YouTube Bans Firearms Demo Videos 

Polly Mosendz and Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:

YouTube, a popular media site for firearms enthusiasts, this week quietly introduced tighter restrictions on videos involving weapons, becoming the latest battleground in the U.S. gun-control debate.

YouTube will ban videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories, including bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire faster. Additionally, YouTube said it will prohibit videos with instructions on how to assemble firearms. The video site, owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, has faced intense criticism for hosting videos about guns, bombs and other deadly weapons.

Friendly reminder: this is in no way a violation of free speech. YouTube is a private platform, not a public one.

Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg Respond to Cambridge Analytics Scandal 

Neither response even acknowledges — let alone apologizes for — one of the key aspects of this scandal: that Facebook knew this was a problem in June 2016, and by November 2016 knew that the problem related to the election, and they neither did nor said a thing about it. And that Zuckerberg went as far as to say it was a “pretty crazy idea” that fake news influenced the 2016 election after he knew that it did.

Also: neither Sandberg’s nor Zuckerberg’s post contains the words sorry or apologize.

‘The Case Against Facebook’ 

Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox:

Google, of course, poses similar threats to the journalism ecosystem through its own digital advertising industry. But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.

Netflix Sans — New Bespoke Typeface 

Jenny Brewer, writing for It’s Nice That:

Netflix has unveiled a new custom typeface to be used across the streaming platform’s brand identity, developed by the in-house design team in partnership with foundry Dalton Maag. According to Netflix brand design lead Noah Nathan, the move away from Gotham and to creating a bespoke font was driven by escalating costs and the ability to make the identity more “ownable”.

“With the global nature of Netflix’s business, font licensing can get quite expensive,” Noah says. “Developing this typeface not only created an ownable and unique element for the brand’s aesthetic…but saves the company millions of dollars a year as foundries move towards impression-based licensing for their typefaces in many digital advertising spaces.”

I don’t love it, but it does feel Netflix-y.

‘Facebook Has Lost the Plot’ 

MG Siegler:

And beyond the stupidity and potential danger, I find myself increasingly annoyed simply because it’s certainly not helping to paint our increasingly embattled industry in any better a light. Reading these headlines, you’d think Facebook, and by extension, the tech sector in the Bay Area is the worst place in the world, full of jokers and jerks.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of jokers and jerks. But there are also plenty of brilliant, hard-working people. We can quibble about whether there are more or less than in other industries and other places, but that’s not the point. The point is that I now believe Facebook doesn’t just have an image problem, as I’m sure many around the company would want you to believe — “the press is out to get us!” Facebook has a self-awareness problem.

To put it more bluntly: it seems like Facebook has lost the plot. And given their scale, this is more than a little terrifying.

I don’t think they ever had the plot. They got away with their utter disregard for the privacy of their users from the get-go — literally from the time when Facebook’s entire userbase consisted of 4,000 gullible students at Harvard. It’s just taken a long time for public opinion to recognize and react to their institutional sociopathy. Facebook thought no one cared, but what was really going on is that no one (well, very few) realized the extent of what was going on.

WhatsApp Co-Founder Brian Acton on Twitter: ‘It Is Time. #Deletefacebook’ 

Context: Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion in 2014.

But let’s call a spade a spade. Acton’s outrage now is some of the most hypocritical bullshit I’ve ever heard. Facebook implemented the policy he’s objecting to in 2010, four years before he personally pocketed $6.5 billion of Facebook’s money. Acton knew exactly what kind of company Facebook was when he sold WhatsApp to them.

‘Ashamed’ Fox News Commentator Quits the ‘Propaganda Machine’ 

Retired United States Army lieutenant colonel Ralph Peters, announcing his resignation as a contributor to Fox News:

Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.

In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts — who have never served our country in any capacity — dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the Justice Department, the courts, the intelligence community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller — all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of “deep-state” machinations — I cannot be part of the same organization, even at a remove. To me, Fox News is now wittingly harming our system of government for profit.

I love this kicker at the end, regarding Peters’s history as a commentator:

Peters was briefly suspended in 2015 for calling President Obama a “total pussy” while on the Fox Business Network.

Harper’s Index: April 2018 

From the latest edition of Harper’s Index:

  • Percentage of Americans who are concerned that Amazon is forcing brick-and-mortar stores out of business : 64
  • Who have a favorable impression of the company : 71
  • Amount by which Jeff Bezos’s net worth increased the day after the launch of Amazon Go, a cashierless store : $2,800,000,000
  • Rank of cashier among the most common US jobs : 2
IBM Watson Services for Core ML 

Interesting partnership. Would love to find out more about how useful this is in practice.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg AWOL From Facebook’s Data Leak Damage Control Session 

Spencer Ackerman, reporting for The Daily Beast:

Facebook employees on Tuesday got the opportunity for an internal briefing and question-and-answer session about Facebook’s role with the Trump-aligned data firm Cambridge Analytica. It was the first the company held to brief and reassure employees after, ahead of damaging news reports, Facebook abruptly suspended Cambridge Analytica. The Q&A session was first reported by The Verge.

But Zuckerberg himself wasn’t there, The Daily Beast has learned. Instead, the session was conducted by a Facebook attorney, Paul Grewal, according to a source familiar with the meeting. That was the same approach the company used on Capitol Hill this past fall, when it sent its top attorney, Colin Stretch, to brief Congress about the prevalence of Russian propaganda, to include paid ads and inauthentic accounts, on its platform.

Nor, The Daily Beast has learned, did chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg attend the internal town hall.

Not exactly profiles in courage. If I worked at Facebook I’d be pissed that both of them weren’t there, let alone neither of them.

Facebook Security Chief Said to Leave After Clashes Over Disinformation 

Nicole Perlroth, Sheera Frenkel, and Scott Shane:

Facebook’s chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, will leave the company after internal disagreements over how the social network should deal with its role in spreading disinformation, according to current and former employees briefed on the matter.

Mr. Stamos had been a strong advocate inside the company for investigating and disclosing Russian activity on Facebook, often to the consternation of other top executives, including Sheryl Sandberg, the social network’s chief operating officer, according to the current and former employees, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

That Sandberg and (presumably) Zuckerberg resisted investigating and disclosing everything they could about how the Russians took advantage of them says everything you need to know about them.

See also: Stamos wrote a series of tweets over the weekend regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but deleted them.

Update, Tuesday 20 March: The Times’s report was expanded significantly late yesterday. This part is new, and I think incredibly damning:

Mr. Stamos first put together a group of engineers to scour Facebook for Russian activity in June 2016, the month the Democratic National Committee announced it had been attacked by Russian hackers, the current and former employees said.

By November 2016, the team had uncovered evidence that Russian operatives had aggressively pushed DNC leaks and propaganda on Facebook. That same month, Mr. Zuckerberg publicly dismissed the notion that fake news influenced the 2016 election, calling it a “pretty crazy idea.”

So where by “pretty crazy idea” Zuckerberg meant “Yeah, we’ve determined that’s exactly what happened.”

Mr. Stamos pushed to disclose as much as possible, while others including Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and policy, recommended not naming Russia without more ironclad evidence, said the current and former employees.

A detailed memorandum Mr. Stamos wrote in early 2017 describing Russian interference was scrubbed for mentions of Russia and winnowed into a blog post last April that outlined, in hypothetical terms, how Facebook could be manipulated by a foreign adversary, they said. Russia was only referenced in a vague footnote.

So Facebook is forcing out Stamos, the one executive with the moral backbone to do the right thing in response to what they’d allowed to happen.

Donald Trump and the Craven Firing of Andrew McCabe 

Jeffrey Toobin, writing for The New Yorker:

If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.

Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.

Facebook Stock Plunges 

CNN Money:

Facebook tumbled 7% on Monday, helping to pull the tech-heavy Nasdaq 1.8% lower and S&P 500 1.4%. It was the Nasdaq’s worst day since February 8.

The Dow fell as much as 493 points. The average closed down 336 points, or 1.4%, and is back in negative territory for the year. […]

Facebook is under pressure from lawmakers in both the United States and the UK after more than 50 million users’ data ended up in the hands of data firm Cambridge Analytica.

In the short run I always caution against reading anything into the market’s sense, but in this case I think investors are right. Facebook is in some serious trouble. This Cambridge Analytica scandal proves that Facebook ought to be heavily regulated, and that’s not good for Facebook’s bottom line.

I take issue, though, with the phrase “ended up in the hands of”. The implication with that phrasing is that Cambridge Analytica hoodwinked Facebook, or breached some sort of defenses. They didn’t. The information Cambridge Analytica obtained was exactly the information Facebook provides to advertisers by design. Cambridge Analytica just used that data in ways Facebook didn’t anticipate. Or perhaps better said, Facebook never anticipated that when people started to realize just what Facebook enables, there’d be outrage.

Apple’s public commitment to placing a high priority on privacy is looking better and better — both ethically and as a business decision.

1973 Employment Questionnaire Filled Out by Steve Jobs Sold for $174,757 at Auction 

I think whoever paid $175K for this is nuts, but I do love the Jobsian brevity:

Address: reed college
Phone: none

Gurman: Apple Is Producing MicroLED Displays at Facility in Santa Clara 

Very interesting scoop from Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Right now smartphones and other gadgets essentially use off-the-shelf display technology. The Apple Watch screen is made by LG Display. Ditto for Google’s larger Pixel phone. The iPhone X, Apple’s first OLED phone, uses Samsung technology. Phone manufacturers tweak screens to their specifications, and Apple has for years calibrated iPhone screens for color accuracy. But this marks the first time Apple is designing screens end-to-end itself.

I’m going to disagree vehemently with this paragraph. Apple products do not use “off-the-shelf” display components. The iPhone X OLED display is manufactured by Samsung, yes, but it’s an Apple design, years in the making. Apple’s problem isn’t that they’re stuck using off-the-shelf displays, their problem is that there’s only one company in the world that can produce iPhone X displays at scale, and that company is Samsung, their arch rival.

Imagine if Apple could do to display technology what they’ve done to CPU/system-on-a-chip design?

The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone and Apple Watch screen technology.

The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs.

Gurman says that if the project is successful, it will first appear in future Apple Watches. That makes sense — the watch got OLED first, too. It’s easier to make smaller displays than larger ones, and the watch could really benefit from being thinner. Not long from now we’ll look back at these early generation Apple Watches and laugh at how chunky they are.

Car ‘Crashes’, Not ‘Accidents’ 

I’ve been meaning to link to this for a while: there’s a growing campaign to replace the phrase “car accident” with “car crash”:

Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions.

Traffic crashes are fixable problems, caused by dangerous streets and unsafe drivers. They are not accidents. Let’s stop using the word “accident” today.

I’m a firm believer that language matters, and I think it’s true that calling them accidents helps paint car crashes as things that can’t be avoided. Crashes sounds like a problem that needs to be solved.

Uber Halts Testing Self-Driving Cars After Arizona Pedestrian Is Killed 

The Washington Post:

Uber has halted testing of its autonomous vehicles across North America, the company announced, after a woman was struck and killed by one of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Ariz. early Monday.

The moratorium on testing includes San Francisco, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Toronto, Uber said.

Tragic, but we need to keep our collective wits about us and not rush to judgement. Even if this crash was the car’s fault, that doesn’t mean we should freak out. Cars are insanely dangerous. About 100 people are killed every day in the U.S. in human-driven car crashes. Autonomous cars are our way out of this mess.

Shaker & Spoon 

My thanks to Shaker & Spoon for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Shaker & Spoon is a subscription box that solves the toughest challenges of a home bar with great ingredients and interesting recipes. Every box is built around a different spirit, and showcases various styles of cocktail-making. Each box arrives with 3 brand-new, original recipes created by world-class bartenders, and enough ingredients (syrups, bitters, mixers, garnishes) for 12 cocktails — 4 from each recipe. It’s perfect for get-togethers and special gifts. All you need to bring is the alcohol, and the box will use up the whole bottle for all 12 drinks.

I got their rye kit last month and the recipes were excellent. The instructions were clear, the ingredients were perfect, and all three cocktails were delicious and interesting. (I particularly liked their “Sugar and Spice”, an interesting twist on the Old Fashioned.)

If you love making (and drinking) cocktails and are looking to expand your repertoire, you should sign up for Shaker & Spoon.

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions 

Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore, and Carole Cadwalladr, reporting for The New York Times:

Details of Cambridge’s acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

This was not a security breach. This is simply what Facebook is: a massive surveillance machine.

Maciej Ceglowski, on Twitter:

The data that Facebook leaked to Cambridge Analytica is the same data Facebook retains on everyone and sells targeting services around. The problem is not shady Russian researchers; it’s Facebook’s core business model of collect, store, analyze, exploit.

YouTube Didn’t Tell Wikipedia About Its Plans for Wikipedia 

Megan Farokhmanesh, writing for The Verge last week:

At SXSW yesterday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the platform would start adding information from Wikipedia to conspiracy-related videos within the next few weeks. “We will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event,” she said. The company is “using a list of well-known internet conspiracies from Wikipedia” to pull from. However, YouTube appears to have left one party in the dark: “We were not given advance notice of this announcement,” said the Wikimedia Foundation in a statement on Twitter.

According to Wikimedia, this partnership isn’t a formal one with either Wikimedia or Wikipedia. “We are always happy to see people, companies, and organizations recognize Wikipedia’s value as a repository of free knowledge,” the company said. YouTube doesn’t need to officially partner with Wikimedia to use information from Wikipedia, but it’s still a bemusing tactic to make such an announcement without any official word passed between the two.

It really was rather shitty of YouTube not to tell Wikipedia in advance. But what gets me about this whole story is this: if YouTube knows that these videos need these fact-check disclaimers, why are they serving these videos at all? The videos that are flagged by this algorithm shouldn’t be shown with fact-check disclaimers — they should be removed from YouTube.

The answer, of course, is money. YouTube’s executives know these videos are harmful but they want the money from the ads they show against them.

YouTube Suggested Conspiracy Videos to Children Using Its Kids App 

James Cook, writing for Business Insider:

YouTube’s app specifically for children is meant to filter out adult content and provide a “world of learning and fun,” but Business Insider found that YouTube Kids featured many conspiracy theory videos which make claims that the world is flat, that the moon landing was faked, and that the planet is ruled by reptile-human hybrids.


XOXO Returns 

Cool launch for the return of a wonderfully cool conference — watch live as artists collaborate on a mural.

‘Android Wear’ Is Now ‘Wear OS’ 

Dennis Troper, product director for Android Wear Wear OS:

As our technology and partnerships have evolved, so have our users. In 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners also used an iPhone. So as the watch industry gears up for another Baselworld next week, we’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all — the people who wear our watches. We’re now Wear OS by Google, a wearables operating system for everyone.

Two quick thoughts:

  • If they really think anyone is going to call this “Wear OS by Google” and not just “Wear OS”, they’re nuts. But I get it — legally, device makers licensing the OS will have to use the full name, thus putting Google’s name on the box.
  • This is another sign of Google moving away from promoting “Android”. Back in January, when Google renamed “Android Pay” to “Google Pay”, I pointed out that the Pixel 2 web page only mentions “Android” once, and it’s in a small print footnote.
The Seven Biggest Lies Theranos Told 

Good summary of the SEC’s fraud charges by Stephanie M. Lee for BuzzFeed. If you’re wondering what exactly Theranos did wrong, and how immoral it was, read this.

Avie Tevanian Was on Theranos’s Board of Directors 

From MarketWatch’s bio of Avie Tevanian:

Dr. Avie Tevanian, Jr. PhD, is a Managing Director at Elevation Partners.

Prior to joining Elevation Partners in January 2010, Dr. Tevanian was previously employed as Chief Software Technology Officer & SVP by Apple, Inc. He also served on the board at Theranos, Inc and Tellme Networks, Inc.

Overcast’s New Smart Resume Feature 

Marco Arment, on Overcast 4.1:

Smart Resume is actually two features:

  • It jumps back by up to a few seconds after having been paused to help remind you of the conversation.

  • It slightly adjusts resumes and seeks to fall in the silences between spoken words when reasonably possible.

Both are subtle but noticeable benefits (my favorite kind), especially when you’re being interrupted a lot, such as while following turn-by-turn navigation directions.

My favorite type of feature is one that makes you think, “Why did no one think of this years ago?” This is that sort of feature.

Apple Watch Adoption 

David Smith, after looking at the analytics from his popular app Pedometer++:

So far the data is looking promising that this dream of mine might actually be possible. The Series 3 is being adopted incredibly quickly and just last week became the most popular Apple Watch overall amongst my users with 33% of the overall user-base. The Series 0 is steadily falling, currently at around 24%.

Two other interesting tidbits:

  • The 42mm : 38m split I’ve seen is around 60/40.
  • The LTE : Non-LTE split for Series 3 has been around 50/50 (slightly higher when first released but 50/50 since Christmas).
The Information on What Went Wrong With Siri 

Writing for The Information, Aaron Tilley and Kevin McLaughlin published a scathing look into the inner workings (and not-workings) of Siri’s development at Apple. Is it accurate? I don’t know. I have never had any sources directly familiar with Siri. But the actual results — the state of Siri today — sure do match up. The story is behind The Information’s paywall, alas. If you’re not a subscriber and want to read the full article — and I encourage you to, there’s a lot in it — you can do so with this shared link if you’re willing to give The Information your email address.

A few parts that caught my eye:

The Siri team still had Mr. Forstall, but his attention was divided by other major projects, including the upcoming launch of Apple Maps. Mr. Forstall installed Richard Williamson, one of his deputies on the Apple Maps project, to head up the Siri group and get things back on track.

Several former employees said Mr. Williamson made a number of decisions that the rest of the team disagreed with, including a plan to improve Siri’s capabilities only once a year. That was the approach Apple typically employed with iOS, and Williamson’s background was in making software run on phones that received updates from backend servers. Team members said they argued in vain that that model was wrong for Siri, which they believed needed to be an online service that continuously improved, not updated annually. While the server software received many updates relating to stability and performance, there were no architectural changes to Siri in the first year, say former employees.

Mr. Williamson, in an emailed response to an interview request, wrote that it’s “completely untrue” that he decided Siri shouldn’t be improved continuously. He said decisions concerning “technical leadership of the software and server infrastructure” were made by employees below his level, while he was responsible for getting the team on track.

Williamson can push back all he wants, but from the outside, I sure haven’t noticed steady incremental improvements to Siri — especially in the early years. Here’s where it gets really juicy though:

“After launch, Siri was a disaster,” Mr. Williamson wrote. “It was slow, when it worked at all. The software was riddled with serious bugs. Those problems lie entirely with the original Siri team, certainly not me.”

Dag Kittlaus, the CEO of Siri who negotiated its purchase by Apple with Steve Jobs, responded on Twitter and did not mince words:

@Jessicalessin This statement, wholly false, was made by the architect and head of the biggest launch disaster in Apple history, Apple Maps. In reality Siri worked great at launch but, like any new platform under unexpectedly massive load, required scaling adjustments and 24 hour workdays.

You just don’t see former Apple executives snipe at each other like this. I’m trying to think of the last time, and I’m coming up blank. And to be clear, it’s Williamson who broke the seal. Kittlaus wouldn’t have said a word if his team and their work hadn’t been besmirched. Steven Levy tweeted:

@Dagk @Jessicalessin That quote is kind of amazing. Even if true (and I believe Dag) brazenly pushing blame to someone else for a product you were responsible for is a very bad look.

The gist of The Information’s story is that Siri has existed for seven years without cohesive leadership or product vision, and the underlying technology is a mishmash of various systems that don’t work well together.

Toys R Us to Close All 800 of Its U.S. Stores 

Abha Bhattarai, reporting for The Washington Post:

Toy store chain Toys R Us is planning to sell or close all 800 of its U.S. stores, affecting as many as 33,000 jobs as the company winds down its operations after six decades, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Matt Haughey, on Twitter:

I distinctly remember the day when I was about 7 years old and I decided what I most looked forward to upon becoming an adult was being able to drive to Toys R Us anytime I wanted to so I could play with toys on the shelves.

Same feeling here.

Maybe This Makes Sense in the Original French 

Gregory Viscusi, Marie Mawad, and Helene Fouquet, reporting for Bloomberg:

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday France will take legal action against Google and Apple and fines could be in the “million of euros”. Fines are likely to be about 2 million euros ($2.5 million) per company, accused of taking advantage of local developers. This comes after a two-year investigation by the ministry’s fraud repression unit, according to an official in Le Maire’s office.

“I learned that when developers develop their applications, and sell to Google and Apple, their prices are imposed, Google and Apple take all their data, Google and Apple can unilaterally rewrite their contracts,” Le Maire said in an interview with RTL radio. “All that is unacceptable and it’s not the economy that we want. They can’t treat our startups and developers the way they do.”

What in the hell is he talking about? I guess the “imposed” prices could be something about the 30/70 percent split in the app stores, but it makes zero sense to argue that “Google and Apple take all their data”. Maybe this was mistranslated from French? But that seems highly unlikely given that at least one of the bylined reporters is fluent in the language.

And what’s the point of a $2 million fine? Last quarter Apple made $200 million in profit per day. It would take Apple about 15 minutes to generate $2 million in profit. This is some serious Dr. Evil math.

Theranos Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes Charged With Massive Fraud 

Carolyn Y. Johnson, reporting for The Washington Post:

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and chief executive of the blood-testing company Theranos, has been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with an “elaborate, years-long fraud” in which she and former company president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani allegedly “deceived investors into believing that its key product — a portable blood analyzer — could conduct comprehensive blood tests from finger drops of blood,” the SEC said.

Holmes agreed to a $500,000 penalty and a 10-year ban on serving as an officer or director of a public company to settle the charges, but she did not admit or deny the allegations.

The whole thing was just a fraud:

The company fell from grace in a snarl of regulatory problems and the revelation that its proprietary technology was not even being used in its blood tests, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The SEC alleges that Holmes, Balwani and Theranos raised more than $700 million from investors by misrepresenting the capabilities of the proprietary blood-testing technology that was at the core of its business — as well as by making misleading or exaggerated statements about the company’s financial status and relationships with commercial partners and the Department of Defense.

On that latter point, the saga involves the Trump kakistocracy because of course it does:

The SEC also alleges that Holmes claimed to investors that Theranos technology was being used by the Defense Department on the battlefield in Afghanistan and on medevac helicopters. Those statements “were important to potential investors because these relationships lent legitimacy to Theranos’ business and its proprietary analyzer,” the SEC alleges.

That technology was never deployed on the battlefield by the Defense Department, even though Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who then led the U.S. Central Command, personally pushed for it. Regulatory officials in the military had flagged problems with Theranos’s approach. Mattis later joined Theranos’s board; he resigned to become defense secretary.

More on Mattis’s ties to Theranos here. Turns 20 

Jason Kottke:

I’ve been reading back through the early archives (which I wouldn’t recommend), and it feels like excavating down through layers of sediment, tracing the growth & evolution of the web, a media format, and most of all, a person. On March 14, 1998, I was 24 years old and dumb as a brick. Oh sure, I’d had lots of book learning and was quick with ideas, but I knew shockingly little about actual real life. I was a cynical and cocky know-it-all. Some of my older posts are genuinely cringeworthy to read now: poorly written, cluelessly privileged, and even mean spirited. I’m ashamed to have written some of them.

But had I not written all those posts, good and bad, I wouldn’t be who I am today, which, hopefully, is a somewhat wiser person vectoring towards a better version of himself.

20 years, period, would be a hell of a thing. But 20 years and running strong is even better. Congratulations, my friend, and thank you.

Why Hasn’t Samsung Ditched the Headphone Jack Yet?

Speaking of Samsung following Apple’s lead, now seems like a good time revisit the removal of headphone jacks. Back in 2016, SamMobile ran a piece headlined “Galaxy S8 Is Not Going to Feature a Headphone Jack”. That report was wrong — and not only did the Galaxy S8 retain a standard headphone jack, the new Galaxy S9 does too. (Badly misaligned with the other outputs on the bottom of the phone, natch.)

But I was wrong too. I read the SamMobile report and predicted it was correct, simply on the grounds that Samsung inevitably follows Apple’s lead on initially contentious design decisions. Remember removable batteries? Samsung was still touting them as an advantage as recently as 2015.

I remain convinced that traditional headphone jacks are going the way of the floppy drive, and that sooner or later, they’ll be gone from all new phones. But maybe that’ll be a bit later rather than sooner.

I think there are two factors in Apple’s advantage here: Apple’s W1 chip and Lightning.

The real future of consumer headphones is wireless. There are plenty of standard Bluetooth headphones on the market, and they are getting better every year. I recently bought a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones for use on airplanes, and I like them a lot — they sound good, the noise cancellation is excellent, battery life is good, and latency is negligible. The pairing process is OK, but still lags far behind the ease of pairing AirPods with an iOS device. But good Bluetooth headphones are expensive — my QuietComfort 35s cost $350. (Beats makes noise-cancelling headphones with the W1 chip at pretty much the same prices as Bose, but head-to-head reviews suggest the QuietComforts are more comfortable and Bose’s noise cancellation remains noticeably superior. For use on an airplane, comfort and noise cancellation are paramount.)

Bottom line, there’s nothing quite like AirPods for Android devices, and that matters. It’s no coincidence that Apple didn’t remove the headphone jack from the iPhone until they had the AirPods to announce together.

But I think the bigger factor is that Lightning makes for a better wired headphone jack than USB-C. The future is wireless, but the present remains tethered. Ever since the iPhone 7, Apple has shipped a pair of Lightning EarPods in the box, along with a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter. Apple’s Lightning EarPods cost $29, just like Apple’s EarPods with a standard headphone plug. They’re cheap enough for Apple to include in the box with every iPhone, and no more expensive than previously for customers to replace.

USB-C headphones, on the other hand, seem to be a mess. Helen Havlak wrote a piece for The Verge a few months ago titled “Buying USB-C Earbuds for My Pixel 2 Was Incredibly Annoying and Expensive”:

Two weeks after starting my cheap Pixel 2 earbud search, I finally have a working pair — but they cost almost twice the amount I wanted to spend, and don’t feel very premium. If I lose or break them, it’ll cost me almost $50 and another 10-day wait. The next time I upgrade my phone, they may not be compatible. Even the Apple Store sells $29 Lightning EarPods. Google needs to do a lot better by its Pixel owners than a single $149 USB-C option. Even better, just give us back the damn headphone jack.

The headphone situation with Google’s Pixel 2 is more confusing than I expected. Nicholas Deleon, writing for Consumer Reports, explains:

In an online post, Google noted that only headphones compatible with USB Type-C Digital Audio will work with the Pixel 2. […] Analog Type-C headphones won’t produce any sound, Google says. Instead they will prompt a smartphone notification informing you that you need different headphones. […]

How do I know whether my headphones are compatible?

For now, Google recommends that you purchase headphones certified as “Made for Google.” This program, similar to Apple’s “Made for iPhone” program, confirms that the hardware is fully compatible with the Pixel 2. As of now, only three manufacturers offer headphones that have earned that distinction: AiAiAi, Master & Dynamic, and Libratone.

Not exactly the three biggest brand names in the audio world.

So the gist of it is that it’s not enough to have USB-C headphones. Pixel owners need the right kind of USB-C headphones — only those that support digital audio, and they seem to be far from common today. And the ones that do exist seem to be quite expensive. The cheapest Pixel-compatible USB-C headphones in Google’s store are the Libratone Q Adapt earphones, and they cost $149. That’s a lot more than $29, and a lot of money for headphones from a brand I’ve never heard of. They’re also the only earbud-style USB-C headphones Google offers. The even more goofily-named Aiaiai TMA-2 MFG4 on-ear headphones cost $180.

So with the Pixel, the recommended options start at $149, and the unrecommended options — as explored by Havlak in her aforelinked Verge piece — cost about $50 and are of questionable quality. No wonder Google didn’t include earbuds in the box with the Pixel 2. (Essential doesn’t either, and they charge $99 for their earbuds.)

Samsung is more of a “do what the customer is asking for” company; Apple is a “figure out what they’re going to want” company. Samsung’s customers aren’t asking for the headphone jack to be dropped, so the path of least resistance is to just keep the jack. But looking at what’s available on the market, a big problem facing Samsung (and the rest of the Android world) is that the USB-C headphone market is a mess — and expensive to boot. “No-name brand headphones at high prices” is a hard sell.

As much as AirPods are better (and cheaper) than standard Bluetooth earbuds, there is seemingly nothing close to Lightning EarPods on the market for USB-C. AirPods get all the attention, but Lightning EarPods are even further ahead of their USB-C competition. The proprietary nature of Lightning allowed Apple to make sure it was ready to serve as the wired audio connector for iPhones when Apple wanted it to be. Keep that in mind the next time you wonder why Apple doesn’t drop Lightning for USB-C. 

Ming-Chi Kuo: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 Unlikely to Feature Under-Display Fingerprint Recognition 

Mikey Campbell, writing for AppleInsider:

In a note to investors on Thursday, seen by AppleInsider, Kuo says Samsung will most likely put the anticipated feature on ice as both ultrasonic and optical solutions do not meet the company’s standards.

“According to our understanding of the technologies, under-display fingerprint solutions may currently have many technical issues (e.g. screen protectors and different environments affecting recognition rates and power-consumption),” Kuo writes.

Still, Kuo remains upbeat on the specialized biometric solution, saying the technology is integral for full-screen handset designs.

Contrary to Apple’s views, Kuo does not see facial recognition as a suitable replacement for fingerprint-based authentication methods. When Apple introduced Face ID with iPhone X, critics voiced similar concerns about security and potential spoofing.

Kuo is often right about what is going on in the Asian supply chain, but in my opinion he’s often wrong about why. Samsung is surely moving away from fingerprint sensors because Apple has already figured out that facial recognition is a better solution. I do not think there is a bright future for in-screen fingerprint sensors.

Update: Also, what’s this about facial recognition not being a suitable replacement for fingerprint identification? iPhone X has been out for half a year and all the evidence to date suggests it is every bit as secure as Apple claims it is. The shitty facial scanners from other companies may not be secure enough, but Apple’s seems to be.

Keir Dullea and Douglas Trumbull on the Making of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ 

Keir Dullea:

The first day of shooting ended up being delayed because Kubrick didn’t like my shoes. The wardrobe came up with the right pair real fast. I felt awed working with him and he picked up that I was tense — which is terrible for an actor. After a week, he took me aside and said: “Keir, you’re everything I’m looking for.”

The rotating living quarters of the Discovery spacecraft were built by Vickers. They were 70ft across and turned at 3mph. The camera tricks the crew used to simulate centrifugal force were ingenious. There’s a scene where I climb down a ladder and, at the other side of the screen, you see the other astronaut sitting at a table upside-down. It looks as if I walk round towards him, until I’m upside-down too, but they actually rotated the set, and him, round to me. He seems to be eating normally — but only because they’d glued his food to his fork.

WWDC 2018 Announced 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced it will host its 29th annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose from June 4 through June 8. The McEnery Convention Center will be home to the world’s most creative developer community, who come together every year to share unique perspectives and learn about the future of Apple’s breakthrough products and services.

No surprise (to me at least) on the dates or location. It seemed pretty clear last year that the move from San Francisco to San Jose was not temporary.

Update: The WWDC 2018 website has a cool animated graphic. Make it big — it easily fills my 5K iMac display. Now, if we want to play Cupertino-ology, does the graphic offer any hints about planned announcements (like, say, a unified cross-platform set of UI frameworks for Mac and iOS) or is it just a cool graphic?

‘The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling’ 


When Garry Shandling passed away in 2016, he was widely remembered as a top stand-up comic and the star of two of the most innovative sitcoms in TV history. But to those who knew him, the “real” Garry Shandling was a far more complex person. Now, Judd Apatow has created a remarkable portrait of this iconic comedian in the four-and-a-half-hour documentary The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling.

Epic in scope and intimate in detail, The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling features conversations with more than 40 of Shandling’s family and friends, including James L. Brooks, Jim Carrey, Sacha Baron Cohen, David Coulier, Jon Favreau, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Conan O’Brien, Bob Saget, Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman, and four decades’ worth of TV appearances, along with personal journals, private letters and candid home audio and video footage that reveal his brilliant mind and restless soul.

This movie looks amazing. I cannot wait to see it.

Here’s a brief story by Ed Solomon about meeting Shandling when Solomon was a 19-year-old aspiring comic, and the role Shandling wound up playing in his life. Perhaps even better, here’s another thread from Solomon listing his favorite jokes written with or for Shandling.


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This week only, DF readers get 30% off any Doxie with the super-secret Amazon promo code: UGHTAXES (valid on Amazon US, UK, CA, and DE).

The Talk Show: ‘Podcast Amnesia’ 

Jason Snell returns to the show. Topics include Apple and China, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone SDK, the future of the MacBook Air, and more. No baseball talk, except a little.

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Dan Seifert: Galaxy S9 Is ‘Predictably Great, Predictably Flawed’ 

Dan Seifert, writing for The Verge:

In an obvious attempt to replicate Apple’s Face ID system, Samsung has introduced a new combination face-scanning / iris-scanning feature that can be used to unlock the phone instead of the fingerprint scanner. It will use either the more-secure iris scanner or the quicker-but-less-secure face scanner, depending on the lighting conditions you’re in. However, it’s slow, blinks an annoying red light when it activates the iris scanner, and never feels as seamless as Face ID. Good thing the fingerprint scanner is easier to use now.

Seifert’s review echoes David Pierce’s: the hardware is very good — great display, great camera, great performance — but all of Samsung’s software additions to Android are shitty gimmicks.

David Pierce: ‘Samsung Galaxy S9 Is Impressive and Infuriating’ 

David Pierce, reviewing the Galaxy S9 for The Wall Street Journal:

Samsung paired this lovely hardware with half-baked software. I love Android and use it every day, but I don’t like any of what Samsung does to it. If Samsung would just get out of its own way, build hardware and let Google handle the software, the S9 might be the best phone on the market. Instead, I found myself longing for simpler, smoother features to better suit this good-looking phone.

Open and Shut, Revisited

Back in 2013, Tim Wu wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled “Does a Company Like Apple Need a Genius Like Steve Jobs?” In it, he tried to make the case that in technology, the “open beats closed” adage was true, and that Apple’s success with a “closed” strategy was due solely to the genius of Steve Jobs, and that in 2013 they’d already entered a state of decline.

I wrote a rebuttal titled “Open and Shut”, and it’s one of my favorite pieces in the DF archive. It encapsulates many of the themes I’ve written about regarding Apple from the beginning. Five years seems like a good time to revisit it, and I have to say my argument holds up pretty well.

To pick just one example, Wu’s theory involved a cockamamie ranking system he invented in which he assigned companies an “openness” score, and he alleged that these scores roughly tracked the market caps of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and post-Jobs Apple. I called nonsense on the whole premise that market cap correlates to openness (I called nonsense on just about every point Wu made, really), and pointed out that while Apple indeed suffered a stock price dip in 2013 (that was around the time when there was a popular theory that Samsung was eating Apple’s lunch in the phone market), Apple’s stock price at the beginning of March 2013 was still higher than it was when Steve Jobs died.

Today, five years to the day after I wrote that, Apple’s stock price is up 185 percent — it’s trading at nearly 3× the price from March 2013.

Anyway, I think it’s well worth a re-read. It even has an inline image, which is somewhat rare. 

Max Krieger’s Twitter Threads on Design

A few nights ago I stumbled upon an excellent thread on Twitter by Max Krieger on the design of Sony’s ambitious but ill-fated Metreon complex in San Francisco. If you’ve ever been to Moscone for a conference, you know the Metreon — it’s the big weird mall across the street from Moscone West.

I found several things interesting about this:

  • Twitter threads can be annoying at times, compared to reading a regular old article. But when done well, they’re engaging. Krieger is a natural at the format — breaking all his thoughts into tweet-sized chunks and including plenty of photos illustrating his points. And Twitter clients are good at displaying multiple images in a carousel.

  • Krieger used the thread to promote his Kickstarter campaign for a puzzle game he’s making. As Ben Thompson noted, this is a great marketing idea. It looks like a cool game, and it’s 85 percent funded with less than a week to go. I backed it simply to thank Krieger for these terrific design threads.

  • Cabel Sasser mentioned that Krieger had previously done a similar thread on Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland. I love Tomorrowland, so I wanted to read that one too.

  • I searched for “max krieger tomorrowland thread” in my favorite search engine, hoping to find his tweet starting that thread. Instead, the top result gave me something even better: a collection of five design threads from Krieger — the new Metreon one, Disney Quest, EPCOT, Tomorrowland, and The Cheesecake Factory (which Krieger describes as “a fully immersive ‘postmodern design hellscape’ themed dining experience”) — on a website I somehow hadn’t heard of before called Thread Reader. Thread Reader does just what you think it does: it collects Twitter threads on a single web page. It’s exactly what I wanted.

  • Twitter and the good old fashioned World Wide Web can still be great.