to my piece earlier today on normalizing design rip-offs, a few readers who object to my statement that every company does not copy from everyone else pointed me to this 2015 piece by Ron Amadeo for Ars Technica, “Everybody Copies Everyone: iOS 9 Features Inspired by Android”:

Apple announced iOS 9 on Monday, and while watching the keynote, I had just a little bit of déjà vu. Most of iOS 9’s new features seem to be squarely aimed at Apple’s biggest rival in mobile: Android. Specifically, they were about catching up to Android.

Search improvements, proactive assistance, split screen, and transit directions? It’s been done, but the differences are the fun part, so we chased down the new iOS 9 screenshots and compared them to their Android counterparts. It’s not just about who copied whom; it’s also a chance to look at the different designs of the two operating systems. And hey, Apple isn’t the only one taking ideas from a competitor. Android M’s selectable app permissions are an exact copy of the iOS model.

This is not copying. Following? Sure. That’s how competition works. I’m not arguing that if Company A implements a certain feature first, that no other company can ever implement that feature without ripping off Company A. Look at the side-by-side screenshots in Amadeo’s article. Were all these features on Android first? Sure. Do any of these screenshots leave even one iota of confusion regarding which is iOS and which is Android? No. If you don’t see the difference between these examples and what Huawei did with their Portrait mode feature, I don’t know what to say. There’s a difference between copying an idea and copying an implementation of that idea.

That’s why I like the phrase “design plagiarism”. Maybe you think Amadeo’s examples do constitute “copying”. But they’re not plagiarism. If you write an article, and then I write my own article about the same topic, that just means you were first. But if I copy your article and just change a few words, that’s plagiarism. There’s a big difference.1 


  1. This, by the way, is why I’ve always felt Apple’s misguided “look-and-feel” lawsuit against Microsoft in the mid-90’s was a huge mistake from the outset. Windows was clearly not a rip-off or copy of the Mac. There was no confusion which was which, and the Mac was elegant and Windows — especially pre-Windows 95 — was simply gross. Have you ever seen screenshots of Windows 1 or 2? They’re so startlingly ugly it’s hard to believe they’re real. Even Windows 3, the first version that became popular, was seriously ugly. Apple wasn’t trying to prevent Microsoft from copying the Mac — they were trying to prevent Microsoft from using the basic idea of a windows / icons / mouse pointer GUI. As I wrote about this years ago, good ideas are meant to spread↩︎


On Normalizing Rip-Offs

Vlad Savov, a few weeks ago at The Verge:

I know I’m supposed to be outraged about tech companies blatantly copying each other’s designs, but I don’t have the naivety for it anymore. Huawei, the company that’s been shipping copycat Apple EarPods with its Android smartphones for years, has decided to also clone Apple’s wireless AirPods, and the product of that is called the Huawei FreeBuds. I got my hands on the FreeBuds at Huawei’s P20 launch event, and I found myself pleasantly surprised by their styling and comfort. Yes, Huawei is copying Apple; but I’m not a patent lawyer, I just want to see good tech proliferate, and the FreeBuds look promising.

I have so many problems with this. First, it’s not “tech companies blatantly copying each other’s designs” in the abstract. That phrasing makes it sound like everyone copies from everyone. What’s going on, and which Huawei exemplifies, is that device makers from China and Korea blatantly copy hardware and software from one company: Apple.

In this case Savov was writing about Huawei’s copycat wireless earbuds. But the most telling example — which Savov himself has documented better than anyone else — is the iPhone X notch. The notch is unquestionably the worst thing about the iPhone X design — it is a worthwhile compromise, but a severe and glaring one. But it lends the iPhone X a distinctive look and can be easily copied, and so of course these companies are shamelessly copying it. Anything they can copy from a successful Apple product, they do. (How many PC laptops look like MacBooks?)

Here’s a software example, from the same Huawei launch event last month: their camera app’s Portrait mode with a “Stage Lighting” effect. Huawei didn’t just copy the feature — they copied Apple’s UI almost to a T. (Apple uses a 3D wireframe cube to indicate the currently selected lighting effect; Huawei uses a 3D wireframe sphere.) This is design plagiarism.

I don’t think outrage is the right term for how the media should react to such rip-offs. I suggest a mix of contempt and mockery. But they certainly shouldn’t be pooh-poohed with an “Eh, everyone does it” attitude. Everyone does not do it, and the companies who do original design work are not each ripped off in equal measure. 


Elon Musk Memo on the State of Tesla 

Skip the Electrek summary and scroll down to the memo itself. It’s a cogent and fascinating read:

Most of the design tolerances of the Model 3 are already better than any other car in the world. Soon, they will all be better. This is not enough. We will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world. I am not kidding.

Our car needs to be designed and built with such accuracy and precision that, if an owner measures dimensions, panel gaps and flushness, and their measurements don’t match the Model 3 specs, it just means that their measuring tape is wrong.

Some parts suppliers will be unwilling or unable to achieve this level of precision. I understand that this will be considered an unreasonable request by some. That’s ok, there are lots of other car companies with much lower standards. They just can’t work with Tesla.

The Guardian: ‘Far More Than 87 Million Facebook Users Had Data Compromised by Cambridge Analytica’ 

Alex Hern, reporting for The Guardian:

Far more than 87 million people may have had their Facebook data harvested by Cambridge Analytica, according to evidence from former employee Brittany Kaiser.

Speaking to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Kaiser said Cambridge Analytica had a suite of personality quizzes designed to extract personal data from the social network, of which Aleksandr Kogan’s This Is Your Digital Life app was just one example.

In evidence to the committee, Kaiser wrote: “The Kogan/GSR datasets and questionnaires were not the only Facebook-connected questionnaires and datasets which Cambridge Analytica used. I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login — for example, the ‘sex compass’ quiz.”

Called it.

50 Shades of Space Gray 

Michael Steeber, writing for 9to5Mac:

Yet, ubiquity has not brought consistency. Each new generation of a product seems to bring with it a slightly different take on space gray. Those with large device collections have noted the discrepancies between shades, and discussions brew online over the term’s exact definition.

While subtle variations in material, texture, lighting, and even the shape of a product can play tricks on the eyes, every device Apple currently offers or has produced in space gray can be grouped into one of several loosely defined categories. Below, we’ve cataloged and categorized the vast universe of Apple’s recent dark material finishes in an attempt to unravel the mysteries of space gray.

Unsurprisingly, I found this article a lot of fun. Certainly seems comprehensive.

Spotify and Hulu Team Up for $13 Subscription Bundle 

Jackie Wattles, writing for CNN Tech:

The companies said Wednesday that a $12.99 per-month plan will get you access to Spotify’s ad-free music streaming service and Hulu’s basic package that allows you to stream TV shows and movies with some ad breaks.

Paying for both services separately would set you back about $18 — $9.99 for Spotify Premium and $7.99 for Hulu.

Seems like a good deal and a smart partnership.

This is why I think Apple will roll its upcoming exclusive TV shows into Apple Music — people are naturally reluctant to sign up for yet another subscription. Spitball: $10 a month for Apple Music only (same as now); $15 for Apple Music and TV. Or maybe just give the shows to everyone at the current $10 — focus more on getting as many people signed up as possible, not extracting additional revenue from those who are signed up.

GrayKey iPhone Unlocker Poses Serious Security Concerns 

Thomas Reed, writing for the Malwarebytes Labs blog:

Thanks to an anonymous source, we now know what this mysterious device looks like, and how it works. And while the technology is a good thing for law enforcement, it presents some significant security risks.

GrayKey is a gray box, four inches wide by four inches deep by two inches tall, with two lightning cables sticking out of the front.

Two iPhones can be connected at one time, and are connected for about two minutes. After that, they are disconnected from the device, but are not yet cracked. Some time later, the phones will display a black screen with the passcode, among other information. The exact length of time varies, taking about two hours in the observations of our source. It can take up to three days or longer for six-digit passcodes, according to Grayshift documents, and the time needed for longer passphrases is not mentioned. Even disabled phones can be unlocked, according to Grayshift.

After the device is unlocked, the full contents of the filesystem are downloaded to the GrayKey device. From there, they can be accessed through a web-based interface on a connected computer, and downloaded for analysis. The full, unencrypted contents of the keychain are also available for download.

So the phone is only connected to the box for two minutes, and then the phone itself displays the passcode after it’s cracked? If I’m reading this right, the box must jailbreak the iPhone and install the cracking software on the iPhone itself. I guess that would explain how they get around iOS’s (optional) wipe-after-10-wrong-guesses feature, as well as the escalating delays after a few wrong guesses.

Hopefully Apple can figure out how to fix this jailbreak. If you’re concerned about this, you ought to switch to a stronger alphanumeric passphrase.

Nikola Tesla Predicted the Smartphone in 1926 

Remarkably prescient predictions from Tesla, in a 1926 interview with Collier’s:

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.

We shall be able to witness and hear events — the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle — just as though we were present.

Streaming video is getting to be old hat. It’s human nature that we take every breakthrough for granted after just a few years. But sometimes when I’m watching a live baseball game on my phone while I’m walking around, it strikes me just how futuristic it would seem to my younger self.

Jamf Now 

My thanks to Jamf for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. It is essential that you secure the Apple devices in your organization. With Jamf Now you can get inventory, configure Wi-Fi and email settings, deploy applications, protect company data, and even lock or wipe a device from anywhere.

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Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. After that, each additional device is just $2 per month.

Serenity Caldwell’s 9.7 iPad (2018) Review: Drawn, Written, Edited, and Produced With an iPad 

Serenity Caldwell:

More than anything else, the Apple Pencil is the game changer for the 2018 iPad. So I used it to draw, write, and create a review done entirely on the 9.7-inch tablet.

Very impressive video. She even composed her own score in GarageBand.

Alan Kay on Steve Jobs and the Original iPhone 

Alan Kay, on Quora:

I think he invited me to the 2007 iPhone unveiling partly because it was kind of a tiny “Dynabook” — and he had always wanted to do one — and partly because he was going to use a quote of mine that he had always taken to heart “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”.

The photo of us chatting was taken right after the event. He brought the iPhone to me, put it in my hands, and asked: “Alan, is this good enough to be criticized?”. My reply was to make a shape with my hands the size of an iPad: “Steve, make it this size and you’ll rule the world”.

The iPad is a huge hit, of course, but it turns out it’s the iPhone that rules the world. (Via Dave Mark.)

MacOS High Sierra 10.13.4 Now Shows an Alert the First Time You Launch a 32-Bit App 

Apple:

Starting with macOS High Sierra 10.13.4, apps that have not been updated to use 64-bit processes produce a one-time alert when opened. This gives users advance notice that they are running 32-bit software, which will not be compatible with macOS in the future.

It’s almost certain we’ll hear more about this at WWDC when MacOS 10.14 is announced. I think 32-bit apps might still work in 10.14, though.

Here’s how to check for 32-bit apps on your Mac:

From the Apple menu, choose About This Mac, then click the System Report button. From the system report, scroll down to Software, then select Applications. When you select an individual application, you will see a field titled ”64-bit (Intel)”. “Yes” indicates 64-bit; “No” indicates 32-bit.

Final Cut Pro X Adds Support for Closed Captions 

Kevin Hamm:

You might have read my complaint that Apple, the tech leader in all things accessibility, somehow had managed for nearly two decades to not bother with Closed Captions in their media software for professionals. While adding in tools for effects, for color grading, key, multi-cam, and so many other useful tools, we all were stuck waiting for good captioning tools.

With the release of Final Cut Pro 10.4.1 we have closed captions for everyone!

A rare beast: a genuine finally.

FCC Appears to Leak Photos of Gold iPhone X 

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9to5Mac:

Supply chain reports at the time strongly indicated that Apple had been planning to launch the iPhone X with a gold option, but the company could not reach the necessary yields.

I don’t care for gold personally, but this would have been popular I think. And will be popular, if Apple can pull off a similar look with a future iPhone. Ever since Apple started shipping gold-toned iPhones, I’ve thought they should try one with a black front face.

Selling Secrets From Cupertino 

Here’s an old piece by Matt Drance on a case from 2010 where an Apple leaker was indicted (and eventually pleaded guilty) for crimes:

The indictment claims Devine received approximately $2.5 million in kickbacks from these dealings, which he split with a co-conspirator. That was merely his share of the pot, though: the effect of his alleged actions on supplier contracts presumably cost Apple much more — perhaps tens of millions of dollars. A pending civil suit filed by Apple against Devine may or may not detail Apple’s estimated financial exposure.

Devine wasn’t a mere “leaker”. Presumably, most Apple employees who leak upcoming product information aren’t doing so for money. Devine was. He was sentenced to a year in prison and a $4.5 million fine.


Company-Wide Apple Memo on ‘The Impact of Leaks’ Leaks

Mark Gurman has obtained a copy of a company-wide memo on leaking, and published it at Bloomberg. I suggest skipping Gurman’s summary of the memo and scrolling down to the memo itself. Curiously, Gurman doesn’t say when the memo was posted and he omits its headline. I’ve heard the memo was posted on Monday this week, and the headline was “The Impact of Leaks”. Some observations, starting with the opening:

Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apple’s software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust.

The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak — whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever.

Gurman doesn’t mention that the meeting was leaked to Gurman himself — the person who leaked this story was caught and fired. I can see why Gurman and Bloomberg might not want to emphasize that.

Investments by Apple have had an enormous impact on the company’s ability to identify and catch leakers. Just before last September’s special event, an employee leaked a link to the gold master of iOS 11 to the press, again believing he wouldn’t be caught. The unreleased OS detailed soon-to-be-announced software and hardware including iPhone X. Within days, the leaker was identified through an internal investigation and fired.

The iOS 11 GM leak revealed the name “iPhone X”. It also confirmed features like Face ID and wireless charging, but the name was the big one. Face ID and wireless charging had been rumored for a year, but until that leak just three days before the event, we had no idea what Apple was going to call its new phones.

Global Security’s digital forensics also helped catch several employees who were feeding confidential details about new products including iPhone X, iPad Pro and AirPods to a blogger at 9to5Mac.

It’s unclear which stories at 9to5Mac this is about, but the AirPods story is probably this one, which was a huge scoop published 9 months before AirPods were announced — by none other than Mark Gurman. It seems possible that every single specific example cited by Apple in this memo was someone leaking to Mark Gurman. Makes you wonder who had the balls to send this memo to him. We’ll be getting into Inception territory if the leaker of the memo on leakers getting fired for leaking to Gurman gets fired for leaking it to Gurman.

Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

Getting fired for leaking — we all knew that happened. But this is the first I’ve heard of leakers being prosecuted criminally and going to jail. Apple is not fucking around regarding leaks. 


The Canadian Cheese Cartel 

Allen Pike on Canada’s protectionist trade policies on cheese:

How expensive is cheese in Canada, you ask? Well let’s consider pizza, everybody’s favourite cheese delivery mechanism. There’s a big nationwide chain here called Boston Pizza that sells, among other things, pizza. A large pepperoni pizza at Boston Pizza is $30.28.

At Pizza Hut in the US, they currently have a deal on where you get a large pepperoni pizza for $7.99. That is less than $30.28 — even after health insurance premiums.

Now, would I recommend paying $8 for a Pizza Hut pizza? No. Would I recommend paying $30 for a Boston Pizza Pizza? Also no. Should we be eating pizza in the first place? Well, yes, pizza is delicious. As is cheese — but it’s slightly less delicious in Canada, because it’s god damned expensive.

I had no idea cheese was so expensive in Canada. It tells you how popular pizza is that it still sells at prices like that.

Gurman: HomePod Sales Lower Than Apple Expected 

Mark Gurman, writing for Bloomberg:

During the HomePod’s first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon’s Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day.

I don’t put much value in comments from Slice Intelligence or anonymous suppliers, but if Apple Store employees are saying they’re only selling single digits per day, that sounds bad. (Would love to hear from any readers out there who work in Apple retail.) But I’d love some context on this. How many iPhones does a typical Apple Store sell per day? MacBooks? Apple TVs?

Teachers Get Miniature Baseball Bats to Confront Shooters in Pennsylvania District 

Christina Caron, reporting for The New York Times:

A school district in Erie, Pa., has supplied teachers and other school employees with miniature baseball bats to use as a last resort if confronted with an active shooter.

“We don’t want to be sitting ducks,” William Hall, superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District, said on Wednesday. “We’re not just going to go hide.” […]

The 600 bats each cost $3, Mr. Hall said, and are akin to a ballpark souvenir.

They are no match, of course, for a gunman toting a semiautomatic weapon. Even so, Mr. Hall said, “I think a bat could disarm a pistol with a nice swing.”

Are these people out of their fucking minds?

The Talk Show: Top Men 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show to talk about his exclusive behind-the-scenes profile with Apple’s Pro Workflow Team and state of Apple’s professional Mac hardware and software.

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Rick Wilson on Paul Ryan: ‘He Behaved as if He Was Some Deferential Junior VP at a Trump Resort’ 

Longtime Republican political strategist Rick Wilson, hitting the nail on the head in his column at The Daily Beast on the sudden retirement of Paul Ryan:

Ryan and his caucus hoped to run on the tax cut, the economy, and infrastructure. All of these messages now will be swept aside. Ryan owns his share of the blame; too often, he behaved as if he was some deferential junior VP at a Trump resort and not the leader of the House of Representatives in a co-equal branch of government. The idea, popular among the House leadership, that a diet of ass-kissing and deference would make Trump into a normal President who didn’t need the political equivalent of Depends was always a strategic mistake.

Ryan is now paying the price. The rest of his caucus will pay in the fall.

Fast Company: ‘Apple Now Runs on 100 Percent Green Energy, and Here’s How It Got There’ 

Speaking of Lisa Jackson, Mark Sullivan has a detailed feature for Fast Company on Apple’s announcement that the company now runs on 100 percent green energy, and its push to get its suppliers there, too:

I asked Jackson to describe how Apple goes about persuading a supplier to switch to renewable energy, and she was blunt. The conversation, she says, might go something like “Hey this is something that’s becoming increasingly important to us, so get a leg up on the person that’s going to try to get this business away from you. Clean up your power act now.”

At the moment, this conversation involves a healthy dose of education. “What we say is that we’ll be there with you,” Jackson recounts. “We’ll help you scout deals, we’ll help you evaluate whether they’re real, we’ll help you know what to negotiate for, because most of these folks, they’re trying to make a part, and so what we can do for them is be sort of their in-house consulting firm.” But she adds that there will likely come a time where Apple will require suppliers to run their businesses on clean energy as a condition of a business relationship.

Even now, a Greenpeace report from last year noted, Apple is unique among big tech companies for tracking information about its suppliers’ green-energy progress. “Apple has thus far been fairly aggressive in pursuing its 2020 goal to deploy 4GW of renewable energy in its supply chain,” Greenpeace says in the report, “and has made significant progress with its suppliers as well.”

Scott Pruitt’s Idea to Update an E.P.A. Keepsake: Less E.P.A., More Pruitt 

Lisa Friedman and Kenneth P. Vogel, reporting for The New York Times on the latest from the egomaniacal self-aggrandizing branch of the Trump kakistocracy:

When Scott Pruitt wanted to refashion the Environmental Protection Agency’s “challenge coin” — a type of souvenir medallion with military origins that has become a status symbol among civilians — he proposed an unusual design: Make it bigger, and delete the E.P.A. logo.

Mr. Pruitt instead wanted the coin to feature some combination of symbols more reflective of himself and the Trump administration. Among the possibilities: a buffalo, to evoke Mr. Pruitt’s native Oklahoma, and a Bible verse to reflect his faith.

Other ideas included using the Great Seal of the United States — a design similar to the presidential seal — and putting Mr. Pruitt’s name around the rim in large letters, according to Ronald Slotkin, a career E.P.A. employee who retired this year, and two people familiar with the proposals who asked to remain anonymous because they said they feared retribution.

Wanting his own name in large letters around a bigger coin — sounds like something I’ve heard before.

Another person who was involved in the debate said that Mr. Pruitt had expressed disapproval of the agency’s seal, a round flower with four leaves. He felt it looked like a marijuana leaf.

Hard to believe this clown now holds the job formerly held by Lisa Jackson.


Regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s Unused Talking Points on Tim Cook and Apple

During a break in Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress yesterday, Zuckerberg inexplicably left his prepared notes — PR-approved talking points for anticipated lines of questioning — behind on the table. Associated Press photographer Andrew Harnik snapped a photo of them before a Facebook aide could close them, and it was widely shared on Twitter. The AP’s Behind the News site has a piece today on how Harnik got the shot:

Once I was able to sit down at the end of the event and see the response from Twitter and read what was in Zuckerberg’s notes, I realized this was pretty important information. I read some responses on Twitter — the photo was congratulated and celebrated by many fellow journalists, while others thought it was an invasion of privacy. Others simply saw the irony of someone’s notes being shared so publicly during a major congressional hearing on data privacy.

The section in the talking points that got my attention, as well as that of many others, regarded Tim Cook and Apple. It never actually came up during his testimony, but Zuckerberg and Facebook were clearly anticipating questions pertaining to Tim Cook’s recent remarks on Facebook’s business model and privacy. Basically, the whole “If you’re not the customer, then you’re the product” argument.

Here is the section from Zuckerberg’s notes, verbatim:

Tim Cook on biz model

  • Bezos: “Companies that work hard to charge you more and companies that work hard to charge you less.”
  • At FB, we try hard to charge you less. In fact, we’re free.
  • [On data, we’re similar. When you install an app on your iPhone, you give it access to some information, just like when you login with FB.
  • Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people.
  • Important to hold everyone to the same standard.]

Zuckerberg used the first two points — citing Jeff Bezos’s quote about there being two types of companies, and asserting that Facebook is decidedly on the “working hard to charge you less” side of that equation — when he was asked about Cook’s remarks during his (excellent) podcast interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein last week. The speciousness of that defense was the subject of the column I wrote last week, so I don’t need to cover it here.

The other three points — hoo-boy. To be fair, these are only prepared notes. Zuckerberg didn’t say them, and we don’t know if he would have if questioned about Cook’s remarks. So it’s not fair to treat them as though they’re actually quotes from Zuckerberg.1 But what a pile of horseshit they would have been if he had.

On data, we’re similar. When you install an app on your iPhone, you give it access to some information, just like when you login [sic] with FB.

There is almost nothing similar about how Apple and Facebook treat user data. Installing an app on an iPhone is nothing like signing in to Facebook. Yes, apps on iOS do get access to some data. But anything remotely private is only accessible to apps after the user has granted explicit permission for this access, and such access is also easily and clearly revokable in the Settings app’s Privacy section. Apple provides the user with clear control.

As for where Zuckerberg might have gone with the item about “Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data”, I’m not sure what that’s about. Maybe something like the 2012 story where the now-nearly-forgotten app Path was caught uploading users’ entire contacts database to their servers? That was bad for user privacy, and Apple can be blamed for having allowed apps to access the address book without the user’s permission. But Apple responded, quickly, by making access to the address book something that required the user’s permission. (They made the same change on MacOS too.)

Apple was, at worst, naive about what apps would do with unfettered access to users’ address books. Facebook is facing criticism today — and losing its users’ trust — not because they’ve been naive about privacy, but because they’ve been devious about it.

Nobody is arguing that Apple collects too much data about users. If anything, I see some people arguing the opposite: that Apple is falling behind in the machine learning race because they don’t collect and aggregate enough data. And as for third-party apps collecting privacy-invasive data from devices, we now know that Facebook has been collecting phone call and SMS messaging history from Android devices — but not iOS, because iOS has never allowed third-party apps access to phone call or text messaging data.

Zuckerberg should stick to the “some companies work hard to charge you more, other work hard to charge you less” angle. Trying to argue that Apple is in the same boat as Facebook on the privacy front is simply laughable. 


  1. I’m curious about the brackets that surround the last three points. (Close-up image.) At first I thought they were typos, because they’re located within the bullet points. But I suspect the bullet points were generated by a word processor like Word or Pages, where the bullet glyphs are auto-generated by the word processor and aren’t editable. I strongly suspect that those brackets are meant to group these three points together. ↩︎


Vin Scully Announces That the 2020 All-Star Game Will Be Played at Dodger Stadium 

This is how you make an announcement. Wow.

Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’s Desperate Letter to Shareholders 

Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes, accused of outright fraud by the SEC, in a letter to shareholders regarding the company’s impending default on a $100 million loan:

The most viable option that we have identified to forestall a near-term sale or a potential default under our credit agreement is further investment by one or more of you. In light of where we are, this is no easy ask. However, given your support of the company over the years, we wanted to provide this opportunity before we proceed too far down the current path.

Good luck with that. (And I thought Mark Zuckerberg was having a rough week.)

‘Why Mark Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook’ 

Zeynep Tufekci, writing for Wired:

In 2003, one year before Facebook was founded, a website called Facemash began nonconsensually scraping pictures of students at Harvard from the school’s intranet and asking users to rate their hotness. Obviously, it caused an outcry. The website’s developer quickly proffered an apology. “I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote a young Mark Zuckerberg. “I definitely see how my intentions could be seen in the wrong light.”

‘Google and Facebook Can’t Help Publishers Because They’re Built to Defeat Publishers’ 

Peter Kafka, writing for Recode a few weeks ago:

For argument’s sake, let’s believe that Google believes its newest efforts to boost publishers — by promoting subscriptions, news literacy and other things publishers like — will help publishers.

Let’s also believe that Facebook believed it was helping publishers when it announced its own effort to boost publishers a year ago, and multiple times since then.

Here’s the problem: No matter how hard Google and Facebook try to help publishers, they will do more to hurt them, because that’s the way they’re supposed to work. They’re built to eviscerate publishers.

(I meant to post this in March, but somehow forgot. I was reminded of it today, as the news is filled with coverage of Mark Zuckerberg testifying to Congress.)

Ben Kuchera: ‘Why Are Fortnite Players So Frickin’ Nice?’ 

Ben Kuchera, writing for Polygon:

Before I continue, I know that there are shitty players out there, and I’ve stumbled across more than a few. But the tone of Fortnite has, in my experience, been much more positive than negative. It’s an issue I’ve discussed with my colleagues at length, but that niceness is something I’ve been hesitant to write about because it’s so squishy and strange. It feels almost unbelievable.

The average player I hear from in Fortnite is younger than I am — by decades in many cases — and they’re incredibly well-behaved online. If someone says they’re unfamiliar with the game, a dedicated player will explain the rules. People cheer each other’s victories and offer pep talks when someone gets angry. Players will jump into group chat to apologize for not having microphones, and everyone seems to be playing to have a good time.

I’m not a gamer, but my son is, and he and his friends love Fortnite, and I enjoy watching him play. It is a shooter, yes, but there’s something about the tone of it — the characters, the physics, the architecture — that just feels playful. Just look at the characters in the image accompanying Kuchera’s piece — they look like action figure toys.

It’s the most interesting game I’ve watched my son play in a long while. Even the business model is interesting: it’s a AAA game with high production values but is free-to-play. They make money only through in-game purchases.

Apple Lands Isaac Asimov ‘Foundation’ Series 

Mike Fleming Jr. and Nellie Andreeva, writing for Deadline:

In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. […]

Even the Game of Thrones’ creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov’s trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

I haven’t read the Foundation series since I was a teenager, but I remember being absolutely enthralled. A TV series is definitely the way to go with material like this. I don’t even think a trilogy of feature films could do justice to a story this sprawling — Foundation calls for the megamovie treatment.

‘Calvin County’ 

Perhaps due to my general aversion to April Fool’s Day jokes, I missed this last week: a wonderful collaboration between Bill Watterson and Berkeley Breathed.

Apple Introduces Product Red iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus 

I’m fully on board with the iPhone X, but these look amazing. The black face looks so much better than the white face on last year’s Product Red iPhone 7 models.