Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Vlad Savov and Sohee Kim, reporting last week for Bloomberg, “Apple, Google Monopoly Over Apps Must Be Stopped, Epic Games CEO Says”:1
Epic Games Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney renewed his
attack on Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google as the world’s
dominant mobile duopoly before calling for a universal app store
that works across all operating systems as the solution.
“What the world really needs now is a single store that works with
all platforms,” Sweeney said in an interview in Seoul on Tuesday.
First, a note to Bloomberg editors: two companies can’t possess a monopoly. The word you’re looking for is duopoly — or, (very) arguably, monopolies, plural. Second: the solution to an ostensibly problematic duopoly is ... a single universal store? And we’re supposed to take this without laughing?
And, gee, I wonder which company Tim Sweeney thinks should own and run this store?
“Right now software ownership is fragmented between the iOS App
Store, the Android Google Play marketplace, different stores on
Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, and then Microsoft Store
and the Mac App Store.” Epic is working with developers and
service providers to create a system that would allow users “to
buy software in one place, knowing that they’d have it on all
devices and all platforms.”
I’ve been arguing all along that, if victorious in their lawsuits against Apple and Google’s mobile app console platforms, Epic would surely turn its sights on Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft’s game console platforms, using their win over Apple and Google as precedent. When pressed on this — why Epic was going after the iOS and Android app stores, but not the Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox game stores (and in fact, gave those game console stores a 20 percent discount after launching their seemingly ill-fated jihad against Apple and Google) — Sweeney has previously given a hand-wavy justification about game console platforms being acceptable because the hardware itself isn’t profitable.
That reeked of bullshit from the get-go. Now he’s made it clear. Epic got their clocks cleaned in their lawsuit against Apple, and now Sweeney’s having a tantrum and letting it all hang out. If I were on the PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch store teams, I wouldn’t trust Epic as far as I could throw them. ★
E.U. Regulators Are at It Again ★
Björn Finke, reporting for Süddeutsche Zeitung (original in German; I’m quoting here from Safari 15’s translation to English):
For example, these powerful companies must no longer prefer their
own services in search results, as Google did in the 2.4 billion
case. You may also not collect business data from independent
merchants on the platform and use it for your own offers, as
Amazon is accused of. And they must allow mobile phone users to
install other app stores and thus get more choice in mobile phone
programs. This will hurt Apple a lot. In the event of violations,
the Commission can intervene directly in the future without having
to prove market power and harmful consequences in long
Misguided, to say the least.
Parliament expanded the list of platforms to be viewed and
includes, for example, Internet-enabled TVs or voice assistants
such as Alexa. On the other hand, MEPs increased the thresholds
for sales to eight billion euros and the market value to 80
billion euros. This means that only Booking.com should be able to
fall under the law from Europe for the foreseeable future. MEP
Schwab argues that it is better for the Commission to focus on the
really large companies in the implementation and control of the
legal act. Critics warn, however, that the US government could
consider it an unfriendly act if the groundbreaking law hits
almost only American companies.
European regulations that are targeted, almost exclusively, at U.S. companies. You think that might be perceived here as “unfriendly”? You don’t say.
Another important addition to the Commission draft is that
Parliament wants to force gatekeepers to allow exchanges between
rival messenger services and social media. Then, for example, a
user could send a message from WhatsApp to the competitor Signal — this opening should also stimulate competition.
This nugget is under a sub-head that was translated to “Send a message from WhatsApp to Signal? No problem”. No problem at all. Probably will only take a few lines of code to get all the world’s messaging systems — including those using end-to-end encryption like Signal and WhatsApp (and iMessage) — talking to each other.
They should do another draft that mandates the invention of personal jet packs and flying cars, too.
600 Google Employees Sign Manifesto Opposing Company’s Vaccine Mandate ★
Jeffifer Elias, reporting for CNBC:
The manifesto within Google, which has been signed by at least 600
Google employees, asks company leaders to retract the vaccine
mandate and create a new one that is “inclusive of all Googlers,”
arguing leadership’s decision will have outsize influence in
corporate America. It also calls on employees to “oppose the
mandate as a matter of principle” and tells employees to not let
the policy alter their decision if they’ve already chosen not to
get the Covid vaccine.
Wow, they made a list of the dumbest people at Google.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. And, to be clear, Google has somewhere north of 140,000 employees.
(I sure would like to read the actual “manifesto”, but I can’t find it.)
The Apple v. NSO Group Complaint (PDF) ★
The opening paragraph:
Defendants are notorious hackers — amoral 21st century
mercenaries who have created highly sophisticated
cyber-surveillance machinery that invites routine and flagrant
abuse. They design, develop, sell, deliver, deploy, operate, and
maintain offensive and destructive malware and spyware products
and services that have been used to target, attack, and harm Apple
users, Apple products, and Apple. For their own commercial gain,
they enable their customers to abuse those products and services
to target individuals including government officials, journalists,
businesspeople, activists, academics, and even U.S. citizens.
It gets more strident from there.
I genuinely wonder what Apple’s goals are with this suit. Is it just to bring NSO Group’s activities to light? If this goes to trial, the testimony should really be something to see. How much in damages will Apple seek at trial? Enough to bankrupt NSO Group? (Don’t forget Facebook has an ongoing lawsuit against NSO Group for having exploited a bug in WhatsApp to install malware on targets.)
Apple’s Own Announcement of Their Lawsuit Against NSO Group ★
Apple’s legal complaint provides new information on NSO Group’s
FORCEDENTRY, an exploit for a now-patched vulnerability previously
used to break into a victim’s Apple device and install the latest
version of NSO Group’s spyware product, Pegasus. The exploit was
originally identified by the Citizen Lab, a research group at the
University of Toronto. [...]
NSO Group and its clients devote the immense resources and
capabilities of nation-states to conduct highly targeted
cyberattacks, allowing them to access the microphone, camera, and
other sensitive data on Apple and Android devices. To deliver
FORCEDENTRY to Apple devices, attackers created Apple IDs to send
malicious data to a victim’s device — allowing NSO Group or its
clients to deliver and install Pegasus spyware without a victim’s
knowledge. Though misused to deliver FORCEDENTRY, Apple servers
were not hacked or compromised in the attacks.
A couple of things are interesting about this. First, Apple repeatedly refers to the “FORCEDENTRY” exploit by name. This is not PR bullshit — they’re talking about a very specific exploit. Second, they refer to Android as their compatriot, not their competitor. There’s a time and place for Apple to brag about iOS being more secure than Android, but this isn’t it. The message here: “This isn’t just about us, NSO Group is after everyone.”
Lastly, the phrase “the immense resources and capabilities of nation-states”. This is Apple hammering home the fact that deliberate backdoors would be exploited. They’re up against countries with, effectively, infinite money and resources to find and exploit accidental vulnerabilities. If there were deliberate backdoors, the game would be over before it started.
Apple commends groups like the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech for
their groundbreaking work to identify cybersurveillance abuses and
help protect victims. To further strengthen efforts like these,
Apple will be contributing $10 million, as well as any damages
from the lawsuit, to organizations pursuing cybersurveillance
research and advocacy.
The New York Times story on this mentioned that Apple would be donating any damages from the lawsuit, if they win. It’s a nice touch that they’re donating $10 million no matter what happens in court. Citizen Lab and Amnesty Tech did crackerjack work exposing this exploit.
Apple is notifying the small number of users that it discovered
may have been targeted by FORCEDENTRY. Any time Apple discovers
activity consistent with a state-sponsored spyware attack, Apple
will notify the affected users in accordance with industry best
Apple Sues NSO Group ★
Nicole Perlroth, reporting for The New York Times:
Apple is also asking for unspecified damages for the time and cost
to deal with what the company argues is NSO’s abuse of its
products. Apple said it would donate the proceeds from those
damages to organizations that expose spyware. [...]
The sample of Pegasus gave Apple a forensic understanding of how
Pegasus worked. The company found that NSO’s engineers had created
more than 100 fake Apple IDs to carry out their attacks. In the
process of creating those accounts, NSO’s engineers would have had
to agree to Apple’s iCloud Terms and Conditions, which expressly
require that iCloud users’ engagement with Apple “be governed by
the laws of the state of California.” The clause helped Apple
bring its lawsuit against NSO in the Northern District of
Shades of nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.
Apple executives described the lawsuit as a warning shot to NSO
and other spyware makers. “This is Apple saying: If you do this,
if you weaponize our software against innocent users, researchers,
dissidents, activists or journalists, Apple will give you no
quarter,” Ivan Krstic, head of Apple security engineering and
architecture, said in an interview on Monday.
That is not — at all — how leaders at Apple usually speak in the press. Apple is not a hard or tricky company to read. They are furious about NSO Group.
One Last Update on Apple’s New Self Service Repair Program (I Hope) ★
From an update I just appended to yesterday’s follow-up:
I’m back to my original opinion, that the Self Service Repair
Program is just what it says on the tin — a program for people
who really do want to repair their own devices — and thus is
irrelevant to all but a small sliver of actual users.
Twitter No Longer Sends Users to AMP Pages ★
Henry Powderly, reporting for Search Engine Land:
With social media referrals to AMP pages cut down by the change,
the reasons for supporting AMP are getting fewer.
For some of us, the reasons were obvious all along. It never made sense to me why any publishers supported AMP in the first place.
It took four years, but support for AMP is suddenly collapsing. Good riddance.
Dave Mark on the Repairability of Apple’s Devices ★
Dave Mark, writing at The Loop:
Not sure how big the audience for right-to-repair is, but I do
count myself in its number. And if it was easier to do, I suspect
that number would be much larger. Imagine if repairing a cracked
display was a simple, five minute operation. Wouldn’t you rather
order the new display and make the swap yourself?
It used to be relatively easy to customize and repair your gear.
As parts have given way to part assemblies (glued/soldered
assemblies that become a single replaceable requirement, even if a
single part fails) and the quest for smaller makes devices harder
to open, harder to take apart, the ability to repair your own gear
has become harder, almost impossible.
So those small numbers John points out are real. But should this
be the way it is? Again, wouldn’t you love the ability to swap out
a display as easily as you used to be able to swap out RAM on your
Ideally, many people would still like to be able to swap out RAM on today’s Macs as easily as we could on old Macs. Same thing for SSD storage. Adding RAM and storage, years after purchase, was a great way to significantly extend the practical lifetime of Macs. A while back (15 years ago?) I replaced the spinning hard drive in a 15-inch PowerBook with an SSD, and it was like buying a brand-new much faster machine.
But: times change. Apple hasn’t moved away from user replaceable memory and storage components out of spite. Integrating memory and storage into the chips themselves is the reason why devices have gotten thinner and lighter and much, much faster. The incredible performance of Apple silicon — for both iOS devices and Macs — is part and parcel with integrating memory and storage directly onto the SoCs.
And in terms of replacing screens on iPhones, consider waterproofing and device aesthetics. To my knowledge, no company makes a mainstream smartphone with an easily-replaced display, because a smartphone with an easily replaced screen wouldn’t sell because of all the design trade-offs that would be involved.
Peng Shuai: U.N. Calls for Proof of Chinese Tennis Star’s Whereabouts; W.T.A. Chairman Willing to Pull Out of China ★
Peng, who is one of China’s most recognizable sports stars, has
not been seen in public since she accused former Vice Premier
Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex at his home, according to
screenshots of a since-deleted social media post dated November 2.
“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of
her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an
investigation with full transparency into her allegations of
sexual assault,” Liz Throssell, the spokesperson of the UN Human
Rights office, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. [...]
The head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Steve Simon has
said he is willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars worth
of business in China if Peng is not fully accounted for and her
allegations are not properly investigated.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all
the complications that come with it,” Simon said in an interview
Thursday with CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than
the business,” added Simon.
Chinese state media released an email Wednesday, purportedly written by Peng and addressed to Simon, that reads as preposterously fake.
Bravo to Simon and the WTA for taking this no-bullshit fuck-the-money stance. The NBA cowardly prostrated itself to the CCP two years ago, when Daryl Morey — then GM of the Houston Rockets — tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” (Morey is now president of my hometown 76ers.)
The International Olympics Committee will be tested next: the 2022 Winter Olympics are slated to be hosted in China, starting in February.
Apple Pushes Back Return to Office Plan to February ★
Tim Cook, in a company-wide email (published by Zoe Schiffer, who has moved from The Verge to NBC News):
As of today, we are targeting February 1, 2022 to begin our
hybrid work pilot in many global locations where teams have not
yet returned to our corporate offices. We plan to start the pilot
with a phased approach, welcoming people back to the office for
one or two days a week for an initial period of four weeks. After
this transitional period, we will begin the pilot in full, with
eligible teams in the office three days a week, on Monday,
Tuesday, and Thursday, and with flexibility to work remotely on
Wednesday and Friday. You’ll receive more details about how the
first four-week phase will roll out as we get closer to the
As I noted when we announced our hybrid work pilot, we do have a
number of teams whose work requires a greater need to work
in-person, and they will come into the office four or five days a
week based on the plans for these specific teams.
Read: folks who work on hardware.
At the same time, we are committed to giving you more flexibility
as we move forward. In addition to the option of working remotely
twice a week on Wednesday and Friday, we announced this summer
that team members would be able to work remotely for up to two
weeks per year with a manager’s approval. I’m pleased to share
that we’re increasing the amount of time you can work remotely to
a total of four weeks per year. This provides more opportunity to
travel, be closer to your loved ones, or simply shake up your
Sensible, measured, and adaptable to changing conditions. Apple’s years-long response to the pandemic regarding its workforce (including retail) has been utterly Cook-ian.
Thursday, 18 November 2021
Yours truly, yesterday:
This appears to be a cause for celebration in right-to-repair
circles, but I don’t see it as a big deal at all. Almost no one
wants to repair their own cracked iPhone display or broken
MacBook keyboard; even fewer people are actually competent enough
to do so.
I expected some pushback on this, and got it, and I now think I missed one key point. Despite the program’s name, I think it’s not so much about individual users repairing their own personal devices. The biggest ramification, I think, will be that the program will allow unofficial independent repair shops to procure genuine OEM Apple replacement parts and service manuals. There are tons of people around the world (including here in the U.S.) who don’t live near an Apple store or an Apple-authorized repair shop. A lot of those people, though, might live near (or at least nearer) an independent repair shop. If those repair shops can now order genuine Apple parts and manuals, that’s a win, and maybe a bigger deal than I thought yesterday.
There’s also this factor: if the device in need of repair is still usable — say, an iPhone with a cracked but functional screen, or a MacBook with one or more broken but nonessential keys — it might be a lot more appealing for a user who doesn’t live near an Apple-authorized repair shop to go to a local independent shop for same-day service than to ship their device to Apple for official service.
On the flip side, though, I think a lot of the “Apple’s repair policies are screwing people” sentiment is based on the misconception that Apple grossly overcharges for repairs. A lot of companies in a lot of industries do just that. Car dealers, for example, are notorious for overcharging for parts and routine service. I think the logic goes something like this: Big companies always screw you over for service and repairs; Apple is obscenely profitable and reaps high margins; therefore surely Apple price-gouges for repairs, or makes repairs for older devices arduous to encourage people to buy new devices instead.
But Apple isn’t really like that at all. Longtime DF reader Jim Lipsey sent me a note yesterday. His two kids each happily use an iPhone 6S Plus, but each of them needed repairs this past summer — one needed the camera replaced, the other needed a new battery. Through Apple, the camera replacement cost $59, the battery $49. $108 total, to return two six-year-old iPhones to perfect working order. As Lipsey noted, that’s a tremendous cost-of-ownership value.
Update: Friday, 19 November
Wait a minute, wait a minute. On Twitter, Jason Aten reminded me of something I shouldn’t have already forgotten (considering that I posted about it): Apple two years ago announced the Independent Repair Provider Program. From their announcement then:
Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers
additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone
repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training,
repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service
Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans
to expand to other countries.
Given this existing program, I don’t see how this week’s new Self Service Repair Program helps independent repair shops — or Apple customers who rely on those shops — at all. And the existing Independent Repair Provider Program allows shops to stock genuine parts from Apple. The new Self Repair Program requires you to submit the damaged device’s serial number to Apple first, then Apple sends the necessary parts on a need-to-use basis. I’m back to my original opinion, that the Self Service Repair Program is just what it says on the tin — a program for people who really do want to repair their own devices — and thus is irrelevant to all but a small sliver of actual users. ★
Wednesday, 17 November 2021
Apple today announced Self Service Repair, which will allow
customers who are comfortable with completing their own repairs
access to Apple genuine parts and tools. Available first for the
iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, and soon to be followed by Mac
computers featuring M1 chips, Self Service Repair will be
available early next year in the US and expand to additional
countries throughout 2022. Customers join more than 5,000 Apple
Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) and 2,800 Independent Repair
Providers who have access to these parts, tools, and manuals.
The initial phase of the program will focus on the most commonly
serviced modules, such as the iPhone display, battery, and
camera. The ability for additional repairs will be available
later next year.
“Creating greater access to Apple genuine parts gives our
customers even more choice if a repair is needed,” said Jeff
Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “In the past three
years, Apple has nearly doubled the number of service locations
with access to Apple genuine parts, tools, and training, and now
we’re providing an option for those who wish to complete their own
This appears to be a cause for celebration in right-to-repair circles, but I don’t see it as a big deal at all. Almost no one wants to repair their own cracked iPhone display or broken MacBook keyboard; even fewer people are actually competent enough to do so. iFixit, in a celebratory post, claims:
But we’re thrilled to see Apple admit what we’ve always known:
Everyone’s enough of a genius to fix an iPhone.
Nonsense. I just don’t see how more than a sliver of people would even want to do this rather than go to a professional shop.
Also, nothing announced today changes the fact that Apple still requires Apple genuine parts for all authorized repairs, no matter who does the repairing. There’s good reason for that, and it’s not a money grab. Today’s announcement, to my eyes, is about nothing more than reducing regulatory pressure from legislators who’ve fallen for the false notion that Apple’s repair policies, to date, have been driven by profit motive — that Apple profits greatly from authorized repairs, and/or that their policies are driven by a strategy of planned obsolescence, to get people to buy new products rather than repair broken old ones. I don’t believe either of those things,1 but for those who believe either or both, I don’t see how this Self Repair Program really changes anything other than who’s performing the labor.
Brian X. Chen, hailing the announcement in his column at The New York Times:
Apple delivered an early holiday gift on Wednesday to the
eco-conscious and the do-it-yourselfers: It said it would soon
begin selling the parts, tools and instructions for people to do
their own iPhone repairs.
The appeal to do-it-yourselfers is self-evident. I don’t see how this is eco-conscious at all. It doesn’t enable people to repair older devices that Apple itself and authorized repair shops weren’t themselves able to repair.
The company has not yet published a list of costs for parts, but
said the prices for consumers would be what authorized repair
shops paid. Currently, a replacement iPhone 12 screen costs an
authorized shop about $234 after a broken screen is traded in. At
an Apple store, repairing an out-of-warranty iPhone 12 screen
costs about $280.
In short, you will have more options to mend an iPhone, which can
bring your costs down.
Previously, it was easiest to visit an Apple store to get an
iPhone fixed. But just as taking your car to a dealer for
servicing isn’t the cheapest option, going to an Apple store also
wasn’t the most cost-effective.
The alternative was to take your iPhone to a third party for
repair, potentially for a more competitive price. When I took a
broken iPhone XS screen to an Apple store this year, I was
quoted $280 for the repair, compared with $180 from an
Chen is not exactly comparing like-to-like here, with his prices for a replacement iPhone XS display “from an independent outlet” and the $234 Apple charges for an iPhone 12 display component, but it seems pretty clear that for a customer to pay just $180 for the XS screen replacement, including labor, the “independent outlet” was not using Apple genuine parts. How is that relevant to this new Self Service Repair program that is based on buying genuine parts directly from Apple? What we’re looking at here is saving $46. Good luck replacing that screen yourself, without any specialized tooling.
Don’t get me wrong: this program is nice, and perhaps a bit surprising given Apple’s public stance on the issue in recent years. We’re better off with this Self Service Repair program in place than we were without it. (Making service manuals available might actually help extend the lifetime of older devices for which Apple no longer sells parts.) But to me it clearly seems to be a small deal, not a “big deal”, as Chen claims.
And if it is a big deal, it’s for Apple, politically. (Nothing wrong with that.) ★
Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Earlier this month, Craig Federighi delivered a keynote address at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s just 20 minutes long, including the introduction, and worth watching. His sole topic is sideloading — why Apple doesn’t support it on iOS, and why Apple thinks it would be a (very) bad idea for the E.U. to mandate support for it.
If you get a sense of déjà vu watching it, that’s probably because Apple released a white paper making the case against sideloading back in June, which I annotated extensively. Federighi largely sticks to the same points, so I won’t repeat my entire thoughts on them here. I just re-read that piece from June, and it stands up well.
A few quick thoughts, though:
I found Federighi’s talk to be more compelling than Apple’s June white paper, despite the fact that in general, I’d rather read something than watch or listen to someone speak. I think part of it is that Apple has further refined its case against sideloading, boiling it down to a few cohesive core points. Also: Federighi is a charismatic speaker. With Phil Schiller seemingly retired from speaking on stage, Federighi is now by far the company’s most compelling advocate for a talk like this.
It’s always a little weird seeing an Apple executive speak on what’s clearly not an Apple-designed stage. Understated Web Summit’s staging is not.
Apple is clearly taking the threat of legally-mandated sideloading seriously. Apple SVPs don’t deliver keynotes in Portugal on a lark.
Rhetorically, Federighi does a clever job of appealing to E.U. regulators as an ally rather than an adversary, right in his opening lines:
My topic is privacy and security, and it’s great to speak about
this here in Europe, where so many have embraced these values not
just as high ideals — but as fundamental human rights. I have to
say, there are times in the U.S. when fighting for privacy has
felt a little lonely. But knowing that our values are shared with
so many in Europe, and that European policymakers have been
willing to take action, well that has felt like a bit of a
It frames his anti-mandatory-sideloading argument not as a fundamental disagreement, but rather as a “Look, we’re on the same pro-privacy side here, buuut...” sort of thing.
Lastly, there’s a key topic that Federighi does not broach: money. Here, I will quote from my piece back in June, regarding a section in Apple’s white paper that started with the line, “The goal of App Review is to ensure that apps on the App Store are trustworthy [...].” I wrote:
The problem Apple is facing today is that it’s clear that one word
in the above is inaccurate: the opening “the”. The above is a
goal of the App Store — and I would argue that it remains the
primary goal. But clearly the App Store serves another goal for
Apple: making the company money. Exhibit A: last year’s Hey
fiasco. Nothing about Apple’s rejection of Hey (or, I’d
wager, some number of thousands of other apps flagged by App
Store review for similar reasons) was about trustworthiness. It
was about money.
That’s a conflict of interest, and it detracts significantly from
Apple’s entirely legitimate trustworthiness argument defending the
App Store model for distribution. I remain convinced Apple
wouldn’t be facing these regulatory pressures today if they’d
walked away from a strategy of maximizing App Store profits years
ago, and I also think they could largely dissipate these
pressures today by doing it now — better late than never.
If Apple stopped making it look like they’re running the App Store primarily to maximize their own revenue from it, regulators and lawmakers might stop thinking that Apple is running the App Store primarily to maximize their own revenue from it. ★
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Devan Scott on the Use of Color in ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ ★
Speaking of Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond, Devan Scott put together a wonderful, richly illustrated thread on Twitter contrasting the use of color grading in Skyfall and Spectre. Both of those films were directed by Sam Mendes, but they had different cinematographers — Roger Deakins for Skyfall, and Hoyte van Hoytema for Spectre. Scott graciously and politely makes the case that Skyfall is more interesting and fully-realized because each new location gets a color palette of its own, whereas the entirety of Spectre is in a consistent color space.
(For an essay of this sort, with so many images that go along with a few sentences of prose at a time, a Twitter thread is an outstanding medium.)
See Also: Kat Clay: “Why Skyfall Is a Masterclass in Cinematography”.
Switched on Pop: ‘James Bond’s Spycraft Sound’ ★
Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding:
The latest installment of the James Bond franchise, No Time To
Die, closes the book on the Daniel Craig era of the international
superspy. The film’s theme song, “No Time to Die,” by Billie
Eilish, Finneas, and Hans Zimmer, also marks the conclusion of one
of the great musical sagas in recent cinema. Monty Norman’s and
John Barry’s now-iconic “James Bond Theme,” written for 1962’s
Dr. No, has remained a constant across six decades of espionage
and one-liners. But every new Bond theme has also developed subtle
variations on the original that reflect the character’s changes
over time. On this episode of Switched On Pop, we uncover what
inspired the theme, how it’s changed, and why it almost never
Absolutely delightful podcast, and really astute commentary on how music helped tie together the entirety of Daniel Craig’s five-movie saga in the role.
Joanna Stern Spends 24 Hours in Facebook’s Metaverse ★
Speaking of the metaverse:
Everyone is blabbing about the metaverse. But what does this
future digital world look like? WSJ’s Joanna Stern checked into
a hotel and strapped on a VR headset for the day. She went to
work meetings, hung out with new avatar friends and attended
So glad she made this video; so glad it wasn’t me.
The Talk Show: ‘The Warden’s Dilemma’ ★
For your weekend listening enjoyment: Ben Thompson returns to the show to go deep on the concept of the metaverse. Is it the next frontier in tech? Is it bullshit? Somewhere in between?
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Playdate Delayed Until Early 2022 ★
Panic, in an update to those who’ve pre-ordered the Playdate:
And so, we shipped 5,000 finished Playdates back to Malaysia to
be given new batteries. How did that feel? Not great!!!
The good news: we’ve already received the new batteries from the
new supplier, and they’re looking really impressive — they’re
exactly what we’re hoping for, if not even better than before.
We’re extremely confident the new supplier can give Playdate the
battery life we designed, and you deserve.
And there’s one huge silver lining: we’re extremely glad that we
found this potential issue before shipping you a Playdate.
With lots of pre-orders in place, we immediately placed an order
at our factory for all the parts needed for 2022 units and beyond.
The response was… sobering. Many of our parts have been delayed
significantly. In fact, we can’t get any more of Playdate’s
current CPU for — you’re not going to believe this — two years.
Like, 730 days.
Maybe you’ve heard about the “global chip shortage” everyone’s
talking about? We’re here to say it is very real. Covid-19 caused
an ever-cascading set of worldwide supply chain failures that are
leading to many, many electronic parts being simply… gone.
The good news on that front is that they’ve already designed a new logic board using a different, but equivalent, CPU that is available. More good news: the Playdate SDKs (there are two — the full SDK using C and Lua, and a web-based graphical you-don’t-even-have-to-be-a-programmer-to-make-a-game tool called Pulp) are close to shipping.
Basically, shipping any project is hard. Shipping hardware is really hard. And shipping hardware amidst this pandemic-induced global supply chain fiasco is just crazy hard. Valve’s Steam Deck — sort of the anti-Playdate — is delayed into early 2022 too, and both Sony and Nintendo have cut production estimates for the PlayStation 5 and Switch consoles.
‘The iOS App Icon Book’ by Michael Flarup ★
I simply love app icons — they continue to be everything that
excites me about visual design. App icon design is a carefully
balanced discipline with the goal of producing a memorable graphic
that sits at the intersection of art and utility. At their best,
app icons are design, distilled. This book is a celebration of the
art and craft of app icon design and the golden age of icon design
that has lived and evolved on our devices this past decade.
It’s a Kickstarter project, with books expected to ship in April. Take my money — I can’t wait to devour this book. It looks so good.
John Hanke: ‘AR Is Where the Real Metaverse Is Going to Happen’ ★
Steven Levy, writing for Wired:
As the CEO and founder of Niantic Labs, Hanke launched Pokémon Go
in 2016, and he remains obsessed with a vision of a physical world
enhanced by digital objects, the concept now called augmented
reality. He has been pursuing this vision since at least 2010,
when he founded Niantic as an internal startup at Google, then
spun it out and launched Go. The game, in which players wander
the streets with phones held to their faces trying to capture
Weedles, Squirtles, and Nidorinas, was both a cultural phenomenon
and a financial success, reaping over a billion dollars in
revenue. Like Wendy sewing Peter Pan’s shadow to his foot, Hanke
has been gradually binding the ephemeral to the real, providing a
substrate for the merger of pixels and atoms that he sees as the
He’s read all the science fiction books and seen all the films
that first imagined the metaverse — all great fun, and all
wrong. He believes that his vision, unlike virtual reality, will
make the real world better without encouraging people to totally
check out of it.
YouTube Will Keep ‘Dislike’ Button, but Make Dislike Counts Private to the Creator ★
As part of this experiment, viewers could still see and use the
dislike button. But because the count was not visible to them, we
found that they were less likely to target a video’s dislike
button to drive up the count. In short, our experiment data showed
a reduction in dislike attacking behavior. We also heard directly
from smaller creators and those just getting started that they are
unfairly targeted by this behavior — and our experiment confirmed
that this does occur at a higher proportion on smaller channels.
Based on what we learned, we’re making the dislike counts private
across YouTube, but the dislike button is not going away. This
change will start gradually rolling out today.
This is an interesting middle ground. Sounds good to me. Marking something as disliked obviously can be useful, but hiding the dislike count apparently diminishes the pile-on mob mindset.
Twitter has been experimenting with a “dislike” button as well. Not sure where that stands, but if they go forward with it, they should keep the dislike counts private too.
Judge Denies Apple’s Motion to Stay App Store Antisteering Policy Changes in Epic Case ★
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, in a ruling earlier this week:
The Court is in receipt of Apple Inc.’s Motion to Stay part of the
Court’s injunction pending resolution of all appeals, specifically
that portion prohibiting developers from including “in their apps
and their metabuttons, [sic] external links, or other calls to
action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition
to In-App Purchasing [“IAP”].” (See Dkt. No. 821.)
Having considered all the filings, and oral argument, the Court
finds Apple has failed to satisfy its burden, and the request as
framed is DENIED. In short, Apple’s motion is based on a selective
reading of this Court’s findings and ignores all of the findings
which supported the injunction, namely incipient antitrust conduct
including supercompetitive commission rates resulting in
extraordinarily high operating margins and which have not been
correlated to the value of its intellectual property. This
incipient antitrust conduct is the result, in part, of the
antisteering policies which Apple has enforced to harm
competition. As a consequence, the motion is fundamentally flawed.
Further, even if additional time was warranted to comply with the
limited injunction, Apple did not request additional time other
than ten days to appeal this ruling. Thus, the Court does not
consider the option of additional time, other than the requested
“Metabuttons” is a typo — the original ruling used the (already technically ambiguous) term “metadata buttons” there.
It’s a near-certainty that Apple is going to appeal this. But if the appeal doesn’t work, December 9 is just four weeks away.
Concepts to Redesign the New York City Street ★
Justin Davidson, writing for Curbed:
Our efforts yielded two big lessons. The first is that every
improvement is a trade-off. Protecting bus lanes with concrete
barriers, for example, would keep cars out, but it would also keep
limited-stop buses from passing local ones. Our street
incorporates a possible set of compromises. The second is that
even simple tweaks imply a far-reaching organizational overhaul.
Enclosed trash bins would push the Department of Sanitation to
update some of its trucks and pickup procedures.
There are a lot of good ideas here. Drastically reducing curbside parking and using that space to widen sidewalks and increase outdoor eating areas is something that’s happened in a lot of cities during this pandemic. It’s been a huge win here in Philly.
But to nitpick one of the ideas: enclosed trash bins are terrible. Philly replaced its old-fashioned open-top trash bins with enclosed ones several years ago, and they’re just awful. They sound like a fine idea, but in practice they’re disgusting. You have to touch them to put anything in them, and, well, they’re covered with garbage. They’re really hard to use one-handed, like when you’re carrying, say, a grocery bag with your other hand. They tend to break, too. It’s been a huge step backwards here.
Jamf CEO Welcomes Apple Business Essentials ★
Jonny Evans, writing for Computerworld’s Appleholic:
“When Apple innovates, Jamf celebrates,” Jamf CEO, Dean Hager said, on learning about Apple Business Essentials. “We believe this expected announcement is good news and presents Jamf with a terrific opportunity.” [...]
Jamf, which announced an impressive set of Q3 results Nov. 11, has always existed alongside Apple. Hager noted several times during the last decade when industry watchers thought Apple moves might damage his business: Once when Apple introduced MDM in 2010, again in 2011 with Profile Manager, later with Apple Configurator, and more recently with Apple Business Manager.
Brings to mind Apple’s famous “Welcome IBM. Seriously.” ad from 1981. I don’t mean that to be snarky. Apple was ready for the IBM PC in 1981, and it sounds like Jamf and similar companies have been ready for Apple to enter this market ever since they acquired Fleetsmith a year ago.