The Original Macintosh User Manual 

An old link from 2007 I stumbled across this morning, while looking for a link to Steve Jobs’s open letter on the original iPhone price cut. Worth a re-link for sure.

Peter Merholz:

I recently purchased an original Macintosh User Manual (thanks eBay!). I had seen one at a garage sale, and was struck by how it had to explain a total paradigm shift in interacting with computers. I figured I could learn something about helping make innovation happen.

Daring Fireball T-Shirts and Hoodies 

Thumbnail of a Daring Fireball logo hoodie.

Taking orders on these items through the end of the week, and we’ll start sending them out after they’re printed this weekend. I’m wearing a print test of the hoodie as I write this — lightweight but very warm.

Samsung Partners With Fake Supreme Brand in China 

Stefan Etienne, writing for The Verge:

Samsung is getting criticized by hypebeasts everywhere after it claimed to be collaborating with Supreme; in reality, it partnered with a Supreme rip-off. Samsung is actually partnering with a fake legal brand, a rival company based in Barletta, Italy, that beat Supreme NYC in a court case this summer regarding who can use the brand name in Italy.

Partnering with a legal counterfeit brand is one of the Samsung-iest things Samsung has ever done.

Not Understanding the Concept of a Trade-In 

Peter Cohan, founder of Peter S. Cohan and Associates, writing for Inc under the jacktastic headline “Apple Is Offering a 40 Percent Discount on iPhones. Here’s Why Steve Jobs Would Hate It”:

How so? On December 2, Apple added a new banner to the top of its website advertising the iPhone XR for $449, $300 less than its official sticker price. The deal, noted with an asterisk and described at the bottom of the page, requires customers to trade in an iPhone 7 Plus, a high-end handset from two years ago.

O how mighty Apple has fallen!

To put it in perspective, the plunge in the iPhone gross margin has been precipitous. As I mentioned, In 2012, the iPhone had a 71 percent gross margin. Before the 40 percent discount, the iPhone X had a much lower gross margin of 48 percent — its price was $749 and the cost of the parts was $390, according to IHS Markit.

By discounting the price to $449, the iPhone gross margin drops to 13 percent.

I’m not even sure where to start here. First, it is indeed interesting that Apple is promoting the iPhone XR based on the $450 price with a trade-in of an iPhone 7 Plus. Does this signal that XR sales are weak? Does it run counter to the iPhone’s premium brand? Reasonable questions.

But did the iPhone have 71 percent profit margins in 2012? No, it did not. That’s nonsense. But as I wrote about Cohan six years ago, when he was calling for Tim Cook to be fired, “He’s like a stage magician doing a card trick who asks the audience, ‘Hey, everyone close your eyes for a second.’”

If you’re trading in an iPhone 7 Plus to get an iPhone XR for $450, you’re not just giving Apple $450. You’re giving them $450 and an iPhone 7 Plus. Apple refurbishes and resells traded-in iPhones; they don’t just toss them in the trash. Refurbished iPhone 7 Plus models are not cheap, either: $480/$570/$650 for 32/128/256 GB.

‘Really Not Very Good’ 

Owen Williams, writing for Motherboard:

One of the biggest problems today is that despite Chromium’s popularity, it’s really not very good on the resource front: it drains battery, hogs system resources and generally doesn’t play nice. This, largely, has been because Google and Chromium don’t own their own operating system (outside of ChromeOS), and don’t get exclusive access to low-level system APIs that Safari and Edge have enjoyed.

There’s a lot I disagree with in this piece, but this bit takes the cake. “Really not very good on the resource front” ought to be nominated for understatement of the year. Safari isn’t more efficient because it has “exclusive access” to system APIs. It’s more efficient because the WebKit/Safari team places a higher priority on efficiency than Chrome’s team does. It’s that simple.

This difference in priorities is why Google forked Chrome’s rendering engine from WebKit in 2013. Which, in turn, makes me wonder what the endgame will look like with Microsoft adopting Chrome. Is Microsoft really going to stick with Chrome, under Google’s ultimate control, or will they fork it, the way Google forked WebKit?

Doxie Mobile Scanners 

My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring Daring Fireball this week to promote their lineup of excellent scanners. If you want to go paperless in 2019, Doxie is the way to do it. Doxie quickly and reliably scans all your documents, receipts, and photographs with ease.

Thanks to its small footprint, rechargeable battery, and expansive memory, Doxie consistently delivers high-resolution scans wherever you are — no computer required. Their great native apps for Mac and iOS then let you save, share, and send your paper to the cloud.

Doxie is a must-have if you refuse to compromise on quality and want a straightforward way to finally go (and stay) paperless.

This week only, Doxie is giving DF readers a super secret 35 percent discount. Enter Amazon promotion code FIREBALL at checkout on any of Doxie’s three great models: Doxie Q, Doxie Go SE, or Doxie Go SE + Wi-Fi.

Mueller Briefs: Bad News for Trump, Manafort, and Cohen 

Ken White, writing for The Atlantic:

The president said on Twitter that Friday’s news “totally clears the President. Thank you!” It does not. Manafort and Cohen are in trouble, and so is Trump. The special counsel’s confidence in his ability to prove Manafort a liar appears justified, which leaves Manafort facing what amounts to a life sentence without any cooperation credit. The Southern District’s brief suggests that Cohen’s dreams of probation are not likely to come true. All three briefs show the special counsel and the Southern District closing in on President Trump and his administration. They’re looking into campaign contact with Russia, campaign-finance fraud in connection with paying off an adult actress, and participation in lying to Congress. A Democratic House of Representatives, just days away, strains at the leash to help. The game’s afoot.

Electron and the Decline of Native Apps

SwiftOnSecurity, regarding Microsoft’s switch to Chromium as Windows’s built-in rendering engine:

This isn’t about Chrome. This is about ElectronJS. Microsoft thinks EdgeHTML cannot get to drop-in feature-parity with Chromium to replace it in Electron apps, whose duplication is becoming a significant performance drain. They want to single-instance Electron with their own fork.

Electron is a cancer murdering both macOS and Windows as it proliferates. Microsoft must offer a drop-in version with native optimizations to improve performance and resource utilization.

This is the end of desktop applications. There’s nowhere but JavaScript.

I don’t share the depth of their pessimism regarding native apps, but Electron is without question a scourge. I think the Mac will prove more resilient than Windows, because the Mac is the platform that attracts people who care. But I worry.

In some ways, the worst thing that ever happened to the Mac is that it got so much more popular a decade ago. In theory, that should have been nothing but good news for the platform — more users means more attention from developers. The more Mac users there are, the more Mac apps we should see. The problem is, the users who really care about good native apps — users who know HIG violations when they see them, who care about performance, who care about Mac apps being right — were mostly already on the Mac. A lot of newer Mac users either don’t know or don’t care about what makes for a good Mac app.

There have always been bad Mac apps. But they seldom achieved any level of popularity because Mac users, collectively, rejected them. Microsoft Word 6.0 is the canonical example. Word 5 for Mac was a beloved app and solid Mac citizen. Word 6 was a cross-platform monstrosity. Mac users rejected it, and its rejection prompted Microsoft — at the height of its mid-’90s power and arrogance — to completely re-think its Mac strategy and create a new business unit devoted to the Mac. Microsoft’s Rick Schaut wrote a terrific piece on the whole saga back in 2004:

OK, so Mac Word 6.0 was big and slow relative to the memory that most computers had available at the time we shipped it, but that’s not the reason why Mac Word 6.0 was such a crappy product, or at least not directly. […]

Moreover, while people complained about the performance, the biggest complaint we kept hearing about Mac Word 6.0 was that it wasn’t “Mac-like.” So, we spent a lot of time drilling down into what people meant when they said it wasn’t “Mac-like.” We did focus groups. Some of us hung out in various Usenet newsgroups. We talked to product reviewers. We talked to friends who used the product. It turns out that “Mac-like” meant Mac Word 5.0.

We spent so much time, and put so much effort into, solving all the technical problems of Mac Word 6.0 that we failed to make the UI of Mac Word 6.0 behave like Mac Word 5.0. […]

The other thing we figured out as a result of coming to understand what “Mac-like” meant was that we weren’t going to be able to deliver “Mac-like” products if Office remained a singular product from which both the Win and Mac versions were built. The mere fact that “Mac-like” was an issue at all meant that there were some fundamental differences between the Win Word market and the Mac Word market. If we were to understand both those markets, then our Mac products and Win products needed separate marketing and PGM organizations. The lessons we learned from Mac Word 6.0 are some of the reasons that Mac BU exists today.

I disagree, strongly, with one aspect of this: what Mac Word users saw as Mac-like wasn’t whatever Word 5 was — it was that Word 5 really was Mac-like in design. Word 6 wasn’t objected to for being different, it was objected to for being literally un-Mac-like. It looked and worked like Word for Windows.

As un-Mac-like as Word 6 was, it was far more Mac-like then than Google Docs running inside a Chrome tab is today. Google Docs on Chrome is an un-Mac-like word processor running inside an ever-more-un-Mac-like web browser. What the Mac market flatly rejected as un-Mac-like in 1996 was better than what the Mac market tolerates, seemingly happily, today. Software no longer needs to be Mac-like to succeed on the Mac today. That’s a tragedy.

Even Apple, of all companies, is shipping Mac apps with glaring un-Mac-like problems. The “Marzipan” apps on MacOS 10.14 Mojave — News, Home, Stocks, Voice Memos — are dreadfully bad apps. They’re functionally poor, and design-wise foreign-feeling. I honestly don’t understand how Apple decided it was OK to ship these apps.

Another one I just ran into on Mojave is the new Mac App Store app. It certainly looks nice, but I noticed a few days ago that it doesn’t support the Page Down and Page Up keys for scrolling (nor the Home and End keys for jumping to the top and bottom) in any of its views.1 Open an article and hit Page Down, and instead of scrolling down, it just beeps. Beeps, I say. The only way to scroll is with a mouse or trackpad. In an app from Apple, used by nearly everyone. Even the Marzipan apps support these keys for scrolling, which shouldn’t be surprising, because support for these keys and other standard behavior comes for free with the underlying developer frameworks. The Mojave App Store app must be doing something very strange for these keys not to work.2

The Mojave App Store app certainly isn’t written using Electron. But the problem with Electron apps isn’t really Electron — it’s the decline in demand for well-made native Mac apps. And that is ominous. The biggest threat to the Mac isn’t iPads, Chromebooks, or Windows 2-in-1’s — it’s apathy towards what makes great Mac apps great. As I tweeted regarding this Page Down/Up thing:

Things like this are canaries in the coal mine regarding the state of the Mac. If even Apple doesn’t get basic fundamentals — like supporting Page Up/Down, things which should work in a scrolling view out of the box — how are we to expect any developer to?

The new App Store app on Mojave certainly looks better. But developers at Apple, of all companies, should know that design is how it works

  1. After posting about this to Twitter, a couple of people argued that it should be no surprise that these keys don’t work because modern Apple keyboards don’t have these keys. First, that’s wrong — the large Magic Keyboard has these keys. But even if you’re using a MacBook or a smaller keyboard you can use them using the Fn key. Fn↓ = Page Down; Fn↑ = Page Up; Fn← = Home; Fn→ = End. Enjoy. ↩︎

  2. While I’m in full-on you-kids-get-the-hell-off-my-lawn mode here, let me mention another Mojave gripe that is clearly the work of young developers at Apple. The Finder’s File → Show Original command has had the shortcut ⌘R since, I think, System 6. (Select an alias or symlink and this command will reveal the original file.) File → Make Alias was ⌘L. In Mojave, ⌘R has inexplicably been remapped to Rotate Right and ⌘L to Rotate Left. (These seem to be invisible menu items in the Edit menu? They’re not menu items, but the Edit menu highlights when you invoke them.) The shortcut for Make Alias is now ⌤⌘A and Show Original is now ⌤⌥⌘A. In and of themselves these new shortcuts aren’t bad, I suppose, but these are awfully longstanding shortcuts to change. And, I’ll add, the new shortcuts don’t even match the ones in Photos, where they’re named Rotate Counterclockwise (⌘R) and Rotate Clockwise (⌥⌘R). Photos’s shortcuts, where rotating in the other direction is an Option-key variant rather using an entirely different letter, seem more Mac-like to me. Preview, on the other hand, uses the commands names Rotate Left and Rotate Right, and the same ⌘L and ⌘R as the Mojave Finder. I give up. ↩︎︎

Emails Show Facebook Is Well Aware That Tracking Contacts Is Creepy 

Kashmir Hill, in an excellent piece for Gizmodo:

Then a man named Yul Kwon came to the rescue saying that the growth team had come up with a solution! Thanks to poor Android permission design at the time, there was a way to update the Facebook app to get “Read Call Log” permission without actually asking for it. “Based on their initial testing, it seems that this would allow us to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all,” Kwon is quoted. “It would still be a breaking change, so users would have to click to upgrade, but no permissions dialog screen. They’re trying to finish testing by tomorrow to see if the behavior holds true across different versions of Android.”

Oh yay! Facebook could suck more data from users without scaring them by telling them it was doing it! This is a little surprising coming from Yul Kwon because he is Facebook’s chief ‘privacy sherpa,’ who is supposed to make sure that new products coming out of Facebook are privacy-compliant. I know because I profiled him, in a piece that happened to come out the same day as this email was sent. A member of his team told me their job was to make sure that the things they’re working on “not show up on the front page of the New York Times” because of a privacy blow-up. And I guess that was technically true, though it would be more reassuring if they tried to make sure Facebook didn’t do the creepy things that led to privacy blow-ups rather than keeping users from knowing about the creepy things.

The Facebook executives who approved this ought to be going to jail. Facebook is to privacy what Enron was to accounting.

Microsoft Is Adopting Chromium 

Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows at Microsoft:

We will move to a Chromium-compatible web platform for Microsoft Edge on the desktop. Our intent is to align the Microsoft Edge web platform simultaneously (a) with web standards and (b) with other Chromium-based browsers. This will deliver improved compatibility for everyone and create a simpler test-matrix for web developers.

This is really rather stunning news, especially when you think back to the browser war in the 1990s. And I don’t think it’s a good thing for the web.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Sad to see Microsoft throw in the towel on their own browser rendering engine. The web doesn’t benefit when developers are encouraged to “just test in Chrome” through consolidation. We need a strong, diverse set of browsers. HANG IN THERE FIREFOX!

After Microsoft makes this switch, the only remaining major browser engines will be Chromium, Mozilla/Gecko, and Safari/WebKit. On the other hand, they plan to bring Edge to MacOS:

Microsoft Edge will now be delivered and updated for all supported versions of Windows and on a more frequent cadence. We also expect this work to enable us to bring Microsoft Edge to other platforms like macOS.

Microsoft making a browser for the Mac again also brings back memories of the ’90s, when IE was the best browser for the platform.

The World’s Shortest Review of Apple’s $40 iPhone XR Clear Case

So I got the Apple clear case for the iPhone XR this morning, and I still have my review unit, so I tried it out. In a nut: it’s great.

Feel-wise it’s sort of half plastic-y, half rubbery. Plastic-y enough that it doesn’t stretch from the edges of the phone. Rubbery enough that it feels nice and grippy without being too grippy — it slides in and out of a jeans pocket easier than an Apple silicone case. Unlike any of Apple’s other iPhone cases, there is a very slight lip around the camera cutout on this case. I don’t know why, but it means the phone doesn’t quite sit flush back-down on a flat surface. My best guess is that the case is so thin it needs the lip lest the camera bump jut out.

It is very clear. I’m not a case guy but everyone who is says clear cases yellow over time. I have no idea whether this case will yellow over time, because it just showed up this morning, but I will say it is perfectly clear right now.

I bought a $20 well-rated third-party clear case for the XR a few weeks ago, made by Totallee, and I’d say that case is OK. It’s way more rubbery, which means it has more (undesirable) give at the sides, and it isn’t quite as clear — even brand-new it’s already slightly more yellow-y.

Also, Apple’s clear case has no aroma. I’ve been trying a bunch of third-party iPhone cases recently and a lot of them literally stink.

As a point of reference, I use my iPhone without any case at least 95 percent of the time. So, maybe you should just ignore me. But when I do use a case, I want it for grippy-ness. My favorite cases are Apple’s leather ones — they’re a good balance of overall niceness, grippy-ness, protection, and button-feel. I think Apple’s silicone cases are too grippy — there’s too much friction going in and out of a jeans pocket. To me, this XR clear case is much closer in niceness to Apple’s leather cases than their silicone cases. Even the button feel is better than the silicone cases.

“Clear” is really hard to do well, and it’s no surprise to me that Apple has done it best — I think they’re the leading material design company in the world.

You can say $40 is too much for an iPhone case, but I’d say Apple’s $40 clear case is easily worth twice as much as the $20 clear cases I’ve tried. If I bought a XR and wanted to use a case, this is the case I would buy. It’s so good it makes me wonder why Apple doesn’t make clear cases like this one for the iPhone XS and XS Max. 

Google Allo to Shut Down in March 

Almost unbelievable that Google still can’t get a messaging platform off the ground.

Proof That iOS Still Hasn’t Gotten Undo Right

I’ve been reading Apple’s App Store awards for 2018, and something jumped out at me. Both the iPhone and Mac apps of the year are image editors: Procreate Pocket on iPhone, Pixelmator Pro on Mac. Both are excellent apps, well-deserving of these awards. Here’s Apple’s story on Procreate Pocket; here’s their story on Pixelmator Pro (both of which articles are only visible from iOS or MacOS Mojave, in the App Store app — I feel like I’m linking to AOL content here).

What struck me was this paragraph from Apple’s story on Procreate Pro:

Even curious hobbyists will be drawn (pun intended) to the simple user interface. As you’re creating, you can readily go back and remove the rogue line you just drew by tapping with two fingers. (Didn’t mean to undo the stroke? Tap with three and it’ll reappear.)

The whole story is only seven paragraphs long, and one of them is devoted to explaining how to invoke Undo and Redo. This is — inadvertently on the part of the App Store editorial team — a scathing indictment of the state of iOS’s user interface standards.

Before reading a word of it, how much would you wager that Apple’s story on Pixelmator Pro for Mac does not mention how to invoke Undo and Redo? I would’ve bet my house — because even if you’ve never even heard of Pixelmator, you of course know how to invoke Undo and Redo in any Mac app: Edit → Undo and Edit → Redo, with the shortcuts ⌘Z and ⇧⌘Z. In fact, even their placement in the Edit menu is always the same, in every Mac app: the first two items in the menu.

Undo has been in the same position in the same menu with the same keyboard shortcut since 1984. Undo and Redo are powerful, essential commands, and the ways to invoke them on the Mac have been universal conventions for almost 35 years. (Redo came a few years later, if I recall correctly.)

iOS does in fact have a standard convention for Undo, but it’s both awful and indiscoverable: Shake to Undo, which I wrote about a few months ago. As I mentioned in that piece, iOS does have support for the ⌘Z and ⇧⌘Z shortcuts when a hardware keyboard is connected, and the iPad’s on-screen keyboard has an Undo/Redo button. So for text editing, on the iPad, Undo/Redo is available through good system-wide conventions.

But on the Mac, Undo and Redo are invoked the same way for any action in any app — everything from editing text and making illustrations, to trashing or moving files or mail messages.

There is a common convention for Undo/Redo in iOS drawing apps — circular arrow buttons, counterclockwise for Undo and clockwise for Redo. (And, thankfully, these are the same icons used for Undo/Redo on the iPad on-screen keyboard. Consistency is not completely lost.) You can see them in these screenshots from Apple Notes and Linea Go on iPhone.

But it speaks to how weak this convention is that Procreate Pocket could do something not just different but totally different — multi-finger taps with no on-screen buttons — and not just get away with it but be celebrated by Apple for it. I’m not saying Procreate’s two/three-finger taps are better or worse than on-screen buttons. (Well, stay tuned.) And I can see the thinking — screen space on an iPhone is so precious that any reduction in on-screen buttons is a win in terms of reducing UI clutter and maximizing the screen space available for showing the content of the illustration. Also, I’m sure the two/three-finger taps are very fast once you’re used to them.

The developer of a drawing app on iOS is forced to make a choice:

  • Do the obvious thing and add persistent “⟲” and “⟳” buttons, consuming precious screen real estate.
  • Do the non-obvious thing and implement Undo/Redo with gestures like Procreate’s multi-finger taps.
  • Do the stupid thing and rely on Shake to Undo, even though most people don’t know Shake to Undo exists, and even if they do, probably hate it and/or feel silly doing it.1

Personally, if I were designing an iOS drawing app I’d go the first route, and follow Apple Notes’s lead with “⟲” and “⟳” buttons. (Linea supports the two- and three-finger taps in addition to its explicit buttons — they too are a quasi-convention.) But to Procreate’s credit, they clearly know these multi-finger tap gestures are both unusual, not intuitive, and utterly non-discoverable, because the very first thing they do when you first launch the app is teach you about them.2 Think about that: iOS user interface conventions are so shallow, so widely and wildly inconsistent, that an app proclaimed by Apple as the very best of the year has to start, as the very first thing you see when you launch them, by teaching you how to use Undo. That’s a sad state of affairs.

Apple created wide-ranging Human Interface Guidelines and preached consistent adherence to them as a top priority from the very earliest days of Mac not for some abstract reason, but for very practical reasons. From the 1987 edition of the Human Interface Guidelines:

The purpose of visual consistency is to construct a believable environment for users. The transfer of skills is one of the most important benefits of a consistent interface, especially for beginning users. […]

Consistency makes it easier for a user to learn new applications; it also makes it less likely that a user who follows habits learned from one application will make a disastrous mistake when using a different one.

Or feeling utterly lost in a different app — like not knowing how to use Undo. If there’s a mistake the original HIG made, it was emphasizing “especially for beginning users”. Seasoned users benefit too — they’re the ones whose habits and expectations are broken by apps that break conventions.

What it comes down to, I think, is that the menu bar has become a vastly underestimated foundation of desktop computing. Once heralded, the menu bar is now seen as a vestige. I’m not arguing that iOS should have a Mac-style menu bar.3 I’m simply pointing out that without one, iOS is an 11-year-old platform that is still floundering to establish consistent conventions for some basic features, let alone complex ones, that are simple and obvious on the Mac.

Imagine going back in time to tell a MacPaint user in 1985 that they’d have to learn how to use Undo in an Apple-award-winning paint app in 2018. That’s where we are. 

  1. Think about using Shake to Undo to undo the last, say, four strokes in a drawing app. You’d have to shake, then confirm the undo action in the confirmation alert, and then repeat that sequence three more times. That’d be infuriating. ↩︎︎

  2. One counterargument to my complaint here is, I’m sure, something along the lines of “If the app shows you explicitly how to use the two- and three-finger taps when you first launch it, what’s the problem? So what if it’s different?”. Here’s the problem. What happens if you install the app, go through the first-run lesson, and then don’t use the app again for, say, six months? I personally had Procreate Pocket installed for years and I either never knew or had completely forgotten about this. And I would have never guessed to try a two-finger tap for Undo. One overlooked aspect of consistency, of adhering to the idiomatic design patterns of the native platform, is that doing so helps users guess how to do something they’ve never done before. ↩︎︎

  3. Is anyone willing to argue that the “More” popover in Apple’s iWork apps for iOS apps is something other than a menu bar hidden behind a decidedly un-Apple-like “···” button? The thinking here seems to be “We need a menu bar for a bunch of commands in a hierarchical structure, but we don’t want to admit we need a menu bar on iOS so we’re not going to make one, and instead we’ll just use a popover on iPad and a modal full-screen sheet on iPhone and hide them behind this admittedly ungraceful dot-dot-dot button.” Which puts these apps in the ridiculous situation where all of the commands fit on screen on iPhone but you have to scroll to see them all on iPad, even though the iPad has a much larger display, because Apple constrained these popovers with a maximum height smaller than an iPhone display.

    What exactly does Apple mean by “More” for these commands and sub-menus hidden behind the dot-dot-dot button? More than what they could fit in the interface of these apps without a menu bar — that’s what. “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not more so” goes the old design adage. The contortions Apple is willing to jump through on iOS to avoid creating a system-standard functional peer to the Mac menu bar fall into “but not more so” territory. ↩︎︎

Apple Announces Clear iPhone XR Case 

Finally. I’ve got one coming — will report on it once I have it.

Also available today: Apple’s 18W USB-C charger that’s included with iPad Pro, for $29.

React Native Accessibility Is Pretty Bad 

Doug Russell:

So I’ve been recently saddled with some React Native problems. […]

So I do what I always do, I fire up VoiceOver. I had read the docs for React Native when it was new. I knew they were aware of accessibility, so maybe it wouldn’t be too bad.

(You’ll be very surprised to learn it was quite a bit too bad.)

Some of the issues were specific to the project. They didn’t understand VoiceOver or how accessibility works in React, so I spent a bit of time fixing those problems before I got into the weeds.

Where I realized there were some tricky problems, and maybe some intractable problems, was when I dug into React Navigation. This is the library recommended (but not maintained) by Facebook for navigation in new projects.

Wrong-headed developers want to use cross-platform frameworks like React Native because they think it’ll save them time and resources, but if they want to do it right — and good accessibility support is most certainly part of doing it right — they’re making things harder on themselves. What they should admit openly is that they don’t care about doing it right, and in many cases are trying to cover up for the fact that they don’t know how to do it right.

Apple’s Game of the Year: ‎Donut County 

Slogan: “Be a hole”, which caused me to read it twice. (Via the App Store’s Game of the Year story, which, I shit you not, you can’t read on a Mac.)

Linea 2.5 

Clever new update to The Iconfactory’s iOS drawing app:

Simply draw a rough circle, square, rectangle, oval, or polygon and hold at the end. After a configurable delay, ZipShape will activate and transform your rough version into a clean, precise shape. It works with all of Linea’s drawing tools — including the new fill tool.

You don’t have to be perfect — after the shape is generated, there are transform handles you can use to tweak its final position and appearance. No rulers or stencils required!

Linea 2.5 adds a bunch of cool new features, but this ZipShape one is a real standout.

I’ve been impressed by Linea since it debuted, but I’m actually using it a lot more now with Apple Pencil 2. There’s a well-known photography adage that the best camera is the one you have with you. That’s why Apple Pencil 2 is so much better — it’s with me so much more often.

Samsung Used a Stock DSLR Photo to Fake Their Phone’s ‘Portrait Mode’ 

Dunja Djudjic, writing at DIY Photography:

Earlier this year, Samsung was busted for using stock photos to show off capabilities of Galaxy A8’s camera. And now they did it again – they used a stock image taken with a DSLR to fake the camera’s portrait mode. How do I know this, you may wonder? Well, it’s because Samsung used MY photo to do it.

Not only is this outright fraud, they did a terrible job in Photoshop doctoring the image.


Sadly, it’s nothing new that smartphone companies use DSLR photos to fake phone camera’s capabilities. Samsung did it before, so did Huawei. And I believe many more brands do it, we just haven’t found out about it yet. I’m pretty sure that Samsung at least bought my photo legally, even though I haven’t received the confirmation of it. But regardless, this is false advertising.

It’s undeniable that smartphone cameras are getting better (and there are more and more lenses with every new phone). But, we definitely shouldn’t trust the ads showing off their capabilities, or at least take them with a grain of salt.

I know one brand that does not do this.

Gaming the App Store 

David Barnard:

So, let’s talk about how developers are gaming the App Store and why it matters to the future of the platform. Any one of these tactics might seem somewhat bland individually, but when tens of thousands of apps deploy multiple tactics across many categories of apps, the impact can be measured in hundreds of millions of users and likely billions of dollars.

I’ve been focused on researching the weather category the past couple years as I’ve been working on my weather app, Weather Up, but these tactics apply to pretty much every category on the App Store.

None of this is news, but it continues to surprise me that Apple hasn’t cracked down on all of these scams, especially the ones that trick people into paying for subscriptions. That’s just outright theft. The apps that sell your location data to third parties are a head-scratcher too — surely Apple doesn’t want this going on.

Apple should put together an App Store bunco squad. A small team that polices the store for scammy apps and nips them in the bud. They could start just by combing the lists of top-grossing apps. It’s not just about protecting users and punishing bad actors — these scams keep good honest apps from rising to the top, and they undermine trust in the system. It’s in no one’s interest for “subscriptions” to be equated with “scams”. And I actually think it would be a fun and satisfying job — who wouldn’t enjoy busting bad guys?

Apple Debuts Online Store With 10 Percent Discount for U.S. Veterans and Active Military 

10 percent is a pretty great deal — worth sharing this with any friends or family who qualify.

The Talk Show: ‘A Vivid Nightmarescape’ 

New episode of the podcast: Dieter Bohn joins the show to talk about Google’s new Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet/laptop, the Pixel 3, Google’s fascinating new Night Sight camera mode, speculation on how Apple might move the Mac to ARM chips, and more.

Brought to you by:

  • Banktivity: Powerful personal finance app for Mac and iOS with a great native UI. Save 10 percent on the Mac version with coupon code THETALKSHOW at checkout.
  • Casper: Get $50 off select mattresses with code talkshow. Terms and conditions apply.
  • Fracture: Your photos printed in vivid color directly on glass — great holiday gift.
Quinn Nelson’s MacBook / MacBook Air / MacBook Escape Shootout 

Don’t let the sensational headline scare you off from this video — it’s a really fair and interesting comparison between the 12-inch MacBook, new MacBook Air, and 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. His conclusion, basically, is that if you want something remarkably thin and light, that’s the MacBook, not the Air, and otherwise you get a faster computer and a better much brighter display with the MacBook Pro.

I’m still bullish on the new Air for people with non-Pro performance needs, but this did make me think. If Apple updates the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro to include the third-generation butterfly keyboard and Touch ID sensor, and doesn’t reduce the prices of the MacBook Air at the same time, that would kind of leave the Air hanging in the lineup.

Nick Heer: ‘On Apple Portables in the Approximately $1,200 to $1,300 Price Range’ 

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy:

It comes down to the honesty and integrity of the product. Every so often, I think to myself could I imagine everyone on Apple’s executive team happily using this product? as a proxy for product integrity. For most of the current lineup, I have few reservations; I bet Phil Schiller would be very happy toting an iPhone XR and a base model iPad, for example. But — and perhaps this is projecting — I think they would get frustrated after a year of using any Mac with 128 GB of storage; but, especially, a MacBook Pro. It’s debatable, to me, whether that’s a fair base storage in the Air, but I don’t think it’s honest in the Pro. As far as I’m concerned, the MacBook Pro makes more sense starting at the $1,499 256 GB configuration — from both a pricing perspective, and for its integrity.

Samsung Tweets From iPhone, Again 

Marques Brownlee spots another case of a Samsung promotional tweet being posted from an iPhone. How this can still be happening, given how much attention these gaffes get, is beyond me. According to Luca Hammer, this Samsung account tweeted from iPhone over 300 times last year.

Couple of thoughts:

  • This wouldn’t happen, ever, if Samsung didn’t rely on outside marketing companies. But I’m not sure it would be possible for a worldwide marketing operation the size of Samsung’s to be run in-house. But to my knowledge we’ve never seen an Apple tweet sent from an Android phone.

  • Sometimes when these incidents occur I see people wondering why these tweets are being sent from any phone, rather than a desktop computer. These tweets are work. What these people don’t get, I think, is just how much work — serious professional work — gets done on phones.


My thanks to iFixit for sponsoring this week at Daring Fireball. You probably know them best for their detailed teardowns of new gadgets, but they also have an extensive library of over 40,000 free repair guides. And they sell precision tools and parts.

I’ve had a set of their tools for years, and they just sent me their latest flagship kit, the Pro Tech. It’s loaded with every rare bit and opening tool you could think of, packed in a clever small case, and backed by a lifetime guarantee. iFixit’s repair engineers design these tools in-house, and they’re the tools they themselves use.

Since last they sponsored DF they’ve developed a bunch of all-in-one repair kits for upgrading and repairing Apple devices. Their kits include a new part and all the tools you need for the job.

Their toolkits are great for any tinkerer on your holiday gift list. They’ve even got a special deal for DF readers — through the end of December, save $10 off your next $50 purchase with the code DARINGFIX.

George H.W. Bush, 41st President, Dies at 94 

Adam Nagourney, The New York Times:

Mr. Bush was president during a shift in the world order that had begun under Reagan. His measured response to upheaval in Eastern Europe drew complaints that he was not seizing the reins of history. But he chose a collaborative approach, working with the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to allow for the reunification of Germany, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The two leaders signed treaties mandating historic reductions in their countries’ nuclear and chemical weapons.

“George H. W. Bush was the best one-term president the country has ever had, and one of the most underrated presidents of all time,” James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s closest adviser for nearly 50 years, said in an interview in 2013. “I think history is going to treat him very well.”

By far and away — I mean it’s not even close — my favorite Republican president since Eisenhower. I respect him deeply: from his lifelong commitment to public service, to his genuine bipartisanship. The collapse of the Soviet Union could have gone very, very wrong under less steady U.S. leadership. And at a personal level, George and Barbara Bush were married for 73 years. 73 years!

There is a rule that will never be written but can clearly be felt that a president can only be eulogized by another president, and that job clearly falls to George W. That’s a hell of a thing, but he’s going to nail it.

‘‎I’m Ping Pong King’ 

I don’t recommend games often because I don’t often find games I enjoy, but here’s one I like a lot. Super minimalistic both in gameplay and visual style, but that’s what I tend to like on iOS. What graphics there are are animated joyfully. It works really well on iPad too. Free to play, a mere $2 to remove ads.

One gripe: there’s no syncing between devices. Seems to me the level you’re on ought to sync through iCloud. Another gripe: if you lose by a single point, the game gives you an option to replay the final point if you watch an ad for another game. This feels cheap, both commercially and sportsmanship-wise. When you lose you lose, I say.

One tip: keep your eyes on the table, not your avatar, because sometimes you need to hit Left when the ball is coming to your avatar’s right, or vice versa, and I find it easier to avoid getting mixed up by concentrating only on the table.

(Via this feature story in the App Store, which, I shit you not, you can only read from iOS device because there’s no fallback to a web page.)

Apple Releases New iPhone XS Case and Apple Watch Band Color Options 

Still no first-party cases for the iPhone XR though. That’s just baffling to me. I know most iPhone owners buy third-party cases, but it seems like Apple is leaving money on the table by not offering their own.

Also, this new “Pacific Green” is more blue than green, right? That’s what my eyes and my MacBook’s color picker say.

Marriott Hacking Exposes Data of Up to 500 Million Guests 

Amie Tsang and Adam Satariano, reporting for The New York Times:

The Marriott International hotel chain said on Friday that the database of its Starwood reservation system had been hacked and that the personal details of up to 500 million guests going as far back as 2014 had been compromised.

The hotel group, which runs more than 6,700 properties around the world, was informed in September about an attempt to access the database, and an investigation this month revealed that unauthorized access had been made on or before Sept. 10, Marriott said in a statement.

The hotel chain said that personal details including names, addresses, dates of birth, passport numbers, email addresses and phone numbers for hundreds of millions of guests may have been compromised. […]

Hackers also obtained encrypted credit-card information for some customers, but it was unclear if the hackers would be able to use those payment details.

Just awful, particularly the part about passport numbers, dates of birth, and the possibility of credit card numbers being exposed. I’m almost certainly included in this breach — I’m a longtime SPG rewards member, and definitely stayed at a few Starwoods hotels since 2014.

Mashable on Pixel Slate: ‘An Average and Very Buggy 2-in-1 Tablet’ 

Raymond Wong, writing at Mashable:

Where the Pixel Slate stumbles the most is software polish. It doesn’t seem finished and I experienced quite a few bugs and crashes that brought Chrome OS and Android apps to their knees.

My review unit’s kitted out with a very capable Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. But even so, little things like seeing jitters when scrolling on some of Mashable’s media-heavy reviews (like the iPhone XS and Pixel 3), or the slight lag when opening the recent apps window, or the inconsistencies of the colors of videos displayed in the Netflix Android app versus the Netflix website (colors looked way more faded in the app) were frustrating.

Getting colors right is just table stakes.

Google, Microsoft, and Apple are all trying to crack the same nut: to make a device that can work well both as a handheld tablet and as a notebook docked to a keyboard. It really comes down to the operating systems. iPad is a tablet first, and trying to evolve into an ever-better notebook. Chrome and Windows are designed for traditional notebooks, and are trying to evolve into ever-better systems for tablet. Where you start matters.

Apple Music Coming to Amazon Echo Devices December 17 

Amazon’s Day One blog:

Apple Music subscribers will be able to enjoy Apple Music’s 50 million songs on Echo devices. Customers will be able to ask Alexa to play their favorite songs, artists, and albums — or any of the playlists made by Apple Music’s editors from around the world, covering many activities and moods. Customers will also be able to ask Alexa to stream expert-made radio stations centered on popular genres like Hip-Hop, decades like the 80s, and even music from around the world, like K-Pop. Just ask Alexa to play Beats 1 to hear Apple Music’s global livestream including in-depth artist interviews — all completely ad-free. Simply enable the Apple Music skill in the Alexa app and link your account to start listening.

Fascinating. It’s still an open question whether Apple sees subscription content (mostly music now, with more original shows and movies coming soon) as something for its own devices, or cross-platform. Making Apple Music available to Echo devices sure sounds more like the latter.

I wonder how well Apple Music is doing on Android?

Gizmodo: ‘The Google Pixel Slate Is a Brilliant Chrome OS Response to the iPad’ 

Alex Cranz, writing for Gizmodo:

So would I recommend it over the iPad Pro? To a lot of people yes! Especially if you’re considering buying the iPad Pro, which starts at $800 for an 11-inch model and $1,000 for a 12.9-inch device. The Pixel Slate starts at $600 and moves between laptop and tablet mode much more smoothly. It’s an inexpensive tablet that doubles pretty neatly as a solid work device — though I’d suggest spending at least $100 more to go from 4GB of RAM to 8GB. The Pixel Slate does the jobs of a tablet so well that Apple should take note. And if you’re a Surface Pro acolyte who isn’t beholden to Windows, then the Slate is worth a look too.

A fascinating yin to Dieter Bohn’s yang. Really seems like they’re reviewing two different devices. As to who is right, Cranz uses at least 12 exclamation marks in this review, which I’d wager speaks to her taste.

Dieter Bohn on Google Pixel Slate: ‘Slapdash Software Ruins Good Hardware’ 

Dieter Bohn, writing at The Verge:

Other bugs are just sort of infuriating. When the keyboard is attached, moving windows around feels relatively fast and smooth, even with a few Android apps and well over 20 tabs or web apps open. But switch the Pixel Slate into tablet mode and start using the swipe gestures, and it turns into a stuttery, laggy mess. Input with the Pixelbook Pen is similarly unpredictable: sometimes it’s fine; other times, it lags so badly in Google Keep that I have to quit the app and try again.

Chrome OS is an operating system designed for laptops that has enrolled in an adult education class for tablets and hasn’t even understood its assignments, much less done the homework.

Pretty scathing review. I had the same impression after just a few minutes playing with a Pixel Slate: decent enough hardware but very unpolished software, especially the Android apps thing.

Also, the thing I wrote the other week about looking forward to a future where you don’t have to worry about CPU options for MacBooks applies in triplicate to the Pixel Slate — there are way too many CPU options. It’s ridiculous.

‘I Don’t Know Why People Put It In.’ 

From the New York Times’s obituary for famed New York City bartender Tommy Rowles:

Toward the end of his career, having made thousands of martinis, Mr. Rowles said there was a right way to make one.

“My secret is to forget about the vermouth,” he told FT Magazine, a weekly supplement of the British newspaper Financial Times. “I don’t know why people put it in. A bottle of vermouth, you should just open it and look at it.”

The only thing more fun than arguing about how to make a martini is arguing about how to make a martini while enjoying a few.

YouTube to Make Originals Available for Ad-Supported Free Viewing 

Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:

In a shift in strategy, the Google-owned video platform said that starting next year it will move to make all of its new original programming available for free for anyone to watch. With the change, YouTube is moving toward more mainstream celebrity-driven and creator-based reality fare, while it will continue to greenlight scripted productions.

Until now, YouTube Originals have mainly been available on its YouTube Premium subscription service, although YouTube also has expanded the shows and movies it makes available on an ad-supported basis.

Back to Google’s wheelhouse: free stuff with ads. I don’t mean that disdainfully, either — it’s simply what has made Google so successful. But it’s interesting given that the rest of the industry — CBS, Disney, maybe Apple — is moving toward putting shows and movies behind new subscription services.

Apple Says the iPhone XR Has Been Its Top-Selling iPhone Since Launch 

Shara Tibken, writing for CNet:

Greg Joswiak, Apple vice president of product marketing, told CNET in an interview Wednesday that the device has “been our most popular iPhone each and every day since the day it became available.”

I’m sure this will immediately quell all the rumor-mongering and speculation that XR sales are in the tank.

LG Replaces the Head of Its Struggling Mobile Business After Just One Year 

Jon Russell, reporting for TechCrunch:

Hwang Jeong-hwan took the job as president of LG Mobile Communications last October, and this week LG announced that he will be replaced by Brian Kwon, who is head of LG’s hugely profitable home entertainment business, from December 1.

“Mr. Kwon played a critical role in transforming LG’s TV, audio and PC business into category leaders and his knowledge and experience in the global marketplace will be instrumental in continuing LG’s mobile operations turnaround,” LG wrote in an announcement.

Can’t remember the last time I saw a phone from LG worth noticing. Tough gig.

‘Rams’ Philadelphia Premiere Tomorrow Night 

Local note: the Philly premiere of Rams, hosted by director Gary Hustwit (of Helvetica/Objectified/Urbanized design trilogy fame) is tomorrow night. I wouldn’t miss it.

Rams is a documentary portrait of Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers alive, and a rumination on consumerism, sustainability, and the future of design.

Other upcoming screenings around the world are listed here.

Amazon Web Services Introduces Its Own Custom-Designed ARM Server Processor, Promises 45 Percent Lower Costs for Some Workloads 

Tom Krazit, reporting for GeekWire from Amazon’s AWS Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas:

After years of waiting for someone to design an ARM server processor that could work at scale on the cloud, Amazon Web Services just went ahead and designed its own.

Vice president of infrastructure Peter DeSantis introduced the AWS Graviton Processor Monday night, adding a third chip option for cloud customers alongside instances that use processors from Intel and AMD. The company did not provide a lot of details about the processor itself, but DeSantis said that it was designed for scale-out workloads that benefit from a lot of servers chipping away at a problem.

Makes you wonder what the hell is going on at Intel and AMD — first they missed out on mobile, now they’re missing out on the cloud’s move to power-efficient ARM chips.

Tangentially related: Microsoft Windows now supports 64-bit ARM.

‘Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, and Ricky Jay’ 

90s-era documentary about the life and work of Ricky Jay, with appearances by Ricky Jay, David Mamet, and Steve Martin. Don’t let the VHS quality turn you off — I watched this last night and it’s so good.

Vulture has collected a bunch of other great Jay videos available online, and Deceptive Practice is on iTunes and Amazon Prime.

What’s the Deal With the Dearth of Third-Party iPad Pro Smart Connector Peripherals? 

Andrew O’Hara, in a piece at AppleInsider under the rather scathing headline “Apple Has Destroyed the Potential of the Smart Connector on the New iPad Pro”:

Second is the poor adoption we’ve seen from outside companies, which the shift will not help. Apple touted at launch that third-parties could make use of the port, and they even reiterated strong support with products in the pipeline just last year. Now that the port has completely moved, anything in the works based on the previous port location is dead-on-arrival.

Since the original incarnation, only Logitech has put accessories on the market. They’ve launched multiple versions of their popular Slim Combo Keyboard (review) as well as a simple charging dock, the Base, which we also examined.

The new Smart Connector placement does seem more limiting, but I think the Smart Connector was a disappointment on the previous iPad Pros in terms of third-party peripherals. Two products from Logitech — a keyboard and a dock — and that’s it. And of course with the new placement, neither will work with the new iPad Pros.

It seems a bit weird for Apple to add a port that is primarily used only for one product — Apple’s own Smart Keyboard Folio — but that’s the way the previous Smart Connector turned out. I’d like to see more third-party keyboard options that use the Smart Connector, but that didn’t pan out last time.

SQLPro — Database Management Apps for Mac and iOS 

My thanks to Hankinsoft Development for sponsoring last week at DF to promote SQLPro Studio. SQLPro Studio is the premiere database client for MacOS, and is now available for iOS. SQLPro supports MySQL, Postgres, and Microsoft SQL Server, and allows you to quickly and easily access tables, views, and other database necessities from the palm of your hand, with an intuitive interface. With must-have features such as full syntax highlighting, autocomplete, support for the iPad’s Smart Keyboard, and more, SQLPro is a must-have app for developers. These are great truly native Mac and iOS apps, which have been in development with terrific customer support for years.

Download SQLPro for iOS devices today for a free trial.

You can also save 20 percent on any SQLPro app for the Mac using the promo code “gruber”.

Open Daring Fireball Sponsorships for Remainder of 2018 

Open weeks on the DF sponsorship schedule:

  • Nov 26 (this week)
  • Dec 10
  • Dec 17
  • Dec 24

If you’ve got a product or service you want to promote to DF’s audience, get in touch. Great opportunities in the coming weeks for holiday gift items.