Thursday, 9 July 2020
Feel free to file Google’s release this week of an update to their iPad Gmail app with support for split-screen multitasking under “better late than never”, but this is so late it borders on the absurd. It’s like the difference between showing up fashionably late and showing up a week after the party. Split-screen multitasking was introduced for the iPad back in 2015 with iOS 9. Five years to add support for a foundational element of the iPad user experience. And an email client is near the top of the list of the type of apps where someone would want to use split-screen. Five years.
Google makes a lot of software with terrible user experiences for users who have poor taste. Their iOS software, in particular, has for the most part never suggested that it was designed by people who like — or even use — iOS. It’s the blind leading the blind. But yet the Gmail app is currently the number one free app in the Productivity category in the App Store.
On the surface, it’s tempting to blow this off. To each their own. Whatever floats their boat. Who cares if millions of iPad users are satisfied using an email client that is a poor iPad app, so long as actual good iPad email clients are available to those who do care?
But what about those stuck using the Gmail app not because they want to, but because they have to? Who can help them but Apple?
I worry that it’s not tenable in the long run to expect Apple to continue striving to create well-crafted — let alone insanely great — software when so many of its users not only settle for, but perhaps even prefer, software that is, to put it kindly, garbage. There have always been popular Mac and iPhone apps that are objectively terrible apps — where by “popular” I mean much-used, not much-loved. But what made Apple users Apple users is that they complained vociferously if they had to use a terrible app. Word 6 was a sack of dog shit Microsoft dropped off and set aflame on Mac users’ porch, but we all knew it was a flaming bag of dog shit, and even those of us who didn’t even use Word were angry about it because it was an insult.
I worry that this sort of “Who cares, it’s better than nothing” attitude has seeped into Apple itself, and explains how we wound up with barely modified iPad apps shipping as system apps on the Mac.
But more than anything I worry that this exemplifies where Apple has lost its way with the App Store. What exactly is the point of running a strict approval process for apps if not, first and foremost, to ensure that they’re good apps? An iPad email app that doesn’t support split-screen multitasking for five years is, by definition, not a good app.
I’d like to see all the vim, vigor, and vigilance Apple applies to making sure no app on the App Store is making a dime without Apple getting three cents applied instead to making sure there aren’t any scams or ripoffs, and that popular apps support good-citizen-of-the-platform features within a reasonable amount of time after those features are introduced in the OS. I don’t know exactly how long “reasonable” is, but five fucking years for split-screen support ain’t it.
You might argue that there are a million apps in the App Store and Apple can’t make sure every one of them is up to snuff quality-wise. But there’s no need to scrutinize a million apps — just start with the apps with a million users. The more popular an app is the more Apple should scrutinize it in terms of being, simply, a decent citizen of the platform. If they’re going to be stringent about App Store review, they should be stringent in the name of user experience.
That the iPad’s most-installed productivity app was allowed to languish for half a decade without supporting something as fundamental to the platform as split-screen is every bit as much a condemnation of the state of the App Store as the Hey imbroglio was. It’s the other side of the same coin.
The primary purpose of the App Store should be to steer third-party apps toward excellence, to make the platform as a whole as insanely great as possible. When Steve Jobs introduced the App Store in 2008, he said, “We don’t intend to make any money off the App Store. We’re basically giving all the money to the developers and the 30 percent that pays for running the store, that’ll be great.” Really. It’s impossible to square that mindset with the App Store of today, where the highest priority1 seemingly is the generation of ever-increasing revenue in the Services column of Apple’s quarterly finance spreadsheet.
Apple undeniably wields great power from the fact that the App Store is the exclusive source for all consumer software for the iPhone and iPad. Why not use that power in the name of user experience? Imagine a world where the biggest fear developers had when submitting an app for review wasn’t whether they were offering Apple a sufficient cut of their revenue, but whether they were offering users a good enough native-to-the-platform experience. Video app that doesn’t support picture-in-picture? You’re out of the store. App doesn’t support dynamic type size but clearly should? You’re out. Poor accessibility support? Out. Popular email client that doesn’t support split screen? Out.
Rather than watch Apple face antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe with a sense of dread, I’d watch with a sense of glee. “This company is abusing its market dominance to take an unfair share of our money” is an age-old complaint to government regulators. “This company is abusing its market dominance to force us to make our apps better for users” would be delightful new territory. Only Apple could do that.
Great products often (but, sadly, not always) generate profit. Successfully navigating this dynamic — earning profits as a natural byproduct of the creation of consistently great products that people want to buy — is the story of Apple’s entire 40-year history in a nutshell. But profit seeking, as an end unto itself, does not generate excellence — and in fact generally results in the opposite. Apple, like any great company, is rightfully driven by an insatiable appetite, but that appetite ought to be for adding ever more artistic and technical excellence to the world, not mining ever more money from it.
You can’t pack every last ounce of joy, beauty, and elegance into something while simultaneously trying to squeeze every last dollar out of it. ★
Thursday, 9 July 2020
Apple Seeds First Public Betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 ★
I’ve been running the developer beta of iPadOS and it’s been quite stable, but beta means beta, so expect the worst.
Herewith, a reading list of iOS/iPadOS 14 first looks:
Wednesday, 8 July 2020
Arizona Is #1, Bahrain Is #4: COVID-19 Outbreak in the U.S. Sunbelt Is Worse Than in Any Country in the World ★
David Leonhardt, reporting for The New York Times:
There is no country in the world where confirmed coronavirus cases
are growing as rapidly as they are in Arizona, Florida or South
Carolina. The Sun Belt has become the global virus capital.
This chart ranks the countries with the most confirmed new cases
over the past week, adjusted for population size, and treats each
U.S. state as if it were a country. (Many states are larger in
both landmass and population than some countries.)
The only countries with outbreaks as severe as those across the
Sunbelt are Bahrain, Oman and Qatar — three Middle Eastern
countries with large numbers of low-wage migrant workers who are
not citizens. These workers often live in cramped quarters, with
subpar social services, and many have contracted the virus.
Don’t tell me the problem here in the U.S. is not the south.
And it keeps getting worse:
As President Trump continued pressing for a broader reopening of
the United States, the country set another record for new
coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with more than 59,000 infections
announced and some states’ final numbers still unreported,
according to a New York Times database. It was the fifth national
record set in nine days.
The previous record, 56,567, was reported on Friday.
The country reached a total of three million cases on Tuesday as
the virus continued it a resurgence in the West and the South. At
least five states — Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, Utah and West
Virginia — set single-day records for new infections on
As of Tuesday, there had been a 72 percent increase in the daily
number of new cases over the past two weeks.
All in the last two weeks. Almost entirely in the south. And all of these states had months of warning from the northeast, west coast, and, you know, the rest of the entire world. Months of warning, and all we had to do was listen to the experts. Stay at home. Close all non-essential businesses. Forbid large gatherings. Wear masks. It fucking sucks but it’s not complicated. You just have to follow the advice of experts who know what the fuck they’re talking about.
More on COVID and Brain Damage ★
Melinda Wenner Moyer, in an op-ed for The New York Times:
The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more we realize it’s
not just a respiratory infection. The virus can ravage many of the
body’s major organ systems, including the brain and central
Among patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in Wuhan, China, more
than a third experienced nervous system symptoms, including
seizures and impaired consciousness. Earlier this month, French
researchers reported that 84 percent of Covid patients who had
been admitted to the I.C.U. experienced neurological problems, and
that 33 percent continued to act confused and disoriented when
they were discharged.
Warning of Serious Brain Disorders in People With Mild Coronavirus Symptoms ★
Ian Sample, reporting for The Guardian:
Neurologists are on Wednesday publishing details of more than 40
UK Covid-19 patients whose complications ranged from brain
inflammation and delirium to nerve damage and stroke. In some
cases, the neurological problem was the patient’s first and main
The cases, published in the journal Brain, revealed a rise in a
life-threatening condition called acute disseminated
encephalomyelitis (Adem), as the first wave of infections swept
through Britain. At UCL’s Institute of Neurology, Adem cases
rose from one a month before the pandemic to two or three per
week in April and May. One woman, who was 59, died of the
One coronavirus patient described in the paper, a 55-year-old
woman with no history of psychiatric illness, began to behave
oddly the day after she was discharged from hospital. She
repeatedly put her coat on and took it off again and began to
hallucinate, reporting that she saw monkeys and lions in her
house. She was readmitted to hospital and gradually improved on
Another woman, aged 47, was admitted to hospital with a headache
and numbness in her right hand a week after a cough and fever came
on. She later became drowsy and unresponsive and required an
emergency operation to remove part of her skull to relieve
pressure on her swollen brain.
Germany yesterday reported 298 new cases of COVID-19.
The U.S. reported over 55,000. Just yesterday. It is raging out of control here in the United States. It’s that simple. We’ve lost any handle on it we might have had, infections are now — I repeat myself because there’s no other way to accurately describe it — raging out of control, and a large segment of the population has decided to pretend it isn’t happening and isn’t a big deal if you do get it.
For those of us who’ve been taking this seriously since March, it’s soul-crushing that this is where we’re at after four months of isolation. It sucks. We who’ve done the right thing are the ones most yearning for — and let’s be honest, most deserving of — a few tastes of normalcy. I see people in the south complaining about the physical discomfort and social awkwardness of wearing a mask because they’re new to it and I could not be more “Fuck you”. We should be over the hump, easing our way back to normalcy with confidence, like every country in the world that isn’t led by a dimwitted angry sociopath, but we’re not, and we have to face the fact that we’re in this indefinitely.
Do the right thing — stay home as much as you can, wear a mask and keep your distance when you’re out. You don’t want to get this and you don’t want your family to get it.
New Work by Gary Larson ★
So here goes. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo, and I’ve got no deadlines. And — to borrow from Sherlock Holmes — the game is afoot.
Tuesday, 7 July 2020
Ben Dolnick on Our Long Parenthetical Moment ★
Ben Dolnick, in a delightful piece for the NYT:
Here’s something I used to think about, back in the before-times:
A clause set off by em dashes is like dropping underwater while
swimming breaststroke — just a quick dip before popping back to
the sentence’s surface. A parenthetical clause is more like diving
down to the pool bottom to pick up a coin. And a footnote is a
full-blown scuba dive — you have strapped on equipment and left
the surface behind and you had better, after going to all that
trouble, see something interesting down there.
How was it that I had never noticed that this entire taxonomic
system of authorial interruptions took for granted that readers
would enjoy being plunged into a medium in which they couldn’t
take a breath?
Simultaneously an astute observation on writing and a spot-on assessment of our collective moment.
AirPods Versus AirPods Pro ★
Adam Engst, writing for TidBITS:
I also wasn’t expecting to care about the case design. Because of
their shorter stems and silicone tips, the case for the AirPods
Pro is shorter and wider than the case for the AirPods. Even
rotated 90 degrees, it’s slightly larger in both dimensions, and
it’s also a little thicker. It’s not bad, but where Apple got the
heft and hand feel of the AirPods case absolutely perfect, the
AirPods Pro case feels… slightly off.
I’m sure this varies depending on your hand size, but I find that
the AirPods case is an addictive fiddle — it’s like that smooth
stone from the beach that you just can’t put down. The AirPods Pro
case, on the other hand, is a little large in my pocket and just
doesn’t have the same addictive feel.
I just love this assessment. I’ve thought the same thing ever since getting AirPods Pro but never quite to the level of writing it down.
For me personally, though, the utility of noise cancellation wins out over all else. I too find the regular AirPod buds more comfortable in my ears, but the acoustic advantages of AirPods Pro lead me to prefer them strongly.
Uber Buys Postmates for $2.65 Billion ★
Really, it makes a ton of sense. If you take one money-losing company in a low-margin business and combine it with another money-losing company in a low-margin business, it’s like multiplying two negative numbers: you get a big positive number. Total sense.
Tuesday, 7 July 2020
One last bit of behind-the-scenes follow-up regarding the production of The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2020. For help with my audio setup, I worked with Zach Phillips. Phillips is local to Philly, an audio engineering ace, has worked with Sandwich before — and, it turns out, I linked to his blog back in April 2012.
Even better, he was right and I was wrong. Although he was wrong too. It’s actually an interesting post worth revisiting.
Phillips argued for allowing Messages for Mac — which had just been announced, but not yet released, as part of the then-forthcoming
Mac OS X 10.8 “Mountain Lion”1 — to use your phone number for iMessages. I thought this was a terrible idea, on the grounds that I was stuck in the mindset that iMessage for my phone number was purely a replacement for SMS, and that iMessage for my Apple ID email address was a replacement for instant messaging like AIM, and the two use cases shouldn’t mix. Wrong!
Phillips, unfortunately, was wrong too:
iMessages, as an enhancement to SMS, should never use email addresses.
So I thought iMessages addressed to a phone number should only go to your iPhone (and not your iPad or Mac, let alone your Apple Watch (which was years away from being released) or glasses (which remain years away now)), and Phillips thought iMessages should go to every device, but should only use phone numbers as identifiers. I’ll score this as me being very wrong, and Phillips being a little wrong.
What we both missed is that messages aren’t between phone numbers or email addresses or specific devices — they’re between people. Phone numbers and email addresses are just identifiers used to address those people. One person can have multiple addresses — easy. (Sort of.)
Just about everyone today acknowledges that iMessage’s usurpation of text messaging from the carrier-controlled SMS was a stroke of genius on Apple’s part, but I think few appreciate just how deft their strategy and execution were. What we initially saw as “free SMS for iPhone-to-iPhone text messages” was really the bootstrapping of an altogether new (and secure) worldwide messaging platform — a platform that today is an immeasurably valuable asset for Apple. ★
Monday, 6 July 2020
Lunchbox by Sandwich ★
While I’m directing your attention to my friends at Sandwich, do not miss their shot-in-quarantine spot for Slack and the fascinating behind-the-scenes video documenting how they did it and created a system around the process:
It’s not easy to produce new live-action work these days that’s
full of authentic character, on-message and on-brand, without
sacrificing quality or relying on stock clips. But we’ve built new
methods for doing just that, tastefully, repeatably and safely.
With real lights, sound and cameras (not just iPhones).
(I will also add that all of our collaboration for the production and editing of The Talk Show Remote was done over Slack, and it was frictionless. I give Slack grief over the interface details of their client apps (especially Mac), but I complain because I care. You know the oft-cited adage that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”? That’s what Slack is for remote collaboration.)
How to Look and Sound Better in Video Meetings ★
Speaking of Adam Lisagor and making video calls look and sound better, Patrick Lucas Austin talked to him about just that for Time:
If you really want to go all out, adding a backlight can
illuminate your hair and shoulders, separating you from your
background in a pleasing way.
“It’s a matter of preference,” says Adam Lisagor, founder of video
production company Sandwich, which makes commercials and other
videos for companies like Slack, Starbucks, and Etsy, among
others. “Some people would really prefer that every shadow is
filled in … but I think, personally, I find a portrait more
interesting if there’s some shadowing and shape to it.”
“There’s shadows in life, you know,” he adds.
That’s a reference, baby.
Monday, 6 July 2020
If you missed it, here’s a re-link to last week’s special episode of The Talk Show, with special guests Craig Federighi and Greg “Joz” Joswiak.
By necessity, it was shot remotely — Federighi and Joz were at Apple Park, and I was at home in Philadelphia. Overall I think it turned out pretty well, and whatever is wrong with it is the result of my middling skills as an interviewer. Technically, I think it came out amazingly well — it looks great and sounds great. It doesn’t look or sound like a Zoom or FaceTime call that was simply recorded and played back.
A lot of folks noticed that, and have asked how we made it. I have good news and bad news. The good news is the answer is very simple and doesn’t require any expensive equipment. The bad news is it’s a lot of work.
Federighi and Joz were using iPad Pros for the call itself. I was using a MacBook Pro. We all wore AirPods. So the call itself was conducted using iPads on their side, a MacBook Pro on mine, using the built-in device cameras for video. One advantage of using iPads is that you guarantee there will be no fan noise. We wore AirPods for the call to avoid feedback.
But all that stuff was just for the conference call. We didn’t use any of that footage for the show.
For the show’s audio, we used real podcast/TV-quality microphones — desktop mics for Federighi and Joz; and a professional lav mic and boom mic for me, connected to a Sound Devices MixPre-6 digital audio recorder (all borrowed from local audio pro and Sandwich collaborator Zach Phillips). We didn’t need both microphones, but using two gave us more choices in post. I could have recorded my side with the microphone and USB preamp I usually use for my podcast, but it didn’t really work visually with the space where we set up to film in my office. The point is all you really need is any microphone good enough to record a podcast.
For video, we shot 4K 30 FPS using iPhone 11 Pros. That’s right, iPhones. Apple seems to have plenty of them so Federighi and Joz each had two — one positioned head-on, and one to the side for a wider-angle view. I just used one. The trick to getting that “looking right at the camera” angle is to position the iPhone camera just behind and above the device being used for the conference call. We weren’t using the iPhones as webcams for the call, but we positioned the main ones as though we were. That’s key to the setup.
I had mine mounted on a GorillaPod and Glif. From behind the camera it looked like this:
So we wound up with three audio recordings (one of each of us) and five video recordings (one for me, two each for Federighi and Joz). We also had an “if all else fails” recording of the Webex call. I’m lucky to have nice natural light in my office (we shot at 10am PT / 1pm ET), and we set up a few additional low-cost LED lights, that, to be honest, I don’t think accomplished much.1 After that, it was just a matter of editing.
Which, of course, is a huge matter. So, a few weeks before the show, I called upon my friends at Sandwich, and they were keen to help. They know me, they know The Talk Show, and they know how to make good videos. They nailed it. They were so easy to work with and the end result is exactly how I imagined the show turning out. Really, the biggest problem was just getting them my footage. I get somewhere between 250-300Mbps downstream, but my upstream connection maxes out around 10 Mbps. With 17 GB of footage, that wound up taking around 7-8 hours. (Because they used four cameras, Apple’s footage was close to 100 GB in total — they, however, apparently have faster upstream internet service than I do.)
So to recap:
- Webex call: used so we could see and hear each other while recording, but none of the video or audio from the call was used to produce the actual show.
- Audio: recorded on its own using good microphones.
- Video: 4K footage shot using the 1× lenses on iPhone 11 Pros.
None of this is magic or particularly expensive. Calling in Sandwich for post-production and editing was, let’s face it, a cheat code, but the raw video footage from the iPhones was really good. Recent iPhones are amazingly good video cameras.
Basically, the secret to shooting a remote interview that doesn’t look like a recorded internet call is simply not to use the internet call video. Instead, shoot each participant like you would if there were no internet call involved, recording video and audio locally for everyone, using decent cameras and microphones. In audio podcasting we call this technique “double-ending” — recording the audio locally for each participant. We used the same principle for my show, just with both video and audio. ★
Sunday, 5 July 2020
Yes Plz Coffee ★
My thanks to Yes Plz for sponsoring this past week at DF. Yes Plz sends outstanding coffee beans right to your door, and it is absolutely delicious. I’d recommend it wholeheartedly even if they weren’t sponsoring the site.
World-class coffee delivered right to your door, on a schedule you control. Every week, every other week, once a month — it’s up to you, and you can tweak your schedule whenever you want. That’s Yes Plz. Just what the doctor ordered in these stay-at-home times. Try it now — no hassle, no commitment, and you can pause or cancel anytime. They even have a special deal for DF readers: $5 off your first bag using promo code FIREBALL5 at checkout.
Garry Kasparov on the Farce of Russian Democracy ★
Garry Kasparov, in an op-ed for CNN:
It’s fair to ask, why bother with the pretense of democracy?
Dictatorships are obsessed with the superficial trappings of
legitimacy and democracy, both as distraction and to sully the
meaning of these terms. And after decades of liquidating the
opposition and crushing all dissent, a despot might even enjoy
thinking that he’s as popular as the worthless polls, elections
and state media say he is.
These sham votes aren’t only to provide Putin with cover in
Russia, where civil society barely exists, but to give foreign
leaders the pretext of treating Putin like an equal instead of
confronting him like the autocrat he is. It also allows foreign
media to continue calling him “president,” putting him on par with
the leaders of free countries. As with every tyrant before him,
Putin thrives partly due to the cowardice of those who could deter
him but choose not to.
These aren’t just semantics. It would be awkward, even outrageous,
to make deals with dictator Putin, to trust him, or to speak
fondly of him the way President Donald Trump does. The title feeds
the hypocrisy, and so the myth of Putin the elected, Putin the
popular, must be perpetuated.
Part of the de-Trumping of America should be to stop treating Putin as an elected official.
Friday, 3 July 2020
Dithering’s July Album Art ★
Part of the schtick with Dithering — the new thrice-weekly podcast from me and Ben Thompson — is that we’re putting out new album art each month, with the help of designer extraordinaire Brad Ellis. The mask on the batter at the plate in this month’s art is not Photoshopped — that’s really how they played baseball during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. Everything old is new again.
Anyway, the show is a lot of fun. 15 minutes per episode — not a minute less, not a minute more. $5 per month — cheap! If you’re not subscribed you’re missing out.
On iOS Apps Peeking at Your Clipboard Contents ★
Catalin Cimpanu reporting for ZDNet’s Zero Day:
In a video shared on Twitter, the Urspace developer showed how
LinkedIn’s app was reading the clipboard content after every user
key press, even accessing the shared clipboard feature that allows
iOS apps to read content from a user’s macOS clipboard.
Erran Berger, VP of engineering at LinkedIn:
Appreciate you raising this. We’ve traced this to a code path that
only does an equality check between the clipboard contents and the
currently typed content in a text box. We don’t store or transmit
the clipboard contents.
I know a lot of people are so cynical — justifiably — from never-ending news of privacy disasters that they just assume the worst about all these apps being revealed for looking at the clipboard contents. But I think almost all of this is just sloppy programming, not data collection. Even if you really did want to make an app that steals people’s clipboard contents, there’s absolutely no reason you’d check the clipboard contents this frequently. It’s just sloppy programming. But once revealed, a sloppy implementation like LinkedIn’s looks sketchy as hell.
It’s also the case that there are plenty of good reasons why an app might look at the clipboard without your having performed a manual Paste action. Think about image editors: for as long as I can remember, if you have an image on the clipboard, you can use File → New in MacOS’s built-in Preview app to make a new image with the contents of the clipboard. This does more than just save you the step of manually pasting — the new image is sized exactly right for the clipboard contents. It saves you a bunch of steps, not just one ⌘V. Same thing for podcast clients and RSS readers — if it looks like you have a feed URL on the clipboard, they can save you a few steps when subscribing.
It’s like managing camera and microphone access. Most apps want to access these things for good, honest reasons, but because some don’t, we need OS features to defend against the bad actors. And it winds up adding a bit of unfortunately necessary friction.
On Ming-Chi Kuo’s Report of a 24-Inch ARM iMac ★
Old pre-WWDC news I’m catching up on. From a note by Kuo on what he expects to be the first Macs to ship with Apple silicon chips:
(1) ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro:
The new model’s form factor design will be similar to that of the existing Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro . Apple will discontinue the Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro production after launching the ARM 13.3-inch MacBook Pro .
(2) ARM iMac:
ARM iMac will be equipped with the all-new form factor design and a 24- inch display. Apple will launch the refresh of existing Intel iMac in 3Q20 before launching the ARM iMac .
Something’s got to go first, so it might as well be the 13-inch (14-inch?) MacBook Pro. But it’d be a little weird for the smaller, cheaper MacBook Pro to move to Apple silicon before the 16-inch MacBook Pro, because Apple’s laptop chips are going to blow Intel’s away in performance. We can safely bet the house on this based solely on the performance developers are seeing from the A12Z-based dev kit hardware. If the smaller MacBook Pro moves to Apple silicon before the 16-inch model does, we’ll have a gap where the highest-performing model, by far, is the cheaper smaller one.
As for a 24-inch iMac, that size only makes sense if it’s a replacement for the 21-inch iMac, in which case there should be a new 30-inch iMac to take the place of the current 27-inch models. Going from 27 to 24 inches would be a huge downgrade in display size. It makes no sense at all that this would be the only iMac Apple would make, and makes almost no sense that it would be the first iMac they’d release with Apple silicon.
Thursday, 2 July 2020
Apple Card Now Has a Website and It Is Excellent ★
It’s quintessentially Apple-y that Apple Card didn’t have a website until now — but this is a very good website.
Update: I mean seriously this is an outstanding website. The more I think about it and click around, the more amazed I am. There’s no bullshit. Anything you want to do is easy and obvious to do: Payments, Statements, Settings, Support. That’s it and that’s all there should be. It’s so minimal that one might be tempted to think not much work went into it, but making something this simple and clear takes a ton of work.
Gus Mueller, writing back in March about the then-new Retrobatch 1.4:
There’s a couple of interesting new features in this update I’d
Pro. Various nodes in Retrobatch which allow you to set the size
or length of a value (such as the Crop, Border, Gradient, Adjust
Margin nodes) now have an option of running a little snippet of
First, Retrobatch is super cool. It’s a batch image processor for the Mac — think of it as something like Automator or Shortcuts but just for image processing, with almost all the power of Acorn. It’s a really useful way to effectively write your own custom image processing workflows, which run really fast — but rather than using a scripting language, you do it graphically using nodes. It’s powerful but the experience of creating and tweaking your own workflows is largely self-explanatory.
Also new, and personally quite useful to me:
And finally for my short list, you can now make a droplet which
doesn’t take any files. Why is this useful? Well, imagine you have
a workflow that reads an image from the clipboard, resizes it to a
specific width, and then writes it back to the clipboard. Now you
can make a little droplet to do just this. Just a double click
from the Finder (or a single click from the Dock) and your
workflow is run.
Facebook Admits Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire Has Engaged in Pay-for-Engagement Scam ★
Judd Legum, reporting for Popular Information:
Facebook has concluded there is an undisclosed financial
relationship between The Daily Wire, the website founded by
right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro, and Mad World News, a notorious
outlet that exploits fear and bigotry for profit. This
relationship, Facebook acknowledges, violates its rules.
Last week, Popular Information exposed how The Daily Wire has
gained unprecedented distribution on Facebook through its
relationship with Mad World News. Five large Facebook pages
controlled by Mad World News expanded The Daily Wire’s audience by
millions through the coordinated posting of dozens of links from
The Daily Wire each day. […]
“After further investigation, we’ve found that these Pages violate
our policies against undisclosed paid relationships between
publishers. Our enforcement typically focuses on the Page
distributing the cross-promoted content, which is why we are
temporarily demoting Mad World News. We are also warning Daily
Wire and will demote them if we see this behavior continue,” a
Facebook spokesperson said.
Put aside the politics and it’s clear that Facebook “engagement” is a game riddled with grifters. Kind of hard to put aside the politics though:
The disparate treatment between Mad World News and The Daily Wire
raises questions. Why are the sites being treated differently when
they conspired together to violate the same Facebook rule? What
was the influence of Shapiro’s personal relationship with
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg?
Wednesday, 1 July 2020
Netflix Hires Bozoma Saint John as Chief Marketing Officer ★
Todd Spangler, reporting for Variety:
Netflix has tapped marketing veteran Bozoma Saint John, a former
senior exec at Apple, Uber and most recently Endeavor, as its new
CMO, the company announced.
Saint John is Netflix’s third chief marketing officer in less than
a year. She replaces Jackie Lee-Joe, the one-time CMO of BBC
Studios, who had only been at Netflix for 10 months. According to
Netflix, Lee-Joe is exiting the streamer for personal reasons; she
has been living in Australia with her family since March since the
start of the coronavirus pandemic. Lee-Joe had been named to
succeed former Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett, who announced his
retirement from the company last year.
Saint John will start at Netflix this August, reporting to chief
content officer Ted Sarandos.
Unofficial Pin Set for WWDC 2020 ★
I’m not a pin person — I just give away my WWDC pins each year to the first person I run into who wants them — but this is a neat Kickstarter campaign for those of you who dig them.
YouTube TV Raises Price to $65 Per Month ★
Sarah Perez, reporting for TechCrunch:
YouTube TV is getting another price hike, making its live TV streaming service less competitive with the cable TV services it aims to replace. The company announced today its service would now cost $64.99 per month, starting today, June 30, for new members. The change will also be reflected on the next billing cycle for current members after June 30.
The bump in pricing is now one of several price increases YouTube TV has seen since its debut, starting with a modest $5 per month bump in 2018, followed by a much more substantial price hike last year to $50 per month.
$65/month is $780/year — still less than most cable TV packages (or at least less than my cable TV package here in Kabletown), but a lot of money. And the whole “Well of course we had to raise your monthly rate, we added a bunch of new channels you may or may not even want” angle has been the unofficial motto of the cable industry for 40 years. Cord-cutting is quickly devolving into something that’s merely different from traditional cable TV, not cheaper than cable TV.
Tuesday, 30 June 2020
The Talk Show: ‘It Shouldn’t Be Hard to Get a Smoothie’ ★
Dan Frommer returns to the show for more analysis of WWDC 2020, including App Clips and the Mac’s transition to Apple silicon.
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Safari 14 Does Not Block Google Analytics ★
When Safari says it blocks or prevents a tracker, what it means is
that the ITP algorithm has flagged some domain as having
cross-site tracking capabilities, and Safari has, among other
things, stripped it of its capabilities to carry cookies in
cross-site requests, also known as third-party cookies.
This is what Safari means when it’s prevented a known tracker in
google-analytics.com. That domain has been flagged as a
cross-site tracking domain, and Safari assigns certain protective
measures to any communications to and from that domain (you can
read more about them here).
Apple’s current UI description for this feature sure makes it sound like Google Analytics is being blocked.
Always Clarifying Advice: Take Pride in Your Work ★
Nilay Patel, on Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s decision to boot racist jerk subreddits:
It’s so easy to get lost in the technical lawyer nonsense of 230 and free speech and on and on, but sometimes the answer is as simple as people looking at the thing they’ve made and deciding they would like to be more proud of it than they are.
That’s a clarifying way to look at these decisions. Simple question: is Jack Dorsey proud that Trump used Twitter to promote a video of an old white guy shouting “White power!” at Black Lives Matter protestors? Is anyone at Twitter proud of this? If you’re ashamed of it, why allow it?
2020 Apple Design Awards Include Zero Mac Apps, But at Least the Award Graphic Looks Awful ★
Such a great year for the Mac at WWDC, but not one ADA winner. But yet the ADAs are currently the top feature story in the Mac App Store app. And just look at the virtual ADA award in that promo graphic — who made that? It just seems bizarre that the ADAs — awards for those who pay obsessive attention to the smallest of details — are being promoted using a graphic seemingly made by someone who doesn’t understand 3D perspective.
Perhaps the ADA graphic was made by the same team that did this slide from keynote and completely phoned in the work for the icons in MacOS Big Sur?
Woodrow Wilson Was a Racist Shitbag ★
Colin Woodard, writing at TPM Cafe:
“Division and Reunion” was met with mixed reviews, but was a commercial success, as it embraced an account that let white Americans put the Civil War and civil rights behind them. And it inspired Wilson to write “A History of the American People,” a poorly written and shoddily researched five-volume, illustrated tome published in 1902. (“A disappointment after the pleasure of examining the pictures is past,” a leading journal wrote of it.) It furthered the white supremacist arguments in “Division and Reunion,” calling freed slaves “dupes” and the KKK a group formed “for the mere pleasure of association [and] private amusement” whose members accidentally discovered they could create “comic fear” in the Blacks they descended on. Immigrants were a problem because they were no longer “of the sturdy stocks of the North of Europe” but contained “multitudes of men of the lowest classes from the South of Italy and men of the meaner sort out of Hungary and Poland” and Chinese people, “with their yellow skin and strange, debasing habits of life,” who seemed “hardly fellow men at all, but evil spirits” and who provoked understandable mass killings by white mobs.
Wilson was a thoroughgoing racist even by the standards of his own day. His attitude toward African-Americans and their political rights don’t just look bad from the perspective of the day. They were widely considered retrograde even in his own day.
It’s absolutely flabbergasting to compare these basic facts to what I learned about Woodrow Wilson in high school, which was more or less just the facts of World War I and that Wilson’s spearheading of the League of Nations was noble.
Monday, 29 June 2020
Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg, and Tony Romm, reporting for The Washington Post in a remarkable story that takes a while to get to the juicy parts:
The document, which is previously unreported and obtained by The
Post, weighed four options. They included removing the post for
hate speech violations, making a one-time exception for it,
creating a broad exemption for political discourse and even
weakening the company’s community guidelines for everyone,
allowing comments such as “No blacks allowed” and “Get the gays
out of San Francisco.”
Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said the latter option was never
The document also listed possible “PR Risks” for each. For
example, lowering the standards overall would raise questions such
as, “Would Facebook have provided a platform for Hitler?” Bickert
wrote. A carveout for political speech across the board, on the
other hand, risked opening the floodgates for even more hateful
Ultimately, Zuckerberg was talked out of his desire to remove the
post in part by Kaplan, according to the people. Instead, the
executives created an allowance that newsworthy political
discourse would be taken into account when making decisions about
whether posts violated community guidelines.
I don’t get the “on the other hand” here regarding whether Facebook’s rules would have provided a platform for Adolf Hitler. A blanket “carveout” for “political speech” and “newsworthy political discourse” certainly would have meant that Adolf Hitler would have been able to use Facebook as a platform in the 1930s. That sounds histrionic to modern ears, but Hitler wasn’t universally seen as Hitler the unspeakably evil villain until it was too late. Infamously, as late as August 1939 — 1939! — The New York Times Magazine saw fit to run a profile under the headline “Herr Hitler at Home in the Clouds” (sub-head: “High up on his favorite mountain he finds time for politics, solitude and frequent official parties”).
An anything goes exception for political speech from world leaders is the exact same hand as serving as a platform for Hitler. It’s goddamn Nazis who are crawling out of the woodwork now.
Two months before Trump’s “looting, shooting” post, the Brazilian
president [Jair Bolsonaro] posted about the country’s
indigenous population, saying, “Indians are undoubtedly changing.
They are increasingly becoming human beings just like us.”
Thiel, the security engineer, and other employees argued
internally that it violated the company’s internal guidelines
against “dehumanizing speech.” They were referring to Zuckerberg’s
own words while testifying before Congress in October in which he
said dehumanizing speech “is the first step toward inciting”
violence. In internal correspondence, Thiel was told that it
didn’t qualify as racism — and may have even been a positive
reference to integration.
Thiel quit in disgust.
If that post is not dehumanizing, what is? If that post is acceptable on Facebook, what isn’t?
Facebook’s security engineers in December 2016 presented findings
from a broad internal investigation, known as Project P, to senior
leadership on how false and misleading news reports spread so
virally during the election. When Facebook’s security team
highlighted dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports,
senior leaders in Washington, including Kaplan, opposed shutting
them down immediately, arguing that doing so would
disproportionately impact conservatives, according to people
familiar with the company’s thinking. Ultimately, the company shut
down far fewer pages than were originally proposed while it began
developing a policy to handle these issues.
A year later, Facebook considered how to overhaul its scrolling
news feed, the homepage screen most users see when they open the
site. As part of the change to help limit misinformation, it
changed its news feed algorithm to focus more on posts by friends
and family versus publishers.
In meetings about the change, Kaplan questioned whether the
revamped algorithm would hurt right-leaning publishers more than
others, according to three people familiar with the company’s
thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of
retribution. When the data showed it would — conservative leaning
outlets were pushing more content that violated its policies, the
company had found — he successfully pushed for changes to make
the new algorithm to be what he considered more evenhanded in its
impact, the people said.
Complaints about bias are only legitimate if the underlying allegations of unfairness are credible. Let’s say there’s a basketball game where the referees whistle 10 fouls against one team and only 1 against the other. Are the refs biased? We don’t know from those facts alone. What matters is how many fouls each team actually committed. If one team actually did commit 10 fouls and the other 1, then the refs are fair and the results are fair. If both teams actually committed, say, 5 fouls apiece, but the refs called 10 violations against one team and only 1 against the other, then the refs are either crooked or just plain bad and the results are, indeed, unjust.
Joel Kaplan wanted Facebook to call the same number of fouls against both sides no matter what fouls were actually committed. And that’s exactly how Facebook has run its platform. If you don’t punish cheaters and liars you’re rewarding them. Far from being biased against Republicans in the U.S. and right-wing nationalists and authoritarians around the globe, Facebook has been biased for them. ★
Monday, 29 June 2020
Marques Brownlee Interviews Craig Federighi ★
Loved this interview. So good, including the long-pondered question of why iPad doesn’t have a built-in Calculator or Weather app.
Nieman Journalism Lab on The New York Times Pulling Out of Apple News ★
Ken Doctor of Nieman Journalism Lab, interviewing NYT COO Meredith Levien:
In short, the Times audience machine is proving more able to
move towards its goal — 10 million subscribers in 2025 — on
“This has been a moment where something like 250 million —
somewhere between 250 and 300 million people — used The New York
Times at the height of the COVID crisis,” Levien said. “When
something like 6 in 10 American adults used The New York Times in
March. And that’s a bigger opportunity than we’ve had before to
drive relationships with people.”
This whole piece is a really interesting and comprehensive look at this decision.
The New York Times Pulls Out of Apple News ★
Kellen Browning and Jack Nicas, reporting for The New York Times:
The Times is one of the first media organizations to pull out of
Apple News. The Times, which has made adding new subscribers a key
business goal, said Apple had given it little in the way of direct
relationships with readers and little control over the business.
It said it hoped to instead drive readers directly to its own
website and mobile app so that it could “fund quality journalism.”
The Times mobile app is pretty bad in a bunch of ways. I keep giving it a try and keep running back to reading the Times on the web. That’s neither here nor there, perhaps — I don’t think the Apple News app is all that good either.
“Core to a healthy model between The Times and the platforms is a
direct path for sending those readers back into our environments,
where we control the presentation of our report, the relationships
with our readers and the nature of our business rules,” Meredith
Kopit Levien, chief operating officer, wrote in a memo to
employees. “Our relationship with Apple News does not fit within
An Apple spokesman said that The Times “only offered Apple News a
few stories a day,” and that the company would continue to provide
readers with trusted information from thousands of publishers.
The Times never really embraced Apple News. And it’s worth pointing out that this has nothing to do with Apple News+ — Apple’s subscription offering. The Times was never part of News+ and what they’re doing now is pulling out of the free part of Apple News. Times articles will no longer be in Apple News at all.
I think it’s fair to say that the Times’s approach to Apple News is a lot like Netflix’s approach to Apple TV — neither wants to be a small part of a larger bundled subscription offering or even a bundled user interface. And they might both be right — both are in rarefied positions to serve as bundled offerings in and of themselves.
Reddit Bans ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit ★
Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:
Reddit, one of the largest social networking and message board
websites, on Monday banned its biggest community devoted to
President Trump as part of an overhaul of its hate speech
The community or “subreddit,” called “The_Donald,” is home to more
than 790,000 users who post memes, viral videos and supportive
messages about Mr. Trump. Reddit executives said the group, which
has been highly influential in cultivating and stoking Mr. Trump’s
online base, had consistently broken its rules by allowing people
to target and harass others with hate speech.
“Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking
people,” Steve Huffman, the company’s chief executive, said in a
call with reporters. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”
It’s a race to get out of Dodge as the whole world gets its footing back on the rightful notion that bigotry is shameful and must be shunned.
Saturday, 27 June 2020
Atoms Everyday Face Mask ★
My thanks to Atoms for sponsoring this week at DF. Atoms stands for quality, and the Atoms Everyday Mask is made with premium materials, combining innovation and comfort with the antimicrobial properties of copper, making it one of the most effective masks on the market. Available in a variety of colors, it’s breathable, washable, and reusable. Plus, Atoms donates a mask to a charity with each purchase.
Like a lot of you, I went from owning no face masks to owning a bunch. My favorite, by far, is my Atoms mask. Comfort, fit, materials — everything. I hadn’t realized this but apparently I have a big face — being able to order my Atoms mask in a size large makes a huge difference in fit. It really is my everyday mask.
You may recall Atoms from their previous appearances here at Daring Fireball to promote their ultra comfortable Atoms Everyday Sneaker. They’re available in quarter sizes — including the ability to order your left and right shoes in different sizes — to get a truly precise fit. They’re super lightweight, super comfortable, and very durable. I’ve got a pair that’s over a year old and they still look great. You can’t see them on camera, but I was wearing them last week when I recorded The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2020 — comfortable shoes are a must.
Milton Glaser, Designer of ‘I ♥︎ NY’ Logo, Dies at 91 ★
“But I’m flabbergasted by what happened to this little, simple, nothing of an idea. It just demonstrates that every once in a while you do something that can have enormous consequences… it was a bunch of little scratches on a piece of paper!”
How to Remove YouTube Tracking ★
After some research, I discovered that YouTube offers a
privacy-enhanced way of embedding videos. Instead of linking to
youtube.com, link to
youtube-nocookie.com, and no
data-collecting HTTP cookie will be sent. This is Google’s way of
providing GDPR-compliant YouTube videos.
Now that Safari is including tracker counts and blocking ad trackers by default, I ran into this when I embedded the video for The Talk Show Remote From WWDC 2020 this week — it doubled the number of “trackers” Safari flagged on DF from 1 to 2. No more.
(The remaining tracker is Google Analytics, which I’ve been meaning to replace for a while. On it.)
Friday, 26 June 2020
The Talk Show: ‘Patina of Usefulness’ ★
Special guest Matthew Panzarino joins the show to talk about WWDC 2020.
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‘Repetitive, Spammy Behavior’ Indeed ★
Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:
A new feature in iOS 14 alerts users when apps read the clipboard,
and it turns out some apps have been reading clipboard data
excessively. TikTok users who upgraded to iOS 14, for example,
quickly noticed constant alerts warning them that TikTok was
accessing the clipboard every few seconds. After being
caught, TikTok now says that it’s removing the feature.
In a statement to The Telegraph, TikTok said that it accessed
the clipboard to identify spammy behavior.
“Following the beta release of iOS 14 on June 22, users saw
notifications while using a number of popular apps.
“For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify
repetitive, spammy behavior. We have already submitted an updated
version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam
feature to eliminate any potential confusion.
[…] TikTok did not say whether the feature would be removed from
Android devices, nor whether clipboard data was ever stored or
moved from user devices.
TikTok, I probably don’t need to remind you, is a Chinese company whose popularity algorithm is a black box. If you use TikTok you should assume they’ve stored a copy of anything and everything you’ve had on your clipboard while using the app. Their slogan might as well be “Chinese state-sanctioned social media” — which to me says don’t use them, but maybe that’s just me.
I mean, their explanation makes no sense at all. How is it an anti-spam feature to look at the clipboard contents of every single person using their app every three seconds? That’s like finding out that when you visit a certain store, they’ve been X-raying your pockets and bags every few seconds, without consent or warning, and when confronted, they say “Oh yeah, we were just looking for shoplifters.” Like that’s even vaguely acceptable.
Microsoft to Close Most of Its Retail Stores ★
I do enjoy their PR headline: “Microsoft Store announces new
approach to retail.” The new approach: not doing retail.
Thursday, 25 June 2020
On iOS 14 Picking Up Features Android Had First ★
Raymond Wong, writing for Input:
There used to be a time and place for pointing fingers and bashing
one company for blatantly copying another’s ideas. But now it
feels juvenile. Who really cares? “Good artists copy, great
artists steal” as the saying goes. Everyone borrows. Everything is
inspired by something before it.
iOS 14 may not be a complete overhaul with a system-wide-UI
upgrade à la iOS 7, but that’s okay because the sum of everything
new in iOS 14 is so robust that there are virtually no meaningful
reasons to pine for Android’s green pastures.
The headline for Wong’s piece is clickbait-y (“After iOS 14, There’s Almost No Reason to Buy an Android Phone Anymore”) but the actual article is thoughtful. Above and beyond any specific features — home screen widgets, app clips, built-in language translation — it occurs to me that there’s simply an enthusiasm gap.
Do you get the sense that Google, company-wide, is all that interested in Android? I don’t. Both as the steward of the software platform and as the maker of Pixel hardware, it seems like Google is losing interest in Android. Flagship Android hardware makers sure are interested in Android, but they can’t move the Android developer ecosystem — only Google can.
Apple, institutionally, is as attentive to the iPhone and iOS as it has ever been. I think Google, institutionally, is bored with Android.
Apple Approves Hey Update for App Store ★
David Heinemeier Hansson:
Apple has definitively approved HEY in the App Store!! No IAP, no 30% cut, but we’ve opened the door to a free temp address service, and use same app for work accounts. I’m so incredibly relieved! And now HEY is open to EVERYONE! No invite code needed.
Glad to hear it.
My quick take on Hey, a few weeks into using it: it’s really great, especially on the phone. I feel super efficient in every single aspect of using it on the phone — triage, reading, responding. Adrian Holovaty nails it:
hey.com is the most exciting app I’ve used in years. A complete rethinking of email, full of bold, brilliant ideas. Highly recommended. Not only for the product itself, but because its boldness will inspire you to question your assumptions and think differently.
If you designed email from scratch such that it vigorously protected your privacy and your time, this is what it would look like.
Wednesday, 24 June 2020
Facebook Creates Fact-Checking Exemption for Climate Deniers ★
Judd Legum, writing at Popular Information:
Facebook is “aiding and abetting the spread of climate
misinformation,” said Robert Brulle, an environmental sociologist
at Drexel University. “They have become the vehicle for climate
misinformation, and thus should be held partially responsible for
a lack of action on climate change.”
Brulle was reacting to Facebook’s recent decision, made at the
request of climate science deniers, to create a giant loophole in
its fact-checking program. Last year, Facebook partnered with an
organization, Science Feedback, that would bring in teams of Ph.D.
climate scientists to evaluate the accuracy of viral content. It
was an important expansion of the company’s third-party
But now Facebook has reportedly decided to allow its staffers to
overrule the climate scientists and make any climate
disinformation ineligible for fact-checking by deeming it
Facebook can’t have it both ways. They can be a haven for right-wing disinformation or they can be a part of civil society. Zuckerberg seemingly thinks they can have it both ways, but it can’t hold.
Dieter Bohn on What’s New in iOS 14 ★
Good overview of how you use and set up home screen widgets, app clips, the new App Library, and more. I think his conclusion is spot-on: by definition these features make the iPhone home screen more complicated, but there’s no downside to this added complexity because they’re all optional. Typical users don’t need to be aware of any of them. They’re traditional “power user” features that reward exploration.