Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Eric Petitt, writing for The Official Unofficial Firefox Blog yesterday:
I head up Firefox marketing, but I use Chrome every day. Works
fine. Easy to use. Like most of us who spend too much time in
front of a laptop, I have two browsers open; Firefox for work,
Chrome for play, customized settings for each. There are multiple
things that bug me about the Chrome product, for sure, but I‘m OK
with Chrome. I just don’t like only being on Chrome. […]
But talking to friends, it sounds more and more like living on
Chrome has started to feel like their only option. Edge is broken.
Safari and Internet Explorer are just plain bad. And
unfortunately, too many people think Firefox isn’t a modern
In an update posted today, he walked that back:
In my original post I made a personal dig about Edge, IE and
Safari: “Edge is broken. Safari and Internet Explorer are just
plain bad.” I’ve since deleted that sentence.
It’s true, I personally don’t like those products, they just don’t
work for me. But that was probably a bit too flip. And, if it
wasn’t obvious that those were my personal opinions as a user, not
those of the good folks at Firefox and Mozilla, then please accept
It’s easy when making an aside — and it’s clear that the central premise of this piece is about positioning Chrome as the Goliath to Firefox’s David, so references to Safari and IE are clearly asides — to conflate “I don’t like X” with “X is bad”. So I say we let it slide.1
But I’ve been meaning to write about Safari vs. Chrome for a while, and Petitt’s jab, even retracted, makes for a good excuse.
I think Safari is a terrific browser. It remains the one and only browser for the Mac that behaves like a native Mac app through and through. It may not be the fastest browser but it is fast. And its energy performance puts Chrome to shame. If you use a Mac laptop, using Chrome instead of Safari can cost you an hour or more of battery life per day.2
But Chrome is a terrific browser, too. It’s clearly the second-most-Mac-like browser for MacOS. It almost inarguably has the widest and deepest extension ecosystem. It has good web developer tools, and Chrome adopts new web development technologies faster than Safari does.
But Safari’s extension model is more privacy-conscious. For many people on MacOS, the decision between Safari and Chrome probably comes down to which ecosystem you’re more invested in — iCloud or Google — for things like tab, bookmark, and history syncing. Me, personally, I’d feel lost without the ability to send tabs between my Macs and iPhone via Handoff. Update: Unbeknownst to me, Chrome fully supports Handoff with iOS devices. Nice!
In short, Safari closely reflects Apple’s institutional priorities (privacy, energy efficiency, the niceness of the native UI, support for MacOS and iCloud technologies) and Chrome closely reflects Google’s priorities (speed, convenience, a web-centric rather than native-app-centric concept of desktop computing, integration with Google web properties). Safari is Apple’s browser for Apple devices. Chrome is Google’s browser for all devices.
I personally prefer Safari, but I can totally see why others — especially those who work on desktop machines or MacBooks that are usually plugged into power — prefer Chrome. DF readers agree. Looking at my web stats, over the last 30 days, 69 percent of Mac users visiting DF used Safari, but a sizable 28 percent used Chrome. (Firefox came in at 3 percent, and everything else was under 1 percent.)3
As someone who’s been a Mac user long enough to remember when there were no good web browsers for the Mac, having both Safari and Chrome feels downright bountiful, and the competition is making both of them better. ★
Meeting Roger Moore ★
Amazing story from Marc Haynes about meeting Roger Moore as a 7-year-old in 1983.
(This tweet I’m linking to has screenshots of Haynes’s post on Facebook; here’s the same story in text copied and pasted into a forum, without attribution. Have I ever complained about how much I dislike Facebook?)
Implementing JSON Feed ★
Dr. Drang, after adding JSON Feed support for both his blog publishing engine and his homegrown feed reader:
JSON Feed, for all its advantages, may be a flash in the pan. Not
only do bloggers and publishing platforms have to adopt it, so do
the major aggregator/reader services like Feedly and Digg and the
analytics services like FeedPress and FeedBurner. But even if JSON
Feed doesn’t take off, the time I spent adding it to my blog and
aggregator was so short I won’t regret it.
Again I say: easier to generate, easier to parse.
Update: Rob Wells on adding JSON feed to his site:
I think this is what all the people complaining on the Hacker News
thread missed. Working in JSON is comfortable and familiar — the
tools are good and you get told when something goes wrong. Working
with XML can be unclear and a bit of a pain, and creating an
invalid document is a risk.
So my super-duper advanced JSON Feed implementation is…
dict, adding things to it and passing it off to
the JSON module that I use all the time. Taken care of.
I do something similar to what Wells and Drang do. DF’s RSS and Atom XML feeds are generated via templates: skeleton XML documents with tokens and loop constructs where the actual content gets filled in. But for JSON Feed I just build a Perl data structure that maps exactly to the JSON Feed spec, and just call a single function from the standard JSON module and it gets printed. That’s it. A template would add complexity.
Feedbin, Too ★
Ben Ubois, announcing support for JSON Feed in Feedbin:
One of the criticisms I’ve seen of JSON Feed is that there’s no
incentive for feed readers to support JSON Feed. This is not true.
One of the largest-by-volume support questions I get is along the
lines of “Why does this random feed not work?” And, 95% of the
time, it’s because the feed is broken in some subtle way. JSON
Feed will help alleviate these problems, because it’s easier to
I also want JSON Feed to succeed because I remember how daunting
RSS/Atom parsing were when building Feedbin. If JSON Feed was the
dominant format back then, it would have been a non-issue.
Easier to generate and easier to parse — that’s the whole point of JSON Feed in a nut.
NewsBlur Now Supports JSON Feed ★
Samuel Clay, founder of NewsBlur:
Starting today, NewsBlur now officially supports the new JSON Feed
spec. And there’s nothing extra you have to do. This means if a
website syndicates their stories with the easy-to-write and
easy-to-read JSON format, you can read it on NewsBlur. It should
make no difference to you, since you’re reading the end product.
But to website developers everywhere, supporting JSON Feeds is so
much easier than supporting XML-based RSS/Atom.
According to Clay, there are 15,000 NewsBlur users who subscribe to Daring Fireball. It’s very cool to see a feed reader that popular adopt JSON Feed so quickly.
The DF RSS feed isn’t going anywhere, so if you’re already subscribed to it, there’s no need to switch. But JSON Feed’s spec makes it possible for me to specify both a
url that points to the post on Daring Fireball (i.e. the permalink) and an
external_url that points to the article I’m linking to. The way I’ve dealt with that in the RSS (technically Atom, but that’s sort of beside the point) is a bit of a hack that’s caused problems with numerous feed readers over the years.
Roger Moore’s Recipe for a Perfect Martini ★
Worth a re-link today: Roger Moore, two years ago, writing for The Guardian:
The sad fact is that I know exactly how to make a dry martini but I
can’t drink them because, two years ago, I discovered I was
diabetic. I prefer one with gin, but James Bond liked a vodka
martini, “shaken not stirred” — which I never said, by the way.
That was Sean Connery, remember him?
The worst martini I’ve ever had was in a club in New Zealand,
where the barman poured juice from a bottle of olives into the
vodka. That’s called a dirty martini and it is a dirty, filthy,
rotten martini, and should not be drunk by anybody except
My dry martinis taste amazing and the day they tell me I’ve got 24
hours to live I am going to have six. Here’s how I make them.
I hope he had all six yesterday.
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Chris Murphy, writing for CNN back in 2013 on the “greatest James Bond scene of all time”:
Despite this wealth of choice, a series of Bond experts, and one
of the film’s legendary producers, are in no doubt as to which
scene should be anointed the best ever.
And given the recurring role that skiing has played throughout the
life of Bond, it should comes as no surprise our panel’s chosen
encounter occurs on the slopes. “I would argue the most iconic
sequence is in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, when Bond shot straight off
the edge of a cliff at Baffin Island in Canada,” Ajay Chowdhury,
editor of the James Bond International Fan Club, told CNN.
“We saw him fall and fall, and when the Union Jack parachute
opened up and the theme tune kicked in, the world cheered.
“That was Britain’s Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee Year in 1977 and I
think to this day it was (famous Bond producer) Albert ‘Cubby’
Broccoli’s favorite ever scene in a Bond movie.
“When everything cleared it was him, on his own against the world.
You play that sequence around the world and it is James Bond. And
he did it on skis.”
That opening scene in The Spy Who Loved Me is also the one where Bond is wearing a digital Seiko watch that can receive secure text messages from MI6 — at the time, sheer fantasy; today, a feature many of you reading this now have on your own watch. (Albeit without the ticker tape.)
I don’t know if it’s the single best Bond scene of all time, but it’s up there, and it’s almost certainly the best Bond stunt of all time — stuntman Rick Sylvester actually skied off that cliff and parachuted to safety. I just love how the fall takes place in silence.
Without hesitation I would put The Spy Who Loved Me at the top of my list of Roger Moore’s Bond films. It has everything: the aforementioned great opening, an iconic car (the submarine-convertible white Lotus Esprit1), a great villain (Jaws), and a perfect theme song (Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”). Bernard Lee was still in the role as M. And at the center of it all, Roger Moore at his cool, suave, and assured best.
Moore was quite self-aware of what he brought to the role. His take, in a 2014 interview with NPR, is exactly right:
I look like a comedic lover, and Sean [Connery] in particular, and
Daniel Craig now, they are killers. They look like killers. I
wouldn’t like to meet Daniel Craig on a dark night if I’d said
anything bad about him.
Moore’s Bond had fun doing his job. ★
Spotlight Performance Problems on iOS ★
I’ve generally had pretty good luck with Spotlight on iOS, but
I’ve long noticed that results are delayed or nonexistent after
not using it for a little while, particularly if I haven’t
rebooted my phone recently. I thought I was losing my head a
little bit, until I found a tip on Twitter from Anand Iyer :
Settings > General > Spotlight Search > toggle Slack off
A week or so ago I ran into this, where Spotlight was running so slowly on my iPhone that it was unusable. Restarting my phone fixed the problem, but I’ll bet it was this Slack problem.
Update: Sounds like there might be widespread problems with Spotlight indexing on iOS 10, because a bunch of readers have written to say they have the same problem but don’t even have Slack installed.
Update 2: Several readers are saying this was a bug in iOS 10.3.1 but has been fixed in last week’s 10.3.2 update.
How Anker Is Beating Apple and Samsung at Their Own Accessory Game ★
Nice profile of Anker by Nick Statt for The Verge:
So in airports, the back of cabs, and on city streets we’re
plugging into lithium-ion slabs in our pockets and bags to stay
connected. The market for portable battery packs generated $360
million in the 12 months ending in March, 2017 in the US alone.
The brands behind these packs are largely anonymous — Kmashi,
Jackery, and iMuto — and they often stay that way.
Except Anker. The steady rise of the company’s profile is proof
that it’s possible to meet one very specific consumer need and
ride that wave as it continues to ripple out to other markets. A
majority of Anker’s sales come from cables and wall chargers, and
it’s now moving into the smart home and auto market — anywhere a
plug and a cable can solve a problem.
It’s always satisfying to see a company thrive by focusing on making great products.
‘On Margins’ ★
New podcast from the inimitable Craig Mod about the art of making books. The first episode is an interview with Jan Chipchase:
Researcher and author Jan Chipchase has a new book — “The Field
Study Handbook.” We discuss how he came to produce this 500+ page
magnum opus — a distillation of his life’s work — and why he is
Boring Google ★
Ben Thompson, in praise of Google’s “boring” I/O keynote:
Google Assistant has a long ways to go, but there is a clear
picture of what success will look like: Google Photos. Launched
only two years ago, Pichai bragged that Photos now has over 500
million active users who upload 1.2 billion photos a day. This is
a spectacular number for one very simple reason: Google Photos is
not the default photo app for Android or iOS. Rather, Google has
earned all of those photos simply by being better than the
defaults, and the basis of that superiority is Google’s machine
Moreover, much like search, Photos gets better the more data it
gets, creating a virtuous cycle: more photos means more data which
means a better experience which means more users which means more
photos. It is already hard to see other photo applications
Google Photos is Google at its best. Their visual recognition is clearly the best in the world right now, and Thompson makes a good point that the “virtuous circle” makes it difficult for anyone to catch up.
In addition to being a great product, technically, Google Photos also launched with a terrific ad campaign.
Every Color of Cardigan Mister Rogers Wore From 1979–2001 ★
Owen Philips, writing for The Awl:
Fortunately, Tim Lybarger, a 40 year-old high school counselor
from just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, wondered the same
thing a few years ago. Back in 2011, on his blog devoted to all
things Mister Rogers, neighborhoodarchive.com, Lybarger recorded
the color of every sweater Rogers wore in each episode between
1979 and 2001. “When I realized such a resource didn’t exist,”
Lybarger told me over email, “I just felt like somebody needed to
do it…might as well be me.”
The chart below uses the data Lybarger meticulously collected to
show how Rogers’ preferences for the color of his cardigan changed
When I was a kid I simply loved Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (Via Kottke, of course.)
Scrolling Is Going to Change in Mobile Safari ★
Here’s an interesting exchange in a Hacker News discussion about my criticism of AMP over the weekend. Malte Ubl, creator and tech lead of Google AMP:
With respect to scrolling: We (AMP team) filed a bug with Apple
about that (we didn’t implement scrolling ourselves, just use a
div with overflow). We asked to make the scroll inertia for that
case the same as the normal scrolling.
Apple’s response was (surprisingly) to make the default scrolling
like the overflow scrolling. So, with the next Safari release all
pages will scroll like AMP pages. Hope Gruber is happy then :)
“Om2”, who seemingly works on WebKit for Apple added:
In current iOS Safari, webpage scrolling is inconsistent from all
other scrolling on the system. This was an intentional decision
made long ago. In addition, overflow areas are consistent with the
rest of the system, and thus inconsistent with top-level webpage
scrolling. This is semi-accidental. In reviewing scroll rates, we
concluded that the original reason was no longer a good tradeoff.
Thus this change, which removed all the inconsistencies:
Having all scrolling be consistent feels good once you get
used to it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it was a good idea for Google’s
hosted AMP pages to use overflow scroll all along. The
inconsistency definitely did feel weird. And the way they do
scrolling prevents Safari from auto-hiding its top and bottom
bars. I believe all the desired scroll effects could have been
achieved without the use of overflow scroll.
That’s a pretty big change, but I’ll bet Om2 is right that it soon feels normal. Web views have had different scrolling inertia than other scrolling views ever since the original iPhone. (My beef with scrolling in AMP is not that AMP’s fast scrolling is bad and Mobile Safari’s current slower scrolling is good, but rather that scrolling in AMP pages should not feel totally different than regular web pages. And I forgot to complain about the fact that AMP’s weird implementation also breaks Mobile Safari’s ability to hide the bottom and top browser chrome toolbars. Update: One more complaint: AMP breaks Safari’s Reader mode.)
News Explorer 1.6 Supports JSON Feed ★
First native app I’ve seen with support for JSON Feed. Pretty interesting take on a modern Mac feed reader, including nice support for using the keyboard arrow keys to move around the UI.
‘Becoming Bond’ ★
New documentary from Hulu on George Lazenby, who played James Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and then turned down an offer for a six-picture contract. Watched it over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it.
My thanks to Stashword for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Stashword is simple but feature-rich password manager for iOS and the web. In addition to passwords, Stashword can securely save notes, financial information, and more. You can even scan and save documents like your drivers license, insurance documentation, and passport.
Stashword is free to try for 15 days. Paid membership enables you to synchronize across all your devices and their website. As a special offer for Daring Fireball readers, through May 25 annual membership is just $7.99, which is 20 percent off the regular price.
MacStories’s iOS 11 iPad Wishes and Concept Video ★
I’ve been thinking about some of these ideas since iOS 9 (you can
see a thread between my iOS 10 concept and this year’s version),
while others would be a natural evolution for iOS on the iPad.
Once again, Sam was able to visualize everything with a fantastic
concept that, I believe, captures the iPad’s big-picture potential
more accurately than last year.
Below, you’ll find our iOS 11 for iPad concept video, followed by
an analysis of my iPad wishes with static mockups. I focused on
foundational changes to the iPad’s software — tentpole features
that would affect the entire OS and app ecosystem.
This isn’t a prediction of what Apple will announce at WWDC; it’s
my vision for what the future of the iPad should be.
Viticci and Beckett put months of work into this, and it shows. Some of the ideas they present: system-wide drag-and-drop, a Finder app, a redesigned App Store, and much more.
The best part of this feature isn’t any specific idea, but rather Viticci’s profound enthusiasm for the iPad as a platform.
10-Year-Old Open Letter Calling for Apple to Make Glucose Monitors ★
Amy Tenderich, 10 years ago, in an open letter to Steve Jobs:
If insulin pumps or continuous monitors had the form of an iPod
Nano, people wouldn’t have to wonder why we wear our “pagers” to
our own weddings, or puzzle over that strange bulge under our
clothes. If these devices wouldn’t start suddenly and incessantly
beeping, strangers wouldn’t lecture us to turn off our “cell
phones” at the movie theater.
In short, medical device manufacturers are stuck in a bygone era;
they continue to design these products in an engineering-driven,
physician-centered bubble. They have not yet grasped the concept
that medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to
feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in
addition to keeping us alive.
(Follow-up here in 2010.)
This was incredibly prescient, given the rumors that Apple is working on continuous non-invasive glucose monitoring for Apple Watch. Jobs didn’t live to see it, but I think it’s exactly the sort of thing he would be pushing for if he were still alive.
From chapter 37 of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs:
Even when he was barely conscious, his strong personality came
through. At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over
his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and
mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though
barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different
options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. The
doctors looked at Powell, puzzled. She was finally able to
distract him so they could put on the mask. He also hated the
oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly
and too complex. He suggested ways it could be designed more
simply. “He was very attuned to every nuance of the environment
and objects around him, and that drained him,” Powell recalled.
Scott Gilbertson: ‘Kill Google AMP Before It Kills the Web’ ★
Scott Gilbertson, writing for The Register:
Quite a few high-profile web developers have this year weighted in
with criticism and some, following a Google conference dedicated
to AMP, have cautioned users about diving in with both feet.
These, in my view, don’t go far enough in stating the problem and
I feel this needs to be said very clearly: Google’s AMP is bad —
bad in a potentially web-destroying way. Google AMP is bad news
for how the web is built, it’s bad news for publishers of credible
online content, and it’s bad news for consumers of that content.
Google AMP is only good for one party: Google. Google, and
possibly, purveyors of fake news.
It’s time for developers to wake up and, as Jason Scott once said
of Facebook, stop: “Shoveling down the shit sherbet” Google is now
serving with AMP.
I’m on the record as being strongly opposed to AMP simply on the grounds of publication independence. I’d stand by that even if the implementation were great. But the implementation is not great — it’s terrible. Yes, AMP pages load fast, but you don’t need AMP for fast-loading web pages. If you are a publisher and your web pages don’t load fast, the sane solution is to fix your fucking website so that pages load fast, not to throw your hands up in the air and implement AMP.
But other than loading fast, AMP sucks. It implements its own scrolling behavior on iOS, which feels unnatural, and even worse, it breaks the decade-old system-wide iOS behavior of being able to tap the status bar to scroll to the top of any scrollable view. AMP also completely breaks Safari’s ability to search for text on a page (via the “Find on Page” action in the sharing sheet). Google has no respect for the platform. If I had my way, Mobile Safari would refuse to render AMP pages. It’s a deliberate effort by Google to break the open web.
Arctic Stronghold of World’s Seeds Flooded After Permafrost Melts ★
Damian Carrington, reporting for The Guardian:
It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the
world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure
humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried
in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached
after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the
winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.
The big takeaway from this should be that climate change truly is a threat to civilization. But, I have to say, that melting permafrost wasn’t taken into consideration during the design of this vault seems like a glaring oversight.
Update: Looks like The Guardian might have shamelessly sensationalized this story. Mary Beth Griggs, reporting for Popular Science:
“If there was a worst case scenario where there was so much water,
or the pumping systems failed, that it made its way uphill to the
seed vault, then it would encounter minus 18 [degrees celsius] and
freeze again. Then there’s another barrier [the ice] for entry
into the seed vault,” Fowler says. In other words, any water that
floods into the tunnel has to make it 100 meters downhill, then
back uphill, then overwhelm the pumping systems, and then manage
not to freeze at well-below-freezing temperatures. Otherwise,
there’s no way liquid is getting into the seed bank — so the
seeds are probably safe. […]
Still worried? Maybe this will help you exhale: “We did this
calculation; if all the ice in the world melted — Greenland,
Arctic, Antarctic, everything — and then we had the world’s
largest recorded tsunami right in front of the seed vault. So,
very high sea levels and the worlds largest Tsunami. What would
happen to the seed vault?” Fowler says. “We found that the seed
vault was somewhere between a five and seven story building above
that point. It might not help the road leading up to the seed
vault, but the seeds themselves would be OK.”
Sounds like the vault itself is designed to survive a climate apocalypse — it’s just the entry that isn’t.
Friday, 12 May 2017
Great interactive feature by Farhad Manjoo for The New York Times:
Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet, the parent
company of Google, are not just the largest technology companies
in the world. As I’ve argued repeatedly in my column, they are
also becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially
inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate
in the modern world. But which of the Frightful Five is most
unavoidable? I ponder the question in my column this week.
But what about you? If an evil monarch forced you to choose, in
what order would you give up these inescapable giants of tech?
Great question. I love thought exercises.
My order (from first dropped to last):
Facebook. I love Instagram, but could live without it. I don’t use anything else Facebook offers.
Microsoft. The only Microsoft product I use regularly is Skype, for podcasting, and I suspect I could find another solution. (If I couldn’t, I might have to rethink my answer here.)
Amazon. I buy stuff from Amazon almost every week. I just counted — 11 orders so far in 2017. My wife buys stuff from Amazon even more frequently. But just about anything we buy at Amazon, we could buy elsewhere. It’d be painful to replace, but not irreplaceable. There are a couple of shows exclusive to Amazon Prime that I enjoy, but none that I love.
Alphabet. I already use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, so giving up Google search would be frustrating at times, but not a deal breaker. I use a few email accounts backed by Gmail, but I actually dislike Gmail, and have been procrastinating on moving all my mail to FastMail for years. I despise Google Docs. I don’t use any Android devices other than as a curiosity. I greatly prefer Safari over Chrome. YouTube, however, is irreplaceable, and so essential that it pretty much singlehandedly catapults Alphabet to #4 in my list.
Apple. I mean, come on. If not for Apple I’d be stuck using computers I don’t like and a phone that I consider a distant second-best. With all the other companies on the list, what I’d miss most are certain of their services — Instagram, Skype, Amazon’s store, YouTube — but Apple is the only company in the world whose hardware I consider irreplaceable. And you need the hardware to make best use of the services from any other companies. And that doesn’t even touch upon Apple’s crown jewels: the MacOS and iOS software platforms. ★