How Merchants Use Facebook to Flood Amazon With Fake Reviews 

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.

But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.

What a shitshow. I don’t understand why Amazon doesn’t clean this mess up — it does them no good whatsoever to have all these fraudulent reviews. Same thing with counterfeit products, but they’ve let that fester too. (Via Dave Mark.)

The iPad’s Focus Problem 

Luke Kanies:

Unlike touch, keyboards are inherently targeted. While touch is powerful specifically because of your ability to directly manipulate the software you’re using, keyboards must first be pointed at a place that needs text. They need focus. And here’s where the iPad falls down.

It has no concept of focus. Or rather, it obviously does, but its designers are in denial about it. Keyboard focus is littered throughout the platform, from the presence of a cursor when inputting text, to the software keyboard auto-hiding when no text field is in use. When you’re producing text, this generally works pretty well.

But the keyboard is used for far more than typing. Whether it’s command-tabbing between applications or using shortcuts within them, the keyboard is a critical control device. And it just does not work right on the iPad.

I tweeted about this same thing over the weekend, while testing out a new keyboard that Jason Snell convinced me to buy. It seems crazy to me the iPad lets you command-tab between full-screen apps, but when you’re in split screen mode there’s (a) no way to switch between the apps on screen using the keyboard, and (b) no indication of which app has keyboard focus.

Off the top of my head, I think command-tab switching should include the individual apps in split screen mode.

John Paczkowski on Facebook and Google 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

A few weeks from now, Facebook and Google will hold their yearly developer conferences, massive events meant to celebrate their platforms and visions for the future. They’re typically packed full of grand pronouncements, flashy demos, and Google Glass-wearing skydivers or CEO-impersonating celebrities. Bands play. Drinks flow. They are spectacles, intended to ignite enthusiasm and burnish the Facebook and Google brands. But after a year in which Facebook and Google played pivotal roles in spreading misinformation and were exposed as data-greedy growth goblins, there should be little cause for celebration.

If the platforms are serious about healing themselves, you should be able to see it in a show that’s more about fixing what’s broken rather than building something new. And if they aren’t serious? Expect the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests.

I would bet big money on “the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests”.

Turn Touch Wooden Smart Home Remote 

My thanks to Turn Touch for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their beautiful wooden smart home remote. Ever wanted to control Spotify on your phone without looking at your phone? Do you have smart lights like Philips Hue and want a phone-free way to change scenes and colors? Turn Touch is your answer.

Turn Touch is a wooden smart home remote. Forget plastic, this is a remote as stylish as your home. It controls every smart home device that speaks Wi-Fi. You can also use it to control your Mac and iOS devices over Bluetooth. This includes Keynote, iTunes, Quicktime, Spotify, Sonos, and lots more.

Buy a remote for your home or office for only $59 (with free shipping). It’s a great gift for friends or yourself.

iPhone X Customer Satisfaction: Impressively High Across All Features, With One Predictable Exception 

Ben Bajarin, on the result of a survey of iPhone X owners conducted last month:

When it came to overall customer satisfaction, iPhone X owners in our study gave the product an overall 97% customer satisfaction. While that number is impressive, what really stands out when you do customer satisfaction studies is the percentage who say they are very satisfied with the product. Considering you add up the total number of very satisfied, and satisfied, to get your total customer satisfaction number a product can have a high number of satisfied responses and lower number of very satisfied responses and still achieve a high number. The higher the very satisfied responses, the better a product truly is. In our study, 85% of iPhone X owners said they were very satisfied with the product.

That number is amongst the highest I’ve seen in all the customer satisfaction studied we have conducted across a range of technology products. Just to contrast that with the original Apple Watch research with Wristly I was involved in, 66% of Apple Watch owners indicated they were very satisfied with Apple Watch, a product which also ranked a 97% customer satisfaction number in the first Apple Watch study we did.

Wait until you see the feature-by-feature results.

Google Gives Up on Allo, Backs Unencrypted Successor to SMS 

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it’s trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.” SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google’s goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

As part of that effort, Google says it’s “pausing” work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It’s the sort of “pause” that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. […]

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It’s just “Chat,” not “Google Chat.” In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier’s Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won’t be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won’t be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

It is unconscionable for Google to back a new protocol that isn’t end-to-end encrypted. End-to-end encryption is table stakes for any new communication platform today. Apple should ignore this — if it’s not secure it should be a non-starter.

Walt Mossberg:

Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.

Susan Kare to Be Awarded AIGA Medal 

Alexandra Lange, writing for The New Yorker:

Kare, who is sixty-four, will be honored for her work on April 20th, by her fellow designers, with the prestigious AIGA medal. In 1982, she was a sculptor and sometime curator when her high-school friend Andy Hertzfeld asked her to create graphics for a new computer that he was working on in California. Kare brought a Grid notebook to her job interview at Apple Computer. On its pages, she had sketched, in pink marker, a series of icons to represent the commands that Hertzfeld’s software would execute. Each square represented a pixel. A pointing finger meant “Paste.” A paintbrush symbolized “MacPaint.” Scissors said “Cut.” Kare told me about this origin moment: “As soon as I started work, Andy Hertzfeld wrote an icon editor and font editor so I could design images and letterforms using the Mac, not paper,” she said. “But I loved the puzzle-like nature of working in 16 × 16 and 32 × 32 pixel icon grids, and the marriage of craft and metaphor.”

Susan Kare deserves every award in the world. Her work was central — essential — to what made the Macintosh the Macintosh. The early Macintosh was not just the most endearing computer ever made, I’d argue that it remains the most endearing computer ever made — and in large part that was due to Susan Kare’s icons and fonts.

My interview with Kare at the Layers conference in 2016 is one of the highlights of my career.

SmugMug Acquires Flickr 

Jessica Guynn, reporting for USA Today

Flickr has been snapped up by Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug, USA Today has learned.

SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA Today he’s committed to breathing new life into the faded social networking pioneer, which hosted photos and lively interactions long before it became trendy.

SmugMug, an independent, family-run company, will maintain Flickr as a standalone community of amateur and professional photographers and give the long neglected service the focus and resources it deserves, MacAskill said in an exclusive interview.

I hope it works. Flickr was so great back in the day. But I fear it’s too late, and the world has moved on.

Regarding Linus Sebastian’s Damaged iMac Pro Saga 

Joe Rossignol has an excellent piece at MacRumors on the saga of Linus Sebastian’s iMac Pro that Apple has declined to repair:

After the repair was declined by Apple, Sebastian and his team contacted an Apple Authorized Service Provider in Canada, where they are located. The repair shop also declined the repair, but their reason was allegedly that Apple has yet to offer the required certification courses to service the iMac Pro.

However, Apple’s internal iMac Pro Service Readiness Guide obtained by MacRumors states that ATLAS online training and learning resources for servicing the iMac Pro have been available in English since December. We also spoke to multiple sources who completed the course and received certification months ago.

The guide adds that iMac Pro service parts availability began in early to mid January, with replacement logic boards, flash storage, and memory available by late February. Multiple sources at Apple Authorized Service Providers also confirmed that iMac Pro displays are available with two-week-or-less delivery estimates.

MacRumors contacted a reliable source who confirmed that Apple Authorized Service Providers are permitted to deny service for any product that has been opened or modified by a customer, regardless of warranty, both for safety reasons and to avoid responsibility if the machine cannot be fixed.

Sebastian’s video about his saga is deeply disingenuous — he makes it sound as though Apple isn’t able to repair any iMac Pro with a damaged display. As Rossignol’s reporting makes clear, that’s not true. On the surface it does sound wrong that Apple refuses to repair Sebastian’s iMac Pro, even though he’s willing to pay for it. But in car terms, Apple is saying his iMac is totaled. Apple — or at least the technicians and Genius Bar staffers who’ve looked at it — want no part of this machine, for legitimate reasons.

See also: Rene Ritchie’s video on the saga.

Daisy, Apple’s iPhone Disassembling Robot Successor to Liam 

Among Apple’s Earth Day-related announcements:

Apple’s newest disassembly robot, Daisy, is the most efficient way to reclaim more of the valuable materials stored in iPhone. Created through years of R&D, Daisy incorporates revolutionary technology based on Apple’s learnings from Liam, its first disassembly robot launched in 2016. Daisy is made from some of Liam’s parts and is capable of disassembling nine versions of iPhone and sorting their high-quality components for recycling. Daisy can take apart up to 200 iPhone devices per hour, removing and sorting components, so that Apple can recover materials that traditional recyclers can’t — and at a higher quality.

Perhaps it’s just my 2001 obsession, but I think it’s a solid bet that Daisy is named after the song HAL sings while Bowman is disconnecting him.

Apple GiveBack 

New recycling program from Apple:

Trade in your eligible device for an Apple Store Gift Card. If it’s not eligible for credit, we’ll recycle it for free. No matter the model or condition, we can turn it into something good for you and good for the planet.

And through April 30, we’ll make a donation to Conservation International for every device we receive — getting us even closer to leaving the world better than we found it.

I tried my space black first-generation Apple Watch — which I paid $1,100 for in 2015 — and Apple is offering me $75. I suspect I could sell it for more than that. It’s fully functional and the display and case are in near-mint condition, thanks to the scratch resistance of sapphire and DLC-coated stainless steel. Perhaps this is obvious, but this GiveBack program seems intended for devices that are no longer useful. I’d find it interesting if Apple had one unified program for trading in old devices, both still useful (which Apple could sell as refurbished) and not (which would be recycled).

Jackass of the Week: Analyst Neil Campling 

Arjun Kharpal, writing for CNBC under the jacktastic headline “Apple’s iPhone X Will Be Killed Off This Year, Analyst Says”:

TSMC’s record inventory levels are due to Apple not buying components for any future iPhone X models, suggesting the device will be killed off this year, Campling said.

“With the declines in iPhone X orders and the inventory issue at TSMC at record highs, which basically reflect a need to burn off inventory. Why? Because the iPhone X is dead,” Campling wrote in his note.

“The simple problem with X is that it is too expensive,” Campling told CNBC by phone on Friday, talking about the device’s $999 price tag. “Consumers are turning their backs on high-priced smartphones.”

It might be true that the iPhone X will be discontinued in September when new iPhones are announced, but I guarantee it will be replaced by a successor. It actually makes sense that Apple wouldn’t keep the iPhone X around for another year at a lower price — that’s the iPhone 8’s role.

I don’t know why CNBC is paying credence to Campling on this, because by all accounts the iPhone X is selling well or very well. Tim Cook told CNBC in February that “iPhone X was our most popular iPhone, despite not beginning to ship until November.” A report this week from Counterpoint claims the iPhone X alone accounted for 35 percent of all profits in the industry in Q4 2017 — even though it only went on sale in November. (The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus combined for 34 percent; all iPhones combined accounted for 86 percent. I don’t know how much credence to give to Counterpoint’s report because I don’t know their methodology, but if their numbers are even vaguely accurate, Apple has almost no competition in the premium handset market. Samsung’s top two phones combined account for less than 5 percent of industry profits, and no other company had a phone that cracked the top 10.)

‘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?


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. ↩︎